Fossdyke & Witham Navigations
I have yet to travel the complete length of the Fossdyke in my boat, but have know the area a long time, and have been to Torksey Lock by car only yesterday. If you if you are reading this in a few years time, it may be a little out of date. From Torksey the road more or less follows the canal. And this uninspiring stretch is a taste of things to come, however do not despair; as you travel the oldest canal in Britain you can savor the delightful thought of the frequent moorings to come, making this watercourse a pleasurable trip of 73 kilometers to Boston. There are mile (sorry kilometer) posts to mark your progress, counting down to 0 until starting at the high bridge, or Glory Hole in Lincoln. However I am English, so I will refer to miles from now on. Distances are taken from BWs site, but some are from memory and are only meant as a guide.
Four miles from leaving Torksey you will pass private moorings on your left, heartened by this sight you will have less than a mile to the BW moorings at Saxilby. Friends have told me these are excellent moorings, and supplied by adequate pubs and shops alongside, and in the small village. The Bridge Inn being a fine example of a riverside pub (unless it has recently closed). The Anglers Hotel also not far away, as is a garage for petrol.
Half way from Saxilby to Lincoln you come to the Woodcocks pub, and Burton Waters new marina. Veritably an upmarket new village, this new ‘blot on the landscape’ could indeed be far worse. Half a mile or so you come to the Pyewipe Inn. The Woodcocks was converted from a row of cottages a few years ago, before Burton Waters. The Pyewipe however is an old, established hostelry that I have visited in my younger day, while still living 10 miles inland of Skegness.
Traveling on you are quickly upon the lines of boats moored on the outskirts of Lincoln. These residential moorings form a small, hidden community, which takes you up to the new blocks of student accommodation on one side, with new small crescents of private bungalows on the other. You may be forgiven for thinking you are in Docklands, or some other poshly redeveloped riverside.
Traveling under the new road bridge you enter the Brayford Pool, the marina. On the right (starboard) you pass the Marina chandlery, although the owner now concentrates on the new Burton Waters. Next are the moorings, and amongst this large quantity of boats are the moorings of the Lincoln Boat Club, their clubhouse being opposite, just before the wine barge. Visitors are welcome to their clubhouse open from 8 to 11pm on Fridays.
On the left you come to the Harbourmasters office and the visitors moorings, although the new cinema and the adjacent pubs have turned this quiet waterside into the usual town centre maddness on weekend nights.
Past these moorings the Brayford exits into a narrow channel, which passes under High Bridge, the Glory Hole with the Tudor building sitting on top. Exiting the Brayford, is the start of the Witham, and once through the bridge you see the aptly named Waterside new shopping centre. Directly in front of you is the ‘Eyesore’, a new sculpture which no one, except the council leader wanted, until he convinced the rest of the council to accept; the condition of the £90k cost, which became £150k being donated by local business only for this arch, or nothing. Avoiding the controversy, pass underneath and you immediately come to the Witch & Wardrobe on the left. Solid walls line the river, and delightful moorings under a willow, are adjacent to an access gate.
Passing under the road bridge the river widens slightly with the sluice and Stamp End lock on the right hand bank. You will need your BW key for this now unmanned lock. Shelter from the waterfall from the raised guillotine as you pass underneath, and let the fittest off to operate the stiff gates at the lower end.
Under a new road bridge, and glancing left you may see my house directly in line with the hospital chimney. Under a pipe bridge, past the last factory on the left and you are in open countryside. Only two miles further you come to moorings at Washingborough. Less than half a mile away is this small village with the usual shops and pubs The Hunters Leap amongst them. For anyone forgetting petrol in Lincoln, this is now the last garage until Woodhall Spa or Kirkstead bridge, some 18 miles further, but the garage is at the other end of the village, almost a mile in each direction.
Another 8 miles brings you to the highlight of the river, Bardney Lock my moorings. If you are lucky (or unlucky depending on your viewpoint) you will be greeted by myself and Barney as you dock at the temporary moorings just before the lock. This conventional lock, with an 8-foot drop gives the boater the impression of what locks are about. Others have said it has the heaviest gates on the system, despite them being only 2 years old, but as the gates often swing open on their own when the lock is left empty, I don’t know.
There is a good toilet and showerblock adjacent to the lock, and waterpoints to hand on both top and bottom sides of the lock. There are also barbecues along the bank of the private moorings. A swing bridge, in good working order is on the side of the lock, to allow access to the fields, although this is now only used to mow the grass as far as I can tell.
There are also nice riverbank walks along here, where the three rivers meet. Through the lock you can take the short journey to the Trywhitt Arms for the smaller boats. A caravan site, and fishing lakes makes this a popular pub for boaters. Dog friendly, you can take your pooch inside, while having a meal and a drink in the bar. After the left turn, be sure to turn right off the Old Witham under the Bailey Bridge, otherwise you will run aground on the sluice. There are no proper moorings here, so a spike may be required.
Carrying on from the lock the river bends right under the old railway bridge, before taking a left to continue to Boston. Looking behind, you will see a straight course under the road bridge. Beware to avoid this on your return, as it is only a dyke, the Sincil Drain often with very shallow water.
Past private moorings containing quite a large boat and you come to the next BW moorings only half a mile on the left at Bardney bridge. The partially closed sugar beet factory is in front of you on the left bank, just under the bridge. This has resulted in the closure of most of the pubs, leaving only the Gypsy Queen where you will receive a warm welcome from a couple with a narrow boat moored at the lock. The garage here no longer sells petrol, but a half-mile walk into the village brings you to Bards restaurant and a Co-op and fish and chip shop just around the corner. There is a butcher opposite the pub selling excellent pies.
Back on the boat and another 3 miles finds you at Southrey on the left bank with a slipway, but no proper moorings. Just over the bank is a fine pub, with probably one of the best Sunday lunches available; limited opening times. On the opposite bank sits the White Horse Inn at Dunston Fen with its own proper moorings. Overnight mooring is free with the purchase of a meal. There is also a caravan park here.
Onward between the banks the river winds its way to Kirkstead Bridge, and more BW moorings, another pub to visit over the bridge, with Woodhall Spa a 1-mile walk to the left along a nice tree lined road. This boasts the smallest cinema, the Kinema in the Woods, still operating with a grant. Has back screen projection, but the latest blockbuster is sometimes on offer. This upmarket village has a golf course, a park (NOT a theme park) and the Golf Hotel has been the resting-place of visiting Celebes to the area.
On to Tattershall Bridge with similar moorings and pub. I have not stopped here so don't know the immediate surroundings. Tattershall Castle is a visitors attraction, but I feel the long walk to this uninspiring brick tower may leave the visitor disappointed.
Another short trip and you come to Dogdyke Marina on the west
bank, with the Buccaneer and the Packet Inn with moorings. 2 pubs with
restaurants so a choice.
Also the mouth of the small river
Bain to Horncastle. Can be navigated for a short way in small boats I believe.
Another 300 yards or so and you find the Chapel Hill BW moorings on the opposite bank. Another marina with the entrance to the Kyme. Also another caravan park. And the pub of course.
You are now about half way to Boston from Bardney Lock and you need to be suitably refreshed for the next part, a rather bland and long stretch of about 7 miles in between the high banks, with only the winding river to alleviate the boredom. Langrick Bridge has BW moorings and a very local garage. There is a transport café here, and a small boatyard, although rumour has it he sold up at the end of last year.
Another 2 miles brings you to Antons Gowt
lock on the left bank, the entrance to the Boston drains. I met an adventurous
person on a narrowboat who had been around this ring towards the end of last
year. You can now see your destination, Boston marina, and the start of the
tidal Witham through the Grand Sluice lock. Nice facilities both from BW and the
marina offer a tranquil place to spend the weekend; with the pretty town-centre
only a half-mile walk along the riverbank.
There is also a good pub here, and just around the corner on the next street is one of the tastiest fish and chip shops to be found.
I have not personally frequented the pubs from Dogdyke to Boston, but am reliably informed they are of the required standard.