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Thread: Mexborough Meanders - the Kilnhurst Cut and a backwater on the Don

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
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    Default Mexborough Meanders - the Kilnhurst Cut and a backwater on the Don

    The River Don is my local river. Its upper reaches run close to my home, but are rarely deep enough to paddle any distance. Below Sheffield, where the Tinsley flight brings the Sheffield arm of the South Yorkshire Navigations from Victoria Quay, the river is a more useful size, and my recent trips have been downstream again, where the Dearne meets the Don.


    One such trip has teased my eye on the map for some time - a loop using the Kilnhurst Cut and the backwater of the Don which passes Swinton and Mexborough to rejoin the navigation below Mexborough Low Lock at the confluence with the River Dearne. I had scouted the lower end of the backwater on a previous upstream-and-back trip from Sprotborough, but otherwise the water was all new to me.


    I could find no information about the backwater other than images from Google Earth, but these and the OS mapping looked promising. Starting from Mexborough Top Lock, the route headed up-lock to the top of Kilnhurst Cut, then down the backwater, returning to the start via a short stretch of canal at the end. In all it encompassed four locks, one weir portage, another passable weir at Kilnhurst Bridge and several smaller riffles and broken weirs over 15.4 km. It must have been paddled before, but there was nothing about it on the usual sources. An exploratory trip!




    The route



    I arranged to meet Pete Starr, a veteran of my last exploration on the Calder, and Peter R, both of SOTP, at Ferry Boat Lane in Mexborough. This looked to give access direct to the canalside at Mexborough Top Lock, but on arrival I was disconcerted to see heavy locked security gates blocking the way. A quick scout showed an alternative, over the footbridge and onto the right bank, but a resident of the lockside cottages kindly opened the gates to let us through.




    The start



    After a short period while Pete loaded his boat with every conceivable need (except his lunch!), we were underway. Pete and Peter were both in 16' boats. I was in my Apache 15, thinking of the unknown river section. The weather was fairly kind - sun and cloud, pleasantly warm, but with a wind that was forecast to become an annoying headwind on our last leg back up the canal. For the time being though it was quite benign, and we made good time. Even the fishermen were in good humour as we passed by.




    Looking up-lock from Mexborough top lock



    Sun glinted on the water and back-lighted the overhanging trees by the lock entrance.




    Sunlit reflections



    We soon approached Waddington Lock, named after the commercial barge firm based here that still runs some 700 tonne barges on the navigation. These huge vessels dwarfed the narrowboats moored nearby.




    Approaching Waddington Lock



    In common with much of this navigation, the exit below the lock had sportingly high banks. Narrowboats occupied the more accessible areas, leaving a small gap through which Peter managed to exit. Pete and I, however, chose a short ladder to gain the bank about six foot above us, then hauled our boats up in a two-man lift, with ropes fore and aft. A trolley made the rest of the portage much easier!


    Above the lock, the remains of the Dearne and Dove Canal, now disused, provides a boat yard for Waddington's barges. The canal continued, wide and pleasant, with Swinton on the west side and Hooton Common rising beyond the River Don on the east.




    Still an industrial waterway



    Kilnhurst Flood Lock had a more amenable landing, and our way was clearly signposted - leftwards to the first weir. According to my googling research, this was a sizeable stepped weir with an Archimedes Screw hydro plant built into it. But the portage was straightforward, with an easy entry on river left below the weir.




    Below Kilnhurst Lock






    Putting in below Kilnhurst Weir



    The weir itself might be passable in a plastic boat or a kayak, but none of us fancied bashing our composite canadians down it.




    Pete playing below the weir



    A by-pass channel immediately next to the Archimedes Screw looked like it would make an excellent canoe pass, but unfortunately the top was blocked by metal pipes...




    Green power



    Straight away the character of our trip changed from a modernised waterway to a rural river. We turned downstream to begin the river leg of our loop. Himalayan balsam lined the banks. It looks and smells lovely, even though it is an invasive species.




    The start of the backwater



    A gentle flow helped us on our way through verdant surroundings. A few fishermen sat along the right bank, enjoying the day as much as we were.




    Pleasant paddling conditions






    Peter in his lovely home-built boat



    In places the view opened out. It felt a bit like paddling through a Constable painting, but without the wagon obstructing the waterway.




    Could be Constable country






    Paddling in a rural idyll



    After about 1.5km, we came to the next major obstacle, the broken weir at Kilnhurst Bridge. I had been unsure if this would go, but we were pleased to see a fun line down river right.




    The weir at Kilnhurst Bridge






    Playing below the weir










    The outwash provided a few minutes play before we passed the next small drop under the bridge itself. Nothing too taxing, just enough to add a spot of interest to an otherwise green-flowing river.






    Under the bridge






    A spot of surfing






    Below the second drop



    The banks became heavily wooded, and in a few places trees had partially blocked the channel. In the flow we had none of these were a problem, but could be quite a hazard in higher water.




    Trees across the water



    A pair of swans preceded us downstream for while before looping round us at the end of their territory. Kingfishers flashed by us four or five times, but always too far off to try to photograph.




    Our escort






    Just passing through...



    As we came back into Mexborough, factories began to appear on the left bank, and the air filled with the smell of baking. Thoughts began to turn towards lunch (sorry Pete!), but we decided to complete the river section before stopping. A limbo tree appeared, so we all had to have a go.




    Canoe limbo



    Shortly before we drew level with Mexborough Top Lock, and the start of the section I had previously paddled, an island split the flow. River right was closed in by bushes, but river left looked wide and clear - until the swan in front of us stood up in mid-channel! A quick change of plans and a sharp turn took us through the jungle.




    The narrow way



    Another small weir provided a moment of entertainment amidst the bushes downstream, and then the footbridge at the lock came into site.




    Deep in the greenery






    Another small drop






    Approaching the weir by Mexborough Top Lock



    An easy sloping weir ran under the bridge, with just enough water to carry us over without snagging.




    Down the sloping weir by Mexborough Top Lock



    The final stretches of river were quite enclosed by greenery, and we paddled through welcome shade.




    The lower reaches of the backwater






    Under the canopy



    All too soon we had reached Mexborough Low Lock, and the left urn back up the cut. This was to be our lunch stop, but first there was another sporting exit to negotiate.




    A sporting exit


    Lunch ensued, Pete catered for by spare supplies from his companions (SOTP never packs light!). The final 2 km along the canal were open, subject to that headwind the forecast had promised. Being in my Apache 15 now became a drawback, as its greater windage was soon apparent. I had to work much harder than the other two in their longer, lower boats. Next time I'll bring the outlander! Hugging the bank gave us enough shelter though, and in reasonably short shrift we reached the get out below the lock. An easy footpath lead over the canal and back to the cars.




    Heading home



    Another local exploration complete, and one I'll do again.

    Notes:

    This is a CRT waterway, so there are no issues about right of navigation. The backwater should be covered by the same rights, as the canal cut was a deviation from the original river route.

    Levels at the Kilnhurst bridge gauge were 0.06m according to the EA website. A few days previously after a day of rain they had been up to 0.83, but fell off quite fast. A little more water would have been nice in places; I think around 0.10m to 0.20m would be ideal. Too high a flow would wash out the small drops we enjoyed, and make the overhanging and fallen trees a significant hazard.

    Get-outs at the locks were generally a little high but ok - the only really challenging one was at Waddington lock where moored narrowboats occupied all the lower section and Pete and I chose to amuse ourselves with a ladder exit.

    Parking on Ferry Boat Lane is quite limited, but there is other street parking within a few hundred metres.

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    A thoroughly enjoyable day - Thanks for organising and for putting together such an enjoyable blog! Pictures are great!
    I was teased by Peter for carrying too much gear - having forgotten the only thing I really needed - my lunch!
    DOH 8-(|) Very grateful to my two compardre's for helping me out...

    Sent from my SM-G930F using Tapatalk
    When I read about the evils of drinking I gave up reading.

  3. #3
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    That looks excellent (apart from the first 6 photos, which aren't showing for me), nice to find a loop there. Had to look it up, despite being fairly local by upbringing, remembered the Mexborough name but not where it was.
    Covering as many malmiles as possible before being distracted by the pub!

    Paddle Points - where to paddle

  4. #4
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    Cheers Pete - looking for another loop now...

    Thanks Mal. All the photos show on my phone, but I did have to refresh the page to get them all. I think the area has probably changed quite a lot since your and my youth. Denaby Main would have been a going concern back then, and that's not far downriver...

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gordon G View Post
    Cheers Pete - looking for another loop now...

    Thanks Mal. All the photos show on my phone, but I did have to refresh the page to get them all. I think the area has probably changed quite a lot since your and my youth. Denaby Main would have been a going concern back then, and that's not far downriver...
    Yep, photos showing now. I did try refreshing, didn't work at first, but OK now.

    The whole of S Yorks, N Notts, Derbys is a different place these days.
    Covering as many malmiles as possible before being distracted by the pub!

    Paddle Points - where to paddle

  6. #6
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    Great blog, great pictures (as expected) and it was an excellent trip. Many thanks Gordon.
    Peter

  7. #7
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    Almost made this one............looked a very good trip.
    All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

  8. #8
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    It's one I'm sure to do again - will let you know Bren.

  9. #9
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    I wish I could have made this one too but was camping with the other half!

  10. #10

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    Wonderful to see how those waterways have recovered. We used to swim in the Don & the Dearne 50 years ago when the water was grey and filthy from mine run off. Occasionally 'icebergs' of suds would float down; some kind of chemical effluent I'd guess. Really heartened to hear that there are kingfishers there now.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Hear all, see all, say nowt

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