Swarkestone to Loughborough
1st May 2011
17 miles - 12 locks - 8 hours
The eastern end of the Trent And Mersey is a quiet place, just a steady trickle of what were the Canaltime boats moving to and fro their base at Shardlow. Shardlow was its usual picturesque self, an eclectic suite of photogenic warehouses before the final mile and a half run out to Derwent Mouth.
Period warehouses, Shardlow
It was as we approached this final lock to the river that I remembered the anchor, or to be more precise - the lack of it. It was on board, but it was still stowed away under the front deck - did we really need it? The weeks of dry weather have reduced even the mighty Trent to a trickle and there was really little likelihood that the anchor would be needed. However, one never knows and having run the Trent in flood I adopted a cautions approach and sent Jeff off to drag out that huge lump of steel. Better safe than sorry.
David and Goliath at Sawley
Facilities on the Leicester Ring are few and far between so we called in to Sawley Marina for a pump out. As we moved down the river I was confronted by a huge barge with a small narrowboat alongside. I assumed that the larger was towing the smaller but I couldnt see a skipper - just a bloke on the front. I dithered and then passed to the right only to find myself crowded into the moored boats. When I finally got by the truth became apparent - a tiny cruiser was running flat out dragging an unpowered houseboat up the river. Its a good job there was so little flow on the water.
Our trip down the Trent was both brief and uneventful. Before many minutes we arrived Trent Lock, where the River Soar and the Erewash Canal meet the Trent forming a huge watery cross roads. We cast a farewell to the Trent, to which we will return in the summer when we will run its whole length to Keadby. By contrast the Soar seems small and intimate, winding its way to the south. I am not really sure what it should be called - The River Soar or the Grand Union? Its roots lie in the River Soar but its canalisation was so significant that about half is man made cut. As a result the ambiance oscillates between reed fringed river with few wide bridges to smaller canals with their more traditional bridges.
Ratcliffe power station at the junction of the Soar and the Trent
The hybrid nature of this water way and its location in the industrial East Midlands means that it is not particularly beautiful in the main, but then again it is never boring either.
The lower sections below Loughborough are more river like and the locks at Ratcliffe and Kegworth are shadowed by duplicates, all in filled but with rotten gates embedded in the earth. It appears that the locks were rebuilt at slightly higher levels as part of some flood defence works in the 1930's, and are accompanied by long low training walls retaining flood waters within the raised channel. Not that there was any evidence of flood water on this trip.
A notable feature of the lower Soar is the absence of boats on the bankside moorings. There are miles of linear moorings but no takers!
Normanton was a pretty village, dominated by its riverside church. We would have liked to pause and wander but time was not on our side so we pressed on past some houses which would rival the Thames. Unlike the Thames, there is also room for the little people and the banks are lines with small huts which have been built and extended over the decades.
Loughborough looking very Grand Union
River or Canal? the dilemma is never greater than at Loughborough where the navigation leaves the river for nearly five miles, burrowing into the town itself. The plan was to stop in Loughborough but in the event the town has little to offer boaters. The water is polluted and covered in beer cans, and its connection to the Grand Union network is never more apparent. The town arm is being redeveloped but appeared a bleak and barren place but had little to attract us. Instead we pressed on past a number of old mills and moored up a mile or so to the south at bridge 34, where the canal escaped roads and railways, just before it rejoins the river at Pillings Lock.