26th March 2011
A grand plan was hatched some time ago for a canal clean-up in Retford. This week (21-25th March 2011) the plan was put into action following careful preparation and liaison over the last few days. Up until Thursday morning everyone and everything fitted together beautifully, even the weather. Everyone did their ‘bit’ and did it at the appointed time, rendezvous were met, all the different organisations involved worked together like a well oiled machine, On Thursday however resulting from some needless vandalism, causing the draining of a section of the canal plans had to be re-worked for the last stage of the return journey.
On Monday the Python crew of three completed the necessary car shuffling and set sail from Python’s home mooring at the stroke of 10:00 am. Stan from BW and his men were waiting for us at Stret Lock to guide us safely through the gap narrower than the boat at normal water levels. But after the BW team had raised the water level in the pound between Stret and Morse locks Python could just squeeze through. After a somewhat bumpy but otherwise uneventful journey, except for a swan who really wanted to accompany us through Worksop Town Lock we reached Ranby where we moored up for the night.
Tuesday, day two of our adventure saw the gallant crew gathering in a deserted pub car park at the Chequers at Ranby in readiness for an 08:30 start. Python coughed slowly into life and soon away we went, cups of steaming coffee in hand, heading towards Retford.
By 11:15 we passed the first of the litter pickers from the Retford Civic Trust and Chesterfield Canal Trust hard at work near the new main line railway bridge. Friendly banter and cheery waves were exchanged. Black plastic sacks and bright yellow picking tools were much to the fore. Beyond West Retford Lock we spotted a supermarket trolley in the water and made a note to retrieve it on the return journey.
At the first narrows the boat crew disembarked armed with grappling hooks on long ropes, thick gloves and plastic bags to scour the bed of the canal. Within a few seconds a supermarket trolley and an old and rusty weed covered bicycle were hauled from the depths, followed quickly by a three metre length of rusty steel section.
Here we made contact with David Blackburn from the Canal Trust who was co-ordinating the efforts of a substantial number of litter pickers on either side of Retford Town Lock. By the time we reached the winding hole by the former flour mill (now a snooker hall) we had collected two large white hippo bags full of rubbish. As well items mentioned above we had collected a concrete hydrant post, yet another bicycle, some portable barriers, a road sign in its frame and on a stand and some drain pipe as well as a large collection of plastic bags, bottles, discarded food containers and miscellaneous other items.
In Retford we met up with CCT trip boat Seth Ellis which we had planned to use to tow Python backwards from the former flour mill to the Hop Pole mooring. This was necessary to avoid the need to take Python all the way to Hayton (a two and a half hour round trip) to reach the first place wide enough to turn her around ready for the morrow’s journey to unload the rubbish at Barnby Wharf. Reversing or towing Python is no easy task as we well know, but by roping the two boats together (known as breasting up) and having the boats facing in opposite directions, then under Seth Ellis’ control we were able to get to our overnight mooring with the minimum of difficulty.
Wednesday morning was bright but this time a slightly overcast day but still with a warmth in the air. After another early car shuffle the day’s three other crew members joined me at the Hop Pole mooring at 08:15 where I was idling my time with a couple of small maintenance jobs on trip boat Seth Ellis. Pausing only to put on the kettle and lock up Seth Ellis we headed off towards Retford and our 11:30 rendezvous with a Bassetlaw Council lorry and crane at Barnby Wharf some two cruising hours distant. Pausing to pick up the ASDA shopping trolley, a few pieces of rubbish missed yesterday and a number of additional black sacks filled by our litter pickers we moored up at Barnby with about five minutes to spare. The lorry to take away the rubbish from Python’s hold duly arrived just a couple of minutes later and the transfer of cargo was soon completed. The crew enjoyed our sandwiches and yet another cup of coffee beneath a glorious blue sky in warm sunshine. By 12:30 we were on our way to our planned overnight mooring in the orchard near the Chequers Pub in Ranby. The day’s work was completed by 2 o’clock, right on schedule.
Arthur Naylor 24.03.2011
Unfortunately all did not go according to plan the next day. Vandals had interfered with Kilton Lock and emptied the pound to Bracebridge. Our gallant crew had to wait for BW staff to rewater this section; but even then there was a problem with the gates jammed at Deep Lock. Eventually a large box was recovered. However these delays meant that they could not reach Python’s permanent mooring at Shireoaks until Friday morning having had to moor overnight at the BW Worksop depot.
The Trust is lucky to have such stars.