Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Eau, No!

Having given the Witham Navigable Drains a miss I thought I ought at least to have a go at Kyme Eau. This branch off the River Witham  was originally navigable as far as Sleaford and Yorkshire Keels traded to that town from the Humber. Like so many similar rural navigations it succumbed to railway competition, but by 1986 local enthusiasts had restored and reopened the first few miles and the first lock.
Through the floodgates and on to Kyme Eau

At first sight it didn't look too bad, but once through the flood gates after the junction it became obvious that Kyme Eau is shallow and weedy and also that for obvious reasons there was a lot of water coming downstream.  Starcross slowed to a crawl and the mile-and-a-half to the lock took over an hour.
Bottom or Taylors Lock

It took another half-hour to get through the lock; the top guillotine gate needing a million turns of the handwheel to raise and lower. At the top lock landing I removed half-a-ton of weed from the prop and, hoping things would be better above the lock, I pressed on.  Needless to say it had been raining heavily throughout and the going remained resolutely slow.  Having now taken twice as long as I’d planned to get so far I was hoping that there would be somewhere to stop at South Kyme, the only settlement of any sort on the Eau, so that I could wait for the rain to ease or even to stay the night, as it was now early afternoon and I wasn’t even halfway.
But I never got to South Kyme  and was soon brought up short by a warning boom for a low bridge. I couldn’t see the bridge in question – the boom was under the previous one - but it was pretty obvious that I could go no further. Neither was there anywhere to get off so that I could go and see for myself. I know some of these warning booms are a little on the “safe” side, but this one was far too low to ignore.
That's as far as we're going!

There was nowhere to turn, so reluctantly I began to reverse. Starcross steers well in reverse and I have made a point of learning how to control it, but on a twisty, fast-flowing river I wasn’t exactly looking forward to reversing the three miles back to the Witham. I was also a little concerned as to how I would get back on to the landing for the lock without being swept onto the adjacent sluice gates by the current.
Fortunately, after about half-a-mile I saw an indentation in the bank. Could it be man-made and hence designed as a winding hole or was it just a natural feature likely to be shallow and silted up? It had to be worth a try!
Is it a winding hole?

Normally when winding you put the bow into the “hole” and swing round in the channel but going downstream on a river that’s not always the best approach so, trusting that there would be enough water, I eased the stern into the hole and the stream promptly – and swiftly – brought the bow round and I was off downstream like a rocket.
Round she goes!

With the current It was difficult enough to get onto the lock landing going forward and I clouted the top gate on my approach - but no damage done. Another million turns of the handle and another half-ton of weed removed (it was depressing to note how quickly the prop picked it up again) and I was soon back on the Witham having taken five hours to cover about six miles tying-up soon afterwards at the marvellously named Dogdyke!
After all this I fancied a pint in the Packet Inn (geddit?), they had a handpump but all that was on offer was John (wash your mouth out) Smiths – a pretty poor reward I thought and time to break out that bottle of Jura!

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