Saturday, August 29, 2009

A blowey trip to Bramwith

We topped up the tanks before leaving Keadby this morning at around 09:45. It was a cloudy, windswept day, and we were in 2 minds whether to stay or to go. But I’d rather be ahead than behind schedule, and though windy, at least it was forecast to be dry.

The first obstacle was Vazon Sliding Swing Bridge. This area must have had an inventive civil engineer, like Keadby Bridge this is another ingenious solution to a problem. The railway crosses the canal at an angle, so the bridge deck, complete with the lines, was designed to slide at 90° to the track, to clear the navigation. More info here.

Waiting for Vazon Sliding Rail Bridge
It took a trip up onto the line to let the bridge keeper know we were there, then a few minutes to wind the bridge back into it’s recess, before we could go through.

The bridge closing behind us.

Immediately after this is the first of the boater operated swing or lift bridges on the stretch.

This is a proper commercial navigation, broad, deep, and straight. The South Yorkshire area is well suited to canal transport, on the one hand having a need for bulk transport of material like coal, steel and grain, on the other being blessed with several natural watercourses which had been used for transport for centuries and lent themselves well to development. This particular navigation, the Stainforth and Keadby Canal, was built in 1802 and will only accommodate 61’ x 17’ vessels. The New Junction Canal, however, built in 1905 and upgraded in 1983 is able to take 700 ton boats, with locks of 200’ x 20’. The section we’re to cruise next, the River Dun Navigation, can take vessels 230’ long! Them’s big locks!

Cruising on the Stainforth and Keadby.
Wykehouse Lift Bridge is the last before the canal starts to bend around a bit through Thorne.

Wykehouse Lift Bridge

Through Thorne and a pedestrian swing bridge, built 5 years ago and according to a local lady often breaking down, and the first lock of the day is reached.

Thorne Lock and Swing Bridge.

Of course, being in the land of unusual canal structures, they had to go and complicate things by putting a swing bridge across the head of the lock.

You have to fill the lock, open the top gates, then the swing bridge, exit the lock, close the gates, then the bridge.

Out of the lock and through the bridge.

Through Stainforth, avoiding the anglers, and Bramwith Lock is the second and last of the day. A bit of a shock to the system – I had to use a windlass! (This is the wrench used to wind up the paddles to fill and empty locks). It’s been languishing in the locker since Ratcliffe Lock on The Soar.

It can go away again now for a bit. The huge barge locks to Rotherham are all push-button.
Just a quarter of a mile further on and we pulled in on a quiet bit of towpath right on Bramwith Junction.

Moored at Bramwith Junction

We’ll be turning left here, heading for Doncaster, Rotherham and finally Sheffield for Friday. But we’ll be coming back this way, going past the junction and onto the Aire and Calder, destination Leeds and the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

It's always quiet on these canals, but being a Bank Holiday weekend we expected there to be more traffic. We've only seen half a dozen boats moving all day.

My face is glowing tonight. We’ve motored into the fresh breeze all day, heading west. It’s given Mags a few problems waiting for me to open and close the bridges. But we’ve only had a few spots of rain.

Locks 2, miles 14½.

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