Sunday, 15 April 2012

Last leg of the Spring cruise

Saturday 14th April: 3.94 miles

Your local waterway an outdoor gym was the promotional message displayed on the side of a British Waterways van at Red Bull the other day. On Saturday morning the gossiping geese on the field woke the Cleddau crew. In warm sunshine the Captain pulled out the mooring pins and the boat set off for the last three miles or so back to the moorings at Higher Poynton.  A squirrel ran across a bridge parapet in front of us while out and about using the towpath were walkers, some with dogs, some without. There were joggers, most singly, once a group of three. Then, on the wooded stretch just before Lyme View, there were sounds of tennis balls and players’ shouts. Of all the times we had walked or boated past the tennis court behind the solitary house this was the first occasion we had seen (or rather heard) the court in use.

Opposite Lyme View Marina a couple of boats were moored, a handy site for Lyme Breeze Restaurant and the Miners Arms pub. A crawl past the marina, then round the bend with the slopes of Lyme Park rising to the right and on towards the metal footbridge. Right beside it is a tiny memorial garden where a group of half a dozen or so walkers pored over their maps, under navigation instruction it seemed. (The Captain having disappeared from the back deck some fifteen minutes or so before, supposedly to collect his coat, had left the photographer on the helm - apologies for lack of evidence). The boat approached the Higher Poynton short term moorings, fewer boats here than usual, then through the bridge to the water point and The Trading Post. It was while topping up with water that the ape in the tree opposite was noticed. What is it with stuffed apes and gorillas in these parts? The gorilla at Bollington has been moved from its tree position to a more comfortable seated position and now rests its feet on a footstool!

It’s just a short hop across the canal from The Trading Post to the Victoria Pit pontoons. For once access was made easier by lack of towpath-moored boats and also of our neighbouring boat, whose skipper had been intent on an Easter cruise to the Caldon Canal... now that’s a canal with some delights and surprises.

Cleddau was moored up: the next few hours were spent in making her “shipshape” for her next  (whenever that is) cruise. After a supper with the Cheshire Three in Macclesfield it was time to head south.

 On Sunday morning it’s seemed more urgent to blog at a laptop than to tackle the unloaded muddle currently scattered around the house...  But hark, the Captain calls!

Summary

Total miles cruised: 132.41

Total locks: 104 (including 8 manned locks)

Movements via boat lift:  2

Nights afloat: 15

Most useful items: Gaiters

            Most useless items: Sun hats

Friday, 13 April 2012

Windlass wielders at Bosley

Friday 13th April: Bosley to Bollington, 10 miles, 12 locks, 2 swing bridges

Prompt at 0930 Cleddau’s extra crew arrived. Techno Son-in-law and Techno’s Dad had pre-positioned two cars and walked the mile down the flight to find us at the bottom. A cup of coffee and then the work could start. While drinking the coffee some unexpected words were noticed: stuck on a bollard at the bottom of the flight was the Lake Powell Utah – Arizona sticker.  Some people travel far to enjoy the Macc!

Windlasses were issued and the bottom lock (12) emptied. It was to be a slow crawl, following another boat up, later meeting two Heritage hire boats coming down. Cleddau’s descent just two weeks ago had been accomplished in 1 hour 29 minutes; the climb today took 2 hours. There were no further sightings of the little wood mouse seen last night, but while waiting to move from lock 5 to 4 there was a whirlpool of disturbance as a carp (or some other below water shark) twice reared up to gulp air or insects... Crew headgear is a good indicator of weather conditions: the Captain and Boatwif remained hatless (what a change), and while one windlass wielder took off a woolly hat, the other put on a sun hat. Yes – the sun shone from locks 10 to two! But as the water equalised in the topmost lock the showers returned.

Cleddau cruised on, destination the Gurnett Aqueduct at Sutton, where someone’s car had been parked. There were moored boats to look at, fertilised fields to sniff at, two swing- bridges to negotiate, canoeists to avoid and the lightweight roses and castles adorned motorbike to marvel at. Techno Son-in-law and Techno’s Dad took helm duties to steer us smoothly to Sutton, where lunch was had and the golf balls proffered as payment  to Techno’s Dad!

There was just one mishap today. Conscious both of British Waterways becoming the Canal and River Trust and of the increasing reliance on volunteer labour Boatwif prepared to do her duty. As the canal wends past Astra-Zeneca there are three pinch points where once swing bridges crossed the water. In high summer brambles and hard thorny branches intrude across the canal, scratching splayed out hands and any precious paintwork. First squeeze point:  from the bow, equipped with gloves and secateurs, Boatwif leaned out to snip any stray twigs. But the bow deck curves in from the boat side, so any offending growth could not be reached. Second squeeze point: Boatwif shuffled back in the well deck to be closer to the growth. Success – one twig sheared. Then the blades went floppy, and in her attempts to adjust them Boatwif allowed them to slip through her fingers, down into the murky shallows below... Third squeeze point: by now it was raining again so the cratch was re-zipped and Boatwif, disappointed in failing in her duty, retreated inside! The only other sign of human life in this area was the umbrella- carrying lady...

We cruised on past Kerridge (in the sunshine) and on past Bollington, waved at by folk on the nearly new footbridge, then addressed by a Wellington-booted lady (“I’m walking the dog before it rains again). Just half a mile beyond Clarence Mill Cleddau was pulled in and now, sealed up against the rain, even the sound of the quarrelsome pair of Canada geese on the opposite bank is muffled...

Just three miles left to do tomorrow to home moorings.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Umbrellas

Thursday 12th April: 11.54 miles, 7 locks

“I’d love a cup of hail-proof tea,” said the Captain once Cleddau was safely back on the Macc.  From Church Lawton up to Kidsgrove, through 6 locks, during a shopping and a watering stop the skies had  not leaked rain and rain caps had not been worn – a great improvement on previous days. But once the sharp right turn from the Trent and Mersey onto the Macclesfield Canal had been made at Hardings Wood Junction, rain, then hail, then rain, then hail, then rain dropped from above. Just occasionally there were splashes of sunshine, although they were all too brief and not very frequent. The tea was served in insulated mugs and a lunch-time cup of soup was also in a covered cup.

There was plenty of boat movement this morning and once or twice boats danced around each other between locks. A down-coming boater reported a new experience in the Harecastle Tunnel: FOG. An up-going boater confessed to heading first for Polesworth (Coventry Canal) but harbouring ambitions to cruise later in the season down the South Oxford, down the Thames and up the Grand Union. In drought-stricken times let’s hope his plan is not just a wistful dream...

The stretch of canal from the Hardings Wood Junction to Red Bull Basin is absolutely straight – just as well as the Captain was steering from under his big blue umbrella groping his way in nil visibility past the moored boats (Flirty Gertie and friends) in the first outbreak of  heavy hail. The anglers at Scholar Green all had umbrellas to hand and all passing boaters made weather-related comments! Up to the right, clear in the unstable cold sector air, was the irregular shape of the Mow Cop folly.

On Cleddau cruised, arriving at Congleton Wharf (again in a rain shower) just as a Heritage day boat was struggling to turn round (and to avoid nb Seyella). At Hightown Boatwif hopped out of the boat (this is the most convenient shopping place on the system) and waded through thick mud, glutinous mud, deep pools, squishy mud and over swampy bits of grass to reach the steps up to street level. If only photographic evidence had been taken of the redder mud of the upper T and M (of slightly different consistency, methinks) then perhaps a mini treatise on towpath mud could have been composed...

By mid-afternoon, under glowering skies, Cleddau was cruising below the Cloud, that sharp and brooding hill, from which came the Chatsworth Gritstone used for the Bosley lock chambers.  A mooring at the bottom of the Bosley Twelve was secured, followed by tea, some boat cake and then a stroll. On no other occasion has Boatwif climbed off the boat for an evening amble clutching an umbrella - a walking pole yes, but not an umbrella. First it was back across the aqueduct and a clamber and a slide down towards the River Dane. Next it was along the towpath and up the lock flight as far as lock 6. In some places the muddy pools seem nearly as wide as the canal. And then, between locks 8 and 9, something moved on the towpath – a tiny field mouse darted from leaf to leaf, nibbling and chewing upon the juicy green foliage. Boatwif kept it company for quite some while, undisturbed by any other voice or boat. Back to Cleddau then, Boatwif shaking out her umbrella to dry; three times during a short stroll it had proved its usefulness! For a few minutes tonight at sunset golden light spread itself over the hills, hedges and waters of this peaceful mooring spot. It’s good to be back in higher terrain!

Tomorrow, aided by Techno Son-in-Law and his Dad, we will climb the Bosley locks and maybe, or maybe not, get back to home moorings.