We had a magnificent weekend in Mountsorrel. What a splendid place it is. So well kept, and the locals we came across were friendly and appeared to relish living near the river. Of course, once again, the sunny, warm weather helped! Lisa and Rob’s boys, our grandsons, had heaps of fun swimming in the water. Even Lisa stayed overnight on Saturday, which we believe is only the second time in over seven years. It was a very special time to treasure in our memory boxes.
I’m usually gifted with an early morning wake-up call by our seven-year-old grandson, and Sunday was no different. We went for a walk around the village, which gave me the opportunity to take a few shots of a rather delightful (posh!) estate, that looks like it’s modelled on a Dutch town. What I couldn’t comprehend was the number of wreaths hanging from the front doors – all seemingly plastic flowers and leaves. What’s that about?
We stayed until Monday afternoon, setting off once I’d finished a few work calls. We’ve still got a way to travel to get to where we need to be prior to our New Zealand flights next Thursday.
We made good headway along the River Soar and Grand Union Canal (they keep cheekily swapping and changing), passing Watermead Country Park en route. We’ve moored up here previously and had a walk around, it’s a superb space for walking and cycling. There’s an abundance of lakes and pools, nature reserves and wildlife. There was no time to stop and stare for us though, we’re scurrying steadfastly. Or at least we were …
Further along we hit our first hiccup. CRT were busy doing work at the bottom of a lock, and had two work boats alongside each other. The boat in front of us squeezed through, but we got stuck. Thankfully not for long; Barry backed up and one of their boats was backed up.
The next hiccup was at Thurcaston Old Bridge. I was sat inside working (no change there then!) when I saw a bridge brick wall coming towards us. Well, the other way around! I heard Barry hastily putting the engine into reverse and closed my eyes imagining we’d hit it. Just in time we stopped. The bridge has seven stone arches, and approaching from the east there was absolutely NO indication as to which arch to take. Notably, the water levels are also currently rather low.
Barry re-manoeuvred and was heading towards the next arch, but I looked into the water and saw that it was extremely shallow. I shouted loudly back for him to stop, and reverse gear was heard again. Eventually, we found by a process of elimination, that the ONLY way through was on the towpath side. Once through, as you can see below, it’s obvious there’s only one possibility. We surely can’t be the only boat to have had this difficulty? Why are there no signs?
Hiccup Number Three
Cruising closer to Leicester, there was a noticeable change in the surroundings. Most especially the vast amount of detritus floating in the river and hanging off overhanging tree branches. We were also starkly aware of the lack of boats. Leicester had been in lockdown, but it’s now eased which is why we’ we able to choose this route early last week. However, we’ve not passed a hire boat since then that I can recall.
Not long after leaving Limekiln Lock, we were waved down by a CRT representative. There was a cruiser on the towpath side of the river, which was unable to move as it had no steering. We discovered later they’d been waiting for a boat to come by since 1.30 pm; we arrived around three hours later. It wasn’t a problem at all for us to tow them towards Leicester. Jed, the CRT person, had been called from Loughborough to assist. John and Angie, on the Cruiser ‘Matilda May’, had only acquired her three days previously and were taking her to their home mooring in Evesham.
The combination of shallow water and extensive rubbish and heaven knows what within it, caused their propellors to become well and truly snagged.
Arriving at North Lock, it was obvious we wouldn’t get both boats in at the same time, so we went up first, then Matilda May. The graffiti around Leicester is prolific, most of it gloriously colourful and cheery.
We discovered whilst chatting with John, that he’s an internet rap superstar called ‘DadBoy’ aka John Daly, on Duggystone Radio. He got a few requests of favourite tunes from Barry that they’re going to play. I’ve joined their Facebook Group today, (https://www.facebook.com/groups/duggystoneradiogroup/) so we’ll look out for a mention of the crew of NB Areandare. Barry’s listening tonight as we seem to recall ‘DadBoy’ may be spinning a few discs (I know, they don’t do that anymore!). Or was it another time? We can’t remember sorry!
An Unexpected Overnight Stay in Leicester
We all came to the conclusion that mooring at the gated floating pontoon at Castle Gardens in Leicester would be the best option. We hadn’t planned on staying in the city this time, for obvious reasons, but hey ho. Plans change!
John didn’t waste much time before stripping to his boxers and getting into the river to try and extricate whatever had wrapped itself around their props. Two props. No weed hatch. Goodness. I’m not sure we could cope with that! After a little while, it was obvious this would be a long job. I suddenly remembered I had a snorkel mask on the boat that could help. He’d been trying with scissors and Barry found his short saw. Both most certainly helped the challenge. Poor John. We did feel for him. He almost gave up it was such a struggle, but Barry kept encouraging him from the sidelines knowing from experience that if you just keep whittling away, whatever is stuck eventually comes free.
It took over an hour of hacking and swearing, but finally what looked like a dress and zip bag was all removed. John reckons there’s a wedding ritual in some cultures where the bride throws her dress in the river. I couldn’t find anything on a search, but if anyone knows anything please share. And if anyone’s reading this who has ever thrown rubbish, clothes, mattresses, sleeping bags, whatever into the canal or river PLEASE DON’T!! It’s horrid for everyone waling, cycling or boating by the water. Not to mention the trauma caused. My main concern was John cutting himself, or getting Weil’s disease from being in the water for so long. We saw a few rats scurrying along the wall of the Castle park which was rather disconcerting.
We had a pleasant evening following the hard work, and sat on the floating pontoon chatting amiably till the wee small hours. I have no doubt we came into each other’s lives for a reason, that’s how the Universe works in our experience. I know that John learnt a lot from Barry’s extensive knowledge of the Inland Waterways.
John and Angie, good luck with your future plans. May you get your gorgeous new boat ‘home’ soon, and your turnips and honeycombs combine in the not too distant future and last in love for eternity (don’t ask!).
Moving On Despite The Heat
A short cruise out of Leicester we discovered a welcome sign, one that we’ve never seen previously. It really should be EVERYWHERE on the waterways:
Yesterday and today we’ve done many miles and 16 locks. It’s been beautiful scenery.
Today we spotted ripe blackberries and damsons, and did a spot of towpath foraging. It’ll be blackberry, apple and damson crumble for pudding this evening. Yum.
This evening we’re moored at a place called Newton Harcourt, after exhausting ourselves in the sweltering sunshine. I’m not complaining, it’s always a gift to have nice weather in a British Summer!
Stopped Symptom Study reporting
On a completely different subject, we’ve both stopped reporting to the COVID-19 symptom Study as we’re far away from where they’re monitoring us, and have never replied to my requests as to how to change postcode. As far as I’m concerned continuing reporting will skew their research.
Will We Won’t We?
We’ve known since COVID-19 hit that our long-planned journey ‘home’ to New Zealand this year, could be under threat. The flights were cancelled, then re-booked, then one flight ‘disappeared’, now re-booked (though there’s still a problem I have to sort out!), and now there are four new COVID-19 cases in Auckland. As of yesterday, Auckland is in lockdown and the rest of the country is on level 2. Four people in the same family tested positive, but the source of the ‘outbreak’ is as yet unknown. At this stage only for three days. The border is still open.
By next Thursday, 20th August, Barry’s son Tom’s 30th birthday, we’ll know if we’re flying to Aotearoa or not this year. One day at a time …