We set off along the wide, deep Aire and Calder yesterday morning, with just one lock ahead of us to deal with before stopping. Another grey, chilly day, with wall to wall cloud and a cool breeze.
Filling with water below Whitley Lock
There are taps above and below the lock, and below the next one too.
The canal is raised up above the level of the flat countryside, the sides protected by steel piling. To allow escape for any wildlife that has the misfortune of falling in, heaps of rocks are placed at intervals against the banks.
Wide skies, with flocks of terns wheeling above the canal
Pollington Lock under Pollington Bridge
Into the lock
There are four sets of gates on this one, making it very flexible in the length of craft it can accommodate. The yellow paddles, mounted on the ends of the lock gates, are to guide the skippers of the large barges into the centre of the chamber.
A pair of elderly Humber Keels moored below Pollington Lock, one powered by sail, the other diesel.
Twenty-five minutes after leaving the lock we were approaching Sykehouse or Southfield Junction, where we left the Aire and Calder and joined the New Junction Canal.
Opposite the junction is Southfield Reservoir, built early in the 20th century to ensure sufficient water for the extended locks and to help maintain the levels at Goole Docks. It’s now popular with the local angling and sailing clubs.
We moored just at the start of the New Junction Canal, on our own for a start but joined by another three boats later.
This chap didn’t stop though.
Exol Pride was on her way back to Hull after discharging 500 tonnes of cargo at Exol’s blending plant in Rotherham. Built in 1979 and operated by Whittakers carrying oil products, she had an extended refit in 2015 before starting a contract with Exol Lubricants.
Sadly, she’s the only large barge operating commercially on these waterways at the moment.
Later on, as I took Meg out for a constitutional, the steam from Drax power station looked quite spooky…
After a quiet and chilly night, we were off again this morning to get to the far end of the New Junction Canal. Opened in 1906, it’s a shortcut for vessels heading south-westward to Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield. Before it was constructed boats had to go to Goole Docks, onto the tidal Ouse and the tidal Trent, then back onto the canals at Keadby. A distance of 40 miles including potentially hazardous waters now reduced to an easy 5½.
As it crosses flat country, the handful of roads that cross do so on swing or lift bridges. A total of 6 including the one across the middle of Sykehouse Lock.
There’s an aqueduct at either end as well, to the east one crosses the River Went, at the west end over the River Don.
Crossing the Went Aqueduct
There’s been quite a few water birds about, ducks, herons and swans. But this was unusual, a pair of little egret. Unfortunately very shy, as soon as we got close they were away, so I had to be content with distance shots.
On the wing again, with a pair of loved-up swans and an equally shy heron…
Mags coming through Kirk Lane Swing Bridge
Sykehouse Lock is the only one on the canal, and we were pleasantly surprised to see a green light as we approached, indicating that a lock-keeper was on duty and the lock was ready for us.
This is the first uphill lock we’ve done since going up to Gargrave in September. But when we join the non-tidal Trent at Cromwell it’ll be all uphill.
With the lockie doing the business we were up the lock like a dose of salts and off through the remaining three swing and lift bridges to Bramwith Junction.
Straight, wide and deep, as befits a modern commercial waterway.
I say modern, it is actually 112 years old, but in English canal terms that’s positively youthful!
Low Lane Swing Bridge, with the Don Doors beyond
The River Don is prone to flooding, so, to protect the canal, guillotine gates are installed at either end of the crossing. These are closed if there is a chance of the river rising to the same level as the canal.
Bramwith Junction is a little further on, and we turned in the entrance to the Stainforth and Keadby Canal, then moored facing back out onto the junction.
There’s been a few boats up and down, but the most disruptive was a CRT push-tug tanking past at a great rate of knots, trailing an impressive wake.
We were still rocking 10 minutes later!
We’ll be here for the weekend now, then heading towards Keadby on Monday.
Locks 2, miles 11½
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