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The 1997 Mega Cruise

Index

1. Harefield Marina to Nottingham, Grand Union Canal, Grand Union Canal (Leicester Arm), River Soar and River Trent.


The first boat moving week was 7th and 8th of June. We got to Berkhamsted just above Lock 54 by Saturday night, but we had a disaster Sunday morning, the engine would not crank. The battery terminals we checked, but to no avail. "Beatty's" batteries are all in-line, so Neil shorted a spanner across the positive terminals, between the start and leisure batteries. Ian hit the heater's and starter and the engine fired up. We arrived at Marsworth early at 15.30 and the engine was stopped. Even after a day's cruising the start battery would not restart a hot engine and was pronounced dead. The second boat move week-end of 14th and 15th of June saw us get of to an early start as we had to fit a new start battery. Neil checked the old battery at home and found that one cell was shorted out, well at least it had lasted 6 years. We got to Cosgrove Bridge 65 the first night and arrived at Blisworth fairly early at 14.45 as John F who had arranged all the pick ups and drops wanted see the F1 Grand Prix live round his mate Al's house. On the way home we all stopped at Al's house to see the F1 Grand Prix.


John F dropped Neil and Ian Scott at Blisworth on the Friday evening (20th July) as we wanted to make an early start in the morning. When we arrived it was pouring with rain. We parked as near as we could in an old yard by the bridge and got soaked transferring all the perishable food and all the valuable items, which we never leave on the boat. There was a lot of food, Ian and Neil are not ones for shopping or stopping! We spent about hour stuffing the fridge to bursting point and then retired for a night-cap in the "Royal Oak". In the morning we made a start at 6.55 in blustery but dry weather, passed Gayton Junction (Nothampton Arm) at 7.15 and got to Buckby Bottom Lock at 10.45. 
By now the weather was a constant drizzle, temperature 11.6 C! and we had picked up a slow Alvechurch hire boat to share the locks with. We got to Norton Junction at 12.25, waved good by to the Alvechurch boat an started on the Leicester section. It was our intention to get to the top of Foxton Locks that night, so we could clear Leicester the next day. There were 8.00-18.00 restrictions on the locks just above Leicester and the customary 8.00-17.00 restrictions on the Foxton Staircases, which could hold us up. We eventually made Foxton at 20.25 in pouring rain, a 13 hour day and were surprised to find we were first in the queue for the locks. We quickly prepared to the "Bridge 61" pub for a meal and refreshments, not on of our favourite venues.


At 7.45 on 22nd of June we moved up to the water point, filled up and waited for the Locky. It had poured down all night and was still very overcast, amazingly another boat had arrived behind us, either late last night or early this morning. Mr and Mrs Locky arrived 10 minutes late complaining they had a "heavy session" last night. The promise of a cuppa soon stirred them into action and we were out of the staircases at 8.55, we parted company having given them a few "tinnys" to cheer them up.

 The Leicester Arm summit started off deeper and quicker than we last remember but below Saddington Tunnel we found it a bit slow going. We had a few small stones chunked at us by some yobs sheltering from the rain under Bridge 93 who gleefully watched as we tried to shut the top gates of Bush Lock 33. They had obviously dropped something onto the sill, but to their disappointment Neil soon had it out of the way with our convertible barge pole with the screw on rake attachment. When we had dropped the water several bricks could be seen sitting on the sill! Neil reversed the boat right back, jumped out onto the sill and removed them. When we were on our way we could see the yobs standing on the top gates, despondently wondering where their bricks had gone. South Wigston to Blaby is now a notoriously grotty bit, though this episode, where we did not feel threatened, is the worst we have ever encountered.

Blaby was passed at 15.35 and the traverse through Leicester was completed by getting onto the River Soar proper below Belgrave Lock at 19.05. We find the passage through Leicester very interesting but we have never stopped. The "Manchester Ship Canal" style flood defence channel through the city is now getting a right "Urban regeneration" job done around it, and some impressive new and converted buildings can be seen on the west bank. We were nearly tempted to stop on the new excellent pontoon moorings at the end of this section and have a curry, but we really wanted to make Montsorrel so we had an easier day to Nottingham. 
We stopped below Birstall Lock with the aim of going to the "Big Steak" "White Horse", but as it was a Sunday it was not serving food. Julian, if he had been here would have refused to go into one of these "Wacky warehouse" type establishments. Ian and Neil were getting a bit desperate for food, so we decided to eat on board. Ian cooked up a trusty spag-bol while Neil steered, with the idea of eating in a lock, one of our common short term mooring arrangements! We stopped at 20.50 in pouring rain, at Junction Lock for diner, we had made good progress as the River Soar was beginning to rise. Still in rain we arrived bedraggled above Montsorrel Lock at 22.15, a 14 hour solid day.


Monday 23rd June saw us start at 7.15, the temperature was only 10.1C but not raining, was this really the British summer we had grown to know over the last few years? The River Soar was well up but not closed at the "traffic lights" on any of the "cut" sections and we had a whizzy descent to Trent Lock Junction, arriving there at 12.30. Only one of the flood locks was shut at Pilling and this had a drop of about 2 feet. We stopped for a diesel top-up at Kegworth Marine as there are not many places on the River Trent. When we went round the corner were amazed that the Trent was much more in flood than the Soar, and "Beatty" got really "stuck in" to round the corner into Cranfleet Cut. 
At Cranfleet Lock we met another Narrowboater coming up (who was from Doncaster, so obviously used to river navigation), he seemed slightly flustered, commenting "That Trent is going like a train below the lock!" It certainly was, and we made record time to Nottingham, getting to Sainsbury's on the Nottingham Canal by-pass section at 14.15. We stocked up with provisions, then Ian gave Neil a guided tour of Nottingham as Ian was reminiscing about his student days there. We went to "Yate's Wine lodge" and the famous carved into Castle Hill "The Trip To Jerusalem". We ended up in an excellent cheap un-licensed Chinese Restaurant, up Milton Street.


Dudswell Lock No47, Grand Union Canal, nearly up to Tring Summit.

Ian Scott keeps watch over water filling operations. Stoke Bruerne Bottom lock No20. Grand Union Canal.

Working pair waiting at bottom of Stoke Bruerne Flight, they let us go first. Grand Union Canal.

Hillingdon Narrowboats Association community narrowboats. The old ex-Star class motor "Pisces" and the new Peter Nichols built "Hillingdon Star". On visitor moorings above Stoke Bruerne Top Lock. Grand Union Canal.

Buckby Bottom lock No13. Grand Union Canal.

Buckby Flight lock No9. Grand Union Canal.

Buckby Top lock No7. Grand Union Canal.

Watford Flight Bottom Lock No1. Grand Union Canal, Leicester Section.

Watford Flight. Grand Union Canal, Leicester Section.

Watford Flight. Grand Union Canal, Leicester Section.

Newton Top Lock No23. Grand Union Canal, Leicester Section. Wide section beyond Foxton.

Kilby Bridge Wharf, the last safe moorings this side of Leicester. Grand Union Canal, Leicester Section. Wide section beyond Foxton.

Ervin Lock No32. Although pleasant , this is South Wigston bandit country! Grand Union Canal, Leicester Section. These locks now have Leeds and Liverpool Canal type locks on the paddles! Wide section just before Leicester.

South Wigston, Little Glen Bridge No94. Grand Union Canal, Leicester Section. Wide section just before Leicester.

The "County Arms", Blaby. Hudge 1930's road house pub, visited by L.T.C. Rolt. Now a "Beefeater". Grand Union Canal, Leicester Section. Wide section just before Leicester.

Kings Lock No38. Grand Union Canal, Leicester Section. Wide section just before you first mix with the rivers. Leicester.

Freeman's Lock and weir. Now on the River Soar. Grand Union Canal, Soar Navigation. Leicester.

The over engineered straight, through Leicester, built during the Victorian anti-flood works. Grand Union Canal, Soar Navigation. Leicester.

The over engineered straight, through Leicester, built during the Victorian anti-flood works. Grand Union Canal, Soar Navigation. Leicester.

New pontoon moorings in Leicester at the end of the straight. Grand Union Canal, Soar Navigation.

Below Montsorrel Lock, Grand Union Canal, Soar Navigation.

"The Navigation" pub at Mill Lane Bridge No28, Barrow upon Soar. Grand Union Canal, Soar Navigation.

Approaching Barrow Deep Lock. This is controlled by remote flood traffic lights as you enter a river section beyond here. Grand Union Canal, Soar Navigation.

We have just turned right, at the sharp turn in Loughborough. Beyond is the recently saved Loughborough Basin. Grand Union Canal, Soar Navigation.

"The Boat Inn" in Loughborough.

Approaching Normanton On Soar.

"The Plough" Big Steak pub at Normanton. River Soar.

Just entering Zouch Cut off the River Soar. Bridge No43 Zouch Road Bridge. Grand Union Canal, Soar Navigation.

"The Rose and Crown" pub in Zouch Cut. Grand Union Canal, Soar Navigation.

We have just left Cranfleet Lock on the River Trent and are going like a rocket! The River Trent was up a bit!

We have just left Castle Lock, Nottingham. This is on the Nottingham Canal / Beeston Cut by-pass section of the River Trent through Nottingham.

Old Great Central Railway bridge across sharp turn to right, the following span has already been removed. The Nottingham Canal then makes a beeline for the River Trent.

The Tour continues...


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