Friday, 29 May 2015

The final 23 locks and reflections on the Chesterfield Canal

After a lovely weekend away from Leo with friends in Bristol, we've come back down the Chesterfield Canal and we are presently moored outside the Gate Inn at Clarborough, where we ate yesterday evening.  Since it's now pouring with rain and forecast to stop later I am updating our blog.

Last Thursday we went up the final 23 locks from Shireoaks to Kiveton to reach the navigable limit of the Chesterfield.  This final flight was a sheer delight - narrow locks which all work, no shortage of water and fine rural scenery with distant views.  After the first 8 locks there is a double staircase and, after another single lock, a second double staircase.  Near the top there are two triple staircases.  All in all, a heap of fun and we had lovely weather both up, and later coming down. 

This is Leo in Lock 40 which is one of the singles in the early part of the lock flight.  You can just see Helen on her Brompton going up to set the next lock while Ian and Leo manage this one.

And here is the first of the double staircase locks.  For those not versed in boating terminology a staircase is where the top gate of one lock is the bottom gate of the next: there is no gap between the locks.

Part way up we stopped for coffee and came across two swans nesting.  You can see the eggs in the nest here, while the sitter is intent on rearranging the vegetation.  Locals told us this pair have never raised a brood and they did desert the eggs entirely for half an hour or more.  Perhaps just not very good parents.

Here is the lower of the two triples, with Helen getting it ready for Leo to come in.

Helen likes doing the locks, though we do get flack for her doing the man's work rather than Ian.  Here she is 'lockwheeling' with the Brompton, carrying the windlass.

Leo in this picture is in the middle lock of the top Triple Staircase.

And here is Leo coming down on Tuesday this week in the top double staircase.  In the foreground is a little bridge across the overflow from the bottom lock.

Once up the top there is a summit level of about two miles to where the Norwood Tunnel once carried on towards Chesterfield.  The tunnel collapsed in 1907 and restoration plans will use only the first part of the tunnel before locks lead the canal up to a higher level.

We have been looking forward to seeing woods full of bluebells.  At the top of the Chesterfield it was different with woods full of wild garlic in flower.  Quite a heady scent when the wind blew it in our direction.

A few hundred yards before the tunnel is the last winding hole.  It has a cascade coming in which presumably provides much of the water for the canal.

Seen from the towpath above you can see the bricked up entrance to Norwood Tunnel.  Interestingly the tunnel went across land where there was also a coal mine with several shafts.
 Here is Leo moored just before the winding hole.  There is a station at Kiveton Park, only three minutes walk away, which was very handy for getting down to Bristol.

From the top we had a short cycle ride round neighbouring villages and found this splendid Norman doorway on the church at Thorpe Salvin:
Since the weekend we have been working our way back down the Canal.  The original freight carrying narrow boats on this canal we called 'Cuckoo Boats' largely because they were unusual in barely having any cabin.  Their operators lived on land.  The boats were horse pulled on the Canal, sailed on the Trent and rowed on the Fossdyke.  Though no such boats survived one is being built using the original materials (wood) and with original craftsmanship.  We were delighted to be shown round this boat called Dawn Rose by her builders.  On Tuesday she had been towed (by men, not horse!) up the locks to a turning point part way up.  Dawn Rose is a full 70 feet long but sadly the winding hole which has hard edges has been shortened by a few inches so Dawn Rose would not turn round and had to be towed backwards down the locks to her mooring at Shireoaks Marina.  The fault was in the winding hole, not with her construction.

This is Osberton Hall, a rather fine house close by the Canal near the lock of the same name.

We are always fascinated by the parenting skills of geese.  Young from several families are often looked after in a 'creche' by a few adults.  Just like humans in fact.

This is the view back from West Retford Lock.  You would never guess you were on the edge of a substantial town.

As we came out of Retford yesterday a couple of terns were following us and diving in the canal in our wake to catch fish.  This one is just about to dive and you can see it carefully locating its target.  We saw several fish caught in this way.

We have a very slight but persistent diesel leak and you can see Ian having another go at trying to cure this.  The curious bump on Ian's head dates back to a car accident when he was a teenager.  Nothing to do with narrowboating!

When this rain stops (it is now coming down even  harder than when I started typing this) we will be moving on back to West Stockwith where the Chesterfield Canal meets the tidal River Trent.  I have this morning booked our passage on the Trent for Saturday afternoon when hopefully we will not go aground or be swept out to sea but will calmly and happily cruise up river to Torksey for the next part of our adventures this year.  We'll be going along the Fossdyke, a navigation which dates back to the Emperor Hadrian in AD 120.  We'll be heading for Lincoln and Boston, so more flat country.

Thanks to those who made comments on our last posting.  We certainly did enjoy the final 23 locks as we hope this posting shows.  Do come and try the Chesterfield Canal.  We've enjoyed every mile of it and it will remain one of our favourite canals.  We will probably be back.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Lovely Chesterfield Canal

Oh the sacrifices I make to complete this blog.  I am typing this stuck out in the cold because we have no internet signal on or by the boat this evening.  We have come up the Chesterfield Canal from West Stockwith and we are now moored at Shireoaks with the prospect of the final 23 locks for tomorrow.

We left West Stockwith on Friday and it was slow going up the canal but it is beautiful with extensive views right from the start.  The sides are shallow and the middle is not much deeper though it does seem to get better the further up you go.

After the wide waters of South Yorkshire and the nerve wracking expanses of the Trent, the Chesterfield Canal was a delight.

A small canal with fine bridges, lovely rural scenery and distant views of more countryside.

On Friday we stopped to walk up to Gringley on the Hill, partly because we liked the name and it was said that you could see Lincoln Cathedral from the top. We didn't, but the church was fine and I liked the way the stained glass coloured the window alcove.

This is Gringley Lock.  Locks are 15 feet wide until you get to Retford where the Chesterfield changes to a narrow canal.

This is Drakeholes Tunnel, a very short one as you can see.  We moored close by this Southern Portal.

On Saturday we carried on and visited Clayworth Church to see these fine murals by an artist called Anna Traquair.  They were painted in the early 1900s and feature some likenesses of villagers at the time.

And here is the church that houses the murals.  A charity tea morning was going on with some cakes for sale, so we just had to stop and try some.

These were our first cygnets of 2015 and so had to go on the record.  It looks as if Mum or Dad is giving a lecture.

On Saturday we moored in the middle of Retford.  We  had no problems with passing youths and we think any troublemakers were probably at the noisy festival on the other side of town.

The main delight of Retford is the enormous market square.  Bill Bryson was apparently much impressed and so were we, though on Saturday it was covered with market stalls packing up, so this picture was taken on Sunday morning when it was much quieter.

We walked up to West Retford Church on the other side of the River Idle and our attention was drawn by the bellringer, Val, to this fellow.  Based on an actual man he is known as 'the man who watches over Retford'.  Presumably it is these duties that make him so grumpy!

Here is the first of the narrow locks - Retford Town Lock.  Aren't narrow locks wonderful?  You just drift in without touching the sides and you don't have to tie the boat up as it can't get away from you.  We love them.

On Sunday we went just outside Retford and on Monday we carried on right through Worksop where we had been recommended not to leave the boat overnight.  We saw nothing amiss, but you never know.  The purpose of this fine pump house was very mundane - it was for pumping sewage.

This 'Straddle Warehouse' spans the canal as you come close to Worksop Town Lock.

Here Leo is waiting for the Town Lock which is almost buried under a road bridge.

And here is a picture looking back showing the Town Lock as Leo leaves.

Tuesday we moved up another 6 locks (they get more numerous, the further up this canal you go) to reach Shireoaks.

Here we are coming to the bottom of three locks up to Shireoaks.  You can just make out the church to the right of the lamp post.

And here we are coming up the middle lock with a view of the top lock beyond.

In Shireoaks there is a butcher's shop with this plaque.  We think the Prince of Wales was there to reopen part of the canal after improvements were made.

In the last two days we have left Leo in Shireoaks and had a couple of days sightseeing by train, first to Worksop to see what we missed and, today, to Chesterfield where this canal originally went.  The canal is now broken by a few miles of un-navigable canal and the Norwood Tunnel which has collapsed.

This is the gatehouse for Worksop Priory which dates back to the 13th century.  It is a fine building but is getting to the point where some restoration is desirable.

Our main reason for visiting Worksop was to visit a National Trust property called 'Mr Straw's House'.  This is a large but fairly ordinary semi built in the early 1900s, but was occupied by a family of grocers who threw nothing away and left the house in a cluttered state as is apparent from this piano with letters saved for no apparent purpose.

Here is the mother's sitting room left just as it was when she died in the 1930s.  It was an amazing house for its contents not the building.

We are moored right next to a rabbit burrow and we have been watching the rabbits both the last two evenings. Here is the biggest rabbit we christened Peter.

Today we've been to Chesterfield to explore the original start to the canal.  This photo shows where the canal branches off right from the River Rother as it leaves Chesterfield.  There are plans for a major development incorporating a new canal basin close to town but it is anyone's guess when this will be completed.

And this is the first lock out of town after the short section along the River Rother.  A visitor centre here gives a lot of information about how the Canal Society plans to link up this section with the longer part we have been cruising.

This afternoon we have visited the famous parish church of Chesterfield with its leaning and twisted tower.  Inside was this pile of stones with a notice which reads: 'Seats reserved for choir members'.  I hope the choir are well padded because this doesn't look very comfortable!

We climbed the 156 steps up the tower through this bell chamber which vibrates when the clock chimes.

And here is a view looking up the timbers that support the famous twisted spire.

At the top of the tower and the base of the spire you come out through a doorway to see the fantastic view.  Chesterfield is in a bowl surrounded by hills.  We spotted Hardwick Hall by the M1 and the moors of Kinder as well as the outskirts of Sheffield.  Oh and the twisted spire seen from below in this picture.

There is no cheating in this photo of the spire which lies about nine and a half feet out of vertical in its 110 feet of height.  The view of our guide is that the twist was probably deliberate (there are continental churches with similar twists), but the lean certainly was not.  The spire was built in the middle 1300s in the time of the Black Death and one theory has it the most skilled craftsmen had died, leaving the job to those less experienced!

Tomorrow the plan is to climb the 23 locks to the present limit of navigation at Kiveton Park just short of the Norwood Tunnel which collapsed many years ago.  The climb includes two double staircases and two triple staircases.  Should be fun!  After that we will be returning down the Chesterfield Canal ready for another trip on the tidal Trent to Torksey.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Up the Tidal Trent

We've retraced our outward journey up to Sheffield and out to Keadby where the canal system meets the mighty River Trent. Yesterday we came up the Trent on the tide to West Stockwith where we are presently moored in a delightful basin above the lock with lots of other boats.
We left Sheffield on Saturday with Kevin and Alex on Christal Haze. Since this was a repeat journey I've just shown a few highlights below:

Most of the Tinsley locks are designed to allow water to flow over the top gates.  However as the locks are barely 60 feet long this means you have to reverse into the waterfall in order to open the lower gates.  In one lock even with the back doors closed I had an inch or more of water on top of the engine cover inside the doors and a little in the bilges.

Here Christal Haze with Alex at the tiller follows Leo out of Lock 4 of the Tinsley flight.

Here's another lock waterfall.  I needed my waterproof on for this one!

In this view of Waddington's Boatyard at Swinton, if you look carefully to the right of the large barge you can just see the lock gates of the second lock of the old Dearne and Dove Canal that used to link to Barnsley and the Calder and Hebble Canal.

We stopped to look round Doncaster on the way back and were quite taken with the place generally and in particular with the Minster seen here.  It was built in the 19th century by Gilbert Scott when the old church burned down.  It is beautifully proportioned.  Jams and chutneys were on sale inside and we came away with a jar of chutney.

This huge knarly tree at Barnby Dun is an enormous weeping beech tree that has its main trunk in one garden and has spread to two adjacent gardens, one across the street.  Amazing.

Below Barnby Dun we came to Bramwith Junction where the Keadby and Stainforth Canal separates from the New Junction Canal that we had travelled to come from Goole. Here we turned right and moored in a lovely spot just above the lock. We had a walk around the area including crossing the Don Aqueduct, this time on foot. In the early morning there was a huge movement in the boat and we believe that the 600 ton barge, Humber Princess, probably went past the junction on its way to Rotheram. 

Here Helen is walking over the Don Aqueduct.  The water looks continuous but beyond the railings there is a drop of 12 feet or so down to the river below.  There is a guillotine gate at each end of the aqueduct for use if something goes wrong with the structure.

We walked through Kirk Bramwith and visited the church.  The churchyard was either unkempt or full of wild flowers depending on your point of view.  We thought it was delightful having the gravestones surrounded by Spring flowers.

We carried on Tuesday and Wednesday to reach Keadby on Wednesday lunchtime ready to go out on a flood tide on the Trent in the afternoon.  Although the winds lately have been difficult to cope with, our Trent day was just right.  Mostly sunny and still.  The river was like a millpond.

This is a new pedestrian swing bridge at Thorne.

Windfarms are everywhere round here.  I think we know why! Yet another swing bridge is just coming up.

We stopped overnight on Tuesday just past Maud's Swing Bridge and in the morning saw these two Roe Deer swimming in the canal.  We've seen several dead deer in the canal but this time a couple of chaps appeared and drove the deer under the bridge to a landing so that they could get out of the water.

Just before you reach Keadby you have to go through the Vazon sliding railway bridge.  This is quite a busy line and the chap in the signal box came out and asked us to wait for about 10 minutes for a suitable gap in the timetable.

And here you can see the bridge sliding open to allow us through.  We've never seen anything like this anywhere else on the waterways.

At Keadby we had to wait for a suitable point in the tide.  These boats seen leaving Keadby Lock were heading for Torksey further up river than us so had to leave earlier.

While we were waiting this huge barge came in.  Though it was going fairly slowly as it came out of the lock the suction was amazing.  The water level fell by a foot or more and Leo slewed about in a crazy fashion.  Residents on the barges opposite came out to handle their ropes seeing the problem.

And here are the pictures of our 14 mile, two hour cruise up the Trent on the incoming tide:

Ian does seem to be smiling as we leave Keadby Lock.  Perhaps it's because we've not been swept into the piling to the left.

Helen did most of the helming up the river.  Here we are passing a big ship moored at Gunness Wharf opposite Keadby.

Soon after leaving Keadby you have to cross to the other side of the river to go under the right arch of the lifting bridge which is a combined road and rail bridge.

Here is the second of the two bridges we passed.  This one carries the M180.  The river is really wide here, bigger than the Thames.

Here we are passing Owston Ferry, a pretty village along the river, but with no ferry now.
Though we tried to arrive at West Stockwith at slack high water as the tide turned, the time of this happening is difficult to predict.  Though we slowed down we were still too early, so had to turn beyond the lock to 'stem the tide' and steer into the lock against the flow.  Quite tricky as the lock faces the wrong way and we did make contact, but quite gently, with the wing wall.

Here is the view of the lock from the river as we passed.

After the drama of coming in and Neil the lock keeper helping us up the lock, you come out in this lovely basin above.  

We have had a day off boating today, doing a few jobs this morning and going into Gainsborough by bus this afternoon.  Tomorrow we set off to enjoy the delights of the Chesterfield Canal.  After Retford we are back on narrow locks - the first since the Huddersfield Narrow last August.