Saturday, 6 August 2011

The 'New Dawn' Project

While marooned here, very comfortably I have to say, while my heel is repairing, apart from cleaning ship and doing all the normal husbandry jobs that need to be done, I am finding plenty of time to explore the area around. The railway line runs almost parallel to the canal from the small sleepy hamlet of Kiveton up at the end, right the way through to Retford with a station at every location. Consequently I have been frequently to Retford shopping as well as going to see my nurse at the hospital there.
When going to the latter I always take with me my bike as well as my back pack with all my keys and cards in, as it would be some way to walk otherwise from the railway station to the hospital. The pack is also useful for any shopping I might decide to buy while I’m in Retford. On one of these occasions however I left my pack on the train when I alighted at Retford with my bike and it was taken all the way to the terminus at Lincoln. Luckily at the Hospital I met my good friends Peter and Jeanne and the former kindly took me all the way to Lincoln and back in his car to retrieve my belongings; all intact, good fortune would have it.
Yesterday I ventured to Worksop for the morning, taking my bike with me again as the station was about a mile from the town centre. I found it to be a very ancient town with narrow streets, now pedestrianized which possessed one or two very old buildings. However I didn’t find it in the same class as say Stratford-upon-Avon. It all looked very run down and neglected. I don’t know what industry there is now, but of course the largest employer by far twenty years ago was the coalmining industry of which nothing now remains. The whole area around, including Shireoaks doesn’t appear to have recovered properly yet from this catastrophe.
But the loveliest part of Worksop by far for me was the remains of the ancient Norman Augustinian priory, of which the church, which was reprieved from demolition during the Reformation, is now used by the local Anglican Parish. It has recently been renovated very tastefully to blend in with the original Twelfth Century architecture. It is not a large church as some of the contemporary abbeys are but has an attractive and untouched, if weathered, west end with twin towers, which makes it rather like a miniature Westminster Abbey.
Unfortunately Worksop has a bit of a reputation for unsociable behaviour and as I was about to find somewhere outside to chain my bike up, a lady approached me and said that it would be safer for me to take it inside the church with me and that it would certainly be alright to do so. I was most grateful for her advice but it felt very incongruous to be wheeling a bike with me inside the church. But there’s a first time for everything I suppose.
Afterwards I enjoyed a bowl of tomato and basil soup in the Queen’s Head with a pint before returning to the ship.
However my big task while here in Shireoaks is to help with a very worthwhile undertaking, known as the ‘New Dawn’ Project, where a group of Chesterfield Trust enthusiasts are making a replica of the unique ‘Cuckoo’ boats that up until the nineteen fifties used to carry all the local coal and agricultural cargoes up and down the canal and the River Trent. The boat will be called ‘Dawn’ but unfortunately there is nothing left of these wooden boats now except one or two memories, a very limited amount of old photographs and a small wooden model.
Fortunately David, a man about my own age, and a competent boat builder also has a great knowledge of how these boats used to appear. So relying on his memory for I don’t think any plans have survived, one or two volunteers including himself arrive every morning at the temporary enclosure within the marina and with David’s advice exercise their varying adze-ing or block planning skills to prepare all the parts ready for putting together. It is certainly a labour of love for all, as no modern machine tools are allowed so all the rough sawn timber has to be cut and smoothed down to their respective dimensions by muscle power alone.
I’m thoroughly enjoying the three hours work every weekday morning where everybody is so enthusiastic. A lot of the volunteers are approaching ‘middle age’ like me so we have to pace ourselves to make sure we can last out the morning. But it’s a very cheerful gang that toils with lots of yarning and happy memories of different times as you may imagine.
I love the work too, as it helps me feel a little more justified at being tied up for a fortnight or more at a ‘twenty four hour only’ visitor mooring. Not that the moorings are busy but it still helps my conscience to think that I’m able to do something valuable while I’m here.