Friday, December 02, 2016

Going nowhere fast.

We’ve had a couple of very short days! We’re in no rush, the stoppage for maintenance at Harecastle Tunnel isn’t lifted for another 2 weeks, so we’ve that long to get to Stoke. I don’t think that will be a problem…

Yesterday we moved up a bit from Shobnall Fields, stopping for fuel at Shobnall Marina. I felt quite smug, reversing into the narrow arched entrance without touching the sides. And I was being filmed by a party of visiting Americans! Usually spectators result in a huge cock-up…

Aiming for that hole…
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…And safely in!
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The moorhens at Shobnall are so well fed they look like bowling balls with heads and legs!IMG_2804

We pulled in a little further on, where there’s a ginnel through to the business park and Morrisons.

In the afternoon we had visitors – Dave came and introduced himself Wednesday morning, yesterday he came again with his wife, Sarah.
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They’re looking forward to getting their boat out for an extended trip next spring, we might meet up again then. Hope so.

Fantastic sunset last night, I caught it with the sun just above the A38 bridge, and the reflection on the water below.
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Today we moved on another mile, mooring near Branston Water Park. We’ll be here for the weekend now.

Branston Lock, a whopping three feet up!
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We normally moor just before Bridge 34, but it a bit busy there at the moment…IMG_2823

The Branston Locks Development is a large project that will see both sides of the canal affected by mixed residential, retail and industrial areas. The new bridge, under construction at present, will be the main access from the A38.

It looks like they will be matching the brick facing of the current bridge.IMG_2824
There’s no mention of taking this one down, however.

Locks 1, miles 2

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

My prediction was a bit out…

Yesterday I said – “A couple more days of these low temperatures and we’d have had ice on the cut.” Well it didn’t take a couple of days, merely a few hours!IMG_2777
It dropped down to -4° last night. It’s only thin, brashy stuff though. And the temperature has steadily risen throughout the day, so all the frost has melted too.

We were a bit later getting away this morning. I was just setting off for a morning perambulation with Meg when I was was accosted by a gentleman coming the other way. “Hi Geoff, you don’t know me, but I’m Dave”. Dave and his wife Sarah have a boat in Mercia Marina and are regular blog readers. They’re new to this boating lark, having only acquired the vessel in the summer, and have yet to have a serious trip out. We had a good chat while walking up the towpath, then he came back for a brew and to meet Mags. Thanks for coming to find us, Dave. Have a good trip next spring. May see you then.

So it was nearer 11 when we got going, and the promise of early sunshine had been dashed by thickening cloud. Without the sun, however wan, it felt quite raw on the tiller.
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The ice was only localised, as we got near the main moorings it thinned and disappeared. I was amazed that the moorings were empty. Normally they’re busy here, with three pubs and shops within shouting distance. But the only boats were two up near the road bridge.IMG_2781
Most of this length on the left is set aside for winter moorings, but at £1000 for the period it’s not surprising that there’s been no takers.

We pulled on to the services and topped up the water tank. It’s always a good idea to fill where you can this time of year. You never know when you might get stuck…

Then we pushed on, out of the village. A couple of miles up the cut the canal crosses the River Dove on an aqueduct. Just upstream the original road crossing is now redundant, the A38 dual-carriageway crosses on a modern concrete bridge just a little above.IMG_2785

The crossing was also considered strategic during WWII…IMG_2786

This little chap crossed the canal in front of us, bounced off the hard edge of the towpath and came back again before realising that there was a dirty great tin thing in the way!
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I think he’s a common brown rat, not the protected water vole.

Into Burton now, passing the old transhipment wharf at Horninglow.IMG_2792

The first of the narrow locks, and the first we’ve encountered since Foxton last July, is Dallow Lock, under the road bridge carrying Dallow Lane.
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Mags was happy when we came off the river onto the cut, she’s happier still now we’re back to narrow locks!
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Me too!

We planned on stopping on Shobnall Fields, the large playing fields not far up. But the moorings looked a bit busy…IMG_2797
There was just room for us on the end though.

Mags decided it was time for a picture of me on here. I think we can do without, but here you go.
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See what I mean?

Locks 1, miles  5

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Another fine day.

It’s been sunny and dry, but considerably colder than yesterday. We had a hard frost last night, the coldest so far.
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It hadn’t warmed up much by the time we set off.
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No wind to ruffle the water this morning
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Weston House and Weston church sit on a rise to the west of the village.IMG_2756

Swarkestone Lock was about an hour up from Weston, another broad, deep lock. We had a bit of a wait here, the lock was empty, ready for us, but we held off for another boat following on behind. He was getting ready to leave as we pulled out this morning so I shouted back that we would wait for him. Not all altruism; it’s a lot easier in these locks with two boats!
As it turned out it helped him a lot too, he was single-handing.

Swarkestone Lock
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Leaving Swarkestone Lock, with the end of the derelict Derby Canal, now used for mooring for the Swarkestone Boat Club, on the leftIMG_2765.

Another hour of gentle cruising saw us at Stenson. On the way, in sheltered spots, a thin skin of ice had formed on the fringes of the canal.IMG_2769
A couple more days of these low temperatures and we’d have had ice on the cut. Good job it’s starting to warm up again tomorrow night.

Stenson Lock is deep and daunting, but with both boats in at least I could open the paddles reasonably quickly.
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We pulled in before the Willington moorings, in a sunny spot just past the railway bridge. The trains zip past regularly, but they’re audible anywhere along here. We’re only here for one night, we’ll be heading into Burton tomorrow.

I went into the village for some shopping, only to discover that the Co-op has moved around the corner onto Repton Road. And there’s a new chippy in place of the small electrical shop near the railway station.

Locks 2, miles 7½

Monday, November 28, 2016

Through Shardlow and up the Trent valley

It’s been a beautiful, sunny day, a good day to be on the move. A bit of a cool breeze from the east, but it is November after all!

Moving off towards Shardlow at 10 this morning.
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Under Bridge 1
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At the other end of the canal Lodge Lane Bridge is number 213, though if I remember rightly Preston Brook Tunnel has an official designation of Bridge 214. Derwent Mouth Lock is Lock 1, Lock 76 is the shallow stop lock just south of of the tunnel at Dutton.

Shardlow flood gates, thankfully not often needed.
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Shardlow was an important inland port, connecting the canal network with the navigable River Trent. Most of the commercial building date from this period of prosperity.
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Shardlow Lock is quite shallow.
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The canal leaves the village at the lock, passing a length of permanent moorings which ends near the modern bridge carrying the A50.
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On this road it’s less than an hour to Stoke. By boat? Well, a little longer…

Aston Lock is next, and with the ground paddles out of action, is a foamy fill.IMG_2745
Quite safe, though.
On these full-length broad locks we tie a centre rope to a bollard, the rope running backwards. With the prop turning on tick-over this keeps the boat into the side, so I can open the paddles without the boat banging about in the lock. Enough line is used so that the boat isn’t pulled over as the lock nears full, instead it just moves backwards.

Plenty of fine arable land in the Trent valley…
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Weston Lock (the big one, there’s a narrow one further up, in fact there’s another Aston Lock too…) is next, and the chambers are getting deeper as we climb up the valley.
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This and the next at Swarkestone are nearly 11 feet deep, the last broad lock, Stenson, is 12’8”.

You may spot the small pile of logs on the roof, liberated from the towpath side below the lock.
We pulled in a couple of hundred yards above the lock, in a nice, sunny spot, and after lunch I set to converting the booty into stove-sized lumps.IMG_2748

Locks 3, miles 3¾

Sunday, November 27, 2016

And off we jolly well go…

There was a handful of boats moving yesterday, and we could have done so ourselves but we had visitors coming in the afternoon and it’s really handy on the Trent Lock pontoon.

First boat up Trent Lock, having to plough through all the flotsam.IMG_2711

The water level had dropped down to amber overnight.IMG_2712

Another boat, the Whitby, thumping her way upstream.IMG_2714
Whitby used to be run, under charter, by the Threefellows Carrying Company.

We had a pleasant afternoon catching up with regular blog correspondent KevinToo and his mum Sylvia. That pork pie is to die for, mate! Thanks for coming to see us.

So, on a slightly murky morning, we cast off from the pontoon that’s been home for the last few days and headed to the water tap to replenish our depleted tank. We were moving quite nicely backwards with the flow, so I thought we stay that way, and pull in to the tap just down from the entrance to the Erewash. All went well till I tried to get in to the bank. There’s a funny little cross-current which squirts you back out when you get close, probably caused by an eddy at the junction. I did get there though, eventually.IMG_2719 

Tank filled and rubbish and recycling disposed of we set off upstream.IMG_2721

It’s not far to Sawley Locks, and the river flow had slackened considerably over the last couple of days so we were there in 10 minutes.

Approaching Sawley Locks
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The paired and mechanised locks are to the left, to the right, up the river channel, are moorings for the services.

One lock was empty so we used that, and were soon out on Sawley Cut.IMG_2724

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Derby Motor Boat Club moorings on the left, long-term then visitor moorings on the right.

We pulled on to the wharf at Sawley Marina for diesel, we were running a bit low having not filled since Apperley Bridge up there on the Leeds and Liverpool. The marina has a policy of selling the red stuff at a proportional split of 60/40, cruising/domestic. So I don’t normally fill here and didn’t today, just putting in enough to get us to Burton and Shobnall Marina where they’re a bit more accommodating.
Then we had the flood lock at the top end of the cut to negotiate before returning to the river for another short sprint above the large Sawley Weir.

Back on the river, the M1 crossing ahead and the weir taking the river around Sawley Cut to the right.IMG_2726

Derwent Mouth, where the River Derwent comes in from the right.IMG_2730
The Trent comes around the bend on the left, but our route is straight on, up to the Trent and Mersey Canal.

Derwent Mouth Lock, Lock 1 on the T&M
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Mags is happy; we’re off the river! She’d much rather have the predictability of the cut.
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We pulled in above the lock, in time to watch the last race of the 2016 Formula 1 season. An interesting last few laps…

Locks 3, miles 2½