« PreviousContinue »
LONG the eastern side of the Isle of Axholme flows the Trent,
one of the principal rivers of England. Its width below Heck
dyke is about one hundred and fifty yards, and gradually increases to near half a mile before it pours its water, at Trent Fall, into the capacious bason of the Humber.
The tides flow up this part of the river, and extend several miles beyond Gainsbrough. The spring tides run with great velocity, but the neaps flow during a longer period of time. A strong spring tide will exhaust itself in little more than an hour and a half, while a neap tide will flow above three hours. The spring tides run at the rate of nine miles an hour; but this, I believe, is a calculation rather under than over the truth; for I have started from West Butterwick in a light rowing boat when the water flowed, and could hardly keep up with it, though I performed the distance, which is four miles, in twenty-three ininutes*.
* When the water runs with such velocity a pair of oars will scarcely do more than give a small boat steerage way; so that if a person pulled off as soon as the ægre had passed him at Butterwick, and kept in sight of it until he got to Ferry, he certainly might know, from the time he had been, at what rate the water flowed.
In certain states of the bed of the river, and at certain times of the year, the spring tides are very frequently accompanied by what is termed the ægre : - Then the water flows with a white curling wave, varying according to circumstances from one to four feet in perpendicular height, which has a very imposing appearance, running along the flats and shallow parts of the river with considerable noise, and causing much commotion in the water. The gradual inclination of the bed of the Trent about a foot in a mile, is most probably one cause of this phenomenon ; another cause may perhaps be, that the large body of water which, during the flowing of the spring tides, has for some time been accumulating in the Humber, forces its way in this manner up the more confined channels of the Trent and Ouse. The ægre begins to make its appearance very gradually below Keadby, in the parish of Althorpe, with what the sailors term “a gentle shuft,” and continually gathering strength it rolls along all the way to Gainsbrough Bridge. The ægre is, however, by no means a constant attendant on the spring tides. In dry weather, when the river is free from freshes and the channel is much incumbered by warp, the largest ægres may be expected ; sometimes when there is a deal of fresh water in the river, during the spring or autumn, the tide, rising as it were victorious over its opponent, rushes forward with fearful impetuosity, and the sight is then truly grand and awful. This, however, is a rare occurrence. The fresh water more frequently destroys the current of the tide, and though in a heavy flood the surface of the water is greatly raised, the stream continues to run down towards the Humber. The reason of this is almost self evident : before the tide in the lower part of the river has had time to acquire sufficient strength to overcome the opposition of the fresh water, the ebb has taken place.
When a large ægre is expected at Ferry, a short time before flood, the boats are pushed off from the shore into deep water, the craft in the river are all manned, the steersman standing at the helm, waiting for the appearance of the white curling wave accompanied by its rushing sound, and the well known cry of 'ware ægre, ready to lend a hand should the vessel drag her anchor, or being heavy laden get swamped by the swell. As soon as