Down Hill To Yorkshire. 8th January

Morton’s Bridge 56 to Ross Bridge 74

Wonderful views in the cold morning light

At last we woke at a suitable time, and before the alarm clock went off!

Pulling in for water above the locks

Pushing off just before 10am we made our way to the top of Foxton just passing NB Isolnian, The Coffee Boat before they pushed off themselves. Both boats wanted water and the two taps obliged. The lady from NB Isolnian walked down to find the lock keeper to book us both in, there was a 70ft boat on it’s way up so there would be a bit of a wait, so there was no rush to fill our tanks.

A cheeky robin looking for crumbs hopped aboard Oleanna. He sat on the tiller, then the pram hood, then made sure that we’d noticed him by sitting on the rope Mick had just untied to move us up! Sadly by the time we’d found a fat ball he’d been scared off by a big group of walkers. As the top lock filled for the boat coming up a crow decided that he’d have a try for some tasty morsels, he had no luck either.

Can robins skip?Cheeky chappieI didn't notice him when I took the photo

Once the top lock was clear it was our turn to head down. Another boat was starting to ascend in the bottom staircase, but as we were being followed down they would have to pull over between the staircases for both boats to pass. The sun was shining, what a day to do the flight!

Going down

Three volunteers were on duty and glad that there was a busy spell, yesterday there’d only been one boat, the rest of the time was spent drinking tea and re-reading the newspaper. Despite it being a cold January day there were still quite a few gongoozlers. A foreign couple who’d never seen a lock working before never mind a narrowboat, they asked lots of questions, all intelligent. Not once did they ask if it was cold, but they did wonder how we got our shopping.

Looking down

My favourite gongoozlers were a Grandfather and Granddaughter who stood and watched us for quite sometime. He looked like he was explaining how they worked, all the time with a five year olds glinting look of excitement in his eye . As the water levels equalised I could hear a quiet argument going on between them. He was so obviously chomping at the bit to open a gate and she was saying he couldn’t just do it. She was getting a touch irate with him, ‘You can’t just do it without asking!!!’ So I asked him if he’d like to help, that gate was opened immediately, just a shame that he didn’t stay to close it again!

Looking down the top staircase with water zooming into the side pound

We reached the bottom chamber of the top staircase before the one coming up had got into the top chamber of their staircase. So I had to wait for them before I could lift my paddle. At Foxton and Watford staircases you always lift the red paddle before the white one, this fills the bottom chamber to the same level as the side pound. When the white paddle is lifted this empties the top chamber into the side pound. When both chambers and the side pound are all level then the gates will open between the chambers. So when you reach the pound between the two staircases (where it is possible to pass another boat) the red paddle is situated at the top of the bottom staircase and the white one at the bottom of the top staircase. If you are doing the flight on your own you have to walk round to do one before walking back to do the other, but as a boat was coming up I just had to wait for them to start filling their lock before emptying mine.

Swapping in the middle pound

Once everything was level they came out from their lock and pulled into the side. Here they would sit whilst we went past followed by NB Isolnian, then they would be free to carry on up.

More going down

At the bottom lock a chap with a windlass in his hand said to leave the gates open as a boat was waiting to come up. I suspect he was with another boat, second in line and was just being helpful. However I insisted that we closed the gates as otherwise someone would have to do some reversing to let Isolnian out of the flight.

Down the last lock

At Bridge 61 many people were enjoying the sunshine as we turned left under Rainbow Bridge and towards Leicester.

Today we started our descent to Yorkshire. It’s almost downhill all the way, Keadby Lock being the exception as we’ll be going up there from the Tidal Trent onto the Stainforth and Keadby Canal. This level fluctuates with the tide, but from the top of Foxton we’ll have descended 125m to be at sea level. From Keadby the border into South Yorkshire is between Maud’s Swing Bridge and Medge Hall Swing Bridge which is just over 6 miles west, almost 128 miles away from the top of the staircase locks. At least today we managed to tick off 10 of the 65 locks of the journey.

All that blue and green

The countryside looked beautiful today, the greens so lush and the sky bright bright blue. The Riverknits boat was moored with a great view across rolling hills, but Becci wasn’t in to say hello to, just as well as I’d have been tempted to buy some of her yarn. We pootled on meandering our way around the SSSI. It’s the first time we’ve been this way in winter and the views that the hedges normally hide are wonderful.

Too early for the bats

Saddington Tunnel was clear all the way through a lot of cutting back has happened here, we only just managed to squeeze through when we headed south the year before last. Despite having worked up a sweat doing the locks in all my layers we were now getting cold, the thought of the warmth indoors was appealing so we pulled up and had a late lunch, letting Tilly enjoy the sunny afternoon outside for a couple of hours.

10 locks, 2 staircases of 5, 6.08 miles, 1 left, 1 topped up water tank, 1 cheeky robin, 1 bold crow, 3 volunteers, 1 eyed 1 legged lock keeper, 0 chilled medication available today, 1 tunnel, 0 bats, 123 miles 55 locks and 125m to Yorkshire.