Which Way Now? 9th April

Trent Junction to Cuttle Bridge 13, Trent and Mersey Canal

Depending on which route we take we are either an hour behind or a day behind our schedule, this will almost certainly determine which way we go. But which way is that?

Morning view

Tilly was given 90 minutes shore leave as we had breakfast and joined Mick’s sisters on the Geraghty Zoom this morning. It’s lovely that we are all still doing this two years on. Tilly came home within time so we were able to push off as planned.

The rowers were out and one of their support boats was doing its best to try to move what could only really be described as a tree in the river. They attached a rope, nudged it this way and that, tried to get it up the club slipway without much luck. Hope they got it sorted in the end.

Which way?

Trent Junction is where the River Trent meets the River Soar and the Erewash Canal. The Erewash is a dead end, so we wouldn’t be going that way this time. Cranfleet Cut we’d just come from, so we’d not be going back. This left us two options, the Soar or the Trent. Our summers cruising plans would suggest going onto the Soar would be the most direct route, but a detour is required, so we’d be sticking with the Trent for a little bit longer.

We headed upstream, past Trent Lock pontoon, the chilled medication van already stationed to serve todays gongoozlers. It was chilly out there, we were glad of our winter layers despite the sunshine.

Big controls

Sawley Lock, the left hand lock had it’s gates open waiting for us as the right hand one was already being filled by another boat. I hopped off and headed to the panel a big shiny box with exactly the same instructions as those on the small pedestals downstream. There were only a couple of spaces available opposite the marina, this is where we should have been last night, but we’d had a much nicer mooring.

Sawley Flood lock was open so we could pass straight through and back out onto the river before we were to join the Trent and Mersey Canal. Another junction, not left to the marina, not right onto the non navigable Derwent, but straight on to the canal.

Boaters PPE out with the windlass

Two boats were ascending the lock, the chaps stood chatting on the top gates, only the ground paddles lifted. ‘We’re in no hurry’ said one chap as they moved to open the gates. We emptied the lock and worked Oleanna up off the river. Last year this signalled our successful escape from Goole, today it meant that apart from the river section at Alrewas we shouldn’t now get stuck if the river level comes up.

Broughton House

A pause for lunch in Shardlow before I walked ahead to make use of the post box by Broughton House which commands its position on London Road. Eight semi-circular stone steps lead up to the front door of the house which was built in the early 19th Century by James Sutton one of the merchants who developed the inland port of Shardlow.

Across the way at a side door to Holden House people were being served hot drinks and what looked like a blackboard menu of sandwiches sat against the wall. May have been worth a proper look if we’d been staying longer.

Swapping over at Shardlow

Shardlow lock was just being exited by two boats, a small narrowboat exiting second with novice crew on board, they seemed to be enjoying themselves but were a little bit confused as to which side they should pass Mick as he approached. I’d already lifted the ground paddles before I spotted another narrowboat pulling up below, we apologised and said we’d wait at the next lock, but the chap wasn’t going that far.

A quick chat with David to see how he was today before Aston Lock. Today wasn’t as positive as the last few days, but he was still making progress with the boat. Not everyday will be a great day, but this week he has certainly achieved lots.

At Aston Lock we gained eleven gongoozlers a family of cousins out for a walk. This meant we had extra hands to work the gates.

A self emptying lock

I’d been warned by a boat going downhill that the bottom gates at Weston Lock were leaking like a sieve and it was taking an absolute age to fill. When we got there we’d caught up with the two boats ahead of us, the chaps again stood on the top gates chatting away with only the ground paddles opened.

Big chunky gates at Weston Lock

‘We’re in no hurry’ the chap said again. I did point out that the bottom gates were leaking and that maybe opening the gate paddles would help fill the lock. It took a little while for the penny to drop, all that was happening right now was that they were letting water flow through the lock whilst it still had another foot to rise, they could be there forever, well until the pound above ran out of water!

We followed up. Are all these wide locks counter intuitive like Stenson Lock? Opening the same side ground paddle really didn’t hold Oleanna against the wall. Here we got a shower of hail too, just enough to get us all soggy and chilly before the sun did it’s best to return.

There really is a shelf there

As we approached the stretch where there is an underwater stone shelf, keep to the off-side, a boat was coming towards us. They were going at quite a rate, their bow faced towards us and just as they passed the yellow sign their stern hit the shelf, lifting the boat out of the water! Blimey!! The chap on the front thankfully didn’t fall in. We checked they were all alright before we carried on, all seemed fine.


It was cold now, should we catch up with ourselves, or pull in before Swarkstone Lock? The latter was more attractive with fields alongside the canal that Tilly would enjoy. We tried several places, but ground to a halt at least a foot out from the bank. In the end we gave up and moored up with a gap between us and the towpath, Tilly could easily jump it, so could we. Time now to warm up inside.

5 locks, 8.42 miles, 2 straight ons, 5 siblings, 2 outsides, 2 catty men, 1 leaky lock, 2 shallow to moor, 1 card, 1 shelf rearing, 1 cosy stove, 1 orchestra conductor in the making.