Bath Tub Canoe, Matt Hampson Foundation

We stayed on board Albert at Debdale Wharf on Wednesday night. As we waited for a lift home on Thursday morning a curious vessel was being launched opposite - a galvanised tin bath fitted with ice cream tubs on outriggers!

What was happening became a little clearer when we saw the sign on the side of the bath, it was part of the annual Matt Hampson Foundation charity walk from Rugby School to Twickenham.   We had come across this event before back in 2010. The walkers are accompanied by a small fleet of narrowboats which act as support vehicles and overnight accommodation.

Walk4Matt 2013
Instead of walking along the Grand Union the bath tub is to be paddled to London.The tin bath canoe was being tried at Debdale ahead of the event in May because the Leicester Mercury were having a photoshoot. I helped Rob Knapp, the canoeist, get into the unstable bath.  The newspaper's web site has a feature on the bath with a picture and video that includes Albert.
On seeing the sign Maggie immediately donated by text. To give to the charity, which supports young people injured through sport:
Text BATH57 £5 to 70070 or visit

Debdale Wharf, Foxton

After yesterday's exertions today just had to be less hard work and it was. However, boating is never that straightforward.

We left Kilby Bridge but took on water at the wharf before we left. The hire boat crew, who were hoping to get to either Foxton or Market Harborough that day, agreed to team up with is again.

Top Lock, Newton Harcourt
The weather was bright and sunny for most of the day but there were occasional clouds and it was windy. For the first part of the day we were accompanied by a team of CRT contractors cutting the grass. Their work rate was impressive. Although there was a lot of floating weed in the canal, and I had to use Albert's keb to clear a couple of locks, all went well until we reached Pywells lock. We had to wait whilst a boat in front went up the locks singly. There was also another single boat ahead but the crew of the following boat had insisted on working alone - some people like to make life difficult.

After some delay we were ready to operate the lock. Unfortunately, the wind had got up and was blowing right across the lock entrance - "the wrong sort of wind". After four attempts at getting Albert into the lock under her own power, we eventually got her in thanks to a CRT operative and some bow hauling. We then got stopped from entering Kibworth Top Lock by the local CRT supervisor who insisted that he water needed to be sent down the flight just as we were about to enter the lock - always expect the unexpected?

Wistow Church

Saddington Tunnel

Albert moored at Debdale Wharf
(using our tall chimney for the fire)
We stopped for lunch just after Kibworth and finally made Debdale around 4:30PM. A relatively easy day after the previous two long days.

Kilby Bridge

On Tuesday, continuing our  mission to get to Debdale  Wharf by Thursday, we rose early and were boating by 8:00 in glorious sunshine. Unlike Monday, the sunshine was to continue through the whole day. Our first day of warm Spring weather.

Mountsorrel Bridge - easy to tell when it was built!

Mountsorrel Lock

Mountsorrel looked very pleasant in the sun. The waterside area was quite different from the aspect Maggie used to see when she travelled daily along the congested old A6 to her teaching job Birstall when we lived in Loughborough.

Sileby Mill

At Sileby Lock we met a hire boat going our way. This meant we could tackle the wide locks together. They kindly waited for us to lock up.

River Soar near Birstall

Travelling along the Soar meandering through the meadows and lakes towards Leicester in good spring weather was delightful. At last the grass appeared to be growing and the trees coming into leaf after this exceptionally long winter. The only negative was the large amount of plastic debris that had come down river on high water levels and was either caught in foliage or floating in reeds.

Space Centre, Leicester

The river was full of rubbish south of the city and when we reached Belvoir Lock Albert's prop was fouled. We struggled to get into the lock chamber. It turned out to be a large cushion, along with a length of strong binding tape. The cushion came out of the weed hatch as large lumps of wadding.

Once you reach the mile straight in the centre of the city the riverside scene improves.A long time ago I once competed for Stratford upon Avon at Leicester regatta which was held on the straight. The rowing club, much improved, is still there.

Leicester Mile Straight
Leicester Rowing Club

By Freeman's Lock we met a volunteer who helped us through this and all the other locks that day. He went ahead on his bike lock wheeling. We had originally intended stopping at Kings Lock, Aylestone, but spurred on by the other crew, the lock wheeler and the good weather, we forged on to Kilby Bridge. The only real problem we had was we lost our forward (short) chimney on an overhanging willow tree near Wigston.

Horse on the lockside at Double Rail Lock

At Double Rail Lock we found that horses had come right up to the lock side. Quite a shock when first sighted. Good job they were friendly. We finally stopped at Kilby Bridge at around 7:00 - 11 hours boating! It was quite a day but the sense of satisfaction for getting right through from Barrow was great. It left us with only a modest journey on Wednesday to reach our destination.

That night we just had to go for a pub meal. Luckily  the nearest pub, The Navigation does good food. We really enjoyed our meals and dropped into bed exhausted, maybe we are getting old.

Barrow on Soar

On Monday we woke early to make the most of the day since we needed to get to Debdale Wharf by Thursday. The early morning sun and mist made the mooring picturesque. The mist soon burnt off and the start to the day was warm and sunny.

Misty morning sun at Swarkstone Junction

Leaving at 8.00 we made good progress and soon reached Weston Lock where we were joined by NB Silkstone who joined us for locking right through to Kegworth. They were a jolly crew and we enjoyed sharing locks with them. At Aston Lock, for the second time in two years, we had a problem leaving the lock. I won't go into the details here because it deserves a separate post and a bit of research.

By the time we reached Shardlow the weather had deteriorated, the wind had risen and it was cloudy. It is always exiting entering the River Trent at Shardlow. The wide expanse of flowing water makes an impression and passing under the M1 is fun. 

Derwent Mouth, Shardlow

Albert passing under the M1, River Trent

Both Silkstone and Albert went through Sawley Lock together. The only difficulty was that Silkstone had used their BW key to operate the automatic mechanism and another boat was coming up. This meant the crew from Silkstone had to wait for the boat coming up to enter the lock and the gates to close before the key could be removed. They soon made up the delay on the river and they were not far behind us when we got to the first lock on the River Soar.

Navigation sign at Trent Lock

Erewash Canal Entrance

We negotiated the junction with the River Soar and headed through Redhill and Ratcliffe on Soar. Just before Ratcliffe Lock we met a Dutch Barge negotiated the bends. Luckily we met on a straight section. Silkstone had more trouble.

Kegworth Manor

At Kegworth we met up with a single boat ahead. Since we were "on a mission" to get far that day we left Silkwood and teamed up with the other crew who were heading into Loughborough. We had a good run through to Zouch where I did most of my rowing at Loughborough University in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The area certainly brought back memories of our training sessions. There were far fewer boats around then, an no narrow boats.

Normanton on Soar

We had contemplated stopping in Loughborough overnight but recognising that we still had some way to go we decided to press on to Barrow on Soar.

Wide beam about to negotiate a bridge near Loughborough - will it won't it

We arrived at Barrow around 6:00PM and moored up on the single 48-hr visitor mooring close to what is now a canal centre. Back in 1966 the centre building was the University Rowing Club. In 1967 the club left for the Loughborough Boat Club at Zouch transporting all their boats (fours) by rowing them along the canal  through the town.

Riverside Café & Canal Centre at Barrow on Soar
(formerly Loughborough University of Technology Boat Club)

We  finished the day by shopping in the village. Deciding that we deserved a take-away, we got a couple of Baltis. 


Today we left Alrewas in sunshine around 9:00. Alrewas lock was busy with dog walkers, joggers and some simply enjoying a bit of spring weather. The golden gorse and the pale fluffy pussy willow looked at their best.

Alrewas Lock and walkway

Wychnor Church and footbridge

The river section, Trent of course, near Wychnor looked atteractive. We passed through Wychnor Lock onto the straight section taking us down to Barton Turns. The noise from the A38 intrudes all along here making it a length of canal that probably doesn't feature in anybody's favourites list.

After Barton Lock we passed Bollinder powered Dane with butty Clara going the other way - a great sight. The weather gradually got colder and cloudier as we approached Burton. The wind also increased.

Dane passing Albert
Butty Clara

At Branston Lock Maggie found a frog struggling to swim in the canal close to the lock gates. We used our large net to rescue it.

Rescued frog
Burton was quiet being Sunday but the canal was not busy either.
Where else but Burton-on-Trent

Colourful Visitor Moorings at Shobnall Fields

We moored up and took lunch by Horninglow Wharf. NB Moriarty, which used to belong to our friends Lyn and Bob Doyle, was moored close by.

Horninglow Wharf

Spikes of Butterburr
(identified from The Concise British Flora in Colour by W Keble Martin) 

After lunch we carried on through Stenson, where the lock was causing difficulties for some "Canal Time" boats going towards Burton. We moored up for the night at Swarkestone, just above the lock. I took the opportunity to do some boat maintenance and carried out an oil change.


Saturday morning was bright and sunny at Tixall after the mist cleared. What could be better than looking over the wide with the sun shining from a clear blue sky and the water looking like glass!


Our friendly swan at Tixall

Tixall Wide reflections
We retuned to Great Haywood so we could continue down the Trent & Mersey. Our plan is to move Albert to Foxton. We stopped off to pick up some supplies and then proceeded to Colwich Lock. Shugborough Hall looked grand across the fields.
We rarely go through Colwich without some delay and today was no exception. However, this was nothing like the delays we have experienced in the summer.
Bishton Hall, near Colwich
The weather stayed bright and sunny all day making the trip through Ravenshaw Woods particularly delightful.

Steve operating Woodend Lock
Fradley Junction on a sunny Saturday afternoon
Fradley Junction was not busy, so far as boats were concerned but the were loads of bikers mostly with large slow-revving models (Harleys etc) outside The Swan. South of the junction we passed fellow blogger Nev Wells from NB Percy who was concentrating on his fishing.
Leaving Keeper's Lock, Fradley
We moored up just below Bagnall Lock at Alrewas. As we arrived at Alrewas we noticed the eye-catching graffiti, presumably a community project, celebrating the London Olympics. The cartoon of the Queen, James Bond and the corgis really amused us - what fun!

Olympic Graffiti under Bridge 49A, Alrewas

It was after dark that were heard the familiar sounds of a Bollinder. NB Minnow was using the winding hole just behind us. With no reverse they were poling her around.

Tixall Wide

We returned to Albert on Friday travelling by train . Trains on the network were delayed, ours by about 20 minutes, which didn't cause us any difficulties until London Midland decided to cancel the stop at Stone to make up time. This meant taking a replacement bus 30 minutes later.  In the end, with the marina being between Stone and Stafford, we just got a taxi.
We just had to sample lunch at the Aston Marina Bistro.  It was as good as the last time. After setting up Albert (water etc) we left early afternoon to go south.
Phyllis May II at Aston
In the marina we passed Terry and Monica Darlington's new boat. We understand Terry continues to make good progress after his stroke last year which caused him to cancel the event at Aston to mark the publication of his new book.
Leaving Aston Marina

The weather was warmer and sunny but all the way south we were followed by a big black cloud that came to nought but made wonderful contrasts.
Maggie looking back
Great boat dog at Sandon Lock

Boat with a large chimney at Weston
I think this is the reason - steam powered using coal
We love mooring at Tixall Wide so just had to make it to Great Haywood and turn down the Staffs and Worcester. 
Crossing the River Trent at Great Haywood

Moored boats and black cloud, near Swivel Bridge, Great Haywood

Tixall wide was relatively quiet with only five boats moored up. We found a suitable space overlooking the Elizabethan gate house. The only problem with the mooring was the large male swan (cob?) who had taken residence. As we moved closer we expected him to be disturbed and move off or at least turn aggressive; his mate was on a nest on the opposite side of the wide. To the contrary, he stayed put so we worked around him, putting our lines either side. The swan in fact stayed until we turned in for night - he had moved off by the morning.

Our neighbour the swan

Setting sun over Tixall Wide

Gatehouse at Tixall after sunset