Monday, 19 November 2012

Swarkestone

Hi,

We left Weston on Trent last Thursday and made our way,all of three miles,to Swarkestone Lock where we intended to stay for a few days and do a bit of exploring.The lock itself was closed,as part of the winter closure programme by C&RT,so we couldn’t go any farther,till Friday at the earliest anyway.

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Above we have a couple of photo’s of the work being done on Swarkestone Lock by the C&RT guys.As you can see the lock chamber is quite deep with the top gates only about one third of the overall depth.Passage through the lock raises boats over 3 metres.Here they were starting to clear their things away ready for the lock to open on time on Friday afternoon.

At Swarkestone is the junction of the old Derby Canal that was opened in 1796 and connected the Trent & Mersey Canal with the Erewash Canal at Sandiacre.

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A couple of views of the mouth of the Derby Canal,now just a basin for moored boats.The white house is the old Toll House,it was tolls that made our canals profitable in the early years but with the arrival of the railways the tolls were reduced to compete and,as a result,profits and the canals declined.The bridge in the distance on the right picture is the end of the current navigation,the left hand picture is from that bridge.

The Derby Canal ran from Swarkestone to Derby and then turned eastwards to Sandiacre.It was fourteen miles long and had nine locks,it fell into disuse in the 1940’s and was abandoned in 1964 and much of the canal in Derby itself was filled in.There was also a short canal from the River Trent at Swarkestone to the T&M Canal as part of the Derby Canal but this short bit was closed in 1817 through lack of use.I haven’t found any trace of this short canal but there is a lot of the Derby Canal still visible and a very active Derby and Sandiacre Canal Society is intent on the restoration of the canal.There is a proposal to build some sort of boat lift in Derby on the lines of the Falkirk Wheel which is a wonderful piece of engineering that was one of the last projects to be built by Butterley Engineering,a famous Derbyshire company.I do wish the Derby & Sandiacre Canal Society all the very best in their efforts.

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On the left is the Derby Canal,minus the water,you can clearly see the profile of the canal bed.On the right is one of the old Stop Plank Cranes which were used to lower stop planks into a groove on either side of the canal to form a dam in the event of having to dewater a part of the canal,this one is at Swarkestone.

Swarkestone itself,also has some history,there was actually a battle here during the English Civil War in 1643,when the Cavaliers lost to the Parliamentarians,better known as Roundheads,a happy bunch I understand.There’s been a bridge here,over the River Trent,for over seven hundred years and Bonny Prince Charlie’s advance party reached here in 1745,when he was on his way to London.This is said to be as far south as he got before he returned to Scotland.About seventy of his men held the bridge for a couple of days before being defeated by Government troops.The bridge is just under a mile long with seventeen arches,it’s the longest stone bridge and the longest inland bridge in England.According to legend the bridge was commissioned in the 13th century by two beautiful sisters.The sisters were betrothed to a pair of knights who, during the engagement party were called away to a meeting,during the meeting heavy rain swelled the river,making it dangerous for them to cross the ford back to Swarkestone. Both knights missed the ford when they entered the river on their horses and they drowned.Devastated by the loss of their fianc├ęs the sisters decided to have the bridge built,the cost of the which is said to have ruined them financially and,unable to forget their loves,they never married.

We also had the pleasure of visiting a couple of the local hostelries .Chellaston,a suburb of Derby,is only a few minutes walk away along the old Derby Canal towpath so it was handy for a bit of shopping,having both a Tesco and a Co-op.I had to rest my weary legs before heading back to our boat on Thursday so we nipped into the Rose & Crown for a swift one and very nice it was too.We also went over to the Crewe & Harpur at Swarkestone,just at the end of the bridge,that is a great pub with good beer and very reasonably priced food,two meals for the price of one all day,everyday and free WiFi.It’s only a short walk from the moorings across the fields and the railway.

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Cutting up some logs on the towpath next to where we moored and filling with water on a misty morning before we left on Thursday.

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Me cleaning the panels ready for some sun,and Lisa doing her share of the woodcutting.

I would like to thank Rob Conroy for the answer to my query about the photo’ of the boiler in last weeks blog.The boiler was part of the steam pump used by the army to raise water from the River Trent for the steam trains that ran along the old Military Railway.

Today we left Swarkestone and headed along the T&M to our next stopping place,Willington,where we intend to stay for a couple of weeks.There are facilities here for waste and water and there’s a railway station so we can get out and about a bit.Since our last blog we have done two locks and just over eight miles.That’s all for this week I’m afraid,take care everyone.

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