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Index

Tour 2001

Index

Thames Estuary, Medway, Swale, Thames Estuary, Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation, Thames Estuary and Tidal Thames to Brentford

6- Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation to Springfield Basin, Chelmsford.

Friday 4th May 2001

Neil was woken up at 05.00 by Ian C going walkabout. It was a clear but windy morning. The boat settled about 24.00 last night and was still beached, with the tide beginning to come back up the mud banks. We had settled virtually level, with the bow slightly up, so it felt “normal” inside. 
Ian got his wellies on determined to do his “Shoal Waters” thing and wander around on the mud. Next a plaintiff cry emerged from out side “Lads!!! . . help!” yes Ian was disappearing in the mud! No one was really interested, in fact every one had gone back to bed! Ian hung onto gunwales and hauled himself along and climbed back aboard the “official” way, using the fender stool and rudder cavitation plates as steps. Muddy boots were left on rear deck for the “photograph!”  
Neil got up about 06.00 and did a few photies and video. At 08.00 we gently refloated and swung round to the incoming tide. At 09.15 JC phoned Colin Edmund the Heybridge Basin Locky and at 09.25 we started the engine and went through the narrowboat way of getting anchor up. This consisted of hovering over the anchor and getting chain on bow T stud. Using some old rubber mats to protect bow we then motored over anchor and it came up. With the cratch cover off and one side of cratch folded back Neil and JC recovered the anchor (or huge ball of mud!) and deposited it and the muddy chain in the waiting dustbin. 
We were soon in the lock and became an object of much local gongoozling. Once up we got Colin’s approval by taking a sharp sideways movement, once out of the lock and plonked our self on the water point and lock waiting mooring. Neil and Frank cleaned the anchor – easier while still wet and filled water tank. Colin introduced us to Jeff the company engineer and he said that the best plan was to go to Tesco’s at Maldon, then he would meet us at Beeleigh Lock to give us our “Lock Instruction” test. 
Colin furnished us with a monstrous C&BN windlass (or paddle key as they call them) and a piece of paper stating that we had permission to use canal. He also said that he would get us 20 gallons of diesel to top up tank before we left. At 11.05 we trundled off and were amazed at the depth and lack of the dreaded floating weed. 
After a line of moored boats and yachts the canal cut section to Maldon settled down to be very pleasant, even the small bit of industry through the outskirts of Maldon was not obtrusive. At 11.40 we arrived at the Tesco piled mooring (11.40), just by a footbridge over the canal. The rest of the crew went to raid Tesco’s while Neil fiddled away on some boaty things. 
At 12.50 we were off again and arrived at the pre-opened, by Jeff, Beeleigh Lock. Just before the lock is a stop gate in a bridge hole to protect the cut into Heybridge, as at this point the Blackwater crosses over the navigation and exits to the side into a weir into the tidal Blackwater. On high spring tides this weir is topped and the flood gate is to protect the Heybridge Cut. Soon Jeff chugged up in one of the weed boats and said that he would not insult us with the lock test, as the real test was getting here! He just emphasised that the locks must be left full (saves bottom gates drying out and is easier for people who fall in to get out (not all had lock ladders) The paddles were supposed to be left full up, but this has been altered to half up as local yobs had been dropping them and smashing racks. 
Jeff was most worried that we knew that we might not get into Springfield Lock Cut and hence to the basin, he also gave a very accurate description of all the shoals we would encounter. We could have talked for hours, but we had to get on as in true TNC fashion it was Springfield Basin tonight! We started off again at 13.20 and had a bit of trouble at Rickett’s Lock (out 13.50) as there was so much water coming over the gates. Just before Hoe Mill Lock (deep one – out at 14.35) the river came in at a sharp angle and had deposited a large shingle shoal. This of course we “found”. Hoe Mill Lock was interesting as a 1930’s concrete County Council road bridge had made some alterations to the lock and there were some landing points reached by a ladder in a small well. 
The upper sill of this lock was very exposed and we used the Chelmer barge slot cut in sill to position boat. We did not think that coming back would be a problem as the Chelmer Barge size is 58ft 6ins, the same as Earnest. In fact we thought that a 60ft narrowboat with fenders could just get up and down. The top gates of this lock were probably the worse encountered. They worked OK but had many holes in the planking and sill timbers. Beyond Hoe Mill Lock there was a line of boat moorings and some of the navigation maintenance craft. 
Rushes lock (out at 15.15) came next. Peter Wright was to join us for a few hours on the way home from work and met us at Paper Mill Lock. This lock is the HQ of the navigation and had the navigation office and a collection of interesting old sheds and buildings. There is a very pretty weir in front and Neil had strange recollections of the place from day trips out from East London in his (very) early years. Neil had always thought that this memory was from a location on the Lee and Stort Navigation. 
The companies newly repainted full size trip boat – “Victoria” is also kept here. At 15.55 we were on our way again and now tried to home in on Terry and Chris Rigden, who were meeting us for the evening. There is not really much to say about this wonderful Navigation, the piccies speak for them selves. It was a complete contrast to the over engineered and “tamed” Medway. The Chelmer was allowed to use its floodplain, whereas the Medway was a disaster waiting to happen as it was all confined in high clay banks. 
We had little problem at lock cuts. Using the Medway “go in at the top” technique we got through all quite easily and used the bow against the lock wing wall / powered / drop the lock water to help flush the silt and twigs out clearance method. Lock timings were thus :- Little Baddow Mill Lock out – 16.30, Stohams Lock out – 16.55, Cuton Lock out – 17.15 (became know by us as Cruton Lock! – Peter Wright left here and legged it back to his car at Paper Mill Lock), Sandford Lock out – 17.50 (home of the well kept Blackwater Boats fleet of 30ft hire narrowboats), Barnes Mill Lock out – 18.22. 
We eventually picked up the Rigden’s under the old A12 Bridge, where there was a towpath wall. The entrance to Springfield Lock cut was the worse, but this mainly consisted of loose silt, twigs and the inevitable “town” rubbish. Once past we gave this a good flush and blast out of the way. 
Springfield Lock took between 18.38 and 18.50 and at 19.15 we were in the far corner of the basin, with the bow fender touching the wall. We winded and moored just downstream from the Waterside Restaurant. This we were told was good but expensive. One half of the basin had been redeveloped in a not too over the top fashion, while the other side still sported a Travis Perkins wood yard. 
Owing to too much chattering, poking around boat and people having showers we missed an early table (NO booking!), so wandered into Chelmsford and found an OK Indian (name anyone?!) This could accommodate the Rigden’s request for a “quickie” as they wanted to get back off home! We also retired fairly early as – yes you have guessed it – we were rather knackered!

Saturday / Sunday 5/6th May 2001

The crew were picked up fairly early Saturday by Pat, JC’s wife. Frank was dropped off at Chelmsford Station and the rest went off by car. Neil had a couple of days rest, waiting for the family day trip, get boat back to Heybridge day. On Monday. Brian and Di Holt came out Sunday evening to relieve Neil’s boredom and took him out to the local ‘Arvester.

 


The cut out up from Heybridge.

The cut out up from Heybridge.

The cut out up from Heybridge.

The cut out up from Heybridge - Backside of Maldon.

Maldon.

Maldon Tesco's.

Golf course at Maldon.

Flood gates below Beeleigh Weir and Lock.

The exit weir for the River Blackwater, below Beeleigh Lock. Tidal Blackwater below.

Beeleigh Lock.

Beeleigh Lock.

Beeleigh Lock.

Leaving Beeleigh Lock.

The waterworks above Beeleigh Lock.

Ricketts Lock.

Ricketts Lock.


We might not stop, but we do eat! Note the official C&B Nav Paddle Key.


Hoe Mill Lock.

Below Hoe Mill Lock. The Chelmer comes in from the right. Just downstream from the seriously eroded left hand bank is a rather large shoal, that Earnest had a magnetic attraction to!

Hoe Mill Lock.

Hoe Mill Lock.

Hoe Mill Lock.

Some of the C&B Nav craft above Hoe Mill Lock.

The Tour continues


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