Wet knees

Standedge to Diggle:  3.38 miles (3.24 miles within tunnel)
Wednesday: An early alarm for the Cleddau crew: nb Labour of Love was to be first off through the tunnel, Cleddau second.
Checklist time:
  •                    clear rooftop of poles and equipment
  •                    seal chimney vents with plastic bags
  •                    remove cratch cover and glazed panels
  •                    fill water tank
  •                    turn fridge to run on electric
  •                    close all windows, side hatch and doors
  •                    don fleece, waterproof and life-jacket
  •                    don hard hat (Captain only)


At 0930 Cleddau pulled into the Standedge Tunnel, emerging the other side of the Pennines at 1110.
Inside the tunnel the chaperone on the back deck advised of lowering roof heights, jutting rock faces, wriggles in the route, watery downpours. Once inside the tunnel the temperature plummets: on the front deck the chill swirls around the knees, a water cascade soon adding to the cold sensation. Frequently stooping or kneeling the back deck crew needed their hard hats and miners’ lights. About halfway through the electric kettle was deployed to provide a hot drink for the back deck crew (“strong tea with lots of milk” for the chaperone). Three times the shadow escort checked progress from the disused rail tunnel. Had the Captain’s previous Standedge experience helped his performance? Probably so, there seemed to be fewer scrapes and bumps this second time. Wet and blinking in the hazy sunlight the boat’s arrival was watched by the crews of the three boats lined up waiting to make the west – east passage this afternoon.
The afternoon passed by: Cleddau was put back together, the Captain (and Boatwif too) spent an inordinate amount of time futilely searching for a “thingummy” (bottom part of a roof aerial?) during which cupboards and boxes got searched, bookshelves got sorted  – and a replacement hinge was fitted to the table. (Pity about the thingummy!)
Then Boatwif clambered back into her boots for a sunny late afternoon’s stroll: first into a meadow of buttercups and clover, that wet knee sensation in damp grass again as photographs were taken. There are great open spaces up here by the canal, in Diggle Fields, in the play parks, in the Country Park, a wonderful place for children and young people. Other walkers along the lanes and tow path always seemed to be accompanied by one or more dogs. Is it required round here that you have to be accompanied by a dog?  Just how many dogs are there in the UK? Without a dog in these parts one begins to feel, well, rather like a fish out of water…
And then, round the corner, at Lock 30W, there was a fish out of water! Wriggling and flicking in its net was a carp (“About eight pounds,” reckoned the proud catchers). Yes, they’re big round here, well fed on the bread the ducks haven’t scoffed, they surmised. With such tenderness the older lad tweezed the hook out of its mouth and then released it.  Boatwif walked down a couple more locks, gazing at the chocolate brown waters and at the open Tame valley.  Returning, the younger lad hailed her, gesticulating widely: “Hey, you should have seen it, the next one got away, twice the size it was, the hook was in its tail!” Not sure about her feelings on this catch and dump practice Boatwif moved on, back up the tow path towards Cleddau. There was the Captain busy in the galley, preparing salmon for dinner – and as she climbed on board another dog and owner passed by!

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