Tuesday 22 August 2023

West Stockwith to Nottingham. River Trent, Tidal and Non Tidal.

The tide times at West Stockwith meant we needed to leave about 12, so we had plenty of time in the morning for a wander down to the lock for showers and a chat with the lock keeper. We were in and ready at 11:30 and out onto the river as soon as the tide turned.

We shared the lock by Nb Dark Star who soon overtook us, along with five other boats which had come up from either the River Ouse or Keadby...

...so it was no surprise to find that there was no room on the pontoons at Torksey when we got there. The protocol in situations like that is for someone to allow you to moor alongside them, and of course that’s what happened. In fact the first boat we got to kindly invited us to tie up, but it was slightly annoying to see that if everyone had moored closer together in the first place we’d have had plenty of room. Anything more than about 1m between boats is known as a Git Gap, and they seem to have got a lot bigger since Covid. Obviously, on pontoon moorings you can only tie up where the cleats are, but sharing a cleat, a ring, or a bollard is seen (by some) to be an intrusion, so you wind up with big - but not big enough - spaces all over the place. Most of us manage to park cars sensibly, so why we can’t do the same with a boat is a mystery. Hopefully we’ll soon get back to snuggling up and all will be right with the world

We were somewhat surprised when the Torksey lock keeper told us that we needed to set off at dawn the next morning in order to get to the end of the tidal section at Cromwell, and that the trip would be about 5 hours against the flow. We were expecting to have some help from the incoming tide but after studying the charts and tide times, we realised that any tidal assistance would be either in darkness, or too late to get us to Cromwell before the lock keeper went home, so dawn it was. We’d turned Legend round before tying up to the other boat, so it was easy to quietly push off and sneak away at 5:30, hopefully without disturbing anyone, and begin our long slog up-river. 

We got to Cromwell at about 11:30 after not seeing another boat all the way.

The pontoon above the lock was empty so we got a perfect mooring, then just as Dave was shutting the engine down, two boats came downstream and filled the rest of the pontoon up. Perfect timing. In the afternoon we went for a walk along the riverbank foraging blackberries and a giant puffball, which we’d never had before and can report that it was delicious and kept us in mushrooms for a week!

There had been a lot of rain in the Trent catchment area, so although we were now above the tidal limit, the next morning was another slow, up-stream slog against the flow. At Newark Nether Lock the lock keeper warned us on the radio that there was “a fair bit o’ fresh” coming across the lock approach, useful advice as it meant we could alter our course, turn late, and crab Legend sideways across the flow into the lock, avoiding any drama. We got a space on the Kiln pontoon in Newark and tied up for two days.

When we went into town there were crowd barriers all over the place and it was obvious there was something big happening.  It turned out that Karma had once more provided entertainment for us, this time in the form of the Newark Town Centre Cycle Races, which is not only part of the British Cycling National Circuit Series, but also the series final! So for the rest of the afternoon and evening we got very enthusiastic about bicycles.

It was a really tight circuit between the barriers round the narrow, cobbled town centre roads, and the speed the elite riders got up to was unbelievable, almost touching the barriers at every corner.

The town was rammed and the organisation was flawless, with lots of marshals manning the crossing points on the track so people could move around the town and get to all the pubs and restaurants that were doing a roaring trade. We found the whole event tremendously exhilarating, and went to bed buzzing with excitement.

In the morning we had a short walk over to Devon & Sconce Park for a very well organised parkrun, followed by a fry-up before t’Woods arrived with two of their grandchildren. We all went to the Old Bakery, which was becoming our favourite cafĂ©, then walked round to the playground till it was time for them to go home.

Later on we took the car to Fisketon and walked the 5 miles back along the Trent Valley Way, stopping at the Fox Inn for some much needed sustenance in the form of an ice cream each. The walk, on top of running in the morning, took its toll on Dave’s Achilles and left him hobbling a bit and he’s going to have to take it easy for a while.

Karma’s treat for us on Sunday was a saxophone concert at the bandstand in the castle grounds. We took our chairs and a small picnic and had a lovely time listening to an eclectic mix of tunes from Moondance to the Pink Panther theme tune. Marvellous!

At about 4pm we said goodbye to Newark and set off, past the castle, through Town Lock and up the river to Hazelford.

The flow had calmed down a lot over the previous two days, so it wasn’t long before we were moored up below Hazelford Lock, watching the foambergs pile up below the weir in the opposite bank.

In the morning there was rain on the forecast for later on, so we penned up through the lock as soon as it opened and made our way to Gunthorpe, racing the ever thickening grey clouds. We managed to get through the lock and onto the visitor pontoon by the Unicorn pub just before the rain started. In the afternoon, Ann-Marie walked back up the riverbank to Fiskerton for the car while Dave did the monthly boat checks and rested his ankle. On her way, Ann-Marie called in on a chap who sells mail-order marine electrical bits and just happened to live on a boat near Fiskerton. Dave had emailed him and arranged for her to pick up some IP67 30 amp MC4 connectors, (or Waterproof Solar Panel Plugs to normal folk) which we needed to modify the wiring to the new panel since the wires to the previous one got cut. We still find it amazing that we live off grid, on a boat, often in the middle of nowhere, and yet we can organise stuff like that using nothing more than a telephone. Early 20th century science fiction writers barely scratched the surface of the info/techno revolution we’re going through and, personally, we can’t imagine how we’d cope with boat life without all the gadgets and connectivity we have.    

Our next mooring was Holme Pierrepoint, above the lock and just beside the white water rafting launch point, so throughout the afternoon groups of nervous looking corporate-bonding executives, screeching hen parties, or giggling scouts and guides would paddle past our window on their way to the rapids at the National Watersports Centre. There was an underwater shelf sticking out from the bank, so Dave tried tying a bunch of fenders together in an effort to keep Legend away from the edge. However fenders are slippery little suckers and don’t take kindly to being tied together, so it was a bit clonky in the night.

On the bike ride to Gunthorpe for the car Dave got a puncture, so Ann-Marie carried on while he mended it, and then drove back to pick him up. We parked in West Bridgford and rode back to the boat via the Nottingham County Hall steps to see if there were any mooring spaces. The Nottingham Riverside Festival was on the opposite bank at the weekend so we thought it might be a bit busy. How right we were; the steps were crammed with boats moored up to 4 abreast, plus some tents and campervans on the riverbank. It looked fantastic. We’d planned to be in Nottingham for the festival, in fact it had been our destination since we were in Yorkshire and we’d found out that Sound of the Sirens were playing in the big top on the Saturday night. Our choices were to either take our chances, hope someone would let us moor up alongside, and join in the melee on the steps, or go up onto the canal and try to find a mooring along there. As it was still only Tuesday we put off deciding what to do for a couple of days. The next afternoon we cycled back into West Bridgford for a mooch and came across “Lark in the Park” which is a mini festival aimed at kids. There were loads of stalls around the park, a Punch and Judy show, a clown, a Mr Whippy van and some drummers drumming. Despite feeling a bit self-conscious due to not having a small person-or-persons we had a fabulous time!

 After we’d cycled back to Legend, once more dodging the rain, t’Woods wandered over from their home in the camp site for the evening. We would be seeing them again in France the following week, which would be the first time their new van had been abroad, so there was much excitement about the coming trip.

In the morning we set off on the last leg into Nottingham, still not sure where we were going to end up.

Because River was coming to stay for the weekend and we wanted to be able to get the bikes on and off, being breasted up three boats out from the bank wasn’t exactly practical, so we’d resigned ourselves to going up the lock and mooring on the canal in the city. However when we got to Meadow Lane lock, we noticed that there was a space on the floating pontoon just beyond it, so we swerved in and tied up. Not quite the steps, but close enough. Plus we were on the same side as the festival and didn’t have to haul the bikes up the steps every time we needed to go out.

River arrived by train later that afternoon and we had a lovely time chatting before going for an evening stroll through the mile long fairground and festival site. There were three stages and some of the rides looked terrifying! It looked like we were in for a fabulous weekend!  

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