Contrasting Canals

The Trent and Mersey Canal is a single width canal west of Burton-on-Trent, but it is a double width canal for the rest of its length.  All the locks we’ve done since rejoining the boat have been twice as wide as we need, significantly longer, and mostly very deep too.  This means that each lock takes a lot more time and effort to deal with.  If we find another narrowboat going the same way as us, we should be able to share the locks, and so also share the water and the effort.  We’ve only managed to do that once – as it happens in the only hydraulically powered, keeper operated lock on this section.

Mile Post: Shardlow | Preston Brook 92 Miles
The Destination of the Trent and Mersey Canal

Yesterday we reached Shardlow, which is the village at the end of the canal.  The village was an important place when the canal trade was brisk.  Goods were transferred between the canal, which connects to Merseyside and the River Trent which flows to Hull and allowed trade via the coastal waters to London.

Sign for Shardlow Heritage Centre
How to Dress to Helm a Narrowboat

We visited the Shardlow Heritage Centre yesterday.  The woman in charge was very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about everything to do with the village and its history.  It also transpired that she and her husband were narrowboat owners too, so we enjoyed sharing some of our own stories with her. 

Level Indicator High on Lock Wall
Clare Operating Large Lock Gate – not for Scale

The canal continues for a short distance beyond the village before joining the river itself.  As elsewhere, there was a coloured level indicator.  This one was very clean and easy to read, and it was obvious that the levels were very low.  We continued on through more junctions than we normally see, many of them protected by flood gates – all of which were open for us.

Flood Gate with Traffic Lights
Flood Gates with Lights to Warn of Flooding on the River Trent or River Soar

At the end of the day’s cruise we reached a crossing.  The Trent, now swollen after its confluence with the Derwent meets the Soar.  There are navigable routes in all three directions – and a weir to avoid – but we were taking another option.  The Erewash Canal goes north from here.  It is a dead end, and so is a lesser used canal.  The first half mile is lined with house-boats.  These are similar to static caravans except that they are on a floating base.  They varied in grandeur.  Some had balconies or upper decks, some even had rooms upstairs.

House Boat on Erewash Canal
House Boat on the Erewash Canal

The Erewash Canal is very pretty and peaceful.  The low levels of traffic have allowed water lilies to colonise long sections of the banks.  Our progress is sedate in the shallow water.  We’ve only seen one moving narrowboat in each direction today.  The locks are just as huge as the ones the Trent and Mersey.  Although there are few other boats, the locks often seem to have many gongoozlers.  The ones who are prepared to push heavy gates can be quite helpful.

Today I could see from my bulging email inbox that a letter had flooded in from NHS Lothian.  I now have an appointment for my laser eye treatment in mid-July, but no other medical appointments so far.