Wednesday, 31 May 2017

West Stockwith

Today's Navigations - Fossdyke, River Trent, Chesterfield Canal

We awoke to a wonderful, warm and sunny day with blue skies right the way through. Before we set off, Mike walked into the village for a paper and a few other food items.

We cast off about 9 o'clock as we wanted to be at Torksey in good time, just in case there was any change in plans.

Apart from being disappointed once again about the lack of effectiveness of the deer ramps, there was not much to report until just before the lock.

Coming around the last bend we had sight of Cottam Power Station, with a complex pattern of airplane trails in the sky above. The trails seemed to be keeping their identity for a long while, suggesting that there was no wind at a high level. Cotton began operation in 1969 and has a capacity of 2000MW. Although its cooling system recycles as much of the water from the turbines as it is possible, the station still requires over 100 million litres from the Trent each day, half of which is to replace evaporation. Flow in the river is around 2000 million litres a day.

We moored at the service point as our first task was to dispose of rubbish, empty the elsan and fill the water tank, all conveniently at the same place. The lock keeper came and chatted with us. We called the keeper at West Stockwith and he confirmed the times which he gave us last week. We also had a visit from a swan family.

The Torksey keeper was keen to let us down soon after midday so we had a short stay on the visitor mooring pontoons below the lock whilst we had lunch. A single hander came down the locks with us but he was off backup the river towards the River Soar.

There were quite a few boats on the mooring as this is also a convenient stopover for boats on the river who need to take a break without wanting to come onto the Fossdyke itself,

Juts before two we set off - hoping to lay the ghosts of out last experience of the tidal Trent, albeit in flood, from five years ago! We began making our way against the incoming tide and managed only just over 4 mph. By the time we had reached Knaith, this had risen to 5.5 mph and at Gainsborough the GPS was reporting in excess of 7! The was the difference between an incoming and an ebbing flow. At these higher speeds, steering is somewhat heavy and around tight bends can raise the pulse rate just a bit!

Just after the turn, the ruins of Torksey Castle, a 16C manor house, come into view - it has been derelict like this for several centuries!

We continued down the ever-widening river - a former windmill marks the sharp bend at Marton.

There are few settlements closer to the river from here downstream - most little more than tiny hamlets, such as here at Littleborough.

Sadly, the trees prevent us from getting a really good view of Burton Chateau. This is a folly, built in the 18C in the grounds a similarly decorative hall, as a weekend retreat for a Gainsborough lawyer and is now in the care of the Landmark Trust, so that it is once more a summer holiday place!

Knaith Hall was originally built in the 15C but has had several adaptations and re-modelling, the latest in the Victorian period.

Gradually the two power stations at West Burton, just outside Gainsborough, came to dominate the skyline. One station is the twin of Cottam whilst the other is a more recent gas fired station.

Shortly afterwards we passed the large buildings of the flour mills, originally Smith Bros Albion Works, the site is now part of Rank Hovis. Since the family firm sold out, the business seems to have had a number of corporate owners and we have not confidently tracked where it is now!

At one time, Gainsborough had a number of large industrial businesses, many lining the river wharf, but all seem to have disappeared, apart from this flour mill.

This housing development at Morton Corner, another sharp bend in the river, looks fairly recent - we cannot recall noticing it five years ago.

As we passed Gainsborough, we checked in with the West Stockwith keeper who suggested we slowed down a little (not easy as we were being carried along on the ebb flow at some speed). Before long the lock came into sight and we went a short way past before turning to stem the flow and eventually turn into the lock. The flow at the mouth of the entrance was fast and we needed all of our engine power to make the turn. It is far from easy and we admit to a little bump as the flow pushed us around once the front end was in calmer waters. Sadly, a camera failure (of still unknown cause - makes us look as good as BA!) prevents us from being able to show any pictures of the action.

We also had to take care as an Environment Agency survey boat (plastic!) was already in the lock and waiting to go up with us. In chatting to the skipper, we discovered that they cover all the country and were in Padstow a week or so ago!

The lock keeper pointed out to us that the one-boat visitor mooring at the edge of the basin was free and we gladly took the opportunity. This was a relief as when we came here before, we had to go long into the evening to find a mooring and even then very much in the reeds!

22.1 Miles - 2 Locks

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Bus Trip to Gainsborough

Today we had a 'day off' from cruising and instead used our bus passes to make a day trip into Gainsborough. However, when completing the car shuffle last week, Mike spotted an unusual looking church at Stow, partway between Gainsborough and Saxilby. He later looked it up and discovered that it was Stow Minster.

Mid morning we caught the bus just a short distance from our mooring and made the short hop to Stow. The service is approximately hourly (it was at this time) which would give us time to look at the church before catching the next bus into Gainsborough itself.

On the way to the church we spotted a famous whipping post, once the scene of punishment meted out to local minor miscreants!

We entered through a magnificent porch - one of two, the other is on the west end. The site was the base for pre-Norman bishops and a Minster system developed. The present church has parts that date back to 1040 when the older church was re-built in stone.

The roof has seen several different arrangements outside but inside it is magnificent. The main crossing has both rounded and pointed arches, A reminder that the first tower was replaced in the 15C with the more substantial one seen now.

The Minster was originally endowed by Lady Godiva (Godgifu) - the stories about her piety and generosity are much more reliable than her legendary naked ride.

The font is very early and its decoration has no Christian symbols. Perhaps a little generously, people now think that the pagan detail was meant to indicate that baptism freed the believer from superstition and folk religion!

There are arched seats all around three sides of the chancel - a probable indication how just how many priests were based here when it was in full swung as a Minster. (Minsters preceded the parish system and based a team of clergy in a central location who then went out to serve smaller communities around)

One of the transept chapels has remains of a wall painting believed to be of Thomas a Becket. Henry VIII took against the veneration of this particular saint and ordered all traces of him to be eradicated. It seems that just little survived here.

Alongside this painting is at present the village Post Office! It opens just three times in a week but no doubt is an important service for those who need it regularly. Appropriate that it is the church that is able to offer this opportunity.

By early Victorian times, the Minster was in a bad state of disrepair - like many large churches at that time (think of St Germans in Cornwall) In 1848 a new vicar set about organising a major restoration. He engaged JL Pearson as architect, known to us as the designer of Truro Cathedral. This was a massive and expensive undertaking, especially in such a small rural community and it was not received well by many of the parishioners!

A class of men calling themselves Archaeologists have resolved to fasten upon the Church of Stow and the parish funds, that they may use both for the display of their skill in the Science of Antiquities . . . To spend the money of hard working men in pursuit of the luxurious and refined pleasures of the wealthy would be a crime" so records an information board. Who thought that the term 'hard working families' was merely a 21C political concept?

Although much of the scheme devised by Pearson changed the building considerably - re-Normanising it - without this work there would be little left today.

With most of hour fast disappearing we returned to the bus stop to catch the next bus into Gainsborough. (If any politician thinks that removing bus passes will be a popular policy - THINK AGAIN!)

We began with a short orientation wander but quickly settled on the cafe in the department store for a toasted panini for lunch.

Our main objective here was to visit Gainsborough Old Hall, a medieval manor house that was rescued from dereliction by a volunteer trust set up in 1949, but now run by English Heritage. It is a fascinating building as it has been modified, extended and sometimes abused. Most of its life it was the home successively of two wealthy families, the Burgh and the Hickman/Bacon family.

The tour is made especially interesting through the provision of personal audio visual guides - very much the best that we have ever encountered. For each room there are several short clips, some audio an some video, including fictionalised stories from some of the characters who lived and worked here. As a result we probably stayed almost twice as long as we might otherwise have done.

The tour begins with the Great Hall, where both the lord and lady of the manor, with their principal staff would eat, down through many of the lesser people who made up the household.

The hall has a large bay window, a symbol of the prosperity of the owner, and to let light onto the top table, has a amusing lion sculpture high on the wall.

The rooms at one end of the hall were particularly interesting, providing the many activities that were involved in putting on the meals each day. We learnt that the Buttery has nothing to do with milk products - its name, like that of Butler, whose domain this was, comes from the huge wine butts that were stored here and in a cellar below.

The kitchen had two very large cooking fireplaces with spits for roasting, huge chimneys above, with another set of ovens dedicated to baking bread, cakes and pies.

There are two main wings of rooms, originally on two levels but in part later converted to three, known as Ranges. Many of the rooms have substantial windows that not only provide good views of the outside but also attested to the wealth and importance of the owner!

We climbed a narrow circular staircase to reach the top of a tower at one end of the building - this was added when the owner was ennobled and thus entitled to add battlements to his house! They would not have been much use for defence, however! We had a good view all around, including the double power station at West Burton.

As we came down the stairs, we could see the crested decoration inside the roof. Apparently this was to testify to the master's loyalty to the the current king!

At the end of the tour we adjourned to the tea room for a pleasant cup of tea and slice of cake.

Finally, we walked around the outside of the building and could see the very different building styles of each part.

The building ceased to be a family home in the late 19C after which it had a succession of disparate uses, including being a public meeting room, a storage unit, apartments and even a theatre, all of which have left their marks which those with discerning eyes (or the audio visual guide!) can notice.

One of the tenants of the West Range was a William Rose who developed an extensive business packaging all sorts of goods and established a substantial factory in the town. One of his customers was Cadbury's and the Roses brand is named after him. He also manufactured some of the first cars.

We then had about 40 minutes before we needed to go to the bus station - we wandered through the streets up to Marshall's Yard, a complex of shops based on a former industrial site.

Monday, 29 May 2017


Today's Navigations - River Witham and Fossdyke

A generally grey day, much cooler, and intermittent very light drizzle until the afternoon, when it turned more consistently wet.

We spent most of the morning wandering around the shops, mainly picking various odds and ends rather than a full-on food shop. Christine wanted to visit Debenhems to see if we could buy a slightly larger fitted sheet for our bed. Mike wanted top find some sticky-pads for a couple if items, including the weather station that needs fixing to an internal cabin side but not at this stage by drilling a hole for screw (maybe later . . . much later!) The subsequent chilly turn to the weather was probably because we invested in an ice cube tray (from Poundland!) All in all, we did seem a bit weighed down with bags by the end of it all.

 It was not yet time for lunch but as we also wanted to visit the Usher Gallery and the Collection (museum) we opted for another cup of coffee and the second half of the cakes we bought from the butcher in Bardney and then have a late lunch.

As we set out, a couple of high cruisers came along - the first was quite tentative about being able to pass through the next bridge - just made it. The second was more gung-ho and although it was a smaller boat it had even less clearance.

We walked up to the Collection first. This is a museum about the history of Lincoln. It is very well laid out with excellent explanatory boards. The building itself as a blank exterior but inside is both interesting and functional. The displays are organised in chronological order which makes it easier to see how the city has developed. Although it was one of the foremost places in England following the Roman period, it was all but abandoned in the early medieval times and only returned to growth and economic success in the 15C.

Fighting was, of course, a key feature of many periods of history. Just inside the entrance was a cabinet with these two enormous broadswords. " . . . made in Germany around 1550. Despite their large size, they were wielded in combat with deadly speed and were particularly effective against enemies armed with staff weapons. Soldiers able to use these fearsome weapons received extra pay in recognition of their skills." 

 Apparently although this suit of armour looks very heavy, if properly fitted to the individual they could be very agile, run and jump up from the ground easily. The proper name is 'harness' because of the amount of strapping that held all the individual pieces in place.

Gold has long been used to make expensive items of jewellery and, long ago, only the very rich could afford such as this.

One display (someone had a fine time making all these figures) laid out the structure of a Roman Legion as well as its strict hierarchy of command with Centurions being a key component. (Why did their command groups only have 80 men?) OK, so this photographer did not make a good job with the reflections from the cabinets - sorry!

In a display about the social structure around the 14C, a panel that described the Lords Spiritual also stated that in AD 1300, around one in 80 people was in Holy Orders of some kind. Added to that, many lay people were related to a member of the clergy.

A small modern automaton could be activated with a 20p coin - it was somewhat underwhelming!

Although this statue of three goddesses dates from the Roman period (it was found in Ancaster) it reflects the deep Celtic traditions which continued to dominate popular religious culture.

After completing our tour of the Collection we went over the road to the Usher Gallery. This was founded just over 90 years ago by a rich local person - James Ward Usher. He was a merchant but gained the sole right to market Lincoln Imp memorabilia and this made him a fortune. He painted himself as the Sheriff of Lincoln.

The gallery originally contained mainly items which he had personally collected. He never married and made collecting his main activity outside work. As a result, both the paintings and the other items are at times an eclectic an disparate collection.

Lincolnshire Cornfield near Horncastle by Peter DeWint 1784 - 1849. It was said that DeWint chose scenes that otrhees found uninteresting and not classically picturesque.

Japanese Satsuma Bowl - 19C.

The Durham Ox was a well-known style of jug - this one was inscribed to a local farmer and butcher. When one of his customers ran short of cash, he paid the farmer with this jug!

On the staircase hand two paintings by William Logsdail (1859 - 1944). The one on the right is of his daughter and was named Picture of the Year at the Royal Academy in 1907.

There were, inevitably, a number of pictures of Lincoln, especially dominated by the cathedral. The first shows Brayford Pool in the foreground. The second, a pair, was painted this year and shows both the cathedral and the castle, each from the other's point of view.

Outside, a wedding group was using the front of the gallery as a location for wedding photos. The Register Office is a couple of buildings down the street and is a most inauspicious building with a very drab entrance. No wonder they moved to the more scenic position.

We then walked back to the boat and, as it was well after 2 o'clock, a quick lunch and we set off. We made a short stop at the service block before continuing northwards along Fossdyke.

We stopped to fill up with diesel at Burton Waters Marina - we were followed in by another boat with the same idea. In our case, not only will we be heading next out onto the tidal Trent but also followed by the Chesterfield Canal where there are scant fuelling options. We had forgotten that this was the marina where earlier this year a cruiser exploded into fire whilst on the fuel station. Luckily no-one was injured but both the boat, its neighbour and the petrol pump were destroyed. At least the diesel point was still operational, although we only needed just under 50 litres to fill to the brim.

Just after leaving the marina there is a visitor mooring and two narrowboats had just left - leaving us a bit concerned about whether we would be able to more in Saxilby as we hoped. In fact it turned out that there was plenty of room for all three of us with some to spare.

6.1 Miles - 0 Locks