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Tour 2006

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5 - The Tidal Bow Back Rivers - Channelsea River / Abbey Creek, Prescott Channel, Three Mills Wall River and City Mill River.

The next day we were going to do the difficult bit of the tidal Bow Back Rivers, involving the low bridges in Prescott Channel and Waterworks River. This was achieved by going out of Bow Locks as soon as there was enough water, then running up early on the tide to enable enough air draught.
It was to be an afternoon tide, so in the morning we ambled around the now non-tidal loop of the Bow Back Rivers. This is accessed off the lower River Lee Navigation. The start of this loop is using St Thomasí Creek. When coming upstream this is a very sharp right immediately after the long, low A11 bridge. After a couple of bridges the loop then heads northwards along City Mill River. At this point the derelict Cill Mill Lock (down to the tidal Waterworks River) is in the last stages of restoration. On the City Mill River section is the lowest bridge, carrying the massive structure of the Northern Outfall Sewer.
At the end of City Mill River section is the Derelict Carpenters Road Lock, again down to the Waterworks River. This a strange double vertical radial gate affair, built more for flood defence, but now redundant. From here on the loop heads back towards the River Lee Navigation along the old course of the River Lee, exiting just below Old Ford Lock. Half way along this section is Pudding Mill River. This totally silted up stub goes off to the south under a rather rickety concrete towpath bridge. The furthest we have ever got up here was just over a boat length!
So it was back to Bow Lock to wait for the afternoon flood tide. We eventually got out at 15:50, some half an hour after the predicted time. It was very slow passage up on the tide, seeing as we would have to take the unpredictable bottom a good few times. Passage was OK passed the Three Mills basin. After grounding in Abbey Creek we turned left and drifted up the lowest bridges at the entrance and exit of the Prescott Channel.
Beyond this point is a T junction. To the right the Three Mills Wall River leads to the back of the tide mills. A community of residential boaters lives here, their boats attached to drying out pontoons. We carried on with the flood tide to the right. Just before the A11 bridge is a notoriously shallow section and we grounded for around 20 minutes, enough time to go inside, escape a rain shower band and have a cuppa!
Beyond the A11 bridge the navigation enters the Waterworks River and there is the downstream entrance to City Mill Lock. There was another rain shower as we approached the Northern Outfall Sewer bridge (this passes over most of the Bow Back Rivers), so we tied up underneath and had yet another cuppa.
After the rain shower the level had appreciably risen so we ambled up, only making contact with the bottom a few times. Once past Marshgate Lane there is a wide at the entrance to the remains of Carpenters Road Lock. Navigation is virtually impossible beyond here as if you proceeded further on the flood tide, you would never get back. The official S.P.C.C. guide tells you to wind here, bow into the old lock approach, lined up with some old steps, then hang around for high water then pick your way back under the low bridges.
After a bit of gravel rattling we managed an early wind on this springs tide. As the tide was still coming in fast, we decided that knowing Earnestís capabilities it would be easier to punch the tide and clear as many of the bridges as we could, as we would have complete control over our speed.
It was now hell for leather between the bridges. We did very well and managed to get to the junction with the Prescott Channel, where we were hailed by some of the moorers on the Three Mills Wall River pontoons. They beckoned us over and warned us to stop. After a good chat we discovered that they had an air draught gauge for the two low Prescott Channel bridges, a white band on the outer of the pontoon mooring posts indicated the lowest bridge height. It was then a simple case of hanging about and gauging your air draught to this mark. We were also warned to be on the upstream wall of the entrance to Prescott Channel, as when the river ebbs it would be an easy manoeuvre through the narrow bridge.
In the intervening time we loosely moored up and wandered over to take pictures of Three Mills, only to be shooed away by a security guard with a large megaphone! After we had a good 6 inches of extra clearance we shot off down the Prescott Channel, somewhat faster than our passage up.
The Bow Locky was about with the bottom gates open to the working inner lock. The turn can be very tricky against the strong ebb tide, but we executed it perfectly, in fact too perfectly as we were lined up with the outer blanked off lock.
We now moored up above Bow Locks, ready for our three passages through it the next day!
The next day was to be an early, in the half light passage up Channelsea River and Abbey Creek as well as a twirl around the Three Mills Basin. All went well, the total experience taking just over half an hour.


Limehouse Cut, looking towards Bow Locks.


We have just left Bow Locks and turned upstream on the first of the flood tide.


Looking back down Bow Creek, Bow Locks to right.


Bow Creek. Under the railway bridge is the junction with Three Mills Basin (left) and Abbey Creek (right).


Looking back down Bow Creek.


Three Mills and lower basin.


We have just turned off Abbey Creek to venture up the Prescott Channel. Just by the bridge is the proposed site of the new impounding Prescott Lock.


The same spot looking up Prescott Channel at high water, showing why this section must be traversed before or after high water.


Prescott Channel.


The junction with Prescott Channel and Three Mills Wall River.


Looking back down Prescott Channel.


Looking down Three Mills Wall River at the drying residential berths and Three Mills beyond. The white band on the nearest pontoon location pole is very important - the locals air draught marker for the Prescott Channel bridges.


Looking back down Three Mills Wall River at the junction with Prescott Channel.


Stuck on the bottom, waiting for water as the tide floods in. A11 Stratford High Street Bridge in the distance.


Looking back at A11 Stratford High Street Bridge.


City Mill Lock. This is in the process of being restored (gates fitted, but no paddle gear / hydraulics). This will form a link up to the non tidal Bow Back Rivers loop (St Thomas' Creek, City Mill River and Old River Lea)


We are now on Waterworks River, Northern Outfall Sewer aqueduct.


Looking back at City Mills Lock from Waterworks River.


We make it under the Northern Outfall Sewer aqueduct.


Looking back at the Northern Outfall Sewer aqueduct.


Yet again we wait for more water. Access bridge and railway bridge beyond.


During this downpour we tie up under the railway bridge.


Sheltering under the railway bridge.


Looking back downstream from the railway bridge.


Looking back at the railway bridge. We set off after the rain stops.


Looking back downstream.


Looking upstream on Waterworks River towards Carpenters Road.


Stuck again in Waterworks River, waiting for water.


Waiting for water, looking up at Marshgate Lane Bridge. Waterworks River.


Waterworks River. Marshgate Lane Bridge.


The tidal side of the disused Carpenters Road Lock. Waterworks River.


Carpenters Road Lock.


Attempting an early wind in the mouth of Carpenters Road Lock. Waterworks River.


Looking up at Carpenters Road Bridge and the continuation of Waterworks River.


With the flood tide now streaming in we go hell for leather and make it back under the Northern Outfall Sewer Aqueduct. Waterworks River.


Now back down Three Mills Wall River, we just make it under the A11 Stratford high Street Bridge against the strong flood tide.


A picture of the A11 Stratford high Street Bridge near high water. Three Mills Wall River.


Now safely through the A11 Stratford high Street Bridge we power back to the junction with Prescott Channel. Three Mills Wall River.


We moor up to wait the ebb tide opposite the residential moorings at the end of Three Mills Wall River.


Three Mills Wall River residential moorings.


Three Mills from the upstream side.


Looking down the Prescott Channel at high water.


High water at the junction between Three Mills Wall River and Prescott Channel.


We boat up to the end of Three Mills Wall River...


...then moor up above the Prescott channel to await the ebb tide and enough clearance under the Prescott Channel bridges.


Setting off down the Prescott Channel, looking back.


Trickling down Prescott Channel after checking we had at least a foot clearance under the lower bridge.


Looking up Prescott Channel at high water.


An early morning start at Bow Locks to do the other section of the tidal Bow Back Rivers - Abbey Creek / Channelsea River.


It is just after high water and we set off for our booked passage out of Bow Locks.


Exiting Bow Locks, as you can see from the crack in the bottom gates, it will be an on the level departure


Continuing up Bow Creek at the start of ebb.


Now in Channelsea River we approach the junction with the Prescott Channel.


Looking up Prescott Channel.


Continuing up Channelsea River.


Channelsea River continues to the right, Abbey Creek branches off to the left.


Looking up Abbey Creek, as we continue up Channelsea River.


Channelsea River. Bridge across to the island.


Channelsea River.


Channelsea River. The head of navigation. A short distance beyond the Northern Outfall Sewer aqueduct the Channelsea River is culverted under Marshgate sidings.


Channelsea River, the head of navigation. The Northern Outfall Sewer aqueduct at high water


Looking down and across the island from the navigable end of Abbey Creek / Channelsea River.


On our way back we take the circular route round the island, back down Abbey Creek, which is now connected back up to Channelsea River.


On our way back we take the circular route round the island. Abbey Creek.


On our way back, looking back towards the Northern Outfall Sewer aqueduct. Abbey Creek.


The island, Abbey Creek and Channelsea River at high water, from an explo walk.


Coming back down Channelsea River.


Coming back down Channelsea River.


Coming back down Channelsea River. Prescott Channel comes in from the right.


Three Mills Basin, the end of Bow Creek.


Three Mills Basin.


Back at Bow Locks we get ready for the difficult turn to get back in the lock, against the strong ebb.

The Tour Continues...


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