We had a lovely Autumnal morning saying goodbye to the Mighty Trent...
...and boating up the pretty little River Soar to Kegworth...
...then sat outside in the sun for brunch.
From there we took Legend to Zouch, but not before we’d done a muddy parkrun at Dishley and cycled back.
The next day was the 1st of October ‘23 and the beginning of what turned out to be a two week Indian Summer. We took the boat to Loughborough (which we feel compelled to pronounce “Looger-borooger”) and made good use of the keb on the way, clearing the floating Pennywort out from behind the lock gates. Pennywort looks pretty, but it was beginning to threaten navigation on the narrower parts of the Soar.
We moored on the new bollards alongside the recently resurfaced tow path in Loughborough. In fact while Legend was there the top dressing got applied to the path and it now looks really good. That bit of towpath has constant footfall, there's always other boats moored there and it's overlooked by the houses opposite, so we knew Legend would be OK while we were away.
After a couple of days catching up with little jobs Dave packed a case and we drove the 13 miles to East Midlands Airport where Ann-Marie dropped him off for a flight to Belfast and another week helping Chloe and Sandy with the house build. Ann-Marie couldn’t go this time as she was in for a clinical trial, so we had a week in different countries mostly missing each other’s calls on Whats App.
The majority of Dave and Shandy’s week was spent up step-ladders making the ceilings airtight before the plaster boarders turned up the week after.
Shandy also had the unenviable job of putting insulation above the membrane in the roof crawl-spaces that won't be accessible once the ceilings are plasterboarded.
When she wasn’t working, Chloe got on with applying airtight tape to all the door and window frames which was quite a mammoth task and had been keeping her busy for a couple of weeks already.
Airtightness is important because they have a Mechanical Ventilation and Heat Recovery (MVHR) system in the house which, combined with the enhanced insulation qualities of the ICF walls, the Thermal Bead Screed and the under floor heating from the solar powered air-source heat pumps, will make it a very efficient and comfortable house indeed. The final two-man job the boys had to do before Dave went back home was to put insulation up in the roof of what they are now calling "The Gym". Shandy came up with the brilliant idea of using long wooden sticks with a flat bit on the end. It sounds primitive, but it worked perfectly.
There's an Instagram time lapse video of them doing it here.
Ann-Marie’s week consisted of packaging up some stuff that she’d sold on Vinted and taking it to various post lockers in town, then either consuming or binning the contents of the fridge, before packing her own stuff up and driving off for a four day trial. It was all a bit up in the air to start with because she was down as a reserve, and didn’t find out whether she was actually going to be on the trial until day two. She’d resigned herself to going home and was looking at flights to go and join Dave in Ireland, when she got told that one of the other volunteers had been rejected because his heart-rate was too low, so she was staying. The rest of her week consisted of the usual occupation of trial volunteers; watching telly and trying to sleep.
Ann-Marie got back on Tuesday then picked Dave up from the airport on Wednesday. The pick-up would have been a perfectly co-ordinated slick operation if Dave hadn’t left his case on the shuttle bus, and had to wait for fifteen minutes in the rain till it came back round. Doh!
As soon as we got back to Legend we cast off and began our trek up the Soar towards Leicester. It was still raining when we set off but we had a schedule to keep to, so Dave armed himself with the big brolly and some waterproof trousers and ploughed on up to river. He didn’t need the wet gear for long though, the rain eased off and we had a lovely afternoon making our way to Barrow on Soar where we moored up just above the lock.
The next day we carried on to Birstall via the services at Barrow. We didn’t see another moving boat all day apart from a trip boat that we met on a blind bend and only managed to avoid hitting by some hasty reversing by both skippers. Why is it always blind bends or bridge ‘oles?
The was only one other boat moored at Birstall so we got the perfect spot and went for a walk round the lovely Watermead Country Park.
In the evening it began raining and didn’t stop till the morning, by which time the river had gone up a foot and was in the red on the marker on the lock wall, so no boating for us. The Soar is notorious for these almost instantaneous fluctuations in flow. It has a very narrow catchment area, so heavy rainfall in one area can cause a lump of water which quickly travels down the valley raising the level, then dropping it just as fast. 72 hours seemed to be the usual interval, which would be too late for us to get anywhere before Ann-Marie had to go back into the clinic. We’d had plans to get to the other side of Leicester in the next couple of days, but that plan got scuppered and we hastily hatched a new one. We decided it would be ok to stay in Birstall till Ann-Marie came out again then catch up with some big moves after that.
We slackened the ropes off allowing for a further rise, then caught a bus back to Looger Borooger. We treated ourselves to a conciliatory (and delicious) lunch in Olivia’s café then recovered the car and drove to Go Outdoors where we got Ann-Marie a much needed new coat. While we were there we got some Nikwax Techwash and TX waterproofer to treat Dave’s coat that he loves, but which lets the rain in. If the weather carries on in the same vein we’ll soon be able to let you know how well the Nikwax works. We then drove to Zouch and recovered our bird table, which we'd forgotten to pick up when we left, and then went back to Birstall. By the time we got there it was still raining, the river had gone up another foot and was only an inch or two off flooding the towpath.
CRT had issued a closure notice on the entire river from King’s lock to the Trent, so we knew it would be a few days before we could go anywhere. Through the evening, the rain eased off and we kept our eye on the river level. It began to fall before bed time, and by the morning it was back down to the Armco, but still a foot in the red.
Staying at Birstall for the weekend meant we could walk into Watermead Country Park on Saturday morning for parkrun, and then again on Sunday to volunteer for the junior run. We had the first frost of the season on Sunday, so we were wrapped up like Nanook of the North while the kids ran around the park, then back home for lunch with a fire and an afternoon game of Rummikub till dusk, when Ann-Marie had to go back for her second week on the trial.
In the morning Dave kept himself busy with some boat jobs, including repainting the shelf/cup holder/box thing that sits on top of the rear hatch while we’re bobbin’ along...
...and sewing up the top of one of the cratch cover zips that was letting the zipper come off, and had been bodged with a safety-pin for a month. He also did his first wood womble for a couple of years; last year we were moored in the wharf at Bollington and were using coal, so he had a year off wood collection and cutting. It was a bit of a shock to be at it again, but he soon had a little haul of hawthorn and ash under the tarp on the log pallet. Meanwhile the river was back down in the green and the rain had stopped.
In our Whats App chat that evening we decided that as Storm Babbet was on the verge of sweeping across the country and bringing more rain, it would be a good idea for Dave - while he had a window of opportunity - to set off and single-hand the boat through Leicester and get above the river section at King’s Lock. So at 7:30 the next morning Dave set off. It wasn’t a promising start; ten minutes after casting off, he managed to drop his aluminium windlass in Birstall lock. He had however, had the foresight to allow for this eventually and had put three jubilee clips on the handle so that it could be recovered with a magnet. Unfortunately he hadn’t considered the possibility of the magnet falling apart and losing it’s string, but luckily it got stuck to the hull so he was able to get it all back. By this time another boat had turned up to use the lock so he had to leave it. We have other windlii so he could carry on. Single handing was relatively easy going up the river through Leicester, the double locks all have very nice boaters steps up the bottom wing walls, so it’s very easy to hop off with the rope as you go in, then tie the boat up and work the lock without having to climb up a slippy ladder. The locks themselves are quite gentle, mainly because the baffles on the top gate paddles are mostly bunged up with stuff.
Dave had Legend up through King’s Lock by 12:30 and stopped for lunch.
After lunch he cycled back through Leicester to once more recover the bird table, and by the time he got back it was nearly tea time.
We’re going to have find a fool-proof aide memoir to stop that happening.