Wednesday, 30 July 2014

At last it can be told...

The crew pose at the top of the final locks
Finally we have a 3G signal so here's a bit of fleshing out of the story so far. You left us an exhausted and demoralised couple, moored in Retford after days of struggle against clinging blanket weed. If it hadn't been for the fact we had agreed to meet with daughter Olivia and partner Nick we would probably have turned round and headed back.
"It will get better" they all said. And it did – though there were still patches that didn't. But first, with crew coming aboard we had to re-stock the galley, which wasn't hard since we were moored right outside Aldi and off-loaded the trolley contents straight through the side hatch into the cupboards and fridge.
Stocking up from Retford's canalside Aldi
From Retford the canal heads out into the country and soon contorts itself through some of Brindley's notorious contour following double twists through Ranby, a village whose inhabitants must be deaf from the constant roar of the adjacent A1. We missed the 'mooring outside the village hall' and with the light fading tied up in the traditional deep-boat-in-a-shallow-canal fashion – on ropes and pins about four feet from the bank.
A typical mooring for a deep draughted boat like ours
After the four Forest locks the next day things did improve and we meandered past the impressive grounds of a Victorian mansion pile before closing on the unimpressive Worksop, a town that sadly shows its decaying and decrepit side to the canal  - and boasts the horribly awkward Town Lock too.
Again, though, things improved and the far side of the lock was tidy Worksop. We moored for lunch and found ourselves opposite Worksop cricket ground with a grandstand view of some pretty decent quality cricket from Harry's roof!
Not so memorable - Worksop's nasty Town Lock
Grandstand view for Worksop CC match
The end of day two saw us in Rhodesia – honest. The African country was named after Cecil Rhodes who founded it; the Nottinghamshire one is a little ex-mining village named after the boss of the collery firm, Preston Rhodes. We  dug into another rough mooring at the canal's edge and prepared for the final assault up 26 locks the next day.
Climbing through the Thorpe locks in dappled sunlight
It proved to be a doddle. A delightful doddle in glorious sunshine. Maybe a bit too much sunshine, but who's complaining. After the three Shireoaks locks the canal left the world behind and disappeared into tree-filled countryside where the dappled sunlit shone onto a unique trail of single, double and treble locks up the climb to the summit. Was it hard going? No, not really; just a steady haul.
Remarkably we were the only boat on the flight until we crossed with another coming down. The towpath, though, was alive with walkers, runners, anglers, cyclists and strolling families. It was great to see – and great as well not to see any traces of vandalism or graffiti on a stretch that runs close to some pretty run-down and deprived areas.
End of the line, the final winding hole with its feeder stream
From the top lock it's about two miles to the final winding hole at Kiveton, whose now dis-used quarries supplied the stone to rebuild the Houses of Parliament 150 years ago, barging it down the canal to West Stockwith and then sending it round the coast to the Thames by Humber Keels.
We moored just by the picturesque winding hole which also feeds the canal with water. You can go on a couple of hundred yards to the old Norwood Tunnel portal but we said thanks but no thanks. It looked too weedy to enjoy a 200 yard reverse back.
We celebrated our success with a brisk mile's walk to The Beehive in nearby Harthill for a few drinks and some exceptionally large Sunday dinners.
Next day the plan was to walk the dinners off with some Time Team style detective work tracing the route of the old canal.

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