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Archive for August 3rd, 2011

The Odyssey 2011: Day 27

Posted by indigodream on 3 August, 2011

Clarborough to Osberton Lock

Friday 15th July

Fine old warehouse buildings in Retford....

Despite our proximity to pub and road, we had a silent night on the mooring – it’s a great spot, especially on the mooring rings furthest from the road. I had wondered whether they were private mooring rings but it seems not – the dwellers of the canalside cottages certainly raised no objections.

Our plan was to set off early and have an epic day’s cruising up to Shireoaks – reputedly the first safe mooring on the far side of Worksop. Alas our plans were scuppered almost from the start!

Jelly boy Ty anticipates scary things so that he can properly appreciate their full horror when they arrive! So from the time we got dressed he got increasingly anxious until he saw that Richard was putting the tiller on – Ty bolted on deck and Richard decided to take him for a last walk before setting off (a wise move given the state of Ty’s digestion).

I warned from the galley “Watch him, Ty’s in a panic because he thinks the engine’s going to start”,

“He’ll be fine” said Richard as Ty trotted determinedly down the towpath (luckily away from the pub) and showed no inclination to come back! Richard did eventually catch up with him – Ty was trying to organise a new home for himself with another dog-walker who we’d met earlier.

By the time Ty was sorted, it was 9.30am. Nonetheless we set off in a spirit of optimism – the canal promised to be as overwhelmingly scenic as yesterday and it was a fine a summer’s morning as you could hope for.

Admittedly, the stretch from Clarborough doesn’t offer the sweeping views that so astounded me yesterday, but it’s pleasant enough with a good waterpoint a little further along at the Hop Pole pub. Between the excellent water pressure and wide-bore hose provided, we filled with water in no time and were on our way. There is a decent stretch of mooring here – I reckon there’s be room for a 60 footer between the waterpoint and the Chesterfield Canal Trust charter boat moored at the end.

Looking back towards Retford Town Lock - there's good access to Asda from here...

Ty and Lynx came off for a bobble here (Ty firmly on lead) but it was already too hot for much activity. So it was all day – Lou and Lynx would come off at every permitted lock, just on principle, but often Lou would be back on before the lock was set and Lynx would be moping in the shade. Ty mainly stayed on board.

We have discovered a great thing which may lead to Indigo Dream II (if she’s ever built) being a horse-drawn boat. I mentioned yesterday that Ty does not like the sound of the engine, so to get him on or off the boat with minimum trauma then we just have to switch the engine off – simple! We now use this technique at bridges and locks to get him off for a rummage – works every time. It’s not what we’re used to – Ty comes up on deck when the engine’s turned off; Lou and Lynx come up when they hear the engine note change – especially when we go into reverse!

We soon reached the market town of Retford – we’d been advised not to moor overnight here, but by day it’s a pleasant market town with friendly inhabitants and two useful supermarkets,  Asda and Aldi, but the canalside was well-maintained and featured some fine old red brick  mill and warehouse buildings. The towpath was busy with a steady stream of walkers – with and without dogs! Those with dogs always picked up after them – a true sign of civilisation.

Of course our perceptions of Retford might have been favoured by the first towpath denizen that we encountered as we entered the town – an fine old gentleman with a bushy beard walking a big fawn greyhound – he has another four at home apparently!

There are ample stretches 24-hour moorings through the town, but we stopped above Retford Town Lock. There are visitor moorings on both sides above the lock – very handy for Asda. We did a mini-shop, mainly of goodies to appease Greygal and the five hounds she’s bringing with her over the weekend. Yep, we’re going for the Indigo Dream record of eight greyhounds on board!

I did have a laugh at Retford Town Lock – Richard set the lock, opened one gate and sat on the beam waving imperiously for me to enter – “ah Richard” I shouted “is that not a narrow lock” – cue a hasty jump across to open the second gate! At Retford all the canal architecture changes from wide to narrow – very narrow in places, but more on that tomorrow.

Aqueduct over the River Idle - this river enters the tidal Trent just below West Stockwith lock...

As we left Retford behind, the beautiful scenery reasserted itself until we came to Forest Bottom Lock – arguably the most beautiful lock on the system – it’s certainly the most beautiful that I’ve seen. Surrounded by a summer riot of countryside, the sweeping views are enhanced by the close harmony between lock, bywash and canal. The lock was a surprise – it looks new, with lock-gates dated 2010. At first I thought how odd it was, standing proud of the natural landscape. But this landscape is far from natural – it has been shaped and tempered by centuries of agriculture and industry.

Nonetheless, the overgrown banks and shallow water feel like nature’s work – they’re certainly haven’t a regard for a narrowboater’s need – it’s impossible to moor on the towpath here. It’s nigh on impossible to moor anywhere other than the designated mooring spots. I mused on this – we didn’t see another boat on the move until 6.30pm – that boat had only seen three other boats on the move all week – a local boater quipped “Arrr it’s been a right busy week” ! There are plenty of designated moorings so it is possible to plan your cruising around these points. But I miss the freedom of being able to moor up to the towpath whenever and wherever it takes my fancy – and there are a LOTS of places which take my fancy along this unique waterway.

And that’s the “catch 22” – why should BW spend money dredging out more mooring on the Chesterfield if so few boats actually cruise there; on the other hand, would more boats visit if there were more informal moorings available? Who knows? I’m torn anyway – if people knew how outstanding this waterway they’d all want to come and that might detract from its charm!

If we’d arrived at Forest Bottom Lock a little later in the day I would have moored overnight on the lock moorings. I know it’s very naughty but this place deserves more than a fleeting glance and it’s as dog-friendly a spot as I’ve ever seen, particularly for jelly boy, who actually relaxed a little as he had a bobble around. I found out later that mooring overnight at the locks is something of an unwritten convention on this near-deserted canal so there’s potential for the future….

Forest middle bottom lock (keep up – the names are unusual) is almost as attractive as bottom lock, but, once again, there aren’t any visitor moorings. However there are at Forest middle top lock – one 24-hour space a little way below the lock (just before the long-term moorings), then some more above the lock; it also looks as if you could moor on the towpath here. But Middle Top Lock is nowhere near as scenic as those lower down, though the adjacent forest look invitingly dog-friendly. Forest middle top lock has very useful services, including rubbish disposal, water point and elsan disposal (no pump-out) – there is also a road down to the lock with a goodly number of parking spaces – that’s useful for us when doing car shuffles.

Forest bottom lock - one of my favourite spots - ever!

We left the Forest locks with some reluctance but we needed to move on. However, it soon became clear that we weren’t going to reach our ridiculous target for the day – Shireoaks, just above Worksop.

We then had a dilemma – the canal is shallow on the sides with a narrow navigable channel in the middle. It’s impossible to go quickly, no matter how many revs you apply – we averaged 2.5 lock miles per hour today. Still it gave us time to admire the fish in the clear water – shoals of tiddlers and some enormous pike and carp. The fishermen on the Chesterfield were particularly welcoming – they like boats to stir up the water – it’s so clear that the fish can usually see them coming and shy away from the bait!

We’d planned to stop at 6pm – at our actual (rather than optimistic predicted rate) that would put us in the middle of Worksop. We have yet to meet anyone who has a good word to say about Worksop so we decided to stop early, well out of town. This gave Richard enough time to wend his way back to Sawley by bike/train to pick up the car.

It proved to be easier said than done – there were likely mooring places in the hamlet of Ranby, but it’s monstrously noisy there with the roaring of articulated lorries along the nearby A1. We might have managed if the traffic had died down overnight but it would have been torture for Ty. We moved on, looking for likely mooring places – but where there was Armco it was just too shallow. In the end was passed through the picturesque Osberton Lock and scouted around. The moorings above the lock were long enough to allow us to occupy the last two bollards with our nose in the wildlife, and allow a 65 footer to get into the remaining moorings for locking. We’d found that it was a private road to the bridge with a handy fisherman’s car park nearby – the local residents are very relaxed about access, and one kindly soul gave Richard the road’s gate code so that he could bring the car back in later.

View back to Forest middle top lock - there are good services and useful moorings here...

We felt a bit guilty about mooring here, though we consoled ourselves with the fact that we hadn’t seen another boat on the move all day long. Famous last words – at 6.30pm nb Algonquin hove into view – they were desperately looking for a mooring having left their spot at Bridge 46 (just outside Worksop) after some youths had started messing around and setting fires in the adjacent woods. I explained that there was room in front of us or on the lock moorings below, but other than that there was nothing until Ranby. They plumped for the lock moorings below. I felt obliged to work the lock for them – they were unnecessarily grateful – thoroughly pleasant people all round. They mentioned that they’d seen Richard on his bike and made the connection when I mentioned the greyhounds (what else!).

We all got chatting to the man who lives in the lock cottage and who moors his little narrowboat, Pebley Mill, on the edge of his garden above the lock. It was this local who told us that it’s not uncommon for boaters to make use of lock moorings overnight – unless you’ve planned your trip meticulously around the ‘proper’ mooring spots then you don’t really have much choice.

Ty eventually settled down enough to have a wee (the key indicator of his mental health!) – the mooring is totally silent apart from the odd car passing over the lock bridge, and the unexpected clatter from an enormous modern tractor and its contrastingly rickety hay wagon. There is a gate and stile separating the lock moorings from the lock, with an area of unkempt woodland adjacent to the mooring but further on the towpath is well-fenced – this gave us an opportunity to let Ty have an off-lead bobble.

While Richard was getting the car, I tried, unsuccessfully, to get a decent internet connection. It’s an internet black hole around here – we haven’t had a decent signal on Three or Vodafone since we left Nottingham  – that’s an eternity! That’s my excuse for being a fortnight behind with the blog!

It took Richard a couple of hours to get the car – he had a hard bike ride along the bumpy narrow towpaths and then had a long wait for a train in Worksop. It gave him time to explore the town – we didn’t regret stopping early – he asked a young woman for directions to the station……….. “wot, the police station?” she enquired!


The back-lots of Retford - the canalside gardens are very civilised....

Approaching West Retford lock....

Welcome shade outside Retford....

View from Forest bottom lock...

View from Forest bottom lock....

Approaching Forest middle bottom lock....

The view from Forest middle bottom lock....

Approaching Forest top lock....

Another shot of this lovely stretch...

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