Trash cans and rushcarts
Mossley to Uppermill: 7 locks, 2.61 miles
For the canal enthusiasts here are several other Huddersfield Narrow curiosities to start with… At the top end of the locks behind the paddle gear you are likely to trip over “a pepper pot”. These objects function as a pressure valve – if the water rushing into the locks is under huge pressure surplus water can be thrust upwards through the holes. As yet neither crew member has had an unexpected dousing although such systems have provided showery upblasts on both the Bosley Flight (the Macc) and the Hazelhurst Flight (Caldon Canal). Occasionally short low bars (winching rollers) have been spotted: during maintenance and repair winches were used to drain the water by lifting a canal bed plug. Another peculiarity of the Huddersfield is the one metre underwater ledge on either side of much of the canal; this is an original “build feature” and it can provide interesting moments when trying to moor or to steer close to the bank…
Uppermill, according to locals on the tow path, is a “must stop and look” sort of place. As the boat glided along this morning Boatwif’s thoughts were of cruising deeper and deeper into the interior with trees stretched over the channel and lush ferns crowding the water’s edge. At Lock 21W, about midday, the Captain jumped off to open the gates. Cleddau proceeded on, soon finding herself under an extremely long road bridge, joined to another bridge: Boatwif was in a veritable tunnel – solo! It was a long wait; clankings echoed from ahead, and then water from the lock splashed past. Eventually the gates were slowly opened, the Captain expressing wonder at yet another form of gear (a rack and pinion operated gate). The boat rose, watched by an inquisitive dog walker. After the “Where have you come from, how far are you going and is it your boat?” routine was over Boatwif was able to ask her question. “Erm, what is this place called and where is the museum?” We had arrived, it transpired, in Uppermill and we could moor just fifty yards ahead outside the Saddleworth Museum.
The kettle had barely boiled when voices floated in from outside. There was the Captain engaged in conversation with not a gruff Yorkshire voice, to which we had been growing accustomed, but with a high pitched child’s voice. Cleddau had been moored right in front of another boat, both outside the museum and overlooking a small public car park. In this well cared for place the litter bins were looking rather over-full. “I know why they don’t empty the trash cans here,” said the voice, “it’s because the squirrels will eat it up.” And there was a squirrel sniffing in the “trash”. The voice belongs to a soon to be third-grader (clue!) who lives with mother and stepfather in Colorado Springs but who is now in the UK for eight weeks being cared for by grandparents (on their boat) and father (nearby). Photos were shared of the Californian Clan (the oldest soon to be a fourth grader) and then chats were had about jetlag and a den in the nearby bushes…
A stroll later on took in this pretty, affluent-feeling village (high class cafes, dress agencies, even the charity shops seemed smart) before a most worthwhile museum visit. An art gallery, a range of Victorian rooms, a seventeenth century clothier’s cottage, weaving looms, mill equipment, Morris displays and so much more. Since the 1970s the rushcart tradition has been revived: rushes cut from the moors, piled high on a cart, 20 tons of it dragged round the surrounding villages by various local Morris men sides. The festivities include much dancing, a certain amount of drinking and culminate in a rush blessing church service.
Late afternoon there was a tow path recce: how many more locks to the Standedge Tunnel meet point? Where exactly is the muster point? Up we climbed, under a spectacular railway aqueduct, the vast moors spreading out ahead. Are visitors rare in these parts – all locals want to tell you of things to see, walks to take and where to eat. And it was eight locks higher than the mooring place that the Cleddau crew met an older man and his dog. His own boating history was colourful (Merchant Navy, Thames boat, Lancaster Canal, Windermere). It was cold while we talked and this dear man offered to drive down from his house with some coal for us! But his main tale was of the time, nearly two years ago, when he fell in the canal. How deep it was, how cold he became, he showed us the very spot; only the strength of two passing cyclists managed to drag him out of the water. A thoroughly chilling tale.
Tomorrow, if British Waterways staff allow, Cleddau will climb the last eleven locks to the tunnel. Before then, better consign tonight’s fish and chip papers to the trash can outside!