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The Tuesday Night Club on Tour
7 - Brigg to Brandy Wharf via Bishopsbridge and including the start of the Caistor Canal - River Ancholme, Caistor Canal.
Tuesday 2nd July 2002
We shoved off at 09.20 after breakfast NOT taken on the move.
We decided to go up the Ancholme by the straight new course. Frogmoore was
pointing the right way, but Earnest was not, having reversed back from Brigg.
Frogmoore led and Earnest soon caught up after having reversed down to the
junction. The Ancholme continued wide and deep, good progress was made on this
somewhat un inspiring waterway. The upstream junction with the old course of the
River, into Brigg was passed at 09.40. Just after this Kettleby Beck enters on
the east bank. This looked fairly weed free and almost navigable. Beyond this
there were a few more tantalising side drains, the old course of the River
Ancholme and North Kelsey Beck.
John on Frogmoore went right on by the entrance to the moribund Caistor Canal, but Earnest lingered. Neil judged that the dilapidated tow path bridge was slightly too low for Earnest, so as the entrance looked navigable, a quick de-cratch was arranged. During this procedure, John had reversed back in Frogmoore and started up the Caistor Canal. The first hundred yards of the canal doubles back on the River Ancholme, then reaches out westwards, via the bottom lock. Frogmoore got half way into the lock chamber, then ground rather violently to a halt, the bottom plate pivoting on the solid bottom ( we now think this was some of the chamber blocks, dislodged when the farm over bridge was constructed.) Frogmoore was jammed solid and it's only means of escape would be a tow out from Earnest. Neil aborted the bow first approach and reinserted Ernest backwards in the rather silted up entrance. Much prop thrashing ensured that a passage was created for our later extraction. In a rather blackened soupy mess, the two boats were finally stern to stern. After a few snatches Frogmoore was free and John reversed past Earnest, then hung about as Earnest had a go reversing about a third of the way into the chamber. Beyond the blockage the Caistor Canal went tantalisingly eastwards. After a good thrash out, to free up more silt we were finally out onto the Ancholme at 11.55, we had spent just under an hour on our endeavours, but were satisfied now that this little known canal could be said to be "done".
Apart from Brigg, the only place along the Ancholme of note was the cider pub at Brandy Wharf, this was passed at 12.10. We intended to come back to this that night. Arrival at Harlam Hill, the only lock on the Ancholme was at 12.45.We knew that from our Explo day, that Earnest would not be able to wind above the lock and it was to be a reverse all the way, Frogmoore would probably manage a wind at Bishopsbridge or in the remains of the winding point, just below. The lock was secured with NRA Nene type Abloy padlocks. Having got both boats into the waiting empty chamber, after a rather stodgy passage up from the lower weir stream, we worked out that the over bridge at the bottom of the chamber, would just clear Earnest's tiller, without having to resort to coming forwards over the sill as we rose. The chamber was in a terrible mess, we had kicked up an awful lot of black silt, just getting in it. Much vegetation grew out of the walls and the top sill and bottom gates were a positive S.S.S.I. The bottom gates needed a good prod with the boat hooks to free up the sills, so they shut. We wanted this aspect of their water tightness to be OK, as they did not look like they had held water for a LONG time. Daylight could be seen through them in places and they had rather stupidly been sheeted with plywood on the OUTSIDE!
It took FOUR HOURS!!! for us to get a level and exit the lock. In this time we cleared the chamber walls of extraneous vegetation. The farmer lady whose goats use the over bridge came out to see the proceedings and wished us well, after offering a key for the padlocked sluices, as she thought we were having trouble with them.
The Bottom gates did indeed leak like sieves. By the use of the boat hooks, we spent the first couple of hours of our wait blocking holes, using weed and a few plastic bags. After this we turned our attentions to the top gates, as we had a couple of inches of water to go, to get a level. The spindly round metal pole balance beams could not be forced, so out came the heavy artillery. The hydraulic Porto- Power was first used with the "wedgey" hydraulic "hand". This was placed between the inner collars and after a lot of straining away pumping up the hydraulic pump, we managed to crack open the gates. The inrush of water was soon stopped by the masses of floating weed above. This was cleared on repeated occasions with the barge pole, the level rose by another inch or so but still we could not open the gates. Neil then got out the long scaffold pole and tried levering the gates apart, while re positioning the hydraulic hand. Of course this was too much for Neil to juggle and he fell in, just above the gates into the most vile, black blanket weed infested splodge.
Neil soon bobbed up, minus scaffold pole, to be dragged out by a hysterical (in the laughing mode!) crew. With all the blanket weed hanging from Neil's head, he looked somewhat like Rick Wakeman, in his 1970's "Yes" days. No time for a shower, so Neil just carried on! A repeat of last procedure saw the gates open. We managed to get them just open enough to get the boats out one at a time. We then roped the gates open, as we wanted an easy passage back through the lock and not more hassle getting a level again. We left at 16.45.
It was a real struggle going up the last two and a half miles to Bishopsbridge. Earnest went first and ploughed a "furrow" though the weed, coming to a halt, now and then through the blanket weed infested stretches. The worse part was the old totally weeded up winding hole, about half a mile below Bishopsbridge, this was presumably as the river had dropped more silt here, due to the lower currents in this "wide" area.
at 17.30 we arrived at the "Bell Inn" "moorings" (actually we just managed to get the bow of Earnest on the weir edge brickwork.) Neil finally had a rather over due shower and clothes change. We soon had a small local welcoming committee. The owner of the pub seemed to think that we were the first narrowboats up here for 30 years! We had a few beers in the very tidy, but deathly quiet pub. The owner apologised for not having ANY beer on, but said that he has such little custom, that he only survives by having weekend bikers conventions, when he gets beer specially in. In the interim he sells bottled beer.
With the though of a long passage astern to Harlam Hill we set off back at 18.00. Frogmoore managed a wind just below the old wharf warehouse. Neil got Earnest moving along at a reasonable speed, with crew "steering" but trailing the two barge poles from the bow, which act like sea anchors and stop the bow from wandering.
Arrival in the waiting, but now weed infested Harlam Hill lock chamber was at 19.50. We somewhat slammed the top gates shut by upping one lower paddle first, this was to ensure that the weed was sucked out of the way and a good seal; was made on the top gates. This worked and the new - well in 1999 - Callis Mill sealed perfectly. Out of lock at 20.30 in to a stirred and soupy mess below. Finally it was an easy wind for Earnest in the lower weir stream, then a final trip down the weed hatch. Brandy Wharf was reached at 21.10, we were still the only boats up this end above Brigg. John and Robbie went into the Brandy Wharf Cider House and had an excellent meal. The rather knackered crew of Earnest stayed on board and had one of Martin Wilson's rather good completely home made spag bol.
Glandford Boat Club moorings on the new course, by-passing Brigg. River Ancholme.
Entrance to Caistor Canal - Ian Clarke does some Tai- Chi while waiting for NB Frogmoore II to get stuck. Picture - Martin Wilson.
We eventually reverse up the Caistor Canal to rescue NB Frogmoore II. Picture - Martin Wilson.
Bottom Lock, Caistor Canal. We get ready to snatch NB Frogmoore II of the rocks. Picture - Martin Wilson.
As far as we reversed in the Bottom Lock - looks doable beyond. Caistor Canal. Picture - Martin Wilson.
Passing through Brandy Wharf. River Ancholme.
Snitterby Carr Bridge, just below Harlam Hill. River Ancholme. Picture - Martin Wilson.
Looking back from Snitterby Carr Bridge. River Ancholme. Picture taken on our Explo Day out.
Harlam Hill Weir and Lock. River Ancholme.
Arrival at Harlam Hill Lock. River Ancholme. Picture - Martin Wilson.
Looking down from Harlam Hill Lock. River Ancholme. Picture - Martin Wilson.
Looking up from Harlam Hill Lock. River Ancholme. Picture taken on our Explo Day out.
Looking down from Harlam Hill Lock. River Ancholme. Picture taken on our Explo Day out.
Bottom Gates Harlam Hill Lock. River Ancholme. Picture - Martin Wilson.
The end of Navigation, at the weir just below Bishopsbridge. River Ancholme. Picture - Martin Wilson.
In the Bell Inn garden Bishopsbridge. The locals have started to gather. River Ancholme. Picture - Martin Wilson.
Departing from Bishopsbridge. River Ancholme.
Arrival back at Harlam Hill Lock. River Ancholme.
Brandy Wharf Cider House moorings. River Ancholme.
Brandy Wharf Cider House slipway. River Ancholme.
The Tour Continues...
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