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.
As 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?
Along 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?
A 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.
Next 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.
My 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.
Tilly 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.
1 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.