As the 2022 cruising season approached, Lynn and Bob on Cormorant II and Hilary and Ric Whitby on Clara Grace had bit of a chat and agreed on a plan. Instead of using the easier Western approach on the Northern Cruise, they would take the longer route from the East.
For Cormorant II, this would involve the familiar Severn river, Staffs & Worcs canal, Trent & Mersey canal to the Trent river, where Clara Grace would join.
Accordingly, Cormorant II left their home mooring, bound for Gloucester on April 28. In company with two other boats, and their experienced crews, the upstream River Severn passage was begun sharp at 08:00 on April 29th. The water flow was rather above normal, about a foot of fresh water. About 2 hours in, one of the other boats broke down (water hose fell off the keel tank) and was duly rescued by the other boat and C2. That slowed us and we overnighted breasted up at Upton on Severn. Problem on the Severn is the lock times have shortened and we wouldn’t get to Worcester before closing! Following day, we proceeded to Stourport, left the river and onto the S&W. the weather, while not hot, was OK. The next few days found us getting to Great Haywood .
Now onto the Trent & Mersey canal, 6th May saw us at Fradley and dinner with my elder brother Bernard. We pressed on and, as planned, Clara Grace appeared from the River Soar on 11th May. Now in Lifejackets, COLD weather gear and full boat heating operating, we pressed on down the river Trent. Personally, I’ve never been so cold on the boat. Maybe it was the 6ft of floodwater which was pushing us on at up to 7 or 8 mph sometimes. A couple of sketchy moments, first at Cromwell lock (where we join the tidal bit) where actually mooring up was not exactly textbook. The second was at Gainsborough, where downstream direction mooring is “if you can”!! We both needed to check props after rather strange noises from the drive train. Both boats managed to stop from close to 6 mph approach, fortunately, no bolts or ropes broke. The noises we put down to entrained air in the wild water!
At Keadby, the approach – normally a little difficult [W/master: I’ve seen a YouTube video !!] – was exactly on time and absolutely perfect, touching neither lock side, training wall or each other! Confidence restored, we were now off the Trent and onto the Stainforth and Keadby Canal.
Over the next few days, we cruised to Doncaster, met and socialised with Beryl and Geoff Smith, operated large swing bridges [W/master: and lift bridges] and traversed some lumpy locks, where our first port was Sheffield, my ancestral home. (It was known as Hallamshire. The University [W/master: ‘Sharpens’!!], Hospital and Radio Hallam are reminders of our influence!!)
After a couple of days here, we pressed on again now on the wide waters of formerly heavy traffic routes, Sheffield and Tinsley, River Don, Sheffield and South Yorkshire, Aire and Calder. The locks for those not familiar are “Large.”
Arriving in Leeds, we managed to secure moorings in The Armoury, right in the City Centre, and again spent a couple of days enjoying the city.
Moving on again, now on the Leeds & Liverpool, we worked our way through 60 ft weed infested lock gates, leaking locks, heavy or inoperable swing bridges to Skipton, where Hallam’s Yard always amuses us. The market was in town so we enjoyed that too. The scenery approaching and across the summit of the L&L is truly spectacular.
About two to three days after Skipton, Lynn first and then I went down with what we believe was Norovirus!! Hilary left to go home, Ric took many walks with Paddy, the dog. We stayed in isolation and well clear!!
After recovery, we again pressed on to Wigan, where, on the infamous 21 flight of locks, we met no volunteers, just a couple of other boats and locked bottom gates!!! This was at 14:45, well over an hour before official closing time! Fortunately, we met an off-duty volunteer who willingly released us, then helped down a couple of other locks.
Another day or two passed and nearing Liverpool, we met with Dabbling, fortunately with Jan and Ged aboard! Ged very efficiently arranged a splash and dash refuelling for us at the Mersey Motor Boat Club and we moored near Melling, where the swing bridge must hold up dozens of cars as three boats pass through [W/master: the CRT operation time of 09:30 was observed]. After passing the famous Aintree horse-racing course, we were soon at the head of the Stanley Locks, here, we descended to the Liverpool Docks, passing the huge brick-built Will’s Tobacco warehouse and into “Sid’s Ditch” the cutting into the South Docks. For a Narrowboater, this must be one of the most picturesque entrances to any city, as we pass right below the Liver Building. Now we moored up in Salthouse Dock with the other 4Cs boats for the next stage of the Northern Cruise adventures.
Report and images by Bob Hallam – Cormorant II
Next , read about the Liverpool part of the cruise Click here