Sunday, 9 September 2012

Up a very long hill and then down the other side

Monday 27th August to Sunday 2nd September 2012

14 Miles, 47 Locks, 2 Tunnels for this week

Totals: 1340 Miles, 1092 Locks, 43 Tunnels, 19 Lift Bridges, 91 Swing Bridges

I had forgot to say in the previous blog that on the Saturday morning when we were due to leave Huddersfield the fridge decided that it had had enough and died – we would need a new one somewhere along the way; when we moved over to the pumpout station we found out too late that the machine had been left in the “Pause” position and our insertion of the card into the reader not only lost the credit but also the chance to pumpout – an hour wait for someone from CaRT to come out.

This when coupled with the low pound above Lock 4 gave us a great start to Saturday – at least they come in three’s.

Mike's sister Karen making hard work of the gate paddles

We had moored up in Slaithwaite (“slough-it” for the southerners) and were waiting for Mike’s sister and neice – Karen and Jo to arrive – apparently they were keen for some cruising – boy did they pick the wrong time.

We had come up 21 locks and that meant that there were only another 21 to go to the tunnel.

The gate paddles on the bottom gates were difficult and the lock gates themselves do  not get any lighter as the day goes on; this coupled with the rain and the very wet towpaths meant that it was almost a perfect way to improve your fitness and be ready for a good night’s sleep all rolled into one.

Lock 24 - the guillotine lock - only one on this part of the system

More of the marks left by the original stone masons to identify
their own work

Views typical of the canal along here

Despite all of the heavy work along this section of the canal, there could be no complaints about the views of the countryside around.

We moored up in Mardsen that afternoon – everyone pretty tired, but not too tired to venture down to the Riverside Brewery Tap – a highly recommended stamp for this.

The following morning was time to move the boats down to the entrance to the tunnel – we had wandered down the previous day to check it out with the CaRT guys.

All of this allowed us plenty of time to look through the visitor information centre and to do some exploring of the countryside above the tunnel entrance.

 We stayed there for the night – plenty of lighting and with a very safe feeling about the area.

No matter how many times you do the measurements of your boat it is not until the CaRT guys take to it and then pronounce that you are OK to proceed that you give a bit of a thankful sigh.

Time for being kitted up – high-vis jacket, life jacket and hard hat – I was just waiting to be given a shovel and pick and be told to head down the mine for a hard days work.

A short talk about the tunnel from our on-board guide Liam and with some relief from the pelting rain we were off into the darkness (until the boat light took effect) – at least it was dry.

There are 4 check points along the way – the first three being done by the another person travelling in a van down the disused tunnel – the last done by direct contact back to the control room

Because of this and the need to make sure the tunnel is cleared of any fumes the boats are staggered with a gap of 45 minutes – only a maximum of 3 boats go through in the morning (east to west) and then 3 in the afternoon (west to east) – on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

There are a great many places to be aware of as we proceed and Liam was excellent at the commentary about the tunnel and also pointing out these areas of concern as well as how to approach them.

The head height was a bit of a problem for someone about 190cm – the hard hat came in for a bit of rough treatment and saved some very rapid hair loss on more than one occasion.

Finally after our 1 hour 50 minute trip we were out into the daylight – the rain was not around on this side – the obvious result of moving from Yorkshire into Lancashire.

Liam bid adieu to us and was off back to the hut for a well-earned cuppa and ready himself for the return trip on one of the waiting boats.

We cannot compliment the CaRT guys highly enough for their professionalism and for their company and commentary – they deserve the high praise – well done!!

Once out on the other side it was not long before we were back into the locks – a bare 400 metres – and it started again – this time however it was down the flight, the water supply was plentiful and the gates and paddles were much easier to use.

We continued our way down the flight eventually deciding to moor up at UpperMill for the night – the moorings were under a large canopy of trees and because of this and the rain that had been around in previous days meant that the towpath was saturated and not without a deal of mud.

Both boats managed to moor up before a huge downpour – complete with thunderbolts and lighting (very very frightening) – an evening meal at the local Indian restaurant was in order.

Earlier Stella had the misfortune to slip at one of the locks soon after the tunnel and had injured her ankle quite badly, so she was forced into a bit hobbling around – despite the bandaging and pain killers there was still a lot of pain – the alcohol at dinner probably did help.

The following day was the drop off time for Karen and Jo – they said that they had enjoyed it all and they had been smiling throughout the whole time – so we will believe them – the nearest railway station was at Bridge 80 which would give them passage back to their car for their 5-hour return journey south.

This left just the 2 boat handlers and one other for the locks – it would do no good for Stella to be doing too much at all.

We continued further down the flight eventually reaching StaleyBridge where we decided to moor up opposite the Tesco supermarket.

Our decision to moor where we did obviously meant some relocation of the Canada geese population but they had left their calling cards all along the paved footpath – could have done with a high-pressure cleaner to get rid of all of the muck.

Nevertheless it was a perfectly safe area and we had no problems where we had moored – had a chance to explore around the town visiting a representative sample of the seemingly large number of pubs in the town.

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