Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Journey's End

So after 6 wonderful years afloat touring the UK waterways the adventure finally comes to an end.  I've covered the majority of the UK canal and river network from Ripon in the north to Guilford in the south.  Llangollen in the west and the East Anglian rivers in the east.  I've made new friends, met up with old friends and seen so many varied and beautiful hidden views of our green and pleasant land.

A few statistics to finish with:

9,475 miles or 3 times across the Atlantic. 

5,520 locks - at an average of 5' that's a total of 27,600'. Given that what goes up must come down that's equates to lifting and then lowering the boat some 13,800' using only water.  Only a little short of taking it up Mont Blanc and back. I have also climbed that distance on lock ladders - no wonder my knees ache.

4,815 hrs spent stood at the tiller. That's 200 days !

7,000 litres of diesel 

And a big thank you to my brother Dave who has helped me move the boat back to Braunston and prepare her for sale. Couldn't have done it without you.

A final photo of my beloved Mr Bunbury back on the dock at Braunston where we first met.

Friday, 16 February 2018

The final year

Well it's been a while since my last post back in Nov 17 when I arrived in Newark.  I was knocked for six by the nasty flu virus doing the rounds and after suffering for 2 weeks I then developed a chest infection.  A narrow boat is not the best place to recuperate during in a chilly December so I decided to leave the boat in Nottingham Marina and stayed with my brother for a month to get back to full strength.  Dave took me back to the boat in early Feb and helped me move it off the river Trent onto the safer Trent and Mersey canal.  Having returned to the boat on the coldest week of the winter so far I spent most of my time stoking the fire which did a fine job of keeping it cosy inside despite a layer of frost on the roof.

I am once again on shore leave with Dave as there are a couple of locks closed for repairs which limits my movement until mid March.

I had decided last year that I would spend one more year on the boat before returning to land. I've now decided that I will sell the boat in the summer leaving me with a few months to enjoy a final tour and to do all those little jobs needed to prep her for sale.

In the 6 years aboard I've visited the vast majority of the canal system and covered almost 8,000 mile and passed through almost 5,000 locks. I've seen most of the key sights on the network - Llangollen aqueduct, Caen Hill flight of 29 locks, the Anderton boat lift are memorable.  The only trip I still want to do is to cruise under Tower Bridge in my own boat.

Therefore, once back aboard my final trip will be down the Grand Union Canal to London to travel the tidal Thames from Limehouse Basin under Tower Bridge and past Westminster before returning to Braunston where this wonderful journey began.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

A chilly trip to Newark

Having spent a week in Lincoln it was time to face the cold winter weather for the 20 mile leg of the tidal Trent up to Newark.  While tidal rivers are useful for covering a long distance quickly due to the lack of locks they also have a disadvantage in that one can't really stop once en route as you need to reach the detonation before the tide turns.  On the canals it's easy to pull over almost anywhere for a quick brew and a warm by the stove.

So yesterday I left Lincoln in the mid morning sunshine, once the frost had cleared, for the 10 mile cruise back up the Fossdyke Navigation to it's junction with the Trent at Torksey. Having already checked by phone I knew I could stop overnight by the lock ready for an early start at first light this morning.  Thankfully there was not a frost but was still only 4c as I entered the lock at 7:30 under an impressive sunrise.    

Despite early promise offering some good photo opportunities the sun didn't choose to put in much of an appearance during the 20 mile slog up to Cromwell Lock which marks the end of the tidal section.

Despite wrapping up well it was still a very long cold 4 hours on the tiller and I was very relieved to reach Cromwell Lock and take the opportunity to tie up for an hour while I warmed up.

I was tempted to stay overnight at Cromwell but decided to carry on the last 5 miles and one more lock to Newark.  Unfortunately the floating visitor mooring, in the background below, were full so I had to moor on the wall instead.  The moorings pontoon opposite has the advantage of floating as river levels change and also has electricity points which are a rare but welcome treat on the waterways. Hopefully one of them will move off and I can scoot across.   Sadly, two days on the tiller has not helped my cold so I now, if I can find a space on the pontoon, I'll stay here for a while and keep warm and dry till I'm feeling better.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Lincoln City

Following a quiet night at Torksey I enjoyed a gentle 10 mile trundle along the Fossdyke navigation  to Lincoln yesterday.  Looking back at Torksey lock the steam from the power station cooling towers dominate the morning sky.

The Fossdyke navigation, is one of the oldest manmade waterways, originally having been built by the Romans to connect the river Trent to the river Witham in Lincoln.  From Lincoln the Witham flows through Boston and into the Wash providing a valuable trade link to the North Sea. The Romans built their canals much like their roads - straight.

I'm currently moored on the outskirts of the City and tomorrow I will take the boat into the city, through the famous Glory Hole and moor up just beyond the main shopping centre.

Amongst other claims to fame Lincoln is the home of the military tank which were developed and built by  Wm Foster & Co.  This memorial stands proud on a city centre roundabout and it seemed appropriate to visit on Remembrance Day.

Today I tested my electric bike with a ride up the aptly names Steep Hill which leads up to the Cathedral and Castle. The bike did me proud an I was able to reach the summit still seated.

I shall have another trip up the hill while I'm here to visit the castle which is home to one of the original copies of the Magna Carta.  Original copy may seem an oxymoron but when the original was signed several copies were made my scribes and taken around the country, mainly to castles and cathedrals.  Lincoln is proud to have one the only four remaining.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Tidal Trent part 1

Yesterday I just had a short hop along to Keadby lock which provides access to the tidal Trent. Although only 10 miles the trip was interesting, not least for the rather impressive cloud formations.

The canal runs alongside a railway line which seems to have only two types of train.  The short, two carriage, local commuter trains and very long freight trains delivering fuel to Drax power station.  At one of the swing bridges there is a lovely example of a traditional gated level crossing and signal box.  The signal man has to swing the gates by hand.

The railway has one more surprise which is, I believe,  the only sliding rail bridge in the UK. The sliding section is on the right and, as the name suggests, it slides across the canal to complete the rail bridge.

Keadby did provide a splendid sunset.

After a quiet night at Keadby I headed onto the Trent at 8:30 for the 24 mile cruise down to Torksey.  I noticed that the forecast was much the same, 10c and sunny but didn't notice that the wind speed was gusting to 30 mph.  I arrived in Torksey around 4 hrs later and have just about got the feeling back in my ears.  The tidal Trent is very wide but not particularly picturesque so not too many photos.

You can tell it's a quiet day when a line of sheep rate as a photo opportunity.

And on arriving at Torksey lock the boater is greeted by the unusual sight of a collection of tea pots displayed on the lock gate.  This is an inner gate and is not usually used so the pots can rest undisturbed by passing boats.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Heading east towards the Trent

After a restful day watching the rain yesterday I left Ferrybridge on a gloriously sunny but chilly morning with clear blue skies.

After leaving Ferrybridge on the river Aire the route rejoins the Aire & Calder navigation for a long straight trip east across the country.  The Aire & Calder runs to Goole where it joins the river Ouse which in turn joins the Trent and eventually the Humber before flowing into the North Sea at Hull.  However, the river beyond Goole has a strong tidal flow which is too much for my little narrow boat. Unlike the main canals, which were built for narrow boats, these waterways are wide and straight - the motorways of water transport and were designed to let sea going vessels and large barges travel to the industrial heart of Yorkshire.  Like motorways they allow quicker travel but are rather boring.

Mr Bunbury felt very small compared to this converted Humber barge which is twice the width and almost twice the length.  Originally designed to carry large loads such as coal or grain.

I therefore turned south onto the New Junction canal which runs down to Doncaster but after only a few miles turned east once again onto the Stainforth and Keadby canal.  Whilst still quite wide this was beginning to look more like a traditional canal.

After a long day at the helm covering 20 miles, 5 locks and several lift or swing bridges I stopped for the night at the little town of Thorne.  This is only 10 m miles from Keadby where it joins the tidal Trent.  I can have a gentle day tomorrow cruising up to Keadby before tasing through the lock onto the Trent on a rising tide at around 8am on Friday.  The rising tide should give me a gentle push southwards to Torksey where I will leave the Trent for a few days to explore the Fossdyke navigation and Lincoln city.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Farewell Leeds

After a couple of weeks in Leeds it's time to move off and begin the journey southward towards the midlands before the winter stoppages or rivers going into flood delay me.  Today was just a gentle 10 mile cruise down the river Aire to Ferrybridge in the late Autumn sunshine.  The river was looking particularly pretty as the sun picked out the turning leaves.

Passing beneath the east coast mainline with the A1 flyover in the distance.

The approach to Ferrybridge is dominated by the power station of the same name. Coal was originally delivered by barge and the building by the riverside is the dock where it was all unloaded.

The original Ferry Bridge, replaced by the A1 flyover and more recently the A1M flyover.

Tomorrow looks like a wet day so I'll probably stay put and then later in the week make my way across to Keadby to join the tidal river Trent for a rapid run down to Newark.