They arrived with Scottish tans, some half eaten cheese, around a pint of semi-skimmed milk, a few green beans and a slither of butter. There was also a litre of gin, what a lovely gestu…but before the thought even finished it was quashed, ‘Nothing to do with us, from Mum.’ they announced proudly. Thank you Mummy. Common wealth memorabilia and cuddly Scotty dogs were soon strewn throughout the boat.
There was time to walk along to the visitor centre before our Anderton ride…it didn’t take long…’WHY HE GOT FAN ON ROOF?’ (Sarah Harvey, age 34, teacher). How intriguing, always interested in boaty gadgets everyone span round, then frowned – oookay and that would be a wind turbine Sar, and I’m pretty sure they exist in the real world too? Golly, with an everyday wind turbine proving troublesome to process, a show stopping waterway wonder like the Anderton Boat Lift threatened to be mind-blowing.
The visitor centre was great with lots of creatively thought out activities, arriving back at our mooring a lift operator was banging on the boat. Apparently there was a problem with the lift and we had to go right away, the combination of problem and go right away seemed a little odd but the lift operator was wearing a uniform, so we all did what we were told. We perched tentatively as 20 tonnes of boat drove out into a caisson some 50ft above the River Weaver.
With a temporary moor for a quick car shuffle there was just time for tattoos and loom banding before moving on. ‘Blimey what a lovely view, think I just saw a fish with three eyes,’ was the initial, unimpressed reaction to the scenery as we passed the ICI chemical works, but the jeering eased as the countryside opened up and kingfishers began to dart by.
Too slopey, too many thistles, footpath in the way, too narrow, dodgy looking people, too many cows – Swiss Family will find any excuse not to pitch a tent but having happily pitched up next a no camping sign on the River Avon, we know, when night falls they’ll be out there, knocking in those pegs. And they did, over a footpath the first night and in a field of cows (!) the second.
Endless rounds of Happy Families (what else?) means the girls are pretty shit hot at sweeping the cards from you, a losing run curiously ended up with some river dipping. It all got a little out of hand when too many bodies splashing about resulted in Murk launching himself over everyone to join the party.
Back up the lift, a couple of trips through Saltersford Tunnel – where unlucky passers by were subjected to a roving freak show: hairless man and the monster foot woman. One last fridge door opening to check they’d got their half eaten cheese and had inhaled every last scrap of our food, then they were off. And so were we – back down the lift and along the river. It’s so quiet, Nick is happy just listening to the sound of silence.
Heartbreak Hill has been a walk in the park which is surprising as the thought of The Four Counties Ring in August has always sent shivers down our spines. Last night’s mooring with the M6 buzzing not far away was an interesting insight into the ebb and flow of motorway traffic – regular traffic updates from Nick were interesting – for one evening. The bottom of the flight is a hotchpotch of work being done and not being done, yet another advantage of twin locks.
Wheelock moorings were busy but we squeezed in before walking up to Sandbach for a few boat maintainance bits and pieces from the great cheap hardware store. It’s quite a walk and in reality there are plenty of closer stores but Sandbach is always a must – a reminder of how tricky we thought shopping would be when we started out and set off for Sandbach swamped by rucksacks and in search of supplies.
A quick Goodwood catch up and we were back on the move, round to the water point, into the pet food shop and off. The promised rain didn’t really arrive until late afternoon but then it settled in big style.
No big deal with the warm temperatures at the moment, but the Eberspacher has visited the dinette table again, never a nice sight.
The day started well when, arriving at the swing bridge I met a guy quite keen to operate it himself, with his boat moored he’d taken up position as bridge operator while he waited for friends to catch up. We’ve come across a few lunatics who swing bridge for fun and are always happy to see one pop up with their gleaming BW key.
Alton was open for business so we pulled over for diesel and gas, blocking the path of anything else on the move. There was one boat, but the couple sandwiched between us and the piling didn’t seem to mind stopping for a while, explaining as liveaboards they carried everything including the kitchen sink so their boat sat deep in the water – if Uncle Bulgaria is out on the canals, we found him.
Bosley locks were busy but other than one shifty boater sneakily turning a lock against us everyone seemed to be enjoying climbing up or down a flight with the water working in the way it was orginally planned.
Plenty of space when we arrived at the bottom, a pretty spot that just shot up in our mooring ranking as we managed to get 3G. Wandering Murk towards the river for a cool off we saw our favourite coloured boat – by the time Murk had been dunked the owner sat outside reading. ‘For gods sake don’t go into one about how much we like your boat…’ Nick muttered from a few paces back. Five minutes later we were inside helping ourselves to a tour while the lovely guy held a wet Murk outside. Beautiful boat complete with Rayburn and a bed with a curtain! We both went on about how much we liked it before settling in for some heavy weight chat – UM, you’d have been proud!
Boats slotted into gaps as the afternoon went on, one long line of boats wiggle round the corner and away now. Today was a great reminder of how different everyone’s 60ish ft is, an enchanting and intriguing part of this floating life.
The stretch from Slaithwaite to Marsden is spectacular as the moors rise all around. Sitting in the last but one lock before Marsden, a car stopped and a lady appeared with her camera, explaining she’d seen us on the river in York and was pretty surprised to catch us in her home village too. It was lovely to receive Christine’s e-mail as we hardly ever get a photo of us on the boat together.
After mooring in Marsden, we untied, pulled back, moored again, re-shuffled – moored again and again. Nick eventually gave up and sat staring at the fuzzy television screen in complete shock, he flashed a disbelieving glance at the no service notice on the phone. ‘We’re going to have to talk.’ he muttered. So we did for a while, and then we walked down the hill into the town, Murk enjoyed his retro narrowboating experience as it involved splashing about in the river at a time he’d usually be snooring.
One night was fine, but by the following morning the entertainment plan was in place – raid the charity shops of any dvd that sounded remotely watchable. After a charity shop swoop we walked along an old pack horse trail leading up onto the moors. The views were breathtaking and dropping back into the village it was quite bonkers to find a few people saying they’d seen us on the local Facebook page, Christine had mentioned adding the photos but not being Facebookers ourselves we’d understimated the Facebook force.
Trip boats done for the day we moved upto the tunnel entrance where Nick deconstructed any sticky out bits of the boat in readiness for our tunnel trip. With drinks poured and the sun shining things couldn’t have got much better – and then they did. A fire engine rolled in for a bit of training. ‘Hello, we’ve seen you on facebook… Oh my. Cups of tea went down well, I was up in the air when a much much better idea occurred to the men in uniform. ‘You’re from Brighton, this’ll be right up your street, you’ll love it,’ they decided whipping Nick of his feet. Priceless. He was begging for it.
We were stranglely sorry to head into the tunnel, Marsden had been brilliant fun – a beautiful place with great friendly people.
Tunnel take two was no less incredible than first time round. The longest, deepest, highest tunnel on the network it blows any other out the water – there’s no going back, the rest become merely big bridges. First boat through this morning, the air was clear and the safety shadow was in place meaning we just slowed at the railway cross passage to check-in before getting the all clear to press on. At 3.25 miles long and over 200 years old the past hangs heavy in the air. Typical cargos included wool, coal and horse manure. The coal toll was higher than that for manure, meaning boats were often packed with two-thirds coal then topped off with manure – the scam was finally rumbled and one lucky person got the task of digging down into each load of manure to check for hidden coal, that person also got to walk the boaters horses over the hill – there and back twice a day, a total of around 13 miles…and that boy was just twelve years old.
Moored and put back together we left the boat to walk one of the old turnpike roads back over the hill to Marsden…and back.
Just a short walk along the river before the bank turns sandy, making a great dog swim area. All swum out Murk got shut away and we headed into York. A medieval maze of twists and turns: the most haunted city, oldest shopping street, home to planning of the Gunpowder Plot – York has more than it’s fair share of claims to fame, and for now it’s all turned yellow, which will be another to add to the list.
Named after the endless loads of limestone that were hauled over the cobbles on their way up from The Ouse to build York Minster, Stonegate was home to Guy Fawkes. Goldsmiths, glass painters and printers also left their marks throughout the centuries. The Red Devil perched above no. 33 is a reminder of printers once there – various print devil theories exist but the idea of a special devil haunting every print shop and playfully performing mischief such as inverting type, misspelling words ro even removing whole lines of text from completed type has ot be the truth.
At 3.4km long York city walls are the longest Medieval town walls in England, views over the Minster and Gray’s Court, a lovely looking hotel with a ridiculous amount of history, ‘Dukes, Earls, Kings, Queens, Cromwell’, and like most other places in York a few ghosts have been reported knocking about the place.
Rowers and trip boats mean there’s always plenty going on out on the water. Early evening sunshine, Cathedral bells and York outside meant watching shots of Rio de Janeiro beach felt plain wrong so we headed back out with Murk in tow.
Loving York, today involved so much walking that the top of our bodies feel like they’ve slid down into our legs.
The Selby Canal is weedy, a little while of whizzing round the prop leaves one variety almost felted. Five miles today took a while but in no real rush it didn’t matter. Through the swing bridge we arrived at Selby Lock just in time to see today’s boats make the tricky lock turn manoeuvre. No surprise to see the cruisers appear first, they wobbled about awkwardly but then they’re a whole different kind of boat. We looked up river waiting for the main event. Next up, the first two narrowboats, screaming down on the tide. Yikes they were moving fast, turning involved some loud engine revving and what seemed to be a painfully long time being swept sideways before straightening up into the flow. Not sure if I’m glad to have seen it or not.
We’ll be shooting off on the tide at 8.30am. Heard a fair few warnings about York that we didn’t expect: ‘Have you got chains?’ ‘Stop at Naburn, catch the bus in.’ ‘We had kids on the roof before we called the police.’ even opening this month’s Towpath shouted more of the same with an article on a spate of boats graffitied on The Ouse at York. Suck it and see. We might end up Marpisser yet.
Thanks to the very friendly lock keeper who offered us an overnight, offside, floodlit Selby mooring we’re only a lock length from the river, so we’ve been on river watch…checking the tide is still working? And watching very big bits of wood drift on by.