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Monday, 10 July 2017

Puffing up the Pocklington.

As we rose up Cottingwith Lock we could see that there was plenty of growth in the canal ahead. We had been warned several times that there was a bit of a weed problem on the Pocklington Canal at this time of the year. The advice had been to stay in the middle and go slowly, with the occasional bursts of astern to rid the prop of green stuff.

We had been lucky in that a smaller narrow boat had gone on ahead of us. The advice to stay in the middle was easy to follow as there was an almost clear route, at least on the surface to follow and hopefully that would be the deepest water. It is amazing to think that despite the Derwent not being tidal since the barrage was installed the area round here still floods as the water level is raised for wildlife and flood elevation that can mean that Cottingwith lock is under water too.

In a little over a  mile comes the first swing bridge, called No.1 swing bridge, which is pretty descriptive. I think that the sides will drop down if a large low farm load has to cross. The require a waterways key and a lift of the latch before they are easily and smoothly moved out of the way. The second swing bridge, called No.2 swing bridge is just out of sight.

We were thinking that the weed wasn't that bad really, nothing that a good jag astern wouldn't fix every now and then. That was until after No2. bridge. We seemed to stop dead, and no amount of to'ing and fro'ing would move us. I ended up down the weed hatch twice to remove this blanket weed that just jammed up the prop. It  was a very short stretch where the blanket weed was just too much to ignore. I wont say I panicked but I did wonder how long it would take us to get to Melbourne if the rest of the way was like this!

It was a good job we were only able to go slowly down this section as there were several of these rafts moored by the bank. On the top it say 'Water Vole Survey. Do not remove.' It seems that a water vole runs a territory that includes between 30 and 150 mts for a female and 60 to 300 mts for a male. To mark that area they use droppings in a latrine area. These areas are like flat patches of bank or stumps etc. It seems that these rafts are moored as substitute areas that can be easily monitored from the bank. and placed at roughly 10m distance in the area to be checked. They are then checked periodically and the more droppings the more active the water voles are. Once the number of droppings are recorded they are swept off waiting for the next check. Quite an easy way to get a feel for the number and activity of the water voles. I didn't see any droppings on any of the rafts so hopefully they had just been to check them and swept them clean.

Hagg Bridge is Grade II listed. It was built by George Leather who also worked on Goole Docks and the Knottingly and Goole Canal and has the main span and a smaller span over a stream to the left. It also marked the limit of the extreme blanket weed. After the bridge there was only stuff that needed the occasional burst astern to clear. However we did not encourage the accumulation by going quite slowly at all times. There had been a water tap on the other side of the bridge to the right but this has been removed as it was often under water in the winter and it's cleanliness couldn't be gauged.

About a mile further on from Hagg Bridge is Gardham Lock. It is unusual as it has a swing bridge right in the middle of it's length that you can see is open in the photo above. After being restored in the 1970's much of the structure had to be replaced, although the coping stones are original. This meant that it couldn't become listed at the same time as the other locks and bridges were. However since then it has been listed in it's own right.

Above the lock is the weed cutter 'Shelia Nix'. I had been told that at the present it is waiting for a new drive chain. As the chain is fairly unique it is very expensive and is also a regular problem. This explains why the boat is laid up. It is named Shelia Nix after a lady that was a lifelong canal enthusiast and a founder member (1969) of the Pocklington Canal Amenity Society. She was awarded an MBE for services to canals in 2000 and died only last year aged 96.

Looking back at the lock it makes a great picnic spot. There are very few roads in the area and it is lovely and quiet. We have seen several kingfishers dashing backwards and forwards and there are many dragon flies skittering along the canal too.

I think the presence of trees may help prevent the build up of the blanket weed as it will shade the canal and help to keep temperatures down. However I think that the main reason the canal is clearer of weed above Gardham Lock is the fact that the trip boat from Melbourne Basin comes this way regularly so keeping it down. It is a great shame they can't extend their trip  to past Hagg Bridge!! 

In the distance are the Howardian Hills. These are named after the family that still own the land, the Howards. The area of about 70 sq. miles is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and seperates the Vale of York from the Vale of Pickering and at 170m high are the out layers of the North York Moors.

Baldwin's Bridge was originally a swing bridge and like all the swing bridges on the waterway it was replaced by a fixed bridge. 6 of the eight have already had a swing bridge put back in position. This one No.5 had the deck raised in the 1970's when restoration started and raised again to 8' later. No.4 bridge is normally left open.

We are getting close now and this bridge No.6 is a farm access road. All the bridges are easy to open so Helen is happy to jump off to operate them.

Almost there now. The entrance to Melbourne Basin is just the other side of the bridge. Not the sides of the bridge are different to the others. They can be lowered to allow passage of low wide loads. This bridge has side that are angled outwards to allow for this already. We arrived here at 1830 having left Barmby pontoon at just before 1000. That eight and half hours is put into prospective when you think that we traveled from Beverley Beck, down the Hull and up the Humber and Ouse to Barmby the previous day in about 8 hours. A distance of near enough 50' against about 15'!

It was slow going okay but it was a lovely day and the views were good and the wildlife kept our interest. I'm not sure what I would be writing now if it had been raining all day. You will have to find out tomorrow if it was worth it!!

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