Tuesday 24 August 2021

River Trent. Gunthorpe to Newark. And back.

   Hmm. Here’s a quote from the last post;

  “We’re on a bit of a mission now; we’ve got flights booked to France in less than a fortnight and we need to have Legend off the river and onto a safe, unrestricted mooring before we go. Hopefully that will be Saxilby on the Fossdyke navigation.”

  As you will have no doubt noticed over the years, Dear Reader, the only dependable thing about our plans is their complete lack of dependability. As we write this, instead of being with our friends on the Fossdyke navigation, the Good Ship Legend is back in Nottingham.

  Read on to find out why.

  After our second night on the pontoon at Gunthorpe, we cast off as soon as the lock opened and set off down the river to Newark.

  We had an easy trip; all the locks downstream of Nottingham are manned by very nice lock keepers who do their best to set them in your favour if you radio ahead in plenty of time.

  There was a small and very short lived heart stopping moment in Hazelford lock when we went to start the engine and nothing happened, but it was just the engine stop lever that had gone over centre, so quickly and easily fixed and we were off again.

  Town lock in Newark was unmanned for the day, but it's an easy one to do yourself.

  The moorings directly opposite Newark Castle are beautiful and the view is stunning, but you are up against a high wall that’s above the boat roof, so it’s a bit awkward and you have to get one of the ladders in the right spot. On the way out of town lock Legend got caught by the wind coming under the footbridge, so we came in to moor behind Matilda Blue at a very steep angle and bashed the wall.

  We were lucky there was no severe damage, the little chain plate/fender eye on the front corner took the brunt of it, but a couple of inches higher and it could have made a mess of the cratch frame. 

  After lunch and a quick tour of Newark we had an exhausting cycle ride into the wind and under a huge rain cloud to retrieve the car from Fiskerton. Somehow we didn’t get rained on, and Karma seemed to be trying to make it up to us, because it was only when we’d got back, stashed the bikes away and come inside that the heavens opened and the thunder and lightning started.

  The next day we were up and off in the car down to Karen’s. Dave had a couple of medical appointments which we’d managed to get on consecutive days, (very handy as we’re now nearly three hour’s drive away) so we stayed over. Mum & Dad came round later on for some of Mytchett’s finest fish and chips, and we got Ben on facetime as well, making it a lovely family evening. While we were waiting for Dave’s eye screening the next morning we walked with Karen down to Frimley Lodge café for a very nice, and quite reasonable, Cornish pasty and a coffee, before following Karen’s running route back through the Ash Ranges. On the way home, our nearly three hour trip turned into over four hours, most of it on the M25, and it was getting on for half past eight when we got back to Legend. Bob had been in touch to tell us that they’d moved on to the Kiln visitor mooring pontoon, and that there was space for us as well, so in the dwindling daylight we left the high, hard, concrete wall, complete with its smear of Legend’s paint and, with a bit of shuffling about, managed to tuck fifty-eight feet of boat into a fifty-five foot gap.

  You don’t have such a dramatic view of the castle from the pontoon, but at least you don’t have to scale a slippery ladder and can get out of your boat without loss of dignity or, in Mandy’s case, your phone. Oops.

  On the Saturday, with the bikes in the car, we did our planned reccé of Saxilby on the Fossdyke navigation. The moorings there were very nice but, as we’d expected, they had a three day limit. We had hoped that there would be somewhere just beyond them that we could leave the boat for longer, but unfortunately there wasn’t. The Fossdyke is an ancient Roman navigation, making it older than the rest of the inland waterways by a couple of thousand years. Towing boats with horses doesn’t seem to be something the Romans were into very much, so it’s not that well-endowed with towpaths. It’s all long and straight and Roman-like and most of the edges are jungle with high flood banks. We did find a spot about half a mile out of the village where the bank was low enough and the water was deep enough, but it was very remote and isolated. If we’d been staying on the boat it would have been ideal, but we didn’t feel happy about leaving Legend on its own for two weeks. (Or even three or more if we had to quarantine when we came back.)

  So we had a think. Then we drew up a list of available options. We could book Legend into a Marina, which we did a couple of times before when we were on the Middle Level in a similar situation.  We could try looking in Lincoln, there might be somewhere at that end of the Fossdyke that we could leave it, or we could turn round and go back to Beeston, where it would be safe and where the water doesn’t go up and down. We deliberated for ages and finally decided to go back to Beeston. It will put us back on our overall schedule, but only by a week and we should still be able to get up to the Leeds & Liverpool canal for the winter.  We could do without coughing up for a fortnight or more in a marina; after all the tests and travel insurance and so on that this pandemic has cost us, we’d rather spend what we’ve got left in the budget on our grandchildren, thank you very much. There might well have been somewhere just before Lincoln that we’d be happy with, but we didn’t have time to do a useful reccé, and turning up with the boat on the off-chance wouldn’t do. No doubt, when we finally get there, there’ll be unrestricted moorings a-plenty and we’ll kick ourselves, but turning round gives us peace of mind right now and if we’re wrong we’ll live with it.

  We told Bob and Mandy about our change of plan, and we all went into Newark on our last night together for a meal and got a bit sozzled.  Again. Dave and Bob are a really bad influence on each other. We are going to miss these guys; we’ve been together for months, faced adversity, had some brilliant film nights, games nights, barbecues and outings, and it will be really sad for a while not to have our boating buddies nearby.

  So, the next morning we turned Legend round and after lots of emotional goodbyes and waving, set off upstream.

  In Newark Town Lock we were joined by Jo and Adam on Nb Irenee, who had just emerged from the marina and they stayed with us all the way up to Gunthorpe.  On the way we found out that they were on their maiden voyage and apart from one RYA training day on a narrow canal, they'd never been boating before. They lived near Newark and had bought the boat in Nantwich, then had it craned into their closest marina. It was only then that they realised that their first voyage was going to be on a big scary river and they would be either going upstream to Nottingham with all its big locks, or downstream on the tidal section, which they assumed, quite correctly, would be worse. We crammed as much knowledge into them as we could when we got the chance, which was really only possible in the locks when there was more than enough new stuff going on already, they coped really well; we all got to Gunthorpe in one piece, and no-one got wet.

  It was interesting to watch some newbies facing the huge boating learning curve, it made us realise just how much comes naturally to us now and we hope we managed to impart a few tips that they’ll find useful.

  Our new friends stayed with us for the next two days as we carried on up the Trent, through Stoke Lock and the very deep, very frothy and very imtimidating Holme Lock...

...then moored up behind us on the County Hall steps in Nottingham.

  Jo came round to apologise for bumping into the back of us in Holme lock, but we reassured her that no way was it her fault. The blame rested with the lock keeper who tried to get us to share a slider, and a bit with Dave who knew it wouldn’t work, and should have ignored him and just gone to the next one.

  In the morning we turned back under Trent Bridge...

...then turned again outside Notts Forest Stadium to tie up on the lock landing.

  Ann-Marie gave a lesson in wide lock procedure, then we chugged our way along the Nottingham and Beeston canal...

...and moored up under the willows in Beeston.

  Jo & Adam are taking Nb Irenee onto the Trent and Mersey for a bit before heading back down the river to Newark. We’re staying here till we get back from France, (or wherever we end up; rather than 10 days quarantine when we get back, we’d rather have 10 days extra holiday with Frankie, Harry and Thibault in a green-list country. Like Croatia :-})

Over the next couple of days we need to sort the boat out and pack. We’ve got to either find someone to babysit our roof garden, or set up the automatic watering system. Dave needs to do all the monthly boat checks while Ann-Marie sorts out the covid paperwork for travelling and makes sure we’ve got all our ducks in a row before we leave. Steve and Les are coming for a farewell barbecue and are going to give us lift to get our car back from where we left it in Newark, and we’re off to Karen’s on Thursday before flying from Gatwick on Friday afternoon.

The blog is always one step behind where we really are, so by the time you read this we’ll be back one way or another and we’ll bore you silly with photos of grandkids.

Monday 2 August 2021

River Trent. Beeston to Gunthorpe.

Legend and Matilda Blue side by side at Gunthorpe.

    After our Roman Wall ordeal, we thought we needed a bit of cheering up, so we celebrated our china wedding anniversary with a big walk. From our mooring on the Beeston Cut we went through the unique Boots Estate with its stunning architecture...

...then up through the university grounds to Woolaton Park, where Dave’s family used to come for picnics when he was little.

   After that we walked into the city for lunch and were very tempted by Josephine’s Tea Rooms, but fabulous as it looked, £25 a head for a sandwich and a cuppa was a tad beyond us, so we went people watching in the Old Market Square with a  sausage roll and a coffee from Greggs instead. Don’t judge us.

   On the way home we bought ourselves a China Anniversary present in the shape of a new teapot.

   That evening we walked up the road to the highly recommended Victoria Hotel at the back of Beeston railway station for a celebratory meal, which was just as good as everyone had promised us it would be...

20 years eh? What a life we're having!

...and we finished the evening off with a game of cards with Bob and Mandy. A perfect day.

   Anne drove Judith over to see us the next day.  It was the first time that Dave, Judith and Anne had all been together since Kate’s funeral, so it was lovely to meet up again and have a hug in happier circumstances. England was in middle of the 2021 July heatwave; lunch was our usual fridge-contents-on-the-table affair in the shade of the well deck, followed by a gentle meander down the towpath towards the Attenborough nature reserve, and a visit to the lovely Heritage Centre garden for a sit down watching the weir.

    All too soon Judith had to get her train home so we all walked up to the station to wave her off. We were so impressed with the Victoria Hotel that we booked a table for that night as well and took Anne with us. We had a table outside and can report that the food was just as good.

   After breakfast the next morning Anne went home and we got the bikes out. We cycled the Big Track alongside the unnavigable bit of the Trent then rode along the canal towpath from Meadow Lane lock - where the navigation re-joins the river - into the city. We locked the bikes up outside the railway station and followed a very interesting walking trail round the Nottingham, discovering lots of history and no end of amazing buildings hidden away all over the city. Dave was stationed at RAF Newton in the 70’s, so he and his cronies came into Nottingham quite regularly. He remembered bits of it, but the world through the eyes of a 20 something and a 60 something are two entirely different places. It was as if someone had peeled back the veneer of shops fronts and pubs to show us the real Nottingham underneath.

The "Sky Mirror" near the Playhouse.

Robin of the Hood outside the castle.

Look closely and you can see where the stone mason got his spelling wrong!

"It's Mr Clough to you, Sonny!"

   It’s not just here that we’ve felt like that. Since we’ve been on board Legend and have had time to stop and smell the roses, we often find ourselves in a city, looking up above the shop fronts at some stunning building, while the rest of the world bustles by with their heads down, rushing off to the next important thing. We are so very lucky to be able to do this, to live this Voyage of Discovery, and we try very hard to not take it all for granted.

   We paused our trail for a cake and a cuppa in Saint Peter’s Church café before returning to the bikes and cycling back home along the towpath.  Back at the boats we had an Al Fresco evening with Bob & Mandy with Lasagne and a hilarious game of Cranium, much to the amusement of the passers-by.

   The next day was just as hot and the social whirl continued. We’d managed to persuade Ben & Georgie to come for lunch and although we’d seen them both at Georgie’s party, we hadn’t had much chance to talk, so it was lovely to spend a bit of time with them and hear about their plans.  We took them down to the tea room at the Heritage Centre which was fast becoming our favourite place, and they brought our post from Karen’s which included some new poppers for the cratch cover and some rubber beading for sealing the final window.

   Dawn & Graham brought NB Countess Rose II to moor in front of us and it felt very cosy to have our friends at either end of our boat. As the sun dropped behind the trees and there was some respite from the heat, we lit the barbecue for dinner with Matilda Blue. Later on Dawn and Graham came over to join us for a balmy evening chatting on the towpath till it got dark. As we are constantly reminded by dog walkers, cyclists, fishermen and joggers, this really is the life.

   Boat maintenance got some attention on the Cranfleet cut. We got the windows on the starboard  side out and dismantled while the weather was good...

...then cleaned up and refitted...

...again with little plastic blocks under the glass panes to stop them dropping in the frames and covering the drainage holes.

   Dave gave the Squirrel stove its (supposedly) annual coat of Stovax paint...

...and put the new door glass in. It looks as good as new now, and with the fixing upgrade to stainless steel hex head bolts, it should be a lot easier to change the glass next time.

   We got a new flexible hose and regulator for our gas bottle; we’d put a new hose on when we bought the boat, so that was ten years old and due for a change and we had no idea how old the regulator was. There isn’t a specified life expectancy for a regulator, but they’re only about tenner so it makes sense to get a new one when the hose is changed. While we're on the subject of gas; wefound a novel way of transporting the bottle when it needs exchanging.


   Steve and Les were regular visitors while we were in their manor; they took us to their favourite places and gave us a Local’s cycling tour of Nottingham...

...including the Avenues Market in Sneinton, which Dave immediately recognised as the old fruit and veg wholesale market. When he started HGV driving, the first job he had was with Spalding Haulage, transporting fresh produce from the Fenland fields to wholesale markets such as this all over the country. Nottingham was the first one he ever came to and was a baptism of fire. Trying to get a 38 tonne artic into the narrow alleyways with market traders and porters shouting and rushing about, then trying to get it unloaded to the right stalls and back out again nearly stopped his driving career in its tracks. Fortunately he didn’t have enough money in his pocket for the bus fare home, so he just had to buckle down and get on with it. He likes to think he emerged from the experience a better individual. It was rather strange for him to be sitting with his friends outside a lovely café, drinking delicious coffee and munching superb pastries in a place where, 30 years ago, he’d been absolutely miserable. It’s a funny old world.

The Local’s Cycle Tour also took us up to Green’s Windmill...

 ...a working mill on top of one of Nottingham’s hills. We climbed up to the top and marvelled at the views and the mill's inner workings...

...before buying some proper flour from locally grown wheat from the mill shop and a couple of little squashes and some gooseberries from the beautiful community garden.

Following in Matilda Blue’s and Countess Rose’s footsteps we moved Legend from Beeston to the city centre for one night behind the retail parks, (where the lovely Annette came for the afternoon)...

 then along the rest of the Nottingham Canal...

...and down through Meadow Lane lock.

   We turned upstream on the river, under the magnificent Trent Bridge with its fresh coat of paint...

...and moored up opposite the Memorial Gardens on the County Hall steps.

 The Grantham canal used to depart from the river just below Trent Bridge, so we walked along the river, past the huge Nottingham Forest stadium and had a look. The lock is still there and the bit beyond it is still in water, complete with towpath.

   It looks like it wouldn’t take a lot to restore it to a navigable condition. However, as it goes further into West Bridgeford the problems begin, not least of which is the main road and housing estate that now completely obliterate the line. The Grantham Canal Society has various plans about reconnecting its lovely waterway with the rest of the system, one of which is to bring it through the National Water Sports Centre at Holme Pierrepont.

We left the County Hall steps just after Trent Bridge cricket ground was emptying out after a “100s” match...

...so there were swarms of people all over the embankment and the bridge. A stag party dressed in Hawaiian beach wear were directly above us when we went under the arch, and one of them tossed a lei down to us. There was quite a breeze, but Ann-Marie hung off the side and did an expert catch to a round of applause from above. A perfect departure from a fabulous city!

   A swift and incident free trip down the river brought us to Holme Pierrepont lock...

...where we turned and moored up just at the beginning of the lock approach. In the morning Steve and Les came to join us for a quick cuppa, then we all wandered over to the Watersports Centre which was hosting the Outlaw Nottingham Triathlon.

  While we’d been having a nice lie-in, the contestants had been up at dawn and had already completed the 2.4 mile swim up and down the rowing lake. Most of them had also finished the 112 mile cycle ride round the surrounding countryside, and a good proportion had already gone through their second transition and were well into the full marathon. We spent an emotional afternoon watching, cheering and marvelling at the courage, determination and sheer guts of the contestants.

Steve and Les came back the next day and we took them for a lovely boat trip down through Holme and Stoke locks...

Proper big river locks!

...to Gunthorpe where we moored up on the pontoon next to Matilda Blue.

   It was boating as it should be - friends on board pointing out the local land marks as we went along, lots of wildlife to look at on the riverbank and a lovely lunch on the mooring to finish it off. After they left we had a mini games night in Matilda’s well deck with Bob and Mandy. It won’t be long before we go our separate ways – they’ve got to get back to their mooring in Market Harborough for the winter and we’re heading for the Leeds and Liverpool canal, so we’re making the most of our time together.

The next morning we took the car to Newark for a reccé of moorings and parking, then drove down to Fiskerton where we left the car and walked back to Gunthorpe along the Trent Valley Way. There is a pontoon outside the Brewer’s Arms at Fiskerton, but even if there’s space for it, Legend won’t be stopping - it’s just a handy half-way point to leapfrog the car.

Our next move will be into Newark where we’ll stop for a few days while we catch up with medical and family stuff. We’re on a bit of a mission now; we’ve got flights booked to France in less than a fortnight and we need to have Legend off the river and onto a safe, unrestricted mooring before we go. Hopefully that will be Saxilby on the Fossdyke navigation. There’s the tidal section between Cromwell lock and Torksy to do before that, and we’re booked out on the ebb at 7am next Monday, so at the moment our dining table is the planning desk, there are lists everywhere and it’s all go.

Pangbourne to Sutton Courtenay. River Thames.

Summer ‘24 finally arrived while we were moored at Pangbourne, and boy, did we all know about it. The temperatures rocketed up - along with ...