Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Northwards to Newark

Friday 11th October

We set off in cold and drizzle. As we entered Stenson Lock a couple having breakfast at the lockside cafe asked us if we minded waiting for them to share the lock. This turned out to be a good move as the locks from this point to the end of the Trent and Mersey are mostly pretty deep and can throw a single boat around.

We shared with nb Sophie and her crew all the way to Shardlow, passing the junction with the currently derelict Derby canal before reaching the very pretty settlement of Shardlow.

The wind made this stretch quite challenging at times and we met a few hirers who were struggling with their boats having just picked them up from Sawley. After dropping down the last lock into Shardlow we moored up and walked down to Derwent Mouth lock and the junction with the River Trent to see what lay in store for tomorrow. This is a big waterways crossroads where the Trent & Mersey Canal meets the River Trent on a corner, and the River Derwent flows into the Trent. Victoria is so shocked at the expanse of water she has chosen to close her eyes in this photo:

Saturday 12th October

Another cold and wet day as we dropped down onto the Trent. This is only a short river section, passing under the M1 before entering Sawley cut.

It was however just long enough for a warning light to come on, which was not great timing on the wide open river. We made it safely onto the canal section and moored up to investigate. Victoria went running while David dived down the engine hole armed with tools, a multimeter and a range of swear words for what turned out to be a completely bogus temperature warning.

With the fault fixed we locked down from Sawley Cut back onto the Trent. We made it to Trent Junction without a single warning light coming on. This is the point where the Erewash canal meets the Trent (brige on the left in the photo below) and the River Soar turns off right near a big weir. We moored right on the junction, which was a great spot to watch other boaters battling through some really heavy rain and winds.

Sunday 13th October

After another brief section of canal through the Cranfleet Cut we were back on the Trent and bracing ourselves against the speed we were travelling at downstream. We clocked ourselves at over 6mph which must surely be illegal in a narrowboat.

At Beeston you once again leave the river, this time joining the Beeston Cut which takes you right through Nottingham. We moored near Castle Marina which seemed a decent spot and close to Sainsbury's for shopping. After drying off we walked into town to meet Martin, David's cousin, for lunch. Hello to our newest blog reader.

Monday 14th October

A late start this morning as it was really raining hard. After stocking up at Sainsbury's we called the first lock keeper down on the Trent to see what the river was doing. After three days of more or less constant rain we were concerned about the level rising and strong stream conditions being an issue. We are perhaps more cautious than most boaters about this after our trip last year when we were stuck on the Thames for 11 days with flooding and then stuck again on the Rochdale canal when the River Calder flooded into the canal. 

Fortunately this time there was nothing to worry about and the lock keeper told us boats had passed through his lock with no reports of problems. So we set off for what is mostly a pleasant cruise through Nottingham to rejoin the Trent.

The river felt huge as we emerged opposite Nottingham Forest FC. We immediately noticed the flow had increased over the weekend as we flew away from Nottingham. We were relieved that the lock keepers haven't yet packed up for winter as the locks here are huge with room for maybe 10 Pas Meche's.

We moored at Gunthorpe on a floating pontoon just downstream of the road bridge. Being on a fast flowing river we decided to do things properly and turned to moor facing upstream. This proved to be a good move as the flow was really quite strong by this point so we made a smooth, controlled approach to the pontoon rather than careering towards it with the flow. I'm sure the owner of the cabin cruiser we shared the pontoon with appreciated this too.

An old work friend of Victoria's came to see us - travelling by boat is a great way to catch up with friends all over the country. Nice to see you Gemma.

Tueday 15th October

After more heavy rain overnight the river was really moving as we spun off the pontoon and headed for Gunthorpe lock. The exit from this lock is very close to the weir and we had flashbacks to 'crabbing' across Thames weirs last year as we left the lock sideways with plenty of power on. 

The section of the Trent below Gunthorpe is really very pretty, with a high cliff on one side and wide, flat flood plains the other. Approaching Newark, the river drops over a huge (and alarmingly unprotected) weir and the navigation enters Newark Cut. Through the city's flood gates, we reached Newark Lock which has fantastic views of Newark Castle and the Trent Bridge.

Trent Bridge itself limits the size of boats that can navigate the river and the arches certainly show where people have tried to push those limits. Pas Meche had no problem and even Middlewich Duck made it through unscathed.

There are floating pontoons outside the CRT office in Newark where we had planned to stop but the river is too narrow to turn a long narrowboat here so we carried on downstream to Kings Marina. There was room to turn Pas Meche here so we made the boating equivalent of a handbrake turn in the marina entrance before fighting the current back up (quite slowly) to the moorings.

We have spoken to Cromwell lock which marks the start (or end...) of the tidal section of the Trent and it looks like we will start the tidal passage on Thursday, breaking our journey at Torksey lock before carrying on up to Keadby lock on Friday. If it goes well, we are rewarded with the safety of the canal system. If it doesn't we face a night on the mud at Trent Falls and some close encounters with 600 tonne barges.... no pressure then.

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