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Via Boston to the Chesterfield Canal

Part 2 - The Chesterfield Canal

We had finished the first part of our trip, and now were were in Stockwith Basin at  the start of the Chesterfield Canal. The village of West Stockwith was fascinating to explore, aided by an informative little leaflet that we obtained from the lock keeper, which described a local heritage trail.

The Dutch influence was evident in the nearby buildings, recognising the work of Vermuyden who had reclaimed so much of East Anglia from being a salt marsh. I was surprised to learn that he was extremely unpopular for doing this, because it reverted from being common land to being privately owned land (and he kept 10% of it as his fee too); so much so that he was in fact licenced to maintain a small army of private bodyguards who were permitted to try and execute anyone who gave them any trouble!

The older buildings in the village, even when terraced, were each separated by a 'water lane' which provided a right-of-way through to the river bank for residents from the opposite side of the road, so that they could collect fresh water. Many of these have been tidied up recently, and they are still signed as public footpaths.

Eventually however, any exploration of the village must end at  the White Hart inn beside the River Idle. Apart from providing a friendly reception and excellent food, this pub benefits from having its own brewery at the back, which they were proud to show us round. The strangest thing was that all the barrels were painted bright pink; apparently they used to lose a lot of their barrels because people preferred to keep them instead of returning them when they were empty, but they had a much better rate of return now that they were bright pink. The Idle Brewery produces a range of beers with names such as "Idle Dog", "Idle Sod", "Idle Landlord" and so on. As they were seeking a name for their next brew, I suggested "Idle Women" in honour of those gallant women who operated the boats during World War 2.

 

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Dutch-style houses near West Stockwith
A 'Water Lane' between houses, providing access to the river
Bright pink barrels at the Idle Brewery

After a night at West Stockwith we were in good spirits as we set off up the canal, even though the forecast for a wet day was clearly going to be totally accurate. It was also disappointing to see that one of the pubs that we had enjoyed visiting on our previous visit (the Packet Inn at Misterton) had closed down and been demolished, but the canal was so beautiful that nothing else seemed to matter. It was so narrow and twisting that steering was a constant challenge, and at one point we realised we had turned through an angle of 450 degrees in 24 hours! We soon realised also that it was almost impossible to moor except at  the recognised places because the edges were so shallow and reed-covered, which is why on this little-used canal it is also generally acceptable to moor on the lock moorings as long as you don't mind passing boats stopping alongside you and putting their crew ashore across your deck..

The weather improved (for us) and returned to its habit of raining every night but being sunny all day - although much of the rest of the country was once again suffering from severe rainfall and flooding and we were beginning to wonder whether or not we would be able to get back up the Trent again. We were delighted to find that after its hard work on the tidal Trent the engine was running much better than it had done for a couple of years!

At Ranby the pub mooring is alongside their orchard; throughout the night we were woken by apples falling on to us but at least it meant that by the morning we  had a few weeks supply of delicious apples already on the roof.. Unfortunately  it was here that we had some bad news, that a good friend of ours had been killed in a knife attack, and although there was nothing we could do by rushing home, at the same time we felt that once we left the Chesterfield Canal we shouldn't waste any time in exploring any canals other than those on the direct route home.

 

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An ornamental bridge - spot the face
A narrow canal through beautiful scenery
A delightful mooring in the orchard at Ranby
The railway bridge dwarfs the older canal bridge near Worksop
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... it's off to work we go ???
Straddle warehouse at Worksop
This winding hole at Worksop was as far as we could get last time
Now we could continue to the unusual Morse Lock

The restored canal, above Worksop, is absolutely magnificent. It is also delightfully peaceful, although I hope that not too many people will read this report and decide to visit the canal because the presence of too many boats would spoil it - particularly as there are very few moorings and even fewer facilities of any other type. The restoration has involved some unusual solutions to the obstacles that were found, including for example lock by-washes running through people's gardens, but the end result is simply wonderful. When it was built, this section of the canal was the steepest ever built and there are a great many locks, particularly as they are all fairly shallow, including 2-rise and 3-rise staircases. These are made slightly more difficult by the absence of any walkways across the lower or intermediate gates (it is a long walk all around a 3-rise staircase), and are very slow because for some reason the paddles have been limited to open by only a few inches.

 

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By-washes running through people's gardens
By-washes running through people's gardens
Beware, the by-washes can be quite fierce
The restored canal where it runs through the village at Turners Wood
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The locks are set in the most beautiful countryside
The flight was the steepest in Britain when it was opened
The locks are shallow and well maintained which makes them easy to operate
We never did work out why there is such a tall post on the top gate of the flight
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This paddle is fully down
The same paddle, fully raised
You get plenty of exercise walking around the locks when there is no walkway across the gates
A concrete replica of a paddle post, commemorating the reopening of the canal
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The overflow of the bottom lock of a triple staircase may become an inflow if the centre lock is overfilled
It's wise to keep the side doors closed in case the overflow should overflow
Looking down the lock flight ...
 ... the most beautiful scenery imaginable

We moored for a night at Shireoaks. There is a good marina there but the shops, the chippy and the pub were all closed. We were joined here by another friend from the Canal World Forum who lives nearby and was keen to lock-wheel for us. Continuing up the locks to the amazingly beautiful summit section, we knew were the only boat on the move within at least 2 days' journey, but met several BW maintenance staff who were all very friendly and helpful. The mooring at the limit of navigation, by Dog-Kennel bridge near Kiveton, is excellent but yet again we were frustrated to find that the pub was closed, but the long walk up the hill to the next one was rewarded by some excellent beer at a remarkably cheap price (less than half the price of the same beer at home).

The feeder from the reservoir tumbles into the winding point down a spectacular waterfall, and winding involves putting your bows close to the water; thankfully some concrete blocks have been installed to ensure that you do not actually swamp the front cockpit by getting too close.

 

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We finally reach the summit level
It is extremely narrow on the summit
The only other boat on the summit when we were there (it's moored)
A fine mooring at the end of navigation by Dog Kennel Bridge
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Obviously this space isn't a winding hole ...
.... but surprisingly this waterfall is a winding hole ...
... where winding is quite easy ...
... even if it is a bit of a surprise for the crew!

The next day we continued our World Tour. Well what else would you call it? Last week we visited Boston, passing just a couple of miles from New York, and this week we stopped near Wales on our way to Rhodesia! Have a good look at the maps (and the photo below) if you don't believe me. We stopped at Rhodesia for a day, saying goodbye to our temporary crew member there, and contacted the lock keeper at West Stockwith to ask about the state of the Trent. It was not good news; there was so much 'fresh' water coming down the river that there hadn't been an incoming tide for 2 days, and if it didn't stay dry for the next 3 days there was no way we would be able to get back to Torksey in time for the lecture that Debbie wanted to go to.

We continued slowly down to West Stockwith, keeping our fingers crossed, and moored outside the Waterfront Inn; This establishment does not open on Mondays so we revisited the White Hart Inn in the village again, but returned for an early night because we would have to be up early to catch the tide - if there was one - the next morning.

 

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We stopped for a couple of days in Rhodesia
Moored in Stockwith Basin to wait for the next morning's tide
There's no doubt which way to turn when leaving the lock
We just had to wait for the sand barge Fossdale to pass

Sure enough, there was an incoming tide for us at 7am, and after waiting for the empty sand barge Fossdale to pass, we emerged on to the river in the morning mist and were rapidly swept round by the current to face towards Torksey for the journey back up the Trent and home ...

 

 

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Go to Allan's Page Part 1 - to Boston Canals Home Page Part 3 - Up the Trent again Go to Deb's Page

 

 

All pictures on this site are Allan Jones unless otherwise stated

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