Sunday, 19 August 2018

A mostly excellent day with just one hiccup.

(Now with just Flamingo- posted by Alan)

These tunnel like bridges are a feature of the Trent & Mersey.
This is a bit of an unusual trip out for us, and was, of course, completely unplanned and dictated by circumstances.  For once we have absolutely no objective to be anywhere on any given day, other than ultimately we want to be back at Alvecote before the historic boat event there at the Bank Holiday weekend.  So other than needing to turn around and point the boat the other way no later than probably tomorrow evening (Monday), we can just please ourselves, and make it up as we go along.

Cath's turn to steer whilst I wind the paddles.
We have worked out that circumstances mean we were last on this particular stretch of canal a staggering 10 years ago.  It’s hardly surprising then that we recognise almost none of it!  I must admit, for example, that I was expecting the many miles around Burton upon Trent to be a large urban sprawl.  In practice it is largely anything but, and includes many green rather than heavily developed areas.  One thing I do notice though is that looking in my ancient Nicholson’s guide, that areas it marks as works and factories are now, (like so many places) modern housing developments.

Even the turnover bridges can be tiny - quite a challenge to pass cleanly through.
For much of the day we moved along swiftly, thoroughly enjoying the relaxed pattern of a narrow lock every couple of miles – particularly as the locks are easy to operate.  That was until we got to Dallow lock near Burton upon Trent, where as the lock was nearly empty instead of staying afloat, we settled firmly on to solid matter in the bottom of the lock.  The back end of the boat rose almost 6” out of the water, and we were clearly going nowhere,  We refilled the lock and came back out of it backwards, to allow the other shallower draughted craft waiting to go through to use it – all did so without problems – not a surprise as I would estimate us to be at least 6” deeper in the water than any of them.

Another typical bridge at the tail end of a lock.
Once the waiting boats were clear, we lowered the lock, and used a shaft to see if we could find what lurked on the bottom.  It seemed that over probably a 12 foot length fairly near to the top gates there was a layer of what felt often like gravel, but often brick and rock, and it was at least a foot deep and in many places more like a foot and a half.  I could easily have believed someone had reversed a truck up and fly tipped several tons of debris in.

"Star" class Corolla which we have not seen restored until today.
So we called the CRT emergency line.  We had a couple of CRT chaps with us in about an hour.  A bit of fishing with our pole seemed to indicate the operation of the lock to get several boats through might have flushed the very worst bits away, so the advice was “try again”.  We did, and again settled on the debris, though not quite as badly as the last time.  So large amounts of power were used to try to get our propeller to redistribute more of the material.  After a lot of black smoke, we shifted very slightly, and managed to get the bottom gates open.  After a lot more black smoke, and sticking several times we were finally out.  Now all we have to do is to get back over it and into the lock on the return trip!

This low bridge part covers a lock.
Moving again we carried on, and reached Willington, which looked a natural stopping point, if only because it boasted 3 pubs.  In fact the pubs were not that great, and at our first choice the draught cider was off, so we went and tried another.  At least both the beer and cider were reasonable there.  Just as we were leaving I quite by chance spotted an old university friend who also happens to be a narrow boat owner.  He keeps his boat at Great Haywood, and was returning there after a short break.  It’s a remarkably small world on the canals!

The final approaches to Willington.

(Photos courtesy of my on board dog walker!(

Near Alrewas to Willington (Trent & Mersey Canal)
Miles 12.8, Locks: 7
Total Miles both boats: 132.2,  Total Locks both boats: 54

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