Thursday, 24 July 2014

Heaven and hell

A motley collection of rubbish from around the prop
Hereabouts is Puritan country – you know the non-conformist, Methodist, Pilgrim Fathers, hellfire and brimstone religionists who preached that toil and suffering in this world is all part of the rocky road to paradise.
Well, if they had been boaters this would have been their local canal and it would have suited them perfectly. It feels like the road to perdition but everyone you meet tells you to keep right right on to the end because canalling paradise awaits.
All I can say is, that it better had be because we couldn't have been toiling and suffering any more than we have been today. In nine hours we have travelled nine miles and three locks to reach Retford. Two of those miles alone took nearly an hour and the rest were rarely pleasant.
Weed and more weed was the problem – and despite passing two weed cutting boats. It's not just the weed but the shallow, silty bottom of the canal. As we crawled along we churned a frothing mush of silt and weed behind us, which is turn dragged up any rubbish that happened to be in it and spun it round our prop – endless roots and bits of branch, industrial quantities of weed and a sizeable length of heavy duty Bowden cable with an unidentifiable lump of metal attached to it. The weed is that half rotted blanket weed which rises to the surface with a delightful cesspit odour.
Yes, there are stretches that are deeper and cleaner but then the weed and sludge wraps you in its grasp again and from Clayworth pretty much all the way to the edge of Retford it was horrible.

Beautiful views 

And natural, river-like edges

But even the weed cutters can't keep the enemy at bay
All of which is a tragedy for the canal is delightful. It runs almost entirely along a countryside route that blends lush hedges and trees with distant views and the canal's almost entirely natural edges, full of wildflowers and reeds give it the feel more of being a river than man made. A feeling emphasised by the zillions of fish to be seen swimming through the unusually clear water.
But is that enough? If it wasn't for mule headed determination and the repeated talk of the paradise that awaits in the final flight of locks we would certainly have turned round by now. We're deep draughted and I make allowances for that wherever we boat but today was hell. Heaven better be waiting!
Of course, the analogy does break down doesn't it. Heaven is a one-way trip but after our glimpse of the pearly gates we have to go through this hell again.

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