Canal Boat – July 2018

(Barré) #1 Canal Boat July 2018 7



n 8 May, a traditional
Chesterfield Canal working
narrowboat took to the Trent
tideway at West Stockwith for
the first time since the end of regular trade
on the canal over 60 years ago. She was
unpowered, wooden-built, uncovered and
blunt-bowed, just like her predecessors – but
unlike the old days, she was breasted up
alongside a more familiar diesel-powered
steel-hulled craft.
The occasion was an outing to the
Erewash Canal Preservation & Development
Association’s 50th anniversary rally at
Langley Mill. The motor boat was the
shortened 1929 Fellows Morton & Clayton
boat Python, now operated by the
Chesterfield Canal trust as a workboat and
resplendent in new paintwork after a
complete rebuild. And the unpowered craft
was Dawn Rose, completed three years ago

by a group from the Trust as an authentic
copy of the unusual design of working boats
(said to have been called ‘cuckoo boats’)
which used to work the canal. CCT kindly
invited Canal Boat along to join them for
their first trip on the tidal Trent.
The trip had been scheduled on a neap
tide, to avoid the strongest tidal currents;
however, in the event, there was so much
‘fresh’ coming down the river that the tide
hardly assisted the upriver journey at all.
But any concerns about how the two boats
would handle proved unfounded as we left
the lock, came around very nicely, and
headed for Gainsborough. Dawn Rose’s light
weight and shallow draught (empty wooden
horseboats generally draw less than a foot)
meant she wasn’t too much of a drag for
Python’s 30hp Lister, but still progress over
the ground was no more than 4mph, and
slowed down markedly once we passed
Gainsborough Bridge and soon lost what
little assistance we had from the tide.
“Of course in the old days, she’d have
been on her own,” said one of Dawn Rose’s
volunteer crew, with quite some admiration
for the men who took to the Trent in
narrowboats without horse or engine. They
would have gone with the current, steered
around the bends with large oars, and
sometimes hoisted a sail (yes, on a
narrowboat) where possible.
Progress slowed to a crawl as the ebb tide

strengthened – the handy kilometre posts
(something else that the working boat crews
wouldn’t have had to help them!) went from
10 minute to 15 minute intervals. Finally,
four and a half hours after leaving
Stockwith, we arrived in the calm waters of
the arm leading to Torksey Lock.
This was where we left them, tying up
overnight on the pontoon moorings. The
following day the crew had an even slower
journey up to Cromwell Lock and Newark

  • with the amount of fresh water meaning
    that they got no assistance from the tide at
    all. Another two days against the current
    took them to Trent Lock, and a final day up
    the Erewash to Langley Mill.
    Look out for them on their return journey
    downriver in early June – check out Dawn
    Rose’s unusual construction, and imagine
    steering her back down to Stockwith using
    just the current, an oar, and perhaps a sail...


Approaching the overnight stop at Torksey

Dawn Rose (right) and Python
pass Gainsborough Bridge

Underway: leaving West Stockwith on the Trent
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