Saturday, May 03, 2008
Pennine Journey – Up, Through and Down!
As you know from last time, we were already booked to go through Standedge Tunnel on Friday 18th April, so we turned around in Stalybridge after David & Julie left us and started back up the locks again. When we have done this sort of thing before, we have been amazed how the canal feels like really familar territory after just one earlier trip. But, before we left, we had a welcome phone call from the Post Office in Ashton-under-Lyne. Our redirected mail had been found! The story was that there was insufficient postage on the envelope, but that hardly explains the delay of nearly a week. Good that we had come back to Stalybridge, only a fairly easy cycle ride from Ashton, and had not already disappeared east of the Pennines! Many of the towns on the way back up the Tame Valley show the same mix as Mossley in this picture: hillside towns, old mills and modern housing, either in converted mill buildings or on old mill sites. Just a little further north, we met this sentinel on a lock gate, then on through more locks in lovely hilly country before reaching the dramatic Saddleworth railway viaduct spanning across the valley with road, river and canal below it. This was as far as we had come with David and Julie, but now we were booked to climb up the remaining nine locks to the mouth of Standedge Tunnel at Diggle. We arrived there in good time, to form up as a convoy of just two private boats to be towed 3¼ miles through the Pennines. We could go on about this tunnel – it is truly one of a kind! You'll just have to visit the Standedge website to get all the information you want, but the trip through it was enough to keep Val interested – and she normally leaves me (Dave) to enjoy tunnels on my own while she stays 'below decks'! Here we are waiting to go in, last in line, before the crew did what they could to protect the boats by covering them with heavy-duty rubber sheets. The inside of the tunnel varies from being plain rock-faced, stone-lined and brick-lined, some parts wide enough for two boats to pass but mostly pretty tight. We knew there would be some paint damage to our boat in spite of the protectve sheets, and there were a few nasty-sounding crunches from behind as we rode in the electric tug in the front. The whole journey took about 2½ hours before we came out into daylight on the Yorkshire side. The arrangement was that we would stay at the tunnel mouth until early the next morning, when British Waterways staff would help us down the first eleven locks. Although that was helpful, we would probably have preferred to have come down a little more slowly and seen more of the locks and their surroundings. As soon as we could find a mooring, we stopped and enjoyed the Pennine scenery which was a little different from the western side. Before long, we were in Slaithwaite (pronounced 'Slough-it', with 'Slough' as in Berkshire) where we needed to stay over the weekend as some more post was due to come there. In the meantime, we found a small Christian fellowship and enjoyed a time of worship and study with them on Sunday morning. We were even invited to stay for lunch! Thanks, Erroll and Sheila! Slaithwaite is another place like Stalybridge, where the canal had been covered over and forgotten. Another 'resurrection' project completed with Millenium Commission funding, on a slightly smaller scale, perhaps, as this picture shows. Having collected the post on the Monday morning (21st April), we were just getting ready to move on when Dave slipped on the front of the boat and landed heavily, badly bruising his ribs but somehow avoiding falling in the canal. Perhaps we should really have stopped there for a few days, but we moved on anyway, and Dave was glad of the long-handled windlass, giving a little more leverage on some stiff lock paddles as we made our way down to Huddersfield. By the time we arrived there, it seemed like a good idea to take a few days' rest. Apart from giving Dave's ribs a chance to recover a bit, we also got some shopping done, had an Indian meal, sorted out the computer printer and bought a new vacuum cleaner. The paintwork scrapes from Standedge Tunnel started to get repaired, and Dave bought a piece of 3" x 2" wood to make a 'handspike' to operate some of the lockgear that we were going to face on the Calder & Hebble Navigation. And so we moved on, passing under an unusual relic of Victorian engineering, the 'Turnbridge Loco Lift Bridge'. Unlike most lift bridges, this one is lifted straight up. It used to be wound up and down with a handle but fortunately now it has been electrified. Now we were on the Huddersfield Broad Canal, winding its way pleasantly out of Huddersfield towards two river 'navigations', the Calder and Hebble and the Aire and Calder. These are basically rivers with locks in them, so there is much more flow than on a normal canal, and big weirs past the locks.