Mercia Marina to Shobnall Fields and Burton-on-Trent

| 4 min read

After three days in Mercia Marina on a visitor mooring, it was time to leave. I must say that I was impressed with the marina - the facilities, the layout, and the staff. I'll be visiting again in late August, to leave my boat while I travel for a couple of CAP-related CodeJams, in Budapest and in Dortmund, and I'm looking forward to it. I think that by then, I'm sort of planning to have put on another 25 hours on the engine, bringing me nicely to the 50 hour service, which I'll arrange with Streethay, to be done in the marina.

While I was at the marina I had a day off work, and found that the welldeck, i.e. the space in the bow, was perfect for relaxing.

Relaxing in the welldeck

After an early morning run, plus topping up my water tank (the capacity is around 450 litres), emptying my toilet cassette, and using the washing machine and dryer in the laundry block next to the Egret moorings, it was time to get some work done before I moved off the finger pontoon, out of Mercia Marina, and onto the Trent & Mersey canal again.

The Developer Advocates team is running a series of monthly Developer Challenges, with my friend and colleague Nico running the July challenge on CAP. I'll be running the August edition, so my work today involved making some preparations for that. The team puts in a lot of work behind the scenes to create content and events for SAP developers, and I'm proud to play my part.

Route planning

I chatted with my son Joseph about the route I was planning to take, and smiled when he mentioned the calculation for the approximate journey time. It's just a rough and ready measure but is enough to get an idea. You take the number of miles, plus the number of locks you'll pass through, and divide that total number by three to get the hours it will take. Of course, there are aspects that will make reality a little different.

One aspect is your cruising speed and the number of moored boats that you'll pass; the rule is that you should pass moored boats at tickover speed, to avoid having the wash from your forward motion rock the boats and potentially loosen mooring pins and ropes.

Another aspect is lock navigation. Some locks take longer to pass through than others. Not only because it depends on whether the lock you're approaching is "in your favour", i.e. the level of water in the lock is at the level you're at, and you don't need to empty or fill it. But also because some are simply bigger than others, more difficult to work within as well as to fill and empty.

An example of the contrast is between Sawley Locks No 2 and Dallow Lane Lock No 7. Sawley Locks are are ginormous and electrically operated (the lock gates are opened and closed via hydraulic rams). When I passed through last week, I felt my narrowboat was like a small rubber duck bobbing around in the bath. Passing through Dallow Lane Lock, which I did on this route today was in sharp contrast. It's a single width lock (my 6'10" narrowboat only just fit) with two tiny gates at the lock tail and a single gate at the head. It was also a fairly shallow lock, with a rise of only three and a half feet. The combination of it being a single lock and having a small rise meant that I could get from one side of the lock to the other by walking across my boat, either over the roof (when the lock was empty) or across the stern (when it was full). In turn, this meant that operating the lock (single handed, as I am) took far less time. I haven't got any photos of either lock, but there are photos in the two linked resources.

Anyway, according to CanalPlanAC, the route's distance was 5 miles, 2½ furlongs and 1 lock. Which equates therefore to approximately 2 hours travel time. Here's the route, courtesy of CanalPlanAC:

Mercia Marina to Shobnall Fields Visitor Moorings - route

You can't quite see all the detail (including Dallow Lane Lock) due to the zoom factor, but you get the idea.


I took it easy, and arrived at Shobnall Fields Visitor Moorings after just over two hours.

After passing through Dallow Lane Lock, I moored up a few hundred metres later, to check out the best place to moor for the evening. The visitor moorings (on the opposite bank to the towpath) seemed quite full, but I managed to squeeze myself on the end.

Moored at Shobnall Fields

The place is pretty peaceful, and my spot affords a lovely view over the park. You can see in this photo the mooring restrictions. I have a continuous cruising licence and generally one can moor for up to 14 days in a single place, but must then move on. There are exceptions to this, and here is an example, where you can see that boats can only moor here for two days. I'll be moving on yet further west on Sunday, so this suits me fine.

View over the park

Burton and beer

Of course, being a Friday, and being in Burton-on-Trent, probably the most famous town in the UK with regards to beer and beer history, it was only right that I celebrated the start of the weekend with a beer. And so I did. Cheers!

beer in Burton-on-Trent