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Alrewas to Zouch (River Soar) 32 miles, 19 locks

We made the decision to turn around and head for the Loughborough Canal and River Festival for May Bank Holiday weekend, Loughborough Canal & River Festival 2013 giving us 3 weeks to do the 35 miles and 21 locks!

Myself and Scooby aboard Echoes, steering the butty, and braving the cold

The River Soar has been very unpredictably up and down following all the rain, so we had decided not to travel back and open the shop.  A booking had been made late last year, so really, we should support the festival.

Locking down Stenson lock, deepest lock on the Trent and Mersey Canal at 12 feet approx.

We met Richard's parents for Sunday lunch at the Stenson Bubble.  My dad had his narrowboat built at Stenson, so it has a special place in my memory and I know he would have approved of our choice of lifestyle and love of the canal system.

Myself locking down through Weston lock

The next morning, we made our way down through the double locks towards Shardlow and the start of the Trent and Mersey Canal.

The Scandinavian Blackthorn blossom is everywhere now.  The blossom flowers slightly earlier than the indiginous variety.

Coming down through Aston lock, the big boat grounded unexpectedly as Richard tried to reverse back away in order that I open the bottom gates.  Luckily, fellow boaters came from all directions to help 'flush' him off the obstruction.  We were very grateful for their help.

The boys sit patiently on their respective boats as we operate the locks

During this very tortoiselike journey, we have been preparing the butty and creating more stock for the festival.  It has been most enjoyable sorting out a more efficient and inspiring stall to open.

Thrumpton weir with train beyond

We arrived at Shardlow.  We had moored outside the 2 pubs in the middle of Shardlow, but we prepared to move again as coming through under the pipe bridge were 2 hire boats. So we waited for them to pass before we attempted 'carnage corner' as I call it.  If we had remained outside the pubs, getting bumped would probably be predictable, after boaters had negotiated the prior mentioned bend!

Entrance to the River Soar

We said goodbye to one of our friends, who had been moored next to us when we moored at Bardney, many months ago and set off for Sawley.  The river was well down in the 'green' and I took the tiller passing through Derwent Mouth, where the River Derwent meets the River Trent.   It was fine!  A lot better than coming up a few weeks ago.
We spun the boats around at Sawley so the big boat was against the towpath and dealt with the  toilet cassettes and rubbish before dropping down through the automated locks to take us back onto the River Trent.

We sailed into the River Soar with relative ease and the vintage Lister engine chugged against the flow.

Lots of houses and holiday cottages sit on stilts, much appreciated after the recent flooding!

We only passed one other narrowboat coming downstream (on a bend!!) amazingly, as we had expected a lot, now the weather has improved a little!

The imposing spectical of Ratcliffe Power Station

The last time we had passed through Redhill, it was to attend the IWA show a few years before.  It all looked very different without the stalls and all the moored visitors.

Kegworth Deep lock in the distance

Apart from the occasional gust of wind, the weather was quite warm today and we found it not too difficult to moor both boats as the wind coxed us into the towpath helpfully.

Entering Kegworth Deep lock

The gates and mechanisms were heavy but in good order as we navigated up through the 3 locks to Zouch.  This part of the Soar reminded me of the River Thames, being very picturesque and leafy.

Looking back towards Kegworth lock and the grand mansion in the distance (Pearson's guide tells us nothing about it!)

The sun tried to come out again as we approached the 3rd and final lock at Zouch, but soon clouded over again...

Our boats in the washing machine lock!

Due to the absence of ground paddles, it is easy to generate a few bubbles as the gate paddles are opened (albeit gently!).

Splitting the boats in the lock, Richard pulled the butty out of the gates on the cross-straps, so that we could moor on the towpath side.  It is difficult to get us and the dogs off the boats when the butty is on the inside of the mooring.  This is a relatively short cut off the river, providing a relatively calm place to moor before embarking on our final 3 miles to Loughborough tomorrow.....

Branston Water Park to Alrewas (5 miles, 4 locks)

Where did last week go?

The beautiful 'model village' lock at Tatenhill

We had arrived at Alrewas and ever since then I have been completely under the flu bug's command.....but feel better today, now the cough has subsided and I can sleep at night.

I love this little narrow bridge (Bridge 36, Barton Turns), damage to the stones is getting worse as people miscalculate!

Richard had managed to sort the water pump cooling system out after about 6 different rehashes until he was happy and we set off for Alrewas.

We keep seeing swans preparing for their arrivals.  They are understandably getting quite territorial!

The wind had picked up quite a bit as we pulled up for water before Barton Turns lock.  Richard separated the boats and let me slip along the outside of the big boat, but it all went wrong as the wind caught me and I was sent sideways gently into the offside moored boats!

Safely tied up for water at Barton Turns lock

I grabbed the barge pole and pushed with all my might against the moored boat (no damage done, I hasten to add) and Richard caught my centre line to pull me back over.  Eventually, in between gusts, we secured the boats together and pulled them both in to moor against the towpath.  As we were trying to get control of the situation, a boat came out of the lock and went full throttle past us, sending the butty slinging back astern, snapping one of the new answer rings off the stern of the butty.  More work for Richard....

All the sluice gates are down, so not in flood today!

Gliding up through Wychnor lock, we were relieved that this short river section was relatively calm, since last time we came through (September 2012).

Weir on the Alrewas river section.  The wind makes it look choppier than it was!

We didn't meet any other boats coming down river, luckily, so we had lots of room to manoeuvre along this part of the waterway.

Round this last bend is the lock to lift us up to Alrewas village

The wind had eased enough for Richard to slip off the cross straps and allow the butty to come into the towpath for me to tie up, but he remained onboard the big boat, for me to open the lock.  Meanwhile, a hire boat pulled up behind us and struggled to pull their boat into the armco.  I got Richard up through the lock and he ran back down to help pull the hire boat in to the side.  It was a slow job against the wind again, but those very grateful holidaymakers helped us to pull the butty up through the lock, for which we thank them.  It was hard work, I hate boating in the wind!

Lister relaxing in the sun, nevermind about his back legs....

Thursday, we travelled in the car to Rugby, to attend a meeting with other boaters and representatives of the Canal and River Trust.  It concerned proposals to change restrictions on moorings and other issues specifically aimed at 'Continuous Cruisers'.  We come into this category, as we travel around during the summer months and abide by the current mooring timeframe regulations.
We found the meeting interesting and it helped us to understand the depth and cost of other projects necessary to the waterway's survival. The debate remains though, around the tightening of mooring durations as opposed to simply enforcing the current rules!

Burton on Trent to Branston Water Park (1 mile, 1 lock)

Slightly spruced up sign for the top of the butty roof.  Hopefully attract a bit of passing trade?

Easter weekend and the shop has been open, except........there have been no people about because this is 'The Arctic' !  Nevermind, it took me all weekend to sort out and unpack stock, label etc and organise a display in the butty, so I have not been worried and the sun will come out soon....

I have a counter now on one side of the butty, just needs varnishing.  Richard sourced (paid for with cash, in case anyone wondered) scaffolding planks to make aforementioned counters.

So yesterday, as it was so cold, I didn't open up, but sanded down the new counters Richard had improvised for one side of the butty.  This has 2 benefits: 
1. Children with parents who seem oblivious to their need to touch EVERYTHING, will now not be able to reach!!
2.  People wanting to rest their bag (not their bums), can do so to get their purses out! Well I do have to enhance the overall shopping experience, don't I? 

Richard removes the old radiator, no longer required for the new water cooling arrangement

Meanwhile, the waterpump has gone to Braunston to be assessed for viability and Plan B is taking place in the engine room.  Our Lister HRW2 engine, like all Listers, was overengineered having 2 systems of water cooling.  The waterpumps, are no longer in production as a unit, so it was suggested that the old system of radiator and pump be removed, and just relying on the skin tank (a radiator, cooled by the cold coming through the hull of the boat) on it's own.  This has other benefits, as on the old system, the calorifier (watertank hot water system) was plumbed into the old radiator set up, there by never getting hot.  We had always wondered why we never really got any hot water, even when we had been on the river, now we know why!
Also, Richard will put another alternator on the engine to double electrical input when the engine is running.

View from the canal (not the A38 direction !)  That's behind us!

So, hot water within an hour (so they tell us) and increased charge to the batteries, win win situation.....