Sunday, March 30, 2008

Yesterday we decided to move back down the locks to Shireoaks. The forecast told us it would be fine through the morning, with rain moving in later.

Ready to go from near Thorpe Bridge
We arrived at the top treble staircase at 10:30, and had a steady run down, stopping for a bite and a brew just after halfway.

Into Top Treble Lock. Same shot as last time, but facing the other way.

Going down, there’s not much clearance under the bridge. We had to remove the chimney and still only just got through.
Between Locks 32 and 33 there are a pair of swans nesting.

As usual, the cob is fiercely protective of his mate. He decided that this invader into his territory was up to no good, so was determined to see it off.

As we moved on down the next lock, he honked in triumph. I bet he went back and said to the wife “You should have seen the size of him, but he was no match for me!”.

The rain arrived at about 13:00, and was pretty continuous for the rest of the afternoon. We cleared Boundary lock at 14:30, and were moored up back in Shireoaks Marina by 3.
It took a little longer with just the 2 of us, but we soon got into a routine.

Boundary Lock. This is numbered 41a, and was added during the restoration to accommodate mining subsidence. That’s why it’s only about 2 feet deep.
Today has been a beautiful day, warm and sunny. I took the opportunity to repair a couple of scrapes on the paintwork, swapped some ropes about and washed the bankside of the boat.
It’s a good job I picked up a paper this morning else I don’t know how long we’d have stayed on GMT! Does this mean summer’s here?

Locks 23, miles 4 (yesterday).

Friday, March 28, 2008

Today’s plan was to get a fairly early start on the locks heading up to Kiverton Park, and see how we got on. As it was, the wet and windy weather we woke up to made us rethink our strategy.
Carol was not keen on taking Corbiere up; it’s hard work single-handed when there’s a wind blowing. I wanted to go, so she volunteered to crew for us. This had the benefit of speeding up our ascent, taking some of the workload from Mags, and still giving Carol the opportunity to see the last section of the canal.
So off we went at 12:00, as the weather seemed to be improving a little (the rain had eased).

The first lock, Boundary Lock, was approached with Carol on the tiller and me on the bank, and we stayed with this arrangement, with some minor variations, up the flights.

Boundary Lock. Only 22 to go!
All of the locks are relatively shallow, so are fairly quick to fill, and all bar one of the first handful were in our favour.
Passing through the first staircase, Thorpe Double Bottom Lock, we met Trevor, the local BW man. He had nothing on till 2, so kindly went ahead and set all the locks ready for us. Of the 23 to do there are 2 double and 2 triple staircases (where the top gate of one chamber forms the bottom of the next), and 13 individual locks. All are in good condition (let’s face it, they don’t get much use) and are set in beautiful woodland, with views opening up to the east as we climbed. If this ascent were on a more popular waterway, it would be considered one of the best. As it is, it is mostly unknown. Better for those who come here of course, no queues!

Posh houses near Turnerwood Lock. Even the ratchets on the paddles didn’t click to disturb the peace!
Brickyard Double Lock, Worksop in the distance.
Into Thorpe Bottom Lock. 5 to Go!
With the extra crew and BW assistance we made it to the top lock after just less than 3 hours, a good hour less than I had anticipated.

The last staircase, Top Treble Locks.
The next 1½ miles are still through attractive woodland, the channel being shallow and narrow. At Kiverton Park civilisation encroaches again, and the last few hundred yards take you past the backs of buildings and the railway station on the top of a cutting.

Carol “jumped ship” here, her parents came up from Worksop to drop her back at Shireoaks.
We turned at the last winding hole, moored on the visitor moorings, and I walked the last bit with Meg to the closed portal of Norwood Tunnel.

End of the line for boats

To be honest, it was a bit of an anticlimax. Just a bricked-up tunnel, fronted with weed. It’s a shame there are no information boards around just to let visitors know what they’re looking at.

Norwood Tunnel

We weren’t inspired by the VM at Kiverton Park either, so headed back towards the locks.

Kiverton Park VM

We moored about halfway back to the locks, on a bit of forgotten wharf. I had to dig the mooring rings out of the undergrowth!

I’m not making any apologies for most of today’s photos being of locks. After all, they were a major part of the day!

The weather wasn’t as bad as it could have been. There were some lengthy damp spells, but only one short heavy shower. In between we caught odd flashes of the sun. With the wooded banks, the wind was not as much of a problem as it might have been.

No other boats on the move, of course.

Locks 23, miles 5

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Our overnight mooring was just past Osberton Hall. I think their main interest is equestrian, this is one of the stable blocks.
We got moving about 11:00, and arrived at the first lock 40 minutes later. As the day progressed the gaps between the locks steadily decreased until the final ones of the day, the flight of 3 at Shireoaks.

The 8 Arches of Manton Railway Viaduct. (There’s another behind me…)Worksop was much as expected, quite a bit of rubbish in the canal, collecting at the locks, and the canal being an afterthought to any recent “development” work in the town. Prime examples of this is Bracebridge Lock, where the balance beam on the top gate is too short in order to accommodate the path, and Town Lock, where the headroom to operate the lower gates is severely restricted by the underside of the road bridge. So restricted in fact that there’s no room for gate paddles on one of the gates.

Town Lock

It was this lock that I was told about yesterday. It seems that BW have done some work here, because we had no trouble. The only unexpected occupant of the lock was a bedraggled rat, swimming up and down looking for a way out. He/she finally climbed out onto the top cill, but had to take to the water again as Carol locked through.

Roland in lock
And catching a breather on the cill.
After this lock I made a quick visit to M&S Simply Food (which also sells clothes…) for bread and milk. (Not Just Food; M&S Food!). It’s in a complex right beside the towpath.

On out of town, through Stretts Lock (only 6’10½” wide, lift your fenders!) and the next 5 to arrive at Shireoaks Marina at 17:15. They have thoughtfully provided FREE visitor moorings for 3 or 4 boats within the marina basin itself. There’re also the usual sanitary facilities, the last before the terminus.

Moored at ShireoaksThe Marina at Night.It’s been a day of family visits for Carol, too. Her Mum and Dad arrived to meet us at Bracebridge Lock, and, waiting for us at Shireoaks was brother Phil and sister in law Dawn. Then Sonja arrived for the night, so she had a quite a boatfull.

Dawn and Sonja. Phil was hiding…

Reg the cat had had enough and made his escape along the gunwale.

This area used to be Shireoaks Colliery, closed in the early 90’s. The views from the top of the spoilheap are superb.

Looking East over Worksop.
I’ve said that the locks got steadily closer together as we went through today. The trend continues tomorrow, it’s only 4½ miles to the terminus but there are 23 locks in the next 1½! You can see why not many boats come up this far; you’ve got to have time on your hands to do this many locks, and then turn around and come back down again!

Although we’ve only been on the move for 5 hours, it has seemed like a long day. The weather has been mixed, sunny spells with showers, some of them hail.

Locks 12, miles 5

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Before we got off today I hung upside down in the engine room again, and rechecked the engine alignment. No problems, so I fitted the old coupling to see if it made a difference.
Of course it didn’t, but through today’s travels I found that it is a lot quieter with a load of weed and baler twine around the prop. Problem is it’s difficult to go anywhere or even steer properly in this condition! It could be the prop, but I’m reluctant to spend over £200 to replace it on the offchance.

Anyway, we got away just after 11:00, and arrived at the first of the 4 Forest Locks soon after. These are delightfully placed, out in the country and well maintained.

Forest Middle Bottom Lock
At the 3rd one (Forest Middle Top Lock) we met a BW chap who’d just spent the morning at Retford Town Lock extracting an Asda trolley from beneath a narrowboat. This is where we rescued one yesterday. He was saying that they recently had to fish 18 of Aldi’s carts from the cut near their store. They were still linked together, so the only way they could retrieve them was to separate each one in turn using a pound coin. It seems that trolley dunking is a local sport in Retford and Worksop.

Under grey skies and through the occasional light shower we continued on to and through Osberton Lock, another tidy lock.

Osberton Lock
We moored up about ¼ mile further on.

There’s a lot of BW dredging equipment knocking about, usually tied up on lock landings. I hope they plan to make use of it soon. Although shallow the canal is very pretty, lots of wildlife, and clumps of daffodils growing alongside.

We may have to review our plans for going to the terminus. I spoke to a boater who’d just come back from Worksop, and who had to call BW out to assist him through Worksop Town Lock. One of the gates is dragging on the cill, and the chamber contains rubbish and rubble. Apparently it’s not considered justifiable to empty the lock and sort out the problems. There were only 50 boats up to the end last year, and resources could be better used on busier waterways. There are no permanent staff on this canal any more, they all work out of Newark.

Locks 5, miles 5½

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

We stayed at Drakeholes over the Easter weekend. The weather has been mixed; sunny spells, snow showers and wind. We woke up to 2 inches of the white stuff on Sunday morning, but it was all gone by lunchtime.

Basin at Drakeholes Tunnel.

Meggy the snow dog.

Carol had bought a canoe from a bloke on a boat at Willington a couple of weeks ago, and decided to have a test paddle.

Carol’s Canoe
Yesterday I decided to have another go at that elusive propshaft noise we have at around 850 rpm. So I unbolted the engine completely and lined it up thoroughly in all 3 axes. I had to redrill a couple of holes for the engine mounts, so that must tell you something!

This morning we set off, heading towards Retford and points west. Amazingly, NO NOISE! Just a slight hum at 900 rpm. Blessed peace all the way to Clayworth and the water point where we stopped to top up. But it came back as we set off again. Just as noisy, and in the same rev range. With mounting despair I pulled over at the next available spot (Hayton Low Bridge, near the Boat Inn.) I was tempted to just go to the pub, but checked the integrity of all the mountings. Couldn’t find anything amiss, so we carried on, and the noise got quieter until it faded completely by the time we caught up with Carol at the delightfully named Whitsunday Pie Lock.

Whitsunday Pie Lock
By the time we’d passed through the lock, the noise was back again, and remained with us to varying degrees for the rest of the day. Ah well, some more investigating, methinks.

We arrived in Retford after lunch, through Retford Town Lock (after retrieving an Asda trolley from the chamber), and then went and spent some money in the supermarket. It’s handily placed alongside the canal, at least the yobs who dumped the trolley thought so…..
Asda trolleys here have those locks on the wheels that engage when they are moved a certain distance from the store. So the hoolies have got to be pretty dedicated around here!

Asda trolley out of lock. Can we claim salvage?
One more lock at West Retford and we were out in the countyside again, and moored for the night between bridges 54a and 54, just past the winding hole.
It’s been a mixed day, it started cold but fine and sunny, but the wind got up later in the morning, the cloud built up and we had the odd shower this afternoon.

Simpson Sky this Morning
The canal is still attractive, but shallow. As one old bloke told me of the Ashby, ”the bottom’s too near the top”!

We’d originally planned to turn around at Worksop, after saying Hi to Carol’s Mum. But it seems a shame not to go up as far as we can while we’re here. So we’re going on to the end of the current restoration, just this side of Norwood Tunnel.

Oh, and in reference to last Thursday's post about a WWII bomb near Harecastle tunnel - it turned out to be a piece of a gas lamp, so panic over.

Locks 3, miles 9½

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Yesterday was Good Friday, though there wasn’t much good about it from our point of view! We woke with the intention of heading to the moorings at Drakehole Tunnel, but the strong winds made us doubt whether it would be advisable to go anywhere. I was not too keen on staying where we were, and today’s forecast was worse, so I said we’d move on anyway.

We got off our mooring and away with no trouble, but Carol got caught in a crosswind as soon as she cast off, and was blown across the canal towards some permanent moorings. As she struggled to get back into the channel a boat came up from the basin, made no effort to wait till she sorted the boat out, and consequently ran into her stern! Then he said he couldn’t stop to talk because of the strong wind!

Although Corbiere is a tough boat, the impact was enough to bend the frame which protects the rudder blade, stopping use of the tiller and effectively making the boat unsteerable.

While all this was going on we’d got up to the first lock, and were waiting on the lock landing. A call from Carol told me what had gone on, so I held the other boat up in the lock (he’d followed us to the lock) while Carol made Corbiere safe and walked up to see him. Insurance details exchanged (along with a few harsh words), and he went on his way while we walked back to see if we could sort out the damage and at least make the boat usable.

A 10 foot scaffold pole (borrowed from Stockwith lock) proved inadequate to lever the frame back into position, so we had to unbolt the entire assembly and remove it to free the rudder.

We met up again at the lock, and decided that we wouldn’t go so far after all, as we’d already lost 2 hours.

So we went up the 2 locks at Misterton, and we found a spot near the edge of the village. Carol decided to press on though, and finished up at Drakeholes after all. It was a rough trip, the morning had been fine, but rain moved in on the wind in the PM and she was chilled to the bone by the time she’d stopped. She had company on the last stretch as Sonja and her daughter Laura were waiting near Bridge 78, so at least she was able to share her discomfort.

Up through Misterton Low Lock. Don’t be fooled by Carol’s smile, she was fuming!
Carol knows “a man that can” in Worksop who should be able to repair the stern frame. It’ll be easier now it’s off.

We had a bit of a rough night with the wind rocking the boat, and awoke to horizontal snow!
We decided to carry on to Drakeholes anyway, so, after a quick trip to the handy Co-op in the village, were on our way.
The trip was “challenging” in the wind, and we suffered a couple of squally snow showers, but all in all not too bad. The 2 locks we worked were hard, though.
This canal is similar to the Ashby. Mainly rural so far, shallow at the edges with limited opportunities for mooring (as Carol found out yesterday). It’s quite pleasant, and I hope the weather is better on the way back so we can enjoy the journey instead of fighting the tiller to keep in the channel…

Disused Brickworks Drakeholes Tunnel, South Portal.
Mooring at Drakeholes

And the bent protection frame. At least it did it's job and prevented damage to the rudder.

Locks 4, miles 6 (both days)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The night started clear and cold, but rain moved in on a strengthening NW wind, giving us a grey and damp morning.

Cottam Power Station looking Edgar Alan Poe-ish last night.
We were expected at West Stockwith Lock at around 11:00, so were on the move at 08:00. This meant we spent the first 45 minutes pushing the rising tide, but then it turned, and by the time we got to Gainsborough it was giving us a very healthy shove downstream.

Out onto the river again.
At Littleborough is the site of a Roman causeway across the river. It was here that King Harold crossed the Trent on his way south to meet the invading army of William the Conqueror, after defeating the Danes at Stamford Bridge.

Site of Roman Causeway
I called the lock-keeper when we passed through Gainsborough arches to advise of our ETA, and she told us to turn at the lock entrance to head back upstream and approach against the tide. It’s renowned as being tricky to get into.

Gainsborough Arches.

As we left Gainsborough, Corbiere suddenly veered across the channel and ran gently into the bank. Fearing engine failure or something similar I slowed down in preparation to turning back, then Carol reappeared on the deck. An urgent call of nature had got so insistent that it was abandon the tiller and head below, or leave an embarrassing puddle on the engine covers! I’m often glad I’m a fella, if no-one’s watching we can usually pee over the stern if desperate….

As we approached West Stockwith I started to turn around but reckoned without the wind and drifted 100 yards downstream before getting sorted. Carol meanwhile had made a better job of it and drifted backwards across the lock entrance before turning in neatly.

I had to beat back up against the flow of the tide and the current before making a similar turn. We were both glad to be in the shelter of the lock; the last hour or so on the river had been wet and the wind was increasing.

There’s been no other craft on our stretch of the river today, just 2 narrowboats leaving Torksey and heading south at 07:30.

Out of the lock onto the relatively Lilliputian dimensions of the Chesterfield Canal, and we moored about 10 minutes later.

Out of West Stockwith lock
The rain has eased, but the wind is getting quite strong, now. The forecast for the next few days is bad, wet, snowy and windy. We’re going to head for the other side of Drakeholes Tunnel tomorrow, about 6 miles with 4 locks.
We’ll be on the canal for a few days now, before braving the Trent for the last run down to Keadby and the Stainforth and Keadby Canal.

Locks 1, miles 17

I've just picked up my email, and this was one of the BW stoppage notices from

Harecastle Tunnel - Trent and Mersey
Thursday 20 March 2008 until further notice
Following the discovery of what appears to be an unexploded Second World War bomb at the South Portal of Harecastle Tunnel, the canal will be closed for periods during Good Friday while it is made safe.
Customers are advised to turn around at Bridge 126 to the South or at Hardings Wood Junction, and if customers choose to wait, moor at Red Bull to the North, and Westport Lake to the South.
Customers are advised to contact 01606 723800 for updates during the Easter weekend.
Enquiries: 01606 723800

I wonder how many boats have sailed over this, completely unaware of what lurks beneath.
I hope they don't have to carry out a "controlled explosion". There's a chance the tunnel may be closed for a lot longer than the planned one day!

Here's a picture of the South Portal I took in August 2006.
Just in case it's no longer there after tomorrow.........

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Cromwell, like most of the locks north of Nottingham, is a lovely spot. But it has a sad memorial to 10 young men who died on the weir in 1975.

Exercise Trent Chase was an 80 mile night exercise on the river by 300 Troop 131 Independent Parachute Squadron. Royal Engineers Territorial Army. In flood conditions and a force 6 gale an assault craft carrying 11 of the soldiers went over the weir. 10 of the crew lost their lives. More information HERE.

Memorial at Cromwell Lock.

It is also the site of the Roman bridge that carried the original Great North Road over the Trent.

Contractors are cutting the trees back near the lock.
Sue and Vic on NB NO PROBLEM – this lot would give some work to your chainsaw!
We set off at 10:45, through the lock and onto the river. With the brisk northerly wind the water was quite choppy in places.

Into the lock.
We only saw 2 other craft on the water today. A cruiser was waiting to come into the lock as we left, and the barge HEATHER ROSE H was loading gravel at Besthorpe Wharf.

Gravel Loading

She later overtook us. She's behind you!!

We had a “comfort break” at Dunham Bridge, and arrived at Torksey at around 15:00.

It’s been a fine day, but cold in the wind. An early start tomorrow, and the weather is set to change as well.

But we had a fine sunset.
Locks 1, miles 16.