Saturday, 29 August 2009

Second thoughts

A rainbow moment on a dismal day
Magnificent Titanic Mill
Blimey. It's been a long, hard, tiring and ultimately not very rewarding slog to get down the 21 locks and half a dozen miles from Slaithwaite to Huddersfield.
The weather didn't help - strong winds brought alternately heavy showers and bright sunshine (plus that Pennine speciality heavy rain and sun at the same time!).
The locks were hellish – more than half were 'one paddle wonders' with at least one of the top or bottom paddles out of action. And where the evidently unreliable hydraulic paddles gave way to mechanical bottom paddles these were usually fiendishly heavy, even with a long handled windlass.
Low point was getting fired at by kids with catapults. No damage done but annoying.They were playing on a demolition site, one of many along the way where the old mills are being flattened. There are so many of these monuments to dead industry, monumentally built and glorious looking but useless now. A shame that their replacements are the faceless and bland steel warehouse sheds.
Some have survived as apartments - like the magnificent Titanic Mill, set on a rugged hillside with church steeple and dark gritstone houses that looks unchanged from Victorian times.
But back to the descent. At lock 12E we were completely stuck. The lock wouldn't fill the last inch and we (that's me, Vicky and two teenage lads we roped in) couldn't shift the gate open.
A phone call to BW was needed. I can imagine the response at the other end. "Ee, there's boat stuck at 12E again - get Big Bert down there." And Big Bert duly arrived, all six feet two and 20-odd stone of him (distributed mostly around the middle). He leant on the gate arm - and it moved, just like that.
The lads and us were amazed. "I gave it all I'd got!" said one. Actually he was a good lad - just starting training as a metal fabricator with a job and a course - plus no less than 14 GCSEs. Good luck to him!
On down the flight we found ourselves almost awash in water. It was pouring round the by-washes and out of one lock and over the top of the next lock down. You hardly needed to use a paddle to fill it.
So when we came to leave 5E and found ourselves grounded in six inches of muddy swill, we were amazed. Where had all the water gone? I had to flush through another lockful to push us down to the next lock. We scraped on through and then crept cautiously through the subterranen string of new tunnels and cuttings that bring the canal past the university and towards its end...where we got grounded again at the final lock! I thought we were there for the night but much pulling and pole-ing got us off and through.
At 8.30pm after ten hours and 21 locks we moored by the uni, Starwoman cooked up a quick dinner and we crashed out.
Only to be woken at 2.30 am by a thump on the boat! I looked out and saw a leg up against the roof. As much puzzled as annoyed I asked it what it was doing. "I just wanted to climb on the roof and have a look at the view," explained its owner with a stupid, happy-drunk grin. "Well don't; we're in here and we're trying to sleep" I said. And he wobbled off.

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