Thursday, September 03, 2009

Up the big hill to Sheffield

We spent yesterday at Eastwood, above the lock. I called the BW lock keeper for the Tinsley Flight, and arranged passage for today. Scrubbed the back half of the roof. Had a couple of walks with Meg, but a bit limited on options in that respect. Mags spoke to son Neil about arrangements for them joining us. He and his wife Val are over from Canada and are in Ireland at the moment, visiting Howard. The original idea was for them to meet us in Sheffield on Saturday, but their return from the Emerald Isle has been postponed by a couple of days, so we’ll have to pick them up somewhere on the way back.

And finally I got to take a picture of one of the remaining commercial carriers on this stretch, coming out of Eastwood Lock.

Whittaker’s Humber Princess leaving Eastwood Lock….

And heading for Rotherham.
We woke up this morning at 05:00 as she arrived back at the lock, empty now, and heading back to Goole. Then we rolled over and went back to sleep till the alarm went off at 06:30.

We needed to be off at 08:00, to meet Dave the lockie at Holmes Lock at 09:30, but almost called him up to postpone. It was blowing up a gale and the rain was horizontal. But by the time we were ready to go at least the rain had stopped.

So off we went, into the 25mph wind.

Away from Eastwood.

We didn’t seem to see much of Rotherham, just the backs of factories. Amongst the few boats moored up was the ugliest conversion I’ve ever seen.


Just around the corner is Rotherham Town Lock, tucked away behind walls, almost as if the locals are ashamed of it. Which is a shame because it’s a pleasant little lock.

Rotherham Town Lock
Following this is a short section of river (the level indicator now on amber after the last couple of day's rain), then Ickles Lock. A further stretch of canal saw us at Holmes Lock, where we pulled in to wait for Dave the Lockie.

Holmes Lock

All the locks from here to Sheffield, 13 in all, are locked and have to be undone by Dave. Water supply can be a problem as it’s pumped back up to the top, so care has to be taken. And keeping them locked avoids the dry pounds often encountered when lock flights and bored kids exist in close proximity…

The river is met again at Jordans Lock, at a huge weir.

Jordans Lock Weir
After this the 11 locks of the Tinsley Flight start the final climb up to Sheffield.

The first 2 or 3 are in an industrial landscape, passing under the double-deck M1 bridge and railway bridges.

M1 bridge
Lock 9
But as the flight climbs, the views open out and the scenery more rural, with trees and wide grassy banks.

Either side of Lock 2 there’re BW moorings, where space can usually be found for boaters not wishing to stop in the town centre.

Tinsley Marina and Lock 3
We pushed on, through the last couple of locks to emerge onto the summit, 120 feet higher and 3½ hours later.

In Lock 1, Dave the Lockie posing.

Dave has been a star, cycling ahead to set up the locks, then coming back to help and offer advice about potential hazards on the flight, as well as sharing his extensive knowledge of the canal. He’s worked on this section for over 20 years. I suppose we were lucky in being the only boat on the flight. He had time to keep us company.

Heading into Sheffield properly now, and the canal, like that of so many cities, is lined with abandoned and derelict factories.

Just one wall left, a demolished factory through the smashed windows.
There are some new industries along the navigation, in modern sheet metal rather than red brick.

Old and new.

Don’t get me wrong, a lot of the old buildings are still in use, by small specialist manufacturers. The unique smell of steel being machined, and of hot cutting oil, came from open doorways, reminding me of my engineering apprenticeship.

2½ miles from the top lock and we arrived at our destination and mooring for the next few days, Victoria Quays.

Approaching Victoria Quays
This is the end of line of the Sheffield and Tinsley Canal, and must have been bustling with activity during it’s heyday. Now it’s a peaceful haven in the city centre, overlooked by hotels and office blocks.

Locks 15, miles 7½

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