Clogs and cobbles, cotton and canals

Dukinfield Junction to Rose Hill Cutting, 6.45 miles, 0 locks (and 1 trip down the weed hatch)

Success this morning in gaining entry to the Portland Basin Museum. Exhibits in the lower galleries are related to local Tameside industries: there is a boater’s back cabin, machinery related to the cotton mills, artefacts from the hat and glove and clog making industries, lathes and sewing machines, the huge water valve from one of the first man-made reservoirs to supply clean water, a superb diorama illustrating industrial and transport changes between 1600 and the 1920s…  It was during the early part of our wanderings that the clatter of feet and firm but precise instructions wafted down from the upper floor. A Year 1 class was on a field trip, Seaside Then and Now their topic. A museum education officer kept the class enthralled by showing them souvenirs and holiday postcards. Art workshops followed and all seemed engrossed in their collage seascapes and cardboard lollipops. Upstairs a furnished back-to-back, a pub, a doctor’s surgery, a mission hall, a pawnbroker’s, a greengrocer’s and more provided lots to look at.  And in the special Jubilee display cases were souvenirs from various past royal events, the most unusual being a cup and saucer made for the uncrowned Edward VIII’s Coronation.

As the only adult visitors all staff were keen to engage in conversation:

“With this weather I just can’t get myself going!” (lady on the reception desk).

“Photos on the walls?  My father in law’s, he was a photographer in the Navy… (cafe manager).

“Can I give you some leaflets about other places to visit?” (museum volunteer).

It was such a worthwhile place to visit – all the better for having no crowds to compete with and no angst about parking or entry fees!

When, after the museum visit, Cleddau and crew were about to set off from the overnight mooring some movement was spotted in the trees nearby – surely not more overweight dogs…  No, four ladies were providing gentle exercise for four horses, the white one a 23 year old great grandmother… 

From a boating point of view perhaps this should be entitled Tunnels 2. While yesterday’s tunnel escapades were on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal, today’s were on the Lower Peak Forest – the Woodley Tunnel (167 yards, dry) and Hyde Bank Tunnel (308 yards, drippy). Between the brick built tunnels are huge overhangs of trees often forming leafy, green tunnels.  Where there are no trees suburbia briefly appears and the railway line is never far away; at regular intervals aircraft were sighted overhead heading from the east into Manchester Airport.  Cleddau’s departure just after midday along the weaving, wriggling contour canal and an arrival not far from the bottom of the (16) Marple Locks about three hours later was marked by only the slightest of rain!

There is a noticeable increase in boat movements now – at least three hire boats and three or four other boats. (Boaters in shorts and wellies from a Black Prince hire craft shared the winding work at the Dukinfield Lift Bridge at about midday: “We’ll do it. We feel fit now, 27 locks up from Manchester yesterday!”)

Tomorrow, uphill again to the level of the Macclesfield Canal.  Shall Cleddau complete the Peak Forest Canal and cruise all the way to Bugsworth and Whaley Bridge – or will weather intervene and a right hand turn be taken at the top of the lock flight? The familiar sight and sound of rain is back, successions of neat circles forming and fading on the surface of the water…

            Hats off to those who spot the hat stretcher!

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