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Wednesday 30 April 2014

Working through Worksop.

We topped up with water and dumped the rest of the rubbish before setting off out of the marina. I tried to leave head first but couldn't get the bow round to port without the stern coming onto the other side. There were several blokes about giving 'advice' but I turned up stream and turned right round in the entrance to the marina and then off we set. Helen managed to drop her windlass in Haggonsfield Lock but I was able to pick it out on my second cast of the magnet. A passerby was mightly impressed. We dropped down six locks and moored up outside Sainsburys to get some supplies and afterwards we had lunch before setting off again. Just below Stret Lock is the roving bridge that marked the start of the Lady Lee Arm. It was built in about 1778 and went for about 0.75 miles to a limestone quarry. It is infilled now but has a good footpath on top of the old route.

Roving bridge to the Lady Lee Arm.

Today we have seen loads of new ducklings. It is a lovely sight but unfortunately it is a common sight to see a little one that has got separated and if not quickly reunited is almost certain not to survive very long. I'm not sure whether we could scoop them up and place them with another family or not but I suppose it is natures way to stop us getting overwhelmed with mallards and add to the food chain. It does give a moments pause of sadness though.

Hoping it found its Mum.

Morse lock was the head of navigation for over thirty years. On the way up I wondered why the bridge was adorned with Liver Birds as we are no where near Liverpool. Since then I have seen this design of publicity leaflets for the Chesterfield Canal Trust so I suspect that it is a cuckoo as that is the name of the old boats that plied on the water and the name of the footpath that follows the canal.

Morse lock bridge with cuckoos.

At Town lock in Worksop the top gate seems to be a short cut for ne'r do wells. I suspect that they were shoplifters of some such thing as they were hoping over the pub wall. There is a little park and a on the towpath side a seated area. Both seem to have been taken over by drinkers and others. It is a shame as these areas would make good family areas. Below the lock and past the Straddle Warehouse is an area of towpath that is below the line of a road. This would make a good area of visitor moorings by erecting a high fence, placing bollards and having it opened with a waterways key. The tow path could easily be diverted onto the road. I'm not sure whether dredging the bank would be required but it didn't look like it. Everybody we spoke to said that we shouldn't moor in Worksop. This seems very sad as the place has a lot to offer and could take a few quid too. Secure moorings would help people to make the plan to stop.

Town lock in Worksop. The local youths had vacated below the bridge when I arrive to open the gate.

The plaque on the side of Town Lock marking 200 hundred years that isn't very prominent.

We dropped down another six locks and moored up on the bank close to milestone 23 which marks half way between Chesterfield and the Trent.
Our mooring for the night.

We sat outside reading until evening and after eating and washing up the thunder and lightning started and we are in the middle of a very heavy shower at the moment.

Tuesday 29 April 2014

Another dose of sublime.

The other boat set off before us so we waited over an hour longer before setting off down the Thorpe Flight. The day soon perked up from the overcast start and there were still plenty of walkers and cyclists asking questions as we went down the locks. Every one had to be turned round so it was slower than coming up. Fred, the retired canal employee who we had met had told us that grey wagtails had nested in one of the gates for years but he hadn't seen them this year. On the way down we saw the adults feeding in one of the gates in the bottom gates of the top treble. They are such pretty birds.

Grey wagtail on Thorpe top treble locks.

Fred had told us about Graham who lived at a small holding at the top of the flight so it was nice to have a chat with him at a lower lock. He had found some photos of the locks in 1895 that a descendant of those that had lived there had sent him to see if they could identify the location. It was amazing to see that although the house had been demolished the canal and lock seemed to be just the same.

The Thorpe Locks have many by washes that are not hard engineered but are just a channel with plants growing up the side and a few stones in the bottom. They aren't really found anywhere else on the canal system.

By-wash running down into the pound between locks.

The sun over the weekend seems to have brought more of the leaves out and the green is vivid. The wild garlic is really getting into bloom and the smell is everywhere in this section.

Limehouse Lock in green. There were lime kilns in the area and the footings on the lock island may be the remains of a lime storage shed.

After the Thorpe flight we had a short interlude when we stopped for an ice cream just after the bottom double staircase locks. The ice cream was made by Traymer's of Nottingham and it was gorgeous. So nice we had two each instead of lunch, and they were very cheap too.  

 A very small shop with a very big tasting ice cream.

After a couple of ice creams and a cup of tea we set off again and the sun made it very pleasant. The locks are nicely spaced so that I could open one of the bottom paddles, walk to the next lock and fill it using both paddles and open the top gate so that by the time I walked back to the other lock it was just about empty and I could let Helen out to move into the now open lock.

The locks are quite easy to work. The paddles have ratchets on that you don't need to hold. One of time delays is that there are no walkways on the bottom gates so that you have to walk all round the lock, or step over the roof of the boat if it is there!

It was very pleasant just going down each lock slowly and with passing chat to the walkers. Those that come up the Chesterfield and get as far as Shireoaks and are put off by the number of locks to get to the locks are really missing one of the best lengths of canal that we have been on, especially on a day like today. I would make sure that I got extra crew rather than miss this.

Green and pleasant land.

On the way down we had run a load of washing so as soon as we turned in to Shireoaks basin we had the clothes line up and the washing pegged out. I then started to fill the water and wash off the mud from the side of the boat and the calling cards of some of the flying wildlife. I then dumped the rubbish and then put my feet up until tea. Helen excelled her self and to celebrate another great day we cracked a bottle of wine. To make things even better we got the washing in just before it started to drizzle!

Monday 28 April 2014

Going over the top.

We decided to have a look to see what we were missing by walking to the east portal of the Norwood Tunnel and then over the boat horse path to the west entrance and see the Norwood Locks, or remains of them.

The visitor moorings for the summit pound are just by the winding hole and that is about 600m from the tunnel entrance. The winding hole is actually where the main feeder for the canal summit comes in from Hartshill and Pebley reservoirs.

The Hartshill feeder entering the canal.

The eastern entrance of the Norwood Tunnel. It is in water right up to the entrance.

James Brindley had several thoughts about the tunnel, whether to have a shorter tunnel with locks or a longer tunnel and less locks. In the end the length was decided so as to make as long a summit pound as possible and reduce the amount of water required. The limestone ridge it tunnels through is the watershed between the Trent and the Ouse. It was 2880 yds which is the same length as the Harecastle tunnel north of Stoke on Trent. Work started in 1772 with shafts being sunk along the route and work moving in each direction. Near the eastern end above is disturbed land that apparently was where the bricks were made and the kilns fired by local coal. Several deaths occurred and financial irregularities were discovered later as the work was carried out by several subcontractors. The tunnel was completed in May 1775 and great ceremony was involved with a trip through taking 61 minutes. As you can see by the photo the tunnel was only wide enough for one boat and no tow path so the boats had to be 'legged' through. The routine was for boats from either direction to have passage on alternate days. This also made more efficient use of water down the staircase locks at either end of the tunnel.

The western entrance of the Norwood Tunnel. The hole in the wall is to allow bats to access their roost.

Coals was being mined from beneath the canal tunnel and as these mines progressed in the 19th century sections began to subside. As there were locks at each end this had the effect of making the roof lower making life very difficult for the passage of boats. in 1871 work started in raising the roof for the complete length but there were complaints from the colliery. As the surface was not too far above there were several examples of collapses right through to the surface. There was disagreement between who would have to pay, the canal company and/or the colliery. When the colliery were let of the writing was on the wall. The alternate days working then changed to three hours each way from  0600 to 2100. The end came in 1907 after heavy rain for several days the tunnel collapsed leaving a big hole on the surface. As there was very little traffic at that stage and the railways had more or less taken over it was left and has been closed since.

There are plans for the future to open up the line of the tunnel to the surface for part of the way and added some locks to take it up and over the west side. On the west side were Norwood locks. These consisted of three sets of triple staircase locks and on quadruple set of locks.

The site of the quadruple staircase locks. There is evidence of each chamber but obviously extensive work will be required.

Side ponds were added at a later date to maintain water supplies a little better. The building in the photo maybe the old canal company sawmill that was water powered. The canal continues just to the right of the building.

There are several house next to the route of the canal and I'm not sure how they will feel about having boats once again going up and down right next to them. There doesn't seem an area for boats to wait for the locks or the tunnels and maintain the houses privacy, but I'm sure something could be worked out.

After the four sets of locks of the Norwood flight is the Norwood Bridge that is still standing proud. This length is still in water.

This is the lowest set of locks and the buildings on the right are on the site of the Boatman Inn.

The weather was lovely and the walk was very pleasant largely over the site of the old Kiveton Park Colliery and its spoil heaps. It also passed under the M1. After getting back to the boat we were later joined by another intrepid explorer as a another boat arrived on the moorings.

Sunday 27 April 2014

A long way to the top.

After getting a paper and filling with water we set off. I thought that we would get about half way up the locks before the rain showers started. We set off and there were regular walkers and cyclists zipping past as we worked our way up the first eight Turnerwood Locks.

Turnerwood Locks on the Chesterfield Canal.

At Quarry Lock is a little ice cream shop so after eight locks I thought it was an appropriate time for a refresher, and it was lovely ice cream too. Just after was the first of the staircase locks. It wasn't made any easier by having a swan's nest by the top gate and the mate looking threatening each time I need to pass. A passer by later told me that the female is 25 years old and has now a young mate but for many years the eggs have been infertile so they haven't managed to fledge any cygnets. How sad.

Swan at Turnerwood Double Locks

The next thirteen locks are in the Thorpe Flight and they were the first locks to be built on the canal so date back from 1772 and are all Grade II listed. The scenery becomes even more beautiful and with a further two double and two treble staircase locks there is loads to keep the interest.

Almost halfway up the Thorpe Locks.

As I was ahead of Helen sorting the next staircase lock a guy opened the gate of the lower lock and then produced his windlass and proceeded to help me up the rest of the locks. He was very interesting and had worked on the Chesterfield for thirty years. At the start the top end was only used to supply the lower half so the locks were infilled and a channel of only 3' was maintained for the water. We set the world to rights and had a very good natter to the top treble and the time soon passed. In fact we got from Shireoaks to the top of the 23 locks in four hours which I didn't think was too bad at all.

Summit pound near Devils Hole Bridge.

Helen had been talking to some Gongozollers and they had told her that there was a beautiful bluebell wood back near the top locks so after a bite to eat we decided to walk back nearly two miles back to find it. On the way we passed the wharf where the most famous cargo carried on this canal was loaded. The Houses of Parliament was burnt down in 1834 and a nationwide search was carried out to locate just the right stone for it's rebuilding. The stone to be used was to be found at North Anston that is just over the boarder in Yorkshire but only six miles from the canal. The railways were in their infancy so it was decided to use the canal. Between 1840 and 1844 an average of about 400t a month was transported from the quarry by low wheeled wooden platforms, pulled by eight horses, to the wharf near Dog Kennel Bridge. From there it was placed into the narrow boats to be taken down to West Stockwith Basin where it was transferred into the Humber Keels to be taken down the Trent and Humber, down the East Coast and up the Thames to Westeminster. Each narrow boat took 15 to 20 tonnes. The average time for the stone to take between the quarry and London was two weeks. To move the stone six miles from the quarry to the stone wharf was 6 shillings per ton, and from the the stone wharf down the canal, down the Trent and Humber, round the coast and up the Thames only 10 shillings! The cheapness of transport by ships is still what is making trade viable as how else would it be possible to bring goods from China and elsewhere for less than the price of those made here.

Stone Wharf where the boats were loaded with the stone for the Houses of Parliament. I think the stone work at the top of the wall must have held planks steady as the stone was slid over into the boats. In the distance is Albert's Dock and one of the Chesterfield Canal Trust's trip boats.

Old Spring Wood with masses of bluebells, wood anemones and wild garlic.

The sun had stayed shinning despite the forecast of showers and it had been a lovely day.

On the walk back we stopped in the Station pub for a well earned beer. They had one real ale. Harts Desire by Hartshead Village Brewery and it tasted beautiful. We weren't on the mooring but when we arrived there was an angler on the official mooring and it wasn't in sun so we stopped just before.

Our mooring from Dog kennel Bridge.

Saturday 26 April 2014


We can't get to Chesterfield on the Chesterfield Canal, yet, so we decided to catch the train and go and have a look anyway. The station is very handy for the marina here in Shireoaks and we were soon on our way to Sheffield. We had a few minutes wait there before moving on to Chesterfield. IT had been raining when we left the boat but by the time we got to Sheffield it was nice and sunny. I expect it is because we were back in Yorkshire having left Nottinghamshire. (Or is it Derbyshire?).

As it was nice and sunny we went for a walk to the end of the Chesterfield Canal which isn't far from the station. You find the River Rother and then it disappears over a weir at where there was obviously a mill. The river is canalised from the weir as far as the floodgate which is the first lock.

 Tapton flood gate, Chesterfield.

We walked a little further and came across the Tapton Visitor Centre, the second lock and the friendly staff there. After a chat and a hot chocolate we set of back to the markets. The walk by the river is very nice with bluebells and wild garlic and the footpath is in quite good nick. Just before you get to the station you come to the new canal basin that has been dug out already. The original 1780 ones had disappeared under buildings it seem which have in their turn now been demolished so maybe the basins could be found below the new rubble. It looks like big plans for the area of the new basin that would make a fitting climax for the canal. It seems that it will have to wait now until the HS2 railway is sorted out.
Lock No.2 and Tapton Chesterfield Canal Visitor Centre.

The famous crooked spire of St Mary's and All Saints Church. The church is the largest in Derbyshire. I had always heard that the spire was twisted due to the use of green oak when building it. It is suggested in the guide that it has twisted due to the 32 tonnes weight of lead tiles that cover the 228ft spire.

Helen was hoping to find a good haberdashery stall on the market. (great word that, haberdashery) but she was disappointed. She did manage a jumper and a good poke about the stalls and shops in Chesterfield. After a bite of lunch we went to the church but there was a wedding taking place so we moved on to the small but informative museum. Once again I was struck with just how much every town in the UK has changed over the last 100 years and the mining and heavy industry of Chesterfield has just about gone.

The Chesterfield Town Hall is one that seems to befit a much bigger place.

We walked into Queens Park and sat with an ice cream and watched a little of the cricket. The little girl on her bike had been going round and round the tarmac round the oval. I bet she sleeps well tonight!

We caught the train back and in under an hour we were walking back aboard for welcome cup of tea. As a pudding with our tea we had a vanilla slice which is Helen's favourite. I walked round with the rubbish and had a look at a new boat building near the entrance to the marina. It seems to be the 'New Dawn' which is a hand made replica of the old distinctive boats that worked on the Chesterfield Canal. As they didn't really go on any other canal they did not get influenced by other trades or styles. They were referred to as 'cukoos'. They were only used for short trips and the boatmen didn't really sleep aboard although they did have a little cuddy fore and aft. They did venture out on the Trent and to Torksey to get to the Fosse Dyke Navigation though. They were not very graceful looking craft but the as the there is  no other example of this type of craft it is a great job to build this one to the original design.

Stern section of the 'New Dawn' Cukoo.

Bow and st'bd side of 'New Dawn'.

In the woodlands and area that was obviously what has replaced Shireoak colliery we had seen concrete columns like trig. points. Near the marina, that was the 1861 boat loading basin of the colliery, there is another of these concrete structures it seems that they mark the shafts that have been capped.
We had seen at least two others in the area so if they mark old shafts there must have been a minimum of three.

Friday 25 April 2014

Going abroad.

It was a drizzly day when we set off but the weather soon perked up when we got to the African climes in Rhodesia! The village of Rhodesia is just outside Worksop, and like the country is said to be named after somebody called Rhodes who was the local Colliery Chairman. We were very international as just on the hill is a farm called California, and further down the canal is a town called Wales!!

No passport required here, but they aren't pygmies either.

We were soon up the six locks to Shireoaks Marina. I was expecting a tiny place as they recommend a longer boat going in stern first. How ever there is plenty of room inside it is the turning back into the canal when going up hill that becomes tight.

Not quite my best side at Doefield Dun Lock.

Once we got moored up we had a cuppa and then went for a walk. We got here in the dry and then decided to go for a walk once nit had started to rain? We did a circuit round the village. There was a pit here from 1854 to 1990. The site has now disappeared under lots of woodland and park. The only remains seem to be these pulleys from the head gear and a little monument dedicated to those who worked there.

The remains of Shireoaks Colliery.

The station seems to be unmanned so we will have to buy tickets on the train when we go to Chesterfield.

On our berth in Shireoaks Marina that is a little oasis.

The entrance to the marina, the canal is just through the bridge.

Thursday 24 April 2014


We walked down the tow path back to the town and visited the Priory Shopping Centre and then walked to the library to find the Tourist Information. There we found a leaflet that took you round the town.

Macy, our cat, just surveying the world.

The walk led us to the Priory Church of St Cuthbert. It was an Augustinian Priory until Henry VIII got his oar in. It was started in 1103. After it was closed it was really only used for burials and the actually buildings diminished as the stones were robbed. It wasn't until 1847 when the vicar raised money to start the restoration. The Lady Chapel was restored in 1929 and 1935 the North Transept was added and the east end and tower were added. It all made for a mix of old and new that had a special atmosphere.
Looking to the new tower and east of the Priory Church of St Cuthbert in Worksop.

When the church was a Priory they built a gatehouse in 1314 as guest accommodation where free board and lodging could be had for a maximum of three days/

Worksop Priory Gatehouse. The small chapel to the right of Helen is the Chapel of the Blessed Virgin. It was built so that pilgrims could enter by the door you can see, kneel and say a prayer and leave by a door opposite, on a way way system, and is the only one left in England.

Worksop was well known as place for Liquorice growing until the mid 1700's. Liquorice was used as a sweetener until sugar started coming in large quantities fro the West Indies. Liquorice is Greek for 'Sweet Root' and  we love it. We bought some liquorice and blackcurrant toffees to mark the fact of being in Worksop!

There is still the motte of the original castle of Worksop. The bailey has been built over by a car park. It had all but disappeared by 1540's.

The walk ended at the railway station which opened in 1849. It looks very non station, unlike those built these days. The pub where we were heading for the beer festival in under the pub sign.

Worksop Station and Mallard Pub.

The Mallard Pub has a small room upstairs for the start of the day. The majority of the beers were down in the cellar bar that only opened later in the evening so the staff had to traipse up and down. There were all types in the select few who were present, but all were friendly and a good banter was had.  Several obviously seemed to travel around the region going to beer  festivals and it seemed that they were ticking off each beer on their list. There were locals who were just tasting and there were even other brewers and publicans socialising. There was a beer from Brough, Crystal Brewing that was nice and citrusy. I had never heard of the brewery before. I think my favourite beer of the ten I tried was Wood Street from Sheffield which had a honey taste with a hint of citrus afterwards. The landlord also brews his own beer which I never tried so we will have to go back on the way down.

By the time we had walked back to the boat we decided to go to the pub next door to our mooring and have the two meals for £10 deal. Lasgne and curry with extra sweet potato chips. Tomorrow we start up the locks to the summit, but only as far as Shireoaks.

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Beautiful buildings.

The morning started beautifully so it was time for Helen to give my hair a trim. The two boats were off too, but as they were heading the other way it was fine. Just as we were about to let go a boat chugged past going our way though. We gave them plenty of time before setting off and then moved towards Osberton Lock. It was a surprise to see another boat coming down! We did a little bit of a shuffle as they wanted to be on the lock landing. Just after the lock you pass Osberton Hall but to gain permission to build the canal over the land it was stated that the tow path had to be on the opposite side to the house. There were no good clear views of the buildings but the stables were splendid enough and I would say that they may well be spending as much on the house as they bought it for judging by the plant and scaffolding about.

A bluebell wood near Osberton Hall.

Just after the Hall we came across one of the two hire boats based on the Chesterfield Canal. They very kindly slowed down to allow us through a couple of bridges. Unfortunately the wind caught them and it took them a little time to get themselves clear. Two boats on the way down.

As we approached the outskirts of Worksop we passed a new bridge being built. This seems to be access to a new biodigester unit that will be attached to Manton Sewage Farm and will produce power from the sewage slurry. It is costing £15m but makes a lot of sense. Not far from there we saw this splendid building. It is the Bracebridge Pumping Station and was used as part of the towns sewage system. It was builot in 1881 and was powered by a steam driven steam engine. It has planning permission the 24 apartments but no progress since it was granted in 2006. Maybe now the economy is picking up things may happen to save the building.

Bracebridge Pumping Station, Worksop.

We soon got into the built up area and the backs of industrial units passed us by. We did pass the Worksop Creative Village with an interesting tower and other buildings. It seems that it was the Corporation yard and is owned by C&RT but is now little units for creative artist types at a rent of only about £780.

Worksop Creative Village.

We passed under the Straddle Warehouse with it's two floors for storage direct from the narrow boats moored below.
Straddle Warehouse, Worksop with Town Lock just under the street bridge.

 The hatch to take the cargo through.

We tied up just before the Town Lock and found the water point in a little locker just before the lock and filled up. We must have been on the last drops as it took quite a time. By the time we cleared the lock another boat had caught us up. It is busy, busy today. I had to stop just after the lock as we had picked up a blanket or something, but it was soon off and we continued on our way.

I don't think there was any chance of me bathing in the lock here!

The towpath was quite narrow and quite busy along the next part but we kept going up another couple of locks and moored near the Lock Keepers Pub as there was a Sainsbury's there. We had completed a wash before the water point so we hung it up with fingers crossed that it wouldn't rain. We saved £6-38 apparently by shopping at Sainsbury's so it it must have been worth it! We will head in to the town tomorrow and see how we like the place.