Tuesday 23 November 2021

Sheffield and Tinsley Canal. River Don Navigation. New Junction Canal. Knottingley and Goole Canal. Sheffield to Goole.

   On Friday, when we’d come up the Tinsley flight, we’d mentioned to the volunteers that we’d probably be going back down on the Monday, but on Sunday morning it occurred to us that just mentioning it didn’t really count as a formal booking. There’s no-one to talk to at the weekend, so all we could do was leave a voice mail message and keep our fingers crossed.  On Sunday afternoon we went through the swing bridge, turned Legend round and pulled over at the service block, before going back through the bridge and mooring up pointing out of the city. On Monday morning we were up and ready to go, so that when Nigel gave us a ring at about 9am we wasted no time pulling out of the basin and getting ourselves to the top lock.

It was a lovely sunny day and Nigel and Chris had us down the flight and back to Holme lock in no time.

There's no shortage of water on the Tinsley Flight this year.

The Tinsley Flight volunteers having a safety brief.

Nigel and Chris hard at work.

You need to be careful at the double bottom lock, the overflow can easily fill your engine room up.

As if it couldn't get any better we were given a rainbow.

We say goodbye to our lock wheelers.

   We thanked them and waved goodbye, then set off down on the last few locks through Rotherham, before returning to the big commercial locks on the River Don Navigation.

A lock to nowhwere. One of the original locks on the Don Navigation.

Eastwood lock, where the now derelict Dearne and Dove canal joins the Don.

   We had thought we’d stop at Eastwood for the night, but having looked at the wind forecast for the rest of the week, we decided to get as far as we could that day.  There was great excitement at Mexborough when  we actually shared a lock with another boat! We’d noticed Nb Odessy in various places on our travels this year; they’d been on the River Witham at the same time as us, and we’d gone past them moored up near Keadby, so it was really good to be able to finally meet them. They pulled over and moored up above Mexborough Low lock, so we waved farewell and carried on down the lock and on to Sprotbrough, getting there just as the sun was going down.

   We’d left the car in Sprotbrough while we’d been to Sheffield, so it was nice to see it was still there and in one piece. We always pick the places for abandoning our car very carefully; busy car parks with plenty of walkers and some overlooking houses nearby are always good or, for one-night stays, a pub car park or the side of a curtain twitching residential street are generally a safe bet. Having left it, we don’t give it a second thought until a couple of minutes before it comes into view again, when there is a fleeting moment of mild panic and visions of a burnt-out wreck. Touch wood, apart from the Astra being broken into on the G&S in what, with hindsight, was not a good place to leave it, our choices have been sound.

   In the morning, after a C25K run along the river bank, (we’re up to 25 minute runs now and feeling quite proud of ourselves) followed by a walk back through the Ings

Sprotbrough Ings. 

   We abandoned  the car again and carried on to Barnby Dun.  When we got to Long Sandal lock we had to wait while a CRT work party removed their work boat from the lock before we could go down. They were preparing to remove the unused and unusable intermediate lock gates and we felt a bit guilty that they had to stop everything to let us through.

Intermediate gates are seldom used so these are coming out.

    They were very nice about it though, penning us down with a smile and a wave.

   We had a week at Barnby Dun catching up with boaty jobs. The drawers under sink have a lot of weight in them and had begun to sag a bit, making them stick. The bottom one got a supporting cross-brace, the top one got extra brackets to hold its base up and they both got all their runners tightened up and adjusted. They now both glide in and out in a very pleasing manor.

   We also have a new anchor fixing point. There are stories of boaters having to deploy their anchor on a fast moving river only to have it snatch and rip the front “T” post off the boat. Whether they are urban myths or not is questionable, but having an alternative fixing point seemed sensible, and having it further back and lower down would also lessen the keeling-over action if, heaven forbid, we ever did find ourselves having to use it. So we’ve now got this.

Not only is it a better place for the anchor rope, but also it’s useful for attaching fenders and towing. We think we’ll put a matching one on the other side.

   Dave was back in the engine room as well, he put some new gaskets on the rocker covers to replace the makeshift cornflake-box ones that were there from the last engine rebuild, and did a bit more tidying up and re-homing of stuff that got evicted when the washing machine got put in.

   We were quite pleased with our pumpkin this year...

...it got carved at Barnby Dun on the day, but as the weather was a bit rubbish we saved it till a couple of days later when we’d gone onto the New Junction canal and were at Sykehouse lock.

The Aqueduct over the river Don. The gates are to stop the river flowing into the canal when it's in flood.


Moored up at Sykehouse lock.

That evening there wasn’t a breath of wind and we had our ‘Kissaversary’ barbeque and hot toddies out on the towpath surrounded by tea-lights, with our beautiful pumpkin on top of the cratch.


   We managed to exchange our empty gas bottle the next day which made us feel less twitchy. The national shortage of gas bottles seems to be easing, but of course the price had rocketed. Ten years ago, when we first started boating, a 13kg bottle of Calor propane could be exchanged at Jewson’s for £18. Fuel boats and boat yards were a bit more, but for it to now be £40 everywhere is really painful. A cynical person would suggest that the bottle shortage was a conspiracy, engineered to put the price up, but we’re not like that. Not us. Oh no.

   After a couple of days at Sykehouse we carried on along the dead straight and many swingbridged New Junction Canal then turned right on the Knottingly and Goole canal, which forms part of the Aire and Calder Navigation. The crosswind coming over Southfield Reservoir was really strong, making the water in the canal quite choppy with proper waves and suchlike, and demanding severe concentration from the skipper in order to keep Legend on course and away from the leeward bank.

We crabbed and bobbed our way across the open landscape, glad to be finally in the shelter of the trees at the end of the reservoir. From there it was - quite literally - plain sailing all the way into Goole.

Hello Goole.

   We stopped at the very useful wide and grassy moorings just before Viking Marine...

...then had an exploratory walk into the town and back through the huge commercial docks. Of course all the gigantic container ships go to Felixtowe these days, so Associated British Ports, who run the docks have had to diversify. Don't get the idea that Goole isn't busy though. Not all UK imports will fit into a shipping container; steel girders and construction materials, along with bulk cargoes such as liquids, aniamal feed and cerials need specialist handling, and several big ships still come up the Humber and into Goole from the continent each week so there’s always something to see.

Exol Pride looking strangely small. The coal tippler behind was used to load the Tom Pudding boats.

Zeus going backward with the tide....

...before turning into the lock entrance....

...and tied up with her deck boards up while she's being loaded.

Going up river with the incoming tide. You need your wits about you going at that speed.

   For more information about Goole docks, click here 

   Plus there were the inland freighters with oil and gravel going past our mooring each day. Some leisure boaters get upset about being rocked around by the "big boys", but what they seem to forget is that without commercial traffic there wouldn't have been a canal system in the first place. We love to see a fully loaded working vessel; we just make sure that when we're on a big working waterway we're moored up properly. 

Last year there was a breach in the canal bank between Goole and the New Junction canal, effectively cutting Goole off from the rest of the country, and it was feared that once Exol had transferred oil transportation from water to road while the breach was being mended, they wouldn't then go back. However, the switch to road haulage just confirmed what Exol already knew; lorries were more time consuming and more expensive. They used the time to give the Pride a facelift and as soon as the navigation was open again she was back to work, along with two or three 400 tonne barges that were taken out of retirement to resume the gravel transport trade, taking dredgings from the Humber estuary up the Aire and Calder to Leeds. In 2013 we went from the Leeds and Liverpool canal onto the Aire and Calder and then up the Ouse to York. While we were moored up in Castleford, a big gravel barge penned through the lock and at the time everyone thought it was the last one. (You can find that post here.) Happily, here we are, eight years later and the barges are back. 

We loved the hum of activity in Goole, we loved the handy mooring where we could get the car right next to the boat, (which was really usefull when Dave came to change the serpentine belt)...

 ...and we surprised ourselves by really quite liking the town. Our friends Paul and Maxine, who we met last year in Stratford-upon-Avon, arrived and moored Nb Rosemary next to us while we were there, so it turned into a bit of a party for a while. We do seem to be rather a bad influence on each other.

Goole may be a bit of a treck to get to, stuck as it is at the end of the Aire and Caulder, and it's name doesn't do it any favours, but we haven't a bad word to say about it and we'll definitely be back next time we head 'Up North'

Sunday 7 November 2021

Sheffield and Tinsley Canal. Victoria Quays. A Family History Day.

Forgive us, Dear Reader, for a spot of self indulgence as there isn't much boaty stuff in this post. Instead of our usual diary of triumph and disaster on the inland waterways, this is a day trip down memory lane. 

   Both of Dave's parents grew up in Sheffield and his grandparents, along with several great aunts and uncles still lived there when he was little. His grandparents on his mum's side were the last to leave; they emegrated to Australia in 1964 and he hadn’t been back since, so visiting the city was a bit of a pilgrimage.

    On the Saturday we set out early for a family history day, visiting all the places that Dave remembered from his childhood. We started by walking over what is now called Springwood Park...

...to  Wadsley Bridge, just above Hillsborough (the home of Sheffield Wednesday FC) where his Dad lived.

   Sadly the row of terraced houses was demolished in the 70’s when the road was widened. (Judith remembered their Dad going there when it was being knocked down and coming back with an edging stone from the garden) 

When Penistone road was a single carriageway, this is where the back gardens would have been.

So we had a coffee in Sainsbury’s on top of where the back gardens and outside toilets used to be, (which, apart from the flagstones in the scullery kitchen was about the only thing Dave could remember about the houses) before heading down past the football stadium through Hillsborough Park to Dixon Road.

   Dave’s mum lived on Dixon Road and he remembered going to the park on family visits to his grandparents. Sheffield Wednesday were playing at home against Lincoln City and as we went past there was a throng of supporters from both teams waiting for the gates to open The owners of local chippy must love match days because everyone seemed to be tucking into battered sausage and chips. We very nearly threw our picnic in a bin and joined them. We had a quick look in the library in the park before walking up Dixon Road to the house that Dave’s mum and aunty and uncles grew up in.

   Dave knocked on the door to ask if we could take a photo of the front of the house which was when we met the gentleman who, in 1964, bought it from Charlie and Dorothy Wood - Dave’s grandparents - and has lived there with his wife ever since. He invited us in to see the place and we had a lovely chat about what they’d done and what Dave remembered about the house and garden. Of course the house seemed a lot smaller than Dave remembered it - he was 6 the last time he saw it - but the stairs were just as steep. The back garden was amazing; Dave’s memories are of weeds and washing lines and a rickety brick path leading to a wonderful tumbledown shed stuffed full of bits of motorbikes and other amazing treasures. Now it’s absolutely stunning.

   From there, as Dave had done many times with his Grandma, we walked back down to the park for our picnic.

   A healthy ham salad roll, no matter how tasty, loses some of its appeal when the aroma of several hundred battered sausages still lingers in the air, but by then there was a constant stream of fans swarming up the street, along with numerous mounted police on very big horses and several riot vans, so going back to the chippy wasn’t going to happen.  For the most part, the fans were very well behaved, there was just an awful lot of them, so we sat on our bench until it calmed down a bit, then carried on down to Holme Lane where Charlie Wood had his newsagent and toy shop. Dave only vaguely remembers the shop, and thinks they probably sold it when he was really little. M.L. Woods Newsagent and Toy Shop is now an empty unit next to a barber’s shop.

Hillsborough Corner, then and now.

   The ironic thing about these two photos is the tram lines. The original lines were all torn up in the sixties and seventies, and the “Last Sheffield Tram” is one of the exhibitions in the Crich Tramway Museum. Cars and busses ruled the streets for the next forty years until environmental concerns saw trams return with the new lines laid in exactly the same place as the old ones.

   After that we went to find the Sacred Heart church where Dave’s parents got married.

   He remembered standing on those church steps for a photograph at the wedding of his Uncle Phillip to the very glamourous Auntie Sylvia in the sixties, and feeling quite awestruck to be surrounded by all their friends in kaftans and flairs and miniskirts.

   From there we walked over to St Michael’s church at Rivelyn, where several generations of Woods, Pilleys and Horrax’s were buried. We went to the wrong place to start with; the Church of England and Catholic cemeteries are next to each other on a densely wooded hillside and we spent a good half hour trying to make the map that we’d downloaded for one fit the rambling, overgrown gravestones of the other. We got there in the end though...

...and managed to find a couple of great uncles and aunts before we had to leave to get back to the boat before dark.

It was a really wonderful day out and we’re so glad we had the opportunity to do it. If we still lived on land there’s no way we would ever have even considered driving up to Sheffield just to have a look at house and an old shop, but this travelling boat-life has not only taken us to places we wouldn’t have otherwise visited, but has also changed our outlook on what is really important. People and experiences have become our priority, and for that we are eternally grateful.   

Brentford to New Haw Lock. GU mainline. River Brent. River Thames. Wey and Godalming Navigations.

We had just over a week at Brentford waiting for the Thames strong stream warnings to come down from red to amber, and we made good use of o...