... feminist, atheist, autistic academic and historic narrowboater ...
Likes snooker, beer, tea, rivets and solitude, and is strangely fascinated by the cinema organ.
And there might be something about railways.

Tuesday 27 November 2012

Easing the squeeze

The Chesterfield Canal was never built for motor boats, or iron or steel boats, let alone Grand Union steel motor boats. (In fact, the Chesterfield Canal Trust are currently building a replica of an original Chesterfield Canal boat if you would like to see what one looked like - wooden, shallow drafted, and horsedrawn.) So perhaps it is a little greedy of us at HNBC to want to be able to take our monsters all the way up to the head of navigation at Kiveton Park.

On the other hand, when the canal was restored in the 1970s, the locks were meant to be rebuilt to the standard dimensions for modern leisure craft. There was no earthly reason why Stret Lock should have been rebuilt to a width of 6'10" rather than the standard 7' plus, causing problems for modern boats as well as historic ones (mostly in the case of modern boats, because of protruding baseplates).

It was to highlight this issue that HNBC organised a massed (well, there were about seven of us) attempt on Stret Lock in the summer of last year, to see who could and who couldn't get through. Chertsey couldn't even get through the one before (Morse), but there are very few of us who can get through Stret (Bath and Petrel being the only two that come to mind). I think we were all pleasantly surprised when BW (as was) agreed firstly to investigate, and then to take action to remedy this.

The action has consisted of removing an entire layer of bricks from one of the lock's side walls, anchoring the wall into the ground, and then rebuilding the inner wall, using the existing stone blocks (for reasons of both heritage and cost - nice when the two coincide!). This widens the lock by at least two inches, to a depth well below the bottom of any boat, even when the lock is empty.

On Sunday, CRT held an open day at Stret, to show off the work they'd done - and presumably, from the number of CRT chuggers in attendance, to attract people to come and visit the canal. I couldn't resist the chance to get right down inside the bottom of a dewatered lock, as well as seeing the work - which looked to be being done to an excellent standard. We were able to talk to the people who were doing it, and once again were struck by the commitment of the CRT workers on the ground (and in this case, below it).


  1. Good blog Sarah - but there's always one bit of nit to be picked. In the first paragraph, the reference to the original style wooden narrowboat being built. Please, not the dreaded "r" word - she's not a "replica". She's the next in her unique class to be built, it's just that it's been 80+ years since the last one. Christine

  2. That's an interesting take on the whole 'politics of replicas' discussion... I shall leave both points of view to be mulled over with interest.

    Really nice to see you on Sunday.