Tuesday, 13 June 2017


Today's Canal - Chesterfield

Last night, after we had posted the blog, there was a wonderful sunset.

We had moored overnight on the end of the lock landing so we were keeping an eye our for any early moving boats - just when we thought that there would be none when along came a work boat. As a result we let them out so that they could drive straight out of the lock. They were heading down to near Retford with a load of stone for mending a collapsed towpath edge.

It turned out to be a rather warm day but was alas overcast for much of the time, despite the red sunset last night.

The four Forest locks are well spaced out - just too far to walk between them. However. we found most of the narrow locks so far to be pretty easy to operate - the only issue is with some of the anti-vandal devices. Some of the locks on the paddles do not work although we have not had any case where both were out of action. That would be rather difficult!

At the third lock there is a full set of services - and just below we found the weed cutter, but at this stage it was just tied up.

As we completed our servicing, the two crew of the weed cutter arrived and set about fuelling up and then brought the boat up through the lock. They were not ready when we were so we set off ahead of them but they did follow us for some while.

When we came this way five years ago, the lock cottage was in a very sorry state but someone had just bought it and was at the very beginning of gutting it as a prelude to restoration. It now looks a very well appointed home.

Although the canal was built as a commercial enterprise and served several industrial areas, most of that industry has long since disappeared. Even some of the former wharves, used for loading local goods traffic, are barely discernible without an old map to point them out. Now the canal is, for most of its length, through very attractive countryside.

Generally we progressed better than we recall from last time. The marginal reeds are much less invasive and the blanket weed is being kept almost under control. There is still plenty of it and it would soon take over if it were not for the efforts of the weed boat.

Mostly we have coped with the shallow depth but we did come firmly aground at the approach to the top Forest lock, just a few feet ahead of the official lock landing. No amount of engine and tiller action would free the boat, nor would pulling it with ropes. In the end we had to resort to using the pole for the first time on this boat! After much effort we eventually floated free.

It appears that the lower part of the lock has been rebuilt at some stage, perhaps to make it easier to operate the bottom gates. No attempt was made to remove the original coping stones.

Green Mile Trees is a nursery that grows a large variety of different trees - some looked really special.

At Ranby we had to negotiate our way around a dredging operation. Today was also being run as an Open Day and there did seem to be a reasonable number of visitors including a school party of young children. A little further the dredging were being offloaded into an adjacent field.

The next stretch is very bendy -some of the turns barely have enough room for a full length boat - and at times the bridges ahead seem to be in entirely the wrong place.

Mill Farm at Osberton had  strange looking canopy - was it a sun shade for the animals? No, as we saw a little further on, it was a substantial solar panel array.

We paused above Osberton Lock for lunch which gave Mike time to inspect the weed hatch. We had some difficulty coming out of the top of the lock - it turned out that it was not all down to the large amount of weed that had drifted down to the mouth of the lock as a large vest or t-shirt was also caught in the propeller. Shortly after we moored, the weed cutter arrived.

As we neared Worksop, we could see the tall chimney and building of Bracebridge Pumping Station. Now empty, it was originally built as part of the town's sewage system but now awaits someone brave enough to convert it into a new use. Plans have been agreed to convert into apartments but perhaps the long term liability of the chimney is a deterrent.

Someone likes lilies.

Most of Worksop's canalside industry is no longer visible but this former site has been converted into small studios and workshops under the name Creative Village. Some of the buildings were originally a fire station, stables and an electricity works.

Worksop Town Lock is awkwardly under a modern road bridge - no doubt it was built in the time when the canal was closed and how to operate the bottom lock gates was not a design consideration. The balance beams are cranked and almost disappear under the bridge.

Whilst Mike finished off bringing the boat through the lock and onto the short visitor mooring ahead, Christine popped to the shops - twice! We only went a short distance to the edge of town to a pleasant and quiet spot just below Morse Lock.

8.3 Miles - 8 Locks

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