Cuckoo Way: Chesterfield Canal, Day 2

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Could I get up this morning after a gruelling 26-mile canal walk? Well, with the help of plasters (three) over blisters on my left foot and a bandage over another foot (the blister was too big for a plaster), it was possible to gingerly climb down the stairs to the breakfast room of our b&b.

It was a bank holiday so, even though Worksop isn’t generally seen as a holiday destination, there were quite a few guests having breakfast at Acorn Lodge. 

After our filling cereal and full English breakfast, we got ready, paid up and headed back to the canal. Acorn Lodge was a good stopping off point for a rest but it was time to move on.

Simon got a text from his dad saying if we wanted a lift back this morning to give him a ring. Tempting (that’s how tired I was) but no, we would continue. 17 miles today, Simon said.

My trusty pole came in handy!

Our walk started off sometime between 9.30 and 10am, later than yesterday.

En route to the canal we came across a fascinating church/former priory, I would have liked to have explored but my legs were determined to conserve as much energy as possible. Simon looked in and took this photo of a very unusual yew door.

Another treat was in store before we left Worksop. We expected the canal to be in a much more urban setting than previous. What was not expected was the sight of a kingfisher (my second sighting in a fortnight!) It was standing on a ledge on top of the canal, before swooping in and grabbing a fish breakfast.

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After this great start, we moved onwards. Only once did we nearly get lost when thankfully a resident gardening noticed us ambling along and pointed us in the right direction, over the bridge and across the canal.

An elderly man on an old-fashioned bike told us ‘not too long to get there’, of course, he told us this before he heard where we were going.

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We passed Shireoaks Marina, where many boats were moored, stopping off at the village for painkillers for my feet. The marina was actually built on the site of the colliery basin, used to load boats until 1947. It is surprising how many scenic places have an industrial past.

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We reached Turnerwood, a pleasant little hamlet which looked like it might have a cafe…. But no time for a cup of tea, alas.

Past Turnerwood and we arrive at an engineering fan or canal lover’s dream – the land of double and triple locks. It is also a very scenic, wooded section, on the other side of the tow path is Old Spring Wood and Hawks Wood. 

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The Thorpe flight of locks includes two treble and two double staircases within its 15 locks.

Along with the Turnerwood flight (seven locks), the canal passes through 22 locks in just over a mile. The canal also flows over ‘a three arched aqueduct above the River Ryton which passes from Yorkshire to Nottinghamshire’ (The Chesterfield Canal Guidebook, Chesterfield Canal Trust).

We passed by the site of the wharf where the stone for the Houses of Parliament was loaded. Yes, did you know that the stone used for the famous political arena was transported from Chesterfield Canal all the way to London (via the Trent, Humber, North Sea and Thames)?

While we walked, we decided that, depending on how we would feel after another couple of miles, we might take Simon’s parents up on their offer of a lift back – but not until we reached Norwood Tunnel at the very least.

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Time was ticking on, and although normally we could walk three miles in an hour, possibly more, at this rate we were slowly ambling along at two miles an hour. We might end up getting to the end of the canal in Chesterfield at midnight at this rate!

At Kiveton Park, we carried on to the portal of Norwood Tunnel, where the canal seemingly ends. From here, via Kiveton Waters (the site of the old Kiveton Colliery) we continued above the Norwood Tunnel, going under the M1 at one point. The tunnel was once the equal longest tunnel in England, 12 feet high and 9 feet 3 inches wide. Because of mining subsidence, one part collapsed in the 1800s and closed in 1907.

A couple of stretches of the canal reappears, at one point partly overgrown with plantation. And then it disappears – and we realised that the fenced-in gardens were actually built on the line of the canal.

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From Killamarsh it is possible to walk to the end of the canal – but with a four mile or so non-canal detour. (The Canal Trust is working on restoration).

Earlier we had made the decision to go back once we reached Killamarsh so, at 4pm and 12 miles on, we got a lift back from The Crown pub in Killamarsh.

I didn’t feel as disappointed as I thought I would. Yes, we cut our walk short by about eight miles but we did walk about 12 miles today and 26 yesterday so 38 altogether. Much of the trek was achieved. We also hiked along the most attractive section. Had we continued, we would have trudged another four miles just to get back to the canal at Staveley Town Basin – and then another four or so miles from there to Chesterfield. As Simon said, we walked the full length of the existing canal from West Stockwith to Killamarsh.

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We saw many sights, some of the wildlife I forgot to mention earlier included the migrant chiff chaff, house martin, swallow and goldfinches. We also heard a chaffinch and reed warbler.

It took four days for my legs to get back to normal but I felt happy with my achievement – my first marathon really! And I felt impressed with myself for walking 38 miles in two days.

Here’s to the next challenge…

Facts of the Day

1. Work on the Chesterfield Canal started in 1771 and was completed in 1777.

2. The main trade was coal but stone, iron, corn, timber, lime and lead were also carried.

3. The final commercial cargo was carried in 1956. The canal could have closed if it hadn’t have been for campaigning by the Retford and Worksop Boat Club.

Thanks to their members,  Chesterfield Canal Trust and other volunteers and campaigners, we were able to walk along this beautiful part of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. 

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Cuckoo Way: Chesterfield Canal Day 1

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The start of our Cuckoo Way walk at West Stockwith

Day One

9am. We started off at West Stockwith, where the picturesque canal basin connects with the River Trent. It was once a boat building centre where the Chesterfield Canal narrow boats – nicknamed cuckoos – were built.

I had a sense of high optimism about today’s journey, yes, it would be about 20 miles (actually it was 26!) but it was on the flat. No hills, no mountains. I could walk for ages on the flat, yes?

Hmm, let’s see.

We passed boats and dog walkers and attractive housing overlooking the canal. Our first locks – upper and lower –  were at Misterton. Both bridges and locks had numbers which, when I got tired, I counted to keep my morale up. There were also milestones too but some seemed to be absent.

The time we embarked on our journey coincided with Duckling Season. We came across many mallards, one had 10 youngsters close by while another sadly only had one. I told myself the others were hiding.

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We passed a former brickyard and wharfs, quiet farmland, Gringley-on-the-Hill – probably the only hill we saw on our walk, and Drakeholes tunnel, pictured below, (unfortunately the nearby 1700s pub, The White Swan, closed some time ago, despite its ideal location. Hopefully it will reopen one day). We also passed an ornamental bridge – with an age-worn face on either side – at Wiseton estate.

Clayworth was our first rest stop, it appeared to be a haven for moored boats on either side. Sitting at an outside bench, our cheese sandwiches and water tasted good.

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Alas, time ticked on. It was after noon and we were behind schedule – the plan was to stop off at Retford for lunch but at this rate it would be 2pm.

Keep striding ahead, don’t think too much of the time, as long as we get to Worksop before it dark…

My previous ‘dilly-dallying’ became more purposeful, although I kept feeling as if I had a blister on my foot. Our scenery was delightfully quiet and rural and we passed a quirky-named lock called Whitsunday Pie Lock. A strange and slightly eerie sight from across the water greeted us – of what seemed like tombstones dotted around…

We spoke of Eddie Izzard, a British celebrity, he ran 26 marathons in 26 days!! (How is that even possible?!) Well, if he can do that, I can surely walk 26 miles along a canal in one day…

… And 20 miles the next day.

Retford was supposed to be our half way point but it turned out it was actually two-thirds of the way. This cheered me up at the time but little did I know how weary my legs would feel after leaving this stop. That, although we had walked 15 miles to reach this point, the next 10 miles would feel even more of an endurance.

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For time and tiredness reasons, we opted to just get a drink in the nearest pub or cafe to the canal rather than venture into town. This turned out to be The Packet Inn (the inn was named after the passenger boats arriving on market days). The landlord of this down-to-earth pub was surprised to be asked for a cup of tea and two lemonades.

‘A cup of tea?!’

‘Lemonade?!’

But he served those drinks and very reasonably priced they were too. It was just what was needed. The lemonade was heavenly.

Back on track, we checked my feet, no apparent blisters could be seen.

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We saw swathes of hawthorn, a few swan nests along the way and a highlight was a kestrel swooping down into a nearby field for his/her dinner.

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The terrain varied, I had concerns that this would be a unvaried walk, one that may possibly bore Simon but we were spoilt with different scenery, woodland, farmland, industrial…

One highlight was a kestrel swooping down into a nearby field for his /her dinner. We also saw coots, swan nests and swathes of hawthorn.

Our next main village was Ranby, it must only have been about five or so miles on from Retford but my legs said differently. My feet, once again, insisted they were covered in blisters.

I was tempted to enter a village pub and order a taxi straight to the B&B. But there was no village pub within easy reach of the canal even though we could see the A1.

We carried on.

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At Osberton, we walked past several fields with horses, an equestrian centre or some kind.

We reached another bridge. I had been counting the numbers of bridges, locks and milestones but had long stopped. I was merely focusing on putting one foot in front of the other.

Bit this bridge was different. An elderly man, out for a walk with his dog,  was looking over it. We hadn’t come across many fellow travellers in the last few miles.

Simon raced ahead to ask this gentleman a very important question, ‘how far is it to Worksop?’

‘A mile and a half’, he replied. It was music to my ears.

True, it felt longer as we trudged on into an ever-increasing urban environment. Even when I saw the big b&q store or warehouse (never, did I think I would be happy to see such ugly industrial and retail buildings!) Worksop did not seem much nearer.

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Eventually we reached the right bridge, it took us to a main road, on which was a restaurant Simon had mentioned as being ‘not too far from the guesthouse’. I think it took us 20 minutes from the canal to the accommodation.

We finally arrived at 7.30pm. Such a relief to lie down on a bed! We ordered a pizza takeaway, my legs were now officially on strike. Oh, and the blisters – all four of them – had developed on my feet.

The pizza tasted stodgy. The garlic bread had no flavour, no garlic. Baywatch will never win an Oscar, but to lie down eating and watching TV was simply blissful.

The only question is: would I be able to walk tomorrow?

Coming on Saturday: Cuckoo Way – Day Two

 

The Cuckoo Way

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One evening in January, while having an evening meal in a pleasant pub along Lancaster Canal, Simon and I discussed having a semi-long distance canal walking adventure.

Canal walking sounded good to me, a challenge with no hills could be relatively easy in comparison to some of our more difficult hill-walking hikes.

So I thought…

Lancaster Canal, in Lancashire, turned out to be 57 miles in length. Chesterfield Canal, Nottinghamshire, was a ‘mere’ 46 miles in comparison.

Maybe a slightly easier walk then. I liked the idea of an ‘easier’ challenge!

A three-day hike, I said.

Two days at most, Simon replied.

Err, okay, right.

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So, at the start of May, Simon and I embarked on a 46-mile walk along the Chesterfield Canal.

In two days.

I had done some walking (mostly six-mile or less with a few intermittent longer treks of 9 or 8 miles) and two Zumba classes in the last two months.

But was it really enough for a 46-mile trek (in two days!)?

But it would be flat so, I mean, it must be quite easy, right?

We will see…

This walk, from West Stockwith to Chesterfield (or vice versa), is one of wildlife, history, beautiful scenery, geography and industry. It’s called The Cuckoo Way because that was what the old horse-drawn boats were called. No-one knows for certain why.

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A map of the canal (from Chesterfield Canal Visitor Guide 2019)

It starts in the River Rother, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, and ends at West Stockwith, Nottinghamshire. Or vice versa, which was the way we did it.

Simon got a cheap Ordnance Survey map early March and the B&B in Worksop was booked on March 19.

On Saturday, May 4, we would get a lift to the start of the walk from Simon’s parents and our adventure would begin….

Coming soon: Cuckoo Way – Day One

 

 

Fitness Challenge 2019: February/March

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February

1. Aim to walk 100 miles

2. Do something active every day

3. Set aside 15 minutes 5 days a week for yoga

4. Start planning at least one long-distance hike this year

5. Buy trainers for exercise classes

Since the start of 2019, I’ve set myself monthly goals to get fit. So in February, I set out the above goals. Did I succeed? Umm, no. I didn’t get the trainers, I kept procrastinating about planning the hike, I forgot about the yoga. Even the simple ‘do something active every day’ was sometimes forgotten about. What I have learnt though is that when I get distracted in my life – for good and bad reasons – the fitness regime gets forgotten about and left to one side.

On the positive side, although I did not reach 100 miles (coat-on, I’m sure I would have exceeded it had I counted every step I did), I reached 88 miles, nearly 100 and better than January’s 74 miles.

Notable Walks

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Pictured: A scene from the Muker walk

River Swale walk, Richmond (6 miles or thereabouts)

Muker to Tan Hill Inn and back (17 miles on my pedometer!)

Walk to Brockholes Nature Reserve (11 miles)

Walk into Preston city centre (8 miles)

88 miles. Running total: 162 miles (I’m also aiming to walk 1,000 miles by the end of 2019).

March

I had the same goals as last month but it gets worse instead of better! (Now you see why I didn’t update this post earlier!) I walked a grand total of 58.1 miles, just over half of my target. Nowhere near good enough.

58.1 miles. Running total: 220.1 miles

Notable walks:

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Pictured: A view from the Sherwood Forest woodland walk

Sherwood Forest woodland walk (7.4 miles)

Ainsdale Sand Dunes (6-7 miles or thereabouts)

The one goal I did achieve in March was to plan at least one long-distance hike this year.

So in May, Simon and I are planning to walk the entire Cuckoo Way/Chesterfield Canal – 46 miles – in two days! The 240-year-old canal traverses Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and South Yorkshire.

In June, my friend Caroline and I are planning to walk Preston’s Guild Wheel. It will be 21 miles in 2 days and encircles the city of Preston.

Perhaps the Guild Wheel should have come first on the fitness schedule?! ☺️

So, as you can see, now I really do have to get a reasonable level of fitness.

So for April, I have the similar targets to before but as there is a goal I have made it harder. Will the proposed weekend hikes focus my mind? Let’s see…

1. Aim to walk 100 to 125 miles

2. Do something active every day for 5 minutes

3. Set aside 15 minutes 3 days a week for yoga (I’ve tried to make this more achievable by aiming for 3 rather than 5 days)

4. Buy trainers for exercise class 

5. Go to at least 4 exercise classes in April

 

 

Fitness challenge 2019: The beginning

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So is 2019 the year when, finally, I get fit and healthy? Every year I aim to be this magical fit woman, filled with energy, but the efforts of becoming this person is just too much for lazy me. Sure, I can trek up mountains but walking up those steep hills is tiring indeed. How wonderful to feel I could run up them instead of panting and puffing, in some discomfort, as I do presently.

Last year I set myself a fundraising swimming challenge (eight miles in four months) with proceeds going towards Butterfly Conservation and The Donkey Sanctuary. This was from February to May. I decided I still liked swimming but not that particular pool (it was too busy). I also walked 10,000 steps a day for a fortnight for The Big Issue Foundation, a homeless charity, in March.

And so when it came to Scafell Pike in April, it felt easier than I expected.

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So challenges help me to keep motivated and so I have devised new ones for 2019, to be spaced out over the year so I always have something to aim for.

1. I signed up for RED January. It is a challenge, created by mental health charity Mind, to help people support their mental wellbeing through exercise. It’s also about raising awareness of mental health issues. R. E. D actually stands for Run Every Day, but thankfully this is not essential (I’m not keen on running!) It’s more about getting active every day in some way. I’m aiming to walk more, at lunchtimes or to work.

For information on Mind and R. E. D January, visit http://www.mind.org.uk and https://redtogether.co.uk

2. I’m also aiming to walk 100 miles in the month of January. Originally it was 150 miles, which would be great but I’m not sure I will be able to achieve it in such a dark, cold month.

3. I signed up for Country Walking magazine’s 1,000 miles in a year challenge. I did this, one month late, last year and just scraped through. http://www.walk1000miles.co.uk

4. To walk the 21-mile Preston Guild Wheel in one or two days. Perhaps in April or May?

5. To do one long-distance walk of at least four days. How wonderful to do the Coast to Coast Walk (12 days!) Maybe in September?

And there is always the dream of walking up Ben Nevis. Will it be this year?!

I will write a monthly update on my training programme and how far I have progressed with plans. Surely if this doesn’t motivate me, nothing will! Have you got any fitness goals this year?

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