Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Up the Trent valley

Not many boats were on the move yesterday in such appalling weather. Those that had to brave the wet and windy conditions looked thoroughly miserable. Although Sunday’s sunset, if the old adage were to be believed, predicted a fine day…

Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight going to get wet!

There was just a bit of damp in the wind as we shoved off this morning, but it soon dried up. Leaving Derwent Mouth the canal passes through Shardlow, a canal village that owes it’s importance to the navigation.
When Brindley first surveyed the route of his “Grand Trunk” he was under pressure to terminate it at Burton on Trent, connecting to the existing navigable Trent at that point. But he held out, continuing his canal through the town to join the Trent at Wilden Ferry. The ferry was already a popular crossing over the river at this point, and a small settlement had grown up around it. But it was the coming of the Trent and Mersey Canal that caused the village to expand beyond all recognition, as it became an important trans-shipment point for cargos from canal boats to Trent barges. Warehouses, boatyards and the inevitable pubs flourished, many of which still remain. It’s believed that there are 50 Grade II listed buildings here.

Flood gates and banks protect the village from inundation when the Trent goes into flood, although it would have to be pretty high to justify closing these, 10 feet above normal water level.

The gates have recently been replaced, so they’re far from redundant…IMG_1934

Through Shardlow it’s difficult to decide what to photograph, there’s so much fine canal architecture.IMG_1935




The Clock Warehouse, above, is now a pub and restaurant. The clock has stopped though and the sign looks like it needs a bit of work, too!

Shardlow Lock sees the canal out of the village, unlike the other five broad locks at this end of the waterway it’s quite shallow, at just over 4 feet.

Shardlow LockIMG_1942
The next deepest is Aston Lock, at 8 feet, the others are 11 or 12 feet deep.

In fact the next lock up is Aston and is a pain.

Aston Lock, just being vacated as we arrive.IMG_1944

The bottom gates are badly balanced and swing open as soon as the lock is empty. Fine if you’re going downhill, but frustrating if you’re trying to fill the lock. The usual solution is to part raise a ground paddle, the incoming water holding the gate in place when it’s shut. This works well if it’s just one gate, but not with both. Another problem here is that the ground paddle culverts are clogged with weed, so there’s very little water going through. I finally had to open both gate paddles half-way, a very risky procedure in an empty 8 foot deep lock!IMG_1948

Luckily Mags was holding well back, but a longer boat could have been flooded. Only with a large amount of water coming in at the top could the bottom gates be closed.
Thinking about it afterwards what I should have done, for safety, is use a mooring pin and short rope on one balance beam to keep a gate shut, then the other could have been closed with far less water coming in. Ideally both gates want a short length of chain, attached to a ring bolt in the ground, and ending in a hook to go through an eye on the beam. It’s been done before…

Autumn colours

Weston Lock was very well behaved, and we pulled up just above. We were intending to stay here overnight, but after a bite of lunch it was still not yet 1 o’clock, so we cast off and set off for Swarkestone Lock, 2½ miles further on. An added bonus was the boat just coming up the lock behind us, we’d have a locking partner at Swarkestone.

And so it turned out, we shared the lock after waiting for a single boat to come down.

Swarkestone LockIMG_1957

The boat coming down was crewed by a couple with no experience who’d just bought it at Great Haywood. By the time they get it home they’ll have had plenty; they’re heading for Goole!

Willington tomorrow, I guess.

Locks 4, miles 6½

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