With a long Bank holiday weekend behind us, Jon and I had asked ourselves the question…a short jaunt in Polly the camper van or a little trip out in the canal boat? It had not been long since we got back from a great week in Cornwall in Polly so we packed up what we needed and opted to take out the canal boat on a short 4 hour trip to Sprotborough where we’d moor up and have a couple of chilled out days enjoying this quiet little spot, with maybe a little bike ride and few woodland walks thrown in there somewhere.
With the house up for sale and with our intentions to live on the boat in the near future, we also thought we’d take the opportunity to introduce our two cats, Minnie & Alfie to the life on the boat too as they would need to get used to the idea eventually.
Our dogs, Rosie & Millie already love the boating life and are totally used to the slight, very relaxing rocking feeling and the engine noises, but also they both love to watch the water as we cruise. They skip merrily on and off the boat as we stop to go through the locks and take every opportunity to say hello to the other boaters along the way.
We arrived at the boat on Friday evening and as it was dark and too late to set off at that time we had a quiet evening in watching TV allowing Minnie & Alfie to find their boating mojo. They were all over the boat sniffing in every nook and cranny and actually seemed to settle really quickly.
They obviously were going to be indoor cats for the duration of the trip, which to them was new as they are used to having the freedom to the big outdoors, but it would only be for a few days.
Saturday morning and Jon started the engine. I’d put the cats in the front bedroom as this is the quietest place in the boat when the engine is running and the boat’s on the move. They hid for the first hour or so, I think mainly because of the movement, but as time went on I opened the bedroom door and slowly began to see them become curious about what was going on. They started peeking out of the windows and even dared to come up to the wheelhouse where we and the dogs were, to watch the water and canal life go by. They did so well on their first trip out.
Our boating route was along the Sheffield & South Yorkshire canal from Rotherham to Sprotborough, where we’d planned to moor up for a couple of nights. The weather didn’t disappoint, we were so lucky to have such a few warm and sunny days when in other areas it was apparently pretty bad.
There is something very calming that happens to you when you step on a canal boat and start to meander along the water amongst the nature around us.
Your shoulders begin to relax slowly, you steadily breathe out and a satisfying smile starts to develop on your face. You tend to forget your busy, fast life and that phone, all of which appears in your mind to be floating away with the tiny wave behind the boat and disappearing into the distance, you are then amongst nature and start to watch the ducks, the swans, the wild birds, you see the flowers and the beautiful trees and then…all is good with the world.
We had 6 locks to open on our way, they are all electric locks on this stretch which makes life a little easier too.
Myself and Jon usually take it in turns to work the locks whilst the other navigates the boat through into the lock and back out.
One of my favourite parts to this section of canal is heading towards and passing under Conisbrough Viaduct. This amazing structure opened as a railway in 1909 and is 1527 feet in length. It closed as a railway in 1965 and is now part of the Trans Pennine Trail for walkers and cyclists. Maybe myself and Jon will be cycling it in the future. Watch this space 🙂
Conisbrough is also the home to Conisbrough Castle which was built in the 12th Century and which inspired Sir Walter Scotts’ Ivanhoe. You can only just see a small part of the castle from the canal. I haven’t been to see the castle as yet, but it is definitely a visit I am planning in the near future – I love Castles.
Sprotbrough was our next stop after Conisbrough. The moorings appear on the right and so we chose our spot and moored up, sticking our pins into the bank and switching off the engine. The mooring is opposite to The Boat Inn, a beautiful pub which is said to date back to 1642 and boasts one their famous guests as being Sir Walter Scott.
Sprotbrough also has a Nature Reserve, which we love.
We have walked a number of times around the lake and through the reserve and taken in the wonderful wildlife, the beautiful flowers the ancient trees and scenery, but we hadn’t biked around the area until now.
We actually couldn’t bike the Nature Reserve as biking isn’t allowed up in the woods, so we decided to go the opposite way along the canal to investigate the Pennine Trail which we knew was nearby. We rode for quite a while along this route, which we found to be a mixture of tarmac and shale, great for eating up the miles, but we did realise we were on the wrong type of bikes or to be more precise, we had the wrong kind of tyres on our bikes. We both have fat, chunky, knobbly tyres for more off rode mountain biking and for these trails it’s a lot easier to have the smoother tyres. We decided the Pennine Trails have massive potential for future exploration, but what we were really looking for that day was some decent off road biking. The day before as we had been cruising toward Sprotbrough, we had noticed quite a few mountain bikers on the far bank who were having a ball in the woods, so we headed there. We did eventually find the spot and had a little play, but our playtime soon came to an end as something ‘pinged’ on my bike and my chain broke, I had lost a link and so that was it for me, I had to walk back to the boat. Luckily though, after being out biking for a good few hours we were actually quite near to the mooring and so hadn’t too far to walk.
Time to shower, get some food cooking, enjoy a gin and tonic and chill for the evening…
We stayed in Sprotbrough for just the two nights. It was only a short trip on the boat, actually our first of the year, but it was slow, calm, relaxing and fun. We cannot wait to move on and live on this splendid boat and have the time to travel around the network of broad canals which we are lucky enough to have in this pretty country of ours.
Incidentally, the things the kitty’s didn’t like about their maiden boating trip, (apart from not being allowed out):
- people who walked past the boat in the towpath
- the whistling kettle, although they soon got used to it 🙂