Monday 21st to Sunday 27th September 2009.

Ought to have been tired this morning after a late-ish night in the company of Steve and Diane off Festina Lente but managed to keep to schedule as we slipped away from Holme Lock at half nine.
A lovely couple, Steve and Diane are easy to get on with and, like V, are able to laugh once again after careers in teaching. It will be lovely to see them again but our cruising paths for next year probably won’t overlap.

Nottingham was our next stop, alongside Sainsbury’s and a short walk from town. Ropes went through rings and feet hit the pavement running (almost) as there was plenty to do. The shopping list was short but tricky, something to wear for a wedding and bits for my hobbies. Both mutually exclusive and somehow to be blended with Nottingham’s cultural bits.

I managed two shirts but V threw a wobbly when I pointed her at the kind of clothes I’d like to see her wearing. She changed her mind and so plan B came into effect and we finished up walking miles out of town to Meadow Lane down by the County Ground which we’d passed on the boat this morning.
Anchor Supplies had everything I could possibly need. It’s full of ex MOD equipment and every bin, bucket and shelf had to be thoroughly examined for things that are must-haves for the boat or my hobbies. The guy running the tools department soon twigged where we were from and proceeded to interest us in his developing chandlery section. It turned out he had his own boat at Sawley and we could tell he’d rather be sailing than selling. I could have spent more than my four pounds but baulked at the £395 they wanted for the pneumatic 20 metre telescopic mast.

Tuesday was a little better. Aching legs or not, we managed Maplins on the northeast side of town before checking out The Victoria Centre with its millions of shops and then the Broadmarsh Centre with its hundreds of shops.

But the best bits lay several feet below us – the famous Nottingham caves.
After coughing up a tenner (one standard plus one concession) we donned hats and carried speaking boxes down to the subterranean caverns.

These caves have served as pottery kilns, a tannery, slum dwellings, railway tunnel, air raid shelters, and in recent years as the foundations for Broadmarsh shopping centre.

Carved out of a softish sandstone they served the residents above for drinking water, cess pits, hiding places for outlaws and if rumours are to be believed, temporary accommodation for Robin Hood.
Many of the caves have been re-equipped and fitted with dummies to illustrate some of the occupations carried on inside them.
air raid warden
1940s air raid warden.

16th century tannery.

Just about worth the money I’d say, providing you make use of the speaking thing that you can hang round your neck. We tried synchronising two of them but gave up when we had to stop and restart at each new section of tunnel. I could hear V’s machine chundering along at least two rooms away so how it would sound with several parties walking together I can’t imagine.

Above ground, wars and revolutions destroyed the castle and for some reason we didn’t feel inclined to do the big museum tour but preferred to walk downhill to the free museum below. The sandstone tump under the castle wall, however, is quite impressive with its shuttered cave entrances which, according to the book, are still to be explored.
castle tump

The Brewhouse Yard Museum is free to locals or £3.50 to visitors, so it was a good job we were local at the time.

This place is fascinating, and well equipped with shops we used to know and love.
Also fascinating was the conversation between one old boy in his nineties and a not so old lady with whom he recalled his work on the very first computer, naming colleagues I’m certain I’ve seen in technology history books. Born in 1915 I think he said.

Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem pub didn’t get a visit either I’m afraid, we’ll save that for next time. It claims to be the oldest pub in England but I thought the oldest continually licensed premises was in Norton St Philip near Bristol. Perhaps the two things aren’t the same.

Nottingham has trams too and they are terribly smart in appearance but my impressions were that they’re too infrequent and spend too long waiting at traffic lights.

Not far from Sainsbury’s a wet looking ratty sat by the towpath. Nothing seemed to scare him so I’m assuming he’s eaten something he shouldn’t have and was on his way into the canal.

Wednesday by contrast was a quiet day cruising the remainder of the Nottingham and Beeston Canal and the short section of the Trent to its junction with the Soar.

I don’t know if boaters feed the cat off the boat nearest to the Beeston lock services but it ain’t half noisy. As soon as we tied up it jumped off the boat and came running towards us yelling for attention. Pity I didn’t bring ratty with me.
ginger cat

For those of us interested in mason’s marks there are a few faint ones in the stonework of Cranfleet Lock. Mostly T shapes, butterflies and arrows they appear in fairly recent stonework so there’s a good chance the mason who did it is still around. I’ll spare you the photos.

Thinking our feet had healed we tried walking up the Erewash Canal but gave up after a mile and returned home just as it got dark. The Erewash looks quite pretty at this end so we thought we might give it a try if there’s time before the winter stoppages. Someone told me diesel was cheaper too so there’s another reason to go.

We said our goodbyes to the Trent and poked the bows at the Soar early on Thursday morning.
Calling at Kegworth Marine for diesel and gas we took on gas. Seeing the diesel price of 59p we couldn’t sail past but we soon discovered that the owner only sells it on a 60:40 split.
I didn’t argue but he must have seen my look of disbelief and proceeded to give me a jolly good talking to about an impending Customs & Revenue investigation into why they haven’t received the extra duty they’d expected.
Apparently HMRC have stated that are “happy with 60:40” meaning that they will leave compliant boatyards alone and not put them through an expensive (£1000) tax investigation when they come to see who has been fiddling their declarations.

I sympathised with his concerns and departed without filling the tank. I think he told me his diesel revenue was down 60% since derogation. I also think he told me that boaters could turn up by car and buy 100 litres at 59p if they claimed it was for a generator. No questions and no forms to fill in.

And so we entered PC (Pennywort County). V reckoned she’d seen a statement somewhere saying the Soar was sprayed in July to eradicate floating pennywort but I laughed because the distribution and size of the floating rafts of pennywort tell another story. Anyway, I’ve named this Pennywort County and perhaps we should take pride in our achievements in turning a rare, foreign aquatic plant into a common or native species on England’s rivers.


And I see that the canals are getting in on the act too; in the shadow of the Uni’s student accommodation the boat basin at Loughborough has its own thriving clump of pennywort. Every boat that stirs the waters sends the clump on its travels in a circular motion around the basin, along the walls and under the pontoons.
How wonderful, soon the students will have something to camouflage their fag packets and lager cans. Everything has its uses.

After fighting our way through the packs of Freshers roaming the streets and hanging round the drink shelves in supermarkets we camped below their windows, just where we were advised not to stay overnight.

Last night was quiet, not a mouse stirred, not a drinks can could be heard hitting the water. We’d survived a night in Fresher’s week at Loughbro’.
Taking water and doing a dump in the boat basin wasn’t easy but we got through the railings obstacle course and after chatting to the cleaning lady made our way though the back streets towards the river.

An interesting cruise up river round the corners and around the pennywort clumps brought us to Barrow on Soar and to an empty spot on the designated moorings above the lock.

Crumbs, what a busy place this is. Boats by the hundreds in all directions, even canoes, some of which I was forced to shout at when they wouldn’t stop chiselling green paint off the boat with their ragged paddles.
But not all canoeists are horrible, one Maggie from nb.Forever Young stopped to natter as she paddled back to her boat. I’d quite forgotten she’d moved down this way from Crick. We’ll see if we can spot FY in the marina as we head up to Sileby after the weekend.

Sticking my 25 foot aerial into the air brought some comments from walkers. Most wait until they’re out of earshot before making a comment but there’s always one little’un who can’t resist shouting “What’s that for Mummy?”

My aerial matching unit experiment wasn’t an immediate success but after three or four ‘tinkerings’ it did a reasonable job and all that remains to be done is try it on a long wire between 30 foot masts. But how time flies when you’re enjoying yourself and before I knew it the day was gone.
Being back in Pennywort County has its advantages. V’s sister and my brother just happened to be playing badminton near Barrow so she popped along and took a mail delivery. No TV tonight we’re opening letters, whoopee.

Saturday and Sunday were more of the same, V cooking, ironing and reducing the washing pile, me playing with electronics. You have to get your priorities right I always say.

I must say I was quite impressed by the village of Barrow with its various shops and the friendliness of the locals as they stand and chat on the street. The bakers impressed me too with their perfect chocolate éclairs.

From here we shall go to Sileby Mill for a good old bottom blacking. While she’s out of the water I shall mostly be tarting up Balmaha’s stern bands and getting her ready for her first boat safety examination.
I’m reasonably confident, having tested the gas system with a home made manometer (isn’t that a device for checking men?), removed draught excluders (and spider’s webs) from vents and made covers for the batteries (what a waste of time).

Unless one end of the boat fills with water during the dragging out process or she falls off her supports I don’t imagine there will be much of a blog next weekend. But we’ll see.