Hunting down the Cuckoo…

Cuckoo Way 001Judging by the colour of the Rowan berries, you’d think it a little late in the year to go hunting the cuckoo, but here we are, out on a cloudy day in mid-August, doing just that. Only, it isn’t the feathered variety we’re looking for, it’s the trail of the old narrow boats known as Cuckoo Boats, a particularly low-slung boat suitable for navigating the old Chesterfield canal.

Cuckoo Way 004Little tell-tale signs of an industrial past, but not a cuckoo in sight.
 

Apparently, shipbuilding and trade routes began on the Trent in medieval times, but this canal wasn’t completed until 1777, in response to demand to export coal, limestone and lead from Derbyshire, and iron from Chesterfield, as well as a variety of goods inland. Apparently, too, the stone quarried in South Anston and transported along this canal was used for Westminster Palace and also to rebuild the Houses of Parliament following a fire in the 1830’s.

We set out from a section near Walkeringham in Nottinghamshire, Brickyard Lane to be precise, where these days, the “Cuckoo Way” is a peaceful stretch for nature lovers to enjoy.

Cuckoo Way 015

We head north-east from bridge 77…

Cuckoo Way 005passing beneath bridge 78…

Cuckoo Way 007…bridge 79….

Cuckoo Way 014…80…81…

Cuckoo Way 016…82…

Cuckoo Way 018….82a….

Cuckoo Way 019…you get my drift…

Cuckoo Way 020….someone’s been building a heck of a lot of bridges round here…and a lock or two… And just past Misterton we approach the junction where canal meets Trent and the River Idle at West Stockwith Basin…

Cuckoo Way 023From here you can head to Goole or Torksey if the fancy takes you…

Cuckoo Way 026Once, this area was a hive of activity, with villages supporting the rope, flax, malt and joinery industries, not to mention local boat and ship building. Thus, firms like the Chesterfield Canal Company and Richard Furley & Sons did a brisk trade in hiring out Cuckoo Boats to those wishing to transport flour and other farm-produced goods…as well as all that other stuff. In and out of West Stockwith, transporting it from areas West and loading it on to ships for transportation to markets way beyond the Trent.

For walkers this marks the end of the Cuckoo Way (which also coincides with the end for its big brother, the Trent Valley Way). Time to turn round. I wonder if those bridges look the same from the other direction…

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