Monday, 2 September 2013

Shirkers, Staly-Vegas and the addition of lace

Staly-Vegas, all at peace in the sunshine
Our plans to spend a couple of days in Manchester changed a little when our "lock crew," especially recruited for the 18 Ashton canal locks into Manchester, cried off. Maybe it was the advice to be ready for all weathers, hard work, to be prepared for grease marks on clothes and strictly no high heels, that finally scared them off. In the end, we all bottled it. Especially Jemma who had been pacing up and down for a solid 4 hours down the Marple flight. 

So having dropped down the 16 locks from Marple, we reached Dukinfield junction, but instead of heading West to Manchester, we thought we might go East, on the Huddersfield Canal. Ever the adventurers, we had no idea what lay ahead. 

The first lock on the Huddersfield was protected with anti-vandal straps and this was really the first time we had used, in anger, the (Midland Chandlers) handcuff keys. All went well on the bottom gates, but on the top gate paddle straps, the outside diameter of the key was greater than the hole it had to go in! Ten minutes furious filing and swearing sorted it and we were on our way arriving in Stalybridge late that afternoon.

Only a boating trip would include somewhere like Stalybridge in the travel itinerary, and we knew nothing about the place. Our ignorance intact, we set off that evening on the Manchester train to meet our very glamorous "shirker lock crew" friends. It was a mere 14 minutes by train into the impressive Victoria Station.On the way back around ten, we wondered why everyone seemed to heading out of Manchester on our train. When they all got off with us, the penny dropped.
Portuguese Lace Door Curtain bought in Bridport

On the platform at Stalybridge a girl told us, “Did ya know they call it Staleh-Vegas? Ya guaranteed a good night here.”

Staly-Vegas is a strange place. It is an old mill town that having been very prosperous during the industrial revolution is now struggling with its identity. Apparently the plan was to develop a kind of 'cafe culture' in the town but clearly that didn't work out given the number of cans that litter the tow path. The prettiest thing by far is the canal which around 2000, was restored through the town centre where it had been culverted. (In fact we met a council worker who had been responsible for much of the culverting a few locks further up.) We hadn’t planned to go much further, but it took all of one day to travel up from Stalybridge to the water point and then beyond lock 12 to wind (having failed so closely at the entrance to Scout tunnel).

More vintage lace recently added
The rest of Stalybridge is unremarkable excepting that it has a shop advertising "tripe and sandwiches". Now there's a vegetarian nightmare. More than half of the town centre shops are boarded up, and as we were advised there is a vibrant night-life, with the noise and mess that goes with it.We did enjoy a boogie on deck to Michael Jackson. Well it would have been rude not to.

On our way up for water, in the pound between locks 9 and 10, we passed a boat heading West. Our first mate took the boat into lock 10. But the Captain of the boat we had passed remained at the previous lock. “A boat was sunk in that lock, lock 9, last week. If she gets into trouble, I can flush some water down from here.” Now it took us a while to fathom what he was rattling on about. But, yes, two boats in the last couple of years have sunk in lock 9.

Marple Crew
It seems that the bottom gates leak badly, the top gates are fairly OK. So if the pound is already low, there is a fair chance of running aground as you enter (or leave) the lock. If this is the case, with the bottom gates leaking badly, there is then only a few minutes before the water will stop entering the lock, and the lock will then drain. The boat is not so much sunk, as dry docked at about 20 degrees! There are some links here HERE to the previous events, (note: these are not for the faint hearted).

We met our (entirely cheerful and reliable) Marple crew at Marple bottom lock, and after a quick spin back over Marple Aqueduct and through Hyde Tunnel, we huffed and puffed our way up the locks. At lock 12, the Captain’s little finger was mangled between the balance beam and the windlass. Captain did a little dance in sort of clockwise circles, his right hand between his legs. He chanted words that must have been Anglo-Saxon, but did he complain at all over the next 2 days about his bruised and throbbing finger? 

It is good to do locks ... occasionally. It makes you appreciate the Macclesfield Canal and the UPPER Peak Forest. After rocking it in Staly-Vegas and avoiding the potential horrors of lock 9, Furness Vale is going to seem very pedestrian.

1 comment:

oldmonsty said...

what a brilliant blog