Chesterfield map

We were planning to cruise the partially restored Chesterfield Canal (left) via the River Trent (right) this summer, departing mid-July. However, due to the continuing terrible weather, we have decided to go no further than Newark.

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Trent map

June 30th

uick first report as we are very busy. We had a smooth flight over and spent the first night in a Premier Inn at Heathrow. Then on to Derby, close to where Basil is British Airways
                  747-400moored. We were intending to spend two nights in a hotel here prior to moving aboard but, to my horror, I discovered Basil's electrical system was completely dead - batteries flat and the charger would not sense shore power. A major surge in January has fried our Victron battery management system. It is now in Holland being repaired. I got the engine running and am using that to charge the batteries. The 240 volt system is jumpered over from shore power, so we have that too. We can't cruise, but we were not intending to anyway. All this took days to fix up and so we booked two extra nights in the hotel and are only just now moving on to the boat tonight.

The weather has been reasonably good except for a tropical storm which raged across the country two days ago, bringing flooding and road and rail closures. We were safe inside Basil but it was pretty exciting while it lasted.

July 2nd

day of rain, so a good time to journal. It's so dark in the back of the boat that I can barely see to type, even though it's the middle of the day. Yesterday (a Sunday) was Canal
                  poundbetter, so we drove to the Chesterfield canal festival. The drive took 50 minutes, but will take us about two weeks by boat, assuming we go later this month. The 'festival' was more like a village fair with a canal theme. It was held around the newly restored Staveley basin which is at the Chesterfield end of the canal and is landlocked as there is still about 9 miles of canal to restore between Staveley and the Trent (see 'section under restoration' on map above). Afterwards we walked for 5 miles up and down the restored canal towards Chesterfield (left).

It was a beautiful evening as we returned to the marina so we enjoyed a glass of wine on the stern deck and chatted to passing boaters. It's like Peyton Place here, everyone knows everyone's business. The cleaning lady asked Barb why she hadn't brought some sun from Arizona, though they have never spoken before. One of our neighbors returned to his boat one day in January and found his wife dead. He is terribly bereft and I spent a half an hour consoling him.

Now we are watching Wimbledon and tomorrow I return the car, so we will be without transport until Basil's electrics get fixed.

Festival 1
Grantham Canal Society tent
Festival 2
Sustenance of sorts
Restoration work at Hollingwood Lock

July 6th

The Parable of the Phoenix Pheasant Plucker.
Once there was a Pheasant Plucker who lived with his wife in Phoenix. One day he stepped out of his front door and looked up at the sky. The sky was brown, not with flying pheasants, but with smoke from the forest fires raging in the pine forests in the north. Nevertheless, a merciless sun beat through and the temperature was 110F (43C). "This is not good", he said "for pheasants or humans. I wish I were somewhere cool with lots of pheasants." All of a sudden, in a flash of a 747, he and his wife were transported to a narrow boat in the middle of England. It was cool and there were pheasants aplenty but they were all hiding under rocks and gorse bushes and stuff because the rain hammered down unrelentingly day after day. The only fowl to be seen were verminous Canada Geese, whose poop is a greater threat to civilization than global warming. The Pheasant Plucker and the Pheasant Plucker's wife (who had not helped with the wish) spent their time cooped up like a pair of pheasants and argued about which climate they preferred.

The moral: Be more specific when you wish. (And if you can read this parable aloud without profanity, you are far too sober).

Rain to
Rain to Port
Rain to
Rain to Starboard
                        in flood
The Trent in flood at Willington

below center.
Verminous Geese...
..and their noxious effluent.
The prediction for today is that 600mm (3 in) of rain
will fall by the end of the day, more than usual
for the whole of July.

July 11th

ur boat is in dry dock being painted and repaired so we are holed up in the Hilton hotel in the center of Derby. The battery management system has yet to return from Holland.We and Basil are the only things keeping dry in this soggy climate. The weather continues to be atrocious and has turned cold now to boot. The River Trent is flooded and closed upstream at Alrewas and downstream at Newark, so we could not cruise far even if we wanted to. We are hoping to go to Cornwall by train on the 16th for 3 nights, assuming the trains are running OK. After that we will decide whether to cruise or flee the country to somewhere sunny.

We have been able to explore Derby between showers and we like the city well. There are two thriving markets, one under an impressive Victorian iron roof engineered by Rowland Mason Ordish who also built the impressive arched roof at St. Pancras station in London. We wandered for a mile or two through a beautifully manicured (but soggy) park alongside the River Derwent. We found a really nice place to eat, the Wonky Table near the cathedral, in the evening. Derby is showing serious effects from the lingering 'Great Recession' - we saw fairly modern apartments overlooking the river vandalized and empty. Many people are scruffy and poverty stricken.
Vandalized Riverfront Flats
Derby Market Hall
The Derwent from our Hotel
Basil in dry dock. Before..
...and after getting his bottom blacked.

July 20th

ust back from Cornwall after a pleasant three days in St. Ives on the so-called 'Cornish Riviera'. The train trip down was a real treat. We blasted through the Midlands to Bristol at 100mph, on down to Exeter and along the Devon coast to Cornwall where the train slowed right down as it twisted and turned across mighty estuaries and along the edge of Dartmoor. I felt like I was in an episode of 'Great Railway Journeys of the World'. We splurged and went first class which was comfortable and uncrowded but the Cross Country and First Great Western service was almost non-existent. British Airways Club class it was not.We survived on cheese sandwiches and chili washed down with tea or coffee. British rail companies have a lot to do to catch up with their continental European rivals. The six and a half hour trip ended with a potter along the little single track branch line from St. Erth to St. Ives which offers stunning views of the coast from the two-car train.
On the train
Barb befriends fellow traveler 'Pebbles'
First class smile
StIves Pan
We were well pleased with our hotel in St. Ives, though. The Pedn Olva hotel  (right) clings precariously to a cliff overlooking St. Ives harbor, with waves crashing against the rocks Pedn
                  Olvaunder our window to lull us to sleep at night. The service was excellent and friendly and the breakfast menu was replete with treats such as haddock or kippers with poached eggs, Scottish smoked salmon with creamy scrambled eggs and the "Full Western" with eggs, bacon, sausages, mushrooms, bacon, hog's pudding (don't ask) and baked beans. In fact, the whole trip was a gourmet delight as we found two excellent restaurants in the evening. The best of these was The Wave, where Barb had a 1/2 Cornish lobster (see photo) and I had gnocchi with an anise sauce and local crab.

Cornish Lobster
Cream Tea
Clotted cream tea
St. Ives
St. Ives waterfront

Occasionally we dragged our huge stomachs up hill and down dale on short but punishing walks over the cliffs. We visited the Barbara Hepworth museum and garden where she Hepworthworked for years on her iconic sculptures (left). We sailed to Seal rock and saw grey seals basking on the rocks and observing us curiously from the sea. We ate fish and chips (8-9 on the Raven scale of excellence) and clotted cream tea (above). During the day hordes of tourists invade the town, pulsing in great waves every half hour from the train station, until by noon the wharves and tiny streets are packed with red-faced grockels, stuffing themselves with ice cream and Cornish pasties. By 5 p.m. they had all but disappeared, leaving the town quiet by evening.

Now we are back in the Miserable Midlands, grey and rainswept, but conditions are supposed to improve tomorrow so we may be able to emerge like geriatric butterflies, blinking cautiously in the sunshine. Or not.

We are still digesting the news from Colorado, which we saw unfold live here as it was 9:30 a.m our time. It is horrific, it's not safe to go to the cinema now, it seems. There was an aside on the BBC that there were 8,700 gun deaths in the US last year and about 87 here in the UK. He could never have bought that much ammunition legally here without attracting notice.

July 21st

ell, the weather is looking more promising so we are now planning to head out towards the Chesterfield canal on Monday. However, the Trent is still running very fast. In fact it is currently closed to navigation but will probably reopen if we get a few dry days. I do not feel confident of getting back up the tidal section with a flood on, so we will have to assess the situation if and when we get to Newark.

July 26th


We have finally emerged, like elderly butterflies blinking in the unaccustomed sunlight, and ventured out upon the sparkling waters. All gloom and doom was cast aside as we motored sedately down the Trent and Mersey canal, stopping often. We met up with Angela and Patrick Marks who run the Piper Boat Club at Derwent Mouth lock (right), and then ventured on to the Trent, which is running fast but no longer closed and quite manageable. We stopped at Trent lock (below), at the confluence of two rivers and two canals, and it was so nice that we stayed for two days.

Photo courtesy Angela Marks

Trent Lock Panorama
Trent Lock 180 degree panorama - The Cranfleet cut, on the left, leads to Nottingham and the north. The River Soar, straight ahead below the power station, goes to Leicester and the south. The River Trent, to the right, leads back to the Midlands and the west.

Beeston Lock
From Trent Lock, the river winds along in a very pleasant reach with thick woods on one side and meadows on the other. Our next stop, last night,  was at Beeston (left), a pleasant village on the outskirts of Nottingham. Now we are moored up right in the center of Nottingham in Castle Marina (right). This is a crowded but very friendly marina and we are hooked up to shore power so we don't have to worry about our batteries while we explore the town. I booked in here for a couple of nights because three other boaters had warned us that Nottingham is a dangerous place to moor on the towpath, but the manager here said it gets a bit rowdy on a Saturday night but there has been no crime in the 6 years he has worked here. I don't know how these myths and rumours start but they can become very pervasive.
Castle Marina
Castle Marina, Nottingham
July 29th

e have spent the last two days exploring Nottingham, erstwhile home of Robin Hood and his merry men. We went to the Castle yesterday and explored, with a guide, the caves and catacombs beneath. They have witnessed more than their fair share of the horrors of English history. The 'castle' is actually an old ducal mansion, the medieval castle having been destroyed in Tudor times. The mansion, in turn, was ransacked during suffrage riots in the 1800's and abandoned by the Duke. None of the rooms and furnishings remain, just the walls, so it now houses a museum and sits in pleasant grounds atop a giant sandstone cliff.

Nottingham is a thriving arts centre. In addition to the Nottingham Playhouse, it has an Albert Hall of its own and the Theatre Royal which had just finished a run of Swan Lake when we arrived. The town centre has a huge fairground in the main square featuring 'Nottingham beach' a quirky seafront miles from the sea with imported sand, deck chairs and a paddling pool. The erection of this annual feature was delayed this year by the abysmal June weather.
Nottingham Castle

Robin Hood Statue
Pub Sign
Unusual pub sign
July 31st

Moored above Stoke lock as the moon rises
Now the weather has collapsed ignominiously again - RAIN, RAIN, continuous RAIN. We are cowering indoors on the Trent above Stoke lock with the stove lit and old Sunday papers strewn around the cabin. We motored down here yesterday in fine weather and we are on a picturesque mooring, marred only by the weather. Even the Captain is depressed and the Crew is positively revolting. Mutiny is a distinct possibility. We have given up the idea of cruising the Chesterfield canal and will await better weather in Newark before turning around and heading for home.

The Trent is a historic, wide commercial waterway which now sadly carries no commerce, except for some gravel barges on the tidal section downstream. It's a terrible waste of some impressive infrastructure and friendly staff. The roads around here are clogged with traffic, surely some of it could be moved to the water?

Stoke Lock
August 3rd

e arrived in Newark today and scored a coveted place on the BW (now the Canal and River Trust) pontoon moorings in the center of town. We are having to share electricity, but mustn't grumble. The weather has been fine over the last few days, much better than forecasts indicated. Only once has Barb had to retreat to the cabin while I manfully steered in the pouring rain.

We had another near disaster since I last wrote. I found the bilge under the cabin to be wet, indicating a plumbing or hull leak. I had checked it just before we went to bed and so spent several late night hours ripping out panels to search for the leak. Neither of us slept that night from stress and anxiety. I dried the bilge out and it remains dry, so it's a mystery. My best guess is a central heating leak as I had lit the stove for the first time (see above) and the water jacket boiled, causing an immense amount of banging. Maybe the pressure released hot water into the bilge. I can find no visible bad joints, but some are hidden behind the side panels.

Apart from that, we have enjoyed a restful cruise down the mighty River Trent, subsided somewhat after the recent floods. We have heard gory stories from boaters being stuck and lock keepers who had water overwhelming lock gates. We found a lovely mooring last night at the picturesque village of Farndon where we had the best meal of the trip so far in the adjacent Boathouse restaurant. We started with seafood bisque, crayfish tails and hake souffle all combined as an appetizer. I had roast duck leg with cherries and confit potatoes and Barb had crispy polenta with garlic and veg. Expensive but worth it.

We walked into the village and I walked around the nature reserve. This morning, I let the river current turn the boat round and was promptly rammed by a row boat as we straddled the river. I was struggling with my life jacket and didn't see him coming and he wasn't expecting a boat across the river, so wasn't looking where he was going. I sounded our horn but too late. Fortunately, he struck us squarely so his skiff did not capsize and no damage was done.
Proud Duck and her Ducklings
Farndon Ponds
Farndon Sign
Basil at Farndon

(except sign on left)
August 7th

e stayed three nights in Newark and thoroughly enjoyed the town as much as we did last time we were here. We had a disappointing meal in Rushton's and a very good meal in Zizzi's, which is an Italian chain but none the worse for it. We walked all over town and I took far too many photos to post here but there are a few samples below. Next, we cruised back up the Trent, battling the powerful current. The river is running at about 4 mph, the maximum speed of a narrow boat on the canal! We were hoping to stop again at Farndon but the single visitor mooring was occupied, so we pressed on to Hazleford lock where we are moored on the lock island with weir streams all around. The island and lock were built during the Great Depression as a project to get people back to work and it is a magical place. Inaccessible to all but boaters, it is teeming with rabbits who graze the verdant paths and run into the brambles to hide when disturbed. The island is covered in wildflowers at this time of year and the air is full of butterflies and bees. The weirs provide a constant sonic backdrop, booming and swishing us to sleep at night.

We are having a hard time leaving the Trent. It is such a beautiful river and the weather is improving. Today is another day of sunshine and showers and we decided to linger another day in this beautiful scene. We will move on towards Nottingham tomorrow.
The Bridge  and Castle at Newark

Newark Shop
Kit-Kat Disembarks at Newark
Moored at Hazleford
Rabbits Graze the Greensward
Kit-Kat is Chauffeured into Hazleford Lock
in his Narrowboat Lizzie

August 13th
ext night on the Trent saw us moored at Gunthorpe Lock where we snagged the last place on the crowded visitor pontoon. Gunthorpe is a mecca for boaters as there are two pubs, three restaurants and a boatyard with all manner of exotic craft. We sampled the Indian restaurant, only the second Indian of this summer. It was good but not stellar. Everything pales in comparison with Nadee, it seems.

Next day we went up to our final stop on the Trent at Holme lock. Here is the National Water Sports Centre and an exciting white water rafting/canoeing course alongside the lock. The lock is the deepest on the Trent at 12 feet, so the whitewater course drops by the same amount through a twisting set of mini rapids. We lingered here for two days before moving on through Nottingham and on to Trent Lock (see July 26th). Yesterday was an eventful day. We snagged a rope in Nottingham which stalled the engine and immobilized us completely. It took me 40 minutes to hack it off the prop shaft with a mini hacksaw and a breadknife. Then, a few yards further on, I got stuck fast on a weir above Castle lock. Barb had to open the gates again to allow me to back into the lock under full power, much to the bemusement of a approaching cruiser skipper who seemed almost as clueless as I am. Barb shopped in Sainsbury's while I pumped the toilet tank in Castle Marina. Upon exiting the marina, I stemmed Basil hard on the opposite bank. No damage done but Barb thinks it's time I retired...

Typical Trent view from Basil's window
Barb relaxes in fine weather at Gunthorpe
Rafters cast off for another go at the
whitewater cours
Gunthorpe Lock
Gunthorpe Lock

<< NB Ellen
                        Mouth Lock
Exiting Derwent Mouth Lock

Now we are moored by the Ragley Boat Stop, a pub/restaurant which attracts boaters with good moorings and electrical hook-ups. We are actually only a couple of hours from 'home' at Mercia Marina. Tomorrow we will start to clean up and pack for a visit to my family in Kent, so this will be the last journal entry for a week or two.

Sept 5
e had a fine old time with my family in Kent. My Aunt Rosemary was visiting from Australia and we saw her several times which was a real treat as we don't get to see her that often (like about once every 15 years). She's in her 80's now and in fine condition except for some memory loss. The rest of the time we hung out with my family. We had one outing to Bodiam Castle on the Kent and East Sussex Railway, a tourist steam railway which I had a (very small) hand in restoring back in the 70's.
Rosemary & co
L-R Richard, Angela, Rosemary, Sandra,
Roger, Nigel, Barbara & Michael


Passion Flower in Angela's Garden >>
Passion Flower
Richard outside his abode -
a converted Oast House

K&ESR 0-6-0 Loco Built by the US Army
Corps of Engineers

Wartime Notice
WWII Era Notice in Restored K&ESR
Bodiam Castle

Big Ben
Big Ben
After Kent we went to London and stayed three nights in the Premier Inn, Leicester Square. A cramped little room but very quiet, a comfortable bed and a good modern bathroom.

We saw two shows - Jersey Boys, the excellent story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons; and a terrible stage adaptation of Chariots of Fire. It was like amateur night in the West End. We walked out in the intermission.

London was between Olympics. The Olympics had just finished and the Paralympics started the day we left. The town was abuzz with excitement, we felt like ants in a jolly ant-heap. We walked around Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, tried to get to the Notting Hill Carnival but the Tube (subway) was so packed we gave up. We saw a Yoko Ono art show in the Serpentine Gallery and visited the British Museum for an exhibition of Picasso prints.
Hyde Park
Barb Surveys Hyde Park
Huge Chess Set, by Yoko Ono
We are now back on the boat for a few days before going to the Lake District (Cumbria) with my brother Michael and his wife Angela. More news about that in a week or two...
The Albert Memorial
Sept 14th
e are just ending a lovely week in one of the most scenic areas in Britain - the Lake District. It is in Cumbria in the NW corner of England and reputedly the wettest place in a wet country but we had mostly good weather. We were transported here by my brother Mike and his wife Angela. They are Lake District experts and found us a very nice apartment in Keswick, a market town nestling in a valley between the lakes of Derwent Water and Bassenthwaite.
Keswick Panorama
Panorama of Keswick (left) with Derwent Water (top left) and the corner of Bassenthwaite Lake (top right), taken from Latrigg

The first day we boarded a launch bound for Hawes End and set off on a day-long punishing hike up to Cat Bells (451 metres), along the ridge to Maiden Moor and on to High Spy (653). We circled round over a rocky path to an old slate mine and descended to the hamlet of Grange where we caught a bus back to Keswick. The hike (or 'walk' as they Signcall it here) was 6.5 miles over very rugged terrain and Barb and I were completely exhausted. Mike and Ange were as fresh as daisies. Well, maybe limp daisies.

The days continued in this vein, though we never did any more walks as difficult as Cat Bells. We climbed Latrigg (368) and circled back over a ridge and along the River Derwent back to town for a 6-mile easy walk.  Mike and Ange went by themselves to climb Hellvellyn, the third highest peak in England at 949 metres. We wimped out and went for a 4 mile walk along Derwent Water. In the evenings we replenished our lost calories and more at various excellent local hostelries.

Pictures of this beautiful area are worth a thousand words so I'll shut up...

We stopped in Morecambe on the way up and
posed by this statue of Eric on the seafront. *MC
Cat Bells Trail
The Trail up Cat Bells

Derwent Water
Derwent Water from Cat Bells
Group Shot
Ange, Barb and Mike
Curious Horse Pokes Head in Car Window
A Herdwick, or 'Herdy', Sheep.
This breed is adapted to hilly terrain
like Big Horn sheep are in the US.
Ange, Rog and Barb at Latrigg  *MC

*MC - Photo by Michael Carter
*AC - Photo by Angela Carter
Ange Climbing Hellvellyn in the Mist *MC
Hellvellyn summit
Mike at Hellvellyn Summit

Derwent Water
Derwent Water
Sept 17th
his is our 35th wedding anniversary, so I should not be blogging but paying attention to B. I will make up for it later. We left the Lake District after one more hike around Buttermere and we are now back at the marina, clearing up a few things, prepping Basil for the winter, etc. We return to Phoenix next Sunday.
Badger sign
Road Sign in the Lake District

It has been a weird summer. Records were broken as usual - it was the wettest summer since 1912 and the dullest since records began. The first month was hell as it rained continually and we had numerous problems with the boat, including an electrical failure which forced us into a hotel for several days. I was ready to throw in the towel on this boating lark, and Barb wanted go home to Phoenix even if it was 44C every day. But we came through the bad times, the weather cleared, we had a lovely time in Cornwall, cruising the Trent, being with my family in Kent, seeing my aunt Rosemary again, a wild few days in London, all capped off by a wonderful trip to the Lake District, thanks to Mike and Ange. So we will return next year!

We are looking forward to seeing our friends and being reunited with our cat, Marni. AlthoughMarniac parted from the little devil over the summer, we are lucky enough to have a replica on the boat with us, a gift from Mike and Ange (see right, enlarge if you dare >>>).

This will probably be my last journal entry for the summer. See you next year!