Leicester Ring Day 8: Branston to Swarkestone

People who know this part of the Trent & Mersey canal will spot that we did not make it to the Rover Soar as announced at the end of yesterday’s blog post. This is because we have had a change of plan. Louise now wants to visit her mother in Market Harborough on Saturday, which means getting to Loughborough by Friday night, from where she can take the mainline train (two stops). This eases the time pressure and we can afford to dawdle, relatively speaking!

So, we had a leisurely breakfast and set off at a decent hour. The weather was lovely first thing, but the winds have picked up all day and we have had some small showers. Moored at Swarkestone tonight the wind is really blowing hard and there are big clouds too, although with some sunshine poking through. Swarkestone is a nice village, but even so the attractions of the pub and its river gardens could not outweigh the pleasures of sitting out of the wind in our cratch-conservatory and enjoying dinner on the cut.

There were only three locks today, but what locks they were! The biggest was the daunting Stenson lock with its 12 ft 4 in drop.

There were two helpful CRT volunteers manning this lock (and two more CRT ‘chuggers’ in attendance), so Louise was able to travel on board. As you can see from the pictures, the place is a popular destination, complete with a tea rooms with picture windows so the gongoozlers can watch and chortle in comfort.

It’s hard to convey the thrill of going through this lock, but here is a movie…

…and some stills:

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The other two locks were no less impressive in their way, although not as big and deep. We really like the T&M – it has a great sense of openness, but also of being cared for.

Here’s a sequence of ‘Froth’ entering Branston lock complete with Rosie having a ‘mad’ as she rushes around between Louise and the boat. She doesn’t do this every time, just when she has excess energy. By lunchtime she often wants to sleep!

We passed through Burton upon Trent, which was surprisingly pleasant with some nice mooring opportunities, but we didn’t stop.

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We did stop in Willington and had some lunch on the boat there. It seemed nice, but again we didn’t look around. Instead we pressed on, and saw a black swan..

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…passed over several aqueducts…

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…navigated our way past several threatening geese at a lock (Louise was forced to rejoin the boat on the other bank)…

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…and managed to avoid a fallen tree which had almost completely blocked the canal:

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Given that she only had three locks to do, and one of those was manned, Louise spent a lot of the time baking and produced a magnificent date and walnut cake as well as a lovely loaf:

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Writing this after a delicious steak and a bottled of red, it does all feel very pleasant indeed! We’ll sleep well tonight.

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