Friday 30 April 2021

Plan a,b,c,d f and h - a lot of ranting and nice photos on the Huddersfield Narrow/shallow Canal

 Now don't berate me.  Things have been very busy and frustrating in the last few weeks.  I'd be having a proper old rant right now, were it not for the despicable murder of a member or crt staff down south this week.   Instead, I'm feeling more forgiving of them - certainly the chaps /chapesses on the ground at the moment AND even in praise of the statement issued by the boss man - which for a change was actually very well written and sincere!

SO then.  I left you halfway between Marple and Bugsworth (Buxsworth) basin - BOTH spellings appear to be correct depending on which book/map you read!   The Peak Forest canal is lovely but VERY shallow (practically impossible to get along side most of the time) and even in April with a reasonable amount of water in it, we struggle to get through a couple of shallow bits.  Still, we made it to the basin (after a segway up the Whayley Bridge arm to check with water supply being pumped up from the river Goyt) - I'm not wishing to be alarmist here, but as the reservoir that feeds it is STILL empty and under repair, THIS appears to be all that is filling the peak forest and Macclesfield canals... it's no wonder they are both shallow and timings on lock flights are being introduced (again) 

Here I am moaning about water levels when once again, there are far bigger problems... take the lovely boat behind Ellis in the last photo.  On stepping out and about to cast off after our overnight there, I met the owner of it.  A disheveled looking chap whom I HAD been  cross with for running his engine late the night before.  On chatting, it transpired his poor wife (in her 50's) had just died the night before!!!

Tragic.  I won't go into details but suffice to say, we had to stay and talk a while. Poor, Poor fella.  Every sentence pulling at my heart strings and catapulting me back to the early days with dad when mum died.

At an appropriate time, we made our excuses, explained we'd be back in a few days and offered help/support where we can.  We chugged out of the basin in a rather solemn mood but thanking our lucky stars that "our" problems were so insignificant. 

. . . . . . . . . .

Now those of you paying attention (I know it's hard when waffle on) MIGHT remember, the reason why we came up here was to begin our revised route to the Llangollen (caused by that landslide on the T & M that happened 21st Jan but which CRT had done nothing about yet)...  Well, during our journey, it became apparent CRT had ALSO closed the Macclesfield canal due to a collapsed culvert in Macclesfield...  Curious as to   HOW the works were progressing, we decided to chug as close to the stoppage as possible and take a look for ourselves.

The short answer is that bugger all apart from blocking it off (including the towpath so that will be a priority to get cyclist's going again) was being done...  Talking with the security chap on site (complete with nice dogs) he said from experience WHEN this type of job starts, it tends to take a bout a month... ie. we would NOT be going down the Macclesfield to get to Llangollen (the LONG way).

SO - we hatched another plan... a segway over the Huddersfield Narrow (and shallow) Canal... THIS being the only one that appeared to be fully open!

School boy error there too however as it transpired that a leak in the pound between locks 1 and 2 that was listed LAST JULY - had still not been investigated so the only way to get to Hudderfield , involved pre-booking a passage and hope a crt person would turn up to run water down to the make the entrance to lock 1 possible.  MORE to follow about that later.

Weather wise, we'd been very lucky with bright sunny days but cold nights - I think it got down to minus 4 whilst in Bugsworth - in fact, on the return journey the day before we went back down the Marple flight, we got snow!

Whilst in Marple, I called into a Chemists and picked up a few Covid testing kits for when we start taking guests onboard.  They'll have had their 2nd jabs by then and we've both had our first so it's a belt and braces approach I know... but still, it does offer THEM extra peace of mind.
The sooner we can all stop wearing these silly muzzles the better as far as I'm concerned.

Once down Marpe locks, we spotted some friends moored up on their new Bickerstaff - shouting through the hatch, it transpired one of them had shingles so we chugged on and spent a night moored in Ashton -under-lyne (near the Portland Basin Museum) - 

Yes, I KNOW we are pointing the wrong way for the HNC but we'd decided it would be easier to take a detour to Droylesden to fill up with water, rather than faff about own the basin arm (and reverse back up).

The weather was still kind to us and we were soon back on route and began our ascent of the HNC.

True to form, no sooner than we'd come up lock 1 and the bosun buggered off to set number 2, did I get "stuck" on the bottom... the only way to get going again was to leave the boat in forward gear and leap off with the centre line to pull it along ...  once through the shallows, we made our way up to Staleybridge and moored for a night outside Tesco.  This has to be  on a par with the one in Ellesmere for 'boater convenience' - shame it's a Tesco *other militant grocery outlets are available but still handy none-the-less.

As we made our way upstream, we came to our first PROPER hurdle... just before lock 9w there is a sandbank of "washings in" from the hillside...  this had been here (but not as bad) in 2019 when we last came up)...  NOW it's a proper problem (well for us) and we ended up beached betwix the bank (more than half way across the centre channel) and the shallows on the offside.  

It took several reverses and "runs" at it to eventually get past, only to then discover the lock landing ahead wasn't usable enough to get the bosun off! - That resulted in  a bit of a 'Costa Concordia' list of 45 degrees for WAY longer than felt comfortable before yet more reversing , rocking the boat and brute engine force got us off and afloat again.

Still, it added a bit of excitement to us and entertainment for some walkers who'd gather to shout useless suggestions  show their support!

We broke the journey up and moored for a night in Uppermill - this time ON the old trip boat moorings (having been told it's gone for good it seemed fair enough)...

Next morning, up to Diggle  - through some of the toughest locks on the system that took both of us with a windlass each on either side of the paddle gear to get moving on  one occasion . We also got stuck again for longer this time just after the service block - same place as in 2019 and from memory, where Robbie Cummings did too when he filmed HIS trip over it the other year... WHY they can't just dredge it a bit more is beyond me.  ANYWAY - once at the top, it was time to chill in the sun and await the next days tunnel passage.

I'm going to "gloss over a bit here" - mainly because it is all very negative and frankly I want to ENJOY this life.  Suffice to say,  CRT are still enforcing a policy no longer required and using Covid as excuse to do so - namely, insisting on a volunteer piloting your boat through the tunnel and if you don't agree to them being at the helm, bashing their way from side to side, you are not allowed through...  Keeping it short, I expressed my concern and the stupidity of this policy - especially on  semi trad where both skipper and chaperone could be 2 m apart but the pilot would not budge and shortly before 10pm I got an email from crt to put me on the naughty step until Monday when they would make contact to discuss my future (return) bookings before they would ALLOW another passage.

I waited until "office" hours to respond and sent a very fair summarization of how I'm thinking of their performance and offering suggestions to think about in regards flexible policies.  I HAD considered sending this photo showing that 2.2m could be attained between skipper and chaperone but hoped when we "talked", this would not be necessary.

me in full ppe was a bloody waste of money too...  hey ho.

So, knowing we couldn't' get all the way to Huddersfield without having to book (and trust someone would turn up) we decided to end the trip at Slaithwaite and spend a few days there before the return tunnel passage ... that was, if we were allowed through at all.

WE even managed to get a haircut done at the 'Waterside' barbers by an ex-boater (Australian chap and very friendly),  followed by a bottle of wine on a balcony overlooking the river .

Whilst in Slaithwaite, we bumped into our boaty friend Fiona (she and her husband Chris live in the town) and they arranged to pop by for a socially distanced drink later that night.  It was quite handy being moored near a bench and when they turned up (we'd forgotten they were coming and had just gotten out of the shower) we put a few layers on and sat outside on the towpath as the bats started to fly and drank the wine they'd brought with them (for which thank you btw - much appreciated).  WHEN it got so cold we were all shaking, we said our goodbyes and next day we began our chugs once more.

The trip back up from Slaithwaite to Marsden has 2 (now leaky which used to be ok) pounds that require water running down to get through and a lock that also is very difficult to get in. MUCH engine power required and it was done. 

ANYWAY - having been told I was on the naughty step  all weekend and issued with a vieled threat, I awaited the phone call eagerly.  NONE came until Thursday... and then only after I'd tried to call the sender of said email.... and by then we were mid way up to Marsden.

Keeping it short again, we were friendly but they just kept quoting  the policy (unjust as it is) and that if I didn't like or agree with it, I was perfectly at liberty not to take the tunnel passage and wait until the government relaxes the  rules (hopefully) on 21st June!  - Meanwhile I suppose I could book a hair appointment and sit with highlights being done by someone in a mask lest than 1metre away from me for 2 hours but it would still be TOO dangerous for me to drive my own boat through a tunnel with someone 2 metres away from me in full ppe.  DURING our conversation, I was also told that crt obviously monitor social media postings and that any negative postings or barrage would be frowned upon by them...  effectively attempting to impose a media blackout!

Unlike many, whilst I do make the occasional snide remark using sarcasm and irony in regards crt, I generally don't post things that are overly negative.  

Moving on - they had me  by the short and curlies in regards the return passage and they knew it...ergo, I had to capitulate and let it happen.  On chatting with a few of the volunteers around the tunnel entrance, it transpired the crt person who'd taken offence with me, was not renowned for being either flexible or responsive so I'd be flogging a dead horse if I made a formal complaint.

Once through the tunnel, I gave the matter some serious thought and whilst I felt I ought to do SOMETHING to bring their action to task - there are bigger things to worry about going on in the world right now (see aforementioned murdered crt employee at the start)  - SO, whilst it sticks in my throat not to stand up to a bully, for me, life is too short and I want to continue to enjoy boating - they will be the ones whom bearing grudges will eat them up... not I.

Our journey back down the canal encountered the same problem at lock 9W - this time however, I applied more power on approach and did it in 2 attempts... after which, the rest of the canal was plain sailing so to speak.

Once down , we went on to Droylesden spend the night before tackling the Ashton 18 - most of which were ok with only the occasional bored kid to entertain as we went down.  Stopping off again in Telford Basin, we took a rest for the night before heading down the Rochdale 9 - few tough bits on there too ... including us trying to remove a barrel that had been chucked in at some point... FULL of (presumably water but might have been Rum!!!) we had to abandon it as too heavy and continue our way down to The Bridgewater ... having booked our 7 day passage online (for whatever reason they've decided to introduce that additional level of bureaucracy) and here we are - ready to set off tomorrow to Llangollen  once the Middlewich branch re-opens (noon today apparently) - assuming we can get past the single file channel that has FINALLY been opened up on the T & M near the landside that happened back in January....

Until next time...

Monday 5 April 2021

All sorts - updates, 'yellow sticker vaccines' Summer and Winter all in One week...

 Ok - I know that has to be one of my crappiest titles...  thing is, if I spend too long thinking about them, I forget what I was about to type... perhaps it's an age thing.

Righty ho.  SINCE my last rambling (eek over 2 weeks ago), loads of bits and bobs have happened.

As planned we left the luxury of shoreline on 22nd (actually I think we planned on the 21st but as that was a Sunday, we'd not be able to give our key fobs back and top up the diesel tank) and chugged off in the direction of the Leigh Branch of the L & L.  Another boat (newbies) left at the same time as us and we followed them for an hour or so until they got too cold and tied up for the night - we, pressed on and after stopping briefly in Leigh outside Aldi to top up the heavy stuff,  continued on to Pennington Flash.  

Moody skies but a lovely view none the less

The bloke who seems to have taken up permanent residence on the other side (and runs his genny until late) is STILL there...  I'd like to live and let live but these folks really do take the proverbial.

You may recall, the main reason for leaving the marina a week early was to test out the batteries to see if we'll get away with this season from them  - first morning  they were at 80 % with the inverter having been on power save mode.   HAVING no shame in regards 'towpath laundry', I ran a load through and then got the little genny out to top up the batteries... I even tilted the panels to make the most of the available solar.

The next day, we chugged on a bit - planning to fill with water and then head to Scotsman's Flash... the sun was out and all was well with the world.

Halfway to Wigan,  I received a text message from my doctors to say I could book a covid jab - either Thursday (this was Wednesday) or Sat Morning back in Wakefield.   Having travelled from Wigan on the train to Wakefeld a couple of years ago, that was going to be a pain - so, mid afternoon, we turned back and chugged back to Manchester ... mostly in the dark.  Besides it being cold, it was a lovely journey.  

We pulled up outside Old Trafford (underneath the Hotel Football) and spent the night there - in readiness to collect a hire car from Enterprise about a mile's walk away.

When I arrived at the vaccination popup place, I was in and out in no time - replete with my first dose of the AstraZenaca vaccine.

I enquired as to how come I'd been called 'early' - (I'm under 50 obviously) and was told quite candidly that the stuff I'd just had injected,  was going out of date on Sunday ... ergo, I'd just had a 'yellow label'  This tickled me and not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I'm pleased it was used rather than binned.

Next day we travelled into Castlefield Basin (to fill with water) turned and then headed to Sale for a couple of days before we set off properly on 29th (when the "stay at home" order ended).

IT was nice enough being moored outside the Kings Ransom for a couple of nights - tbh , I did feel a little under the weather but like I said to the Bosun, back in the days of 'working' I've driven to London - done a days work and then driven home feeling MUCH worse.  

On 29th, we pulled ropes and set off to begin our now elongated journey to  Llangollen  - to be in position for when we are allowed to take guests... I'm losing my patience now with crt  as they've not even started work on the landslide blocking the 'normal route' AND - have closed the only other route available.  More about that later.

We stopped for lunch in Castlefield Basin and just as we were about to set off, a boat went passed which meant we could share the Rochdale 9.  THAT was a relief as having done them on my own the other year, it's SO much easier with another boat.

On this leg of our journey, we were joined by our 'bubble' lady.  Last year, we agreed to form a bubble with our most returning single guest - neither party has deviated from this so we weren't breaking any rules... and as all 3 of us have been jabbed anyway, even if we had done, there'd have been much less risk than a trip to Tescos *other militant supermarkets are available*.

She'd brought along a rather unique  birthday cake for the Bosun (the 29th being his big day)

Bonkers as it may look, it was based on things he likes (being a fussy eater) such as white chocolate and Mince-pies.... scrummy!

WE charged our way up the 9 in record time - the crew struggling with a couple of gates but tied up safely for the night in Telford Basin before an early start up the Ashton the following morning.

The Ashton was a grubby as ever but no major hold ups presented themselves and we made quite good progress....  we stopped in Droylsden to fill with water and as the sun was out, we went beyond Portland Basin (which HAD been our planned mooring)  - almost to Marple Aqueduct before trying up for the night.

Next day was glorious and we worked our way up the Marple flight at a leisurely pace - stopping off for lunch mid way (well it was quiet enough not to cause a problem for anyone) and once at Marple, we reversed down the end of the Macclesfield canal to top up with water and (once again non-moving boats were tied up on the 48 hour moorings) then set off towards Bugsworth Basin.

We tied up for the night not far from Strines and the Bosun got his drone out for a couple of shots... only to be accosted by "Mr. Angry" in a house not far from the canal who felt the need to express his dislike of drones invading his privacy.  He didn't even HAVE his house in the shots and anyone who has a baby drone will tell you, you DONT have a zoom function to look at him in his underpants of whatever...  I fought back and politely explained we were just taking shots of the boat and it is perfectly legal to do so when not in a no-fly zone.

Enough for now - I'm afraid my next missive will include a bit of a rant about the NOW CLOSED Macclesfield Canal.., which we NEED!!!!

Until next time...