Saturday, 5 October 2013

Duly delivered

           From Westport Lake
to Longport Wharf involves only a very short cruise. The canal is wide,
and being Stoke-on-Trent, features a bottle kiln.

             Instructions were given to pass the Wharf (and the slipway), 
then wind shortly afterwards to turn back to bring the bow onto the slipway.
            The turnaround was all but completed when nb Smine hove into view (a further contraction from It’s mine?).
Slowly, but absolutely on the pip of ten o’clock (business opening time), Cleddau berthed at the slipway.

            If you do have to go through the exhausting business of unloading a Euro mountain of emergency groceries, boat bedding and textiles as well as clothes and computer – this isn’t a bad place to do it! It’s under cover
and the car (fetched from Macclesfield by the Captain via a  train trip north) could be parked very close by.
            It was a long day – six hours exactly for Boatwif of sorting and tidying,
emptying and wrapping, piling and covering,
but with Saturday business hours finishing at 4pm the pressure was on to escape the premises, duly done at 3.59!
            So Cleddau's  ready for her final midlife makeover - and as for the teapot featured on yesterday’s blog’s in there

           That’s it - until a crew adventure or a catch-up on Cleddau’s winter works...

½ mile, 0 locks

Friday, 4 October 2013

Briefly (3)

          It’s been Delivery Day minus 1... Ramsdell Hall railings to Westport Lake.
          The dog walkers had walked the dogs and the farmer fed his cattle by the time Cleddau pulled away from the black and white railings on Friday morning.
First pause was at the watering point just before Hall Green lock. This sign must have been displayed for a while (issued in the days of British Waterways)
but the wording is apt. 
           Down then (by a bare foot) through the stop lock which separated the waters of two canals, the Macclesfield and the Trent and Mersey.
After a bare half mile the canal crosses Red Bull Aqueduct above the Trent and Mersey as it begins its plunge down Heartbreak Hill.
There’s a sharp left and a sharp right hand turn before the Harecastle Tunnel is reached, time to muse about Flirty Gertie
(memories of annual visits to a great aunt Gertie come to mind, she so formal and as far from flirty as is possible to imagine) and then this boat,
Oracle of Conwy (the Captain had family connections there). As the Harecastle Tunnel was reached the water began to show the characteristic reddy-orange colour.
There was a short queue but a long pause until a single northbound boat had emerged from the 2,926 yard tunnel.
           Enough diesel?  Check.
           Tunnel lights?  Check.
            Internal lights?  Check.
           Ah, diesel. There’s a point.  Usually the Captain keeps the fuel tank pretty full but not so on this trip. There was a moment of realisation yesterday – with a tank full of water in the bow and the stern lighter than usual at the back the boat did not make its usual rattling protests in a shallow canal. There was no or very little prop cavitation. Why has it taken five years to discover this...?
            Into the tunnel, where the distance from end to end is marked out every twenty five yards... For ages emergency arrow signs point behind to the nearest point of exit...
             Ooh, half way point (after 22 minutes of travel).

             Then a glimpse of some words...

              Nearly three quarters of an hour after entering Cleddau and crew emerged,
              A mile from the tunnel is Westport Lake, once a colliery which became flooded in the 1880s. Now it’s a leisure area with a Visitor Centre
promoting sustainability and wildlife care. There are easy mooring rings here, with permission to stay for 48 hours.
             A stroll further along the towpath brings you to:

             Plan of action sorted for boat delivery then, just time to photo this building the other side of the road.
After tomorrow it could be a while before an on board favourite teapot is in use again..

             Today: 6¼ miles, 1 lock and the Harecastle Tunnel
            Tomorrow: to Longport Wharf to deposit this boat...

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Briefly (2)...

          It was a good decision to start early(ish) so as to be boating ahead of the promised rain...
           Away from the southern outskirts of Macclesfield by 0930, first stop the Oakgrove Swing Bridge.  The Captain lurked in mid canal
while Boatwif, the Bridge Operator, went ahead. A couple of cars raced across the bridge while the right key was being selected for the control panel. Once the key is in and a finger is on the OPEN button it’s a long wait before anything visible happens. A van driver held up by the dropped barriers
and short on patience reversed back onto the main road and sped off, heading south.
            It was at Bridge 52 that a certain amount of edging and squeezing occurred as two boats negotiated passage past each other.

After another three privately owned working boats had passed during the course of the next mile or so
it became apparent that something must be up, or that they were all heading up to somewhere... to Bugsworth Basin, on the Peak Forest Canal, it transpires, for the Buxworth Steam Gathering weekend.
            The new(ish) services block at Bosley Top Lock is now adorned by solar roof panels.
The 12 lock flight stretches a mile downhill. “Water level’s very low,” warned the Captain as he assumed paddle-winding duties at Lock 2. Often water surges over the overspill weirs before each lock but today ugly barriers and water retention walls poked above the channel while mud beaches were visible in the wider sections of the upper pounds.  Strong blasts from a south easterly wind made passage between the locks, well, doubly interesting... Haze hung over The Cloud
but temperatures were mild and the rain still several hours away. An hour and 50 minutes after starting off the locks were done,
not in record-breaking but in average time.
                On towards Congleton, past cows, both live – and painted!
There was a little cruiser flotilla and a workboat for stone masons. “You can photograph me!” called one of the workforce.
 Another, in rubber waders,
prepared to paddle...
On past Biddulph Aqueduct, a favourite mooring space empty today,
through the mess of bridges at Congleton,
over Dog Lane Aqueduct by Congleton Wharf... Here was a possible overnight mooring – but the Captain craved the railings... Three miles further on, just before Ramsdell Hall, are the glorious moorings overlooking gentle South Cheshire countryside and the (famous in these parts) black and white Ramsdell Railings. Here, shortly after a very heavy rainstorm, Cleddau was moored.
Rain has lashed down again, sharp winds have rocked the boat but the stove is throwing out a wondrous warmth. Just for once there will be no late afternoon wander across the fields to Little Moreton Hall...

              Today: 10¼ miles, 12 locks
              Tomorrow: navigation through just one lock and the red waters of Harecastle Tunnel


Wednesday, 2 October 2013


         Cleddau is on the move, a brief (relatively speaking) trip from Poynton on the Macc to Longport Wharf on the T & M at Stoke-on-Trent.
           It’s for some winter works, a sort of grand MOT - hull inspection and bottom blacking, some engine works – and, most importantly,  “a nice bedroom”. That’s what Mike Adkins, project manager, has promised. This boat only gained a wardrobe when the Captain lived aboard and needed somewhere to hang his suit. It was a home-made cupboard, granted you could squash a lot into it but retrieving anything uncrumpled was nigh on impossible. So the prospect of a “nice bedroom” with a “nice” wardrobe is ... nice!
         At Victoria Pit Moorings owners Iain and Luisa Bryceland have kept their word: over the summer green painted huts have been installed to house hose pipes and taps.
Not to have to reverse through ice in the winter months back to the tap by The Trading Post just to put some water into the tank represents a very positive improvement for these boaters.
           What else has happened and not happened in Poynton in the last three weeks?  It seems there was a great storm. Never before has the boat’s interior been speckled with dried leaves, fragments of foliage and dust, driven in through the one small drop back window left open for air circulation, driven under the cratch onto the front deck and driven under the back doors into the engine room. The black rubberised matting used on the back deck has disappeared, blown away presumably, only one very small section remains.  Meanwhile, across the canal at the rubbish disposal point towpath side, very close to Braidbar Boats and The Trading Post, this horrific sight greeted the eyes this morning.
An email and photo has been dispatched to the local office of Canal and River Trust: what response will there be...?
         To prepare for boat work involves making space. Hence yesterday a garage in Macclesfield received sundry items from a front deck picnic table and stern flagpole to a great box labelled FRAGILE – BREAKABLES. The interior looks rather bare but there will be more “stuff” to either remove or hide once the destination is reached...
            Cleddau has passed this way several times this year:  in late winter snows at Easter time, in the slowly emerging spring in May, in late summer last month and now in the early throes of autumn. Today leaf islands floated on the water
while orange tips were beginning to show on towpath vegetation.
              An hour or so on the crew arrived at Bollington: Clarence Mill’s chimney  work is now complete but the windows were being cleaned.
Bollington – Mr Heathcote the Butcher!  A plan was hatched, moor up at Adelphi Mill, pop down the hill and top up on supplies. Mooring was a tricky battle eventually won, the Captain returned triumphant with supplies, although Mr Heathcote was closed for half day...
             Macclesfield was passed. Then, just before Sutton there was activity. Volunteers were cutting back nettles and brambles from the tall retaining walls by the golf course
and CRT staff were installing new drainage a little closer to Sutton.
            Past Gurnett Aqueduct and Sutton Wharf the view opens up.
There are those wonderful vistas back towards Macc Forest and into the Peaks foothills. Usually there is entertainment available here from the very sociable Canada geese. Today it was the crows, wheeling and turning, darting and dancing, that caught the eye.
 Nearby, exhausted from battling with the wind, serried rows of gulls patiently sat out the blasts,
awaiting calmer weather.
            Broadhurst Swing Bridge, half a mile or so further on, has a reputation for being difficult –there’s even a handwritten notice there now to tell you the same!  Nb Serendipity was just ahead of Cleddau.
Despite the best efforts of its two adult crew jumping and pushing on its stubborn platform the bridge would not budge. The Captain joined the bridge party and some coordinated yowling and shoving later it shifted.
            “ Leaving it open,” growled the Captain as he clambered back on board. Here’s hoping an oncoming boat met a few minutes later (Braidbar’s Tiree) appreciated the gesture!
             There’ll be serious activity ahead tomorrow:  Oakgrove Swing Bridge, the Bosley Twelve and some miles towards and perhaps beyond Congleton...
Today just 10 miles and no locks