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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 – day 43

Posted by indigodream on 26 January, 2015

Saturday 4th October

Northwich (River Weaver) to Saltersford Lock (via Vale Royal and Acton Bridge!)

I said we had a drama in the morning….

Soulmates Herbie and Alfie spent most of the weekend on the sofa; as for the rest of this photo? I should start a caption competition :-)

Soulmates Herbie and Alfie spent most of the weekend on the sofa; as for the rest of this photo? I should start a caption competition :-)

The boat was woken at 7am by Steve shouting “Arun’s in the river”. He’d taken her out for a morning walk and she had absentmindedly strolled off the path into the water between Indigo Dream’s bow and the boat in front (quite a drop). Luckily, Arun is very light, and Steve has long arms, so by the time we’d mobilised to help, he’d managed to get her out. Being a spaniel, she was unperturbed by her dunking, and Steve’s greatest fear had been that she would enjoy her swim too much and head over to the far bank.

We had dog towels to spare, so Steve dried her off and we settled back to bed – except that the boat was suddenly filled with the smell of petrol! Cue panic check of the diesel tank, but the smell was emanating from Arun! The Weaver is a clean flowing river, so how on earth did Arun manage to fall in at the exact place where a boat had dropped (hopefully accidentally) a tin of gooey yellow resin??

Apart from the overpowering smell, we couldn’t leave Arun, with her dodgy liver, covered in a potentially toxic petrochemical, so cue an extensive showering session. Although this removed an acceptable amount of goo, the stuff was horribly tenacious and poor Arun needed another super-bath later on with a “Sue Special” degreasing formulation – always handy to have a pharmacist on board :-)

Steve and Alfie on the helm - Steve is a natural so we were able to relax and leave him there for most of the day :-)

Steve and Alfie on the helm – Steve is a natural so we were able to relax and leave him there for most of the day :-)

We did manage a moderate lie-in after all this commotion – it was raining and there was no particular rush as the Vale Royal lock wouldn’t be open until late morning. We were able to enjoy a very leisurely breakfast and eventually set off after the worst of the rain had passed.

The Weaver was precisely as lovely as I remembered – we cruised through Vale Royal lock and went all the way up to the flash at the end, venturing as far as we dared into the shallows before turning back downstream.

We’d had a vague ambition to get as far as Weston, but once again we were scuppered by the early lock closures. We got through Saltersford lock, but we realised that we wouldn’t make it through the next – what a shame. We went down to Acton anyway, as the giant swing bridge is well worth seeing. We were amazed by the amount of traffic on the river – we hadn’t realised that there was a steam boat rally at Acton. Luckily the rally included fuel boat Alton who we know from many years back – we like to support boating businesses so we filled up with diesel at a reasonable 85p/litre.

We stopped at the Riverside Inn for a quick drink and to scout it out as a potential overnight mooring spot. The pub was not dog-friendly so we sat outside with the hounds – they were soon wrapped in blankets as the afternoon turned more autumnal. The pub mooring is fenced from the road but it wasn’t a good place for the dogs – the landing was a bit too narrow for comfort; we also had a lot of very fine food on board! In the end, we moved up to the visitor moorings just below Saltersford Lock, as recommended by the lock-keeper earlier.

It was a quiet and idyllic spot. Steve used the early finish time to de-grease Arun – the yellow resin was intractable and it took an age to get her clean; I ended up throwing away the towels that we used to clean her – horrible stuff :-(

In the meantime, I cooked dinner – always a pleasure, especially then the galley window offered a view of  a stunning sunset followed by a starry black sky of the sort you rarely see in the populous South East. There’s something very snuggly about sitting on board with the heating going, good company, good food and fine wine – we had a merry evening :-)

Note: we were so busy enjoying the cruising and company we hardly took any photos – d’oh!

 

 

 

 

 

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 – day 42

Posted by indigodream on 11 January, 2015

Rewind to Thursday 2nd October

Today was all about logistics:

First Richard took the day off and went up to Middlewich to get Indigo Dream from the boatyard. She’s had an exciting time as first Neil Coventry worked his usual magic on the engine and then Indigo Dream has  been flashing her bottom! The engineers pulled her out onto the slipway to re-set the prop and better investigate the Vetus stern gland. It was a bit scary because they found that the original hadn’t been installed properly and the shortcomings of the original installation were now showing! It says a lot for the robust design that it’s lasted eight busy cruising years, including many many tideway adventures. The boatyard fitted a new vetus stern gland, properly this time!

After sorting out the bill (reasonable), Richard single-handed the boat down to the moorings above Big Lock, where we were due to congregate later in the day.

Our human guests this weekend were our favourite vet, Steve, wife Helen and youngest son Alfie – they cruised the London Ring with us last year and are tremendously good company.

Our canine crew were Ollie, Herbie and Steve’s ancient spaniel, Arun. Ty was going to spend the weekend with Simon (nb Tortoise) and Carrie (nb Blackbird) who offered to be his refuge.

Simon and Carrie have a shore base in Brentford so how’s this for logistics – Richard drove up to the boat with all the boat stuff (big bag of washed towels, human and hound bedding); then after work (could not take the day off), I dropped Ollie and Herbie off with Steve, he would drive them up to the boat. Then I drove Ty up to Brentford before taking the car to Watford Junction station and catching the train up to Crewe. Phew! Steve and family got to the boat around 11pm and I turned up at 1am! But it was all worth it as we had cars and people all in the right place and left us ready for a long-weekend of fabulous cruising….

Rewind to Friday 3rd October

Middlewich to Northwich (River Weaver)

Herbie and Alfie were soulmates - neither left thier duvets without a great deal of persuasion :-)

Herbie and Alfie were soulmates – neither left their duvets without a great deal of persuasion :-)

We had a most relaxed start to the day, luxuriating in the fact that we’d done all our commuting yesterday. Steve is an early riser, as is Arun, but the rest of us loafed around. Alfie continued his greyhound studies – with his natural teenage talent, and Herbie’s expert tuition, he’s turning into an accomplished bed/sofa monster with a great affinity for snoozing!

We eventually mooched down towards Big Lock, where Steve grabbed the last of  their supplies and on we went – this was the only lock of the day so we were soon relaxing with coffee, pastries and good conversation. Now, when we’re with greyhound people, we talk greyhounds; when we’re with boaters, we talk toilets; but Steve and family are very well-read so we talked about everything else! One of their four sons is studying philosophy, so reasoned argument and challenge is obviously the norm in their household; so it became on Indigo Dream :-)

We whiled away the rest of the morning, enjoying the balmy weather, the scenery and the company. Poor Arun the spaniel is very ancient and is on her last legs as she has an intractable liver condition. However, she really enjoyed cruising and although she’s desperately thin, she was in very good spirits and is not in pain.

Arun thought that the sheepskins might be a tool for her to work on her retrieving skills; Herbie soon put her straight - "relax" he said "and whateverr you do, don't lie on the concrete - we have standards!"

Arun thought that the sheepskins might be a tool for her to work on her retrieving skills; Herbie soon put her straight – “relax” he said “and whatever you do, don’t lie on the concrete – we have standards to maintain!”

Unusually for us, we hadn’t stocked the boat up with food, though I could have rustled up a lunch, However, we happened to be passing the “Old Broken Cross” at a suitable time so we moored up and went to the pub. The Old Broken Cross is dog friendly and really cosy inside, but it was such a lovely day we decided to sit outside. The hounds were getting on really well and Arun was a bit gobsmacked by the luxurious life of the greyhound, with comfy sheepies and special orders of sausages. Arun is a working gundog and normally eschews the softness of the house, but she soon got the hang of it!

We had a good lunch – plain pub grub but well done…

We dragged ourselves away – we had booked a passage down the Anderton boat lift at 4pm, and although we weren’t far away, we may have been a bit too relaxed so far….

The stretch leading up to Anderton is quite amazing and is rapidly climbing up my canal league table – the flashes are quite unique and the salt works, ancient and modern, give the landscape real purpose.

When we got to Anderton, there was a hire boat waiting to go down. We moored up and Richard went to check the timing of our passage down to the Weaver. There had been some muddle so we had a bit of a wait – time for me to have a bimble with the hounds and for our guests to browse through the visitor centre. When our time came I had a real d’oh moment – I’d released the centre rope (we didn’t moor up properly as it was only a short wait) and set off. The boat suddenly lurched violently – I hadn’t realised that she’d been securely tied at the stern. I overheard some tart comments from the boatlift staff about “women drivers” but managed to redeem myself with a perfectly-placed, neatly controlled entry and mooring in the lift’s caisson. We were joined by the hire boat and down we went. Because it was the last passage of the day, the other caisson didn’t come up as we descended – apparently they leave both caissons down overnight so that the hydraulic gear is not accessible to vandals :-(

Ollie and Herbie are old hands at this pub business :-)

Ollie and Herbie are old hands at this pub business :-)

We had a big decision to make now – upstream to Vale Royal or downstream to Weston – we didn’t think we’d have enough time to do both, especially with the manned locks now on winter opening, which meant no passage after 4pm.

We decided to head upstream to Northwich initially – we’d top up with supplies at the local supermarket, have a bimble round town and find a pub.

We moored on the left just beyond town bridge, the lock opening hours having forced us to stop a lot earlier than we normally would. However, this gave the menfolk time to explore the Waitrose opposite and for the rest of us to relax with the hounds.

Later on, we decided to explore the eateries of Northwich – there are surprisingly few, far fewer than I remembered from previous visits in fact! There were lots of attractive cafes, now closed, but pubs seemed few and far between. Luckily we’d left the dogs on board, we struggled to find a pub for ourselves, let alone for the hounds! In the end we settled on a huge Weatherspoons – the Penny Black (not dog friendly) which had reasonable beer and good pub grub.

After a good dinner we bimbled back to the boat and gave the hounds a last walk – we had a quiet night, just as well, because we had quite a drama to come in the morning…

Today’s Trivia:

As we cruised through Marston, we could see a large and distinctive tower in the distance. I did some preliminary research on the boat but didn’t get anywhere. So I made that my project for when I caught up with the blog. I spent some time looking at maps and photos and I think it was the tower of St Mary and All Saint’s church in Great Budworth. The tower certainly makes its presence felt, so maybe it’s not surprising that the Church is a Grade 1 listed building. It is an old church, the oldest parts date back to the 14th century; the newer parts were build in the 15th and 16th centuries.

The church is one of many listed buildings in the village. Great Budworth itself sounds like a very active community which takes great pride in its heritage – this is another village that was mentioned in the Doomsday Book.

Indigo Dream will be spending the winter in Cheshire, so I think we’ll put this village on our “must visit” list – I was worried that it might not have a pub, but it does – the George and Dragon - which serves food AND is dog friendly. We will have to make sure that Henry Beanz is with us so that the pub can be properly reviewed.

 

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 – day 41

Posted by indigodream on 6 January, 2015

Rewind to Saturday 13th September

Middlewich Branch to King’s Lock Chandlers

Beddy cuddles - only Ollie and Archie get onto the bed - Henry's quite happy in the back cabin...

Beddy cuddles – only Ollie and Archie get onto the bed – Henry’s quite happy in the back cabin…

This had to be the shortest cruise ever!

We left our moorings late-morning and dropped down the one lock to Kings Lock boatyard, having watched a succession of early morning boats coming up into the branch. It was quiet by the time we got down – a big advantage as we needed to turn round and manoeuvre into a brested mooring at the boatyard. After consulting with the staff, we moored 3 boats out just under the Kings Lock. We were subject to the vagaries of the flow from the lock, but Indigo Dream wouldn’t be there for long – the yard would be moving her round in order to get the work done.

Richard went off to get the car while I packed the last bits and pieces. He was able to bring the car into the yard’s car park, making it very convenient for loading. We were soon packed and ready to load the hounds – they were only to pleased to get in the car – they were worn out after their busy holiday.

The hounds enjoyed the long car ride home - they finally got some proper snoozing time :-)

The hounds enjoyed the long car ride home – they finally got some proper snoozing time :-)

By early afternoon we were ready for the long drive home. It had been a great fortnight’s cruising but the next few weekends would be spent at home. While Indigo Dream was in for some essential maintenance, Ollie would need some attention too. After much discussion with the vet over the last 18 months or so, we finally decided to have Ollie’s badly infected canine tooth removed. As well as being stinky, it was starting to affect his general health. However it is a big operation with potential complications, so he’d need some down-time to recover.

Note: Ollie’s operation went really well and he’s so much better in himself that I regret not having the tooth removed a year ago. Better late than never – getting rid of a source of pain/infection seems to have given the old boy a new lease of life :-)

The trouble with beddy cuddes is that Ollie and Archie sometimes miss the essentail ingredient - leaving room for a human who can administer the cuddles!

The trouble with beddy cuddes is that Ollie and Archie sometimes miss the essentail ingredient – leaving room for a human who can administer the cuddles!

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 – day 40

Posted by indigodream on 30 December, 2014

Rewind to Friday 12th September

Middlewich (Big Lock) to Middlewich Branch Bridge 30/31

The Big Lock pub - we and the hounds ahve always had a great welcome here :-)

The Big Lock pub – we and the hounds have always had a great welcome here :-)

There was a bit of an “end of the holiday” feel to today’s cruising, but while it was our last full day of cruising for a little while, the Odyssey wasn’t quite over….

We had a smooth passage up Big Lock then up the three deep and narrow locks that mark the start of the Cheshire Locks, nicknamed, with some accuracy, “Heartbreak Hill”. We passed along the top locks of heartbreak hill on our first ever narrowboating adventure on a hire boat; I wouldn’t drive the boat then, so I ended up doing all the onshore grunt work. I recall being so tired at the end of the day that I needed both hands to lift my pint. Ah, happy memories of the trip that sparked our narrowboat obsession! :-)

Back to the present, once we were past the locks, we had to negotiate the busy passage past Middlewich Narrowboats – just beyond lock 72. This spot has always vexed me as the canal is narrowed by permanent moorings and hire boat moorings; then there’s the manoeuvres of the hire base staff as they move the boats around. It was characteristically busy, and although I’m now experienced enough to move Indigo Dream in tight situations, I don’t have to like it! I’m torn, I want to support boatyards, because making money out of canalside businesses can’t be easy, but impinging on the navigation in order to do it has never seemed right.

Our first stop of the day was Kings Lock boatyard – we’d booked Indigo Dream in there for some maintenance as we knew that we were having a few boating-free weeks.

Our job list was a bit extensive but the priorities were:

  • get our webasto services as Kings Lock is a recognised service place
  • get our vetus stern bearing checked – it’s been leaking ever so slightly for a while and Richard was using increasing amount of grease to keep it dry. Kings Lock also have a certified vetus engineer.
  • get our engine serviced while we’re in the territory covered by Neil Coventry, who fitted our engine – we reckon that he does a superior service and he knows our boat, which we think makes a difference.
There are some lovely views here - this phot doesn't really do them justice...

There are some lovely views here – this photo doesn’t really do them justice…

There were many more miscellaneous jobs, mainly to do with working out where the water in our cabin bilge is coming from. It’s been a problem for months and although we have a few suspected leaks, nothing quite explains the amount of water that’s coming into the cabin bilge. We need to have a section of the cabin floor replaced at some point (it has a temporary patch at the moment), but we figured that there wouldn’t be time for that before we needed the boat again on 2nd October.

With our maintenance list sorted, we headed off to our next appointment, this time with Andy Russell, who did Indigo Dream’s much admired artwork. He has such a good reputation that we’ve decided to ask him to repaint Indigo Dream in her entirety (and re-do the artwork). The trouble with having a good reputation is that everyone wants you – Andy Russell’s next available paint slot is in Spring 2016! We’ve booked an Autumn 2016 slot so that paint has a good few months to cure before being challenged by the rigours of our summer cruising.

We set off for Aqueduct Marina, where we knew Andy was working today. The Middlewich Branch is undeniably beautiful, but it’s not my favourite waterway.

Oops!

Oops!

I had a bit of a to-do when I saw a big truck, then a tractor going over a narrow canal bridge ahead. I hear a horn tooting and assumed it was from the traffic; the road was quite busy so I heard a horn again and thought nothing of it. What I hadn’t realised was that the horn was from a short narrowboat coming out from under the bridge and he was just in my blind spot – oops. There followed some frantic dodging but the boats passed each other with room to spare and neither of us visited the trees or the towpath. I apologised profusely but the man on the helm had obviously had a fright and made some uncomplimentary remarks – oh dear!

It was a much longer cruise to Aqueduct Marina than we expected so our plan of having a short day’s cruise then heading for home became unrealistic. Never mind, it was a nice enough day, though more overcast and not quite as warm as previous days. Because we weren’t in a rush to get anywhere, we took some time to have a pump-out at Aqueduct Marina. We also had a chat with them about winter moorings, as it’s a pleasant spot with several miles of lock-free winter cruising available.  Sadly they were already fully booked, which gave us pause for thought – definitely time for us to make a decision on our winter plans….

When we finished in the marina, we headed back to Middlewich. We’d planned to moor just above Kings Lock Boatyard (for easy dog access), then move her over to the yard in the morning. On the way back, we came to a quiet lock with a deserted towpath. There was a hire boat coming up so Richard took the hounds off for a bimble while I waited at the lock moorings. Richard got chatting to the hirers and the hounds went off for a rummage…….and an illicit race with a young retriever that was just out of sight below the lock. The next minute, the retriever’s owner was shouting at Richard that “one of your dogs is in the canal” – Archie Beanz had taken a dive! Richard went down to retrieve Archie from the water – he had a few little scrapes from trying to scramble out (unsuccessfully)  over the hard edge but was otherwise unhurt.

Three greyhounds athe the Three Greyhounds - perfect :-)

Three greyhounds at The Three Greyhounds – perfect :-)

Although the visitor moorings on the branch were pretty busy, we found a mooring quite close to Wardle Lock. Richard found some convenient street parking nearby – very handy for packing some of the more bulky items into the roof box.

We wanted to finish our holiday with a special meal. We had a desultory wander around Middlewich but didn’t see anywhere we fancied, so Richard suggested a place that he’d seen during yesterday’s car shuffle. We needed to car to get there and Richard wouldn’t tell me the pub’s name – mysterious!

I was delighted when we arrived at “the Three Greyhounds” pub – perfect!

The Three Greyhounds pub is dog friendly, but it was quite busy inside so we sat outside on their covered terrace, which was just about snug enough with the outdoor heaters on. There was great excitement in the pub – this was the first time that the Three Greyhounds had ever been graced by three greyhounds! The staff made a fuss of the hounds and took photos – sadly the hounds were far too tired to pose so their photos haven’t appeared on the pub’s website. :-)

As well as being perfect for our canine pack, the pub also does truly magnificent food and, despite the gourmet menu, the chef was happy to do some sausages for the hounds (splendid sausages I should add). An evening at a hound-perfect pub was a good antidote to a slightly lacklustre day and was a fine finish to our holiday.

Photoblog:

Three musketeers :-)

Three musketeers :-)

Low flying helicopter - wonder where he's off to?

Low flying helicopter – wonder where he’s off to?

The three greyhounds at the  greyhounds pub - they were very comfy and didn't welcome their celebrity status!

The three greyhounds at the greyhounds pub – they were very comfy and didn’t welcome their celebrity status!

The red carpet treatment :-)

The red carpet treatment :-)

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 – day 39

Posted by indigodream on 1 December, 2014

Rewind to Thursday 11th September

Stockton Heath to Middlewich (Big Lock)

Plenty of room!

Plenty of room!

We had a quiet night on board, though it was noticeable that Poppy and Pluto are much earlier risers than the greyhounds, who favour long lie-ins…

It was yet another lovely day and this is a great bit of canal. I had fond memories of the views down to the River Weaver and was delighted that they were as stunning as ever.

We had to wait for our “windows” at the various tunnels, giving the five hounds a great opportunity for zoomies on the deserted towpaths. In the meantime, we foraged for some late autumn fruit. The towpaths had already been picked over by the looks of things, but we found a handful of blackberries and, later on, found an offside pear tree which was laden with fruit (and no, it wasn’t in someone’s garden!).  Much later on, we found a damson tree – most of the damsons were long gone by now, but we got a few handfuls of super-ripe plums. We shook the tree to get the highest fruit down and ended up showering the back deck with plums – the hounds were NOT impressed!

Though maybe we could do with a bigger deckchair :-)

Though maybe we could do with a bigger deckchair :-)

The five hounds were so good together, though Poppy was a bit nervy and snapped at Archie a few times when the deck got crowded. Archie was very good and didn’t respond – well, he was very tired and might not have noticed!

I love this stretch of the Trent and Mersey – it’s largely quiet and beautiful, but then you have a great slab of canal architecture at the Anderton Boat Lift and the steaming industry of the Northwich salt works.

The boys left us at Northwich – Richard and Ken got a cab and headed off to Congleton for the car. The plan was for them to pick up Richard’s car then head off to Stockton Heath for Ken’s car then we’d meet up in Middlewich. Sue and I had a lovely trip through the flashes (stopping for damsons on the way). It seemed to take an age to get to Middlewich, and we moored up below Big Lock just as darkness fell. Not long after, the men arrived – but with only one car! Ken had forgotten his car keys, making us glad of our pre-car shuffle ritual – “have you got your car keys? Are you sure?” and the patting of the pockets for the keys!

Snug in the snug at the Big Lock pub in Middlewich - it's one of our favourites :-)

Snug in the snug at the Big Lock pub in Middlewich – it’s one of our favourites :-)

Although Ken and Sue had a substantial drive home, they were able to stay for supper at the Big Lock pub. We took all five dogs with us and found a lovely space tucked away in the snug. The dogs were exhausted, so they just settled onto their sheepies and fell asleep! The staff gave them a lovely welcome, but sadly the chef couldn’t give us any sausages. To round the evening off, it was quiz night! Oh dear, our knowledge of TV and celebrities is sadly lacking though, in all fairness, we didn’t come last and we won a bag of wine gums!

It was late by the time we left the pub and we still had a final car shuffle to do. Richard drove Ken, Sue and the two dogs back to Stockton Heath, while I took the hounds back to the boat.

We’d packed a lot into the day – old friends, lots of dogs, a lovely canal, foraging, good food and a pub quiz – fantastic!

Photoblog:

Lots of dog photos today :-)

Guest hounds? bovvered? Archie was far too tired to worry about exerting his authority :-)

Guest hounds? bovvered? Archie was far too tired to worry about exerting his authority :-)

Poppy wasn't sure about boating, but she did settle...

Poppy wasn’t sure about boating, but she did settle…

A promising news member of the Olympic Looking team..

A promising news member of the Olympic Looking team..

Poppy showed some promise too :-)

Poppy showed some promise too :-)

Poppy excelled at the Olympic Looking freestyle event :-)

Poppy excelled at the Olympic Looking freestyle event :-)

Oh Pluto, the track under the greyhounds only really works for spaniels....

Oh Pluto, the track under the greyhounds only really works for spaniels….

There are three almost identical photos coming up - I thnk this one is my favourite but they all have something...

There are three almost identical photos coming up – I think this one is my favourite but they all have something…

Second view...

Second view…

Third view....

Third view….

Picking pears - there was a huge crop but we left plenty behind for other boater. Mine have been made into a pear and elderberry jam...

Picking pears – there was a huge crop but we left plenty behind for other boaters. Mine have been made into a pear and elderberry jam…

 

 

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 – day 38

Posted by indigodream on 27 November, 2014

Rewind to Wednesday 10th September

Sale to Stockton Heath

We decided to give the boat a good clean while we moored up in Sale - the dogs beds ended up on deck - nice :-)

We decided to give the boat a good clean while we moored up in Sale – the dogs beds ended up on deck – nice :-)

We had a quiet night on the Sale moorings and were up reasonably early. We weren’t in a hurry so we started the day with an aimless wander around Sale town centre. The town has a useful high street with all the shops you could want, including a decent butcher’s shop. It does feel a little down-at-heel, but it was a nice morning and we enjoyed our window shopping.

We took the hounds with us and the people of Sale admired them properly. A bit too much in the case of one man, who was a little detached from reality. He had a kind heart and an interesting story to tell – he had a family connection with the RSPCA and has been involved in dog rescue. He now has dogs of his own (whom he’d left at home), one of whom he’d rescued from terrible abuse. He gave the greyhounds a fuss (fine), but then we had to ask him to stop – he just went too far and was trying to put his glasses on Archie’s nose and then tried to check Ollie’s teeth – too much!

Mooching around Sale...

Mooching around Sale…

I topped up on our boat supplies in the town’s Sainsbury’s, but I was spoilt for choice – there are at least three supermarkets in Sale town centre!

After our bimble, we went back to boat, had lunch and generally pottered around for a bit. We had guests joining us later and by now the boat was looking a bit lived in!

We eventually left Sale at 2pm, and enjoyed the afternoon’s cruise as the canal became increasingly rural. The stretch by the River Bollin aqueduct has lovely views over to a fine mill building and would be a perfect mooring for hounds. In fact, there were several hound-perfect moorings between Sale and Stockton Heath, with some lovely views. Of course, being such attractive moorings, it’s hardly surprising that other boaters/landowners liked them too, so we had a very slow passage past miles of online moorings around Lymm.

After last night’s chill, the afternoon was glorious – the sun was hot, but the minute we passed into shade the chill was back – I guess that’s the difference between a warm day in summer and one in autumn!

Look carefully - Archie's protecting our diesel from thieves....

Look carefully – Archie’s protecting our diesel from thieves….

Our target for the day was Stockton Heath – we were meeting up with old friends Ken and Sue, who last came boating with us when we came cruising northwards in 2009. They have since acquired a dog of their own, Poppy, a nervous little rescue collie cross and Pluto, a substantial golden retriever that belongs to Sue’s son. We moored up just short of Bridge 15, on the towpath side. We couldn’t work out whether there were moorings on the offside outside the pub. We might have been a little bolder if we’d realised that it is a bit of a faff to get up to the road and across to the pub (the London Bridge) from the towpath.

When Ken and Sue were close, we mooched over to the pub so that we could introduce the dogs on neutral territory. The introductions went well, with the two packs largely ignoring each other – this was important as they were staying the night on board!

I believe that the pub is dog-friendly inside, but we chose to sit outside as it was a lovely evening (and we’d have more room). The pub food was good, though I don’t have a note of whether there were sausages – for some reason I think there weren’t (so it won’t be featuring in Henry Beanz’ pub league). We did have some argy bargy with other hounds – just barking – some other people in the pub had let their dogs off lead and they were being annoying, especially the one trying to mount Pluto (not that Pluto was bothered or even noticed!). However Archie Beanz leapt to Pluto’s defence, not that the randy dog cared, they never do!

Historic Grade " listed Linotype Works in Altrincham...

Historic Grade ” listed Linotype Works in Altrincham…

We walked the dogs back to the boat and everyone soon settled down – we had a remarkably quiet night considering that we had four people, four big dogs and one little dog on board :-)

Today’s Trivia

When I came to look through our photos, it was a nice reminder of the imposing Linotype Works in Altrincham. This what I like about the Victorians, they weren’t shy to put names and dates on their buildings – wish they did this now!

I was interested to find that this grand facade was an office building rather than part of the main works. In its time, this was a large site, manufacturing printing machines and employing hundreds of workers. As well as a factory, the site included houses for the workers. It is a Grade 2 listed building because of its “ambitious scale and the richness of its exterior detailing distinguish from many other commercial buildings of the period it from and its clock tower ensures its continued prominence in the landscape.”

Photoblog:

Classic canalscape...

Classic canalscape…

A more modern canalscape

A more modern canalscape

Great views from the aqueduct over the River Bollin...

Great views from the aqueduct over the River Bollin…

Dog -proof decks are a great feature - we've met nb Soddum Hall before - I think teir deck doors are looking more complete now...

Dog -proof decks are a great feature – we’ve met nb Soddum Hall before – I think their deck doors are looking more complete now…

r_ID-0875-10Sep14

 

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 – Day 37

Posted by indigodream on 26 November, 2014

26th November 2011

Before we rewind the blog to a bit of boating we have some sad dog news. We heard this evening that Richard’s sister’s dog, Polo, another Indigo Dreamer, finally succumbed to a brain tumour. He had been one of the great characters of the dog world, one loved by every hound and human that he met….he will be missed. Run free Polo.

Even Lou liked Polo!

Polo with Lou and Lynx, Run free…..

 

 

Rewind to Tuesday 9th September

Manchester (Bridge 2 Ashton Canal) to Sale

The top of the Rochdale 9 - ready to descend into darkness...

The top of the Rochdale 9 – ready to descend into darkness…

Although we had the Rochdale 9 ahead of us, we weren’t in any rush, so while Richard took the Beanz out, I had a nice lie-in with Ollie. We eventually set off late-morning, just as the special brew drinkers were starting to gather at the top of the flight.

We’ve read about how Manchester has embraced its canal – it even goes under buildings, says the blurb. Yeah, that’s right, the city has buried its canal and I found it to be as dismal a stretch as I’ve ever cruised. I love an urban canal, you’d go a long way to beat Birmingham and Liverpool, but much as I tried to like it, I couldn’t wait to get out of Manchester.

But there were 9 notoriously heavy wide locks in front of us – the first two really being buried under buildings and bridges, with the pound in a shadowy culvert inhabited by wretched homeless men and by signs warning that lewd behaviour would be prosecuted – delightful! There has been some attempt to brighten the place up with a  colourful mural, well out of reach of graffiti taggers. I appreciated the sentiment, though maybe some better lighting would have been more helpful.

This is a dispiriting stretch but the mural does add a bit of welcome colour...

This is a dispiriting stretch but the mural does add a bit of welcome colour…

There followed a long pound with no towpath – now that’s a sign that a city has turned its back on a canal – Richard and the hounds were confined on board. I really disliked this bit, despite the fact that the ever-lively Gay Village was happening on the street above our heads.

We flew down the flight, and I felt a bit more charitable when we got to a stretch where the hounds could come off for a supervised bimble. But overall, the Rochdale 9 failed to charm – what a wasted opportunity for the city. Mind you, I’ve been to Mancester on business many, many times and I’ve never liked it, so maybe it just had too a big prejudice to overcome :-p

We didn’t have any difficulties with the locks, or with water levels, and had a smooth passage until we got to the last lock. We just couldn’t get the water levels equalised and, in the end, it took two of us to manhandle the gate open. It did give us the opportunity for some banter with canalside diners and for one woman, who was celebrating her birthday, to admire the hounds – greyhounds are her favourite!

The view from Pomona Lock - can't wait to cruise the Manchester Ship Canal :-)

The view from Pomona Lock – can’t wait to cruise the Manchester Ship Canal :-)

When we got to the bottom of the 9, we were gobsmacked by the sheer range of choices at the junction (Castlefield Junction?). There were no fewer than five little branches and we poked our nose into two wrong-uns before we finally worked out which one had the water point! We filled up, had a late lunch and had a discussion about what to do next. We could have moored in the vicinty of the junction and explored Manchester, but we’d had such a good run down the Rochdale 9 that there was plenty of cruising day left. In the end we decided to press on – a local boater on the waterpoint had advised us that Sale was a good place to moor so that became our new target.

The hounds were a bit disconsolate today, maybe because they were tired, or maybe because there were fewer rummaging opportunities. Nonetheless, they enjoyed a little exploration of Pomona Lock and the long fall down to the Manchester Ship Canal – it’s quite a view. They failed to be impressed by Manchester United’s Stadium :-)

We soon turned onto the Bridgewater canal – more new ground for us, though we have cruised the southern stretch up to Runcorn. It’s famously lock-free and a nice contrast to the big flights that we’ve tackled in the last few days.

All wrapped up - the Kings Retreat in Sale is a nice pub but it was chilly for al fresco dining...

All wrapped up – the Kings Retreat in Sale is a nice pub but it was chilly for al fresco dining…

When we got to Sale, there was one mooring space on the offside rings. We ummed and ahhed for a bit, but we were hailed by widebeam Pukeka, whose friendly welcome persuaded us to moor. We tied up behind them and were soon giving guided tours of each others boats – their boat was sheer luxury (the extra 3′ width makes such a difference)! They were very complimentary about Indigo Dream, which we enjoyed, and they also loved the hounds – can’t go wrong….

One advantage of this mooring is that it is right by the King’s Retreat pub. Dogs are not allowed inside but we just about managed to sit outside, though it was a bit chilly. The food was good pub grub, so that got the seal of approval. It was quiz night – we’d normally join in but it was just too cold (the hounds were curled up in their blankets). I was tempted to stay because there was a little drama being played out at the table next to us. A young man unwisely told his girlfriend that he would marry her if they won the quiz. She took his offer a LOT more seriously than he intended and was checking her connection to Google when we left :-)

Today’s Trivia

The Beetham Hilton Tower is to the left of this photo....

” The Beetham Hilton Tower is to the left of this photo….

There is a very tall tower that soars above Manchester’s skyline. This prompted me to investigate,, and I found out that is it the Beetham Hilton Tower completed in 2006. At 170-ish metres (one report said 169m and the other 171m), it seems to be Manchester’s tallest building. But according to Wikipedia, plans are afoot (but currently on hold) to build a taller tower, though the profile of the planned Piccadilly Tower looks a bit more sturdy.

From what I can gather, construction started in 2004 and was hailed as a wonderful new place to live, with a BBC article quoting a psychologist who believes that ” ….high-rise homes could offer a sense of calm. If you look out your window don’t see anything above you or nearby, that gives you a sense of privacy and security which you don’t have in a conventional flat surrounded by your neighbours.”

 

Photoblog:

The Picadilly culvert is quite errie, but I had my bodygards on deck :-D

The Picadilly culvert is quite eerie, but I had my bodyguards on deck :-D

Unusual paddle gear...

Unusual paddle gear…

The light at the end of the tunnel :-)

The light at the end of the tunnel :-)

Apparently these crude step were fo rhte use of lock crew to bet to/from the street. The new perspect screens now thoroughly separate the cana from the road...

Apparently these crude steps were for the use of lock crew to get to/from the street. The new perspex screens now thoroughly separate the canal from the road…

Bridges...

Bridges…

You can add this to the list of jobs I never want to do!

You can add this to the list of jobs I never want to do!

The hounds enjoyed a bimble along this stretch, though they did startle some passersby when they raced back to the boat...

The hounds enjoyed a bimble along this stretch, though they did startle some passersby when they raced back to the boat…

City view..

City view..

These canalside bars at Deansgate must be buzzing at night..

These canalside bars at Deansgate must be buzzing at night..

There are some elaborate railway bridges in Manchester and, as in many places, the railway is set way above the canal, though I suspect for reasons of spave rather than supremacy here (though I may be wrong!)...

There are some elaborate railway bridges in Manchester and, as in many places, the railway is set way above the canal, though I suspect for reasons of space rather than supremacy here (though I may be wrong!)…

Manchester United - that close to the canal!

Manchester United – that close to the canal!

 

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 – Day 36

Posted by indigodream on 10 November, 2014

Rewind to Monday 8th September

Dunkinfield Junction to Manchester (Bridge 2 Ashton Canal)

Dunkinfield Junction - the Huddersfield Narrow called to us, but not this time, we were bound for new waters on the Ashton Canal..

Dunkinfield Junction – the Huddersfield Narrow called to us, but not this time, we were bound for new waters on the Ashton Canal..

We set off bright and early this morning – the warnings in Nicholsons about the Ashton Locks are quite pronounced “…cruise the Ashton Canal early in the morning and avoid school holidays if possible. Moor only at recognised sites in this area, and do not offer anyone you do not know a ride on your boat. Keep the front doors locked”.

The navigation notes also advise that “passage through locks 1 – 18 should be commenced before 10am”.

Hmmm, despite these direful warnings, we were light of heart as we set out – it was another lovely morning and, as we waited at the top lock, I got talking to a passing dog-walker (our hounds were on board) who was very chatty. My opinion of the area went up proportionally.

When we got to the top lock, there was a boat doing random things in front of us. It was a hire boat, and I hoped that they were winding and that we’d go down the locks first. But they were faffing around and did intend to go down the locks – small sigh! Actually we got into a good rhythm with them and things were as smooth as they could have been but it would have been nicer not to have a boat in front of us all day!

The top of the Ashton flight is surprisingly pleasant, with neat little houses and quite elaborate gardens flanking the canal on one side and high fences flanking the towpath, which was largely deserted. This meant that the hounds could come off for a bimble whenever they fancied.

Some elaborate canaside gardens on the Ashton Canal..

Some elaborate canalside gardens on the Ashton Canal..

The landscape got less attractive as we descended towards Manchester. At Lock 10, there was a penetrating smell of rotten fish – I looked in the canal for the offending corpses, but there weren’t any. As we moved on, the smell became worse and worse – then I realised it was probably coming from the chemical factory flanking the canal (see Today’s Trivia!). I got onto to my Facebook friends later – there are a few scientists among them – I had this nagging recollection that the rotten fish smell was characteristic of a particular chemical. The consensus was that it was an amine of some sort – ah well, it’s better than i-spy while you’re waiting between locks :-)

We were having a good passage down the flight until Lock 8, which marked a 3-lock fiasco involving not enough water and a log-jam of boats as the early starters coming down the flight met the early starters coming up!

There is a long-ish pound between lock 8 and 7. We saw the hire boat go down and the crew of the boat coming up which had lock wheeled up and drained the lock even before the hire boat came down. But there was no sign of the upcoming boat. Richard cycled down – the upcoming boat could barely move in the shallow water and kept running aground. We brought Indigo Dream down the lock, hoping that a lockful of water into the pound might help us and the upcoming boat. I guess it must have done, but only barely. We each managed to move out of the lock jaws and upcoming boat managed to get past, leaving me grounded with Richard on the bank!

Aground! Between locks 8 and 7 - there's no-one at the helm because Richard was on the towpath and I was busy at the boq with the pole...

Aground! Between locks 8 and 7 – there’s no-one at the helm because Richard was on the towpath and I was busy at the bow with the pole…

Luckily,Malcolm our trainer (we’ve thought a lot about him since coming Marple-way!) taught us a few tricks for getting unstuck so I did eventually manage to get her back mid-channel. We then met a hire boat coming up but fortunately they were stopping to pick up crew so I had the mid channel to myself. They told Richard that the pound below was low and that there was no one coming up behind them, ha! There followed a horrible passage down to Lock 7, where the baseplate must have been scrubbed to a shine by encounters with trolleys, nameless tat and the bottom of the canal.

If I thought that passage from lock 8 to 7 was stressful, it was nothing compared to the drama between lock 7 and 6. By contrast, this is a very short pound with barely enough room for two narrowboats. The hire boat had just gone down, the crew obliging cracked a paddle for us and as the lock filled Richard found out that there were boats coming up – except they weren’t – the short pound was nigh on down to mud and the hire boat was stuck halfway across the short pound.

I hardly know where to start the saga of the next hour – it was a bit of a black comedy and I still think that it’s a miracle that Indigo Dream came out unscathed. Richard was not worried.

Right, we (as in all the boats waiting to go down/up) needed to get water into the pound between 7 and 6. But the pound above was hardly full to brimming either, so it seemed to make sense to take Indigo Dream down with a lock-full of water rather than leave her on a drained pound above lock 7. So far so good….

Indigo Dream's rudder - this should be under water!!!!

Indigo Dream’s rudder – this should be under water!!!!

Once we were down, we opened the bottom gates and realised that the pound below was so low that one lock-full of water hardly made a difference – we’d need to run more water down. At this point Indigo Dream was in the lock with the bottom gates open, I asked Richard to shut the bottom gates before flushing water down but he thought if would be ok not to; he got that one wrong! He took the stern rope and tied it round a bollard on the lock edge. He started to flush water down, Indigo Dream shot forward, the rope snapped and I screamed at Richard to drop the paddle. He responded quickly, but it was too late, Indigo Dream was now almost halfway out of the lock. This sadly coincided with the guys on the lock below opening paddles to come up and draining the pound further leaving Indigo Dream perched on the bottom cill with her front half suspended a foot or more in the air above the mud below – not good!

At this point I had a sense of humour failure and with a bit of wriggling, I put Richard on the helm while I went to manage the paddles. By now, the man in the boat stuck in the lock below (let’s call him Mr Nuisance) had come up to see why we weren’t running water down faster. He was a pain in the proverbial, he was trying to bully me into opening the paddles fully, but I refused, and had to be quite assertive about it. Why? Because with Indigo Dream stuck in the lock jaws, there wasn’t enough room for the water to flow past, so it started to bunch up behind the stern. Mr Nuisance was obscuring my view, and by the time he got out of my way, the water had ponded over the first of our stern tunnel markings. We had to go slowly rather than risk swamping our engine bay or washing her over the cill and damaging the prop – sigh!

Water rushing past as we run water down to refloat

Water rushing past as we run water down to refloat

Eventually, we got enough water down to pound below to get Indigo Dream afloat; Richard reversed Indigo Dream back into the lock, we shut the bottom gates and opened all four paddles – with the boat secure we could run water through at top speed. It still took an age, but eventually we got enough water into the short pound to allow the upcoming boat out of lock 6, for the waiting hire boat to get in to lock 6 and for us to get out of lock 7 to wait in the pound. But the drama wasn’t quite over, Mr Nuisance was so anxious about running aground in the short pound, he came right up to the narrows below lock 7 at a sharp angle before we were out and almost T-boned us as we tried to more forward to the passing place – a”£$!

We had been managing 3 locks an hour up to lock 8, then lock 7 and 6 took 70 minutes to get through! I was very stressed by the time we came into Lock 6 and was worried about the rest of the flight, but from then on it was actually fine!

Sadly, with all the to-do at the locks, I missed seeing the old Commonwealth Games site and the sculpture “the B of the bang” – I was disappointed as I’ve always wanted to see it in real life having seen many photos when it was first built. However, I don’t want to see it enough to go back up the Ashton flight!

Zoomies! The hounds were as glad to be free of Lock 7 as we were :-)

Zoomies! It took a while to get through Locks 8  – 6 so the hounds enjoyed a run when we let them out…

We got to the bottom of the Ashton by 3.30pm and stopped for a late lunch. We contemplated going on down the Rochdale 9, but we’d had enough really, so we stopped for the day.

We had some to-ing and fro-ing around Piccadilly, trying to decide where to moor. There are super-secure moorings offside around the gated housing development. It looked appealing enough, but we’d have been trapped as the caretaker was on holiday and his deputy couldn’t give us a guest code for the gate. I’m sure a limited walk would have been fine for the hounds, but it was early enough for us to explore, so we went to the junction with the Rochdale Canal. There were plenty of mooring rings at the junction and some moored boats but we weren’t sure, so we turned back (we later found out that it is regarded as a safe mooring). While we were on the move, we thought we’d fill with water, but sadly the waterpoint marked on our Nicholsons (by lock 2) was long gone.

In the end we moored up on the rings opposite the gated development – it seemed civilised enough and was well covered by CCTV. We figured that if we didn’t fancy it as night fell, we could always move across the canal to the gated moorings. As it happened, the mooring was fine and we had a quiet night.

With plenty of evening left, I took the dogs for a walk and pottered around while Richard went foraging for a takeaway. We had thought about exploring Manchester but I was exhausted so we had a quiet night in. The hounds didn’t mind, they’d had quite enough and were up for an evening of snoozing :-)

Today’s Trivia:

Just part of the huge chemical works flanking the canal..

Just part of the huge chemical works flanking the canal..

Regular readers will know that I have a fascination with canalside industries, and, as I’ve often said, it should be a legal requirement for them all to display a sign with their name and the products that they manufacture in order to enhance the lives of nosy boaters like me! A lot of manufacturing industries are a bit shy to reveal their identities – I’m sure this is innocent enough, you don’t need a shop front if you’re not retailing to the public. But some searches take longer than others, and some industries e.g. chemical and pharmaceutical, do seem a little coy when it comes to revealing details of their plants.

I set about finding out more about the factory that I believe had generated the “dead fish” smells around Lock 10. I had several clues to work with – I knew the exact location of the works and I knew that fishy smells are associated with the chemical group “amines”. You’d think it would be easy-peasy but it still took a few hours to put the jigsaw together…

First I searched for “chemical industries” and immediately found a factory “East Lancashire Chemicals”, but a search of their website showed that they manufacture various varieties of washing soda – all odourless and highly unlikely to involve amines. Hmmm, back to the drawing board….

End of the day's locking :-)

End of the day’s locking :-)

Photographs that we took (and a subsequent search of Google Earth and Bing) highlighted a number of large gas cylinders marked “Air Products”. Now, I know Air Products from my other life as a pharmacist – they supply medical gases and I’d assumed that their cylinder was on site as a manufacturing component rather than it being an “Air Products” plant. I was wrong!

Now, before the lawyers get excited here are some possibly unrelated facts:

  • A bit more digging (including a look at some Manchester Urban Regeneration committee notes about the compulsory purchase of land from Air Products) confirmed that the site flanking the canal around Locks 10 and 9 belonged to “Air Products”. I carried on the search, because as far as I’m aware, fishy amines do not feature in any medical gas that I know.
  • A search of their global, then their UK, websites revealed that the company manufactures a wide range of chemicals including amines. A quick look at their product data sheets confirmed that many of their amine products have a “characteristic amine odour” – which generally ranges from ammonia-like to the full aroma of rotten fish.
  • I found it quite difficult to find exactly where Air Products’ plants are located. They list their Head Offices and I eventually got to something like a list of UK plants by going through their “careers” website, but the Manchester/Ashton site wasn’t listed, so I can’t confirm whether they manufacture amine products at the Ashton factory.

Interestingly, when the nearby area was assailed by the smell of rotten fish back in December 2013, the source was never found, so I’ll probably never make the link between the factory and the smell…

For people who like a bit of history, my researches into the chemical industry did unearth this photo from the 1950s – I thought the Ashton Canal looked run down even then :-(

Again for the historians, a lot of my searches were overwhelmed by news articles of an awful explosion at a munitions factory not far from Portland Basin back in 1917 (there’s a map at the bottom of the linked article) . There’s a brief account here.

Photoblog:

 

The Ashton Canal, overall, is a bit grim, but theres some little gems - like this painted bridge...

The Ashton Canal, overall, is a bit grim, but there are some little gems – like this painted bridge, a sort of Belfast Truss but has both chords curved and a pig to calculate by hand…

Some of the old buildings have elaborate brickwork...

Some of the old buildings have elaborate brickwork…

Although it goes through a densely populated area, we could let the hounds off for a bimble for most of its length...

Although it goes through a densely populated area, we could let the hounds off for a bimble for most of its length…

And nature soon moves in to cover our dereliction...

And nature soon moves in to cover the dereliction…

There are several low bridges along this canal...

There are several low bridges along this canal…

Oh dear, our Olympic Looking team has folded - they really must learn to pace themselves :-)

Oh dear, our Olympic Looking team has folded – they really must learn to pace themselves :-)

Henry Beanz makes a good pillow...

Henry Beanz makes a good pillow…

Fairfield Junction and the start of the day's locking...

Fairfield Junction and the start of the day’s locking…

It was a lovely day for locking...

It was a lovely day for locking…

View from Lock 7 towards the converted Commonwealth Games Stadium...

View from Lock 7 towards the converted Commonwealth Games Stadium…

More low bridges....

More low bridges….

Urban regeneration - not sure what I think of the building onn the left -cutting edge design or wine-soaked architects?? :-)

Urban regeneration – not sure what I think of the building on the left – cutting edge design or wine-soaked architects?? :-)

Mind your head Richard! The logic-defying steps down from Lock 1!

Mind your head Richard! The logic-defying steps down from Lock 1!

Picadilly Village at the bottom of the Ashton Canal - secure (gated) mooring to the right, good towpath ring moorings on the left. We moored on the towpath side and had an undisturbed night...

Piccadilly Village at the bottom of the Ashton Canal – secure (gated) mooring to the right of the photo, good towpath ring moorings on the left. We moored on the towpath side and had an undisturbed night…

We weren't sure of the status of these mooring pontoons - the sharp right turn under the building takes you to the Rochdale Canal,,

We weren’t sure of the status of these mooring pontoons – the sharp right turn under the building takes you to the Rochdale Canal

Archie checking out the cat action at Picadilly Village - he was disappointed :-)

Archie checking out the cat action at Piccadilly Village – he was disappointed :-)

We last met this little cruiser on the Buckby flight - he's the chap who'd bought the boat for a song and was cruising to the far North while doing it up on the way. His boat does look a bit more water-worthy and he now has water and tea-making facilities :-)

We last met this little cruiser on the Buckby flight – he’s the adventurous chap who’d bought the boat for a song and was cruising to the far North while doing it up on the way. His boat does look a bit more canal-worthy, quite smart really and he now has a proper engine, not a funny electric thing, water and tea-making facilities :-) The photo below/opposite was taken soon after he started out in April…

On his way North - on the Aire and Calder - hope he makes it :-)

On his way North – up to the Aire and Calder – hope he makes it :-)

 

 

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 – Day 35

Posted by indigodream on 2 November, 2014

Rewind to Sunday 7th September

Gurnett to Dunkinfield Junction

The looming mills of Macclesfield...

The looming mills of Macclesfield…

Having stopped short of Macclesfield, we needed to shift today and had an early start, by Indigo Dream’s low standards!

We enjoyed cruising the rest of the Macclesfield Canal. The contrasts are tremendous, from the rural beauty of the landscape to the looming mills of Macclesfield. We’ve wandered around the town on previous visits and enjoyed the silk museum – it’s well worth a visit. But we were just passing through today…

The Macclesfield Canal has some attractive stone bridges, though they are very narrow. This brought happy memories of our second rescue hound, lurcher Indie, for whom the boat was named and designed. Our old share boat, nb Dragonfly, had a semi-trad stern and Indie would jump off at these narrow bridges in a gesture of defiance – she wouldn’t run away, she’d just stubbornly park herself on the towpath and make it obvious that the problem of how to get her back on board was entirely ours! She hated boating – not in a scaredy wuss way like Ty, oh no, she was far too feisty for that! It was because of Indie that we have a dog-proof cruiser deck to discourage random escapes :-)

Such a picturesque flight...

Such a picturesque flight…

It was another fine day, and as we passed through Higher Poynton, it wasn’t hard to spot the Braidbar Boats, who were having spectacular weather for their annual gathering. We stopped briefly to see if we could catch up with fellow bloggers Bruce and Sheila from nb Sanity Again. Sadly for us, they were in a Braidbar meeting, so I had a chat with the marina manager instead. The hounds got a huge amount of attention from the many visitors to the cafe, but the Beanz were a bit subdued after the busyness of Bosley.

We stopped for lunch a little way up from the marina – I wanted us to have a civilised meal before we tackled the Marple Locks, which were just round the corner on the stunning Peak Forest Canal.

Naturally enough, my notes stop there because for the next few hours we were busy locking down the mighty Marple Flight.

But luckily I don’t need notes for this bit – it’s a memorable stretch of water which takes the canal down around 200′ – but not to a valley – the canal is still ridiculously high even at the bottom of the flight.

The view from Marple aqueduct - now....

The view from Marple aqueduct – now….

But I’m ahead of myself, the reason that Marple looms so large in our memories is because this is where I learnt to drive a narrowboat! When we bought our share in nb Dragonfly I felt I HAD to learn, even if was just for emergencies. By chance I found us an excellent teacher – Malcolm Allcard at Top Lock Training (sadly retired now). I learnt so much and by the end of the day I was amazed to be handling his boat by myself; Richard, being a bloke, thought he was just coming to keep me company but as he says, he learnt so much it was embarrassing!

But there was no time to reminisce, the flight was ahead of us, and they are mighty locks – deep and heavy. We kept the hounds on board at first, the first few locks are close to town and associated roads – they didn’t mind – by this stage of the holiday they really were winding down.

There was a CRT man taking photos around top lock. We tried to get our lock-wheeling routine going, but we didn’t get into a rhythm. Closing the top gate behind the boat was fine, but I was struggling to crack open a bottom paddle – the mechanisms were dry and ridiculously stiff. But once I did get the paddle open, the water drained so fiercely it was a race to get back on board before the boat dropped out of reach! The CRT man came across as a bit cynical and was quite happy to watch me struggle – I don’t mind that he didn’t help, but to sit and watch was too much. I crossly thought that he shouldn’t have been taking photos, he should have been busy with a bucket of grease on those paddles!

....adn then - on nb Dragonfly with Cousin Denise and Wyn back in 2004...

….and then – on nb Dragonfly with Cousin Denise and Wyn back in 2004…

The passage down the first few locks wasn’t as smooth as we hoped – some of the pounds were low and I got thoroughly grounded below Lock 13. Unfortunately, Richard had cycled ahead and had left his phone on the boat so I tried every which way to move the boat, but to no avail. He did eventually wonder where I’d got to and came back up to run some water down from the pound above. I was stuck mid-cut, so he couldn’t get on the boat to help, but I was able to hand him the pole so he could add a shove to get her moving into deep water – phew – all hard work on a very warm day!

Below Bridge 17, the flight enters a long stretch of parkland and things got a lot easier. Archie and Henry had a little bimble, while the population of Marple and beyond came out to enjoy the sun. We were followed down by one family who had such a curiosity about the locks that we gave them a lift down through a couple of locks just for the experience. They were charming and immensely grateful – the mum said that they didn’t expect to ever go boating themselves (hiring is expensive) and this would be something her kids would remember for a long time. A little further down, we picked up another family and gave them a lift – this was a slightly different experience as the boy (10/11 year old) got yelled at by me for not staying within the profile of the boat, then his mum gave him a thorough b”££”$%^&*! I felt a little bit sorry for him, but only a little bit, safety is paramount on board!

I hopped back on smartly here - there's not much between Henry Beanz and the fall on the offisde - though it's much better than the edge of the trough on Pontcysyllte...

I hopped back on smartly here – there’s not much between Henry Beanz and the fall on the offside – though it’s much better than the edge of the trough on Pontcysyllte…     The crowds dwindled as we got further down the flight – I think people were daunted by the long walk back up the hill!

I had forgotten how awkward the bottom lock is – there is no landing step in the jaws below the lock for picking up crew – luckily the hounds were on board, but I had to pick Richard up at the next bridge (the towpath landing was occupied by a fisherman!).

Despite the problems of the stiff paddles and low pounds, we had a good trip down the flight in under 2½ hours and still had a good afternoon’s cruise ahead of us. Marple is hard work but it is a gorgeous, beautiful lock flight. It is 10 years since we last went this way, we must not leave it so long again!

After the lock flight, the first highlight is the Marple Aqueduct, which flanks the railway viaduct, set above the canal to emphasise the dominance of rail over water. The Aqueduct at 90′ is the highest in England though not as high as Pontcysyllte at 126′.  It was finished in 1799 and is an extremely graceful way of spanning the River Goyt. We think that it’s a worthy rival to the more famous Pontcysyllte, but hardly known which is unfair! BW tried to demolish it in 1962!!!

The thing with big lock flights is that they tend to be flanked by long lock-free pounds where you can while away the hours, relaxing and enjoying the scenery. The roar of the M67 and the abrupt appearance of the odd lift bridge was a good wake-up call!

There is a mish-mash of styles here - the graceful stone sweep ot the turnover surmounted by a utilitarian steel deck...

There is a mish-mash of styles here – the graceful stone sweep of the turnover surmounted by a utilitarian steel deck…

We had a little drama at Bridge 1 – a lift bridge in a surprisingly wooded and rural setting considering its proximity to Manchester. As I took Indigo Dream through the bridge, there was an almighty “clonk” and the prop stopped dead – uh oh! I managed to stop the boat with a rope lassoed round a handy bollard and held her in the jaws while Richard lowered the bridge ready for any traffic. He then  came on board to investigate the prop while I took the hounds for a bimble. One important thing that our trainer, Malcolm, taught us, was to turn the engine off, take the key out of the ignition and then the person clearing the prop should put the key in their pocket to avoid any possibility of another crew member accidentally starting the mincer, sorry, engine. This we did, and Richard got to work. The culprit was a sizeable log, which Richard soon dislodged – there was no damage to the prop, so once I’d rounded up the hounds we were off again.

There wasn’t far to go. We had thought to moor at Portland Basin Marina (there’s a little stub to the right before the junction), but we hadn’t made any arrangements and it looked jam-packed. Our next thought was Portland Basin itself (directly opposite the junction), but that all looked private – hmm, what to do? It was getting late, so we decided to moor just to the right of Dunkinfield Junction, on the towpath side of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. Again, Ashton has a fearsome reputation but the mooring was covered by CCTV from the flats opposite and it seemed civilised enough so we stayed. At first, the towpath was busy with walkers, but by sunset everyone had gone and we had a very quiet night.

Today’s Trivia

There’s a photo below of a huge engineering works built/opened in 1885 by Joseph Adamson (it’s now an industrial estate) – here’s a hyperlink to some more information about the man himself – http://www.gracesguide.co.uk/Joseph_Adamson. There’s plenty of canal interest here – Joseph’s uncle, Daniel Adamson was the driving force behind the Manchester Ship Canal. Jospeh’s company kept  making boilers and cranes till the 1970s when it merged with Butterley Engineering who did all sorts of wonderful things, but perhaps their most recent claim to fame was that they made the steelwork for the magnificent Falkirk Wheel. Their main factory used to be by the Cromford Canal but after a series of takeovers they ceased trading and their massive works by the Cromford Canal was demolished in 2009.

Photoblog:

The uncompromising walls around Gurnett Aqueduct...

The uncompromising walls around Gurnett Aqueduct…

Then a sudden opening and you realise that you're perched far above the surrounding landscape :-)

The a sudden opening and you realise that you’re perched far above the surrounding landscape :-)

There are manay canalside Mills here - can you imagine the bustle on this canal in their heyday...?

There are many canalside Mills here – can you imagine the bustle on this canal in their heyday…?

Waiting at Marple Top - oops, the lock moorings are on the other side...

Waiting at Marple Top – oops, the lock moorings are on the other side…

Lock flights make for lovely views :-)

Lock flights make for lovely views :-)

Boat wash! Something tickled my memory at top lock and I shut the side hatch as a precaution just before setting off down the flight - phew!

Boat wash! Something tickled my memory at top lock and I shut the side hatch as a precaution just before setting off down the flight – phew!

Deep locks....

Deep locks….

On the Peak Forest, the locks are deep and the narrows are narrow!

On the Peak Forest, the locks are deep and the narrows are narrow!

The wooded coolness beyond Marple aqueduct as a nice refresehr after the hard work of the flight :-)

The wooded coolness beyond Marple aqueduct as a nice refresher after the hard work of the flight :-)

Reflections...

Reflections…

Here's a space-time conundrum - here's the inside of the Woodley Tunnel - the signs at the portals say it's two-way working!

Here’s a space-time conundrum – here’s the inside of the Woodley Tunnel – the signs at the portals say it’s two-way working!

Who was Joseph Adamson? A member of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers and part of an engineering dynast by the sounds of it - http://www.gracesguide.co.uk/Joseph_Adamson

Who was Joseph Adamson? A member of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers and part of an engineering dynasty – see “Today’s Trivia” above..

This is a huge block of polystyrene - I have no idea where it came from - it seems so wooded and lovely here...

This is a huge block of polystyrene – I have no idea where it came from – it seems so wooded and lovely here…

Bridge 1 on the Peak Forest Canal - you wouldn't believe how close we are to the conurbations of Ashton, Salybridge and Manchester!

Bridge 1 on the Peak Forest Canal – you wouldn’t believe how close we are to the conurbations of Ashton, Salybridge and Manchester!

 

 

 

 

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 – Day 34

Posted by indigodream on 30 October, 2014

Rewind to Saturday 7th September

Congleton to Gurnett

The Macclesfield Canal is high and beautiful - and this is before we climb the Bosley flight :-)

The Macclesfield Canal is high and beautiful – and this is before we climb the Bosley flight :-)

We made a big decision today – after looking at the logistics every which way, we decided to stop the daily car shuffles and leave the car in Congleton until we came back round to Middlewich. Although it’s always reassuring to have the car as a backup, it was a daily chore for Richard and we never did fulfil our plan of using it to explore sights away from the canal.

I started the day with a dog walk back towards Lamberts Lane Bridge, a fine turnover bridge which, back in the day, allowed for easy passage of barge horses when the towpath changed side. It was quite early by Indigo Dream standards, so I hadn’t really taken in the fact that it was a turnover bridge. Imagine my alarm then when Ollie, who was off lead, vanished! He’d gone over the bridge and right down to the towpath on the other side. He has these “plan Ollie” moments and I do sometimes worry that he is becoming a bit senile; but sometimes I think that he knows exactly what he’s about and just enjoys giving me a heart attack! Because of Ollie, we ended up walking a bit further than we intended, but it was another very fine morning so it didn’t matter…

Once we’d done the dog walking and feeding, we took advantage of the car to take a trip to Tesco and stock up our food/drink supplies. When we got back, a new boat was moored behind us. They were just tying up and the man of the boat seemed quite pleasant until we let the hounds up on deck (not on the towpath and nowhere near him!). He then went on to regale us with his opinion of dogs and their owners. Now, we sometimes meet people who are scared of dogs, we sometimes meet cat people, but it’s very rare to meet someone who just doesn’t like dogs. He really didn’t like them or their owners and he didn’t understand why anyone would want a dog, or why people talk to their dogs etc etc etc ad infinitum. Now you may have noticed that we love dogs and I often natter to my hounds – all in all, we thought it was best to just move Indigo Dream as soon as possible! Who’d have thought there would be such a disturbed individual (him not me, obviously!) on the waterways :-D

Approaching the Bosley Locks - we've been looking forward to this moment...

Approaching the Bosley Locks – we’ve been looking forward to this moment…

We had a great sense of anticipation as we cruised toward the Bosley Locks – they’re a great favourite of ours and we’ve yearned to return there. Aah, they didn’t disappoint – they were every bit as lovely as we remembered. Although we got into our usual rhythm at the lock flight, we had a rather sedate passage as we got behind a single-hander who was very slow indeed and had a tendency to leave the top gates open behind him (until Richard went up to help him and hinted that he shouldn’t!). But the Bosley is to be savoured so we benefited from the sight-seeing time!

When we set out from Congleton, we passed a family who were just getting ready for a canoe trip. We had assumed they were just having a little paddle around the town, but they caught up with us at Lock 6, having paddled, then portaged, all the way. This is a pretty serious journey for the young ones in the group, realy well done. Like us, they were no strangers to logistics – they were camping on the greensward on the offside of lock 6 and had shuffled their car to the bridge above the lock so that they could easily pick up their camping gear and other supplies.

The Bosley flight was very quiet, with very few other walkers, so Archie lock-wheeled most of the way with Richard. Henry Beanz settled into running between a lock then cadging a lift up to the next, while Ollie just got off for bimbles at each lock but did not run between them. Well, not until we got to the short stretch between locks 4 and 5, where he indulged in some joyful zooming. Ollie does love to run, but because of a chronic muscle weakness caused by being starved by his previous owners, he does pay tend to pay for zoomies with stiffness later :-(

Rummaging with a view :-)

Rummaging with a view :-)

Luckily I had the greyhounds on board as we approached the top lock, because we met some truly badly behaved terriers with their well-to-do owners (judging by the shooting set clothes they were wearing). As Richard tried to cycle up the path, the two terriers set about nipping his ankles, making it impossible for him to move on. The owners did absolutely nothing to stop this behaviour or admonish their dogs, though they did say that it would “serve them right” if Richard ran them over. Quite extraordinary!

We got to the top of the Bosley towards the late afternoon; we now had a long lock-free pound ahead until we reached the Marple flight. We knew we wouldn’t reach Marple top today, but we weren’t sure how far to go. The weather continued to be fair so it wasn’t a chore to keep cruising and with the boat full of supplies, it wasn’t essential for us to find a pub.

Our first potential stop was the Fool’s Nook, another familiar haunt from our time on nb Dragonfly – but we were surprised to find that the pub is closed and up for sale. We carried on with a vague second target of Macclesfield. However by 6.30pm, I was feeling a bit weary, so we stopped at the wonderfully picturesque Gurnett aqueduct. By 7pm we were in the nearby Old Kings Head pub, which we really enjoyed as it was dog-friendly, cosy and served good, but plain, pub grub. It was a good end to a good day  :-)

Photoblog:

Steep steps up to the Queen's Head in Congleton - bit much for Ollie but the climb was worth it!

Steep steps up to the Queen’s Head in Congleton – bit much for Ollie but the climb was worth it!

Viaduct...

Viaduct…

Where reality and reflections merge...

Where reality and reflections merge…

Was I bragging earlier that they had real cows "oop north" - ah, unless the farmers here have learnt how to breed a blue variety then I might be wrong :-D

Was I bragging earlier that they had real cows “oop north” – ah, unless the farmers here have learnt how to breed a blue variety then I might be wrong :-D

This far escarpment, romatically called the "Cloud"  loomed ever closer as we cruised along...

This far escarpment, romantically called the “Cloud” loomed ever closer as we cruised along…

The scenery on this canal is astounding - I'd forgotten just how beautiful it is...

The scenery on this canal is astounding – I’d forgotten just how beautiful it is…

Hard to believe just how this canal looms over the surrounding river valleys given that the Bosley Locks will take us up another 100'! I'm not sure which river is spanned by this fine aqueduct though...

Hard to believe just how this canal looms over the surrounding river valleys given that the Bosley Locks will take us up another 100’! I’m not sure which river is spanned by this fine aqueduct just at the bottom of the Bosley flight. Shame there was no obvious path down.

Smiley boys :-)

Smiley boys :-)

Ooh, this just has to be fighting for the title of "my favourite lock flight" but we haven't revisited Marple yet! :-o

Ooh, this just has to be fighting for the title of “my favourite lock flight” but we haven’t revisited Marple yet! :-o

Endless views...

Endless views…

Top of the world, well, of the Bosley! :-)

Top of the world, well, of the Bosley! :-)

 

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