Endellion  
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Our boat was built at Mirfield, about 25 kilometers (16 miles) south of Leeds in West Yorkshire, and the first five weeks of life aboard Endellion were spent in this town while the builders worked around us. Our main goal in England is to travel from Mirfield to Newark-on-Trent (Nottinghamshire) where we lift the boat to truck it to Shepperton, near London. We needed to be in London before Christmas otherwise we had no dates locked in, we just wanted to explore the English waterways given winter was approaching.

There are three sections to our Journeys pages

  1. Northern England
  2. Southern England
  3. France and Belgium

 

Northern England

To help us prepare for a leg of our journey in the UK, we use Canal Route Planner and PC Navigo, however nothing compares with the local knowledge we are picking up from other helpful bargees along the way.

We have created a shortish description of our journeys as the weeks unfold and will continue to update this section when we have a moment. A map can found further down.

Mirfield to Pollington Lock
30/9/08 to 5/10/08
Altofts to Leeds
7/10/08 to 12/10/08
Leeds to Rodley
13/10/08 to 14/10/08
Leeds to Doncaster
4/11/08 to 10/11/08
Doncaster to Keadby
12/11/08 to 16/11/08
Keadby to Newark
17/11/08 to 19/11/08
Newark to Gunthorpe
23/11/08 to 28/11/08
Newark to Shepperton
1/12/08 to 3/12/08

 

 

Week One: Commencing 30th September, 2008: Mirfield to Pollington Lock

Our aim this week was to get through Pollington Lock which closes on Monday 6th until Monday 27th October for repairs. Using Canal Route Planner we learn these facts:

Total distance is 53.48 km and 19 locks. There is at least 1 moveable bridge and 2 small aqueducts or underbridges. Made up of 35.58 kilometres of commercial waterways; 17.90 kilometres of small rivers; 11 broad locks; 8 large locks.

This will take 14 hours, 42 minutes which is 1 days, 5 hours and 42 minutes at 9 hours per day. For calculation purposes, this is taken as 2 days

We allow the whole week, expecting to arrive no later than Sunday afternoon, the day before the official closure.

En route

Tuesday 30th September, 2008. If all our canal journeys are like our first week on the Hebble and Calder Navigation (a combination of man-made canals linked by the River Calder in this area) we are certainly in for an “adventure” in every sense of the word!  Though originally built – commencing back in the mid Eighteenth Century - for horse-drawn barges of almost precisely our size, we only just squeezed though several of the first locks and bridges we confronted.  Six inches longer at Shepley Bridge Lock and we would have been too long; just an inch wider at Greenwood Lock and we would have been too wide.  The ancient system for opening the locks, which needed the unique handspike, seemed to have changed little since the canal was opened in 1770.

  Gill Bridge Shepley Bridge Lock
 
Gill Bridge, Near Mirfield
Shepley Bridge Lock
  Thornhill Locks
 
Thornhill Double Locks (the most beautiful place along our journey so far). Photo courtesy Google.

By the time we made Horbury Bridge the sun was going down and the rain setting in, so there we stopped for our first night.  Our departure had been hours later than we had hoped as the boat-builders continued to make final additions and alterations.  In fact joiners Dickie and Pepe were adding the oak trimming to the base of the wheelchair lifter while I sat on it to steer a metre above their heads. 

Wednesday 1st October, 2008. We move a little further along the canal, but heavy rain had swollen the river sections of the navigation, so we moored up outside the Navigation Pub at Broad Cut to wait for the river to drop and the all clear from British Waterways. The main floor of the pub we soon discover, was built up above flood level and had five steps or so into it, so I can’t get in. No matter.  This section of the canal is now well known as the place where a narrow boat was dumped on the tow-path during very high floods of January 2008.  The video (click on rescue.wmv) of clumsy efforts by contractors to return it to the water last month have to be seen to be believed.

  Endellion at Bingley Arms Narrow Boat salvage
 
Endellion moored at Bingley Arms
Narrow boat salvage, Broad Cut Lock

Friday 3rd October, 2008. On to Wakefield where the old working docks are going through massive renovations for offices, an art gallery and apartments.

  Wakefield Wharf apartments Wakefield wharf development
 
Wakefield Wharf apartments
Wakefield Wharf development and flood lock

Saturday 4th October, 2008. Accompanied by local live-aboard owner Lloyd on his barge, South Stand, we headed off through Wakefield Flood Lock and into the heavy gated Fall Ing Lock then on down the cut. Soon after we use our first aqueduct at Stanley Ferry (the old aqueduct is still used, between the arches below, but we take the 'new' aqueduct) and pull up for lunch a couple of kilometres further on, near the village of Altofts. The winds are blowing so hard that after one attempt to get underway, we elect to stay on there till the winds die off. We think we can still make Pollington Lock tomorrow - everyone tells us it's just a few hours of travel.

  Following Lloyd Stanley Ferry Aqueduct
 
Following Lloyd in his boat South Stand
Stanley Ferry Aqueduct (old is between the arches)

In bright sunshine the following morning we passed through Kings Road Lock and moored up next to a cow paddock, with the village of Altofts close by.  We know the heavy rain overnight will have again closed the River Calder coming up, but who cares?  We can't proceed until British Waterways gives the all clear and allows us back into the river at the next lock, Woodnook Lock.

So we won't make Pollington Lock in time for its closure on Monday 6th October. Anyway... this is a great place to moor til we can move on. Our plan must adjust, again.

 

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Week commencing 7th October, 2008: Altofts to Leeds

Our aim for the next few weeks, having missed the Pollington Lock closure on Monday 6th, was to travel to Leeds and use this as a base. Navigo software tells us these facts:

Altofts to Leeds total distance: 21.4 km with 7 locks.

 

En route

Barge life is proving to be so different from how we have lived up until now – deadlines that once almost ruled every minute now so often have to be put aside. It’s sometimes the weather – swollen rivers or strong winds - or just a place we want to stay longer in to enjoy. Occasionally though, its mechanical factors like the low battery levels which meant the engine would not turn over this morning. So we read and admired the view waiting for the builder, who then scratched his head and used jumper leads to start and run it up. Possibly too much use of the bow thruster – on the same circuit had flattened it, but possibly, possibly it was a problem with the battery.

So this morning if she starts, we will finally say goodbye to the cows at our Altofts base and head off. Its cold outside – 5 degrees and the sun is still burning off the fog. The engine kicks into life, we give it half an hour to warm up and with the lock like a sheet of misty mirror we are off.

Foggy morning departure Foggy moringin in our cow paddock  
Endellion moored at Altofts in fog.
Our neighbour cows in the fog.
 

The traffic light at Woodnook Lock shows red, river in flood, but after a hasty phone call to British Waterways we are given the OK to proceed through the lock and out onto the similarly glassy River Calder and through wonderful old bridges glowing in the morning sun, perfectly reflected on the water.

Bridge to Castleford Tree reflected

Then kilometre after kilometre of wide water with no locks. After a couple of hours you are starting to look forward to one to break the journey. The vast locks at Lemonroyd and Woodlesford are certainly a change from the tiny ancient structures we first encountered a week back. We have to wait for narrow boat “Cornwall” owned by a chap from Adelaide, South Australia, to exit before I steer Endellion into a chamber almost as long as a football field.

It takes a long time to fill and raise us up three-and-a-half metres, but finally we head out of the lock and on up the River Aire to Woodlesford. Its another huge automated lock and we moor up alongside a park for a couple of days before the final stretch of river and canal to Leeds. Woodlesford Lock
Woodlesford Lock
Thirteen kilometers covered today and just two locks. Its lunch time and builders arrive to check out that battery, which proves to be faulty, and to do more little jobs.

 

Sunday 12th October, 2008

After a couple of days tied up by the lock at Woodlesford, we headed north to Leeds. Most of the journey is on the River Aire, it's wide and calm, but the closer we get to Leeds, the more buildings there are beside the waterway.

Before we know it we are in the heart of Leeds and have to make a 130 degree turn to enter Clarence Dock.  Half a dozen other barges are already moored up here, but there is plenty of space for us.  Leeds we soon discover is full of new building projects and Clarence Docks is one of the biggest and newest.  We will be here on and off, for the next few weeks, so there will be plenty of time to explore and get to know the city.

Leeds Lock Endellion at Clarence Dock
Leeds Lock
Endellion at Clarence Dock

 

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Monday 13th to Tuesday 14th October, 2008: Leeds to Rodley and return

Lesley’s brother and nephew Sam have come up from Cornwall to join us for a couple of days.  With the extra “man”-power onboard, it’s a perfect opportunity to explore a waterway many have said we should never have attempted on our own – the Leeds to Liverpool Canal.  Our Navigo software didn't see any real problems except a low bridge at Office Lock - it summarised our journey:

Leeds to Rodley and return total distance: 22.2 km with 16 locks plus 8 swing bridges (8 locks and 4 bridges each way).

 

En route

Starting in the centre of Leeds with new building sites on both sides, the Leeds-Liverpool slowly makes its way north up the hills and out of the city.  It was slow going with trees overhanging the waterway and, with warnings not to stop as this was “bandit country”, we had to keep going. There were few winding holes to turn around in anyway, the only way back was to go forward.

Fields Leafy stretch Leeds to Rodley
Maize fields on the outskirts of Leeds
Beautiful leafy stretches on the way to Rodley

There was no mention though, of how shallow some sections of the canal would be – we scraped along the bottom for hundreds of metres in some sections, stuck fast at another point and had to reverse until we found deeper water at another point. The low bridges were all the lower because there were often arched and we just made it under a couple of them with only a centimetre or two to spare!

Finally and not before times we all agreed, the little village of Rodley came into view.  We had been underway for six and a half hours so there was no argument that Rodley was where we should pull up for the night. 

Newlay 3 Locks Coming into Rodley
Newlay Three Locks
Finally arriving at Rodley - the pub on the bend.

And what an amazing night it was.  Monday night at The Owl, we were told by the publican, is Folk Night.  As we were about the only people sitting in the restaurant area in The Owl and nowhere else for performances, we figured that  we were in for a very, very quiet evening – after all it was almost 9PM and there were no musicians in evidence and certainly no audience.  Gradually people lugging guitar cases, banjo cases, concertina boxes and a stand up base began to arrive.  Within half an hour around sixteen performers had formed a large circle and begun to take it in turns to entertain each other with a wonderful array favourite folk songs.  We could not believe our luck!

Stewart, Jonney and Sam Hit band
Stewart, Jonney and Sam (left to right)
The hits of the night

We were due to retrace our journey the following day, but lock-keepers had been telling us that a section of the canal down in Leeds was to be drained that day, so we would have to stay put.  The British Waterways office in Leeds said it was all news to them, but they would double check and ring back.  “Oh yes” Louise old us, “the engineers are draining the canal near the Granaries development”.  BW then said they would have it refilled by the afternoon, so we would be able to proceed as planned. 

Wyther Bridge Redcote Bridge
Wyther Bridge and pipebridge - danger!
Redcote Bridge and pipebridge

Much of the canal was even lower than on our outward journey but we make it back to Leeds we did, down the two staircase triple locks and on through the building sites and into Clarence Docks.

We would never have made it without Jonney and Sam’s help and support, so a huge thanks to you both!

 

The novelty of this kind of ‘squeeze though’ adventure might have warn off, for the minute, but we are really looking forward to finding out what is around the next bend when we set off again.

 

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Tuesday 4th to Monday 10th November, 2008: Leeds to Doncaster

Stewart’s mum Jean (86 years young) has joined us, having flown in to Manchester from Canberra, Australia, on Monday 3rd November. The aim for the next leg of our journey is to head off from Leeds and finally get onto the mighty River Trent, but first we are aiming for Doncaster, not far from Sheffield on the River Don Navigation.

PC Navigo tells us we will travel:

Total distance is 23.4kms (14.5 miles) but .. we have

  • 9 Locks
  • 2 Flood Locks needing opening/closing
  • 1 Swing Bridge and Lock combined
  • 5 Swing and Lift Bridges
  • 1 Tricky Aqueduct
  • 1 Aqueduct and Swing Bridge combined

 

En route

4th of November: We're going back over old territory with a very simple journey from Leeds to Woodlesford for a few nights stay to catch with our friend and fellow bargee Tanya. From Woodlesford, on Thursday 6th November, we have another simple day, over old territory, down the short stretch of the River Aire and in through Castleford Flood Lock where we pulled up adjacent to narrow boat 'Lillian' owned by Linda and Ian, neighbours at Clarence Dock. Ian and Linda have spent many years up and down the canals of this region and gave us invaluable advice about what lies ahead .. all good.

8th of November: Today our aim is to travel from Castleford and finally make Pollington Lock, a place we had initially aimed to make in our first week of barging. Our PC Navigo software had warned us it was about to close for three weeks of repairs. Flooding on the River Calder put a stop to getting through before those repairs started, but with the lock now open, nothing we hope, will stop us today.

Storm at Clarence Dock Jean and Stewart
Storm coming over Clarence Dock, Leeds
Jean and Stewart - ready for anything

One of the most striking elements of barging are the startling contrasts we experience on a daily basis; be it in the weather, the scenery, the canals, the folk we meet along the way or often its a combination of some or all of these.

The journey down the Aire & Calder Navigation to Pollington was as different a day’s traveling as we have so far experienced. Starting out at 09:00 at Castleford, the River Aire, with Jean in the observer’s chair, we wound through the revegetated hillocks of old coal mines. The trees along the way starting to turn as winter approaches. Huge power stations then began to appear on the horizon as we left the river for the last time, to continue on broad, straight stretches of canal. Jean has been kindly leant a camera by her brother Bob, and along with Lesley was on the look out for images to capture on film. The flat country between the power stations and remaining mines was largely planted out with what we took to be wheat. Broad-acre farming of a style more common to Australia than the pocket handkerchief style of farming we were familiar with in other parts of the UK.

River Aire to Pollington Haystacks
River Aire with no traffic
Straw stacks and crops
Coal barges Ferrybridge power station cooling towers
Coal barges and slag heaps
Cooling towers at Ferrybridge Flood Lock

With no other vessels sighted all day and the straight canal looking as straight and smooth as an aircraft runway, we opened up the throttle to give Endellion its head.  Twenty-four kilometres in a little more than four and a half hours.  Supersonic speeds compared to what we achieved on the windy stretches of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal a couple of weeks back.

By 1:30 we were tied up in Pollington and if the walking bridges had been a little easier to navigate in a power wheelchair would have been able to personally confirm what others have said; there is little to see and do in Pollington, save to plan the next days of our trip and admire Lesley’s remarkable photos of another day of vivid contrasts.

Concentrating on the water ahead Pollington visitors moorings
Stewart and Jean concentrate on the water ahead
Lonely visitors' moorings at Pollington

9th of November: Kilometres to travel: 17 ks

One of the greatest challenges with all flat bottomed vessels is cross winds – not cross as in “angry” but cross as in winds across the beam; particularly very strong cross winds. We’ve discovered we have plenty of boat above the waterline to catch the wind, but very little below to steady us, as a keel would do on a sailing boat.

The tailwinds that helped boost our pace as we traveled east down the Aire & Calder this morning, immediately transformed into ferocious crosswinds when we swung south onto the New Junction Canal to connect with the Sheffield South Yorkshire Navigation.

Went Aqueduct and Footbridge Aqueduct over River Don
'Lillian' moored ahead of us - we jump out to follow the boat entering Went Aqueduct and Footbridge
The more friendly Aqueduct over the River Don

And even more challenging when (as we were), you are up on an aqueduct, with the wind whistling below us as well as across our bows. Some black paint was lost below the waterline and the skipper’s ego took a similar bruising as he attempted to steer a straight course against the elements. However, once the aqueduct had been crossed and the canal widened, he was able to get Endellion‘s nose to settle down for three hours of dead straight due south cruising that lay ahead.

The country was still billiard table flat with more power station cooling towers regularly looming up like giant triffids as we steered past against the wind. The journey interrupted only by our first lift bridges and two mechanical swing bridges along the way. Lift bridges swing up after Lesley climbs off and hits the control buttons, first though, booms come down to halt the traffic, which has to wait, patiently or otherwise for us to gently pass through.

 

Skyhouse Lift Bridge
Under the guillotine
Skyhouse Lift Bridge
Under the guillotine at River Don Aqueduct
Kirkhouse Green Lift Bridge Cooling towers following us
Kirkhouse Green Lift Bridge
Cooling towers at Thorpe Marsh - they seem to be following us!

The wind appeared to drop as we left the New Junction Canal to head up towards Doncaster, but even after we had pulled up at the mysteriously named Long Sandall Lock, wind gusts continued to buffet the barge long into the night. It had been a tough day, and we would prefer not to have too many more like it in the future.

Monday 10th November: a cool and breezy morning but no severe weather warnings so we push on for the final short trip into Doncaster: one hour and no lift or swing bridges, no locks or flood locks and no aqueducts!

Smoking Joe at Long Sandall Doncaster Minster
A surprising start to our day, leaving Long Sandall - we'll leave this story for another day!
The Minster Church of St George, Doncaster - our view from Endellion, on the right

 

 

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Wednesday 12th to Sunday 16th November, 2008: Doncaster to Keadby

 

The Aim: We were a little sad to be leaving Doncaster, it’s a busy city with an imposing Minster and great markets, but we had made a date with the lock keeper at Keadby and 9.00am Monday was the time he said would be best to get onto the River Trent, so this week we planned to retrace a short section of our travels, and then swing east along the Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigation. The thing everyone along the way mentioned about the trip was the swing bridges, and they, along with the long straight sections of canal, often above the level of the agricultural land below and a couple of great pubs, will be the main things we remember from the journey.

En route

Wednesday 12th November: Doncaster to Stainforth Bridge

It wasn’t a great distance from Doncaster down to Stainforth Bridge – about 12kms - but we had arranged to meet up there with Mike Abson the highly experienced pilot who had been mentioned as a great person to help us across the English Channel next year. We pulled up right outside the New Inn just under the bridge and I was able to drive straight off Endellion on our ramp and up and into the pub for a great lunch. The lass who took our orders had a set response to every order be it pie, gammon steak, or beef stew or whatever; “do you want mashed potato or chips with that?” And then “and do you want peas or mixed veg”. By the second person placing their order, we had worked out the script and tried to shortcut her, but undaunted, she insisted on sticking to her script. Lunch was great. Thanks Jean! Mike easily tracked us down so it was soon onto what we would need to have on board for the cross-Channel trip, if that’s what we eventually decide to do. It will largely be a matter of waiting our time and picking the right day.

Beer Garden at the New Inn The New Inn at Stainforth Bridge
Endellion moored in the Beer Garden of the New Inn
A perfect pub for bargees.

Thursday 13th November: Stainforth Bridge to Thorne.

It was only a further 4kms, with no locks or swing bridges to get to the Staniland Marina at Thorne. We’d been reading up on Thorne as it would be our base for a couple of days, while we topped up our domestic or “red diesel” supply – used for heating and electricity, and for a visit from the builders and an “engineer” from Calcuttt Boats, coming to try to sort out the idiosyncrasies in our Hurricane boiler system.

The vast, flat area of South Yorkshire was we learnt, transformed from swamp and marshland to highly productive agricultural land by a Dutchman Vermuyden in the 16th Century, working under the imprimatur of James I, then his son Charles I, came to an agreement for him and his shareholders (Participants) to drain the area. The drained land was then to be shared between the King, the Participants and the Commoners. There was great opposition to the project from the locals. There were riots, murders, fires and deliberate flooding and court cases. The network of drains and canals he created is still largely in place today, and must be the origins of all the swing bridges. Later on we even came across houses in the Dutch and Flemish style, making this part of the UK, the closest one could get to that part of Europe this side of the English Channel, and a real eye-opener to us.

Half way through filling the fuel tanks at Staniland the pump broke down, so we moored there overnight while they went looking for a repair man with the right parts. The fuel pump was still not working nor our challenges with our boiler when we finally decided to move half a kilometre further on down the waterway towards Thorne’s welcoming Canal Tavern. And neither would the swing bridge open no matter how much pushing and prodding Lesley applied. We rang British Waterways and before too long the very affable Graham from back at Doncaster appeared and got the bridge and the lock integrated into it to open, but then had exactly the same problems as Lesley in closing it after we departed. We should not have been too surprised about the “technical difficulties” which soon awaited us.

Thorne however, was an interesting little town to explore. Jean and I spent an afternoon exploring the Thorne History Trail we downloaded from a local website. The local church with its footpaths paved in old headstones and a motte (an earthen mound which originally formed the base of a Normal castle – a bailey) were the highlights. Parts of St Nicholas are so old the pre-date the Norman Conquest, other parts of it are apparently built from stone from the bailey.

Endellion moored at Staniland Marina diesel pump Endellion with rear ramp down
Endellion moored at the diesel pumps
Endellion with stern ramp in action
Thorne House photo by Jean
St Nicholas Church and Travis Studio (old school)
Thorne House (photo by Jean)
Travis Studio (old school) and St Nicholas Church
Peel Hill Motte Old Darley Brewery sign
Peel Hill Motte
Darley Brewery closed in the late 1980s

Sunday 16h of November: Thorne to Keadby - 16kms, 1 lock, but 8 swing bridges.

Swing bridges we had leant from experience, can be even slower and more difficult to pass through than locks. Manual ones are cumbersome and awkward contraptions which Lesley often had to jiggle and yank to get all the components to line up, the traffic lights come on and the latches finally release to enable the bridge to swing open. One, Maud's Swing Bridge, was so poorly maintained Lesley had to enlist a wonderful family off for a days fishing to help. Another, Godnow Swing Bridge, was mechanical, and as it was adjacent to a railway crossing, was staffed with a chap from British Rail. The rail gates came down but not those for the canal bridge. The first British Waterways guy who arrived knew nothing about jammed swing bridges and even had to borrow our screw driver. Finally they rang resident expert Graham who again drove all the way from Doncaster and had it open minutes after arriving. Nearly three hours had been wasted and as the sun is going down soon after 4.00pm we had little time to spare to get to Keadby in daylight. Just before Keadby though, there was another take on swing bridges – after yet another road swing bridge, the railway line is slid away laterally by an operator to allow barges to pass through.

Swing bridge Wykewell Lift Bridge
One of those dratted swing bridges - finally open!
Wykewell Lift Bridge

PC Navigo tells us that since Jean had joined us in Leeds we had passed through 17 locals and coincidentally 17 swing bridges. Hopefully that will be our last for quite a while!

xJean and Stewart enjoying rack of lamb! Sunset at Thorne Mooring
Jean and Stewart enjoy rack of lamb!
More wonderful sunsets - this one at Thorne

 

 

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Monday 17th to Wednesday 19th November, 2008: Keadby to Newark on Trent
 

The Aim: Above all else is to get to Newark safely via the notoriously tricky River Trent, to be in Newark on Trent for the next stage of our life on board Endellion: preparing for our journey south and then to France.

PC Navigo tells us this is around 79 kilometers with only three locks.

 

En Route

 

Monday November 17: Bob Dylan once wrote the line “something is happening but you don’t know what it is.” Our feelings at 7:00 were not quite something IS happening, but we knew from what other bargees had old us, Andy, Ian and Linda and all the others, that we were ABOUT to experience something quite momentous. Andy back in Mirfield said he had done the Trent from Keadby six times, and still every time he was in the Keadby Lock in his narrow boat waiting to head out onto the river, he had butterflies …. “But you will be fine!” he assured us.

This comment and everything else we had heard and read convinced us that it would be a smart move to take Ray Cullis up on his offer to accompany us on he first stretch, up to Torksey. After a stint in the Royal Navy, Ray retired as a Chief Petty Officer Instructor and then for many years he had traveled the Trent as a River Patrol Officer with the Nottinghamshire Constabulary. He had taken us through our VHF training (two passes) in early September and is booked to run us through our boat handling and CEVNI a few weeks time, to enable us to skipper a ship on the European canals and rivers. So with caution very much the better path than valour, we had taken him up on his offer for the first day on the Trent. And many times that day, we needed little reminding of what a wise decision that had been.

Endellion exits Keadby Lock Stewart and Ray under way
Endellion exits Keadby Lock into the River Trent

We nervously nudged into the lock at Keadby - about our sixtieth and waited while the lock keeper lowered us to river level. As the lock gates swung open a broad, brown swirl of water more than two hundred metres wide was suddenly unveiled. The odd tree branch zoomed past. Not down the river as one might normally expect, but up it, for as everyone advised, the power of the river on a falling tide would have made it all-but impossible to make any headway against the current and the tide: We had come to use the inflowing tide to carry us up river with the flow. “OK, give it to her” said Ray calmly, and like a greyhound out of the starting gates, we powered out onto the racing stream.

“Head as straight as you can for the other side, we have to go through the furthest arch of that bridge coming up on the right." The Sat Nav indicated that with the combined speed of our engine and the tide, we were doing 12 or 13 kph across the ground. But we were not on the ground where the back wheels of a car normally follow the front ones. We had turned with the flow but were heading towards the bridge arch at about a 60 degree angle. More power and some more angle on the rudder were quickly needed to bring Endellion’s nose around to ensure we comfortably missed bridge. This, under Ray’s calm guidance, we did.

Keadby Bridge Stewart eyes up the bridge
Keadby Bridge - the first major hurdle
Stewart sees the bridge coming up .. FAST

I’m not sure I would have had the required gumption to keep the power on in those conditions if Ray had not been there. Once safely through that first obstacle, things settled down a little. We were soon looking for the smoothest and fastest water to hasten our long journey today of 44 kilometres. For the first couple of hours we maintained a breakneck speed for a barge of 13kph. The Trent follows the classic meandering path of many mature rivers. Lesley was navigating and she and Ray kept urging “keep to the outside of the bends!”. The water was fastest and deepest there, and we also had a much better chance of seeing any gravel barges which might be coming along.

Not long after this my mother Jean, who had assigned herself the roll of stern lookout, advised just such a barge was closing in fast from behind. Radio contact was established, we slowed a little and 'River Star' churned past, prop thrashing just below the waterline as she headed up river empty.

The lift from the tide started to loose momentum, the wind was also blowing harder on our bow, so gradually we started to slow back to a more barge-like pace. However, we knew from radio conversations with 'River Star' that we should soon expect to meet another barge 'Farndale H' coming around a broad loop ahead of us. We radioed to ask which side we it would like to pass on and slowed a little to await her arrival. Suddenly she roared around the bend, the wind blowing up swirling eddies of the sand she was carrying and blue smoke billowing behind. We put on more power to steady ourselves against the wake and drag as 'Farndale H' roared past and then there was calm again.

River Star rounds the bend ahead Farndale H gravel barge
River Star overtakes us and rounds the bend
Farndale H roars past us coming down river

Five and a half hours and 44 kilometres after leaving Keadby we moored up at Torksey, made up cup of tea and Ray briefed us on the calmer trip he was sure we would enjoy the following day.

St Piran flag, cooling towers at Torksey Fossdyke canal from Torksey to Lincoln
Coming into Torksey, cooling towers landmark
Looking back to Torksey Lock from Fossdyke Canal

 

Tuesday November 18th: It was as bright and calm today, as it was dark and windy yesterday. The biggest challenge was seeing our way around the long looping bends against the dazzling sunlight. No locks all trip until finally we reached remote Cromwell Lock.

Stewart squintying into strong sunlight Sunset at Cromwell Lock mooring
Beautiful sunlight but hard work squinting all day
Cromwell Lock mooring: Endellion behind cruiser

 

Wednesday November 19th: Another day of broad waters, blue skies and wide loops of shining water and green river banks. Finally late in the morning, the ruins of the old castle of Newark on Trent came into view. The Trent had been yet another unforgettable adventure , but we were looking forward to exploring an old and wonderful town.
Skipper Stewart with Endellion at Newark moorings Newark Castle
Skipper with his barge at Newark moorings
Newark Castle, just up the river from us

 

 

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Sunday 23rd to Friday 28th November, 2008: Newark to Gunthorpe and return
 

The aim: is to get as close to Nottingham as possible to undertake our CEVNI and ICC accreditation testing which is mandatory to boating in Europe (well, France).

PC Navigo tells us we will travel around 60 kilometres. Locks: 6

 

En route

 

Saturday November 23: We had planned to be away as early as possible, as we wanted to get well up the Trent towards Nottingham. Maybe Holme Lock, but not today. The snow falling gently on Endellion’s roof when we woke made the gunwales and the mooring too slippery – to say nothing of how cold it felt outside. So we sat inside in the warm.

By lunchtime the sunshine had melted the snow and ice, so we headed off with a strong current on our bow, feeling we were under the eye of the ruins of Newark Castle, destroyed in the dying days of the Civil War. It’s a tight and tricky squeeze through the narrow central arch of old Newark Bridge and along by the old canal-side buildings. After the canal – or the River Devon – pronounced “Deevon”, rejoined the Trent again, we were back in the now familiar looping twists of shimmering mirror-like water, passing through sheep-trimmed green fields with more than the occasional fishermen on the banks, braving the weather. There were a few nervous moments when we rounded a bend to confront the Averham Weir. Much of the Trent flows over it to loop around Newark. Thankfully not us, though we did for a couple of moments imagine we might have been washed over. A bit more power and the right tiller angle saved the day. We stopped for the night downstream of Hazleton Lock. Not a bad day but not as far down the Trent as we had originally hoped.

Snow at our Newark mooring Trent Bridge and Newark Castle
Endellion moored at Newark, snowy start to the day
Leaving Newark, castle and bridge ahead


Sunday November 24:
Up early and with the sun shining and foam flowing passed on the water from the sluice by Hazleton Lock, we had high hopes of making up for the lost time yesterday. It was not to be. Lesley’s morning engine check showed the oil level on the dipstick had dropped from “Full” to “Low” and there it seemed was the oil the engine had lost, lying down in the drip tray. No alternative but to ring the builder. Lesley had noticed some oily traces on the oil filter, so hopefully all we had was a leaky filter and not something more serious. The builders arrived in less than two hours and soon confirmed they thought we had a problem with the “O” ring on the filter. One replaced the filter with a spare one, and topped up the oil while the other looked at the inverters which had also been causing some concern to the extent that the lifter I use to go up to drive the boat and go down to the saloon, would not operate at all unless certain switches were pushed in a certain order. He added an extra fuse to the circuitry and fixed the problem. After revving and running the motor for a while to check the seals were all AOK, the builders headed off, and so did we.

The little town of Gunthorpe was in our sites for the afternoon, if not Holm Lock – 12 or so ks further on towards Nottingham. However just two ks further on, we noticed that our oil pressure had dropped from 40 or 50 kpi’s to only 10, and the red warning light on the gauge was also glowing a very red warning. We dropped anchor in the middle of the channel and turned off the engine. The dip stick now showed little if any oil and the drip tray were now full to overflowing. Thankfully, our 20 metres of anchor chain in just over 2 metres of water held well, as all the books say it should. It would be dark soon after 4PM this far north, so a round of anxious calls to British Waterways and local marinas followed. Often the phones rang out, but at Hunts Marina at Gunthorpe, we could at least leave a message. Lesley remembered hearing of the River and Canal Rescue Service from lock keeper Les, on his barge at Torksey. Google found them and finally a local chap called Pete rang back to ask us to describe the problem and exactly where we were on the Trent. He agreed to come up, but as he only had a rubber inflatable boat powered by a small electric motor, it would take him an hour or more to get to drive to the nearest boat ramp, launch his vessel and “motor” the couple of ks up to us. The strength of the flow must have slowed him even more than he figured, as almost two hours had passed before he rang on his mobile to assure us our navigation and mooring lights were finally coming into view.

We also had an unexpected call from Russell from Hunt’s Marina. He had been out all afternoon, so had only just received our message. “Would we like him to come and get us?” We explained that Pete was just about to arrive to check out our problem and we would ring him back as soon as we could to advise what Pete thought. Russell said that was fine, but in the meantime he would go and try to find a couple of batteries so he could power up his rescue vessel if required. “I would not like to be out there in the middle of the river all night on the end of a chain with the flow strengthening as it is”, he said. Pete turned out to be about twenty years younger in the flesh than he sounded on the mobile, but never the less an expert on diesel motors and the river. “Its not the right filter for this motor.” He soon said. “At the high revs you are using against the flow, the “O” ring is giving out and pumping all your oil out of the sump.” While he fitted our final spare as a stop-gap and filled up the engine with the last of our oil, we rang Russell back and asked if we could take him up on his offer of rescue. “It, will take about an hour to get to you!”

Lights from Skewer under tow Diving boat Skewer
These lights are from our tow boat
Skewer, our brilliant tow boat (usually a diving boat)

Sure enough adjust before 6PM, a boat with a very throaty roar loomed up. Its driver tied up alongside us and introduced himself. This was Russell and we shall long be in his debt. He and Lesley had to drag “Skewer” up to Endellion’s bow to attach the tow-ropes; a huge task against the flow and wind. Then as Russell, put on the power, Lesley hit the button on our bow to raise the anchor – which had done remarkably well to hold both boats during this exercise. The anchor raised, we headed off behind “Skewer” and a two hour trip through the dark to Gunthorpe six kilometres away. Russell had matter-of-factly explained he did not need a headlight as he could see in the dark. This proved to be correct, though he did occasionally turn on his hand light to check how far he was off the banks on tight corners. Russell had also told us he had a VHF radio for communications, but he could not raise him, so Lesley walked down Endellion’s roof to try to find out what channel he must be on. She and Russell managed to communicate by yelling across the gap between the boats, above the roar of his engine, the wind and splashing waters. He later found out his radio had blown a fuse the first time he tried to contact us. Paul from Farndon Marina, the local agent for Barrus Engines was waiting for us when we finally moored up, just after 8PM. After convincing him we did in fact have the correct make of filter fitted on Endellion he had a good look down in the engine bay. Some mix-up or change in specifications by Yanmar meant that the “right” filter must in reality is the “wrong” one he believed. Pete had been spot on. Paul undertook to report back to Barrus and to try to get us a filter which was the correct fit as soon as he could.

 
Wednesday, 27th of November: True to his word engineers Neil and Stuart from Farndon Marina arrived first thing this morning and spent the following couple of hours mopping up the 8 litres of oil down in the “drip” tray. Then they fitted a new shiny red oil filter with a flat sealing ring, which they assured us would not allow oil to leak – even under high revs. We did a test run with them and said goodbye, hoping that the problem has finally been solved.
Boats at Gunthorpe Sunset over the bridge at Gunthorpe
Boats at Gunthorpe bankside
Sunset at Gunthorpe, bridge arches on right

 

Thursday, 28th of November: We had spent the time waiting in Gunthorpe studying up for the CEVNI part of the tests Ray Cullis would be giving us today, along with the practical ICC – International Certificate of Competence. Meeting up with Ray again was more like catching up with an old friend than a stern examiner after our time a week or so back on the lower waters of the Trent. However with a strong wind blowing and the current in full flow, we go through all the appropriate manoeuvres, Q and A sessions and multiple choice tests we did. Ray showed us how to get Endellion to pirouette using little more than the power of the current and the wind. I even managed a reverse horizontal park and successfully completed other tricky manoeuvres under his supervision and passing my ICC. We also both passed our CEVNI.

 

Ice on pontoon at Gunthorpe Houses at Fiskerton
Snow, before leaving Gunthorpe
Houses going through Fiskerton

 

Friday, 29th of November: Next week will be very busy. There are no canals wide enough for Endellion to cruise south to the Thames from the north, so a truck and cranes are needed at each end. Unfortunately we will have to give Nottingham a miss and head back to Newark where we have organised for the lift and the for the truck to meet us early next week. With mist rising on a flat Trent, we headed off for on the 24k trip, this time with the current, and hopefully luck on our side. With the motor ticking over on 1100 revs we could easily make 7 – 8ks an hour. Going the other way, we needed 2000 RPMs to make just 4 or 5ks. It was a magnificent trip. At one stage on the right bank, a piebald horse took close interest in our progress, while on the other bank, piebald sheep grazed; not just one or two but a whole mob. I seem to remember reading of a big move in these parts to preserve ancient farm animal breeds, perhaps they were part of this initiative. We will need to do more research on such sheep.

Skewbold horse looks on Skewbold sheep on river bank
Skewbald pony watching us go by
Skewbald sheep?

 

The Averham Weir presented little challenge now that we were better prepared for it. Soon we were approaching Newark. Our last full day on the Trent had been one of our most enjoyable ones, and certainly one of the least eventful.

 
Monday 1st to Wednesday 3rd December, 2008: Newark to Shepperton
 

The aim: this will be a road trip, to get Endellion onto the River Thames.

Google maps (confirmed by the computer on board CPL's lorry, a very sophisticated system) says we will travel 260 kilometres.

 

Monday 1st December: After many phone calls over the last couple of days, suddenly the planning which had begun more than a year ago back in Oz was about to become a very profound reality. From the North, we were about to be relocated to the South, almost overnight. Newark Marina, just west of the town has a travel crane which could easily and simply lift Endellion.

Trucking company CPL has been highly recommended by other boat owners as the right company to use to move a boat as large and heavy as ours, and Shepperton Marina was the only site where we could put her back in the water to reach Limehouse Marina London by December 17, without being blocked by closures for lock repairs.

Just as we started to motor back up river again towards Newark Marina we noticed the builders waving at us on the river bank. They’d come to fix a problem with the Hurricane boiler before we got even further away from their base up at Mirfield. The boiler has been refusing to fire up with less than 12 volts showing in the domestic battery bank. Not a problem if you are on shore power in a marina, but with the temperature getting down to zero overnight, a very big one if you are relying on the gen-set, as its not easy to keep the batteries continually charged up to these levels 24/7. Though other new boats seem to have the same issue, the Hurricane’s maker Canadian company International Thermal Research, and their UK distributors Calcuttt Boats had had no real solution over the past three months, so the builder had ordered a power pack similar to the ones installed on PCs to deliver 12.5 volts direct to the boilers controller. Since this has now been fitted, everything has operated as it said it should in the manual, so we hope the builder is going to put in his bill!

Endellion at Newark Castle Newark Marina overnight mooring
Endellion alongside Newark castle for more repairs
Arriving at Newark Marina at dusk

Tied up that night on the fuel wharf at Newark Marina we heard voices outside, which turned out to be those of CPL Transport’s Nigel and Basil, up to collect us in the morning and doing a night time inspection of Endellion. We invited them on board for a beer and quickly realised we would be in very good hands tomorrow.

Tuesday 2nd of December: Being lifted by a travel crane we soon discovered, can be a quick and painless experience – for boat and owners. We turned out to be the third boat lift of the morning, but Endellion was still up and on Nigel’s lorry by 11:00 and secured and ready to head off down the A1 an hour later, though much care and thought had gone into her precise positioning.

Lesley got to travel with Nige in his massive truck cab, Stewart with Basil in his escort van. Two-way radios kept both vehicles in constant contact with each other. Often the conversations were about road conditions ahead, but we were also able to gain a wonderful insight into the lives of two who spend much of their lives on the roads of Europe, safely delivering large and difficult loads from the UK to or from, destinations as far away as Gibraltar, Poland and eastern Germany. Favourite new eating places and the unpredictable driving habits of lorry drivers from other countries were much a part of the amusing and entertaining repartee which helped keep the miles passing. On narrow roads, Basil went ahead to warn other motorists to pull over to allow our wide load through.

Endellion in the sling at Newark CPL carrying Endellion
Endellion easily lifted in Newark Marina's slings
Handover to CPL's trailer to ride to Shepperton Marina
 
On freeways – such as they are in the UK, Basil was right behind to warn those wanting to overtake to give us a wide berth. We traveled at around 50MPH and had found and pulled up at Shepperton Marina by soon after 4PM. Great going and as smooth and professionally done as one could imagine. Massive thanks to CPL, Nigel and Basil!

 

We are in a very different part of the world .. only 260 kilometers but it's like another country .. about to enter the River Thames. For the next episode in our travels visit Southern England.

 

 

 

 

Inland Waterways map of the area

The map image below is linked to Waterscape.com where you can zoom in for a more detailed view.

Map

We left Mirfield (slightly west of Dewsbury on the above map), Endellion's birth place, on 30th September 2008.

In October, we have traveled on the dark blue line (Calder and Hebble Navigation) into the red line (Aire and Calder Navigation) up into Leeds. From there we have taken a short in miles (but highly eventful) and long in hours return trip to Rodley, northeast of Leeds on the blue line, along the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

In November, we left Leeds and stayed a few nights in Doncaster making it a detour on our way to Keadby and from there into the River Trent to make our way to Newark-on-Trent. Before leaving the 'north' we head out towards Nottingham (just off the above map) but made it only as far as Gunthorpe and returned to Newark for our date to be 'trucked' south.

 

 

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