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July 2nd 2011 - Loughborough

Clive set off before I was even dressed on Friday morning, I was just finishing my breakfast, in my pyjamas, when I heard him call out hello to somebody as we were passing a moored boat!  He then shouted down to me, its Locksley!  I gulped the last mouthful of cereal and hurriedly got dressed, I was just in time as Clive had already  pulled into the bank.  Sure enough there were Julia and Robin Lewis of NB Locksley, the parents of one of my Burwell friends, Kate.  In fact, its was after spending a lovely afternoon with Julia and Robin back in February 2008 that we finally made up our minds to live on a narrowboat! 


We had a lovely chat with them on the towpath, Clive hanging on to the boat for grim death as other boats passed by!  Julia and Robin informed us that they were finally calling it a day and becoming land lubbers once more.  They have already sold the boat and will be handing her over in a few weeks time and moving into a lovely thatched cottage in Somerset.  If you have to give up living on a narrowboatI can’t think of a nicer alternative. 


We said goodbye to them both and wished them all the very best in their new venture then continued our journey down to the Foxton locks.  It was a lovely sunny day and there were quite a few boats out on the water.  We moored up at the top of the locks and Clive went off to find the lock keeper to book our passage down the flight.  It wasn’t long before he came back and told me there were four boats on their way up and we could set off down after the last one came up.  Finally said boat emerged from the top lock and it was our turn.  The lock keeper gave a hand with some of the paddles and it didn’t take very long for us to make it down to the bottom, about 45 minutes.  Needless to say, being Foxton, there were the usual crowd of Gongoozlers (people who watch boats negotiating locks!) asking all the usual questions and occasionally helping with the gates when they weren’t getting in the way!  Its amazing how many people stand between the lock beams and the lock, a sure way to get turfed into the lock if you’re not careful!  However we managed to make it to the bottom without drowning anybody!


When we got down the flight we were delighted to find that there was a mooring available right in the basin itself and we were in there like a shot.  It all felt very familiar to us as this is where we spent three weeks iced in back in February 2009!  We reacquainted ourselves with Bridge 61 (the pub) then I made use of the little launderette and got all our washing done.  There is also a shop selling all sorts of stuff from chandlery to souvenirs and groceries.  We bought a new coolie hat for our chimney and various other bits and pieces.


We didn’t do much of anything on Saturday but Foxton was extremely busy, mind you it always is at the weekends!  Sunday was even worse – the sun was shining that means that everybody and his brother, his kids and his dogs all come to Foxton for the day – it was absolutely heaving! However, we weren't staying around to watch, we were going out, for a barbecue!!  Another of my Burwell friends, Jayne Stanton (Fiddler!) lives very close to Foxton in a village called Fleckney, she and her husband Dave had invited us round to their house for a barbecue and Jayne came and picked us up at 1.00pm.  We had a great time, Clive was a bit unsociable as it was a Grand Prix weekend and Jayne had very kindly told him he could watch it – bless!  After we had eaten we got our instruments out and had a bit of a session in Jayne’s fron troom – needless to say we were playing mostly Burwell tunes!  It was lovely.  Can’t believe that it is only four weeks to this year’s Burwell Bash – I haven’t even figured out how I’m going to get there yet!!


We stayed another night in Foxton basin then on Monday morning we headed up to Market Harborough to meet Gareth and Indy as they were staying with us on their way down from Huddersfield. It was great to see them again, evidently Indy had a great time in Huddersfield meeting various members of the family and staying with Grandma and Pop (Clive's parents).  She also had a sleepover with cousin Molly (my sister Thelma’s granddaughter) and they got on like a house on fire evidently!


Gareth drove us into Market Harborough to do some shopping, including the purchase of a new headlight for the boat.  The old one was very rusty and Clive had always thought it was a bit dim so he wanted a brighter one!


On Tuesday we decided to find somewhere to go that might be of interest to Indy.  In the end we settled on West Lodge Country Farm.  As we were leaving the boat two of the occupants of the boat moored next to us came out to say hello to Indy.  They are Rebecca and Agatha (known as Aggie Baggy Pants) – Indy was absolutely delighted to make their acquaintance!


Indy with Rebecca and Agatha


We had a lovely chat with their owners aboard NB Madage (pron. maa-da-gay) – needless to say we wondered how on earth you live on board a narrowboat with two huge Great Danes – evidently without a saloon (lounge)!  Jackie informed us that they had a DVD about a Great Dane called Marmaduke and very kindly offered to lend it to us as she was pretty sure that Indy would really enjoy it.



We dragged ourselves away and headed off to the country farm which was only a fifteen minute drive away.  It was a good choice, there were lots of animals for Indy to look at and pet, a lovely forest walk and also a barrel train to ride on! 


We started off looking at all the different kinds of fowl; there were turkeys, geese, ducks and hens.  Indy had a great time poking a stick at a flock of hens!! 


Indy with the chickens!


There were also pigs, goats, sheep and ponies and inside one of the barns there were pens and hutches full of rabbits and guinea pigs, Indy loved it. 


We decided to go for a walk to find the Witch’s Cottage.  It was quite a walk and took us through the woods, Clive and I commented on how different it was to the bush walks we had been on in New Zealand, however it was still very pretty and there were lots of birds singing but with English accents instead of Kiwi!!


Bush walk, English style!


We finally arrived at the Witch’s Cottage – she is evidently called Lucy!  Indy went and peeped in through the window and then finally she plucked up the courage to knock on the door, however Lucy wasn’t at home at the time!


Indy knocking on the door of Lucy's cottage


We walked back to the farm as quick as we could because Indy wanted to go on the Barrel Train and the next and last run was at 4.30pm.  We made it in time and all piled on board.


Indy and Gareth on the Barrel Train


The driver checked that we were all aboard then he set off on a hair raising tour around the farm making sure that he hit all the bumps and pot-holes on the way to give everybody a real shake-up!  At one point he veered off the track and went through a pool so that we could all see the dragon sleeping in his cave – everybody saw him except me, I was looking the other way!


Soon it was time to go home.  I made a slight detour on the way back to the car as I had spotted a little garden centre across the car park and I wanted to buy some herb plants.  I came out with parsley, chives, thyme and oregano. I also have some dill and basil seeds to grow, which came free with Lurpak butter!


As we were walking back down the towpath to the boat Jackie from Madage saw us and came out with the DVD of Marmaduke.  We quickly had tea then settled down to watch the movie, which was great!  Indy really enjoyed it and immediately asked if she could watch it again! 


Wednesday 29th 2011 – today was to be our last day with Indy before she flies home to America.  Gareth packed up all their belongings and stowed them in his car.  Clive went to return Marmaduke to Jackie and ended up chatting to her and her husband.  Jackie suddenly spotted a commotion in the water where there were two swans and their cygnets and something else – a grass snake!  WhenClive went over to have a look he realised straight away that the snake was in trouble, it had been injured and was struggling to stay afloat, he managed to get it out of the water before it drowned. Indy came rushing back to the boat shrieking that Granddad had got a snake, she was very excited indeed but not frightened at all! 


Injured Grass Snake


On examination the snake had definitely been injured, whether by the swans or a dog or even a boat propeller we don’t know what but it had a large swelling two thirds of the way down and it didn’t seem able to move the rear part of its body. Clive was concerned that its back might be broken.  I dug out a plastic basket, a box lid and some masking tape, Indy fetched some grass and very soon we had a makeshift vivarium to put the snake in. 

Indy inspecting the grass snake in his temporary home

Once he was safely caged we phoned the RSPCA who told us to phone a local vet who told us to phone the Leicestershire Wildlife Hospital – there was nobody in!  Clive left a message on their answerphone.


After all this excitement it was time for Gareth and Indy to leave.  It was hard to say goodbye to Indy, its been so lovely to spend time with her again, however she is coming back to the UK to have Christmas with her daddy and by then we will all be up in Huddersfield (all being well!).



Bye bye Granddad


They were going to drive to Cambridge and spend the night at Vicki and Ben’s.  Then onThursday Indy’s mum would be collecting her ready for their trip back to Colorado Springs.




After Indy and Gareth left it was time for us to leave too.  We were heading back to Foxton initially.  We still hadn’t heard anything back from the wildlife hospital so the grass snake had to come with us!  It was a very pleasant trip back to Foxton but there was no room to moor in the basin this time so we turned right up the Leicester Arm and there was a mooring just around the bend from the bridge, excellent. 


Thursday June 30th 2011 - Whilst we were at Whilton Marina last week Clive managed to get some little gadgets which bolt onto the side of the boat and enable you to climb up onto the roof using them as a step.  The only trouble is he didn’t have any strong screws to fasten them on with.  Tony, the guy who runs Bridge 61, the shop and Foxton Boat Services suggested he ask his son, Sam, as he was sure he had just the thing – he did!  So whilst we were moored Clive  fixed the two folding “steps” onto either side of the boat.  They are quite nifty as they fold up so they don’t stick out whilst you are travelling but when needed can be folded down providing the step – clever!


Nifty folding step


Also we had a phonecall from the Leicestershire Wildlife Hospital at last!  Clive explained the situation to the lady that phoned and she said she would come to Foxton and pick him up.  A short while later we got a call to say she had arrived and was in the car park so Clive went off to meet her with the snake.  She suggested we phone them in a couple of days time to see how it was getting on.

Friday July 1st 2011 - I made use of the launderette again today.  I did all the bedding this time and a few more bits and pieces.  We also picked up a few more things from the shop and I baked a self-crusting chicken and asparagus quiche which was yummy!  I got the recipe whilst we were in New Zealand staying with Raewyn and Jason Fair in Papamoa Beach.  Raewyn gave me the basic recipe but you can alter the main ingredients to whatever you fancy putting in it – it’s really delicious and very, very simple to make!


The Vodafone signal is really poor in Foxton, both for our mobile phones and for the dongle.  In order to have a decent conversation with anybody on the phone we had to walk back to the bridge and stand in the middle of it!  Vicki and Ben are moving house this weekend and we made the decision to let them take all the furniture out of our house as they could use it in their new on, this meant that we could let our house unfurnished rather than furnished.  I had to speak to the letting agency and also Vicki several times, I was on that bridge for ages!!  We both feel a wee bit guilty as we are not there to help Vicki and Ben move this time, however Gareth is there to give them a hand and Ben’s dad too so hopefully it will all run smoothly!


Saturday July 2nd 2011 – We said goodbye to Foxton this morning and headed off up the Leicester Arm.  We called in at Debdale Marina to use their pump-out facilities then we were off to pastures new. We have only been a very short way up this arm before to a little aqueduct over a farm track so everything beyond that is new territory!  We went through the Saddington Tunnel (880yards) and tried out the new lamp, it was brilliant!  It certainly lit up the tunnel a lot better than the old one did!  Once through the tunnel we cruised a bit further then moored out in the countryside just before Kibworth Top Lock.  We had a much better Vodafone signal than we had in Foxton! We also had a pretty good TV signal so Clive enjoyed watching Wimbledon in the afternoon. 


Sunday July 3rd 2011 – We set off after breakfast to tackle the next set of locks, which were big double ones.   It took us quite a few hours to get from the top lock, No. 19, down to Kilby Bridge Lock, No. 30, but it was a pleasant day and we enjoyed it. Part way down the flight, just as I was shutting the lock gates behind the boat I heard the sound of a low flying aircraft.  I finally spotted it and yelled for Clive to get the camera.  It was a Vulcan Bomber and I believe it is the only one now flying!  These amazing planes first flew in 1952, the same year Clive was born!  They were also used in the bombing of Port Stanley airport during the Falklands War back in 1982.  Fortunately Clive managed to get a shot of it before it disappeared from view!

Vulcan Bomber

We carried on down the flight and finally moored up at Kilby Bridge.  There was a pub across the bridge from us called The Navigation so we decided to go there for dinner.  They did a great Sunday roast, which was very tasty indeed and very reasonably priced too!  Once back on board we watched TV for a couple of hours then had an early night – we had a big day ahead of us!


Monday July 4th 2011 – We got up at 5.30 in the morning – yes I said 5.30 A M!! We had a quick breakfast and were off by 6.30.  It was quite slow going as there were a lot of locks but none within walking distance of each other.  They were also big double locks but fortunately the majority of them were in our favour, which helped a lot.  Several locks down the flight we came across another boater who was just getting ready to leave his mooring and head down the flight so we decided to go down together. It makes the locks so much quicker and easier when there are two people operating the paddles and gates. 


Half way down the flight we reached King’s Lock and this is where the canal is joined by the River Soar.  The water suddenly went from murky brown to lovely and clear. A short while later we reached the outskirts of Leicester and it looked quite nice, by this time there were lots more boats out on the water, we had passed a few going the other way – here’s another one coming!


Approaching Leicester


It didn’t take us long to get through the centre of the city then we passed through some less salubrious areas where there was an awful lot of rubbish, both floating in the water and scattered around on the banks.  We reached another lock and here the rubbish was appalling, there were several supermarket bags full of rubbish just hung on the railings – who do they think is going to get rid of them!  Our fellow boater came up with an idea – he suggested that all the people on the dole should be made to spend one day a week picking up rubbish in their area, once they have done it a few times perhaps they will stop throwing it in the first place!!  Somebody tell that Mr Cameron please!


As we were leaving the city behind us we passed an amazing looking building.  It turned out to be The National Space Centre – awesome!  It looks like something out of a Sci-Fi movie doesn’t it!


The National Space Centre


Finally we reached Birstall Lock and once through there we decided it was time to call it a day so we pulled over and moored up on the visitor moorings.  When we were all tied up and settled I went off in search of a shop as we were in need of biblical rations – Bread and Wine!


I was amazed to find just around the corner from the boat three pubs, a betting shop, a dentist, a doctor’s surgery, an off license, a gym, Chinese and Indian takeaways and a fish and chip shop, not to mention a Co-op!  What more could you need!  All I needed at that point was the Co-op.  I bought the bread and wine and a few more bits and pieces then headed back to the boat.  It had been a long day but I set to and made a chicken curry, which was yummy!  The only thing to marr the tranquility was a group of lads walking passed the boat and one of the litte brats decided it would be fun to stand on the gunwhales and make the boat rock!!  Toe-rag!  Afer dinner we watched a couple of episodes of CSI Las Vegas then, as by this time we were both yawning, we called it a day!  Not surprising really, up at 5.30am, seven and a half hours of cruising including fifteen locks – no wonder we were tired!


Tuesday July 5th 2011 – We set off at a much more civilised hour this morning, around 10.00am and continued our journey down The Soar.  We met up with a single boater who was going all the way to Loughborough so we had a locking companion yet again.  It was a beautiful day and we really enjoyed the cruise through surprisingly pretty countryside, considering we were so close to one of the ten largest cities in the country!  We past some absolutely stunning properties in Barrow on Soar but one of them amused us a great deal.  They say an Englishman’s home is his castle but these days not many of them have turrets and certainly not gunports!


Turrets and gun ports!


A short time later as we were approaching Loughborough it started to rain and we decided to moor up as soon as possible.  We came across a stretch of mooring with several other boats already moored up so we pulled in and here we are! Clive finally found time to phone the wildlife hospital to check on the progress of the injured grass snake.  We were both delighted to hear that he was on the mend.  They had come to the conclusion that it was just badly bruised as the snake was beginning to move his body south of the injury which implies that it was nothing too serious after all.  All's well that ends well so they say!


The weather forecasters don’t seem to be able to make up their minds what the weather is going to do over the next few days!  They keep changing their minds – one minute there are going to be thunderstorms but then the next day this has changed to sunshine and showers!  So, we will find out what the weather is doing in the morning by looking out of the window – if it is fine we will move on, if its raining or looks like rain then we will just stay put! 


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