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With a boat full of Trust staff and volunteers, Trustee John Dodwell, travels the Erewash Canal and River Soar, among others, on his way to the Long Eaton Canal Festival.
Today I was joined by the Trust’s Chief Executive Richard Parry (again), Danny Brennan, Chair of the East Midlands Waterway Partnership, and Sean McGinley, East Midlands Waterway Manager. For Trust purposes, the East Midlands now covers the Trent upstream of Gainsborough, the Fossdyke (the oldest man made UK waterway - if you accept the Romans built it), the Witham, the Chesterfield Canal, the Erewash Canal, the Soar and Grand Union south to Kilby Bridge, and the Trent and Mersey west to around Burton-on-Trent.
The weather was back to being splendid today. It’s ages since I’ve been on the Erewash Canal and I can say that’s been a mistake. I know the valley used to be coal mines and steel works and all that but that’s all gone now, but leaving in its wake some rather fine mills (and chimneys) at the lower end. The whole Canal is green and in many parts rural. (see photo of Sandiacre Church in the distance) Yes, there are 15 wide locks in 12 miles – but what’s that to anyone who’s used to, say, the Grand Union? On my way down the Soar, I heard talk of the Canal being difficult, especially the paddles but I haven’t found that yet. Alright, Richard and Sean did most of the lock work as they wanted the experience for themselves (in conjunction with the crew of WHYCH WAY, on an extended journey from Skipton) whilst Danny and I steered. I’ll let you know my experience of the locks on the way down.
The water was sometimes quite clear and I could see shoals of fish. Swans and other water birds thrived (see photo above right ). The lower end has a variety of static houseboats – some quite dramatic (see photo right). At Sandiacre, we passed the sad junction with the Derby Canal (see main photo) – if you want to help in its restoration, join the Derby and Sandiacre Canal Trust (google for their website).
Quiz question. In which restored canal basin do three Canals meet? Alright, it’s a bit of a stretch but it is actually the case that at Langley Mill, the Erewash Canal meets the stub of the Cromford Canal and the even smaller stubette of the Nottingham Canal. But don’t forget that part of the Nottingham Canal is still navigable – the part in Nottingham which is part of the through route to the Trent. Restoring the Cromford Canal has its supporters – google Friends of the Cromford Canal for more information.
And it was at Langley Mill I stopped for the night – not best pleased when I went to the pub just after 8pm to find that the kitchen closed at 8. Ah well, that’s why I have reserve stocks of baked beans!
I was lucky that the people on WHYCH WAY were leaving Langley Mill about the same time I did, so we came down the Canal together. We hardly had to operate any top gate paddles as they either had stayed full overnight from when we had come up or there were boats coming uphill. The bottom gate paddles I worked were not troublesome. We did have one pound where the water level was about 6-9 inches down but HELEN – even drawing 3 ft – got through.
The water remained clear for the most part and I saw a 2ft long fish. I also saw dragon flies. The scenery remained pleasant – (see photo for the view from Eastwood Lock). There were more low bridges than usual so I had to take my chimney down – but WHYCH WAY was not affected.
We had started that morning at about 8.30 and were down at Trent Lock by 3.30, having lunch on the go. A very pleasant diversion and one I’d repeat. Some may say why go up just to come back again? I could make the same remark about many other stretches – e.g. the Market Harborough Arm, Coventry Arm, Aylesbury Arm. But there’s always some attraction – quite apart from “because it is there!”
One matter the East Midlands Waterways Partnership is keen on is encouraging local events to which to attract the public. Last year they began with one in Nottingham, I was at one at Long Eaton and next year they hope to have one in Lincoln. The organisation is by a mixture of groups and the Long Eaton one includes the Long Eaton Civic Society and the Erewash Canal Association (I won’t weary you with its full name!)
The Long Eaton Canal Festival was a two-day event over the weekend. Before I got there on Saturday, the Mayor and the local MP had been at the official opening, along with Richard Parry and Danny Brennan. I got talking to the Trust staff manning the Friends recruitment stand – one of whom has been boating for the last 15 years. Now the Trust can see the concept of Friends is being successful, the Trust has dropped the idea of agency staff and has permanent staff. On Saturday 7 new Friends had joined and the last figure I heard for Sunday was another seven. It’s encouraging to me how generous people can be with the average monthly donation being over £6 and some giving £25.In addition, the Welcome Station was signing up volunteers.
I left HELEN at a local boatyard and made my way home. It’ll be October before I’m back. Then I’ll be going on the Trent and Mersey to Great Haywood and along the Staffs & Worcs.
John Dodwell was formerly one of our 10 trustees. He owns Helen, a 51ft old BCN tug/icebreaker which draws 3ft and is based near Stourbridge, West Midlands. His waterways interest goes back to the early 1960s.
John’s been involved in the waterways since the early 1960s and he enjoys all aspects of the waterways. To pick out one oddity, he was pleased and surprised to see about a dozen herons this June around the BCN Main Line, including two under the M6 motorway!