Following a couple of weeks catching up with a few appointments and a very enjoyable week with family in Bristol and Dursley we returned to the boat and readied ourselves for the next leg of our journey.
During our break I contacted the lock keeper at Keadby, to arrange our passage onto the river Trent, and the pilot who we had been recommended to use for crossing the Wash.
The lock keeper advised us that the best tide for the Trent was Friday 28th June giving us three days to get across to Keadby. We were given two windows for the Wash crossing, 2-7th July and 14-21st July, these allowed for suitable tides but the weather would be the most significant factor in determining the date and I was asked to contact the pilot on the 28th to check.
This meant that we had a few days of long cruising ahead of us.
That Tuesday morning we awoke to heavy rain drumming on the roof so we readied ourselves, donned our waterproofs and got underway for Castleford, our target for the day.
We waved our goodbyes to Dewsbury and set off down the short arm to rejoin the Calder Hebble at Thornhill. Turning left in pouring rain we set off along the wide canal heading for Horbury. This canal is wide and deep due to its being used by large boats supplying coal to the large Thornhill Lees Power Station back in the 80's, traffic which has long since ceased. There were also several large coal mines along this stretch of canal and we passed some of the large wharfes that at one time would have been very busy places.
|Approaching Thornhill Junction at the end of the Dewsbury Arm|
A mile or two later we arrived at the next pair of locks known as the Figure of Three, due to a third lock, now long disused, that linked the canal to the river. We continued on arriving at the last canal lock dropping us down to broad cut and the wonderful Navigation Inn, sadly, on this occasion, we had to pass by to reach Broad Cut Low lock. This lock dropped us down to the river Calder thankfully unaffected by the rain. The river takes the route under the M1, through Thornes lock and on into Wakefield.
|Broadcut Low Lock from the River Calder|
It was with trepidation that we entered the large and deep lock here, it has a bad reputation, however some work has been carried out making passage easier but time consuming as it took a long time to empty.
From here we left the Calder Hebble and joined the Wakefield branch of the Aire and Calder with its mechanised locks. We left the river again to join the long canalised section starting just above Stanley Ferry, I covered our last journey down this stretch in our blog back in August 2017, no stopping for us this time, and we pressed on through the three locks taking us back to the river at Methley. The rain was starting to ease a little and again thankfully the river was still open so we continued down to the confluence with the river Aire at Castleford.
|River Calder meets River Aire at Castleford|
|Entering Castleford Lock|
A drier day greeted us for our next leg heading down to Bramwith Junction to join the Stainforth and Keadby canal. Again I have covered this stretch earlier in the blog but with brightening skies we made good progress and enjoyed the long spell on the river to Knottingley, this part of the river passes the huge Ferrybridge power complex, still holding on to its cooling towers even though the coal fired part of the plant in now closed.
|Coal Tippler at Castleford|
|River Aire below Castleford|
|Extensive bridge works near Brotherton|
There are proposals to bring some large barges through here carrying containers and aggregate dredged from the North Sea, sadley there was no evidence of this traffic on this occasion.
We arrived at the junction at Southfield reservoir, a huge lake used to balance the water levels when the large ocean lock is used at Goole. Here we turned right to enter the New Junction Canal, dead straight for five miles with a number of lift and swing bridges to negotiate breaking the monotony. There is also one lock at Sykehouse,the first lock up since the summit of the Rochdale.
We arrived at the aqueduct crossing the river Don always a welcome sight when travelling in this direction, before turning left at Barmby Dun to join the Stainforth and Keadby. We moored up just below the lock at West Bramwith..
|The River Don aqueduct flood gates|
Thursday morning arrived and we set off through the lock dropping us down a few feet and got underway heading for a lunch stop at Thorne, we called at Stanilands marina for fuel before a hour or so break in very warm sunshine. Whilst locking through West Bramwith Lucia fortunately spotted a notice informing us that we had to book passage through Wykewell Lift bridge, thankfully I managed to do this but it would not be passable until 3 pm that afternoon.
We were soon through and on through the several swing bridges between Throne and Keadby, the canal runs alongside a busy rail line and one of the swing bridges near Crowle, requires contacting the signalman who closes the level crossing to road traffic to prevent a queue forming over the crossing.
|The crossing that is interlocked with the swing bridge near Crowle|
On the approach to Keadby we reached the fascinating Vazon railway drawbridge. The rails are only a few meters above the canal so the bridge has to slide at an angle to give passage through, this requires a wave to the signal man who operates the bridge from the signalbox. It is amazing to watch this enormous structure rumble into life sliding both tracks to the side and away from the canal.
Link to video showing bridge in operation https://youtu.be/k4gM8KojMEQ
The signal man waved indicating we could proceed before the machinery creaked its way back into its normal position.
|Making good progress on the approach to Keadby|
Passage was booked at 1330 the next afternoon so we managed a lie in that morning before preparing ourselves for the tidal Trent.
The lock keeper called us on the radio indicating that he was to open the swing bridge around 1300 to get us into the lock ready for the tide.
|Entering Keadby lock|
I always get a nervous feeling before embarking on these journeys, I had done all I could to prepare the boat but there is always that feeling of what if, the tide can be fierce and on a spring tide there is a tidal bore known as the Aegir. This was our third time on the river, heading south, and we have had varying tides but always good weather, this time was a neap tide, and warm and sunny the tidal flow was a lot less than on previous occasions, we made our lonely way up stream and I called the lock at West Stockwith to check if any traffic was leaving, glad I did as the keeper was about to let a couple of boats out, he held them in the lock until we were safely past. The two narrow boats that entered the river were cracking on at fair rate and soon overtook us, commenting on the lack of flow as they passed by.
|Tidal Trent below Gainsborough|
|Torksey Viaduct, a welcome site approaching the lock|
We pressed on reaching Torksey and our turn off the river some 4.5 hours after starting out, we had to wait a while for the lock to be set, but were soon up on the calm of the Fossdyke canal.
This canal was originally dug by the Romans as a link from Roman Lincoln to the Trent, just like a roman road it is straight for most of its length.
|The Fossdyke Canal|
Passing through Torksey we noted that no moorings were available, it was a warm Friday evening and clearly a lot of boats were out for the weekend. We decided to press on and head for the the next moorings at Saxilby, again they were full so we had no option to try for the next ones at Burton Waters only to find these were also full, by this time the light was beginning to fade along with our hopes of finding a mooring, however we finally claimed a spot right outside the Pyewipe Pub, a bonus as it was open and after a long journey I was ready for a pint!.
During our trip I had made contact with the Wash pilot and he confirmed that Tuesday 2nd July was looking good for our crossing, I checked with our insurance company and they charged us thirty odd quid to extend our cover for the crossing. Everything was now falling into place and the excitement was beginning to build. We had a few days to get down to Boston so we could slow down a little before reaching Boston on Monday.
Saturday morning saw us pass through Lincoln with its large Brayford Pool and Glory Hole, after which we stopped to do a bit of shopping.
|The Glory Hole, Lincoln|
|Leaving Lincoln onto the Witham|
|Looking back at Lincoln Cathedral|
|Barney Lock halfway along the way to Boston|
|Old signal box near Woodhall Spa below Southrey|
|Typical Witham views|
The next morning we travelled a few hours further to moor at Langrick Bridge, here there is a small boat yard and is a recommended place to fill up with fuel before heading across the Wash.
Monday morning arrived and we called at the boatyard to fill up with fuel and water before heading down the last few miles of the Witham to reach Boston around lunchtime.
|Boston Stump comes into view|
Boston is a pleasant town although few english voices are to be heard as you walk around, with the weather been so warm and sunny it really felt as if we were abroad.
The moorings are plentiful with numerous pontoons available and they are secured by a CRT lock.
We moored next to an old Norfolk Broads cruiser, and the chap on board came across to ask if we were crossing the Wash. He wanted to follow us out into the Wash but they were headed for France so would not be turning into Kings Lynn. During our discussion I asked what his plans were for the journey, they hadn't really decided where to stop etc and were armed only with and old chart and an app on their phone. The only plan they had was to follow the coast round to Ramsgate before crossing the channel.
We also made contact with Cherryl and Ian who were on board a lovely Yorkshire built dutch barge called Serren Rose, they were also crossing the Wash and the pilot would be travelling with them with us following.
Following a walk round the town we got and early night in readiness for our adventure the next morning.
|The tower of St Botolph's church otherwise known as Boston Stump|