We spent an enjoyable and interesting half day in August 2015 exploring the Witham Navigable Drains. The waterways were well maintained, wide and deep, with minimal weed, and lots of wild flowers and other wildlife.
Some key sources of information:
- the IWA’s guidance note and map, with convincing information on bridge heights;
- OS map for the area. You do need good maps, as there are no signposts on these waterways
- Keeping Up’s blog from 2006 (a bit out of date, of course – in particular the Maud Foster Windmill moorings are now repaired) and 2011;
- TNC trip in 2005 – makes our trip look very easy.
- Witham Fourth’s website which explains what is going on in land drainage terms. I rang them a few days beforehand to seek some advice, they were very helpful.
See this page for information on water levels and pump operations: I think the Cowbridge link may tell you the level of the main section, relative to the datum used for bridge heights – see also the water gauge on the wing wall at Anton’s Gowt.
Captions are above the photographs to which they relate. The numbers  etc refers to waypoints on this map from Google Earth. In total we did about 13 miles on the drains.
Anton’s Gowt – entrance from the River Witham to the drains 
Approaching Cowbridge lock – on the left . See this article on the 2012 refurbishment
Maud Foster Windmill – not open today 
We could turn at the steps by the windmill – putting the bows into the gap helped a bit. A 60 foot boat would struggle to turn here, I think.
It felt rather incongruous to find bridges here from the Butterley Ironworks, and I was sad to read here that the firm has only recently closed down
A familiar landmark. Most of the time we were below the surrounding landscape, with water draining by gravity into the main drains. This is rather different from the Middle Level, where the water is pumped up into the drains.
“Are you sure this is the right way?”
Just approaching the junction with Newham drain – we turn sharp left.
Straight on to Bunkers Hill and New York.  Just around the hairpin bend into Newham drain – only light use of the shaft. The householder on the corner said we were the sixth boat he had seen this year, and he was confident we could get through to Anton’s Gowt. Newham drain continues northwards through the tube, but we’ll leave that for another visit.
Back on the Witham – heading down to the visitor moorings at Boston