Saturday, 30 June 2012

A Run of Bad Luck

Incidents of bad luck come in threes – or so they say.  John has now had the third so let’s hope that’s an end to it for at least the rest of this year.  Yesterday he leant out of the kitchen window and …………. plop!  In went his specs!  No chance of retrieving them – too much weed, too much silt, too much wind, not enough sunlight ……….. gone forever!  Fortunately for us both he has a spare pair!  Unlucky or what!

We are now on The Chesterfield Canal.  Last Tuesday when conditions were nigh on perfect we left Torksey early in the morning accompanied by n/b “Skylark”.  The passage was timed so that we reached West Stockwith just as the in-coming tide was able to beat the seven foot of fresh water going out.  This meant is was pretty calm so John was able to turn directly into the lock.  Just as he did so, however, the skipper of an enormous sand barge ignored signals from the lock keeper to slow down and steamed past at about 20mph!  This created a huge bow wave so John had to stick “Ellen” quickly into reverse so that we would not be slammed into the top gates of the lock. 

NB:  Richard ‘Commodore’ Perry – you need to know that the lock keeper gave John 10/10 for not hitting anything!  I don’t know what all the fuss was about really I don’t!!!!!!!!!!!

So, The Chesterfield?  Impressions so far?  (We have, at the moment, only got as far as the really lovely little market town of Retford, about 15 miles from West Stockwith.)  But, overall:-

  • The Chesterfield 018 (800x600)lots of weed and silt
  • very shallow at the edges and we have been ploughing a groove all the way down the middle.  However, it is only weed needing to be removed from the prop not duvets, sari’s or bedsprings from old mattresses etc!
  • the banks are very overgrown and, in combination with the shallow edges, it means mooring is very limited.  The designated moorings are OK but there aren’t many of them and they are not very big.
The Chesterfield 004 (800x600)

        Ch2 001    Ch2 008 (800x600)The Chesterfield 020 (800x600)

  • the water is really clear and teeming with fish
  • there are very few other boats cruising the canal
  • the countryside through which the canal weaves is truly beautiful making all the challenges worthwhile. 

I’ll let you know if I still feel the same by the time we have reached the top and I have done all 47 locks in 32 miles!

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Chaos in the Co-op.

I sent him on a simple errand – to go and get some merlot but he came back covered in claret!

Apparently, he (JRA) inadvertently knocked a bottle of red off an over-stocked (can there be such a thing?) shelf, tried to catch it, failed and ended up slicing his hand open on the broken bottle!

There was a designated 1st Aider but the best she could offer was a load of kitchen roll (probably Co-op’s own) and some of those useless blue plasters – you know, the ones that don’t stick to anything!  A young male assistant went all limp and queasy at the sight of the blood!  Who to deal with first?  John kept a cool head and a firm eye on the other bottles in his basket!!  Good man!

I thought he’d been gone a long time!  I was very ready with needle (sharp) and thread (choice of colours available) but he assured me it wasn’t necessary – red electrical tape was sufficient!

I know how concerned you will all be but really, there is no need to swamp us with phone calls and e-mails about his welfare – he’ll live!


It rained again most of the night.  No doubt, just as we need to return onto the Trent, it will be back in flood.  The lock keeper keeps mentioning lots of ‘fresh’ coming down and between that and the wind it means turning into West Stockwith lock will be all the more difficult!

Good friend Lynn alerted me to a recent very clever/funny/entertaining entry on FB.  For the few of you who have nothing to do with FB it went something along the lines of:-

“Installing British Summer.”  (long wait and lots of horizontal lines)  “Installation failed.  Sorry, Summer is not available in your country at the moment.  Please try again later.”

If only this were not true!

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Marks out of 10?

We’re back at Torksey and the plan is to go from here further downstream on the tidal Trent and turn off at West Stockwith lock onto the Chesterfield canal.  Turning off the river sounds positively scary!  The advice is to do a 180 degree turn before reaching the lock, drift backwards with the ebbing tide until level with the lock and then put on full power and turn into the lock!  There is mention of keeping one’s fingers crossed that paintwork, crockery and image all stay in tact! 

So, The Fossdyke and Witham, having now ‘done it’, – what do we think?

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+ Most of all we have enjoyed the cruise from Lincoln to Boston. I make no secret of the fact that I like being on rivers (I’m not the one who has to cope with currents and weirs etc!!) and, at least whilst we have been on The Witham, it has seemed to be something of a comfortable mid-way point between a canal and a river.  The water has been deep and clean (it’s been a real treat not to be scraping the bottom all the time!) and the supply of visitor pontoon moorings fantastic.  The mooring in the picture is at Fiskerton Fen Nature Reserve where you can sit drinking a cup of coffee and watch barn owls and sedge warblers all at the same time!

Surely all rivers should have safe pontoon moorings like these!  Why The Witham has been singled out for pampering boaters in this way I don’t know.  Why not for example,  The Thames?  The Nene?  The Soar?  The Seven?

+ There are some lovely little villages accessible from the waterway and both Lincoln and Boston are good places to explore.

It’s definitely not a busy waterway – not at this time of the year anyway!  If you are really brave like some other narrow boaters we encountered it is possible to organise to go across The Wash.

- There’s no denying it - it is predominantly straight and that can be a bit boring and the banks are high preventing you to see anything much of the surrounding countryside.

- Services are few and far between.  Mind you, if you travel at a sensible pace and don’t dawdle like us it’s probably very manageable.

- It is a bit of a mission to get to it.  You have to be prepared to go on The Trent and from Cromwell Lock to Torksey it’s tidal and I found it to be rather tedious.  A cruiser owner we were talking to said that he’s working towards covering the distance in an hour but that definitely involves breaking the speed limit and is no way possible for a narrow boat!!

In an article I saved from a magazine in 2009, it says:- 

“If you love remoteness, big skies and room to breathe then head for the Lincolnshire waterways.  You won’t be disappointed.”

We did and we’re not.  8/10


Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Boston to Woodhall Spa

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Boston to Lincoln 003

In the wind and rain we left Boston on Saturday afternoon.

It came as no surprise that we were the only boat on the move but, passing Dogdyke, which is at the end of the Coningsby runway, we were treated to a full-on display not by Typhoons this time but by The Red Arrows.  It was absolutely fantastic – I did my best to get some shots on my humble little camera just to mark the event.  I’ve only ever seen them on the TV before.  What a shame the weather was so poor.


Woodhall Spa is a lovely, vibrant little town about a mile and a half from the moorings at Kirkstead Bridge.  We walked around and then went into the little Cottage Musuem (dogs allowed!!!!) where there are exhibitions about the history of the town and some others focusing on events in World War Two which are pertinent to the town.  The town’s most famous connection is with 617 Squadron – the ‘Dambusters’ – who were stationed nearby.  In the middle of the town there is a memorial to the Squadron and, of course, lots of souvenirs are available in the gift shops.

Boston to Lincoln 007 (800x600)          Boston to Lincoln 009 (800x600)

On Monday Glynis and Don came to pick us up and took us to Petworth House which is now a hotel but served as the Officers’ mess for 617 Squadron.  The bar is just as it was back in 1943, full of displayed memorabilia and open to the public.  It was quite a chilling feeling standing at the bar and knowing that young airmen had once ordered their pints, laughed and joked with each other and it might very well have been the last time they ever did so.  The collection of pictures and artefacts here is a real and poignant tribute to them.

We then drove to Snipes Dale Country Park on the edge of the Wolds and, as forecast by some, the sun came out at 1pm!!  What a beautiful place – dogs allowed and off leads too!!Boston to Lincoln 012 (800x600)

Boston to Lincoln 010

In the evening we were treated to dinner at a lovely restaurant we found off the beaten track in Woodhall Spa.

Glyn and Don – thank you so much for a lovely couple of days.  It was really good to see you and hear all about your travels. Let’s make it again soon.  Remember that two little boys want a ride on a narrowboat!!



Megan is on her way as I write – she is to join us for the next  few days. 

Graham has been having a bit of a holiday with a couple of mates at his caravan near Crowle and, talking to him on the phone, it sounds like it has done him a lot of good.  The idea was to fish in the lakes but I think most of the time has been spent watching football!

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Boston–Lincolnshire, not Massachusetts

Boston is the sort of place that needs a fair trial before a verdict is reached.  Hearsay can so taint one’s thoughts about somewhere before even reaching it!  Boston is OK!  It’s quite a big place – all sorts of shops, a busy market twice a week, lots of very old cobbled lanes and alleyways, a superb town park and some interesting buildings.  The most impressive building has to be the parish church of St Botolph’s.  This very large church also has an enormous tower – 272 feet high – and this has been nicknamed the Boston Stump.  The name doesn’t do it justice because the architecture is actually very beautiful.

 Gibralter Point 001 (800x600)      Boston 003 (600x800)

It’s also worth walking a bit out of the centre of town to see the Maud Foster windmill – a beautifully preserved five sailed windmill that is still in working order.   Boston 009 (600x800)

Boston is a very old town.  Back in the C13th it was apparently the 2nd busiest trading port in the country and built it’s wealth on wool.  Today it’s all about crop production and, as a result, has attracted a lot of migrant workers.

The visitor mooring here is excellent – there are new finger pontoons (still not quite long enough for n/b’s but OK), it’s all very secure and you can stay for up to 5 days.  It’s only a short walk into the centre of town one way and a large supermarket the other.

Our good friends, Glynis and Don live about 15 miles away so they came to see us and we went off to Gibraltar Point for the day to do a spot of twitching!  Amazingly, it didn’t rain!

Gibralter Point 011      Gibralter Point 016      Gibralter Point 021

Boston 005 (800x600)

In the evening we went off to sample the menu at The Wheatsheaf Inn at Hubbert’s Bridge on the Forty Foot Drain.  The pub is run by the family of the harbourmaster at Crick Marina.  It was an brilliant menu and the food was very good but to get there from Boston you need a car!     or some very good friends with a car!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Forever Young


topgun1 003            LincolnJ 005 (800x600)

Remembering ………………….

Lesley Jean Shelton nee Allebone

21st September 1947 – 13th June 2004

Lesley loved wild poppies and every June they re-emerge as a poignant reminder of her beauty, her elegance and how, like them, her life was not long lasting.

That old adage of time being a healer?  We are not finding that to be true – it does, however, soften the pain.  The anger remains.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

What’s in a name?

My, oh my!!  The people we are meeting on our travels are certainly educating us about different boating-related terminology!  Not all of it is very kind!
First of all, the type of boat:-
Is it a Cruiser? Plastic? Tupperware? Yoghurt Pot (crunchies easily) Gin-palace or Ocean-Waver?
Is it a widebeam, narrowbeam, barge, tug or working boat?  Ditch Crawler?  River Slug?  Chugga-Chugga?  Crusty?  Scruffy?
Hire Boat?  Private Boat?
No matter what the style or what the vessel is made of, it can always be a ‘Butterfly Boat’ (only goes out on sunny days)  or a ‘Static’ (never goes out whatever the weather.)
Then, based on behaviour, there are us boaters:-
A Floater or A Boater?  A ‘Rodney’ boatman? (technical term as listed in "The Inland Boat Owner's Book" - nothing what-so-ever to do with a certain R.W.Rogers)  A Swampy?
Residential?  Liveaboard?  Continual Cruiser?  Extended Cruiser?  Holiday Cruiser? 
A Fortnightly Freeloader?  Annual Moorer?  Winter Moorer?  Bridge Hopper?
One of the Shiny Boat Brigade or the Grimy Boat Brigade?
ENOUGH!!  No matter what the terminology we’re all in it together and …………… thank goodness we’re not all the same!!
Changing the subject completely:-
Can you believe it????topgun1 008 (800x600)
Today, thrown in the hedge by the side of a lane along which we were walking, was …………… a pair of walking boots!  They were John’s size too!!  Why couldn’t we have found his boots in that way?  I put them neatly together in the hope that their owner would be able to recover them!!  They had initially been discarded 50 yards apart.
We are currently moored at a place called Tattershall Bridge which is very close to RAF Coningsby.  We have been subjected to an intense, impressive and very loud air display at low levels – Tycoons, I think? 
topgun2 032          topgun2 041
We have been very lucky today – unlike other places in poor, battered old Britain we have had no rain and the evening is turning out to be lovely.  We had better make the most of it?  Aren't you glad it’s Summer?!!

Thursday, 7 June 2012

The Fossdyke Navigation into Lincoln

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The Fossdyke is an 11 mile canal built by the Romans and, in true Roman style, it’s straight!  For much of the way the banks either side are high and, without sitting up on the roof, you can’t see much of the surrounding countryside. 

Between Torksey (where there are good BW moorings either side of the lock) and Lincoln there are BW mooring places at Saxilby, Woodcocks and the Pyewipe pub.  Despite having bought the latest edition of the relevant Nicholson Guide, this was not clear.LincolnA 030 (600x800)

For such a major city we found the visitor moorings in Lincoln very disappointing.  Judging by the throngs of shoppers in the High Street the city doesn’t need trade from the water!  Doesn’t anybody in Lincoln go to work on Wednesdays?


Lincoln (Lindum Colonia to the Romans) has three main sections.  Never having been here before, we set off to explore and ended up walking 5 miles!  We started off walking up the cobbled Steep Hill to the cathedral and remains of the castle.  There are many old buildings and individual shops on the way.


LincolnA 031 (800x600)           LincolnA 037 (800x600)         LincolnA 038 (800x600)

For sweetoholics ………………………..Chocoholics ……………………………..and alcoholics!!

The cathedral was originally built by the Normans but, having undergone major restoration and alteration over time, is now predominantly medieval.  You just have to marvel at how they were able to build such huge, magnificent, ornate structures all that time ago.

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The castle – or remains of – is near the cathedral and was built by William the Conqueror in 1068. 

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Around the High Street area there are masses of shops plus two large under-cover precincts and an indoor market.  John managed to get himself some new walking boots to replace those that were STOLEN from the front of the boat!  Yes, boaters – beware!  Valuables are not only cameras, phones, purses and wallets but now they also include your BOOTS!!  What makes it worse was that I saw the young **** who did it but didn’t realise until it was far too late.  He got a pair of smelly but outrageously expensive socks too!

The Brayford Pool (where the Fossdyke ends and the River Witham takes over) is now lined with restaurants and bars.  Gone are the old warehouses, wharfs, mills and granaries.  BUT, where can boaters safely moor to sample the delights of these new establishments?  I would have liked to have seen a BW floating pontoon for visiting boaters.  If they can do it in The Bristol Floating Harbour, whLincolnJ 035 (800x600)y not here?

LincolnJ 020 (800x600)

As you leave the Brayford Pool you go under the famous High Bridge or Glory Hole as it’s called.  For boaters it’s anything but high!  Apparently it’s the oldest bridge in Britain with buildings on the top. 

Emerging on the other side there are mooring rings, a modern millennium sculpture and …. more shops!

Being such a special, famous old bridge, surely a few flower arrangements on the bars are deserved?

We liked Lincoln – it’s interesting, large but manageable and it has a lovely atmosphere.


Anyway, now to the really important but incredibly sad event of today:-

To our dear friend,  Rob Simmonds of n/b  “the Green Manalishi”

May you rest in peace, Rob.  We are devastated at your unfair and untimely death.  Our thoughts are with your family and close friends.  We will always remember you and Megs. xxoo

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Going with the Flow

And our own personal current hasn’t been running very fast!

‘Listening to the radio’ has taken on a whole new meaning – VHF Channel 74!  John did the VHF training a couple of years ago and now, here on the Trent, it has been very useful.  All of the lock keepers have been really lovely – they are friendly, helpful, professional and knowledgeable - they are worth their weight in gold.

Making our way downstream we have stopped at:-Newark 010 (800x600)

GUNTHORPE   Very good, secure BW pontoon moorings.  Scenic area.  No village shop but a variety of places in which to eat and drink should you choose to.  Lovely walking along a very pretty stretch of the river.

FARNDONewark 017 (800x600)N   Secure, BW pontoon mooring but not much of it!  We pretty much took up all the available space!  A St John’s Ambulance boat moors here permanently.  What a fantastic job these people do – taking frail and elderly people for trips up and down the river whenever conditions allow.

There are two riverside pubs, a small Londis/PO in the pretty village and lovely walks for both people and dogs. 


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NEWARK   Only my opinion but, like Staines, I don’t think Newark makes enough of it’s riverside frontage.  There’s plenty of mooring but most of it is against high walls and not very inviting especially for n/b’s.  Mind you, I can well see the appeal of those high walls when the river is in flood!  There’s a small amount of BW pontoon mooring but only enough for about six n/b’s.  We couldn’t get on there so moored opposite against the wall of the Town Quay behind a floating bar/restaurant.  All was very quiet.

Newark 029 (800x600)


Newark itself – what a nice town!  My friend, Gill, has a sister who has lived there for many years and she said I would like it!  There are lots of different shops many of which are down little alleyways or in arcade-type areas.  The large market square seems to be utilised very well.  Sadly, there’s only one remaining wall of the old castle but behind this wall is a delightful, landscaped public garden full of seats and a band-stand.



CROMWELL LOCK   We are now moored up by the big lock at Cromwell.  We have arranged to go through tomorrow morning and will continue downstream on tidal waters for 16 miles to Torksey where the Fossdyke Navigation begins.

Being a special Bank Holiday weekend, quite a lot of boats have been on the move – both cruisers and narrow boats.  I guess the big, sea-going cruisers go down to Trent Falls and join the Humber.  What a shame the weather has turned wet and cold for the Jubilee celebrations.  Everywhere we’ve been there’s flags and bunting – on schools, shops, pubs, restaurants, houses and boats.  There’s evidence of a lot of support and respect for our Queen and a real feel of British pride in the air.  I do hope it is predominantly British and not just English.