26th to 28th April 2013
Thursday 26th April at 06:15 was cold but clear with a light but chilling wind. A gravel barge (Battlestone) was heading south on the rising river past West Stockwith Lock mouth as I arrived at the basin. There seemed to be no signs of life at the moorings. I parked the car next to Python to transfer my belongings to the boat. Then Eddie appeared from Python’s engine room to greet me. All was ready for the start of our brief three day journey. Bev climbed into the car, set off back home and I closed the gate after her.
The lockkeeper appeared at 7:00am and said that we could go as soon as we were ready. So without further ado I started Python’s noisy Lister and reversed out of the mooring turned and entered the lock. Eddie nimbly looped the starboard centre rope over the lockside bollard and the ‘locky’ swung the top gate closed and lifted the paddles on the bottom gates. We dropped steadily down to river level, and after the lockkeeper checked that there were no ‘gravellers’ bearing down on the lock, waved us out on to the river at 07:20.
Once in the tide flow we were turned sharply to the right and sped off up the river towards Gainsborough at a good speed. We passed Torksey Cut entrance after just over two hours cruising and headed onwards towards Cromwell Lock. We had been told that there was a water depth problem at Cromwell and we would have to take care entering the lock, guided by the lockkeeper on duty.
We reached Cromwell Lock at around 12:30pm, having slowed for the last couple of miles because we understood that the lock would not be manned from noon to 12:30. The only boat that we had seen all morning was a fully laden gravel barge heading north at High Marnham (where there used to be a power station but now there remains no trace).
Taking a circuitous route close to the weir, guided by the lockkeeper, we entered Cromwell Lock without incident. As we exited we saw our first (and only) moving pleasure boat that day, a broad beam Dutch barge.
After negotiating Newark Nether Lock we moored up at 14:45 for the night just below Newark Town Lock, opposite the Castle. Overall, it had been a rather cold, uneventful day.
Friday 27th April dawned with light rain falling. Fortunately it had abated by 09:00 as we prepared ourselves for the short run to Gunthorpe, expecting a cold but reasonable day. It was fortunate that we had only a short trip to make, as the weather was most unkind, with a strong biting wind and rain that made your face sting. We did see a few minutes of sunshine now and then, but this was a rather feeble gesture by Mother Nature. The weather was particularly unpleasant as we neared Hazelford Lock. The keeper on duty greeted us by telling us about the hailstorm just ten minutes before.
From here to Gunthorpe the weather was a little better and the sun made several brief appearances. We were glad to arrive at the public pontoon moorings outside the Unicorn Hotel (our planned destination for the day). It was decided that we needed to light the stove to warm the boat and more importantly, ourselves. Whilst we were getting the fire going, a narrowboat that had been moored at Newark when we arrived there, came up alongside and moored just in front of us on the pontoon. Within a few minutes a small elderly cruiser passed by heading south and disappeared under Gunthorpe Bridge.
It was obviously going to be a cold night, especially for me under the canvas (Eddie having volunteered to sleep in the cabin next to the warm fire). We had an enjoyable meal in the warm hotel restaurant and stayed there considerably longer that was necessary to consume our meal.
Saturday 28th April was bright, still, but cold. I was glad to get up, I had been very cold in bed overnight, even colder that the previous night. We set off early and as in the previous two days, the wind quickly gained strength. We arrived at Stoke Bardolph Lock at 09:30 (opening time) and were quickly through, seeing the hitherto rare sight this trip of a pleasure boat on the move. We didn’t see any more boats until we emerged from Holme Lock into a mass of aquatic activity. Two, eight-man inflatables heading for the artificial White Water Course, rowing fours and eights (from the University) and single sculls and canoes were everywhere as well as a number of narrowboats and cruisers on the move.
Travelling through Nottingham was uneventful, the cold and windy weather keeping most people indoors or in the shopping arcades away from the canal. There were just a few hardy fishermen and the usual joggers around. We paired up with a ‘single hander’ for a couple of locks, but he moored up above Beeston Lock, and so we pressed on alone.
At our final lock on the Trent (Cranfleet) we paired up with an elderly plastic boat. I don’t like pairing with plastic boats in locks, they seem so fragile and if there is turbulence a heavy narrowboat like Python could easily crush a small boat. However everything passed without incident and both boats emerged completely unscathed from the encounter.
Finally we turned into the Erewash Canal at around 3:45pm negotiated the first lock and, after putting some water into the tanks, we cruised slowly past the house-boats to a mooring close to the slipway at deserted Wyvern Marina and waited for our pre-arranged lift back home, courtesy of David and Helen Dawson.
Arthur Naylor and Eddie Lawton.