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.

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