Cleddau on new waters

Saturday 9th June 2012

At 1424 on Saturday afternoon Cleddau cruised into previously unknown territory, a Welsh named boat heading (maybe) for bandit country and then for England’s backbone, the Pennines…

Driving up the M1 to Macclesfield on Friday a thought had occurred: forgot to pack the sun hats and sunscreen – it has to be said that amid the constant downpours and dank conditions such items have not (yet) been needed! After unloading (too many T-shirts and not enough woollies?) and topping up the water tank another downpour interrupted play… But despite the gloom there were flashes of colour in the all lilac-coloured rhododendron and the yellow flags crowding the bank side at Higher Poynton.   A late lunch was taken and then the rain seemed to pause so Cleddau was cast off- whereupon the pause became light rain, followed by lots more seriously heavy precipitation.  High Lane was the destination, just a few miles up the Macc but it’s a convenient grocery stop and not far from Marple Junction.  All through the night the rain rained and the wind blew, but the boat was safely nestled in a cutting, her occupants relieved that this would not be a repetition of the wave-slapping, boat-buffeting experience on Whatcroft Flash just eight weeks or so ago.

A liaison was due on Saturday morning at Marple Junction – and prompt at 10am an extra windlass wielder reported for duty.  “Why is it always horrible weather when I am out with your boat?” reflected Techno’s Dad.  But horrible weather or not the boat had to be moved, down, down, down the 16 lock flight, dropping 209 feet in just over a mile. These locks are tough to operate: once the Captain and Techno’s Dad applied two windlasses to a paddle to shift it and once one of the paddles refused to drop. Boatwif dug into the windlass cache and emerged with a long throw model which made paddle -winding a slightly smoother operation. In relentless rain, in two hours and ten minutes the sixteen locks were accomplished, an average, according to the Captain, of 7.4 locks per hour! Just after midday, at near enough midsummer, Cleddau was moored at the bottom of the lock flight, the kettle was boiled, cups of hot soup were provided and a light switched on inside the cabin… But what of the Marple Flight? It is glorious. The upper eight or so locks are close together, and there are glimpses to the east of Pennine slopes. Tidy suburban housing and a well-kept and well-used tarmac towpath are to the west. As the descent continues the locks stretch out, through parkland and woodland, again offering tantalising views through the greenery. Lunch for the crew and Techno’s Dad (no golf balls available this time) after which the extra windlass-wielder walked back up the hill to his car.

Cleddau cruised on: across the wonderful Marple Aqueduct, right beside the railway viaduct, the River Goyt racing below. Then came tunnels: the roofless Rose Hill Tunnel, the 308 yard long Hyde Bank Tunnel and the 176 yard long Woodley Tunnel. Since the locks the canal had crept along the contour line, steep drops to one side, occasional housing on the other. A glorious meadow came into view, three adult Canada geese supervising about twenty furry young goslings. On the canal went, encased by abundant tree growth. Then came glimpses of a metropolis, some tower blocks and the largest ever sewage farm. Finally, Cleddau rounded a bend to find ahead damp passengers mooring up a day boat. Ahead of them was a lift bridge.

“ Do we need a key or a lock handle?” called  Boatwif.

“A windey thing,” replied the least dishevelled looking member of the group. Off Boatwif bounded, windlass in hand. Alas – this is bandit country; the sign declares an anti-vandalism key is required.  Consternation – which bit of kit is that? And where might it be? While the Captain held the boat and thought about it “Goldilocks” and her spouse from the day boat behind professed great interest in this far longer boat than theirs. “Is it yours? Do you live on it? Is that a fire?”  Not content to peer through the windows they bounded on board, purred over the “kitchen”, marvelled at the shower and washing machine, and then, and then, “Goldilocks” lay down on the bed and said “Ooh, I do love your bed..!” The Lambrusco aroma was apparent. Down the steps from the engine room clattered another would-be Goldilocks. She crashed through the boat, oohed and aahed, and managed, just, to disembark from the front deck, her serious wobble taking her, luckily, towards the bank rather than to the water!

How did it all turn out? The bridge was lifted, the boat was moored, the day boat passed by – and eventually the rain stopped!

Tomorrow should see Cleddau climbing uphill on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal…

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