Thursday, August 30, 2012

Brisk and Busy down the Trent

Yesterday evening the clouds cleared and the sun came out for a while, giving us a pleasant end to a not too pleasant day. We even had the heating on for an hour in the evening. I could have laid and lit the stove, but it’s still August, dammit!

Guests for tea…Tea Time

The forecast for today was sunshine and showers, well, we’ve seen some of the latter, but very little of the former!

Meg and I took a walk around the watersports centre alongside the lock this morning.

The 2Km long rowing lake…SAM_2614
…with a solo rower training.SAM_2615 Holme Rowing Lake

Looking up the slalom courseSAM_2619 Holme Slalom

We were getting ready to move out soon after 9 o’clock when a Dutch barge went past, followed by a narrowboat. I wasn’t sure if we could fit as well, but followed them up to the lock.

Waiting for Holme LockSAM_2624 Holme Lock
The traffic lights are red as the lock-keeper brings a narrowboat up.

I needn’t have worried about space in the lock, we finished up with 6 boats in there finally!

Room for couple more small ones at the back…SAM_2625 Holme Lock

We led the convoy to the next lock at Stoke Bardolph.

Follow-my-leader out of Holme LockSAM_2628 Holme Lock

After yesterday’s rain the river was up a little and flowing well, so we were rattling along at between 6 and 7 mph. Care had to be taken at the sharp left Radcliffe Bend, to avoid the stern swinging too wide as the flow takes it round.

Watch that swing…SAM_2631 Radcliffe Bend

We led into Stoke Lock, but were third out and were passed by two other of the locking companions on the 4½ mile reach to Gunthorpe. With a brisk wind blowing against the flow of the river, there was quite a chop on the exposed sections.

Crimson Sunset goes past….
SAM_2638 Choppy 
…Followed by Brigadier

We lost three of our convoy at Gunthorpe, they pulled onto the moorings just past the bridge.

Jockeying for mooring space at Gunthorpe BridgeSAM_2648 Looking for a mooring

We thought there’d be just us and Brigadier in Gunthorpe Lock, but then NB Lyra turned up as well, having been unable to find a slot on the pontoons.

There’s another 4½ mile reach between Gunthorpe and Hazelford Locks, open farmland on the left side and the Trent Hills rising on the right.

Looking back to NB LyraSAM_2657
Those clouds look a bit full….

We arrived at Hazelford Lock and waited while a couple of narrowboats were brought up, then went into the chamber and promptly backed out again when we learned that the moorings below were full.

So we pulled onto the high wall in the lock cut instead. I took Meg for a look-see (after lifting her off) and decided there was room for us after all, so we joined David and Dorothy (NB Blackbird) on the next locking down.

They read this rubbish, thanks for your fortitude, chaps.

David…SAM_2662 David
…and Dorothy.SAM_2663 Dorothy

They pushed on, intending to moor in Newark, while we turned around and got the fore-end on the lower bit of the landing.

Moored Below HazelfordSAM_2670 hazelford Lock

I’d not thought about it, but the water was around 6” higher this morning at Holme. The other couple of boats moored in front of us were concerned about the water rising further, it had come up about 10” here this morning.
With a mainly dry day upstream it shouldn’t rise too much further, though. The lockies don’t seem bothered.

Just 1½ miles to the east, the final act in the drama of the War of the Roses was played out. Since Bosworth Field in 1485 when Richard III met his end, revolt and insurrection had beset the new Tudor crown. The rebellious Yorkists needed a rallying point, and this was found in the form of a boy, Lambert Simnel, claimed to be Edward, brother to Edward IV and Richard III, and therefore the legitimate heir.
An army of Swiss and German mercenaries and Irish troops, led by Sir John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, landed near Barrow in Furness in present-day Cumbria and crossed the Pennines to meet the Royal armies at York. They were frustrated in this so marched south, crossing the Trent at Fiskerton on 15th June 1487. The 8,000 strong force took up positions near East Stoke.

View Larger Map
Lincoln's forces occupied the the high ground across the neck of the loop of the river; strategically very strong.

On the same night the King’s forces camped about 9 miles away, near Radcliffe. Moving off early the vanguard under the Earl of Oxford followed the river northward and was in a position to challenge the rebels by mid-morning. Following an exchange of crossbow bolts and arrows the rebels chose to leave their advantageous positions on a ridge and charged the opposing forces, probably hoping to defeat them before the main body of Henry VII’s troops arrived. The battle could have gone either way, but by noon the better equipped and trained Royalist forces had gained the upper hand, and the fight was over by the time Henry arrived.
All of the rebel commanders along with fully half of their troops fell on the battlefield. Many were trapped and killed in a ravine running down to the river, which was known since as Red Gutter.
The young pretender, Lambert Simnel, was captured but spared, Henry recognising that he was merely a pawn.
Rumour has it he was given a job in the Royal kitchens…

Locks 4, miles 12

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Wet and windy river

We don’t normally cruise in the rain, but today we broke the rule and it wasn’t particularly pleasant. The brisk wind didn’t help, making it decidedly chilly on the tiller.

It had been a fine night, and it was clear first thing but by 8 o’clock the clouds had rolled in and the first drops of rain started to fall.

Moonrise over the power station last nightSAM_2569 Moonrise over Ratcliffe Power Stn

A few boats had gone past us heading for Cranfleet Lock so we fully expected it to be against us, but a small cruiser was there, waiting for the lock to refill. So we shared the drop down to the river.

Heading for Cranfleet LockSAM_2570 Cranfleet Cut
Looking back at the lock from the river.SAM_2571 Cranfleet Lock
The channel from Thrumpton Weir comes in on the left of the picture, giving us a shove downstream.

It’s four miles to Beeston Lock, and the river is now wide and deep.
A house on the left has been empty and semi-derelict for a long time, but I’m pleased to see someone has taken it in hand.

Good to see, it’s in a fine locationSAM_2573 House

Tucked into the bank on the right are a few moorings, including this fine boat in need of a bit of TLC. SAM_2574 Fine Boat
The hull is built up with laminated diagonal strips of timber, the next layer in will run in the opposite direction. It makes a very strong and relatively light structure.

Beeston Lock is where the navigable channel once again leaves the river, now for the last time. Beeston Cut was built at the end of the 18thC and joined the Nottingham Canal at Lenton Chain. This canal was built at around the same time, to link Nottingham with the Erewash Canal at Langley Mill. The section through the city is mostly filled and built over, but the western end is still in water in places.

Near Lenton Chain, NB Mister Fred has an eclectic mix of odds and ends decorating the mooring.SAM_2583 Lenton Chain

Now on the Nottingham Canal, the navigation passes Nottingham Castle Marina, then the popular moorings near Sainsbury’s, before arriving at Castle Lock.

Castle Gardens moorings, handy for shopping.SAM_2590 Castle Gardens Moorings

Just an odd glimpse of Nottingham Castle, sitting proud on it’s outcrop.SAM_2593 Nottingham Castle
The current building dates from 1678, but the prominent site has been occupied by a fortification since 1067 when a wooden fort was built. In 1170 Henry II replaced the wooden structure with a stone castle, the principal royal fortress in the midlands. It was from here, in 1485, that Richard III set out to meet the claimant to the throne, Henry Tudor at Bosworth. He didn’t come back….
In fact, after the battle his body was displayed on the city walls at Leicester, then buried somewhere in the Franciscan Friary. A dig is currently under way to find his remains, now believed to be under a car park at Grey Friars in the city.

Castle Lock drops the navigation 4½ feet, the only lock in the city.

Castle LockSAM_2594 Castle Lock

Alongside the lock is a marker, dating from 1869.  I guess the three named gentlemen, Messrs. Parr, Woodward and Godfrey, were overseers on the canal?SAM_2595 Castle Lock

Here’s one sign that won’t get a Canal and River Trust sticker slapped over!SAM_2596

Below the lock there’s extensive building work going on, new high rise apartments replacing old warehousing, then there’s a sharp right turn just beyond a bridge, where a short arm used to head towards the Lace Market.

Poplar Arms CornerSAM_2598 Sharp Right

A ½ mile straight then a left bend takes the canal to Meadow Lane Lock and the final drop back onto the river. There’s a handy facilities block here, which we took advantage of, filling the water tank and emptying a loo. Unfortunately, the showers and toilets are closed due to vandalism…

Meadow Lane Lock, recently tidied up with a new sanitary block and pleasant seating area overlooking the river.SAM_2600 Meadow Lane Lock

We’d had a short reprieve from the rain as we came through Nottingham, but it now returned just as we dropped onto the open river.

I always have to chuckle at this….SAM_2599
….”for men who know how to mow….”

Looking back at Meadow Lane Lock and upstream to County Hall.SAM_2601 Back on the river
The river is navigable up to County Hall, where there are moorings.

Lady Bay Bridge is the last crossing of the river for 9 miles, till GunthorpeSAM_2604 Lady Bay Bridge

Built around 1930, the large concrete warehouses alongside the river were used for storage of goods transferred between barges and a spur off the London-Midland-Scottish Railway. I understand that they were due to be demolished and the site redeveloped, but a quick web-search hasn’t revealed anything. Any ideas?

Transit WarehousesSAM_2605 BW Grain Warehouse
There’s a large dock basin just this side of the nearer building, and both were well equipped with modern loading and storage facilities.

A quote from the Nottingham Corporation book of 1932:-
“At the Nottingham end of the section, now controlled by the corporation, important progress has been made with the provision of new terminal facilities. A transit shed was the first building completed (by 1928) and close to it has since arisen a splendid new warehouse. This warehouse has a frontage to the river itself, but close to it is a basin, opening at right angles to the river, is being constructed and this will be flanked by Warehouse No.2 and Transit Shed No. 2. Railway lines run along side the warehouses and transit shed and link up with the L.M.S. Railway a short distance away. A short description of No. 1 Warehouse will serve to indicate not only its own excellent accommodation but also the nature of the increased accommodation that will become available when No. 2 Warehouse is completed. There warehouse is constructed of reinforced concrete and is considered to be the best of this type in the country. The riverside elevation, in line with the river wall, facilitates the loading and discharge of vessels. There are 4 floors each 170 feet long and 50 feet wide, giving a total floor space of 34,000 square feet. The ground floor is of reinforced concrete specially treated to ensure freedom from dust, while the upper floors are of wood on reinforced concrete.
The appliances for handling cargoes are specially designed for speed and economy. On the ground floor are electric transporters capable of travelling at a speed of 100 feet per minute for the full length of the warehouse, and in addition capable of stacking goods to a height of 9 feet above floor level. They can also discharge goods from barges direct to railway truck, or load lorries or drays at the various bays.
For working the upper floors, four electric hoists of ten cwts. capacity, hoisting at 70 feet per minute and travelling at 100 feet per minute have been installed. Two of these hoists work inside pent houses under which barges may be discharged or loaded in wet weather.
In addition to the electrically-operated machinery, spiral sack chutes are provided as well as gravity chutes capable of conveying loads 3 feet 3 inches wide. The warehouse is lighted throughout with electricity. Easy access is provided by means of a concrete road fifty feet wide which runs the whole length of the building. The railway track is bedded into the concrete road so that no difficulty will be experienced by the various forms of transport in loading or unloading. The adjoining Transit Shed is equipped with additional electrical hoisting and conveying machinery for discharging and loading vessels as well as temporary storage are thereby provided.”

They've convinced me!

We pulled in above Holme Lock, just a couple of (rainy) miles further downstream, between two other narrowboats. Both of whom have now started their engines to charge batteries. It’s a quarter to eight. Might have to have words in a bit…

Grey approach to Holme LockSAM_2608 Holme Lock

Locks 4, miles 12

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

From the Soar to the Trent

We had a later start today, only a short cruise to take us to Trent junction and Cranfleet Cut. Where we’d moored there’s often wood knocking about, so I got a couple of good logs on the roof to dry out ready for winter.

Several boats had headed past us going in the same direction, so we waited for the queue at Kegworth Deep Lock to clear before setting off. The lock lives up to it’s name, and takes some time to fill.

We used to moor about a mile further on, nearer the lock, but after a couple of interrupted nights we’ve started mooring at Devil’s Elbow instead.

Here’s why….SAM_2531SAM_2532
It was right under the approach path for East Midlands Airport! Great for plane spotters, not so great for a good nights sleep.

We timed it right, arriving at Kegworth Deep just as a boat was leaving, then having another arrive at the bottom as we were dropping down.

Swapping at Kegworth LockSAM_2537 Kegworth Deep
This lock is around 12 feet, the deepest on this section. As part of flood alleviation work the level of the river below was lowered, entailing a deeper lock. The original chamber lies alongside, now filled in. Conversely, the second Kegworth lock just a quarter mile downstream is now very shallow, in fact it’s only used during winter and unusually high flows in the summer.

Kegworth Deep Lock, with the spire of Kegworth church visible over the treesSAM_2538 kegworth Deep

A sharp bend and duck under Kegworth Road Bridge takes you through Kegworth Shallow, open at both ends today.

Kegworth Shallow LockSAM_2540 Kegworth Shallow

It’s about half an hour to the last “proper” lock on the Soar, at Ratcliffe. The large power station near the junction starts to appear through gaps in the trees, it’s eight cooling towers often producing a micro-climate in the area.

Racliffe Power StationSAM_2545
This coal-fired plant has the capacity to produce up to 2,000 MW of electricity, enough for 2,000,000 homes they reckon.

Ratcliffe Lock was empty when we arrived but a cruiser had also just turned up at the bottom so I opened the lower gates and we brought them up first. They were returning from a truncated trip after running aground on one of the many backwaters. The rudder was damaged and judging by the sound of the motor there was something amiss with the drive train, too. Give me an over-engineered steel narrowboat any time…

Leaving Ratcliffe LockSAM_2548 Ratcliffe Lock
This is another replacement chamber, the original can be seen to the left.

Redhill Marina offers full boat services from a range of businesses on site. Boatbuilding, painting, cover making and a slipway make it a useful spot. And there’s a good café.

Redhill MarinaSAM_2550 Redhill Marina

Redhill Flood Lock operates under the same principal as those at Pillings and Kegworth; normally open when the river is at Summer levels.

Redhill Flood LockSAM_2551 Redhill Marina

Redhill is named for the red hill, a ridge of sandstone and shale wedged in the angle between the Soar and the Trent.

The Red HillSAM_2553 Redhill
Around the corner and the view opens up, the flood plain of both rivers a huge expanse of flat land off to the left. Passing Thrumpton Weir on the right we’re going upstream on the Trent for a couple of hundred yards, before turning right onto Cranfleet Cut.

Wide open spaces across the junctionpano

The large Thrumpton Weir takes the combined waters of the Trent and Soar around to the south of Cranfleet Cut, rejoining below Cranfleet Lock.

Thrumpton WeirSAM_2556 Plumpton Weir

The junction is actually a cross-roads. Straight on is the entrance to the Erewash Canal, left is Sawley, Shardlow and the Trent and Mersey Canal. A right turn takes you onto Cranfleet Cut, the Trent and points north.

That’ll be us, then…SAM_2560 That's us
We moored just around the corner, below the flood gates.

We’ve a longer day tomorrow, down to Beeston, around Nottingham, then back onto the river aiming for mooring at Holme Lock.

SAM_2565We’re now on the last book of our journey north. We’ve used three others between Reading and here….

Final chapter…

Locks 2,  miles 5

Monday, August 27, 2012

Off we jolly well go……

We’re on our way again after a few days visiting and socialising around Loughborough.
Although we could have chosen a better day; it’s been decidedly backend-ish today! Breezy, cool and showery.

After our overnight stop at Loughborough and visit from Kay, Paul, and neice and God-daughter Samantha, we moved into Pillings Lock Marina on Saturday.

Full moorings near Chain Bridge in LoughboroughSAM_2497 Chain Br Moorings This was never a popular spot, but has slowly become so as more and more boats stop overnight.

A bit “Arty”, this one….SAM_2498
I thought it looked as though pylon was scraping the sky clear of clouds..

Birthday party on a day boat out of SilebySAM_2500 Birthday

Into the marinaSAM_2501 Pillings Lock

Clouds had been threatening all day, and by evening we had an almighty thunderstorm.
SAM_2502 Raining

On Sunday we were collected to go to brother Andy’s house for a barbeque in the afternoon, and a great time was had by all. Then in the evening, back at the marina, Paul’s (that’s Kay’s partner) band was playing at the cafe/bar here. Mags stayed on board with Meg and still enjoyed the music from 100 yards away!

The Refusers… L-R, Rob, lead guitar; Steve, bass guitar; Paul, drums; Dave, vocals and our Paul on rhythm guitar.SAM_2509 The RefusersThey have a mixed repertoire, from Black Sabbath to The Beatles, Cliff Richard to The Eagles. Pretty good, too.

Today started reasonably fine, but breezy. By lunchtime we’d had a few spots of rain and it became more continuous later on in the afternoon. We got away from  Pillings at around 09:40, turning left out of the entrance to Loughborough.

Old rolling stock just visible on the sidings of the old Great Central Railway in the town.SAM_2511 Great Central rolling StockThe section from Loughborough to Birstall is run as a heritage railway, the only double track main-line in the UK. The Great Central Railway PLC was formed from the work of the Main Line Steam Trust, a charity which succeeded in preventing British Rail from lifting most of the track, and raised funds for restoration of the rest, as well as for the infrastructure and buildings.

We swung left at Chain Bridge, down into the basin for a quick visit to the handy Tesco, then headed off out of town, now northward. We shared Loughborough, Bishop’s Meadow and Zouch Locks with a crew we met in the basin, Dave and Margaret on NB Moonshadow.

Wide Soar and grey skies below LoughboroughSAM_2517 Wide Soar

12thC  St. James Church, Normanton on Soar.SAM_2519 Normanton

The River Soar is notorious for rapid rise after heavy rain, we’ve experienced this ourselves a couple of times. Extensive flood management schemes have been implemented using automatic rotary gates to supplement the conventional weirs.
A good example is at Zouch, just below Normanton on Soar.

Zouch Flood Gates….SAM_2521 Zouch Weirs

…..and weir.SAM_2522 Zouch Weirs

We were approaching the road bridge just on the extreme right of the above when a boat started coming through. We held back and then the lass on the bow indicated that they were going under the low bridge into the backwater alongside. They’d obviously done it before, very slick.
Just as well, I’d not have wanted to hang around above that weir for long, even with the water being low.

Tight squeeze onto moorings in the backwaterSAM_2523 Squeeze
SAM_2523 Squeeze
They’d not do that with another couple of inches on the river!

We parted company with our locking companions after Zouch Lock. They were pushing on towards Redhill, but we’d already decided to stop at Devil’s Elbow, near Sutton Bonnington.

With Dave and Margaret, NB Moonshadow, in Zouch LockSAM_2524 Zouch Lock, NB Moonshadow

Moored at Devil’s ElbowSAM_2527 Devil's Elbow

Tomorrow we’ll be on the Trent…

Locks 3, miles 7½