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Customer blog

11 May

The South Pennine Ring April/May 2018 or how I learned to love the long-throw windlass.

Posted by Steff Green

We hired Shire boat "Lincoln" for this trip, she is brand new, beautifully fitted out and with all mod cons, loads of storage space and a pleasure to handle.
A Friday start saw us heading for Salterhebble in the afternoon, weather is fine and forecast is good too. We hooked up with a private boat straight away so made fast time to Brighouse.
There was already a long boat in the basin mooring so we stayed outside Sainsburys...I'm going there in the morning for a big shop.

Saturday morning, lovely and sunny, we are waiting for our friends from Brighouse to come and join us for a days boating to Huddersfield.
Again we are travelling with the same private boat and making good time...
off The Calder and Hebble and onto The Huddersfield Broad.
Straight away as we came out of Lock 1 it was obvious the pound ahead was low so we walked up to let some water down, it wasn't enough and so between us we decided it's time for C&RT. Also it became clear we had tiller problems so a call to Shire for us too! Whilst we were waiting those on the boats threw us emergency "sandwich bombs" and drinks.We were also helped to straighten up by a passing stranger (to this day I am always heartened by the kindness of strangers on the cut)
C&RT and Shire came promptly and before long order was restored and we are on our way again. We reached Aspley Basin round about 7 after a fine day boating. Chris, one of our guests, works for The EA and gave us a great insight into allsorts of watery goings on along that stretch. We waved our guests "goodbye" and retired indoors to plan tomorrow.

Sunday starts by putting on some water at the services,probably not wholly necessary but it was there so why not? This was the only time we saw any fishing folk for the whole 2 weeks.... is it seasonal? I don't know. We are going under the road to get on The Huddersfield narrow, it feels a bit "Alice down the rabbit hole".
By Lock 4E we were struggling to get out of the lock so got onto C&RT again, when they came the cause was found to be a wheelie bin stuck in the ground paddle.

Freed up off we went to Slawit travelling in tandem now with another Shire boat "Cornwall". You go straight through the middle of the village here. Monday, we knew the stoppage ahead at 26E was due to be finished so travelled closer and closer in anticipation of passing through but no! Work boats from Land and Water were coming down telling us we weren't going anywhere as there was no water up ahead, sure enough the pounds at 29/30 were bone dry and the water that should have been refilling the canal was disappearing down a hole.
So that's us, "Cornwall" and "Rocking Robin" all booked for Standedge on Wednesday all stuck!
Soooo, C&RT (again) came along after being summoned and found the hole and were coming back in the morning with sandbags and clay to seal in up.
overnight the cut had rewatered, how strange, a self-sealing canal. So seeing this in the morning we all made a break for it. Met the canal guys arriving so they shut the cut behind us to deal with the hole. Off we all go again to Railway lock at Marsden to just do the last wee stretch to Standedge in the morning....well the best laid plans of mice and men...in the morning we were clearly stuck on something under us and had to get a snatch off from "Cornwall", hurrah for our rescuers!

Got to Marsden portal and it's raining, no worries we are going in a tunnel, at the moment, in the rain it doesn't look like the most inviting prospect.
Cornwall went first, then us with our Chaperone and a chaperone learner (he was a bit tall and had to sit down, good job Lincoln is semi-trad.) They bring big lights, hard hats and life jackets for all. It's 2 1/2 hours through, we had a thorough and knowledgeable talk from The Chaperone all the way, really excellent.

Popping into the light at Diggle feels a bit odd but it's not a bad day weather wise now and we press on to Uppermill. The last lock before mooring had a great big bird on the balance beam, it looked like a cross between a turkey and a goose and really couldn't be bothered to move until I swung the beam and he shuffled off begrudgingly. I didn't know what it was but think I do now so I will put the answer to my "What is this BIg Bird?" question at the end.
I didn't get a picture at the time as neither phone nor camera were to hand but thought no more about it.
Getting up next morning I was astonished to see "Big Bird" perching on a fence on the other side of the cut staring at me so I did get a photo, albeit a blurry one.

We snuck away early while the other boaters were still sleeping and went to Stalybridge without stopping. Moored outside the 24 Tesco (does anyone really need a 24 hour supermarket?).
Friday, it's raining and so it shall be all day, I'm now convinced that no matter how good your waterproofs are they just won't stand up to all day rain. We are heading to Manchester and don't really know where might be good to moor but as we were passing Sportcity near The Etihad Stadium a great line of mooring rings outside the tennis centre came into view, an invitation to moor I think and get dry too. It's really not bad here really clean and tidy, quiet with only joggers and cyclists passing and the tramline on the other side of the cut handy for zooming into the city should you wish.

The heating onboard is fab and we soon got warm and cosy ready for a super early start to get out of Manchester tomorrow. Saturday, just a few locks to get off The Ashton and onto The Rochdale but swinging into the boat from slightly higher that I thought I felt a massive pain in my chest as I strained the pectoral muscles where they insert into the sternum, wow, really don't need this on the busiest day so shovelled painkillers down and pressed on. Getting on the Rochdale we travelled up a little until we saw a Deli near one of the locks so I dashed in for hot Paninis, lovely and really needed.
We met 2 private boats coming down (not really seen any boats moving at all), the usual exchange of ..how is it ahead etc?...disheartened to hear..no water ..urgh! Whilst this didn't manifest itself till a little later it became harder and harder to find any water even after walking up to let some down, so much so that we were really behind time and got stuck in lock 69 and had to use the boat to get the top gates open, we managed to get out and limped slowly up to the next lock.
It was getting near dark now so a decision to use the lock as a safe haven was made. We could see water coming into the bywash above, left the top gates open and next morning the pound was full and we were able to navigate freely away.

(that was much harder than when I left Manchester in my 20's, I just got on a coach!)
We are heading for Slattocks as an alternative to where we thought we would be due to the delays yesterday.All largely uneventful except getting to Grimshaw Lane vertical lift bridge I found it inoperable...no lights, no key turning, nothing...so it's C&RT again (this is Sunday so it's the emergency call out number) strangely the chap who answered the phone could not locate where we were and seemed to think we were on The Leeds and Liverpool. A bit of a wait for this one but eventually they arrived and two minutes later off we go again. We moored outside a pub but I didn't get the name...it seemed friendly and cosy inside. I think we went to bed about 8, so tired now.
Finally we have the feeling that we will make it back in time providing nothing major is in front of us.
From Slattocks we are heading for The Summit, it's so beautiful up here, quite wild and open. I awoke very early, just as the Sun was rising, when I looked out it was magical, what looked like smoke above the water, honking geese eerily calling to each other, this is perfect peace.

Today is Monday and the bulk of the journey is done, we can cool our heels a little and just drop down to Todmorden today, it's a beautiful Spring day and all is well with the World. A little further down as I jumped ship to get locking I could see another boat in the pound below but stuck on the silt on the inside of the bend, I nipped down. It's Sentience and he's been there an hour already, can't get off and is single handed so now it's our turn to do a good deed. We were going to snatch him off on the way past but emptying our lock flushed him off so we join him in the next lock and travel a little way together until we reached Grandma Pollards and the lure of chips was too strong for me so we had a pie and chips pit stop. Off again and catching up with Sentience a little further down we came in Tod together and stopped on the VMs. Put on some water, put off some rubbish.
Tuesday and we are only heading for Hebden Bridge today so we dawdled about and waited for the rain to stop before we set off.
This time instead of going through Blackpit Lock and mooring we stayed higher up, a decision which became fruitful the next morning...Wednesday morning I nipped into Hebden for Cornish Pasties and hot pork pies from Country Stores in St.Georges square, highly recommend these if you are a pie-eater.
We ate in the glorious Spring sunshine, happy boaters. As we are looking down the towpath who should come along but our good friend Ellie who is a postie in Hebden so we had a surprise catch-up with her, so good to see her.
Eventually we moved ourselves and drifted down to Tuel Lane ready to go through in the morning.

This ring is not long in mileage but lock heavy and has some issues mainly with water supply problems.
It was harder that we had anticipated but thoroughly worth it, the sense of achievement at having done it is immeasurable.

Steph, Jus and Ellie (The Blind Dog)
ps I believe the big bird is a Muscovy Duck!

As always we would like to give our thanks to Susan and Nigel, all the Shire Crew (they make good tea too!) Canal and River Trust for all their help, The Crew of Cornwall and all the strangers who have showed utmost kindness in helping us.

Finally if you have never tried it...Go Boating! You won't regret it.