Saturday, December 22, 2012

Watermead flooding

NCN48 at Birstall entrance to Watermead Park - 300mm deep and flowing fast
All routes leading through Watermead South or Watermead North, plus Birstall canal bank near White Horse under water again 21 Dec - ?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Watermead C2: the final link - 3 1/2

3 1/2?  Well, I'd hoped it'd be finished by now (the work on the new Wreake Bridge, I mean), but apparently it will be by the end of this week.  You can see from the following that the Y section of the Bridge heading west to the cyclepath and east to the Wreake-side footpath are installed, but finishing handrails and tarmacing were still in progress today.

The part-collapse of the cyclepath 50m W of the bridge has been joined by distortion of the paviers and concrete-topped bank immediately S of the bridge.  The latter was apparently linked to the sinking of a boat tethered to this part recently.  It's a sheet-piled section of the bank, so should be reparable.  Hopefully neither of these issues will delay re-opening of the cyclepath to traffic.

Tarmacing the N approach . . . 

. . . . and the result.

Ramp at S end onto the Bridge.  (Will have to get that sharp cornered rail seen to . . )

Distorted paviers and slumped edge to towpath at S end of Bridge

The Y junction at the N end:  cyclepath turns West (where man in hi-vis is standing . . .

. . . . and the steps to the Wreak-side path turn East.


. . . . the crossing warning lights are in action.  They seem to actuate with vehicle
overspeed on approach, even without cyclists being present at the crossing.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Watermead C2: the final link - 3

All quiet near the site at 8 a.m.

The main span of the new bridge over the Wreake was emplaced this morning.The northern exit ramps and steps should be complete by Christmas, so the cycle- and pedestrian- way for the Cossington Link can be re-opened.

The crane arrives - backwards . . .
. . . followed by the main span from the factory in Huddersfield.

Final preparations on-site.
Trial slew and reach.
Northern abutment and access steps.
Southern abutment leading to access ramp.

Lifting off the truck . . .
. . . and slew and reach into position.
Lowering down . . .
. . . 3m to go . . .
Touching down and bolting the Northern end . . .
. . . followed by the Southern end.  11:15 a.m.

Friday, November 23, 2012

New NCN6 stretch available

The good news:  a new stretch of NCN6 has opened through Watermead Park South, and along Birstall Promenade.

The bad news:  that's National Canoe Network 6, sometimes also known, given the wildlife interest of the area, as National Cygnet Network 6 - all right, I know they're geese in the pic below!  All thoughts of using the same route in its intended guise of National CYCLE Network 6 should be abandoned for the moment!  Use Loughborough Road to Red Hill Circus, then Birstall Road into Village Centre (no cyclepaths).

The narrow boat in the pic was blown onto the towpath last night (21st), and is leaning badly now.

I'd guess this problem will last at least 5 days - longer if Sunday brings more heavy rain - until the water drops, and the mud which will be lying on the paths is cleared.

River water is flowing along NCN48 at the S end of Watermead Park.  It'll probably be impassable at Hope and Anchor too.  Use A607 north out of Leicester, then Melton Road to Syston - cycle paths most of the way.

The even worse possibility:  river/canal conditions could lead to disruption/ postponement of the planned C2 installation of the Wreake Bridge span on 03 December, unless there's a remarkable improvement from today's situation.  (That's my guess, not an official announcement.  Will check it out when conditions allow.)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Watermead C2; signing success in Syston

The 'Syston gap' in NCN48 through that village was bridged earlier this year with a link constructed between the eastern edge of the Sports Field via Brookside and School St  to the southern end of Upper Church St.  Some signage was provided, to the style adopted by the County Council for 'Green Route 1'.   However, this did not include any indication at the School St/Walkers Way junction that the cyclepath must northbound turn left off the main carriageway to continue along School St.

I was very pleased to note today that an additional signpost has been provided at this point.  Thanks to those who facilitated this job.  Our Volunteer Group plans a Signing Ride for early 2013 which will act as a formal review of all the newly provided NCN 48 cyclepaths and signage.

Watermead C2: the final link - 2

Cossington Link:  Wreake Bridge progress
The old span was removed in pieces a couple of weeks ago, and work continues to complete the approach ramps and prepare the abutments to receive the span.  The picture shows the nicely paviered southern approach ramp.  The elevated section of the northern approach ramp is centre-left.  The structure will be quite an unusual feature for a canalside cycle path, when finished.

The new span is still being completed at the Huddersfield factory.  Prospective date for craning it into position is 3rd December, so just possible the bridge and the Cossington Link will be open by end-year.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Watermead C2: the final link - 1

The old span of the Wreake Bridge at Old Junction has been lifted out, pending replacement with the new span in a few days.  I've not heard an exact date for this, literally the final link in the Watermead Connect2 Scheme.  The new span has not arrived yet, and the crane has gone off site.

The approach ramps of wide carbon fibre reinforced porous decking at both ends of the new span are now largely in place.

Until the work is completed, the 'Cossington Link' connecting Syston Road, Cossington to  Meadow Lane, Syston will remain closed. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Street View along the NCN?


Our GC, Richard Himan, comments: "Personally I think ALL of the off road NCN should be on Google Street View. It's a really useful tool when planning long distance rides, it lets you look at sections to see if its suitable for the ride. We did the Old Fosse last year and we could look down the lanes from the roads to check on the surface. Not sure if the Trike will be able to negotiate all the barriers though?"

AIUI, the 'Europe' trike is only in the UK for limited periods, and presumably has a schedule.  Readers' views welcome, especially Sustrans professional staff views.


Re NCN routes on Google maps, I've found many errors in the mapping in the stretches I know, and referred these to Google.  In each case, a correction has been made, and I was notified/thanked for this by Google - 2 months later.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Wreake Bridge Replacement

On a beautiful autumn morning we decided to take a walk along the new path from Platt's Lane in Cossington, along the canal and picking up the new NCN48 Connect2 path into Syston (for a pint at the Dog & Gun). 

I wanted to see how the towpath was now that the tarmac had been laid, and to look at what stage the bridge replacement was at.

As you can see it is a very wide area now, this has been achieved by managing the hedge and reinforcing the bank, which has reclaimed and widened the path. Its a very smooth surface and is suitable for all users. My only concern is when its frosty it may well become very slippery, maybe a few grit bins could be installed?

I was particularly taken with the way they had finished the tarmac short of the Armco reinforcing, adding a soil strip, which as you can see at the top of the photo is starting to see signs of grass growing. Once established this will give a more natural edge to the path and soften the lines. 

Work on the replacement bridge over the river Wreake is well under way. A wide access ramp on the Cossington side is taking shape and there is currently a diversion along the adjacent field edge to allow construction.

On Meadow Lane there is a temporary roadway to the site to allow construction materials (and the new bridge) to be brought to the site.

The bridge is currently still accessible but will be closed for a short while when the new span is swung into place (no date for this is available as yet).

Once over the bridge the towpath continues as it was before. We picked up NCN48 at Meadow Lane and followed it all the way into Syston, crossing the Fosse Way and along the new path under the railway. The engineers have made an excellent job of the very limited space here, with a path that has a flood relief brook to one side and a railway arch to the other.

To gain much needed space the rail to the brook side is angled out to create more shoulder room.

This final section of Connect2 has brought the villages of Birstall, Thurmaston, Syston and Cossingtion together with traffic free (apart from a small section of Meadow Lane) green routes, which if Saturday was any indication are being well received and used by walkers, cyclist and mobility scooters alike.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Stephen Massey

Welcome to Stephen Massey on joining the Leicester Sustrans Ranger Group.  Stephen comments that "... I'm pleased to be in the Leicester Rangers group and I've been a supporter and member of Sustrans for a while. I'm booked onto the volunteer day in Birmingham next Saturday so I'm looking forward to learning some useful information and skills."  So we'll all look forward to a debrief from the volunteer day at our next Group meeting in November - if not before in a blog posting (hint!).

Stephen's contact details are included in the latest edition of our Group contacts list, available from me.  AIUI, he's not actually any relation of our Heather Massey - it's just a small world!

Final Watermead Connect2 Steering Group Meeting

You'll have gathered that the C2 works in the Watermead Scheme are coming to a close.  The Scheme's Steering Group, in which I've participated since 2006, was therefore wound up at final meeting on 25th Sept.  Final actions remaining are:-

1   Completion of Cossington Link, including Wreake Bridge replacement.  Tarmacing of canal towpath Junction Lock - Wreake Bridge was due to start 24 Sept;  Wreake Bridge lifts are scheduled for first 2 weeks in November.  Crane pad and landing pad are under construction now at SK 609 121.

2   Commemorative occasion with Council & local reps to be held in conjunction with the Bridge lifts in November.

3   Project closure event/formal opening to be held end March or early April, possibly at Birstall.  Scope/events to be announced, but may be necessary to run Sustrans stand there - as for Northampton's C2 scheme opening last August.

4   Millennium Milepost in Watermead North: siting to be decided by Council, when decision reached on whether the milepost bodies which we hold can be re-armed and painted in time for end of Project.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Watermead Connect2 Project News

The final 6 elements of over 20 constituting the Watermead Connect2 scheme have progressed significantly this year.  

Section 1a:  Syston Road Crossing (allowing riders from Cossington to cross this busy road in greater safety):
completed July 2012 (except for unmasking the signs)

Section 1:  New cyclepath from Syston Road to GU Canal towpath at Junction Lock
completed July 2012 (after safety barrier requested by Sustrans Rangers installed)

Section 1b:  Winterton Bridge (part of Section 1, bridging a culvert near Junction Lock)
completed March 2012

Section 2:  Adaptation of GU Canal towpath from Junction Lock to Wreake Bridge as cyclepath
in hand:   towpath collapses repaired, and hardcore being laid.  Tarmac laying starts 24 September.

Section 2a:  Replacement of Wreake Bridge with a cycle-friendly span
in hand:  site being prepared for  the crane lifts.  Completion planned by November.

Section 6:  Railway Triangle, Syston (conversion of footpath into shared use path, with widening wherever possible at reasonable cost, and new fencing, to provide a vital offroad link into Syston Village from the West.
Completed September 2012 (first traffic today, 14 Sept. 2012)

Progress of the Watermead Connect2 scheme as a whole will be reviewed at a meeting of the Project Steering Group on 27th September.  Area Manager and a Ranger from the Leicester Group will attend.

Section 9 of the Watermead Connect2 scheme, which leads NCN 48 out of Watermead Park North northwards towards the ramp up to the Wanlip Road crossing to the Hope & Anchor has suffered a partial towpath collapse.  This has worsened over the year, and was today fenced off by The Canal and Rivers Trust for the safety of cyclists and pedestrian.  The route is still passable, but single file only.

I have posted some pictures illustrating Sections 2, 2a, 6 and 9 on 14th. September on my Flickr page: see

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Leicester local Skyride - theme Leicester & Swannington Railway

Two of the Leicester Sustrans Rangers Group took part in a Local Skyride designed to show within an 11 mile range some of the remaining features of the famous Leicester and Swannington Railway.  In fact, the Ride was held twice, being over-subscribed for the 25th July, and repeated with another 20 or so riders on 27th August 2012.  Richard Himan was Ride Leader, and Keith Drury provided an illustrated commentary on the historical features which we saw at half a dozen sites along the route.

25 July 2012
25 July 2012

The Leicester and Swannington Railway was one of the UK's and world's first steam-hauled railways, founded with the primary objective of bringing coal from the NW Leicestershire coalfield cheaply and rapidly to the burgeoning industrial town of Leicester, and to a loading point on the canal system to the south.  It opened for service in 1832.  The track successively became part of the Midland Railway, the LMS and British Railways, until the branch we visited closed in 1966.  It has, however, an important new use as NCN 63 west from Leicester City Centre as far as Ratby.

Our route followed the Railway's depot at West Bridge, the track along Forest Way to the now buried East Portal of Glenfield Tunnel, over the Glenfield ridge, zigzagging through the housing to view ventilation shafts, and through Glenfield Village to rejoin the trackbed part-way along the 'Comet Trail' in W Glenfield.  NCN 63 follows this Trail between Ratby and Glenfield; its name commemorates the Railway's first locomotive.

Heading back into Glenfield, we paused at the former Glenfield Station while Richard went on ahead to open up the security area surrounding the West Portal of Glenfield Tunnel.  Leicester City Council owns the Tunnel, and had kindly given permission (and the key!) for our access to see inside the normally closed-off Tunnel, though without entering the bore.  Richard had brought an amazing LED-powered torch which gave us this view of the bore looking W - E.
Glenfield Tunnel bore seen from West
27 August 2012

You can see the original Robert Stephenson brickwork, on the left some curved shuttering left from the 2007-8 Reinforcement Project, and - as white rings 100 and 200m away inside the Tunnel shell - two of the 39 concrete reinforcements cast inside the Tunnel brickwork as part of this Project, to support it against any future deformation.  The old bicycle wheel on the right was left there by the reinforcement contractor in desperation:  it has dozens of punctures caused by spilt steel reinforcing fibres for the concrete used in the Project.  The contractor's workers rapidly learned that it was no use trying to cycle to the work-sites in the bore; they'd have to walk the length - up to 1600m!

Stephensons Lifting Bridge at Soar Lane, Leicester
Courtesy Leicestershire Industrial History Society
Last stop on the Ride was back at West Bridge, where the remarkable Robert Stephenson Lifting Bridge was used to cross the Grand Union Canal.  Only horse-drawn traffic was allowed across it, but it lasted for over a century, allowing traffic to cross the Canal from West Bridge Depot to two satellite depots serving local coal trade.  The lift was only a metre - just enough to let the barges pass by underneath.
Stephensons Lifting Bridge at Soar Lane, Leicester, now at Snibston Discovery Museum, Coalville
Courtesy Leicestershire Industrial History Society

This bridge can now be viewed at Snibston Discovery Museum, Coalville.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Just need a work party . . .

Work Party signs for Leicester Rangers' Group use

Mounted on heavy backing, for standing against post etc. at either end of working area.  Available for the moment from Keith Drury, but we may need to set up some more central storage.

Leicester City Skyride 2012

Click HERE to read Les Sims' account of Sunday 26 August Skyride in Leicester City - featuring the Duke of Rutland and woebegone wife . . .  She obviously missed out on a cycle-powered smoothie   :-(

Sunday, August 19, 2012

NCNs 64 and 63 Makeover in E Leics

NCNs 63 & 64 in Harborough and High Leicestershire:
Refurbishment of signage

 This has been an unusual project, whereby Sustrans volunteers from the Leicester Sustrans Rangers Group carried out by agreement extensive refurbishment works to Leicestershire County Council signage.

Sign at Goadby in 2011 before project
Sign at Goadby in 2011
The signage covered by this work is that in the area east and south of Leicester, which guides riders along NCN 64 from Market Harborough to Melton Mowbray, and along NCN 63 from E Leicester to Stamford - 55km of route altogether.  Around 80 signposts, most bearing multiple signboards, were involved.  The primary need was to replace the signs along NCN 64 and its joint stretch with NCN 63, which had faded since their original installation to partial or complete illegibility.

Sign at Goadby AFTER the project
Goadby sign after the project
The Sustrans Area Manager in Leicester proposed in January 2011 the services of the Leicester Sustrans Rangers Group to Leicestershire County Council, the owners of the signage, for refurbishment of these signs.  This proposal was accepted, the Council agreeing to contribute to the cost of materials for the work.

Work done 
design drawing for new signs
Step 2:  design of the sign stickers needed
 Step 1 Route surveys: conducted in 2011 to define which signs required replacement faces, and other work required, e.g. to damaged sign mountings.
 Step 2 Definition and design of materials needed for new sign faces
Step 3 Ordering of materials from Sustrans HQ; arrangement of contribution towards funding of these materials by County Council.
Step 4 Risk Assessment for the fieldwork stage of replacing the sign faces
Step 5 Replacement of sign faces in the field plus fixing sign problems.

Sign bespattered with farm slurry, and badly faded, BEFORE
"No greater devotion hath any man."
Sign bespattered with farm slurry BEFORE . . . 

signed cleaned and new face stickers AFTER project
. . .  and AFTER attention by John Woodward.

John Woodward affixes the main sticker
John Woodward affixes the main sticker . . . 
The fieldwork in Step 5, preceded by an introductory briefing by the Project Leader, was itself carried out in distinct steps - at which participants got more practiced as the work progressed:
• decide which sticker(s) required from those procured [a general sign face of white cycle on blue background; a 'Trail' name, where relevant; NCN route patch(es)]
• trim any vegetation which interfered with access to sign and/or its visibility
• remove signboard from post if necessary, e.g. if access awkward
• wash and dry off the signboard(s)
• trim sticker(s) to size where necessary
• affix sticker(s). If more than one, emplace in the order which would produce the neatest/clearest result**
• remount signboard
• ensure all other signboards securely fixed

John Woodward affixes route patches
. . .  and adds the Route patches

 ** Note that handling such large plastic stickers - especially in the field - is an acquired skill. A flat working surface, allowing dry and wind-free working, is essential. This often implies removal of the signboard from the post, say into a car, to get a good result with no distortion or air bubbles under the surface.

Sign at Cranoe
At Cranoe
 The project was led by John Woodward of Leicester Group. Peter Wright, John Dyson and Keith Drury participated in the site surveys and sign replacement work. Area Managers Patrick Davis and James Lowe were involved in obtaining Council agreement and funding, and sign materials were provided by Sustrans Volunteer Support in Bristol. Of the ~80 sign locations covered in this job, 6 need substantial repair (e.g. post leaning badly) or reinstatement of missing signboards, which Rangers could not in fact undertake. Rangers installed temporary Sustrans signs as far as possible to cover the issues in the short term, but have requested Council action at the required locations to ensure the integrity of NCN 64 signage.

A full report on this project is available from or
It has been passed to Sustrans Volunteer Co-ordination and the County Council.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Next Leicester Rangers' Group Events

I know it's a year on since the last posting!

Just regard this contribution from me as a kickstart so we can get going again - I'll try and add more, and with the sincere hope that the use of this blog, both reading and contributions, by the rest of our Leicester Group will improve this time round. The blog SHOULD be an important vehicle for our internal Group communication and motivation, and for recording and reporting our not inconsiderable achievements for the neighbouring Groups and Corporate Sustrans. Blog didn't really take off last time, but maybe we can do better now.

I, at least, have also only just discovered the East Midlands Sustrans Rangers blog, thanks to Area Manager James Lowe pointing us to it. Comments on our posts from neighbouring Groups would be especially welcome!


 Next events in which we're involved are:

Sun 26th August: City Skyride in Leicester Sustrans operating Leicester Market Activity Area. PLEASE come and help. Contact Rory James at Event details HERE

Mon 27th August: Local Skyride Leicester - Glenfield - Leicester on theme of Leicester & Swannington Railway - a remarkable 19C link in Leicester's history and development. Leicester Rangers' Group members involved; participation invited - details and registration HERE

Mon 24th September: Leicester Sustrans Rangers' Group meeting: Western pub: 19:30

 Tues 25th September: Sustrans Connect2 Watermead Project: Steering Group meeting involving Sustrans Area Manager and Rangers' representative