Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Warm, Wet, Wild and Windy!

Conkers banging on to the roof – “Strictly” back on the box – it was only a matter of time before we broke out the gloves and woolly hats as the temperatures started and the winds picked up. And it does seem that the “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” has arrived with a flourish with the canal network starting to appear very autumnal. No frosts, as yet, but there is still time before we finish cruising and head for sunnier climes at the end of the month.

Roger models this season's autumn collection
I am pleased to be able to report that our progress remains steady and we have easily averaged the five miles a day, we set ourselves as we left London and headed north, some three weeks ago. As I write this we are on a very nice mooring in Birstall, a village to the north of Leicester. There is a nature reserve opposite, a good-looking pub I will investigate later and the village shops are only a couple of minutes away.
Last weekend we experienced another of our canal networks major features. The Foxton flight of 10 staircase locks, about 10 miles south of Leicester, attracts huge crowds every weekend. They turn up to watch as boats climb and drop 75ft, in a very attractive setting, with two pubs and a tea room. On busy summer days you can wait in line for hours to navigate this flight and the nature of them means that five go up and then five go down. Luckily, we were first in line in the queue on Saturday morning and we were down at the bottom in around 40 minutes.
Foxton is unique for having been the sight of an “inclined plane” in the early years of the 20th century. The remains of this spectacular lifting mechanism can still be clearly seen. Boats would enter a “caisson”, a sort of floating bath, and this would be lifted on cables and rails, sideways on, up the side of the hill and dropped back in the water at the top.

Top: Foxton Inclined Plane, c1905
Bottom: What it looks like today

It was unique to the waterways and plans are underway to restore it, which will be impressive if the trust concerned, can pull it off.
We met up with our boating pals Dai and Jan at Foxton, on their Kingfisher-built built “Jandai”, and had a very pleasant evening with them in The Boathouse Inn, at the bottom of the flight. We last bumped into them in central Birmingham earlier this summer and it was good to catch up again, and see “Foxy”. Dai also helped to lock up down the flight – thanks mate, despite the derogatory T-shirt you insisted on wearing.

Pat, Dai and Jan is in there somewhere
In the last blog we posted, I whinged about tunnels, and how I wasn’t too keen on them at all. So imagine my deep joy when, on approaching two more this week we discovered that our tunnel light had packed up, and that it was a sealed unit. Pat stayed at the helm shining a Maglite on to the ceiling as I edged through, picking up the wall with another torch. We have no more tunnels, thank God, but our next lamp with have a replaceable bulb.

Why is Pat so excited about this bridge coming up?

Ohhh. That's why.
The rest of the week has been trouble free, but today, was very, very windy. It was a bit silly even going out in these conditions, but we have a schedule and I thought we would be sheltered as we were coming right through the centre of Leicester. Wrong! It was very....challenging and we were bounced around a lot. The fact that we did not meet one boat coming the other way probably says it all. Tomorrow we will be in Mountsorrel and are considering having a couple of days at Pillings Lock Marina this weekend, to start preparing the boat for its winter incubation. Then, all being well we will have a couple of days in Loughborough, before arriving at Trent Lock towards the end of next week.
We are hopeful of meeting Fred and Lisa before we leave. They took possession of Kingfisher’s boat after ours last Friday. It looks stunning on their blog so we are keen to swap notes and have a good nose around, before they set off on their adventures on the Trent and Mersey. We believe they are cruising the Erewash Canal for a few days.


  1. Loving the Keats reference, but just to get my own back for years of you correcting my grammar and intonation... Its 'mellow fruitlessness' :-)