Saturday May 22nd. 6.5 miles. Clayworth to Retford.
The bus drops me off opposite St. Peter’s Church, this originates from the C13th but was much altered in the C19th. Murals by the arts and crafts artist Phoebe Traquair cover all four walls of the chancel, but there was no entry today. Outside though the churchyard wall contains a large boulder, perhaps unearthed by navvies digging the canal or was it a meteorite landing in the village? The village cottages were bedecked in clematis and all was quiet on the little lane leading to the canal at Otters Bridge, now down to number 68..
This was the start of a delightful walking through open countryside, views across the flat drained fields, lively birdsong and the all-pervading Mayflower scent. A roe deer was seen scampering across an open field, mother mallards shepherding their broods and swans protecting their cygnets. There were long stretches of reed beds and I heard several warblers but only caught sight of the one Reed Warbler.
‘There are boats moored up alongside the headquarters of the Retford and Worksop Boat Club. Much tinkering is going on, but nobody is sailing. Today’s prize for the corniest boat name goes to Goldilocks.
Several canal side pubs were passed, but none looked inviting, plastic children’s play areas and hastily concocted Covid dining areas. One, The Hop Pole, reflected on the acres of hops grown locally in the C18th until the canal ruined their trade by bringing hops from Kent, which had a better taste. Another of interest on the outskirts of Retford, the Packet Inn, was once the terminus for the weekly packet boat from Clayworth bringing people and produce to market. This was a two-hour journey and the return was an alcohol fuelled party.
Bridge 61 is named Bonemill bridge alongside the building where bones were crushed for use as fertiliser. All these bridges and the older warehouses are constructed with attractive local bricks which have aged well.
After miles without, the first lock of the day was named Whitsunday Pie Lock, this strange title having many dubious origins. It is the last wide lock on the canal. People were fishing unsuccessfully for perch and a couple had pulled up in their boat having cruised out of Retford for the weekend. They had just opened a bottle of wine and were in no hurry to proceed. This resulted in a lengthy conversation about boating, Covid and the best pubs in Retford. They had named their newish boat Our Lass – they were well and truly Yorkshire born and bred. For some reason I omitted to take a photo. The next couple walking their greyhound were just as chatty and seemed to have all the time in the day, maybe life is more relaxed around here. Eventually I came into Retford with more old warehouses making an appearance. As is often the case these have been either converted into attractive living accommodation or become cafés or restaurants. so it was pleasant enough as the rural scene turned to urban hustle and bustle. The Town Lock is much narrower than those before, a good place to finish for the day.