Friday 4 November 2011

Driffield Navigation by kayak - Whinhill Lock

Driffield Navigation (part 4)
Whinhill Lock
August 2011

After a longish slog through heavy surface weed we arrived at Whinhill Lock, repaired with new gates but obstructed by a fixed bridge over the chamber itself which gives access to the farm beyond.

Whinhill Lock top gates

The lock is a grade 2 listed structure and has been the focus of restoration work for many years. A lottery grant was finally won in 2004 at which time it was regated and restored to full working order.

This lock has a good set of interpretation boards which give an overview of the navigation's history. It is apparent that the navigation was used by Keels who sailed as much as they could and whose tall masts meant that swing bridges were the order of the day. This fixed bridge will need to be replaced, possibly by a fixed bridge at the lock tail as seen elsewhere. I noticed a strange thing about these locks, the top gates are significantly narrower than the lock chambers, which is odd, and the cills must be a good 20ft long. I'm sure there is a reason but I have no idea what.

How the navigation used to look.

Access at the top is easy, stepping in and out at the weir, but the bottom is another matter. If is was in a canoe (rather than a kayak) I might be tempted to lower it into the lock empty lock chamber and climb down the ladder but that's not possible for us so we had to find an alternative.

 Whinhill Lock bottom gates closed, and open

The bank below the lock is steep and covered with stinging nettles which was a problem. Maybe 200ft down the bank the stingers were less and we dragged the kayaks down to a small sandbagged edge which offered a good place to get in and out.

From there the navigation runs through a wooded cutting, with a few fallen trees being a bit of an obstacle, but not insurmountable. The water is clear and deep supporting all kinds of wildlife. I was particularly struck by the Kingfishers. We must have seen three pairs flitting to in front of us, with the Heron making more sedate progress as it flew from branch to branch, all the time keeping a beady eye out for fish dashing out of our path.


Halfie said...

I'm not sure what you mean by the top gates being narrower than the lock chamber. Do they make a shallower "V" when shut?

Andy Tidy said...

No, the locks have very long cills -maybe 20ft or more and the width at the cill is three or four feet narrower than the main body of the usable chamber. Odd