Monday, 18 August 2014

Fast but so dull

Trees hide the world from the river traveller on the Ouse
Oh, give me a few locks, a bridge hole, even some shallow edges to get stuck on. These eastern rivers are becoming so dull. I long for a canal.
Today it was the tidal Ouse, a river which makes the Trent look positively exciting. In 15 miles and two and a half hours there was little but trees to see. Scarcely a house, let alone a village popped its head up to look at us. The only exception being the little village of Cawood with its elderly but still operational swingbridge nine miles in.
Dodging the driftwood - some of it substantial
The only entertainment was in dodging the driftwood – and there was plenty of that, some of it the size of small trees. Even that started to peter out as we got upstream so I resorted to taking selfies while steering. That and getting on with it so we'd reach Naburn before the forecast rain.
Old jetties are evidence of Selby's river-based past
Perhaps it should have been no surprise then (though it actually was) when we caught the two boats who'd gone through Selby lock before us. They were going very slowly indeed for some reason and while I hung back politely the boat from the locking after us caught me up. So finally I overtook, he overtook and a seaboat come up from Whitby overtook. "You'll only have to wait at the end", the slow crew smiled. But we didn't. By Naburn they were so far back we were in and almost out of the huge lock before they arrived.
Cawood swingbridge, the only river crossing on the way
Naburn is where the tidal Ouse ends, though it loses most of its potency well before then. It is a handsome old waterways hub with two huge locks, only one of which is now used, an assortment of traditional looking waterways buildings, a waterside crane and a handsome building that started out as the headquarters of the river board back in Victorian times but is now a private house. It's all very atmospheric of the great age of the waterways.
The two big locks at Naburn, a reminder of its busy past 
It also floods – dramatically – as the lock keeper told us, pointing to a picture of the 2000 floods which showed his house, and the river board house up to their ears in floodwater that entirely surrounded the area as far as the eye could see.The locks were somewhere under all the water. Apparently it was even worse in 2007! He worked by boat or up to his chest in water checking and keeping things safe and then when the floodwaters went down, cleaned inches of mud and worse out of the buildings and off the lock areas. All the while drying out his own flooded out lock house. Quite a character, the lockie. If you've got the stomach for it, ask him about the bodies he has found and retrieved over the years.

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