Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Near Miss at Cromwell Lock - Tuesday 31st May

This morning we reversed out of the moorings in the entrance of the Fossdyke and onto the main river in a very strong wind, thank goodness for the hydraulic bow thrusters which made light work of it. As we set off there were white horses on the waves of the river and the gusts could be felt knocking the boat sideways. Fortunately the wind was behind us for most of the way which helped us make reasonable progress against the outgoing tide. This photo was taken in one of the calmer spots as I did to want to take risks in the full force winds.IMG_7626

After Dunham Toll bridge comes a very tight S bend and there is a wall of sand bags jutting out into the river making it even narrower. I am not sure why they are there but it looks as though it is to deflect the heavy flow away from the bank.IMG_7628

Further on is the impressive Fledborough viaduct with it many arches spreading across the flood plane.


This defunct oil terminal provides a great resting place for the cormorants which were finding it difficult to fly against the strong wind.IMG_7631

One bird that still managed to fly alright was this military Chinook which flew low overhead.


There are several water ski clubs from Torksey to Cromwell although non were out today.


Of course there are still more windmills most of which have been converted into domestic residences and look very attractive.IMG_7636

Buffeted by the strong winds we eventually reached Cromwell Weir which is the largest on the Trent and was the scene of an accident when 10 members of the 131 independent parachute squadron of the Royal Engineers lost their lives whilst taking part in Expedition Trent Chase.


As we arrived at the lock there were two narrow boats exiting the lock so that we able to go straight in and roped up fore and aft to the hanging wires as is normal practice. The lock began to fill normally and then suddenly there was a surge of water from the paddles being opened too quickly and I suspect unevenly which catapulted out boat across the lock into Nb Autumn Years. At the same time they shot forward as they could not hold their ropes. June was controlling our bow rope and was nearly pulled out of the boat into the lock. Fortunately the cratch cover saved her but was torn beyond repair in doing so. This was a terrifying experience for June and it took her the rest of the day to get over it. In all our years of boating we have never had such an experience particularly when under the control of a professional lock keeper. They are normally so careful and safety conscious when narrow boats are in river locks to ensure such incidents don’t happen. The Lockie was unapologetic and just dismissed our protests saying he had only opened the paddles half way. IMG_7641

We motored on to Newark and through Nether Lock where a Volunteer was on duty and who operated the lock correctly so that we went through in a safe and secure manner without the slightest problem.

Initially we had to moor up to the high wall opposite the Castle but the girls found it difficult to climb up the ladders as they were not where we needed them to be to get off the boat. Graham and I walked back to the Pontoon Moorings and had a chat to two narrow boat owners and asked if they could move up slightly so that we could get one boat in and then breast up with the other. They were very helpful and moved up even helping us to moor. A big thank you to them both.

Later we went out for a nice meal with Graham and Carolann and their grandson Sam and his girlfriend Hanna. It was a great night and good to meet Sam and Hanna at last.

The Big Trent–Monday 30th May

This morning June asked Mark, the lockie, if she could go up in the control tower to see the view and how the lock works. The views over the Trent valley are magnificent and from here the swing bridge and lock are controlled. Depth gauges are used to monitor when the tide is right to release the boats so that they clear the cill and any sand bars which have developed at the entrance.la

Mark called us into the lock at 11.00 am and we were on the Trent heading up stream with the tide at 11.15. Here is Autumn Years catching us up having just passed through the biggest lift bridge I have seen and then 3 abreast we motored up the river for a short while.lb

All along the banks is evidence of the old days with de-commissioned Windmills like these.lc

At Owston Ferry we saw the only boat moored on the river (Trisantonia 11)ld

We were welcomed into West Stockwith with Pat and Bruce’s (Nb Ersenmyne) grandchildren waving to us from the bank. They were visiting friends in the village and came out to watch us pass by.

The Junction with the Chesterfield Canal is at the end of the village and would provide a challenge to get in the narrow lock entrance with a good tide running. There are no pontoons to moor to to wait for the lock so you would have to moor up to the high wall.le

All along out journey we have been following Cormorants fishing in front of the boat but now I had a chance to photograph one on the banks of the river.IMG_7609

Gainsborough does not look inviting from the river and there were no boats moored on the pontoons.


Passing under Gainsborough Bridge we could see the effect the tide was having on our progress even though it was only a small tide today it still appeared to be rushing upstream through the bridge.

We soon seemed to reach the village of Torksey with its lovely Church and Castle ruins by the side of the river.lf

A short distance beyond the village is the entrance to the Fossdyke and Torksey Lock Moorings where we stopped for the night. In the distance is Cottam Power Station one of many on the river.


The Fossdkye,which runs to Lincoln, was cut in the time of Emperor Hadrian (120 A.D.) and was deepened by Henry 1 in 1121 A.D. Torksey Lock was constructed in 1671.

Nb Ersenmyne was locked up just after we arrived with a cruiser and as we watched them we noticed that the inner lock gate has rows of Teapots on the stretchers. This theme is continued on the wall of the cafe at the side of the lock which unfortunately was closed when we got there.


Although it was a small tide we covered the 27 miles from Keadby Lock to Torksey Lock in four and half hours which meant that we had being doing 6 mph which is somewhat of a change from our usual 3 mph on the canals we normally frequent.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Ready for the Mighty Trent - Sunday 29th May

This morning we cruised through Stainforth with this lovely Wisteria tree growing in a garden and next door what should be sticking up above the hedge but a Giraffe. Not real of course. Behind the houses is an 8ft flood defence wall for the river Don which lies behind it and is some 20-30 ft lower today. Just shows how much the river will rise in times of heavy rain like last winter. Through bridge were moored boats outside the New Inn pub and the occupants were just rousing themselves after a good night no doubt.H1

Motoring on to Thorne we stopped at Stanilands Marina for Autumn Years to have a pump out but it was too early. A lady on a boat in the marina called to us that they would be coming out on the Trent with us tomorrow morning. We dropped down through the lock and stopped for water at the services near to Princess Bridge. They are unusual in that they have finger pontoons to moor bow in on. Made for easy filling of water. There were a couple of boats moored there over night as the visitor mooring adjacent was full.  Once watered we motored on to Blue Water Marina where Autumn Years had a pump out and we both topped up with diesel. (75p/ltr).H2

At Maud’s swing bridge we caught up with Nb.Erzenmyne (the boat coming on the Trent with us) as Mark, the lockie from Keadby, was there to make sure that the bridge worked OK as they had had to do some work on it earlier. He also met us at the next bridge and operated it for us as it could also be a little difficult to operate. A really nice chap and the one I had spoken to about going on to the Trent.

At Crook o Moor bridge, whilst June operated the barrier for the one side, the Signalman had to operate his level crossing gates as the railway adjoins the canal bridge and otherwise a vehicle might stop on the level crossing.


Approaching Keadby the large Gas fired Power Station can be seen from a long way off but what is surprising is that there is a large wind farm all around it.IMG_7574

Before we could moor up by Keadby Lock we had to pass through a swing bridge and immediately afterwards Vazon Sliding Railway Bridge. This bridge is operated by the signalman and slides back across the canal although the rails actually cross the bridge at an angle giving a strange effect as you pass through.H3

All three boats moored up on the visitor moorings and after a cup of tea we  went to see “Old Mark” as opposed to “New Mark”one of the three lock keepers on duty, all called Mark. He was a lovely chap and plays golf at Woodhall Spa, a great course. He advised us on the river and when to leave Torksey for Cromwell Lock the next day. Opposite us is moored this old sailing barge called Spider.


The view from the control tower at Keadby is amazing and you can see for miles down river and up river a giant Lift Bridge. Makes the ones we have been used to look like toys.H4

Saturday, 28 May 2016

No More Hills and Valleys – Saturday 28th May

This morning we left Ferrybridge with its iconic cooling towers dominating the skyline and river bank.


Soon we were passing the turn onto the River Aire which takes the boater towards Selby and the River Ouse. We turned right passing Hirst Boatbuilders Yard with lots of unusual old boats.


This area is full of old coal mines and power stations and a little way passed the now derelict  Kellingley Colliery we were flagged down by two girls to try and help  rescue a deer which could not get out of the canal. Unfortunately it had swum into the brambles and trees and we could not get close enough to get a rope onto it and it was too heavy to give a push up with the pole. The girls told us that at least 5 deer a week drown in the canal because they cannot get out. Sadly we had to leave the girls to try and coax it out to their side of the canal.


At Whitley Lock it started to get busy with boats waiting to come up as we went down, something we have not encountered in the last five weeks.IMG_7546

On the long reach to Pollington Lock there were lots of fishermen just setting up there pegs and I could not get over the amount of Kit they brought with them on their wheelbarrows.


The Hills are now far behind us and we are travelling through the flat lands of South Yorkshire with long views across the open countryside.IMG_7550

Because the canals are wide and deep we move along quickly and here you can see the bow wave on Autumn Years as they draw level with us. The dinghies were sailing on a reservoir opposite our turn onto the New Junction Canal which leads towards Sheffield.m2

The lift bridges on this canal are enormous  because they have to cope with very large tankers and here I am operating the first one and holding up the local tractors and cars.


At Slow Lane swing bridge we met 12 boats coming the other way; 10 of these were from the Strawberry Fields CC which the Sykhouse Lockie had told us about.


The canal crosses the river Don on this aqueduct with huge guillotine gates at either end. The water from the canal was flowing over the side of the aqueduct as we went across so it was a good job the railings are there to stop anyone falling over the edge.


A quarter a mile further on we made the sharp left hand turn onto the Stainforth and Keadby Canal and here we were back on manually operated locks. Fortunately three boats were waiting to come up which helped as the gates were very heavy for the girls to operate.


A short way down the reach after the Barnwith Swing bridge we moored up for the night and went aboard Autumn Years for afternoon tea with delicious home made scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam. I was too slow to get a picture before we had eaten most of the scones.


Friday, 27 May 2016

On to the Aire Navigation - Friday 27th May

This morning we dropped down River Lock onto the River Aire leaving behind the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and motored through the converted warehouses and ornate bridges to Leeds Lock which is adjacent to the entrance to Clarence Dock. There looked to be spaces there today. Below the lock we met the first many large barges we would see on todays journey.L1

Travelling at our normal canal revs we seemed to be flying down the wide river and then the even wider canalised sections of the navigation. Passing through Knostrop Flood Lock there was much flood damage repair work going on including this dredger between the river and the canal. From here for approx 5.5 miles the river follows the route of the canal but slightly to the north. Travelling up the M1 I have often looked down at the canal and wondered where it was on the network and now we passed under the motorway and on to pastures new.L2

The locks are now all hydraulically operated by inserting a waterways key and operating it yourself. The lower paddles look like the oil industry nodding donkeys when they are in the up position.


At Woodlesford lock Autumn Years filled with water which gave me time to photograph a lock to show how long they are. Some even have double sets of gates to make them even longer but they soon empty even with all that water in them.L4

The Woodlesford Lock has some nice gardens around it although many of the flowers had gone over their best. However we did spot this flower bed dedicated to John Sergent when he did the canal in 2015 for his Barging around Britain TV programme.IMG_7512

On the river we saw our first KINGFISHER of the trip. Continuing on passed the now defunct Oil Terminal just above Lemonroyd Lock we again entered the river which took us down to the junction with the Calder and the Castleford Flood lock which to say the least is a very unusual shape not having any regularity to it. I am not sure why that should be as looked very awkward for large vessels to pass through.L5

We moored up for lunch in Castleford and then went to explore the old Allisons Flour Mill situated on the huge weir the water from which used to power it. The mill first opened in 1898 and was originally called Queens Mill. Over 100 years ago Dr Thomas Allinson pioneered the benefits of stone ground wholemeal flour and acquired the mill in 1921 following which it grew its production until it was the largest stone ground flour mill in the world. It ceased working some years ago and is now know as Castleford Mill and is believed to be owned by C & RT. It houses a cafe to try and  develop sufficient funds to renovate it from its current dilapidated state.

I remember the opening in 2008 of the beautiful curved bridge which spans the weir being featured on television with all the locals saying how important it was to the town.  The bottom left picture shows an old boat which looks as though it went over the weir and the right hand picture shows the wild life ladder. There are three sections to it. The main one is for Salmon and trout whilst the tunnel on the right is for eels and the steps on the far right are for Otters to negotiate the weir.L6

We motored on through Bulholme Lock and on to a river section known as the Five Mile Pond and soon came to the massive Ferrybridge Power station and just round the corner the village of Brotherton. We did pass another boat on route and this was one of only 9 boats we saw all day.


Negotiating the Ferrybridge Lock we moored up for the night and enjoyed dinner on board with C & G and a game of cards during which we were treated to another view of a Kingfisher.

Below are some of the weird collection things we spotted on route. The Elephant hidden in the trees, the deer and insect lodge, and Long John Silver and the crocodile in a garden in Brotherton.


Home for a couple of days - Tuesday 23rd to Thursday 26th May

On Monday afternoon we went a walk around Leeds initially to find the new John Lewis store but then realised that it was not yet completed and will be opening in a couple of months or so. It did look an impressive modern lattice style building. However the city has lovely old buildings like the City Market below.


There is also the Town Hall which shows how wealthy the city has been in its past.


The Corn Exchange is another building this time a round one with an unusual dome on the roof.


We walked down to the entrance to Clarence Dock where there is supposed to be some more Visitor Mooring with electric and water laid on.


However, when you look inside the Dock the only moorings which are for visitors are those on the left hand side and  will only take 4 narrowboats as the Water Taxi to River Lock operates from the far end of the pontoon. The right hand side with the finger pontoons is given over to permanent moorings. What a great shame that they did not put finger pontoons in on the visitor side as it would have made Leeds a far more welcoming place like Liverpool. The far end of the Dock is a private area which was supposed to be for Trading Boats, like Paddington Basin, but has not yet taken off.

Clarence dock22

On Tuesday we caught the 10.10am train back to Birmingham as June had to attend a hospital appointment on the Wednesday which was going to take 3-4 hours and we had to get to the other side of the city.

Arriving home the garden had grown considerably since we left and it was only thanks to our neighbours that the grass was not two feet high. I still had to mow it 3 times to get it down to its correct level.



The pool and stream were also overgrown with weed and I had to deal with one of our oldest fish floating on the top.


Whilst we were on our way home Graham and Carolann took the luxury bus to Harrogate to have Tea at Betty’s Tea Room something we had hoped to do had we not had to go home.

Wednesday morning saw me attending the dentist to repair a tooth I broke last week whilst eating breakfast cereal and in the afternoon June attending the hospital. We got home about 6 pm and later June went to visit one of our friends who is seriously ill.

Thursday we were up early and collecting prescriptions and then catching the train back to Leeds. We arrived back at 1pm and had coffee with Graham and Carolann before going into Leeds to stock up the fridge and store cupboard.

In the afternoon we had planned to leave Leeds and head down the river Aire but it was raining when we arrived and the sky looked very doubtful so decided to give it a miss and leave early in the morning. There had hardly been a boat moving whilst we had been away..