As you may have noticed (or not), I haven’t written much on this blog lately. Since Crick, I’ve had an amazing few weeks travelling with new and old friends. I met Ian and Jane shortly after leaving and we had a great time moving along together. Fans of Roald Dahl will appreciate their boat name!

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While they stayed behind near Leicester, I continued north and met up with friends from last year on the Kennet & Avon. Like last year, we had far too much fun! Jane even went for a swim…at least I assume that’s what she was doing… We enjoyed some great pubs, pleasant (if chilly) towpath evenings, and good cruising. Rich is always ready with a story and a laugh, and his sister Jo gives it right back to him whenever necessary.

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Once they turned around to deliver their hire boat, I continued on through Stone toward the Caldon Canal. This is a spur canal that goes through some beautiful countryside. Before reaching it I met Mark and Sarah at a lock. They were considering heading up that way so we decided to travel together. Again, wonderful people and a wonderful time. So glad to have met them. We very nearly won Quiz Night at the pub too!

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They had to return their boat so they headed back out of the Caldon before me. While in Cheddleton I had a visit from Guy, another friend from last year on the K&A! We had a huge pub dinner and spent the night shooting the breeze, mostly about narrowboats, of course.

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Okay, the visiting is over for the moment I think. I’m now heading north again, toward Leeds where I’ll cross westward to Liverpool. In the meantime, I’ve had to go through the Harecastle Tunnel (or the Scarecastle as some know it). Not that bad of a tunnel actually considering the hoops you need to jump to go through. Sign in, a safety briefing, equipment checks, etc. I found it actually easier than others, primarily since it was one-way, no having to negotiate oncoming boats. It was very low in places however, and some people actually wear hard hats.

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The south entrance. That curved plank hanging under the sign is the outline of the tunnel ahead, if you can’t get under that, you don’t go.
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Very low headroom in places. This was not even the worst spot!
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Strangely enough, the water at the north end is full of iron oxide, a totally different colour!

I’m going to go off on a bit of a rant now. I have loved nearly everything about the canals and the life on them. Something that keeps cropping up however, are swing and lift bridges. They have been in place for literally hundreds of years, yet they often STILL have the controls on the opposite side of the canal to the landing. To clarify, when approaching a lock or movable bridge, you have to temporarily moor up and walk ahead to operate it. The ‘landing’ has bollards to tie to, and is on the towpath side. Usually the ‘offside’ (non-towpath) is inaccessible, being overgrown, shallow, or otherwise blocked off. So, if the controls to move the bridge are on the non-towpath side, a single-handed boater has no obvious or easy way to lift the bridge and get back to move their boat through! Why, oh why has this continued for so long?

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Controls on the left, landing on the right.

There is an awkward but possible way to do it of course. Nosing the boat up to the control side and climbing off the bow, then (after moving through) doing the same from the stern to lower the bridge again will work. But it’s dangerous and tedious. If there’s any current or wind, the boat is basically out of control and often ends up jammed across the canal. Not a pretty sight. Rant over…

I hope it’s been a good summer for everyone so far. I hear the weather in BC is much better than over here, although that doesn’t bode well for the fire situation. Certainly no danger of that over here. With the flooding on most of the rivers, at least the canal water supply situation is looking better. In fact, there have been a couple of breaches where the canal has over-topped it’s banks and started washing it away. This is about the most serious problem a canal can have. A breach last year on the Middlewich Branch took months and many millions of pounds to repair.  It’s quite unusual since the canals are designed to stay at the same level (not like rivers, obviously). I’m presently on the Macclesfield Canal, and will have to make a decision up ahead about my next canal. Unfortunately, both options are at present closed to me! One has a broken lock, the other a small breach. Good thing I’m not in a hurry.

As expected, and like last year, there have been some amazing sights along the way. Here are some photos to peruse…

 

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