Saturday, 30 September 2017

Half Way Up The Hill. 29th September

Anne’s Bridge to Thurlwood Bridge

The aim for the day was to start climbing up the Cheshire Locks, Heartbreak Hill, with the hope of reaching Lock 49 Halls Lock where the tow path changes sides. Here Mick would be able to check out the depth of the canal before deciding whether to don his waders again. Yesterday, as there had been nothing noticeable around the bow thruster prop with a pole, Mick decided to try another fuse in the bow thruster. A quick blast of a second worked, but when he tried using it for the third time it didn’t sound so healthy and blew the fuse again! So what ever is stopping the bow thruster from working hasn’t disappeared by itself. We only have one last fuse left.

P1140704smA couple of boats passed us in the rain as we had a leisurely breakfast, we had no intention of getting wet. The rain stopped around 10am and the skies were brightening up by 10.30, so we pushed off. Wheelock water point was full with a boat, pulling another boat that was pulling another boat. Glad we didn’t need water so we could be ahead of them in the locks as it looked like they would need two. A short distance on was NB Seyella, they passed us last year on the Leeds Liverpool when we were on Lillian. Geoff was about and we wished him good luck running the Manchester Half Marathon next month.

P1140705smWe gradually worked our way up the locks. Obviously there was a boat or two ahead of us as even though the locks are mostly paired they often were both full. But boats soon appeared coming down resetting them for us. One Viking Afloat Hire boat had a crew with yellow t-shirts on to match the livery. Maybe they always hire yellow boats. By now the sun was out and extra layers were not needed, a good day to be doing the locks.

P1140744smOne boat coming down told us that three single handers were following them, so leaving a gate open would be helpful to them. I passed this onto Mick as it would be him closing up the locks after Oleanna had risen, as I would have gone on ahead to the next one. We don’t mind leaving gates for boats that are in view, but you never know if people have stopped for the day or a pint. A helpful chap walking the towpath in Berko once told us that the coal boat and butty were on their way, so to leave the gates for them, they turned out to be half a mile away and winding when we got to them. As I walked ahead I said I’d signal if someone was on their way down, but no boat was insight so Mick closed the gate.

P1140758smUntitledsmBy lock 59 you can see the M6 ahead. The red shoulders of the helmsperson in front of us could just be seen passing under the bridge of stationary traffic. These were then replaced by white shoulders coming towards us, so I topped up the lock next to ours and opened the gate for them, by the time Oleanna had risen the second of the single handers was arriving, so at least we helped them there. At Lock 58 two more single handers were working their way down, so I closed the paddles and gates for them both so that they wouldn’t have to stop. Mick has never believed me that there is a pink church here, so here it is in it’s corrugated glory.

P1140752smThe cafe/shop/house at Lock 57 has been sold since we last passed and the 57 varieties tin sign has gone. Pausing for some lunch we decided that we should stop earlier than planned, the second mate didn’t get to go out yesterday so we could try to make up for that today. Another two locks before a long pound, our ideal mooring had already been taken. Second choice ended up being rejected on Cat Health and safety grounds, then we managed to get into the side a short distance away from the next lock. We could have carried on to Rode Heath where there is plenty of mooring, but there are also plenty of dogs.

Just as we got the pram cover up and opened the doors for Tilly the heavens opened, sideways. Tilly rushed back in to inform me of the situation leaving her damp paw prints everywhere before turning and venturing further afield. I then gave the floors a good wash.

P1140773smThis evening I had a message from my friend Julia saying that she would like some more bags as the three I sent have all sold to one lady in Dallas. Good job I got some more fabric in Manchester, looks like I’ll be ripping it up sooner than originally thought.

DSCF7114sm12 locks, 4.28 miles, 1 leisurely breakfast, 0 puppies, 2 questions answered, 3 familiar boats, 4 single handers, 0 mph on the M6 eastbound, 0 varieties, 3rd mooring lucky, 4 whole hours! 3 bags sold, 1 sad gits squash risotto, 1 fantastic sunset.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Introductions. 28th September

Bramble Cuttings to Anne’s Bridge

P1140577smA slight mist in the the cutting this morning gave it an ethereal feeling. But Tilly was more captured by the squirrels busily hoarding the acorns to take in the atmosphere. I’d just like to point out that Max can only stay here for two days, where as I can stay here as long as I like.

P1140588sn=mP1140600smSurprisingly we weren’t kept awake by too much falling on the roof over night. Luckily any apples that fell missed us, however the roof had a good covering of leaves that needed sweeping off before we got going for the day. The apples were tantalisingly close, so Mick tried to pick some with the aid of the boat hook, sadly those that he dislodged just fell into the cut to gradually drift by.

P1140612smP1140615smWe were soon below Big Lock and filling with water after dropping off rubbish at the recycling centre. A boat came past, but as we didn’t know how long it would take to fill the tank they carried on up without us. Big Lock had to be closed last week for them to mend paddles, this must have been what held Blackbird up, apparently tempers frayed when a boat seemed to try to queue jump. However today there were no queues and we soon got moored up to be able to go shopping. The fridge and freezer were just about empty and with only one apple and an onion we desperately needed to restock. So we filled four bags at Tescos and plan to have a delivery somewhere in the next few days.

P1140617smThe Middlewich Locks were manned again by volunteers. We had to wait for one boat to come down before we could start our journey up and swapped each lock passing a boat in each short pound. When we reached the top there was another hire boat waiting to go down with another boat pulling in behind. This boat was very familiar. I walked up to say hello to Pat and Roy AKA Mr and Mrs Blue Boat. Our paths have crossed over the last couple of years on the Huddersfield Narrow, Stainforth and Keadby, last winter up on the Macc a few times. They of course didn’t recognise us as we are no longer yellow. At first Pat thought we’d had Lillian repainted, but then the penny dropped that we were on a new boat. A quick chat and introduction before we were on our way again up to the junction.

P1140630smHere is very familiar territory to us. The junction was quite quiet for a change. There was a boat treading water in front of Kings Lock who moved out of the way for Oleanna to come past, it turned out that it was Pablo who had been the caretaker at Bugsworth Basin last Christmas when we were there. It being a sunny afternoon there were plenty of people watching at the lock with pints in hand and the queue at the Fish and Chip shop had already started even though they weren’t open yet.

P1140638smP1140639smThis next stretch is the one that we did most on our shareboat just after picking her up from Elton Moss. All very familiar, but something was missing. The swans! There used to be a huge mass of them in this next pound, a fence was erected to keep them off the road, but today not one! Well there was just one a short while further along. The Thai Restaurant at Rumps Lock is actually open now. The building was having scaffolding removed. Over the years we’ve seen most of the building reroofed and have various makeovers, reviews seem to be good for the food, I wonder if any boaters have eaten there?

P1140665smP1140674smOn up past the new housing estates to Nice Lock. Lock 67 was more often than not our first (and last, nasty!) lock on picking NB Winding Down up from base. So it was time to introduce Oleanna to a lock. They seemed to get on well.

P1140682smP1140692smIt was now getting late and did we want to risk reaching Wheelock and there be no room. The towpath opposite the old Carefree Cruising base  is being upgraded and is closed, so we decided to push on further. The moorings all look rather sad on the off side and a static caravan sits where the office used to be. At the end of ‘Arties backyard’ now stands his new house/mansion, with circular lawn and upright swimming pool. All very smart, just let down by the overgrown surroundings.

We pulled in a bit of the way after the railway bridges and the line of mooring rings. We’ll sit the rain out in the morning before starting to make our way up the locks.

P1140702smDSCF7114sm9 locks, 6.9 miles, 1 straight on, 1 last broad lock this year, 0 apples, 21th, 2 boxes wine, 1 blue boat, 1 caretaker, Lock 67! 2 introductions, 1 mansion, 7m circular lawn, 1 sad old base, 1 wild mooring, 4th sock started.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Into Deep Water, Or Not. 27th September

Marston Bridge to Tilly Bramble Cuttings

P1140514smAs we passed the chemical works this morning it seemed as though they were dismantling parts of it. A large crane was waiting patiently for the next section and a large gap had been cut through the pipe filled structure. Last time when we passed there were chaps painting one of the pipe bridges and there was still plenty of steam rising, so it is still operational.

P1140525smAt one of the flashes work was continuing on building a new marina. Pile driving for pontoons was happening and there was the start to a building. It seems to be a one person development, so no wonder progress is slow. In years to come this section of the T & M will change, with HS2 and a new marina. We’re glad to have known it as it was and enjoyed mooring over looking the expanse of water that will, eventually, be filled with boats listening to the high speed trains.

P1140534smUp ahead we could see a boat that seemed to be having some trouble in the wind. He had plenty of revs on, but was making very slow progress. Maybe something round his prop. At the next flash Mick put his foot down and passed with ease, dawdling in the wind at tick over was proving tricksy. The chap said his boat had a poorly engine but didn’t need any assistance, really hope they aren’t heading far as it’s going to cost them a fortune in diesel!

P1140541smUnder Bridge 177, Murder Bridge, and around a few twists. There was Bramble Cuttings, two boats were moored up leaving a space for Oleanna in the middle. We pulled in and looked upwards. Three trees overhang this mooring, an Ash (no problem), an Apple (tasty) and an Oak (full to the brim with acorns!). I’ve not really noticed the amount of Oak trees on the northern part of the T & M before, but at this time of year they remind you of their existence. Cruising along we’ve had acorns plopping into the cut all around us. At the stop lock you couldn’t help but crunch them under foot. Here they will be dropping on our roof.

P1140551smP1140563smWe filled the afternoon quite happily. Tilly was in heaven, plenty of trees to claim, friendly cover and holes to put her arms down. I collected some kindling to dry out before returning to some knitting and Mick decided to have a go at clearing the bow thruster.

P1140557smNow that we are moored port side in, it is easier to reach the prop of the bow thruster as it is off centre in the tube. Mick lay on his back to undo the nuts that hold the grill in place, looking like he had a problem. His tongue was working very hard! How he wished we had a weed hatch for the bow thruster. With one nut undone and the other partly undone he could move the grill out of the way to gain access to the tube. Using the prop mate he couldn’t feel anything around the prop, getting closer would help. Time for the waders!

P1140568smP1140571smP1140573smNow I did ask if he’d like assistance with them, I could see a life jacket moment coming, with twisted straps, but he said he was okay. They did look odd, then I realised that he’d got the strap that stop the braces from slipping down your shoulders at the front instead of the back. He checked the depth of water, really quite deep, sat on the edge, but then stopped. If he got in would he ever get back out again? Would he have to walk to find somewhere shallower to be able to climb out? Would the depth of water mean that as he leant over to access the tube that the waders would fill up with water? All these questions, only one solution, that was not to bother today. Maybe we should head back to the Lancaster where the depth of water wouldn’t be a problem at all.

P1140518smP1140520smBy late afternoon it started to rain, we lit the stove and spent the evening listening to the pitter patter of rain on the roof along with Donk, Donk! DONK! from the acorns!

DSCF7114sm0 locks, 5.99 miles, 1 driven pile, 1 slow boat, 0 woofers at the cutting, 1st pair of socks, 5 hours, 79 trees climbed, 32 holes explored, 1 bow thruster hole unsuccessfully explored, 1 pair waders, 2 nuts, 75537499 acorns on the roof!

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

No Key Under The Mat. 26th September

Shhhhhh! to Marston Bridge, Trent and Mersey


Slowly and quietly we inched our way past the Science Park hoping that we hadn’t caught their attention too much over night. The milk bar looked like they were serving chocolate and strawberry flavour this morning, but we weren’t too sure as it was secret!

As there wasn’t quite enough time to reach Preston Brook Tunnel for the next passage southwards we pulled in at Midland Chandlers. All we wanted was a new pump out key, but it took quite a while for us to find one. The key does a lot more than open up a pump out tank, which we don’t have. This will open the diesel filler cap, the cap to our yellow water tank and fresh water tank. The one we had has got warn over the last three years and was starting to be awkward when opening the diesel cap. With a new one in hand we were off again.


Three boats came towards us as we got near the northern portal, there’s only a ten minute window to enter the tunnel in each direction each hour. The last boat to come past us was NB Tuksumgetin that we’d come out from Liverpool with in May 2012. They wouldn’t recognise us as we were on our share boat back then and without their boat we wouldn’t have known them either. So we just smiled and said hello. With a minute left till our window of entry we carried on into the tunnel, you can see through it and it was clear.

P1140455smP1140461smAs we were nearing the southern end we could hear an engine behind us, a boat had sneaked in a few minutes late. But as the passage only took 15 minutes they were clear just in time for the waiting boats. The stop lock was overflowing as always, with only about two inches height difference it just doesn’t seem worth having anymore. On we pootled now away from the ticking clock of the Bridgewater Canal and back on C&RT waters. We heard the other day that NB Blackbird had done the whole of the Bridgewater within 24 hours (including sleeping time). The day after they left us they did from Astley Green to Lion Salt Works in a 12.5 hour cruise, we reckon 33 miles. They were on a mission, wonder if they were even recorded as being on the Bridgewater?

P1140465smA brief pause at Dutton breach site for lunch and we were off again.

P1140468smP1140471smAlong a stretch of permanent moorings we came across a flotilla of canoes and ribs. They all moved over to the sides where they could and we passed by as slowly as we could. Five canoes and four ribs, one of which had a camera crew on board. Turns out that they were doing the Great Canoe Challenge in aid of Stand UpTo Cancer. Over five days they are paddling from Chester to Liverpool. They all seemed in good spirits with quite a distance to go. Wonder if they got to go through Preston Brook Tunnel?

P1140472smA large section of towpath was closed ahead. Soon we could see why. The large concrete edging seems to have been undermined in areas and is falling into the canal. Two chaps were busy drilling holes and gluing large hoops into each section. They told us that these were so that each section could be lifted. Will they be replaced with armco, or just made stable? We’ll see the next time we pass.

P1140497smNext came Saltersford Tunnel where the entry is timed again. We arrived bang on so could go straight in. There is no chance of seeing through this tunnel as it twists around so much. Then after a brief bit of grey sunlight we approached the entrance to Barnton Tunnel. This one also has a kink in the middle, but standing on the bow you get a brief glimpse through. I could hear an engine before I could see through, with no tunnel light showing we followed what sounded like an old work boat. As we had reached about 2/3s of the way I could hear another engine, then a tunnel light. Hang on! Mick beeped the horn and we could hear reverse gear had been engaged along with a lady saying ‘I thought I could see a boat’! They reversed out of the way and let us through.

Around the top of the Anderton Boat lift was almost empty, but the work boat we’d followed was just finishing winding and about to turn into the lift to go down onto the Weaver. We carried on, pausing to drop off our mountain of rubbish at the services. We were glad we didn’t want water as there was a lady sitting knitting in her boat at the end of the mooring and a hire boat at the other end, who was filling up. No space for us. As we pulled away the hire boat followed, maybe a little bit too closely! A gap showed itself before the Lion Salt Works so we pulled over just as a boat went past. The hire boat slammed on his reverse and somehow managed to avoid hitting either boat. Maybe he won’t sit quite so closely to someone's stern again.

21768306_1547616855296879_4385078212034620416_n21768482_1965094443517397_6820603515440555379_nMy bags arrived in Hebden Bridge today, had their photos taken and are now on sale. Here’s link a to Julia’s Etsy shop gatheredfoundmade if you fancy one for a Christmas present.

P1140503smP1140499smTilly was allowed out, it took a few minutes for her to find a gap under the wooden fencing to be able to reach the trees behind. Then she was gone. An hour and a half passed, we were due to meet people at the pub at 6. Still no cat. Mick went ahead to see if Andy and Nichola wanted to come back to the boat for a drink. Still no Tilly. Mick returned, he’d wait for Tilly and I could go to the pub as we were moored too far away for Nichola to walk. This would be unfair, so we took a deep breath and made the decision to lock up, leaving one of the outer doors open should Tilly return. Hopefully she would.

We had a couple of hours catching up with Andy and Nichola from NB On The Fiddle sat outside the Salt Barge with their dogs. As soon as it got dark though we called it a day and returned to Oleanna.

So I was busy right! Far too much to do behind that wooden fence for just an hour and a half. After two hours I knew it was Ding Ding time, my tummy was telling me so. Jumping back onto the boat I waited for the back doors to open, I gave the ‘open sesame’ meow, then I waited , and I waited, and I waited. NOBODY WAS IN!!!!! How dare they go off. No key under the mat either! All I could do was go and see if I could fill my tummy elsewhere. This wasn’t very successful, my friends had all gone to bed. After another couple of hours I gave up and decided to give the doors another try. Tom was there about to check the ropes! Thank goodness.

DSCF7114sm1 lock, 11.08 miles, 3 tunnels, 6 mysterons, 5 canoes, 5 celebs, 2 cameras, 100 hours longer to do same trip as Blackbird, 2 hours, 4 hours extra unwanted, 0 key, 2 crew who don’t care! 3.5 pints, 1 awol cat, 2 nervous boaters, 2 relieved boaters, 1 sulking Tilly.