Monthly Archives: September 2020

canal & river trust launches project

canal & river trust launches citizen science project

The Canal & River Trust has teamed up with partners, including King’s College London, and is appealing for people aged 16 or over to take part in its largest ever study of the wellbeing benefits of spending time beside water.

The academic study will enable the Trust to better understand the health benefits of waterways and will help make the case to partners and funders of the importance of looking after and investing in Britain’s former industrial canals and rivers.

Those taking part download an app onto their smart phone.  Then, three times a day over the following two weeks, they are prompted to answer ‘in the moment’ questions about how they feel and the environment around them.  On each occasion it takes about one minute to complete the survey.

Those taking part are able to access an individualised report summarising their experiences.  This could shed light on how being in different types of places, such as being close to birds, trees and water, affects their mood, as well as contributing to the wider study of the impact of different environments on mental health and wellbeing.

Jenny Shepherd, research and impact manager at the Canal & River Trust, comments: “Those of us that know and use the waterways feel instinctively that spending time beside water is good for our wellbeing.  With our academic partners, and with the help of the public, we’re able to collect our own bespoke data to record how people are affected by their environment and how this changes when they are on or beside water.

“This scale and scope of this research is a first for the Trust.  And, with the help of those taking part, we can emphatically demonstrate to decision makers and funders the importance of canals and the vital role they play, particularly in our towns and cities where green and blue space is at a premium.  We’d like as many people to take part as possible – having taken part myself, I know it literally takes a minute or so just three times a day.  It’s a fascinating area of study, both to find out about your own individual mood influencers, and for the wider social implications of the environment on wellbeing.”

The Canal & River Trust survey, which runs from 21 September to 15 November, is run on the Urban Mind app and partners King’s College London, J&L Gibbons and Nomad Projects.  The app is free to download on App Store & Google Play.  To take part please download and select the ‘custom’ study option and enter the password ‘water’ when prompted.  The survey is confidential and participants are not asked to provide their name, phone, email or any other information which could identify them.

technology breakthrough

technology breakthrough

With the world in a very precarious state at the moment due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, it is reassuring to find that apart from the medical experiments and research tests that are being conducted 24 hours a day throughout the world, that another form of vaccine / protection is being developed and is proving to be a considerable success.

Danish company UVD Robots from Odense have created a robot that can destroy microbe viruses by using an ultraviolet light. Vice president of the company Simon Ellison explained whilst demonstrating through a glass window of how the process works. “We have been growing our business at quite a huge pace, but the Covid 19 outbreak has accelerated the demand for the new robots”

Chief executive Per Juul Nielson added “ truckload`s of machines have been sent to

China especially to Wuhan where the outbreak first took place, sales in Asia and across Europe have increased dramatically since the virus spread across continents”

Mr Nielson stated that Italy on reflection had taken the main brunt of the disease along with Spain and the UK and at the moment and are in a desperate situation with the fatality rate rising on a daily basis.

Like every other country across the globe, everybody wants to try and help to curb the virus from getting worse than it already is.

UVD robots on the frontline

UVD robots on the frontline

Launched back in 2019 after an extensive 6 year trial experimental period between parent companies Blue Ocean Robotics and Odense University, the robots which cost £ 53,370 each, were designed to reduce the likelihood of hospital acquired infections which have surfaced over the past years and can be costly to treat due to the amount of care involved.

Because of the increase and fast spread of the virus throughout the world, production has significantly risen, and now takes less than one day to construct a machine.

Ultraviolet Light

So how does the robot work? Eight bulbs emit concentrated UC-C ultraviolet light that destroys bacteria, viruses and other harmful microbes by damaging its DNA or RNA, stopping it from multiplying further.

At the moment the process is damaging to humans, hence the demonstration behind a closed partition, but it is something that the companies are working on.

The process itself takes between 10-20 minutes per room, once finished there is a noticeable burning smell, something that can only be described like singed hair.

To be effective the UV needs to fall directly onto a surface, if light waves are blocked by dust or obstructions such as shadows or shaded areas, then the areas will not be treated, therefore manual cleaning is needed prior to the UV light being used.

The use of UV light is not new to the scientific field having been used for decades in air and water purification and also in various labs around the world, but by combining them with the autonomous robots they become a different thing altogether.

Professor Hans Jorn Kolmes of the University of Southern Denamrk quoted “if you apply a proper amount of ultraviolet light for an allocated period of time, you can be pretty sure that you will get rid of the organism, the type that have problematic strains that give rise to infections”.

This type of disinfection can also be applied to epidemic situations, like the current Coronavirus / Covid 19 example that we are dealing with right now.

blue ocean robots at work

blue ocean robots at work

Although there is no significant proof that the robotic light can be effective against Covid 19, the experiments show that it is successful in killing other similar viruses such as Mers and Sars which have been killed by the use of the ultraviolet light.

Associate professor Dr Lena Ciric who is an expert on molecular biology at the University College London agrees that UV disinfection robots can help fight against the disease, she added “the robots are not silver bullets, but they do provide an extra line of defence alongside any medical or chemical breakthroughs”

Because we are experiencing more and more patients being admitted to our hospitals around the world, its more important than ever to be on top of the cleaning and decontamination routines, these robots definitely work in that area.

American company Xenex have also developed a robot called “Light Strike” which has to be manually put in place, but delivers high intensity UV light rays from a U shaped bulb

The firm has seen a huge rise in orders since the onset of the virus mainly from Italy, Japan, Thailand and South Korea.

Xenex said that numerous studies show that the Light Strike is effective at reducing hospital infections and combating relevant super bugs. One Texan hospital used it in their clean up operation after an Ebola case back in 2014.

Due to the Light Strikes success, more than 500 health clinics and hospitals throughout the US and beyond have installed one into their facilities.

In California and Nebraska it is already being put to good use by sanitising hospital rooms where coronavirus patients have been receiving treatment.

Technical Swerve

China has seen an incredible swerve towards new technology to help fight the disease, with the nation having the highest spend on drones and robotic systems.

Both Japan and China have been seen for years as the forerunners where technology is concerned, one thing is for sure, they will not stop until they find the solution.

xenex light strike model

Xenex light strike model

Robots have been used in a vast range of tasks for years, mainly for disinfection, deliveries, medical devices, waste control and temperature checking, so this is not new technology as such, but a merging of mechanical and medical minds.

Research Manager Leon Xian of IDC China said “We think this is a breakthrough for the greater use of robotics, both for hospitals and in public places”

Although the robots are efficient, humans have a natural sense of caution when it comes to change of their normal routines, ultimately time will tell and now is certainly the time to do so.

Because the virus originated in China, home grown scientists and technicians have been spurred on to create and develop a type of anti-body / vaccine whether it be mechanical or medical.

One such company YouiBot of Shenzhen were already developing autonomous robots, by adapting its technology to make a disinfection device which can be moved by using wheels and castors automatically, placing them in places without the use of any manual labour.

A YouiBot spokesman said “We have been trying to do something to help, for us technically it is not as difficult as people imagine, it is just finding the right formula, like building Lego”.

We have already supplied factories, offices, airports and hospitals in Wuhan.

The machines are running for 24 hours a day, checking body temperature during the day and are killing virus spores at night.

Due to the devastating affect the Coronavirus has had on manufacturers, plants, and engineering  facilities, there has been a major problem getting parts and accessories to keep production and assembly lines moving, when a vital component is missing it slows down the production and hampers development.

Companies such as Bearingtech can help to solve these problems by supplying such parts and accessories to all major and minor establishments to help keep production moving in the right direction, which helps to keep the assembly lines and food production conveyor belts rolling.

Unfortunately most epidemics do not bring good news, when one does appear, companies including research labs, chemical companies, technical plants and inventive institutions step forward and try to solve the problems that they bring, the robotic side of technology has and will help in this situation.

YouiBot robots checking temperatures in public places daily

YouiBot robots checking temperatures in public places daily

We are at present in the midst of the worst peacetime catastrophe since World War 2, when faced with problems or conflicts the human spirit and nature is to survive and to protect what we hold dear to us, whether the threat comes from an epidemic or military force, one thing is certain we must and will stand together and share our information for the good of all others, be sensible and think before we act no matter what this disease throws at us.

There is no doubt that this virus has got far worse than anyone expected, but be assured the people of the world will not rest on their laurels and wait, we will do whatever it takes to combat and defeat this threat to mankind.

Former president of the USA Ronald Reagan once said “If World War 3 is declared then no one will turn up due to the technical advancements that we have made”

This might not be a war in the conventional mould, but everyone on the planet will turn up, take part and defeat it!

narrow boat engine by stephanie horton

narrow boat engine maintenance and repair

by stephanie horton

Stephanie Horton, RCRWritten by River Canal Rescue managing director, Stephanie Horton, Narrow Boat Engine Maintenance and Repair is an essential maintenance tool and perfect for those keen to keep their vessels in a good condition, inside and out.

“The idea behind the book was to combine our practical advice with our engineers’ specialist knowledge who through years of experience have unrivalled skills and repair techniques."

With a focus on diesel engines and their arrangements, it explains the theory behind the boat’s main systems, including propulsion, cooling and electrics, and gives instructions on how to identify key components, how to locate faults and where possible, how to fix them.

There are tips on everyday engine maintenance and how to complete a service and all instructions are accompanied by over 260 colour step-by-step photographs and 60 technical diagrams.

Narrow Boat Engine Maintenance and Repair retails at £18 (discounted for RCR members) and is available from River Canal Rescue and bookshops.

“My aim was to deliver a single reference tool, keeping things as simple as possible, and from the feedback received, this what it achieves. I’m delighted it’s been published.”


very different personalised canal boat gift idea!

stoke art pottery

brings you a very different, personalised canal boat gift idea!

the beginnings of stoke art pottery

Established in 2006, Stoke Art Pottery was perhaps a bit of an accident. First of all, we are not a pottery or even "potters". But an online store, selling high quality pottery and ceramics.

The owner of Stoke Art Pottery, Malcolm Dean, realised that the potteries landscape in Stoke on Trent was changing dramatically. Instead of the area being dominated by very large factories, there were now a large number of small potters and ceramic artists working independently, setting up their own studios or working from home. Malcolm thought there was an opportunity here: he could work with these people to develop their businesses, and Stoke Art Pottery was born.

Being based in Stoke on Trent was quite an advantage. It enabled Malcolm to work very closely with the Ceramic Artists, enabling him to offer Studio Trials and One Offs that were totally exclusive to Stoke Art Pottery.

who are these ceramic artists?

The first ceramic artist to come on board was Anita Harris. Formerly the Lead Designer at Poole Pottery, Anita was also a senior designer at Moorcroft.  Alan Clarke (another well known designer for Poole Pottery) and Deborah Wood (hand painter of Brian Wood Designs) soon followed.

grotesque birds - stoke art pottery

It was not long before Stoke Art Pottery were also stockists for Lorna Bailey Artware, Burslem Pottery (famous for their Grotesque Birds inspired by the Martins Brothers),  Emma Bailey Ceramics, and Marie Graves (a well established designer for Carlton Ware). In addition to several other ceramic artists.

the potteries' best kept secret

The close working relationship that Malcolm had with each potter and artist worked extremely well with Anthony (Tony) Cartlidge.

Tony has been a free-lance ceramic modeller and artist for some considerable time, and  is often described as one of the best kept secrets of the Potteries.

Normally working with many of the large pottery manufacturers based in Stoke on Trent, Tony's career has included designing and modelling two-sided character teapots for Royal Doulton.  These were produced in 2002, each one in a world-wide Limited Edition of 1500.

stoke art pottery character teapots

royal doulton character teapots

However, probably one his most exciting projects was being involved in designing and modelling “The World’s Largest Toby Jug".

the largest toby jug in the world

Standing over three feet tall, this Toby Jug was commissioned by the American Toby Jug Museum, based near to Chicago in the USA.

Tony modelled it, building up the three-foot Toby Jug around a barrel and a bucket.

Tony says it was probably one of the most complex projects that he had ever worked on, due to the extreme size of the jug, and having to ensure that it did not collapse around him!

It was then hand painted.

The first giant Toby Jug was delivered to the museum in 1999, with others available by special order (limited edition of 50).


stoke art pottery - exclusive designs.

hand painted vase by tony CartlidgeMore recently, Tony has been hand painting vases with his own designs for Stoke Art Pottery, each design being totally exclusive.

It was through the close working relationship that Malcolm had with Tony that the idea for the Personalized Canal Boat Gifts was conceived.

Tony had designed and painted vases with canal scenes, and during various discussions someone said, (and no one can remember who, exactly) "How about personalising these designs with individual canal boat owners own boats?"

hand painted vase by tony cartlidgeThe idea was hatched - so after some heart searching it was decided we should go ahead and offer the facility of hand painting owners own canal boats onto the scenes already developed.

These hand crafted vases would be totally hand painted with one off designs, Totally different and unique!

fantastic souvenir and a great gift idea!

Just picture your own boat on one of our hand painted ceramic vases, with a choice of different locations (currently Trent & Mersey and the Macclesfield Canals).  A totally unique piece of pottery. Hand painted by one of the Leading Ceramic Artists, Tony Cartlidge. Each one will be signed by the artist and designer. And will come with a signed Certificate of Authentication.

the craftsman at work

stoke art potteries - hand drawing on vase

Tony Cartlidge hand painting design on vase

Anthony Cartlidge with one of his creationsThe hand drawing and hand painting of each vase will take three to four days to complete. The delivery time for each order is 28 days, and as already stated, each will come with its own certificate of authentication.

stoke art pottery

Stoke Art Pottery is an on-line business, but we endeavour to give a personal service online. We are a small family business, not a faceless large business. Your custom matters to us. If there is a problem it gets sorted quickly and professionally. Regretfully on occasions something does go wrong. Or mistakes are made. That is Life! Thankfully these instances are very rare.

Call: 07872 435 590 Write: Visit: website

waterwatch rnli local ambassadors

waterwatch rnli local ambassadors

Amidst all the doom and gloom about Covid 19 it’s a really nice change to have something positive to announce!

merchant navy association boat clubOver the past year or so The Merchant Navy Association (MNA) and their Boat Club  have agreed an operational partnership with the RNLI whereby MNA Boat Club members have been encouraged to join forces with the  RNLI  to promote the RNLI’s Respect the Water campaign to reduce the almost 200  fatalities as a result of drowning in and around the UK every year; 70% of those drownings occur on inland waterways where the RNLI has no lifeboat stations and hence no Water Safety officer or Advisers either so the MNA Boat Club have taken the initiative in the form of launching  their new “MNA WaterWatch” scheme

MNA WaterWatch, along with the recent introduction by the RNLI of their micro-volunteering “Local Ambassadors” scheme means that all members of the MNA and  MNA  Boat Club  now have the opportunity to become Local Ambassadors for the RNLI to actively promote the Respect the Water Campaign.

Initially the RNLI Local Ambassadors initiative is focusing on promoting safety on and around the UK’s beaches where as a result of Covid 19  many of these  beaches have become crowded to a far greater extent  than is usual even at this time of year with the result that  the RNLI's Lifeguards, and the Coastguard Rescue Service’s  resources are being hugely stretched.

RNLI logoHowever the RNLI are well aware that many of the MNA’s  members live inland and are quite often situated close to our rivers, canals, lakes or the Broads and the Fens and are ideally located to act as Local Ambassadors in those areas,  so the MNA Boat Club is working with the RNLI to develop a Local Ambassadors focus aimed specifically at promoting safety on and around our inland waters.

In the meantime the MNA Boat Club is already working with various organisations to promote the Respect the Water campaign on the coast and inland waterways of  East Anglia and the new RNLI Local Ambassadors scheme, with its very simple and straightforward on-line registration process provides the ideal  vehicle for delivering water  safety messages both for those taking a holiday either at the coast or afloat on,  or  near to, our many inland waterways such as the Broads and the Fens.

Further information is available on the MNA Boat Club website and on the RNLI website  or by email from Clive Edwards

so you want to live on a narrowboat?

so you want to live on a narrowboat?

There's been a surge of interest lately in 'living small'. Tiny homes, RVs, repurposed shipping containers, all have seen innovations recently to become more liveable and practical. And it's trendy so what's not to like? Living on a boat, particularly a narrowboat, is very much in this category. However, it comes with some added issues.

working boat and butty

First, a little history; narrowboats began as working boats, delivering the goods and supplies that fuelled the Industrial Revolution in Britain in the 18th century. A single horse-drawn narrowboat could supply as much as 50 times the tonnage that a horse and cart could deliver, albeit at about the same speed.

In the early 1800s boat operators began to bring their families aboard, partly to save on rent at home and partly as 'free' crew to help with the work. Of course, living space on the boat was at the expense of profitable cargo space so the 'boatman's cabin' was tiny. Usually about eight feet long and often housing a family of five or more, it was a model of compact efficiency.

Eventually railways took over the majority of the cargo-carrying business throughout Britain. By the early 20th century commercial use of narrowboats was rapidly fading out although some small vestiges (including a few horse-drawn ones) continued into the 1960s.

As the canals themselves fell into disuse, many intrepid volunteers began to resurrect the waterways and the boats for recreational use. The 'modern' narrowboat is typically 50-70 feet long, built of steel, and has a diesel engine. Although it’s now almost all cabin (little or no deck space for cargo) it's still less than seven feet wide (hence; narrowboat) in order to utilise many of the narrow locks.

Most have also retained some of the historical compact efficiency. They have all of the usual modern amenities; central heat, refrigerator, shower, etc. However, there is a big 'but'. Even though the modern narrowboat has many 21st century conveniences, they often come with significant differences from shore-based homes. I'll go through some of them one at a time, although they are often inter-related…


Since my boat has a reasonably powerful diesel engine, raw power isn't usually a problem. There are two alternators to charge a bank of four high-capacity batteries for running all the electrical (and electronic) devices on board.

boat electrical inverterAs with many things however, it's not always that simple. Lead-acid batteries (the usual car type) are quite finicky with their charging regime. They like to be kept charged up, and will break down and may fail if they're run down past about 50% of their capacity. So it's vital that close attention is paid to them. I've recently installed solar panels, which has helped immensely over the summer (not so much in the autumn and winter). They supply enough wattage that I don't have to start the engine for days on end if I'm not travelling.

Most of my equipment on board runs on 12 volts so I don't need to run the inverter to convert to 240v AC, except to charge my laptop (I'll be investing in a 12v charger this year). The inverter itself takes significant power so it reduces the efficiency of the system. I try to only run it when the engine is running (to charge my 'Hoover' for instance).


filling with water on a narrowboatMy boat, like most narrowboats, has a large-capacity water tank. I can go many days or even weeks without needing to refill it, and there are numerous water points around the system so obtaining water isn't a big problem. But again, careful watch must be kept. I've only run out once, and it's a pain. In a house the supply of water is generally seen as an endless thing, not to be worried about (except in an ecological, save-the-planet sort of way). I've grown very accustomed to only running taps, including the shower, as needed. Wet down, turn tap off, shampoo and wash, turn tap on to rinse. This actually goes double for hot water. The only ways to get hot water are by running the engine (cooling water is cycled through a 'calorifier' or hot-water tank) or the central heating system that runs radiators throughout the boat and also cycles through the tank. It's well insulated so I have at least 24 hours of hot water after only a short engine run but it's definitely something that has to be thought about daily.


Now we've come to perhaps the biggest issue on narrowboats. Get two boaters together for more than 5 minutes and they'll be debating the issue of toilets. Mine is a pump-out type, with a large holding tank, but there are several others, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. I won't get into that here, google it to learn more than you would ever want to know about them and what can cause an argument on a narrowboat online forum.

I have found that I can go several weeks without needing to pump out, and almost every marina has a facility so that hasn't been a problem. I'm quite stingy with how much water I use to flush, as I am with water use in general. Again, it must be thought about and monitored, much different from living ashore.


Lots of people, on shore, tend to do a reasonably large shop for groceries every week or two. They have a freezer for much of it, a large refrigerator, and lots of cupboard space. On a narrowboat this isn't often the case. I have a small bar fridge, with a tiny freezer section, so I really do have to be careful how much I buy at one time. Even space to store dry goods is at a premium. To complicate matters, access to a grocery store is a bit hit-and-miss. Often a selected cruising route doesn't go near a town or village for many miles (which translates to many days at 3 miles per hour). Careful planning is necessary; I've learned to keep certain things handy in case the fresh food runs out, like pasta and jars of sauce, beans, soups, etc. And, really, there are always pubs.


This really comes under the title of Power. The diesel engine supplies not only propulsion, but also hot water and electrical power. Even the central heating radiators are diesel fired. In a house, these things are just sort of 'there'. Petrol (gas in North America) stations are everywhere for the car, hot water just comes out of the tap, and stuff works when you plug it in. So keeping an eye on the fuel level is important. Having said that, I fill with fuel nearly every time I pump out the holding tank (usually a marina will have both together) so it's not a big problem, just another thing to think about.


This isn't really a make-or-break subject, but it is certainly much different than in most homes on land. Very few narrowboats have a washing machine on board (although more and more are installing them), and even fewer have a dryer. The power and water needs make this simply impractical. They also take up considerable valuable space on board. I have found that simply having many more pairs of socks, underwear, and t-shirts helps to solve this. The number of 'launderettes' in Britain is declining like everywhere else so some planning is involved. If I'm going near a village or town, the first thing I check for is a pub, the second is a grocery store, and the third is a launderette. Finding one has become a reason to celebrate and often I'll stay an extra day to clear up the backlog of clothes, linens, and towels that need washing. I do have a clothes drying rack and will wash things in the sink if necessary but that hasn't been much help in summers like 2019 where it seemingly rained every day after June!

Life in general

I've had several wonderful friends visit aboard during the summer of 2018, and I start each one with some instructions. Right after the locations of fire extinguishers and PFDs, first is that "There are no secrets on a narrowboat". We will all know when you go to the bathroom, whether you snore, what you like to eat and drink, and many more intimate details. But that's also part of the fun! Acquaintances become friends, and friends become family. All it takes is a good attitude.

frying pan on stoveWithin the limits of reality life can be very relaxed and carefree on the 'cut'. Where you take the boat is completely up to you (and your guests) as long as you stick to the parts with water. I have made some side trips on land as well, and with the great public transportation system in the UK, almost all of the country is within a few hours of a canal. There is a lot to see and do.

As for meals, the pub culture is alive and well so it's not always necessary to cook for oneself. However, I have found that when sitting out a rainstorm, cooking dinner is a great way to pass an afternoon. Who knew? With a bit of planning I've found that I can produce a pretty good meal, if I do say so myself. Most often in a frying pan, but I'll move on to the oven some day. I've recently discovered that I have one of those…

walking the chesterfield canal

a canal wanderer

walking the chesterfield canal

Please note the walks were done before National Lockdown on 23rd March 2020.

My Dad and I walked the Chesterfield canal over a six month period in five stages.

West Stockwith to Clarborough – 7th September 2019

Drakeholes Tunnel, Chesterfield Canal

On our maiden walk, we walked from West Stockwith, where the canal meets the River Trent, to Clarborough, a village near Retford.

We began our quest with a coffee at the Waterfront Inn then had a look at the marina and joined The Cuckoo Way to Clarborough.

It’s a beautiful stretch of the canal with the surrounding countryside and remnants of past industrial activity such as the brickworks near Gringley On the Hill.

Thirteen miles later we reached Clarborough and stopped for a drink at The Kings Arm before returning home.


Clarborough to Worksop – 9th November 2019

On the Chesterfield Canal

We drove to Retford and caught a bus to Clarborough…our plan was to walk from there to Worksop because catching a bus (as we thought at the time) back to Retford would be easier.  It wasn’t a long walk to the outskirts of Retford.  I bought a takeaway coffee and used the facilities at the canal side Bay Tree Café Bar and enjoyed the market town’s ambience.  We did notice a considerable amount of flooding around the River Idle.

After admiring the autumn colours around the town’s cemetery, we approached and ascended up the Forest Locks.

Forest Middle Top Lock, Chesterfield Canal

We stopped at the Forest Middle Top Lock for lunch.  We were hoping to stop for a drink at Ranby but it was a long walk to the pub (the canal bridge where we needed to get off was a bit of a walking distance). Instead we soldiered on passing Obserton Hall and reached the outskirts of Worksop as it was getting dark.  After 12 miles or so of walking, we had a well earned drink at The Liquorice Gardens before supposedly catching our bus back to Retford.

We learnt that due to the heavy localised flooding, our bus was cancelled! Instead we had to catch a train and it was a bit of walk up a hill to the town’s station (it was tough going after already walking so many miles).  We had to wait a bit for the train but we eventually made it to Retford for our return home.

Worksop to Norwood Tunnel (East Portal) – 23rd December 2019

On the Chesterfield Canal

We continued our adventures on the Chesterfield Canal by parking the car in Sheffield and catching the train to Worksop.  We had a quick coffee stop at the station’s café before descending down the hill towards the canal.

We picked up where we left off on our previous walk and walked via Shireoaks to the tunnel.  I remember the walk for its many locks set in stunning scenery with the canal travelling through incredible woodlands and reflecting the engineering ingenuity as far as the locks were concerned.

We meant to have stopped for a drink at the Station Pub at Kiveton Park but the pub didn’t open until 4.00pm and we couldn’t hang around till then.

We walked the remaining stretch to the tunnel entrance and continued attempting to walk overland to the other portal but couldn’t find The Cuckoo Way signs so we diverted ourselves through a country park and numerous muddy fields towards Killamarsh.

We eventually went under the motorway (M1) and walked into Woodall village and on its main road we spotted a bus stop and the bus we needed to get back to Sheffield stopped there!  With half an hour to spare we had a drink at The Travellers Rest.  A hot chocolate with cognac was well received after another tough walk especially the latter stages!  Bus bound and on our arrival at Sheffield we went home.

Chesterfield to Renishaw – 11th January 2020

Chesterfield Canal near Staveley

This was one of our first walks in the new year.  We parked the car in Chesterfield where we had breakfast and also had a little look round the town centre including its market square and of course St Mary’s and All Saints Church (which is infamous for its crooked spire).  A short walk out of town, we picked up The Cuckoo Way and crossed one of the main roads where we walked along the River Rother until reaching the canal.  It was a short walk to Tapton Lock Visitors Centre where we had a coffee and I bought some canal souvenirs including the official canal guide.

The Transpennine trail shares the same path as The Cuckoo Way.  After a few more locks we reached Hollingwood Hub where we visited the café and facilities and enjoyed coffee again with cake in its outside seating area.  There was a consultation event happening at the same time so we found out more about the canal’s restoration proposals.  Their aim is to have the canal completely restored in 2027 and I feel it’s doable as there are only a few miles now that are still yet to be restored. Afterwards, we had a look at the Staveley’s Basin where they usually have annual canal events (though the events in 2020 have sadly been cancelled due to COVID-19 though they will be reinstated in 2021 all being well).

We saw the recently restored town lock and continued our way.  The Cuckoo Way appeared to have been blocked so we pick up the Transpennine Trail to finish the remainder of our walk.  We finished our walk in Renishaw and after some confusion where we should be catching our bus back to Chesterfield; we eventually caught the bus for our drive home.

Renishaw to Norwood Tunnel (West Portal) – 7th March 2020

Disused Norwood Tunnel, Chesterfield Canal

There was one jigsaw puzzle missing for our completion of our Chesterfield Canal adventures and this was to reach Norwood Tunnel (West Portal).  We parked our car in Sheffield and got the bus to Renishaw.  On arrival we had a lovely breakfast at The Sitwell Arms and afterwards picked up The Cuckoo Way for our walk towards Killamarsh.

We briefly joined the Transpennine Trail and enjoyed a stop at its “town station” (the trail is on a disused railway and there used to be a station).  We got slightly lost in Killamarsh and ended up wandering in Rother Valley Country Park.  With the help of Google Maps we eventually rejoined the Cuckoo Way for our ascent up to Norwood Tunnel (West Portal).  We then retraced our steps back to Killamarsh and caught our bus back to Sheffield where we picked up a take away coffee for our journey home.

Final thoughts

Tapton Lock Visitors' Centre

We thoroughly enjoyed our adventures on the Chesterfield Canal.

The canal offers some of the most incredible and rustic scenery I’ve ever seen on a waterway and its set beautifully in its rural settings.

However logical planning needs to be done as the canal (apart from the Chesterfield to Renishaw stretch and of course the towns) do lack canal side facilities and also the lack of public transportation - particularly in Nottinghamshire as the Retford to Gainsborough bus (which runs along the main road near the canal) is every two hours during the day!  This was definitely something we had to be mindful about as most of our walks were between 10-13 miles.

The canal isn’t too busy so crowds aren’t an issue (especially with the current situation) whatsoever and it is a perfect waterway to explore.  The canal will for sure open up a lot more places once it’s fully restored – only a few miles between Staveley and Kiveton Park.

Further information about Chesterfield Canal Trust can be found here.

Dawn Smallwood
September 2020

featured author – autumn 2020

featured author - autumn 2020

Carolyn Clark

Carolyn Clark, author

Carolyn Clark, author

When I talked to Bow resident Kay about the canal, it struck home when she said:

‘It’s always been there, so whatever part of my life from being a child to an adult now, to my son being an adult and eventually, one day, it will be my grandchildren, even though there’s lots and lots of changes, the canal itself, it just still flows. There’s a familiarity about it, a good feeling.’

For forty years, the Regent’s and Hertford Union Canals have been a favourite walk. You could sense the history that lurked in old warehouses and wharves, worn bridges, anglers’ stories, remnants from an industrial past running through the heart of the East End.

Wanting to discover more, I found a lot about the early history of the Regent’s Canal, but was struck by how little there was about the 20th century, and the eastern reach in particular. Stories of the everyday lives of the people who lived and worked alongside the canal were hard to find.

I live by the Hertford Union Canal, aka Ducketts. It was frustrating to find virtually nothing about this short Cut’s past which was, and is, so much part of many local lives like (Fish) Island born and bred Ron: ‘I loved it meself, to me it was everything, it was a source of living, I could fish down there, we used to swim down there. It was my bath all year round. There was nowhere else to wash.’

Boys swimming by Victory Bridge, 1905, London Canal Museum

Boys swimming by Victory Bridge, 1905, London Canal Museum

John Hall talking to a steerer at Old Ford Lock circa 1950. © Hazel White

John Hall talking to a steerer at Old Ford Lock circa 1950. © Hazel White

The East End Canal Tales has grown from eight years work with Regent’s Canal Heritage:  This uncovered a wealth of stories and hidden histories.

Read about canal trades in raw materials such as coal and manure, and the canal-side industries of gas and chemicals, timber and metalworks, marble and furniture, ice and chocolate. The list goes on, and even includes the canal’s role in the equivalent of the Victorian internet.

Find out what it was like to work in the sawmills and icewells.

Victoria ParkBow Wharf, © Tony Hall, Bishopsgate Institute

Victoria ParkBow Wharf, © Tony Hall, Bishopsgate Institute

Gino Bergonzi delivering ice for Carlo Gatti’s Haggerston factory, 1980, Dom Bergonzi

Gino Bergonzi delivering ice for Carlo Gatti’s Haggerston factory, 1980, Dom Bergonzi

Boats turning at the Hertford Union Canal entrance having unloaded timber 1965, London Canal Museum

Boats turning at the Hertford Union Canal entrance having unloaded timber 1965, London Canal Museum

Read stories about gun-making and the canals in wartime.

Relive childhood memories of diving from ‘the pipe’, watching gamblers play pitch and toss and being chased by the ‘cut runners’.

Join the villains’ search for the holy grail of a boat loaded with gold for the Royal Mint.

Find out what happened in the old buildings like the ironworks, barge builder’s shed, gas holders and lock cottages which have survived over the years.

Learn what it was like to work on the Cut – the camaraderie, tricks of the trade, danger and perks.

Grand Union Canal Company map, 1929

Grand Union Canal Company map, 1929

The East End Canal Tales interweaves memories from over 50 people with historical accounts to tell the intriguing, humorous, moving and sometimes surprising stories of life and work on the Hackney and Tower Hamlets reach of the Regent’s and the Hertford Union Canals.

Over 130 photographs and images, many never published before, bring the stories to life.

The book’s maps include one drawn for the book which illustrates the features and industries which used to flourish along the banks.

The 200-year history of the canal is covered, but the focus is on the twentieth century.

Rag and Bone man in his Chisenhale Road garden by Ducketts, 1950s, © Tate Britain 2015

Rag and Bone man in his Chisenhale Road garden by Ducketts, 1950s, © Tate Britain 2015

The East End Canal Tales is a contribution to marking the 200th anniversary of the Regent’s Canal this year and is published by London Canal Museum.

Lonely Planet London says:

Pick up a copy of the museum’s newly published The East End Canal Tales by Carolyn Clark to sail through the canal’s and its industries' fascinating history, meeting a colourful cast of characters who lived and worked on them along the way. Bon voyage!’

My other books are The Shoreditch Tales and The Lower Clapton Tales.

You can buy a copy of The East End Canal Tales at the London Canal Museum in King’s Cross, on the Shoreditch Tales website  and Amazon, as well as in Hackney and East End bookshops.

Regents Canal Heritage now has its very own website! Take a peak at this new site for links to 17 films about the canal over the last 100 years, including our new films for 2020: 'Canal Connections' and YATI production: 'The Canal Tales'. There's also podcasts, book suggestions and a Learning Pack packed with information for people of all ages.

Carolyn Clark

Carolyn Clark

Carolyn Clark, in her latest book ‘The East End Canal Tales’ interweaves memories from over 50 people with historical accounts to tell the intriguing, humorous, moving and sometimes surprising stories of life and work on the Hackney and Tower Hamlets reach of the Regents and the Hertford Union Canals. Over 130 photographs and images, many never published before, bring the stories to life.
Read More

welcome to the truss’ new chief executive

welcome to the truss' new chief executive

making life better by south shields

Hi, Devid Scowcrovich, you may have read my lockdown diaries.  I’m the new Chief Executive Officer at the Banal and Dither Truss and I wanted to reassure that my appointment will not mean any changes for cyclists on the inland waterways.  In fact, I think my appointment can only add to the enjoyment of that leisure activity.

You will be relieved to know that my background is not in water.  The Truss’ officers, in the past, had concentrated far too much on the waterway system and not enough on the towpaths of the system.  Indeed, you will be appalled to learn that several rivers (that’s the watery things that run from mountains to sea, taking away sewage) have no towpaths.  I am sure that my O-level in geography contributed to my appointment, that, and the fact that I have never been on a boat in my life.

It is one of my ambitions never to go on an inland boat except for media interviews.  I will be seen shaking hands (pandemic permitting) with boat owners of all kinds from the safety of the bank.  It is, as if, I will be at a funeral shaking hands with all the bereaved - less the flowers and the sincerity.  Not that I will be destroying the boating way of life, as for many it is just a hobby and a leisure opportunity.  Those who live on a boat are probably desperate or demented.  Certainly, there must be some mental instability when it is known that a boat is a ‘hole in the water into which you pour money’.

So why would anyone buy a boat?  The boat is going to sink in the future at some stage.  Even vintage boats have had their front bit (what’s it called again - the pointy bit?) and the back end, now don’t tell me it’s not the bottom – you will have to be stern with me here and tell me again, anyway the back bit has probably been replaced at least once.  There is probably very little left of the original boat isn’t that right, Mr President?  One famous such ship, someone told me, isn’t really the right boat for that name; they merely took the name and put it on a better-preserved boat.  So, not all you see on the water is necessarily - real truth.  For instance, you would think our headquarters was somewhere handy for the canal users like Birmingham or Leeds, but no I am writing this to you from a railway station in South Shields.  And very quiet it is too; none of those horrible boat fog horns, running diesel engines and smoking chimneys.

Just to underline my point, on ‘historic’ or is it ‘hysteric’ boats, the name of a certain boat will be changed to ‘The Donald’.  We hope to achieve funding from America once they are informed that the canals are merely a water-hazard and the surroundings could be made into the biggest golf course in the world.  As ‘The Donald’ would say ‘That’s huge, that’s a biggie, I am probably the world expert on canals having seen that one in Central America; is it called ‘The Pineapple Canal?  Well it is now; I will sign the Executive Order.  Then we can start changing all the canals in Englandshire into a golf course.  After all boats don’t go anywhere just cruise round in rings.’

How reassuring, I think you will agree, to have such a ringing endorsement from probably the most important idiot person in the world. And with him being such an expert on canals his support of our new direction for the Waterways of GB can only be positive.  Even our own Prime Minister (between making children) has launched the idea that canals become cycle tracks.

Speaking to boaters, last week.  I was cornered by several eccentrics (oddities) wearing bobble hats and smelling faintly of engine oil. They admitted that if one could aim golf balls at speeding cyclists this would be a plus for the canals.  An entirely new sport and activity on the canals, and I have only just begun my appointment - much more to come from South Shields.  Like our new slogan ‘Making life better by South Shields’ – copyright Scowcrovich productions.

south shield mottow by devid scowcrovitch

There’s going to be a new normal on the waterways - Keeping fit and well.  Our Truss has, as far as records exist, always been a ‘Wellness Charity’: previous records were lost on a Bonfire Night.  We can extend this ‘keep fit’ regime to include boat owners not only dodging speeding cyclists but golf balls as well.  With our new motto ‘Fore’ we will be for ever going forward.  Particularly boaters who will have to go forwards only, as Winding Holes will now become fishponds.

I know, you are keen for me to get off cycling and on to the historical subject of – fishing.  Traditionally there has been conflict between fishers with long poles (mainly men) and cyclists in tight Lycra (mainly men).  Cyclists claim fishers are blocking the towpath, fishers claim cyclists are travelling too fast.  All this will end when the towpath is widened at the slight expense of water width.  A narrowboat is only 6ft 10ins wide and that could be the width of the water, not sure why they need the extra ten inches but let’s be generous.  None of this towpath widening will cause any protest since in a pilot scheme, only a few years ago, the towpath was widened at the Edgbaston Tunnel without any fuss or protest.  The widening allowed two cyclists to pass whilst boats waited at the tunnel entrance.  This innovative project can now be rolled out nationally.

To conclude: My period as Chief or if you insist ‘The Chief’ will concentrate on the majority of persons in the UK, that is those who don’t have a boat and not on that very small minority who own a boat.