Millbrook, above Stalybridge to Dukinfield Junction, Peak Forest Canal:  5.23 miles, 8 locks

It was farewell to the Huddersfield Narrow Canal at about 1pm today. Given that this canal’s most noted feature is the Standedge Tunnel (highest, deepest, longest – you’ve read it all before) it  comes as a surprise to come down through Stalybridge and again think “Tunnels”. By the time the canal’s restoration got under way much of the route through Stalybridge had been filled in and the land sold for development.  In total 800 metres of new canal, along with several new bridges and locks were built.  The effect, from a boater’s perspective, is a series of tunnels, under widened roads, under the Asda supermarket and under old bridges connected by new bridges!

It was Monday morning, drizzling (later worse) and not many folk were about. It was good that at the lock in the main square a young father grabbed his toddler son from his pushchair to show him the boat going down and then tore further on to be able to show him a view of the boat’s reappearance from the lock. Other visual memories of the Stalybridge section? Sadly, vast numbers of plastic bottles, pieces of wood and a bread tray floating in the water, burnt out buildings, a pub up for auction, greenery sprouting from derelict buildings – and the usual parade of Canada geese on their morning swims. (Did anyone else come across the news piece about the New York (?) authorities capturing Canada geese and converting their meat into gooseburgers to feed the homeless…?)

The Huddersfield Narrow ends and the Ashton starts. Then just a few hundred yards on comes Portland Basin, a large attractive building facing the turn onto the Peak Forest Canal. Portland Museum is here (local, social, industrial history – “We’ll moor up, take a look, have lunch in the cafe,” was the Captain’s proposal) but in heavy rain all looked very closed.  Austerity times? Limited opening times?  Just closed on Mondays! So, avoiding the island of floating debris and also the trip boat packed with Sikh ladies, the sharp left turn onto the Peak Forest had to be taken.

 Later Boatwif walked back to the Basin – got offered a boat trip, she did – on Lilith, a 1901 wooden “Joey” boat, re-planked thirty odd years ago and just about to set off on a local run carrying goods for a recycling project which raises funds for the Wooden Canal Boat Society.

For readers of yesterday’s blog: did the Captain manage to buy more umbrellas?  Well, yes! He had written Umbrellas – 3 (!) on the shopping list, but returned from Tesco, bringing a trolley right up to the front deck, with two, both black (no coloured ones available, maybe there’s been a high demand for umbrellas!) Perhaps at this point Boatwif should confess to her own odd accessory fixation (mentioned before, but still current): Bungee Cords. Twice this year the Captain has presented her with a bundle of new ones, less romantic than flowers of course, but oh, so practical!  In use currently are bungee cords supporting drying laundry in the glory hole (utility area) and more supporting caps, gaiters and waterproof jackets on the front deck. Trouble is, with so much stuff tidily suspended about the boat and the gloomy lack of daylight it just gives the feeling that crew members are living in a tunnel…!

            Tomorrow, hopefully, a look inside the Portland Basin Museum and then a cruise onwards towards the bottom of the Marple Flight…

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