North Yorkshire Reconnaissance Mission, May 2013

Last weekend, Victoria and I went up to Yorkshire to check a few things out – people, boats, canals, rivers. It was lovely to see all of our very supportive key team (Terry, Chris, Rachel, Trevor, Richard).

Keadby Lock. Doesn't look too scary, but it's what's out the other side that might be a problem

Keadby Lock. Doesn’t look too scary, but it’s what’s out the other side that might be a problem

Terry took us to see Keadby Lock – a place around which a legend seems to be growing in my head. This is where, on 13 September, we make the transition from gentle, flat canals to the tides, currents, commercial traffic and unpredictability of the River Trent. Terry (@000kayakman) is going to guide me here for the two days (46 miles) of paddling upstream from Keadby to Cromwell lock. Terry works tirelessly on the river to clean it of discarded human junk, and I hope to help with this during this section of the paddle.

Next we headed over to the Yorkshire Waterways Museum at Goole ( ) to meet Chris Sherburn and Rachel Walker. Rachel is on the staff at the museum, whilst Chris is the brilliant restorer / owner of the national historic ship Southcliffe, a beautiful Humber keel. Chris and Rachel are going to skipper our supporting narrow boats along the stretch of tidal River Trent that Terry is guiding me through.

Flat Stanley hanging around outside Betty's Tea Rooms

Flat Stanley hanging around outside Betty’s Tea Rooms

After a quick visit to Harrogate and Betty’s Tea Rooms with our potential mascot, Flat Stanley, we made our way just south of Leeds to the wonderful Thwaite Mills ( This is the home of the narrow boat, Merlot, that Trevor’s social enterprise Canal Connections ( has kindly offered to Gutless Kayaking as a support vessel. Merlot still needs a bit of work, but we are hoping that Gutless Kayaking will be the catalyst to push the work through, and once our paddle to Bristol is completed, Merlot will then become available to the community as part of the community regeneration project run by Trevor at Canal Connections. Merlot’s continued use by the community could, therefore, be a long lasting legacy of Gutless Kayaking.

Trevor (L) and Richard (R) are presented with my mum's cake by Victoria and Flat Stanley

Trevor (L) and Richard (R) are presented with my mum’s cake by Victoria and Flat Stanley

Here, we joined up with Richard too and made our way up to Skipton. Richard Carpenter is the project manager / skipper who made the 2010 Gutless Kayaking event run so smoothly and successfully. Without his support, I would not have contemplated this year’s event. So, he’s the one┬áto blame. Skipton is our starting point on 7 September, and we needed to check out suitable access points and parking etc as well as the superb fish and chips at Bizzie Lizzies. Can’t say I’m a big fan of mushy peas though.

Trent Lock

Trent Lock

We took in Trent Lock, just south of Nottingham, on the long drive home. On my map, this looked like a quiet little middle of nowhere spot next to the river. It was surprising then to find that the dead end road supports two pubs, a thriving canal community, a sailing club, a scout activity centre on the other side of the river (how do they get over there?), and a large number of families out playing and picnicking. It’s also a sort of five-way watery junction of canals and rivers and very pretty, despite Ratcliffe Soar power station looming in the distance. The Trent is much clearer here, unlike the silted and muddy water further downstream, but the current could be a problem for Gutless Kayaking. Once the tidal section of the Trent is completed, at Cromwell Lock, we have 30 miles of paddling upstream to this point at Trent Lock. I’m praying for no rain leading up to our visit (16 / 17 September).

All in all an invaluable recce, and very many thanks to everyone for their time, help, generosity, knowledge, support and friendship. See you in September!


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