1. Inlanding to London – 1989

Erewash Canal, River Trent and Trent & Mersey Canal

 Day 1. Trent Lock to Willington

14miles – 8 locks – 8 hours

Late morning, I locked gingerly through Trent Lock, very much aware of the stares of the gathered lockside gongozlers. ‘Lily Jane’ dropping what seemed far more than eight feet into a wide reach of the River Trent. I could immediately feel the muscular pull of the river as I turned right and upstream.

The relief at leaving the critical and vocal lockside crowd was short lived, as was any appreciation of the broad watermeadow dominated by the cooling towers of  Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station or small dinghies flurrying from the nearby marina.

Within minutes the engine was overheating and threatening to stall. The boat limped weakly into Sawley Lock. I felt anxious, would the ‘old girl’ last the long journey?

Happily, enetering Sawley Cut and the distraction of the hundreds of boats around Sawley Marina soothed some of the worry, and the short densely wooded, steep-sided section of the River Derwent, before Derwent Mouth Lock, was a delight. ‘Lily Jane’ gripped the deeper water and swam beautifully upstream.

This being my first day out, ‘getting ahead’ was the priority, each lock bringing a new challenge, and on them I was honing my still raw skills. On reflection I rushed everything, and actively enjoyed so little of the new world around me.

I was through Shardlow before I knew it. I knew nothing of it’s importance as an inland port and so, on this occasion, I nodded at attractive building but didn’t linger.

‘Lily’ climbed the deep Aston Lock [8’1”]…
Weston Lock [10’11”]…
Swarkeston Lock [10’11”], and finally the huge Stenson Lock [12’4”], before I was seduced by the guidebook’s description of a huddle of pubs close to the canal at Willington.

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