Sunday, 28 June 2015

Robin Hood Lands

We're in Nottingham and, with our friend Steve, we had a foray into Sherwood Forest yesterday.  We saw no sign of Robin of the Hood or indeed of his merrie men but we did rescue some damsels in distress as you will see.  But I'm ahead of myself, so let's start with Newark:

Here we are on our way into Newark, going under the A1.

We passed this pair of boats.  Though it looks as if the blue narrowboat was in distress and being pushed by the little red one in fact this is a blacksmith with his forge in the red boat and living accommodation in the blue one.

This was the view of Newark from close by our mooring.  We would have had this view from Leo but there was a tall plastic cruiser in front of us, blocking the view.  Newark Castle is on the left and the bridge is called 'Trent Bridge' though in fact technically we are on the river Devon (pronounced 'Deevon') at this point.

And here is a better view of Newark Castle.  Having raised his standard and started the Civil War at Nottingham, not far away, Charles I finally gave himself up at Newark and brought the Civil War to an end.

Above Newark Town Lock is the largest dry dock on the Inland Waterways, unless you know different.

This building in the Market Square used to be the White Hart Inn and was built in the 1400s.

If you go to Newark, do ask for a tour (free) of the Assembly Room and other historic rooms in the Town Hall.  The Assembly Room was wonderfully restored a few years ago.  It is used now for civic functions as it has been for a couple of hundred years.

As the Town Hall was built, it incorporated most of a next door house, leaving this as the narrowest house in Newark squeezed between the Town Hall and the NatWest Bank.

We loved this view up Kirkgate and had lunch at the Charles I cafe up here.  The cafe was where Charles' wife Henrietta Maria stayed on a visit to the town.

Newark is proud of its Civil War History and has the National Civil War Museum which opened recently.  Though we weren't that impressed with the Museum which was over hyped and not finished, it did lead us to explore this earthwork, the Queen's Sconce on the edge of town.  The Royalists discovered that earth banks were much better at resisting canon fire than stone walls and built several of these earth forts.

After a couple of days in Newark, we left on Wednesday and cruised upriver to Fiskerton.  From here a short bike ride took us to Southwell to see the Minster.

Leo is just coming into Newark Town Lock in this picture.  We found the VHF radio was useful on the Trent for calling the Lock Keepers ahead so that the locks were set for us and the gates open to receive us.

Southwell, though just a small village, has the cathedral church for the diocese and this Archbishops Palace was built in the early 15th century to accommodate visits from the Archbishop of York.

The Minster itself is the most splendid Norman building we've seen anywhere and it is said that it is the best in Europe.  Stunning architecture.

Here is the view of the outside.  The West window was put in later but the rest of the church up to the altar is Norman and unaltered since the 11th century.

I did like this pig gargoyle.

From Fiskerton we carried on into Nottingham over three days.  We're taking it easy to meet an appointment at Trent Lock where we will meet David and Victoria.

Another boater suggested we moor above Hazelford Lock and visit the lock island there.  Here is a view of the lock with another narrowboat locking down.  The lock island is a wildlife paradise with wonderful wild flowers and countless rabbits.  Paths have been mown through the area allowing easy access.

Here is a Cinnabar Moth we saw among the wild flowers.

We moored by Gunthorpe Bridge and a few youngsters were wakeboarding well into the dusk, keeping us entertained but also rocking the boats moored to the pontoon here.

The last manned lock coming upstream is Holme Lock which is huge in all dimensions with about a 15 foot rise in water level.  Here we are coming through with an unusual narrowboat we've seen before called 'Ferrous'.

From above Holme Lock we cycled through a remote village called Holme Pierrepont on an unmade road.  This is the Hall in the village which was built in Tudor times.

Mooring at Holme Lock is interesting in that it is beside the National Water Sports Centre.  This canoe slalom and white water course was right by the boat.

Here's a chap getting to grips with the white water!

On Friday evening we enjoyed a meal out at the Manvers Arms in Radcliffe on Trent with our friends Rowan and Martin.  This was an uncertain place to eat as the landlord was new and had only started serving food that day.  However it was excellent and so was the company.  On Saturday we came into Nottingham and have moored one night on the River Trent and tonight on the Nottingham Canal off the river.

Cruising up the river we passed the entrance to the derelict Grantham Canal.  One day hopefully this will be navigable.

This exit from the River is navigable.  It is the entrance to Meadow Lane Lock which gives access to the Nottingham Canal.  This is the route for boats going further up the Trent Valley.  We came up the lock this morning, the first time for weeks we've had to operate a lock ourselves.

Yesterday we met our friend Steve ('Hodge') and he drove us to a magnificent tea rooms outside Nottingham at Ollerton.  Paddling in the clear stream there, we met a chap with a Steppe Eagle.  He flies birds of prey and one of his birds is 'Nima' shown here.

The tea we had at Ollerton was first class with sandwiches, scones and cakes.
Driving back to Nottingham we detoured for a walk in Sherwood Forest and visited the Major Oak which has apparently become Tree of the Year!!

This massive oak tree is believed to date from the 1150s. I mentioned saving damsels in distress.  Well four young ladies here had missed the last bus back to Nottingham so Steve was chivalrous enough to give them a lift the next village for a replacement bus.

Here we are coming through the city passing the Court House and coming to Castle Lock.

This is the view of Nottingham Castle from the canal.

We visited the castle today and below is a panorama of three photos looking South from the terrace you can see in the picture above.

And finally we went on a cave tour through passages below the castle.  Nottingham has more man-made caves than any other city in the UK, bored through soft sandstone and used for living, storage or as passages to access the castle and other places.

Tomorrow we will probably set off out of the city, heading for a meeting with David and Victoria on their boat, Pas Mèche.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Out on the Tidal Trent again

We are now moored above Cromwell Lock having yesterday completed our cruising up the tidal Trent and its connected waterways.

We did a little more sightseeing in Lincoln, especially as Ian was away much of the weekend at the beginning of June when we passed through the other way.

Ian did the walk around the walls of the Castle, while Helen visited the Bishop's Palace.  The audio tour of the walls was excellent.  £22m has been spent on the Castle including completing the wall walk and it was well worthwhile.  The photo shows the Cathedral seen from the Castle.

Lincoln has got very excited this year in celebrating the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, particularly as it has one of the four best contemporary copies.  This is also displayed in the new facilities in the Castle.  As part of the celebrations, a Barons' Trail has been set up around the city marked by these fellows.  This was the 'Waterways Baron' on the Brayford Pool which forms part of the navigation through Lincoln.

On Friday we came back to Torksey and on Saturday morning we came out through the lock and cruised the 26 km up the tidal river to Cromwell Lock which is the tidal limit on the River.  We found this a more straightforward stretch of river with little flow behind us or against us.  Leo's engine chugged away giving us a speed most of the time of just over 5 mph, so we managed the journey in just over 3 hours.

On Friday evening we did some paint touching up and then retired to the White Swan for a pint.  This sheep amused us, playing with the child's trike.

Torksey Lock has been extended in length and is now a most peculiar shape.  We went in first followed by a grey broadbeam, 'Eve and Debbie II'.

Here we are with the gates just opening onto the tideway, having dropped us 6 feet or so from the Fossdyke.

At the river end of the cut is this sign so that there can be no mistaking which way to turn.  You can see behind the sign the cooling towers of Cottam Power Station.

At first the Power Station appears on all sides of the boat as the river winds back on itself.  Eventually the Power Station recedes into the distance.  We left behind 'Eve and Debbie II' as well.  Leo likes rivers!!

At first we thought this was a sunken wrecked barge but in fact it appears to be a large lump of tree sticking above the water.  It wasn't floating but definitely one to avoid.  We have not found nearly as much floating debris in the Trent as we found last year in the tidal Ouse.

This is the first bridge out from Torksey.  Just past these bridges at Dunham is a floating pontoon which you can moor to, but we carried on upriver.

There are red or green posts on the inside of sharp bends so that boats don't come out of the channel in times of flood.  This cormorant was using a post to dry its wings.

There are a couple of islands on this stretch.  One was obvious with trees on it, the other is, as it says, sunken just below water level.  One to avoid!  We used the Trent charts from the Boating Association which mark the best course through the bends.  These are worth having, as we heard of boaters that had gone aground on the Trent.

Finally we rounded another bend, spotted the enormous weir and came into the huge lock at Cromwell, with another narrowboat "New Horizon's".  We had caught them up and overtaken in the last few miles up to Cromwell. For the benefit of the pedants reading this, no I don't know why this boat's name has an apostrophe before the 's'.

You get some idea here of the length of Cromwell Lock.  However there is a central set of gates so you don't have to use the whole lock for just a couple of narrowboats.

We are having a lazy day today partly because we've been told there is a major festival in Newark and the boats are moored three deep.  So we'll go in tomorrow when hopefully it will be a bit quieter.  After a few days there having a look round, we'll press on towards Nottingham and to Trent Junction where we aim to meet David and Victoria on their boat Pas Mèche in early July.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Back from Boston to Lincoln again

Having made our way through the drains to Boston by the back route, we retraced our steps on Saturday and moored at the very secure and comfortable moorings on the River Witham at Boston.  This is a few hundred yards above the 'Grand Sluice' that lets boats out on to the tidal River Witham and, ultimately, onto the Wash.  On Sunday we cycled to the 'sea' or what passes for seaside here which is a salt marsh looking out onto the Wash.  We saw a couple of ships waiting for the tide to come in to Boston, but did not see any narrowboats heading out for the sea crossing to the Rivers Nene or Ouse.

A couple of the bridges on the Maud Foster Drain are a bit on the low side, depending of course on the water level which can fluctuate.  Here Helen is showing that we only had about 8 inches of clearance on the concrete footbridge.

And here we are on the 'proper' moorings for Boston on the River Witham.  The moorings are secured with a BW key and there are plenty of spaces.  Of the two posts between the trees, the left is the tower of 'Boston Stump' the huge parish church and the right hand one supports the mooring pontoon.

This is the lock through the Grand Sluice.  It is only 41 feet long, but you can still go through with a longer boat when the tide 'makes a level' i.e. it rises to a point where the water is the same level both sides of the lock.

On Saturday afternoon we visited some of the sights in Boston we had not explored.  The Guildhall (free!) is well worth a visit.  It was built in the 1390s and has been continuously in use in the town since.  This picture is of the banqueting hall on the first floor.

The roof beams in the picture above are held up on corbels each individually carved as a mythical creature or person.  I liked this fellow.

On our ride out to the Wash we visited the RSPB bird reserve at Frieston Shore.  Here you can see Avocets and Black Headed Gulls together with one Oyster Catcher.

The Pilgrim Fathers came from Boston and this is the memorial that explains how they were caught in September 1607 fleeing the country to Holland to practice their religion more freely.

We cycled back into Boston from the memorial along the tidal River Witham and this view is taken looking towards Boston up river.

On Monday we climbed up the Stump to see the view.  You are only allowed about half way up the 272 foot Church Tower but in this flat landscape that is plenty to give you extensive views.  We saw Lincoln Cathedral 30 miles away and across the Wash to Hunstanton.  The picture below is a panorama of three photos looking East to the Market Square.  The church in the trees to the left is the Methodist Church.

This view of the Grand Sluice is taken from the Stump.  The lock is to the right under the right hand rail girder bridge.  Leo is moored in the distance on the right, though mainly obscured by a red narrowboat called 'Bowland'.

On Monday afternoon we set off back up the river towards Lincoln.  On the way we planned to turn off at Chapel Hill to explore the 7 navigable miles of the Slea Navigation, also known as Kyme Eau.  You would think that 'Eau' would be pronounced like the French for water, but in fact the locals call this waterway Kyme 'You'.  Anyway we tried this waterway but only got 100 yards:

Having turned off the River you approach a pair of flood gates and squeeze through onto the waterway.  You can see the gates under the bridge.  As with the drains this waterway is primarily for drainage not for navigation and, at this time of year the  weed growth is prolific.

Through the gates this is what you meet!  Not surprisingly this green mess coils around the prop and very soon Ian could not steer the boat at all and it was heading, albeit agonisingly slowly, towards the left bank.
Good stuff this weed.  Poor Leo's engine was complaining though she did not actually stall.  When we turned the engine off and delved into the weed hatch it was quite a mess.  There is supposed to be a gap between propellor and rudder.  Well there wasn't!  It was full of neatly coiled, immensely strong, threads of green rope.  A kitchen knife was necessary to remove this.
There was no point turning the engine back on while in the weed as it would only happen again.  So, after some attempts and a cup of tea (see the cup), we poled Leo back like reverse punting for 100 yards to go backwards through the flood gates again.  While this picture looks like we are going forward, we are not.  The depth of water and mud is such that our pole (about 10-12 feet long) was buried to leave just a couple of feet sticking out of the water, so pushing the boat with the pole required quite a lot of bending.

After a couple of hours travelling 200 yards we decided we would not try the Kyme Eau after all and moored at Dog Dyke where the Packet Inn fed and relaxed us.  This waterway is probably OK earlier in the year before the weed grows so much.  We have spoken to people that have gone this way.  The weed here grows fast at this time of year.  We have noticed coming back that the weed at the sides of the wide river are twice as wide as they were a week ago and we have been cruising around floating islands of weed today.

On Tuesday we visited the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight at RAF Coningsby.  There 6 Spitfires, 2 Hurricanes, a Lancaster and a Dakota are kept in flying condition and flown frequently during the summer.

Forget about 'Langrick' for a minute and also which country you are in.  Obviously Boston in the US is named after the Lincolnshire town, but New York is a tiny village we cycled through.

Very recently the Lancaster seen here had a serious engine fire but fortunately landed safely.  The engineers are working on her and hope to have her flying again by September.  She is one of only two flying Lancasters left.

As you can see RAF Flight engineers can turn their hands to anything!

This is a Mark 2 Spitfire which is the only one left still flying that also flew in the Battle of Britain in 1940.  Our guide in the hanger was a mine of information and a tremendous enthusiast for the planes.

Some of our AWACS early warning planes are based at Coningsby and we saw one of them flying.  Prepare to bring your earplugs though if you visit as Typhoons and Tornadoes taking off make quite a noise.

We moored last night at Southrey which has a delightful little wooden church.  This too looks like something  you might meet in the backwoods of the US.

The church was built in 1898 by the village carpenter and still stands.  It is beautifully kept and cherished by the local community.

This stained glass window was added in 2011 and records the war dead from the village.

Today we visited Bardney Abbey on our way to our present mooring just to the East of Lincoln.  There was a greater concentration of Abbeys and Priories here than anywhere else in the country.

Though Bardney Abbey has little stonework above ground it has some fine information boards and audio points (the post just to the right of Helen is one) which enable you to understand the layout.  This wooden monk (the one on the left) welcomes you to the site, a mile from the village.

Though the site was excavated as recently as 2011 (as well as a century earlier) the stones were covered over again to protect them.  However the mounds show what you are looking at.  Here we are looking up the Nave with mounds representing the columns.

We even met a lock this afternoon, a rare occurrence on these waters.  Here Leo is waiting for  Bardney Lock lifting us about five feet above sea level.

The top gates of Bardney Lock leak a great deal.  This makes the water in the lock quite choppy.

So we are heading back now up the River Witham and the Foss Dyke and will have our third session on the tidal River Trent at the weekend.  Once up to Cromwell Lock near Newark we will be off the tide until later in the summer and our next towns to visit will be Newark and Nottingham.