So the boaters who passed around 6am had bothered to look at the forecast. If we’d wanted to get up, get dressed and get soaked we couldn’t have done a better job, drenched by the time we entered the first lock out of Wheelock.
With twenty odd locks ahead it proved a bit of a mistake to rush the paddles; single locks might be easy compared others but today was a reminder that the odd one still has a sting in it’s tail – more than capable of splattering the contents of the fridge (and a few other cupboards) over the floor. Our first lock breakage came as a bit of a shocker, so we went back to positioning the boat properly and winding a little less maniacally for the rest of the day.
Heartbreak Hill was practically abandoned, we’re guessing due to rain and with a lucky run of locks the day turned into an unofficial time trial, in what felt like not too long we were topping with water at Red Bull services. After a final two locks we moored up alongside the Kidsgrove razor wire, found we had no TV reception, a bench full of people content to sit in the rain, and began to wonder why we’d come quite so far.
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.
Diggle end of the Standedge Tunnel has delivered some crazy weather. With leaden skies, lightning cracks and rolling thunder the moors have looked dark and menacing. There was walking out there so we anoracked up. Torrential rain meant a quiet hike down to Uppermill yesterday where we trudged through Java in our wellies before steaming under patio heaters with birthday Pimms, Murk there too…as always.
Squelching off again this morning, up past the Diggle Hotel we could see where we needed to be and it was pretty much straight up the side of a craggy hill come mountain. The footpath soon fizzled out and realising we were somewhere we probably shouldn’t have been we carried on. By the end of the semi-treacherous, free-fall boulder climb we were at a chilly height where bilberries are king. Saddleworth moors screamed vast and remote as we poked our way along rugged tracks, discovering gigantic walls of rock and dodging huge holes below the heather.
Clueless, we wandered the wilderness before checking for the unlikely possibility of a Geocache nearby in the hope it might set us back on track. Sure enough, there it was and after crossing a final boggy patch we arrived at Sykes Pillar, despite standing 1489ft above sea level, arriving at the trig felt like landing right back in civilisation. The remainder was a doddle – a few miles along the top of the moors along to Pots and Pans then down to find ourselves two villages from where the boat was moored.
Very quiet up here, just one boat has passed by all weekend.
Somehow the day flew by. Our 5.15 Nayburn Lock booking began an hour early as only one sluice was working which meant a very slow, millimetre by millimetre, emptying lock. Out onto the tidal section, we seemed to be pushing against the water, perhaps the tide hadn’t quite turned. The boat in front soon left us for dust and it dawned on us that almost 15 miles without much tidal assistance was going to take a very long time so we sped up, the engine got a workout. Barely two miles in and the clouds bucketed it down, huge rain – even the drainage channels along the roof couldn’t keep up. We stood like drowned rats watching big river stuff pass by.
Clothes changed and fire lit things began to cheer up. The boat that blew us away had come back into sight and the tide had picked up carrying us a little. Plenty of enormous obstacles bobbed about, round the final bend we figured the flow didn’t seem too fast and decided the notorious Selby Lock turn should be okay. The boat in front went first before moving into the lock, it’s strange motoring past a lock space supposedly for you. A couple of minutes later we’d turned, straightened into the flow and moved into our lock slot. It was pretty good fun and didn’t even register on the scaryometer but conditions couldn’t have been kinder and the engine behaved very well.