Melbourne by narrowboat?

To be fair that is Melbourne in East Yorkshire rather than the Australian one.

At last we’ve made it to the River Derwent and the Pocklington Canal. It was the only part of the North Eastern waterways that we didn’t manage to complete last year. The weed on the Pocklington is so bad late in the season that navigation is well nigh impossible so we abandoned last year’s attempt with a plan to return early in the season this year.

We booked a passage down the tidal Ouse from Selby on the evening tide last Sunday.


Heading down the River Ouse towards Barmby Barrage on a beautiful evening

The trip up the Derwent always seemed a little daunting when we were planning it. At Barmby Barrage you have to obtain a certificate to  say that your boat complies with anti-pollution requirements. Would our toiletry arrangements meet their approval? Would our engine emissions prove too polluting? We needn’t have worried. The certificate seems to act as a licence from the Environment Agency to use the waterway for a year. You fill in a small form, give the nice man £12 and away you go certificate in hand. Like C&RT lock staff, the Environment Agency lock keepers are extremely friendly and helpful. They were happy for us to moor up for the night on the lock operation pontoon (mind you as we were the only ‘foreign’ boat on the system there wasn’t a great deal of call for its use as anything other than a mooring for us).


Moored at Barmby Barrage (I just had to get picture that included the boat, the barrage and Drax power station – second largest in Europe)

There isn’t really anywhere to moor between Barmby and the start of the Pocklington so we made our way straight up there and moored just after the first lock. The only boats we saw moving all day were two or three canoes and a couple of inflatable dinghies. It’s a lovely spot with a feeling of remoteness and some amazing wildlife. We spotted curlews, kingfishers, marsh harriers, roe deer and even, early in the evening, an otter.

We took an early morning stroll through the mist on the following day.

DawnPocklingtonCanal Ings TreePock Wheldrake Ings

An experience well worth getting up early for!

The trip up to the current limit of navigation at the village of Melbourne went well until one of the five swing bridges decided to bite back. I let it leave my control a fraction of a second too early and it sprang out taking a chunk out of the wooden rail at the back of the boat and spitting it into the canal. Gordon did manage to retrieve the bits but I’m afraid it’s terminal!


That’ll be a new rail when we get back to civilisation. We were going to have to replace it at some point anyway as a lock on the Calder and Hebble had taken a bite out of the other side last year.

The canal is in water from the Melbourne Arm right up to the terminus near Pocklington although, apart from the end basin, the top mile or so is completely blocked with weed. The tow path is good so, as we were unable to take the boat we decided to walk the four and a half miles to the Canal Head and back.


The Bielby Arm on the un-navigable section of the Pocklington


Four of the seven locks on the disused section of the canal have been more or less fully restored.


Because the canal is unused the abundant reeds provide ideal spots for the local swans to nest.


The Pocklington really is a very beautiful canal.


The top lock where the canal is completely choked with weed.


Canal Head just outside Pocklington and the turning point of our walk. Luckily there was a pub on hand to provide refreshments before the return journey.


Lovely moorings in the Melbourne Arm. These are the only narrowboats we’ve glimpsed on the system and they’re  permanent residents.

We’re up at Stamford Bridge now, but the trip up the Derwent is another story. Despite the loss of the back rail (which could have happened anywhere) we’re very glad we bothered to visit this waterway. It is amazingly beautiful and, due to the lack of visiting boats, incredibly peaceful.

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