I am Linda and along with my husband Richard and our dog Muffin we enjoy our summers on the UK's canal system

Saturday 20 May 2023

May 2023 - Zouch, Weston and Willington

Footbridge over Zouch Cut - Number 44 (Leicester Line) – Tuesday 16th May

We had some rain overnight, but nothing to write home about (wait a minute I am writing about it!).  However, the day dawned bright though there was quite a strong breeze which made locks interesting!

The first lock was empty, what a surprise, but when we got the second lock two boats were coming out and the next 2 locks were in our favour, but sadly it didn’t last, and the rest were against us.

These two photos are of Sileby Lock.

 The next lock was Mountsorrel.  I took these photos just after it. 

We went under the Mountsorrel Mineral Railway Bridge, though we didn’t know it was a mineral bridge until I did some research.  Canalplan says “Grade II Listed the bridge dated 1860 in the brickwork is also known as the '1860 Bridge'. The 90ft span is considered one of the finest brick-built, single span bridges in the country. Broad Hill Quarry became the first industrial operation to have its own branch line and sidings and by 1863 the line was carrying 200 tonnes of granite per day. The Mountsorrel Granite Company was bought by Redland Aggregates in 1959 and the mineral line closed soon afterwards. Now the bridge carries a conveyor, transporting crushed stone to Barrow and the sidings.”  We could see that the bridge had a canopy over it, so the fact that it now carries a conveyor answers the question why!! 

Barrow Deep Lock has a drop of 9ft 7ins and has a lock house with traffic lights!  These are to show if the river is safe to navigate. 

We pulled over for lunch after Pilling’s Flood Lock.  It’s a strange one as the sign says that from March to October it will operate as a normal lock which makes me think that it is open in the winter.  You have to leave a paddle up at each end, and I can’t quite work out why?

We stopped in Loughborough Basin to empty the elsans and go to the big Sainsburys right beside the basin.  I was concerned as I’m sure there was some drug dealing going on.

At Bishop Meadow Lock there was a swan in there.  There was a man watching and worrying about it.  He said that it had flown down the canal and landed in the lock – big mistake!  I reckon it had done if before because as the water level in the lock rose there was a great flapping of wings, and it pushed its way through the gaps at the top of the gate and serenely swam off as if nothing had happened!

Mooring became a problem as we didn’t want to moor in Loughborough.  The first place that was acceptable (!) was too close to a factory with some sort of fan going which was very noisy.  This now meant that we needed to go on beyond Zouch Flood Gates.  There was a couple of spaces before Zouch Lock.

Back in  2016 we came down through Leicester just as Leicester City were promoted to the Premier League and there were lots of flags in gardens.  I heard this morning that it is highly likely that they will be relegated this year

12.3 miles
8 locks

Below Weston Lock – Number 4 (Leicester Line/River Trent/Trent & Mersey Canal) – Wednesday 17th May

We were very close to Zouch Lock and there was a motor cruiser coming out which was a good start to our day.

In 2016 I wrote the following.  “Down through Zouch lock and back out onto the river and the anticipation of seeing one of my favourite places on the waterways.  This is the third time we have been on the Soar and each time I have tried to find out something about the house but to no avail.  Well, this year I have!  It’s called The Hermitage and is up for sale.  It appears to be under offer and was on for £750,000 - which I reckon is cheap!  The house has an interesting and varied past, having been previously a religious retreat, from whence it derived its name, and then latterly a hunting box.  It has been owned by the same family for 48 years.”  So, 7 years on I thought I would see if I could find any more recent information on it.  The house was the family home of Catherine Parr but the amazing new is that in 2021 it was on the market for £1.5m and sold in 2022, but I can’t find out how much for.  It looks lovely inside, so I guess someone bought it to do up and sell on.  If you want to look at the details, they are here.  

Yesterday it was Barrow Deep Lock well today it was the turn of the Kegworth Deep Lock which, with a 12 ft drop, out does Barrow at 9ft 7ins!  I wrote in 2016 how the lock leaked, well today it was lovely. We had to wait until two boats came up, but at least the lock was then in our favour.

As we approached Ratcliffe Bridge, a police officer asked if we could please go as slowly as possible under the bridge.  As we got closer there were about 6 officers standing around.  We wondered if someone had jumped off the bridge and there were waiting for divers, but if that was the case surely we shouldn’t have been allowed through at all as our prop could have done horrible mutilations to a body.

At Ratcliffe Lock we came across Plan B who was already setting the lock.  We had seen the boat a number of times on our journey up the Soar.  We travelled through with them and continued to lock with them until Shardlow.

As we passed the Ratcliffe Power Station I noticed that there was no steam coming out of its cooling towers.  I thought that it was probably closed but discovered that it should have closed in September 2022 but is now due to close in September 2024.  The power station was commissioned in 1968 and, as of now, it is one of only two coal-fired power stations left in the UK.  The other being in County Antrim.  Both these will close before 2025 as In November 2015, the Government announced that all the remaining fourteen coal-fired power stations would be closed by 2025, these are the only two left. 

We joined the River Trent and cruised upstream with Plan B.  The Sawley Locks are mechanised, but Richard seemed confused!  However, when he realised that the operating column was on the other side of the lock it was fine.  Plan B pulled over for water and we pulled over for lunch just afterwards.  Strangely enough we both set off from our mooring at the same time.

We came to the end of the River Trent and joined the Trent and Mersey Canal.

Up through Shardlow.  Wikipedia says “An important late 18th-century river port for the trans-shipment of goods to and from the River Trent to the Trent and Mersey Canal, during its heyday from the 1770s to the 1840s it became referred to as "Rural Rotterdam" and "Little Liverpool". Today Shardlow is considered Britain's most complete surviving example of a canal village, with over 50 Grade II listed buildings and many surviving public houses within the designated Shardlow Wharf Conservation Area.”  It certainly looks an interesting place and maybe one day we can walk around and see the 50 Grade II buildings. 

We lost Plan B at Shardlow Lock as there was another boat waiting.  We shared two locks with them before arriving at Weston Lock where Richard was approached by a farmer who asked him if he could please help him herd his sheep!  The farmer was bringing them up towards the canal and wanted Richard to stop them from going headfirst into it!  Well not exactly, there was a bridge, but the first bit sounds far more interesting!!  The lady off our lock buddy (the boat had no name) gave her husband and I a running commentary of what was happening as we were down in the bottom of a deep lock (10ft 10ins).

We pulled over just after Weston Lock.  This was our view, so pretty. 

I was just comparing today’s distance and locks with yesterdays.  They look almost the same, but the day was so much easier with sharing locks as opposed to doing them on our own.  Easier for Richard with help and nicer for me with someone to chat to in the lock.

12 miles
8 locks and 4 flood locks which were open.

Coach & Horses Bridge - No 25 (Trent & Mersey) – Thursday 18th May

We didn’t have far to go today so had a leisurely start.  Our first lock was Swarkestone where there were two lockies working as there was a ground paddle not in operation.  Another deep lock at 10ft 10ins. 

Just after the lock is the junction of the disused Derby Canal.  According to the Derby and Sandiacre Canal Trust it was built in 1797 and had locks that were 90ft long and 15ft wide to take Trent barges.  There were attempts to close the Sandiacre line in 1937 and commercial traffic on the remainder of the canal ceased in 1945. The IWA lead a protest cruise in 1961 to maintain the right to navigate but the canal company felled two trees across the lock, resulting in the last protest that the IWA lost. In 1964 the canal company gained permission to close the canal.  Land was sold off for housing and some for the M1 which was sold for the grand sum of 1/- (5p). 

This is one of the few surviving examples of canalside cranes left on the canal and is situated at Swarkestone.

The next lock was Stenson, which is even deeper at 12ft 6ins.  There was another boat waiting so they went in first but couldn’t decide which side of the lock it was going, this went on for ages until finally they threw a rope up and chose the left hand side!

We were planning on stopping in Willington, one of my favourite places.  There is a long stretch of mooring but there was only one space left and it was right bang next to the railway.  We started to pull in just as a train went by and the whole boat shook.  There wasn’t anywhere else to moor.  Bang went the fresh food shopping and a meal out.

We continued on to the Waterway Routes next mooring place and the line of moored boats went on and on.  Fortunately there was one space left on the end.  It is very close to a road, but at least we have somewhere to stop.

A lovely spring scene with lots of babies. 

9.5 miles
2 locks

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