A Fine Weekend at Newark

We approached Newark apprehensively because we had heard that there was a festival that weekend and all the moorings were taken. However, much to our great delight, we found the 14 day wall mooring alongside Riverside Park was completely free, and what’s more it was opposite the castle. I don’t think we have ever had such a pretty town mooring before. But a good job the townsfolk werent defending their castle because they also had a good view of Firecrest from their windows.

A quick Google search revealed a program of Morris dancing, folk singing and story telling going on throughout the town and in the castle. Assuming there would food as well, we set off looking for lunch and a bit of entertainment. We struck gold. Up the ladder, onto the park, over the bridge and into the castle grounds all in 5 minutes. The castle turned out to just be the remaining wall and tower, but was a perfect communal gathering place with a bandstand. The Morris dancers were jingling their bells and shaking their sticks, we got fish and chips and best of all, the Notts spinners guild was demonstrating. These were the people we had met the previous weekend at Greens windmill so recognising each other, Knowing my wheel is portable I scurried back down to firecrest to fetch it, as I was invited to join them for the afternoon. Most of the spinners had to leave at the end of the session, but Sue and Rob sat talking and as we watched the evening light creating the most gorgeous of reflections, our traditional folk evening appropriately ended up in the 15th century coaching inn, the Prince Rupert Pub.Try as we might Sue and I failed to identify the true Prince Rupert.

Being Seen and Heard

Having gone to the effort of doing our short range radio operator’s training back in May, now was the time to put our skills into use. Unfortunately that meant that Eric had to spend several frustrating hours cobbling together the wiring and an aerial. Although we had asked for it to be fitted during the build, we were told that narrowboaters wouldn’t need such extravengances. It was one of the items we mistakenly compromised on knowing we could add it later. Braidbar boats were not designed to have items retro fitted. Luckily wiring is something that Eric understands and his temporary fixes still tick all the safety boxes and some. And oh boy, were we glad we made the effort. Not only were we able to contact the lock keepers easily to ascertain if we were able “pen down”. But we were also able to hear what other boats were doing and plan accordingly. And ok, all this isn’t essential for the Trent and we could have made our contact by mobile phone, but for us, having that  reliability and extra source of information has made river cruising less stressful and more interesting. There’s a bit of a misconception that VHF radios are just for calling for help in an emergency, they’re not. They are an easy way to communicate, and once we’d got over our initial nervousness at following the protocols we quickly relaxed when we realised everyone spoke the same language, not everyone followed the prescribed protocols and most of all, no one minded.

River cruising is different to canal cruising. There are sandbanks and shallows lurking beneath the surface which mean the cruising channel can meander from bank to bank. The outer curve is usually deeper than the inner curve because of the natural erosion. The Boating Association publishes the Trent Cruising guides, an absolute must, for safe navigation. The cruising line is overlaid in red and useful information is highlighted.  River locks are operated by lock keepers and known as pens. So we ask to “pen” up or down. These locks are huge, hold a whole marinas worth of boats. This was Stoke Lock and besides us on the left, there were 2 wide beams 2 cruisers and another 2 narrowboats.

Having sorted our radio out. Eric also had to connect an appropriate navigation light. Boats travelling on tidal waters, including tidal sections of rivers, boats need to be seen in all conditions to avoid collision. The COLREG rules state that for a boat our length means having a mast headlight visable for 3 nautical miles, red port and green starboard side lights and white stern light visable for 2 nautical miles. (Disclaimer, there are more regulations and criteria than I have listed here) The logic being that although we might not choose to travel at night, tide times might make it necessary to be on the water at dawn, dusk or in poor conditions. A lot of narrowboaters simply choose not to venture into this territory, we’ve decided to explore as much of the system as practical so we’ve done our best to rig up a temporary mast. One day it will be sturdier and taller, but as we know we’re only going to be doing the very first section of tidal water between Cromwell and Torksey in very calm conditions it will surfice for now. Added to which, the river has so many bends chances are we can’t be seen in full daylight beyond half a mile so we’re happy.

Nudging up to Newark

Oops apologies for being AWOL for a few weeks. But don’t worry I didn’t sneakily take Firecrest joyriding down the rapids and we haven’t sunk like John thought; just busy enjoying ourselves. So I’m going to skip through the past few weeks with just a few photos until I’ve caught up with myself. We’ve been travelling downstream from Nottingham to Newark.This rather non descript side arm besides the Nottingham EA building is actually the lock entrance onto the Grantham canal.  At this point it doesn’t go beyond the the length of the lock, but work is on going to restore the whole navigation. And if and when it does open we’ll certainly be back to explore. One of the drawbacks of big river cruising is the lack of pedestrian bridges, this is Radcliffe rail bridge, with 4 cruisers hurtling towards us. We’ve come to the conclusion that cruisers generally hunt in packs and their challenge is to get from one lock to the next as quickly as possible. Pootling, obviously isn’t in their vocabulary. Having said that, it isn’t a criticism, because if we had lived beside the Trent we might have had a cruiser,  a narrowboat is not the obvious or most appropriate form of river transport, just as we don’t think cruisers are the ideal for canal cruising. We’re finding the scenery along the river quite different to the canals, beach life is the thing.And in some sections, desert life seems the current norm. River levels are low but at least cruising hasn’t been restricted because of lack of rain, like some sections of the Leeds and Liverpool canal. Actually despite us hitting 30 degrees some days, we’ve had the benefit of a few heavy downpours and quite a few cloudy days. On the whole though, the weather has been fantastic cruising weather.

Perhaps not in a narrowboat

Time to move on from Nottingham and make our way downstream towards Newark . The plan was to lock hop-or as I kept saying “we’re hop locking” mainly because we’re true codiwomplers and we like to travel slowly. Until, that is, we arrived at our first lock and I saw this little off shoot from the river… Holme Pierrepoint which is where the National Water Sports centre is and I saw the white water rapid run…oh boy did I want to have a go, but Eric insisted that Firecrest was too long to take the turns and twists. Can’t think why. So while he stayed on our mooring, polishing the brass, I went to find out how I could get my adrenaline rush. Frustratingly the event they suggested would be suitable for me, a complete novice, wasn’t available until the weekend and I knew we’d have moved on by then. So I kept my dignity intact and just enjoyed watching others risking life and limb. The whole site has several activities on offer, a proper mile long rowing lake, an adventure lake/river and the rapids, plus some land based activities, high wires, climbing walls and obstacle courses. I could easily have spent another day here watching it all. Eric has promised we can come back one weekend. But is still insistent that Firecrest won’t be joining me.

Boating in Bridgford

Victoria Embankment is a great place for people watching and an even better place for boat watching. Although I think Roger the anchor man had been at it a bit too long and had forgotten to come down for his dinner. There were the large. Several huge floating gin palaces came past, full of happy people, the later the hour, the noisier and flashier the lights, but they were travelling sedately so didn’t cause firecrest to rock, so not a nuisance at all.Not like these maniacs on their hover speedboat. They were ‘playing’ with a jet skier, racing round like Vettel drawing donuts. Don’t get me wrong speed can be great fun, but they weren’t wearing life jackets and the consequences didn’t bear thinking about if they had crashed into each other. And they created a huge wash. There were a lot of rowers or skullers, I’m never sure how to tell the difference. Some were obviously in training with coxes with microphones and coaches on bikes racing along side on the bank.Some like the Dragon boats looked ready to take on the speed boat.Some just prefered to sit with a fishing rod watching the world go by. These girls had brought their picnic so stopped paddling for a bit to eat.I chose to wander into town, West Bridgford is the rather attractive town separated from Nottingham by the river. About 5 minutes walk from our mooring, I found the thriving buzzing high street. Lots of rather nice street cafes, not that we could afford to ‘take lunch’ in them.  And itC turns out to be where one of our best friends was born, and his parents had married at the parish church, St Giles.I went to the Sunday morning service and received a warm welcome, Bridgford is lucky to have such a lively thriving parish church. Definitely one I’ll return to. While we were moored here, our friends Ian Joy and Kate joined us. Trad sterns aren’t the best place for 5 people to stand whilst cruising so we let the fellas do their stuff at the helm.

Green’s Windmill

From our mooring on Victoria Embankment, we could just about see a windmill in the distance, north of Trent bridge. I had to do a bit of digging to find out more, and discovered they were having a summer fete, and what’s more, it was only 1.5 miles away.

George Greens father built the Green’s mill in 1807, when it produced flour for Sneinton. But when George inherited the family business he chose to install a manager so study science and mathematics at Cambridge. After several owners and disastrous fires the mill is now grinding flour again as a charitable organisation and also promoting science and maths to children. The fete was to be officially opened by the Sherrif of Nottingham. For some silly reason I was quite disappointed to see an ordinary lady Sherrif instead of a villainous greedy Walt Disney character. We took the tour to the top of mill and guess what, we could still see Nottingham Castle, on the left of the picture.  I could also just about see Trent bridge, but not good enough for a photo. Greens mill is one of the recognised attractions of the area and the lovely park around it makes a perfect picnic spot.

 

Trent’s Bridges

On leaving the Beeston Canal we were planning to turn north and head downstream but a couple of people had said Victoria Embankment was a nice place to moor. So we came through lock 1, and turned south to go upstream instead. There is about 2 miles of navigable river before we would have to turn around.  Passing by the Nottingham Forest football ground, and under Trent Bridge itself. Now it’s a beautiful 3 arch stone and iron bridge, painted in blue and gold, built in 1868. The first was built in 970 but I couldn’t find any photos. The second built in 1156 had 20 stone arches and a chapel dedicated to St James. But they continued to be destroyed by flood. Here the river is now contained by concrete steps on either side, which not only greatly widens it’s flood volume, but makes Victoria Embankment a very attractive place for us to moor and a real asset for the local community. It was packed with people from the County Hall taking their lunch breaks.Sir Jesse Boot, founder of Boots chemists, had the  memorial gardens built on this section but sadly they have suffered from lack of maintenance, so despite these impressive gates, the gardens were weedy, and the grand rockery was starting to fall apart. But the grounds are expansive and beyond the formal gardens are fields that double as a car park for the nearby sporting venues.You can conveniently cross over the river on a suspension footbridge known as Wilford Bridge. On Thursday we looked out to see hordes of people doing so because the most famous sporting venue here is the Trent Bridge cricket ground. And England were playing India. The atmosphere was party like all day so we couldn’t have guessed from the demeanour of the crowds going home who had won. We could hear the roars of the crowd cheering. I took a photo in the morning for a family who were obviously of Indian origins, so I asked who they were supporting- mum and dad instantly said India, the children England. India won. This was taken from Wilford Bridge. The flood lights and curved roof on the right are the the Trent Bridge cricket ground. The green roofs are the County Hall. Notts Forest FC is behind the scaffolding on the left. And that’s the bridge itself on the left. Firecrest is the 7th boat from the right. Perhaps the sunshine has helped but this has proved a very sociable mooring, one we will use again. Lots to explore.

Overnight in Nottingham

The 5 mile Beeston Canal bypasses an un-navigable section of the river Trent and takes us through central Nottingham. I thought this would be a treat, but the anticipation of a big shopping centre failed to excite me once I got out to explore. I morn the demise of a proper high street with independent shops selling goods they are proud of. But it’s not all bad, there has been some effort to take advantage of the canal and make it into an attractive community space.Fellows Morton and Clayton had a big warehouse and wharf here which is now a thriving bar selling craft beer.One good thing about town centre canals is that there’s often a supermarket close enough for me to surreptitiously take a full trolley right back to the boat.  And there was a super view of the castle from the retail park. Mooring was unrestricted by Sainsbury’s but we moved on around the corner to take advantage of an over hanging tree. Although there were a lot of people using the tow path and some rough sleepers, it was a quiet night. We set off the next day to complete the last two miles of this section.Quite a mix of old and new buildings to catch our attention. Nottingham is a tall city. This one particularly caught our eye.And some lovely bridges.although not every one agrees with CRT’s recent rebranding, spending goodness knows how much on promoting the canal network to a wider audience. Not sure how wide an audience this sign will reach being underneath the bridge.

Rebuilding the castle

I was lucky enough to find out that Nottingham Castle was due to close for a multi-million pound revamp over the next two years, but even better for us, they had removed the entry charge for the week. So off we went to see what we could find. The kids were in, attempting to build a replica out of Lego.The castle was full of atmosphere, and history. William the Conqueror built the castle in1067 but it became dilapidated and was demolished in 1649. The Duke of Newcastle built the ducal palace in its plac, but in 1831 rioters burnt it down. The Duke was paid £21000 in compensation but didn’t rebuild his home and eventually in 1878 Notingham council rebuilt it as a museum and art gallery.
The castle was built in a huge sandstone rock and overlooked an array of old and new buildings. The one that looks like a stadium is actually the HMRC offices, (which is right next to the canal.)We wondered which building Robin Hood would be frequenting now.One of the other things Nottingham is famous for is that it is the home of Torvil and Dean and their Bolero costumes from their 1984 are on display in the castle.

The Castle dominates the city and as we cruised through Nottingham we could look up through the houses we could see it. The castle was a good place to spend the day, but I hope when it is re opened in 2020/21 it won’t be known as the castle because sadly it is not a castle any more.

Beeston’s Bs

That’ll be starting with

George the Beekeeper of Beeston who took his place in the shopping centre along with his hive 30 years ago. I think he looks rather content. 

Unlike the canal company men who in 1844 who fell victim to cost saving measures. They had their free Beer privilages withdrawn “…unless absolutely necessary and then never more than a quart per day”

But canal workers must have been clean souls, apparently Beeston lock contains the equivalent of 1500 Bathtubs full of water.

And then there’s the Beautiful Beeston. On Saturday there was a multi cultural community Bonanza. It was a fabulous event, designed to bring together the richly diverse cultures of the area. Nottingham University attracts a lot of Chinese students, who have gone on to make their home here. bringing their dancing dragons with them.the Dragon display was performed by the martial arts club
We were all encouraged to have a good at some Bollywood moves. All too energetic for me. But there were some lovely choirs and other dance groups to watch and enjoy.Sadly this week, Beeston was at the heart of commemorations for the Chilwell Bomb Explosion, where 139 people lost their live at a shell filling factory a few miles down the road from here.

You might have guessed I’d want to know if which came first, Beeston or the Bees. Beeston got its name from it’s Saxon heritage Bes was the type of grain grown, nowadays known as Rye and Tun being a settlement. Bes-Tun became Beeston. And as its got Bees it’s also got Birds. The Attenborough nature reserve lakes next to the river attract an even more diverse selection of birds than the town has cultures. The Sandmartins are fully occupied feeding their young which was quite spectacular to watch so close. Although nothing will beat me seeing a wild Osprey flying over. Osprey use the river Trent as a navigational aid on their journey north. And they are seen quite often at Attenborough. Of course you’ll have to take my word for it cause I was too slow to get camera out.