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.


  1. We loved the Chesterfield too, a really beautiful canal. You'll enjoy the journey to Kiveton Park tomorrow........just a teeny bit jealous.

  2. As Ian and Karen have already suggested, the best is yet to come. The stretch from Shireoaks to Kiveton Park is simply wonderful. Enjoy!