Tuesday, 11 June 2013


It might have helped had we known in advance about the "Whaley Water Weekend". As boating virgins, we made our plans in ignorance of this event, an event which would have previously passed us by. Anyway, there is a canal side festival with a name which puns on the acronym TW3. If you are really young, like Jemmathedog, and don't know what TW3 is, then just Google it. 

Maybe the boating web sites we follow could put more effort in to publicising events such a this, and spend a little less web space annihilating CRT: Perhaps they (and we) should spend more time celebrating what we have?
New Cushion

Anyway, our plan was straightforward enough: Furness Vale to Whaley Bridge basin (for water) and then to the nearby visitor moorings and to the excellent Zayka (where we have been once before) tor a Goan meal (Jemma guarding the boat and enjoying a can of Butcher's Tripe.She isn't keen on Indian food).

"Are you trying to visit the mayhem at Whaley Bridge?" someone shouted from the towpath.
We must have looked a little like people who do not speak the language.
"Make sure you visit the cheese boat," were his last words as we sped towards the mayhem. A boat made of cheese? Whatever next?

The thought of reversing from the "mayhem" of Whaley Basin back to the Bugsworth junction made us nervous, so First Mate was sent ashore at the junction for reconnaissance.

A friendly boater stopped her in her tracks, reading her mind apparently, and said that there was mooring space after the Tesco bridge and reiterated the advice to visit the cheese boat. You can't turn around in the basin, he also said. 

So,we gingerly we made our way to the 200 yards of "permanent moorings" beyond Tesco (where no one has ever permanently moored). We fought past 3 or 4 trip boats on the way (one had Johnny Depp on it - honest), and discovered that on this stretch of the canal, you can float quite close to the edge! Quite a novelty for the Macclefield and Peak Forest canals.

At our mooring, there were signs of people flowing away from a big old party. The towpath was very busy with families, balloons, and children with tiger painted faces, so after testing the new front bench cushion with a glass of Pinot Grigio - and which more importantly, was given the paws up by Jemma, we ambled into W3. 

Sadly, we were a little late: the cheese boat and many stalls (especially the foody ones) had gone for the day. But we enjoyed an ice cream and sat in the sun across the canal just as the first band of the evening kicked off. The music was grand, beginning with rousing folk ensemble and finishing just after ten with a thrashy heavy metal band. Something for everyone.

Alton in the middle of the mayhem at W3
The three day event was blessed not only by the visit of Jemma, but by the weather, and Whaley was buzzing. Someone did say that it was the first time in five years that the sun had shone. We couldn't visit everywhere that evening, but there was live music in the Goyt Inn, The Railway, and the festival tent. And every other house appeared to be licensed (?!) When we arrived at Zayka, the Chef was outside on the street with a traditional clay oven cooking fluffy nan breads and selling kebab type things to passers by. We admired the food and the enterprise.

The meal at Zayka was excellent. Goan food is new to us and it is so very different. Lots of fish and much more delicate in flavour than the usual Anglo-Indian cusine. Zayka is a now a favourite, as is W3 which is now in the diary for next year. 

On Sunday, on our return, we met up with Brian and Ann Marie. They are such a hard-working crew. We seem to see them every time we are out, providing some vital service or other to the many boats on their stretch of the canal. What we would do without them? And we love to see Alton, the gentle giant loaded with coal and diesel, skilfully navigating the tightest of spaces. 

"You're not going to the mayhem at Whaley Bridge, are you?" we asked. 

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Weather and Swizzels

Sometimes, you are just too busy enjoying yourself to blog, but we should reflect on our first real taste of boating in what felt like summer.

Captain's mother, Daisy, is in her 91st year. She lives comfortably in a bungalow, and naturally at her age she doesn’t go out that much. She has no need to really.

She has long driven us mad by beginning every telephone call with a discussion about the weather. I don’t know why. The level of detail and prolonged debate about what the weather has done and might still do yet, is staggering. 

We had little or no concern for weather forecasts before owning a narrowboat. It all changed when  moved out to the Peak District, where we live at just 1,000 feet above sea level and can be easily  trapped in by snow. We somehow became much more in touch with the elements as they impacted on our ability to get about. Before then, as urbanites, if it was raining or cold we just slung on a coat: we travelled in climate controlled cars so it was a minor issue. We feigned interest in Daisy’s conversations.

The problem now, now we have a boat, is that it is US who talk constantly about the weather. Rain, sunshine, snow, and worst of all for boaters: wind. 
     “It’s been a bit blowy,” we hear ourselves reporting as if other boaters haven't noticed. Things like “there's been a few sharp gusts now and again.”

Daisy must now be very tired of the weather conversations. Revenge is sweet.

But, on the subject of weather, the sun shone last weekend, and we made the most of it. It was quite simply glorious being on the water after all the trials of the journey home. And the penny dropped. This is what it is meant to be like. You are meant to bask in the sheer loveliness of sunny boating - not count the minutes to the next respite from the freezing cold! Ah hah! This is why people do it. We saws lots of sights on the water that we would have missed otherwise. Some of them quite alarming. Like the whole family of little urchins who ran up and down the roof, jumping onto tow paths, scrambling back on and all this whilst some poor guy was trying to steer. We still don't know how he could see anything. Still, at least he held onto his can of Stella and that must have dulled the pain.

Goyt Mill, Marple
On Friday evening we arrived in Marple where we ate good and 'authentic' tapas at Murillo’s. It scored a ten out of ten. Saturday night we were at Sutton Hall on Gurnett Aqueduct. It was mad busy on the tow path but a fellow boater helped to pull us into the tightest mooring you've ever seen. It was sheer brute force and pig-headedness that got Lucy Belle into that space. She was touching, not to say kissing, the boats either end. Nobody seemed to mind. We ended up by the steps down to The Kings Head but the smell of stale fat wafting up from the fryer was unappetising. Somebody told us they had a rack of lamb with no lamb. We just had to go back to Sutton Hall as it scores ten out of ten for setting, but as before, the food is always a bit of a let down given how gorgeous the building is. Sunday night back to Marple and we found Marple Spice just round the corner from the lock flight. The decor is stylish and crisp, but like one or two Indian restaurants lately - everything was a bit too sweet. 

Perhaps it was a younger chef with a sweeter tooth? Perhaps he just lost concentration worrying about the weather.

Jemma had a splendid time. As we cruised along, she kept herself busy patrolling the rear deck. First one side, then the other, then to the rear. Her efforts were successful as we arrived home safely. This despite seeing a father and son towing a plastic alligator head on a fishing line near High Lane. Perhaps it was the weather for it.