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The Odyssey 2019: Day 7b

Posted by alexgrehyauthor on 3 August, 2019

A beautiful morning after yesterday’s storm -waiting at Newark Nether Lock

Newark to Southrey (River Witham)

Sunday 9th June

By Sunday morning the storm had blown over and we were greeted by a crystal blue sky and brilliant sunshine. We set off early, hoping get through Cromwell Lock onto the Tidal Trent as early as possible. We’d been in touch with the lock keeper during the week to check the tide times, but after the week’s rainfall, especially yesterday’s storm, there was 4′ of fresh water coming downriver and we could basically transit the tideway whenever we wanted!


Muskham Ferry – the pontoons still look short and precarious!

However we had a blip – we knew from the radio chatter yesterday that Newark Nether Lock had a problem, but the news was that one gate was operational so we’d be fine. However, the issue with one lock gate meant that the “self-service” function was blocked by the clever electronics so our early start was wasted. We got in touch with Cromwell Lock to warn them we’d be late and set about reporting the ongoing fault. I have to say that the lock is very picturesque, so there are worse places to wait, especially when you have a fine latte and a Danish pastry in hand. We didn’t have to wait long, a van full of engineers turned up and they helped us to get the lock ready and started letting us down; the lock-keeper turned up shortly after and were soon through, all be it through the one functioning gate.


Saffy diligently reading the charts on the Tidal Trent…

We dashed down to Cromwell, waving to the moorings at Muskham Ferry, where we’d spend a memorably precarious night the last time we came this way. We met another of our convoy compatriots at Cromwell, old friends nb Flora Dora, who’d overnighted on the fine lock landings. We locked down together then had a glorious cruise down the tideway. We were very careful to follow the navigation notes, though the sheer volume of fresh coming downriver meant that we were highly unlikely to run aground. The fresh water coming off the river was flowing fast enough to negate the flow of the incoming tide, so we flew downriver and arrived in Torksey way before they had enough water over the cill to let us in.

We moored up and took the hounds for a mooch – there is a lovely walk along the embankment high above the river. We got a real feel for the flow of fresh water when a widebeam that had left the Torksey moorings heading for Cromwell was barely moving aginst the flow – it was painful to watch. We went back to the boat and Flora Dora soon caught up with us and moored behind us on the pontoon. We waited – there was no rushing the tide.


While Alex maintained a 360 degree watch 🙂

Eventually the tide rose high enough to cover the cill and the lock keeper let us in. Getting set up in Torksey lock is a bit of a palaver, the lock keeper is meticulous in checking that the boats are properly secured. I sighed at the delay, but when he opened the paddles and I saw the fierce turbulence I was grateful that he’d taken the time to ensure that we were safe.

We left nb Flora Dora at Torksey, they were mooring there for a bit, but we wanted to cruise until dusk and make the best of the good weather – this was the only one good day in an unremittingly dreadful forecast for the week to come.


A more unusual sight for a narrowboat…

Indigo Dream was soon on new waters – we’d cruised as far as Saxilby in 2011, but hadn’t made it to Lincoln, though we had visited the city by train. I was excited to see Lincoln by boat, but I was a little disappointed. Maybe it’s because we’ve become used to more tranquil waters, but the commercial bustle of Brayford Pool did not appeal at all. We enjoyed the transit through the Glory Hole which seems to marks the boundary between new and Old Lincoln. There are moorings beyond the Glory Hole – they are fenced off with railings with all too infrequent gates which can be opened with a BW key. They really did not appeal as the path between the boats and the railings was terribly narrow and it would have been a nightmare for maneuvering the hounds. Not that we wanted to stop today, but we squirreled the information away for the future.


Approaching Lincoln’s famour Glory Hole

Stamp End lock came as a surprise – it is a guillotine lock which, from upstream, is virtually invisible – only a small strip and two yellow markers about the size of a table tennis bat stick out above the waterline. It was very dingy when we were there – the water had abundant trash including several syringes – charming.

It seemed to take a long time to get out of Lincoln, it has a fringe of industrial units and I looked forward to getting past it’s dingy suburbs. However, when I looked back towards the city proper, I was surprised to find that the best views of the Cathedral are from this end of the Witham. In fact, the cathedral dominates the landscape for miles, the land here is so flat! The cathedral must have been so imposing for visitors (and marauders) coming up the Witham.


Lincoln’s Catherdral dominates the landscape from the East

Once we got out into the countryside, River Witham was delightful – the sheer diversity of plant and bird life is astounding. There are regular mooring pontoons and there seemed to be plenty of space – the only exception was Kirkstead, but we didn’t make it quite that far. We did have a quick pitstop for the hounds at Washingborough; the moorings here are lovely, surrounded by beautiful countryside and flanked by a very fine house. It was a converted train station, as we found out later. The river must have felt very different when there was a railway on its banks. At this point it was too early to stop cruising, but it would have been a delightful place to spend the night, though we’d have had no rest if Saffy and Alex had spotted the station house cat prowling around.


Delightful moorings at Washingborough

There are few locks on this section, so Bardney came as both a surprise and a welcome feature! There are visitor moorings above the lock and also some lockside services. I’ll just make a note here that when I picked Richard up from the lock landing below the lock, there was a BIG step down onto the boat – I’ll tell you why this is interesting when we get to Day 8!

By now, late afternoon was beginning to melt into early evening, with the westering sun providing plenty of light for cruising; but the reflections on the syrup smooth waters were a gateway to a night’s dreaming. The waterway is wide, deep and generous,  yet it’s just a tiny ribbon in the Ascot-worthy bonnet of the enormous skies hereabouts. It is almost impossible to think small thoughts under those big skies, almost impossible – as the level landscape rolled on our, our thoughts turned to supper and pubs!


Below Bardney Lock – remember this view – a few days later, the lock landing was submerged by flood water!

The moorings at Bardney Village were an option, but it’s not that enticing from the waterway, the landscape being dominated by a huge sugar factory. Unlike the exotic Tate and Lyle Wharves in London and Bristol, this one processes sugar beet, a major crop in the fertile fens. We loved the look of the moorings at Fisketon; the village itself is a bit of a trek from the river, but the moorings give access to a lovely nature reserve – the greyhounds would have loved it! But it was still early so we pressed on..


Beautiful reflections at our overnight mooring and yes, this photograph IS the right way up!

The next stop was Southrey. There are mooring pontoons on both sides of the river, looking downstream, the one on the left hand side offers access to the village, the one on the right to what we thought was a riverside pub. We rang the village pub first – they were not serving food that night, so we opted for the right hand bank. We had hoped for a pub meal, but we were surprised to find that although there are pub signs on the bank and on the side of the big white building, they are just mementos of a bygone era. The pub is now a private house!

We considered moving on the Kirkstead, but it was 7pm and it would have been quite late to eat by the time we arrived there (assuming that the pubs served food that late on a Sunday, many don’t). We moored up and I cooked on board. The absence of pubs is rarely a tragedy as there is usually at least one meal and several night’s worth of beer on board. We have enough wine, donated by generous guests, to float the boat!



The moorings were so quiet, with good dog-walking along the top of the bank heading downstream. Saffy and Alex were quite tired, so we didn’t go far – just to the sluice and back (the river has lots of drains and tributaries with their attendant control mechanisms.

Note for other dog-walkers: There is a cattle grid just beyond the sluice control building – this would be a leg-breaker for a running greyhound!

We took some photos of the beautiful sunset, admiring the reflections on the broad, deep waters. It had been an epic day, but we were a bit sorry that it had come to an end. We couldn’t have anticipated that we wouldn’t see the sun again for the best part of a fortnight!



A rare landmark on the Trent upstream of Muskham Ferry


Alex and Saffy taking the tidal water in their stride


Saxilby – beyond this point we were in new waters 🙂


Brayford Pool in Lincoln – there were plenty of visitor moorings available but we didn’t fancy the bustle of the city today (and there was great benefit to cruising further while the weather was fair).


Take heed of these warning lights as you approach the Glory Hole…


…Because there’s not much headroom under there!


Luckily we had Alex on watchdog duty so we were fine!


There were loads of visitor moorings (14 day) beyond the Glory Hole, but that path is narrow and the gates are infrequent so we didn’t like the look of them, especiallly with hounds.


There are some wonderful sculptures on the footpath that runs alongside the Witham downstream of Lincoln


Imagine sailing up the Witham from the Wash and seeing that powerful edifice on the horizon – Lincoln Catherdral is quite magnificent


More wonderful sculptures


The enormously appealing Fiskerton Fen moorings – we’d like to cruise the Witham again and spend more time in these beautiful and tranquil places



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