Castle Croft Bridge to Nearly Greenforge Lock
The first of the years speeding hire boats passed us this morning as we were finishing breakfast, we realised that they had slowed down to pass us when they moved their throttle into turbo after they’d passed us! We pushed off at a far more leisurely pace just before 11am, all wrapped up as the wind was quite bitter. This however soon dropped and the temperature started to rise throughout the day.
We made our way down Dimmingsdale, Ebstree and Awbridge Locks. It’s eight years since we came through here, the only things I remembered about the stretch were the lock bridges. Some are brick built small arched bridges, you can stand on them to open and close the bottom gates. Others are narrow metal with a handrail on one side, not my favourite. Then the one I really hated eight years ago (I think I did my best to walk all the way round the lock to avoid having to cross it too many times) at Awbridge Lock. This is a narrow metal bridge which originally had no handrail, just the road bridge next to it. For sometime (by the looks of it) there has been a scaffolding handrail attached. You certainly can’t be of chunky stature to get round it, but it did give me some sense of security crossing over it.
All along this stretch someone has been busy adding faces to any post or tree stump that they could find. Eyes and funny noses loom out from the undergrowth and watch you as you work your way through locks. I wonder how many there are?
Arriving at the top of Bratch Locks at 12.45 we decided to work our way down then stop for lunch below and make use of the off side mooring to empty our yellow water tank. Bratch Locks are three separate locks with what seems to be incredibly short pounds in between them. These pounds are deceptive as they go off to the side, a little similar to the side ponds at Watford and Foxton. The top one is visible, but the lower one is out of sight from the locks, through a culvert under the road. I was just checking on how to work the locks when a Lockie appeared from the little brick booth popping on his life jacket. Marvellous some help.
He walked down and set the lower locks for us whilst we filled the top chamber. At Watford and Foxton you have red and white paddles, ‘Red before white and you’ll be alright’. Here you have red and blue, no rhyme was offered (we did try to make one up). Here you open the blue paddles first, these are at the top of the next lock and fill it from the pound in between. Then you open the red paddles which empty the top lock into the pound. Once levels are equalised you open the top gates of the lock below before the bottom of the one above, then move your boat through. The Lockie had already lifted both sets of blue paddles so there was no toing and froing up and down the locks. Emptying the second lock has to be done slowly due to the culvert into the pound. So one paddle is opened and the other left for a while so as not to overwhelm below with water.
Some of the gates don’t want to stay shut so there are hooks and a rope to stop them from swinging open just when you reach the other end of the lock. Quarter of an hour after starting we were at the bottom and I was clambering through the wall to get back to Oleanna.
Another pootle and we were at Botterham staircase locks. Here we set the two chambers (top full, bottom empty) and worked our way down. The top chamber is deeper than the bottom, so there is an overflow to the side to accommodate the extra water.
Passing a boat in between the locks in Swindon we carried on to above Greenforge lock and aimed to pull in past the caravan park. A line of permanent moorings was ahead of us so we held back and tried to pull in, but the bottom was far to close to the top. It took quite a lot of pushing and engine to get us shifted off the bottom, but Mick succeeded in the end and we managed to find our full depth of water a short distance further on.
Here there are trees that are sideways, not sideways trees, but ones that have started going up but then went sideways before they reached all the way to up. These were quite good fun to climb and coming down was much easier than normal.
Brian on NB Harnser has a good update on how things are progressing with the Middlewich Branch breach. It looks like the boats in the empty pound will be re-floated by the end of the weekend.
12 locks (1 staircase of 2), 6.25 miles,2 side pounds, 1st Lockie of the year, 1st speeding hire boat, 1 empty wee tank, 1 chilly but warmed up day, 2010 polling station, 3 trees sideways, 1 Diago, 1 Jager!