Braving The Elements. 6th April

Newark to Stoke Lock, River Trent

Today we had to move on, there are appointments and places we need to be in the next few weeks. We got ourselves together, topped up with water, bought milk and some gluten free bread flour from Waitrose (I’ve not been able to find it elsewhere).

Tilly topping up on solar

Time to check on David. He’d not slept well. We offered to make phone calls so that people knew that he’d moved yesterday and that C&RT were informed so hopefully if he needed to overstay he wouldn’t be hassled by the enforcement officer adding to his woes, we also requested that the Welfare Officer was informed. We’re not sure if they can help, but it was worth a try.

We loaded bags of rubbish into our well deck to dispose of at the next bins. Gave David a box of lateral flow tests and said our goodbyes. Hopefully we’ve been able to help a bit, there is a long way to go, but hopefully the next time we see him he’ll be back to the David we met last year. He needs company and conversation, a boat can be a very lonely place. I’ll be keeping in touch with him over the next few weeks. He may write a piece about his experience trying to get help with his mental health which I’ve said I will post. If it helps just one person then it will be worth it.

A fellow Thames Tideway boat

NB Chance came past, a quick opportunity for Mick to say hello to Richard whom we’d cruised the Tidal Thames from Limehouse to Brentford with last summer.

Easter weekend you won’t be able to get a space here

We started to untie just as NB No Rush came into view, so we held on for a while until they had pulled in. With the forecast not being so good for the next couple of days they planned on staying put, where as we were going to brave the elements and try to tick some miles and locks off heading southwards.

Newark Castle

We made our way to Town Lock, Mick dropping me off at the low wall. The volunteer Lockies start back next week, so we’d be working the locks ourselves. The lock is a public right of way with access over the lock gates, so an annoying woman repeats ‘Please keep clear of the lock gate area’ as soon as you turn your key to open the panel. Having said that the lady at the top gate did get bored of her own voice a couple of times as I took my time filling the lock.

We pulled in just before the next bridge to dispose of rubbish, thankfully the Biffa bin was empty and not full. The high walls on the Trent don’t make such things too easy on a narrowboat.

Soon we were on our way. Soon it started to rain. Soon it started to blow a hoolie at us!

Seeing the way ahead

Not the most pleasant cruising weather, maybe if we’d been on David’s boat inside with the windscreen wipers going it would have been more bearable. I was able to stand with my back to the prevailing wind and rain, watching the way ahead with the reflection in Mick’s glasses!

Past Newark Marina, we could do with some coal but the thought of pulling in to find they hadn’t any put us off. Then the big Averham Weir and Staythorpe Power Station, not too many cormorants drying themselves today. Farndon and Fiskerton visitor moorings came and went. Since leaving the tidal river we’d only seen two moored boats, Newark had been empty, just where is everyone?

Hazelford Moorings

Hazelford Lock came into view, we needed a break, time for lunch. We pulled in to the only space available, and placed ourselves slap bang in the middle of the moorings, no-one here either. Were we the only ones on the river?

After lunch we regrouped, Windy suggested the wind was now even stronger than it had been before, but it should ease after a couple of hours. So we stayed put on our mooring waiting for the weather to abate.

Coming up

Three hours after we arrived we pushed off again. The controls for the lock a little frustrating again, this time the open button remaining constant at the top gates, but that meant I could lift the sluices as we required them, until all of a sudden the light started to flash at me. That was it until the water was level.

Look at that sky

Sunshine! And wind! Clouds scooting across the sky.

This reach of the river and the next are our favourites. Low banks (or cliffs as Mick referred to them today!) of red sand, hills covered in trees many with blossom, geese and ducks all trying to chart a flying course but getting blown in the opposite direction. The only downside with our favourite bit is the lock that lies in the middle, Gunthorpe Lock!


The lock landing below the lock is really frustrating as it is on the weir side. So you approach it to drop crew off, with the force of water coming from the weir pushing you away from the pontoon. This meant we couldn’t get close enough to drop me off from the stern. I ended up having to jump off the bow, sensible but how would a single hander manage it? Maybe we could have pulled up on the otherside of the pontoon, but then Oleanna would have been pinned against it by the flow coming from the weir.

Then there is the other reason, this is where I lost my little finger in 2015. I’m happier being up top operating the lock than having to face those blue risers, but I still hate it with a passion!

Still no sign of my digit

As we cruised in the decreasing sunlight, rain clouds swept overhead, rainbows arced high above us, wind made our cheeks ruddy, little lambs ganged up with each other to go running about. We passed Burton Joyce where Tilly came from and waved to the lovely ladies who’d rescued her.

Dramatic skies

The remains of the stew from a few nights ago had some sausages added to it and was left to carry on cooking on the stove top as we cruised our way to Stoke Lock. Last year as we approached there was a boat below the lock that had grounded on a sandbank. The river had been dredged so we hoped after Mick had dropped me off that he’d still be able to get into the lock. This was all fine and we locked up the pretty lock with a couple of families gongoozling.

Stoke Lock

We had now reached our destination. With the winds set to be even higher tomorrow we planned on staying put on the low wall mooring. Here Tilly could have some shore leave once again whilst we avoided the stronger winds for the day. We just hoped our chosen mooring would be safe as there are quite a lot of trees around!

Over the last week I have managed to make contact with my cousin’s son to see if there was any news from Ukraine. Messages have gone back and forth and yesterday evening I got an email from Tim. Saying he is safe is all relative, he is far safer than a lot of people in Ukraine.

The house he’d bought two months ago is still standing, but without doors or windows, his car and garage are ruined. Looters moved through and all their possessions have gone. This is all from reports from those who are still in Chernihiv where there is no water, gas, electricity, little food. Tim and his wife are living with her mother some distance away. Despite the Invaders retreating they don’t know when they will be able to return, all the bridges have been blown up and there are reports that the roads are mined.

‘Hard to believe this is 2022!  With no road or village signs and blackout curtains required at night, it is like Dad’s Army and would be funny if not so tragic.’ It is hard to know what to say, other than I’m relieved that they are still with us.

4 locks, 17.99 miles, 1 goodbye until next time, get well, 1 windy rainy day, 3 hour lunch break, 0 shore leave again! 1 beautiful stretch, 3 approaches, 1 b**tard lock, 9.75 digits still, 0 clone, 1 broken zip, 1 double rainbow, 1 river just to ourselves.