I AM very sad to report that our dear, delightful, docile boat horse Chelsea, has passed on to that great stable in the sky, writes Hugh Potter, archivist and editor for the Friends of Cromford Canal.
She enthusiastically pulled Birdswood for many years and fretted so much when her owners Arraslea Shires tried to retire her, that they had to bring her back to the canal for ‘light duties’ to keep her happy.
Chelsea was loved by everyone who met her – young and old – and she relished their attention and that of the photographers for whom she willingly posed. She was known for her calm nature, but she did not like the routine of pulling Birdswood being altered.
She was once observed at the winding hole at Leawood Pump, High Peak Junction, going to her regular standing position while Birdswood was turned, only to find an empty pushchair had been placed where she normally stood. She stood on the towpath about six or eight feet back and was snorting and stamping one of her front hooves until the problem was removed; she then very calmly moved into her position to await her next trip. Fond memories.
Covid brought an end to the immensely popular horse-drawn trips and Arraslea is now concentrating on other aspects of its business, so if anyone knows of any willing horses (with willing owners) who might help us reinstate this historic mode of travel, please contact the Friends of Cromford Canal. When operating with Chelsea, Birdswood was one of fewer than half a dozen horse-drawn trip boats in the country.