Cold Expectations (Part 2)

Friday 30th December 2011 – Sunday 1st January 2012

Happy New Year!

At 1230 am on New Year’s Day the Captain’s phone rang. There, clear as in a next door room, was Cal Son. And from five thousand miles away came the excited voices of Cal Guys Senior and Junior and of Cal Gal. “Happy New Year Graampee! Happy New Year Graannee,” they chorused, loudly, and Cal Guy Junior added his own speech: “ In car. Car. Da-da’s- CAR!” His infatuation with vehicles remains undiminished… While we were in 2012 they were still in 2011, in daylight, just, up at Double Peak Park (see watching the sun go down over the Pacific.

Readers of Cold Expectations (Part 1) may recall mention of a train trip. The weather was forecast to be a constant variation on the theme of Very Wet so plans to walk in the hills were put aside. Then Boatwif’s alternative suggestion of a day trip to Buxton on Friday was surprisingly well received.  Out came the Ordnance Survey map and a pronouncement was swiftly made: “Why walk two sides of a triangle (via the towpath) to Whaley Bridge station when there is a much more direct route.” Off we set, in plenty of time to catch the 1031 train. It was a more direct route, to be sure, but somehow the close together contour lines had been overlooked… Three breathers and a photostop it took to the brow of the hill. Behind us lay the hills of the High Peak District and Kinder Scout, while ahead, far below, lay the little town. We followed the steep path down to the now redundant print works, crossed the River Goyt and arrived at the station. This pristine little station serves passengers to Manchester to the north, Buxton to the south.  An avid Friend of the Station was lurking on the footbridge, waiting to photograph a limestone freight train. He engaged the Captain for near on half an hour with railway history, while Boatwif marvelled at the warm and spotless waiting room, its walls adorned by information boards. It took the train twenty five minutes to heave itself up the long incline to Chapel-en-le-Frith and Doveholes, then along a ridge to Buxton.There every male voice in the town could have belonged to a one-time colleague, but no, there was no recognition tap on the shoulder: he must have been off skiing!

In rain (of varying intensity) we patrolled High Street and then Higher Buxton, made the odd purchase and found all our enquiries met with courtesy and friendliness. “These winters are nothing to those we had in the seventies,” one person assured us. “Leek cut off by snow last week? Well, only for about twenty minutes.” You’d need to be hardy living here – but you would have the joys of the Opera House, the Gilbert and Sullivan Festival, the Buxton water pump, the Winter Garden, the many markets and fairs in the Pavilion – and the stunning park. After a lunch (local produce guaranteed) we returned to the station, to stand in a downpour while staff tried fruitlessly to decouple the front two coaches from the rest. What a surprise then to clamber off our short train at Whaley Bridge to see so many coaches snaking behind it. We walked the flatter, longer route back, congratulating ourselves on a successful expedition from boat to Buxton. Cold and damp outside – warm and cosy inside. We stoked the fire, drew the curtains and waited for daylight.

Saturday, New Year’s Eve: a slosh through the muddy towpath puddles, past “the happy pig” (a sign announces it!), through the horse tunnel to Tesco for weekend essentials. Darkness fell. Aided by a headband torchlight we climbed up from the basin to the Navigation Inn. A few others were partaking of pub food but then numbers swelled. Two guitarists with lots of kit, their followers, locals, families, an effusive landlady, a few other boaters, a great deal of noise and the bar was jammed! Midnight arrived. Cheers and kisses, Auld lang syne, shouts and laughter, and, once outside, fireworks briefly lighting the sky.

At 0950 on Sunday Cleddau started her second ever New Year’s Day cruise. Out of Bugsworth Basin, past the five other New Year crews and back along the Upper Peak. Serious runners in short shorts, dog walkers in gumboots, cyclists in helmets, dawdlers in winter coats: Good mornings, Hallos and Happy New Years. At the first lift bridge friendly boaters did all the work! The rain fell, mostly seriously, the wind sharpened, the temperature fell but still folk smiled and waved. Back on the Macc, at Cleddau’s permanent mooring the air was cold and laden with damp. But now the fairy lights are back on and the fire is aglow.

CONCLUSION: cold expectations of a midwinter cruise have been overridden by New Year cheer!

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