Monday, 30 November 2009

All Change, No OIL Change

Overnighted at Higher Poynton just past bridge fifteen.  Below the view from the side hatch this morning looking out over the 'flash', a mining subsidence that has flooded and created a lake. The decision this morning was to stay put and for Joe to change the engine oil. We are relatively close to a municiple recycling centre so oil disposal is at hand....

Leaving Joe this morning I headed off with the two dogs for a walk - an oil change was planned so I thought I needed to make myself scarce for at least a couple of hours. 
This is ex-mining country, very EX.  I think there are the remains of fifty pits hereabouts and below is the former Engine House for one of the pits, now pressed into alternative use. 

When we returned himself was down the engine hole.  The old oil was out, the filter changed and new oil was about to be poured.

After a lunch of homemade bacon and corn chowder we set off to the local facilities to dump rubbish and cassette contents and I carried on the recycling centre to dispose of the old oil.  Ten litres of old oil.  My knuckles were scraping the pavement by the time I got there!!
Still,  that's another job jobbed as my dear Nan was fond of saying.... 

Up the Marple and beyond...

We came up the Marple flight on Saturday, not without incident however.  BW had turned the water off at the summit - reminiscent of the Standegde trip of only a few days ago? - and the water in the pounds was getting very, very low.  NB Matilda Rose was leading the way and they managed to flag down a passing BW truck and its crew because the gate paddles on one of the locks were not engaging.   The gate sorted, the BW boys arranged for the water to be turned back on and we soon saw the side washes bubbling with water once again. 
Once up and in Marple we found that the water point was only accessible to a small rowing boat because BW working boats were occupying most of the wharf.  Work is due to start on the towpath on Monday but it was already underway as we passed through bridge number two.  When the work of repairing the collapsed canalside here is complete it will mean that there are another stretch of good moorings once more available in Marple.  However, having spent best part of the last five months passing in and out of Marple in one direction on another I don't anticipate seeing this part of the world for a number of years....
Sunday morning we moved on to Higher Poynton - pouring with rain again - filled with diesel, bought more coal and an oil filter and watered Caxton.  Lunch in the Boars Head and a doze in the chair by the fire in the afternoon - part of our membership commitment for being middle aged...

Saturday, 28 November 2009


Yesterday we woke to rain, heavy rain.  Normally we would simple turn over and forget about travelling but we have to get from Portland Basin up through the sixteen locks on the Marple flight ahead of a stoppage on Monday. In addition, NB Matilda Rose has to be in Whaley Bridge on Monday morning because they are having a new central heating boiler fitted so it was travel we must.  
The first job ahead of setting off  was to load the two boats with some prime Ash we had earmarked.

Then we were away.  I walked Fletcher and Floyd and for most of the journey up to the bottom of the Marple flight it continued to rain.  We were all sodden by the time we moored up and just a little miserable but a hot shower and a change of clothes for the humans and a rub down and a warm fire for the canines soon had us feeling a lot better.
Turkey stew and herb dumplings did the rest.....

Friday, 27 November 2009

Tesco Shopping Trolley's

I have dropped a wee line to Tesco's Corporate Responsibility Team, who cover 'environmental impact', about the 'impact' their trolley's have when they are not confined to Tesco retail premises - see yesterday's post.  It will be interesting to see their response but what's the betting that I get passed to some customer service unit and get a standard fob-off reply?

Thursday, 26 November 2009

I have, have you?

I have signed the Downing Street petition to protest at the Government plans to sell off British Waterways (BW) property.  This is property that BW uses to raise income for maintenance of our canals and their infrastructure.  If this income stream is lost BW's financial plight becomes even more acute and we all know what that means..
Now that this petition is in the public domain the worst thing that can happen is that it receives little support - so, I've signed, how about you?

And then there were SEVEN!!!

This morning we pulled pins at 08.30 and slipped quietly down through two locks to the Tesco moorings at Stalybridge, right outside, how convenient.   I did the shopping got back to Caxton to make tea and put the food away and half an hour later we moving off again heading towards Ashton. At lock 4W, the last lock in Stalybridge we encountered a problem. Joe could not get Caxton out of the lock because Caxton was not 'floating', Caxton was sitting on something.  I closed the gates and let enough water in to get Caxton afloat and Joe starting rumaging around with a boat pole. No surprises, a shopping trolley.  Managing to dislodge the trolley and push it back away from our prop we tried to exit the lock again but Caxton was sitting on something else.... We filled the lock and reversed the boat out, closed the gates and paddles and I called British Waterways. Ten minutes later I got a call from the Supervisor to say help was on its way and would be with us in under thirty minutes.  Twenty-five minutes later, along comes Terry and Mark and their BW truck.
We all set about removing the obstruction.
The obstruction turns out to be SEVEN Tesco shopping trolleys.

Thank you Terry and Mark of British waterways. 
I am now about to send an e-mail to Tesco!!!

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

What is at the bottom of the canal? - We are!

We pulled pins at 08.30 yesterday morning and headed east up two more locks to the services immediately below lock 24W. The water was lower in the pounds which seemed a bit strange given the amount of rain we had had overnight.  Our plan was to service Caxton, wind (turn) and head back down past the slumbering crew of Matilda Rose leaving the locks prepared for them as we went.  Mice and men...... the water pressure, pressure being perhaps not the appropriate word, was abysmal and Caxton was taking an age to fill.   We then had a prop snag whilst winding (turning) and Joe had to submerge himself in the weed hatch to clear the obstruction. 

Below, Fletcher inspects the haul from around Caxton's prop!

NB Matilda Rose had called to say that they had set off and were watered and were through the first lock - so we were now the tail runner rather than the vanguard.  The water in the pound had dropped further since we had serviced and Caxton was scraping bottom at times.  We got grounded between locks 23 and 22, a very short pound.  I let another lock full of water down from above and we managed to get Caxton into Lock 22.  The next pound, the one we had been moored in for three days and our starting point at 08.30, was fine and we made our way to the next lock, 21W.  We were aided by the owner of the one other narrowboat hereabouts, NB Chug. His wife had called BW to say that the canal had de-watered.  Caxton got out of the lock to find that there was barely a cupful of water in the canal.  Joe called BW. A couple of hours later, I called BW. We were sitting on the bottom and there we stayed.  I ran down closing paddles of locks that had been prepared for us.  I ran up opening paddles to let more water through. By 14.30 we had got Caxton to the mouth of the next lock, the lock that had caused the problem.  Here the gate paddle mechanism was so knackered and stiff that the paddles had not been fully closed. I literally had to force them closed cog tooth by cog tooth using my shoulder under the windlass. And then I watched water gush from the lock through the brickwork.
My call to BW had explained the mystery of the low water, the flow from the summit reservoir had been turned off because of the flooding in Cumbria - I am still trying to work out the connection - but had now been turned back on.  It would take three hours to re water the canal apparently.
Then help arrived.
No not BW, but Graham from NB Matilda Rose.
He went back to lock 21W and opened the paddles to let water through. As soon as Caxton was afloat and making her way into the lock I called Graham ot close the paddles above us.
Two hours later and in the dark we moored up behind Matilda Rose below lock 15W.  It had taken eight hours to cover barely 2 and quarter miles.
Not an experience you would want to repeat but hey ho it happens.  We do owe a big thank you to Graham and also a big thank you to Jill because as we arrived our dinner was being served up? 
And very nice it was too!

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Going over the Top

With the greatest respect to those whom that title really meant something, the soldiers in the first world war, we went for a walk today 'over the top' to see the war memorial that was erected in 1923 to commemorate those men of the Saddleworth villages that lost their lives in the Great War. The memorial was built on a ridge overlooking the villages and at 440 metres above sea level it was quite a climb.

This spot is called 'pots and pans' by the locals.  The shape of the stone outcrops and how they have been weathered and eroded is the reason for this rather domestic name.   AS we turned to set out down the hill again I telephoned  Graham and Joe to say we would meet them at the Tavern.  The Church Inn had been recommended as THE place for Sunday lunch, a pub that welcomed walkers, and dogs, and children.

The pub is next the church and I am sure that as the service finished I saw a number of the congregation head straight for their 'local'.  The place was packed, there were numerous dogs about, food was being served and no one was in the least troubled by dogs lying quietly under tables while there owners dined - what a pleasant change!

This chap belonged to the pub.

Standedge Tunnel

We are moored here at Uppermill just below lock 22W. The three mile Standedge Tunnel is just ahead of us but closed for the winter. BW secure lock 24W so we are unable to get the boats any closer but we did walk up to the tunnel entrance on Friday - well you have to, don't you?

We passed this transhipment warehouse, now the home of the Huddersfield Canal Society (HCS)but formerly built to service Stonebottom Mill. The presence of our two boats has not been missed by the HCS, one of their representatives stopped to have a chat with Graham yesterday. They, the HCS, were interested in any comments we had about the canal and why so few boats use it.

My impressions - the geography in this part of the world is fascinating, you are travelling through the backbone of England, the Pennines, and it is majestic. The villages are hewn out of the stone of the hills as are the remaining Mills. This is hard country but quite beautiful and well worth a prolonged visit. To encourage more boat transits there need to be be more moorings posted. Thirty-two locks need to be in very good condition and moorings interspersed at reasonable intervals would encourage more use perhaps. Would I come back? Oh Yes, most definately.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Close shave - not really

Yesterday morning I toddled off into the village and finally, yes finally, got a hair cut.
Perusing the menu of charges I spotted the cost of hi-lights, £22; very reasonable I thought so I asked if they could fit me in.
Late afternoon I returned and had hi-lights put in to give a lift to the winter drab. Now I am all shipshape again and you farmers can stop trying to drag me off into your fields for scarecrow duty!

Friday, 20 November 2009


We left Frenchies Marina at 13:00hrs yesterday. There were strong winds and gusts to deal with and it was with some trepidation that Caxton and Matilda Rose manoeuvred through the lift bridge and out into the cut. Neither boat managed to slam their flanks into the bridge so all was well as we set out to go through two locks and find moorings at the village of Uppermill. This is a typical Saddleworth village, the mills are gone and now tourism seems to dominate things.

The trip boat moored in Uppermill. This is owned and operated by John, the harbourmaster at Frenchies.

Uppermill Museum and art gallery.

Caxton's present mooring.

Any room at the Inn?

I left us Wednesday evening with the rain falling and the light failing. A dog walker had told us that through the next bridge was a pub with moorings - beggars can't be choosers we thinks, that will do nicely, so Jill and I hurried on ahead to have a look.

Sure enough their was the new pub and the brand new marina! No mooring bollards or rings outside the pub and the entrance to the new and almost empty marina is a hydraulically operated lift bridge, a locked hydraulically operated lift bridge no less. Jill hares off into the pub to find out how we might access 'their' marina and I find the single boater in residence. The single boater in residence turns out to be the harbour master, John. While I was having the 'can we come in for the night please' and he was telling me that 'they didn't do single night stays', Jill returns and joins me in trying to persuade said harbourmaster to let us in.
'There will be a charge.
Of course, we expect that.
It's £15 a night.
Yes each.
How about twenty quid for the both boats?
Not really, I could do £25 for both boats but you have to help me to lift the bridge.'
We helped wind up the bridge.

Apparently the brand new marina has been developed by a property developer. Charges for mooring are it seems based on market reseach in the Channel Islands and bare little relationship to what people are prepared to pay 'up north' on the inland waterways. £2500 per annum plus VAT - hence an empty marina.
Anyway we were in and secure for the night and the hostelry next door was about to provide us with some much needed sustainance...

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Nowhere to moor!!

I took the dogs for a walk yesterday morning - in the rain. By eleven the weather had eased and it was decided to move up five locks to Roaches Lock, less than two miles away, where there were overnight moorings, countryside and an Inn that had been recommended. We thought we could go out an celebrate Joe's birthday here.

During the night Graham had got up and dragged Matilda Rose back a boat length because they had been moored against a culvert that was discharging a lot of rainwater into the canal - not something he could sleep through.

Above, a view of the R. Tame in raging torrent mode. The Canal runs alongside the river, sharing its valley.

Above, Scout Tunnel, all 205yds of it.

Lock 14w in Mossley where there is a lot of building work in progress. New stone houses are being constructed, the paths were being laid and painters and decorators were busy about their trade - encouraging signs that things may be picking up?

We pass some industrial heritage - the Mill lad, the Mill.

When we arrived at the moorings just before Roaches lock there was a tent encampment. Heaps of wood and braziers and sodden individuals without a proper roof over their heads. Young men and therefore not on the radar screen of the Authorities I suspect. We chose not to pitch up next to them though so we moved on while the weather held aiming to moor just above lock seventeen - only another two then.

Another Mill and its associated cottages now converted into apartments etc.

Our plans to moor were scuppered by being unable to get either boat into the bank. Lunch time had long since past, it was raining steadily and the light was failing - what to do?
The next post will provide the answer........

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

New Waters - The Huddersfield Narrow

We left our mooring at the Portland Basin yesterday morning in glorious sunshine and light winds and turned right onto the Huddersfield Narrow, passing through the 'Asda Tunnel' as we headed up into the Pennines. New waters for us.

At the first lock just after the tunnel which psses beneath the store, I encountered this contraption. This is the hydraulic mechanism that opens the bottom gates. 490 turns later, no I must not exaggerate, it was only 300 turns, I 've got the gates open - stop for breather.

Here are the rams on the gates. I was hoping that the rest of the gates were not going to be in this format or my day was going to be either very short or I was going to be very knackered. Fortunately this was the only one - so far that is.

Some of the canalside buildings as we make our way out of Ashton and into Stalybridge - not that you would know where one town ends and the other starts!

Here we are moored on the first visitor moorings at Stalybridge, just above lock four west. Do we stay? I quick recce of the possible moorings in Stalybridge proved not to be cat friendly and as the weather was due to be awful on Wednesday we were anticipating having to stay put for at least two days so Stalybridge was not going to have our company - we need to move on but before we do....

Joe and Graham remove two shopping trolley's from the visitor moorings. They will probably be back in the wink of an eye but hey, we tried.

We moved through the CENTRE of Stalybridge, the canal is now a focal part of the Town, crossing through the town square and out into the countryside. I rather liked it despite the litter and graffiti. We passed under the electricity pylon that spans the canal and serviced the boats just after lock eight. The services are festooned with razor wire so sadly they must attract the wrong kind of attention.

Taking advantage of a ready supply of water we emptied the well deck and gave Caxton a clean before moving off through locks nine and ten into a lovely wooded cutting - now it was raining, and the wind was picking up, and there was no pub or restaurant to hand to celebrate Joe's sixtieth, so I cooked last night for the crews of Caxton and Matilda Rose - chicken curry, sag aloo, sag paneer and tarka dhal.
It is now hammering down outside but if we get a window of fair weather this afternoon we will move on again.