A bit o’ boating
The weather would be good next week, they said, ‘they’ being the BBC Met experts…
A plan was formulated: north from Bedfordshire via Matlock for a chiropractor appointment for the Captain, (an on-going saga) and four full days afloat on the boat. With the promise of good weather in north Cheshire there would be chance to valet the boat before winter, to paint the boat poles – and maybe start the engine to have a little cruise…
Oh, the optimism of it all.
The weather was murky on Tuesday – there was too much moisture in the air for boat washing, polishing or painting.
Instead the boat was backed away from her mooring, eased around and pointed north. Low cloud hung over the hills of the Lyme Park Estate. When under way speed is slow so observations are made of what’s the same – and of what’s different. A one-time barn (near Bridge 13) has been converted into a swish-looking residence. See photo here: 21st April; and here on12th October.
There were a few boats on the move, though not many. How often do the words: ”Always at bridge-holes!” get exchanged between whomever is at the helm and an approaching boater? Just beyond the huge Goyt Mill was a puzzling sight – a boat motionless in the bridge hole, its starboard side against the towpath. Had Cleddau’s approach been spotted? Was there anybody aboard…? Holding a boat stationary in a hover position is not always easy… A pair of legs seemed to leap onto the stern, its owner giving the boat a mighty push. Slowly the boat moved forward, giving space for Cleddau to get through the bridge.
Backwards then the boat came (the Mary Sunley it was, the Braidbar-built trip boat which is based at Higher Poynton). Along the towpath had come another figure, cardboard box in her arms. Patiently the figure waited under the bridge, sheltering herself – and the passengers’ lunches – from the rain. Then slowly the trip boat was worked back to the lunch pick up point!
Through the bridge hole at Marple Junction, a right turn onto the Peak Forest Canal, with just a backward glance at the signpost and at the Marple Flight top lock (which leads down to join the canals to Huddersfield and to Manchester…)
Mist and showers rolled around the hilltops above the Goyt Valley. There was another hold up at Bridge 23, a workboat, reversing, forwarding, hovering and then pulling in to moor at one of the very best mooring spots, with views towards Kinder Scout. Serious ramblers will know about The Mass Trespass in 1932, when a gathering of young walkers from Sheffield and Manchester on Kinder Scout (seen in the distance) fuelled the ‘right to roam’ movement.
The Upper Peak Forest Canal runs along the 518 feet contour above sea level. Of course there are bridges but there are also four movable bridges. First comes Turf Lea Lift Bridge, a bit of a brute as it involves a huge amount of windlass winding to raise the bridge deck high enough above a boat’s cabin top. (Thankfully on the outbound trip another boater used her muscles here).
Not far beyond the Wood End Bridge is an extraordinary new sight, a pair of hands clutching, it would seem, a stand of young trees… Was the hands’ installer a creative type? The canal side cabin alongside those gigantic fingers looks rather like a stage set…
The canal winds its way onwards through New Mills, sweet aromas emanating from the Swizzels Matlow factory. (Remember, can you, those childhood smells and tastes of Refreshers, Love Hearts and Rainbow Drops…?)
Then, at Furness Vale, comes the final movable structure, the Carr Swing Bridge. So many times has the key of power been turned in the metal post, so many times has the heavy metal handle been hoiked up and the bridge pushed to lie parallel to the canal bank. It’s never given trouble, this bridge, although the vehicle kept waiting while the bridge was swung back struggled time after time to restart!
The canal weaves towards Bugsworth, a sewage plant below in the valley, the Buxton to Manchester railway line above the canal on the Disley side. As the canal approaches the small town of Whaley Bridge canal users become aware of road traffic noise, the busy A6 crossing the canal here. There’s a canal junction, the main line progressing a further ¼ mile to the terminus at Whaley Bridge but Cleddau’s old habits die hard.
Left, left for Bugsworth Basin, the inland port set in a bowl of the Derbyshire hills. The access is so familiar – the shallow water, Teapot Row, once the labourers’ cottages, the Wharfinger’s house and office.
Boatwif picked her way through the Canada goose mess and walked along to the Upper Basin. The stretch of water pretty well up to the road bridge is still available for mooring but a temporary dam prevents access to the top basin. A dewatered canal is not a pretty sight!
It was a peaceful night although the noise of rushing water from the nearby Black Brook is barely inescapable…
On Wednesday in the lightest of mizzle Cleddau glided out of the Lower Basin, setting off to cruise back to Higher Poynton. There was no pause this time at the services area, Boatwif escaping a re-enactment of the broken wrist mishap experienced right here in July 2020 .
Back through the first of the four movable bridges. When the gentle mist became a downpour; an emergency mooring was called for. “Find dry trousers,” called the Captain, ”dig out drier boots, find waterproof over-trousers, pass my longer waterproof jacket, search for some thicker gloves…” The journey resumed, the large umbrella lowered as the boat approached the stone and lift bridges, raised high in obstruction-free zones…
Oh for a dry walk in the Torrs Riverside Park (remember the boys swimming in the river down there on that hot July day last year…?) Onwards, past that area of giant hogweed. (Is this a giant hogweed?) , leaving New Mills behind and glimpsing again those glorious cross-valley views. A boater ahead operated the Higgins Clough Swing Bridge but then there was a long pause while boats slowly shuffled past each other at the Wood End Lift Bridge.
Why, one boat was Holderness, recognised from the many interesting blog posts written by its owner. Conversation cannot develop when boats are pulling away from each other, there being time only for a “Hello, I read your blog…!” (Try looking here at the Holderness blog for his more detailed account of Bugsworth and Whaley Bridge and here for a description of a glorious high level moorland walk the Holderness crew did above the Macclesfield Canal).
Onwards, back to Turf Lea Lift Bridge. With no other boater volunteers about it was up to Boatwif to wind and wind the deck up – and then wind and wind it down again.
As for those aspirations – well, the boat poles got varnished and painted
but no water or polish touched the cabin sides. There was a fine stroll up into Lyme Park, a chance for deep breaths and long views.
Cleddau’s 2021 boating season has drawn to a close.
October cruise: 20.18 miles, 0 locks, 8 movable bridges
Cruise stats for 2021: 583 miles, 345 locks, 27 movable bridges