‘Futurest’ and I have just experienced a busy weekend.
In fact I’ve had an eventful week altogether, moving the little ship from Retford up to the end of the navigable canal at the entrance to Norwood Tunnel and back as far as the small village of Shireoaks, where ‘Futurest’ is moored at present. But it’s been a most sociable time for me since I’ve had quite a company aboard for a lot of that period.
On Sunday 17th, whilst still in Retford, Peter and Jeanne invited me to a delicious roast dinner at their house and when I returned to ‘Futurest’, inside the cratch cover was a little polythene covered parcel of local waterway guides written by Christine Richardson and John Lower. On the top was a handwritten note, signed by the lady herself.
I emailed her immediately to thank her and in her reply she asked if she and her husband Malcolm could join Janis, myself and ‘Futurest’ from Shireoaks up to Norwood Tunnel where they would catch the train back to their car at Shireoaks.
They are both very active members of the Chesterfield Canal Trust and Christine, apart from being the co-author of ‘The Chesterfield Canal’, a very descriptive and informative guide, is the historian for the Trust. During the restoration to date, she campaigned heavily and very successfully for the two top flights of locks, called Turnerwood and Thorpe, to be replaced as authentically as possible to the original James Brindley design. She said she and her husband would bring their own windlasses and be happy to give Janis and I all the local history and canal information as they worked the locks for us. This sounded like a good idea to me so I invited them to join us on Saturday last at Shireoaks Marina. Janis was joining there as well.
In the meantime, after I had had my last appointment with Sheldron at the surgery on Monday at Retford, ‘Futurest’ and I set off on Tuesday westwards towards Worksop. Jeanne joined me on board up till the first lock on her way to work but we were delayed for some time here while we fished out a small waterlogged hooped tent and its equipment from the lock, where somebody had thrown it.
It then took us a further tedious seven hours, including a stop to fill the fresh water tank at Forest Locks, to get as far as Osberton Lock landing, where we tied up at the end of the day. I had been told that Worksop was not a friendly place to stay the night and decided to pass through it early in the morning. This meant we had an early start from Osberton the following day.
The next trial point was Stret Lock in Worksop, where my friends Berni and Sarah on ‘Algonquin’ had been stuck fast as they tried unsuccessfully to get through. Apparently this boat had been built with a wider base plate than most narrowboats and as a result they managed to get wedged between the lock walls, where they had been bowed inwards due to mining subsidence. The boat had to be pulled clear by Stan the local British Waterways manager and his team so they could return to Retford.
I phoned Stan before we arrived at this lock and with the team standing by and us proceeding very slowly into the lock, steering with difficulty as it was at a skew, we felt our way in, like a hand into a silken glove. But not until we were clear at the other end was I able to relax again. With great satisfaction I thanked the BW men and we were on our way again.
There were a total of eleven locks to go through between Osberton and Shireoaks. The weed cutting boats had recently passed through this part of the canal but I was still frequently having to dive into the weed box to clear the propeller and rudder of the green silken algae, while ‘Futurest’s skeg was ploughing a furrow for most of the time along the bottom of the silted waterway. I was glad therefore when we eventually arrived at the Marina at Shireoaks in the early Wednesday afternoon sunshine.
On Friday it was nice to welcome Janis aboard and I was looking forward to her crewing again for me.
At nine o’clock on a beautiful Saturday morning we were ready to leave, while at the same time we met Christine and her husband Malcolm, windlasses in hand and we were very happy to have them aboard as well.
It was most pleasant uphill travel, through picturesque lock after lock, with short narrow pounds in between, mostly surrounded by large copses of oak, beech and chestnut. But it was easy work for me at the tiller just steering into each entrance as they arrived, while Malcolm went ahead to prepare the next lock and the two girls operated the paddles to see me through each one. Lots of people were out on the towpath in the weekend sunshine and many compliments were paid to ‘Futurest’s appearance. I find it quite flattering when this happens.
We tied up for a coffee break at the longer pound landing between the Turnerwood and Thorpe flights and then for lunch on the summit pound. It was then another lock free two miles or so before we arrived at the winding hole and visitor moorings at Kiveton, where Malcolm and Christine left us to catch the train back to Shireoaks. Janis and I spent the night here.
At nine o’clock yesterday morning, we began our return downwards, through the locks to Shireoaks. She was walking on ahead to prepare the next lock while I closed the paddles and the gates behind us as we left them. Soon we managed to get into a very economic routine, which made the day pass too quickly for us.
However it was still six hours later, after leaving our mooring at Kiveton, when we finally tied up again at the visitor moorings here at Shireoaks Marina.
Janis left early this morning to return to work while ‘Futurest’ and I have laid here quietly recuperating throughout the day, ready for the return passage towards Osberton and Retford beginning tomorrow.
What a pleasurable experience it has all been!