FIrst of all, Happy Father’s Day to all fathers whether you celebrate today or on the first Sunday in September (as we do in Australia!). There are lots of dads and kids around today clearly enjoying their day together despite the questionable weather.
And secondly a big hello to all the friends and family of Julia and Malcolm aboard NB Figment who are now reading this blog to check out what they are up to. As you would all be aware they are usually up to no good!!!!
Well we are moored just west of the Standedge Tunnel – purportedly the longest canal tunnel in England – and we are booked to tackle it tomorrow – as long as our boats meet their strict measurement requirements! Apparently it can take about 3 hours so while Bob takes the helm, Bron is planning to take to bed and pretend its an extra night!!!!!
We have travelled here from Marple where on Tuesday last week we were moored awaiting Bob’s arrival back from his hospital appointment in London, with his friend Darryl, who arrived to visit us from Tasmania, Australia earlier that morning!!! They were both pretty tired on arrival so we decided just to make small progress on Wednesday to contribute to our goal. So a short day, in the rain, giving Darryl an easy taste of narrowboating without any locks – little did he know!!!
On Thursday we made more progress – despite continuing rubbish weather – to arrive at Stalybridge on the Narrow Huddersfield Canal. It was time for a bit of a shop, and to sort out phone connections and money for Darryl. We also got some advice from locals not to remain in the centre of town but to relocate a couple of hundred yards past a few bridges to a more secluded spot (although bordered by apartment buildings) where we were less of a target for local bored community members!!!! This section is mainly through the outskirts of Greater Manchester so we cruised past built up residential areas, industrial areas and beautiful green rural areas all within a few hundred yards of each other. Very strange but interesting nonetheless.
Although we had done 6 locks by this time – giving Darryl a taste of the 100 he would experience during his 2 week stay with us – the worst was yet to come. Lucky he is fit!!!! Friday and Saturday we managed to cover off a further 25 and we all looked forward to a rest day today.
Our mooring on Friday night was next to a small village called Mossley. Just before reaching the town there is a small tunnel of 205 yards (just read meters for our metric followers!) and we met a local photographer Alan Bishop who wanted to take photos of boats going through. He cycled to meet us in our mooring at Mossley to give us a couple of prints and stopped for a coffee to tell us all about the town and local area. We then took a walk into the town and found a hardware store with all sorts of unexpected and interesting things. These are becoming some of our favourite kinds of shops as we seek to find solutions to little live aboard challenges. This time it was a pot to grow the softer herbs inside!!!!
Julia and Malcolm’s friends, Martin and Michelle, surprised Malcolm as an early birthday present on Saturday and arrived in the rain to help us with our last 10 locks. This was very lucky because they had some very tough paddles, were very deep and the pounds seemed to run out of water. There are not many boats along this section as there is limited passage through the Standedge tunnel and it has to be booked. So as Bron was in the bottom of one lock not able to see what is going on outside of the deep wet walls, Julia calls out “there’s a boat coming down” which was followed by a waterfall over the top lock gates. Bron expected to see a boat following but it was just letting out its water in the next lock up causing this pound to overflow into the lock. Hard to imagine that in one pound you churn up mud and can hardly get through and at the next the water is overflowing into the lock!
When we finally moored up – to find a local blues festival in full swing beside us – some of the crew went for a walk in search of a good pub to eat our dinner at since no-one was feeling much like cooking after a very strenuous day! We had to do an early sitting which turned out ok and the food was very nice. A very strange experience though as the communication between the waiting staff and kitchen seemed a little strained!!!!!
After dinner we went back to NB Figment and surprised Malcolm with a birthday cake – a Mr Perfect cake!!! He was very surprised and quite a bit chuffed. Julia had managed to keep quite a few surprises secret from him and with the help of Michelle and Martin I think he has started the celebrations very well!!!
He treated us to a wonderful full English cooked breakfast this morning and they will be coming to dine at Chez Celtic Maid this evening. His birthday proper will be spent in the Standedge Tunnel (we hope) and we will raise a glass or two in celebration of that achievement and his birthday tomorrow night.
Happy Birthday Malcolm!!!!