Report on our summer cruise June and July 2017.
Gloucester To Torksey
After the Gloucester Tall Ships, the excellent cruise along the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal and a well-deserved rest, many of the participants cruised up the River Severn to Stourport for the initial assembly of boats.
Sue and Martin of Doinmein cruised up the Severn with Richard and Sally of Indecision to Tewkesbury and we both experienced one of the most difficult Severn trips we have had. Wind, rain and tide reduced us to 2mph in places on the Severn making the normal three hour trip six hours! Mooring at Tewkesbury was nearly impossible due to the wind and shallows, we both provided excellent entertainment for the locals! An interesting start but things improved next day.
The weather changed and we ventured to Worcester, and finally Stourport to meet up with Bruce and Margaret of Lucky B. Mal and Chris of Now Then, Geoff and Beryl of Minimo, Richard and Sal of Indecision.
We spent three days generally visiting things, a Pimms evening on the Quay and a very good evening at the Rising Sun pub good food, good company, it really is a privilege that a group of people can get together, “gel” and have a great time. Mal and Chris went out on the Severn Valley Railway for a day and some of us did nothing! We were waiting for Dawn Owl but had a message to say they could not make it for family reasons.
On the Sunday we left to progress up the Staffs and Worcester Canal at a relatively gentle pace, the cruise being planned on a five hour cruising day. This takes into account the number of boats, likely lock queues and general delays, We do not want to knacker ourselves so we have time to look around and enjoy the surroundings. Supplies were bought in as we progressed through Kidderminster to Kinver where we moored in a long line together. Mal and Chris went for a walk to the Rock Houses only to find them closed, lovely view though. Rich and Sal went to a posh restaurant.
Womborne, Bratch and Wightwick Manor:
We progressed on to excellent moorings outside Womborne. What a lovely canal this is.
On to to Wightwick via the Bratch, excellent volunteers here to help us through. Many of us went to Wightwick Manor just up the road, to look at the gardens or house or both. The moorings again are excellent. A lovely evening was spent together on the bank and at the posh pub. Locals were amazed to see so many boats, We received many entertaining comments.
Gailey, Penkridge and Stafford Boat Club:
It is now June 5th and we welcomed Peter and Lesley of Aquarigo who had cruised down from The Middlewich branch. Once again, lovely moorings at Gailey, time to re-water, chat and welcome old friends.
Our convoy was getting larger. Through Penkridge we met Dawn Owl who were originally going to join us but had to drop out for good family reasons. They had waited to see us it was good to see them on what was a lovely day. Sad that they could not join us for the cruise.
A change of itinerary as Maureen and Mike of Great Escape had contacted us saying “why not go to Stafford Boat Club for the evening?”. We moored just before the bridge at the club and were allowed in via a locked gate. Wow what a lovely spot, must be the best laid out club on the network
Maureen and Mike are moored there – lucky people! We had what can only be described as a wonderful evening at the club where we took part in the Quiz and came second winning £25.00 which of course went on rounds of drinks. Our other team won the booby prize and got lollipops.
Thank you Great Escape for the idea it really brought people together. From now on Great Escape joined our convoy.
Tixall Wide and Fradley:
The effect of a good night out was that we all felt lazy next day, the weather was good we arrived at Tixall Wide, Mal and Chris being first (we thought) found that the moorings were vacant so we stopped and had a lovely day in perfect surroundings. An evening beside the wide into the dark hours was memorable. Unfortunately Sal and Rich had gone first and missed our radio contact; everyone else had stopped at Aldi and moored in Great Haywood . They went to a posh restaurant, perfect way to spend an evening on a summers night.
We had got a little behind on our schedule. The next day some of us left early and some left later after watering and visiting shops! We were caught up on the lock at Causell where the paddles had broken. I think two hours lock queue came about which, on top of the previous delay meant we did not moor together at Fradley but at various places between. Never mind, it was a lovely run on a busy canal.
At Fradley the volunteers were excellent. A quiet evening for all after a long day with a Pimms evening for Doinmein, Indecision and Nowthen.
Alrewas and Shardlow:
lovely moorings in a delightful village. It is now June 20th. Willington, where we moored in a line at the start of the village – several pubs shops etc. here to choose from, all excellent. Several of us got together in various places and as usual, thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. On to Shardlow via those interesting wide locks with funny paddles. We were concerned about moorings in the village so we moored just before hand. Off for the evening together to the famous Clock Warehouse pub for an excellent evening together. Minimo managed to moor at the Pub on their own quays, so was first off in the morning.
Beeston Cut to Nottingham & on the Trent:
Now to the first part of the Trent via the Beeston Cut to Nottingham we changed the itinerary to give us a full day in the city, some moored up in the city to get supplies etc. some on the river moorings which were really good. A couple of nights here in very hot weather plus our convoy increased. Peter and Ruth of Kiehtan joined us here great pleasure to welcome these new members.
On our first evening we had cream teas, Scones, Cornish Cream, tea etc. supplied by Sue under the trees looking across the river wonderful warm evening, our 4 Cs flag to the fore. Next day Rick and Hilary on Clara Grace joined us hot from tiling their roof! Everyone gathered for a briefing at the river moorings. Richard provided some excellent charts and we had a lovely Pimms evening.
On to the Trent we now had eight boats leaving. Clara Grace stayed behind. The boats looked great in convoy on the Trent a change in style river cruising to Torksey and beyond.
Nottingham to Newark:
We had read lots of papers saying careful of this and careful of that, what did we find? A lovely river, tranquil pleasant cruising. We filled each lock with our boats. We were expected and caused a stir as the event was pretty unusual all the lock keepers were taking photographs. A longish day to get to Newark where we found excellent moorings in the town though a bit of a climb to get to the path.
Minimo had gone ahead the previous day and found electricity on the pontoons and gave us via radio, invaluable help in finding moorings. Newark is a lovely place with beautiful unspoilt buildings, lovely market and plenty of places to eat if that’s what you wanted. Many did go for fish night at Wetherspoons; a good evening had by all.
The Tidal Trent to Torksey and Lincoln:
For the next stage some were concerned as the river is tidal beyond Cromwell Lock. We had booked the lock and were prepared for the long run to Torksey. As it turned out, apart from the common sense of navigating from outside corner to outside corner, keeping 20/30% away from the bank, it was a doddle. Tide yes but no more than a normal river. We all arrived happy at Torksey and navigated through the lock where we moored. Some went on to Saxleby. Yes, you’ve guessed it, some went to the pub an excellent local. We all ate on board as the pub was booked.
For the next few days a break had been planned in to allow trips home, visits rest etc. or a trip down the Fosdyke to Boston. Aquarigo and Lucky B moored at Saxilby and took buses to Lincoln and other places. Indecision moored at a posh marina. Minimo moored in Brayford Pool in Lincoln with electricity at a total of £10.00 per night, lucky them. Clara Grace had stayed in Nottingham, still tiling his roof. A couple of us moored just beyond Lincoln at Washingborough a pleasant and interesting place with a Celtic Cross in the churchyard.
Doinmein. Great Escape and Kiehtan decided to go to Boston. We had been told it was just a drain etc. but on the day we went the weather was wonderful and cruising down the river was one of the best cruises we have ever had. Wildlife, reflections and even some views. The entry into Boston is lovely. Then the weather changed! A walk round Boston and up to the Stump, we have the badges to prove it and then the trip back. Boy did it rain, the wind got up and it was generally awful. Boating frankly was a trial. We moored just near Tattershall and visited the castle with Ruth and Peter then up to Kirkstead to see the Dambusters cafe and memorial.
Great Escape had done just that, escaped! It rained and rained. The trip back to Lincoln, it rained. A day looking round Lincoln, it rained but what an amazing place full of history. Others had stayed and progressed to West Torksey for an evening lock down to the Trent for departure next morning. Next morning the rest went up to West Torksey for an afternoon departure.
Part two (below) is our Summer Cruise up the Chesterfield the highlight of the year..
Boats attending so far:
Doinmein Sue and Martin
Clara Grace Richard and Hilary Whitby
Lucky B Bruce Margaret Paul
Indecision Rich and Sally.
Great Escape Mike & Maureen Wood
Aquarigo Peter and Lesley
Minimo Beryl Geoff
Nowthen Melvyn Bann & Christine Lucas
Kiehtan Peter Powell & Ruth Barker
This cruise was designed to help publicise in a small way, The Chesterfield Canal and to travel to a place much talked about but to which few have been.
Torksey, Trent to West Stockwith:
We started in Torksey to navigate the tidal Trent to West Stockwith. Many tales had we heard about this river but in practice we found the journey simple though communication and instruction was taken from the Lock keepers. Two parties travelled: A morning party of which some had to wait at Gainsborough – after advice from the Lock keeper that he could not take them as the river would be too low. They entered on the afternoon tide. The others left Torksey and went straight to the lock waiting outside for a few minutes. Entry to the lock was straight forward but a couple of boats did hit the wall.
That evening we had a room booked at the the Waterfront Inn to start the cruise with nine crews in attendance. A good evening was enjoyed by all and discussions took place as to the arrangements to progress. Geoff and Beryl on Minimo agreed to meet Andy Dyke and Wendy who had hired a boat locally for the cruise making our numbers ten.
Sue and Martin on Doinmein left first as Cruise leaders had to check out moorings and make arrangements for moorings as we progressed. Communication between boats was on Channel 72 which turned out to save a lot of phone calls and helped the cruise run smoothly.
Our first day was a cruise to Retford Mariners Boat Club who had agreed to provide us with moorings. This section of the canal was scenically lovely, being remote with few hedges so you could see the country side. Progress was slow even after CRT had cut back the weed growth. They knew we were coming and had pulled out the stops to help us at West Stockwith and on the whole route, even so, we scraped along the bottom and had to clear the weed hatch. It’s like the Mon and Brec, a slow but beautiful canal.
At Retford Mariners Boat Club we were welcomed, excellent moorings were supplied and special arrangements made to moor the more needy of our boats, we could not have asked for more. The siting of this club is superb with an outlook to die for. Marina facility moorings but with outlook.
We had been invited for the evening at the Club where a joint Quiz Night had been arranged Jan providing our questions. We won! The beer was excellent at a special price of £2.00 a pint and other drinks also low in price. A tremendous evening for all. Presentations were made to the Club Chairman, Chris Turner from us and they returned the compliment, we were immediately invited to return the following week.
Retford had lovely countryside to please the eye but the canal a little difficult. Then near Retford everything was fine and we travelled at normal speeds. Now out of the wide beam locks, we went through the town lock onto excellent moorings right beside Asda and ideal for the Town. Everyone got supplies at Aldi or Asda . In the evening a great Pimms and get together before everyone went to various venues. The locals were amazed to see so many boats our welcome from them was really good, though some being used to the bridge over the canal at the lock always being available were surprised when we had to open it, caused a bit of an issue. Generally though there was delight at seeing so many boats, this reaction repeated all along the canal.
To Ranby and Osberton
Once out of Retford the canal became shallow but we managed. The rural aspect was full of interest so making the whole section enjoyable . Some of us moored at the newly dredged area and moorings that CRT have created. Thay have also carried out a lot of dredging here dumping the sludge onto an adjacent field, wow the difference. Some went on to moor at Osberton a really isolated and lovely spot. They had a Pimms evening the others receded into the boats!
To Shireoaks and Worksop & Laura’s Cafe
Now to Shireoaks through Worksop and up the flight as far as the Marina. It was interesting through Worksop; the mile before-hand is very shallow and at the first lock, well it was full of rubbish. Several finished down the weed hatch removing stockings, a bedsheet etc.etc. Andy managed to get a huge tyre and he was very proud of it. He kept the thing on top of the lovely hire boat. At the town lock the problem was the locals all wanted to talk, wondering what we were doing. They were thrilled to see so many boats. It really made the trip worthwhile. Worksop also has some amazing canal architecture.
At Shireoaks we all moored outside on the Canal on excellent moorings; unfortunately the welcome from the marina people was not good. They would not let us moor in the marina, they told us we were wasting our time and would not get up the flight etc. Really not a good way to greet boaters. The locals were the opposite! People questioned us on the Towpath, the Turnerwood people came down and said they would open the cafe and help, everyone was friendly and helpful, so why did the marina people react the way they did?
We found a cafe on the bridge, run by Laura. Oddly enough It’s called “Laura’s Cafe” and next morning she opened early and we all had cooked breakfast before the flight lovely job! Next door an excellent butcher provided food for the proposed Barbecue.
Turnerwood Flight to Kiveton and the Head of Navigation
Then we started the flight, what a delight many say it’s the loveliest on the system and we tend to agree, it is also one of the most historic. On a recent survey of heritage on the system this flight hit the highest number. The reason? It has the first staircase locks in the U.K. and one of the earliest flights anywhere. They are at present, some of the least used locks on the system. Such a shame, it has to be one of the loveliest stretches of canal in the country.
At Turnerwood the cafe had opened and we had the most delightful Ice Cream, locally made. Best of all Bob and Lyn Hallam arrived to help us up the flight along with locals and volunteers. CRT had let more water down and except for a slight hiccup at one pound we went up with no problem. We moored at Kiveton beside the cascade where we stayed for three days. Robin Stonebridge the Chairman of the Chesterfield Canal Trust arrived to greet us. In the evening it was Pimms and then some went to the pub.
The following day we busied ourselves decorating the boats.
In the evening we went to the Station Pub to meet members of the Chesterfield canal Trust who gave us a lovely buffet meal. An excellent time was had by all and what a lovely way to meet the people we would be going out with next day.
Chesterfield Canal Trust had a problem in that one of the trip boats had broken down, which rather messed up the arrangements but they came back with an even better idea: two mini buses picked us up at Kiveton and took us to the Hollingwood Centre a very impressive home for the Trust.
Here half of us embarked on a trip boat the other half went on a tour of some of the restoration works. Lunch time we all switched after an excellent Buffet lunch provided by the cafe at Hollingwood.
It is impossible to describe the scale of the works at Staveley and the imminent works at Chesterfield Town Centre both are really mind blowing. The work carried out by the trust with a new lock built at Staveley Basin were truly amazing. I think it is fair to say we were virtually speechless when we saw what was happening. The proposed works up to Renishaw and on to Norwood we are sure, will be achieved. It is impossible to thank Robin and the volunteers adequately but their enthusiasm is something that we all will remember.
The following day Pie and Peas had been organised at the Station Pub. In the afternoon many of us walked up to the top of Norwood to look where the new Marina will be built and the changes to what was not long ago a coalfield, now a highly desirable spot to go. It was also strange to see a CRT services block in the middle of nowhere with no canal! In the evening we had a Barbecue canal side at Kiveton by the cascade, after a group photo at the Head of Navigation.
The BBQ was a brilliant success. This week we had good weather and the final evening at Kiveton was no exception, lovely event after a wonderful couple of days.
The Return Trip
Preparations were made for our downward descent of the flight. CRT were worried that too many boats going down at once would create a flood at Turnerwood (it has happened before) so they wanted us at the top at a certain time and then they controlled the water flow and lock operation. It all worked extremely well. Joining us were members of the Trust and the Director of Tourism to experience the unique flight; again a great experience for us all. We arrived at Shireoaks where Laura of Laura’s Cafe had put on Tea and scones which we all enjoyed by the canal, a lovely lady, we wish her well in her business.
In addition, I should say that we were helped by volunteers and locals on our way down which all contributed to a brilliant atmosphere.
At Shireoaks we were given a presentation of the Cuckoo boat that volunteers have built from scratch. It is a faithful reproduction of the original boats that used the canal. The whole boat was built by hand using original tools. We even had one of the original boat builders on hand ( see photo with Peter). It was all so very interesting and made a fine end to our trip to the top!
Going back down the canal, we moored in the countryside at Osberton, finishing up at Retford Boat Club where once again we had an excellent evening with another Quiz night. Most moving of all for me was a presentation from fellow cruisers to thank Sue and myself for organising the cruise.
It was unexpected and meant a lot so thank you all. We then made our own arrangements to leave the canal or stay as some did. Retford again providing the moorings. We had a final evening at the The White Hart, West Stockwith, which is a micro-brewery pub and provided a really first-class meal. An excellent way to finish what was a great experience for us all.
Quite unexpectedly I received in the post a parcel of tea towels and pamphlets that the Chesterfield Canal Trust had very kindly sent for presentation to all those participating in the actual Chesterfield section of the cruise. These will be presented in due course.
I am most grateful for all the efforts made on our behalf by the trust and for their generous gifts to our members.
Boats attending (to be added shortly)