Thursday, 27 August 2015

Manchester–full of Friends, Food and Fun!

Way back on Saturday, after we arrived in Castlefield Basin with Les and Chris, and after watering and mooring up, ……….

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…….. we all took to The Wharf for a bit of relaxation in the lovely sunshine which we’ve been lucky enough to enjoy here in Manchester.

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On Monday we had, with great pleasure, the company of friends Pam and Geoff who travelled down from Cumbria to see us. After a splendid lunch in nearby Albert’s Shed we went back to “Chance” for drinks on the back deck – again in the lovely sunshine which Manchester is not known for. We so enjoyed the day and are looking forward to seeing you both again soon.

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On Tuesday, friends Rich and Andy arrived in the basin on nb “Carpe Diem”. This completed the meeting up again of all three boats which we arranged at this same place and same time last year. Chris, Les Doug, Rich and Andy.

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In the evening on Tuesday friends Jason and Robin came to see us for a meal at The Wharf and afterwards on “Chance” for cheese and biscuits, drinks and coffee. Sadly, only Robin’s leg can be seen here and Jason is between Chris and Les. James is in the galley making coffee ………

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….. and Doug, who was cuddling Robin and Jason’s gorgeous little dog “Oscar”, took the pic.

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Wednesday, all of us (Rich, Doug, Les, James, Chris and Andy) went to Albert’s Shed to dine ‘al fresco’ before ………..

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…… going to the Opera House to thoroughly enjoy “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” starring Duncan James. Brilliantly performed, it’s one of the best ‘feel good’ shows ever.

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Today we took the tram from the amazing and newly refurbished Deansgate station and journeyed to Altrincham.

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There was a very good reason for us to centre on the very splendid Goose Green conservation area of the town …………..

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…….  and that was to meet up with dear friends Pauline (the cup-cake queen of the canals!) and Neil for lunch at Franc’s Restaurant. Doug and Pauline spent the entire time in complete hysterics while the “engineers”, Neil and James (in matching shirts) had their own important issues to discuss.

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To say we enjoyed ourselves is a very big understatement and, while saying goodbye to these two lovely people, we were presented with a box of Pauline’s superb cupcakes. Well, it was another lovely sunny day just to make things just perfect and we hope to meet up again with Pauline and Neil in the next week. Yippee!!!!!

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Nine very tough locks then – 999!

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At 8:30 on Saturday morning we started down the notorious “Rochdale 9” flight of locks down to Castlefield. The first lock is particularly uninspiring.

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Bits of the flight pass under buildings with a complex array of old and new structural engineering to keep you company.

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Even one of the locks is now buried deep beneath huge concrete constructions.

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After our subterranean adventures we were back out in open air and travelling parallel with Canal Street. The lock “landings” on the couple of locks here have been improved so there’s no more need for heroic leaps from the boat to the lock gates!

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During it’s building they seemed to shoe-horn the canal through the city – there are still some tight old corners to have to deal with.

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Still travelling adjacent to Canal Street, Chris extracts himself from another tight spot!

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Les guides “Eleventh Heaven” from underneath one of the more architecturally pleasing buildings that adorn the canal side.

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There are still some original artisan buildings along the canal side. This old cottage has now been subsumed into the cafe / nightclub complex at the bottom of Whitworth Street.

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Further along, and one lock to go, the canal passes under a magnificent (and recently painted) iron railway bridge.

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The ninth, and final, lock of the flight – known as Duke’s Lock, it was the wettest! The main issues which make this flight a bit on the tough side are the lack of adequate by-washes which forces water over the lock gates and the cramped nature on many locks which results in very short gate arms.  This lock has the most extreme of both. The lock empties very slowly due to the quantity of water flowing over the gates and the boat steerers (Les and James in this case) get very wet from the spray!

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Anyway, after the very respectable time of just 2 hours to negotiate the 9 locks, we arrived in Castlefield Basin where our favourite mooring was waiting for us.

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Only hours after we arrived a huge pile of wood in the adjacent car park caught fire so James rang for the fire brigade. Worryingly, they didn’t seem to know where Castlefield was!

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Anyway, 7 minutes after the emergency call the fire brigade arrived to give us their version of how to put out a fire! 

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After all the excitement it just had to be done – while Chris got some beauty sleep on “Eleventh Heaven”  Les joined us on “Chance” for wine and nibbles in the glorious, hot sunshine which we weren’t supposed to have on Saturday afternoon.

Friday, 21 August 2015

The Long Way Round.

We got to Marple on Wednesday evening ready to meet up with friends Les and Chris on nb “Eleventh Heaven”

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The 16 lock Marple flight has been subject to restrictions for a while, due to a bulging lower gate on lock 14 – so we were up and ready at 8 o’ clock on Thursday morning for the flight to be unlocked and the C&RT rep to see us safely through. The flight was to be closed at noon for repairs lasting a couple of days.

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The environs around Marple are lovely and things are still fairly well kept. The town council obviously take their canal heritage seriously which is shown nicely in these street lamps.

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The lock flight at Marple, for us, is one of our favourites – very pretty and a bit quirky (you need to be strong to operate the paddles and fairly athletic to dodge and dive around the gate arms). As the flight leaves behind the canal side dwellings it takes on a jungle-like feel with trees and damp atmosphere. Some of the lock gates have a good protective coating of flora indicating how damp things can be!

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The descent took us down a total of 208 feet with each lock being a very similar 13ft deep.

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Very pretty ………

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….. and quite quirky. This is an original rope roller on top of the wall. Quirky also, as these gate arms are virtually sticking out into the road when open!

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Leaving behind the town and entering the “forest”.

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Some of the locks offer a free boat washing service! Both “Eleventh Heaven” and “Chance” had to be mopped out back and front when we’d finished.

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The two tired but accomplished lock workers having a rest at the bottom.

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Straight after the lovely Marple locks came the splendid Marple Aqueduct. Very reminiscent of the Chirk Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal with the adjacent, and elevated, railway viaduct.

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Our two happy friends Les and Chris. (They obviously enjoy aqueducts!)

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The Marple Aqueduct was opened in 1800 and elegantly carries the canal 100 feet above the River Goyt.

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Heading towards Romiley, Hyde and the end of the Peak Forest canal at Ashton-under-Lyne the pleasant feeling of the waterway continues.

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At the end of the Peak Forest canal is Portland Basin and the start of the Ashton Canal. The basin is dominated by a fine mill chimney topped off by a beautiful crown.

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In contrast to the Marple flight the 18 locks from Ashton to Ancoats – comprising the Fairfield Locks, the Clayton Locks and the Ancoats Locks were dreadful. Not the fault of the waterways authorities but every single paddle mechanism had to be unlocked and locked with a “handcuff” key. However, what is the fault of C&RT was a worrying number of paddles out of action - with any further failure in the effected locks making the whole flight inoperable (Doug reported it to C&RT with a quick response of “we know”!). One pound was completely dry – but thankfully a very short pound. Here’s lock 15 coping with the regenerative water being flooded through it.

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Well, at the end of the day Les and James, who were working the boats, offered grateful thanks to Chris and Doug who worked their respective socks off to get us to the bottom where moorings were waiting for us in the Thomas Telford basin in Piccadilly village. It’s been a blooming long haul to get to our favourite city outside London (and Chichester!) due to the Bridgewater Canal being closed but - Manchester here we are!!!!!

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Bugsworth, Buxton and Back.

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We left Higher Poynton on Monday but not before taking on fuel and pumping out the black water. We were third in the queue at ‘The Trading Post’ after travelling the few yards from our mooring.

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After that it was a cruise down to Marple (and the end of the Macclesfield Canal) and onto the Peak Forest Canal towards Whaley Bridge ……….

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……… and our stop for the night at Bugswortth Basin. The basin now enjoys Ancient Monument status and has great atmosphere, being surrounded by the restored remains of the enormous industrial complex where limestone was processed and loaded onto narrow boats for transhipment all over Lancashire.

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Waiting for us in the basin were boater friends and fellow bloggers Gary and Della on nb “Muleless”.  We all went to the Navigation Inn (once owned by Pat Pheonix), just a short walk from our moorings and had a great evening together with good food and drink to boot. Good to catch up with you both.

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Tuesday we caught the train from the pretty little station at Whaley Bridge – a short walk from the basin.

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At the station ticket office there’s a pair of binoculars and a couple of reference books “for the use of”. A remarkable insight into the quality of life in this sleepy little Derbyshire town perhaps?

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The train, on it’s 20 minute journey to Buxton, gave us great views of the Derbyshire countryside.

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Having been to Buxton 3 years ago, this beautiful spa town hasn’t changed much at all. That Includes the terrible state of the Crescent Hotel! It’s awful to see this lovely building - the centrepiece of the town, being left to crumble. What are they thinking of?

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The rest of the town is in excellent condition and beautiful to boot. This is the Opera House (with the Gardens Conservatory adjacent) ……..

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….. and, with a look inside at the Opera House foyer,things just got better. 

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It would be nice to say we went on a hot air balloon trip but we didn’t - this is a photo of an aerial photo showing the centre of the town. 

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Buxton even has it’s own little Crystal Palace equivalent.

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The old Bath House has been converted into a shopping arcade (!) but thankfully they’ve preserved one of the old baths used by people to “take the waters”.

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Getting the train back to Whaley Bridge in the afternoon we were soon back aboard “Chance” and on our way back up towards Marple again. On the way, at New Mills, we enjoyed the wonderful aroma coming from the sweet factory. Pear drops me thinks!

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And, just to add to the excitement on the journey back - a herd of Highland cattle!

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Back at Marple we moor up for the night, ready for the journey down the lock flight tomorrow before it closes for repairs!