Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Bye, bye, Mercia

We’re out! Hurray! Open-mouthed smile
Not keen on marinas…

I’ve been using the camera on my phone while out and about, it saves me carrying both devices. Imagine my surprise then when I downloaded today’s pictures and found these dramatic images of Saturday’s sunset. I’d forgotten I’d taken them…IMG_1978 


We were reversing off our pontoon at around half-ten this morning. I’d had a run, taken Meg for her constitutional, topped up the water tank and emptied the rubbish and a loo tank. You have to take advantage of the facilities when they’re to hand…

Off we jolly well go…
A lot easier than it would have been yesterday morning! The waterways notifications of stoppages and restrictions were full of reports of blown-down trees blocking the navigation and/or towpaths on several canals. None near us though. We could do with some more firewood!

We pulled across to Midland Chandlers bit of wharf for a few minutes. I took the electronic gate key back to the office, redeeming the £20 deposit, which was earmarked for 2x4L containers of loo blue. MC have a special offer on – the normal price is £13.99 but they’ll sell you two for £20. Not to be sniffed at. But they were out of stock.

Out under the road bridge and a right turn onto the T&M took us down past the scattering of moored boats to Willington.IMG_1980

We caught up with a boat as the canal swung in to join the noisy A38. He was going really slowly. Really. As we got nearer I could see that his prop wash was confused, going out sideways instead of a clean “tunnel” backwards. I gave him a toot and gestured that  wanted to pass. He obligingly pulled over, so I told him that he’d picked up something on the blades. We left him behind as he pulled into the bank to investigate, just before the River Dove Aqueduct.

The Dove, normally crystal clear as it runs from it’s source on Axe Edge, is muddy with sediment after the heavy rain.IMG_1982

A snatched shot of a glimpse of electric blue in the hedge…IMG_1983
I know, out of focus. Just squint a bit…

There’s not a lot to say about the approach to Burton Upon Trent. The distinct aroma of cooking hops was in the air as we approached Horninglow, so either Coors or Marston’s was making a batch of mash.

Horninglow Basin used to be bigger till they widened the A38. Nice “Muriel” though.IMG_1985
This was the western terminus for broad-beam boats up from the Trent. From here the locks and (original) bridge-holes are narrow. Brindley built this section down to Shardlow in direct competition with the Trent Navigation, so it had to take Trent barges. But he went one better. Locks on the Trent downstream to Wilden Ferry were built to take shorter boats than the standard 72 foot long canal boat. Brindley built his broad locks so that they were long enough, so from here “downhill”, pairs of narrowboats and shorter, fatter Trent barges could both use the navigation.

The first narrow lock heading north-west is under Dallow Lane, only a few hundred yards above Horninglow.

Dallow LockIMG_1988

With the construction of the Bond End Canal from wharfs on the river, up through the town to join the Trent and Mersey, it was proposed that this lock should be widened, thus allowing barge traffic from the later canal access to Shardlow via the “cut”. But the T&M canal company wouldn’t go for it. I think they missed a trick. They were already stealing cargo from the Burton Boat Company, but it all had to be transhipped at the Shobnall end of the Bond End Canal onto narrowboats to go through Dallow. If this lock had been improved the canal down through Burton, and the wharfs it serviced, would have had a longer, more successful existence.

The Shobnall end of the canal still survives, although filled in beyond the first lock. The remaining basin is home to Shobnall Marina, tucked under the narrow towpath bridge.IMG_1992
We reversed in here to take on diesel and a couple of bags of solid fuel.

Looking across the basin, the top lock is now used as a dry dock, covered over as part of the workshop.
The lift bridge across the top of the lock carries the original number… although I doubt it’s the original bridge!

In the picture of Mags entering Dallow Lock there’s a boat in the background, just off the lock landing. This is the Apollo, built in the 1920’s as a horse boat carrying coal from Cannock Chase into Birmingham. She had a counter fitted and a motor installed, got shortened and was used as a tug, and more recently ended up in Yorkshire as a trip boat.
The new owner is moving it up the T&M, but unfortunately it’s not seen a narrow lock for a number of years, and has put on a bit of girth. Dallow Lock was impassable, so a ratchet strap was borrowed from Shobnall, the sides pulled in and chained to hold them. This reduced the width enough to allow passage. This is not as barbaric as it sounds. All the boats had chains across the holds, adjusted with a bottle screw to pull in the sides when loaded with loose material like coal.

Apollo moored outside Shobnall after squeezing through Dallow.IMG_1994The new owner is going to return her to her tug form, with a longer cabin and tug deck.

We wound our way out of the town, ascended Branston Lock, and tied up just before Branston Bridge.
The lock was against us but we adopted our winter technique to go up. The bow is nudged up to the lower gates and left in gear on tick-over while I nip up and lift the lower paddles. As a level is made the boat eases forward, opening the gates while  I drop the paddles. With the boat in I close the lower gates and draw the upper ground paddles, balancing the flow till the bow button is on the gate. Lock filled, Mags gives me a hand by giving the gate a shove, then pauses just clear of the gate so I can shut it and hop back aboard after I’ve dropped the paddles.
It all takes less than five minutes, and there’s no fannying about on the lock landings. Of course, it only works if there’s no-one else around.

Moored at Branston, Meg waits patiently to play ball.IMG_1998

Alrewas tomorrow, all being well. It’s so good to be moving again…

Thanks for the comment, Alf. Yes, it wouldn't have been much fun yesterday.
Hi Carol. The all clear for another year. Great.

Locks 2, miles 7½


KevinTOO said...

An MOT PASS is good news Mags, even if it comes with an advisory comment not to travel on the M6 in the morning before your BP check! LOL

Excellent sunset photo of Saturday night, Harry & I stood looking at it for a fair few minutes too :)

Sue said...

That must be quite worrying for the crew of Apollo at each of the locks. They must have to keep a good eye in case they get squeezed too tight!

Glad to see in your earlier blog that Doc visits went well.. Vic has his every Christmas so we have that to come.

Am very much looking forward to bowing up with you before Christmas if your plans haven't changed.. He needs some ginger cake therapy right now!

Anonymous said...

Good to see you are on the cut again and doing the reverse of our route from September. Definitely a wise move not moving on Tuesday, almost all the trees have now lost their leaves here and plant pots and tubs were going down like skittles. Winter feels to be just round the corner.

Geoff and Mags said...

Hi Steve and Ang. Yes winter is on it's way. I even travelled in long trousers yesterday, but back to the shorts today.
KevinToo, I think we should try to be a bit nearer for next year. Either that or try some yoga!
Hi Sue, Vic. Glad to see you're on the move again. Ginger cake is on the schedule, we intend to be around Braunston around 8 Nov, so should see you coming up the Oxford. I've a cunning plan...