We love and care for your canals and rivers, because everyone deserves a place to escape.

News article created on 11 August 2016

Market Harborough to Birstall

In this entry John continues his journey passing through Kilby Lock to Birstall.

Newton Harcourt lock house


The main excitement today involved a very wet lamb! I’d been joined at Market Harborough by Ian Rogers, the Trust’s Customer Services Director, for the day. He’d been on HELEN last October on the Shroppie. He steered for most of the day and worked both the swing bridges at the Foxton end of the Arm.

Those who know this area know it’s quite a long pound to Kibworth so we were enjoying the countryside when we saw a lamb in the water on the offside which fairly obviously couldn’t get out. At Ian’s instigation, we stopped to mount a rescue effort. I steered HELEN into the reeds on the offside; we put down the gang plank; we took off a rope; we walked back to the lamb. The bank was fairly steep and it was soon obvious we needed to get under the lamb to push it upwards. So, nothing for it but to jump into the water. Just my luck it wasn’t shallow! It came just above my knees. Between us we got the lamb out and it ran back to its mates. No mother to go to, as at this time of year the lambs had been weaned.

Ian helped me down the Kibworth Flight and then he got on his bike to cycle all the way back to Market Harborough to his car. I carried on to Newtown Harcourt where there is one of the few lock houses in this section (see photo). Here I stupidly let the boat drift back onto the cill and the rudder popped out of its cup. It’s a large and heavy rudder – too much for me to lift back in – but it was still usable with difficulty.

This part of the Leicester Section and on towards Leicester is fairly typical canal in that there’s what I regard as the Kibworth flight followed by the Newton Harcourt flight after which the locks are that awkward length apart – if your task is to prepare the next lock, do you walk or hitch a ride on the boat? I was to find out tomorrow about mini-bikes. I moored for the night at Kilby Bridge.


When leaving Kilby Lock, I saw a boat coming down behind and so I waited at the next lock so we could work the locks together. Better for water supply and easier for us both. My new companions had a folding bike and so went ahead – the towpath was in good condition – to the next lock, even when it was as much as a mile away.

The excitement for the day came when we got to Gees Lock. We found the bottom gates had been locked together with a D lock. I was about to phone the Trust when a couple of staff turned up. They’d been alerted by someone mysterious who had texted in a photo of the problem. Sledge hammers and boltcutters were of no avail so they sent for a steel disc cutter – which had to come from Swarkestone, near Derby. A most unusual experience – and hardly likely to be kids. The upside was that Paul (one of the staff) was able to reset my rudder whilst we waited.

After about a couple of hours, we were on our way. From Kings Lock on, we had the Soar with us and so deep water (in fact, the canal had been ok too). My companions stopped but I decided to continue to Birstall where I stopped for the night.

About this blog

John Dodwell

John Dodwell was formerly one of our 10 trustees. He owns Helen, a 51ft old BCN tug/icebreaker which draws 3ft and is based near Stourbridge, West Midlands. His waterways interest goes back to the early 1960s.

John’s been involved in the waterways since the early 1960s and he enjoys all aspects of the waterways. To pick out one oddity, he was pleased and surprised to see about a dozen herons this June around the BCN Main Line, including two under the M6 motorway!

See more blogs from this author