I found myself changing trains in Sheffield, but all went well and I was in Worksop by 9.30. Getting out of Worksop was more pleasant than getting in on the Eastern side had been – that old adage “West End Girls” comes to mind as I hum the almost Miles Davis like composition, hear that trumpet interlude!. The west ends of many towns and cities in England were usually cleaner and healthier to live in with the prevailing wind blowing the smog to the east ends.
Excuse my indulgence.
I’m sure these were Tufted Ducks.
Today was going to be a day of locks, 30 were needed to raise the canal up to the Norwood Tunnel which went through the limestone ridge in the path of the canal between the Trent and Chesterfield, “The Giants Staircase”. Several of them were double or treble locks where there is no basin between the locks, these are quite rare in England. An amazing feat at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. This stretch has been restored between 1995 and 2003, but the work is ongoing.
Eight locks up and I arrived at Shireoaks Marina, originally a C19th basin for a local colliery -the last coal left here in 1949. I had read about a recent building in the traditional way of a Cuckoo Boat, Dawn Rose, and that she was moored in the marina. I could find no way into the marina so if she was there I was denied a sight which is a shame.
About this point I started to notice Cuckoo Way roundels. The birds didn’t look like cuckoos to me and I later read that they are choughs borrowed from Retford’s coat of arms and incorporated into the original Chesterfield Canal seal and now used in the Trusts emblem. The diamonds were from Chesterfield’s seal.
It was good to find some of those lovely Peak and Northern signs along the way. Above Shireoaks was the start of more climbing, the seven Turnerwood Locks and some old cottages picturesquely situated on the towpath. It was here I met a man cycling the towpath on a 1970s Claud Butler bike, one of the elite British bikes at the time. We chatted all things cycling and it was obvious he was very proud of his steed. Notice the Shimano gears with down tube shifters.
Around the corner a swan was sitting on her nest, it was only a few years ago that someone shot a pen in the same spot leaving the cob distraught. Why? Let’s hope this bird brings up a successful brood.
I was now at the bottom of the Thorpe series of locks with two triple locks and two double locks, 15 locks in half a mile all in sylvan scenery. I was suitably awestruck.
At the top the canal levels out. On the right is one of those old farms with accumulated junk from 50 years ago. I would have loved to explore deeper into the undergrowth but the whole place had a forbidding atmosphere.
Farther on was a DL – CC boundary stone which I’m still trying to decipher. The canal has the rail line running close by it and just before Kiveton Park station is the wharf where stone quarried nearby was loaded and taken off to London to rebuild the Houses of Parliament after they burnt down in 1834. At Dog Kennet Bridge the towpath changes sides for the short stretch to the blocked Norwood Tunnel. The last turnabout point is rather ornate. The tunnel ran for 2,880 yards before it was blocked by mining subsidence in 1907. I have to walk over the top.
The walk over was quite pleasant first past Kiveton Waters fishery, their café was closed, then through the old reclaimed colliery land where care was needed with the many paths going in all directions. Dropping downhill through fields there was an underpass for the M1 and then slowly water appeared on the left where the Norwood Locks had been. These were a series of 13 in a third of a mile, three treble and one quadruple. They are all filled in now. The way passes extravagant houses with traces of canal stonework in the water channel running alongside. It was whilst looking into the garden of one house that a kingfisher flew straight towards me, landed on a reed and then flew back again showing me all its colours.
Bits of the canal reappeared and then vanished under houses in Killamarsh where land was sold off. I became disorientated in the estates and reappeared at the bus stop 3minutes before the bus came down the hill. I have to get back here tomorrow morning hoping the line of the canal will be more obvious. It has been very short-sighted to build a housing estate here and it will be a major engineering undertaking to connect the two halves of the navigable canal.
Rather than end today on a sour note, here are a few photos of the detail that goes into lock construction.