Approaching Leicester


Here are further images of the journey through England’s midland waterways taken by me walking alongside Sam and James in Pacific Pete in July 2003.

This stone stork beside the Cherwell section of the Oxford Canal seemed amused by the attempts of their mother to draw her offspring away from him.

Small bridges, narrow locks  and a few narrowboats on this section required careful negotiation by the rower. Navigator James looked quite thoughtful in the third picture.

The River Soar for part of the Oxford Union Canal stretch. The towpaths here were better tended than some. Willowherb thrived in the brickwork of this bridge.

Dragonflies mated; waterlilies bloomed; and a stone wall provided a backdrop for wild flowers.

An art group concentrated hard on a lock as we approached Leicester.

Nearing the city of my birth, we passed a derelict graffiti-bedaubed factory,

Leaf on waterweed

outside which a leaf lay on a bed of water weed.

Soon Pacific Pete was gliding through the city.


Fast forward to today, and we have a supermoon,

heralding in Jackie’s classic cottage pie served with perfect cabbage, broccoli, and carrots, with which she drank Hoegaarden whilst I drank more of the Chateauneuf.



The Foxton Flight


It rained all day today. Aaron, who could not work in such weather, came for a pleasant chat over a mug of tea.

I will not bore either my readers or myself with full details of today’s BT episode. But it does warrant a brief mention. Yesterday, as you know, I had been promised a phone call from a manager about the charge of £50 to change the name on my account. The young lady who telephoned me from India this morning was certainly no manager. When we came to an impasse she transferred me to someone in England. The best I could glean from her, after she had consulted with her manager, was that this could only be done free of charge was by changing the phone number then transferring it back. There was no guarantee that our existing number would be accurately returned. I told her, for the recording, precisely what I thought of her company, stated that it was only my reluctance to change our number and my e-mail address, that kept me with them; and that I wouldn’t bother to take her up on her kind offer.

Then I scanned another set of colour negatives from my longest walk.

I don’t usually tinker with the colours in my photographs, but I did have a play with these three landscape shots.

Sam in Pacific Pete 7.03

Beyond Oxford, Sam took to the Grand Union Canal

alongside which the footpaths were often completely overgrown, albeit

with pleasant wild flowers, such as meadowsweet and willow herb.

Of the many butterflies flitting about, I only recognised the red admirals. (See John Knifton’s comment below)

Oak leaves 7.03

The shade from trees like this oak was often welcome in the heat of the day.

About the Foxton Flight of Locks, built between 1810 and 1814, Wikipedia informs us:

‘Foxton Locks (grid reference SP691895) are ten canal locks consisting of two “staircases” each of five locks, located on the Leicester line of the Grand Union Canal about 5 km west of the Leicestershire town of Market Harborough and are named after the nearby village of Foxton.

They form the northern terminus of a 20-mile summit level that passes Husbands Bosworth, Crick and ends with the Watford flight

Staircase locks are used where a canal needs to climb a steep hill, and consist of a group of locks where each lock opens directly into the next, that is, where the bottom gates of one lock form the top gates of the next. Foxton Locks are the largest flight of such staircase locks on the English canal system.

The Grade II* listed locks are a popular tourist attraction and the county council has created a country park at the top. At the bottom, where the junction with the arm to Market Harborough is located, there are two public houses, a shop, trip boat and other facilities.’

On the day Sam guided Pacific Pete down this staircase, family visitors were out in force. For once I was ahead of my son, and reached the locks in time to learn that the canal-side telegraph was buzzing with the news that a large rowing boat was on its way through.

The audience gathered to watch Sam use his giant oar to steer and propel the boat through the locks because there was no room to row.

Asian family leaving Foxton Flight 7.03

Did you notice the Asian man gesturing to his family in the first picture, and shepherding them over the bridge in the last, in order to lead them down the slope to see the rower on his way?

Child helping at the locks 7.03

There had been no shortage of helpers to push the long balance beams operating the gates.

There were plenty of narrow boats on the waters, but no other ocean-going rowing boats.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s glorious sausage casserole; crisp carrots, cauliflower and red cabbage, and creamy mashed potatoes. She drank Hoegaarden and I finished Helen and Bill’s Malbec.

The Answer Must Lie In The Postcodes

Windmill landscape

Billingford Mill is maintained by The Norfolk Windmills Trust:

Norfolk Windmills Trust (1)

WindmillThere may be more water pumps than mills, for these former relics of times past were used to pump out water from the county’s precarious terrain reclaimed from the sea.

Were it not for the rooftop in between, the Billingford Mill would have been beautifully framed by our hotel bedroom window.  It was this that drew me out early on this dewy morning to wander into the field in which it stood, and along footpaths around it. Willowherb Sunlight lent a glistening sheen to the willowherb running to seed, and a warning glitter to delineate the strands of the spider’s webs thus deterring flies from entering.Spider in web  These circular spun traps festooned the long grasses bent under the weight of the recent rain.

Returning to the side road by the pub, I passed The Old Smithy, The Old Bakery, and various other cottage dwellings, and walked down to a junction at which I turned right to Brome and Oakley before retracing my steps in time for breakfast.

Field stubble

Shorn stubble stubbornly protruded from some of the fields.Cattle at dawn  In others cattle were enjoying their own morning fodder.  The road crossed a surprisingly fast-flowing stream.


As Jackie and I descended the fire escape on our way to the bar, a fast-moving vehicle pointed out a hitherto unnoticed fact.  The fire escape led directly, and I mean directly, into the road.  There was, in any case, no pavement.

The Horseshoes

Our most congenial hostess provided a breakfast equally as excellent as yesterday’s.  She confirmed she had, indeed, prepared all the Sunday lunches herself, having a little waiting help. I have revised my impressions of this establishment, which is in fact much more pleasant than the rather basic room suggested.

Pondering the two Billingfords conundrum, I decided the answer must lie in the postcodes.  That of The Horseshoes begins IP (Ipswich); whereas Sue and John’s home, The Old Chapel, starts with NR (Norwich).  Maybe The Horshoes was once in Suffolk, the county of Ipswich.  Newark, after all, in Nottinghamshire, was originally part of Lincolnshire.  My former home there, Lindum House, translated from the Latin, would read Lincoln House.  Our landlady said she sometimes receives mail which should go to The Street in the other Billingford.

We had a more pleasant drive back to The Firs where we learnt that visitors had continued to trickle in during our absence, and my cards had continued to sell.  After a short stay we returned home, Jackie having intended then to drive us to Walkford with a present and card for Shelly, whose actual birthday it is today.  In the event, after driving several hundred miles in three days, she decided she couldn’t do it.

Berties (sic) has moved to Lyndhurst.  This fish and chip shop graced Lymington Road in Highcliffe for about forty years before being sold to the current owners, who moved to our nearest large village in 2012.  Unfortunately for the proprietors and prospective diners, builders let everyone down over the work in the new restaurant, so locals have, until very recently, made do with a takeaway.  Having eagerly awaited the opening, we learned that it has at last happened.  When she woke from a well-earned sleep, Jackie drove us there where we enjoyed large haddock meals.  Jackie drank coffee, while I had tea.