Monday, March 18, 2019

We’re still here…

…but there’s light at the end of the tunnel!

The Trent is still up, around 4 feet higher at the entrance to Trent Lock than normal. There’s no way we’d fit under the lock-tail bridge, even if we were prepared to tackle the very fast-running river past the entrance.

We didn’t get too much rain over the weekend, unlike some parts of the country. But the Trent is a long river, tracing it’s source onto the fells to the north and east of Stoke-on-Trent. It has several tributaries upstream of us, and they’ll all be fetching water down. But it seems to have peaked last night at around 2.25m at the monitoring station at Shardlow (, which is about 1½ metres above the seasonal norm.
It’s dropped about 4” here since this time yesterday, and with no more rain forecast I would expect the rate of fall to improve.

The wind has dropped too. All being well we’ll be heading up to Shardlow and the Trent and Mersey Canal by the weekend.

Meanwhile we’re pottering about. We did take a short trip up the cut on Thursday, breezy but dry and bright. We turned around and came back to moor in the same spot.

Paul on Lizzie arrived on Friday after his trip up to the end of the Erewash Canal. He was the one who moored opposite us on the pontoons on the river a couple of weeks ago. The weather has screwed with his plans though, he’d recently bought the boat from Castle Marina in Nottingham, and arranged to have it hauled out and blacked early next week. He thought he’d have a few days out before heading back to the marina for the blacking, but the wind and rain has put his return trip back somewhat. He could still make it though, so long as the river co-operates.

We’re looking forward to getting going again, these enforced stops are not normally on our agenda!

Locks 0, miles 2

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

March is living up to it’s reputation…

I don’t think we’ve had such an extended period of very windy weather like we’re having now. As I write this we’re bouncing about a bit, even though we’re fairly sheltered up on the lower end of the Erewash Canal.

Windy river

We were joined over the weekend by barge Anja, a rather large 73 x 12½ foot Dutch luxemotor, built in 1929 and converted to a live-aboard at Brentford in the nineties.
A bit big for us, but very nice nonetheless.

We came up off the river on Tuesday afternoon, with more rain forecast the Trent was only going to higher and faster, and we were getting short of water anyway. It turned out to be a good move, it’s up another 5 or 6 inches this morning. We scraped under the lock tail bridge on Tuesday, today I don’t think we’d have fit.

I was a bit worried about the move, but it was easier than I expected. Once untied we drifted backwards on the brisk current, with just minor gentle bursts on the throttle to keep us from swinging across the flow. Then, as we got alongside the entrance to the canal I angled in and snuck under the bridge. I suppose getting into Keadby and West Stockwith Locks off the tidal Trent is good practice!

The level is up about 3 feet from when we arrived a week ago, but at least it’s not rising as fast as it did when we were here in November 2016. Now that was a little hairy!

Loki is still moored on the pontoons, I don’t think they’ll be moving for a few days now.

Nor will we in fact. We’ll toddle up to the first winding hole to turn around when we have a calm spell, then come back here to above the lock to wait until the river goes down a bit before heading to Sawley Cut.

Locks 1, miles about ⅛

Friday, March 08, 2019

A bit of a knock-back

I’ve just picked up a notification from CRT that the repairs to Aston Lock, Lock 3 on the Trent and Mersey, are not likely to be completed before the 24th of March. They’d already been put back, it appears there’s more remedial work required than originally anticipated. So that’s put the mockers on our plans for the coming week.

The Trent is up, but going down again and with rain forecast over the weekend it’ll probably hover around where it is now, about 18” higher than when we moored here on the pontoon the other day. Although the flood gates at Cranfleet and Sawley are both closed the river is manageable up to Sawley Cut, so we were intending to head there on Monday, then up on to the T&M to Shardlow as soon as possible to be ready to head west when Swarkestone Lock’s repair were completed on the 15th. Not going to happen now, we’ve another 10 days to wait.

It’s not like we’re on a schedule or anything, but the last 8 months seem to have been nothing but hanging around, apart from our trip up the Trent from Yorkshire. It would be good to set off and continue in one direction again for a while!

Not sure what we’ll be doing to fill the time, but meanwhile it’s not a bad spot where we’re at.

You’ll probably need to click on the image the read the information board…

Lock 60, bottom lock of the Erewash Canal.

Pontoon moorings at Trent Lock.

There was one boat here when we arrived, Loki, and another turned up on Wednesday and moored opposite us, but he’s gone again, heading up the Erewash.

The river is gurgling past at around 3 mph, a little slower than yesterday. And the wind has dropped today. But according to the forecast we’ve not seen the end of the blowy weather. Remember the old saying? “March comes in like a lion, goes out like a lamb”? Seems to be accurate so far…

Locks 0, miles 0

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Back off the Erewash

We woke up on Saturday morning sat on the bottom, leaning at a shallow angle. The pound between Pastures Lock and Sandiacre Lock had dropped by six to eight inches overnight. With low pounds above, there was no water coming down the bywashes to make up any lost through the lower gates. A good shove off the underwater rocks got us floating again, and we were on the move just after 10:00.

We crept along to Sandiacre Lock, keeping the revs down and in the centre of the channel, only scraping obstacles a couple of times. The worst was just under the A52 road bridge, a metallic screech as we encountered something thrown off the bridge, maybe a bicycle.

I felt a bit guilty drawing another lock-full of water from the pound to fill Sandiacre Lock, but there wasn’t anyone else moored below Pastures and anyone coming down from above there would be bringing water with them.

Approaching Sandiacre Lock, next to the junction with the currently un-navigable Derby Canal.

The water was back up to normal levels below Sandiacre, and we cruised past the old lace mills, through Dockholme Lock and Long Eaton.

A froth of blackthorn blossom that wasn’t there when we went up!
Blackthorn flowers before the leaves appear, hawthorn does things the other way around.

Lace must have been a profitable commodity, there are some rather fine buildings along here.

Across the way from Long Eaton Lock stands Harrington Mill, built in 1885 in the same style as Springfield Mill in Sandiacre.

South of Long Eaton, just before the main Derby to London Railway Line, is a small basin on the towpath side.

This is Sheetstores Basin, used as moorings by the Long Eaton Boat Club. It was originally built in 1840 as a transhipment point for coke used as fuel for the Midland Counties Railway engines, and also to ship unprocessed coal south by rail. But within a few years the railways were extending north into the Nottingham coalfields, negating the need for fuel to be brought down by boat. The basin and buildings were repurposed, becoming the place where wagon tarpaulins, “sheets”, used for covering open freight wagons, were manufactured and repaired. More buildings were constructed alongside the basin to accommodate the activity, but the basin was still used for transhipping goods from canal to rail.
With the introduction of covered wagons the sheet stores became redundant and was sold by British Rail in 1965 and the buildings now comprise part of Sheetstores Industrial Estate.

Flood gates and bunds protect Long Eaton from the Trent if it becomes a little frisky…

Now that’s a houseboat!

We moored above Trent Lock. With Storm Freya moving in we didn’t want to down on the exposed river.

Today we decided to drop down Trent Lock, with the winds a little lighter. We descended to river level with a single-hander on NB N-Gauge, who was a bit disappointed that we weren’t going up the river and through Sawley Locks too. Instead we pulled in on the floating pontoon just out of the junction. Turning out onto the river with the current and brisk wind both coming in from the right caused us to heel over quite sharply, but nothing fell off the shelves. We’re expecting wind and rain again over the next 48 hours so we’ll be staying put.

So, thoughts on the Erewash Canal. It’s worth the trip, although it’s mainly built up the last couple of miles are rural and the junction at the current end of navigation deserves a look around. The boaters at the moorings there, and Vicky at the boatyard are friendly and helpful. As are the locals met on the towpath. You have to get used to being called “Me Duck”, though…
Downsides, well, the locks are heavy, but we’ve done worse. And there are 15 of them over the just-under 12 mile length. Apparently in summer weed can be a problem, but not this time of year. I think the water level problems we had on the way down were the exception, rather than the norm. All in all an enjoyable trip. Especially, if like us, you’ve time to take it steady.

Locks 4, miles 3¾

Friday, March 01, 2019

The first day of Spring and the weather goes downhill…

We left Langley Mill on Wednesday, which turned out to be the last, and probably the best day of this unseasonably dry, warm spell. But first we reversed between the boats to the boatyard to fill with diesel.

Yes, through that gap… backwards!

We nearly made it without touching the sides, but at the last minute there was a horrible rattling banging noise from under the counter as we picked up something on the prop. From that point on maneuvering was severely compromised. The very helpful Vicky had dropped off six bags of smokeless the previous evening, so we only had the fuel to pick up.
That done and everything paid for, we idled back out, filled with water then clunked and clanked into the lock where I tied up and delved through the weed hatch into the fairly clear but very cold water. The main entanglement was an umbrella, without the handle but the wire stays and fabric canopy were well wrapped up. Along with various unidentifiable bits of plastic and cloth…
Anyway it took me half an hour to finally get it clear, and we were able to drop down Lock 14 and head off down the Erewash.

The pretty Eastwood Lock wasn’t always so, between the lock and the river there used to be a colliery. But all traces of the works and wharves above the lock have gone. Only the stone abutments of the mineral line crossing below the lock remain.

The daffodils are out at Shipley Lock!

We pulled in between bridges 23a and 23, opposite the housing estates fringing the village of Cotmanhay. A good piled edge, quiet after the dog walkers had gone home, apart from the trains trundling past 100 yards away.

We stayed put yesterday, as the forecast suggested it rained on and off all day and it had turned noticeably cooler. This morning dawned dry but murky, clearing a bit before we set off just before 10:00.

Ahead of us we had 8 locks and 5½ miles, so it was always expected to be a longish day. But by the time we’d got to Barkers Lock, the second of the day, we’d heard through the grapevine that there were problems ahead. At least one, possibly two pounds further south were dry or very low.

Barkers Lock


The bywashes were all running, so I hoped that by the time we got there the situation would have improved, and we had a stop to make in Ilkeston to collect a package from Argos anyway.
We arrived at Potters Lock, number 69, to find a CRT chappie running water through the lock. I expected the low pound to be this next one, between Potters and Greens, as it’s at Greens Lock I had trouble getting the top gates closed on the way up. But it was further down, a ¾ mile pound below Stanton Lock with just a stream in the middle. So a crew of three were managing the water, running it down through the next four locks, and trying to maintain the levels in each pound as they went.

Waiting at Potters Lock.

After about 40 minutes we were given the all clear to proceed, subject to instructions from the CRT staff further down, so off we went. The pounds were low but navigable, and we dropped through Greens, Gallows Inn and Hallam Fields Locks without incident.

At Stanton Lock, the one above the low pound, we caught up with another boat,  Misty Dawn, who had reported the problem first thing. They’d moored above the lock and woke up on the bottom as their pound dropped a bit as well.
There was water in the pound below, and with an extra lockful from us we hoped to be able to get to Pasture Lock without running aground. Misty made it out of the lock and set off, we got out of the lock and stopped… It took two of us pulling and the engine just turning over to get past the shallow bit. Then we were away, very slowly, churning up mud and debris and often just scraping over the humps and bumps on the bottom.

We got into Pasture Lock eventually, dropped down in company with Misty, then pushed on to moor in Sandiacre, on the Padmore moorings.

St. Giles church, Sandiacre, sits on a hill to the north of the town.

Old warehouses along the canal opposite Springfield Mill.

Moored in Sandiacre.


We’ll head down to Trent Lock tomorrow.

Locks 11, miles 8¾

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Thoughts on naming conventions and lock numbering…

I went for a stroll around the junction of the three canals here at the head of the Erewash Canal this morning.
It struck me that the lock numbering was a bit odd; this final lock, Langley Mill Lock, is Lock 14. However there are 14 others coming up from Trent Lock… Then it occurred to me that the penultimate lock we came up yesterday was Lock 73. Eastwood Lock.
Hmm… further investigation required.

Looking at the junction from the road bridge crossing.
Langley Mill Lock is in the foreground, straight ahead runs the Cromford Canal and to the right, passing under a swing bridge, is the Nottingham Canal.

A little bit of mooching through maps shows that the Erewash Canal lock numbering is a continuation of that of the Leicester Line. Watford Bottom Lock is Lock 1. So I guess these locks must have been renumbered following the absorption into the Grand Union Canal network in the 1930s. That sorts that out.
And the reason that Langley Mill Lock is number 14 is that it’s not actually on the Erewash, it’s the bottom lock of the 14 fetching the Cromford Canal down from Cromford near Matlock.

Up until the construction of the Cromford, the Erewash finished below the road bridge, in a complex of wharfs off to the left of the existing line. These are now filled in and lost beneath a road junction and Lidl’s carpark.

The Nottingham Canal was opened in 1796, joining the Cromford which opened two years earlier. A stop lock was constructed, with a toll house alongside to control traffic to and from the new navigation. It ran from here to the Trent at Meadow Lane Lock. The company intended to construct a branch to the river above Trent Bridge at Beeston, but this was later built by the Trent Navigation Company. The navigation made money, not spectacularly but steadily until the middle of the 19th century when railway competition forced the canal company to cut their losses, selling to the Amber, Nottingham, Boston and Eastern Junction Railway Company. This later became part of the Great Northern Railway, hence the name of the basin and the pub at the north end of the canal.

Looking down on the Great Northern Basin from the road bridge.
The canal has been filled on the other side of the road, the route now forming a footpath.

Walking back “uphill” past the lock, the footpath follows the Cromford for about a quarter mile, before ending abruptly at a dam. This short navigable stub is used for moorings and is the base for Langley Mill Boatyard.

Beyond the dam restoration work is underway, with the ultimate goal of reopening the canal sometime in the future.

There’s a lot more information on the Erewash Canal Preservation and Development Association website here… The Cromford Canal restoration society’s website is here.

We’re going to reverse to the boatyard in the morning for coal and diesel, top up the water tank then set off back down to the Trent. Taking our time as usual.

Locks 0, miles 0   

Monday, February 25, 2019

When you come to the end of the Erewash…

…You have to turn around and head back down again!

We had a long day on Saturday, all the locks were against us, often with top gates open, and there was a lot of folk on the towpath, all seemingly wanting to natter!
We got the life story of one lady who was walking her spaniel Roger, and were nearly sold an early 1960s Bedford Dormobile motor caravan! But all in all a good day.

The impressive Springfield Mill, just up from the Padmore Moorings in Sandiacre.
Built in 1888 as a lace mill, it’s now a Grade II listed building, converted to high-end apartments. A beautiful example of Victorian architecture.

We had eight locks to ascend before our planned stop near Shipley Lock, and were on the move at soon after 10:00. Between Sandiacre and Ilkeston the canal passes through a short section of countryside, but the M1 crossing makes a noisy intrusion. Above Stanton Lock the Nutbrook Canal used to head off to the west, now the only evidence is a stone wall with a pair of pipes sticking through.

Mags in Stanton Lock
The lock is on it’s third name, originally White House Lock it became Junction Lock when the Nutbrook Canal was opened in 1796.
The Nutbrook, named for the Nut Brook which it mainly followed, was built to fetch coal down from collieries at Shipley and West Hallam but was a victim of it’s reason for existence. Plagued by subsidence which required regular repairs, it finally was defeated by railway competition.
The extensive Stanton Ironworks operated from 1787, and the canal was cut through it, presumably to take advantage of a customer on the doorstep. A century later the canal was redundant, replaced by a rail network and all but the first three locks was abandoned. With the closure of the ironworks in 1949 this remaining short section was filled in.

The junction of the Nutbrook Canal with the Erewash is not what it was…

A mile further up the town of Ilkeston starts to appear, mainly on the east side. Gallows Lock sits alongside Gallows Inn next to a main road bridge.
With canalside seating I imagine it would have been busier later in the day.

We had a bit of trouble at Greens Lock. Debris had gathered on the cill below the nearside top gate, stopping it from closing fully. It took 15 minutes of groping about with my long shaft before I could get any sort of seal.

We’d been warned to watch out for low bridges, and the tail bridge at Potters Lock is one such.
After a near miss earlier I’d taken the chimney down.

The Bridge Inn at Bridge 23 is closed. With good moorings nearby I‘m sure it would have been popular with boat crews. But there just aren’t any. Boats or crews. We’ve only seen two moving boats since Trent Lock.

We pulled in below Shipley Lock as planned, although in retrospect we would have been better stopping a little further down before the railway bridge where the bank is better.

With things to do we stayed put yesterday, getting off again this morning. Another beautiful day after a frosty night.

Coming up to Shipley Lock

Another one bites the dust… The Anchor at Bridge 27 is now a private house.

Waiting below Langley Mill Lock, almost at the terminus.

Going up….

We topped up the water tank then turned around, narrowly avoiding a grumpy angler, and moored on the west side of the basin. 

I think we’ll stay here tomorrow. I’ll have a walk around the basin and take some photos. It used to be an important junction, where the Erewash meets the Nottingham and Cromford Canals. Both of the latter are no longer in use here, though, apart from the first short section of each used for moorings.

Locks 11, miles 8 (2 days)