Saturday, 13 September 2014

To Boldly Go ….

The end of the season this year is proving to be quite an adventure. On our way back from Ripon and before going through Leeds to our winter mooring, we decided to go up the River Derwent and explore the Pocklington Canal. There are very few boats that venture up here and we are beginning to understand why.
Last Saturday morning at 6 a.m. we went through Naburn Lock to catch the tide below. For the first hour we were going against the incoming tide and so it was quite slow going. Around the swing bridge at Cawood we noticed that the tide had turned and we were getting faster as the tide ebbed. One of the interesting features of the tideway is the logs and other debris that go up and down the river with the tide. It is difficult to steer clear of this material as you go round the bends at a speed of up to 7 mph. Coming back down we even passed the dead cow that some friends had passed a week before.
 
 This is a view of Naburn Lock from across the river.  This is where you go out onto the tidal river below the lock.

Some friends had told us about a dead cow in the River Ouse which was floating up and down on the tides.  Coming up we did not see it, but on our return we passed it.  Poor cow.
 A large Dutch Barge, Anja, came down the river and caught us up just before Selby.  Here you can see Anja coming under the Selby Railway Bridge.  Lest you should think that all our worries about tidal waters are unfounded we've heard this morning that a boat hit the road bridge at Selby yesterday and sank!!  Fortunately we don't have to go through the bridges on our way back.
We travelled over 20 miles down the tideway in four hours, passed Selby and six miles further on we turned against the current and slipped in surprisingly neatly into the lock at Barmby Barrage which leads to the River Derwent. The weather could have been kinder as it poured with rain, but we were pleased to make it without problems. 

Here is an early view of Barmby Barrrage.  There are two sluices to the right which let out the water from the River Derwent when the Ouse is lower and keep the tide out of the Derwent when the tide is higher.  Apparently 20% of Yorkshire's water comes from the Derwent so they don't want salty water coming out of the taps.

Having turned in the fast flowing tide here we are gently edging back against the ebb tide towards the lock at Barmby.  The lock keeper had warned us that there is slack water next to the lock and we controlled the boat carefully and avoided slamming into the upstream wall, as many do.

And here we are safely in the lock which has radial gates each end so that it can manage either side being higher than the other.

Having set off from Naburn at 6.20 am we arrived at Barmby by 10.30 and here we are moored on the pontoon just above the lock on the Derwent.  We spent the day here and had a good lunch at the King's Head in the village.


Drax Power Station which supplies 10% of the UK's needs, dominates the landscape around here.  It is coal fired and of course there used to be plenty of coal fields around here.









We both breathed a sigh of relief having left the tidal water and looked forward to a relaxing time on the Derwent, although we had been told that we could not navigate beyond Sutton Lock as this has been out of action for months.  

At first the river was peaceful and pretty though finding somewhere to moor a 57 foot boat was not easy.  On Sunday we managed to share a bank with some curious cows at Bubwith, just about close enough to the shore to jump on and off. 

The River Derwent is very peaceful and you rarely see any other boats on the move.

This is the view from our mooring by the cows at Bubwith, looking towards the road bridge.  In case you think the bridge looks a bit wonky on the right hand side of the arch, you're right.  A strengthening steel support has been inserted and you can just see this peeping over the top.

Here are the cows peering into our bedroom through the porthole.

The weather has been pretty good lately and here you can see the clouds reflected in the river.











 
We were just getting ready to leave on Monday when, astonishingly, another boat went past. Its skipper told us of a tree down just beyond the junction with the Pocklington Canal making further progress impossible. We followed him to the junction a few miles on. While there had been the odd tree making steering difficult, beyond the junction there was barely room to get a boat through between the trees. Fortunately there was a pub a hundred yards up so we stopped and spent the night moored to a very wobbly pontoon in quite a strong current. Our luck changed when we discovered that the pub was closed on a Monday! So we went for a bike ride instead. From a bridge further up the river it was apparent that this is not a navigation as we know it. The trees all overgrow the river leaving a narrow twisty channel which would allow a canoe but make it almost impossible to get a decent size boat through.

Here is the view looking up the Derwent beyond the junction with the canal.  There really isn't a lot of space between the trees.

Here is the fallen tree.  A canoe might just get through, but with one branch just under the water and others with limited headroom above, Leo would not fit through.

This is the pontoon we moored to by the pub.  Fortunately, although the river current was stronger here, it was not sufficient to pull Leo and the pontoon off its attachments to the land.

 On our bike ride we visited Thorganby and admired the church.  This window was made only in 2004 but we thought it was delightful with its representation of flora and fauna associated with the river.


















On Tuesday we carefully reversed down the zig zag course between the trees back to the junction and set off up the beck which leads to the first lock of the Canal. The 300 yards to the lock took us two hours. It was so silted up that we had to continually drive forward and back to plough a channel in the silt to make very slow progress inch by inch to reach the lock. Once up the lock we were back on CRT water but sadly so few people use the canal that the weed growth is rampant, especially as the water is so clear. While it is good to be away from high flood banks and so to be able to see the views all round, it did take us an hour and a half to cover two miles. Again there was nowhere to moor so we contrived a mooring right by a bridge hole where we could get on and off fairly easily. If there were boats going to and fro there is no way we would moor in this way, partly blocking the bridge hole, but there is little alternative with the reeds and vegetation growing all along the sides of the canal.

The locks on the Pocklington Canal have this unusual paddle gear.  You don't need a windlass but, as they are locked, you do need an anti-vandal key to allow you to turn the wheel.

Here we are moored by Hagg Bridge.  Only by the bridges is there a chance of getting on and off without getting your feet wet.
In the afternoon we cycled to Sutton on Derwent and this is the lock which doesn't work at the moment and has not done so for several months.  The odd thing is that the top guillotine gate is owned and operated by the Environment Agency but the bottom gates are owned by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust who have no interest in boats navigating the river.




The lower lock gates were last replaced in the 1970s and apparently leak so badly that the lock cannot be used.  Someone really does need to get a grip of the issues on this navigation and resolve them.

On Wednesday we carried on up the weed filled Pocklington Canal to Melbourne Basin which is the present limit of navigation.  Above Gardham Lock the weed problem is much less as there is a trip boat that goes out from the basin and this bit has been cleared of weeds.

The Pocklington Canal is another sad story.  It is 9 miles long and has 9 locks.  Restoration made the section to Melbourne (5 miles and 2 locks) more or less navigable by 1983.  Since then nothing has happened to extend the navigation although three locks have been restored.  The gates on those locks are now rotting due to lack of use.  It is a crying shame.  We did cycle to the end of the canal but taking Leo was not an option.


On a lighter note, the basin at Melbourne was delightful and we spoke to several of the very friendly moorers there.  One even volunteered to come and operate Cottingwith Lock to 'flush' us down the shallow section back to the Derwent.






We've now come back onto the Derwent and are moored tonight at Breighton (pronounced 'Breeton').  The day before we went down Cottingwith Lock onto the shallow link from the river to the canal, we phoned Martin, the lock keeper at Barmby Barrage, who closed the sluices the night before.  As a result the river was a foot higher than before and we had no problems with shallow water.  We would strongly advise anyone travelling this stretch in summer water levels to do the same.  Martin has consistently been very helpful while we have been on these waters.

From here our way lies back to Selby and then on towards Leeds to join the Leeds and Liverpool canal to our winter moorings up in the hills.

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