Saturday 30 July 2011

More from Slaithwaite.

Well, it would have been rude not to...


(Pronounced Slowwit!)

Everything a village needs: baker; brewer; butcher; pie maker. And a tea shop. And beautiful as well.

Thursday 28 July 2011

The Tunnel

We went through the tunnel yesterday. We were booked for the first slot from Diggle to Marsden, and arrived at the portal in good time to see two boats emerge from the other side, dripping wet and with crews complaining of the cold. Money has been wisely spent on North Face baselayers, and we used them.

I was surprised to see a very highly specced boat arrive behind us, declare they had a later booking than us, and arrange with the tunnel staff to go through first because (and I swear I am not making this up) the profile of their boat is right on the limit of the dimensions of the tunnel, and they might not make it through.

Just a minute, my friend. If you are booked to go through the tunnel after me, and you think you might get stuck in the tunnel, then you shall enter the tunnel after me. So we set off on time and made good time.

One hour fifteen minutes later, we emerged into the bright, Marsden sunshine (with a bit of a hole in the cratch cover caused by one of those 'Look over there!' moments) and started the descent towards Harrogate. Friends from Mic's work met us at Marsden, and we gently locked our way down through a very pretty little valley.

We are now low on provisions, our disabled child has a short break to attend, and a we have car to collect from Staffordshire. A couple of days to-ing and fro-ing to restock the kitchen, wash everyone's undies and pick up forgotten items means a shocking change of pace will wake us all up.

Monday 25 July 2011

Dukinfield to Saddleworth

Yesterday's twelve hour slog has put us in a great position: two days to complete just eleven hours (23 locks) journey to the bottom of the Standedge Flight.

So we started lazily, with a lie-in and a cooked breakfast. The children have already settled into the boat routine, with bedding and pyjamas neatly stowed and the carpet vacuumed before breakfast. Why aren't they this good at home? Mic's breakfast in bed, melon & tea, was particularly appreciated.

After a quick pause to restock the kitchen in Ashton town centre (how did Asda get a canal tunnel named after them?) we climbed the locks through the "moody" urban landscape. The further from Ashton we got, the prettier the surroundings became until, eventually, we left the anti-vandal locks behind and once again found ourselves cruising through idyllic English countryside.

We found evidence that British Waterways is operating a covert 'No Nookie' policy: Gareth stopped for a shower at the Heyrod facilities, and the hot water ran out just as he had added the shampoo - forcing him to rinse with cold water. Serves him right for not using Honey's shower.

And finally, just as we started to think about mooring for the night we met a boat coming the other way (the only one of the day!) It was Odyssey, owned by Hugh's Year 1 teacher, with her children - including one of Théa's classmates.

Sunday 24 July 2011

The Macc

Friday night and the holiday started.

The family arrived on board in time for supper - and an early start on Saturday with friends and family.

In the morning we invited grandparents and friends for coffee, and then took a couple of them with us for the seven hour cruise from Congleton to Macclesfield. We spotted 'Rosie and Jim' puppets in boats and counted the herons.

After a quiet night at the Puss n Boots, we made at early start, first looking for a shop for supplies, second looking to see how far North we could reach in a day. The upper reaches of the Macc was fun: sitting on the roof of the boat and drinking tea while we navigated the lock-free pound.

The Marple flight: ouch. 16 locks. Three and a half hours. And finally, an overnight halt at Ashton-under-Lyne.

But best of all: three happy children. The autistic one has announced that he is the captain and the other two love the boat.

Monday 18 July 2011


Well, South first. I learned a lesson: always be aware of where the winding holes are - especially if you are heading away from your intended destination.

With a whole family of friends for company (Mic & our kids being elsewhere for the weekend) we clambered aboard after dark on Friday night and set off early on Saturday to find somewhere to turn the boat around and head North. Two hours
(including a lock, twice) later we were back where we started.

With two PhDs and their daughter to man the locks and make the tea, progress was swift and there were even some sunny spells in an otherwise sodden weekend. We travelled for 12 hours 30 minutes on Saturday, making it all the way through Stoke-on-Trent to a beautiful mooring by Westport Lake.

Stoke was as colourful as ever, with an Elvis impersonator singing from the roof of his boat, loads of derelict bottle ovens and, finally, a rather nice sunset.

The reputedly haunted Harecastle Tunnel was next. Sadly we didn't see any boggarts, but it was still an amazing sensory experience - with the cold, the darkness, the incredible noise of the engine bouncing around the tunnel walls and nothing but a tiny speck of light in the distance overwhelming everyone.

The boat is now safely moored up near my parents' house, and we'll return next weekend for the next (longer) leg of the journey home.

Sunday 10 July 2011

Great Haywood to Weston - and back.

Only a short hop, but our first proper journey in Honey.

Through Hoo Mill and Weston locks, and a disappointing stop in Weston itself. Pretty English villages are supposed to have tea rooms and murder mysteries that need solving - but this one only had a closed convenience store and a pub that charged £1 for a can of cola.

Never mind.

Honey has had a thorough wash and a stretch of her legs.

Friday 8 July 2011

Getting ready to move

It's Mic's 40th this weekend, and the kids are at Grandma's & respite. Parents don't get chances like this very often.

In two weeks we'll be loading the kids onto Honey for the long journey to Castleford, so we've driven down this evening with a car load of bedding, books, toys, waterproofs and lifejackets.

It's all safely stowed, and we've got two nights to enjoy Honey on our own, and celebrate a happy birthday.