|6 months in a Leaky Lock|
Foulridge is the sort of name that, to me, does not sound very pleasant. But it was a lovely place to moor up with, just a hop, skip and a jump to the C&RT Sanitary block and another hop to Café Cargo which is the renovated
building. The Café
has a great menu and also a menu for dogs!!! The inhouse dog is a black mini
schnauzer with a diamante collar. Yes he is male. Foulridge
We decided to stay a couple of nights on the visitor moorings and enjoy a bit of exploring on foot. The towpath is paved alongside the canal, which makes a difference to some of the muddy paths we have walked. The towpath does not go under the tunnel but over the top through Foulridge to a reservoir, a pretty setting with a sailing club. We walked the walk around the muddy, in part, track that circuits the ‘lake’. We found out that Foulridge is pronounced Foalridge (of course) and who wouldn’t want to live there? It is a lovely spot.
Back on the move, the Tunnel has traffic lights in operation through the day and it was a green light for us every hour on the hour. It is a 10 minute tunnel and wet weather gear needed for the Skipper as the reservoir must leak. Of course a coffee and a Karcher dealt with the Skipper’s dry mouth and wet seat once we were out of the tunnel.
I have been building my confidence with being Tiller Queen and can now take the helm at any given moment. Chris is keen to do more locks and I, have, reluctantly, been letting him loose with the windlass. We use radio handsets to keep each other informed as it is quite isolating when one is in the depths of an almost empty leaky lock waiting for the gates to be opened. Some boaties call us cheats but I think we are clever. The noise of the engine really does interfere with anyone’s ability to hear. There is a lot of shouting and upper limb gestures when you are on the move!!! A ‘walkie talkie’ is the answer when one of the crew is off the boat.
We were entering our last leg of the
We had a bundle of locks to do and a couple of flights to do within a few miles
of each other. We had decided to stay at the top of the 7 Johnson Locks until a
‘partner’ narrowboat came along. We moored up outside the Sanitary Block just
by the top lock as we needed to fill the water tank and do an Elsan disposal.
The boaters shower was free and excellent, and I went and had a long hot
shower. When I walked back to AM, Chris was talking to a couple of Long Term
moorers. They told him of Nb Daphne who
was going to go down both flights. They needed extra assistance to get down the
flights and had four people coming to work the L&L Canal Wigan
21 with them the following Sunday. We agreed to go down the Johnson and the Wigan locks with them. So we had a couple of days at the
top lock for some rest and relaxation. The pub beside the top Lock was well
placed and we walked over with Della. We didn’t quite get to step indoors when
Mrs Chef Lady dressed in kitchen whites having her smoko break called out to
us “No Dogs!” We about- turned and said
“Bye” and went back to the boat.
My back had been giving me a bit of post swing bridge grief so Chris insisted I take AM down the first flight and he would work the Locks. All went well. No major difficulty with that. The Locks do not run in a straight line, it was a bit windy and I did give a firm clip entering one Lock so I wasn’t surprised that the glasses had fallen over. One wine glass didn’t make it! We motored on to Adlington and found the Visitors mooring on the edge of a park and close to town. Della was very happy to have a run and meet some of the local dogs. And there was a really friendly pub we went to for our dinner, that night.
Next day we got close to the Wigan Flight, moored and there was time for me to get the bus into
visit the Primark store there!! (Long sleeved Tshirts purchased). Late
afternoon Chris, Della and I walked in the direction of the Wigan Flight, by
road. We had a chat to a couple of high vis community police who thought our
chosen mooring spot would be fine for overnight. We sussed out the facilities
at the top lock and then walked the muddy towpath back to AM. The following
morning we were up early and cruised to the Wigans and Nb Daphne arrived a few
minutes later. Water, Elsan and showers were had and the ‘Team’ had
arrived. 930hrs and we were on the move.
AM tied onto Daphne in the first lock and AM turned her engine off. The Lock
begins to empty when Chris, on land, notices that there is a huge piece of
plywood, floating in the Lock, behind the gate and the plywood is in the wrong
place. So it’s Paddles down at the bottom end of the Lock and Paddles up at the
top end. Chris managed to fish it out and I phoned C&RT to get it
permanently removed before a helpful gongoozler chucks it back in. The morning
was fog-filled and it was really hard to see the Lock in front. I was helpless
to steer and could only shut my eyes waiting for the impact as we entered each
Lock. Chris and I swapped places for a few Locks and with all the extra help we
got down them in record time, 3 ¼ hours. And only a few scrapes!! Interesting
to see the boats that are active on the canals, all have scratches and scrapes.
‘Contact’ sport and all that! It is not usual to hit other boats but bridges,
lock walls and overhanging trees leave a mark.
We would love to have gone to Liverpool and have only heard good reports of moorings in
Liverpool. But we
were creeping into the middle of November and realized that stoppages were
looming on the . So Trent & Mersey
Canal Liverpool will have to wait. After the final Wigan Lock
it was a sharp Left Hand turn to follow the L&L to Leigh where we merged
into the / Leigh Branch.
The run from Leigh to Bridgewater
was a long day, probably because we left close to midday as we waited for the
rain and a strong wind. to abate. Then the engine wasn’t running smoothly so
Chris needed to attend to that and found shelter beneath a bridge at Worsley.
Fortunately the rain was clearing and Della and I were able to walk the
towpaths on either side of the Canal. (You don’t see many parallel towpaths and
paved / gravelled to boot!!) Chris soon had the problem sorted, litter that had
caught on the prop!
At Worsley we were entering the built up area of Greater Manchester and the canal seemed to stretch for miles, particulary after we went across the Aqueduct over the
. Impressive. We
were intent on getting to Castlefield Junction where we had every hope of
getting a mooring. It was a fabulous sunset, that evening, we waved to the
commuter trains and got smiles and waves back. We passed Man. United FC stadium
and on the other side was Old Trafford cricket ground. When we passed Pomona Lock (what takes you to
/ from the Manchester
Ship Canal ),
we knew Castlefield was less than a mile away and we would be moored before it
was dark. Manchester
At Castlefield, there were a few boats moored up but still space for us. It would be helpful if boaters considered space, in these ‘built up’ boat moorings!! Lucky, for us, there was space under the shade of an autumn leaf dropping tree! We could see no notice of length of mooring time so can only assume it was 14 days or whatever. We stayed 2 nights. Yep, we teamed up with a rental boat that was being returned by long term boaters to a
Marina on the .
The boat had been rented and was affected by the September floods canal
‘breach’. These kind people were being the ‘Good Samaritan’ and returning the
boat the only way which is the longest way!! We had walked the Trent
& Mersey Canal flight of 9 locks which awaited us,
well we walked 6 locks, the day before to check it out. The Canal was very full
of water (and rubbish) and the full locks were overflowing. Chris was concerned
and phoned C&RT to find out if this was normal. He spoke to the ‘We’ll help
you if you need help’ Lock Keeper who was being multitasked by C&RT. Rochdale Canal
We set off in good spirits along this litter full canal. What animals chuck their rubbish into the canal? Should be a jewel in the crown for
not a festering cesspit of water washing paper and plastic and cans!! The
companies that produce and sell these products should be contributing some of
their profits to C&AT to pay for the clean-up and damage caused. You don’t
see any bins filled with rubbish. (I was raised in the days of “Be a tidy Kiwi”,
it’s happily ingrained!!)
All went well until we got to one Lock where we couldn’t unlock either of the anti-vandal locks on the Paddles. Phone to C&RT and help was on its way. By the time help arrived Chris had unlocked the anti-vandals and we were in motion. The Lock-keepers were lovely chaps and we bemoaned the fact that we didn’t have them present on the flight as some of the gates needed attention and you really need to think through the best way to work some of the locks. First- timers, Health & Safety….. All is not straightforward. Some of the surfaces where you need to stand to push the gates open / closed have the wrong material laid and good tread on the heels and soles of shoes doesn’t hold. No way do I want to slip into a Lock!! A couple of gates were more suited to Hobbits and I climbed into my hole to push open the gate.
This Canal runs close to central
Manchester and is in the heart of the ‘Red
Light’ district. It is known that you don’t moor on this stretch and, probably
not, on the next stretch of 18 Locks ( Peak
Forest and ).
We met a few boats as we neared the end of the 9 locks. One Lock Labourer, of
some years, was experiencing acute back pain and that was just his first in the
run of 9 locks (but probably not the first in his day!). I really felt his pain
and didn’t admire his Superman efforts! My back was fine, I have to say, and
Chris and I had agreed to share lock labouring on the the next stretch of 19
locks. Ashton Canals
I’m aware that talking Locks can get quite boring but when you are on the move there seem to be a lorra lorra Locks and the stretches with no Locks are soon forgotten. We were now off the Rochdale and on the
and . The difference was we were now
back in Narrowboat-land i.e. Locks and bridge widths for Narrowboats.
Temptation is to step across an open and shut gate! I only did it once!! Nah I
didn’t fall in. Ashton Canals
Rochdale we had
an early warning that a 70 ft traditional working boat was heading in our
direction. We had to move under 2 bridges (the 2nd a 90 degree turn
at each end) and on exit we met a gusty breeze. We saw the boat coming through
a narrow stretch ahead, so we pulled to the right and waited. Our ‘friends’ on
the rental boat got caught by a gust of wind and were unable to move out the
way. The working boat could not reduce its speed in time and there was a BANG
as it hit the mid point of the rental boat which in turn went Bow end into the
canal wall. No injuries sustained. Glad it wasn’t us.
We gradually worked up the next flight. It helps when there is a boat following because one unlocks the anti vandals and the next boat locks them. Somewhere along the way we became a flotilla! There were 3 narrowboats. We were the lead boat. Chris took his turn working the locks and he was Lock Labourer near the site of what looked like a new suburb of
being built. Turns out the suburb is the new grounds for Manchester City FC.
There is some money there!!! The lock gates would not close properly, I think
they were jam packed with leaves. It took ages for the Lock to fill and I had
to use the force of AM to get the gates to start swinging. I cruised to the
next Lock, slowly, I didn’t notice the gates were open (time to get my eyesight
tested) until I got closer. I edged the Bow into the Lock and then heard the
sound of grounding, a groinch under the stern and then no movement. Yikes, a
bit more power and the exhaust fumes enveloped me. I put Della indoors, as I
didn’t think the fumes would do her any favours, and then waited for Chris to
sort it out. It appears that Boat No.3 were in a hurry and had been opening the
Locks ahead so that we could all move swiftly. Fine in theory but the pounds
were emptying and AM was resting on the ground. So, now, we have Mr Very Helpful
telling me what to do. I thought he was from C&RT because he had his
standard issue life jacket on. I was upset that I was grounded, I couldn’t make
the boat float and I was getting asphyxiated with the fumes. I was ready to end
my boating lark there and then. But common sense kicked in. Water was being let
into the pound by raising the paddles at the top end of the Lock and AM
gradually floated out and I moved her back into the Lock. Took 3 attempts to
get her all in. Gates closed and off we went. Chris was not pleased with Mr
Very Helpful but we carried on. We had 4 more Locks to do and the heavens
opened. I was working those Locks and at the last Lock, Mr Very Helpful
appeared, again. I was soaked to the skin and we had had a long day, 27 locks
and we did not want to keep this person in our sights. There was a Basin with
permanent moored boats straight ahead of us and we went there to take shelter and
hide from the Helpfuls! We ended up staying the night there, kind permission
given us by the site’s Chief Controller. Thank you for taking pity on the wet
and dishevelled Left early in the
morning and had a Lock free day finishing near the Hyde Bank Tunnel.
It was a relief to turn away from
Manchester and head in the direction of Marple
We found ALDI supermarket with a mooring site alongside. They had
mustard coloured steel capped lined ‘boater’s boots in their bargain bin.
Boater’s boots is my name for them for obvious reasons. So Chris went and got
his boots while I started a fry-up. After the late breakfast, I popped into
ALDI for a few provisions and on my way back to AM, I could clearly hear a
security announcement that had been activated earlier on. It told me “ATTENTION
ATTENTION YOU ARE BEING FILMED FOR SECURITY REASONS”. I called out to the late
morning drinkers and had a bit of a laugh with them. They probably didn’t
understand a word I was saying as I’m beginning to realize that my Kiwi accent
and dialect is pretty incomprehensible to most, in this fair land.
Onwards we moved and were hopeful of finding a mooring before the Marple 16 Locks. We were going through the Woodley Tunnel (308 yds) and a towpath walker called out that there was an armchair floating in the canal near the end of the tunnel. You expect to see this sort of thing all the time. Time for pole action. Choose the right length pole, we now have a choice of four ‘dancers’. Luckily Chris suggested the longest one and not the one that gives splinters. I carried it in pole-vault fashion though the boat and was able to shout out “contact” when I could push it. Easy push with the thrust from AM. Out went the chair and I snuggled it in bank-side on our left where it sat in the Canal! (There’ll probably be a happy duck discovering that.) Then I phoned the generic number to C&RT who put me through to the local office. I was surprised that someone answered the phone! In my recent experience one gets put through to an answer phone. ‘Floater Armchair’ duly reported. How did an armchair end up in the canal? And it looked such a nice part of town!
Eventually we found moorings before the Hyde Bank Tunnel. Quiet, a couple of other boats and a beautiful sunset. I got chatting to the people in the boat moored in front and they identified themselves as Continuous Cruisers. I got a different feeling about continuously cruising and thought I could be in for that lifestyle if our boat-to-be meets our needs.
The day of our Marple 16 Locks was beautiful and sunny. We began with the Hyde Tunnel (308 yds) followed quickly with a grand view through the arches of a railway viaduct while we crossed on the Marple Aquduct. Once again we shared tasks and Della had a great time being Lock Labourer’s dog. I started off working the locks and all was good. I asked Chris to call out when the stern had passed the gates inside the lock as the walls of the pedestrian bridge obstructed the view down. Della responded to one of his calls and leapt up to the top of the bridge wall and quickly reacted when all she could see was water and no boat! Clever dog, she really has got a sense of danger and quick reactions. She does it once she won’t do it again!
There were a couple of ‘bogan’ types in narrowboats, unhelpful, unfriendly and one boat was not currently registered. Shock, horror, his was not the only unregistered boat we saw. One boat that caught my eye had the yearly registration sticker penned out with FREE TO MOOR WHEREVER I CHOOSE. My blog is subjective and there are different types of water gypsies. No different to the makeup of any society / community we live in.
Back to the Marple flight. On my shift with the tiller, Chris had offered one chap and his daughter a ride on AM into and up one of the Locks. I was Tiller Queen and they brightened my day by really enjoying the ride. I kept my nerves under control and didn’t mess up. He said he had seen me enter the previous Lock so had no concerns. (Trumpets blowing!!!)
In summary the Marple flight is many locks, pretty countryside, helpful gongoozlers and we got grounded, again. Once you’ve been grounded, it’s not so bad. The situation can easily be rectified.
At the top of the Flight, we were in Marple, I think, we needed water so went off course to the Sanitary Station. Visitor moorings were taken so no chance to look around but we could fill up with water and went along rhe
until we could ‘Wind’ and head in the direction of Bugsworth
Basin, near .
Shame we couldn’t visit Marple. When we passed through a couple of days later,
2 of the 3 boats were still moored opposite the Sanitary Station with no sign of
life. Whaley Bridge
Peak Forest Canal
is beautiful, grand views over the countryside and
( a wharf used in the boat transport of lime) was close to empty with moored
boats. Great walks and the old pub, Navigation, that Pat Phoenix (Elsie Tanner)
used to run. The Basin is still called Bugsworth Basin
but the village is now called Buxworth. It was a brief visit but we know we
would like to return. No locks on the Peak but a couple of swing and a couple
of lift bridges. I forgot how much winding you have to do with the windlass to
raise a bridge! Still it beats a butt push like those on the L&L. Bugsworth Basin
which begins at
Marple is another must to return to. The rush was on to beat the weather and
the stoppages so we only stopped before nightfall and 3 days later were down
the Bosley flight of 12 locks (well presented and in good working order) and
through the bottom Lock (hardly a lock really) and ready for an early start to
the Harecastle Tunnel. A proper Tunnel. Chris got through to the other side in
under 40 minutes. I never saw the outside of the tunnel. He radioed me when he
saw the door opening at the end of the tunnel. Macclesfied
Yay, we were back in almost familiar countryside and made it to Stone, 13 Locks later, that evening and got our favourite mooring. Great little town, Stone, and I found the best winter coat (new wool, lined, a nice cut, blue wine colour and midi length….all for £3.99).
From Stone we went to Great Haywood, mid autumn swim, and on to Alrewas through Fradley Junction. (a series of tough locks). We like Alrewas, it is an old village with Elizabethan style houses. Sort of chocolate box look. A couple of nights there, near the Lock followed by the final leg to home base Mercia Marina.
Della has graduated to a position on the roof of AM where she can keep lookout and she seems100x happier with her promotion. Who knows what goes through a dog’s brain apart from food. Her nose was in twitch mode as we turned into the
She saw a coot and that excites her and she seemed to be aware of her
surroundings. All these weeks of new smells and then she is back in familiar
And, here we are back at
Mercia. It is nice to feel at home,
to see and chat with familiar faces.
In my world, nothing stays the same for long…………