Monday 31 July 2023

West Stockwith to Hayton Winding Hole and Back. Chesterfield Canal.

Dave got up early in the morning at West Stockwith to find to find the RIB, that had been moored behind us, adrift under the bridge with the lock and cable that had been securing it to a mooring ring lying on the ground. The lock had clearly been attacked with bolt croppers and it was only later that we found out that the cable had also been round an outboard motor. Encounters with the nastier side of life are usually quite rare on the waterways, so it was a bit of a shock to come across another theft so soon after our experience in Goole. Also shocking was that it happened just behind our boat while we were in bed. All this is just making us more wary and cautious, but it also makes us wonder what the point of more padlocks is, when the thieves all have bolt croppers.

Life, as they say, goes on and we had a road trip to organise. We put the camping chairs and the paddleboards in the car along with our overnight bags and set off in the boat for Wooden Beck, a quiet little mooring about 2 miles from West Stockwith. We’d planned to run back, but ended up jogging/walking most of it, picking blackberries along the way. Back at the basin we saw the owner of the RIB, so we told her what we’d seen and gave her our contact details. Then, after a shower and a change of clothes, we jumped in the car and set off for SALfest II at Sutton Courtney. “SAL” stands for Smith’s Lady, Andelanté and Legend; the three boats that were moored together for seven months during the floods and the first covid lock down in Wallingford three years ago. Last year we had a reunion and it was so much fun that we decided to make it and annual event. Steve and Annmarie have a beautiful mooring on a partially wooded three acre field on the Thames behind Culham lock. They moor Andelanté and Barking, their holiday hire boat there. This year they’ve expanded their holiday business to include two glamping bell tents, so we were really excited to see how it was all working. We’re happy to report that it was truly amazing.

They have put so much hard work into making a little slice of paradise by the river. Colin and Julia had brought their camper, but we had luxurious accommodation in one of the bell tents. We arrived in the afternoon to lots of hugs and chatting with some of the nicest people we know.

That evening we had a huge barbeque and then sat round the fire pit with one or two glasses of something before retiring to a lovely comfy double bed.

In the morning after breakfast we blew the paddleboards up, then had a day pottering about the campsite. Dave helped Steve tinker with, test, break, and mend their speedboat...

...then once it was working properly, went off to salvage an abandoned Norman 27 GRP cruiser. With Dave on the bow of the cruiser and Steve driving the speedboat, and with lots of weaving from side to side, they managed to get it back to the campsite and tied it up to Andelanté.

Steve’s going to go through all the salvage procedures with the Environment Agency, and either end up with a bounty or a boat. It’s not in bad nick under the grime, so with a bit of work it could end up as part of their hire fleet.

After lunch we had an SUP session. We've not got them wet much this year, so we were a little wobbly to start with, but we soon got back into it.

We went all the way past the weir to the end of the backwater and had sneaky butcher’s at the really posh bit of Sutton Courtney (which is all very posh anyway.) When we got back Steve had a go on Ann-Marie’s board and fell in three times in quick succession before he got the hang of it.

Everyone was really impressed by how well he got back on, but it put them all off having a go themselves, so that was the end of that. Later on we all walked up to The Swan for a meal, followed by another happy, chatty, slightly drunken night round the bonfire.

When we woke up Ann-Marie couldn’t open her left eye due to having been bitten by a mosquito on her eyelid in the night. It was all swollen up and looked like a Beano shiner, so she got a lot of sympathy and lots of “Ooh’s” and “Aaah’s” round the breakfast table. Before we left we tried out the shower in the woods. No smelly campsite shower block, this. Steve and Annmarie have built a beautiful enclosure, with plants on the pebbled floor and trees above and lots of lovely hot water from a gas fired shower unit.

We could have stayed in there all day!

Then there were more hugs, promises of return visits (which will happen because we can pop in on our trips down south) and we were off. There was an accident on the M1 which slowed things down a bit, but we finally got back to the Chesterfield and parked at Drakeholes. It didn’t take us long to walk back to Wooden Beck and bring Legend up the two locks to join the car, so by tea time we had everything shipshape again.

The next day was our 22nd wedding anniversary. Who’d have thought, eh? To celebrate we had an early morning drive down to Nottingham where Ann-Marie had a follow-up appointment after a clinical trial. Not particularly romantic, we know, but the day got a lot better after that.

We’d told Steve and Leslie that we’d be coming down to their neck of the woods, so after Ann-Marie was signed off, we picked Steve up (Leslie was working) and went to The Lounge in West Bridgeford for a really good brunch. After we’d dropped Steve off we went to Newark where Ann-Marie picked out some lovely earrings, and we had coffee and cake in the Old Bakery. That’s more like it.

Saturday came round again and brought another parkrun, this time we went to the beautiful Clumber Park and had a fabulous run through the woods. When we got back we moved Legend on to Clayworth where we stayed for nine days. When we came up the Chesterfield two years ago, we couldn’t get to the limit of navigation at Norwood tunnel because one of the 21 locks on the flight above Shireoaks was broken. This year we’d thought we’d get there, but a lack of water had forced CRT to close the flight again, so once we got within cycling distance of Retford there didn’t seem much point going any further. Will we ever get to the end? If we’re honest, probably not. Boats seldom visit the Chesterfield more than once, if at all – for all its remote and peaceful beauty it’s hard work, you’re forever down the weed hatch, and it requires two trips on the tidal Trent and a turn into West Stockwith before you even start – we’ve now been twice and a third time would just be greedy. Although our Prime Objective is to visit all the limits of navigation on the whole of the joined up system, the Turnerwood flight might end up being our Nemesis, but you never know.

On Sunday morning we drove over to Worksop to be volunteer marshals at the junior parkrun, then over to our nephew Richard’s house for lunch with him and the lovely Kathryn. Their tall, beautiful, confident daughter Layla was there as well, but Kieran was had gone away for a few days with his mates. In our heads they’re little six and eight-year-old kids. Where does it all go? It was a fabulous day spent in great company. We’re lucky to have such kind and caring people in our family.

A couple of days later we were back in Worksop for our car’s first MOT in our ownership. After the nightmare we've had the last couple of years Dave was especially apprehensive. We took it to “We Only MOT”, a small franchise group with ten depots in Nottinghamshire. As it says on the tin, they have no workshop facilities and don’t do repairs, so have no incentive to fail a vehicle. To Dave’s surprise our ageing C3 Picasso passed with no advisories – maybe there’s a moral there.

Back at Legend, Dave got the orbital sander out and set to work on Legend’s left hand back panel. We need to repaint both back panels so that we can sign-write them. It’ll have been almost a year without a name on the boat by the time it’s finished. Far too long to be incognito. The boat sides got painted over ten years ago, and considering the abuse and lack of attention the top sides get, the black paint has lasted really well. However we thought it would be prudent to cut it back and put new paint on before the name.

The sign-writing will adhere better to fresh paint and we won’t find ourselves having to do it all again in a few years’ time. Hopefully.

By the next morning, Dave had got two coats on and we were praying for a rain-free day. While he was doing that Ann-Marie made a picnic and got us packed up for a weekend in Bristol with Anne and Andy. On the way down, there were hold-ups because of the torrential rain (so much for praying), so we drove straight to Clifton where we met A&A and their friends for a picnic in the park...

...and an outdoor performance of Romeo and Juliet by The Lord Chamberlain’s Men. 
It was stunning and we were quite blown away. The play was pretty good too. Boom, tish.

Dave - forever the engineer - was just as impressed by how the seven actors quickly dismantled the stage set and magic’d it away into a van at the end.

Saturday in Bristol could mean only one thing for parkrun tourists such as ourselves; Somerdale Pavilion, AKA the Curly Whirly. It’s the most crazy, wiggly, chaotic thing you can imagine.

The course is mown into the grass and well worn, so although it looks mad from a spectator’s point of view with hundreds of runners going hither and yon, when you are actually in it you just follow the path. We went with Anne and all started together, Dave thought he’d have to take it easy because his Achilles tendon was twinging, but it eased up after a while and he sped off.  Ann-Marie ran and walked with Anne for most of it and found that running and chatting is really hard work.

Anne’s daughter Jen arrived in the afternoon and that evening we went into the city to see Barbie (girls) and Mission Impossible 8 (boys) at the Everyman cinema. The girls all dressed up in pink...

...and had cocktails in the foyer while the boys (who didn't dress up at all, but just co-incidentally all turned up in black) had beer and nachos delivered to their front row sofas.

All terribly decadent, and followed by burger and chips in the bus stop while we waited for the bus home.

In the morning we packed our car up and set off with Anne to do junior volunteering in Eastville Park, then walked to the Esté café for breakfast. Alex and Andy joined us later for second breakfast before we all said goodbye and we set off for the long drive home.

Monday was one of our logistic masterpieces. First we put the bikes in the car, drove to Retford and left them locked up in the Aldi bike rack. Then we drove to Newark where we abandoned the car on a side street near the station, caught the train back to Retford, had a lovely couple of coffees and some pastries in the Italian deli...

... then cycled back to the boat via Screwfix (because we needed some better padlocks) and the Idle Valley Country Park (because it’s a lovely place to be). Back at Legend, we had a quick lunch and set off back to Drakeholes. According to our (un)trusty Nicholson’s Guide, there was a windy ‘ole in Clayworth just before the bridge, and with a bit of imagination you could see where it had been. However over the years, the Retford and Worksop Boat Club permanent moorings on the towpath side, and a lot of unrestrained brambles and reeds on the other, have encroached towards each other, and there was no way we were going to get 57’ turned round it. The next one was two slow, weedy miles away at Hayton and pretty well silted up, so it was a good two hours before we were back where we’d started.

Eventually we got to Drakeholes where we pulled up, got the washing out on the line, cleared the prop for the third time that day and finally sat down.

It had been a full, busy day, but everything had gone perfectly to plan and we were quite pleased with ourselves.

On the final leg back to West Stockwith we stopped at Misterton to go to the chippy. They do really good home-made tray-baked pies and Dave had promised himself a portion the last time we were here, but for some reason that we couldn’t remember, hadn’t ended up with one. When we got there, they’d just closed and they told us they only do the home-made pies on Thursday, Friday and Saturday (Hmm, now we remembered!). We thought we’d lucked out again, but they’d got a left over box in the hot cupboard with two fish and chips in that they gave us for free. Winner! While we were stopped at Misterton with the left side on the bank, Dave got the other back panel rubbed down. The paint that he’d put on the first one had sagged and run in places, so that’s going to need doing again; that’s what you get for rushing things.

We pulled up on the Armco outside West Stockwith basin just before it started raining. Our booking for locking back down onto the Trent the next day was at noon, so we’d have plenty of time in the morning to get ourselves and Legend river ready, especially as we hadn’t stowed anything since the last tidal trip.

It had been lovely being back on the Chezzy, but we were really looking forward to getting back to the main network and beginning our trip down to the Southern waters.

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