Monday 11th July.
Here I am back on board Stronghold after a week at home mowing grass, spraying roses, spraying weeds and generally catching up with people. I must say that I am very pleased to be back with the old girl after such a boring journey on those ancient East Midland Trains, with their diesel electric locos and dreadful suspension.
Stronghold was looking good in the sun, but I noticed that Dave had retied the stern line to a ring, instead of leaving it on my mooring pin, which was much closer to the stern end and allowed the shorter line to go back on board and be tied securely. The consequence was that the stern end was now drifting around in the wind and hitting the bank – not satisfactory for a good night’s sleep, so it was retied as originally done. I never got round to asking him the reason why.
With the cupboard bare, the only alternative was to eat at The Wharf once again, which was up to their usual standard, before an early night. Previously, when I was outside searching for a phone signal, the waitress told me to stand over the drain cover in the car park and sure enough, there was a full strength signal – how does that work?
Tuesday 12th July.
After getting in some essential supplies, I let go and headed for the main line and Foxton Locks. It was a quiet trip with a heavy shower thrown in just as I stopped for lunch – most convenient.
Arriving at the top of the locks, I had a word with the volunteer lockie, who told me that there was one boat on the way up and asked how many crew I had on board. “You are looking at him,” I said, so he shrugged and accepted that he and his mate would see me down. It was achieved in 33mins, which was one minute outside the record – a pretty good team, but all I did was to close the bottom gate, which makes a very pleasant change.
A long way down.
Lock gate of the staircase.
Although there were moorings outside the Foxton Locks Inn, I reversed up the Leicester section and found a quiet mooring there, away from the pub lawn. It began raining hard and I waited a while for it to ease before heading for Bridge 61, which if you don’t know, is a pub at the bottom of the locks. There are two pubs in Foxton, one being The Foxton Locks Inn, very much a large tourist pub. The other being Bridge 61, which is very much a local and boaters’ pub, which was confirmed by the clientele in the bar. As I still had no food on board, I was hoping to eat here and I was not disappointed. Although the menu was limited, the food was home cooked and very cheap @ £5.00 for a chicken balti. Although its size would not satisfy an NBT crew, it was just right for me and along with good conversation, the evening was complete.
Wednesday 13th July
I let go in bright sunlight for a change, although that soon disappeared behind cloud as I approached the swing footbridge across the Market Harborough Arm. I unlocked it on the off side and attempted to swing it hard enough from the towpath go make a wide enough passage through. As I pulled away from the mooring, a guy came down the bank and swung it wide open before closing it after I went through.
Not far down the Arm, I came across the manually operated road swing bridge and after waiting to see if my luck was in, I decided that it was up to me to do the business. There was a bollard on the offside, so I put the bow on that side, stepped off and worked the bridge. After taking the boat through, I reversed to the bollard on the far side and closed the bridge – quite easy really.
The approach to Harborough Basin was very attractive, with long gardens of expensive modern houses on the offside and a well kept towpath on the inside. Finally into the Basin itself, where I had not been for many years and never on Stronghold. We hired several Anglo Welsh boats from this venue in years past and there was strong sense of nostalgia present. After watering up, I moved onto one of the pontoons with the intention of mooring for the night, but after seeing that it would cost me £10, I decided to moor just outside for nowt. Shopping in the town was a mile away, but I had a lot of victuals to buy and it was all uphill back to the Basin, so I got a cab, which eased the pain in my back and hip considerably.
......where much has changed..........
........since I was last here.
Thursday 14th July.
It was going to be one of those days, when I did just a little bit of this and that and when I got to the end of the day, I think “Did I achieve anything at all?” I heard a passerby say to the lady on the next boat, “Just how do you manage on your own then?” To which she replied, as I do, “Well, you just do it!”
We compared notes after the other person had gone and got into quite a long conversation about single handed boating. Later on in the day, I wondered if she fancied a pre-dinner drink at the waterfront bar, so I asked her and she seemed enthusiastic enough to accept. I think she felt as I did and just wanted company and conversation. It was a very pleasant evening, sitting outside and watching the sun go down. Conversation was easy and became even easier after the second drink. By the time we had had two drinks each, Anne felt a little unsteady and I offered my arm on the way back to her boat, where I made sure she was safely on board before fastening the dodger by the step. She said that she was delighted that I had asked her to go out and I felt the same too. I also remarked that I found it much easier to ask a lady out now than I would have maybe twenty years ago.
Friday 15th July.
I had now been here 48hrs and it was time to make a move back to Foxton, but not before I completed my hand washing under the tap. Anne was a member of the Ripon Motor Boat Club and said that it was a good place to moor for a while when I was passing through. If I remember correctly, there is a railway station there and might be good for a break to go home at the end of August. All the waterway boat clubs are members of an Association (AWCC), which means that individual members can arrange to leave their boats on a free mooring, usually for up to seven days for free.
When Anne returned from shopping in the town, I invited her for coffee and a bit more conversation and she had a chance to have a look at the shambolic interior of Stronghold, which I have to admit has not been cleaned for ages. In return I had my first peek into a Sea Otter, which was in immaculate order. I was impressed by the home made secondary glazing that a friend had made and which fitted over the protruding hopper window retaining brackets. This is a modification that I had previously tried to deal with, but as often happens with a design, I was not thinking outside the box. Here was the solution – easy really! I foresee a winter project ahead.
We said our goodbyes, hoping to meet again at Ripon later in the year and I let go for the two hour trip to Foxton in a chilly wind, for a cold front was approaching from the west. I coped easily with the swing road bridge and then the footbridge, which was opened for me once again. Moored up in the direction of Leicester, I paid a visit to the Foxton Locks Inn, staffed by children (well, not far off) as expected and a typical tourist pub, after which I walked across to Bridge 61, sat outside and had some good craic with the locals – what a difference.
Foxton Locks Inn in the background and Bridge 61 to the right.
Saturday 16th July.
It was another diddling around day, mostly catching up with emails, paying the odd bill and NBT magazine business, even though I am not editing the next edition. It was a windy day, but now much warmer than yesterday and even though the sun shone, I was in the cabin sweating over a hot computer. I attempted to download some large format photographs, only to discover later that most of them had errors and were useless, so it’s off to the pub again to use their wi-fi. I would imagine that a mooring outside the big pub would get me connected to their wi-fi, but then there is too much invasion of privacy being next to the pub lawn.
Knowing that there was a BT hotspot at the bottom of the locks, I went to Bridge 61 and plugged in the laptop, only to discover that I could not connect, because it was too far away. The only alternative was to go to the Foxton Locks Inn, which I was reluctant to do, as it was packed out on this hot afternoon. I walked back to the boat and had a read before trying the plastic pub when it was a little quieter.
Sunday 17th July.
Back in the Foxton Locks Inn with a cup of coffee to be able to use their wi-fi.............fat chance! Not only is there pub wi-fi, but also two BT Hotspots and I can get no internet connection with any of them – it’s driving me up the wall and that is expressing my feelings mildly. It would appear that I need to sit on top of the router to connect. Eventually, I moved to the other bar, where the router obviously was, but still could not connect, however I managed to got on to a BT Hotspot and after a long wait it all clicked into place........AT LAST!!