Monday 14th to Sunday 20th September 2009

Just to give you an idea of the size of things here’s a narrowboat arriving at Cromwell lock on the low side. Although the chamber is huge it’s only the top end that gets used by the likes of us but the lower end is great for de-acceleration after steaming flat out up the Trent and against the overflow from the weir.
cromwell lock

For those who get here first there are pontoon moorings with electricity but we always seem to get the ‘wall’ with its slippery ladder set into the concrete and massive bollards set ten feet back from the edge, just out of sight. Not being a local boater one isn’t sure what the river is going to do so it seemed prudent to leave plenty of slack rope because, as the advert states, things can go up or down. Having said that we hung about another day and when boats started leaving we snuck onto the pontoons and found a working power point, and set to with the washing machine.

Tuesday 15th
The pontoons are full again this morning. Got talking to the couple on nb.Brand New Start and discovered they were Mr and Mrs ‘Best of Mates’ who we’d last seen in June at Wistow when they were travelling with nb.Grumpy Git. This wasn’t a cruise but a boat move because BNS is going for sale on the T&M. I wish we’d paid more attention to the boat spec’ as friends Pam and Terry are looking for a new home afloat.

We followed BST to Newark and moored in front of Sioux, a widebeam that keeps popping up on the Trent. Again, we’re on the ‘wall’ because the pontoons are over subscribed, but it’s only two minutes to town, the castle and a museum so can’t grumble.

Newark town centre is interesting-ish with a couple of very old buildings (preserved) and several old buildings boarded up ready for Semtex. Connections with the Civil War abound and buildings like this 1400s merchant’s house pre dating the war by one or two centuries pop up between offices and shops.
Bakers oven

For those of us having time to explore Newark I must recommend the museum inside the old Trent Navigation Company warehouse at the water side. Themed displays covering domestic, industrial and farming life take place on several floors and whisk you through your childhood years (if you’re as old as me), back as far as the 1800s. There’s stuff I remember when I was a nipper and unfortunately there were exhibits that I can still lay my hands on today. And the whole thing is free, which is nice.

The castle was a bit of a let-down because there’s so little of it left, just two walls. Thank you Oliver Cromwell and the thieving locals that removed the stones.

By way of illustration here is the outside of one wall
newark castle1

and here is the inside.
newark castle2

Wednesday 16th
After a quick visit to a well stocked Morrisons and a flit around the outdoor market we pushed off up river in the company of a narrowboat whose name I can not pronounce. It looks something like Eridinor and when I get a chance I’ll see if Google can tell me something about it.

Not a bad day for cruising but the light did funny things to the eyes.
strange sky

We gave in at Hazelford lock and moored on the wall on the low side.
I’m getting into the swing of chatting to lock keepers, they seem to appreciate a call on the VHF if you want to pen-up and even if you don’t want to. But occasionally it all goes pear shaped and I forget to finish with an “over” or conduct a conversation when he’s not listening. Give me morse code any day.
Temperatures are dropping noticeably and it won’t be long before V wants the fire lit in the evenings. I thought I was prepared but pulling the chimney out of its bag up for’d I discovered the moths had been at work. The chimney scrubbed up reasonably well and took to paint without any problem but the china man’s hat was full of holes and accidentally ‘slipped’ overboard. Cousin Roger’s centurion hat will survive for another year but we’ll have to do something about the other one.

For anyone who doesn’t know Hazelford lock it’s a contender for the best lawn competition. Not only does someone manicure the lawns by the lock but also the paths and BBQ areas down river and around by the weir. Paths criss-cross the mini headland between banks of wild flowers and huge blackberry bushes. I got that information first hand because V made me walk it.

Thursday 17th
We left it to well after 9am before calling the lockie but couldn’t coax him into talking to us so V made her way up to the lock to work it manually.
We were doing alright with opening and shutting gates when two blue shirts arrived, at 9.30 on the dot. As is the custom they noted boat name and number and asked where we were going before letting us go. It’s all very well this note taking but we get weekly checks from roving employees too. We’ve been ‘done’ every week since we got onto the Trent so what with the lock checks someone must be running a book on us.

Just up the road at Gunthorpe we were hit again. This time I had my say and moaned about the broken services near the lock. Our blue shirt explained that they were waiting for a new septic tank and despite getting financial approval there was no date agreed for repairs. Telling me they have the money but not the go ahead is the same as saying it’s not going to happen isn’t it?
Someone’s been watching too much parliament on the tele.
Good job we have a spade. Now where’s that lovely lawn?

Friday 18th
The next day I was out cleaning the brass when a helicopter landed down at the lock. A blood wagon arrived soon after and in minutes they were back on the road, slow and quiet. Too lazy to go and see what it was about I can only presume they weren’t impressed with the broken toilet block.

Such was the weather that everyone was outside relaxing or cleaning something and that’s how we met our neighbours Diane and Steve on Festina Lente. Probably not the FL that we’d seen down south as this is quite a popular narrowboat name.
Both ex teachers they had plenty in common with V and all three agreed they were glad to be out of it. You never hear merchant navy sparkies talk like that, I’d return like a shot. I think it’s safe to say that now that we’ve got no navy.

Saturday 19th
Another smashing day, in fact the whole weekend was smashing wasn’t it? We pottered up to Holme Lock and found a space alongside a low wall, low enough to step off this time.
Not being used to delays at locks I was in for a shock when we had to tread water for half an hour. This is not the place to rush through on a sunny weekend. There’s a sign above the lock, that says
“This stretch of river is extremely congested. Great care should be exercised at all times”.

We can see why. The weekend, the sunshine and the water is like a magnet to dozens of little darlings in canoes. Some pass on the left, some on the right, nobody looking where they’re going.
holme lock

Being right next to a National Water Sports Centre & Country Park the navigation is bound to clog up when hundreds of medal winning hopefuls spill out onto the water to show off. How we didn’t squash some I do not know.

If I’d had a pair of those milk-bottle-bottom glasses from the joke shop then I would have gladly worn them and zigzagged my way towards the lock. That would have had them scattering.

Anyway, this was an ideal day for boat jobs so I set about sanding and varnishing bits of floor and oiling bits of the roof.
Didn’t get very far because the guy on the next boat, being a bit of a character, kept me listening for an hour or so. He’d been around, done a few things and wasn’t afraid of telling people a thing or two, particularly where waterways developer’s ideas were concerned.

Not the quietest of moorings, we had loudspeaker overspill from the canoe slalom events on one side and boat fit-out noises from the other. On the one hand I could satisfy my curiosity by peeping over the river bank at the canoes but on the other it was most frustrating not seeing what was going on inside the boat.
canoe slalom

Today is special for a couple of reasons, one is our daughter’s engagement to Joe and the other is Mike and Jo’s 22nd wedding anniversary. Congratulations and best wishes to you.

It just so happened that my worst case of VHF garble happened straight after the engagement news. I didn’t know whether to Over or Out and eventually settled for both, which is frowned upon.

Sunday before 9.30am is the best time to move unlicensed boats through the Trent locks, I discovered this morning.
Our lock keeper missed an interesting couple of boats owned by collectors. Collectors of tree branches, plastic toys, bikes, cans, bottles, you name it, if it goes on the roof then it must be collectable.
There was a gap of half an hour when all went quiet and then it started in earnest. Boats of every shape and size, made of steel, wood or plastic poured downstream in the morning and upstream in the afternoon. We heard them on the VHF radio. “Good morning Holm Lock, this is Morning Mist about to leave the marina and requesting pen-down at your convenience”.

I liked the old couple on the narrowboat that followed a plastic down to the lock at a respectable distance. The lock re-opened to let them in but the old fella didn’t so much as turn his head as he pulled over to the water tap and proceeded to tie up. VHF, what’s that for?

But he was most definitely not amused when the tap refused to give up its water. That rang alarm bells for us because we were counting on filling our empty tank tonight ready for our stay on the County Hall steps in Nottingham tomorrow.

I can’t see the council letting me run a hose pipe up the steps to their kitchen somehow. So now we’re on rations.

V says no showers until we find water, so things aren’t so bad after all.