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


3 thoughts on “Leicester Ring Day 14-15: Thurmaston to Aylestone”

  1. What a surprise. I locked you through at Thurmaston on the afternoon of the 2nd September and wished you well. Thank you for your comments on your journey through Leicester. It makes a real change from the number of negative comments I often receive from boaters as they travel through the city. The city has many credits attributed to it including its significant historical heritage. It is a pleasure to hear from someone who has seen a real positive change in the city over the years.
    Very best wishes on your journey
    Peter Price ( Voluntary Lockeeper: Canal & River Trust)

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