Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Tattershall Bridge

Today's Navigations - River Witham, Witham Navigable Drains

Today we had really wonderful weather with brilliant sunshine for most of the time. The wind had dropped and so the water was very calm compared with yesterday when, on open stretches, it looked quite choppy.

First off, Mike walked into town for a newspaper and some milk - also picked up some fruit juice. Food shopping in the centre of Boston is a bit meagre with only M&S offering a general selection. on the way in, Mike noticed a couple of European specialist shops.

That statue outside the church (can just be seen in the above photo) is of Herbert Ingram, first proprietor of the Illustrated London News.

Back at the boat the next task was to fill with water - we still had half a tank but it was another washing day. This entailed moving along to a different finger mooring for the water point. The flotilla left around seven this morning so there was now plenty of room.

Next it was down to the sani station which is alongside the Grand Sluice. By now the tide had fallen quite a bit. For most purposes, the lock is only used to pass boats on the level at high tide although it also acts as a defence against high water, Hence the bottom gates are rather high and some boats go out on a rising tide.

Time then to set off back up the River Witham. Our first objective was Anton's Gowt Lock - Mike checked with the Witham Navigation Board phone number and was told there were no problems. nb Judy, which we have met several times on this trip as we are both doing much the same route, was moored beside the lock and kindly helped us through. This is really useful as there is no lock landing the other side of the lock. Instead there is just a  rather long ladder. Apart from the somewhat counter intuitive factor of going down the drains, the lock is conventional.

Once through we turned sharply right along Frith Bank Drain. Shortly afterwards we had a good view of Boston stump in the distance. The drains do not have large elevated banks along the sides - the drains were dug down from the prevailing ground level.

A couple of miles later we arrived at Cowbridge Lock but rather than go back down towards Boston, which would have involved going down this lock, we turned left onto Medlam Drain. We were somewhat surprised that so far we had water that is wider than many canals and on only 1000 rpm we made well over 3 mph.

Useful to know the water level - however we were not sure what to do with the information!

As already mentioned, we could see a bit more of the buildings alongside the drains. Unfortunately this one did not help us tell the time - it was about ninety minutes late. . .

At Frithville we again turned left, this time onto West Fen Drain which was also easy to navigate. However, the first bridge we came to was a sharp reminder that navigation is not a given around here and care in planning routes has to be taken as some bridges are very low. In this case we fitted with about 150 mm to spare. There are no official places to moor along these drains so it was a matter of lunch on the go.

The arable crops can easily be seen in the adjacent fields.

Things changed somewhat at the next junction where two drains cross at an angle so we had to turn a sharp left onto Newnham Drain that would take us back to where we started.

This drain, almost three miles long, is much narrower and seasonal weed growth has already made its mark. Our speed dropped down to around 2 mph but, with the occasional 'chuck back' we were not prevented from progressing back down to  Frith Bank.

Some of the blanket weed patterns seemed almost an abstract painting.

Here we locked back through Anton's Gowt Lock - Christine opted to do the long climb up to fill the lock and open the gates.

As we set off back up the River Witham we experienced some vibration when up to speed. However, we planned a re-fuelling stop not to far ahead so progressed by keeping our speed down.

A family group?

We pulled in at Langrick Bridge Boatyard and filled up. Not quite as much as Mike had anticipated but there is nowhere else we are likely to pass for some days to come. (There is nothing that we have spotted this side of Burton Waters Marina, the other side of Lincoln)

Mike also opened the weed hatch and indeed there was rather a loot of blanket weed still around the prop shaft ahead of the propeller itself.

Christine decided that it was warm and sunny enough to treat ourselves to an ice cream from the shop. Altogether we can recommend this place with very friendly people.

We now had the long straight section up  to Chapel Hill but it only took just over an hour. However, going upstream we had to increase the engine revs in comparison with our journey down yesterday.

In the late afternoon the sunshine created some delightful scenes - we passed just two boats coming the other direction.

We took a look at Dogdyke moorings but another long narrowboat had just arrived and there was not enough room for us as well. Since it was only another mile to Tattershall Moorings, we happily pressed on.

We had been somewhat disappointed that so far the promised frequent loud noises of aircraft taking off from RAF Coningsby had not happened. We even wondered if the station had closed! However, this evening the situation was rectified and we saw a number of planes taking off - the end of the runway is only just over a mile from the river at this point. Most were fighters but occasionally something else.

22.3 Miles - 2 Locks

Monday, 22 May 2017


Today's Navigation - River Witham

A really warm day, despite quite a stiff breeze at times. Although there was some hazy cloud around, this was one of the pleasantest days yet, certainly on this trip.

Before we left our overnight mooring, Mike walked up to the small village church as we had expected that it would be opened. However, when he arrived he found it locked but a man who was starting his day's work on the new composting toilet that the church is adding said that he too need to gain access and that he also knew the man across the road who has the key! A few minutes later Mike saw both men returning and the key custodian kindly opened up long enough for Mike to take a look around inside.

Yesterday's photos showed the exterior so today we will show inside. A small number of years ago new stained glass was added above the entrance door to commemorate the lives of several local men who died in war. The church looks well used, although with a small village population, perhaps half what it was a century ago, the congregations are modest. However, it certainly did not feel like a museum or that it is going to give up anytime soon!

We set off and continued down the river. The high banks on either side mean that there are few distance views other than straight ahead. Sometimes the only photographic interest is in the kilometre posts!

With the occasional sculpture . .

 . . . drainage channel . . .

. . . and former station building now happily finding use as a house.

We have never seen anything called a fish shelter before - but as it was alongside a series of anglers' platforms, we are not sure just how much shelter the fish actually find!

At Dogdyke a larger boat was reversing out. Although it followed us a short time, it must have pulled in as it did not appear around one of the bends a little downstream!

That seems a bit steep to moor, especially as the water point and rubbish bins advertised in Nicholsons were not to be see,. Think we'll give that one a miss. Just how many fees do they ever collect, we wondered?

Chapel Hill is the junction with Kyme Eau, or the River Slea, or the Sleaford Navigation (take your pick!). It is possible to navigate some distance up here but the winding point may be a bit iffy.

We were now at the part of the river where it is a series of very long, straight sections.

 Just a few larger farm houses stick up above the height of the bank.

We pulled in at Langrick Bridge Moorings for lunch and a chance to enjoy the peace and warmth. (There is a main road crossing the river on the nearby bridge but we were not troubled by noise from it. It is narrow with traffic lights controlling one-way operation, so the vehicles cannot go at speed close to the river)

Mike then walked across to the filling station and local shop - he was pleasantly surprised to find that there was just one copy of pour newspaper left.

On again, with another couple of long, straight reaches. On the only significant bend at Anton's Gowt is the entrance to the navigable drains.

A little closer to Boston is the Pendulum Lookout. The towpath was popular with walkers and cyclists but we did not see anyone trying out the lookout.

We were almost at our destination before we had our first glimpse of Boston Stump, but once in sight it dominates the final straight into the town.

The former railway was once more following the river (it had diverted away for a time near Dogdyke). Hopefully, the train drivers did niot have to cope with so many signals all at one!

We found room on the Visitor Moorings, although there were more boats here than at any of the previous moorings. Several were gathering for an early start tomorrow as they set out into the Wash to enter the River Welland and so up to Spalding.

Christine opted to walk into the town, leaving Mike to the luxury of just sitting and reading!

19.9 Miles - 0 Locks

Sunday, 21 May 2017


Today's Navigation - River Witham

It was a beautiful morning, just as had been forecast. It was also quite clear and even our compact camera managed to take a good view of the cathedral some miles away now.

One of the reasons for mooring here at Washingborough was to be able to go to the church service in the village at 11.00. As  a result we had a lazy first part of the day until 10:16 when we walked up Ferry Lane to the village. Alongside we spotted two of the less common chestnuts with pink flowers.

Outside the church is an unusual memorial to a local soldier who died in Afghanistan some 8 years ago.

Outside the church there were some strange characters in the wall! We were greeted by the churchwarden as we wandered around the paths in the churchyard - he also let us know that the Bishop of Grimsby was visiting today to make an unannounced pastoral visit. Most of the 30 or so in the congregations seemed not to have been expecting him today.

Inside there was an exhibition of stained glass sculptures called Glassumimass. In the middle of one hung four translucent uncoloured shapes - initially they looked random shapes until you catch them at just the right angle when in each of them a face can be made out.

The church is also known for its set of Zeppelin windows, high above the nave. They commemorate an occasion when a bomb was dropped on the village, probably when the pilot had lost his way! Afterwards the Rector of the time decided to arrange for these windows to be installed - alas it seem that he was not hot on detail has he got most of the airship numbers wrong!

The service was a straightforward communion at which the bishop preached and presided. Afterwards, most of the congregation did not seem to be keen to talk with him and so we did - as we did not stay for coffee - had quite a chat with him - we found a number of things and people in common.

Back at the boat we changed and had lunch before setting off. Although there was a bit of cloud about, it was a very warm afternoon, which lasted well into early evening.

The river is straight, with just a few gentle bends and high banks. According to Nicholsons, some of the villages which are now about a quarter of a mile away from the river, used to flood regularly before the flood banks were created.

This is very much an arable farming area so it was unusual to see a herd of cattle watering by the river.

We also spotted a heron amongst the reeds.

There one or two sculptures along the Water Rail Way - we almost missed the Cows as they are rather overgrown at the moment , but here is the Corn Sculpture. It was interesting to note that the former railway track is far ore used by walkers and cyclists than boats on the river!

The main interruption to smooth progress today was Bardney Lock. Above, we paused for a Full Service before dropping down to the lower level. A couple of young chaps out baby walking helped close the bottom gates - helpful as it is quite a drop down ladders at the lower lock landing.

There used to be a swing bridge across the centre of the lock but it is currently being dismantled by CaRT.

Almost the only large buildings alongside the river are the parts of the former Bardney Sugar Beet processing factory. That production ceased in 2001 but recently Silver \spoon have enhanced their sugar works and there are also plans for a large bakery to be built here. In the 1930's the buildings were very different (see http://www.britainfromabove.org.uk/image/epw031746) modelled on the poplar style of mills in many industrial cities and towns.

We were pleased to discover that there is now a Visitor Mooring pontoon at Southrey, on the village side, as well as one outside the pub (currently again closed) opposite. When we arrived, both were completely empty but one boat did join us later.

This gave us an unexpected chance to take a closer look at the former station (whose name board has ling been a propulsion landmark from the water) According to an information panel, it only took about three hours by train from here to Kings Cross when the track was still in existence.

On one of the former platforms is this unusual sculpture created by a Lincoln Hospital rehabilitation group.

An unusual small church is just up the road in the village. Christine explored and discovered that there are 96 houses and 108 residents. Even so, it is said that there is a real community spirit with lots of activities taking place on a daily basis.

8.8 Miles - 1 Lock