The role of the inland waterways and their boatmen in the two World Wars is often overlooked. At the outbreak of the Great War in 1914, the boatmen were an isolated, illiterate community. Those who became directly involved in the Great War left little behind in terms of personal accounts, letters home or diaries. The educated classes, of course, recorded so many of their exploits and tragedies, and much of our knowledge of the period comes from these sources.
So what did the boatmen do? In 1914, there was no military conscription, and boatmen were seen as undertaking an important reserve occupation. They were vital in the movement of heavy goods, especially iron and coal, which were essential to war production. But although military service remained voluntary, public feeling grew against fit and able men who seemed to be shirking the war - especially among women who had lost husbands, sons and brothers.
Part of Geddes’ reforms were for the two inland waterways leading to the British Sector - the Pas de Calais to Ypres, and the River Somme from the Channel coast to the Front at Peronne - to be taken over and run by British boatmen. They would enlist as sappers in the Royal Engineers, Inland Waterways and Docks. Some boatmen who had already joined the Army were pulled out of the line to join the sappers, as Geddes did not want their talents wasted as cannon fodder. Others were recruited from the major canal carriers like Fellows, Morton & Clayton, whose boatmen were already experienced in operating steam-powered boats
Popularly known at the ‘Idle Women’ - a play on the initials of the Inland Waterways badges they wore – they worked in teams of three, operating a pair of narrow boats known as a motor and butty, the first towing the latter by rope. They would complete round-trips of about three weeks, often working gruelling 18-20 hour days, sometimes in freezing and foggy weather, to deliver the essential wartime supplies. They slept, ate and washed in tiny cabins on board. While their stories are less well-known than those of the much bigger Women’s Land Army (WLA), the Idle Women have acquired the status of heroines among many modern canal enthusiasts.
Photo credits: Tim Coghlan/Canal River Trust.
Reaching Kidsgrove, Kit ventured into an inn and asked if anyone would be willing to take her to London, and two men agreed to undertake the trip. But the misty 2-mile gloom of the Harecastle Tunnel attracted villains and vagabonds, and the men robbed and murdered poor Kit, and dumped her body in the canal where her head was ripped from her shoulders…
The men were eventually caught for the terrible crime and were hanged in Kidsgrove. Though they say poor Kit’s head was never found.
From that day on, the tunnel suffers from a ‘haunting manifestation’, the boggart Kit Crewbucket, who moans as she searches for her head so that she can begin her journey to London to find her husband. Her shrieks can still be heard in woods nearby. During the 19th century, boatmen were so convinced of her existence that some would choose a long detour to avoid a trip through the tunnel.
Many have told also of the delicious aroma of frying bacon filling the tunnel. This is the charming result of Kit’s party trick; if she likes you, she will cook you a hearty breakfast to send you on your way. But be warned – if you offend her, those shrieks will plague you until you go mad……..
and 'Shadows on the Water: The Haunted Canals and Waterways of Britain' by Allan Scott-Davies
It's half term here in Derbyshire this week so I took the mini Griffin's on a visit to Derby Gallery and Museum yesterday. There we saw this Bronze log boat which was excavated from the nearby village of Shardlow, just a short trip along the canal from Silver Ann 2's home mooring at Mercia Marina, Willington. On display in the museum were also Mesolithic flints and stone tools that were found in the grounds of Mercia Marina, as well as Viking and Anglo Saxon items discovered in nearby Repton too. This area is soaked in history!
The gallery and museum is chock full of fascinating artefacts, natural wonders, and there are some wonderful artistic exhibitions on display too. Derby is easily accessible by public transport from Silver Ann's cruising route along the Trent and Mersey canal. As an example you could disembark in Shardlow, take a walk through the historic village, before catching a bus to Derby where you can view the treasures of Shardlow history on display at the museum.
#BritishHistory #UKHolidays #BoatHire #Narrowboat #VisitDerbyshire #VisitDerby #VisitEngland #slowtravel #sustainabletravel #conscioustravel #Experiencesnotthings #GriffinNarrowboatHolidays
Well yesterday was a bit different - Mary-Ann was interviewed by Sally Pepper for Radio Derby as part of their 'Staycation' series. It was broadcast this morning when Sally was LIVE at Mercia Marina.
If you missed the show you can listen to it here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p07ggvyc
#staycation #ukholiday #canalholiday #narrowboatholiday #visitderbyshire #visitengland #visitbritain #slowtravel #greentourism #sustainabletravel #conscioustravel #ruralbusiness #thisisrural #ruraltourism #bbcradioderby
#slowtravel #sustainabletravel #conscioustravel #ecofriendly #narrowboatholiday #VisitBritain #UKHoliday
As our route brought us towards the Trent and Mersey Canal, we were thrilled to see a Heron in flight. It briefly perched in a tree, before setting off on its way again, a treat to see.
We followed the canal under a handful of bridges meeting cyclists and dog-walkers along the way, until we reached Swarkestone lock. There we met a couple of narrowboaters about to enter the lock, and offered a helping hand. This was gratefully accepted and we helped with opening and closing the gates before waving them off on their journey.
If, you turn right out of Mercia Marina, you'll be on your way to Fradley Junction. From here you can head up the T&M through Great Haywood to Stone, the Staffordshire market town 7 miles south of Stoke on Trent.
The two Princes were converted to Christianity by St. Chad. One version of the story tells of how one day, while out hunting, they followed a white hart which led them to the saint, who was living as a hermit. St. Chad preached to the Princes and later baptised them. One of the King’s noblemen, Werebode, informed the King that two Princes had defied him and become Christians. The King was so angry at their defiance that he swore he would kill his sons. The two Princes managed to flee but the King rode after them and killed Rufin at Burston and Wulfad at Stone.
The Queen had their bodies buried together on the spot where Wulfad had fallen, and in accordance with Saxon custom, a large cairn of stones was placed over the grave. Wulfhere was overcome with remorse and eventually visited St. Chad to seek absolution, and in about 670 AD allowed the Queen to build a small priory on the site of the Princes grave. A small village began to grow around the priory, and was known as Stanes (Anglo-Saxon for stones) after the cairn of stones. Over the centuries the name became Stone.
Rufin and Wulfad are depicted in two of the windows in St Michael and St Wulfad’s Church. There is an altar dedicated to the Stone Martyrs in the Roman Catholic Church.
In fact we will have to return in Silver Ann 2 for a longer stay as there is so much to do in Stone: a river walk, Crown Meadow Nature Reserve, a comedy club, a spa, gin bar, restaurant with jazz nights and you are spoilt for choice on places to eat, from traditional British 'Farm to Table' restaurant to Thai, Italian, or American cuisine.
If you want to read about other places to visit or eat you can read more here
We are participating in English Tourism Week which is running from 30th March 2019 - 7th April 2019.
We will give a 10% discount off any holiday booked with us during English Tourism Week 2019. Offer ends midnight 7th April 2019.
#EnglishTourismWeek19 #VisitEngland #VisitBritain
More treats right on our doorstep in Willington can be found at Bevington’s Tea Room and I visited earlier this week as an early Mother's Day treat with my mum. This quaint white cottage in the village centre is the next-door neighbour of the Dragon, and may well be the cause of some agonising among the hungry over which of the two to visit. Bevington’s has everything you’d hope for in a traditional tea shop: rose-patterned wallpaper; vintage china, both on display and on the table; tea in proper teapots; fancy cups; sugar lumps with tongs; excellent tea and coffee; and a wide range of sweet and savoury delights.
You’re also assured of a friendly welcome, especially when you use your Silver Ann 2 discount card. If you’re lucky you might also be party to some of Mark’s banter with his regulars. They were discussing the next day’s lunch menu when we arrived; Mark was jokingly pondering adding Thai curry to the menu but the old boy didn’t fancy the prospect much. He was similarly wary of Coq au Vin, but much keener on Chicken in Red Wine!
As you can see, you won’t be disappointed if you plan to lunch at Bevington’s, and hearty breakfasts are also a speciality. But we were determined to take tea, and our three-tier, tea-for-two stand was piled high with goodies. White and granary sandwiches with beef & horseradish, home-cooked ham, chicken salad and cheese & tomato. Well-risen scones with a choice of strawberry and raspberry jams and clotted cream. And best of all, two thick slabs of sponge cake, which we took home for later. That evening, our verdict was that the salted caramel cake trumped the coffee and walnut. But it was very close.
You can read more about Bevingtons and other places to visit on our 'Things to Do' page here
Bevingtons Tea Room and Gifts, 5, The Green, Willington, DE65 6BP
After leaving the church we walked through Repton village to the ancient Cross. This was the centre of the medieval village, with its Wednesday market and two annual fairs. We admired the historic buildings scattered throughout the village; a 'Repton Trail' leaflet produced by Repton Village History Group provides interesting information on some of these buildings. You can find a copy on board the Silver Ann 2, along with some 'Repton Rambles' leaflets giving routes of some circular walks around the village.
Next we followed our noses to the 'Greedy Pig Butchers' where the delicious aroma of baking pies was wafting out of the doorway. Inside we found an array of tasty goodies: game pie; pheasant orange and port pie; pork pie topped with mango chutney; black pudding pate with beer all particularly caught my eye. There is a traditional meat counter, shelves of chutneys, sauces, baked goods and outside some fresh fruit and vegetables. A real gem of a find for those on a self-catering holiday. We snapped up one of the pies for our tea and can confirm it was as delicious as it smelt!
Book your self-catering holiday aboard the Silver Ann 2 today
Having got to Trent Lock too early ourselves for lunch we ate hearty sausage and mozzarella paninis and home-made cakes at the nature reserve, sat on the decking in the sunshine while grebes and tufted ducks dived for their own grub beneath us. We then made sure the army of wildfowl didn't go hungry either with some healthier bird seeds. Canada Geese and Whooper Swans ate (fairly) gently from the kids' hands. Best of all was a pair of Egyptian geese, with 9 adorable fluffy, days-old black and grey goslings.
Today I visited the charming Derbyshire village of Shardlow, whose rich canal heritage can be seen everywhere you look.
The bright and breezy early spring weather was perfect for a wander along the towpath. With the hawthorn in flower, daffodils in bloom, blossom in the trees and fluffy pussy willow branches it was a picture book scene.
Dan and I were not born and raised in Derbyshire, we hail originally from Sussex, another stunning part of England's wonderful landscape. We relocated about 6 years ago swapping the seaside for some spectacular scenery, and while I may occasionally daydream of the days the beach was a mere 100 yards from my doorstep I have fallen in love with our new surroundings and shall never tire of the amazing countryside of Derbyshire.
Intrigued by the shoe tree I have done a bit of 'googling' once home and cannot find what the significance of it is. There is some reference to a tradition of throwing the shoes of the recently deceased onto tree branches so that their spirit can walk closer to heaven. Other articles refer to "Shoefiti" and say the goal is to create a living, evolving art project, or possibly it begins with one impulsive gesture that catches on with others soon following suit. I have found that the tree has it's own Facebook Page with 59 followers, but there is no useful information there, only two random posts from 2014, and I have found that the tree pre-dates this by at least 10 years. If anyone can enlighten me as to how long the shoe tree has been there and what it's significance is I'd love to know. Does it have pagan roots? Is the tree at the end of a walking route and this started as an impulsive gesture by a walker discarding his old boots??? Who knows?!
In the UK alone, 11.7 million working days are lost annually due to stress, depression or anxiety. The average person spends 65.2 hours a week on the internet, while research shows that social media can negatively impact your mental health. So switch off, take a break, and surround yourself with nature to increase your happiness and better prepare yourself for day-to-day stresses.
Part of the joy of a holiday on the British waterways is the wildlife surrounding you. Waking up to the sound of chirruping coots; watching ducks land on the water and seeing swans gliding past your window are just a few of the delightful moments you can experience.
The nearby Attenborough Nature Reserve offers a great opportunity to spot native wildlife. It attracts large numbers of wintering wildfowl, as well as a variety of waders during spring and autumn migration. These include the little ringed plover and greenshank, as well as rarer visitors such as Temminck's stint and the curlew sandpiper. Other migrant birds that regularly pass through the reserve include whinchat, wheatear, osprey, black tern and little gull.
You can read more about waterways wildlife on our Wildlife page here
This week is National Farmhouse Breakfast week, so what better time to introduce our hearty Derbyshire breakfast offer. For only £7.50pp, we'll supply you with everything you need to kick off your holiday in the traditional way.
Local butchers sausages, back bacon, free-range eggs, black pudding, mushrooms, tomatoes and -this is what makes this unique to our corner of the East Midlands - Derbyshire oatcakes, which are delicious, yeasted Katy pancakes. You probably won't even need to stop for lunch!
You can view our optional extras here: bit.ly/GNBExtras
#Shakeupyourwakeup #sustainabletourism #greentourism #ecotourism #narrowboat #holiday #dogfriendly #ecofriendly #visitderbyshire #visitbritain #britishholidays #ukholidays #selfcateringaccommodation #derbyshire #nottingham #derby #staffordshire #canalholiday #trentandmerseycanal
We are Dan & Mary-Ann Griffin. Husband and Wife. Parents to Isabelle & James.