Monday, 18 September 2017

Journey's End

Well we're now back home in Yorkshire, having left Leo near Newark for the winter.  This blog posting completes the story of our canal cruising this year.

On Thursday night we moored above Holme Lock, just downstream from Nottingham.  Among the swans on the river was this black swan - not a common sight except in London parks.

Our fuchsia and geraniums have flowered all summer long.  People have praised our rooftop garden, though to be fair more people have commented on our plastic ducks!  However the flowers are now past their best and we left them dug in under a tree by Holme Lock.  We wonder if they will come up next year.

On Friday morning we came through Holme Lock with another narrowboat called Kleine Monde (small world).

Gunthorpe Bridge is made of concrete and probably dates from the 1930s.  However it really is quite attractive with the detailing on it.

Below Gunthorpe Lock, steep wooded slopes line the river to the east with flat meadows on the other side.  As this photo shows the weather could have been better.

At Fiskerton there was space at the end of the pontoon for visitors, so we stopped for the night.  High piling dominates one side with fields on the other side.  We had a meal out at the pub, 'The Bromley' just above the boat.  Pretty good food and not too pricey.

On Saturday morning we cruised the last few miles into Newark.

Having turned to face upstream to moor, we then had to spin Leo round to carry on downstream.  You can see the pub behind Ian.

The river below Fiskerton is very bendy with distant views of Staythorpe Power Station.  Eventually the river passes the Power Station and then the long and unprotected Averham Weir shown here.  Each of the posts had a cormorant on top.

Above the weir we entered the cut that goes through the town of Newark, leaving the Trent behind.  The tall spire of St. Mary's Church is clear ahead.

Our last lock in 2017 was Newark Town Lock seen here in front of the castle.

Below the lock we passed under the Town Bridge.

And here is Leo in her winter mooring.  Later on Saturday afternoon we walked to the station and caught the train back home.  Newark benefits from the main line train service and is very close to the A1.

So that brings us to the end of boating for 2017, though we might go out for some short trips.  In fact we are off to Newark tomorrow with the car to unpack the boat and do the engine service that is due.  So the final stats for this year are that we have travelled 922 miles and through 522 locks.  We have been cruising for 5 months from mid April to September.  So now we'll hibernate and think about where we'll go next year.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

To the Trent

We are nearing the end of our boating for this year and we are moored tonight on the River Trent downstream from Nottingham.  Since we are heading for Newark for a winter mooring we are nearly there.  It is likely that the next posting will be after we get back home.  Till then, here is the story of the last week or so.

Last Tuesday (5th September) we were in Rugeley.

At Rugeley the Trent and Mersey Canal crosses the River Trent on an aqueduct.  This is the view looking down to the river.  The Trent will be a recurrent theme in this posting.

We passed this smart boat which shares its name with ours.  There are quite a few Leo boats on the system.

At Brindley Bank by the Aqueduct a gruesome event occurred in 1839.  A lady called Christina Collins took a ride in a canal boat bound for London.  However she was murdered by the crew and her body was found here.  This time we found her grave in the nearby church.  As we doubt you can read the inscription here, it says "In memory of Christina Collins, wife of Robert Collins, London, who having been most barbarously treated was found dead in the Canal in this Parish on June 17 1839 Aged 37 years.  This Stone is erected by some Individuals of the Parish of Rugeley in Commemoration of the End of this unhappy woman."

On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday we carried on through Fradley Locks and on to Burton upon Trent.

Beyond Rugeley is the Armitage Tunnel.  This used to be a proper tunnel but later the roof was removed.  However this section of canal cut through the rock remains only wide enough for one boat at a time.  Fortunately nothing came the other way!

The Trent and Mersey has characteristic milestones like this one.  Curiously Shardlow is not quite the end of the canal though it is the last village.

Having come down the Trent Valley for miles, at Alrewas the canal joined the river albeit for only a short way.  Here you can see the Trent coming in to join the canal from the left.

 Beyond the barrier is Alrewas weir where the Trent leaves the canal which turns to the left.

Some of the bridges on the Trent and Mersey are only just wide enough for a narrowboat.  This crossover bridge where the towpath changes sides is typical.

This picture is looking back to Tatenhill Lock which is very pretty.  You can just see the lock gates under another very narrow bridge.

We left Leo at Burton upon Trent for a few days while we went south by train for the weekend to see our son David.  One attraction, apart from seeing him, was that the Frome Show took place that weekend.  The Frome Show is now a big agricultural show but it was originally a Cheese Show and one marquee was entirely full of cheese.  We particularly liked this wedding cake made of cheese:

We came back on Monday (11th September) and carried on along the Trent and Mersey.

After Burton there is one more narrow lock at Dallow Lane and then we were once more on a wide canal with 14 foot wide locks and bigger boats.  Soon the canal crosses the River Dove, a tributary of the Trent.  This view is taken from the canal aqueduct looking to the old road bridge over the Dove.

This is the first of the wide locks at Stenson.  There was a queue here for this deep (12 feet) lock.  The white house is a cafe with tables on the covered terrace. We did not stop for a cuppa but went on though the lock.

A road runs alongside the canal above Swarkestone lock and has this amusing but realistic sign on it.

Our boat pole is going rotten and has recently even developed a growth of fungus.  So we were delighted to find a replacement in far better state floating in the canal.  Having dried it out, Ian is busy painting it.

On Wednesday we reached the end of the Trent and Mersey Canal and emerged onto the much larger River Trent.

Having come down Weston and Aston locks we reached Shardlow.  In this picture looking back you can see Shardlow Lock to the left and the Clock Warehouse on the right.  Narrowboats used to go in for loading below the arch.

And here is Leo a little further on, waiting above Derwent Mouth Lock, the last on the canal.  After the heavy rain we thought the river might have risen but the flood warning boards below the lock showed the river level was on green and so safe to navigate.

Below Derwent Mouth Lock is a crossroads of waterways.  To the left the River Derwent comes in and to the right the waters of the River Trent join and together the water flows straight ahead.

 This is the first bridge on the Trent downstream and in the background you can just about make out the traffic on the M1 bridge beyond.  With the Trent being about a foot above normal there was a good flow and even with little throttle we were doing nearly 6 mph.

Unusually in our experience the flood lock at Sawley was closed so we had to lock through in the conventional way.  When we've passed this way before both gates have been open.

Beyond the Flood Lock we cruised the wide waters past Sawley Marina and towards the cooling towers of Ratcliffe Power Station.
Wednesday night we spent moored on the pontoon at Trent Lock near where the Erewash Canal and the River Soar navigation join the Trent.  We stopped and tied up just before a heavy hailstorm.  We were pleased to meet old friends Dave and Linda on Davlin also moored on the pontoon.  Last time we saw them was passing on the Caen Hill flight in early August.

This is the view through the bedroom porthole of Ratcliffe on Soar Power Station.  This is a good place for trains and planes too as the Midlands main line and East Midlands Airport are nearby.

Today (Thursday 14th) we have come through Nottingham:

This picture was taken this morning as we left the pontoon moorings at Trent Lock.

The navigation bypasses Thrumpton Weir through the Cranfleet Cut.  This view is looking back to Cranfleet Lock where the navigation rejoins the river.

Here we are back on the River Trent following a boat called Malahat towards Beeston and Nottingham.  Malahat has new owners since we last saw her.

The Beeston Cut and Nottingham Canal bypass the river for four and a half miles through the city.  Here we are waiting to pass through Castle Lock.

By the side of Castle Lock is the Navigation Pub which has this really good looking offer for passing boaters.  We didn't succumb this time.

It has been a day of blustery showers but here we are above Holme Lock where we are moored tonight and it looks more settled, though the wind is still blowing.  We came into moor with a bit of a wallop as we didn't take enough account of the wind and also the flow into the National Water Sports Centre alongside the lock. The massive shadow in this picture is cast by a sign warning boats to keep right for the lock and avoid going over the weir on the left.

Our last day or two will be continuing down the Trent to Newark.  By this time next week we will back home in Knaresborough with Leo safely tucked up ready for next year's boating.

Monday, 4 September 2017

The End of the Staffs and Worcs

Having come all the way from the River Severn at Stourport we have today crossed the River Trent on an aqueduct just before our arrival at Great Haywood where the Staffs and Worcs reaches a junction with the Trent and Mersey Canal.

Last Friday we came up to the summit of the Staffs and Worcs at about 340 feet above sea level.  The last 6 locks and a level section brought us to Autherley Junction.

Several locks produced heaps of bubbles when filling them.  Just like having Leo in a bubble bath.  This one is Wightwick Lock.

On the summit level there are two junctions.  First comes Aldersley where a canal turns right to Wolverhampton and Birmingham.  As soon as it leaves the Staffs and Worcs it starts its climb of 21 locks.  As all boating folk know, Birmingham is at the top of a hill.

Between Aldersley and the next junction, Autherley, there are loads of bridges as this picture shows.  Several of them hold huge water pipes carrying Welsh water to Birmingham.

We passed a boatyard called Oxley Marine (not sure about the 'marine' as it would be difficult to find a boatyard further from the sea).  As we passed, a large crane was lifting this narrowboat out of the water.

We moored close to Autherley Junction where the Shropshire Union Canal branches off left towards Nantwich and Chester.  We cycled to a nature reserve at Pendeford, which we found was closed.  So instead we visited Old Tree Nursery, a community project which proved to be interesting as well as providing cups of tea.  We watched these two month old piglets being fed. 

On a woodland walk at Old Tree Nursery, Helen met the Gruffalo!

On Saturday we crossed the 10 mile summit pound and started our downward trail towards the valley of the River Trent.

Soon after Autherley comes 'Pendeford Rockin'.  This is a very narrow section of rock cut canal with a few passing bays.  Other than these bays there is only space for one boat so you do need to keep a sharp look out for someone coming the other way.

The low sun of Autumn brings some excellent reflections.

A couple of miles before Gailey we passed another canal junction.  This is the Lichfield and Hatherton Canal which these days is just used for mooring as it only goes a hundred yards or so.  Perhaps one day it will go to Lichfield and link up with the BCN and with the Coventry Canals.  That really would be useful.

Gailey with its roundhouse is very pretty and here is the first of the locks dropping down towards the Trent.  At Otherton Lock, quite by coincidence, we met Daniel, the son of some good friends of ours.  He was travelling with friends on a boat going the  other way.

Saturday we stayed the night at Penkridge and patronised a super bakers as well as having lunch at the Star.  On Sunday we went down more locks and moored at Radford Bank where Sunday Carvery called us.  After a good lunch we walked it off by trekking into Stafford.

There used to be a lock here to take boats down into the River Sow and then up that river for a mile or two into Stafford.  Since we last came this way three years ago, this signpost has appeared and the first steps have been taken to restore this waterway.

This is the site of the lock house.

And this basin has been dug out.  From here an aqueduct crossed the River Penk and then a lock took the canal down into the River Sow.

This is what the Sow looks like across the meadows.  A bit of dredging is all it needs.

Here, in the centre of Stafford at Victoria Park, is where one day Leo might be able to moor.

We liked Stafford.  It has some fine buildings and an extensive pedestrianised area free of traffic.  There was a profusion of flowers both in planters in the town and in wonderful well kept gardens in Victoria Park.  This house is called the Ancient High House and is probably Elizabethan.

This is the Shire Hall, another fine building in the Market Place.

Here are some of the flowers in Victoria Park. 

Today the weather was pretty dismal as we cruised the last few miles of the Staffs and Worcs.

An aqueduct takes the canal over the River Sow ....

..... before you arrive at Tixall Lock, the last on the Canal.
Soon after the lock we crossed Tixall Wide where the canal widens into a lake.  It was built like this to improve the view from Tixall House for the local landowner.  Ironically the House has now gone though you can just make out its gate house in the left side of the panorama above.  Mooring on Tixall Wide is a pleasure but we decided we'd go a little further.

Here we are meeting another boat as we go under the bridge onto the Trent and Mersey Canal and turn right (south).

We moored just round the corner and this afternoon we visited the park of Shugborough Hall.  Helen is on the Essex Bridge which crosses the Trent and was built to take the  family of the Hall to church.  To Helen's right is the River Sow and to her left is the Trent.

The National Trust took over full management of this site last year from the County Council and have made many improvements.  A number of structures grace the park including this one called Hadrian's Arch.  Most, including this one, are based on structures in Ancient Greece.

So that's it for the Staffs and Worcs.  We have enjoyed this canal but we are now on the Trent and Mersey which, together with the River Trent, will take us to our winter mooring in a week or two.  Watch this space for our final blog postings.