Saturday, 30 June 2012

Too soon, too short...

Uppermill to Mossley, 2.61 miles, 7 locks (and a long furrow)

Too soon into Uppermill this morning, on the doorstep of the Post Office before 9am,waiting for it to open...

Too short to push the boat’s stern out, when it was grounded above Uppermill  Lock...

Too shallow, the pound between Locks 19W and 18W...

Too weak to turn some paddle gear...

Too much rain in the thunderstorms this afternoon...

Too soon – searching for the Mossley Heritage Mill opted for the first mill found – needed to walk quite a bit further.

Recovered now from the Midge Attack Boatwif felt in fine fettle this morning, ready to face the two miles or so and seven locks downhill to Mossley, (The little, hilly, milly, three-cornered town of Lancashire, Yorkshire and Cheshire). The boat had been moored there before on the outbound cruise and it was the plan to moor up before the showers started... But just trying to leave Uppermill proved problematic enough. The Captain and another boater set Lock 21W and Boatwif moved (well, tried to move) ahead into the lock. The shallow banks made forward motion impossible. Use of the long pole still didn’t push the boat far enough out into the channel. Eventually, super-strength Captain (with his longer arms) managed to push the stern out into deep enough water. Forward motion at last was rewarded by a cheer and a short round of applause from a small group of locals. “Happens to us all,” said the man holding a windlass.

Under the long road bridge and out towards Greenfield. There were glimpses of green playing fields, of sharply defined hill ridges and soon, of a brash Tesco building. Just before Lock 20W another boat appeared, its helmsman kind enough to leave the top gates open. Down.  Though the sun was shining memory reminded the crew that they were in known shallow water territory. On past pretty gardens, goats at a small-holding and doves at a dovecote. At Lock 19 a local man shook his head.

 “ Don’t know how you’ll get on down there. Don’t know where all the water’s gone!”

Below the bridge the tide was receding, muddy banks exposed. Yet pouring into the pound was a fierce flow from an overflow drain, the water from the lock bypass and the water squeezing through leaky lock gates. The Captain didn’t seem to take matters that seriously, but did he expect Cleddau to navigate a ditch?! The lock was filled, the boat positioned within it – and the Captain set off to look for himself.  He was gone some time...

By the time he returned the boat was already much lower in the lock, its very walls and gates leaking...  “We’re going to need more water (obviously), put the kettle on.” Then began an emergency plan: Drop water from lock 19 into the pound, continue to run water down from the pound above until the Lock 18’s gates could be opened. Continue to drop water into the lock until the boat could get into Lock 18. Then close up Lock 19.

So, about an hour after arrival (and without the pot of tea), Cleddau had arrived in Lock 18. Extra stiff paddles here and stubborn gates but the cruise continued.  Then came Division Bridge, which marks the old boundary between Yorkshire and Lancashire (now between Oldham and Tameside). Finally to Mossley: three locks here in swift succession. At the last a small girl watched, wide-eyed: “Isn’t it scary, going down like that in a lock?”

“No, it’s like the water going out of a bath,” replied Boatwif – and thought how much scarier she finds it when water is in very short supply.

Mooring achieved (despite the shallow edge and gusty wind) lunch was had – and yes, the Uppermill butchers’ pork and rhubarb pie is rather good!

After a thunderstorm Boatwif set off in quest of the Mossley Heritage Mill where a small exhibition displays Mossley’s woollen and cotton mill past.  A trudge (under umbrella) brought her soon to a mill – but the wrong one. Directions were given and a useful clue provided, to look out for the cobbled street.  The same building is shared by Emmaus, an excellent charity which helps homeless people gain self respect and independence by repairing and recycling donated goods. A browse among the goods: the wringer was already sold (!), but for £2 five CDs and two pottery pieces seemed a bargain.

Despite the frustrations it’s been a great day – really!

Wonder if playing the Summer Classics CD bought in Emmaus today will bring out some lengthier sunshine tomorrow...!

Tomorrow: on towards Stalybridge.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Silver linings

Uppermill (no miles or locks)

Sometimes even grey and blustery days can bring reward. Uppermill is a pretty village with a fair amount of bustle and a range of facilities. Last night one crew member sank rapidly “under the weather”, face and head a fire storm while body from neck down an out-of-control, shivering, shuddering wreck. The Midges’ Revenge!  At 8am the Captain established that Uppermill possesses a Health Centre just a few hundred yards away and by 9am he had bullied Boatwif into making a phone call.

 “10.35 alright for an emergency appointment then?” said the receptionist. Perfect. But at 1020 the electronic booking system at the door didn’t recognise the booking, nor did the receptionist at the desk, but no matter, despite a crowded waiting room by 1032 a consultation was under way. Super-strong antihistamine, Deet and investigate wearing veiled hat... any one-time apiarists with spare headgear?! There was, of course, the small matter of declaring a current address while staying in the area: nb Cleddau, opposite Saddleworth Museum!

So that was the first silver lining: if you need medical help need it in a place where you can walk to a health centre. The second came as an observation when walking up the hill to the appointment. There on the same street was another bookshop, unnoticed on previous village wanderings. A return this afternoon was well worthwhile, not for purchases made (well, only one) but for the joy of perusing a spacious, well stocked and gloriously well organised shop. There were four shelves of poetry books, a wonderful array of UK travel books and lots more. Despite being (choose your phrase) used /pre-owned /second-hand all volumes were in very good condition. A third silver lining? Lunch at 63 High Street in a smart cafe, patronised, in the main, by stylishly dressed women.  Two other silver linings* came later: locating the bridge mural (missed yesterday) designed by pupils from Saddleworth School and depicting the canal's Past, Present and Future. Then also there was a sneaky peek inside Uppermill’s library, the building, St Chad's, once the home of an eccentric Victorian architect (and as at Marsden Library on Tuesday, a ladies only Book Group discussion was in full swing).

Walking back alongside the canal this evening Boatwif had a new companion, not a dog or a duck or a goose but a hen which determinedly picked its way along the cottage wall before turning at the bridge and making its way up the hill in a very self-possessed manner! Moored ahead of Cleddau, planning a Wednesday Standedge Tunnel passage, are two boats travelling together on a four month summer cruise, heading for Skipton. Both have come from Milton Keynes Marina, one of the boats crewed single-handedly by a very redoubtable lady.

The weather has been playing havoc with certain areas of the UK; tomorrow to Mossley (about 2 miles and 7 locks), hopefully ahead of the thundery rain and showers forecast for the afternoon...

 *A final silver lining? In the fridge, as yet untested and untasted, pork and rhubarb pie from a local butcher...

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Downhill to busier places

Diggle to Uppermill:  2.73 miles, 11 locks

            Cleddau has cruised nowhere else quite like the Upper Tame Valley:  the land folds around in a great bowl shape so the eye can feast on a  panorama, taking in slopes and hamlets, ridges and  railway line, meadows and marshes, mills and the white flashes of lock gates, paddle gear and lock bridges descending the valley.  For the first mile or so the wide view allows you to see the occasional distant bus travelling between villages, horses in a paddock, a terrace of houses, the constant trains on the track above. Just ten locks sport the white paired paddles on the off-side and it is only the top few where the ferocious down pull of water forms a noisy vortex. Water was plentiful today; huge amounts still working its way off the Pennine tops after recent rains. Between Locks 29W and 28W the tow path was so under water that Boatwif was relieved to have worn the sturdy walking boots rather than the preferred colander-effect boat boots! After Lock 25W the valley begins to narrow – greenery obscures the canal ahead and the huge viaduct by Lock 23W comes as a surprise. From the emptiness of Diggle above, where conversational opportunity is rare, suddenly there are other people – and other boats... at the Transhipment Warehouse services area this morning two boats were moored up on visitor moorings, while two others were queuing to pass by and move on up towards the tunnel  - and there was a short sharp shower. It was just less than a mile and a further two locks down to Uppermill, another two boats already moored outside the Saddleworth Museum. Cleddau was moored opposite them, under a little less leaf cover but on a muddier tow path, the day’s journey over.

            The boats opposite are travelling companions and being short enough at 55 and 56 feet respectively accessed the Huddersfield Narrow via the broad-locked Calder and Hebble Navigation. “Breasted up” they had been, the term given to two boats tied side to side to travel as one. Also on the opposite bank is a flock of Canada geese, as usual behaving in a collective manner: one in the water, all in the water; one climbs out to strut about, all others follow!

            Into Uppermill, the Captain prepared for the promised bookshop browse. Open it was this time, small, packed with second hand volumes, all in good condition, a rather different experience from the Slaithwaite shop last week. Along the street a sweet shop displayed confectionery containers from sixty years ago (and hopefully not sixty year old edibles!) Just after three o’clock buses disgorged secondary school pupils at the bus station; suddenly this sleepy little village was awash with girls and boys diving into sweet shops and mini-markets, desperate for their afternoon calorie rush! On then to a Pharmacy, Boatwif to parade her midge bites. Perhaps midges think she is a Boatwif-No-Friends so swarm to caress her neck and head and jaws and wrists...  Pharmacy patients backed away, the healthcare assistant tutted sympathetically “Ooh, that is bad,” and the café waitress (glass of water for the antihistamine tablet) urged: “Oh, I do hope you feel better from your bites soon.”

            Parts of the Midlands have been deluged by floods today but here, this afternoon, it remained mostly dry - and warm enough for three little girls to laugh and squeal and jump about in the river just a few feet upstream of the stepping stones. Yes, definitely heading back downhill towards the conurbations of Stalybridge and Ashton-under-Lyne, but thankfully, not there yet!

            Tomorrow: either remain in Uppermill or work seven further locks downhill to Mossley.