Ever so slightly frustrating

 Up to Standedge: ¾ mile, 10 locks

Monday morning and only 10 more locks to the Standedge summit and the tunnel… Shortly after breakfast the Captain prepared Lock 33 ahead, untied the ropes and pushed off.  Up ahead Boatwif waited at the open gates. Before Cleddau had even hove into view the friendly volunteer lock keeper was on hand. “Best to pull in after this lock,” he advised. “Moor up and have a cup of tea.” The problem, it seemed, was a wayward bottom paddle at Lock 34, two bolts sheared off and the lock unable to hold its water. The prospect of mooring up only a couple of minutes after casting off was well, disappointing, but Boatwif and the Captain are obedient souls, ready to listen to and to take advice.

The emergency crew, on their way, had still not arrived. The lock keeper fiddled with his phone and consulted his superiors who advised “trying to get them through”.  So, with help on hand, water was squeezed towards Cleddau to ensure her safe passage between Locks 33 and 38. Apart from the odd runner or dog walker few people were about and well before midday all the empty mooring bollards above Lock 42E stretched ahead. The boat was moored up (in what later became proper sunshine) and then the Captain darted about trying to gain “signal” – Virgin phone signal strong, 3G internet signal non-existent…

The tunnel passage is booked for Wednesday morning but there were questions to be asked. Where is the muster point, here or at the tunnel entrance? What time exactly is our passage booked for? Where is the water point? And what is in the Standedge Visitor Centre? Does the Standedge cafe do lunches? Off we set, through the housing estate, (some distance of the towpath being closed for the replacement of a water main) and through some woodland to arrive about ten minutes later at Tunnel End. Some questions were answered: muster after 4.30pm Tuesday afternoon outside the entrance, passage time 10am (or maybe 9.15), water hose on the opposite side but Visitor Centre firmly closed, as was the cafe. Maybe it’s because it was Monday…

Back towards Marsden and downhill into town. Lunch at Crumbals-on-the-Corner and then just up the street is the Mechanics Institute, home to Marsden’s lively library and information centre… but the Library is closed on Mondays! No matter, wander about, browse in shop windows (and buy for 50p a 6/6 priced Three Men in a Boat) and then stroll back uphill to the canal. Marsden is a compact little town, surrounded by Pennine ridges scarred by stone quarries. The River Colne races through the town and if you look closely you find evidence of a pre-industrial period, Town Gate, a seventeenth century cottage, the village stocks.  A large church, a little above the river, sits within an enormous churchyard. Walk round the outside – and you’ll forget where you are, you’ll lose your bearings. Uphill we walked and walked: surely the railway line and canal must be at about this elevation? The edge of town was reached – and nearly the ridge line. Frustrated, the map-less duo turned back, and some few hundred metres ahead was a one-sided traffic sign. Directions followed to Library, Station and Visitor Centre took us back down into the town –and then back up again. Wrong ridge, wrong valley!

The evening beckons – two further potential frustration points… is an internet signal obtainable further back along the tow path or at the station? And is the Railway Tavern open for food on a Monday night?!

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