Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Where's the sun gone?

Well that's it, spring has sprung and gone. It's been quite a miserable grey day with that very fine persistent rain that just soaks through everything. If it wasn't for the fact that we needed water again and the tap at Dobcross was just too slow we would have stayed where we were. The boaters among you may have noticed that we've been moored in a winding hole for the past 5 days. It was the only place we could get anywhere near the bank at Dobcross and as there are no other boats up here we didn't feel too guilty. The trip boat ,which operates out of Uppermill on a Sunday, turns round here so we checked with the operator John (who also manages Frenches Wharf Marina) and he said there was plenty of room so not to worry.
So anyway, when the rain eased off a bit after lunch we moved back down the two locks to Uppermill and filled up with water. Whereas it had taken 45mins. to fill a quarter tank on Monday here it only took 20 mins to fill the whole tank. We struggled to get moored near the bank again but finally managed it and even managed to get the TV satellite locked on through a small gap in the trees.
A full tank of water meant the dogs could have shower as well as us and while Chico isn't too keen Charlie just loves baths and showers.

Boiled Fruit Cake

Yesterday was definitely a day for doing 'not a lot'.  We had a walk into Uppermill to get some milk & logs and then once we were back on the boat Roger spent a few hours doing his web design updates while I made a cake. This is an old family favourite, I even remember my mother making something similar when I was a child, and it's very easy to make and doesn't make much washing up either. Boiling the fruit makes it plump and juicy and the cake keeps well in an airtight tin for a week or so.

Boiled Fruit Cake
4oz. butter or margarine (butter tastes better, marg. is cheaper)
4oz. brown sugar
8oz. mixed dried fruit
1/4 pint water (or milk or even orange juice)
9oz. self-raising flour
1 heaped teaspoon ground mixed spice (or 1/2 teaspoon each ground ginger & cinnamon)
1 beaten egg
Flaked almonds or granulated sugar for topping

Heat oven to Gas 3 house or Gas 4 boat
Grease and line a 2lb loaf tin (if silicone loaf tin place a piece of greaseproof paper in the bottom)
Put a medium pan onto scales and zero.
Weigh in butter, sugar, fruit and liquid and slowly bring to the boil on stove.

Stir well then turn the down heat and simmer for 5 mins.
Turn off heat and leave to cool for at least half an hour (but don't leave too long or the butter will start to set)
Put the pan back on the scales and zero.
Weigh in flour and add the mixed spice.
Mix well then add the beaten egg to make a thick batter-like consistency.
Chop the marzipan into small chunks about 1cm and fold into the mixture
Pour into the baking tin and sprinkle the top with either brown sugar or flaked almonds.

Bake for about 1 hr 30 mins or until the top is springy and trhe cake is coming away from the sides. Prick with a skewer (I use a knitting needle) and if it comes out clean the cake is done. If not, put back in oven and test again in 10 mins.
Leave to cool in the tin for 10 mins. then tip out carefully and leave to cool on a wire rack.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Climbing to the top of the world

The weather station recorded -2.7 outside last night and it was quite frosty when I took the dogs out first thing. It soon brightened up and we've had another beautiful sunny day. While we had the engine running to charge the batteries I did the mundane tasks of hoovering and ironing. Of course Roger had to take the dogs out for a walk while I was doing this as Chico is scared of the hoover. That dog is scared of just about everything!

My reward for all the 'house'work was lunch at the Navigation pub, just up the road from our mooring, on Wool Road. They had a selection of 5 guest ales on hand pump and a good varied menu. At 2 meals for £13 you could choose from a wide selection of home cooked dishes all using local produce and including good vegetarian options like veggie stew with dumplings and veggie toad in the hole. We both had the cottage pie with red cabbage which was gorgeous. Even the red  cabbage is home made and spiced with star anise and allspice.

After lunch we decided to walk to Saddleworth War Memorial up on the hills. It's quite a landmark and we've seen it everywhere we've moored from Mossley to Dobcross.

We started off by crossing the River Tame using the stepping stones in the centre of Uppermill. Thankfully, although the stones were displaced by flooding last year, Health and Safety hasn't gone mad here, unlike at the stepping stones across the River Dove in Derbyshire, and the stones are still different shapes and heights. 

Once out of town the roads and paths became ever steeper and within 5 minutes we were out in the countryside. At the top of one particularly steep path we came across our first lambs of the season.

It was 1.8 miles and a climb of almost 1000 feet to reach the War memorial which is also know locally as the Pots and Pans memorial, named after a rock formation a few hundred feet away.

Half way up

The climb to the top took quite a while as it's so steep but luckily there's a bench seat at the top beside the obelisque. The views back over the town and beyond are spectacular and more than made up for the aching legs and pounding heartbeat.

view back over town

When we got back to the boat it was time to move over to the water point beside the Huddersfield Canal Society Transhipment Shed as we were just about out of water. This must be the slowest water point in the country! We stayed 45 minutes and only filled a quarter of the tank but that'll do us for the next two days until we move back into Uppermill and luckily the tap there has really good pressure.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

The other side of the hill

This afternoon we took the bus over the moors to Marsden. We'd been there recently on the Ale Train with friends from Macclesfield Marina and thought we'd go back to visit the other end of Standedge Tunnel. The tunnel boat trips have just started again for this season so we took the opportunity while we were there and went on the last short trip of the day. We were the only ones on the boat so had the full attention of the guide who was extremely knowledgeable and interesting and the half hour trip passed too quickly. We only went about 500 metres into the tunnel but it's VERY narrow and the boat kept banging against the sides. As the guide told us it got even narrower and the headroom got much lower further into the tunnel this reinforced our decision NOT to take our boat through for a few more years, until it's ready for a re-paint. The trip boat costs £4.50 each but was definitely worth it. You can go all the way through the tunnel for £10 and that trip lasts about 3 hours. If you went to Standedge by car you'd then either get the number 184 bus back or walk back over the moors.

No fancy gates on the Marsden end of the tunnel

Inside the brick-lined section of the tunnel

Thursday, 24 March 2011

End of the line

Statue of Ammon Wrigley - poet, beside Upper Mill visitor moorings
Ammon Wrigley was a local poet who died in 1946. His poetry was mostly written in the Lancashire dialect and one of his poems I particularly like, and which is quite appropriate to us, is called Friezland Ale. If you're interested you can read it here.

After a quick trip into Upper Mill to one of the 2 'proper' butchers, we set off up the last 2 locks taking us to Dobcross.  This is as far up the Huddersfield Narrow Canal as we can go without passing through Standedge Tunnel. If we'd wanted to book an escorted passage, and risk damaging our boat in the 3 mile long tunnel, we could go on but we wouldn't be able to go much further on the other side as our boat is too long at 65ft. for the locks on the Huddersfield Wide Canal.

It's been another beautiful warm sunny day and after hanging the washing out we took Chico out for a walk up into Dobcross village and then along the canal to Diggle and the Standedge Tunnel entrance. The scenery up here is spectacular and there were several pairs of Lapwings flying their courtship aerobatics above the canal.

lock flight up towards the tunnel
 The tunnel entrance has quite amazing gates while the tunnel itself just disappears under a car park.

Beside our current mooring there are bat boxes in the trees. It should be interesting at dusk tonight as there are plenty of flies over the water to attract the bats.

bat box

Good job I like bats!

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Beware Lock 21W

Yet another bright sunny day saw us moving to Uppermill. It was only 2 miles and 2 locks but showed just why this is called the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. The first lock no. 20W was deep and quite a bit narrower than we've come across so far so it's a good job we don't cruise with side fenders down.

Passing banks of daffodils we arrived at Bridge 78, High Street Bridge, which is actually a tunnel under the main road into Uppermill and which takes you straight into Lock 21W. One of the gate beams has been cut off because it's too close to the road bridge and is operated by a hydraulic ram.

Now this lock IS narrow but there are no warning signs as we've seen on other very narrow locks on other canals. There was only about 2 inches on each side of the boat and even though we were taking it slowly we got stuck about half way up and the boat started listing a bit. One of the bow fender ropes had got snagged in the joint between 2 stone blocks. I had to quickly stop letting water into the lock while Roger lifted the ropes and as soon as we were free again we raised the water level extremely slowly to the top. It definitely reinforces how careful and observant you have to be when passing through locks and I pity any hire boaters who normally just open the paddles and hope for the best.

Uppermill is a lovely town. There is a museum, plenty of shops and pubs but the moorings are not very good.  It's still very shallow and difficult to get in to the towpath and a bit of dredging wouldn't go amiss.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Glorious Greenfield

We had an early start this morning - well 10.30 IS early for us.
The weather is beautiful again, blue sky and warm enough to not need a coat. The journey to Greenfield only took 2 hours and all 5 locks were set for us. The very shallow approach at Lock 19W that we had been warned about wasn't too bad but the amount of silt coming down the by-wash could soon become a real problem if BW don't do some spot dredging soon. We arrived at Frenches Wharf Marina and were given a warm welcome by the manager John who confirmed that we are indeed the first boat to come up from Stalybridge so far this year. This is a brand new purpose built marina but there are only 8 other boats here and with no real pontoons to speak of they can't really accommodate many more. Tesco is right next door so no doubt we'll be stocking up again before we leave on Wednesday.
going into the marina

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Another Sunday

I just can't believe it's Sunday again, the days just seem to fly by!
This morning was grey and miserable with that awful drizzle that just soaks you through. We took Chico for a short walk today, just over 3 miles along the Pennine Bridle Path to Greenfield and then back along the canal.  Hidden away along the bridle way was an immaculate public dressage ring and we saw the first bluebells of the season just sprouting through the undergrowth alongside swathes of daffodils.

We try to always make Sunday special so after the walk we went back to the Roaches Lock pub to try their Sunday lunch.  3 courses for £9.95 with spicy chicken wings and samosas to start followed by REALLY good roast pork with all the trimmings and an excellent amaretto cheesecake to follow. We couldn't fault any of the meal and with a spicy Shiraz at only £10.50 it was much better value than last Sunday's lunch at High Lane.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Sunny Saturday

Saturday dawned bright and sunny and far too early after our Friday night out. The Irish Night in the Roaches Lock pub was good but it wasn't very Irish at all. It's a niceThwaites's pub, very popular with the locals and the food looked reasonable. They have free live entertainment on every other Friday and last night it was the turn of Tracy Gee, billed as 'the girl with the fiddle'. We were expecting Irish music as it was supposed to be a St. Patrick's celebration night with special offers on the Guinness, Jamesons whiskey & Thwaites Nutty Black mild (highly recommended) however Tracy Gee played an electric fiddle and sang everything from Adele to Led Zeppelin. She was surprisingly good and the Irish bit came later when a troupe of little girls from the local dance academy arrived to perform some Irish dances. We got back to a very frosty boat at around midnight, it was minus 2'C.
Sometime since we'd gone out at 8pm a boat had arrived and moored up right behind us. They must have been cruising in the dark but we can't find out as there's no sign of life. Maybe they just moored up and left it!

Because the weather has been so beautiful again we decided not to carry on cruising but to go for a walk instead. We left Charlie asleep on the boat and took Chico up through the country park, around Mossley town then along the footpaths up into the hills to Greenfield where we found the new Frenches Wharf Marina complete with a Tesco and the Kingfisher pub next door. We've booked in for Monday and Tuesday nights as it's the only moorings in the area with reasonable access to the station for my visit back to the house in  Manchester. The views along the way were pretty spectacular and we're looking forward to the cruise up to the marina on Monday, although the canal itself is EXTREMELY shallow and we have been warned by one of the locals to watch out for a patch of silting just before one of the locks. According the Roger's phone's pedometer app. we walked for 5.53 miles, Chico came in ate his tea and went straight to bed!

Abandoned duck eggs at the canal edge

Friday, 18 March 2011

Change of plan

We'd planned on continuing up the locks today but that all changed when we went for a walk around Mossley town this morning and found what looked like good moorings, only 500 yards up the canal round the first bend. They just happened to be beside Roaches Lock pub with an Irish night advertised for tonight. 10 locks or a night out? No contest......Unfortunately the moorings proved to be very shallow and we struggled getting anywhere near the bank so just moored up as best as we could. The weather today has been beautiful, warm sunshine and clear blue skies. Perfect drying weather, so I washed the bed sheets and towels and hung them out for a blow while we took the dogs out. There's a guided walk from Roaches Lock Pub along the River Tame and back down the tow-path and it wasn't too taxing for Charlie. There are lots of dog walkers and a few fishermen and everyone we've met so far has been really friendly. We'll carry on again tomorrow - unless anything else comes up.

Guided walk plaque at the pub

Beautiful scenery along the River Tame

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Towards the Pennines

The moorings opposite Tesco proved to be very quiet and safe, maybe that was because of the abundance of CCTV cameras. This morning we had a quick walk round the town before setting off on our travels again.  Back in 2000, when the new locks and new section of canal through the town were opened, Stalybridge was quite a nice place. Known locally as Staly Vegas, there used to be some nice bars and  shops but since Tesco arrived the town centre is practically deserted and what shops are still open are very run down.

The canal leaves Stalybridge and passes through some very urban areas. We didn't see any other boats all day and have been told several times that we are the first boat up here this year.  There is lots of rubbish in the water and at one lock I couldn't get one of the gates open as there was a log wedged behind it. The only way to shift it was to let some water into the lock with the other bottom gate still open and flush it through. It took a while but I managed it. Quite a few of the locks have hand-cuff locks which won't open or paddles which are extremely stiff but on the good side hardly any of the locks leak so water loss is minimal.

Hand-cuff lock closed

Hand-cuff lock opened

We passed a VERY smelly sewage works which ran alongside 2 locks and cruised through an electricity pylon which straddles the canal at a power station before the scenery improved.

They must really suffer with vandalism on the Huddersfield Canal because along with all the hand-cuff locks the sanitary station is fortified with razor wire. We stopped to dump rubbish and fill up with water again so that I could do some laundry and while the tank was filling I had a look around. The toilet and shower rooms are immaculate but I'm not sure if that's because they are cleaned regularly or because they are never used!

Altogether, we went up 8 locks today and passed through 1 tunnel. Scout Tunnel is narrow and very different to any we've been through before. It is hewn from rock and the first half of the tunnel has very rough rocky sides and roof, with the second half being lined with brick.

We're now moored at Mossley with the Pennines rising before us. The views are becoming more spectacular but we won't be going up and over the Pennines. We only have about another 10 locks to do before we have to turn round and I reckon we'll do them tomorrow.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

On to Stalybridge

It's been quite an easy day today, only 6 locks and one lift bridge, all of which are fitted with 'hand-cuff' locks. These are anti-vandal locks fitted to the lock winding gear and which require a special key to unlock them.

There are some really pretty sections of the canal especially by through Haughton Dale Nature Reserve which runs through the Tame Valley.

We passed through 3 tunnels, Hyde Bank tunnel which wasn't as low as we'd been led to believe,

Woodley Tunnel which was VERY narrow and had a tow-path going through it

and a tunnel which took us right under Asda at Ashton under Lyne.

The Lower Peak Forest Canal ends at a T-junction at Ashton Under Lyne. Turn left to go to Manchester on the Ashton Canal or turn right, as we did, to go onto the Huddersfield Narrow Canal.

The Huddersfield Narrow Canal is quite industrialised and there's lots of debris and rubbish in the water. Judging by people's comments we are possibly the first to pass this way so far this year, but we were closely followed by another boat called Skye, which we've seen several times when we were on the Macclesfield Canal.

This was a very narrow aqueduct over the River Tame

It looks like the kids have been playing with shopping trolleys at Stalybridge as well as at Marple as we got caught up on another one just as we were mooring up outside Tesco. Luckily it didn't do any damage and we'll watch out for it on the way back. It's certainly convenient for shopping here, you can get the trolley right up to the boat!