Wednesday 21 June 2017


Today's Canals -  Stainforth and Keadby, South Yorkshire Navigation

A return of the warm weather was promised but for most of the day it turned out very muggy and often overcast - but still much hotter than yesterday. During the afternoon there was a threat of rain but we just missed it.

We were not fast away today as we wanted to check with Blue Water Marina that we had parked our car in an acceptable position. With some marinas it is necessary to be quite careful not to occupy the wrong space!

Mike walked into town for a paper - not in stock at the small paper shops - so he had to resort to Sainsbury but at least that meant he could re-stock on thickening granules, something not easily found on a canal trip.

We also had a visit from Angie with her two dogs - the place where we moored was very popular with dog walkers, locals even more than visitors.

The first challenge was to negotiate the infamous footbridge which no-one, even those who moor locally, can manage without some sort of problem. Since it has been well known like this for many years (we first encountered it five years ago and it was well known even then!) it really must be a design fault. However, Christine was told later that it is not a CaRT asset but a bridge provided by the town council who see no reason to spend further money on it.

Christine went to Thorne Marine to investigate the possibility of a slightly longer tiller arm for when she is steering on longer stretches, especially rivers. They did not have any in chrome but allowed her to try out one in brass and if it was OK they could get one in for our return. In the end, she decided to think bout it a bit more!

As we set off we suddenly saw the water point and other services - we had forgotten that they were that close. However, the tap was rather slow so we were there for a little while! In addition, Mike took out the shorter hose and it only just stretched but did need someone to hold it in place throughout the filling operation. That will teach him not to use the right tool for the job as we do have a much longer one as well.

We could then set off - but Thorne Lock is only just round the corner and this too has its quirks to trip the unwary. The lock is mechanised but there is also a swing bridge immediately above the lock and its gates are interlocked with the lock operation. When we arrived a boat was just finishing ascending and a widebeam was waiting below.  These operations took some time with crews not always understanding the right way to operate the system. Eventually it was our turn, together with another narrowboat that arrived just before we did. By this time a CaRT person had arrived, summoned by one of the other boats, to check out the operation. Of course, with him in supervision everything went according to plan!

The canal is wide and deep and we made speedy progress with even low engine revs.

Next stop was the last swing bridge before the junction and a boat ahead had already opened it and readily let us through. They stopped at the service block but caught us up at the next lock.

Bramwith Lock was constructed in two parts with a middle set of gates that make a lock the same size as Thorne Lock, just long enough for 60ft boats. The bottom gates are not normally used. Unfortunately, concentrating on the lock operation led to us forgetting to take photos to show the operation more clearly. The above photo is whilst waiting in the lower part of the lock for the other part to empty.

There were a few boats moored below the lock that might need the extra length but they will not get any further towards the Trent. The longer length matches the size that the adjoining navigations expanded to at one stage in their development. These canals were the ones that really survived the longest with commercial carrying.

Above the lock we moored for lunch, just before Bramwith Junction. Setting off again we turned left at the junction to head towards Sheffield. Anyone who thought that we were aiming for north of York on this trip might be surprised but the great thing this year is that we have the luxury of changing plans, until, that is, we know where we will be able to moor this winter.

Just after the junction is where Thorpe Marsh power station once stood - now the only indication of the former use of this place is a large electricity sub station. Readers who wish to refer back to our blog from five years ago may find out why we had a surprise, here.

A busy road crosses the canal at Barnby Dun where there is a suitably impressive lift bridge, wide enough for vehicles in both directions at the same time. Most are only one way at a time. We tend to rate opening bridges on the number of vehicles that join the queue. We counted between 32 and 40 which just shows how busy it is. Alas there is now no permanent bridge keeper so opening takes longer with self-operation.

A small church stands close to the canal at Kirk Sandall - we do not know much about it but have made a note to stop and investigate if we have time on our return.

Much of the former industry that once lined the banks of the navigation has now disappeared and at times the canal is a green and good looking as many rivers such as the Severn.

We were surprised on arrival at Long Sandall Lock to see the lights indicating that it was manned - as we arrived they turned green and we sailed straight in. It seems from the keeper that it is more frequently manned now that a few years ago when the only time someone was in attendance was when a large commercial boat was scheduled. He did tell us that thew oil barge is still operating and can be expected somewhere coming down from Rotherham tomorrow.

Doncaster College heralds the arrival at the town centre.

The Minster stands proudly above the surroundings - although from the boat the moored barge does its best to get in the picture!

Doncaster Lock - not what anyone could claim a thing of beauty - was yet again to provide us with an incident. We could see that a narrowboat had just come out of the lo ck but was tied alongside the entrance. They were unable to remove their key from the control stand and had phoned CaRT who sent the keeper down from Long Sandall. Meanwhile, Mike set about preparing the Shepherds Pie for tonight, just in case there was a long delay. The lock landing was not, however, where one would want to spend a night as it is right underneath the busy East Coast Main Line!

Fortunately the keeper soon arrived and quickly resolved the problem. As we had suspected, rubbish in the water was preventing the gates from closing and simply by opening them again cleared the problem. However, the other boat had been a bit reluctant to try this option!

We then had a good run up to Sprotborough, passing under two high rail viaducts as well as a motorway. One of the rail bridges is now part of a cycle and walking route. This section is now the River Don.

This brought us finally to the vast Sprotborough Lock but this one, for a change, worked according to plan! We were aiming to moor at the Visitor Moorings just above the lock - as this is a river, mooring needs to be planned in advance. Despite several boats mooring in the least efficiently possible way, there was still room for us to find a space.

14./4 Miles - 5 Locks

1 comment:

  1. We have not made it up to Sprotborough yet. Not sure why. I grew up around that area so know it is a nice village.

    We are planning more local trips for next summer so might pop it on the list along with York.