A bridge too far…

Bosley Bottom Lock to Gurnett Aqueduct: 6.1 miles, 12 locks, 2 swing bridges
           The sun was shining weakly on the iced waters of the canal this morning.

 A delay for a couple of domestic tasks allowed two boats to pass and to do some useful ice-breaking….  Nb Misty Waters and Cleddau have been leap-frogging each other for days but the other boat was unknown. When later at Lock 6 there was a conversation with its crew Boatwif gleaned that these hardy boaters had set off from Rugby last Sunday and are “heading for as far as you can get – Ripon!” That was the opener for a quick Huddersfield Narrow and Standedge Tunnel conversation!

        What a glorious morning! Ice still lurked where no boats had broken through

but there was the unexpected joy of not needing a hat pulled hard over the ears – or a scarf up round the chin – or gloves on hands! The heavy long windproof coats stayed unworn and even fleece jackets were casually unzipped and even discarded!
             Was the little micro-light flown today? It would have been a wonderful day for it.

        Just six days ago very new lambs clung close to their mothers: today one or two were gambolling and others had assumed an air of independence …
  Primroses and daffodils were emerging on a bank below Lock 5
 but still some snow lurked beside Lock 4.
At the top of Bosley Locks is a service block: here boaters can attend to their loos, empty their rubbish, top up their water tanks. A serviced Cleddau floated on and caused four cyclists to heave their machines over the steep pedestrian bridge at Oakgrove while the electrified swing bridge was moved to allow navigation through. The canal weaves on, past the canal water feed from Sutton Reservoir, towards Macclesfield, some young woodland either side. Then came the second swing bridge (the Broadhurst Bridge) which takes a footpath across the canal to a lone house beside the kennels.
 Out jumped Boatwif with essential equipment, the British Waterways key. There are two bridges of this kind on the Upper Peak Forest Canal and though heavy they are always operational. The key turned but the handle wouldn’t lift and the bridge deck wouldn’t swing. After five minutes of effort a defeated Boatwif returned to the boat.
The Captain sighed: “S’pose you can’t do it, mechanically inept aren’t you…” To be fair there was no malice in the voice, more an acceptance of the obvious.  Places were swapped.

         After ten minutes an enquiry could be made: “Are you having trouble?” The Captain too had wrestled with the key,

 had tugged at the handle, had shoved the bridge’s push arm – but still the bridge barred the way. It’s not easy to admit defeat and to call for back up. CRT were alerted by phone and promised to send help. Boatwif put the kettle on
 (after all, wasn’t it tea that had been sanity-savers when a much-loved camper van broke down at Gretna Green all those years ago…)  Another boat arrived from the opposite direction, two boats now stuck, going nowhere…
  The two skippers, hefty men, conferred – then set to. The key could be turned, just. With their combined strengths they snatched the handle up and slowly, slowly heaved the bridge open. Through sallied Cleddau; through sallied the Leek-bound boat. But the Captain did not return, could not return. He pushed and he shoved and still the bridge would not completely close. Finally a seven-eighths closed bridge plus a BW key still in the lock was left…

         An hour or so later, when moored at Gurnett,  Misty Waters cruised by. ”How did you get on with the bridge?” Boatwif called.
        “Couldn’t do it at all, not on my own. Then the men turned up,” replied the helmsman.  Can there be a quick fix to Broadhurst Bridge* – or is it a case of more serious surgery needed…?
         At 518 feet above sea level now there is still evidence of snow in the frost hollows and on the distant hills.

 Behind the hedge and fencing here at Gurnett lies the Macclesfield Garden Centre.  For an injection of Spring colour Boatwif wandered in this afternoon. There are pretty presents and artificial flowers; there are gumboots and seed potatoes; there is garden furniture and Spring plants but also thousands of garden pots and great arrays of garden ornaments. Tell me, would you, could you, buy any of these  
– or these…
(Tomorrow: onward and back to Victoria Pit Moorings at Higher Poynton)

*See Geoff’s tussle here earlier this week.

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