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Archive for August, 2011

The Odyssey 2011: Day 29

Posted by indigodream on 7 August, 2011

Kiveton Park to Rhodesia (above Deep Lock) Friday 22nd July

Starting out trip - this photo was taken from Dog Kennel bridge...

The idea of leaving the boat for a week was to give us time to get home and sort out our respective businesses before coming back for another week’s cruising. I don’t know, weeks just aren’t as long as they used to be – that must be the only explanation for the frantic pace we had to set to get all our chores done in the time available. Of course, this wasn’t helped by my spending at least half a day in total ferrying Lou to the vet and physiotherapist – she’d pulled a muscle in her thigh, tweaked the muscle that runs along one flank and hurt her neck and was in screaming pain on the Monday (she was much better by the weekend but has since had a relapse).

It all worked out in the end – I did manage to get my shed (it’s a very nice shed!) to a habitable state for cousin Denise and family – who were using our place as a base for their holiday. Unfortunately the house was a state, but she promised not to look so we closed the door on the mess and came north.

We decided to leave Ty with Richard’s mum this week – he really loves it at her house and he’s not taxed by having to leave the confines of the garden – bliss! We took Lou and Lynx with us – we had considered leaving Lou behind as well but the physiotherapist thought that clambering up the boat steps would do less damage then charging around Richard’s mum’s garden!

This time we tried a variation on a theme and went anti-clockwise along the M25 as we needed to visit Greyhoundhomer to drop off some home-made jam (Pat who runs the charity is a demon jam-seller!). Needless to say we got stuck in a tedious hour-long queue, though Pat’s hospitality – for humans and hounds – made the world a better place.

To make things more interesting, we also encountered queues on the M11 – we’ve not been stuck there before – always nice to ring the changes! At least the A1 was running well….

We got to the boat by 8.30pm – there’s convenient parking by Kiveton Park train station. We quickly packed dogs and provisions on board. The boat had been fine on the moorings – it’s such a quiet spot. We’d left the power on while we away so that we could run the fridge – we couldn’t bring ourselves to throw away the supply of ice-cream left over in the freezer after our last cruise! The batteries had coped very well – they were at 49%. There was a boat on the moorings behind us – I didn’t catch the name – but they were very friendly folk and obligingly let us run the engine for an hour after hours just to give the batteries a quick boost.

We were weary after a 4-hour drive but forced ourselves to go further afield to eat and to find a shop for the basics. There are useful facilities at Gateford, just outside Worksop – we stopped off at a complex which included a huge Asda, small Tesco Local, sundry other shops and the “Romans Rest” pub. We had a sound meal at the pub and topped up with basic provisions at the Tesco local – that left us with a smaller shop to do before our guests arrived on Saturday morning…..

Saturday 23rd July

Matthew and Daniel were a great locking team...

We were up early in order to get ready for our guests – friend Matthew (who has been before) and his 10-year old son Daniel. Daniel wants to be a vet when he grows up and is desperate to own a dog (he has a cat) and is obsessed with greyhounds. I can honestly say that Lou and Lynx have never been more loved – they ‘endured’ cuddles all day long – Daniel being very solicitous of Lou’s aches and pains. Typically Lynx resisted all of Daniel’s efforts at dog training!

Luckily, we’d given the boat a good clean before we left her last week so that was one less morning chore. Richard went off to get some fresh pastries and hot chicken for the hounds (there’s also a mega-Tesco near Gateford) and I mooched round generally getting ready for the day. The boat moored behind us had moved on early so we had the prospect of the locks being set against us all the way down. On the bright side, I know that Matthew has been having a fitness campaign recently so he’d soon get us down the flight!

Our guests arrived in good time and did the morning car shuffle – it didn’t take very long as we’d only be moving 3 or 4 linear miles but packing in 30-odd locks. Matthew and Daniel proved to be perfect guests – they had a little relaxation time before we hit the locks and they were a willing and efficient crew.

I was on the helm and the locks seemed narrower on the way down than on the way up! The first few were set against us, as predicted, but then we passed nb Futurest coming up so we had the next few were set our way. The crew of nb Futurest (which may have been a regular skipper and guest crew) were a genial lot and kindly helped re-set the staircase for us which saved Richard a climb over the gates. They known the area very well as they acted as historical advisers during the restoration and are authors of a guide to the canal – useful stuff (and left a comment on our last post).

Greyhounds galore - Heidi and her dad - shame we didn't get any pics of Blue's half-brother Alfie...

Our next boating encounter was less pleasant – we were coming down a lock with the next one set our way when the upcoming boat (who shall be nameless) turned it right in front of us, despite our shouting down that we were about to come out of the lock above. We had to wait for them to empty the lock and come up; I moved forward into the pound past a clump of weed to where the canal was a little wider for passing; they dithered over coming out, leaving me to be pulled into the shallows by the bywash. As they passed they scowled mightily. Now, apart from being a criminal waste of water, turning a lock is not really a big deal – after all, we’d have a lock set our way whatever – but it’s the attitude that leads to a lock being turned that so annoys me. The crew of the upcoming boat did not seem to realise that they were following nb Futurest up the flight and that’s why the locks were set against them!

I was feeling a little hard done by when it suddenly dawned that we’d seen two boats on the move, three if you count our overnight neighbour. That’s more than we saw in three days the previous weekend. It was encouraging – this is a fantastic bit of canal and the Chesterfield Canal Trust have excelled themselves in getting this canal restored – it deserves to be used.

We stopped for a late lunch at the 2-hour moorings in Turnerwood – it’s such a pleasant spot it would seem rude not to! By now Daniel was feeling confident to ask the multitude of questions that he had about the characteristics and care of greyhounds. He’s a clever child and I suspect that he’s building up his facts for his business proposal – “Why we should have a retired greyhound”. There is Dragon’s Den and there is persuading your parents to let you have a dog – good luck Daniel!

It was a lovely day – sunny and dry but not too hot – not that you’d get overheated in the mainly dappled shade along the flight. I was pleased because I so wanted Daniel’s first encounter with boats and greyhounds to be positive. He certainly worked hard at the locks – at one time I though he’d gone flying as he ran between them, but he was turning cartwheels – for fun!!

Teaching Archie the diver how to use essential safety equipment!

All too soon we reached Shireoaks – as we tied the boat up to let Matthew and Daniel off, we got a text from Sarah to say that she’d just arrived at the marina – what superb timing! It meant that Daniel could end his cruising day by meeting another four greyhounds – he was very taken with Archie, who is the cuddliest hound. I’ve heard since that he was very keen to take Lynx and Archie home with him (not that he doesn’t like Lou but he was very careful not to aggravate her pains whereas Lynx and Archie could just be cuddled to jelly – which they enjoyed!)! We said goodbye to Matthew and Daniel here and loaded our next crew – Sarah and the hounds, who’d be staying overnight and joining us for a full day’s cruise on the Sunday.

It was only 5pm-ish so there was a big decision to be made – stay at the marina or move on towards, but not into, Worksop?

We worked our way down the three Shireoaks Lock, then through Doefield Dun lock before we decided that was close enough to town – we started to look for moorings above Deep lock, and although there was a line of rings a little way up, we moved a little further down the canal and banged a few pins into the towpath. We only had a modest six greyhounds on board this evening – Lou and Lynx, of course, and Ranger (my favourite!), Miffy, Henry and Archie – enough to catch the interest of a passing walker with a greyhound. He had a dainty black girl called Heidi and said he had a big lazy boy called Alfie at home (Alfie couldn’t be naffed to come for a walk). We exchanged racing names and Sara avidly looked up whether they were related to our extended packs – by coincidence, Alfie is our old boy Blue’s half-brother – small world.

The chap (only got the dogs’ names of course!) later brought a reluctant Alfie out to meet us – I was a both disappointed and relieved that he didn’t resemble Blue (a lot of his half-siblings are almost identical). Apart from Lou asserting herself loudly and impolitely, the rest of the pack got on a treat with their new friends though Alfie, being idle, soon lost interest and was pulling at his lead in the direction of home. We’ve finally found a contender to take Sid on in the “laziest hound” olympic event!

So, Sarah, where are you going to sleep??

Richard had really earned his supper after doing all those locks, so we went off to the Lockkeeper pub nearby, leaving the hounds on board. The Lockkeeper is a tidy Marston’s pub with good beer and plain pub grub. We’d had a very full and fine day’s cruising but the best of the day was yet to come – making up the guest bed with six hounds on board. There followed the most farcical half-hour ever while the bed was made with increasing inefficiency due to

a) invading dogs

b) us doubled over with laughter at said dogs….

We put the sofa down into a double bed and put the guest mattress onto it – this attracted hounds like flies to fly-paper. I abandoned attempts to get them all off and tried to work around them. In the end I threw the sheet over Henry – the most ridiculous tussle ensued as he wrestled with the sheet then finally gave up, leaving us with a greyhound-shaped blob swathed in blue cotton. We decided to rescue him – he was quite indignant about it, but we finally moved him onto the top of the sheet so that we could quickly fit the rest. The pillows were soon appropriated by hounds and although it was very hot on board, Archie refused to move from under the quilt, which we’d thrown over him in an attempt to finish the bedmaking.

Eventually we got the dogs on top of the quilt – Lou took her place on the bed with dignity – it is hers after all; interlopers Henry and Archie joined her, leaving a tiny corner for Sarah. In the meantime, Ranger had sensibly snaffled the foam bed right at the end of the boat, out of the way of the melee, and Lynx had curled up on Ty’s day bed – also out of the way – Miffy cuddled up to him – his dream had finally come true! As it happened, Lynx and Ranger were the only two dogs to stay put all night – the rest played some obscure game of musical beds (another potential olympic sport), accompanied mainly by Lou’s complaints. Archie joined us on our bed and proved to be an expert human manipulator. At one time I woke up, perched precariously on the very edge of the mattress – Archie had all four feet planted firmly on my bum and was pushing me out. Archie’s back was braced against Richard, who was being subjected to the pressures normally experienced in the heart of black holes as he was steadily crushed against the gunwhales. This is why we don’t encourage our hounds to sleep with us!

Ah well, they do say a change is as good as a rest – maybe that should apply to laughter as well…..

Photoblog:

Chesterfield views (1)

Scarlet Pimpernel...

Daniel was enthusiastic to take part in all the locking tasks....

The towpath - can you see a horse on those steps 😉

Low bridge - it seemed more so coming out of the lock than going in...

Are you having a nice time?

The A team in action....

Matthew traversing a bottom gate - that's one downside of the flight - there are few 'bridges' on the bottom/middle gates...

Weight training - canal style - Matthew tugging Indigo Dream onto a better line (I blame the bywash!)..

The hounds having a well-deserved rest....

Chesterfield views (2)

Chesterfield Views (3)

Civilisation at Turnerwood...

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The Odyssey 2011: Day 28

Posted by indigodream on 4 August, 2011

Osberton Lock to Kiveton Park (current navigable limit of the Chesterfield Canal)

Saturday 16th July

Osberton Hall....

We had the quietest night at Osberton Lock but were woken by the sound of heavy rain drumming on the roof. We got moving very slowly – reluctant to be out in the weather – we’ve had a largely dry, though sometimes chilly, odyssey so far. Nonetheless, we had to move on – we had another epic cruise planned and we were picking up Sarah, Andy and five of their hounds for an exploration of the final navigable stretch of this part of the Chesterfield Canal.

I got onto the helm, locked the hounds inside (Lynx was keen to be on deck!) and set off down the canal. Richard, in the meantime, took the car to High Hoe road bridge and would cycle back to meet me. He was a tiny bit smug as he set off in his warm, dry car and I set off on the exposed helm but he was to get soaked later – not so much from the falling rain as from the thick vegetation brushing against him as he cycled back!

I enjoyed the next stretch, despite the rain – it’s wooded and shady at first and Osberton Hall with its associated wooden bridge (made from old railway sleepers) is an interesting landmark. The canal here is still rural but arguably more ‘garden’ than ‘farm’. I soon got to Bridge 46 – I can’t blame nb Algonquin for mooring there, but when I saw the round patches of burnt grass on the towpath I couldn’t blame them for moving on either. From Bridge 46 onwards, Worksop starts to make its presence felt, with more trash in the water and evidence of petty vandalism; I passed two BW workboats – inconveniently brested up and flanked by their equipment which had been chucked into the canal – fencing, wheelbarrows and the like, further narrowing the canal to a scant boat-width.

I picked Richard up at Bridge 45B and we sighed morosely as the canal became increasingly downtrodden – I thought it was such a shame that these few miles through Worksop should drag down an otherwise outstanding waterway. But as light is enhanced by the dark maybe it’s necessary – the town is far from the worst we’ve travelled through; the locals, during the day at least, seemed more curious than hostile and we didn’t have any trouble. Worksop reminded me of Merthyr Tydfil – another remnant of a forgotten mining industry – Worksop is a lot nicer than Merthyr though… 🙂

Single-lane only - brested up workboats and other obstructions....

Richard helped me through Kilton lock – this has fearsome anti-vandal locks – the anti-vandal locks are themselves protected by steel shrouds which have to be removed after you awkwardly reach inside to undo a padlock – we found out later that this was to prevent fish theft – this pound is apparently a regular target. I moored up below the next lock – Bracebridge, while Richard went off to pick up our guests. Sarah and Andy had spent the week traversing the country in their motorhome and they’d parked up in Shireoaks marina (secure parking for BW keyholders). Richard went to collect the two humans and five hounds (Susie, Ranger, Sid, Henry and Archie) while I stayed with the boat and set the lock. I wasn’t worried about inconveniencing other boats – there simply weren’t any – all day!!!

Seven have an adventure (Ty is indoors)...

The pack soon returned and I took Lou, Lynx and Ty for an introduction on neutral territory. It was a red-letter day, Sarah had brought top-girl Susie, and though she’s met top-girl Lou before, this was the first time they’d be spending time in close proximity. Their initial meeting was bad, but completely as predicted, the two girls barked savagely at each other, leaving each other in no doubt as to what would happen if they were off-lead and unmuzzled – oh dear. Two minutes of walking in the same direction,  it was all over and they settled down for a peaceful day – they even shared the sofa for a while! There were a few growls between the pack members as the day wore on but they were invariably caused by someone quite literally treading on someone else’s toes – we’ve had to reluctantly conclude that eight probably is the maximum number of greyhounds that we can fit on the back deck – though there’s plenty of cabin space for them inside.

With the pack on board, and coffees made, we set off through Worksop. Sarah’s family hails from this area so she has fragments of family memory which were awakened as we passed different pubs and other landmarks. She and Andy have a good attitude with young people and rather than attracting trouble they managed to recruit help. Young men who we would have considered to be ruffians meekly opened and closed lock gates under Sarah’s unflinching direction – it’s is a special talent!

Because so few boats move along this canal, the sight on Indigo Dream approaching Town lock was a spectacle – the sight of Indigo Dream with seven greyhounds on deck was a revelation – add to that the dramatic rescue of a duck from the lock and it’s a wonder they didn’t call the local paper! As you may have gathered, we had quite an audience, with people equally fascinated by boats and hounds.

Eight hounds having a good time - on a well-fenced lock island!

Now there are narrow locks and there are narrow locks – these are very narrow indeed – we got the hint when a few pencil fenders got ripped off (luckily we recovered them all). We tried to lift them, especially for Stret lock. We’d been warned that subsidence had made the lock narrow and that some boats couldn’t pass – including nb Algonquin whom we met last night. As it happened, we got through Stret Lock with no problem but we got a bit wedged when we tried to get into Deep lock (just above Stret lock). Luckily we weren’t totally stuck – we reversed back, removed our towpath side fenders, still got wedged so with some effort, removed the last of the fenders on the non-tow path side – I then inched Indigo Dream into the lock and we were on our way again.

By this time, the rain had stopped and the afternoon was shaping into something very special indeed….

It’s locks all the way from Worksop – the somewhat dispiriting town is replaced by stunning countryside alternating between sylvan shades and expansive cornfields. The wooded sections are lushly green – “like the amazon” said one, “more like middle earth” said another – whichever analogy you choose the Chesterfield canal is a place where time and space certainly lose all meaning. Apart from the little village of Turnerwood, which has 2-hour visitor moorings, the locks are silent and isolated. This was perfect territory for the hounds, who could have a bit of off-lead rummaging time – especially where the locks had fenced offside ‘islands’ created by the bywashes. The locks themselves are an interesting mix of singles, double and triple staircases – absolutely marvellous.

After an afternoon’s very enjoyable toil we reached the summit and Richard cycled back down to get the car – some four miles and 33 locks away! In the meantime Sarah and I were tasked with finding an overnight mooring. Although it was late now and the entire crew was weary, we still enjoyed the  deeply shaded canal, rich with the smell of wild garlic. We tried pulling in at Albert Dock but the wall was a little high for our hounds and we couldn’t get the boat right into the bank so we took a chance and moved on. I’m so glad that we did – just before the winding hole that marks the limit of the navigation there is a fine mooring platform with bollards – all at just the right height for hounds. We moored up and once the engine was off it was totally silent, though we were within five minutes walk of Kiveton Park train station. Andy and Sarah walked the hounds while I sorted the boat. Richard soon rejoined us and we had a fun car trip back to Shireoaks Marina with Susie, Sid and Archie comfortably laid out in the boot and me, Sarah, Ranger and Henry squashed into the back seat! We dropped the hounds off in the motorhome (we’d obviously left ours on board) and set off to find a pub for a celebratory/commiseratory meal – we’d reached the turning point of this year’s odyssey.

Middle earth...?

We drove to the Parish Oven in Thorpe Salvin – it’s a nice place which obviously specialises in entertainment, however it stopped serving food at an improbable 8.30pm so we moved on. A local recommended the Red Lion in Todwick – they serve food until 10pm and we had a fine meal here.

Replete, we dropped Sarah and Andy back at the marina and we headed back to the boat – the mooring was very quiet indeed and Ty was almost happy here – that made us happy too!

Sunday 17th July

We slept well on our moorings and were up quite early (by our standards) – we took the hounds for a walk to the very end of the navigation – the overgrown portal of Norwood Tunnel. The tunnel was closed by subsidence in the early 1900’s and has been a major barrier to the canal’s complete restoration. If you come this way, DO NOT take your boat to the winding hole at the tunnel portal marked on the Nicholson’s – there isn’t one! Stop and wind where the BW signs tell you to – just beyond the mooring platform.

There are fields beyond the portal (which is set well below the towpath) where we could let the hounds have a little run. But be careful – according to a passing jogger the fields are normally occupied by some fractious horses! Ty got scared by the jogger and refused to walk past her (she was petite and totally non-threatening!) – he backed up to what he felt was a safe distance and wouldn’t come to us – luckily the jogger kindly waited for us to catch him before she moved on otherwise he’d still be there!

Indigo Dream at the limit of the navigation....

We had contacted BW a few days ago to ask about where we could leave the boat for 5 days. Sadly we didn’t get an answer until we arrived home, and then the mooring officer had been confused and referred us to the BW moorings auction website! So we had to use our own judgement – we couldn’t stay on the bollards – they’re only 24-hour, but the Albert Dock moorings didn’t appeal, and the towpath was generally too overgrown. The alternative was to lock back down to Shireoaks – a trip of several hours which would make us very late getting home to Surrey. Our decision was made when it started to rain – we’d stay put, but turned the boat around, put the back onto the last mooring bollard, the middle into the vegetation and tied the front to the edge of a convenient stretch of towpath that had been mown for anglers (there was still room for them – honest!).

It took a while to pack the boat for our journey home – not only did the boat need a good clean after a week’s occupation but we were extremely reluctant to leave. The Chesterfield Canal is a unique and wonderful navigation – it has become my second-favourite waterway – a whisker behind the river Thames. As we packed, the air was full of the freshness of wild mint, gently rubbed as we brought the boat in to moor. In the distance the mellow sounds of the brass band competition at Kiveton Park filtered through the trees. We had lunch on board and finally set off for home -we’d had the most amazing week’s cruising and discovered some magical waterways – the Trent and the Chesterfield – put them on your “must do” list…..

Photoblog:

Massively reinforced - Manton viaduct....

Looking back towards Worksop Town lock - the town is run down but friendly enough (during the day)...

A town with a canalside Costa can't be that bad 🙂

The approach to Haggonfields lock - the bridges aren't always perfectly aligned to the locks and some are very low - we had to take the bike off the roof in places...

The Shireoaks flight - watch out for the bywashes - they don't move the boat by much but these locks have little margin for error...

Attractive Sustrans owpath milepost....

Oy, Mr bug, are you helping with that paddle or are you just going to sit there?

Looking down at Turnerwood - the only human habitation along this stretch... (they are a friendly lot up there)

Some disapproving gongoozlers....

Moody skies...

Magical....

Approaching Thorpe Low Treble locks....

Limehouse lock - but not as WE know it!

Clear instructions at Thorpe Top Treble locks....

Working our way up Thorpe Top Treble - our last locks of the day....

The winding hole that is the limit of the navigation - several hundred yards short of the tunnel portal...

Good view of the 24-hour moorings at the limit of the navigation - we did move off the bollards before leaving her for 5 days....

View towards the real end of the navigation - so tempting but it is seriously overgrown at the end and there is no room to turn at the tunnel portal...

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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!

Photoblog:

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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The Odyssey 2011: Day 26 (2)

Posted by indigodream on 2 August, 2011

West Stockwith to Clarborough

Thursday 14th July

Indigo Dream in Misterton - admire the new blacking for almost the last time - the narrow locks further up took their toll.....

I decided to split this day into two posts because the tidal Trent and the Chesterfield Canal are two such different waterways it actually felt as if we’d done two days in one!

After we’d serviced the boat, we set off past the basin’s pub, which smelled very appetising, and onto the Chesterfield Canal proper. We passed a line of long-term moorings and the boaters there warned us about the weed in the canal.Most boaters that we’ve met seem to consider that the words “weed” and “Chesterfield Canal” are synonymous but while it’s true that the crystal clear waters do support a fine growth of weed, it didn’t actually catch round our prop – we went down the weed hatch maybe three times during our total of six days on the canal (that includes our trip back) – that’s not too bad at all!

We slowly passed through the neat basin at West Stockwith and the modern waterscape of Misterton – the canal seemed pleasant enough. But then the Chesterfield Canal showed us its magic – acres of rolling scenery which became more inspiring as we gradually climbed towards the far summit. The locks are broad and widely spaced here – how strange it was to be locking up – other than coming off the Tideway we’ve been steadily dropping towards sea level since we left Birmingham – it feels like an age ago. The canal is tranquil, so we were surprised to find that BW keys are needed to unlock anti-vandal mechanisms at every lock. We found out later that the problem here isn’t your average yob emptying the canal for the fun of it – they have a serious problem with fish thieves, who drain the pounds in order to pick up the stranded carp (in particular).

The more we cruised the more we marvelled at the lush beauty of this waterway – sometimes narrow and intimate, at other times a thin green ribbon lost in a golden lanscape.It is like cruising through an art gallery – at times the landscape is as delicately translucent as a watercolour, in others the colours are as bold as a Van Gogh – a vista painted by a deity with access to an infinite colour pallette. The water was crystal clear so that presented an underwater view as well.

The canal was very quiet apart from the sound of our engine and the twittering of sparrows. We only saw two other boats – one cruiser on the move and one narrowboat just mooring up as we passed by.

Bothered??? Lou ignoring the locals....

The towpath is generally shallow and overgrown – this means that a certain amount of planning is needed when mooring. Most of the moorings are signed as 24-hour but there are some stretches of Armco which I assume are the usual 14-day towpath moorings; the canalside pubs generally have moorings and some of the boat clubs also have places for visitors. I did make a note of the fine mooring bollards and a stretch of Armco just past the Drakeholes Tunnel and there is another stretch of Armco between Clayworth and Hayton – the latter has spectacular views over the surrounding countryside.

Ty seemed to relax a little on the Chesterfield Canal – there was nothing to trouble him beyond the sound of the engine (which really does bother him). Richard took them for a few walks and Ty was confident enough to have a run at Gringley Lock. It is a great canal for hounds!

We’d planned to moor at Hayton, but unfortunately the pub mooring was occupied so we moved on to Clarborough. There is room for maybe five narrowboats on the moorings outside the Gate pub and there was plenty of room. We aimed for the mooring rings at the far end, in front of the cottages – this gave us direct access to the towpath away from the road and pub car park. This was a “Ty-friendly” spot – he could get off the boat and we could steer him onto the well-‘hedged’ towpath where he could have an off-lead bobble. Ty did get spooked at one point, but he ran straight back to the boat, where I was waiting to catch him just in case he decided to run further!

With the hounds walked, we headed off to the Gate pub – dogs are allowed in the garden but not inside (apparently they were allowed in the bar but some punter complained and they’re now banned – sighhh).

A passing walker had told us that the pub menu was ‘unusual’ so we weren’t sure what to expect. Sure enough, when we got inside the gate had the classy ambience of a fine dining establishment and the menu featured delicacies like pigs trotters (these cheap cuts are now very trendy!). We anticipated great things but the food was very disappointing – almost there but not quite. I found myself taking notes and drafting a restaurant review but I stopped myself – it seemed a bit obscene to be complaining about an overdone steak when there is famine in Africa; though afterwards I thought that a famine in a far country is not an excuse for bad cooking!. The service was pleasant but dim – when it was time to pay the bill Richard used his credit card and left a cash tip – our waitress thought that the tip was my share and that we were splitting the bill! Ah well, the prices were high-end pub grub so maybe our expectations had been over-elevated by the swanky setting.

We didn’t have much time to muse on our meal – when we got back to the boat we had unpleasant stuff to deal with. We’d wormed the hounds yesterday so that was one problem solved; however Ty seems to have reacted to the wormer with a particularly noxious diarrhoea – it’s the first time that any of our hounds have had an accident in the boat. Poor Ty – at least he was more settled here – the peace and quiet of the Chesterfield Canal is suiting him nicely.

Photoblog:

The countryside is never far away....

There are new views around each bend...

Colourful landscape...

The rusty ripeness of oilseed rape - what an impact this crop has had on the scenery...

Golden cornfields - or is it wheat - or barley?

This old building is the remnant of a brickworks...

More views - open country and open skies...

Charming....

The clean lines of Gringley lock cottage...

This canal just gets better and better....

Reflections....

The approach to Drakeholes Tunnel - there are swallows swooping around in the tunnel - quite surreal...

useful moorings by the 'south' portal of Drakeholes Tunnel - the bollards are 24-hour but there is armco beyond...

Even the dead trees add something to the landscape...

Poppies...

The stretch leading to Clayworth is particularly scenic...

Approaching Clayworth...

The outskirts of Clayworth....

I can't resist these views...

Rays of light.....

The last of the days photos....

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The Odyssey 2011: Day 26 (1)

Posted by indigodream on 1 August, 2011

Torksey to West Stockwith

Thursday 14th July

nb Kalikamara negotiating the twists and turns of the tideway.....

We had the quietest night at Torksey and woke refreshed and ready for a long day’s cruising. This time we put our layers on before we got onto the tideway – to think I almost packed my winter fleece and thermal vest away and here I was wearing both, in the middle of July! As it happens, the tideway wasn’t quite as cold today and the Chesterfield canal was balmy by comparison.

We set off down to Torksey Lock a little early, with the intention of stopping at the service point to get rid of our rubbish. However the lockies spotted us, gave us the green light and we went straight into the lock. nb Kalikamara had moored overnight on the pontoons below the lock and set off just before us – we soon caught up and overtook them, and later we overtook nb Celestine – I’m not sure where they’d started out.  We were only doing between 1200 and 1400 revs but we were reluctant to go any slower as we don’t like to hand about on a tideway and we were worried about getting to West Stockwith while there was still water in the river – but we needn’t have been concerned. We could see the mud emerging as the tide fell and it reminded us vividly of Bow Creek, where the water rushes out quite abruptly once the tide turns. But things are a lot slower on the Trent – the lockies told us that the tide drains gently away in the upper reaches because it’s held by the narrows. This means that West Stockwith is open for 4.5 hours after hight tide and it’s only a couple of hours cruise from Torksey.

We took turns on the helm along the tideway – Richard would cruise a page on the chart and I’d cruise the next! This gave us both a chance to experience the Trent through our eyes and through our hands on the tiller. This section has plenty of interest with grand mansions, follies, ruins and Gainsborough town – we haven’t seen a settlement this big since we left Newark! In between there were hairpin bends and the ever-abundant wildlife.

All too soon we arrived at West Stockwith and Richard took the helm for the turn. The approach to the lock is very similar to that recommended for Limehouse Lock, though West Stockwith does not have the tricky back-eddy of Limehouse’s lock cut. Richard handled the lock entry competently but it is an easy turn especially as the lockie stood on the wall and ‘talked us in’ and we got in without any drama. It’s a deep lock and there aren’t any guide wires so we couldn’t use out own ropes – the lockie threw down some ropes so we could hold ourselves steady. We heard nb Kalikamara radioing in – they were at least 30 minutes behind us so the lockie decided he had time to lock us into the basin and empty the lock. The lockie was informative and solicitous of our safety in the lock – he let us up gently and we had a smooth transition onto the Chesterfield Canal, though the way the top paddles work meant that the bow did move gently from one side of the lock to the other.

Richard on the helm after taking us under Torksey Viaduct...

We decided to stop at the basin’s service point – turn sharp right out of the lock and turn sharp right again into the slipway past the last mooring. Richard reversed us in – there was plenty of depth here but it’s worth keeping an eye out so you don’t go too far and ground on the slipway.

I took the hounds for a bobble and got rid of the rubbish while Richard did the pump out. We’d left the radio on so we knew when nb Kalikamara was approaching the lock – we hastened to watch – there’s a great view from above the lock. I was amazed to see how fast nb Kalikamara was travelling, and the rate at which she was swept along when she turned to face the tide (she turned her bow to the main flow and their turn was well done but did look like hard work, so the lockie’s suggestion of turning the other way was a good one). The flow didn’t feel that fast when we were turning into the lock but I’m sure it was! The lockie shouted directions and though they seemed to turn into the lock a little early they still made it in with no drama. For boaters who are worried about the turn – don’t! It’s much easier than the turn to Limehouse and as long as your engine is working and you follow the lockie’s directions you’ll be fine.

Photoblog:

For a view of the approach to West Stockwith Lock, click on this facebook link – it shows nb Kalikamara turning and entering the lock…..

Leaving a power station behind - never mind, there'll be another one along shortly!

Small boat, big river, big sky - nb Kalikamara on the calm waters of the tidal Trent...

This old converted windmill is a useful landmark....

Catching up with the next power station...and with nb Celestine...

I'm not sure what this plant is but it is abundant here - it growns near the lakes at home and the spiky 'fruit' is very difficult to extract from dog hair and clothes...

Sign at Littleborough - you are not allowed to anchor because there is a Roman causeway under the water - we couldn't detect it though - even at low tide...

Folly...

Fine manor house....

And here's the next power station - it's a monster....

Birds of all sorts enjoy the riches left in the mud by the falling tide...

Posing....

Herring gull....

Black headed gulls....

The kilometre posts are used by all sorts of river users 🙂

Gainsborough railway bridge - there's an acute hairpin bend after this bridge - watch out for it!

The vast Kerry Group plant in Gainsborough - they "develop, manufacture and deliver technology based ingredients, flavours and integrated solutions for the food and beverage industry" - uhhhm, sounds delicious.....

Approaching Gainsborough's imposing river walls and high wharves...

The Gainsborough Arches...

Gainsborough waterfront...

And there's the visitor mooring pontoon - 48 hours I believe and one of the few mooring places on the tideway....

The more industrial end of Gainsborough - note the little wavelet on the water - it was getting a little choppy at this stage but nothing that a narrowboat couldn't deal with...

There seem to be big plans for developing the area....

Gainsborough's modern industry....

And more businesses on the far bank....

Gainsborough's a welcome bit of interest on an otherwise rural river....

Sluices - these were being dredged out when we came back upriver - but more on that in goodness knows how many posts' time!

The last bend before West Stockwith...

There's the West Stockwith lock cottage...

And there's the lock....

And here we are safely in West Stockwith lock - we were too busy to take photos of our approach but if you click on the facebook link in the text above you'll get a view of nb Kalikamara's approach...

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