Are They All Going To The Races? 9th September

Bramwith Junction to Sprotbrough Visitor Moorings, Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigation

Blue skies and blue canal

A slow sunny start to the day, we pushed off a little after 11 and headed for Barnby Dun. The canal rippled silver as we made our way. Only one boat moored here, it’s always been busy. We pulled in to deal with rubbish, empty the yellow water tank and fill with water. Our chosen mooring today would hopefully have a recycling bin so we kept hold of such things for later.

Looking back at Barnby Dun Lift Bridge

Chores done we untied and I headed to work the lift bridge. This is a busy bridge with traffic coming from two roads on the panel side and the road bending round on the other. I waited for there to be no one in sight or within hearing distance before I turned the key and pressed the button. A second after the button was pressed (and held) a black car sped up towards the bridge, was it going to screech to a halt? The thought passed through the drivers mind, but even though the wigwag lights were flashing the car sped up. I released the button straight away. The barriers here are made up of two parts one for each carriageway, the enter barrier drops first followed by the exit. Maybe the car would have cleared the barrier in time, but I didn’t want to risk it.

A calm round of golf for this chap

Once the car was clear, along with one following! I applied pressure again to the button and the bridge did it’s thing. Around 16 patient car and van drivers were held up. This is the nearest I’ve been to someone zooming through barriers.

At Kirk Sandall the housing estate that has been planned for years is going up. The rubble across the way from St Oswald’s Church is now housing. The once lonely church seems to be being surrounded. The church is only open a few days a year but is well worth a look round as we did back in 2016, the next open days are the 19th and 20th September.

I suppose you don’t have to wait for plastic to grow!

Several of the new houses over look the canal an original stone wall being the limit to their gardens and big wooden fences give privacy to one another. The end house seems to wanted the view but then planted plastic ivy up their railings for modesty purposes!

Lock ahead

Another mile on and we could just see the lights at Long Sandall Lock. Red. Then red and green. A volunteer Lockie had spotted us and was setting the lock for us. With the centre line round a bollard we rose up gradually to the Doncaster level.

This was where we were wanting to moor for the next couple of nights, but unless we got the two boats to really nudge up tight and then overhang the moorings a touch there wasn’t space for us. A change of plan was needed and we’d be hanging onto our recycling for a few days longer.

Doncaster was our next option, not so good for Tilly, but she’d have to cope. Approaching Strawberry Island there were big earth works going on opposite. A large pontoon floated a welfare hut and diggers trundled back and forth. Up by the next bridge a very large full skip boat was being pushed past an empty one. We slowed our pace to below tickover as they winded and returned.

Dark photo of the skip being winded

The Environment Agency are bolstering up the river bank here as it very nearly got washed away in the November floods last year. £1.6 million is being spent here to repair a 40 meter slip of the flood defence embankment. Over 100 individual repairs were identified on the flood defences in South Yorkshire and £12.8 million is being spent to help protect around 6000 properties.

The visitor moorings came into view. They were full too! How come everyone wants to be in Doncaster all of a sudden?! Removing git gaps here would have only created about 35 to 40 foot, so nowhere near enough for Oleanna. Stocking up from the wonderful Doncaster deli would have to wait and we’d have to carry on upstream to find a mooring.

Big locks now, all key operated and no gongoozlers standing watching over your shoulder as access to these big locks is restricted. These all automatically refill, which is great coming down stream, but it takes time to empty them. No real hardship as all it takes is a two second push on a button and then time. Mick pulled Oleanna away from the lock and waited mid stream as the East Coast Main Line trains rumbled over my head.

Don’t go that way

Now out onto the River Don. More flood defence works could be seen and several groups of high-vis clad men stood pointing at the timbers at the entrance to the weir.

Doncaster railway bridge

Trees and high bridges brought us up to Sprotbrough Lock. A fisherman was just packing up on the pontoon, just as well as there would have been no avoiding him. An old chap stood and watched and then chatted to Mick as I walked up opened the gate to the lock and proceeded to empty it. This old fella walks ten miles a day with the aid of his walking stick, a stretch of the river from one bridge to the next and back again. Winter months he doesn’t venture quite so far.

Setting off for the lock

Up the lock we hoped for a space, it was way past lunchtime now and both of us were feeling peckish. Only two boats to be seen, plenty of space for us and a much nicer place to be than Doncaster, phew!

Tilly set off to explore the island whilst we had our lunch. Then we tuned in to listen to see what Mr Johnson had to say. Covid-19 cases have been rising so the ‘rule of 6’ is going to be enforced by law. Local restrictions may now include curfews should they be needed. They want to ramp up testing (haven’t they always!) and hope to have a test which will give results in 20 minutes, which would allow those with a negative result to lead a more normal life, which might just include visits to theatres! Well we’ll see if this world beating ‘moonshot’ will come off or end up failing.

Little boat in big lock

Trials at sport events will be cancelled for the time being. Today one such event was at Doncaster races, tomorrow there will be no spectators. Maybe that’s why all the visitor moorings were full?!

3 locks, 1 lift bridge, 16 held up, 1 boy racer, 9.04 miles, 2 moorings full, 3rd time lucky, 1 batch garlic mustard and cheese crackers, 10, 1 quinoa quiche base, 1 macaroni cheese with extras, 0 visit to Scicluna, 0 tapioca starch, 0 treat cheese, 7 flies still, 1 spider.