Monday, 29 October 2012


I've never been fond of marinas and don't like staying in any one place for more than a couple of days. One of the reasons is if you're running the engine for a few hours to charge the batteries then I reckon you may as well be cruising, so today we left Boothstown and cruised on to Lymm.  It's a lovely little village and is always very popular with moorers so it was no surprise to find it almost full when we arrived late afternoon but we managed to squeeze in on the end.

Even though he's only 7 I'm frequently asked if Chico is very old. People seem to think that because he's got a grey face he must be on his last legs. Maybe he needs some Grecian 2000?

Saturday, 27 October 2012

A few days away

We've had a few days away visiting our daughter and baby granddaughter up in the North East but it's nice to be home.

One of the first things our daughter said to us was "Do you fancy going on a boat trip?"  It seems as if we just can't get away from boats and water.

This boat was just a bit bigger than we're used to though and the trip was out to the Farne Islands to see the Grey seals and their pups as it's calving time.

The islands are 2 - 3  miles off the Northumberland coast with the boat trips leaving from Seahouses and lasting an hour and a half.  Once we got out of the harbour the sea was quite rough and the boat rocked and lurched a lot but we found it exhilarating and stayed up at the bow for the whole trip.

This is the only inhabited island. The National Trust Rangers live here for 10 months of the year and look after the seal pups in the Autumn.

This is Longstone Lighthouse. It was made famous in 1838 when Grace Darling and her father rescued 9 survivors from the paddle steam ship Forfarshire which ran aground in stormy seas.

The Farne Islands are one of the major sanctuaries in the UK for breeding sea birds. During the nesting season there are 20 different species of breeding sea birds here, including Guillemots, Eider Ducks, Shags, Terns and over 70 thousand Puffins. (Can you tell I paid attention to the commentary?)

You can tell how many birds must nest here each year by the amount of guano pooped down the cliffs.

There are between 3 - 4 thousand grey seals at the Farne Islands with about a thousand pups born each year. Unfortunately the mortality rate is very high and around a third of the pups die.

This huge bull seal was basking in the sunshine.

The newly born pups are counted every day and marked with a coloured dye. The tiny white ones marked with green in this photo had been born the previous day.  We saw a few marked with orange that had been born that morning. They looked so vulnerable laid on the rocks.

There were plenty of seals in the water, playing in the surf and following the boat and at times weren't totally sure who was watching who.

The boat trip was so good we're going to try and do it again in the nesting season as I'd really like to see the Puffins.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Rochdale Nine

Today we carried on into the centre of Manchester, down the famous Rochdale Nine locks. Some boaters find them extremely hard work but while I wouldn't recommend them for absolute novices, we didn't have any problems.

This was the first lock which was to take us underneath these buildings in Piccadilly.

One of the problems with the Rochdale Nine is the sheer volume of water that passes down the flight. It pours over the top gates so you need to keep the boat well forward or risk it getting wet.  It's also a bit of a nuisance when you're trying to open the top gates on some of the locks as the pound level is higher than the top of the gates which means you really need 2 people to push the gate open.

The lock area underneath Piccadilly used to be frequented by rent boys and drug dealers but nowadays it's been cleaned up and there's CCTV everywhere.

There's some nice graffiti art down there too. This was just one of the pics.

There's no towpath between the locks at either end of Canal Street but there is a floating pontoon so you can get on or off the boat quite easily, although we had to breast up the 2 boats as the pontoon is quite short.

A few of the locks have windlass operated winches which use chains to open or close the lock gates as there isn't enough room for full length lock beams.

Lock 88 took us underneath Oxford Street.

Just as you exit the lock there's a very powerful jet of water coming into the canal. It's so powerful it pushed Wye Knot 2 sideways into the bridge.

Most of the canal is overshadowed by high dingy looking buildings but there are a few green areas. Someone here was obviously a bird fan, along with the duck house there was a small dovecote. We saw a kingfisher and there were bat boxes under one of the railway bridges.

This is the bar and club area in the railway arches alongside Deansgate Locks.

We finally made it into the bottom lock no. 92 two and a half hours after we set off.

I was a bit apprehensive after hearing all the horror stories, but we had a good run and I'd certainly do it again.  We'll be coming back up the Nine in a few weeks to get back up to the Macc. before the stoppages on the Marple Flight.

We're now moored in Castlefield and will carry on again in the morning.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Ashton Canal

We spent last night in Portland Basin Marina, having gone there for our 4 yearly Boat Safety check. I can't believe the boat is now 4 years old! Where has the time gone?

We'd had torrential rain and strong winds overnight, so I was very happy that by the time we were ready to set off at 8am it had cleared up and the sun had come out.

Our first obstacle of the day was bridge 21.  Nicholson's guide book states that it's very low, and it was. The short cruising chimney only just made it through.

We'd met a guy at the top of Bosley Locks last week who claimed to be a professional boat mover and who told us how he'd never been on a worse canal than the Ashton.  He claimed it was full of rubbish, that the locks were exceptionally difficult and the area was full of scroats. So based on that I was dreading the trip.  It just goes to show that you shouldn't listen to everything you hear.  There was no litter in the water and neither boat picked up anything round our props.  The locks were well maintained and reasonably easy to work through, certainly no worse than anything we've come across elsewhere.  The only bit of graffitti we saw was this, and we didn't see any scroats either.

We got to the first lock just before 9.30.

A few of the locks (can't remember which) had these hand/foot holes in the lock sides. I haven't come across anything like them anywhere else.

It took us a long time getting down the flight as every lock was empty so had to be filled before Roger could take our boat in. Once he'd gone out I re-filled it for David on Wye Knot 2 and then helped him work down.

This is lock 4. Just round the right hand bend was another low bridge which was even lower than bridge 21. It was a railway bridge that's head reinforcing beams added underneath it and was so low that I had to take the chimney off and the flowers got flattened a bit. It was even lower than Droitwich Tunnel and that's saying something!

This is a block of apartments in New Islington, beside the new marina. They're hideous and are starting to look decidedly shabby as the graphics which have been put all over them are starting to peel off. It's no wonder they're half empty.

7 and a half hours after we left Portland Basing we finally made it to Piccadilly Village where we're spending the night.

It's a good job there's only the two of us travelling today as there's only room here for 2 boats. It was a tight squeeze for us getting into our mooring and I doubt that a 70ft boat would fit.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Marple Locks

We knew it was going to be "one of those days" when we got to the junction of the Peak Forest Canal.

The first lock pound was totally empty.  This photo was taken about 20 mins after I'd started letting water through the lock.

3 C&RT volunteers then came sauntering up the lock flight, saying that every pound had been empty but they had now started refilling them.  We made them a brew while we waited for the water level to raise and I asked them how long they'd been working as volunteers here on Marple Flight.  They'd started last week, were doing 4 days a week and had had no training what-so-ever!  They'd arrived last Monday expecting to be trained but had only been shown how to lift a paddle, before being taken to the office and made to sign an induction form.  They told us the "trainer" had briefly wizzed through a form, ticking boxes as he went to say that they'd been shown different things, when in actual fact they'd been told and taught absolutely nothing.

Once the pound had refilled we set off. We went first and David followed in Wye Knot.  One of the volunteers was going to help him, but first we had to show him what to do!

One good thing was the paddles and gears had all recently been greased.

They'd even greased round the beam collar, so the locks were the easiest I've ever found them. They're still absolute pigs but not as bad as before.

When we'd done 4 locks 2 of the volunteers were called further down the flight as the pounds were draining empty again.  They couldn't work out what the problem was, but I think it had something to do with this.  They hadn't been dropping the paddles properly, the white markers are supposed to meet. We found 2 locks had been left like this, with the paddles up about 6 ins and draining the water so I sent the youngest volunteer on to check all the other locks.  He came back a bit sheepish looking and said they were all down now.

Add this to the badly leaking top gates and you can appreciate how quickly they would drain.

The volunteers admitted they didn't really have any idea what they were doing but were eager to learn.  They said they'd signed on for 4 days a week for 6 weeks and they'd been told that if they performed well there may be a chance of a job at the end. The youngest one tried lifting a paddle on one of the bottom gates at the same time as me.  He wasn't strong enough and really struggled and I didn't see him again after that.

Every lock we came to was empty so needed filling before we could go in which made it slow going.  The volunteer who was helping David would wind the paddles and open the gate for him to go into the lock then walk down to start filling the lock we'd just come out of, if I hadn't already started it filling first. He didn't help me close any gates though and just sat and watched me struggle at every lock. I don't think it was laziness, more that he didn't know any better and by then I'd decided it was just easier to do it myself.

By the time we'd got half way down the flight the heavens had opened and as none of the volunteers had any waterproofs with them, he was soaked. I had a spare new woolly hat in the boat so I gave him that to wear. Not only are C&RT letting them out untrained, they don't have the right clothes for the job either!

Just below Lock 7 the land around the by-wash has fallen in. It's well fenced off but, as far as we can tell, isn't on the list of repair work being carried out when the locks are closed in November. Incidentally, C&RT issued a notice last week stating that there are no stoppages on the Cheshire Ring following the canal breach at Preston Brook. Have they forgotten that Marple Locks form part of the Cheshire Ring and stoppage works ARE still going ahead?

Despite all it's problems, Marple locks are still one of the prettiest flights in the country, especially at this time of year.

We finally made it down all 16 locks and moored just past the aqueduct, ready to continue tomorrow, once we've all recovered that is.

Meat Free Monday

Here's a nice easy no-cook recipe for you this week.

Pear, Walnut and Blue Cheese Salad - serves 2
1 small tin pears in juice
Chicory or Little Gem lettuce (chicory is best but not always available)
Blue Cheese (I used Stilton)
Walnut halves
small tomatoes, quartered or halved depending on size
3 dessert spoons extra virgin olive oil
1 dessert spoon cider or white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon runny honey

Arrange the chicory or lettuce on a plate.
Drain the pairs and cut into bite sized pieces and then sprinkle over the lettuce.
Cut the tomatoes and arrange around the plate.
Toast the walnuts by gently heating in a dry frying pan for a few minutes on both sides. Keep a close watch on them as they quickly burn.

Sprinkle over the salad.
Break up the blue cheese into small chunks and add to the salad.
Make the dressing by mixing the Dijon, honey, olive oil and vinegar together in a small jug and pour over the salad making sure you get plenty on the lettuce. You won't need salt in the dressing as the cheese is salty enough.



Sunday was another lovely sunny day.  Roger had recorded the Korean Grand Prix so I made the most of the sunshine and drove the boat to Marple while he stayed inside and watched it en-route. With scenery as good as this I know I got the better option.

Little has changed along the Macc. since we left 18 months ago.  The same continuous moorers are still here, although they may have moved about a bit.  The bridge holes still need the bushes cutting back and the towpaths are still extremely muddy.

We only just managed to get a mooring at Marple, even though we'd arrived early afternoon.  The visitor moorings are full of "lurkers" with the remaining 2 spaces by the pub being taken by a live-aboard who arrived just before us and very selfishly moored right in the middle.

Tomorrow, Monday, we're heading down Marple Locks. We'll be helping David again as he's following us all the way to Manchester on his way back to Preston Brook.

Saturday, 13 October 2012


Do you have spiders in your cratch?

When we first moved onto the boat we were plagued by spiders in the cratch. Big fat hairy ones that lurked in the corners and tiny little ones that spun webs like candy floss across the air vents and kept coming back no matter how often I cleaned them away.  Since discovering a spray called No More Spiders, we hardly ever see a spider any more.

Whenever I clean the inside of the cratch, which isn't that often I'm ashamed to say, I spray this stuff in the corners and under the gunwales. As Autumn's arrived the number of spiders outside the boat has increased so I've re-sprayed inside to keep them at bay. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind spiders, I just HATE the webs they weave, there's more to life than cleaning, so I've come up with a new idea to keep them out of the cratch.

This is a small space fly killer that's readily available and which we hang in the cratch throughout the summer to help keep the flies out of the boat.  It works very well, but now that the flies have gone I thought I'd re-use the out-of-date cartridge to deter the spiders.

Using a knife I prised the two halves apart and removed the insect repellant pad, which I replaced with a piece cut from a cotton wool make-up remover pad. I then soaked this with No More Spiders and clipped the two halves back together again.

This is now hanging back in the cratch, hopefully keeping the little web-weavers away.