Monday 15 July 2019

Black Rock, Millbrook

Today's Canals - Ashton, Huddersfield Narrow

We awoke with some relief to find that we had not been broken into, vandalised or attacked. we had moored a short distance on from Fairfield Junction (having turned down the offer of £8 a night at the secure Droylsden Marina) in a reasonable quiet and pleasant spot. There was a steady stream of walkers along the towpath but nothing out of the ordinary. As far as we could tell from maps and Street View, it was quiet a residential area as we could expect. We settled down to our roast lamb dinner.

Our laid back attitude was shattered when  as darkness was about to descend, a woman came to the hatch window specifically to warn us that this was a very rough area, we should not moor here and there was a vandalised boat just around the corner that CaRT and the police knew about!

It was really too late to move and, after checking our assumptions about the area, we deployed our arsenal of security protection (yes, we do have some, but clearly are not telling!) and slightly nervously went to bed. Hence the opening sentence of this blog.

As forecast, it was a bright sunny blue sky that accompanied our relief and we set off at our usual time - still no wiser about the area's reputation but, oddly, as we did so another passer-by also stopped to tell us about the vandalised boat.

Indeed, around the corner was a small GRP cabin cruiser, moored by a single rope to a barely hammered in pin. Its canopy had been dislodged and lay across the top of the boat at an angle. It was licensed until October and had an apparently serviceable outboard still in place.

However: obviously we could not work out what actually had happened but the next but one bridge comes with a warning that it had very low headroom. Is it possible that the boat had caught its canopy on this bridge which did the damage? Certainly the way in which it was lying across the boat was more consistent with such a story than that of vandalism. After all, we might have expected that a canopy removed by vandals would normally end up in the water.

Just beyond the low bridge is an interesting modern housing development, a little different from tacky boxes.

A small boatyard - restored narrowboat Daphne looks classic.

This boat is advertising wooden planters for sale - alas its notice seems to suggest that austerity has hit its price performance with 'reductions in most departments' clear from its modified sign.

The next stretch has a goodly number of former mill buildings, many of which were splendid in design originally. Although functional in purpose, with owners not keen to waste any money, nevertheless they are much more than mere utilitarian.

We continued to Dukinfield Junction where we could just see that a boat was about to emerge under the junction bridge. It was fortunate that we slowed right down as, despite having a woman on the bow, she did nothing to alert her steerer to give way and the boat ploughed merrily along, right in front of us. If we had continued at cruising speed (which is not fast along here anyway) we would most likely have t-boned them.

We thought about visiting the Portland Basin Museum but left it this time - just as well as later we realised that it is only open Tuesday to Sunday!

Before long we arrived at the point where the Ashton morphs into the Huddersfield, just below Lock 1W.

The bottom paddles and gates were very heavy to operate despite having been replaced since we came here in 2013, when a very different mechanism was in place.

A glimpse of the hills well above Stalybridge, not far ahead of us.

This 'tin shed', as a modern alternative to the older brick buildings, i far less attractive and painting a red colour goes no way gto making it look like its predecessors. Yet, the old chimney still stands.

Crossing the Tame Aqueduct was made all the more hazardous by the amount of vegetation that obscures the view ahead (this picture is look back at it). What we could not see, looking forward, is that there are extensive shrubs just beyond which we duly crashed into and took some time to extricate ourselves. We are not usually wont to be critical on this blog about the way kin which CaRT maintain the canal system but vegetation management along the Huddersfield seems to be absent. OK, we know that keeping this particular canal open, for not a lot of traffic, is a real budget demand and some costly repairs are needed each year. But if something does not change soon then real damage will be caused. We encountered several rather dangerous situations and the small bushes are fast becoming trees and as they grow in the crevices of stonework and the tow;path bank they will then require expensive repair. Especially worrying is the amount of vegetation in lock chambers. Rant over!

We threaded our way under numerous bridges on our way into Stalybridge and up three locks before we arrived at the moorings outside Tesco.

It was lunch time but this also gave us a chance to do a little shopping. The trouble is that a little shopping in a large supermarket tales time and not a little walking!

See earlier comments . . .

Alongside the top gates of Lock 7W is this 'thing', with the inscription LNR Crewe. Not yet discovered what it was but this website shows that it was there when the restoration works began and here, that it dates back to before Stalybridge closed to canal traffic.

After including a picture like this in a 2013 blog, a comment was added a year later that it was used go help pull a drain pug out of the bottom of the canal! Somewhere we recently saw a YouTube video of this being done in the centre of Manchester.

The restoration required numerous inventive solutions and at Lock 8W there was no room for a conventional lock landing and, instead, these two sets of steps were built.

At the service block above the lock we had problem on our last visit with a then newly repaired water tap that proved almost impossible to use. Now the tap is enclosed in a well-signed metal box and inside the tap - now usable - shows that the cast iron enclosure has been smashed away. Perhaps a simple use of the correct tap connector in the first place might have saved some expense.

Whilst waiting for Lock 9W to fill, Christine chatted to Paul Cheese, a cyclist who then asked to record the sound of Mike winding up a paddle. (Yes, really!) He is on a 3500 mile journey recording the sound of the UK as the basis for a song he is writing. For details, see here.

At Lock 10W we could just beyond an attractive wooded section with what looked like a good towpath bank - but we have tried mooring on the Huddersfield before now and are not easily fooled. It was a little early to stop for the night but as it was still very hot we succumbed to the temptation to try and come alongside. Imagine our delight when we found a spot where we could come right against the wall!

This valley is home to the railway between Manchester Victoria and Leeds (which Mike took on his journey to York recently) as well as the River Tame - which Christine went to look at on a snort walk once the cool of the evening had arrived.

5.9 Miles - 10 Locks

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