and onwards to the south

April 28th

After waiting 24 hours in West Stockwith basin for weather and tide we set off today at 7am on a spring tide heading for an overnighter at Torksey, head of the Fossdyke navigation. Ideally we'd have set off an hour earlier to make the most of the incoming tide but lock keepers don't start work until 7.

So 7:10 and we're out into the stream, lockie had warned us that the boat might heel over as we hit the incoming tide so I put a bit of tiller on to mitigate the 'impact', in the event it was only a slight lean to port as we turned up the river. Within 5 minutes we're cracking along at 8mph (just over 6 knots) with only moderate engine revs, however due to losing an hour of the flood tide, an hour in we're feeling the effects of the 'fresh' coming down and the revs slowly creep up to maintain headway. The weather is dry but cold so frequent cups of tea keep the skipper warm until our arrival at Torksey about 3 hours later. We tie up and SWMBO knocks up a lovely full English to celebrate.

Past a Georgian folly originally used as a weekend retreat by the well to do of Gainsborough.

Under the Gainsborough arches.

An interesting point of view.

We need some bread and milk but there's nothing at Torksey except, a strange, but very welcome, pub that sells milk and bread over the bar, result! There is a tea room but word has it that there be dragons there! Well at least one dragon who runs it, so beware!

April 29th

Slight lie in today as the tide isn't until 8, then we head south for Cromwell lock, the end of the tidal section, or tideway as us mariner's call it!

Despite still being spring tides we are so far up the river that, combined with the fresh water coming down the river at best is 'slack'. 

Other than cruising past the three disused power stations in what used to be called 'Mega Watt Alley' there's not much to report. High Marnham power station was the first coal powered station to have an output of 1000 Megawatts and was state of the art in its day (1990's). However long since decommissioned and demolished.

'Twas a dark and stormy night (day)

On the VHF I hear there are two cruisers coming down from Cromwell so I keep my eye open for them as we progress towards the lock. Keeping my 'Trent Chart' to hand as we work out way up there really isn't a need to worry about shallows for the most part in a narrow boat that only draws 2 foot. Wouldn't you know it, we meet the cruisers on a bend! Now we know these floating gin palaces are precious to their owners so with the 'channel' to my left I make room for the deeper draughted cruisers to pass 'red to red' in the deep water. But we're on a collision course! I ease the tiller a bit more hoping he'll see me soon,  then finally he turns to our port. I give a cheery wave as he passes but I get lots of gesticulations in return indicating I was on the wrong side!! Failing to understand my mistake I call him on the radio but all I get is 'The channel! The channel!' So I'm still no wiser, maybe someone could post a comment and enlighten me?

Without further event we go through Cromwell then Nether locks, the latter with a particularly inaccessible sanitary station from the lock landing at least. Then onwards to Newark. 

What is it this year with kids and stone throwing??

For the second time we come under attack, at least this time there is some historical correctness as we face a barrage from Newark Castle!! Using my best scary voice I yell at them and by some miracle they stop! Don't mess with me!!

Deciding discretion is the better part of Valor we move the boat up a hundred years or so out of trebuchet range and add an extra rope discretely tied under the concrete wharf lest our miscreants return and untie us (they didn't).

You can just see Andante on the right bank with the trebuchet launch platform on the left. Newark Town lock (Town Lock) just in the distance. We once had to send a local to the lock keepers cabin here because the lockie had fallen asleep and wouldn't answer the phone!

April 30th

Survived the night!

All's well, no plans to move today due to wind, the weather kind, not me. Well provisioned due to the proximity of a decent Morrisons but water running out and toilets filling up, must get to Hazelford facilities tomorrow!!

May 1st

High Drama!

I'm aroused from my coffee and croissant to the sound of a revving engine and shouts of "Throw the anchor out!"

Now anyone who's ever skippered a narrowboat knows that if the anchor is being deployed something is seriously amiss. So meercat like I emerge from the cabin to see a boat being pushed to the opposite bank and the upcoming stone viaduct by the fairly stiff current (photo above). Fortunately the anchor bites and the stern careens into the far bank but at least they've stopped. Apparently they've lost all drive, a shuffti down the weed hatch points to a failed gearbox. Andante to the rescue! We cast off and drift back to them before securing a line to their bow, then slowly pull them back around whilst retrieving their anchor and back to a safe mooring. Poor lad was out with his dad having only just bought the boat on a shake down cruise, well it certainly got shook down!

Phew!!  All safe and sound.

So finally we cast off onwards to Hazelford lock.

Past a very big and scary wier.

A pleasant mooring at Farndon. We might moor here on our return journey.

...Or here at Fiskerton. The pub has a good reputation for its food.

Leaving Gunthorpe

Someones pride & joy. Apparantly it was on dry land but the river went into flood, chucked it in the river and then over two weirs. So not only has the owner lost his boat, but he's likely to get a bill running well into 4 figures to recover his valueless boat.

A good mooring above Stoke lock

May 2nd

Well a bit more drama again today. So we've come all the way down to Nottingham and need to get into the lock off the river. Only someone decided to use the one and only lock landing as visitor mooring - on a river - I ask you, but,  lips sealed, say n'more. So I drop OH off to go and 'do' the lock and reverse back out into the river balancing the boat against the current about 10m out from the bank so I can see the lock.  As I wait stationary and watch another boat exit the lock I turn round and there's a four (wo)man row boat heading straight for me about 10m away going full tilt. Horn no use as it's at t'other end so what can you do I just yelled at them and waited for the crunch of glass fibre vs cold steeel, mentally I was filling in the insurance form. The poor girl nearest to me nearly jumped into the water with shock but thankfully they managed to dig their oars in and stop with, oh at least 10 inches to spare. As my way was now clear I just left them to it, after advising that they should maybe watch where they were going. Five minutes later they hadn't moved, I think they were in shock, double vodkas all round in the clubhouse I think!

In the past we have used La Tasca tapas bar in Nottingham but alas like so many things they are no more so we're trying an alternative tapas venue, will report back!

Outside the courthouse

The World Iberico, had a Michelin 'bib'


The best Bellota ham

Quirky rather dark interior

Nonetheless a meal I would rate 4 star, not perfect by any means, I've had much better calamares for instance, but will probably pay a return visit on our way home.

Hoping for an uneventful night,  it's been quite a trip so far, I could do with it being a bit less exciting! Project for the next two days - 'Find a coal merchant' we're down to our last two shovels full and the diesel heating is so much less romantic. Maybe I could burn a few row boats?........

(For my dad's benefit: OH - Other half)

May 3rd

07:30 Awakened to the creaking of the boat waking up in the morning sun, the forecast is getting better every day. Heading to Trent Lock today down the Nottingham CANAL, which will make a pleasant change from battling the current on the river. Only for a short while though as we're soon to return to the Trent and thence to the River Soar. I'm told Red Hill marina is a good place to provision boat essentials like diesel and coal!

18:00 Well another exciting day today! 

An earlyish start as we leave Nottingham heading for Trent Falls and the end of the river Trent for now. 

In our quest for fuel, and with no mooring outside, we venture into Castle marina. What a mistake! In addition to there being nowhere to moor there isn't enough room to swing a cat. Our actions attract the attention of the locals who do their meercat impressions all around us as I decide to abort and reverse out. This involves a 180 degree turn with not much room to spare. To everyones dissapointment we manage to execute the manoever perfectly and finish on a flourish by doing another 180 through a ten foot gap back onto the 'cut'. 

After a break for lunch we leave the the canal and retun to the river once more.  A change of plan sees us heading to Beeston marina for fuel, a staff member directs me to the diesel point but it's rather awkward to get to, a bit tight for us, and on a river flowing quite quickly. We have to approach at an angle to fit under the bridge but this puts us across the current swiping us sideways, more power Igor! We fly into thge mooring, full astern!! Just stopping as we meet the pontoon. Excellent team work!

Whilst refuelling we are informed that the flood lock at Cranfleet (our next stretch of canal) has been closed so OH is despatched to check the flood gauge - it's still green so we decide to crack on. As we progress the current gets stronger until at one point, (the 'nip' as we were to later discover, a notorious fast flowing section) we almost grind to a halt. Eventually we arrive at Cranfleet lock mightily relieved to be off the river, and see that the water is almost overtopping the bank.

And the flood gauge almost in the red! Ooops! Honest it was green when we set off.

Talking to the locals we are to learn that the hydro electric plant at Beeston takes so much water out of the river (up to 60 cubic metres per second) that the flood gauge never comes out of the green! One of our informants, an ex lock keeper, admitted to having to go back to Beeston on ocassions having failed at 'the nip', a particularly narrow, shallow and thus fast flowing section.

So tomorrow another river, the Soar. Bound to be more adventures, watch this space!

4th May - Star wars day and our wedding anniversary 27 blissfull years!

In comparison the last few days today has been pretty event free. Since the old girl had been thrashed quite a bit (for clarity that's Andante not Anne), I decided an hour in the engine bay would be a good idea. However not a drop of water in the bilge, nor an ounce of oil burnt. Fuel filters clean (adios diesel bug), just a slightly loose engine mount easily tightened (a stitch in time there I think) and we're off again target Loughborough.

Leaving Trent Junction and the river Trent.

Up the lovely gentle river Soar and past some delightful homes.

Blissfully unaware that the river Soar was in flood yesterday we breeze through the flood lock, Kegworth deep (remember Kegworth? Air crash 1989, yes 30 years ago!) Otherwise nothing of real note, tied up just past Loughborough not fancying any of the mooring sin the city limits.

Something to consider if you follow in our wake; we have been using about 50% more diesel on the rivers than we do on canals, something to bear in mind when planning your fill ups.

A quiet mooring with horses for company.

May 5th

Another lovely day in prospect as we cast off destination just shy of Leicester. The Soar at this point is an interesting stretch of water with lots of twists and turns and trees collapsed into the water to keep the steerer awake. Traffic is starting to pick up now we meet boats quite freqiuently and have to remind ourselves that as they are coming downriver they come at a lick and it's up to us to get out of the way.

As we round the corner we meet a maelstrom of water in front of Sileby lock, handily the weir reenters just in front of the lock entrance creating a literal whirlpool across which we must pass to enter the lock..

Actually not quite as bad as it looked, we talk to a man whose boat is moored above this lock 3 metres from this.

I asked how he sleeps at night for worrying he'd be swept over the weir, his answer, strong chains and lots of rope! I wouldn't swap him.

Past a pretty wharf

And under  a bridge .

We find a nice mooring just before entering Leicester after Junction lock to tie up and cool off a bit. Tomorrow it's an early start and push through Leicester before it gets too hot.

May 6 th

The Mysterious case of the Exploding Toilet

 We make our way to Leicester city centre with Maggie and Brian on NB Eeyore

Past the space museum.

 A good standard of graffiti.

And tie up at a new secure mooring with water points  at Fryers mill which is just before the popular mooring at Castle park.

Decide to take a walk around Leicester this afternoon and found it quite nice. Despite being a Sunday the place was alive, lots of bars and restaurants open and busy.  Had a brief look at the cathedral before heading, delirious with dehydration, to a craft beer emporium by the name of BrewDog taking their recommendation of a cooling libation which turn out to be a very acceptable IPA.

Thirst quenched we needed food and a curry seemed appropriate on the hottest day of the year so far. On recommendation from the barman and a customer therein we head towards the train station and a restaurant by the name of Kerala. Once found we are surprised to see it's a vegetarian venue but quickly notice the sister restaurant across the road which does meat and seafood curries - so we head there.

The food was excellent, staff extremely nice, vegetable dosa and seafood curry both highly recommended. We leave nearly 2 hours later, sated and with doggie bag in hand to recuperate sat by the boat in the shade with our two recently adopted canines Leila and Pancho, the later of which only understands spanish.

What?  Oh yes the Mysterious case of the Exploding Toilet, well.. As fellow boater will know it falls to the man of the boat to exchange the toilet cassette when it becomes full. So having removed the full unit I tried refitting the empty one but for reasons unknown it wouldn't go in. I prodded and poked but couldn't fathom why. Deciding the problem was probably with the mechanism I slid back the cover over the 'big hole' - ok so far - it must be the little lever thingy that slides the inner flap back. So I gave the knob a twist and was rewarded with an atomised spray of sh... well you know what was in there, all over my face. The problem was obvious now, the cassettes had overheated in the hot weather and built up a significant pressure causing swelling of the cassette and thus its refusal to fit. Lesson learnt, just googling cholera.....

May 7th

After an unusually noisy night of revellers we cast off early to find a shady spot for lunch.

Three kind gentlemen helped us on our way

 .... volunteers at the next lock.

Cows for company at Kilby .

May 8th

We continued up the scenic Grand Union canal.


 May 9th

Onward to Market Harborough

2018 Andante