Thursday, 13 June 2019

June 12 onwards: The River Nene


Wednesday 12 June Down the Northampton Flight – eventually! (5 miles, 17 locks)
The weather forecast was afternoon rain, so we set off about 8am for the top lock, the first of a “thick” of thirteen locks, all close and within a mile or so.
offside growth needs cutting back before the locks

Northampton flight top lock and winding hole

Liana seeing Annie in

CRT arrive

low pound

filling the pounds
After two quick locks, we saw a man in a white van, who stopped the third lock filling. The CRT men were busy refilling two empty pounds lower down, so we had to wait. John walked down to have a look, and saw crowds in the distance!
Art work under the M1!

willing helpers

the CRT man was concerned about his bridge


We chilled and hoped the rain would hold off. After nearly two hours, we continued down to the large M1 bridge, where we found a happy, lively school party busy painting murals on towpath and offside underbridge walls. They were pleased to have us as an audience! A temporary footbridge had been placed across the lock near the bottom gates, so it was a good job Annie is 60', not 70'.




it was good to see another boat using the flight after all the work done today

approaching river lock and canal winding hole

leaving the river lock - left upstream, right downstream to moorings, Town Lock and EA Marina

looking upstream

the navigable arch on South Bridge is marked clearly

visitor moorings above and below the pedestrian bridge

we moored below the bridge. See the Black Swan? Aussies get everywhere!
Once past the thirteen, the last four locks are spaced out, at least half a mile apart, and the canal is close to the River Swan, a Nene tributary. John squeezed Annie past two fallen willow trees, one of which blocked the towpath. Despite these slight difficulties, we must say that the flight holds no worries nowadays: The towpath is partly surfaced and well mown, locks are in good repair, and vegetation is in reasonable state for navigation, partly due to volunteers from the local Northampton Inland Waterways Association (IWA) branch. Well done! The water is quite clear and teeming with fish, mainly about 6”/15cm or less. As we reached the river lock, EA marina people altered the sign from red to OK. Apparently there had been a problem with a boom at Doddington Lock, some way downriver.
We could have moored just before the river lock, by two liveaboards, but John decided to go onto the river and moor using the visitor moorings with tall bollards on the opposite bank, either side of the newish pedestrian bridge before Kings Lock and close to town and Morrisons. We popped in to Morrisons and brought the haul back to Annie in the trolley. John returned it as rain started to fall. TV reception was non-existent, so we read, wrote and watched dvds.

Thursday 13 June in Northampton (Engine Hours  3716)
The rainy night persisted, so we wore waterproofs and use our umbrella to walk into town, where we had an enjoyable morning shopping for books, dvds and bits and pieces. The poor traders in the deserted market had our sympathy. Thank heavens the rain eased and people came out later. Good coffees and muffins helped, too! At least we have plenty to read and view.

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Tuesday, 11 June 2019

2019 4-11 June: Journey from Crick to Stoke Bruerne, Cosgrove and back to Gayton

Tuesday 4 June Back to Annie at Crick
John dropped off the last planters at primary schools, after our local Gardeners Fayre, run by the Lions Club. We finished gardening, John fed the new swarm sugar syrup, and we travelled back to Annie at Crick, shopping in the local Coop. Liana got wet moving the car, and we settled in for a quiet night.

Wednesday 5 June Crick to Whilton Marina
Breezy but sunny, we set off through Crick Tunnel, meeting just one careful boater on the way through. The moorings overlooking pastures near bridge 9, before Watford Locks, is one of our favourite places, but we reached the top lock to find John had time to empty our loo holding tanks while two boats came up the last of the seven locks. Liana chatted to lock keeper and boaters, then helped operate the locks, including the staircase of four. These work the same as at Foxton, with the red paddle emptying the side pond into the lock below, followed by the white paddle emptying your lock into the same side pond, until both locks and side pond are the same level, when Annie can move into the next lock down.
Braunston locks are closed from 4-6 June, so we met half a dozen boats in the short distance to Norton Turn Junction. We waited for an ascending boat before entering Buckby Top Lock, watched by all at the New Inn. For water conservation, the seven Buckby Locks close at 3pm/4pm (1 hour to get down), and we met a volunteer waiting to lock up as we reached the bottom lock. We moored up opposite Whilton Marina, and John visited the chandlery, looking for clips for the tv mast, to no avail. After tea, John had a walk around the marina while Liana watched tv. We both watched D Day programme later.

Thursday 6 June D Day 75: Whilton Marina to Nether Heyford and Stoke Bruerne (15 miles, 0 locks Engine Hours 3667)
After breakfast in the sun, John readied Annie to leave. The peace was suddenly disrupted by five or six boats arriving to go up the locks, so John got under way to give them room! Compared to some years, we passed half a dozen moving boats as we took our time, enjoying the sun, in between cloudy intervals. Only distant noise from M1 and railway disturbed us. After a while, John had to get a jumper :(
Annie moored opposite Whilton Marina


The Weedon hire boats are back!

we got gas from the Chamberlains now owning Mountbatten

Nether Heyford church memorial

Nether Heyford village green with shops close by




For a change, we stopped for lunch after bridge 32 at Nether Heyford. A short walk found us at the huge village green, where pre-school children were playing sports. We bought good-looking pork & sage sausages, bacon and lamb's liver from the friendly butchers, plus milk from the decent convenience store. We enjoyed a tour of stone and thatched dwellings, plus the church, which had one door unlocked, thankfully.
the new Heyford Fields Marina

The new Heyford Fields Marina looks impressive, Two huge new road bridges have been built on this section. Avoiding boats moving around at Gayton Junction, we continued the mile or so through a neat Blisworth Wharf to the 2800 metre long tunnel. A boat emerged as we were about to enter, saying they were the last boat before the Stoke Locks closed for the day. They were right – we passed through without seeing a boat for the first time ever!

Friday 7 June at Stoke Bruerne
Horribly wet, we stayed put today. John did a couple of minor jobs. Liana's sister joined us and we shopped in the NISA store at nearby Roade, visited the museum shop, had a cheap lunch at the Navigation and played Settlers of Catan while hardier souls braved the elements. We had delicately flavoured meals at the good Indian Restaurant by the top lock.
Cyprus (or should it have been Cypress?) at Stoke Bruerne

unusual widebeam tug

David Blagrove RIP used to drive Sculptor, now being renovated by CRT

Saturday 8 June  Stoke Bruerne to Cosgrove (7 miles, 7 locks)
Pouring down early on, so we chilled again, reading and catching up on blog (me) and boat log (Liana). A number of hire boats arrived from Weedon and Gayton Junction to descend the locks, driving carefully in the rain. An unabashed liveaboard heading north abused John when asked to slow down. When NB Bluebell followed later, we thanked them for coming past slowly and mentioned this: They recognised the man and the boat, as they had had a similar experience! He must have issues. After lunch the weather improved, so we travelled down the seven Stoke locks and down the six mile pound to Cosgrove, where we walked the short Buckingham Arm.
Stoke Bruerne top lock

Kingfisher Marina

fuel 89p, etc


renewing piling at Taverners Boat Club


Cosgrove Lock


they built the flat road bed before the arch



Sunday 9 June Cosgrove back to Stoke Bruerne (7 miles, 7 locks)
Waking up in the sun at 10am (!), our latest yet, after our late night chatting and reading, John counted three, then four bells ringing for the 11am Sunday service at church across the fields. If he had been dressed, he would have gone, rung and attended the service, as there were probably five or six bells at least (not many village churches have four bells, usually 1,3,5,6 or 8. Instead, he had toast and apricot jam! Ali was blamed for being a bad influence :)
leaving Cosgrove northwards

lovely Cosgrove bridge


We set off along the six mile pound to Stoke Locks, following two boats and passing a new widebeam with an energetic name, Busy Days. The cool air and breeze did not spoil the lovely views, and John was kept busy as boat after boat passed us heading South. The offside trees stretched half way across the canal in several places near Thrupp Marina (CRT please note), more than a mile in total, making passing trickier. Bushes on corners made sight of oncoming boats impossible at times. John idled Annie past lots of moored boats. We passed the nice couple on NB Joamela for the last time, as they headed South, waving farewell. We had shared locks and seen them on River Soar and at Foxton.
sharing Stoke locks with NB Robis

the Navigation and canal were busy as we approached Stoke Bruerne top lock
Stoke locks were busy: We worked up with the friendly couple on NB Robis, passing several boats descending, some in pairs. One pair waited in their lock for us both to enter the pound, then were very slow to leave their lock for us to enter – so we got out of their way and smiled! John was told once that the ascending boats normally have right of way, and the descending boats should split and pass either side while we pass straight up the pound in the middle like Royalty – but the best rule is smile and do what you have to, to avoid each other!
Mooring up in the sun, we had a Sunday Roast at The Boat Inn, which the girls found less than wonderful, while John cleared his plate! We decided against puddings, heroically, but weakened outside and had tasty icecreams plus visited the tiny canal shop on that side of the canal. We had coffee and tea in Annie and played “the game” (Settlers of Catan), which Ali won comfortably, when her numbers 2,11 and 12 kept being rolled!!
John helped some German boaters refix their rear fender, using a spare shackle we had. We waved Alison off after she took Liana in her car to get milk from Roade. It is always good to see family and have fun together :) We had a drink at the Navigation before returning to Annie. No boats passed, as the top lock was chained shut, so it was peaceful – apart from the three HUGE noisy dogs who their owners admitted were “chaotic”. Honeypie is so well trained because Rachel attended dog (owner) training classes. Later we read, watched tv and saw Lewis Hamilton win in Canada after Vettel had a five second penalty for baulking him.

Monday 10 June Stormy Stoke Bruerne 
Woken by pigeons hooting, John saw one sitting disconsolately on the fence in the rain, which had just started. The weather forecast is showery this week, but we hope to travel in between the showers, being optimistic! Liana is sewing cross stitch, finishing a sampler her mum, Flo, has had to leave due to her failing eyesight. John is blogging, but steak pies at The Navigation beckon! It rained all day and most of the night, with strong winds, too.

Tuesday 11 June   through Blisworth Tunnel to Gayton Junction and the Northampton Flight
The strong winds and rain abated enough for us to set off northwards. We heard that someone had smashed the bottom gates of Stoke bottom lock yesterday, so they would be closed for a couple of days. We passed just one boat in 2800m long Blisworth Tunnel, and idled through the village, past Greenock and Bordesley to Gayton Junction, where we breasted up with NB Osprey at the services, as community boat Mountbatten was loading with elderly passengers for a day out there. Once water and loo holding tanks were dealt with, we moved down the arm to moor opposite Gayton Marina. The weather was dubious, so we walked to the Walnut Tree hotel/inn half a mile away and had an excellent meat platter with a side of home made chips. The food is not cheap, but worth the money :)

2019 Journey from Loughborough through Leicester to Foxton and Crick to be written

sorry - not written yet

2019 Journey up the River Trent and River Soar to Loughborough

Thursday 9 May 2019 Clayworth to visitor moorings before Misterton (7.5 miles, 2 locks)
Yesterday was horrid, so we delayed until today. Packed, shopped at Gainsborough Morrisons on the way, and John decided to set off after unpacking, despite a bit of drizzle. He backed Annie along the moorings and through the narrow road bridge on a corner without hitting anything, and winded Annie, a good job as Retford & Worksop Boat Club (RWBC) members were watching!! Incidentally, well done the NB Python Chesterfield Canal Trust (CCT) team (including plenty of RWBC members) for clearing all the vegetation on the offside near the winding hole. Johnsteered in the gentle rain while Liana lit the fire! Liana kindly did the Grindley and Shaw Locks, before we moored on the mown and (just about) deep enough bollarded visitor moorings a mile before Misterton. This left us a short trip before our booked locking down tomorrow about 10am at West Stockwith. Bacon, Sausage and beans went down well!

Friday 10 May Misterton to West Stockwith and up the River Trent to below Torksey Lock (17 miles, 3 locks)
A dry day at last, but cool. WE descended Misterton Locks in the sun. We passed one boat. The derelict area around the tall brick chimney is being redeveloped, including a pond (?) with piling strong enough for a marina. Arriving in West Stockwith, we motored straight into the lock, as advised on VHF by lock keeper Jim.
He said CRT are threatening to use volunteers on these tidal river locks. I admire volunteers, but tidal locks require people who understand tide tables, flood and ebb tides on the Trent, and how to get on and off the river with a fast current flowing, so I hope CRT realises that the training must be much nore than for volunteers manning ordinary non-tidal river and canal locks.
We shared the lock with a Portuguese boater, who told us to go ahead, as his boat was slow. Rain poured down as John steered in his yellow wet weather gear. Liana got him tea and a new dry hat and gloves after an hour! We passed through Gainsborough and reached Torksey a wet 2 ½ hours later. Liana tied a bow rope on the Torksey Cut pontoon, and John turned Annie, ready to go upstream tomorrow. The sun came out, we had bacon & egg butties for lunch, then walked to the lock, chatted with the lock keeper and took our usual walk up and down the moorings. Sadly, the tea shop is closed Mondays and Fridays, so no cake or sausage rolls :(
Chinese chicken, boiled new potatoes and sweetcorn cooked on board were tasty, before we chilled and watched tv.

Saturday 11 May Torksey to Newark (20 miles, 2 locks)
We slept well and saved ourselves for elevenses at the tea shop by the lock. The characterful lady bakes some great cakes! We had beetroot & raspberry and carrot cake, plus sausage rolls with our coffee. We chatted to folks heading down to the Chesterfield Canal, and John advised them about entering West Stockwith. Liana didn't think the portuguese guy going our way agreed with him! We set out just before the flood in the sunshine, but didn't notice any flood catch us up (it is neap tide and there was a fair amount of fresh water coming downstream), so the trip took longer than usual – not that we minded, as the weather was good and scenery pleasant. The cheery staff at Cromwell lock answered our VHF call and saw us through. By the time we reached Nether Lock, the lock keeper had gone, so Liana operated the controls. The CRT Office moorings were full, so we moored below Newark Bridge on the castle side, for a change, as the quay was low enough for narrowboats.

Sunday 12 May Newark to Gunthorpe (14 miles, 3 locks)
We didn't sleep well, so John got up very early and made us tea, after which we slept until 9am!
John collected and cut wood for the fire, plus got a bag of coal from the garage, while Liana shopped at Aldi nearby. After tasty pains aux chocolats, John contracted Town Lock on VHF and we soon ascended, having a nice chat with lock keepers and passers by. The beautiful cruise in the sun was lovely, as usual, with plenty of wildfowl and a gentle breeze. After Hazelford Lock, Liana drove while John listened to the last soccer matches of the season. Manchester City beat Brighton to win the League Cup, so there was nothing Liverpool could do (they beat Wolves 2-0).
John took over as we approached Gunthorpe, and we moored behind the CRT visitors pontoon after a kindly cruiser crew moved her up to make room.
Had a beer and Prosecco at the pub. Rachel arrived after work to leave her dog Honeypie, a large but sweet Golden Doodle, with us. We have a bond with her, as we looked after her as a tiny puppy – aaaah! We all had a walk to the lock and a sandwich before she headed home.

Monday 13 May Gunthorpe to near Castle Marina, Nottingham (11 miles, 4 locks)
An incredibly beautiful, springlike morning on the Trent. Liana took HP for a walk while John cooked breakfast, then we set out in the sun. We love the scenery and wildlife, and passed happily through Stoke Bardolph and Holme Locks, with their friendly lock keepers. You can use mobile phones if you don't have VHF, if you plan ahead. Pearsons and Nicholsons Guides have the telephone numbers.
At Holme Pierrepoint, we had coffee and sandwich at the cafe, then walked HP around the National Watersports Centre and adjoining woodland, returning along the riverside path. John heard a cyclist's life story while Liana went back to await mum Flo, who is to join us for the day.
Later we travelled up to Trent Bridge in the sun, noting all the new fancy flats filling the North bank, then under it and the Victorian suspension bridge walkway to the Beckett School, close to the head of navigation here, enjoying a novel view of the town.
Returning below Trent Bridge, we turned and John dropped off Liana at the Meadow Lane Lock mooring. Boaters we had met at Gunthorpe were moored on the river moorings close by, and helped Liana operate the lock – thank you. Soon Annie passed beside London Road and turned left past new blocks of flats to the Law Courts and Fellows, Clayton & Morton Canal Warehouse, now a trendy cafe area for office workers nearby. Liana walked HP all the way along the canal, chatting to Flo, who was seated under the cratch, enjoying sun and view.
Passing through Castle Lock, we moored by Sainsbury's, just before Castle Marina and the Waters Edge chain pub, where we all had a decent meal outside in the sun. The beer and Prosecco went down well, too! Flo caught a taxi home, while we watched tv.
Tuesday 14 May Nottingham to Trent Lock visitor pontoon on the river (8.5 miles, 2 locks)
John took HP for an early walk, buying garlic from Sainsbury's. After breakfast, Liana decided to walk HP all the way to Beeston Lock, just over three miles, as it was such a sunny day. On the way she met an ex-army guy working as a tracker (bounty hunter), seeking people wanted by the police. He was after a paedophile. We didn't realise folk had jobs like this. We moored at Beeston and had nice coffee and cake at the tearoom which overlooks the weir. We were helped through the lock by widebeam boaters going the other way, then passed upriver past Beeston Marina, riverside chalets and Attenborough nature reserve to Trent Lock and Cranfleet Cut. We moored in front of The Trent Lock pub, on the CRT visitor pontoon.
The Steamboat barman tried to make Liana a pink fizzy drink out of Schweppes lemonade and rose wine, but she found it disgusting. The landlord eventually gave her the money back, although with bad grace. I think we'll give that drink a miss for a while! Liana walked HP back to the lock at Cranfleet Cut and back in the evening sun.

Wednesday 15 May Trent Lock to Zouch (6 miles, 3 locks)
A lovely, sunny morning saw John take Annie past the yacht club and weir and up the River Soar. Passing through the open flood lock, we passed folk busy at Red Hill Marina and admired the moored boats. Liana and HP went ashore at Ratcliffe Lock, which we shared, after which they walked all the way to Zouch Lock, a pretty stretch of the River Soar, operating Kegworth Deep Lock on the way. After sharing Zouch Lock, our companions continued, while we moored on the lock cut and visited the Rose & Crown pub, as usual!

Thursday 16 May Zouch to Loughborough (3 miles, 2 locks)
John woke early to another gorgeous day and took HP for a walk through the damp rape fields and beside the river, after a wet night. Honeypie is not a fan of the boat, so Liana walked her across the water meadows beside the River Soar, all the way to Loughborough. Liana kept to the path, but HP investigated the water margins, having a sneaky swim twice. Liana operated Bishop Meadow and Loughborough Locks on the way. We turned left at the junction and moored near other boats, using one ring and double pins on middle and bow ropes, to avoid having pins pulled out while we were away. We have a wedding blessing for God Daughter Claire and husband Dave, plus the usual jobs to do.
We walked along the canal the mile to the railway station, with HP and John pulling the trolley, just in time to catch the train to Sheffield. We had a wait for the Retford train, so had a coffee at Pumpkin. It was too awful for Liana, but John drank it. Liana found a Costa as we went to the correct platform. We chatted to a couple from near Gainsborough on the train, so time passed quickly. It is a long but not unpleasant walk to the bus station at Retford (too mean to get taxi), and we had a long wait (spent looking around the decent shops nearby), but the bus driver kindly dropped us outside the Boat Club at Clayworth, to collect our car and drive home. Sarah spent her weekend with us, which was fun.



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Thursday, 1 November 2018

29 October: The last leg home along the Chesterfield Canal

Monday 29 October: Down the slipway and homewards (9 miles, 4 locks)
We arrived at West Stockwith to prepare Annie for re-entering the water after her blacking. John refitted newly cleaned fenders front and rear. Liana drove to Retford & Worksop Boat Club to leave the car, and returned by bus, just as John finished sorting out Annie and paying for the blacking. We paid £250 for taking Annie out of the water, jetspraying and replacing her in the water; £300 for three coats of bitumen (one coat each day) up to the gunwhale (£75 extra) and in the bowthruster tube. We also paid £160 for four 2.5kg magnesium anodes, placed 1/3 and 2/3 of the way along the hull, just above the base plate. The old anodes at front and rear still had about 1.5kg left after three years, so Annie should be well protected.
hooked up and about to move

on the way to the slipway near the van





Annie moored safely in West Stockwith basin

Our journey through Misterton locks and countryside was cold but pretty in the afternoon sun, but slow, due to shallowness: Back in May, visiting boats had turned back because of this, they had told us. We could see that some work cutting back vegetation had been done by volunteers on Chesterfield Canal Trust (CCT) work boat Python. Annie grounded twice in the middle of the canal, once when trying to enter Gringley Lock.
leaving West Stockwith basin, past the Waterfront pub

Gringley Lock seemed to have a sand bar below it

lots of fallen leaves and wood in Gringley Lock



nearing sunset at Gringley

we grounded here

 It was good to see three boats moored near Drakeholes tunnel: If only the nearby White Swan would reopen! We took 5.5 hours to reach our mooring at Clayworth, a bit longer than usual. The last two miles were completed after dusk, but headlamp and navigation lights helped. John asked Liana to look out front at bridge holes, as it is harder to judge distance at night, especially with a 60 foot narrowboat. We arrived to see the clubhouse and moorings lit up by lamps, very atmospheric. As we shivered at temperatures just above freezing, we were the only folk around on a Monday night, as you might expect. Leaving Annie pretty much winterised, we made our way home.

John sent an email to Enquiries.Northeast@canalrivertrust.org.uk as follows:

"My wife and I have been out on our boat since May, from our mooring at RWBC at Clayworth ,up the Trent to Llangollen, Birmingham, Stratford, Gloucester, Braunston and back. You can view our blog http://www.narrowboatannie.blogspot.co.uk

Returning up the Chesterfield Canal from West Stockwith, the canal is one of the shallowest around! While not rushing, we could not travel more than 2 or 2.5 knots in most places. After Misterton Locks, the next two miles are very shallow.  The bollarded visitor moorings in the country need dredging too. Before Drakeholes, our narrowboat Annie (CRT512012) grounded in the middle of the canal, passing a cattle watering spot. She also grounded a few yards from the bottom gates of Gringley lock, directly in front of the gates.  Some sections have a lot of reed / sedge growth at the side, too.

I am delighted to see the work being done to improve this canal by volunteers using NB Python. I know that the budget is tight, but I hope that money saved by volunteers working so hard can be found to increase dredging this winter on what is such a lovely canal.

Earlier this summer, we spoke to several boaters visiting the Chesterfield Canal. They had turned around before Retford because it was so shallow, and were disappointed, after daring (their words) to come down the Tidal Trent, in line with the encouragement given by CRT to boaters. We ourselves always tell folk how beautiful the Trent is, particularly above Newark. We also encourage people to use the Tidal Trent.

My wife Liana and I used our boat to take Sean McGinley, another CRT lady and the inspectors between Misterton and Clayworth,  before our canal was awarded its green award, as we are active supporters of the Chesterfield Canal. The work done by volunteers deserves some reward, in our opinion, apart from that derived from jobs well done. I would be pleased to hear that further dredging works can be included on the Chesterfield canal in the near future."
If you wish to let CRT know about any problems you have or find on the canals, let them know, so they can investigate and decide if action needs to be taken.