Friday, August 06, 2010

Farewell To The Trent Tideway

APOLOGIES! OUR BLOG IS RUNNING BEHIND OUR TRAVELS. We left the Trent in early July. We are trying to get up to date as soon as possible, but don't want you to miss out on any part of our travels! CLICK ON 'Where Zindagi Is Now' to find our latest location.

On our way down from Torksey to Stockwith, we had needed to 'punch the tide' from about Gainsborough onwards but this time, on our way down to Keadby, Sue (the lock-keeper at Stockwith) timed our departure so that we would have an easier run, all the way with the ebb tide.

We had begun to get used to the Trent by now but, the further downstream we went, the wider it became. It certainly must be an awesome sight when it is in flood, but we are quite happy to have been acquainted with it in quieter mood!

There was precious little to see as we cruised down on the ebbing tide. Perhaps there was more chance of meeting larger craft, but the river was wider and less twisted into tortuous curves than it had been upstream, so the dangers were probably less. We didn't meet any, anyway, though there were one or two large boats moored near Keadby Bridge.

In fact, there were only these two bridges in all the 12¾ miles from Stockwith to Keadby. The M180 was 2 miles before Keadby Bridge, and then Keadby Lock was about half a mile after it.

But Keadby Bridge is worth a closer look. When it was built in 1916, the eastern span was made to lift open on a rolling counterweight. According to our waterways guide book (Nicholson's), this is a tank which was progressively filled with water, causing the span to lift. Other sources say that it was electrically powered, initially by a battery and generator and later by mains electricity. Perhaps there was an electrically-powered pump for the water . . ? The span was last opened in the 1950s and was subsequently fixed in the closed position. Before the construction of the M180 bridge, Keadby Bridge was the only bridge into the Isle of Axholme.

And so into Keadby Lock, and off the Trent for the last time on this trip. When the lock-keeper had brought us up to canal level, we had to wait for him to also open a swing bridge, and then we were on the Stainforth and Keadby Canal, part of the South Yorkshire Navigations.

As a fitting farewell to the Trent ('Power Station Alley'), what should be there on the canal but Keadby Gas Fired Power Station – !

Thursday, August 05, 2010

The Chesterfield Canal – A Forgotten Gem?

APOLOGIES! OUR BLOG IS RUNNING BEHIND OUR TRAVELS. We were on the Chesterfield Canal at the end of June. We are trying to get up to date as soon as possible, but don't want you to miss out on any part of our travels! CLICK ON 'Where Zindagi Is Now' to find our latest location.

We knew we would get to the Chesterfield Canal eventually! Back in 2005, when we first had the idea of a canal-based 'sabbatical', and long before we started our travels on 'Zindagi', we had been in email contact with Marion, a friend from our time in Romford, 20 - odd years ago. She had moved near Retford before we moved to Devon, and we knew the Chesterfield Canal went near there, so we said that we hoped to come that way and perhaps take her for a trip.

Then last year we met a couple on a boat, who had travelled down to the Nene from the Retford, and they sang its praises. We had been looking forward to getting on the Chesterfield since starting down the Trent, and here we were at last!

We emailed Marion again when we arrived at West Stockwith, and began to make provisional plans to meet in a couple of days.

From West Stockwith, we chugged westwards through the edge of Misterton and then on into open countryside. Some of it used to be less rural, and we spotted the chimneys of derelict brickworks, one completely shrouded in trees and another in a field.

Through the top lock near Gringley-on-the-Hill – picturesque, despite the sticking top gate – and along the foot of the ridge until the little Drakeholes tunnel took us through it.

Then on to a lovely little mooring near Hayton for our first night stop.

Where was everybody?  We seemed to have this canal almost entirely to ourselves!

Next day, we chugged into Retford and not only met Marion, but also her younger son Joe and his wife Amie, plus their 3 daughters, Zea, Maia and Laila. Marion and the 2 older girls came with us for a little trip up the canal and back, and we moored up again outside a neighbour's house, very kindly arranged for us.

In the morning, we set off on our further exploration of the Chesterfield Canal. Only 2 miles out of Retford, we found ourselves in a remote area around the 'Forest Locks', and the water weed was getting rather thick – was this going to be a repeat of the 'Kyme Eau experience'? Fortunately not! Though it was weedy in places and progress was a little slower, we pressed on towards Worksop, passing under the busy A1 at Ranby and then next to this cottage in rural isolation at Osberton lock.

Our arrival in Worksop was very well-timed, as we arrived at Town Lock just as Marion and her elder son Simon came to meet us. Simon soon got into working the locks, and we had a good afternoon together, working our way up to Shireoaks, where Marion came and met us again.

The next day looked like a marathon – 23 locks in just 4 miles! But they were fairly shallow, some of them in 'staircases' of 2 or 3, and set in lovely peaceful countryside. A really excellent bit of restoration work to this section of the canal, a real joy to travel through. And it only took us 4 hours 20 minutes. (Average 'speed' : 6.23 lock-miles per hour, nearly double our overall average of 3.51!)

We had reached the limit of navigation, and it was Wimbledon week, so Val stayed on board to watch while Dave set off to see if he could find the other end of the Norwood Tunnel. One bricked-up tunnel looks much like another! There is talk of re-linking the isolated parts of the Chesterfield Canal, but some uncertainty about whether re-opening the 3102 yards of the tunnel would be viable. The remnants of locks on the western side certainly pass through very pleasant surroundings.

Marion came and collected us from Kiveton Park so that we could go with her to Poplars Church in Worksop. It was great to meet with the others there – they really made us feel at home. Thanks, folks! Then back to the boat after a meal out with Marion.

From Kiveton Park, of course, it was all downhill – literally! We came down the locks about as fast as we had gone up them, passing through Turnerwood and back to Shireoaks again.

When we returned to Retford, there was just enough time for Marion and Amie to join us for a very short trip, together with Zea, Maia and Laila – and then we were off again. (only Joe seems to have escaped having his photo taken!)

Then back to the basin at West Stockwith, ready for the final 'leg' of our journey down the Trent. We had really enjoyed our time on the Chesterfield but why were there so few other boaters? We suspect that many don't come because of needing to navigate the Trent, but it is really worth the effort. For those who can't spare the time to get there by boat, there is always the hire fleet based at West Stockwith.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Flushed Out From Torksey!

APOLOGIES! OUR BLOG IS RUNNING BEHIND OUR TRAVELS. We were here in late June. We are trying to get up to date as soon as possible, but don't want you to miss out on any part of our travels! CLICK ON 'Where Zindagi Is Now' to find our latest location.

After our escape from the weedy Kyme Eau, we stopped at the first opportunity to de-weed the propeller and then made an uneventful return journey to Torksey, though we did pass an interesting house near Southrey, another remnant from the days when the railway ran all along the banks of the navigation. The former signal box seems to make a lovely first-floor conservatory with a view over the river.

Time for our next 'leg' on the tidal Trent from Torksey to West Stockwith, some 14¾ miles downstream. We phoned the Torksey lock-keeper, who suggested that 12 noon would be a good time to go down the lock, so we dawdled along from our overnight mooring at Saxilby 5½ miles way, filled up with water and waited. As we approached Torksey, Cottam Power Station, a mile or two away on the west of the Trent, announced its presence with its own personal home-made cloud!

Soon after 12, we were in the lock and ready to go down, but the lock-keeper seemed a bit concerned. The tide might be a bit low now, so we might have some difficulty getting over the bottom sill, but "let's try anyway, me duck". We did try; it was a bit low and we couldn't get out, so he went to Plan B: He would partly refill the lock, then open the bottom gates as quickly as he could and also open the top sluices, so as to send us out on a wave to lift us over the sill. It worked, and we were 'flushed out', but not without rather a bump as we crossed the sill – and then we were back on the Trent!

Heading downstream, we could snatch a glimpse of the ruined Torksey Castle, unusually built of brick above the lower levels of stone, and standing here abandoned since the 1500s . . .

. . . and then a Shelduck with its solitary duckling, before the Trent resumed its snaking course.

We had been warned, both by books and people, to always keep an eye open for large boats using the river. They are much bigger, they are moving faster, they need the deeper water and cannot manoeuvre very well, so the advice is to navigate your narrowboat in the expectation of meeting one of these giants round the next corner. So, with plenty of corners, we stayed alert!

Fortunately, we met the 'Battlestone' on a straight section as it was coming upstream on the tide and the captain kindly slowed down past us before swinging into the next bend – nice timing!

Yes, by now the tide was flowing quite noticeably, so we had to 'punch' it from Gainsborough to West Stockwith. No problem, just more engine revs for not much forward movement!

And so into West Stockwith Lock and up into the Basin, where Sue the lock-keeper welcomed us and showed us where we could moor overnight.