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The 1990 Canal Holiday

The first canal holiday for Neil in 4 years! - The "wilderness" years were over! This was a carry on from the late 1970's canal holidays, a lads one week late September Cheshire Ring and as much Caldon as we could do.  No from of log survived and Linda had stopped doing her diaries! By this time it was getting increasingly difficult to hire a boat with an all male crew. With much frantic searching we eventually found a boatyard on the Cheshire Ring that would take 5 blokes. It was only long term IWA membership of 2 of the crew members that swung it. The boat yard was Heritage Narrowboats of Scholar Green, at the bottom of the Macclesfield. This yard used to be Dyecraft, but had recently changed hands. We booked through Hoseasons. Due to the newer hire boats being built with couples in mind, it was also getting difficult to hire a boat with at least 5 single reasonable size bunks. I can't remember why we did not go back to Peak Forest Cruisers in Macclesfield, but it was probably due to suitable craft having been "retired". The old time crew members were Neil, Julian E and John Fleming. New recruits were Colin, Neil's brother-in-law and Danny, Julian's neighbour from Flitwick. Colin had one aborted narrowboat holiday on the River Avon in and electric powered boat "Electric Blue" - We can't think of a more stupid place to try out electric narrowboats, with the strong current on the Avon. Danny and his wife Les, had also had a Teddesley hire boat holiday with Julian and Jackie in the late 1980's. There was room for John Rushbrook, but the new "management" would not allow him out to play! John Fleming provided the transport in the form of a diesel Golf demonstrator from his garage and we were soon chugging up the M1 and M6.

Heritage Narrowboats base was very tidy place, the new guvnor seemed to be ex-Navy. I cant remember the reason, or what the boat was called that we were meant to have, but for some reason it was un-available. Any way the boat provided was bigger, in fact the largest narrowboat we had ever hired. "The Cloud" was around 60ft, a cruiser sterned craft powered by a Lister SR2. We were immediately a bit disappointed with the boat, it was a bit tatty and seemed near the ends of it hire boat days. Neil thought that an SR2 in a 60 ft boat was somewhat underpowered for "our" needs, especially as we had been used to SR3's in smaller narrowboats! There was also visible traces of window apertures being altered and internal modifications. It was certainly fairly spacious, with 6 single bunks (the front to could form a double if  the Desmo legged table was dropped down), like in "Beatty". The ablution department was taken care of by two re-circulating pump out toilets, odd wash basins and a "Beatty" style hip bath / shower. Two of the bunks were in a "private" cabin and Colin who assumed the Ships Purser role, soon bagged this. Dan and Julian had the two front bunks and John and Neil the rear two.

Saturday 22nd September - We were soon stowing our gear, including much "disguised" beer rations! Owing to the confusion of this boat swap we got away late at 16.00. We headed north and that night stopped after a couple of hours in Congleton. Julian the Chief Chef (the ONLY chef!) had a semi prepared meal, complete with accompanying wine. After this blow out meal we retired for a few jars in the handy Wharf  pub.

Sunday 23rd September - An early start (7.00) was made as we wanted to get into position to get through Manchester the next day. We had by now got used to the boat, or so we thought! It had seemed a bit sluggish to start with, Neil had of course altered the throttle stop, but this made only a little difference. After you got moving the boat seemed to bowl along OK. Someone was just coming out of Bosley Bottom Lock, so we just carried on in and carry we did! Full astern made a pathetic attempt of pulling up the boat. We had not yet needed to pull up at all yet! In a cloud of black smoke we carried on into the lock chamber and hit the sill buffer with a resounding thud. Fortunately "The Cloud", or "The Clod" as we now christened it, had fairly substantial fenders and nothing got broken. Julian carried on steering up the flight, as he was a bit more light fingered in the throttle department! After the Bosley Locks we settled down to a reasonable pace, as it was impossible to speed on the shallow Macclesfield Canal. 
All was going well as we passed through Bollington, then disaster struck, we lost the throttle! Neil lifted the engine covers as we still trickled along in tick-over. We of course thought that the throttle cable had snapped and that we could arrange a temporary throttle and that it would be an easy replacement, but no! The throttle cable was OK and moved a small arm on the Lister engine block, form here the throttle linkage was internal! We stopped on Bollington Aqueduct (13.00 ish), then phoned the boatyard telling them that we had lost the throttle, but the throttle cable was OK. We of course phoned from the Dog and Partridge pub! At about 13.45 we ambled back to the boat, just as the Heritage guvnor arrived WITH A NEW THROTTLE CABLE! Neil was a bit pissed off, as we had told him that it was NOT a throttle cable that we needed. The guy went of to phone his mechanic and came back with bad news, that an internal spring had broken and that the engine would have to be partially lifted to get access through the crankcase covers! We said that we would trickle along to High Lane and see him in the morning, as they would have to go out to get the spare part. Off we pottered at 14.30 and crept along to High Lane (17.30ish). In fact we made reasonable time, as you could not go much faster on the Macc any way! We only had one near miss at a bridge hole, where we assumed right of way, as once we were moving, there was no way to stop! After fish and chips we repaired to the Bull's Head, where we gorged on PROPER Boddingtons's Ale served the correct way, from an electric sidewinder pump, with a sparklets head! We stayed up rather late, as we knew that we would not be going anywhere the next day!

Monday 24th September - The Heritage guvnor and Mechanic arrived at about 10.00 and got stuck into engine dismantling! They had to remove the prop shaft and engine mount bolts and some of the air ducting. They then lifted the engine using chains and a small reverse acting hydraulic ram. This was off a steel bar inserted between the rear deck scupper bars. Neil thought that they did a good quick job, considering that by the end it was drizzling with rain. The spring was a bugger to fit (it located a rocker shaft in the internal linkage) and even "Commodore" Heritage was caught swearing! - The joys of owning a hire fleet! After we came back from the pub, they were just clearing up. After a cuppa all round we shoved off at about 13.30. The guvnor was most apologetic and said that as the boat was not going out the week after, we could bring it back on Sunday. 
We were soon bowling along again and after turning left onto the Peak Forest Canal, soon polished off the Marple Flight. We hacked along the Lower Peak Forest Canal and the Ashton at rather obscene speeds and stopped in the half light at Fairfield Junction (no junction anymore) at around 17.30. We knew that this was not the most salubrious of areas, but the Ashton scare stories of the 1990's had not yet started. There was a little basin at the top of Fairfield Locks and a security door was still working, so that you could lock yourself into a "private" part of the wharf. Most of the crew were rather well tanked up by the time we arrived and an amusing video followed, mainly concerning the fact that Colin had relieved himself, behind what he thought was the locked door, little did he know, that Neil had his own Sanitary Station key at that time! (Colin was able to get his own back by videoing Neil in the toilet at the Hollybush at Denford on the Caldon!) John Fleming also did a "posed " shot of him returning the compliment! We ate on the boat and did not attempt to find a pub, as by that time we worked out that we were locked IN with some yobs, who were setting fire to a pile of old doors, just the other side of a broken down wall! They left us alone and we soon all crashed out, with the smell of wood smoke all around us! Julian had set his alarm for 7.00, so we had to get some rest!

Tuesday 25th September - We did indeed shove off at 7.10 and were soon in full swing climbing down the Claydon Lock Flight of the Ashton, into the centre of Manchester. It was not until half way down the flight that it became light. It then got dark again as it started to blow up and rain fairly heavily! Near the bottom of the flight, at one of the Ancoats Locks we saw a floral tribute to a small kid who drowned here, just a week ago. It was while videoing this, that Neil's early VHS-C video camera got over damp and started to play up! We arrived at the wiggly junction with the Rochdale Canal, to find that there was a club boat moored on Paradise Wharf, one of our old stopping places. Just gone 9.00, the Ships Purser went off to pay our dues to the Rochdale Canal Office, at the side of the car park, as there was no one in the Car park hut. We had never actually been into the Rochdale Canal Office before. It was a dark 1930's kind of place, with lots of dark scumbled panelling. Colin saw and old dear who cheerfully relieved him of the exorbitant toll money. In full view of Colin she went to the safe and put it away in a large cash box, that must have contained a GOOD few thousand pounds! Colin came back with the key and we let ourselves into the now full lock, we shut the top gates, locked them up then dropped the key back. We were soon on our way through the deep caverns of the Rochdale Nine. There was tons of water, and in many places flowed right round the locks, over the towpath. 
At 9.30 we exited the bottom of the Rochdale and were soon speeding along the Bridgewater. There was building work going on in the southern basin - Castle Quay at Castlefields, but the basins under the railway viaducts were still in a state. The Bridgewater Canal was (and still is!) a deep and wide canal. The sections that are not plastered with linear moorings can be traversed at quite a speed, without making much wash. We stopped at Sale to do some shopping and carried on until Dunham, where we moored by Dunham Town Bridge. This was fairly early, at around 17.00. That night we went out to the pub for food and a pint - Axe and Cleaver Hotel. Due to Colin's and Julian's challenged eyesight we went out with torches. Unfortunately Julian dropped his in the clear, but weedy water. It was pretty deep (5ftish) so we gave up and abandoned attempts to rescue it. 

Wednesday 26th September - Julian was still mourning the loss of his good old rubber water proof Pifco torch, so Colin and Neil prodded around in the spot Julian was sure that it fell. Amazingly Neil found it with the barge pole, so the two devised a boathook and dust pan Keb to lift it up. Neil had kept the spot marked with a barge pole, so Colin brought the torch up after a couple of attempts. It still worked fine and Julian was soon reunited with his beloved torch (He still has it in his car!) We left at around 8.00 and had a fast and trouble free trip round to Preston Brook Tunnel. Along the parallel River Weaver section a small coaster actually beat us to Anderton. The lift was already partially dismantled. John Fleming was made to steer a bit (including the Saltersford and Barnton Tunnels) by the age old ploy of "grab hold of this pole John, while I go to the toilet!" We had a good run round to Middlewich, with no traffic and moored for the night, past the Middlewich Branch and above Kings Lock No 71 (17.30 ish). That night we went to The Kings Lock pub for a meal and a drink, we seen to remember that this was a nice venue. 

Thursday 27th September - Another of Julian's early starts, about 7.00. This was a fairly rainy day, with wind, making the Wheelock Flight interesting. There was a bit of traffic here and in age old fashion we managed to overtake a few through the intermittent paired locks! That night we stopped at the Kidsgrove portal of the Harecastle, ready for an early morning start. We stayed on the boat after one of Julian's meals as we were a bit knackered.

Friday 28th September - We were the only boat that went through in the morning, so got a nice fast run through. At Etruria we did indeed go down the Caldon, but as was becoming the norm, we did not get to the end. No one else about so we had a good run. We went as far as the winding point above Cheddleton, then retreated for lunch and a pint in the Hollybush, at Denford. This Caldon pub we had never been in before, but it was indeed good. It only sold Ind Coope beer, but the Burton was on form. We seem to remember that the food was good too. We stayed a bit late, so shoved off sharpish. During this operation Neil was secretly filmed through the bog window, then the rest tried to leave without him! That night we just got to Stockton Brook and went to another Holly Bush, the Holly Bush Hotel. This was also a reasonable meal and an on-form pint of Bass.

Saturday 29th September - We decided to get home that night if possible, so left at 7.30. Another straight in passage of the Harecastle, with only one other boat following us in. At Hardings Wood Junction we did the left, then over the Trent and Mersey on the Red Bull Aqueduct, as the Cheshire locks of the Trent and  Mersey Canal take it downwards. The other boat followed us. We did a tidy up on the way and I think we got a quick get away from the boat yard at around 15.30.


All images grabbed from a grotty VHS copy of a grotty VHS-C camcorder tape!

Heritage Narrowboats Base at Scholar Green. Macclesfield Canal.

Our first night, food on board. Macclesfield Canal.

John "The Geordie" Fleming gets stuck into his Newcastle Brown Ale. Macclesfield Canal.

Proof that it does not always rain on the Bosley Flight! Macclesfield Canal.

Bosley Flight. Macclesfield Canal.

Bosley Flight. Notice that "The Clod" has a slight lager list! Macclesfield Canal.

Bosley Flight. Julian takes it a bit more gentle owing to no pulling up power. Macclesfield Canal.

Bosley Flight. John is at the Newcastle Brown again! Macclesfield Canal.

John looks like a trawler man! Macclesfield Canal.

Marple Flight. Lower Peak Forest Canal.

Marple Flight. Lower Peak Forest Canal.

Marple Flight. Lower Peak Forest Canal.

Marple Flight. Lower Peak Forest Canal.

Marple Flight. Lower Peak Forest Canal.

Marple Flight. Lower Peak Forest Canal.

"The Clod" is left on auto pilot. Julian comes out to see who's steering! Marple Aqueduct. Lower Peak Forest Canal.

We lock our selves in behind this door. Fairfield Junction. Ashton Canal.

Colin is doing something else behind the door and is saving us from a pump out. Fairfield Junction. Ashton Canal.

John tries this as well, but a "little" more exposed! Fairfield Junction. Ashton Canal.

John now feels "relieved". Fairfield Junction. Ashton Canal.

Fairfield Top Lock, at some silly time in the morning! Ashton Canal.

Fairfield Top Lock. Ashton Canal.

Swing Bridge below the Fairfield Locks. Ashton Canal.

Clayton Locks. Ashton Canal.

Clayton Locks. Ashton Canal.

The Strawberry Duck pub, by Lock No 13. Clayton Locks. Ashton Canal.

Clayton Locks. Ashton Canal.

Clayton Locks. Ashton Canal.

Clayton Locks. Ashton Canal.

Graffiti time. Ashton Canal.

The matching  "lock" graffiti. Ashton Canal.

Ancoats Locks. The flowers on top of the gates were due to a young boy drowning here the week before. Ashton Canal.

Colin has gone off for licence. Rochdale Nine Locks.

Looking back up the derelict bit of the Rochdale Canal.....One day! Rochdale Nine Locks.

The Lock keepers house. Rochdale Nine Locks.

Rochdale Nine Locks.

Approaching Dunham at rather high speed! Bridgewater Canal.

The next morning Colin and Neil retrieve Julian's torch with a made up Keb..... Dunham Bridge. Bridgewater Canal.

.....Which still works! Dunham Bridge. Bridgewater Canal.

Keb made from boat hook, dustpan and donor wire coat hanger! Bridgewater Canal.

There we are, you can do a tunnel with out touching the sides, John! Saltersford Tunnel. Trent and Mersey Canal.

Coaster coming out of Saltersford Locks on the River Weaver. View from up valley side on the Trent and Mersey Canal.

The coaster winding on a bow line at Anderton. It beat us to this point! River Weaver from the Trent and Mersey Canal.

Middlewich, looking at Andersen Boats hire base, just below Lock No74. The start of Linda and Neil's 1977 canal holiday. Trent and Mersey Canal.

Paired Locks No 63. Wheelock Flight. Trent and Mersey Canal.

The decrepit paired Lock No 47. Trent and Mersey Canal.

The decrepit paired Lock No 47. Trent and Mersey Canal.

Colin rations out the dwindling tinny supply in a non stopping fashion! Trent and Mersey Canal.

Colin appears to be finishing the tinny supply himself!!! Trent and Mersey Canal.

BWB replacing bottom gates of one of the paired Locks No 41, at Hardings Wood Junction. Trent and Mersey Canal.

Approaching Kidsgrove (north) portal of Harecastle Tunnel. Trent and Mersey Canal.

Looking inside one of Sheldon Steelworks overhanging sheds. Now used for girder storage. Trent and Mersey Canal.

The Milton Maid china carrying workboat. Still being used. Caldon Canal.

We are about to create a nice traffic jam at Ivy House Lift Bridge. Caldon Canal.

The dodgy controls for Ivy House Lift Bridge. (needed a good bang to get it working!) Caldon Canal.

Hollybush pub at Denford. Caldon Canal.

"The Clod" moored outside the Hollybush pub at Denford. Caldon Canal.

Inside the Hollybush. Denford. Caldon Canal.

We spend rather a long lunchtime in the Hollybush! Caldon Canal.

Going back up Hazelhurst Locks, by now it is raining and blowing a gale. Caldon Canal.

The classic Hoseasons toilet sticker!

Neil gingerly checks the state of the ships bogs!

Starting to tidy up.

Some more for the graffiti collection. Trent and Mersey Canal.

We had been following "The Thing", during the early 1980's, as he progressed up the Trent and Mersey Canal!

Southern Portal of Harecastle Tunnel. The fan house was added in the 1950's. Trent and Mersey Canal.

Hall Green Lock. Macclesfield Canal.

Back at the Heritage Base. Scholar Green. Macclesfield Canal.

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