1 mile east of Willington to Sawley Marina, 14 miles and 7 (broad) locks
We crept along the canal into Willington and out this morning – this appears to be another honeypot site for boaters, a village canal side pub being a certain attraction, with extensive visitor moorings either side of it.
After the quick and generally easy narrow locks the broad ones come as a shock: much deeper, the paddles stiffer, the gates heavier. On we plodded, sometimes with company in the locks*, sometimes not. The Captain broke the bad news to Oliver’s skipper that his planned route back to Bugbrooke (Northants) via the Soar and the Leicester Line might not be possible, so stringent is the enforcement of water restrictions at Foxton and at Watford Locks. At one point we met the distinctive-looking nb Elizabeth, seen once before last year, a boat built as a leisure craft in 1936. We cruised on, sometimes the canal wider, sometimes the channel narrowed by the growth of trees. Low hills appeared to the south of the Trent Valley, occasionally commercial aircraft circling above on the approach to East Midlands Airport. Frequently Cleddau passed the black and white Trent and Mersey mileposts, each stating the distance from Shardlow in the east and Preston Brook in the north west.
We passed through Swarkstone Lock – nearby is the 18th century five arch stone bridge plus stone pillared causeway over the Trent’s flood plain, out of sight from the canal but worth a look from the road. Then there is Shardlow, certainly a place for canal enthusiasts. It’s an inland port and impressive old warehouses and workshops line the cut. There is a charm and a hospitable feel to the place, yet round the corner lurks a crocodile in the water and a cannon on the side! People with character must live in these parts for just yards further along an extensive model railway is laid out in the garden, one end leading to an engine-shed building, the other (via a loop round the apple tree) to the wharf… Here, as elsewhere, the sheer number of other boats on the waterway or moored in offline marinas, makes one gasp. Can there be space for us all?
After Shardlow the canal passes through flood gates and on to Derwent Mouth Lock. Just beyond the canal meets the navigable River Trent and the River Derwent. Then on a bit further towards Sawley, but first under yet another motorway bridge, this time the M1.
There had been glimpses of Trent Valley’s most distinctive sight – the power station cooling towers. Now Cleddau is tucked up snugly on a finger pontoon, the bow looking across to a pretty church spire; the Radcliffe Power Station cooling towers are still there, but not as obvious from this pontoon. Memories stir of the crew’s early relationship with this craft which began right here, at Sawley, in March 1994. Then she was green with a red roof and yellow doors; now she returns as a visitor, a window fewer, the bow deck higher, clad in blue and red livery, outlined in cream, a mature and much travelled lady!
The crew expect to resume the cruise back to the Macclesfield Canal on 25th September.
Interim Statistics for this leg of the cruise:
*Monkton Moment (at a lock): from approaching hire boat: “ Oh, we live there, in Pembrokeshire – in Ludchurch.”