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Via Boston to the Chesterfield Canal

Part 3 - Home via the River Trent

Leaving West Stockwith we were soon being swept back up the Trent by the incoming tide. The water level was very high, giving us an excellent view over the banks, but the journey to Torksey was uneventful. Gainsborough looked interesting, and there is now a visitor mooring pontoon available although narrowboats are not allowed to use it. The helpful tide slowed down soon after we had passed under Gainsborough Bridge, but didn't actually turn against us until we had almost reached Torksey. As we were only staying for one night before continuing up to Newark, we decided to stay on the pontoon below the lock. The pontoon was almost level with the banks at high tide, and the lock had no more than a foot of rise but it was a comfortable and peaceful mooring, and being there meant that Debbie was easily able to get to her lecture about Katherine Swynford at Kettlethorp that night.

 

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The visitor mooring at Gainsborough (but not for narrowboats)
Approaching Gainsborough Bridge
Sand barge Fossdale running empty up-river
The same barge returning down-river full of sand

The next morning, as soon as the tide started to rise again, we set off up-river. It was a beautiful morning, and the river was perfectly still as the incoming (?) tide exactly balanced the out-flowing fresh water, so that  our trip to Newark was more like the crossing of a 15-mile lake. Again the water level was high enough to give us a wonderful view above the banks, and also we made such good speed in the deep water that we were at Cromwell Lock after travelling for only just over three hours. I had expected that Cromwell Weir would look really impressive with so much water flowing over it, but it was rather disappointing with just a smooth flow of water and no visible spray.

We spent a couple of days in Newark, before being joined by a couple of good friends from home for the trip up to Nottingham. The weather for the trip up the river was simply perfect, with misty dawns followed by hot sunny days, and we enjoyed a slow and lazy trip against the strong current.

 

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The evening sun catches the spray from Hazelford Weir
Dawn breaks over Hazelford Island
A misty dawn at Stoke Bardolph
A misty dawn at Stoke Bardolph

At the pub near Stoke Bardolph we were half way through eating dinner with our friends when the manager told us we'd have to move to another table because they didn't serve food at the table where we were sitting. They did serve food at the table next to us, and they had not only taken our order for our table number but had even served our food to us there, but apparently the new owners of the pub had declared that this was to be a 'drinks only' table. After a short discussion about customer service, we continued our meal without moving.

The next day was perfect, as we drifted lazily up the river to Nottingham. After a leisurely lunch just above Trent Bridge we bade goodbye to our friends who caught the bus back to Newark, and we continued our journey. The river was flowing quite fast above Beeston, giving the engine some more exercise, but by travelling at a good 6mph against the 5mph current we eventually  reached Cranfleet lock. Two small cruisers joined us in the lock, and we had to ask them to curb their enthusiasm in the lock as neither of the crews had ever wound a paddle to fill a lock with boats in it; it is important to be gentle with the paddles of Cranfleet lock and to open them in the right order if the boat is to remain stable. This picture shows the preferred sequence.

I hate the big locks at the lower end of the Trent & Mersey canal. Last time we came through this way, I completely shredded our front fender against the cill while the boat was rising in Weston Lock; this time by way of a change, the water leaking through the top gates and falling off the cill, ran in through our front vents and soaked the lounge carpet. Luckily the carpet is made of Flotex so I was able to dry it off, and that night we stopped at the Ragley Boat Stop which provides electric hook-up at the mooring; our electric fan-heaters dried everything properly overnight. They also sell the most wonderful steaks!

The lock landing below Alrewas is being repaired, and the temporary landing stage is rather inconveniently placed in a muddy field, so instead I waited in the fast-flowing river and practiced my ferry-glides in the wind while a boat came down the lock, then came off the river just as they were leaving the lock.

 

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Black and white cottages in Alrewas
Black and white cottages in Alrewas
The Services Memorial at the National Arboretum
Yes we will remember.

I had never realised just how pretty is the rest of Alrewas, away from the canal. The George and Dragon pub also provided us with a warm welcome and some excellent food after we had visited the Services Memorial at the National Arboretum (about 15 minutes walk from Alrewas) where we found Debbie's father's name inscribed on the Roll of Honour.

And so it was time to head back towards Milton Keynes. We were pleased to see that most of the permanent moorers have been moved off the visitor moorings at Huddlesford (with one exception, a Dutch Barge style narrowboat that has been on the 48-hour mooring for years by the simple technique of forcefully refusing to move) and so we stopped there for the night. We regretted this decision slightly however, when we found that someone had quietly stolen about 5 gallons of diesel from our tank while we were asleep. The dogs heard them, around midnight, but when they growled I half-woke and told them to be quiet; next time I'll believe them! I resolved to fit a locking fuel cap as soon as I could find one that would fit.

Drayton Manor picture

Next we had an important meeting to attend. It was our grand-daughter's birthday, and we had arranged to meet her for a day at Drayton Manor Park. As you may be able to tell from the picture, we all had a grand day out!

Two more of our friends from the CanalWorld Forum joined us to lock-wheel up Atherstone, which made for an easy journey, and we stopped at Hartshill for a meal. Unfortunately it turned out that they don't serve food on Sunday nights; luckily our friends had their car there, so we set off to find somewhere that we could get dinner. After a long tour of Hartshill and Nuneaton, we eventually found a Harvester that was open; but it certainly seems that everyone in that areas must eat at home on Sundays!

So finally we headed rapidly - but uneventfully - back to Milton Keynes to finish our journey. We had planned to finish the year with a trip down the Aylesbury arm for their firework party, but had to cancel that because the journey would have clashed with our friend's funeral, so we rounded things off with a quick weekend trip to Grove Lock because the weather was irresistible, and a short run back from Stoke Hammond to Milton Keynes for a weekend so that the boat could serve as extra accommodation for friends who came to our son David's wedding. It was on this latter trip that we discovered that they have fitted a stupid locking device to Fenny Stratford swing bridge, as well as declaring that the bridge must now be left across the canal at all times; you need a BW key and the muscles of Sampson to get through Fenny Lock now!

And so as our 2008 cruising comes to an end, I can start drawing up my "to do" list for the winter ...

 

 

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All pictures on this site are Allan Jones unless otherwise stated

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