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


  1. You can't get out of the Grand Sluice Lock at high water. At high water the level on the "salty" side is always higher then the level on the "fresh" side.

    This makes locking out/in somewhat complicated. You can lock out and down on a level or falling tide. You can lock in on a level or rising tide but when the salty side gets higher then the fresh side the gates are shut until the next level tide.

  2. I was really only passing on the comments from the flotilla who have been out this way before - so I bow to your local knowledge! What I think I was trying to say was that they went out on a level as the tide was rising/falling. Whatever, one of the boaters was almost put off by what happened previously that they nearly did not join the flotilla. We are currently sticking with flat rather than lumpy waters! (Although I'd quite like to do the Bristol Channel transit sometime) Tidal Trent or Thames is enough of a challenge in a narrowboat . . .