Wednesday, 8 April 2009

On to Shardlow

An even shorter river trip this morning, and we set off early. Sawley Weir is very close to the exit from Sawley Cut, but I don't feel any real pull as we exit behind another boat. It glides away in front of us quickly. I increasingly believe our BMC 1.5 engine to be a bit under-powered for North Star, but then several people have said that it is fine and needs only a different prop. How on earth do you get the "right prop" for a boat. Trial and error can become expensive.

The GPS shows we are making progress, but it is slow - only 3.5kph. Barely 2mph.
We plunge under the vast M1 bridge where the wind channels viciously and slows us more. The live online UK wind map [Note: this link only works from a mobile/WAP device] for nearby East Midlands Airport shows 18mph southerly wind. The service is intended for glider pilots. I bet they never reckoned on it being used so diligently by narrowboaters.

After the M1 bridge we pass lagoons to our left and elegant trees on the right. A curious pipe bridge crosses, described as an aqueduct on the OS map, and as we pass under it I see Derwentmouth. Crested grebes glisten in the sun ahead of us, the sun catching their russet necks for an instant before they dive into the glassy waters. I relax and ease up on the throttle further, to appreciate this important watery junction. The Derwent contributes 40% of the river flow here, and I suppose the Trent & Mersey Canal, contributes a fair amount too, as it ends here. A little known fact is that the River Derwent flows entirely in Derbyshire.

Until recently, there was a bridge here - known as Long Horse Bridge - that carried the towpath over the Trent and onto the Trent & Mersey. The bridge was demolished by British Waterways in 2003 and not replaced. Walkers now have to follow the Trent up to Cavendish Bridge and walk through Shardlow village to return to the canal. Plans for replacing the bridge have been stymied by the usual hapless and hopeless local government attempts to combine leisure development with heritage management: Derbyshire County Council want to construct a "multi-user path bridge", 140m away up the Trent. It's typical looney local government, but the trouble is these days that local government officials have so little respect for any real consultation that they usually refuse to back down even when confronted with sanity. (Derbyshire's new bridge proposal is dramatically more expensive than a direct replacement and faces considerable local opposition)

We continue straight in to the Trent & Mersey, which suddenly feels narrow and claustrophobic. The north bank is smothered in reed beds, fronting poplars, ash and willows. The Derwentmouth lock is framed by a huge tree - an oak perhaps? Can't tell without the leaves. All very tranquil: to the south, the green flood meadows of the Trent, to the north those of the Derwent. Sheep and cows loiter.

Once up onto the T&M, it's all a little neater: proper canal banks and lots of boats moored. A long marina accompanies the canal much of the way into Shardlow. We slow for the awkward turn through the flood lock. I notice a boat moored nearby that seems to be an early conversion of a working boat. Maybe, maybe not.

T notices that the first house in the village has a miniature railway in the garden; I'm more impressed by their having their own wharf. Minutes later we are turning carefully under the bridge outside the New Inn. The wind has dropped completely and the sun is out: life is good. I see a space on the bend and slip straight in, coming to a perfect halt with minimum throttle and absolutely no thrashing about in a 59' space. If I had a pipe, I'd lean on the tiller, light it up and grin smugly at the assorted drinkers on the terrace of the New Inn. I don't smoke, so I decide - instead - to join them.

"Nice boat," says one drinker. I nod and grunt. This is what one does when on the canal. Inside I beam, appropriately, from side to side.

1.9 miles, 1 lock, excluding the Sawley flood lock. Why is it that the Sawley flood lock is a proper lock, while the same feature on the Cranfleet Cut is simply a flood gate?

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