‘Futurest’ and I are still lazing here in sunny Retford and both the adjective and the participle in this case are very relevant not only for today but have been for most of the fortnight or more that we have been here. Today continues to be warm under the deep blue cumulus speckled sky and I am relaxed in the saloon fanned occasionally by the balmy almost tropical westerly airs that sigh through the open cratch cover by the side of me, rattling the folded cover slightly as they do so. All is at peace.
‘Futurest’ and I wait patiently for my heel to repair.
But we are eager to move on now. We have languished far too long in this one place and we are excited that shortly we may be moving.
Twice a week I have been attending the Bridgegate Surgery where Nurse Sheldron has been, very patiently bless her, re-dressing my wound. It is by no means fully healed yet but she tells me that the wound is granulating nicely, which is a good thing apparently. I should be able to travel to the end of the canal and back next week, missing out a couple of visits to her, so long as I can re-dress the wound during that period myself. Janis has indicated that she would like to crew for me for the three days from Shireoaks to the end and back to her car, to gain experience for when she comes to the Chesterfield next month on her ship ‘Roots and Wings’. Being a practice nurse herself, she has volunteered to be my nurse at the necessary time. So all now looks settled for a satisfactory continuation of The Chesterfield Canal Adventure.
But it hasn’t been so all along. There have been ups and downs, like the regular flow and ebb of the tide with my motivation, to continue further along the canal. With the low average speed due to us ploughing the bottom; stopping every hundred yards or so to dive into the weed box to clear the screw and rudder of silken weed; at rumours of a low bridge towards the end of the last lock flight which nothing but the lowest height boats with chimneys and everything cleared from the roof, can pass under; with, just recently, another boat getting wedged between the walls of Stret Lock in Worksop, has been almost enough to put one off for good.
But luckily I have said ‘almost’ and have not yet given up.
On the positive side the whole ‘Chesterfield’ experience so far has been one that I would never have liked to have missed. I consider it to be a little like childbirth (Please forgive me all you mothers for being arrogant enough to think I know all about that but I can’t help using it as a suitable analogy nonetheless)
So far getting to the canal has not been too difficult but it has had its excitement now and again which makes it complicated enough to ensure one concentrates a whole lot more than usual. The horror stories told of the tidal River Trent put a lot of cruisers off this side of the Pennines altogether. They are quite happy thank you to stay on the quiet (and busy!) sensible canal system.
Then there is the difficulty (and some more massive concentration of course!) of having to transfer oneself and boat satisfactorily from the swift flowing tidal river into the narrow entrance of West Stockwith Lock, without clouting the side and damaging same ..... and at this point with engine going flat out, then to stop in time before hitting the cill at the inner end of the lock.
After this turmoil however, all is peace and we have opening up in front of us such a beautiful vista of green patchwork fields, with sheep and cattle grazing quietly, frequent wooded copses of varied colours rolling out ahead over hills and red escarpments, as to make us think we have arrived in heaven. Wondrous colours of vivid yellow rape mixed with vibrant scarlet poppy reach down possessively towards the waterside.
Because there is less evidence of man the wildlife around the canal is less timid and is seen more frequently. Many Kingfishers, Herons and our old friend the Arctic Tern take full advantage of the shallow waters being churned up as ‘Futurest’ passes by to catch their disoriented prey in the water.
Blackberry briars, heavy now with as yet unripened fruit, vie for space along the unkempt and overgrown sides of the canal with a myriad of bright colourful wildflowers and nettles, strewn with buzzing insects while green pads of white and pink Water-lily crowd towards the centre of the watercourse among the thick bright green shoals of silken floating weed.
The colours and scents are breathtaking.
At regular intervals ‘Futurest’ ploughs to a stop and we have to clear the propeller and rudder again before we can continue. Luckily the weather is warm and charmed so our hands don’t get too chapped continuously diving into the weed box.
After two struggling days we arrive at the very welcoming little market town of Retford and we are very happy, in spite of everything that has happened and the fact that for the time being we must remain here for some time. Everybody who lives in this friendly town assures us that the best is yet to come, notwithstanding the hard work that might accompany it.
And so we are determined to go on, ‘Futurest’ and I. The child of our imaginations has been born with a struggle but we need to savour the rest of its sweet life to make it all worthwhile.
We cannot give up now!