Wednesday, 23 July 2014

At last – back onto a 'proper' canal

Passing one of several disused brickworks on the Chesterfield
We are moored in the middle of nowhere but, at last, after many days of frustration, we have a perfect 3G signal so I can blog without having to stand on the roof or climb a high bank and wave vaguely around in the hope of capturing a spare waveband from the ether.
If I look into the distance the reason we have a signal is standing high on the horizon - a tall phone mast. But we've been near those before and still scored a blank. So forget 4G and wi-fi on trains, just give us 3G - or even 2G - on the canals.
But enough of that. Since disappearing into the void on the River Witham, we've travelled to Lincoln and left the boat in Brayford Pool (where you can eat any food you like so long as it's from a multi-branch chain outlet: how depressing), visited family, returned and headed via the Fossdyke (I never cease to wonder that the Romans dug this out 2000 years ago) and Torksey down the River Trent to West Stockwith and the start of the Chesterfield Canal.
Yet another Trent-side power station
I'm not a great fan of power stations so the Trent is not my favourite river - there's not much else to see from a boat. Gainsborough is the only Trent-side town but most boaters whizz through at high speed, carried by the tide. They're not missing much,  as we discovered later when returning by bus, it's a desperate dump, saved only by the wonderful medieval Gainsborough Old Hall which is well worth a visit, especially thanks to the clever interactive audio-visual headset guides. The rest of the town is empty shops, poor people, too-young mums and squalor. Even immigrants seem to have given it a miss.
Under Gainsborough Bridge at high speed
I've been making a habit of ballsing up my turns and lock entries on tidal rivers – Harry is a big, heavy boat and hard to turn is my excuse. We came down to West Stockwith on a fast ebbing tide, turned to stem it (at least I know the jargon) and then drove hard for the lock. I though we were in but the push of the tide caught the stern and banged us hard into the lock wall. Null points again!
We parked up for a few days at West Stockwith while I replaced our exhausted old batteries with a new set of deep-cycle AGMs. I hope they last – they cost enough! It's a lovely little village of charming hotch-potchy old houses strung along the river: a port since the times of those clever Romans again as the River Idle which they used an inland navigation joins the Trent here too.
Modern commuters have passed the village by as it's too far from major towns or big rail links so it has the quiet, sleepy backwater air of a provincial French village.
The Chesterfield is said to be a glorious canal but gets few visitors. After that entry from the Trent there's 50 odd locks in its 40 miles... and then you turn round and go back again.
Churning through the dreaded Chesterfield weed
It's also notorious for weeds – as we found out today, taking two hours to churn through three miles of the stuff before giving up for the night.
Blame the sunshine – it makes the stuff grow. Hmmm. I think I'll keep the sun and deal with the weeds.


  1. You're not exactly selling the idea of the Chesterfield Canal to Jan. I have planned to cruise it this summer...

    1. The easier entry going downstream to West Stockwith is to arrive at slack water on a neap tide just before the incoming flow begins - then you can more or less drive straight in. But we were on a high spring tide so the lockie advised stemming the ebb instead – slack water is brief then and if you miss it the tide is coming in very fast and hard and entry to the lock is nigh on impossible.
      But as for the canal, well read today's nightmare instalment!

  2. No, no, it is lovely, especially when you get to the top. Absolutely magical. For contrast, it has Worksop Town lock, quite possibly the nastiest on the system.
    If you go in the White Hart at West Stockwith, take it easy... You can ask Jim and Adrian (Warrior) why.....

  3. We passed Warrior (now painted all-grey) on our way up the canal yesterday.