I keep thinking about writing my Blog and that is pretty much where it stays in ‘Thinkland’, but the time has come for pen to paper then finger to keyboard and all (well all I want to write) will be written.
We are on to Day 12 of our Avalon Mist ninety day 2012 Canal adventure. We have given summer every chance to arrive but summer seems to have been “packing a sad” this year in Blighty. We did escape the wettest drought for a few weeks in July when we took our ‘Boat-on-Wheels’ on an 8000km drive through France, Spain & Portugal. We do have a tendency to keep on the move and we did find summer halfway through
and then melted when we got to Spain
The air-con made a marked improvement in our comfort although Della needed the
coolness of a wet towel to cope with the sun beaming through the car windows.
When I think back to those years we used to drive in these countries with no
air-con….. a plastic water- filled spray bottle and open windows were our cooling
We had happy days with our friends and neighbours in
Portugal. We so
enjoyed our stay at Encontro de Amigos (our former local bar/restaurant), it
was like we had never left. And then as quickly as we arrived we were on the
For anyone interested in pet travel between Europe and the
UK, we found
the process worked favourably using the Pet Passport scheme. Last century,
there was a 6 month quarantine period for any dog entering Britain from Europe!
Della has her Pet Passport and all we had to do was make sure she visited a Vet
between 24 hours and 5 days prior to entering England and have her microchip
read, give her a tasty worm tablet (it must be Drontal) and ensure she was in
good health. We did this in Portugal
and cost €30. At Calais,
the ferry company dot the I’s and cross the T’s, read the
microchip and ask us to place a big sticker on the windscreen with ANIMAL
written on it (and this is an extra £30 included in the ferry ticket). There were no further checks when we landed at Dover.
Europe summer escape completed,
we decided that rain or shine, it was time to get moving on AM and to begin heading
up canals and rivers in a northerly direction. On September 1st our
time was up at Mercia Marina and off we cruised on to the
heading the short distance to join the River Trent. We have passed through
Nottingham via the Beeston Cut (the only way to get back on the River Trent),
gone through Trent & Mersey Canal Newark-on-Trent (we like that town)
and turned in at the Fossdyke Navigation with a relatively straight run to Lincoln. There are many
‘tupperware’ boats (aka ‘plastic fantastic’ boats) moored up, as well as Dutch Barges.
The canal leads to Boston
and out to sea. There isn’t any Tea Party at this Boston, I am told.We winded and headed back
to Torksey Lock.
Let’s talk about Locks baby….. I know I’ve blogged a lot about locks in last years travels and that some of my beautiful lady friends find it a tad on the boring side to read – but locks are dangerous and important and on the tidal River Trent are operated mostly by men from the Canals and River Trust (CART), the former British Waterways (BW). We did hear there is one woman Lock Keeper but didn’t meet her as she was unwell. Cromwell Lock is the beginning of the tidal river, all straight forward and the Lock Keepers along the way book you with the next lock, and work with the right timing of the ‘flood’ or ‘ebb’ tide so we can get to the next lock with every chance of being able to get there safely. He also phones ahead to the next lock to let them know your E.T.A and find out what traffic we may encounter along the way. Torksey Lock was straight forward enough as there was a little inlet to the lock gates and, if you don’t want to go up the lock, there are floating pontoons to moor on. To head back on the River again you need to book with the Lock Keeper. Leaving Torksey the narrowboat we shared the lock with had Captain ‘Diamond geezer’ from
Essex. Not my cuppa tea, he knew everything
although he’d never taken his boat the direction we were going, he didn’t have
river charts and he didn’t know how to wear a life jacket so he didn’t wear
one! He wanted us to follow them!! We let them race ahead. Stockwith Lock was potentially
a boat banger. The Lock Keeper was essential in yelling out directions to Chris
to steer into the lock without the pull of the ebb tide causing us to knock on
the wall! (I stayed indoors and did not offer any unhelpful advice). Amazing
and they scored him 10/10.
From Stockwith Lock (gateway to the
it’s worth writing about in a later blog) we made our final River journey to
Keadby Lock. Keadby Lock is sometimes blocked by a sand bank but all was clear
for us. Chris started turning some metres before the Lock and I had to call out
to him, from the Bow, to check he had seen the Lock. He had and he was using
the ebb tide to help draw him close to the Lock Gates. Della and I sat in the
Bow until I thought we had better move indoors because I was 99.9% sure we were
going to have contact with the concrete wall. But we missed and, again, passed
through the gates (not the ‘pearly’ ones!!) I felt elated. Exceptionally well
done Chris. The Tidal Trent is 45 ½ miles. Chesterfield Canal-
The weather indicated the start of an Indian summer and, now on Day 12 (as I first wrote this) we are moving with rain falling. We are on the South Yorkshire Navigation and teamed up with Roger in his narrowboat. Our mate, Ian, who is travelling with Roger for this leg arranged that we should travel together for this leg as there are 7 bridges to operate and easier to share the load. I have just operated my first swing bridge, this year, with the BW Key. There was a bloke in the booth near the bridge operation box and he didn’t appear until I had turned my key clockwise. He shut the rail barrier gates and indicated I needed to shut the road barrier gate at the far end of the bridge. I had tried to shut it on the way to the machine, but obviously the key needs to be turned to unlock it. So I walked back (yes it is raining but not heavily) and try to shut the gate but it wasn’t budging so I return to the machine and Mr ‘Helpful’ says I have to shut the gate manually, so I return to the gate (feeling blonder with every return trip) I returned to the machine and pressed OPEN and nothing happened. Mr ‘Helpful’ said the gate I closed is not shut properly. So I walk back and make sure it is properly shut. I am getting a little edgy. Back to my bleeding machine and I press OPEN and it opens. Boats go through. I press CLOSE. Bridge swings close. I walk to open road gate and gate won’t budge. Back to machine and Mr ‘Helpful’ says you have got to turn off key and wait for motor sound to subside. Turn off key, walk to gate, open gate, walk back to machine, remove BW Key, Walk to AM and get on board, think “Fit not Fat”.
The rain got heavier, Roger did the next bridge and then it was my turn again. I thought that it would be straightforward but no it freaking wasn’t. This was no OPEN & SHUT machine job. This was manual! The key would only unlock the road gates so I could physically shut them. If they weren’t shut properly I couldn’t physically lift the bridge unlock mechanism. I got WET, saturated from the thigh down. I ranted and raved and thought I had been set up. I checked the gates, some evil force had meant one gate wasn’t holding in place. I ranted more. Then I managed to get back to the lever and it lifted about 10cm and locked into place. I knew I had released the locking mechanism but I wasn’t sure if this was a swing or a lift bridge. Eventually I worked out that it was a swing bridge and I had to use bum force to put pressure on the fancy steel lever to swing the bridge around. I got stuck on ‘F’ in the alphabet and the boat people knew I was not happy and the rain was not putting out my fiery temper. After I restored the bridge to its functional position I walked to AM, boarded, Shut the door and removed my wet gear. I squeezed out my trousers in the kitchen sink and put them back on.
I had one bridge left to work. The rain stopped and the bridge was fully automated, it even had red flashing lights, automatic road gates and I calmed down. The boats went through and we headed to Thorne and the final bridge. The other boat stopped to work that one and it didn’t work. They had to phone CART, who turned up 15 minutes later.
If you think life on a narrowboat is like sailing down the river on a Sunday or sunny afternoon, it is not!!