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  • clivenmel

Sept 24th - 29th

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;} Second attempt at the blog!  The first attempt deleted itself for no apparent reason - this laptop is lucky it did not end up in the canal!!   Sorry for the delay in doing the blog, we have just been a little preoccupied over the last few days and the opportunity to do the blog just didn't arise -  so here goes!   Having arrived at Diggle early we decided to not do too much on Thursday apart from tidy the boat up ready for visitors at the other end.  The first thing was to swab the decks so Clive went to fetch the mop - where is it, he says - on the roof drying says I - no its not (I had to go and look didn't I)  sure enough, no mop - some little toe rag had nicked it!  Why would anybody nick and old fashioned, wooden handled string headed mop?!  Well it had gone!  Clive made do with our sweeping brush and a bucket of water - it worked, sort of.  Then surprise, surprise we got our first visitors, Clive's parents turned up.  We had a cup of coffee on the boat and a chat and then they took us out to lunch at the local pub, lovely.   Earlier that morning whilst I was up on deck, two gentleman came over and asked how the Hell we had managed to get up to the tunnel - I explained that we had managed to sneak up the flight before BW locked it off - they were stuck at lock 24 and not allowed to come up until Friday morning!  Anyway they introduced themselves as Alan and Steve of the narrowboat Verity and asked where the nearest pub was and we told them The Diggle Hotel and that we would be eating there that evening so they said they would join us, with their wives Jayne and Marie, which they duly did and we spent a pleasant evening together.   Friday dawned bright and fair and we went for a stroll along the tow path after breakfast and found Verity at lock 29 - they were having breakfast!  We chatted for a bit and then let them get on with the job in hand and we walked back up to the boat, only to find the BW men already there!  They had moved Lady Arwen back a little way in order to get their tug in front of us.  They were in the process of measuring her and we held our breath, but the man from BW he say YES!  Phew, that was a relief knowing we could go through the tunnel and not have to go all the way back down!  Once the preliminaries were over they proceeded to prepare the boats for passage through the tunnel.  They put one big rubber mat over the front of the cabin, to protect the corners and another at the rear of the cabin, then they fastened wooden boards to the stern, for added protection.  We had to remove everything off the roof and fold the cratch cover in as well.  I was a bit concerned that there weren't more mats to cover the rest of the boat, but they didn't have any more!    There were three parts to the tug that was to take us through the tunnel, the front module which provided the pulling power, followed by a scenic tug, then a rear module which provided the steering mechanism for the boats being towed - the driver of this part was facing backwards watching our boat, which was the first one in the convoy of two.   Finally all was ready and Fred introduced himself to us, he was to be our pilot.  He gave us our instructions - we couldn't stay on board Lady Arwen, we had to travel on the scenic tug.  We were told to wrap up warm as it gets very cold in the tunnel.  If we wished to go out onto the front or rear decks we must wear a hard hat at all times - then we were off!    Fred was a great character, he has worked for BW for 40 years and his colleagues have been trying to work out how many hours he has spent underground in the tunnel an how many miles he has travelled - its quite a lot!  There is very little about the canal system that Fred doesn't know and practically nothing he doesn't know about Standedge Tunnel!  He answered all the questions that were fired at him and told us all sorts of tales an legends relating to the digging of the tunnel and later the addition of the railway tunnel, which runs above the canal tunnel!  It was an amazing experience going through the tunnel, a bit scary at times such as when a train when thundering by and we could see it through one of the interconnecting shafts and when there was some ominous banging from behind us, which we were assured was the tug banging against the walls and not our boats!  Finally after 3 hours and 45 minutes we emerged into dazzling sunshine at Tunnel End - at last we were on the right side of the Pennines - home!    No sooner had we emerged into the light than we saw a couple of faces we recognised, but hadn't seen for a very long time - John and Chris our old friends and neighbours from Flockton - we moved from there in 1985!  They have both been following our blog with interest. It was great to see them again.  A short while later and we had a reception committee: my nephew James, his wife Carmen and their gorgeous baby girl, Ella.  Then Clive's parents turned up, followed by my sister Thelma and our very good friend Pat - what a lovely welcome.  By this time Lady Arwen had also emerged from the tunnel and we went over to see how she had fared - oh dear!  She had taken a real bashing - in places there were chunks of paint knocked off right down to bare metal and a couple of the aluminium window frames had been knocked so hard there were razor sharp serrations - all this is going to need some TLC and a paint job!  If only they had had more mats with them this wouldn't have happened!   After saying goodbye to all our visitors we decided to remain where we were, we couldn't start down the locks until Saturday morning as we had to wait for the BW men to escort and assist us down the first 10 locks.  So we had an early night!   Once again we were greeted with a beautiful morning and after a quick breakfast we moved on down to the top of the flight to join Verity for the trip down the locks.  We were allocated a BW man each and our young man was Daniel.  It was great having his help on the way down from lock 42 to 32 then he said goodbye and went on his way - we were on our own!  I have to say that the scenery from Tunnel End was absolutely stunning.  Even though Clive and I were born and bred in Huddersfield and know the surrounding area very well, we have never seen it from this aspect before and probably never really stopped to appreciate it anyway in the past!  It really is the most beautiful place.  The one thing that marred it all was the state of the canal - it really is desperately in need of dredging, the water levels were very low and the state of some of the lock gates and paddles is appalling!    We got as far as Slaithwaite (pronounced Slowit - [ow as in cow] by the locals) and moored for the night at the visitor moorings - once again I was absolutely exhausted after tackling 20 locks including a guillotine lock as we entered Slowit which required 120 turns to lift it and the same to lower it!  However we couldn't have a rest as we were going to a folk club in Huddersfield and great excitement, we were going on the train! Our new friends, Alan and Jayne from Verity, decided to come with us. We managed to catch the train after trekking up a near vertical hill to the  station and Thelma met us on the platform.  The folk club takes place in a pub called The Head of Steam, which once upon a time was the Waiting Room for the station!  We had a very enjoyable evening, however we missed the return train as we were waiting on the wrong platform!  Fortunately Thelma had come to see us off and she kindly offered to drive us back to the boats - we all managed to squeeze in, three in the back with Clive's guitar across our knees!   Sunday morning yet again was bright and sunny when we set off on the final stretch towards Huddersfield.  Clive's sister Carol and her husband Ivan had asked if they could join us for the trip down - thank heavens they did! We still had twenty locks to go and they got harder and harder to negotiate the nearer we got to Huddersfield.  At the same time Verity was ahead of us and it was very slow going as the locks had to be filled first before the boat could go into the lock and some of them had broken paddles so only one would work, anti-vandal locks that wouldn't unlock so again only one paddle, front gates that were leaking so the locks were taking ages to fill - it was a nightmare.  We had moored up at lock 17 to have a cuppa and a sandwich, Verity set off into the lock whilst we were washing up, a few minutes later we realised Lady Arwen was listing quite badly - we were grounded!  The lock having been emptied to let Verity in and again to let her out had taken so much water from the pound (the stretch of water between locks) that it wasn't enough to keep us afloat - we just could not get her off the mud at all!  Finally Ivan had a brilliant idea - we went back to the previous lock, opened the rear paddles till the lock was half full then opened the front paddles to let the water out - we left it doing this for five minutes or so and it did the trick - Lady Arwen was afloat again - phew!   A few locks further down we actually met another boat coming up - they were on their way up to the tunnel and we learned that they were newlyweds - on the back of their boat was a big banner saying JUST MARRIED! I asked where they were going and the bride replied "He's taking me to Rochdale for our honeymoon" Bless!  Just after they passed us Alan came running up the towpath saying we must go and look at the next lock - he'd never seen anything like it.  We went down and were astounded to see water pouring over the rear gate of the lock like Niagara Falls!  They had both front paddles open trying to empty the lock and it was filling faster than it was emptying!  Needless to say it took ages for them to get through it - of course by the time we got to it the water had receded so it didn't take long for us, but of course we seemed to be chasing Verity all the time then!   We continued going down the locks until it was actually getting dark and we had to put the tunnel light on to see ahead!  We still had several more locks to go, including two tunnels!  By this time the front gate paddles were so stiff I simply couldn�t get them to turn but Ivan was fantastic - he's a big guy and very strong and he managed to open them all - we would never have got down without him - my hero!    We finally emerged from the tunnel under the University of Huddersfield (I used to work there when it was merely a Polytechnic!) and into the Marina - Clive's cousin Deborah and her husband Andrew were waiting for us as we arrived, with a lovely planter for the boat - they had been trying to catch up with us all day!  My sister Thelma turned up a few minutes later with a lovely dinner that she had cooked for us and brought down in an insulated bag, along with a very welcome bottle of wine!  What a day!   However, it didn't end there - when we arrived in the marina we discovered that Verity had taken the very last available mooring - we couldn't find anywhere to tie up - I have to say I was close to weeping at this point, then out of the darkness I heard Alan's voice calling - he told us that the couple on the boat behind them, Eastrop, had very kindly offered to let us moor alongside them and tie up to their boat - we were very, very grateful!   So that is how our maiden voyage to Huddersfield ended - what a saga!  Today we were told we could have a spare pontoon as the usual occupants had gone to Rochdale on their honeymoon - guess who!  So we are going to be here for at least 10 days, possibly a little longer.  Whilst we are here we are having a multi-fuel stove fitted ready for the winter - we decided we would be much warmer in the long run if we had one.  The other major improvement which we have to make or I for one am going no further, is a new mattress to replace the current one which is as hard as concrete!  Even with a memory foam topper it is unbearably hard!  Clive is getting used to it, I am definitely not! He says I am like the Princess and the pea!  Well this Princess needs a good, restful night's sleep!   By the way, today is our 35th Wedding Anniversary!   As we are going to be remaining here for the next week or so we may curtail the blog, unless of course we have something exciting to report - otherwise we will just bore you to tears with photos of our friends and rellies and who we had tea with, got drunk with or just plain had dinner with (hopefully!).  However, those of you who live in the Huddersfield area do please get in touch it would be nice to catch up with you.  Just remember that we don't have any road transport so it would be great if you could come to us or come and fetch us! There are some more photos in the gallery relating to the last few days too. Signing off for the moment - watch this space!           

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