17th Dec 09
It’s been an interesting day!
The alarm went off at 7.45am again, I hit the snooze button twice then we went back to sleep! We finally woke up at 8.50 – oh dear! We had a cuppa and a bowl of cereal then Clive got ready to set off. I joined him up on deck when I had washed up the breakfast dishes. It was a beautiful morning, such a contrast to yesterday. There was wall to wall blue sky and sunshine, amazing! Mind you, it was chilly, very chilly!
About ten minutes after we set off we reached the first lock of the Bosley Flight but before we started the descent we decided to fill the water tank as there was a water point just before the lock - one should never miss opportunities when living on a narrowboat! Whilst the tank was filling Clive opened the lock gates as the lock was already set in our favour. So with a full tank of water we started down the flight. By the time we arrived at Lock 3 it had started snowing! However it didn’t last long and they were very small flakes. The sun was soon shining on us again.
We had got into quite a routine on the way down this flight. After Clive had put the boat in the lock we would shut a gate each then I would wind up the front paddles and start the lock emptying then trot down to the next lock and get the rear doors open. Some of the locks were full and ready, some had lost a little water and just needed one paddle open to top them up and one or two were actually empty. To be honest it felt good to be doing something energetic again, I don’t seem to have had any exercise for weeks!
At Lock 4 I discovered a hole! A large hole! Just to the left of the front left hand gate a huge gaping hole had appeared in the bank, I suspect overnight as small clods of soil were still tumbling into the hole. It was about six foot long, four foot wide and two to three feet deep – I think that qualifies as a large hole, don’t you? I didn’t manage to get a photograph of it because by the time I had thought of it the boat was right down in the bottom of the deep, dark lock and my camera was on board! Anyway, it was close enough to the front balancing beam of the lock to be a hazard so I suggested to Clive that we phone BW and report it.
Down in the bottom of a deep, dark lock and to cap it all it was snowing!
In the end it was me who phoned BW and a young lady answered the phone, she was very polite. I explained why I was ringing – “one moment” she said. A few minutes later she came back to me and asked again where I was. I explained that we were on the Macclesfield Canal heading down towards Congleton at Lock No 4 of the Bosley Flight. “Which side of the Harecastle Tunnel are you” she said - !?!?!?! We are absolutely nowhere near the Harecastle Tunnel, it is not even on the Macclesfield Canal! I tried again – “one moment please” – a few minutes later she came back to me and said she couldn’t get through to the Supervisor, could I give her the details again – oh dear! I went through it all again and gave her my name and the phone number in case they needed to get back to us. I then asked if she could check whether the Church Lock, which is due to reopen on Friday, was on schedule – “one moment please” – a little while later “how can I help you?” - duh! I actually thought I was talking to the same young lady (she sounded exactly the same) – wrong! She had put me through to a different department – I explained what I was needing to know – “one moment please” - !!!!!!!!! A little while later she came back to me and said it was on shedule. I won’t relate the next bit of the conversation, it was just too bizarre but suffice it to say we can now get all the way to Church Minshull Marina in time for Christmas!
Two locks further down, I had left the lock filling and was heading down to set the next lock when I saw a couple of guys in dayglo jackets – BW men! I had a quick chat with them and explained about the hole at Lock 4 so they said they would go and investigate once they had solved the problem at this lock! Problem?! I asked plaintively! It turns out that there was an obstacle blocking the exit to the lock. A long, thick pole, more or less the size and shape of a telegraph pole, had broken loose and had drifted to the front of the lock gates and jammed itself against the bank. They were letting water through the lock to increase the level in the pound in the hope of refloating it. Fortunately it worked – phew! I quickly jogged back to the previous lock (yes I did say jogged!) to let Clive out and explain what was happening. The BW guys kindly filled the lock and opened the gates for us so Clive could drive straight in. We soon had it emptied again and as Clive took the boat out of the lock it gently tupped the pole which pushed it out of the way. However as soon as the boat had gone past it the pole floated back into its former position thus blocking the entrance to the lock again! The BW men were standing around scratching their heads wondering what to do about it. I asked if we could help them with our boat. They were absolutely delighted as there nearest boat was many hours away, in fact it was at Church Lock! Clive was looking at me – I could almost hear him saying “another fine mess you’ve got us into”!
The offending pole gently floating back to its position blocking the lock!
Clive reversed the boat and one of the BW guys, whose name was Scott, helped by towing her with the stern rope. When the boat was in place Clive tried to snag the pole with the boat hook but it just wouldn’t bite, the pole kept revolving and slipping off the hook. The trouble was the BW guys didn’t have any equipment with them nor any rope! So I suggested they use our stern rope – as long as we get it back! By this time two more BW guys had arrived so there were now four of them. Between them and Clive they managed to get a loop of rope round the pole then Clive pulled the boat forward so that the pole could be transferred to the other side of our stern then using the boat he gently pushed the pole over to the far side of the canal.
They lassoed the pole with our stern rope!
This pole should actually have been fastened to two posts, which we could see sticking out of the water, in order to form a barrier across a weir. One end of it had been chained to a hand rail at the side of the lock by someone called Heath Robinson I think, leaving the other end floating free. The only way to stop it drifting back across the lock gates was to somehow get it behind the posts. Using the boat we got it pinned up against the posts then Scott and one of his colleagues traversed the gunwales to the centre of the boat whilst Clive held the boat steady, then came the task of trying to lift the pole over the posts – no mean feat! This pole as I said is like a telegraph pole, about ten inches across the base, solid wood and waterlogged – it must have weighed a ton! Finally Scott climbed onto the roof of the boat, put the rope around his back and heaved – the boat promptly tilted alarmingly to port (the left side)! Clive and I quickly crossed to the starboard side of the stern and leaned to try and keep the boat balanced. Finally using brute strength Scott managed to lift it out of the water and got it on top of the post and after much jiggling and more lifting his mate managed to slip it over the post to the other side – hooray!
The pole now safely behind the posts which will stop it from floating back in front of the lock gates.
One of Scott's colleagues took the tiller and started steering the boat back to the bank, till one of his mates told him off and said he had to give us our boat back! We soon had the BW guys back on dry land again and they were very grateful for our assistance.
Scott of the BW!
I asked if we could we get a discount on our 2010 BW license for being so helpful – no! Well it was worth a try. We said goodbye, leaving them to go and investigate the hole at Lock 4 whilst we continued our descent of the flight. It didn’t seem long before we arrived at the bottom at Lock 11 then I suddenly spotted another lock around the corne r– there were 12 locks, not 11 – I’d forgotten about that one!
Once through the last lock we checked the time, 1.15pm– it had just taken us about three and half hours to come down the flight, not bad really. As we hadn’t had anything to eat or drink since breakfast I came inside and made us a cuppa and a sandwich for lunch. It is plain sailing now all the way to Congleton.
It was still a glorious day and we could see for miles as the air was so crisp and clear. We passed a really lovely old building called Crossley Hall. It is obviously extremely old but it must be a great place to live. It seems to be the actual farm house for a large working farm.
A little while later we came upon a really lovely mooring on an aqueduct just a short distance from Congleton so we decided to moor here for the night. There were lovely views on both sides and a 3G signal for the dongle and as it is so open the TV signal should be pretty good as well - what more could we ask for. It didn’t take long to get the boat secure and we were soon inside warming up, sunny it maybe but it is also flipping perishing! 2.30pm seemed a bit early to be stopping but considering it gets dark around 4.00ish and we weren’t intending going further than Congleton today anyway it didn’t really matter. We have all day tomorrow to get down to Kidsgrove where we will moor for the night ready to hit Church Lock and the Trent and Mersey Canal on Saturday morning.
As I am typing this, just after 4.00pm, I can see it snowing in the distance and I suspect we will have some more here soon. I wouldn’t be surprised if it is all white in the morning! Our main concern is the possibility of the canal freezing up before we escape the Macc! However we haven’t seen the weather forecast yet. Maybe we are going to have a White Christmas this year – that would be nice, as long as it doesn’t stop everybody from driving to their destinations!