If you like rural waterways, you’ll like the tidal Trent. Apart from the town of Gainsborough, power stations and the occasional converted windmill, there’s hardly any buildings beside the river. There’s nowhere to stop either, you have to keep pushing on to beat the tide.
The Trent is a long river and you have to do the tidal section in two stages. The first day we went through the lock at Cromwell Lock, drove for a few hours then stayed at the floating moorings outside Torksey Lock. Narrowboat Midnight Lady accompanied us, being delivered to her new owner.
Next morning at 6.15am, just before dawn, we left Torksey and headed north. I love driving in the dark, whether it’s in the early morning or late at night, and the lights of the power station opposite looked quite dramatic in the dark. Had to reverse Audrey Too out of the layby into the river, which would have been quite a challenge except that this narrowboat, unlike most, is good at reversing in a straight line.
Initially it was slow going as the tide was still coming in, but after an hour we were going faster. Sometimes, going round a bend, we’d slow down again, only to speed up on the straight stretches. We kept an eye out for the shallow edges, marked either side with green and red poles. Continue reading
Not quite sure how to categorise this little boat, spotted on the River Trent, but I love it. The owner has the cheery smile of a man who knows his unusual boat has just brightened someone’s day.
Drove my narrowboat past Fenny Compton, headed north towards Napton Junction. The sky darkened dramatically, then unleashed a short shower that sent me scurrying inside for my waterproofs. It’s times like this that I miss my old boat’s wooden cabin, which kept you warm and dry in all weathers.
Unfortunately, if I want to get to Leeds before 8th November (the date they start closing some locks for scheduled repairs) driving in all weathers is going to be unavoidable. Continue reading
I don’t know whether any other canals have them, but I’ve not seen a lift bridge anywhere except on the Oxford Canal.
The Oxford Canal, with its narrow locks that only allow one boat at a time through, it’s occasional lift bridges, and its winding path, can be a slow canal to travel.
Fortunately many of the lift bridges are left open by default. They’re also well balanced, not that heavy and you don’t have to be strong to work them. If you’re driving solo they’re a nuisance; it’s much easier if one person can go ahead and hold the lift bridge open while someone else drives the boat through.
Some of the lift bridges are now locked so you’ll need your BW key handy. There’s even an automated lift bridge when you reach Thrupp (and while you’re there, pop into the canalside cafe for some tasty Welsh tea bread).
Boating on the Thames in Autumn has been a wonderful experience. It’s quiet this time of year, with hardly any narrowboats still cruising. Windsor was almost empty of boats, unlike last time I visited in summer when it was difficult to find a mooring.
The river has been consistently beautiful and interesting from Brentford to Oxford. At Oxford we left the Thames and entered the Oxford Canal via Isis lock.
Suddenly everything’s much narrower. I’d not seen a narrow lock in years and it takes some care to get into one without scraping the side of your boat at the entrance. Once in though, it’s easier to tie up and there’s only one gate to open and close. The flow of water is faster than in most wide locks and it took me by surprise the first time the boat surged forward and bounced the front gate. Quickly figured out that it’s a good idea to drive the boat right till its bow touches the front gates, then open the paddles slowly. Continue reading
At Mapledurham the river’s edge was shallow so, after a couple of attempts to moor more conventionally, we tied our narrowboat to trees.
At night it was pitch black, except for a glum orange glow from a shed on the other bank. Continue reading
The first time I drove past Temple Island, several years ago on the way to Henley-on-Thames, it was early morning and so foggy I could barely see the banks of the river. The thick bank of fog ended abrupty at the island, a quite dramatic sight.
This time, headed towwards Henley, the island and its ornamental folly (originally designed as a fishing lodge) could be clearly seen. This is one of the most perfect places on the Thames, with fine views all around, sheep grazing and a perfect place for a picnic.
Very attractive moorings just west of Marlow town, and a great excuse to figure out how to take panoramic photos on my new camera. My parents and brother’s family had joined us for an afternoon’s drive from Marlow through the next lock and back again.