Don’t Trust The Locals. 27th December

Branston Water Park to below Stenson Lock 6.

Grey today. We’re keeping an eye on the weather forecasts and river levels. Todays trend was levels are gong down, but with an expected upwards movement due to the coming rain! Not what we want, but we keep moving in the right direction hoping that things will have improved when we get to the River Trent.

Branston Lock

Going down Branston Lock we had a boat on our tail. Might this be a boat that we could share the wide locks with? We’d see.

Shobnall Marina was sadly not open today, their price for 50 or more litres of diesel is now £1.12, the lowest we’ve seen for a very long time. A cluster of boats sat along the next stretch, being close to the marina and shops a good thing at this time of year.

Closed in November

We’ve never really explored Burton-upon-Trent, it’s somewhere we head through in spring or autumn on our way to other places. Next time we’ll do our best to stop and have a look round, but having said that the Bass Museum is sadly no more, having closed it’s doors earlier this year.

At Dallow Lane Lock a boat was just pulling in below, the lock in their favour. I walked up to help with the bottom gates. I asked where they were headed today in the rain. They’d been to fill with water and were returning to a mooring close to the marina. Their plan had been to be in Alrewas for Christmas but the cold weather had put them off.

Dallow Lane Lock

I was then asked where we were headed. My answer was ‘Hopefully Swarkstone today then if the river is behaving, we’ll be heading on to get through Stoke Lock before the new year.’ She responded with ‘Well it’s all shut off up there!’ We talked for a couple of minutes at crossed purposes, me thinking she was meaning flood gates on the river being closed, until she mentioned the Railway Bridge.

Bridge 20A had been closed for maintenance presumably by Network Rail and had been due to reopen on the 23rd December, this is why we didn’t hightail it up the T&M earlier. The lady was quite adamant that it was still closed as it was still on the C&RT website and no notice had come through saying that it was open again. I thanked her, took note and reported back to Mick. He and I were of the same opinion, we’d go and see for ourselves. Of course there was chance that industrial action had slowed down works and it being a third party maybe news hadn’t come through to C&RT.

Goodbye narrow locks

Winter stoppages, in our experience when finished on time do not get an advice notice to say they are open. Notices come through if there is a delay, postponement, over running of works. Or on some occasions when the maintenance work is completed ahead of schedule, even by one day. So because we’d not seen anything regarding the railway bridge we assumed it was now open.

We dropped down Dallow Lane, the boat behind us now right behind us and able to open up a bottom gate for us. They were only heading to Willington today, so lock partner. Waving goodbye to the last narrow lock on the T&M. Our next one, if we stick to the current plan, will be in Middlewich maybe in about six months time.

Pulling her back in

Coming in to Willington there was a boat come a drift at it’s stern. I walked up to the front of Oleanna and pushed it out of the way. We stopped in the bridge hole just ahead, I held onto the centre rope whilst Mick went back with mallet and a boat hook. By now the bow was also adrift. Gradually he pulled her back to the towpath, hammered in the spikes. Her position not the best close to the bridge especially as we’re now back in the land of widebeams.

Talking of widebeams we passed WB Tardis. Wonder how much that pram cover cost them?! Surly it can’t be any bigger inside!

Plenty of walkers on the muddy towpath. We were wet and getting really quite cold by now. Our schedule had us mooring near Swarkstone Lock today, but we wanted to call it a day sooner than then. We pootled onwards.

First one railway bridge, then Bridge 20A. As thought it was open, from our side the only noticeable thing was a fresh coat of paint had been applied. On the other, there had been works done to the embankment and off to the side was a large compound. We’re very glad we go with our instincts and not word on the towpath, as we’d have pulled up in Willington for the night if we had.

Nowhere to moor until Stenson Lock. Here there was one gap, which was two fenders too short for Oleanna. Nothing for it but to go down the lock, at least some activity would warm us up! I took a windlass and walked ahead, I’d find out if my calf could cope with wide lock beams today.

Stenson Lock

It took forever to fill the chamber, at 12ft 6″ it is really quite deep. The ground paddles are strong but the gate paddles almost non existent. In came Oleanna, bottom gate paddles lifted, down she went. Today the sign inviting us to have an ice cream on the cafe wasn’t as enticing as normal!

We pulled in past the lock landing, enough depth for a mooring, pins went in, then second ones as the ground was a touch soft. Too late and too close to the railway line for any cat shore leave today, so we had to put up with complaints from Tilly for several hours.

Leftover bubble and squeak with duck today. We’ve still stuffing, cabbage, duck and ham to finish. What something can I make tomorrow?

3 locks, WE 9.48 miles, Pip’s Nebo 7.7 miles (operator error), Mick’s Nebo 9.5 miles, 1 railway bridge OPEN, 1 boat adrift, 1 calf coping, so far, 1 cat not coping, 4 trains, 2 wet boaters.