Monday, 4 May 2009

Tidal Transit - Salters Lode Open (Just)

There is a lot of, is it, isn't it, on the Great Ouse at the moment.

I'm talking about Salter's Lode Lock.

As mentioned in my blog post on the 27th April, Salter's Lode has re-opened.

The photograph on the left was taken at Denver Sluice and shows Salter's Lode in the distance. The water between Denver and Salters is the tidal margin between The Great Ouse, which we were leaving and the Middle Levels, which we were to enter.

The photograph below is the reciprocal view - looking at Denver from the entrance to Salters Lode.

The tidal strip is only about 2000 feet of open water and takes about ten minutes at most.

The passage is controlled by the lock keepers at Denver and Salters, who watch the tide levels carefully, before releasing boats out of either lock.

Too much tidal flow will make manoeuvring difficult. Low Water is too shallow and High Water can end up with the tidal level higher than the non-tidal level.

The turn into Salters is very tight, especially for longer narrowboats.

The first view of Salters from the tidal, looks something like this:

The lock had been closed for about 2 months while the guillotine gate was replaced. There have been a lot of technical problems with the gate - apparently something to do with the computerised ccontrol of the gate. It is now working, but VERY slowly.

The guillotine should lift in about 2-3 minutes but it is taking about ten minutes at the moment.

Anyway, the gate eventually opens and allows access to the lock chamber behind, and the protection of non-tidal water.

The photograph below shows two narrowboats waiting to leave Salter's and enter the tidal stretch.

The lock chamber has two sets of V-gates, to allow different sizes of boats to fit, with minimum usage of water.

It has been said that 62ft boat length is borderline, but I fail to see this. When the farthest set of gates are used, I estimate that the chamber could accommodate something like a 67ft boat. I would imagine that only a full length 70-footer would pose problems and then it might be necessary for water levels both sides of the lock to be equal and make a level, so that both the guillotine and V-gates could be opened simultaneously, to allow a long boat to pass straight through. Tidally, this would only occur occasionally, I would imagine.

There was quite a backlog of boats waiting at Salter's Lode, to get across into the Fens. A few of them were Fox hire boats from March. Another poor chap has been waiting patiently for the lock to re-open, only to then experience engine problems, which have further delayed him.

Hopefully, once he has a new fuel line fitted, he will be on his way.

So, once again, we are back in no-mans land. Technically speaking, no licence is needed to navigate the Middle Levels - its neither owned by the Environmental Agency or British Waterways.

Just the very name, seems like something from a Tolkien novel. In fact, after you've been there for a little while, you start to wonder if you're role-playing in a Tolkien story.

Nothing much seems to affect the area and it's quite timeless.

The houses in this part of the world are often quite unusual. There is a newish-looking house on the bank opposite the lock keepers house, seen in the photo below. It is decorated externally in local flint stone and looks wonderful.

In my humble opinion, this is one of the most remote parts of East Anglia and well worth a visit.   

Distance Run 17.0 Miles

Engine Hours 8.0 Hours

Total Number of Locks 1716

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