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  • clivenmel

Sept 24th

Normal 0 false false false st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0cm; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} One of the key decisions we made a while ago was that the first place we would go is to Huddersfield to see the family and our friends who we see infrequently. With that in mind, one of the duties of the day is to see where we are in relation to that final goal - are we on track? What about delays? What about aching backs etc! So on Monday night we checked how we were doing and it all looked OK as long as nothing untoward happened. Well Tuesday morning opened bright and fair and we set off though nice rural fields and small villages all the way through Hyde and on to the first real area of interest which is the Portland Basin where the Peak Forest Canal meets to the West, the Ashton Canal and going East - the Huddersfield Narrow! Hurray, at last we can see the final stretch... The place has a rather nice backdrop with offices and apartments framing the water. Here we turned East and started the journey on the famous Huddersfield Narrow Canal. I don't know what it is about this canal because it's been here for a long time but the appearance of a boat through the middle of Stalybridge caused quite a stir; it's as though a white missionary had just arrived in a remote Amazonian village and everyone came out to gawp! We had quite an audience at one point who all asked various questions in typically easy and forthright manner with many a shake of the head or a Oooo...that's a long way or a Oooo... do you really sleep in there?? The natives were all peaceful, however, with never a cannibal in sight and we all parted in good humour. Actually Stalybridge is rather nice, much more open and modern than we had expected. It just goes to show how pre-conceptions are often so far off...bear in mind that for us who had never been before it was only known through past railway announcements - "This train stops at Stalybridge, Crewe and Manchester Piccadilly", or something similar, clear memories from childhood. The Huddersfield Narrow is not called Narrow for nothing! The locks are very snug and certainly at this bottom stretch, punctuated with odd, very narrow little sections that literally leave you with two inches on either side of the boat, appear for no reason and then disappear again. We got caught out a few times and had to "back-peddle" smartly to avoid embarrassment. By the time late afternoon arrived and all locks behind us for the time being, we looked for a place to moor up. While passing through Mossley we noticed that the water levels were quite low and mooring sites starting to get quite difficult to literally reach - we tried in vain at a couple of places but found we couldn't get close enough to the bank to get off! With so much mud and silt near the edges, we were in danger of becoming beached so we pushed on in a vain attempt to find a suitable overnight spot. The problem came at Lock 19 - by this time we'd had enough - when we tried to go through, one of the bottom gates refused to close and no matter what we did, it wouldn't budge. Reluctantly, had to reverse out and tie up literally in the mouth of the lock with precarious mooring lines and a long way from the bank! Called the Brithish Waterways emergency number and explained the predicament and said that we'd stay put for the night! This area is called Royal George and it was a place I wanted to see because I know my Great Grandfather Fuller and much of his family had lived here around the 1890's as I had seen it on the 1891 Census records whilst doing the Fuller family tree so it was great to see where they had lived and worked. Anyway, the BW guy duly arrived Wed morning with an extra long "rake", put us back in the lock and fished about at the lock gates off the stern of the boat. He found a huge piece of stone and a mighty piece of log that had either dropped in accidentally or more likely been lobbed in by design by some miscreant with the IQ of your average Aspidistra! We thanked him profusely and finally set off again about 9.45am.   From there the day got brighter and brighter and it was a really nice cruise all the way up to Uppermill. We stopped off to look at the visitor centre and got chatting to a couple of other boaters and had a coffee and bun in the "Love Food" cafe just round the corner, run by a very nice lady and her daughter. It's surprising how many people have some connection to the canals - this lady has her own boat and has toured a lot of the waterways over the last 5-6 years. In fact when she told us the boat's name, we recalled seeing it down at the Portland Basin, which is where she moors and lives on it! Amazing... The rest of today has a been a relatively uneventful but unrelenting climb up to the final stretch of the "Western" part of the voyage - we have finally arrived at the western portal to Standedge Tunnel and have parked up for night! Mel, bless her, is tired and deserves a rest so we are off to the local pub for a meal and drink in celebration of this momentous occasion!!! The tunnel awaits!  The gateway depicts a narrowboat with the boatmen "legging it" which is how the boats were propelled through the tunnel back in the old days - the boatmen lay on their backs on boards and literally "walked" through the tunnel - all three miles of it - and it must have been gruelling!  We don't go though until Friday lunchtime, so tomorrow will be a day of rest - we'll catch up with more news once we emerge from the gloom at Tunnel End , Marsden...

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