Sunday, April 27, 2008

Pennine Foothills – Western Side

Sometimes people wonder how we get our letters and the supply of tools that Dave sells over the internet. Ashton-under-Lyne was an example of how it works – and doesn't! We had phoned ahead and asked if we could have a parcel of tools delivered to the boatyard there. That was fine, and it arrived the day after we did. Excellent timing! Shireen had posted our letters in London on the Monday, but by the Thursday they had still not arrived. The Post Office started by claiming that they didn't do Poste Restante there but, even when they had 'discovered' that they did, our letters could still not be found. We couldn't wait any longer, but left our mobile number and moved on up to Stalybridge to be ready to meet David and Julie. As we started out eastwards, we saw the first glimpses of Pennine moorlands rising over our industrial surroundings, before we came to Stalybridge. Before the Huddersfield Narrow Canal was resurrected as a Millenium project, parts of it had been hidden away in culverts under Stalybridge streets. Now the canal forms a welcome focus for the centre of the town as it threads its way through street and square – and past Tesco's! Once David and Julie had safely parked their car (thanks to Mr Whitehead at the Methodist Church) we moved out east and north towards the Pennines. After their first night afloat, we soon came to Scout Tunnel, and David fancied sitting on the front as we went through – certainly a unique experience! The countryside was gradually getting more rugged as the locks took us higher up the Pennine foothills. . . and David & Julie were rapidly getting into canal boating, learning to operate the locks and the boat. As seems to happen with many of our visitors, they came for a holiday and ended up working their socks off! But at least it looks as though they enjoyed the experience – or are those smiles of pleasure really grimaces of panic or overwork? As you can see from the 'wet weather gear', there was quite a bit of rain, though not as much as we had feared from the forecast! With these extra crew members eager to move on, we travelled further than we had expected, just beyond Uppermill in the Saddleworth area of 'Greater Manchester', where many of the locals still reckon that they live in Yorkshire (as they did until the boundaries were changed years ago!) At this point, we had to turn around, for two reasons. Firstly to get David and Julie back to their car in Stalybridge, and secondly as no boats can go further unless they are planning to go through the 3¼ mile Standedge Tunnel. We were booked for passage on the following Friday, and D & J needed to be back in Devon before that. They made up for it by walking up the remaining mile and a half (and nine locks) to see the tunnel mouth, with its gates in the striking design of a boat being 'legged' through the tunnel. Then back down all those 17 locks (but only 6 miles) to Stalybridge, but not without some excitement. The boat went aground very badly in a short 'pound' (section of canal between two locks) and we had to let some more water down to float it off the mud. What we hadn't realised was that the people on the boat in front of us were still filling the lock as we came down the lock above. Then we needed to refill the same lock after they had gone down, and the pound was so short that the level dropped dramatically. Another lesson learned – but we were so busy getting the boat off the mud that no-one took a picture! Just at the lower lock, we saw our first duckling of the year again. He and his Mum had been there the day before, but this time we DID get a photo! No other dramas on the way back down, except that this time it was Julie's turn to ride on the front of the boat through Scout Tunnel, and she got this great picture of the rock formations in it. And, just to finish this episode, here she is as the 'figurehead' on the front of Zindagi. We certainly enjoyed having David & Julie with us, and we get the feeling that they may be back for more – great!

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