Victor finds the 'Six' being avoided

Published: Monday, 09 May 2022

THE start of our cruise meant tackling the 'Terible Six' broad locks at the start of the Trent & Mersey.

To learn that they are getting a reputation of being avoided, not only from talking to fellow boaters but especially to those moored on Sawley Cut having come down over the past months.

It was these self-same locks that caused that well documented exodus from Sawley Marina when Mercia Marina at the top of those locks first opened, and our fiends moored at Sawley taking to Kings Bromley for the same reason, and now even ourselves considering deserting Sawley after over 20 years, for the same reason after the struggle today.

WestonLeakThe first of the six at Derwent Mouth is difficult but just needing an extra effort, with the smaller lock at Shardlow easy enough, and even the former dreaded Aston, after a complete makeover a few years back is not so bad, though the towpath ground paddle would not shift. Then came the three terrors!

Weston is a real bugger. The bottom offside gate swings open before you can even get to a top paddle, so requires a paddle opening and then another trip to close the gate again, and difficult it is too.

Yet from the picture it can be seen the amount of water coming from what very much looks like another 'blown' cill, as those at CaRT call a broken cill is certainly in the making and the excess water should easily have held the gate closed. 

The near-side ground paddle would not shift, even with our extending ratchet windlass.  The high-geared gate paddles needed the extension windlass to move being so difficult.

WestonLeakP1060931Very, very slowly the water rose and so we attempted to open a top gate. But alas the gate would not budge, and looking at the water leaking from the bottom gates it was obvious why the lock took so so long to fill and the gate would not open, for it was leaking away.

Luckily a passer-by helped and three of us managed to get the gate to open, then we discovered one of the gate paddles would not go right down like the Aston one.

After this Swarkestone Lock, though difficult was a bit of a relief, and better than last time, so something must have been done.

But alas not so Stenson. There was a boat in the lock with a gate open but not moving, to discover he was resting  being like that as far as we could see when approaching, to be told he was so shattered he was waiting for a boat to come so that he would not have to close the difficult bottom gates, gate when leaving, telling he was most pleased to see us!  We wondered how he would survive Weston? He would never manage on his own, that's for sure!

All of you who have gone up through Stenson know about the tricky bottom gates that stick out, needing both open for even a narrowboat, and how they lean in and need tremendous effort to close. Then it's a very slow job, as two of the gate paddles have been taken off plus a ground paddle that only wound-up half way.


These top gates needed some attention too as one was juddering as it was being closed making it harder than usual.

Of course, not a volunteer in sight, we being told they are few and far between as most just will not volunteer for what is nothing but damned hard work. And who can blame them? 

Not many boats

We spent Sunday afternoon on on the 'Six' then the following morning up to Mercia, yet saw only five moving boats, that well proved that that section of the Trent & Mersey is fast becoming a no-go for many.

And we have to tackle them again on the way back—but hopefully should be fitter!

No turningMore and more

I see we are getting more and more blue signs, with a couple at Swarkestone at the junction with the old Derby Canal.  One stating no winding, yet a clear winding sign is shown in such as Nicholson's.  Little doubt the moorers there don't want boats winding.

But do they not realise that if a boat cannot wind there, it has to go five and a half miles to Willington to turn, as the marked one at Stenson just above the lock will no way take anything like a full length boat so the next official winding hole is a journey of 11 miles!  No way José. 

And so to the narrow locks

And a relief indeed with a boater at the front of us at the first of the narrow ones at Dallow Lock complaining that she had to wave down a passing cyclist to help her close the bottom offside gate at—you guessed it—Weston Lock, as it would not budge! 

BranstonEmptyHer partner strictly told not to attempt to climb the ladder as not safe.

Then telling it was even a struggle with the top gate, but then her partner was able to help. 

Missing boats

Then a real surprise at one of our favourite overnight places—Branston.  There was not a single boat in sight!

In the past we have often had difficulty finding a mooring place, even having to use pins way past the normal moorings, but certainly not today, it was completely empty of boats. 

JanWavingNew record

Many boaters complain of cruising down past Barton Turns Marina alongside the A38 due to the noise of the traffic on the duel carriageway, but not our Jan.

She makes sure she has the tiller and stands there waving to the lorry drivers coming towards her just over the hedge, and this time managed eight 'toots' and three waves from the drivers.  A new record!

So there you are ladies, make sure you have the tiller and take to waving at the lorry drivers—Jan finds it great fun!

Victor Swift