Leicester Ring, Days 18-19: Foxton Locks to Yelvertoft Marina

So, finally, the homeward journey. We set out on August 1st, so the whole trip has taken a lot longer than 19 days, but we were stuck in Leicester for quite a while. There are really two big events in these final two days: going up Foxton Locks and arriving at our home mooring in Yelvertoft. This is not to say that the rest of the trip was dull – far from it. The stretch from Foxton to Yelvertoft is beautiful, uninterrupted countryside. Here’s a typical picture:


We also saw some amusing boat names, such as this homage to Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot:


We stopped overnight opposite the Welford Arm turn, where there are fine moorings. This gave Andy an opportunity to paint the boat. Removing all those bumps and scrapes was surprisingly satisfying. Froth is now resplendent and good as new (well, almost).

But…the main part of this blog must be devoted to the magnificent trip up Foxton Locks. The real heroes are the CRT volunteers, who are incredibly fit and very efficient, as well a good humoured. This is Ian, proudly displaying his gold cap badge for 2,000 hours of service:


He was one of many, all working away:


There are ten locks in the flight, and, as you will hear if you watch all the videos below, I became rather carried away by the experience, likening it to Mahler’s 10 Symphonies (well, 9, plus the one finished by Deryck Cooke). It does feel quite symphonic and takes about as long as one of Mahler’s movements!

Here is the entrance to lock one:


And now, a video sequence going up:

Coming home after such a long journey was also exciting. Here is the approach to the marina entrance:

Here’s the marina from the hill above:

And finally, some lovely shots of the sunset:


This will probably be the last blog entry for quite a while, so we hope you have enjoyed it so far, and thanks to all those who have commented or sent messages.



Leicester Ring Days 16-17: Aylestone to Foxton Locks

One hazard of the canals is, as any boater will tell you, variable internet supply. Not a problem that would have troubled the IWA in the postwar years, let alone the working boats of the 19th Century. But in today’s world it’s pretty important, especially if one has a blog to write!

All of which is a roundabout way of explaining why these last blog posts from our journey are being written post-facto, in the comfort of the marina. We have experienced a mixture of poor signal (Foxton/Harborough area seems particularly bad) and ever diminishing data allowance. We get 64GB a month from EE, which you would think would be plenty, but it is amazing how quickly it goes, especially when uploading photos and movies.

So, Days 16 and 17 took us all the way to Foxton Locks, with an overnight stop at Kilby Bridge, where we used the facilities (good, clean). We have done 101 locks on this round trip, with always the same formula: Louise operating the lock gear and Andy steering the boat. However, some of the locks in this stretch really required a two-person effort on the gear, because they are extremely big, with gates that will not stay shut. Consequently, Andrew did a lot of climbing out via the ladders in the side of the locks, operating gates/paddles, then rushing back to the boat:

The wind and the rain do not help in these situations! But we are an efficient team, and we got through all the locks pretty quickly. We have been this way before, of course, and were pleased to see that the Canal and River Trust had repaired a lot of the gear, including one lock which we had reported to them last October.

Not all the journey was rural. We passed through several Leicester suburbs after Aylestone, including Glen Parva and South Wigston. Our favourite pastime in these sections is looking at the gardens. The houses are mostly small council houses, but many people who are lucky enough to have canal frontage do make a big effort. Here is Louise’s favourite:

And here is a montage of various others:

One thing that never changes is that there are always birds outside demanding food. This family of swans pecked the side of the boat to get their reward!


Locks are beautiful places, whether encountered in the late summer sunshine…


…or in the early Autumn mizzle.lock-approach

The boating life is active but also serene, and occasionally one comes across a little mystery. This pair of boots, found early in the morning by a lock, was completely abandoned:

We assume it was some kind of artwork in homage to Samuel Beckett.



Leicester Ring Day 14-15: Thurmaston to Aylestone

So, finally, we are back on our travels! This has turned into a rather strange, extended, summer ring, but we are now on the homeward path towards Yelvertoft. All the work has been completed at MGM Boats. Froth has a renewed cratch, a replacement switch in the battery compartment, and a host of smaller fixes. She is handling more smoothly than ever.

Last night, we made a short trip through Thurmaston Lock to moor up beside the White Horse at Birstall. The food is good there, and it has almost become a second home for Rosie, who has a spot on the hearth in front of the fire:


Furthermore, it is a Pokéstop. For those who have no idea what this means, it relates to an augmented reality game called Pokémon Go which has become a global craze, with millions of players. Basically, you ‘catch’ little animated creatures by walking around and using your phone to find them. Our grandson Toby loves it and has got us both playing it too! It does have the advantage that it makes you walk a lot: Toby spent two hours walking in the rain with us a week ago, something which would never have happened were it not for this game.Anyway, loaded with Pokémon, we set off almost at first light this morning.IMG_5389

Birstall departure

There was a long day ahead, as we wanted to get through Leicester. As it turned out, the heavy rain came in at lunchtime, which meant we have moored at Aylestone. This is out of the city centre, but we still have a lot of travel through some of the rougher suburbs to do tomorrow to get to Kilby and the start of the more rural sections of canal.

But…today was all about Leicester. When we travelled this way back in October, we were quite disappointed by the generally dilapidated state of the canalside. Andy wrote to the mayor about it, and received this very nice, upbeat reply:

Dear Mr Hugill,

Thank you for your email and your comments about the Canal network in Leicester.

I am very pleased to advise that the Council has a series of investment programmes that will bring about tremendous improvements to conditions around the waterways over the next few years. The current focus of our activity is in an area we refer to as ‘Waterside’. This area reaches from Castle Park Gardens to North Bridge.

Within the next few months new visitor moorings will be in place in this area at the restored Friars Mill site, just to the north of Bow Bridge (A47 crossing).

Friars Mill itself will soon be complete, the result of 2-years and £7M investment (including almost £4M grant from the European Union) to create a prestigious complex of offices for high-tech businesses. Two further office buildings are also under construction on this site. These attractive buildings respect the architectural heritage of the area and will bring life and activity back to the water-edge.

The Council has secured £20M plus of grant from Government to build on the regeneration success at Friars Mill. We have been (and continue to) acquire land to the north of the Mill for a major mixed-use regeneration scheme including hundreds of new homes, offices and cafes on land between the canal and the A50, including Soar Island which lies between the Evans and Hitchcock weirs. Planning consent was secured for this scheme at the end of last year. This is a very large project that will have a transformational effect on the area and we hope to commence building within the next two years. This may seem like a long time, however the project is very complex and I am sure you will appreciate that we wish to get it right and make the very best use of the undoubted opportunity.

To complement this, our flagship project, we are working closely with the Canal and River Trust and the Environment Agency to invest in the Waterways themselves, including environmental and access improvements such as improved towpaths and new stretches of River and canal-side walkways.

I hope you will be reassured that the Waterways in Leicester are getting the attention they deserve and I hope you will consider a return trip, perhaps to the new moorings at Friars Mill this summer.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Soulsby
City Mayor

I responded positively to this news at the time, and this evening have sent another email expressing more appreciation, because several of the things he describes are happening. At last, Leicester seems to be waking up to its waterfront. So the rest of this blog is really a photo essay on “industrial Leicester”. A few captions will be provided, but not much more. Enjoy the show!

Going through Belgrave is still fairly rural:

River scene

But soon the city appears:

One way of tackling unwanted graffiti is to get graffiti artists to paint murals. Some are quite good:

Going through locks often involves some ducking!

Ducking under bridge

The National Space Centre makes a spectacular landmark:

Space Centre

Choosing the right archway under a bridge was sometimes a bit baffling. The main thing is to leave enough height for those on the roof!

Rosie and bridge

Some shots of the new moorings at Friars Mill, mentioned in the mayor’s email. They look really good.

Here are some random shots of bits of central Leicester seen from the canal:

Swans by Bridge 2Swans at Castle GardensRoad bridgeHoliday InnFrog Island bridge workFrog IslandFlatsDMU BridgeChimney

The final portion of the city centre took us past De Montfort University and on to Freemen’s meadow. Here there were rowers and canoeists a-plenty, plus of course the football ground – home of Leicester City, the premiership champions.

TowerSwans and rowerIn Freemens LockLeaving Freemens LockLCFCCanoes at Freemen's meadowCanoes and rowboats

One final piece of nostalgia. This doesn’t look like much, but 25 years ago I used to walk past this house regularly (on the towpath side) and fantasise about living by the river. Now we’ve gone one better and actually live ON the river! Still it’s intriguing to see this place again, situated in Aylestone meadows:

Aylestone house