Thorne to Southfield Junction
5th August 2011
14 miles - 2 locks - 8 hours
You couldn't find a quieter spot on the Stainforth and Keadby Canal, surrounded by a carpet of slow moving weed. The railway is an ever present companion in these parts and it carries a constant stream of heavy haul waggons of industrial materials to and fro the residue of the northern industry. Whilst the canal may be dead to trade its good to see commercial traffic moving in the area.
The New Junction Canal - all of it!
We stopped in Thorne - there are not many towns in the area so you have to make the most of the opportunities that present themselves. Its a bustling market town with a scrappy market - complete with a good compliment of banks and supermarkets.
After negotiating a baffling footbridge we came to the moorings on finger jetties. This site offers water, elsan disposal, showers and a book exchange. These finger moorings are ok if you have a shortish boat but for anything longer then 50ft you will need to look to the parkside linear moorings.
River Don Aqueduct
As ever, our wanderings took us to the parish church, probably the oldest building in the town. As it happened it was open with the verger doing a spot of cleaning after a storm shook loose some masonry, which gave us an opportunity to have a good look round.
This canal has some similarities to the Fenland drains being broad and straight but instead of being in a ditch it sits on a raised embankment offering great views over the surrounding farmland which stretched out into the distance.
Little Holland on the New Junction Canal
We had made a second stop at Stanilands Marina, filling up with diesel and also looking for an inverter to replace the one which gave up the ghost a fer days ago. They had a monster one second hand for £120, but it was really just too big for our needs so we passed. After the long straights the canal starts to wind above Thorne, adding interest to the trip. Whilst there were not many boats about there were plenty of people out enjoying the waterways, dog walkers, hikers and boys taking a refreshing dip.
The canal straightens up again at Bramwith, site of an enormous lock which was built to accommodate long trains of Tom Puddings which were used to move vast quantities of coal till the mid 1980's. The Stainforth and Keadby finlly runs out at the junction of the River Don Navigation (Sheffield) and the New Junction Canal. The trouble with our dash through the South Yorkshire Navigations is that we are leaving all sorts of destinations behind. Whilst it pains me to leave waterways unexplored we just don't have time to do everything. No matter - its a good excuse to return in years to come.
The New Junction Canal probably rates in few boaters top 10's, but I was rather taken with it. Sure its only 5.5 miles long and so straight you can see from one end to the other, but it packs plenty of interest into its short length. First off is the impressive River Don Aqueduct, a low slung affair whose swollen belly laps the surface of the Don beneath. Added to that it is guarded by a huge guillotine gate which stands poised over the southern end. The Don Aqueduct is mirrored by the equally robust Went Aqueduct at the northern end. In between there is a long row of utilitarian steel lift bridges which bear more then a passing resemblance to those seen in Holland. Then there is the vast boater operated Sykehouse Lock, where it takes an age to walk from one end to the other armed with your trusty BW key to operate each section in sequence. It's foolproof but awesomely big - part of an EU funded waterway enhancement to Sheffield 40 years ago which never lived up to its promise. All those millions spent on a white elephant.
Southfield Junction Mooring
We discovered a gaggle of narrowboats moored at the junction with the Aire and Calder and one look at it's high steel piled sides caused us to spin round and join them. There are times when its a good idea to take notice of what the locals do - they usually know all the best spots. This is a fine spot to moor on a warm summers night but is probably pretty bleak on a rainy winters day.
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