Saturday, 4 October 2008

12 hours of blood, sweat and tears

This morning we scraped ourselves out of bed just before the sun rose, whilst it was still around 4 degrees outside and set off towards Foxton locks. With 177 miles and 91 locks to go, we needed to cover some ground in order to have a chance of making it to Sheffield in time. The weather was better than the forecast had predicted, in that it wasn't tipping with rain. The wind, however, was rather strong and made for some interesting steering.

Nathan put me to shame and took the tiller for the early part of the journey, steering the boat through Husbands Bosworth tunnel without so much as touching the wall. The boy is a natural!

We made good time up to Foxton, arriving early enough to not end up queueing for the staircase locks, and were heading towards Leicester with full tanks of diesel and water and 10 bags of coal on the roof before lunch time - much earlier than I had anticipated. The wind made reversing and turning the boat rather interesting, but we escaped unscathed and wound our way through the reeds towards Leicester. Saddington tunnel became rather fun when the torch battery ran out, and I completed the second half of it in complete darkness, lining up the vent on the front of the boat with the tunnel exit in the distance in order to steer a (reasonably) straight line.

On the map, the locks heading towards Leicester appear to have small gaps in between, at least enough to catch your breath and have a cup of tea, however in practise they are really close least, all of them except the ones where I said to Nathan "it's OK, you bring the boat and I will walk to the next locks, it's not far". Unfortunately, it was quite far (about half a mile maybe) and I ended up running alongside the boat, unable to back on for all the reeds growing alongside the towpath. Still, I guess the exercise did me good and it gave us something to giggle at for a couple of minutes.

Pressing North towards Leicester, it became clear that we weare heading towards an urban area as we needed a British Waterways key to unlock the anti-chav devices on the paddles of the grafitti-covered lock gates. Even the sheep didn't have much respect for them (see photo).

The wind continued to blow, and we worked our way down the seemingly never-ending chain of locks until darkness, finally mooring near Wigston in Leicester as darkness fell. Within minutes of mooring it began raining quite heavily, and so we were both glad that we had stopped when we did.

Feeling rather hungry I managed to burn the sticky lemon chicken which I was cooking for dinner, but we were both so hungry it didn't really seem to matter. Our muscles are aching, our feet are sore, but we now have only 156 miles and 66 locks to go.

Fingers crossed that the weather man gets it wrong again tomorrow, as he says it's going to rain heavily all day tomorrow. I'd rather have the wind!

Anyway, that's enough for one night, we have a bottle of wine to finish before bed, and the river Soar to explore when the sun rises tomorrow morning. Oooh and maybe a bacon buttie.

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