Monday 26 August 2013


Yesterday we drove up from Cornwall - we had a special open air service as part of the Folk Festival in Wadebridge for the morning so we did not set off until 1 pm. However, the motorways were generally clear with almost no lorries at all and not too many caravans either. With a stop for a cup of tea at Strensham, we finally arrived at Frenches Marina around 7 pm.

We did not take too long in unloading as we did not take everything home for such a short break. After parking the car (there is nowhere to park at the moorings themselves) we settled down to the meal which we had brought with us. We have started to do this and it makes the arrival evening much easier, especially if it is late in the day.

This morning we contacted John Lund from the marina who came on his beloved motorbike to help let us out. We had a good chat first and learnt a bit more about the origins of the marina and what might happen in the future. John has run the trip boat from alongside Saddleworth Museum for the past 22 years.

By 10:15 we were finally away on a really brilliant late summer's day, with great views out to the surrounding hills.

There are no long pounds at all today although the locks are quite spread out - only in Stalybridge do they come anywhere near being a flight.

Although the canal runs through a number of villages and small towns, even when adjoining local industry it looks very rural as nature has taken over the banks.

Shallow edges continue to be a problem and the first three locks were quite hard work as the boat caught on underwater ledges after dropping off the lock crew! The long pole had quite a good work out this morning.

In places the towpath edge is collapsing badly with stones about to disappear into the water. However, this situation is out of character as in most places the towpath has been well restored. Despite the contentious claims about the number of visitors to the canal as walkers and cyclists, we certainly saw many today, yet only two boats passed us going the other way.

A number of the top gate paddles had the distinctive pepper pot vents.

The Royal George aqueduct carries the canal over the River Tame.

It was good to see that there was plenty of water flowing down the system - here is the bywash at one of the locks. As the canal is shallow this is often needed in order to keep the navigation open.

An unusual piece of sculpture stood at the edge of the canal - not sure why as it seemed to be in a piece wasteland between the canal and the cottages!

Ater coming down Lock 19W we planned one more lock before lunch when we spotted another boat with no-one on it but floating on the off side. Local bystanders reported that they thought that it had been moored so we felt it best to rescue it. We picked up the bow rope (which had clearly be cast off by vandals) and brought it to the towpath edge and tied it up with the help of a couple of walkers. By now it was lunch time so we moored ourselves as well. As we were eating, the owner of the boat came by and spoke with us.

We encountered several people today who had never seen a lock operating before - this chap seemed to enjoy helping us through a couple of locks.

Some of the villages are canal-side but others line the main road which, as we saw yesterday when we came that way, is at a much higher level. The church at, we think, Mossley Brow stands on the hill top whilst others are much lower.

Scout Tunnel is quote short - 188m - but was carved out of rough rock. A short distance at each end is brick-lined but most of it is bare.

We had heard about a boat sinking earlier this month at Lock 9W and John Lund at Frenches explained to us the problem. The short pound between Locks 10W and 9W is compounded with very leaky gates - no doubt the failure to clear the weeds and shrubs growing out of them is symptomatic of the level of care. (Contrast this with seeing teams scraping the gates on the Grand Union)

What then has happened is that a boat comes down Lock 10W, waits for the next lock to be prepared and attempts to enter the lock. By now the level has fallen as a result of the leakage and becomes stuck on the cill. Unless it is very quickly reversed back, the level continues to fall and the boat his held firm until it tips downward with several feet of drop.

As it happened, we met one of the two boats we passed today in this pound so we had no problem.

There are precious few service points on the Huddersfield and we were hopeful of using that above Lock8W which had the full range of facilities. Alas, someone has recently repaired the water point but failed to understand how it is to be operated. (Most likely, the wrong type of tap was fitted). The proper connector could not be attached so we had to hold the hosepipe on, avoiding the spray. We gave up before the tank was full!

We understand that this next section was turned into a culvert when the canal was closed and presume that the pylons were put up then. Now, we have to go along a narrow, deep piled stretch, right underneath the pylon.

We spotted a number of these rollers (approx 300m long) on the edge of the canal. We do not know what they are for - anyone out there a clue?

First mooring, opposite Tesco
We came into Stalybridge and opted to moor for the night on the opposite bank to Tesco. Although a bit put off by the number of Canada geese that live here, we did not know if anything further on would be any better. By now Mike had picked some blackberries which he proposed to use for a pudding tonight. Christine thought that ice cream and proper cooking apple would enhance it so popped to the supermarket whilst Mike continued with preparing the meal.

Second mooring - above Lock 4W
When she returned, the single hander who was moored at the same point suggested that, like him, we moved down through a couple of locks to another visitor mooring which would be a much quieter. We opted to take his advice and indeed did find it further away from the pubs. Although it is a short pound, it is signed as an official Visitor Mooring (there are at least three in Stalybridge) so we hope that we will not find ourselves on the bottom in the morning!

5.1 miles - 15 locks

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Mike, these roller things on the HNC are, apparently, bed valve capstans for winding the chain when you want to pull the plug out of the canal bed in order to drain it. Discussion on Canalworld forum here: