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Tuesday July 17th 2012 - Staley Bridge

Well!  To cut a long story short.................well, shortish!

The last blog had us just arriving at the top of the Bosley Flight and a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then, so to speak!  We made our way along the Macclesfield Canal to Marple, we then headed down the Marple Flight of locks, which was very hard work as every single lock was against us, also the weather was pretty grotty as well, shame really because it is a pretty flight and the scenery is lovely, especially down at the bottom.  Anyway, we made it eventually and reached the Peak Forest Canal by which time it was absolutely tipping it down!  As soon as we found a decent mooring we pulled in and hunkered down.  We continued along the Peak Forest, which is a lovely canal, on our way to Portland Basin, which is where we would get onto the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. 

Wednesday May 16th 2012 - Because there were no locks along this canal I decided to stay inside and do a few bits and pieces, knowing that once we got to Portland Basin and turned onto the HNC the locks would be relentless!  About an hour before we were due to arrive at Portland Basin I decided to check the emails - there was one from Brian Badminton, (NB Invicta) our next door neighbour from Aspley Marina.  He was asking if we were aware that Lock 1W (the first lock on the HNC) was broken!?  Evidently a 70' long narrowboat had gone into the lock and got completely stuck resulting in it having to be craned out but unfortunately the lock had also been broken in the process!  This had happened two weeks previously and the lock was in the process of being mended.  However this meant that we could not get up the HNC for a whole week!  We therefore moored up only a few hundred yards from Portland Basin in the most beautiful spot just after a swing bridge surrounded by woodland.  Considering we were only a few minutes walk from the centre of Ashton-under-Lyne it was absolutely amazing.

Our granddaughter, Indeia, had arrived home from the USA on May 12th to spend the Summer with our son, Gareth and we had hoped to be a lot nearer to his home in Marsden by this time so that we could look after her on the days he had to work so under the circumstances he brought her to us.  She was absolutely delighted that she could play outside and would have stayed out from breakfast to bed time given half a chance!  Sadly she isn't really able to play out at home as there are nasty things around in the gardens like Black Widow Spiders and scorpions and other undesirables rendering it rather unsafe for young children!  Well she certainly made up for lost time!  The best thing of all was the weather, we thought that Summer had finally arrived, it was absolutely lovely, warm and sunny for several days - I even dug my shorts out!

Indy & I in the woods

One day Indy and I went for a walk and decided to go and inspect the culprit that was causing our delay.  It was only about a ten minute walk down to Portland Basin and then along the towpath to Lock 1W - when we got there it was surrounded by scaffolding, the doors had been removed but there wasn't a workman in sight!  Evidently the doors had been removed so that they could be taken away for repair as it couldn't be done on site.

Indy at Lock 1W

Finally, a whole week after we arrived, Lock 1W reopened for business and the mass exodus began!  Some boats have been moored up in Staley Bridge for three weeks waiting to come down the flight so they were absolutely delighted to be able to get underway again, the first boat emerged from Lock 1W that afternoon, we decided to wait until the following morning.  Unfortunately when we did set off there were two boats in front of us so every lock was against us once again.  Part way up the flight we hit a problem, one of the pounds (stretch of water between 2 locks) was absolutely empty!  So it took quite a while to get going again after the guys in front had opened all the paddles on the next lock to let water through from above and refill the pound!  We finally arrived in Staley Bridge and moored up opposite Tesco's, which gave us a great opportunity to restock the boat.

The following day we headed off again and the canal seemed to get steadily shallower the higher we got!  We stopped off at French's Wharf in Greenfield to use the pump-out facility, where we met John, more on him later.  After that the water levels were just ridiculous.  At one point Clive couldn't get the boat out of the lock because the water levels were so low he was scraping the bottom on the cill of the lock!  I had to go up to the next lock and open all the paddles to let enough water through to refloat the boat!  Finally however we arrived in Uppermill and managed to moor up, although we couldn't get right into the bank because it was so shallow, we had about a foot wide gap to step over when getting on and off the boat!

Uppermill is a wonderful little village.  It is a veritable gem amongst the moors of Saddleworth and the scenery is spectacular.

Saddleworth War Memorial from Uppermill

Now I have just mentioned that we had moored up in Saddleworth, what I didn't mention was the fact that the moorings have a sign stating that is is 48 hour maximum stay!  Well, I have to confess, we overstayed our welcome there by some considerable time, we didn't stay for two days, we stayed for two weeks!!  Indy came to stay with us for several nights and she and her daddy came and had dinner with us most evenings.  Whilst we were in there the weather remained very pleasant indeed. 

Friday June 1st 2012 was Whit Friday and in Saddleworth that means the Whit Walk!  I remember going on many a Whit walk as a child when I was in the Brownies and Guides and I loved marching behind the bands, especially the pipe bands!  However in Saddleworth its all about brass!  We decided to go and see what was going on and were absolutely amazed at the number of people in the village, it was heaving!  Each of the local churches in Greenfield, Uppermill, Dobcross, Diggle and Delph all have their own bands and they came along in turn with their congregations following on, all dressed in their Sunday best or in costumes from bygone days and the music was just brilliant.  There really is something special about a brass band!

Saddleworth Church Band

We watched all the bands marching through the streets and then they all turned onto the village green where an interdenominational church service took place.  Whilst this was going on we went and indulged ourselves at Betty's Fish & Chip Shope - very yummy indeed!  Later on that day it was the Uppermill Brass Band Competition and we were very strategically placed for this as each band alighted from their coach and mustered in the car park adjacent to our moorings, we could see and hear everything!  The first band tuned up and set off on their march through the village to the village green at 4.30pm the last band set off at 11.15pm!

We decided that we had overstayed our welcome in Uppermill so we went up through the next two locks and moored up at Wool Road BW services.  Very handy for pump-out and water.  It was also very peaceful and quiet.  Once again there was a sign stating that it was a 48 hour mooring and I am afraid once again we overstayed our welcome, by four weeks!!  It was a great spot to be though, there was a little car park right next to the mooring, which made it easy for us to have visitors, although I must say it was in need of a bit of TLC, it was very, very uneven and with all the rain we have had over the last few weeks it was full of enormous puddles!  We had quite a few visitors whilst we were there including Pat and the ship's dog, Jesh!  Vicki and Ben came and stayed with us for a night, Thelma popped up one Wednesday evening and took us to a great folk club in a little pub just above Uppermill, we really enjoyed that.  We have had quite a few family get togethers over the weeks as well.  We had a barbecue at Clive's parents' house on Jubilee Monday, it was great to all get together except unfortunately Vicki and Ben couldn't make it.

from left to right, starting on the back row:

Matt, Clive, Carol, Deborah, Andrew

Ivan, Mum, Indy, Pop

Chloe, Gareth, Holly

Clive and I and Gareth and Indy also had a fantastic day out, we went to The Deep, in Hull.  It is the most amazing display of aquatics in the country, I think.  It has a huge tank with sharks, rays and all sorts of amazing fish, which are fed by divers in scuba gear - awesome!

One day whilst we were on the boat Clive just happened to look through the window and saw something very unusual, I quickly took a photograph before it disappeared!

Blast from the past!

A horse drawn boat!  You don't see many of these around any more.  We ended up having a chat with a young man from the boat who was doing the locks.  He informed us that they have been helping to make a BBC documentary about the canals and that morning he and another guy had "legged it" through the Standedge Tunnel!  Now that is no mean feat I can tell you - Standedge Tunnel is three and a half miles long and the process of "legging it" means putting a plank of wood across the stern of the boat, sticking out on either side and two men lie on the boards with their heads to the middle and their feet touching the sides of the tunnel, then they "walk" along the tunnel walls pushing the boat along, very hard work!  However this is how it was done back in the day of horse drawn boats before diesel engines were invented!  The horse by the way would have been walked over the top of the tunnel where it would meet the boat at the other end.

Wednesday July 4th 2012 - a sad day for us, we had to finally say goodbye to our darling granddaughter, Indy, as it was time for her to return home to the States.  She had spent the night with us and we then got the bus to Huddersfield so that she could say a last goodbye to Grandma and Pop and Gareth picked her up from there.  It was very hard to see her go, we will miss her so very much.  They were driving down to spend the night with Vicki and Ben in Grantham and then Gareth would hand her over to her mummy in Cambridge on Thursday.  Very sad for us all but especially her daddy.  We won't see her again now until next April, ten long months away!

We were going to leave the area straight away but had a request to stay for another week so that we could help Carol and Ivan to celebrate their Pearl Wedding Anniversary (30 years!) and we couldn't say no to that so we stayed.  We had a wonderful time, it was a really lovely evening.  Carol and Ivan have several folkie friends who came along and brought their instruments and voices and we joined them too but the biggest surprise of all was Carol and Ivan making their debut - they have never sung in public before!

Carol & Ivan making their debut!

They really don't look old enough to have been married for 30 years do they!

Well once that was over there was really nothing to keep us hanging around any more so yesterday, Monday July 16th 2012, my big brother's birthday,  we took the plunge and said goodbye to our home for the last couple of months.  We left the moorings at 10.00am and headed down the first two locks into Uppermill.  Whilst Clive took the boat down through the village to the next lock I did a mad dash to the bakers to get some bread and a few other bits and pieces for lunch and caught up with him just in time to open the lock gates and we were off!  The first part of the journey was very slow indeed.  As I mentioned before this canal is very shallow and Lady Arwen just couldn't get up any speed at all, she was dragging herself along the bottom all the way, it took us three hours to do about two miles and six locks!  The other problem was that it was pouring with rain!  Needless to say even with our waterproofs on we ended up very damp and cold so we were very relieved indeed to finally arrive at Staley Bridge, where we moored up once more opposite Tesco, by which time it had stopped raining!  Without more ado we peeled off our wet things and hung them up to dry, gathered our shopping bags and a list and went over to do a mammoth shop because the freezer was empty, the fridge was almost empty and the cupboards were bare and worst of all we had no wine!  All that was soon remedied and we could finally sit down and relax. 

Well guess what, its raining today so we are still here!  Our waterproofs etc are still a bit on the damp side and we are in no rush to get anywhere so we will wait and see what tomorrow brings. 

Until the next time................................................

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