Abbey Park to King’s Mill Lock: 9.4 Miles

Today was supposed to be an easier day; it didn’t turn out that way.  The first section was fine; I parked up at Abbey Park and found the canal (or one of its manifestations: the river and canal play hide and seek all the way from the Trent until south of Leicester when they finally part company, and when they part and come together again, making islands on which are parks and nature reserves.)  I was aiming for Aylestone Meadows but once I got there I just carried on walking, pointing myself at King’s Mill lock where there are some tea rooms. 

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Would they be open?  They were not; so back I went, finding a spot to use the shewee before having lunch.  I was starting to feel stiff and tired now, and the upper part of my right foot was complaining.  But there was nothing for it but to walk back again, which I did, stopping once at Aylestone Mill Lock to contemplate life, and once at Castle Gardens to rest.  After that it was a mere hop and a skip (not that I did either) to Abbey Park where I practically limped towards the car park and got in with a thankful sigh.

I have a feeling that’s going to be it for the walking now: not only am I tired but it’s getting more expensive the further south I get.  So the final stretch – King’s Mill Lock to Foxton Locks (31 miles there and back) will have to wait a while.

So how far have I walked this month?  Since 4th August I have walked the canal/river from the Trent in the north to King’s Mill Lock in the south; I have also failed to walk to Swithland (ending up in Woodhouse Eaves) and walked from Swithland to Mountsorrel.  So let me add this up.  While I do, you can listen to a snippet from Govannen’s latest album:

The canal/river from the Trent to King’s Mill Lock (there and back, because each day I park up and go down and up again) amounts to 61 miles.  The Woodhouse Eaves walk was 5 miles, which makes 66, and the Swithland to Mountsorrel day adds up to another 5, making 71.  Oo! and I forgot the day I went round Cropston, which was another 5 miles.  Total 76.

Wow.  So that’s 76 miles in 16 days, an average of 4.75 miles per day (except that I haven’t walked every day.

Kirk out

Is it a Canal or a River?

A steadier 6.4 miles (10.3 km) today, having outdone myself in a 14-mile walk yesterday.  I’d set out for Barrow-on-Soar (site of the famous Trident decommissioning, of which more anon) deciding to go further if I felt like it.  Once you get past the outskirts of Loughborough with the factories backing onto the canal, it’s a pleasant walk along the canal to where it joins the river Soar.  The canal and the river play hide-and-seek all the way up: sometimes they run together and sometimes the river meanders off for a bit while the canal takes the straighter route.  It’s all quite confusing and can result in much consulting of maps, phones and compasses in order to determine which bit of which wiggly blue line you are actually on.  I’ve been assembling my walking kit bit by bit and now have OS maps, water bottle, thermos, lunch box, cagoule (it did actually rain today) and hand sanitiser.  These will shortly be joined by a shewee, of which more anon.

So once I got to Barrow I texted Jan to see if she was there and she wasn’t, so I carried on towards Mountsorrel.  This is another bit where the river meanders while the canal takes a straighter route; however it wasn’t all that straight and managed to describe several sweeping bends before finally arriving in Mountsorrel.

Here a strange sight awaited me: slap bang on the side of the canal was a small and very new estate of houses, but they were all so weird and silent and shut up and the place was so empty of any life that it felt a bit like being on the set of The Prisoner.  It was an odd contrast to the rest of the village which is a bit run-down but basically well-meaning.  On I trudged to my destination, Sileby Mill Lock,

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where I chatted to some volunteer lock keepers who tried to press me into volunteering and rhapsodised about the attractive 1860 bridge which used to carry a railway and now stands adorning a field.

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I began the return journey, feeling remarkably chipper until I passed Barrow, when it began to seem an awfully long way.  And no wonder!  When I got home and measured the distance on mapmywalk


I found I’d walked 14 miles!

I decided on a gentler walk today.  Since I missed out on Swithland the other day I decided to drive there just to make sure it couldn’t escape.  I parked up at the end of the village and walked towards the reservoir.  It’s a very atmospheric view across the water to the mysterious old bridge where once an hour the steam trains pause a while so that passengers can see the reservoir.

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Sadly you can’t walk around the water as it’s all parcelled up by Severn Trent, so that’s the best view you get of it.  I carried on through the outskirts of Rothley to the Mountsorrel turning and decided I’d go down into the village.  At this point I was hit by a problem I hadn’t experienced in the hot weather – the need to pee.  And this is where the sheewee comes in, because as everyone knows it’s very inconvenient, not to say risky, if you have to lower your garments and squat in order to pee: men have it much easier as all they have to do is lean casually on a telegraph pole or something and just pretend to be taking a phone call.  But!  help is at hand, for OH has ordered me a shewee, a little funnelly thing which gathers all the liquid and points it in one direction so that you can pee standing up.  I’m very excited about this as I’ve always wanted one, though I suspect I’ll have to practise a bit when it comes.  I’ll keep you posted (I’ll spare you the details.)

I had my lunch on the banks of the canal:

and then retraced my steps, discovering a new – I don’t know what you’d call it – a bright yellow expanse of heritagey-type-stuff.  Anyway, there was a cafe which was full of families, a nature trail and a miniature railway and the whole thing seemed to be on the site of an old granite mine (quarrying being a key industry in the area going back to the 18th century: Swithland is known for its slate mines.)

And so back once more through the intermittent rain to where faithful old Bertie was waiting.

Oh, and the decommissioning of Trident was a CND idea from years ago.  Trident was actually built in Barrow-in-Furness so as a symbolic act we took a model of Trident made out of cardboard to Barrow-on-Soar and ‘decommissioned’ it.  On the way people were starting to get sheepish and by the time we got there, mutterings of ‘I don’t know why we’re doing this’ could be heard.  But we did it.

Kirk out

Marching in Wales

Regular readers will remember from last autumn such gems on this blog as the fuel and wood situation, the dog situation and the bread situation.  These situations have been revisited, revised and reorganised in my second – nay, third – trip to the borderlands where Monmouthshire and Herefordshire kiss – or perhaps spit at each other – over a river.

I’m an old hand at the Welsh Marches now:  I know the roads and the villages, I know the castles and the churches; I know the pubs and the people.  Most of all I know the dogs – but alas! the resident dogs have the memory of a goldfish and in spite of the fact that I walked, fed and entertained them for several weeks, they did not remember me.  But the dogs are the least of it: for now we have the geese situation, the duck situation, the turkey situation and the hen situation.  Further afield in an orchard resides the pig situation where a lot of digging and fencing (not the sporting kind) is happening prior to the geese situation transferring up there, whereupon the turkeys, hens and duck will all move up one place like some game of poultry musical chairs.

To begin at the beginning: the duck is possibly the most entertaining of these creatures.  It’s an Indian Runner Duck (which I persisted in thinking of as an india-rubber duck, a joke which works on several levels if you think about it) a flightless bird which makes up for its lack of wings by running extremely fast.  Unfortunately the previous brood were killed by foxes, so there is just the one rubber – sorry, runner duckling – at the moment.  I have yet to see it run but I have observed it standing up really tall on its hind legs, looking like a cross between a meerkat and a penguin.


The geese, called George, Mildred and something else (after the seventies sitcom) have the run of the garden.  They are intensely curious and follow strangers round hissing and pecking; however as soon as you turn on them they scatter in fright: it’s a sort of goose-step  version of Grandmother’s footsteps.  (Grandmother’s goosesteps?)


I did not interact much with the turkeys as they are keeping warm and safe inside the greenhouse while the hens inhabit their own run on the other side and produce an egg each every day.  And that completes the household.  Up on the orchard two pigs keep the fruit trees company; they’re a heritage breed called – hang on, scarlet and black – no, cream and brown – no, I can’t remember but something and something.  They have dug up the entire patch and eaten all the weeds, roots and all: I think I could do with a couple of them in my garden.

So much for the menagerie, now for the countryside where I had a somewhat larger radius this time.  This was due to Bertie.  Bertie is the latest addition to our household; he is a small, faithful, silver-blue Ford Focus and he takes me everywhere.  Together we explored Sir Fynwy and Herefordshire, Abergavenny and Hereford while later in the week I made a solo pilgrimage to Hay on Wye.  I had always wanted to go to Hay and now I have.  I bought several books – a volume of Oscar Wilde extracts with a foreword by Stephen Fry; Radcliffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness, a fistful of Penguin ‘60’s for a quid and Bruce Chatwin’s On the Black Hill.

And thereby hangs this tale:

by the side of my sister’s house there runs an ancient highway, part of the Three Castles walk which links a trio of Norman border castles.  Not far from the house the path dips steeply and then climbs just as steeply right through a farm where it gets extremely muddy.  I was told in the pub that this farm is the subject of much local legend as it was run by six brothers, none of whom ever married; and that in the 1980’s Bruce Chatwin stayed in the village and wrote a novel set on that very farm (though he made the six brothers into twins.)  On the Black Hill is that novel.

One thing I didn’t manage to do was climb those hills.  The brooding presence of the Black Mountains looms over the area and beyond them, somewhere else I intend to explore, the Brecon Beacons.  But for now I have to be content with Swithland reservoir and the woods beyond.

Kirk out



Buried in Barrow

I have just come back from a well-deserved break in sunny Barrow-on-Soar, staying at Jan’s flat.  Barrow is actually an interesting village in many ways: first, it’s alive and not dead like some villages; people actually live there as opposed to being commuters who are only really around at weekends; secondly it has a number of interesting buildings including the so-called ‘Roundhouse’ – actually an octagonal building – which used to be a lock-up, the inevitable workhouse, and a building called Bishop’s House which seems to have been constructed out of anything the builders could lay their hands on; it’s an incredible mish-mash of tiles, stone and timber all covered over with a layer of local clay.  Weird.  And then there are the fossils.  Barrow sits on a large area of land which was once underwater and the whole region is rich in fossils, the most famous of which, the Barrow Kipper, now rests in Leicester’s New Walk Museum.  The guided tour I followed takes you around a number of sculpted fossils embedded in walls, including a trilobyte which, the guide helpfully informs us, did not exist in Barrow.  Go figure.  But it’s the canals that are the making of Barrow.  The river Soar and canalised parts of it, run at the bottom of the village and there’s a pub on the waterside as well as a cafe and lots of mooring by the lock.

I did a lot of walking by the river: the first day, I walked as far as Mountsorrel and the second, I made it to Swithland Water.  It’s interesting to watch the boats, and on that first day I saw what looked like a Hindu funeral: I guessed they were going to scatter the ashes on the water as they do in India.

Swithland water is beautiful and atmospheric: trees sweep down to the water’s edge and far off, the trains come over the bridge with a haunting whistle.  However, you have to walk miles to get to the waterside and Severn Trent, who own it, are unwelcoming to visitors to the point of being hostile: there’s only a short part where you can see the water, there’s nowhere to sit and if you sit in the car you have a lovely view of the wall and not much else.  A couple of fishermen had broached the wall to sit on the shore, but I didn’t feel like doing that; I was, however, much in need of a rest so I lay down on the only patch of grass and relaxed for a few minutes.  And then I was off: back up through the woods, along past the old quarry where there’s a monument to the stoneworkers who worked there; past the Beacon (I think these were originally built to warn of Napoleonic invasion) and back between the houses to Mountsorrel Buttermarket.

This morning as I was taking my last walk along the canal before returning home, I ran in to a friend who has a boat.  He is usually moored at Thurmaston but he and some other friends were taking a trip: he offered me a ride but sadly I had to decline as I needed to get home.

Daniel is now almost recovered.  He had the all-clear from the ENT clinic today and he is looking much better.

Kirk out