Saturday, 30 May 2015

Visiting daughters and walking the Mon and Brec .... A Welsh sojourn

We have been busy looking at daughter number three's new house with my wonderful surveyor brother, Phillip, before she signs the contract. Then to number two to see her and fit shelves, hooks etc (the usual list of parental jobs! :P ). To treat ourselves we visited the Fourteen Locks Centre outside Newport (M4 jn27), on the Crumlin Branch of the Monmouthshire and Breckonshire Canal. Five locks complete and looking good! The Centre at the top was very welcoming, with nice snacks, loos and shop.
The arch to the large side pond in between the locks

Very deep locks, especially when nearly dry
I think it would be better if they removed the bund and used these for mooring or just for workboats, so they were used, but I guess they have reasons not to :( We first saw it derelict many years ago, pushing through the undergrowth and avoiding death in the mega deep locks. 167 feet drop in half a mile through  four double and a triple lock system. Most had side ponds in between, and must have worked rather like The Bratch Locks near Wolverhampton, rather than as staircase locks.

Still lots to do
Towpath bridge and short pound
At Goytre Wharf

Five miles south of Abergavenny, we found Goytre Wharf down narrow lanes, a hidden gem for an afternoon visit or base for a bike ride. We enjoyed the pretty scene, busy with changeover for hire boats. We were surprised at the large number of boats moored in the basin and canal side. The lime kiln cafe was fine.

Next stop? Our friends for a Scott family wedding. Congrats, Grace and David!

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Sunday May 24 Who ate all the pies?

Sunday May 24

Home at last! Retford and Worksop Boat Club, Clayworth, near Retford
A quiet 0830 start left our new friends snoozing while we covered the last four miles to our new mooring at Retford and Worksop Boat Club, Clayworth.

However, today is Whit Sunday, so club members congregate at Whitsunday Pie Lock, four miles further on, just before Retford, to eat steak pies, new potatoes and mushy peas ... oh, and drink  ..... in moderation, of course!

We moored using pins and joined the fun in the sun.
 It was like a mini Braunston gathering. boats were three abreast above the lock.  Everyone was having fun and we were made very welcome as new members newly arrived.
Pies at Whitsunday Pie Lock on Whit Sunday!

Saturday May 23 West Stockwith to Drakeholes on the Chesterfield Canal

A sunny Saturday morning saw Annie leaving West Stockwith for the short distance to Misterton locks and a stop at the bridge moorings, to get sausages from the excellent butcher plus bits from the coop. Soon Liana was polishing the roof brasses.

All the locks up to Retford are wide locks, although some bridge holes have been narrowed.

For most of the way to Drakeholes the pretty agricultural scene has a ridge on the left and the valley of the River Idle on the right.The canal is rather shallow at times.

We grounded to let  Warrior, who I reckoned looked deep draughted, come past, but  Linda and Adrian Hambleton still touched bottom as they squeezed Warrior past on their way from the Boat Club to the Trent.
A buttercup meadow on the way to Drakeholes

Entering Drakeholes tunnel
At Drakeholes we passed through the tunnel under the ridge and moored for lunch. In fact, we met a gentleman who said "Are you Annie and John Fox? I am Alan, the mooring officer at Retford and Worksop Boat Club."  I couldn't resist replying "In that case, I'll throw you a line!"

The sunny sheltered moorings at Drakeholes. ... shame about the closed pub  :(

After helping us moor, there followed a happy afternoon sunning ourselves and getting to know Alan, Deb and Tom from our new Boat Club. Alan kindly popped me over to West Stockwith to get our car. Why go further?

OurOne from Gloucester appeared again, aiming for Kiveton tunnel via lots of locks!

Friday May 22 Braving the River Trent: Saxilby to West Stockwith

Leaving Yarwood and Seyella at Saxilby, after a pleasant morning chat we arrived at Torksey, where I checked my vhf radio was working with the lock keeper.
He suggested we contact the lock keeper at West Stockwith from Gainsborough to ensure the lock would be ready for us.

Our good friend and keen boater Angela Palmer joined us today.

Followed by narrowboat OurOne, we set off at 1200, before high tide, stemming the tide.

Annie at Gainsborough. Moor against the current!

Reaching Gainsborough, the tide was ebbing quite strongly, so I turned Annie carefully and moored on the excellent floating visitors pontoon just after the road bridge, on the Lincolnshire side.

Our good friend Norman Palmer
By the time our friend Norman Palmer joined us, the ebb was flowing strongly, so he steered us under lowering skies (is this a Lincolnshire term?) as we flew down the last few miles to West Stockwith.

Having read all the advice from Trent navigators like John Lower, CRT and the Boating Association Tidal Trent booklet, I contacted the lock keeper, turned against the strong current (3 knots, I guess) and edged up towards the lock, keeping revs up, watching the lock keeper for directions. Finally, when I was nearly level with the lock, he signalled and I revved harder and with tiller hard across zoomed into the lock nearer to the upstream side. Once out of the current, I throttled down, applied reverse and managed to stop before I hit anything. Hoorah! I even got praise from the lock keeper, so that made my day. I think it helped having negotiated river locks at Gloucester, Worcester and Stourport before. OurOne  had arrived and occupied the visitor mooring in front of the Waterside pub, but the lock keeper pointed out two other stern first visitor moorings.
Turn right out of the lock, reverse in and the pub is behind you!
We used two rings aft, plus a ring on the pole for the centre rope, as it was breezy.

Guess who forgot that Norman's bike was in the front ..... sorry, Norman!
Angela and Norman Palmer solving the bike problem!
He kindly biked back to his car and helped us bring our car to the boat. A decent meal at the waterside completed an exciting day.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Wednesday May 20 Green Icebergs between Bardney Lock and Saxilby!

We never really thought how owning our own boat would increase our cycling!

Today we drove to Stamp End Lock at Lincoln, parked the car nearby and cycled the nine miles towards Bardney Lock, with the wind behind us. The cycle path is asphalted all the way from the Pye Wipe Inn west of Lincoln to Bardney, and has interesting sculptures and benches every so often along the way. I soon stopped and removed my jacket, as the sun was out and warming, despite the fresh breeze.

The Bardney facilities all work and are kept clean. As soon as we set off we were surrounded by "green icebergs" as islands of greenery floated past us, near where the Witham goes over a weir to pass around the lock.
A couple of hours later saw us negotiating Stamp End Lock and passing through the centre of Lincoln, through High Bridge to the Brayford, thoroughly modern with our excellent newish university.

Lincoln waterside, passing the welcoming floating café and about to enter the "Glory Hole"

Leaving the Brayford past the university moorings, we saw our first new broods of cygnets this year.

We soon travelled the five miles to Saxilby, where we moored Annie in between Seyella and Yarwood, who my wife tells me are waiting to cross the wash from Boston at the end of the month. Unfortunately we didn't see our fellow bloggers, but we did admire Yarwood's new paint job.

Seyella, Annie and Yarwood at Saxilby
Finished with a five mile cycle back to the car, via a pint and coffee in the sun outside the Royal William IV pub on the Brayford!

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Heading North from Boston, but cycling South ....

Friday 15 May
A lovely but breezy start to the day saw us leaving the car at Tattershall Bridge and cycling with the wind to Boston ..... yes, it impressed me, too! This involved using a fairly quiet country road parallel to the Witham 7/8 miles to Langrick Bridge, after which the last 4/5 miles were along the cyclepath again. We don't rush, we just enjoy the scenery and keep pedalling, so the miles roll by :)

After passing the time of day with friendly boaters, then preparing the boat as usual and having a snack, we set off, watching out for several young rowers from the nearby Boston Rowing Club. The strong wind was against us and it took time getting diesel at Langrick Bridge (incidentally, the only place to get it near Boston at the moment). The new pump was slow, so we had a coffee with the very pleasant lady in the shop/chandlery opposite, and discussed air locks in the fuel line with the amiable guys at the garage and pontoon. This meant we arrived at the car later than expected. This quite scenic passage past Chapel Hill moorings and the Bain at Dogdyke, with our eyes searching the skies for the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight planes and the modern RAF jet fighters, cormorants, herons, swans geese and duck families, is full of interest. We squeezed in behind NB Panacea to overnight at the Tattershall Bridge moorings.

Saturday 16 May
Got up late, feeling idle, watched Panacea turn and leave for Boston. Liana decided after breakfast to drive the car 4 miles to Kirkstead bridge, read her book and wait for me. When I arrived, the two pontoons had several boats spaced out, so we quickly decided to pop the stern in to pick up Liana and continue to Bardney Lock together. The sun came out and breeze died a little. A keen photographer busied himself as we operated our one and only lock that day. Some one had clearly been busy up river, as lots of islands of sedge were floating down and blocking our exit from the top gates. We pushed our way through and moored on the visitors pontoon, furthest from the lock. I checked the prop, and was glad I did, as there was some plastic webbed textile around it. Put boat to bed, chatted to the very nice liveaboard couple residing there, he with strong Scottish accent and flyaway beard, and cycled back to the car, via an icecream at the pub at Southrey and a pint at the Railway inn at Kirkstead Bridge! It's a hard life ..... :)

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

From Antons Gowt into Boston

Leaving Antons Gowt lock in very strong winds, both pontoons were occupied, but I managed to back near one end and pick up Liana. I was Witham Sailing Club Open Day, but apart from the rowers, they clearly had to tow some boats around as the wind was so strong :(

Boston appeared. The visitors moorings are first on the left, East bank, as you arrive.

We visited the moorings just before the Grand sluice, to use the Elsan loo facility and talk to lock keeper Sam Brockett again. He advised us to moor behind the pontoon, as we wished to leave the boat for a few days.

Through Cowbridge Lock. Liana thinks it is a candidate for Most Challenging Lock!

9 May 2015
A lovely sunny but breezy morning saw us taking our time back along Maud Foster drain, waving to lots of passers by. On reaching the lock, I decided to come alongside the lock and tie up, so Liana could disembark safely. A pontoon and steps would help here. Also, the metal fence needs modifying, so boaters can get to the steps to cross the bridge more easily.

Liana needed the boathook to close the bottom gates (carefully!).
It was very windy, so I could not hang about, and turned under the bridge, where I spotted two or three rings on the near side, and tied up. However it was a precarious scramble down the steep bank onto the concrete under the bridge. The boathook was helpful to keep balance. On a calm day I would have edged back to the bottom gate, probably. Again, a floating pontoon and steps are needed, really. I guess these will be resolved when EA and CRT waterways become one, hopefully.

Through Cowbridge Lock to the Packet Boat Steps in Boston

8 May 2015
I forgot to say last time that I used the boat hook to push at metal hoops in the bottom gates, to close them. I made sure I wouldn't fall in if it slipped, though!

It is an interesting little adventure to try the Drains. I would recommend travelling the short way from Antons Gowt Lock to Cowbridge Lock, first time. There are no really low bridges between Antons Gowt and the Windmill.

The Maud Foster Drain makes it all worthwhile! It is broad and straight, with house and roads both sides. We were clearly an unusual sight, as people waved walking, from windows and from cars all the way! We hoped we wouldn't cause an accident!

Annie squeezed under one or two bridges after the windmill, so we could get a glimpse of the tideway through the open sluice gates at the end, where we turned easily.

The Packet Boat Steps are ok for one boat to moor. there are three or four rings in the wall, so we moored with the stern at the steps. A proper floating pontoon would be a useful addition, however.

We chatted to a few local people, many of whom seemed to be Lithuanian or Polish. From here it is a short walk into town over the Grand Sluice bridge. Boston Stump is impressive: I am lucky to have rung the bells from the ringing chamber, which is high up, with a dome in the middle from which you can look down through a small window! We saw the fair was in town, so lots of people were about. Boringly, we settled for the quiet Wetherspoons, which was fine. We had a decent night's sleep

Exploring the Witham Drains

8 May 2015
Left the car in the car park next to the CRT Office and Grand Sluice at Boston, then cycled past the Gateway Marina the five miles back to Langrick Bridge, a pretty journey. We stopped half way to talk to the CRT Grand Sluice lock keeper Sam Brockett, who was checking Anton Gowt Lock. He advised us to moor at the Packet Boat Steps, if we went to the Maud Foster Drain. We took his advice.

There are two visitors pontoons at Antons Gowt, either side of the lock, but one seemed to be used by local sailing boats. This is a first - locking down from the river. The offside bottom gate was too much for Liana to close once Annie was out, so I had to tie a bowline in the stern rope and help. The only way for crew to get on board safely is for the boat to hover next to the long steel ladder below the lock.

Next we turned North up the Newham Drain, towards New York! After removing the chimney and passing through a tight corrugated bridge hole, we had to stop just before the village at a 5'6" farm bridge just before New York (as shown in the Richlow guide) and back up before returning through that tight bridge hole.

We aimed for Frithville, but had to stop and dismantle the cratch to get below the road bridge on the way. I think Annie is a little high, having pigeon boxes on top and being built for two 6'2" gentlemen.

Turning South we reached Cowbridge Lock, to go up onto the Maud Foster Drain. There appeared to be no pontoon (more later), but one bottom gate was open, so I edged in and Liana scrambled up from the gunwhale. The bottom gates could be opened by pulling on a chain, and clipped open. to get onto one side. There was one rather agricultural but ok bottom gate paddle. Liana had to remove a chain, go down steps and duck under a metal fence. On the other side, we were yards from a golf tee, and chatted with the golfers! The guillotine top gate was ok, but you need a CRT key, then push the permanent windlass slightly to help you move the hinged locking device, so the  gate will lift. Once out, there was no pontoon visible, so I reversed close to the top gate and helped Liana climb down onto the boat. You need to be fit!