I’ve moved down the canal a little bit. I
went down through Swarkestone Lock and on a really nice countryside bit here,
very, very quiet. The main reason for it, even though I had winter mooring up at
the top, the towpath was getting really muddy and I was finding madam with her
four feet, rather than just mine, was trampling mud through the boat and mess
and stuff so, I’ve come up here where it’s nice and dry and it’s fine now.
It does mean I have to walk across a certain field to get to the car, but in a
weird sort of way, I’m actually closer to the car than I was at Swarkestone so,
there’s plus and minuses. So at this time of year the Canal &
River Trust do their winter stoppages. What that means is they completely stop
the traffic going through various parts of the network and that’s purely so
that they can do their maintenance. I’m just walking down the final part of the
Trent & Mersey Canal before it goes out onto the River Trent and at Derwent Lock,
they’re doing maintenance here. They put complete stoppages in, so that they can
take gates out, replace them, put different covings in, deal with the cill
that’s in the bottom of the lock chamber, basically all the things that
they need to do to keep all the boats navigating around the system, during the
rest of the year. Because most of the boats are moored up in marinas like this,
over the winter months, it gives them time to do them. The stoppages are
advertised on the Canal & River Trust website months and months and months in
advance, so people can plan their way around the system. For example, I was
down on the Coventry Canal and I knew I wouldn’t be able to get up past here, to
get up onto the River Soar for example. So I booked my moorings up at Swarkestone.
But it just means that you’ve got to be aware of the surroundings and be aware
of the stoppages. Derwent Mouth Lock was built in 1777 and is the first lock on
the Trent & Mersey Canal. I’ve traveled through it many times and it’s a
well-used lock, allowing boats to travel back and forth from the River Trent, up
onto the canal. With all its use, this winter it’s time for a bit of
restoration and repair. A number of wooden beams or to use their technical
term ‘stanks’ are wedged in place at both ends of the lock, to seal it. However,
water does continue to seep past them, so ash from steam trains is poured into the
water and the seeping flow carries the ash into the gaps, causing it to make a tighter seal. [Gulping water sound] A number of damaged coping stones
have been replaced, with handcrafted stone and once the chamber could be
inspected, brickwork could be repaired. There was some bricks that were actually
missing and there were some that were actually too degraded to be repointed.
It’s a bit of a toss-up basically, you have to do a lot by eye because you’ll look
at things and you’ll think, you know, can I, shall I chop that out, shall I leave it.
Ultimately in things this age, you could just turn around and go, the whole lot
needs chopping out. At which point, you’ve got a new lock. So to keep the historic
structure as intact as possible, the Canal & River Trust need to restore,
rather than replace. As the lock is listed, they’re not allowed to use cement.
Instead, they need to use sand and lime to fix the stones and bricks into place.
Some damage is only visible once the lock has been drained. We found that this
gate was dragging on the bottom a little bit. On further examination, we realised that the actual bracket on the
top, that sits around there, one side of it had snapped. It’s made out of cast iron and it had
snapped and the actual stone itself it had got a fault in it and it had separated. So
it was letting the whole thing move, so that was a job that we hadn’t anticipated.
They’ve dug it out and are waiting for a one and a half tonne sandstone to be quarried
and brought here by boat. The restoration here is due to take around about six
weeks and it’s planned to stop on the 12th of December, even though they have
had extra work to do. And the total cost is around about
£120,000. With hundreds of locks scattered across the country, this time
of year is jam-packed with work and they’ve only got a small window of
opportunity before the canal springs to life again in March. So if you wanted to
come and have a look at this lock, it’s open on the 2nd & 3rd of
December. They’ve got viewings here, the guys and
the team that actually are fixing the lock and preparing it and restoring it,
they’ll be here. As well as up on the canal on the Trent & Mersey, they’ve got
horse-drawn boats going up and down there. So you can see that, of how it used
to be in the olden days and now onto the River Trent and the River Derwent, they’ve got river trips to Sawley Marina.
I’ve included a link in the description below about this weekend’s event. If you
liked this episode, please do give it a thumbs up, leave a comment and until next
time, see you later.