Go to Allan's Page Spring 2008 Canals Home Page Part 2 - to Chesterfield Go to Deb's Page
2008 Llangollen & Gloucester View Slideshow Part 3 - Up the Trent again

Via Boston to the Chesterfield Canal

Part 1 - Milton Keynes to Boston

After some time at home, having some building work done on the house and getting another new TV for the boat, by mid-August we were ready to do some more travelling. We'd decided to revisit the Chesterfield Canal as it was 14 years since our previous trip there, and a lot more canal had been restored since then. On the way we had decided to visit Boston again, so our journey would effectively be the "Leicester Ring" with a couple of small detours down the tidal Trent.

After several rather cold and windy days we arrived at Foxton in beautiful sunshine which had really brought the tourists out! There was quite a holiday atmosphere as we sat outside the Bridge 61 pub enjoying a beer while we watched the crowds of people who were themselves watching the chaos as the boats coming down met the boats at the bottom who were getting in the way of the busy trip boat.

 

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The new interpretation boards and sculptures at Foxton are excellent
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A busy scene outside Bridge 61
The view down the plane; it must have been impressive from a boat
Debbie holds up the end of a boat waiting for the plane to reopen

We had been told by another boater that  the Soar and Trent were very high so when we stopped for the night just before Leicester  we contacted BW, who confirmed that both rivers were fully open. It poured with rain all night but the next morning we passed through Leicester in glorious sunshine; a pattern which repeated itself throughout the next month, with heavy rain almost every night and wonderful sunshine almost every day. What could be better? We had a superb run down the Soar, arriving at Trent Lock just in time to enjoy the celebrations at the Erewash Canal Festival. The Erewash is one of the few canals that Keeping Up has never visited, maybe we can put that right on our way home.

 

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The bridges of Leicester
The bridges of Leicester
The bridges of Leicester
A delightful mooring below Mountsorrel
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Unusually fancy wildlife on the River Soar
Unusually fancy wildlife at the Erewash Festival
Fully equipped for the river, with VHF radio and a glass of wine
Newark Castle

The Trent was flowing well so we made a very quick trip down the river to our favourite mooring at Hazleford Island. It is just wonderful to be able to radio ahead to the lock keepers, so that the locks are made ready for you as you approach. The lock keepers carefully check everybody's licence as they pass through the locks; but most of the locks can be self-operated after hours and we noticed that there was usually a sudden surge in traffic just after the lock keepers have gone home, mainly consisting of boats which were not visibly displaying any licences!

Out trip down the tideway from Cromwell to Torksey was a breeze. A very strong breeze actually, which kept blowing the exhaust fumes in through the back doors and setting our alarms off. I was very puzzled that I was unable to contact Torksey by radio, but all became clear after we had moored up, when I found the lock keeper having a cup of tea in his garden and using a small walkie-talkie that meant he could hear the boats calling him from several miles away but he could only speak back to them when they were less than 100 yards away.

My puzzlement at Torksey continued as we had a long wait there before the tide came in, during which time the lock keeper penned two locks of large cruisers down but said he couldn't let any of the waiting narrowboats come up in the lock when he refilled it because there wasn't enough depth for them to get in over the lower cill. If that was the case, how did all the cruisers get out of the lock over it?

Meanwhile we had spotted a poster advertising a lecture about Katherine Swynford 3 weeks later which Debbie would like to go to. This was going to be held at Kettlethorpe which is just couple of miles from Torksey, so we set about trying to plan our travels to get back for it after our visit to the Chesterfield Canal..

 

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Every branch of this dead tree had a cormorant fishing from it.
Even the telegraph poles and wires were covered with cormorants
Meanwhile the swans swim down the river in "line astern"
The spiders are busy overnight; you'd never believe we only arrived here last night.

After a couple of days in the marvellous village of Saxilby, we made our way to Lincoln. How can a city the size of Lincoln with a potential mooring area the size of Brayford Pool, be so short-sighted as to provide only TWO visitor's moorings for the whole area? Needless to say both moorings were occupied, but luckily we didn't want to stop there anyway, having stopped and explored Lincoln in 2006. Instead we carried on down the River Witham to Southrey where the White Hart pub was selling the last of the beer from the festival that they'd held the previous weekend, at a VERY attractive price. Emerging unsteadily from the pub later that evening we realised that we hadn't brought a torch with us, and had tremendous difficulty in finding the ramp down to the moorings in the dark!

The last time that we went down the River Witham, we had spotted a new sculpture of some cows (in contrast to the concrete cows of Milton Keynes). This time we spotted also a brand-new sculpture of some giant reeds; they are actually quite impressive and I rather like them.

 

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Lincoln's scrap-metal cows have now weathered somewhat, and the grass has grown around them
Maybe this handsome animal was the model for the sculpture?
A new bankside sculpture: 15-foot tall reeds
A wonderful rainbow near Lincoln (see the strange lighting effect?)

We carried on down the river to spend some time at Boston. There are plenty of visitor moorings there, but most of them are short finger-jetties that are not very suitable for a long narrowboat, and the only two narrowboat-friendly short-term visitor moorings are permanently let out as "seasonal" moorings to permanent residents. Which part of "short-term visitor" is it that BW around here don't understand? We enjoyed our visit to Boston anyway, and then returned to Chapel Hill where we met a couple of our friends from the Canal World Forum on their boat "Fairies Wear Boots". We had such a good day with them that the next morning we decided to cruise back to Southrey together for Sunday Lunch in the White Hart; but after their departure we decided to drift across the river to the brand-new moorings opposite so that we could visit the Riverside Inn there (shown on our map as being called the "Copper Hood"). This delightfully quirky pub was extremely friendly; never before have we known the customers and landlady get together to call in a combined order from the Chinese takeaway, which was duly delivered and eaten in the public bar.

The next day we visited the wonderful village of Woodhall Spa. Famous principally for being the home town of the wartime 'Dambusters', and more recently for its golfing connections, it had originally been built as a Spa town to profit from the waters which had been found when digging unsuccessfully for coal there (the local land-owner had been duped into continuing the search for coal, by the miners who used to take lumps of coal down the hole in their pockets before re-emerging triumphantly claiming to have dug them up!). The buildings in the town are spectacularly beautiful, and it had boasted an incredibly lavish hotel in its heyday until that was destroyed in a bombing raid during the war. Although it is quite a long walk from the river, the village is well worth visiting.

 

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Several of the buildings near the Witham have suffered severely from subsidence (but are still lived in)
We always tried to moor in leaving as much as possible of the pontoon clear for other boats
Approaching the old Tattersal Bridge, with its modern replacement visible through the arches
At Five Mile House near  Lincoln there is no House. But there is a modern bridge, affording a good view of Lincoln Cathedral which is exactly five miles away

Finally we returned to Torksey, ready to continue our journey down the tidal river Trent to Torksey, a day earlier than planned because the weather forecast for the following day was not very good. The tide was pretty high as there was a lot of 'fresh' in the river so we knew we were in for a quick trip to West Stockwith, and indeed we were not disappointed: with the engine merely idling we completed the 15 mile trip in just over 2 hours and arrived to find ourselves behind 4 other boats who wanted to enter the lock (2 at a time). One of the boats in front of us got jammed against the wall and couldn't make the turn into the lock for some time, and in the end we spent a whole hour hovering stationery against the current outside the lock. At least it was a good chance to practice our 'Ferry Glide' technique.

 

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Stemming the current to wait for the lock at Stockwith (you can see how strong the current is across the lock mouth
West Stockwith Lock entrance
Inside West Stockwith Lock
Notices on the wall remind you that Stockwith may be the first port of call for foreign vessels

When it was our turn to enter the lock, I pulled across to lie against the piled wall upstream of the lock entrance, and threw our long bow rope up to the lock keeper. Normally I would then expect to drop back to lie against the brick wall downstream of the entrance, but the lock keeper said that the current would be too strong for us to get in that way (we were several feet longer than the boat that had had problems ahead of us) and told me to lie about 6-10 feet away from the wall while he pulled the bow round, and then to give it full throttle and full rudder when he shouted to me. This didn't work either; instead of merely being pressed against the wall by the current, we were instead thrown quite hard sideways into it before coming to rest alongside the wall in the usual starting place. The lock keeper then pulled hard on the bow line, and with the aid of sustained full power we made our way into the lock. At last we were on the Chesterfield Canal ...

 

 

2008 Llangollen & Gloucester View Slideshow Part 2 - to Chesterfield
Go to Allan's Page Spring 2008 Canals Home Page Part 3 - Up the Trent again Go to Deb's Page

 

 

All pictures on this site are Allan Jones unless otherwise stated

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