pick of watering holes on the
Beaumanor Road, Leicester. 0116 266 9659. 5 mins west of Bridge 13 and first left. Friendly back-street suburban pub with wide range of real ales, sandwiches and (on certain days) a barber!
Birstall. 0116 267 1038. Below Birstall Lock. Family-friendly former boatmen’s pub, garden with play area, real ale, reasonably priced food and occasional live music
Syston. 0116 260 1963. Waterside at Bridge 19. Popular family pub and restaurant, part of Hungry Horse chain, with real ale, breakfast from 10am, garden, play area
Waterside Mountsorrel. 0116 230 2758. By the lock. Popular pub with restaurant and wood-panelled bar, real ale, lockside seating
Navigation Barrow-upon-Soar. 01509 412842. Waterside by Bridge 28. Busy village local with real ale, food and garden
Albion Loughborough. 01509 213952. Canalside just north of the junction. 18th Century boatmen’s pub with real ale (including a house beer specially brewed), food and patio
Plough Normanton on Soar. 01509 842228. Waterside in the village. Attractive old inn, with emphasis on food but those just wanting a drink are welcome. Real ale, garden, moorings (really the only ones in the village)
Zouch. 01509 842240. Waterside west of Bridge 43. Historic pub with beams and open fire, real ale, food, garden
Otter Kegworth. 01509 672372. Waterside ¾ mile south of Kegworth. Large traditional riverside inn specialising in food, with real ale, garden and moorings (overnight by arrangement)
Anchor Station Road, Kegworth. 01509 672846. Just west of Kegworth Shallow Lock. Unspoilt local with original interior features, real ale and cider, food, open fire and garden
Pubdetailsarelikelytochangeatshortnotice: youareadvisedtophoneaheadtobesure Pumping Station and the National Space Centre. A footpath from the lock leads to both attractions. The Abbey Pumping Station houses an industrial museum with four restored beam engines and a vintage transport collection; while the silver tower of the National Space Centre (see inset) can be seen from the lock.
Once past Belgrave Lock, Leicester’s industry and residential outskirts begin to thin out as you approach Birstall and the Watermead Country Park.
At Birstall, the lock is a good place to stop for supplies. The Watermead Country Park boasts a network of 12 artificial lakes made up from old gravel workings. Barges on the navigation were still busy carrying gravel in the Syston area as recently as the 1990s. Now the lakes have three nature reserves and are used for fishing and water sports. There is even a life-size sculpture of a mammoth overlooking one lake and, on another, a sculpture depicting a scene from Shakespeare’s King Lear.
After Thurmaston Lock, the river and navigation part company at the Watermead Country Park as we follow a short artificial canal leading to Syston, passing a waterside pub before meeting the Soar’s tributary, the River Wreake. To our right, this was once navigable for 15 miles through 12 broad locks to
‘Barges were still carrying gravel as recently as the 1990s. Now, the lakes have nature reserves and fishing and water sports’
Hope & Anchor
Rose & Crown
Joining the River Wreake section at Cossington