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River Witham

The River Witham links Fossdyke in Lincoln to the Haven in Boston, at the entrance to The Wash.

River Witham Map

Narrowboats at South Kyme winding hole on the Sleaford Navigation.

Facts & Stats

36.5 miles

Length of navigable river

3 locks

Stamp End, Bardney, and Grand Sluice

Waterway notes

Maximum Boat Sizes

  • Length: 75′ (22.9 metres)
  • Beam: 15′ 3″ (4.6 metres) – Glory Hole, Lincoln
  • Height: 9′ 2″ (2.8 metres) – Glory Hole, Lincoln
  • Draught: 5′  (1.5 metres)

Navigation Authority

Navigation Notes

Grand Sluice (Sea Lock) can only fit boats up to 41′ (12.5 m) in length, but longer boats can pass through ‘on the level’ when the tidal water in The Haven reaches the same height as the non-tidal water in the Witham Navigation.  This lock is manned (VHF channel 74 during tidal operations)

The Environment Agency lowers water levels in the River Witham during the winter months for flood alleviation reasons.

Waterway Connections

As well as connecting Fossdyke to The Wash via The Haven at Boston, the River Witham has a number of navigable and not-so-navigable connections:

  • The Old River Witham leads off the Navigation to the north just below Bardney Lock, and is navigable for about a mile to Short Ferry Bridge where is a marina, large rural pub and caravan park.
  • Nocton Delph leads off the Navigation to the south west about half a mile upstream of Southrey, through tidal doors for about 3 miles (4.5 km).  There is no winding hole, no towpath on either side and it is shallow.  All the tidal doors on waterways leading off the Witham Navigation are likely to close without notice when river levels rise.  This is to prevent floodwaters coming down the Witham from backing up tributaries and flooding adjacent farmland.
  • Metheringham Delph formerly lead off the Navigation to the south west about a mile downstream of Southrey for a similar distance.  Access is now blocked by a pumping station.  There is no winding hole, but there is a public footpath / bridleway on both banks.  There is a low footbridge halfway along at Tanvats.
  • Timberland Delph leads off the Navigation to the south west about half a mile south of Kirkstead Bridge (to Woodhall Spa), through tidal doors, again for about 3 miles.  There is no winding hole and no towpath on either side.
  • The remains of the Horncastle Canal lead off to the north east about a mile from Tattershall.  There is now no access for boats.
  • Less than half a mile further downstream, Billinghay Skirth leads off to the south east, under a road bridge and then through tidal doors.  Unlike the straight Delphs, this is a winding river navigation, and runs for about 2.5 miles (4 km) to the village of Billinghay, where the navigation peters out at New Bridge and with reduced depth.  Local community volunteers have undertaken work to improve the waterway to encourage visitors and there have been boats moored in the village, with light commercial traffic up to the 1930s.
  • The Sleaford Navigation (also known as Kyme Eau and river Slea) leads off the Navigation a further 1.5 miles (2 km) downstream.
  • There is a connection to the Witham Navigable Drains at Anton’s Gowt, about 2 miles (3 km) upstream of Boston.
  • Black Sluice Navigation leads off the tidal Witham (The Haven) at the southern end of Boston.

Waterway underfunding

Hundreds of miles of waterways – along with their unique heritage and habitats – are currently starved of funding and rely on constant lobbying by us to safeguard their future.

Sustainable Boating

We want boating on canals and rivers to be more sustainable and – even though the current overall contribution to UK carbon emissions is very small – we want to help reduce emissions on the waterways.

Waterways Heritage at Risk

Britain’s canals and rivers are a unique, living heritage. But that heritage is at risk – from urban development, lack of protection, loss of skills and knowledge and climate change.

You can help Save Waterways Heritage.

Waterway restoration

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