Thursday, 29 July 2010

Well, well, well ?
A few hours up the canal from the silk town of Macclesfield is the remarkable community of Bollington. Despite its proximity to the larger town its mills produced cotton, not silk which surprised me. There are still two mill buildings and both are in use - not cotton production however.
Adelphi Mill is mixed commercial development.

The more impressive Clarence Mill has apartments on the top two floors and commercial units below. These include a cafe, offices, a community radio station and a study centre. This is run purely by volunteers and is open Wednesday afternoons and at weekends. They have a computer archive of 5000 photographs all indexed and is popular with local families who can trace photographs of relatives in old school photos etc. They also produce leaflets and maps of six Nostalgia Walks. Compared with Saltaire where there is not even a tourist information office this is a phenomenal and laudable achievement. (see blogs around June when we were in W. Yorks)
The town which is bisected by the Macclesfield Canal embankment courtesy of Thomas Telford and William Crosley is no less remarkable. Behind the MOT garage is an Aladdin's cave called the Bridgend Centre. It comprises a charity shop with shelves of reasonably priced books in alphabetical order, toys, haberdashery, and the usual clothes and bric-a-brac; an internet cafe and a general meeting place; all housed in rambling rooms leading you from one delight to another. When we visited there were children playing on the floor with toys, parents chatting and others browsing.
There is much more to this town than I have room to describe but the feeling of a community which is proud of its past and confident in its future is evident.

On Sunday, we caught the end of the well-dressing exhibition which is also remarkable as there are no wells.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Son of Thalia
To appreciate this post you are recommended to read the posts of 15 & 19 Sept 2009.

Not a very good disguise, methinks!
As expected, we caught up with Trevor and Marian on nb Ivy. Morning coffee was taken aboard Ivy yesterday before they moved on to High Lane where we passed them this morning.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Everyone's Doing the Macky
No it's not a new dance.
Since joining the Macclesfield Canal we have encountered six boats with which we are familiar. (see previous blog entry)
Four years ago when we went up to Doug's wedding we stopped one night at Wheelton Boat Club at the top of Johnson's Hillock. The club officer who made us welcome and found us space lives on nb K2. We passed them yesterday soon after seeing nb Ivy moored at Marple. Trevor and Marion were not in evidence but I expect we will catch up with them sometime soon. And on to Whaley Bridge for the night to moor in front of nb Blue Goose (newly stretched) who we thought never ventured beyond the southern GU. Their dog, by the way, is now fully recovered.
As Gecko has never been up here before I wonder if all these boats are trying to hide from us.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Old Friends on the Macky
At Red Bull Junction yesterday morning we negotiated the unusual turning onto the Macclesfield Canal. We turn right, double back parallel to our previous route and then cross over the Trent & Mersey two locks back.
Within 30 minutes we saw nb Tantler who was on the BCN Explorer Cruise with us last year.(see Blog Aug 10 - 17, 2009) An hour or so later we passed Martin on nb Tegu (it's a kind of Gecko!) who we met at Bulbourne last May.
Tonight we moored by the swing bridge at Oak Grove, opposite the Fool's Nook pub. Behind us is nb Nutshell. Ken and Christine are not aboard but we will leave them a note. We first met Ken at the IWA AGM in 2005. He and Chirstine were divorced 30 years ago and since both remarried and widowed. They are now married to each other again!

Thursday, 22 July 2010

First and Last -2
I often wonder when something is claimed to the the first or last how it is authenticated and whether it is really important. In my view what really matters is the impact on life an object or event has. In the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry they proudly display the last Briitish built steam engine to be installed in a cotton mill in the country (1926). It is no longer in working order and is truly a museum piece - an inanimate exhibit. About five years earlier, Bancroft Mill in Barnoldswick (see blog entry "Where is Barlick?" - May 21) installed a locally built steam engine and this is still working. To appreciate what fine machines these engines were play the following movie.

But if you really want to understand what working in a mill sounded like then get yourself to Queens Street Mill in Burnley where they have the last (!) steam powered working cotton weaving shed.

Without the supplied ear defenders it is horrifying and quite unimaginable.

And this is only half the shed!

Monday, 19 July 2010

First and Last - 1
As we approached Middlewich today we started to pick up reports of a car in the canal. The towpath telegraph was a bit sketchy but we gleaned that last night a young driver had come off the road and ended up in the canal above Kings Lock. As he was apparently unhurt and we planned to stop below the lock for our bow thruster to be repaired we did not expect it to inconvenience us. However, after ascending the Big Lock we were held up for two and a half hours before we could start up the three narrow locks. At some time yesterday evening a boat damaged one of the locks and repairs had taken some time this morning and a queue of boats developed at both ends. We were surprised to find nb Whio a couple of boats behind us. They are Kiwis and winter the boat in Aylesbury. although we have wintered there twice and seen the boat we have never met the crew before.
This is the first narrow lock I have negotiated this year and it was the last one I negotiated last year - on October 8 - over nine months ago. A lot can happen in nine months.
We left the Bridgewater Canal a few days ago after the Preston Brook tunnel and stop lock.
On our way into Manchester, it runs alongside and crosses the Manchester Ship Canal - almost the first English canal in close contact with almost the last English canal.

Access from one canal to the other used to be via Hulme Lock which is now disused.

This is now achieved via Pommona Lock.

Friday, 16 July 2010

In the Beginning
This is where the Industrial Revolution started.
Well, that may be a rather bold claim but this is certainly where Canalmania started.
When the Duke of Bridgewater built a canal from this coalmine in Worsley to Manchester in 1759 it halved the price of coal in that city. If that wasn't an incentive to the subsequent canal builders then the history books have to be rewritten.
There had certainly been canals for many years in many countries but this was the first completely artificial waterway in England. Coal was loaded onto boats inside the mine and taken directly into the centre of Manchester with no locks to slow the journey.

To cross the River Irwell a stone aqueduct was built at Barton.

When the Manchester Ship Canal was constructed a century later this was replaced with a no less striking structure - a swing aqueduct.

This, of course, is the adjacent road bridge seen from the aqueduct and showing the control tower.

Worsley today is a sought-after suburb which is proud of its history. The story boards which are placed at appropriate sites around the village paint a picture of a busy and noisy industrial site with all the support services required by a mining and boat-building community. We are asked to imagine how noisy it would have been. This does not require so much imagination as the village is blighted by the M60 motorway and feeder roads which fly over the village. The noise was said to be so great in the 18th centrury that local workers were often late back to work after lunch as they could not hear the town clock strike one. A remedy was soon found - the clock was made to strike 13.

It is still possible to discern where rail tracks used to run across what is now the village green.

For more about the Duke of Bridgewater go tho the archive>> >>> and read the blog entry for 25 May 2009 - Chiltern Ramblers

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Problem with Immigrant in Birmingham
This story I have borrowed from Boundary Post - the newsletter of the BCN society. My thanks to Brenda Ward, editor.
It grows to the size of a dustbin lid, will eat anything in its path and is normally found in the Mississippi.
It is an Alligator Snapping Turtle.
This creature, or one very like it, was fished (is that the correct term for retrieving a reptile?) out of the canal at Broad Street, Birmingham.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

A Night on the P**s
Whilst out for a quick drink this evening received a txt msg from Graham and Brenda from nb Jannock who were celebrating with their sons Simon and Matt. Simon has just completed his PhD at Manchester Uni. (I didn't realise that anyone ever finished their PhD).

We met up with them for a brief chin-wag at the Knotts Bar, before leaving them to continue their night on the tiles. Perhaps The Temple of Convenience which occupies a disused public toilet might be on their route.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

L&L to Close
BW has just announced that the L&L from Wigan to Gargrave will close to navigation from August 2 until further notice.
Locks gates will be locked and stop planks installed above locks.
1984 and all that
When we sold our house and moved onto Gecko we bequeathed a large ornate chimney pot to our younger son. Along with our friend Annie we acquired these from a council depot somewhere on the L&L when cruising past on a hire boat back in 1984. The staff on duty were only too pleased to be rid of these pots cluttering up the yard and so we reversed our boat up to them and manhandled the pots on board. They look considerably smaller when perched on top of a chimney but down at ground level they seem to grow.

I was reminded of this episode as we passed through Heath Charnock near Chorley. The name rang a bell and when I saw the tumbledown shacks of what once was L&L Hire Cruisers the memories of that trip cam back. The toffee-coloured hire cruisers seem to have disappeared and the buildings are no smarter than 26 years ago but there is a business there still.
Why do I remember the year? Well, do you remember Garden Festivals? One of the first of these attempts to breathe new life into run down urban areas was in Liverpool and whilst on this canal holiday we took a train to the Liverpool Garden Festival. The site chosen for this treatment was the south docks area of the Dingle. It was billed as "a five-month pageant of horticultural excellence and spectacular entertainment" That is not quire how I remember it but it was an enjoyable day out away from the rigours of cruising the L&L. There were 60 gardens and a variety of public pavilions. Whatever happened to the area? About half of it is housing and the other half is about to go the same way. It is intended that some of the original gardens will be incorporated in the housing development bu I think we should wait and see before applauding. As they say, "It's not over until the fat developer sings"

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Flash ! Bang! Wollap! ....but not in that order
On our way to our winter mooring at Reedley Marina last back end I spent a few nights moored at the bottom of Wigan flight whilst she who must be obeyed went off to do some baby sitting. Not being a regular visitor to 'the countryside of Greater Manchester' as the tourism brochures describe Wigan, I was unaware until around 7pm that I was on the main club route (I should have had some derris powder - a pun for gardeners). My attention was drawn to this situation when someone ran along the roof en route to his night of fun. I was not surprised, therefore, when I awoke at 2 am to the sound of someone on the roof again, trying to remove the assorted accoutrements of boating. As we sleep immediately below these items I banged on the roof and yelled something as I dived for the back door. The miscreant, unable to dislodge anything, made his escape across the tonneau which collapsed causing him to fall off the boat. Unfortunately he fell onto the towpath. I would have been much happier had he fallen into the cut. To avoid another Friday night experience we stayed only Thursday night in this spot this week and moved on to Worsley next day.
There are two locks as you leave Wigan on the Leigh Branch of the L&L and then 65 lock-free miles open up before you (if you don't count the stop lock at Preston Brook tunnel).

The countryside around here is the result of many years of coal mining subsidence causing beautiful lakes called flashes.

On our way up here in October we spent a night by Peninington Flash - see photo, left.

About five miles into this lock-free idyll we passed through Dover Locks!
The land subsided so much (and the canal with it) that these locks were moved five miles to Wigan.

Another couple of miles and the Leigh Branch meets the end of the Bridgewater Canal at Plank Lane. A trip here to see the impressive Britannia Hotel by the lift bridge is a waste of time now as it has been demolished and the area is being prepared for 600 houses and a small marina.

Friday, 9 July 2010

High & Dry
After two months on the Leeds & Liverpool today has been rather a shock. No longer can I doze at the tiller confident that there will be no boat coming through the next bridge towards me. The shock of meeting eight boats in one day instead of over a week has made me somewhat weary. Even the day-boat which we met wanted to play chicken - particularly foolhardy when you have a 20ft puddle jumper overloaded with tipsy relations and your adversary is a 20 ton tin slug resolutely holding a steady line because its driver is dreaming of empty canals.
Yesterday we descended the Wigan flight, having arrived the previous lunchtime and thus established our position as first in line for the supervised descent. At ten a.m. there were six boats waiting to go down and two at the bottom waiting to climb the 21 broad and very leaky locks. Nicholson's guide says that it is possible to stop between locks 77 and 78.
We found it impossible not to stop. The water was so low that even after the BW men had run water down from the top for 30 minutes we still ran aground leaving lock 77. Passage from lock 77-78 therefore took us one hour. Fortunately we had a good team on the windlasses - she who must be obeyed was augmented by our younger son, Douglas, who came over for the day.

Grandson Dominic was quite sanguine about the whole affair, having discovered the true purpose of those black and white mushrooms on the lock side.
Betjeman's Banana Blush
is still available.Tthere are several for sale on eBay - eg: the link above.
Highly recommended!

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

A Disturbed Night - pt 2
After our adventure at 1.45 this morning the adrenalin was still flowing so that I could not get to sleep - hence the nighttime blogging. When I returned to bed and eventually to sleep I had a recurring dream stimulated by the evocative poem by John Betjeman about the first man to swim the channel unassisted - Captain Matthew Webb. I can't remember when he performed this feat but I do recall that his route was so erratic that he actually swam 39 miles which is equivalent to crossing the channel twice.

A Shropshire Lad

The gas was on in the Institute,
The flare was up in the gym,
A man was running a mineral line,
A lass was singing a hymn,
When Captain Webb the Dawley man,
Captain Webb from Dawley,
Came swimming along the old canal
That carried the bricks to Lawley,
Swimming along, swimming along,
Swimming along from Severn,
And paying a call at Dawley Bank
While swimming along to Heaven.

The sun shone low on the railway line
And over the bricks and stacks,
And in at the upstairs windows
Of the Dawley houses’ backs,
When we saw the ghost of Captain Webb,
Webb in a water sheeting,
Come dripping along in a bathing dress
To the Saturday evening meeting.
Dripping along, dripping along,
To the Congregational Hall;
Dripping and still he rose over the sill
And faded away in a wall.

There wasn’t a man in Oakengates
That hadn’t got hold of the tale,
And over the valley in Ironbridge,
And round by Coalbrookdale,
How Captain Webb the Dawley man,
Captain Webb from Dawley,
Rose rigid and dead from the old canal
That carried the bricks to Lawley,
Rigid and dead, rigid and dead,
To the Saturday congregation,
And paying a call at Dawley Bank
On his way to his destination

John Betjeman

The best way to appreciate this poem, as with all his others, is to listen to the great man reciting it. I believe this is still available on a CD recorded in the 1970s- Betjeman's Banana Blush - with musical accompaniament and is really enjoyable.

A Disturbed Night
About ten minutes ago I awoke to find myself alone in bed - she who must be obeyed was obeying the call of nature. Nothing unusual except - THUMP - she can't be making bread at this time of the night! To my call of is that you? a negative response was voiced. Having been woken by people on the roof trying to steal or throw things off on occasions in the past I was now wide awake and out of bed. I flung open the side hatch and yelled the pre-cursor to a tirade to turn the air blue - OI!
I was a little surprised when the response was not a pair of feet running down the towpath but a voice calling
Sorry mate, I fell in. "
"Well, if you fell in trying to steal my gear, enjoy the swim" I thought.
"What were you doing out at this time of night" is what I said.
"Walking the dog"
At which point I became aware of a dog on the bank seemingly unconcerned at the position of his master.
In earlier days one would have lit a candle and gone to assist the unfortunate nocturnal perambulater. Fortunately I took an electric torch as any naked flame would have caused an oral conflagration and went out in my PJs and Crocks. I am not sure what he had been drinking but it did not smell very appetising. The current water level appears to be about eight inches below normal which made it particularly difficult for the water wader to climb out and also prevented us from mooring up to the bank. So with guidance and light (sounds like a vicar) he was able to make his way to the stern, walking along between the boat and the bank ,where the emergency step is provided in the hull.
Back on shore he had to be guided along the broad and well surfaced path for fear of him returning to the cut. Had we not been awake for another reason we might not have appreciated the problem and been able to assist. If you had no scruples about making bad puns you could say that he was saved by the bowel.
To save embarrassment, no photos are being published.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Half Time
The Leeds & Liverpool Canal is the longest canal in Britain built by one company but it was not built in one go. The easy bit was done first - from Bingley to Skipton - which is lock free and this took about seven years. Construction then went from the sublime to the ridiculous with the stretch from Leeds to Bingley - staircases (3 x 2step, 4 x 3step and 1 x 5step) and swing bridges (too many). This was followed by Wigan to Liverpool and finally Wigan was linked to Skipton in 1816. The total length is 127 miles with 91 locks The locks on the Wigan-Leeds stretch are 60ft long and 14ft3ins wide to accommodate large load carrying barges and boats form Liverpool. For pleasure users today this can present problems as the predominant gauge on the narrow canals accepts boats up to 70ft long. The prime reason for constructing the canal was to service the Yorkshire wool and Lancashire cotton trades and, although beset by water supply problems from day one, it did not succumb to the competition from the railways until the 20th century.
At the mid point between Leeds and Liverpool is the village of Church which grey up around the calico printing works of Sir Robert Peel (that man again!). The guide books declare that there is a beautiful window in the church by Burne-Jones but we have never been able to gain access to view it. We passed through there on Sunday which should have been a good day to try but could not moor closer than 4ft from the bank due to the low water level. With a gale blowing to add to the problem we finally abandoned our attempts and continued cruising towards Blackburn.

To mark its position on the canal Church has erected a Half Way marker.

The next village of Rishton has also erected a mural to the canal.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Beauty & the Beasts
The Leeds & Liverpool Canal between Barrowford and Shipley passes through some lovely countryside - open moors and the sides of valleys. It is only spoilt by the frequent swing bridges. At times they occur every half mile and some are so difficult to move that two people are required to provide sufficient power. There is so little traffic that we seldom were in the position to share this work with another boat.

Rhodies near Snaygil

Waiting for Greenbeerfield locks to open

Another beastly swing bridge!

Boo Dee's Curry Boat
After enjoying the England v Slovenia game on TV at The Old Swan in Gargrave we have an appointment to keep. BooDee's Curry Boat will be in East Marton tomorrow and we are keen to stock up with their home-made curries which they vacuum pack ready to boil in the bag. Boo lived in Thailand for some years and has brought some of the recipes she leaned out there to the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. They cruise between Foulridge and Skipton stopping wherever there is demand for their superb and good value fare. We recently tried the Chicken Jalfrezi with Chick Pea and Spinach. It was really good and did not smell the boat out as happens when we cook curries from scratch. Their website does not have a timetable or menu on it yet so we usually send them a txt to find out where they are. - 07540 053 763
To get to East Marton involves scaling three more of the Gargrave locks and all six of Bank Newton flight. As we approached the last of these we have to wait for a boat to descend first.

As the gates open I realise it is Kennet - the only Liverpool Short Boat which has not been converted for pleasure use.

Being 14ft wide and filling the lock some manoeuvring is required to get past each other but we manage without mishap.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

More NewZ from the Travel Diary.....
Mar 24 - Serendipity on the Road to Lumsden
It is true to say that the places we enjoyed most in our five weeks touring New Zealand were those no-one told us about or recommended us visit. Leaving our newly found friends in Dunedin we set off toward the west coast.
For morning coffee we stopped in Balclutha and while there took a look at this early example of ferro-concrete bridge construction. After coffee we discovered the town museum and what a gem this is. Packed to the rafters with real exhibits and only three Do not touch signs in the whole place. The curator spent the rest of the morning telling us about the various bridges (the current one is number three) over the Clutha River.

The previous incarnation can be seen alongside the current one in this photograph from the 1930s.

This must have been one of the earliest examples of ferro concrete being used in bridge construction.

Amongst this treasure trove of recent history I came across this Royal Bar-Lock typewriter with two keyboards. Manufactured in New York by the Columbia Typewriter Company around 1890 , the upper case letters are, appropriately, above the lower case keyboard.

My research has not been able to clarify the model number of this machine. It is very similar to the models 6 and 10 but has a longer space bar. Royal Bar-Lock was the name used for sales to Europe and the twin keyboard models were replaced by shift key versions in 1903.

We eventually tore ourselves away from this interesting town and progressed through Gore which was also an enjoyable stop for lunch.
Lumsden, however, we would quite happily have by-passed in hind sight.
Where? and When?
Before setting off from Reedley yesterday I rang British Waterways Wigan office to check on the current restrictions for passage through the flight of locks there. The lady who took my call asked me which canal the Wigan locks were on! She had only to look out of her window see the locks in question so where does she think she works?
Of all the errors on signs that we come across the one that annoys me most is the use of a.m. or p.m. after the time 12 o'clock. We learned at junior school what the abreviations stood for and that by definition 12 o'clock can neither be a.m. nor p.m - it must be noon or midnight. In an uncharacteristic act of generosity I will overlook the 12pm-midnight on this sign but sureley even the most inattentive schoolchild would realise that 12pm-8pm does not make sense if the pub closes at midnight.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Continuing our walk up Shipley Glen on Saturday last, we worked our way along the ridge until we heard the strains of There's Whiskey in the Jar wafting up from the valley.

Drawn as to the song of the sirens, we descended the hill and found ourselves in Baildon where there was a Gypsy Fair in progress.

The caravans on display were all fairly new but the workmanship was remarkable - outside and in.

On this occasion I was permitted to photograph the young ladies. (I don't try to understand the reasoning behind these decisions by she who must be obeyed). - see Curry & Chicks June 12 blog

From here we walked back to Saltaire along the canal to join a guided walk around the village conducted by the imitable Maria Glot (and no, she does not have a sister named Polly)
There are many stories about the Saltaire community - how the hierarchy of employees was reflected in the property they were allowed to occupy, for example. This is challenged in a book soon to be published - Saltaire - the making of a model town by Jackson, Lintobon & Staples. However there does seem to be support for the idea that the village was self policing as there are watch-towers at strategic positions.

This house with a watch-tower is in the dead centre of the village. I tend toward the belief that self policing was assisted by the judicious allocation of houses so that each employee was not too many doors from their supervisor.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Back to Square One
Two months ago we set off from Reedley Marina near Burnley where we had spent the winter (apart from two months down under). Since then we have cruised across the Pennines almost to Leeds and back. Now we are back whence we started. The most interesting places we have visited have been Barnoldswick (Barlick), Gargrave, Shipley, Saltaire, Skipton and, from a canal viewpoint, Bingley. Last weekend we were moored in Barlick but took ourselves off by bus and train to Saltaire (again) for the church fete and to Skipton for the Armed Forces Day parade.
Our first task in Saltaire was to walk up the hill on the south side of the valley to get this view of Salts Mill.
The hill behind the chimney in this picture is Shipley Glen which was popular with the Victorians for weekend visits and our next port of call.

On our way down one hill and up the other we passed a model of car I had not seen before. It looked rather like one of the minor europan manufacturers but turned out to be a Nissan Pao. Note the number plate - J55 PAO.

The Shipley Glen Tramway is a funicular running up the side of the hill but is no longer in running order. There are plans (aren't there always?) to restore it and recommence operations but we found little evidence of any work being done.