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Friday 31 July 2020

Thunder in Thorne.

We were off at 0900 and straight into Mexborough Low Lock.

We had a very quiet night and it was warming up already when we set off. Once we left the lock there was a wide beam approaching.

Conisborough was built following the Normas Conquest by William De Warenne. Not long after the mid 1400's the curtain wall failed due yo subsidence and the castle failed to supply any form of defence. It changed hands several times and was so derelict that it played nom part in the English Civil War. In 1819 Sir Walter Scott used it as the setting for his novel Ivanhoe and following this it increasingly became a tourist attraction. The design of the castle is unique and so is thought of as a gem. The central keep is round but has four massive butressess.

This is the site of the old Conisborough lock. The old river route was to the other side of the lock. The canal was removed in 1972 as it only had a rise and fall of 15". Th e recesses for the gates are easily seen still.

It was certainly heating up as we approached Doncaster. Only a couple of boats moving until now.

Doncaster Lock is a bit of a mismatch as only one side is straight. I assume that they were unable to do the full construction due to the East Coast Railway Line at the far end.

Just north of the visitor moorings at Doncaster is Gas House Bight. This was the actual route of the river at one time and a gas works. Where the little marina is next to the visitor moorings was where the river headed 'inland' and cam out again at Gas House Bight. A new cut was made across the neck in about 1935, and cut off the bight, which was retained for access to the factory. There are now plans to create a new marina in the large basin along with other utilities like shops etc.

We stopped at Bramwith Services to top up with water. A C&RT bloke came over and told us that the bridge was playing up so to give him the nod when we wanted to pass through and he would work us through using the solenoids. He also told us that the system was overheating and at Keadby and Selby the heat was also causing problems. They had the Fire Brigade at Keadby playing water on the bridge so as to enable boats to pen up from the river. Here at Stainforth was a building site that looked like it could be the training establishment for soldiers learning the art of house to house fighting! In fact it turns out that the builder went bust and the local youths seemed to have used it as an amusement park!

We stopped at Staniland's to top up with fuel, taking on 48 litres. 85p/ltr seemed expensive but needs must I suppose. I think fuel will not be one of our main expenses on the boat this year. We dropped down the lock and moored up on the visitor moorings. We later went to meet friends at the Windmill. When we were there, the skies darkened and the thunder and lightening went off and the rain came down in monsoon style. Luckily we were under a gazebo and it was so wet and noisy with the rain and wind as well as the the thunder claps. It was amazing. It was son gone and we wandered off the short distance back to the boat.

Thursday 30 July 2020

Making the Miles to Mexborough.

We got away at 0900 to be at the top of the Tinsley Locks for 1000. 

The canal goes through Attercliffe or Darnall Cutting and it was built by out of work men following the Napoleonic Wars. By using this cheap labour the 150 yd and 36 ft deep was completed quickly and cheaply.

We were ten minutes early but the gates was open so we set off down. As we got through the second David the Lockie came up to advise us that all was set for the first few and Nigel was looking after two coming up. It was David's day off but he wanted to see us safely down the deep lock at 7/8.

I think it was Lock 5 that this sign was sited.

David got us through the deep lock and then left us again, but not before telling us that the up bound boats were running late so we may have to turn locks. I was leaving both bottom gates open for them. Here we are at Lock 11 and Halfpenny Bridge. Before the Sheffield and Tinsley was built this was head of navigation of the River Don Navigation, and goods for Sheffield had to go on by road.

As we approached Jordan's Lock we could see that Land and Water had managed to reestablish the floating barrage across the weir which was hanging down the race when we came up.

I think this is the towpath bridge over the  Walker Branch that served the iron works of Samuel Walker and Co. His father was a nail maker, but he was a school teacher, land surveyor and sun dial maker! He and his two brothers work together and set up a furnace in 1741. By 1746 they were the leading iron canon maker to the Government and this coincides with a move to a new site in Masborough by Rotherham and this short arm was the transport link.

There is so much work going on by the canal in Rotherham but it doesn't seem to have made moving the bottom gate. It took all my strength to get it moving. The workmen on the site next to the lock said they have always had to help other boats. Just outside Rotherham was an old canalside building with this old crane still standing sentinel.

Another canal arm was the Fitzwilliam Canal, also known as the Parkgate or Greasborough Canal. The canal was surveyed three times before it was given the go ahead. It had four locks up to a wharf at Cinder Bridge. The canal opened in 1780 and was joined to the Marquis of Rockingham's collieries. There was a short arm to Sough Bridge too. Another branch went to Parkgate where the Parkgate Iron Company was developed in 1823 sometimes called the Newbiggin Branch. Coal was brought to the canal by plateway and in containers and each boat carried 30 tons and a horse pulled three of them. When the railway came in 1836 the canal quickly declined and by 1918 it was closed.

We kept going as it was a nice day and as it only took us 51/2 house from Sheffield to leaving Rotherham Town Lock we were in the groove. As we approached Mexborough Low Lock it was a lovely day with the countryside all a round.

Wednesday 29 July 2020

Outside Sheffield Cathedral was this Victorian Post Box. It is said that there is a post box within 1/2 mile of 98% of the population. Easier to do now we largely live in towns and cities. The first post box was on Jersey in 1853 and on the mainland in Carlisle much later in 1856. Then there was no set design until 1859 and it was designed by John Wornham Penfold and is this hexagonal design with acanthus leaves on the top as does this one. The design was again changed in 1879 to the design we have today. They were originally painted a dark green but the red became standard after July 1874.

The Cutlers Hall is opposite the Cathedral and has been on this site since 1638. The Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire was founded by Acts of Parliament in 1624 and 1638. This is the third building on the same site and was completed 1832 and looks very swish inside, and is Grade II* Listed. You maybe able to make out that it has a polished steel door.

Just up the street is the Old Stone House pub. It says White and Sons, late Thomas Aldam 1795. The building dates from 1840 and Thomas Aldam a wine and spirits importer lived here from the late 1840's to 1858. Eventually the business passed to J.B. White and sons who were also wine, spirit and cigar importers and were a long established business in Chesterfield. They started in 1795, hence the date Where the two windows are was the offices of the business and by 1913 the rear of the building had become the Stone House Pub as it says above the left hand door. It was the go too place in the 1980's but the rear of the building was taken for the development behind in 2005 and it seems that it hasn't prospered since then.

Further up Glossop Road is the Somme Barracks. Above the gate is the inscription of 1st W Y R E  (Vols) The 1st West Yorkshire Royal Engineers Volunteers. They moved here in 1882 when the volunteer regiment bought a large house with grounds as the home of the Officers and NCO's Mess. It was found to be inadequate and these barracks were opened in 1907, all paid for by private subscription, being a volunteer regiment. On the ground floor was an armoury with workshop, surgery, orderly room, lecture room, canteen and waiting rooms. In the basement is the band room and in the roof space is the Quarter Masters stores. There was also a riding school here at one time too. In WWI the corp fought at the Somme and the barracks were renamed to honour this. The Grade II building is now home to the University of Sheffield Officer Training Corp.

Web had left the centre of Sheffield to walk up to the Botanical Gardens. The Sheffield Botanical and Horticultural Society was formed in 1833 and by the following year they had sold enough £5 shares to purchase 19 acres of land from the snuff manufacturer Joseph Wilson. The land was south facing farm land but by 1836 it had opened to the public with an entrance fee charged. 12000 visited in the first year. The Pavilion was erected at the same time as the park was constructed and were refurbished in 2005.

One of the original turnstiles is still in place. At the end of the 1800's the Sheffield Town Trust took over the site and abolished the entrance fee.

There is a bear pit at the gardens too, and remarkably it actually had two resident bears when the grounds opened in 1836. Unfortunately in 1876 a child fell in and following this incident they bears were moved out. I don't know what happened to the child though.

It was glorious in the sunshine and there were loads of kids and their Mums about. Plus many older folk. There was even a group of about ten, well spaced out, that with their folding chairs seemed to be having a committee meeting or a book club or something similar.

When we got back to the boat I finished polishing the port side and later we will go and get water that requires raising a lift bridge into the basin and back out. We are leaving in the morning so have to turn round anyway.

Tuesday 28 July 2020

Sightseeing in Steel City.

We had a bit of a lay in this morning as I'm not as young as I used to be, and I need my beauty sleep, when I am asleep that is. We eventually left the boat about 1000 and headed into town.

It was spitting when we left but looked as though it would be a fine but blustery day. I had my fingers crossed as I didn't bother with a waterproof. The sun was right for a nice photo of the Straddle warehouse and the North Quay. It was built across the canal in 1895, along time after the basin opened in 1819. the railway arches, with line above were used to store transshipment items.

It would have been much more interesting in the 1920/30's when this picture was taken, from quite close to the same place. To the left is it railway sleepers and timber. In the right foreground is some kind of metal ingots been weighed and on the far side seems to taken up with building materials, stone, gravel etc.. And there are the Sheffield size keels that are up here, de-rigged of masts and sails to get here.

At the very end of the basin is the Terminal warehouse that was opened when the canal was opened in 1819. It had a undercover dock too. It was restored in 1994 when the Sheffield Basin was given a new lease of life as Victoria Quays. Next to it is the Grain Warehouse that was built in 1860. It was designed so the boats were undercover whilst discharging into the building. It too was restored in 1994.

behind the Grain Warehouse are these Merchants Houses. They now make very nice houses close to the city centre, and in a quiet location too.

The railway above the arches has now gone, but has a walkway/viewing area now. It seems that most of the businesses in the arches have also gone, but there is a cafe and bar further up.

I couldn't resist another photo of how it used to be, very much busier!

We would normally go to the museums and galleries of the city, but here they are all stilled closed. We find Sheffield quite spread out, with the shops not really concentrated in one spot. The other thing we notice is the Hills! In Hull it is nice and flat, and although there are shopping areas the place is of a size that means they are never far apart. Helen wanted to visit John Lewis but it is still closed, so she was disappointed. She did manage to have a wander in other places and off bits and pieces were purchased. We went in search of a pub that said it was open, but was in fact closed when we got there. Still had a look at parts of the city we hadn't seen before.

In Bakers Pool is the Sheffield War Memorial that takes the form of a flagpole. I was pleased to see that the Merchant Navy were represented. The flagpole is 25 metres tall. I was surprised, but pleased, to see that the flagpole is made of steel, and despite this been steel city, it was actually built at Earle's Shipyard in Hull. It was unveiled in 1925. The whole structure was refurbished in 1989 when the area became pedestrianised. The stone plinth actually has shrapnel damage from WWII and this was retained whilst the rest of it was fettled.
The Cith Hall behind was conceived in 1920 when Vincent Harris, a well known municipal architect,won a design competition. The building was delayed due to bad economic conditions at the time, but eight years later it was opened for concerts and events. The organ was installed for £12650 and is now the only one of its kind unaltered and is worth a cool £1 million!

Back at the boat and a cup of tea later meant I could not put the polishing off any longer, so continued the port side for a couple of hours until it started spitting one again, so I had an excuse to leave it for later!

Monday 27 July 2020

Settled in Sheffield.

It was an early start this morning, just after 0800, to get to Holmes Lock to meet up with C&RT for the trip op the Sheffield and Tinsley Canal.

Just upfrom Eastwood lock and before Rotherham centre is this wharf where the 'EXOL PRIDE' come with lub. oil. It then has to reverse past a line of moored boats to get to the winding hole to get out round for the descent again. I would love to do that trip with them. Nobody seemed to know if they were coming this week, but we are well out of the way fro them now.

There are really big changes afoot in Rotherham. There is a lot of construction going on and the workers told us there was to be some sort of performance space, and the whole area will be pedestrianised. However there was no lock landing available so it was a bit of a scramble. To the right you can see what looks like another arm, but in fact that was the canal route. The present route, to the left was the actual river, as today. It looks like where Ickles Locks now takes you up from the river into the cut is back into the old line of the canal that has obviously gone.

This is where the cut departs from the River Don, up to the left. Ickles is to the right.

Rotherham F C has a stadium that was opened in 2012 and is the New York Stadium. It was built on the line of the old canal route. What other club's ground can be this close to a navigation?

Wev arrived at Holmes Lock, the meeting place for the ascent of the Tinsley Locks at 0930 and saw that there was activityabove. Land and Water were moving pans through after doing some dredging further up. They moved the first through and then we should take the return. Luckily the C&RT bod arrived. He claimed no to have had our booking but then said that they had been trying to contact us to confirm!! They do not have their own phone number now though. No problems though, and we continued up the locks.

We continued up to Jordan's when we met another Land and Water boat coming down. hey had divers and they had been trying to recover the weir barriers that had been washed over by the floods.

We started up the Tinsley Locks Locks. It is incredible to think just on either side is the world going full stretch. At the top of these locks the M1 crosses in a deafening roar, but once past them you are back into peace and quiet.

We got to No.4 and met the expected downward boat. We had been leaving an gate open for them, but they had been leaving both gates open for us, that actually caused me more work. The rain came and went in torrents, but most of the time it was either dry, or a thin drizzle.

Here's Helen just leaving No.3 and the last two locks are ahead. The gates are heavy but all in all these locks are great to travel up. This and the next pound are home to a small marina and the facilities for boaters. Last time this way we stayed here over night on the way down.

There are two of the original bridges left. This is Bacon Lane Bridge. The old keelmen must have cursed them as they could pass through loaded, but in ballast they had to ballast the boat and pump it out once clear. Even so it was a very tight fit and it is said that they had to use crowbars to get them through.

It is about an hour from the top of the locks to Victoria Quays. We arrived in a lull and moored up to have our lunch. Afterwards, again in a spell between showers I managed to wash the st'bd side of the boat, and it looks much better now. We then pushed over to the other side and re-moored. We later went for a walk as it seemed brighter. The Straddle Warehouse was opened 1895 and could accommodate 5 boats to transfer their cargoes directly into the warehouse.

We walked the short distance to the railway station and the Sheffield Tap. There was room for us and I really enjoyed a beer from Bristol and one from the Tapped Brewery that is on the premises. Both were very good indeed. I'm not sure whether it was the rarity of them these days, or that I had earned them by working us up through the locks! A good day, despite the precipitation. 

Sunday 26 July 2020

Dawdling up the Don.

The shop in Sprotbrough opened at 0900 and it wasn't too long after that that I turned up for papers and milk. It would have been sooner but I forgot my mask!

This stretch is very pretty with the trees in leaf. I am surprised at how little plastic is about after the heavy flooding of the Don earlier in the year. On the right is the wharf of the Cadeby Quarry. Since 2015 only blocks of stone are cut by chainsaw. It is a limestone used in building since Roman Times. Next comes the Rainbow Railway Bridge, on the left, named as the original construction was a steel arch right across the river like a rainbow, but replaced with a less picturesque design in 1927.

Next comes the Conisborough Viaduct that was opened in 1909 by the Dearne Valley Railway to link the Hull/Barnsley, Lancashire and Yorkshire, Great Northern and Great Eastern Railway companies. There is 115' clearance above the river. There are 21 arches, 14 on one side and 7 the other. It is over 1/4 mile long and took 15 million bricks to construct it. It is so nice to see that despite the scale there are little points of detail all over the bridge. It closed in 1966 but was passed to Railway Paths Limited and in 2010 was adapted as a Sustrans branch of the Trans Pennine Link. It would be a thrill to walk across.

This section is very pretty and we saw many kingfishers along here, as we did yesterday. Unfortunately I reckon it will have to be a stuffed one that sits still long enough for me to get a good photo of it. If this view had been on the Thames you would see loads of boats here, but we haven't seen a boat all day.

To add to the beauty of the trees the smell coming from the abundant buddleia was overpowering in parts, especially the ex industrial areas. It was like wearing a honey aftershave. Not that I have shaved.

It would be great to take a wander around Waddingtons Yard in Swinton. To start with it is in the first three locks of the Dearne and Dove Canal that along with the Barnsley Canal added a link through to the Calder and Hebble Canal. There is the inevitable restoration Society and if/when they succeed to will make a great Yorkshire Ring. About half is filled in but a ralway line that was built over it has now been abandoned so not too difficult. Other parts form other parts of the Trans Pennine Trail.

Above Swinton, or Waddington Lock, the canal is wide and the views grow into the surrounding hills.

At Kilnhurst Lock you can still see the old, much smaller lock, that was abandoned when the new one was opened in 1983. The gates are closed but a paddle at each end is open.

There are several wharfs up here. Between Kilnhurst and Aldwarke Locks there was a steel works on either bank. There is almost nothing to be seen of them now but steel is still 'done' hereabouts. They don't make it from scratch but from scrap and make special steels. This wharf is an intermodial spot as the railway line run at the other end of the shed. I wonder when it was last used.

Wash Lane Bridge just above Alwarke Lock, says it was rebuilt in 1834. The fact that it is still standing is a testament to those builders and the skippers of the big freight tankers that come through here. They must just fit through and need to retract their wheelhouse to fit under. However it is looking a little cracked in places.

We were as surprised to find a Volunteer Lock Keeper at Eastwood Lock as he was to see us arrive! Helen didn't even get to press the buttons at this lock! You can see up the river another covered wharf for another steel company. If they ever do bring freight back to the canals it is good to see there are still places to work the boats. I always think moving combustable rubbish to new power plants by the rivers and canal would be feasible as it is a cargo that isn't going to go 'off' is it.

We moored just above the lock, after topping up with water in the lock and dumbing the plastic we had been fishing out from the locks. It is a secure compound and apparently the last before the meeting place to ascend the Tinsley Locks the other side of Rotherham. It is about 90 mins to get there and we are booked in for 1000. It looks like we will be getting wet!!