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Day 39 – Stalybridge to Bugsworth

Sunday 2 August, 2009

Further investigations this morning showed that there was a leak from the diesel supply into the engine oil. A fairly common complaint with this series of Lister SR2 engines.

Having descended the final locks of this canal we turned south towards Macclesfield and waited whilst we collected two additional members of crew, Mark Place and Michael O’Hagan. Bernard sought advice in the adjacent boatyard and fortunately found an engineer who knew the engine well. He confirmed the diagnosis and suggested places, inside the engine, to be inspected. A suitable supply of engine oil and a hand pump were purchased.

By this time it was raining and we resumed our journey. At Hyde we said farewell to Alex who was leaving to return to Durham. We had lunch on the move and arrived at the foot of the Marple flight of sixteen with their average rise of over thirteen feet per lock. On our way up the flight we said goodbye to Luke who was returning to Oxford ready to start full-time employment in London.

At the top of the locks we continued on towards the Bugsworth terminus of the canal. The rain eventually stopped and we had some spectacular views across the countryside from our position high on the side of the hills. Bugsworth was reached and we moored in the first available position before investigating the Navigation Inn just above the end of the canal. Some good beer was drunk and a better mooring place was found. The boat was moved as dinner was finalised. About one minute after we had tied up another boat appeared intent on using the same mooring – sorry chaps we got there first!

Menu: Full English with kidneys or cereal and toast; cold tongue and gammon salad; roast chicken with rum bananas.

Day 38 – Marsden to Stalybridge

Sunday 2 August, 2009

We awoke quite early in anticipation of the day to come. BW arrived just after 8.00am to measure Tardebigge to make sure that it would go through the tunnel. It passed with flying colours! (One of the BW staff later commented that it was the ideal shape and size for the tunnel passage.)

We all had our breakfasts and we set off into the tunnel at 9.24am, slightly later than the booked time, with Michael at the tiller. The journey is broken by BW having to report progress at specified intervals. At at the first stopping point Bernard took over at the tiller, followed by Alex at the second stopping point. After this there seemed to be no further takers and Alex remained at the tiller for the rest of the journey.

We took just over 2 hours for the passage. The BW chaperone said that we should allow about twenty minutes for the stops so the time was about about average.

Having said farewell we set off down towards Dukinfield junction. From the first lock we could see that there was a boat in some difficulty as it could not get into the lock below due to a problem at the tail of the lock. After some time had elapsed we suggested that we might be able to assist by providing a working platform from within the lock – this was agreed and we duly obliged. BW re-inforcements arrived in the form of the lock-keepers who had assisted us at Huddersfield. Using our boathooks they eventually diagnosed that some damaged paddlegear had fouled the gate and was preventing the gate from opening. With a bit of shove, heave and grunt the obstruction was moved and Tardebigge proceeded on its way.

A fairly uneventful but steady descent followed and we arrived in Stalybridge and tied up in the middle of the Tesco carpark! Not as bad as it sounds as tha canal has a double towpath and we were on the quiet side of the cut.

After tying up we found a possible problem with the engine (more to follow tomorrow). Four separate visits were made to Tesco, including using the facilities…!

Menu: cooked breakfasts or cereal and toast; gammon sandwiches; pasta bolognese with posh French wine.

Day 37 – Slaithwaite to Marsden

Thursday 30 July, 2009

Overnight we had some very heavy rain and the signs were not good. Breakfast was taken before we moved off and we also received a briefing as to what we might encounter whilst we ascended the remaining 21 locks to the summit. It was inevitable that as we set off the rain started! We had been forwarned that we might encounter low water-levels above Lock 28E and so this proved to be. As instructed we waited in the lock-chamber, summoned BW and awaited the arrival of a boat that had set out downhill from the summit. The BW lock-keeper and the boat arrived at the same time just as we we rising in the lock! Some nifty boat handling enabled us to pass the other boat without going seriously aground in the low water.

The entry into the next lock proved to be more of a problem as we became jammed between the lockside and one of the bottom gates. Closer inspection by the lock-keeper found the problem and it was soon cleared. As we rose in the lock the cause of our problem rose with us and deft use of our new boat hook lifted a length of timber out of the lock. This was immediately claimed by the lock-keeper who quickly identified it as part of some now dismantled temporary work at the next lock. He would present it to the culprit who had not retreived it as it was taken apart.

We continued our climb with each lock coming closer to the next as we mounted the valley side. We were met by the lock-keeper working down from the summit and with his assistance we eventually rose to summit level through Lock 42E. The average rise for each of the 42 locks is well over 10ft per lock and canal seems to creep, unannounced, into Marsden through the back door.

Menu: breakfast sandwiches; homemade beefburgers; Guleh Kambling curry.

Day 36 – Huddersfield to Slaithwaite

Thursday 30 July, 2009

As we rose from our slumbers the weather forecast seemed to have got it wrong as there was no sign of the threatened rain. We soon passed the Aspley Basin and aimed for an extremely narrow and low bridge hole. Our first narrow canal for several weeks! Safely through the bridge we soon rounded a corner by the University of Huddersfield and spied lock 1E. In addition to being numbered the locks on this canal are suffixed E or W depending on which side they are of the canal summit. On entering the lock it became apparent that we might encounter some difficulty because the water level was well below weir level. However we managed to exit the lock and proceeded onward. Approaching the recently constructed Bates Tunnel, it passes under Bates factory, we came across another boat that was already aground on the cill of of a now disused lock. BW had already been called and we promptly went aground on the approach to Commercial Street bridge. A BW lock-keeper and colleague arrived and arranged for more water to be sent down from the next lock. Both boats were refloated but the boat in front of us had battery problems and we overtook them to proceed through the tunnel and into the lock. It was double depth to replace two earlier locks that had been combined into one. As we left BW were arranging assistance for the other boat.

We passed through another new tunnel under another factory with the weather looking more and more threatening but at this stage restricted to the occasional light shower. We were quickly out into quite rural surroundings with the occasional Mill building for company. As we passed over the Golcar Aqueduct, which carries the canal over the River Colne, the weather took a distinct change for the worse and the clouds opened. we were still experiencing problems with low water levels but the judicious raising of a paddle to send down a little more water soon cured the problem.

Our reading of the information in the Nicholson guide made us think there were moorings above lock 20E but this was not the case and we navigated lock 21E to arrive in the centre of Slaithwaite where we found comfortable moorings with plenty of water. We have reached the halfway mark in our ascent to the summit level! The heavens opened again so we took refuge inside the boat and had our third late lunch in a row.

An Internet search showed there was a suitable Real Ale pub serving Copper Dragon ales. The pub is called the Wharfside, confusingly not adjacent to the canal but within easy reach and at about 6.00pm three of us set off in search of liquid sustenance. Our expectations were met and some very pleasant beer was consumed. The setting up of a stage for a “Jam” session persuaded us to go in search of a quieter venue and led us back to the centre of town where we found the Commercial Hotel with nine real ales on the bar. We were joined in the recently refurbished and pleasant bar by the fourth member of our crew and more ale or cider was consumed before we returned to the boat for dinner.

Menu: usual breakfasts; pork pie and salad; sausage casserole, plum and nectarine crumble with pudding wine.

Day 35 – Elland to Huddersfield

Tuesday 28 July, 2009

After breakfast we set off into Brighouse and used the same facilities; we also took on water, purchased gas and used the Sainsbury’s. The main purchase was three jars of olives filled with whole cloves of garlic…

At Cooper Bridge Junction we ventured onto another new canal and the last junction before the major turning point which will send us back home. The next junction at Dukinfield will be a turn south and will generally head us back towards Oxford. Shortly beforehand we passed Aqua Roma again!

We were accompanied in the first few locks of the Huddersfield Broad Canal by Brahms. There is dreadful weed problem on this canal. So much so it appears to be carpeted in the green stuff. Brahms soon tied up and we carried on up the nine locks before having another late lunch (around 3.30). We moored just before Aspley Basin and after ablutions walked up the hill to The Grove Inn where we found 13 real ales.

Michael was joined by an old school friend, Robert Goodland, whom he had not seen for between five and nine years. Much conversation ensued, accompanied by beer. En route back to the boat we stopped for rather dreadful fish and chips at the Trinity Fisheries chippy.

The next two days are fairly leisurely: not many miles but a good number of locks. We have to be at lock 24 East (near Slaithwaite) by noon on Thursday ready for passage to the summit of the Huddersfield Narrow (a total of 42 locks) by the end of the day. On Friday we make the 3¼ mile passage through the Standedge Tunnel, the longest, highest and deepest canal tunnel in Britain. We’ll bore you with more detail on Friday no doubt!

Menu: cooked breakfast or cereal and toast; gammon and beef sandwiches; fish and chips (dreadful).

Day 34 – Elland to Elland (via Sowerby Bridge)

Monday 27 July, 2009

The weather looked overcast but not too threatening as we set off after breakfast this morning. However a couple of locks in and the heavens opened. Alex and Bernard managed to protect themselves but Michael was left on the bank with little shelter. The rain worsened so we made one of our rare weather-related stops and tied up for a cup of tea.

The Salterhebble flight of three locks are very picturesque but the area was spoiled by the neighbouring sewage works. The bottom lock has been truncated due to a road widening scheme so the bottom gates have been replaced by a guillotine. It is very slow to operate (electrically).

We soon reached Sowerby Bridge where we were due to meet Luke. We grabbed a bonus canal by ascending the first two normal locks and the combined third and fourth locks of the Rochdale Canal. The combined locks now form the Tuel Lane Deep Lock which is the deepest in Britain. The difference in height is 19ft 8½ins! Access to the lock is via a tunnel, about 100 yards in length, which includes a bend.

Luke arrived just in time for the descent. Alex went shopping and we finally lunched at 4.00pm! Returning to Salterhebble we were joined by another boat and a rapid descent was made of the flight (guillotine lock excepted) and a number of subsequent locks. We returned to last night’s mooring for another stay.

Menu: cooked breakfast, or gluten-free crumpets, or cereal and toast; cold lamb salad; boeuf à la bourguignonne, followed by cheese and port.

Day 33 – Mirfield to Elland

Sunday 26 July, 2009

After a slow start waiting to see if the Shepley Bridge Marina would open, Michael decided to walk the mile up to Ledgard Bridge to see if there was any sign of life at Mirfield Boatyard. He found a friendly gentleman working on his own boat on the hardstanding.

After explaining the problem with a weld on the alternator mounting he said he might be able to fix it with his welding equipment at home. A quick call to Alex meant Tardebigge set off Ledgard Bridge and Bernard demounted the alternator on arrival. A quick inspection by the gentleman resulted in him and Bernard making the trip to his house (and workshop) in Holmfirth!

Some considerable time later they returned with a repaired and reinforced alternator mount. Bernard made some slight modifications to make it fit and we were sorted. Michael thanked the gentleman (we never found out his name!) with alcoholic beverages, and we set off.

Progress through the locks is rather slow and they become more concentrated above Cooper Bridge Junction. We shall be returning to this junction in a couple of days for the journey into Huddersfield and up to Marsden.

The rain was light, steady and entirely unrelenting all afternoon so we moored up near Elland just after 7.00pm. Luke is now joining us tomorrow.

Menu: cooked breakfasts or cereal; beef sandwiches; sweet and sour chicken with noodles, followed by fresh cherries and cheese with port!

Day 32 – Castleford to Mirfield

Saturday 25 July, 2009

A much more leisurely start to the day today, and no rude awakening from large barges! We were moored close to Castleford Flood Lock which today had all gates open so we passed straight through, following two other boats including Aqua Roma who we had met in Hapton two weeks ago.

We were now on a stretch of the Aire and Calder that is new to Michael. He will be on new waterways all the way to Etruria in Stoke on Trent if all goes to plan. On rounding the bend at Fairies Hill we ran aground on a shoal of gravel, immediately opposite the gravel wharf. We were stuck for some time and despite the efforts of a passing boat at pulling us off we appeared to be stuck fast. Thankfully all the pulling and turning enabled Bernard to reverse off and we were on our way again.

Near Wakefield the Stanley Ferry Aqueduct carries the navigation over the the river.

At Wakefield the waterways almost pass the city by. Here the Aire and Calder becomes the Calder and Hebble along with its shorter locks and peculiar paddle gear. Many paddles do not require a windlass but a length of wood (see the photos below) to lift them. The locks are terrible with unpredictable currents from the various paddles, poorly maintained gear, and a tremendous weed problem.

At Dewsbury Bernard spotted a broken bolt on the alternator and further inspection showed that a weld had also given way. A short stop enabled him to make a temporary repair. We need to visit a boatyard, hopefully tomorrow, for some welding.

Menu: usual breakfasts; ham salad; roast breast of lamb stuffed with garlic, strawberries dipped in chocolate with Botrytis Semillon. Followed by port but no cheese.

Day 31 – Whitley to Castleford (via Selby)

Friday 24 July, 2009

We had a rude awakening at 6.45 this morning as Tardebigge started banging against the piling. This was slightly alarming given that we were moored against three tyres! In fact the lock keeper was draining the fullest extent of the lock to allow two large boats to pass through and the surge had caused us and our neighbours to bounce all over the place.

Since we were awake we got underway much earlier and headed off towards Selby. It’s late now so the blog will be brief. Suffice to say we reached Selby, shopped and left. The Ouse was ebbing at a frightening speed and is now in a spring tide cycle so passage to Naburn (for Ripon) would be dicey at the very least.

We saw a terrapin and there was a possible sighting of an otter.

The intention was to moor at Ferrybridge but the loo needed emptying so we had to carry on a further seven miles to Castleford. It was nearly 9.30pm by the time we tied up.

Menu: usual breakfasts, tuna mayonnaise salad, cottage pie with Lebanese wine, followed by cheese and port.

Day 30 – Sprotbrough to Whitley (via Goole)

Thursday 23 July, 2009

The weather was much better today. We started off down Sprotbrough Lock and were joined by a large boat called Ethel. By the time we reached Doncaster Lock we were joined by a third boat, but still there was plenty of room in this enormous banana-shaped lock.

Alex stepped off briefly to revisit Tesco. He returned carrying a Debenhams bag (since they still had no carriers) containing four bottles of alcohol. It was barely 11 o’clock…

We pressed on towards Bramwith Junction and beyond, along the length of the New Junction Canal. BW assisted us through Sykehouse Lock, with only Michael operating the gates on the swing bridge. Turning right at Southfield Junction we “sprinted” the six miles to Goole, used the facilities, and retraced our steps.

The question of where to moor for the night arose and Great Heck seemed like a good idea since the nearby pub was recommended by the Nicholson’s guide. Unfortunately, due to piling works, there was nowhere to moor and no access from the towpath. We continued to Whitley Lock and moored just below the lock, alongside a string of fairy lights. An on-site security guard has now started a generator to illuminate them, pollute the atmosphere with fumes, annoy the local boaters, and drown out the noise of the nearby M62. A nearby boat has now moved. I thought BW were short of money.

Menu: semi-full English breakfast or sausage sandwich; ham sandwiches; homemade chicken, leek and bacon pie followed by cheese (and port!) etc.