Dawn Rose to the Erewash

Published: Sunday, 13 May 2018

THERE is only a single original Chesterfield Canal boat in existence, all the others having rotted away, writes Rod Auton.

Dawn Rose was rebuilt over the course of four years by a group of volunteers from the Chesterfield Canal Trust. It has a unique design peculiar to this canal and was launched in 2015.

Emerging onto the TrentAnniversary rally

The boat was invited to attend the 50th Anniversary Rally of the Erewash Canal Preservation & Development Association, which is to take place at Langley Mill Basin over the Spring Bank Holiday.

For most boats this would be simple—a trip down the Chesterfield Canal from its base at Shireoaks Marina, then up the Trent and onto the Erewash Canal, just past Nottingham.

However, there is a snag with Dawn Rose. It has no engine. Right up to the last commercial cargo being carried on the Chesterfield Canal in 1956, the boats were horse drawn. None had engines, so neither does Dawn Rose. (Jan Warsop's photograph shows the boats leaving the Chesterfield Canal onto the tidal Trent at Stockwith.)

Volunteers had a plan

As ever, the resourceful volunteers of the Chesterfield Canal Trust had a plan. They would tow Dawn Rose with Python, an 89 years old ex-British Waterways workboat. It was obtained by the Trust to be a Learning Boat, but for various reasons this project never took off. However, Python was used as a promotional unit by the Trust for several years, visiting many waterways rallies and gatherings every summer.

Arriving at Torksey LockThen, at the Alvecote Gathering in 2013, it sprung a leak and almost sank. There followed five years of temporary works, funding bids and, eventually, restoration. This is all but finished now, so a very smart Python set out with Dawn Rose on the 21st April. (The photograph shows the boats arriving at Torksey to await the tide.)

Boat pull

The Dawn Rose crew are always on the lookout for good publicity and ways of raising funds. For the last two years, they have organised a Boat Pull. They divide the canal up into convenient sections and then invite groups to come and pull Dawn Rose along each section. The groups pay a fee and then raise money by sponsorship for their own causes. This year, the Boat Pull took place on the way down to West Stockwith, with Python in support.

The chosen date for Dawn Rose’s maiden Trent voyage was 8th May. The conditions could not have been better. Dawn Rose had left much of its ballast behind, so this 10 tons boat was only drawing about 8”. The reason for this was to make sure that plenty of water could get to Python’s propeller, because the two boats were roped together side by side.

Dawn Rose is over 70’ long and Python only 53’—it was shortened in the 1980s. In order to ensure that Python could steer properly, the two sterns were side by side, meaning that Dawn Rose was projecting 17’ further forward than Python.

Arriving at Langley Mill by Jan WarsopSet off up river

At about 12.45 p.m. the lock gates opened and the two boats set off up river. They reached Gainsborough at about 2pm and Torksey at about 5.15pm with no incidents. This was about an hour slower than might have been expected in a single boat.
Having moored on the pontoons overnight, the epic voyage continued, stopping at Newark, Nottingham before finally arriving at Langley Mill (pictured) four days after leaving West Stockwith.

Dawn Rose will be in the Erewash Canal Preservation & Development Association's, dry dock for a week to be checked over. The two boats will be involved in the Anniversary Rally on 26th, 27th and 28th May, as will the Trust’s promotional trailer. Then the whole process will be repeated for the return journey.