Sunday, 28 April 2013

Spit and polish – a sequel

        “ I’ve started so I’ll finish,” a particular TV quiz master used to say. That was the sentiment in the Captain’s heart: he’d started the boat polishing, it needed to be finished. So, a Friday afternoon and an early evening were spent taking diversions to avoid M1 hold-ups between Junctions 14 and 15, and  using the M6 Toll to avoid delays further up the M1. Then just patience, lots of patience, was required during the slow and near stationary traffic at each junction north of Stafford. Finally the “Take the next exit” voice of the Satnav directed the driver through Holmes Chapel, past the two Jodrell Bank telescope dishes and eventually to Poynton.

          The Boar’s Head pub (on Shrigley Road North) was as busy as ever but a table was found, food ordered – and conversation struck up with the neighbouring diners. What is it about this pub and its regular clientele? Here we have had deep discussions about bee-keeping; a long conversation with a veteran about bomber crews in World War 2; a description of serious winters in these parts – just  snow poles marking  the Pennines road to Sheffield in the late eighties and  skating along the frozen canal between High Lane and Macclesfield in the thirties... This is a friendly locals pub where you can eat finely from the specials board or cheaply from the menu, where you can gather with friends for a quiz night or pop in as a stranger and leave as an acquaintance.
       To the work: Saturday morning dawned dry, showers forecast for later in the day. The Captain had an arm’s length agenda: fit a new tunnel light; treat any rust spots; black paint the gunnels; polish the red top hatches and the boat sides... throughout the morning rain spits and hailstones hindered all efforts. Yowls of frustration were borne on the breeze as task after task was declared unmanageable. Then, after one last ferocious April shower, the clouds cleared and proper progress could be made:
1200: rust spots treated on the port side
1300: the new tunnel light (a birthday gift from Salty) was wired up and declared operational
1500: gunnels painted (port side)
1800: port side polished
      Sunday morning arrived dry but grey. Time would be precious if the weather forecast was to be believed.  It took two attempts in the fierce south westerly winds to back the boat out of the moorings and face it up the canal; there was a two hundred yard crawl, a tricky turn, a crawl back along the canal and a reverse alongside the pontoon.
         The wind was pushing the boat away from the pontoon but finally after some rope tugging she was in and tied on.  After a quick breakfast all hands were deployed outside – while the Captain gunnel-painted on the starboard Boatwif rubbed polish on – and then rubbed polish off a very long side! But the objective was achieved: Cleddau’s Operation Boat Wash on April 13th had been followed through by an application of polish all over by April 28th...
          Additional minor achievements included the tidying of galley cupboards and the lining of shelves with some excellent thick plastic roll (IKEA: Variera).  
          But a wander along Middlewood Way
 and across Hag footbridge about half a mile away
 to investigate the route of the footpath up into Lyme Park
 was far more enjoyable. A pair of lambs displayed calm sibling devotion
 while a Canada goose on the bank side busied himself exercising territorial rights.
         The Cheshire Three paid a late afternoon call: “Look out for Grasshopper warblers in the undergrowth here in the next three weeks,” advised Techno Son-in-Law. “They’re fairly rare and sound like a fishing reel running out...” Well, that’ll make a bit of a change from the raucous Canada geese!

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Spit and polish

Sunday 14th April
Still curious about the “no hole digging” sign in the previous blog? Techno Son-in-Law suggests it might be to deter bottle hunters, a problem that occurs from time to time on Lindow Common in Wilmslow. The theory is plausible and as Cleddau cruised slowly back along the canal between Furness Vale and New Mills on Sunday afternoon some lads were active behind the walls, one at least with a spade...
            Sunday at Bugsworth was blustery, too blustery for an uphill walk, with occasional spits of rain so it wasn't paint-polishing weather either.  A stroll to Whaley Bridge (Tesco and beyond) was proposed. Down by the Lower Basin there was some unexpected activity: two teams of Year 6 boys were lashing poles together to create a raft.

 An hour later the rafts were both on the water:

One team exuded confidence and collaboration...
while the other was less co-ordinated, needing a great deal of coaching from the escorting supervisor – and one crew member took a dip!
The towpath to Whaley Bridge leads to the 1832 Transhipment Shed where coal for lime burning and cotton for the town’s mills used to be delivered.  Now a trip boat, the Judith Mary 2, is moored there, its tables neatly laid up for its trippers – and later she and Cleddau passed on the half mile stretch into Bugsworth.
 Boaters wishing to be nearer Whaley Bridge (and the railway station for a trip to Buxton) now have a greater chance of mooring there since major repairs have been carried out to a fair stretch of the canal bank.
 In the town a union flag flew briskly on a flagpole high above the library, a Derbyshire salute for Senior Sis who right then was marking a rather Big Birthday!
Back at Bugsworth a scale model displays the buildings and machinery of the Basin’s industrial phase. Look closely at the middle arm: see the archway into the arm, a huge shed over the dock area and limekilns behind on the other side of the river.
 All that remains of the shed today is the small arched wall to the right. Some ancient stonework can be seen amid the greenery on the other side of the river.  It is a supremely peaceful spot now, the belching smoke, clattering noise and odious smells of its industrial past only present via an active imagination.
The weekend trip had after all been a mission, a mission to wash (DONE) and polish (BARELY STARTED) the boat. 
A more settled phase was predicted for late afternoon, so back through three bridges Cleddau cruised,
 towards Marple, mooring by Bridge 23, from where there was a fine outlook across the Goyt Valley to the hills beyond. 
The Captain disappeared and for the next hour or so happily rubbed and polished the roof. Between Sunday and Monday afternoons (Monday 15th April),  at Bridge 23, at High Lane and at Poynton the roof, stern and bow area got polished... that’s about 300 of the 800 square feet  total.

"The occasional adventures of the Cleddau crew” is the wording at the top of the blog: it was hardly a weekend of thrills but the views were splendid. In conversation we met a couple en route to Lancaster, that’s via the Ribble Link and Preston docks, there was another couple planning to go to Liverpool by canal and to return to Ellesmere Port by crossing the River Mersey, but for real adventure dip into Retirement No Problem : they’ve just done a brave trip in a narrow boat- through Nottingham and Newark on the River Trent, to Lincoln via the Fossdyke Canal, to Boston via the River Witham and then across the Wash (see posts for Sunday 7th and Monday 8th April) to Wisbech and up the tidal Nene to Peterborough... now that’s adventure!

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Boatwif regains control...

      The Captain took to blog-writing last night, “with the permission of Boatwif” he wrote! Suppose now the secret’s out that the Cleddau crew is afloat again the tale will need  completing...

 Friday: The route from Higher Poynton (by canal) couldn’t be simpler: point north (for about three miles) and instead of turning left down the Marple Locks turn right along the Upper Peak Forest Canal to Whaley Bridge and Bugsworth Basin. There are no locks at all on this route but there are four movable bridges, three of which were negotiated on Friday. The first bridge,Turf Lea Lift Bridge, requires fierce windlass winding to lift and to lower it. No problem there, except that nb Hero, moored on the lock landing, had its bow rope entirely in the water and the Captain, armed with boat hook and mallet, managed to secure it.
The second bridge, Wood End Lift Bridge, was efficiently wound by the Captain. Come the third bridge, Higgins Clough Swing Bridge, Boatwif bounded off the boat with the key to release the lock so as to raise the handle so as to push the platform towards the bank ... but somehow it couldn’t be done.
 Only last week there had been trouble at Broadhurst Swing Bridge where the mechanism jams but here the key just seemed to disappear into an oily cavity. The instructions for bridge operation were re-read: put key into lock, but somehow the lock was sort of absent... an elderly gentleman was eager to help but to see him push and heave the bridge would not have been fair. Again the Captain was called to investigate: “Ignore the words, the lock has been removed, just lift the handle - and push!”  A procession of walkers, children, dogs and owners strolled across the bridge, while still the elderly gent lurked until finally push time could happen.
On through the bridge – and towards New Mills. The sweet factory was in production (sniff!)
 but a mile or so further on an easy mooring was found, a few yards from nb Mickey Jay and overlooking the Goyt Valley.
  There was time for a brief evening stroll along the towpath, the stone walls edged with the rich colours and dense cushioning of mosses.
   Now there’s an unusual sign not far into the Torrs Riverside Park: why would people be tempted to dig holes here...?

Saturday: It was a brilliantly blue morning; there was no further drama at the remaining (Carrs) Swing Bridge.
 Cleddau pootled on along the remaining 1.6 miles of the High Peak Canal, turned left towards Bugsworth Basin and pulled in just before the tap.
This was what the day was about, washing the 60 feet and 6 inches of the boat. Now what would that be in total square footage...?*
Operation Boat Wash swiftly got under way:

Strip gangplank, poles, centre rope and life rings from off the top of the boat
Fill buckets with Wash and Wax
Use Congleton Scrubber (remember, only £3) to brush away at the algae on the gunnels
Use sponge mops for sides and roof
            Hose down with fresh water

 Use sponge mops again
             Use hose pipe again

Turn boat around to wash the other side and repeat above procedure
Refill water tank ...
          Clouds were gathering, the wind was getting up. Back along the half mile to the Bugsworth Basin entry Cleddau cruised, a turn completed and a return to the Basin made.

          Finally Cleddau was neatly tied up in the Middle Arm, a favourite mooring place, tucked away from road traffic noise and passing boats.
Rain interrupted play, or rather, interrupted part 2 of Operation Boat Wash. There’s no point in polishing a boat in the rain, is there!
         Will the polishing (ever) get done? Will let you know if it does!
*Approximate square footage: 800 square feet

Friday, 12 April 2013

The Captain writes a blog entry (by permission of Boatwif)

Poynton to Furness Vale (almost) 8.1 miles, 3 movable bridges

After 3 days aground with our granddaughter she was safely returned to Techno Son-in-Law and Cheshire Mum. Should we stay in our stationary home for the rest of the Easter break or escape once again into the hills of Derbyshire? It was a very easy decision! Back up the M1 and M6, cast off for Marple and the Upper Peak Forest Canal – a weekend in Bugsworth Basin is so much more attractive.

So we settled onto Cleddau for the night and then, oh dear, where are the walking maps? Luckily Bailey’s Trading Post had the selection we needed. However, Bugsworth is in the extreme bottom easterly corner of Landranger sheet 110, so 4 sheets were needed to cover the ground we may wish to walk!  (In a past existence it was a well known fact that any low level target would require the cutting and pasting together of the maximum possible number of map sheets – today a simple function on the computer).  So Cleddau is now equipped with all the mapping needed for walking in any area from Stoke on Trent to Rochdale.

A gentle start
 got us to Marple by midday
 and moored on the Peak Forest by 3pm, the scenery never failing to startle on this canal.

    Eventually we passed the sweet smells of the Meltis factory at New Mills
and just before Furness Vale a view demanded a stop.
 We can hear bird song and bleating sheep and see the tops of the High Peak in the background. We may be between two railway lines, one close by and the other across the valley but trains are few and soon away.
Tomorrow on to the Basin and a chance to wash and polish Cleddau after a very long and hard winter.  Time to chill in one of our favourite places on the system.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

That’s it!

Gurnett Aqueduct to Victoria  Pit Moorings: 8.8 miles
           “That’s it,” proclaimed the Captain as, at 1440 today, Cleddau drew onto her home mooring. It was a graceful mooring up, there was no wind to create havoc, no boat on the towpath opposite to narrow the turning space – and no Halcyon Dawn on the neighbouring pontoon to avoid. Neither was there any audience, so no applause ...
           It’s obvious, but it has to be stated: there were so many brief but cheerful conversations today about the improved weather, all on the same theme of  We’ve waited long enough and  Great weather for boating!  People were out walking in families, or on their own, or with dogs, or running. From the playing field below Bollington Aqueduct came the distinct shouts and cheers of a Sunday football match... but here’s a special mention of two rather different ventures. Well before 10 this morning the Captain had a conversation with a pair of passing walkers. They’d just set off, having walked about a mile already – of their planned towpath walk to Kent, 223 miles of it, expecting it to take 19 days... Then, between Macclesfield and Kerridge, there was one of several dodging bouts with three canoes (a single and two doubles).
 The canoeists (not youthful) are in training – for the 24 hour 96 mile canoe paddle around the Cheshire Ring, to be held on the last weekend of June.
It was a very pleasant last day’s cruise: church bells were ringing at Sutton, Canada geese were arguing near Macclesfield, patrolling the towpath further on.
 A guitar was being played inside an angler’s shelter at Hurdsfield,  a security guard inspected the inside of the fence of  AstraZeneca. An Andy Russell painted boat provided a splash of colour near Kerridge, spreading its own kind of magic.
 Opposite Adelphi Mill an alligator still lurks. “They told me it was rough up this end of the canal,” said the solo canoeist, "but not this rough!”
 Ribbons of snow could still be seen strung across the hillsides behind Bollington
though round the corner at Clarence Mill waitress service had resumed for outside customers.
Onward: a cheery wave and a quick chat with Seyella’s Geoff and Mags, they just calling on Moore2Life.There was much boat owner pottering at the marina at Lyme View,
more outdoor eating and drinking at Bailey’s Trading Post. Time for celebration here: the repairs in front of the Post are finished so boats and folk can moor and walk safely!
That’s it then, the Easter 2013 cruise concluded,  55.6 miles cruised, 54 locks negotiated. A grand trip it was, though one crew member at least, was glad of the snowmitts
by day
and the bedsocks by night.
         Tomorrow:  Boat duties will be relinquished but the Cheshire One will be keeping the crew  busy!