Little acts of defiance

Slaithwaite to Sparth Reservoir:  2.06 miles, 11 locks

            Motto of the day: be prepared for the unexpected…

With just about a three hour trip expected today there was time to complete the boat chores in relatively slow time this morning. The Captain, taking advantage of Slaithwaite’s retail opportunities, left to find some Sunday reading matter. There was a judder as he landed back on board. “Well, we’re going nowhere, the British Waterways barge is loose across the canal!” And so it was! Calls to the local emergency number remained unanswered.  Then the boater slightly further ahead managed to retrieve the ropes and pull both tug and barge back to the side. Defiant revellers last night had untied the ropes and pulled out his mooring pin too.

Cleddau pulled away, passed the tiny cruiser, the Yorkshire Rose narrow boat, the tug and barge and cruised up to Lock 22E. In an effort to distribute labour fairly Boatwif took the boat in, the Captain took it out, leaving Boatwif to empty the lock after exit (a BW request) while he crept up the channel, kneeling to steer as the canal makes its way under the busy road junction. Lock 23E merely requires negotiation of the floating cafe and then it was on to Lock 24E – the sole guillotine gate, 120 turns to raise it, access through a tight little tunnel and then another 120 turns to lower the gate.

The journey was going well, interrupted by waterproofs on, then off, then on, then off – you get the picture! There were shallow pounds and muddy towpaths (as expected). On Cleddau went, approaching now the scenes of her crew’s downhill disgrace: Lock 27E, the colander lock, water shooting out of both sides of the lock walls. Then Lock 31E: check again that the top paddles are down before they are locked! Now read the blackboard advertising local apiary products!

The plan had been to moor in the long pound above Lock 31 and to spend a sunny afternoon perusing the papers… It’s a recommended mooring area, but where? Where the bow could be moored the stern was too deep to pull in; where the stern could be tied to the end mooring bollard no mooring pin could penetrate the stone or gravel or grassy surface for the bow. Frustration. Irritation. Along the long pound Cleddau was pushed (or “ploughed,” according to the Captain), all efforts to bring the boat in to the bank failing – and the prop was fouled with rubbish too. No further option remained but to go up Lock 32. Thereafter the locks come fast and mooring options are even less likely. Just beyond the lock was perched an angler, contentment and concentration writ across his face. Stakeholders must share resources is the waterways mantra, which is why Cleddau spent the afternoon with her stern just out of the lock gate and her bow a few feet from the fisherman. As the afternoon wore on long strips of cotton shirting and some wire were cut and pulled off the prop.

Time for a local stroll – from up to the right came voices, a gaggle of people in a line some ten feet higher. The footbridge across the lock end leads straight up to the Sparth Reservoir, a path along one side towards a car park.  In the water seemed to be a series of coloured balls – but no, they were swimming caps. A dozen women, and another joined them, were breast stroking cheerily through the water! Whatever the occasion (?) it was being filmed too! And further along a notice forbids swimming and bathing. One had to make enquiries… via Facebook and as “a little act of defiance” these open water swimmers had chosen their venue. Happy, exhilarated and invigorated after half an hour they climbed out and rubbed themselves down; no harm was done…

One final act of defiance – by late afternoon the angler packed up, and under the watchful “eye” of the camera crew Cleddau was moved forward a few more feet and moored up more appropriately: on any other canal mooring this close to a lock would be regarded as a gross infringement of boating lore…

Tomorrow – the last crawl to the summit.

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