Saturday, 16 August 2014

Starting a good recovery after yesterday's set-back.

(Boat Chalice - posted by Alan/Cath)
Post for Friday 15th August

The lock where I got stopped in my tracks yesterday.
So, throughout the last couple of weeks, we have been pursuing a fairly optimistic "plan", (I use that term loosely!), that would enable us to do a whistle-stop tour of much of the Northern canal system we have never seen.

Typical of the final ascent to the summit.
The "plan" was indeed optimistic, and very much relied on nothing going wrong, either with us, the boat, or CRT;s infrastructure.  Now  yours truly had broken the plan, (and to some degree himself), by falling off a bike and curtailing a boating day well early of expectations - though if you had seen the weather at the time, you could be excused for thinking that no more boating that day was a blessing in disguise.

Self explanatory!
I spent a not too uncomfortable night, but woke up looking a bit of a mess.  Bruising was travelling out from my damaged cheek, right up to my eye.  Also the wound had leaked through the dressing, which now didn't look to attractive, but as the firm advice was that both the steri-strips and the protective dressing should remain undisturbed for as long as possible, it would have to stay as it is.

Add caption
More of a worry was that I had at least badly sprained a thumb, and I wasn't sure to what extent I could now wield a windlass or climb lock ladders, although I felt I would be OK to steer.

End of the climb - summit 600 feet above sea level.
A look at the canal planner showed we were about a quarter of a day down, but that two longish days could still see us complete the climb to the Rochdale canal summit, and fully downhill again into Manchester.  However the number of these heavy locks involved looked fairly daunting.


The summit.
Then we got some really good news.  The couple on the boat we had caught up with yesterday, and who had helpfully waited for us, only to see me put myself out of action shortly after, were still very keen to partner another boat. They seemed up for going for a long boating day, so we willingly agreed to go together, pointing out that I might not be 100% useful.

the summit, again.
In fact Richard and Kathy, as we found out they were called, proved to be a very experienced crew, not at all afraid of hard work, and able to move their boat along most efficiently.  Despite all the locks remaining as not in our favour, we had no difficulty permanently having one person ahead setting them, as the remaining four worked the boats through each lock, and closed everything up as they left.  We very quickly settled into a largely very good rhythm, and I think it would have been hard to go along much better.  If trusted with a windlass, I found I could wind most paddles OK, largely using just my good hand, although I felt rather less confident about climbing lock ladders in what are mostly very deep locks.

Floral display
Everything about the passage over the summit itself is truly stunning.  At 600 feet above sea level, it is the highest on any broad canal in England, (although trumped by that on the nearby Huddersfield Narrow canal.  It is a remarkably short summit level, being well under a mile between uphill and downhill locks).  It is perhaps neither better, nor worse than the best bits we saw of the Leeds and Liverpool, but despite being surrounded by similar big hills, is different in character.  Cath described it as "more intimate", in as much as the interesting features are often significantly less distant, (but no less impressive for that).

Cath promised these helpful locals a picture in the blog.
We had calculated where we needed to be to roughly split the journey to Manchester into two manageable days, and in the end stopped where that calculation indicated.  It actually meant significantly more locks to do tomorrow than today, but this was offset by less miles to cover.  Fortunately Richard and Kathy were happy to spend the whole day in tandem with us, and looked like they might do so again tomorrow, which would be a real result.

I couldn't walk under the M62 culvert, as the towpath was moored elsewhere.
Richard and I did an exploratory walk to the nearest pub, (which was further than we thought it would be).  It would have fed us, but in the end we all elected to eat on our boats, and maybe go for a drink or two later.  In the end Cath, Richard and I went, but by then the pub was playing loud music, allegedly for an organised party, although there wasn't a lot of evidence of the party itself.  Converstaion was still possible, but not as easy as it might have been, and in the end we decided to go and get some rest for the even greater exertion expected tomorrow.

But we had had a very good day, and the lock total doesn't really tell the whole story.  Quite a few of the locks are marked as being narrower than will safely accommodate two boats, due to subsidence.  So at each of these, the lock has to be worked twice, once for each boat.  We hoped we would not encounter too many more of these tomorrow!

Walsden to Slattocks
Miles: 11.0 (Chalice), 0 (Sickle), Locks: 23

Total Miles: 592.7, Locks: 375

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