We moored opposite a field of ewes and their lambs on Friday evening. One of my favourite words is ‘gambol’, one reason is that it seems to specifically relate to young animals. The lambs really were gambolling, springing into the air off all four legs but we couldn’t get a decent picture. This was the best with just a couple of legs in the air.
Saturday morning was particularly noisy with birdsong. This pair of Mandarin ducks had slept opposite the boat, the female being very drab in comparison with her mate.
Our plan for Saturday was to get through the outskirts of Greater Manchester (Woodley, Hyde, Ashton Under Lyne and Stalybridge) and out into the country. We had about seven miles to travel to the end of the Peak Forest canal with no locks but a few tunnels. The new tunnel light that my middle son Steve and his partner Amanda gave me has been invaluable. The previous one was very poor and hardly worth having.
One of the tunnels had a tow path through it but was not lit so Karen and Buddy walked along next to me.
We passed many old mills, some dilapidated and some converted into flats or offices.
This heron had caught a water vole (aka water rat) – Karen was a bit apprehensive taking the picture.
In Hyde we went under the M67.
There was a lot of rubbish in the water – it’s such a shame because it means it is unpleasant for local walkers as well as boaters. These bluebell woods were just before Ashton and thankfully seemed litter free.
This silly moorhen had built her nest on a tree that had recently fallen in the water. It’s bound to get driven through by a boat. It looks like there is another bird in the nest as well.
The final bridge on the Peak Forest canal, number 1, was a lift bridge.
By lunchtime we reached the end of the Peak Forest canal at Dukinfield junction. The Ashton canal heads west into the centre of Manchester and the Huddersfield Narrow canal heads north to Huddersfield across the Pennines. It is only 20 miles to Huddersfield but there are 74 locks. We turned onto the Huddersfield Narrow canal but as we found out recently we cannot get through to the end as we are too long for the locks in Huddersfield so will have to turn round at some point.
One of the first things we saw on the new canal was this Asda superstore that had been built over the top of it. The tunnel underneath is called Asda tunnel. We moored up and picked up the red wine I drink as it is exceedingly cheap at Asda for some reason.
The Huddersfield Narrow canal runs along the Tame valley at this end and consequently we passed many cotton mills including Ray mill which is now offices.
At one point we crossed the River Tame.
It rained all afternoon and we had to ascend eight locks before we could find any moorings. There were moorings available in the middle of Stalybridge but we didn’t feel very comfortable there so carried on. The canal is very shallow and you have to keep to the middle of the channel to avoid running aground. We got stuck going into one lock so had to reverse out and find what was holding us up - I fished out this bicycle with the boat hook
When I tried to get back into the lock we stuck fast again. This time it felt more solid. So I reversed out again and fished around for the obstruction and found two shopping trolleys and an umbrella. I managed to get the trolleys to the side and on the surface but couldn’t lift them out on my own so Karen had to cross over and help – I didn’t realise how heavy and cumbersome trolleys can be.
Just before the eighth and final lock of the day we went under a pylon. This is the first time we have seen a pylon across a canal.
It was also the first time we have been directly under a pylon.
We continued northwards into the Pennines on Sunday. This is such a quiet canal as only nine boats are allowed through in each direction each week. This is because it is hard to keep the canal summit in water. The first thing we saw as we set off was this part-dismantled coal conveyor. There used to be a branch line from Stalybridge to Millbrook and coal trains were unloaded onto the conveyor belt which used to go right across the valley to a coal fired power station. The power station has long gone but only part of the conveyor system was demolished.
This sign explains whether or not we can continue depending on the water level; luckily for us the board in the lock exit (in the water below the sign) was showing green.
We had a lot of rain on Friday night and Saturday and the becks were all full. This one usually runs through a pipe under the tow path into the canal but was overflowing and Karen and Buddy had to jump it.
We went though another tunnel that was left with the hewn rock and not finished in brickwork. We had to really keep our eyes open as the roof was so uneven.
A few of the bridges are lower than usual so we had to take some of the junk off the roof to get through.
I found it really difficult getting into this lock as the overflow weir stream was so strong and kept pushing us onto the bank away from the lock entrance. Fortunately there was no one around to see my embarrassment.
Fortunately these dark skies didn’t come to anything and in fact the sun came out soon afterwards.
We moored for the day at a place called Mossley and went for a walk. We ended up in a (what we think) archetypal Northern pub – packed with men watching Manchester City play on a Polish TV channel.
The locks on the Huddersfield Narrow canal are suffixed with ‘W’ on the west side of the summit and ‘E’ on the east side. Here are the eight locks we went up on Saturday- 1W to 8W.
And these are the six locks we went up on Sunday (9W to 14W).