Narrowboat AREandARE

From the 2009 & 2010 tantalising tales, traumas and stunning photographs of Barry (photographer) and Sandra (writer) from New Zealand aboard NB 'Northern Pride', to the stories of their 2013 return journey, purchase of 'AREandARE', progress on sustaining their live aboard continuous cruiser lifestyle, and Barry's quest to gain residency and 'Indefinite Leave to Remain' in UK ...

Wednesday 30 June 2010

A strenuous day with a just reward at Saddington

Leaving Kilby Bridge mid-morning on Tuesday, we thought we'd easily get to Debdale Wharf Marina eight miles away and fill up with diesel before 1700hrs - no such luck!  The twelve locks were pretty shocking - most of the lock gates opened themselves spontaneously so you had to shut them and then quickly run to the other end and open the paddles before they re-opened.  I did the first one and then gave up and handed over to Barry or we'd have taken even longer than we did! 


Luscious greens and a bright blue (and white) sky

P1250111A  The days don't get much better than this


Old and tired lock gates looking weary




Barry took the opportunity to do a spot of boat cleaning along the way - balancing blithely on the side




Lock after lock, after lock ...


The occasional one was in our favour which helped


One out, one in


It's not such a bad life when the sun's shining (or even when it isn't to be fair!)


Rich vegetation everywhere


Note in the distance the lock gate is opening itself up


We saw more boats today than recently, many old working boats that could be returning from the Braunston annual working boats rally which was held last weekend.

We were also on the lookout for a supermarket (no meat or salad left on the boat!), but the only place on the way anywhere near the canal already had a boat moored in the one available spot; so on we travelled. 

P1250174A        A colourful working boat heads towards us ...

P1250192A and passes on to the next lock


 A church at Wistow - what a chilled countryside scene


Sandra and her crocheted paper hat - just wait till it rains, it'll all turn to mush


British Waterways workers out in force, fixing and painting - they've certainly got a full time job with these decrepit old locks, but it may need more than a coat or two of paint to improve them!





    Sandra feeling feeding a little hoarse horse!      and how they grow with a bit of grass ...

After negotiating the 880 yards long Saddington Tunnel, we realised we had no chance of getting to Debdale before the Marina closed, so we moored up equidistant to two small villages so we could walk to a pub for a meal tonight - either that or it'd be beans on toast which, after a strenuous day, wouldn't have sufficed I don't think!

P1250235 Entering Saddington Tunnel from the north - note that there's always a spot of light at the end! 


Sandra with tunnel vision!  Apparently you can fit two boats in here - wouldn't have liked to have tried it!


Another working boat on its way home no doubt


Bet he's just been to Braunston for the weekend?


The view of the countryside from our mooring - doesn't come more peaceful than this (apart from the occasional passing high speed train!)

We chose to walk to Saddington rather than Smeeton Westerby (don't you just love those place names?), and we reckon we made the right choice as we had the best Indian meal I've ever tasted at 'Swatlands' restaurant in 'The Queen's Head'.  A very relaxing venue, delicious spicy food (and such a variety on the menu Barry was totally overwhelmed!), along with superb service - well worth every penny and we had to more or less insist on leaving a tip rather than feeling 'bullied' into doing so which I find in most restaurants in England (you don't routinely tip in New Zealand which is so refreshing).


The walk up the hill from the canal to Saddington


Old furrowed fields stand out on the hillside

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Lots of excellent Indian food - and Indian bitter, brewed in Leicester - also note that Barry's shaved his beard off!!


The Queen's Head in Saddington - looks like a typical English pub, but with a difference


        St Helen's Church                                    The Manor House - lots of fine abodes here!

Walking off the food we checked out some of the village, including St Helens Church which advertises tea on Sundays, once again very friendly and welcoming - unusual in such an obviously up-market area.


It'll be on to Debdale tomorrow, Wednesday, with the luxury of NO LOCKS for a couple of days as we're then continuing on to Market Harborough.  Of course once we've been up that arm and down again we've the staircase of ten Foxton Locks to contend with, but we'll be rejuvenated by then.


Even dandelions can look delightful - along with some random orange coloured wild flowers of unknown variety!

Tuesday 29 June 2010

Leaving Leicester - lots of locks

I had a quick walk into the shopping centre on Monday morning to find a white hat - in the current heat it's just too hot with our dark caps and without a hat, even with sunglasses, I can't see well in the bright sunshine!  I found a floppy white holey one in the sale in BHS, which did the job very nicely.  The market was in full swing, with the stall holders shouting their prices to the passers by, all vying to give the best deal.

Barry meanwhile, took a stroll to Bow Bridge as he'd read the story of Richard III and the wise old crone he'd met and asked her if he'd win the battle - sadly her prophesy came true that wherever his spur struck, so his head should be broken.





Still not many boats around for some reason






Bow Bridge over which King Richard III left alive for the battle of Bosworth, and returned deceased




Castle Garden mooring pontoon on the right





We had a full day ahead to reach the nearest water point and pump out - 9 miles distance but containing 15 locks - it'd take around 15 minutes by car, but took us about six hours!  We were fortunate that another boat was passing just as were setting off, so we shared half of the locks with them before they moored up, worn out, mid-afternoon.


New canalside restaurant and office block opposite the moorings

P1250054A Looking back along the 'Mile Straight', south out of Leicester, where boating regattas are held


We shared most of the locks with narrowboat 'Heron'


 Yet another lock - Sandra walks along (on the right) to assist


 Narrowboat Heron - they've been on the waterways since end of May too, and plan to stay until the end of August - their mooring is on the Leeds/Liverpool canal west of Wigan


 There's no shortage of water around these parts - but you do need a BW key for many of the paddles which are old and frustratingly difficult to wind


 It was a scorcher - and these boys were making the most of the canal - even jumping in from the bridge the crazy things!


 Sandra in her new hat - time to swop lock and driving duties!

We arrived at the BW facilities at Kilby Bridge around 1730hrs on Monday evening - there we found not one but TWO water-points - they're like buses aren't they, you wait for ages for one and then two turn up at the same time!  Ah well, no harm done, we filled up with water and pumped out before mooring up for the night.  There weren't any BW launderette facilities though which was sad but not unexpected, so it was time for a bit of hand washing as it can dry happily in the warm overnight air in the bow.


 Rusty old working boats hugging each other companionably - moored at Kilby Bridge

P1250106A    Northern Pride moored at Kilby Bridge - between Leicester and Market Harborough

On Tuesday our mission is to get some diesel - another eight miles and twelve locks to the closest place at Debdale Wharf Marina.  We fancied going to check out the 'Wistan Le Dale Model Village' in Wistow on the way, but it's open every day except Tuesday - isn't that ironic?!


A cool purple petunia (I think!)

Monday 28 June 2010

On to historic Leicester - it's not so bad after all!!

Sunday morning we crossed the river/canal (I'm not sure anymore which it is!) and visited a very small part of Watermead Country Park, a vast expanse of rivers, meadows, lakes and woodlands open to the public in the north of Leicester.  It was buzzing with families and activity groups walking and cycling which was good to see.



A life-sized representation of a prehistoric riverside resident - the mammoth - in Watermead Country Park












An assortment of birdlife at the park

Leaving Birstall, we headed south towards Leicester and continued to be accompanied by greenery until just before Belgrave Lock.  Belgrave is the predominantly Asian part of the city and sounds fascinating, but we didn't see any moorings that looked 'secure' enough to moor up and walk to the 'Golden Mile' where the focus is on all things Asian - restaurants, shops, Mosques, etc.

P1240907Leaving  Birstall - an affluent area north of the city



The National Space Centre, across the river from Belgrave






From here to the city centre the canal/river sadly went a little downhill with an abundance of litter floating on the surface as well as some unidentified objects under the water which we felt occasionally with a 'thud' - we dragged something along for a few yards before it let us out of its grip, heaven knows what it was!  But it was still nowhere near the disgusting state of the canal in Blackburn that we visited in August 2009 and posted a blog titled 'What a load of rubbish!'.  Reading the book 'Kiwi Afloat' of a New Zealand woman's journey's on the canals in the late 1970's, I was interested to read that her impression of the canal there mirrored ours - isn't that awful that Blackburn appear to have no pride in their waterway whatsoever and obviously haven't for many a year?

Anyway, I digress, back to Leicester ...


The waterside becomes more urban as we enter Leicester

P1240929ANorth Lock - not looking so flash around here! 

P1240935A Despite the graffiti and dereliction, it's still mostly a pretty journey if you concentrate on the positive aspects!



Old mill buildings apparent & the ornate bridge just before the moorings at Castle Gardens

Pulling up at Castle Gardens wasn't the most pleasant experience as the rubbish bins were overflowing on the landing stage; must've been a busy weekend!  Otherwise they're a fine place to stop, though really only sufficient space for about four average length narrowboats.  They're fairly secure as you need a BW key to access the Castle Gardens which are all locked at 2000hrs - there's a BW padlock at one entrance that's accessible after hours for boaters.

We walked into the city centre to watch the second half of the England/Germany match - I have to admit that the atmosphere in the places that we've watched the football at in the past couple of weeks has been enjoyable, people really do get right into the spirit of it and it's such a shame that England lost (miserably!) as the streets would've then been lined with happy revellers rather than idiots shouting and swearing and calling Germans nasty names.  Why can't the English be pragmatic sportsmen - England played appallingly bad football (from what we know about the game) and Germany played very well, grasped all opportunities and deserved to win!




A tense crowd bite their nails in the Weatherspoon's pub in Leicester City Centre ...



What we hadn't realised was that they were televising the match on a large outdoor screen a short distance from the pub we'd been in, so when we emerged into the sunshine we couldn't believe how many people were wandering the streets - there was a strong police presence in readiness for any hot under the collar aggressive fans.  There was definitely a different mood from last week when England won their game, and later in the evening we did witness some heated debate between two idiots which became violent for a short time but soon dissipated thank goodness; I abhor violence of any kind.  Let's hope that those pathetic low-lifes who pick on their wives and girlfriends (and bless them children too) when their team lose in football, were too tired to take it out on them when they got home.



Hoards of people in the centre of Leicester on what would normally be a quiet Sunday afternoon



There's some eye catching buildings around


Shame about the signs!




People dressed in various red and white outfits wander around in a morose mood





Castle Garden moorings on the right

After dinner, as it's still light until around 2200hrs currently, we had another stroll through the Castle Gardens and checked out the old castle and University buildings nearby ...P1240983-Panorama1  P1240994

St Mary De Castro Church



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The Rectory house and castle walls

P1250006A Castle Garden mooring from the opposite direction

Leicester was honoured to have two Kings pass through in August 1485 - Richard III was greeted on the 21st as he travelled to do battle for his Kingdom in the penultimate battle of the War of the Roses, otherwise known as the Battle of Bosworth.  His body was returned the following evening by the victorious King Henry VII, who became the first English monarch of the Tudor dynasty due to his conquest and subsequent marriage to a Yorkist princess.  The occasion of the 500th anniversary of this was marked in Leicester in 1985.







Statue of Richard III in Castle Gardens








I'm sure I've previously said how I wasn't terribly interested in history when I was at school, but visiting so many places in England I've become fascinated to discover more as it all comes to life when you've experienced their ambience.  Leicester has so many fascinating facts that it was a challenge to get it down to the five most fascinating ones, but here's my choice:

  1. In the 19th century, the newly constructed rail and canal network routed through the area stimulated industrial growth, and Leicester became a major economic centre with a variety of manufacturers engaged in engineering, shoemaking and hosiery production;
  2. It is said that the mythical king of the Britons, King Leir, founded the city of Kaerleir ('Leir's chester' – i.e. fortified town). In Welsh, the city is named CaerlÅ·r. Leir was supposedly buried by Queen Cordelia in a chamber beneath the River Soar near the city dedicated to the Roman god Janus, and people celebrated his feast-day near Leir's tomb annually.  William Shakespeare's play King Lear is loosely based on this story and there is a statue of Lear in Watermead Country Park (we didn't realise this before or we'd have searched it out!).
  3. Leicester played a significant role in the history of England when, in 1265, Simon de Montfort forced King Henry III to hold the first Parliament of England at the now-ruined Leicester Castle and this building still stands today opposite St Mary De Castro Church, and is known as The Great Hall.
  4. Since the war Leicester has experienced large scale immigration from across the world. Immigrant groups today make up around 40% of Leicester's population, making Leicester one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the United Kingdom.   The Commission for Racial Equality estimated that by 2011 Leicester is likely to have approximately a 50% ethnic minority population, making it the first city in Britain not to have a white British majority.  It comes as no surprise then that in primary schools in Leicester, English is not the ‘preferred’ language of 45% of pupils and the proportion of children whose first language is known, or believed to be, other than English, is significantly higher than other cities within the region, or within the UK.
  5. Leicester Market is the largest outdoor covered marketplace in Europe, selling such things as fruit and vegetables sold by enthusiastic market stallholders who shout out their prices, and fresh fish and meat in the Indoor Market.

If you want to find out more, click here.  There are some (dare I say bigoted) people, who feel that the influx of 'foreigners' into Britain is a problem, but we didn't see any sense of racial tension during our short visit, and from what I've read and heard Leicester is proud of it's cultural diversity holding many festivals and celebrations to rejoice rather than deny it, which I for one think is wonderful.

Back onto the water and we've discovered that facilities on the River Soar/Grand Union Canal Leicester are sparse, so we found ourselves running low on water once more, with a red light on our toilet and probably needing diesel in the not too distant future also!  So on Monday we'll be motoring to the nearest place for water and pump out - 10 miles and 15 locks away! No excuses this time, we have to travel that distance or we'll be in a spot of bother!

P1240863A Purple - Sandra's favourite colour - are they petunias?