Leicester Ring 2011
Loughborough to South Wigston
19th April 2011
21 miles - 19 locks - 10 hours
The mooring by bridge 34 proved to be a good move. Deep water, a soft grassy bank and total isolation bar the bats and the crickets who made their presence known in their own inimitable fashions.
Barrow on Soar Lock
With supplies or fresh produce running low again we stopped at Barrow which offered an excellent traditional butcher who cut meat to order and a very handy co-op for all our grocery needs. The town isn't particularly beautiful, bisected as it is by four high speed railway lines, but it is a bustling and thriving community with a diverse high street.
River Soar near Mount Sorrel
The Soar improves north of Loughborough, shaking off the last hints of Trentishness which cling to the lower reaches. Locks crop up every mile or so as the river winds its sinuous way south, passing curiously names towns like Mount Sorrel. It may sound biblical but it is no mount of olives. The town is literally built on its quarry which offers a peculiar pink granite which has been used for miles of road kerbs and more interestingly, edges most of the locks in the region.
Mount Sorrell railway viaduct
We had a bit of a surprise at Thurmaston Lock when two individuals emerged from MGM Boatbuilders and quickly set the lock ready for this. There was more to this exceptional customer service than met the eye - but that deserves an post all of its own!
Pastoral scenes on the River Soar
The navigation takes its leave of the river again at Cassington where it weaves its way through Watermead country park which offers many "branches". None of these are navigable but most appear larger than the main channel. The cut is surrounded by numerous water filled gravel works which are now nature reserves and water sports centres.
This northerly entrance to Leicester is really rather attractive. The surface litter builds up a bit but nothing got on the prop as we passes the futuristic National Space Centre and then to Abbey Park complete with its bustling funfair which was well patronised on this hot and sunny spring afternoon. Leicester also offers a good selection of old industrial buildings but their days are numbered - when the economic downturn finally ends they will be swept away to be replaced by yet more formulaic blocks of flats, like the ones which now line the Straight Mile.
Leicester's Straight Mile
Leicester was almost pretty in the shimmering sun and it was almost a shame to exit the regenerated zone in the shadow of the Leicester City stadium. Take care if the emptying lock pushes you out beneath the weir - the water is wickedly shallow! Beyond this point the last vestiges of a river navigation are lost and the traditional canal persona is adopted - fittingly as it weaves its way through Leicester's gasworks and Aystone Meadows, a playground for the city's youth.
Two more miles and you are deep in the country with the canal turning sharply left, leaving the Soar behind and adopting the River Sense as its companion for the next leg of its journey to the Grand Union main line.
South Wigston Lock
We came to a stop at South Wigston, where moorings are few and far between. This is no pretty country town - its a working area which has fallen on hard times. The Jacobs Cracker factory still dominates the town but attempts at rejuvenation have been led by the construction of a dramatic South Leicester College which has merges some of the old into its ultra modern main building.
The Bobbin Factory - South Wigston
The town has one big saving grace - it offers a super abundance of take out options all within 10 mins walk of the canal. Chinese, Thai, Pizza, Kebabs, Pub food and of course traditional Fish and Chips which was or food of choice on the night.