40 Years on ….Take2

Heading south from Leicester

You guessed it, we have made it to Leicester and now gone beyond.  What a great time it has been over the last few days. We headed off down the River Soar. It’s not a particularly big river so in this section the river/canal tends to meander a bit.  At various places “cuts” have been made and then you leave the river and follow this canal/cut for a bit before tipping back into the river again. It was a tight interesting section all the way to Leicester. Normally this trip would have been a doodle but on the day we did it we got to a wee town called Birdstall to find the lock was buggered, so we had to wait there a few hours till the canal trust repair people arrived. By the time we arrived, there were already a few boats waiting before us and as you do you get chatting.  Once the lock was repaired we headed off with another couple going to Leicester as well. The advantage now was that the locks were quicker and easier with two boats in them.

All looked good thinking we could be in Leicester by 4 pm, having a pint by 5 pm when we get to the last lock of the day literally located in Leicester and we find it’s been shut down since 11am that morning by the fire brigade and police as a result of a truck carrying gas cans catching fire in an industrial park right beside the canal. Made it easy for the fire brigade to get water, but once again we had to park up and and wait it out.  Finally the lock was reopened at 7 pm so we could move thru to the mooring area.  As anticipated because the lock had been closed most of the day all the moorings were occupied as no boats could leave town either.  In the end there was nothing for it but to “raft up” against other canal boats for the night. When we finally got all that done it was after 8 pm, so you guessed it we all decided we needed a light libation after close to 12 hours boating that day.

Leicester was a nice city to wander round for a day or so, historic cathedral, plus it has the new burial place for King Richard 3, the delightful Abbey park and gardens as well as a large market to wander round and replenish our stocks.

After a couple of nights in Leicester we continued heading south with what was to be a big days boating in front of us through a large part of the UK countryside. Over the day we saw very little in the way of towns or villages it was rural farmland thru and thru. During the  morning we passed thru 12 locks and so it was looking like we might have a shorter boating day as my “first mate” and lock person was just about over the locks for that day already. Then the river gods took pity on us, as we  were caught up by a boat with a family of four guys on board.  Because the section in front of us had the locks a lot closer together they were working a system where three of the guys were leapfrogging ahead and running down the canal setting up the locks in front of us.   All the locks currently on the Grand Union  canal are double locks fitting two boats at a time, so what a big difference it made now with both boats working together. When we decided we would stop for the night at a wee town called Fleckney, 24 locks had been traversed that day, a new record for us.

I can tell you the “first mate” was a lot happier by then.

We stopped at Fleckney because in front of us now along the river was the Saddington tunnel and I wanted to do that the next morning.

The tunnel is just over 800 m long and was built in 1797.  This tunnel is straight thank goodness, but it’s a weird feeling boating thru something like this.  There is no lighting in the tunnel other than our boat headlight, and the wee speck of light at the other end telling me there is light at the end of the tunnel…..sorry about that.

It was really mesmerising steering thru the tunnel, literally my eyes got sore trying to see and steer the boat in a straight line for 800 m so that you don’t hit the tunnel sides. I have to say I was relieved to get out the other end. The only issue is that we have a longer one to go thru in the next day or so.

The day however was still to get better, as a couple of miles past the tunnel were the Foxton Flights, a series of ten locks forming the longest and steepest staircase to climb a hill of some  75ft in height.  I will write a seperate blog about the Foxton flight of locks because it is simply so incredible.

So that’s it for now we are parked up at the top of the Foxton Locks for the night, following the Sunday pub lunch I think I can almost feel a nana nap coming on  it has been one really interesting day or two here on the canals.


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