Sunday, 12 August 2012

Marple to Dukinfield Junction

(Boat Chalice - posted by Alan)

Starting to descend Marple flight.
We had had a review of our options after getting stopped short yesterday at the Marple lock flight, which we had failed to appreciate is currently only open to go into for very restricted hours in the morning.  In fact, although I initially thought it had further eaten in to our available time, I had not really considered that the strong recommendation is only to overnight at known "OK" locations on the approach to Manchester.  In fact, once on the Ashton canal, the advice seems to be to keep going!

Bottom gates from close up.

Narrow foot tunnel under road.
As it turns out, even had we got down Marple last night, we would not have had time to run into Manchester today, and would sensibly have needed to stop pretty early anyway.  In terms of overall schedule, it didn't really matter whether we did the 16 Marple locks last night, or today.

Two boys in their 20s make it easier for the oldies.
The stoppage notice said CaRT would allow entry to the locks between 9:00 am and 11:00 am only, so when a lengthsman turned up by van at 8:30 all looked good, particularly as I had a word, and he said 9:00 should be fine.  However boats started turning up, and by 9:30 a queue had formed, but the lengthsman who had gone down the flight had not returned and taken the padlocks off.  Eventually he did return, and the first waiting boat entered the first lock.  We had waited since last night, but other boats had pulled up ahead of us, perhaps thinking they were next.  However the lengthsman said in his view we had waited since last night, so we were second boat in.  This seemed quite lucky, as the next one was an elderly and not particularly fit looking chap on his own.  It was hard to see how he could work 16 very deep locks very fast, and, indeed, we never saw anyone following after we had started.

Looking ahead from one lock chamber to next lock in flight.
This flight is fairly impressive, as all locks have a fall of around 14 feet - maybe as much as twice as what many consider a "typical" lock.  It is hard here to get a picture that emphasises just how deep they are, as all locks have a lower bridge across the bottom end, stopping any picture giving a good impression of how big the gates actually are.  Trust me, from the gloom when you are on a boat, at the very bottom, inside, they look pretty deep, and I made a point of not climbing slippery lock ladders

Part of old roller for tow ropes on bridge top.

Michael with Odin.
We worked fairy efficiently, and because we were following the first boat, for the first half of the flight, every lock was empty, when we needed it full.  We had a few interesting moments where weirs above locks held us to the side, and the level in the short pounds then dropped us on to the bottom.  At one point we leaned over a fair bit, and looked stuck, but as the back end was free, and only the front aground, we were able to get going again using a bit of muscle power from multiple people.  It did prompt me to avoid trying to pull over to the side above locks, though!

One of the two things to have gone wrong recently in this lock-flight.
Having completed the flight, it was a matter of running through a lock-less stretch to either Dukinfield, or Portland basin just after, where the Peak Forest canal joints the Ashton canal.  This is really the last place before Manchester where an overnight stop is recommended, although that does leave 27 locks, some of them hard work) to do the next day.

Twin rail viaduct and canal aqueduct at Marple.
Very bizarrely on this short stretch there are two short tunnels, both with signs erected saying "Mode of operation: Two way working".  At the first, (and longer) of these, I entered and, once inside, thought "I'd not like to pass another narrow boat in here".  The arch is low, and dips more at certain points, and it looked inconceivable one could safely pass.  Checking later in the Nicholson's guide, it explicitly states the tunnel is too narrow to pass in, and you must make sure it is clear before entering.  A pretty stupid sign then, which could make life very difficult, if it causes people to enter from both ends.

Panorama constructed by David from multiple wide-angle shots.

Cath refused to watch the boys taking pictures from the parapet!
At the next, (and shorter), tunnel, there is a similar sign, but this narrow bore tunnel, with a tow-path, is clearly only one boat wide, and, in fact so tight, you have to be careful not to rub the cabin on the non tow-path side.  Here you would be fairly stupid to try and enter the tunnel from the other end, if a boat were coming towards you, but still there is a sign implying you can.  Totally bonkers!

Odin is being trained to be calm with all types of animals - generally he is remarkably good!
No, the boat is not tied up to the dog!
We found a length, just past the final lift bridge, where several boats were already moored.  it seemed pretty OK, although there was a bit of bored youth around, and lately some families where perhaps the odd drink had been consumed!  Early evening my sons heard laughter from youngsters passing, and we went out to find one end of the unoccupied boat behind us set adrift.  Curiously they had completely removed the back rope, but then thrown it back onto the boat, so it was an easy matter to retrieve the rope and tie the up again.  Just silly behavior, rather than anything threatening, and, apart from the Canada geese (!), the rest of the night passed quietly.

Marple to Dukinfield Junction
Miles: 7.8, Locks: 16
Total Miles: 263.8, Locks: 120 (Worked)

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