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Clive & Melanie Morris - Narrowboat Folkies



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Friday January 25th 2013 - Foxton basin, Leicestershire

Posted by clivenmel on 25 January, 2013 at 7:45

Well, Happy New Year everyone! Ok so its a bit late but this is the first blog of 2013.  Before I start I am sorry to say that our web provider has once again decided to "improve" the format so I am now unable to centre photographs or resize them or anything - if it ain't broke why fixt it - I wish they wouldn't keep doing this!!!

The last blog was done on December 19th before Christmas just as we had installed Lady Arwen in her berth at Debdale Wharf Marina. We managed to pack all our clothes into a new pull along hold all that we had purchased from Argos in Market Harborough, it was a bit like a tardis, amazing how much stuff we got in it and it didn't feel all that heavy either. We also each had "hand luggage" - Clive's for things like the laptop, camera, leads etc and mine for the sponge bags, jewellry, slippers, make-up etc etc (well a girl needs her stuff!). So Saturday December 22nd arrived and it was raining! We had ordered Spotty Dog Taxi's from Market Harborough to come and pick us up and sure enough he turned up in timely fashion and we were soon on our way to the station. I had booked the train tickets on my phone app and we had collected them at the same time as the tickets to Leicester when we went to see The Hobbit, so all we had to do was board the train. The first train arrived spot on time and we were soon on our way to Leicester. The first change was very painless, we got off the first train, waited on the platform for a little while and the second train arrived, on time and took us to Derby. However there was a bit of a hold up in Derby and our connecting train was delayed by about 40 minutes but it eventually arrived and we headed off to Leeds then finally the last train from Leeds to Huddersfield, where Gareth picked us up. Apart from all the changes it wasn't a bad journey and we had reserved seats on the second and third trains so didn't have to fight for a seat, all in all it was quite a success.


We had been in contact with our good friends Martyn and Cani Smith by email prior to Christmas and they had informed us that they would be in Huddersfield over the Christmas period but the only day they could see us was today! So we piled all our luggage and ourselves into Gareth's car and headed off to The Foxglove pub on Penistone Road. It was great to see them both again and catch up on all the news. We spent a couple of hours with them then Gareth drove us into Huddersfield as we needed to pop to Sainsbury's for a few bits of pieces to take away with us, mainly wine! After that he took us up to Clive's parents' house. We said goodbye to Gareth then, after giving him his Christmas presents to take with him. He was off down to Grantham to spend Christmas with Vicki and Ben.


The following day, December 23rd we started packing all our gear and all Mum and Pop's gear, including Mum's wheelchair, into Pop's VW Polo - it was a tight squeeze, in fact there were a couple of items that just wouldn't fit at all! So we then drove up to Clive's sister Carol's and helped her and Ivan pack all their stuff and all their daughter Chloe's stuff into Carol's car. Poor Chloe was already in the car, in her wheelchair and we just piled everything all around her - bless! She was very excited about it all though and couldn't wait to set off! There was a little bit of room left in the end so we managed to squeeze in the few things that wouldn't fit in Pop's car, then we were off!


We arrived at Centreparc's in Penrith a just over two hours later and then we sat in the queues of cars waiting to get into the park itself. It wasn't too long before we found our cabin and got everything unloaded, then the cars had to be taken back to the big carpark for the duration of our stay. The cabin itself was great, proper home from home, it had everything we needed and was very cosy. After we had unpacked everything and got sorted out we decided to go and explore.


ic: Wagons l


When we got back Ivan and I (designated chefs!) set to making the tea. Carol had bought a huge lasagne and an equally huge meat and potato pie with her, we plumbed for the lasagne. I can't believe actually how much food we had taken with us, besides everything for the Christmas dinner itself we had brought everything to feed us all (7 people) for a week and I mean everything! We had two fridges, each with a freezer compartment and believe you me we needed every scrap of space. We had also brought enough drink to sink a battleship!


Christmas Eve dawned and Ivan produced a fine brunch - one of his specialities! Then we got Chloe and Mum all togged up and into their wheelchairs and we set off down the Centre to watch a pantomime - Aladdin!



A bit blurry but you get the idea!

As soon as the performance was over we headed back to the cabin to have an early tea because we were going out again! We decided that it would be a good idea to book some transport for the wheelchairs as it was quite a walk to and from the centre so Carol, Clive and I set off walking and the transport came and collected Mum and Pop and Chloe and Ivan and delivered them to the Centre a short while after we had arrived! The event this evening was a carol service. As we arrived we were all given a mulled wine and a mince pie, just to get us in the mood! All the entertainment was put on by the same bunch of people, sort of the equivalent of the Red Coats at Butlins. I have to say they were very good indeed. The carol concert was lovely, everyone was given a song sheet and we all joined in singing the usual traditional carols with gusto, it really got us into the Christmas groove. By the time we arrived back at the cabin we were all tired out and it wasn't long before we were all tucked up in bed.


Christmas Day - again Ivan produced his famous brunch and then we got stuck in preparing the Christmas feast. I prepared the turkey and Ivan did all the veg. Unfortunately Carol wasn't feeling very well at all, she had developed a nasty cold and sinusitis overnight but she soldiered on.



Carol decorated the table and it looked lovely.



Finally it was all ready and we sat down to dine.



When we were all thoroughly stuffed and everything washed up and tidied away we settled down in the lounge to open our presents. We had decided weeks earlier that we would do a Secret Santa again, like we did last Christmas. Everybody pulled a name out of the hat and we each bought one present for one person. It was a really good way of doing it and everbody seemed very happy with their presents. Well except for Chloe, she was delighted, she got lots of presents because she had brought some with her from other people too! It all got a bit too much for some people though, Carol was feeling pretty rough again by the evening and Mum, well Mum was just tired out!



We had a quiet Boxing Day, just stayed in the cabin and relaxed and ate!!


One of the highlights of being here at Whinfell Forest Centreparcs was the fact that it is a Red Squirrel conservation area and we were absolutely delighted to see several of the during our stay. Especially when some of them actually came onto our balcony when enticed with Ivan's best quality muesli and carrot trimmings! We also spotted a weasel! The birds were wonderful too and we spent quite a bit of time sitting in chairs looking out through the patio doors onto the balcony whilst Coal Tits, Blue Tits and Long Tailed Tits fed on the muesli and a few Chaffinches paid us a visit too. Sadly the Weasel was too quick for us to get a photo but the squirrels were very accommodating and posed nicely for the camera!



The next day, Thursday 27th, was pretty quiet as well until the evening when we were booked in for another show at the Centre. This time it was Music Legends. It was a brilliant show, very well done indeed. Fantastic costumes and excellent singing, once again put on by the same troupe of "Red Coats". There was Michael Jackson, The Supremes, Oasis, to name but a few. We had a great view too as we were on a table right down at the front with nobody in front of us, it was great.



Again its a bit blurry but it was taken with my phone!

Once again we were all tired out when it was over and headed back to the cabin and bed. Although everybody except Clive and I did their packing first!


Friday 28th December 2012 - the end of our holiday at Centreparcs. We got all the luggage packed into the cars again (a lot easier this time as there was a lot less food!) and finally said goodbye to Whinfell Forest and headed back down the motorway to Huddersfield.


Clive and I had planned to stay in Huddersfield until after New Year's Day so it gave us a chance to catch up with various relatives and friends. Pop had very kindly added Clive onto his car insurance and let us borrow his car so we could get about. We managed to visit Clive's Uncle Francis (Pop's elder brother) who is 99. I took my iPod with me and managed to record him telling Clive some stories relating to the Morris family as Clive has been researching the family tree for quite some time now and he wanted to fill in a few gaps. We also went to visit his Auntie Annie (Pop's eldest sister) who is is just coming up on her 95th birthday! She had been in hospital for a few weeks before Christmas but was now on the mend thankfully. It was great to see them both.


I had a bit of a panic attack after reading an email from the Canal & River Trust one morning which stated that there had been a landslip into the canal at Debdale Embankment and that navigation was closed! I immediately phoned the CRT and asked where exactly the landslip was in relation to the marina and was very relieved to hear that it was a little further around the bend in the Leicester direction, meaning that we could still get out of the marina and get to both Foxton and thence to Market Harborough - phew!


On New Year's Eve Clive and I decided to take the opportunity to go to the cinema again, this time to see The Life of Pi. It was awesome, a wonderful film and with it being in 3D it was just incredible. An unusual story but I have never read the book, I think maybe I should! When we came out of the cinema we decided to call in at my nephew's on the way home. It was good to see Nick & Sam and their children; Jamie, Molly and Daniel and as it happened my sister Thelma (Nick's mum!) was there as well. We stayed with them for a little while then drove back up to Mum and Pop's and watched the New Year in on the TV.


We got the train back to Market Harborough without any delays this time and were soon back on board Lady Arwen. She was a bit chilly but we put the central heating on and Clive lit the stove and before long we were as warm as toast again.


Clive and I made a New Year's resolution this year - to lose weight! Our daughter Vicki is getting married at the end of April and I for one do not want to look like a stranded whale as the Bride's Mother! So we have embarked on a new regime with the help of My Fitness Pal (which helps you count your calories) and Endomondo (which tracks your exercise and tells you how many calories you have burned). We have settled into it reasonably well and are both losing weight I am delighted to say! If nothing else it is helping me with portion size as I did tend to overdo it a bit! Anyway, watch this space, hopefull we will both be slim and sylph like in time for the wedding!


A couple of weekends ago we decided to go and visit Vicki and Ben in Grantham as we hadn't seen them since before Christmas. We moored the boat in Market Harborough and booked a hire car for 24 hours. We drove over on Friday evening, it didn't take long. We arrived at their house just before they both got home from work. We all walked to the Muddle Go Nowhere, their local and had a meal. The following morning we drove into Grantham and had a wander around the town. I managed to get a much needed new quilted mattress cover for our bed! It was great to see Vicki and Ben again, not long now to their wedding, I can't wait! We returned to Market Harborough and handed the car over and there was just enough light left for us to cruise to our favourite spot out in the countryside and moor up. However a couple of days later the temperature plummeted and we decided to head to Foxton basin before we got frozen in out in the middle of nowhere. We managed to nip back up to Debdale to pick up diesel, coal and get the loo emptied before heading back into the basin again where we moored right outside the Bridge 61 pub! We have been here ever since! We know we have everything we need here, the little shop, a water point and the pub if we wanted it, however due to our calorie counting we have not been going to the pub! We have had a couple of walks up to the little farm shop in Foxton itself to get fresh veg etc and then on Tuesday we managed to get a Tesco delivery, which was very welcome indeed - we had run out of wine! Looking at the long range weather forecast we are hopeful that it is going to start warming up again early next week and if the ice thaws we will be able to be on our way again.


From the top of the Foxton Staircase looking down towards the basin where Lady Arwen is moored.

The snow has been very disruptive all over the country and although it has not really inconvenienced us very much it did actually disrupt some plans we had. We were due to go to a gig with our friends Jayne and David Stanton, in a place called Wing, which is just South of Rutland Water here in Leicestershire. It was one of the tutors from Burwell, Sam Pirt (accordion tutor) in his new band The Hut People. Sadly it wasn't to be - although Sam and Andy managed to make it to Wing from the North, the country roads around here were so bad and so dangerous that Jayne just daren't risk driving on them and we don't blame her one bit! Maybe next time Sam.

There are three other boats moored in the basin besides ours and one of the boats moored opposite us has a cat on board.  Clive has been watching it as it sits in the galley window looking out onto the frozen basin where there are a lot of ducks and a swan.  The other day he looked out and was highly amused when he saw this:


Before we set off again we are having another trip up to Huddersfield, sadly to attend a funeral. When we were at Aspley Wharf Marina last winter we were moored next to a narrowboat called Invicta. The couple that lived aboard were Brian and Sue Badminton. We had met them before on our first visit to Aspley in September 2008 and had also met them on the canal a couple of times. Brian appeared to be in perfect health when we arrived at Aspley in September 2011 but shortly after that he started being unwell. Firstly he was diagnosed with diabetes and promptly started cutting down on his sugar intake, which of course meant he lost weight. He also started with a cough around Christmas time, as did I but Brian's didn't get better and unfortunately his turned out to be cancer! Brian sadly lost his battle on January 16th. He was a larger than life character, a musician (of multiple instruments, guitar, fiddle and keyboard) and singer. His genre tended to be American blues, country and humorous stuff like Jake Thackeray songs. During our time in Huddersfield we used to go to The Sportsman with Brian on a Wednesday evening, this also happens to be my sister Thelma's regular folk club too so we would all be there together. Brian and Sue used to spend several months in the US regularly too, they have a big campervan with a Harley Davidson on the back and have spend many holidays touring the States. He will be sadly missed by many people. Sue has arranged to have his wake in The Sportsman on Monday and we and several of the folkies will be taking our instruments with us to play him on his way. Our thoughts are with Sue and their family at this very sad time.  We will also be thinking about Sue on September 29th this year because believe it or not Brian and Sue got married on the very same day as us in September 1973 so this year is the 40th anniversary of that momentous day.


                                                               RIP Brian Badminton

This great photo of Brian  (which I have borrowed from their website: https// ) was taken up at Tunnel End, Marsden after he had made history.  He and NB Invicta had come through the Standedge Tunnel under their own steam (or diesel!) with a pilot (Fred) to guide them.  This was the first time a narrowboat had come through the tunnel without being towed since 1944.  Brian was the pioneer and since that time narrowboats have been allowed to cruise through the tunnel unaided, with a pilot, for the last couple of years.  When we came through the tunnel in September 2008 we had to be towed by an electric tug and the boat was bashed against the rough hewn stone interior all the way through, her paintwork was a right mess when we arrived at the other end!

Well that is about it until the next time. We are not sure yet where we are going to go after the big thaw, it will all depend on the weather. We would really like to head back to Cambridge for a couple of months but it will depend on the water levels as the waterways in East Anglia ar all rivers, not canals. Canals have sluices to allow the water levels to be regulated, rivers don't have that luxury! So, watch this space and all will be revealed in the next blog.









Wednesday December 19th 2012 - Debdale Wharf Marina

Posted by clivenmel on 19 December, 2012 at 7:15

Apologies for the tardiness of this blog but we have had internet issues which precluded blogging - more of that later.  This is also the second attempt at the blog, I spent two hours typing and downloading photographs the other day and just as I had almost got to the end I must have hit a magic key combination because it reloaded the page and wiped the lot!  No way to retrieve it, I was gutted!  So, here we go again - the last blog of 2012!


Monday Novemer 5th 2012 - after a lovely, restful weekend we set off on our travels once more.  We had a lovely cruise and finally moored up on the outskirts of Polesworth adjacent to an oak wood.  As soon as we had moored up we went into the wood to do a bit of chumping and got quite a decent haul to saw up into logs for the stove.  Every little helps, especially when Taybrite and other smokeless fuels are £11 a bag and we use on average about one and a half bags a week!  We had a very peaceful night interspersed with a few rockets whizzing up into the night sky and bursting into multicoloured stars with loud bangs!  I love fireworks!  The following morning we set off again and soon arrived at the Atherstone lock flight.  We had a rendezvous planned!  Some months ago one of the studs attaching the pram hood canopy to the side of the boat broke and left the canopy rather lose and unfortunately one day the door hatch caught on it as it was being opened and it ripped a six inch rent in the cloth!  The gentleman who made our pram hood for us is Terry Ryan and he lives very close to the Atherstone Locks so we had given him a call a few days ago to let him know that we were heading his way and he suggested he meet us at lock 8 and pick up the canopy.  We gave him a ring when we got to Lock 7 and soon after we came through lock 8 he arrived to pick it up.  He told us to carry on up the flight and give him a ring when we got to the top, which should take us about an hour and a half, and he would return the repaired canopy to us.  All went according to plan except that it was pouring with rain so we were very glad to reach the top.  Terry duly arrived a little while later and stayed and had a cup of tea with us, it was good to see him again.  We were very pleased indeed with the repair he had done, he has made a great job of it and not only repaired it but reinforced it as well, it should never rip again!


                                  Beautiful repair job

Not only repaired but reinforced too                          

The following day we headed off again and  arrived in Rugby around lunchtime.  We moored up adjacent to a large Tesco store and a retail park.  As soon as we had moored up we grabbed the shopping bags and headed off to Tescos to stock up the cupboards, fridge and freezer.  We were also delighted to discover that there was a cinema on the retail park only a few minutes walk from the boat and decided to go there later on, however before that we were having visitors!  Back in 1985 Clive and I and the kids upped sticks from Huddersfield and moved to an idyllic village in Argyll, Scotland called Tighnabruaich.  We lived there for 5 wonderful years and made many friends during that time.  One family whom we got to know very well were the McCraes and their youngest son, George, who was at school with Vicki, now lives in Rugby with his wife and children.  I had let George know a few days ago that we were going to be in his neck of the woods so he said he would pop round to see us after work.  He arrived with his two children Cory and Evie and it was really lovely to see him again and to meet his children.


Evie, Cory & George McCrae


When our visitors had left we had a quick tea and then walked down to the cinema to see the new James Bond movie, Skyfall.  We really enjoyed the film, it was great but I have to say I was far more excited about the trailer for The Hobbit, which will be in cinemas in mid December - we can't wait to see that!


We left Rugby the next morning but didn't really go very far, we moored up out in the sticks once more amongst the famous Rugby radio masts where the first transatlantic radio link between London and New York was operated in 1926. Nowadays it broadcasts time signals on behalf of the Royal Observatory with an acuracy of one second in 3000 years!  We stayed put over the weekend as we had a pretty good TV signal and there was rugby on the TV as well as Strictly of course!  We set off again on Monday morning and it didn't take us long to reach Braunston.  We had a quick stop at the Midland Chandlery first to pick up a few bits and pieces that Clive needed to do an engine service and then another stop to fill up with water.  Whilst Clive was doing that I headed up to Braunston village to get a few bits and pieces from the shops, post all my foreign Christmas cards at the Post Office and I spent enough money to buy a small country on 2nd class stamps for all the rest of the Christmas cards!  I walked back down to the boat, by which time Clive had finished filling the tank so we set off again and hit the locks!  It didn't take us too long to get up the locks because we were locking with another boat therefore the work was halved.   When we reached the top it is only a short distance to the tunnel and as we were crusing along we spotted a Kingfisher and I managed to get a few shots of him as he flew ahead of us and then he landed on the bank right at the entrance to the tunnel and posed for a photo!


Braunston Kingfisher


We got a lot further than expected during the afternoon but it was almost dark by the time we finally moored up at the bottom of the Watford lock flight.  So first thing in the morning we were up and at 'em.  I had to walk up to the top of the flight first to ensure that there was nobody coming down - there were, two boats!  So we had to wait for about 45 minutes until they arrived at the bottom before we could start going up.  On the way up the flight we spotted two Great Green Woodpeckers and another Kingfisher and also a couple of Jays and a couple of squirrels, not a bad haul for one day!  Unfortunately we were too busy locking to get any photos!  We cruised along for a while and finally moored up in a lovely spot amongst the Hemplow Hills, a very peaceful, rural spot where we have moored on several occasions.


The next morning we awoke to thick fog!  It was rather surreal crusing along in the fog passing ghostly trees and bridges which would suddenly loom up out of the gloom, it was also rather beautiful.


Ghostly tree!


It wasn't long before we reached the Welford Junction.  In order to reach Foxton we needed to turn left here but we decided to have a bit of a detour and turned right up the Welford Arm as we had never been up here before.  There is only one lock up this stretch and after that we reached the end of the arm, turned round and moored up then went for a walk up into the village of Welford.  We called in at the village shop for a loaf of bread and had a look around the churchyard at some of the ancient graves before returning to the boat via the local pub!  We set off again the next morning and retraced our steps to the junction and this time we headed down the main leg to the Foxton Staircase locks.  We were very glad to have arrived here in good time as we knew the lock flight was closing for three weeks on 3rd December for essential maintenance!  


On the way down the flight there were the usual Gongoozlers (people who participate in watching canal boats going up and down in locks!) but one couple in particular stopped to chat with Clive on the way down, they were very interested in everything narrowboat!  When we reached the bottom we moored up in the basin and went to the pub - as you do!  We got our drinks and as we went to sit down we spotted the same couple who had been chatting to Clive on the way down the flight so we went and sat with them.  They introduced themselves as John and April Leggate from Saxilby in Lincolnshire.  We had a lovely chat with them, it turns out that they are in the process of selling their house in order to buy a narrowboat and do exactly what we are doing!  Needless to say we are both very enthusiastic and passionate about our life aboard Lady Arwen and are always happy to share our experiences with others who are considering taking the plunge, so to speak.  We gave them lots of hints and tips and then asked if they would like to come and have the guided tour of Lady Arwen - they were delighted!  We finally said goodbye, gave them the details of our website and said that we would be delighted to keep in touch with them.  I think they were quite reluctant to drag themselves away for the long drive back to Lincolnshire!  Since that time they have been reading our blog and looking at all the photographs in the gallery and we have had several emails from them already - we are absolutely delighted to have helped to inspire them and wish them all the very best in the realisation of their dream.


Since arriving in Foxton we have spent our time pootling backwards and forwards between Foxton Basin and Market Harborough.  We have moored up in Market Harborough several times and did our Christmas shopping there too.  We have also been up the Leicester arm a couple of times to visit Debdale Marina where Lady Arwen is going to spend Christmas and New Year.  We have also found a lovely rural spot between Foxton and Market Harborough where we get great TV reception and a good dongle signal.  The first time we moored there was on our way back from Market Harborough on 17th December and the sun was setting as we moored up.  The colours were fantastic so I just had to take a photograph!


Glorious sunset through the trees


It is not often that we can moor right next to a supermarket and we often have quite a walk back to the boat with heavy shopping bags when we need to stock up.  When we were in Market Drayton back in September we met another couple who live on their boat Maid of the Mist, Jean and Graham Bevan.  They told us that they get their groceries delivered by Tescos.  We were quite surprised as we didn't know you could get deliveries to a non-permanent address.  They told us that as long as you have a postcode to get them as near to the boat as possible you can then give specific directions to bring them close to the boat.  So we decided to give it a go!  There is a junction next to a bridge over the canal on the main street in Foxton village and one of the lanes runs parallel with the canal, so I got the postcode of a house which is nearby and gave instructions to deliver to 'dark blue narrowboat Lady Arwen adjacent to the bridge' and submitted our order and lo and behold it worked!  We were absolutely delighted, so much easier than lugging heavy shopping bags.  It was so successful we have since done it again!  We will continue to make use of this great service and it is going to make our lives so much easier.  Well done Tesco - they are the only supermarket who offers this service to narrowboats, none of the other supermarkets will deliver to a non-permanent address!


We have had a bit of a hiccough in the internet department this month!  There have been a few occasions over the last couple of weeks when we either didn't have a TV signal or the Formula One wasn't being televised on BBC 1 so Clive watched it on the laptop, live streaming.  He also watched a couple of rugby matches, watch the BBC news coverage of the Levinson Report etc, two episodes of Strictly and two episodes of David Attenborough's latest series.  All this without even thinking about how much download we were using nor did we check to see how much we had left!  To cut a long story short, we used up the whole of our monthly 15GB allowance in two weeks!!  Disaster!  There was no way for us to top it up as it is a monthly tarriff so we just had to bite the bullet and manage without!  I can use my smartphone as a WiFi hotspot but the Vodafone signal in this area is just not strong enough to do that so I just used the internet daily to check the emails basically but when you go over your allowance it is sooooooooooo expensive!  This is why I was unable to do a blog earlier.  We finally go our new monthly 15GB allowance on 13th December after running up an extra bill of about £16 for only a few hundred megabytes on top of the usual £16!  Well we wont do that again will we!!


We had a great night out this month!  One of my Burwell friends, Jayne Stanton (she plays the fiddle), lives in a village not far from Foxton.  I let Jayne know we were in her neck of the woods as soon as we got down the locks and she and her husband Dave had a walk along the towpath with their lovely grandchildren and paid us a visit one Sunday morning.  Jayne told us that they would be going to a folk club on Tuesday 11th December and would we like to go with them?  Absolutely!  So, keeping a very close eye on the weather forecast we cruised up the Leicester arm on the Sunday and found a spot to moor up just before the Saddington Tunnel near a road bridge, an ideal place for Jayne and David to pick us up and only five minutes drive from their house.  We knew that the weather was going to take a dive and go below freezing and that we were going to be frozen in, however the forecasters also said that it was going to start warming up again by Friday so we knew we would be OK.  Jayne and David arrived to pick us up that Tuesday evening and drove us to the Red Lion in Sapcote.  We had a wonderful evening, lovely people, lovely atmosphere, great music and the landlord even provided sandwiches!  


Sure enough it rained all day on the Friday and the ice gradually melted and by Saturday we were free to move.  We set off once more and headed back to our favourite spot between Foxton and Market Harborough for one night to ensure we had a good TV signal for Strictly, then on Sunday morning we cruised into Market Harborough as our daughter Vicki was driving over to spend the day with us.  We arrived about ten minutes before Vicki did - great timing!  We had a lovely day with her, it was so good to see her again and we were sorry to see her leave as we won't see her again this year!  The following day, Monday December 17th, we had a very exciting day!  We got up early, had a quick breakfast then called a taxi to take us to Market Harborough railway station.  I have downloaded an app for my phone which enables me to search for trains, book tickets and check train times etc and using this I had booked train tickets to Leicester - why were we going to Leicester?  To see THE HOBBIT!!!  It was absolutely awesome needless to say, we really, really enjoyed it and it was fantastic to see all the footage of Hobbiton because of course we visited the film set in New Zealand when we were there in February 2011, just before they started filming The Hobbit.  It is quite an amazing feeling to see it on the big screen knowing we have been there and walked amongst the hobbit holes and had our photos taken in front of Bag End!  We had to sign a non-disclosure promising that we would not publish any of our photographs of the set until after the film was released.  We can now, here are just a couple.


                               Dad Baggins!  Clive with Bag End in the background


Mum Gamgee!  Me standing outside Sam Gamgee's hobbit hole                   

We cruised back to Foxton yesterday so that I could use the launderette again then this morning we cruised up to Debdale Wharf Marina and Lady Arwen is now tucked up in her berth, safe and sound and plugged into the mains electricity supply.  We are leaving her on her own whilst we go away for Christmas with the family.  We will be getting a taxi to Market Harborough station on Saturday morning to catch a train up to Huddersfield, then on Sunday we are driving to Centreparks up in Whinfell Forest, Penrith for the festive period.  We will return to Huddersfield on 28th December and stay until the 2nd or 3rd January before getting the train back to Market Harborough and thence to the boat.


So I will end by wishing you, our avid blogees, a very merry Christmas and happy, healthy and prosperous 2013.  That is assuming the world doesn't end on 21st December as predicted!




Saturday 03 November 2012 - near Hopwas

Posted by clivenmel on 3 November, 2012 at 7:50

Well we ended up not going to the Anchor Pub after all, there didn't appear to be any other boats moored outside and we thought perhaps there wasn't going to be any music after all.  Plus, to be honest, neither of us could be bothered to go out!  Clive nipped down for a wee pint the following lunch time and learned that there had been a bit of music the night before but there were only a couple of musicians.  So we left The Anchor behind us and headed down to Norbury Junction where we stopped for diesel, a pump-out and a few provisions then we continued on our way.  One of the great things about the Shroppie canal is the number of Kingfishers we have seen up and down this waterway.  Sure enough we spotted one sitting on an overhanging rose branch and I grabbed the camera quick.  I must have taken a dozen shots but sadly only one of them turned out well.  I had my long lens on and the bird was very close as we went past and of course with us moving too it was not a good combination.  Anyway its not too bad.

Shroppie Kingfisher

We cruised on down to Wheaton Aston and moored up.  We tied up, put the pram hood up and just as we fastned the last stud the heavens opened - talk about timing!  The next day got off to a very bad start - we slept in!  We had planned to get off early in the morning and get down to the bottom of the Shroppie but that wasn't going to happen!  We had missed breakfast so we had brunch and then finally set off.  We only cruised a couple of hundred yards to the water point as we needed to fill the tank.  We tied up at the water point and just as Clive was attaching the hose the rain started - wonderful!  So in the end, when we had finished filling the tank, we went up through the lock and then moored up again on the first bit of decent mooring we came across and that was it for the day!  The next day we set off again and soon reached Autherley Junction at the bottom of the Shroppie, where we turned left onto the Staffs & Worcs Canal. We had a really good run all the way down to Penkridge, where we moored up for the night.

October 4th 2012 dawned bright and sunny, what a contrast!  We had a slight hold up initially as there was a queue for the lock.  By the time I got down there with my windlass two had gone down and one was coming up.  As the boat came up in the lock I noticed its name: Wine and Roses - then I looked at the man at the helm, it was Don, the brilliant fiddler whom we have met three or four times at the folk night in The Shroppie Fly, Audlem.  We just had time to say hello then he was off and the next boat was coming into the lock.  We had a lovely day cruising in the sunshine and we were absolutely delighted to spot two Kingfishers!  We finally moored up for the night at the beautiful and aptly named Tixall Wide.  From what I can gather there was a breach here many years ago and it was decided that it would be too expensive to try and fix it so they just left it as it was.  Very glad they did as it is one of the prettiest moorings on the cut.

The beautiful Tixall Wide

We reluctantly dragged ourselves away from Tixall the next morning bright and early.  We had a very productive day cruising, seven hours in fact, which brought us to Fradley Junction.  We had made a stopover in Rugely on the way down to nip to Morrisons and stock up with all the essentials and a few non-essentials too!  With it being quite late in the afternoon when we arrived in Fradley we were worried that we might not get a mooring as it is a very popular spot but fortunately there was just one left, phew!  One of the reasons for wanting to get to Fradley was a guaranteed TV signal - Grand Prix weekend!!  Not only that though, its Strictly season now so we need a good TV signal to watch Strictly Come Dancing on Saturday nights and Sundays too for the results show!  We also had a good internet signal so I was delighted to be able to Skype with our granddaughter Indeia in Colorado Springs, USA.  It was good to see her and catch up with everything she has been up to.  I also managed to Skype with our daughter Vicki, in Grantham, Lincolnshire as well that afternoon - isn't technology wonderful! 

We actually stayed in Fradley for five days - not bad considering we were on a 48 hour mooring!!  (Don't tell the Canal & River Trust will you!)  We finally left on the Tuesday and had a very pleasant cruise, including four locks, to the pretty village of Alrewas where we moored up and planned to stay for a few days.  I had been chatting with a fellow boater at one of the locks and when I told her we were going to Alrewas she asked if we had been to the National Memorial Arboretum, which was only a short walk from Alrewas - I told her we hadn't.  She said it was well worth the walk.  So after we had moored up and had a spot of lunch we decided to go.  It took us about fifteen minutes to walk, the only tough bit was running the gauntlet trying to cross the very busy A38!  However we made it and finally arrived at the Arboretum.  The lady was right, it was well worth the effort.  What an amazing and very moving place it was, with over 50,000 maturing trees and over 200 memorials, set in 150 acres of land.  It is a beautiful and lasting tribute to those who serve our country or who have died in conflict.  I have to confess I needed a tissue on several occasions!  It is so huge and there are so many memorial gardens that we just couldn't possibly see it all but we were both very glad we had gone.  We stopped off in the cafe on the way back for a coffee and a bun!  Our only disappointment was that we wanted a big poppy to put on the front of the boat but unfortunately they didn't have any!

This photo is courtesy of the Arboretum website - my photos just don't do it justice!

Can't remember whether I have mentioned before but we were actually on our way to Nottingham.  Our daughter Vicki and her fiancee Ben now live in Grantham and Ben works in Nottingham, which is the nearest place to Grantham by boat!  We had planned to be there for the weekend of the 13/14th October but Vicki sent me a message to put it off until the following weekend, so now we were ahead of ourselves!  This gave us an amazing opportunity.  Our very good friend Bruce Davies, Scottish singer/songwriter, whom we have known for many, many years, was doing a very rare gig South of the border at The Chase Folk Club, Burntwood, too close to miss!  So we turned the boat around and cruised back up to Fradley.  We also had another opportunity now, to meet up with another friend, Iain Hysom, who now lives on a boat moored in Bristol.  He is a bat conservationist and was doing some work, believe it or not, in Fradley!  We let him know we were there and he came over and joined us on the boat on Thursday afternoon.  It was great to catch up with him again.  I also made good use of the launderette at The Swan!  It was a week of opportunities actually because Thursday night is music night at The Swan (aka The Mucky Duck!).  So after Iain had left us we grabbed the instruments and headed up to the pub.  It was packed!!  The folk club takes place in a cellar room off the main bar and it was absolutely jumping.  Fiddlers were poking people in the eye with their bows, I was poking Clive in the ear with my flute - talk about sardines!  Clive counted about 35 musicians!  However it was a great night, lots of brilliant tunes and songs, we really enjoyed it.

Friday morning, October 12th 2012, we left Fradley behind and headed back up the canal to Rugeley.  We booked a taxi to pick us up at Morrison's that evening and were soon at the venue in Burntwood.  It was absolutely wonderful to see Bruce again and to finally meet his lovely wife, Sandra.  We had another reunion too, with some of our old neighbours from Caldecote!  John and Sue Butler lived just around the corner from our house and amazingly John (who is Scottish) knew Bruce when he was a child!  John's sister was the same age as Bruce.  See, another one of those amazing 6 degrees of separation but whittled down to 2!!  We had a lovely evening, Bruce was as brilliant as ever, he has such a lovely voice.  If you want to listen to him check him out on uTube!

Sue, John, Sandra, Bruce, Mel & Clive

We were going to get a taxi back to Rugely but a couple who were at the gig very kindly offered to give us a lift, which was very kind of them.  Sadly they were in a hurry so we couldn't stop and have a real catch up with Bruce, maybe next time.

The next morning we turned around and headed back to Fradley yet again!  When we arrived we noticed that the warning board at one of the locks stated the following:  'Alrewas River Section closed' - oh dear!  Evidently the rain from a few days ago had affected the level of the River Trent and as it joins the canal just below Alrewas for a short distance it was not safe to navigate.  We found out later that it had actually been deemed safe at around 6.00pm that evening, however we stayed until Monday.  When we got up that morning it was to be greeted by glorious, warm sunshine!  Unbelievable!  We set off and cruised down to Alrewas and I was in my shirt sleeves - far too warm to wear a coat, especially when working hard on the locks, it was really lovely.  We moored up in Alrewas again and then the next morning headed off to brave the river!  We went down the lock which took us onto the river section and it was quite high.  There are colour coded gauges on river locks, red at the bottom means its in flood and you can't go through, yellow means proceed with caution and green is safe.  The gauge on the lock was just into the yellow!  We headed off down the river, going quite quickly and approached the weir.  The water was really fierce going over the weir and we tried to keep well to the left of it but there was a boat coming the other way and all of a sudden the boat hit something under water and rocked violently over to the right!  I seriously thought we were going to capsize, it went so far over!  I rushed to the other side of the stern and it rocked back again then settled back to level - very scary moment and no idea at all what we hit!  We were soon back on to the sedate waters of the canal and continued on our way.   The next day it was quite breezy - narrowboats don't cope very well with wind, they get blown about a lot!  We needed a pump-out and there is a lovely new marina on this stretch so we pulled in to use their facilities.  We moored up on the service pontoon and hardly needed to tie up as the wind was pinning us onto the mooring!  Clive nipped over to the marina office to get a token for the machine but when we had got all set up we realised it was on "pause" - I switched it on again and we managed to empty the whole tank, including time for a rinse, without having to put the £14.30 token into the machine!  As we knew we would be coming back up this way it meant we could use it on the way back.  However, now the fun began - we couldn't get the boat away from the pontoon as the wind  was so strong!  I pushed her off and she came straight back in!  In the end Clive had to reverse the boat and pivot on the corner of the mooring whilst I pushed her out until she was finally at the right angle to get us off!  We didn't go far after that, it was just too windy to cruise safely.

Wednesday October 17th 2012 - The day had finally arrived where we would go down onto the River Trent on the last leg of our journey to Nottingham.  Unbelievable at one of the big locks on the way down I managed to injure my hand yet again!  This particular lock had windlasses already attached and as I was trying to wind down the paddle my hand slipped off the handle and the windlass whacked me on the back of the hand, in a different spot to the last time!  It really hurt and I now have another lump to show for it!  In light of the recently high water levels we were a bit nervous about cruising on the Trent but we needn't have worried.  We had a lovely, if speedy, cruise down river.  It was so wide and beautiful and the sun was starting to set casting a beautiful golden glow over the river, absolutely gorgeous.

Golden Trent Sunset

According to the map book the cruise down to Sawley Junction should take an hour and a half but as the river was running so fast we were travelling much faster than our usual 3-4 mph, more like 8-10!  So, it only took us forty minutes!  We were soon through the stop lock and onto the Beeston Cut where we moored up for the night. 

After a couple of uneventful days we finally arrived in Nottingham and moored up adjacent to Sainsbury's, which we made good use of shortly after arriving.  Vicki and Ben arrived soon after 8pm and we all had dinner together.  The following day we all hit the shops in Nottingham and it was lovely to just spend time with Vicki and Ben.  They left us later that afternoon as they had plans for the evening.  We then made the terribe discovery that we didn't have a good TV signal and no BBC hence no Strictly!  However we managed to watch it the following day on the iPlayer - phew!  Later that day we got the train to Grantham and Vicki and Ben took us out for dinner to The Chequer's Inn, the venue for their wedding next  April.  It is a lovely place and the food was wonderful.  The staff were all very kind and they let Vicki take us to look at the function room where the wedding ceremony and reception will take place.

Vicki and Ben at The Chequers


We went back to Vicki and Bens for a coffee then Vicki ran us back to the station to catch our train back to Nottingham. 

We stayed in Nottingham for a few more days.  On the Tuesday I put a casserole in the oven for dinner at some point during the cooking process the oven mysteriously went out!  I had now idea how long it had been off but the casserole wasn't cooked so I had to go to plan B and get something out of the freezer.  I was absolutely horrified to find everything in the freezer was soft and actually beginning to feel warm!  I was gutted!  The freezer was full of boxes of home made curries, soups, casseroles etc etc all ruined.  There was no way of salvaging anything because it must have been off for quite a while as things were actually going off - disaster!  We had to bin everything and give the freezer a thorough clean.  Clive discovered that the Earth wire had come loose at the back of the freezer - again!  This has now happened three times over the course of our four years on board!  He really went to town on it this time and is hopeful that it won't happen again - it better not!  Fortunately we were still moored outside Sainsbury's so we went shopping again and restocked the freezer but obviously I couldn't replace all the home cooked food - such a waste!

We finally left Nottingham on the 25th and made our way back up to Fradley junction, having had a three day stopover in Branston we arrived on the 31st .  I made use of the launderette again and we went to the folk night at The Swan again the following night.  Quite a contrast to the previous one, this time there were only five of us!  However it was a fantastic evening, one of the guys was the most amazing fiddler, I could have listened to him all night.  We left the next morning and this time we turned left at the junction onto the Coventry Canal.  We cruised for about an hour then stopped off in Whittington to do a bit of shopping.  After lunch we set off again but didn't travel far.  We moored up near Hopwas, out in the countryside with views over a huge ploughed field and a very good TV signal.  Yet another Grand Prix weekend but more importantly its Strictly tonight!

The farmer ploughing the field opposite the boat accompanied by the usual entourage!

We will be leaving here on Monday, unless it is raining in which case it will be Tuesday!  So, until the next time..............

September 29th 2012 - The Anchor Inn, Shropshire Union Canal

Posted by clivenmel on 29 September, 2012 at 9:10

Well we have had many ups and downs since the last blog! What a month its been!

We finally tore ourselves away from Chester and headed back along the Shroppie to Nantwich.  It was a fairly uneventful trip apart from me sustaining an injury at one of the locks on the way!  I was just lowering the rear paddle when my hand slipped off the windlass and it spun round very fast and whacked me on the back of my right hand - OUCH!  I was wearing gloves at the time but it still managed to break the skin but more to the point I thought it had broken a bone!  It was sooooooooooo painful!  The back of my hand became very warm and the pain was really bad, however I plucked up courage and started to wiggle my fingers and after a few minutes I was able to continue working the lock and was soon back aboard.  I took some pain killers and eventually it settled down.  I was expecting to have a gorgeous bruise to show for it but nothing materialised, just a very slight discolouration of the skin.  It has however left me with a distinct lump on the back of my hand!

We did have a chance encounter at another lock further up the flight.  Just as we were approaching one of the locks another boat passed us going the other way, I recognised the name of the boat immediately -The Golcar Lily!  Joyce, the lady who lives on this boat is a friend of Clive's Mum's!  We have never met before but there was an article in Canal Boat about their boat, which we read with interest, knowing of the family connection and of course the connection with our home town of Huddersfield.  All we managed to do was shout across and say hello, however by the time I was ready to start emptying the lock they had moored up and Joyce had trotted back along the towpath to the lock to have a chat.  It was great to finally get to meet her.

We finally arrived in Nantwich, it took us almost ten hours!  We just managed to squeeze into the last available mooring just before the aqueduct.  It wasn't an ideal spot, for a start it was on a curve and secondly, because it was just before the aqueduct, it was a bit of a bottleneck and we kept getting bumped by boats trying to pass each other!  However, it was all there was so we just had to make do.  We contacted our pals Heather and Les to let them know we were back and they suggested we go to their house the following evening for a meal, they came and picked us up and had a great time.  The meal was gorgeous, as usual and lots of wine was imbibed!  The following day Clive decided to go to the chandlery to get a few bits and pieces so he could do an engine service.  All I wanted to do was get the laundry done so I quickly packed up all the dirty clothes, stripped the bed and headed off to the launderette.

A while ago we brought two of the breakfast bar high chairs from our house to use on the stern so that we had something to sit on whilst cruising.  They were always just a wee bit high and the tiller arm used to catch on the tops if Clive was doing a hard turn.  We then bought a rubber mat for the stern, which being about an inch thick raised the height of the chairs even more and they were really getting in the way.  When I returned from the launderette I learned that Les had paid a visit to the boat with his saw (and Teddy the Shitzu) and the chairs are now two inches shorter all round!  Thanks Les, much appreciated.  The bits sawn off the legs will also come in handy as kindling the next time we light the stove! 

Around 4.00pm that afternoon Clive got a message on his phone, it was from our good friend Barry Collings.  We were absolutely devasted to learn that his wife Shirley had passed away that morning.  We were both in total shock, it was the most terrible news.  Shirley was diagnosed with leiomyosarcoma after a routine operation back in 2003 and she has fought it tooth and nail for the last nine years.  She did a lot of research into the disease and became very knowledgable indeed on the subject.  So much so that she was invited to speak at the UK Sarcoma Society Conference a few years ago.  She gave her presentation to doctors, nurses, oncologists and other people suffering with sarcomas.  She was astonished to learn about three years from diagnosis that gynaecological tumours were not tested for hormone reception like breast tumours and asked why.  She was told that they just weren't tested.  So, she asked for hers to be tested for oestrogen reception - the test took place and it was discovered that it was indeed oestrogen receptor positive!  This was very worrying as she had been taking an oestrogen only form of HRT for the last three years, something which she would never have done had the test been performed immediately after surgery!  To cut a long story short Shirley campaigned for gynae tumours to be tested in future and she got her wish, many hospitals are now doing just that. Shirley's "gremlins" came back time and time again, she had several major operations and cycles of chemotherapy, losing all her hair twice.  She just kept fighting and wouldn't give up.  However, in April of this year she reached the end of the line after a trial of chemo backfired and made her very ill.  There was nothing left to offer her.  We knew that her time was now limited but had no idea how long it would be and so were completely caught off guard when Barry's text message arrived.

Our lovely friend, Shirley Collings 01/03/1953 - 28/08/2012

We stayed in Nantwich for another day and then headed off down the Shroppie.  We moored up at the bottom of the Audlem lock flight, its a lovely peaceful spot where we have moored before.   There was a really spectacular sky later as the sun was going down, I couldn't resist a photo!

Audlem sunset

Saturday 1st September 2012  - Four years ago today we set off on our maiden voyage aboard Lady Arwen!  That morning, Shirley and Barry came to see us off at Whilton Marina in Leicestershire.  They brought a bottle of bubbly, a lucky horseshoe and wooden spoon painted in canalia and a Captain's hat for Clive.  It was also their wedding anniversary - today would have been their 39th. 

We decided to go shopping before setting off up the flight, so armed with shopping bags we headed up the towpath to the Co-op and stocked up with as much as we could carry!  Once back aboard and the shopping unpacked and stowed away we set off up the flight.  It took us about two and a half hours to do thirteen locks and we moored up before the last two as the moorings there are good and there is a good TV signal - you guessed it, its a Grand Prix weekend!  We soon got settled in, I made some lunch and Clive settled down to watch the quallies. After that I went for a shower and Clive set off down the towpath to The Shroppie Fly (pub) to meet my sister Thelma, who was coming to stay with us for a few days on her way back from her post-Burwell travels down South. ( I didn't go to Burwell this year - first time I've missed since 2001!  It felt a bit surreal knowing it was happening and I wasn't there!).  After my shower I also headed down to the pub and we all had a meal together before heading back to the boat later.  On Sunday Clive watched the Grand Prix then Thelma got her fiddle out and played us some of the tunes she had learned at Burwell.

On Monday we set off to Market Drayton.  Thelma came with us and helped me with the locks, which was great.  We moored up adjacent to Tom's moorings for the night then Thelma and I went for a walk up into the town and checked out all the charity shops!  After dinner we got a taxi back to The Shroppie Fly in Audlem as it was folk night.  We had a really great evening with some great tunes and songs.  There was a brilliant fiddler there called Don who lives on a narrowboat in Chester (I think) who gets to the Shroppie Fly folk club only very rarely.  The amazing thing is that we have been four times and Don has been there on three of those occasions.  I was delighted that he was there this time as I knew Thelma would really appreciate his playing, he really is very good.  At one point I was playing a tune called Billy's Breton (from Billy Connolly's Musical Tour of New Zealand CD) accompanied by Clive on guitar, just as I finished Don came over and asked if I would play it again - he accompanied me on his fiddle and it was absolutely awesome, mind you I had to concentrate very hard indeed as he was harmonising!  I was dead chuffed I can tell you.  When it was all over we piled ourselves and our instruments into Thelma's car (which of course was still in the car park) and drove back to the boat.

Clive wanted to stay a while in Market Drayton, it is where his mother's family, the Meakins, come from and he still has relatives who live here.  He has been researching his family tree for some time now and still had a few gaps to fill in on the Meakin side so wanted to pick his cousin Jean's brains whilst he was here and also pay a visit to the local cemetary for further information.  On Wednesday we had a walk up into town a  Clive wanted to go into the library to get info about the cemetary, also it was market day, the reason Drayton got its Market status!  We strolled up and down the main street looking at all the market stalls and just through the passageway from the library in the little square was a gazebo and under it lots of owls!  Needless to say we had to go and have a look at them - I love owls!  Thelma had the opportunity of holding a beautiful American Barn Owl, there was a magnificent Eagle Owl, with huge talons, a Long Eared Owl, a tiny little Burrowing Owl and a Tawny Owl - here are a few of the photos I took:


             Clive with Long Eared Owl


                                                          Magnificent Eagle Owl - just look at those talons!


Thelma with American Barn Owl      

After the owls we went and had some lunch and then I found a man with a stall selling rugs of all different sizes and shapes and there was a perfect, long thin one that would just fit at the side of the bed - bargain at £5!  

The next day Thelma left us and after a night at a friend's home in Market Drayton headed back to Huddersfield.  We stayed put and spent the days relaxing, playing games, reading, etc etc - we have got relaxing off to a fine art now!  We did have a night out with Jean and Glyn who picked us up from the boat and took us to The Wharf at Goldstone, a few miles down the canal.  It was great to see them both again.

We booked the boat into Tom's moorings for a week and got her safely installed and plugged into the electric supply on Friday September 8th.  We also booked a hire car from Tuesday for three days.  Clive went and picked the car up on Tuesday evening and then first thing on Wednesday morning, September 12th, we set off for Milton Keynes to attend Shirley's funeral.  We arrived at the crematorium and soon spotted some very old friends from way back when - Jane Crowther (as was) and Pamela Gill (now Milnes).  We reckon that it is about 39 years since we last saw each other!  Jane was one of Shirley's bridesmaids!  We were very glad to see them as apart from Barry and their kids(!) Melanie and Noel and Noel's wife Vicky and their little boy, Cameron (the apple of Shirley's eye), we didn't know anybody!  The service was lovely and really not too sad, in fact we did share some giggles from time to time as some of Shirley's escapades were mentioned.  It was also very humbling when the eulogy was read, which outlined just how much Shirley achieved with regard to sarcoma's and their treatment.  She touched the lives of many people, some that she never even met but her strength and tenacity affected them nevertheless.  I feel very proud to have been one of her friends. We both sincerely hope that Barry will not be a stranger and hopefully he will come and spend some time with us on board Lady Arwen.  He loves to fish so is most welcome to bring his fishing tackle with him and see if he can hook himself a carp - as long as he throws it back, wouldn't want to eat anything that came out of the canal! (Can you eat carp?)

We drove up to Grantham after the funeral to spend a couple of nights with our daughter Vicki and her fiancee Ben.  It was good to see them both again, its been quite a while since we last saw them.  We went out for a lovely Thai meal the first night, very yummy indeed.  The next day we drove to Cambridge and went to visit our house.  We were delighted to meet our newest tenants and we were happy to see they are looking after the house very well indeed.  We then went to visit our old friends Jim and Jean Hysom and spent a couple of hours catching up with them over lunch, it was good to see them both.  We returned to Grantham and Vicki cooked us a lovely meal - Smoked Haddock Risotto - nom, nom, nom!  We also spent a hilarious evening playing a great board game called Articulate, a fast talking game where one person has to describe the thing on a card and the other person has to guess what it is!  Great fun.  We left Grantham the next morning and drove back to Market Drayton.  We did a quick trip to Morrisons before returning the hire car then brought the boat out of the marina and back onto the towpath.

The following day we decided to go and fill up with water and move the boat further down the towpath.  It was amazingly busy along the towpath, never seen so many narrowboats here before, there was only one space available and we just managed to squeeze the boat in, nearly needed a shoehorn!  There was a boat moored just behind us called Maid of the Mist and whilst Clive was tying up I got chatting to the owners, initially about their satellite dish, I wanted to know how efficient it was (we only have a TV aerial and Freeview at the mo).  Clive particularly wanted to have a good TV signal for tonight because it was the opening show of Strictly Come Dancing!  However, due to the position of the mooring with a bridge right in front and large trees at the side we weren't holding out much hope sadly.  The couple off Maid of the Mist introduced themselves, Graham and Jean Bevan and the dog, Jack (a lovely little Jack Russell).  As I was explaining about the TV signal Jean immediately said that if we didn't have a signal we were most welcome to join them on their boat and all watch it together.  That is exactly what we did - immediately after tea we went round armed with a box of wine and we had a great evening with them.  Its a bit weird really, we found we had a great deal in common and as we each recounted some of our escapades over the years Graham figured we had been living in a parallel universe - it does seem a bit that way!  Over the next few days we had coffee with them a few times and also kept Graham entertained whilst Jean was with her daughter in Shrewsbury hospital providing them with a new grandson, Harrison James Cameron Bevan who weighed in at a whopping 8lb 15oz! We are all now friends on Facebook so will most definitely keep in touch and who knows might bump into each other again on a canal, somewhere, who knows, hope so!

Jean, Graham & Jack aboard Maid of the Mist

After another week of doing not much of anything, we prepared for yet another trip off!  Lady Arwen went back into Tom's moorings and we hired another car, this time to go up to Huddersfield.  We drove up on Monday evening and arrived at tea time.  We stayed with Clive's Mum and Dad and it was good to see them both.  We all went off to town for a bit of an outing on the Tuesday afternoon and I bought a new pair of shoes!  Gareth came for his tea on Tuesday evening, it was great to see him again.  On Wednesday morning we drove up to Slaithwaite to visit Waves Group, where Gareth has been working for the last few months, its such a wonderful place.  I may have mentioned it before, however it is a day care centre for adults with special needs and it is just an incredible place and the staff are incredible people, they do a wonderful job.  I am very proud to say that Gareth has also been making a difference up there over recent months.  He has been teaching drums to some of the members, he has also helped to build a polytunnel in the Waves garden - a huge polytunnel I might add!  He has now taken on the role of a one to one daytime carer for a young man with Down's syndrome - this is a complete change of career for Gareth and we are very proud of him indeed.  After lunch we said goodbye to Clive's parents and headed off down the road once more.  Again we did a quick detour to Morrison's before handing the car back and then brought the boat out of the moorings and back onto the towpath again.  On Thursday we were invited to Jean and Glyn's for tea.  Glyn picked us up on his way home from work and drove us to their house.  We had a really lovely roast dinner, it was so good I had to have seconds!  We had a great evening with them and then they drove us home to the boat.  Hopefully they will catch up with us again before we get too far away.

We finally left Market Drayton yesterday and cruised down the Shroppie, through the lovely Tyrley Locks, closely followed by another six narrowboats - can't believe how busy the canal is at the moment!  We finally moored up just shy of The Anchor Pub, a wonderful boater's pub that has been run by the same family for over 100 years!  Its not like a pub at all, more like somebody's home - Olive's - where the front rooms are used by the punters and the bar is just a wooden table really.  Olive has been serving the beer from a jug, which she fills from a barrel in the cellar, for years but I believe that recently, due to modern hygiene standards, she has had to install a pump from which she now fills the jug beforepouring it into the glasses!

This morning dawned bright and sunny - its our 39th wedding anniversary!  We might just celebrate at The Anchor tonight with a wee drinky poo.  We may well take our instruments with us too as there are often other folkies there on a Saturday night, fingers crossed.

Until the next time......

August 25th 2012 - Chester

Posted by clivenmel on 25 August, 2012 at 10:00

Well there has been lots of water and lots of bridges since the last blog!

We finally tore ourselves away from the Huddersfield area and headed down the Huddersfield Narrow back to Portland Basin where we filled up with diesel at the marina there.  We turned left back onto the Peak Forest canal and moored up once more in that lovely spot amongst the trees where we had been stuck for a week back in May waiting for Lock 1W to reopen.  The following day we continued our journey along the Peak and retraced our steps back up the Marple Flight.  That in itself was quite interesting to say the least! We arrived at the bottom of the flight and I emptied the lock and Clive brought the boat in.  When I went up to open the front paddles and fill the lock I was very surprised to see that there was hardly any water in the pound!  By the time the lock was full there was even less and it was perfectly obvious that there wasn't enough depth for Clive to get the boat from this lock to the next one so I had to go up to the next lock and open both front and back paddles to let water through into the pound.  Lady Arwen then managed to drag her bottom across the pound and into the lock.  The trouble was the next pound was now empty too!  Fortunately the third lock was actually full so I used that water to fill the pound and by the time we got up to the fourth lock things were beginning to settled down and we got up the rest of the flight without any more trouble.  Once on the Upper Peak Forest we decided to head for Bugsworth Basin, right at the other end near Whaley Bridge.  The Peak Forest is a lovely canal with fantastic views across the valley to Derbyshire.  The weather was varied, some days it was really lovely and others were very wet indeed!

Clive had an ulterior motive for going to Bugsworth Basin, there is plenty of excellent mooring there and it is very peaceful and quiet and he was desperate to paint the boat!  Weeks and weeks ago he went over the boat touching up all the bumps and scratches with rust treatment and then undercoat but hasn't had chance to do the topcoat because of the weather!  Anyway when we arrived we found a great spot to moor up and as the sun came out Clive wasted no time and was soon happily painting up to the gunwhales with new black bituminous paint.

Painting in progress!

Once he had painted one side he pootled down to the end of the basin, turned the boat around, brought her back to the mooring and painted the other side!  She now looks very smart indeed, much nicer with black gunwhales then when they were blue.

Moored in Bugsworth Basin

My sister Thelma came to join us for a couple of days whilst we were at Bugsworth and she and I were sitting outside playing music in the sunshine before she left to drive home - lovely!

We left Bugsworth Basin and headed back along the Peak Forest and when we reached the the junction at the top of the Marple Flight we turned left onto the Macclesfield Canal and headed for Goyt Mill.  There is a great launderette very close to the canal and we were in desperate need!  I made full use of the facilities, three washer loads!  I also left our huge 15 tog feather and down duvet there to be washed and dried for us with a promise to collect it the following Friday.  After that we pootled along the Macc stopping here and there as we pleased.  We also dropped Clive's laptop off at a computer repair shop in High Lane, again just a stone's throw from the canal - how convenient!

We returned to the Peak Forest after a few days and as we were pootling along we noticed a lady and gentleman and a teenager walking along the towpath.  The spotted us and called out to ask how far it was to Bugsworth Basin.  Clive slowed right down to have a chat and it turned out that they were a German family on a holiday boat which was stuck down at the bottome of the Marple Flight, which was closed because there had been a breach and a lot of the water had run out into somebody's garden!  That explains where all the water was disappearing to when we came up!  They were hoping that the flight would reopen in a few days but this didn't leave them enought time to get to Bugsworth Basin and back so they had decided to walk.  We explained that it was quite a long distance to walk and the gentleman asked if there was any chance we could give them a lift.  Naturally we were delighted to give them a lift, so they all hopped on board and we set off again.  We all introduced ourselves - Udo and Roland were father and son and Udo's mother, Ingeborg, their surname was Lindenbach.  We had a lovely cruise along the Peak Forest with them, they have done narrowboat holidays in the UK before and it is Roland's ambition have a share in a narrowboat some day.  Udu explained that Roland usually steers the boat when they are cruising - that put me to shame straight away didn't it!!  We finally arrived in Bugsworth Basin and moored up then we all went to the pub, The Navigation, where Udo very kindly bought us lunch.  After that we gave them a bit of a tour of the basin and explained some of its history to them.  We had been trying to figure out the best way for them to get back to Marple and assumed that the train from Whaley Bridge would be the answer, however we were informed in the pub that the trains from Whaley Bridge don't go to Marple, they go to Manchester!  The only way would be to get a bus back.  Just as we were about to say goodbye a car drew up at the side of us and the driver asked us if we knew anything about the basin, we got chatting and when he heard that the Lindenbachs had to get back to Marple he offered to give them a lift.  He wanted half an hour to have a look around and suggested they meet him back at the same spot then.  It just goes to show that there is a lot of kindness around and people will do the nicest things for complete strangers.

Ingeborg, Udo, Roland & Clive

Now I did say that we had dragged ourselves away from Huddersfield but in actual fact we couldn't quite get away completely because Clive's cousin Deborah and her husband Andrew were celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary and wanted us to join the rest of the family at their house for the celebrations.  So after a couple more days at Bugsworth Basin we went back along the Peak Forest and moored up at Furness Vale where there is a railway station. On Sunday August 5th we caught the train from Furness Vale about 10.45am which took us to Manchester Piccadilly where we caught another train to Huddersfield, Gareth picked us up from the station and off we went to the party.  We had a lovely time, Deborah is the hostess with the mostest and she and Andrew had provided a wonderful spread, which we all enjoyed very much indeed.  The weather also was kind to us and we managed to sit out in the garden for most of the afternoon.

The Family!

We had an uneventful journey back on the train and there was Lady Arwen waiting for us, safe and sound, when we got back.  The following day we were off on our travels again.  Back along the Macc with a brief stop in High Lane to collect the repaired laptop and then we continued on our way.  We finally moored up at Wood Lanes as it was a good place to meet Thelma who was coming for another visit. 

Many, many years ago Clive bought a set of fantasy novels by an author called Alan Garner and two of these books, The Weirdstone of Brizengamen and The Moon of Gomrath, were both set at a place called Alderley Edge in Cheshire and Clive has always wanted to go there.  So after meeting Thelma in the pub (as you do!) and having a meal together we planned to go on an adventure to Alderley Edge the next day.  Fortunately it dawned bright and sunny (rare occurrence!) so we made a picnic, put on our hiking boots, I got out my trusty hiking poles and off we went.  We had a lovely time!  Sadly we didn't stumble across any mysterious caves nor spotted any wizards but it was a great day out nevertheless.  The view from the Edge was spectacular and I tried out a new app I got for my phone which stitches shots together to make a panorama - here it is!

Panoramic view from Alderley Edge

When we got back to the boat Thelma left us for the drive back to Huddersfield.  We decided to stay put for the night then the following morning we got up early and headed off along the Macc.  We had a brief stop in Bollington so I could do a bit of shopping then we carried on past Macclesfield, through Congleton and on to the Bosley Flight.  We did the flight in two and half hours and finally moored up after a long, hard day for a well earned rest and a glass of wine!  The nexrt morning we were off again and managed to get all the way to Kidsgrove where we moored up first for a trip to Tesco and then we moved on a bit further to the top of the lock flight - Heartbreak Hill!  The next day we tackled the flight and managed to get down 26 locks before calling it a day and mooring up.  We set off again in the morning and soon got down to Kings Lock where we turned left onto the Shropshire Union Canal and after three locks Clived decided we should moor up for the day as the weather was due to turn very inclement around lunch time.  There were some very ominous black clouds looming on the horizon but funnily enough they never reached us, we sat there all afternoon in glorious sunshine with nery a raindrop in sight!  The following morning it was still nice and sunny so we set off again and soon reached the very picturesque Minshull Lock but found ourselves at the back of a queue of 8 boats waiting to go up!  There were just as many waiting to come down as well so it all worked out very nicely, one boat would go up another would come down and so on and so forth. Whilst we were queuing I went back to talk to the crew of the boat behind us, which I had recognised.  It was a brand new Braidbar boat called Three No Trumps and the lucky couple who own her live in Huddersfield!  We had first met them at Braidbar's boatyard on the Macc when they were taking their beautiful new boat out for a spin.  Talk about a small world, the new owner of the boat only went to Oakes County Junior School (where Clive and I went) and then onto Huddersfield New College (where Clive went!) however he is just a tad younger than us so we never actually knew each other in our early lives.  But what a coincidence!  We are both extremely envious, it is such a gorgeous boat, maybe one day we will upgrade but don't tell Lady Arwen, we don't want to upset her!

Queuing for Minshull Lock

It was the same story at the next lock, Cholmondeston Lock (we assume that this is pronounced Chumston!) however we pulled into the marina there to fill up with diesel and have a pump-out and I nipped into the shop for a loaf of bread.  We managed to slot back into the queue very neatly and were soon on our way again.  After that it was all plain sailing all the way to Nantwich then it got a bit dodgy as we couldn't find a mooring! Finally ended up just the other side of the aqueduct quite a distance from the marina but fortunately and unusually I didn't need the launderette!  When we were all tied up and secure I phoned my pal Heather to see if she and her hubby Les were around for a get together, they were but only for that night as they had other plans for the rest of the week and weekend.  So they came over for the evening and we had a lovely time catching up on all the goss and drinking wine! (Coke in Les's case, he was driving!).  Hopefully we will get to see them again as we are coming back to Nantwich on our return trip up to Chester.

We remained in Nantwich the next day and decided to nip up to the chandlery for a few bits and pieces and ended up gettting caught in a torrential downpour!  We got absolutely soaked in the time it took to cover the short distance from the chandlery round to the cafe!  Still we dried out whilst enjoying a cream tea!

After leaving Nantwich we made our way along the Shroppie to Chester.  We came here last year and found it to be a really lovely city to visit and is absolutely brilliant for shopping having all the usual suspects on the high street plus others.  We went on a spending spree  and bought lots of new clothes - well Clive did anyway!  I did get a few things for myself, mainly undies but also a couple of tops and a nice shirt.  We then decided to go down the locks and continue along the Shroppie, which we didn't do last year.  We moored up part way along at a convenient bridge because the following day we were going to Chester Zoo!  What a fantastic zoo it is, we had a wonderful time.  We went in at 10.15 and came out at 4.15 and we still hadn't seen everything!  There were some highlights though, the first was the butterfly house, which was wonderful but very warm and humid!  There were some amazing butterflies including one absolutely enormous one which was the size of small bird and I believe it was a Queen Alexandra Birdwing Butterfly.  Sadly it just wouldn't come down from the roof to let me photograph it but I did manage to take one of another beautiful specimen.

Tree Nymph Butterfly (I think!)

We sauntered around looking at various animals and birds, they have a really fantastic collection here at Chester.  We decided not to visit all the usual suspects but rather some of the more unusual animals that we had never seen before.  We then made our way to the Fruit Bat Forest and what a treat that was.  It was probably the best zoo exhibit we have ever, ever been to, it was truly wonderful.  It is basically just a large building which is more or less completely dark when you walk inside apart from a "full moon" up on one wall and a sort of sheet with a dim light behind it on another.  However our eyes gradually adjusted to the darkness and true wonder of the place was revealed.  There were fruit bats of all sizes ranging from tiny ones about the size of our Pipistrelle up to huge "flying foxes".  Some of them were just hanging around, leisurely feeding from trays of fruit fastened onto the branches of the trees but others were flying around, briefly alighting on pieces of fruit for a quick nibble and then off again.  One actually flew between Clive and I and we felt the breeze from its wings as it whizzed past.  It was absolutely entrancing.  We walked around to another spot where there was an opening in a cave-like structure and this was brilliant as the bats were just flying through it all the time in a constant stream and you just stood there with them fluttering past, wafting your hair with the wind from their wings, magic!  We had to drag ourselves away, I could have spent hours in that one exhibit alone!

Inside the Bat Forest

Believe me this does not do it justice but it was the only photograph I could get as the light was behind it.  After that we continued around the zoo but nothing could give us the thrill of the bat forest until we finally arrived at the Dinosaurs Bite Back exhibition!  It was brilliant.  We walked around the garden and there were dinosaurs everywhere, some small ones and some huge ones, all moving and making sounds and one of them even spat at people on the way past, it got me twice!  It was a brilliant exhibition and I really wished that our granddaughter, Indeia, could have been with us, she would have loved it.  Actually I believe her father, Gareth, would have been quite enthralled with it as well.  Wish they had had things like this when he was a little boy, he absolutely loved dinosaurs!  We both enjoyed it very much indeed and I actually took more photos of the dinosaurs than any of the living species in the zoo!

After that we had both had enough, our legs were tired, our feet were aching and it was time to head back to the boat and a nice cup of tea! The next day we continued our journey along the Shroppie, right to the very end, Ellesmere Port! We didn't stay long.  We pulled in for water and I went and had a look around and took some photographs but then we set off back the way we had come.  I think the best bit for me was seeing a huge ship going past on the Manchester Ship Canal!  Otherwise it was just a big basin with lots of ancient canal boats and barges, many full of water and weed.  There is a museum there but we neither of us fancied trailing around looking at a load of old boats so we didn't bother.  However we can now say that we have cruised the full length of the Shroppie from end to end!  We made it all the way back to Chester in good time and moored up again very close to a convenient Tesco store and only a stones throw from the city centre. 

Clive's cousin, Josie, lives in Prenton in The Wirral and it had been arranged that we would spend the afternoon and evening together on Thursday and Chris turned up to collect us about 2.00pm and drove us back to their house.  We had a cup of coffee in the garden, which was lovely and then we set off on the grand tour of The Wirral!  Clive and I have never been to the Wirral before, well Clive visited a hospital lab there once but that was all.  We had no idea what an amazing place it is!  We started off at Parkgate, which was once a thriving holiday retreat in Victorian times.  It has a lovely promenade but sadly no longer has any waves lapping against it!  The River Dee Estuary has all silted up and now only marshland butts up against the prom and you can just make out the river in the far distance.  However it did not deter us, we all had a delicious ice cream and walked along the prom whilst we were munching it!  Next we went to West Kirby and Red Rocks, which does live up to its name!  We parked the car and went for a walk on the beach and stood upon the red rocks!

Josie and Chris standing on the red rocks

From there we drove further around to New Brighton.  Again New Brighton was once a thriving seaside resort but then went into a decline now I am pleased to say it is being regenerated and I suspect it will once again become a popular destination for people who want to go to the seaside for the day, say from Liverpool.  Its looking good I must say.

A bit further around and we came to Egremont where we once again parked the car and went for a walk, this time to look at Liverpool across the Mersey.  What an amazing sight.

Across the Mersey to Liverpool

Then it was back in the car and off back to Josie and Chris's lovely home and a welcome glass of wine followed by a scrumptious meal and then we were driven all the way back to the boat and bed.  What a wonderful day we had had, many thanks to Josie and Chris for our whirlwind tour of The Wirral, it was brilliant and we now have a totally different outlook on this part of the British Isles.

Yesterday we packed a picnic and set off for a walk around the ancient city walls of Chester.  It was a lovely walk and we learned a lot about what Chester was like back in the day.  For a start the River Dee was actually lapping against the walls back in the 1600's and ships from Ireland, Spain,  France and Holland used to dock here to unload their cargoes, now there is a huge racecourse where it used to be!  We did eventually come to the river as we got further around the walls but it has receded a great distance from its original course.  We stopped and had our picnic when we got to the river and watched the world go by for a while before continuing around the walls and then back to the boat.  We like Chester!

We are still in Chester but will be heading off tomorrow back along the Shroppie to Nantwich for a couple of days.  Will definitely be making use of the launderette on the way back!  From there - well you will just have to wait and see!


Tuesday July 17th 2012 - Staley Bridge

Posted by clivenmel on 17 July, 2012 at 9:10

Well!  To cut a long story short.................well, shortish!

The last blog had us just arriving at the top of the Bosley Flight and a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then, so to speak!  We made our way along the Macclesfield Canal to Marple, we then headed down the Marple Flight of locks, which was very hard work as every single lock was against us, also the weather was pretty grotty as well, shame really because it is a pretty flight and the scenery is lovely, especially down at the bottom.  Anyway, we made it eventually and reached the Peak Forest Canal by which time it was absolutely tipping it down!  As soon as we found a decent mooring we pulled in and hunkered down.  We continued along the Peak Forest, which is a lovely canal, on our way to Portland Basin, which is where we would get onto the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. 

Wednesday May 16th 2012 - Because there were no locks along this canal I decided to stay inside and do a few bits and pieces, knowing that once we got to Portland Basin and turned onto the HNC the locks would be relentless!  About an hour before we were due to arrive at Portland Basin I decided to check the emails - there was one from Brian Badminton, (NB Invicta) our next door neighbour from Aspley Marina.  He was asking if we were aware that Lock 1W (the first lock on the HNC) was broken!?  Evidently a 70' long narrowboat had gone into the lock and got completely stuck resulting in it having to be craned out but unfortunately the lock had also been broken in the process!  This had happened two weeks previously and the lock was in the process of being mended.  However this meant that we could not get up the HNC for a whole week!  We therefore moored up only a few hundred yards from Portland Basin in the most beautiful spot just after a swing bridge surrounded by woodland.  Considering we were only a few minutes walk from the centre of Ashton-under-Lyne it was absolutely amazing.

Our granddaughter, Indeia, had arrived home from the USA on May 12th to spend the Summer with our son, Gareth and we had hoped to be a lot nearer to his home in Marsden by this time so that we could look after her on the days he had to work so under the circumstances he brought her to us.  She was absolutely delighted that she could play outside and would have stayed out from breakfast to bed time given half a chance!  Sadly she isn't really able to play out at home as there are nasty things around in the gardens like Black Widow Spiders and scorpions and other undesirables rendering it rather unsafe for young children!  Well she certainly made up for lost time!  The best thing of all was the weather, we thought that Summer had finally arrived, it was absolutely lovely, warm and sunny for several days - I even dug my shorts out!

Indy & I in the woods

One day Indy and I went for a walk and decided to go and inspect the culprit that was causing our delay.  It was only about a ten minute walk down to Portland Basin and then along the towpath to Lock 1W - when we got there it was surrounded by scaffolding, the doors had been removed but there wasn't a workman in sight!  Evidently the doors had been removed so that they could be taken away for repair as it couldn't be done on site.

Indy at Lock 1W

Finally, a whole week after we arrived, Lock 1W reopened for business and the mass exodus began!  Some boats have been moored up in Staley Bridge for three weeks waiting to come down the flight so they were absolutely delighted to be able to get underway again, the first boat emerged from Lock 1W that afternoon, we decided to wait until the following morning.  Unfortunately when we did set off there were two boats in front of us so every lock was against us once again.  Part way up the flight we hit a problem, one of the pounds (stretch of water between 2 locks) was absolutely empty!  So it took quite a while to get going again after the guys in front had opened all the paddles on the next lock to let water through from above and refill the pound!  We finally arrived in Staley Bridge and moored up opposite Tesco's, which gave us a great opportunity to restock the boat.

The following day we headed off again and the canal seemed to get steadily shallower the higher we got!  We stopped off at French's Wharf in Greenfield to use the pump-out facility, where we met John, more on him later.  After that the water levels were just ridiculous.  At one point Clive couldn't get the boat out of the lock because the water levels were so low he was scraping the bottom on the cill of the lock!  I had to go up to the next lock and open all the paddles to let enough water through to refloat the boat!  Finally however we arrived in Uppermill and managed to moor up, although we couldn't get right into the bank because it was so shallow, we had about a foot wide gap to step over when getting on and off the boat!

Uppermill is a wonderful little village.  It is a veritable gem amongst the moors of Saddleworth and the scenery is spectacular.

Saddleworth War Memorial from Uppermill

Now I have just mentioned that we had moored up in Saddleworth, what I didn't mention was the fact that the moorings have a sign stating that is is 48 hour maximum stay!  Well, I have to confess, we overstayed our welcome there by some considerable time, we didn't stay for two days, we stayed for two weeks!!  Indy came to stay with us for several nights and she and her daddy came and had dinner with us most evenings.  Whilst we were in there the weather remained very pleasant indeed. 

Friday June 1st 2012 was Whit Friday and in Saddleworth that means the Whit Walk!  I remember going on many a Whit walk as a child when I was in the Brownies and Guides and I loved marching behind the bands, especially the pipe bands!  However in Saddleworth its all about brass!  We decided to go and see what was going on and were absolutely amazed at the number of people in the village, it was heaving!  Each of the local churches in Greenfield, Uppermill, Dobcross, Diggle and Delph all have their own bands and they came along in turn with their congregations following on, all dressed in their Sunday best or in costumes from bygone days and the music was just brilliant.  There really is something special about a brass band!

Saddleworth Church Band

We watched all the bands marching through the streets and then they all turned onto the village green where an interdenominational church service took place.  Whilst this was going on we went and indulged ourselves at Betty's Fish & Chip Shope - very yummy indeed!  Later on that day it was the Uppermill Brass Band Competition and we were very strategically placed for this as each band alighted from their coach and mustered in the car park adjacent to our moorings, we could see and hear everything!  The first band tuned up and set off on their march through the village to the village green at 4.30pm the last band set off at 11.15pm!

We decided that we had overstayed our welcome in Uppermill so we went up through the next two locks and moored up at Wool Road BW services.  Very handy for pump-out and water.  It was also very peaceful and quiet.  Once again there was a sign stating that it was a 48 hour mooring and I am afraid once again we overstayed our welcome, by four weeks!!  It was a great spot to be though, there was a little car park right next to the mooring, which made it easy for us to have visitors, although I must say it was in need of a bit of TLC, it was very, very uneven and with all the rain we have had over the last few weeks it was full of enormous puddles!  We had quite a few visitors whilst we were there including Pat and the ship's dog, Jesh!  Vicki and Ben came and stayed with us for a night, Thelma popped up one Wednesday evening and took us to a great folk club in a little pub just above Uppermill, we really enjoyed that.  We have had quite a few family get togethers over the weeks as well.  We had a barbecue at Clive's parents' house on Jubilee Monday, it was great to all get together except unfortunately Vicki and Ben couldn't make it.

from left to right, starting on the back row:

Matt, Clive, Carol, Deborah, Andrew

Ivan, Mum, Indy, Pop

Chloe, Gareth, Holly

Clive and I and Gareth and Indy also had a fantastic day out, we went to The Deep, in Hull.  It is the most amazing display of aquatics in the country, I think.  It has a huge tank with sharks, rays and all sorts of amazing fish, which are fed by divers in scuba gear - awesome!

One day whilst we were on the boat Clive just happened to look through the window and saw something very unusual, I quickly took a photograph before it disappeared!

Blast from the past!

A horse drawn boat!  You don't see many of these around any more.  We ended up having a chat with a young man from the boat who was doing the locks.  He informed us that they have been helping to make a BBC documentary about the canals and that morning he and another guy had "legged it" through the Standedge Tunnel!  Now that is no mean feat I can tell you - Standedge Tunnel is three and a half miles long and the process of "legging it" means putting a plank of wood across the stern of the boat, sticking out on either side and two men lie on the boards with their heads to the middle and their feet touching the sides of the tunnel, then they "walk" along the tunnel walls pushing the boat along, very hard work!  However this is how it was done back in the day of horse drawn boats before diesel engines were invented!  The horse by the way would have been walked over the top of the tunnel where it would meet the boat at the other end.

Wednesday July 4th 2012 - a sad day for us, we had to finally say goodbye to our darling granddaughter, Indy, as it was time for her to return home to the States.  She had spent the night with us and we then got the bus to Huddersfield so that she could say a last goodbye to Grandma and Pop and Gareth picked her up from there.  It was very hard to see her go, we will miss her so very much.  They were driving down to spend the night with Vicki and Ben in Grantham and then Gareth would hand her over to her mummy in Cambridge on Thursday.  Very sad for us all but especially her daddy.  We won't see her again now until next April, ten long months away!

We were going to leave the area straight away but had a request to stay for another week so that we could help Carol and Ivan to celebrate their Pearl Wedding Anniversary (30 years!) and we couldn't say no to that so we stayed.  We had a wonderful time, it was a really lovely evening.  Carol and Ivan have several folkie friends who came along and brought their instruments and voices and we joined them too but the biggest surprise of all was Carol and Ivan making their debut - they have never sung in public before!

Carol & Ivan making their debut!

They really don't look old enough to have been married for 30 years do they!

Well once that was over there was really nothing to keep us hanging around any more so yesterday, Monday July 16th 2012, my big brother's birthday,  we took the plunge and said goodbye to our home for the last couple of months.  We left the moorings at 10.00am and headed down the first two locks into Uppermill.  Whilst Clive took the boat down through the village to the next lock I did a mad dash to the bakers to get some bread and a few other bits and pieces for lunch and caught up with him just in time to open the lock gates and we were off!  The first part of the journey was very slow indeed.  As I mentioned before this canal is very shallow and Lady Arwen just couldn't get up any speed at all, she was dragging herself along the bottom all the way, it took us three hours to do about two miles and six locks!  The other problem was that it was pouring with rain!  Needless to say even with our waterproofs on we ended up very damp and cold so we were very relieved indeed to finally arrive at Staley Bridge, where we moored up once more opposite Tesco, by which time it had stopped raining!  Without more ado we peeled off our wet things and hung them up to dry, gathered our shopping bags and a list and went over to do a mammoth shop because the freezer was empty, the fridge was almost empty and the cupboards were bare and worst of all we had no wine!  All that was soon remedied and we could finally sit down and relax. 

Well guess what, its raining today so we are still here!  Our waterproofs etc are still a bit on the damp side and we are in no rush to get anywhere so we will wait and see what tomorrow brings. 

Until the next time................................................

May 13th 2012 - top of the Bosley Flight, Macclesfield Canal

Posted by clivenmel on 13 May, 2012 at 9:05

Monday April 23rd 2012 - we left our mooring, went around a bend and there ahead of us was Foulridge Tunnel.  This tunnel is one way working only, that means that boats can't pass in the tunnel so it has a traffic light system.  We had to wait a few minutes for them to turn GREEN on the half hour and then we had just half an hour to get through the tunnel before the lights changed again, fortunately we did it in 20!  A short time after emerging from the tunnel we arrived at the Barrowford lock flight of 7 locks.  There has been no shortage of water on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal that we were aware of at all, however half way down the flight Clive was waiting in a pound whilst I set the next lock but when I got the gates open he discovered that Lady Arwen was beached!  Try as he might he couldn't shift her so I had to go back to the previous lock, open one of the front gates then wind up one of the rear paddles and let water flow straight through the lock into the pound below until finally Lady Arwen refloated - very odd indeed!  The rest of the flight was quite uneventful.  All the way down this flight we had been aware of a large hill in the distance, this turned out to be Pendle Hill, notorious for the Pendle Witch Trial when at the assizes at Lancaster in the autumn of 1612, twenty persons, of whom sixteen were women of various ages, were committed for trial, and most of them tried for witchcraft!

Pendle Hill


I mentioned in the previous blog that I had developed a chest infection just as we left Huddersfield, well I was still suffering with it, still coughing and still swigging Covonia!  I was finding the constant coughing quite exhausting and doing a lock flight as well left me like a limp lettuce leaf.  Considering this and the fact that the weather was deteriorating, once we had passed Nelson we decided to call it a day and moored up in a lovely tranquil spot out in the countryside.

Tranquil mooring not far from Nelson

The following day the weather was appalling so we didn't move at all.  The day after however was very pleasant so we set off to run the gauntlet through Burnley!  In actual fact we needn't have worried as the canal skirted around the central part and in places even passed through parkland, rather than the dark satanic mills we were expecting!  We carried on cruising for another couple of hours then finally moored up in a rather bleak spot surrounded by moorland which, according to our map, was the site of the Altham Vitriol Works!

Site of the former Altham Vitriol Works!

Once again the next day the weather was dreadful so we stayed put!   The next day however was much better and we had a very pleasant cruise through the countryside, interspersed with places like Clayton Le Moors, Church and Rishton.  All very pleasant and best of all, no locks!  However, looming ahead of us was Blackburn!  It took us three hours to travel through Blackburn, including negotiating five locks.  Some of it was a bit grim and there was an awful lot of rubbish in the water, quite disgusting really!   It wasn't all bad though and there were some quite interesting things to see.  For a start it is quite unusual seeing golden domes against a Northern backdrop but there they were!

A Blackburn Mosque

We also cruised past the home of Blackburn Rovers Football team, Ewood Park!  Finally we were out the other side and back into open country again and we moored up in a lovely spot close to the site of the former contagious diseases hospital!!!

Rural mooring on the outskirts of Blackburn

A while after we had moored I was chatting to a friend on the phone when I noticed the sky was all pink as the sun was going down.  Not only that but there was a pink rainbow - I kid you not!  Unfortunately by the time I had got my camera the rainbow had disappeared but the sunset was still in evidence.

Beautiful pink sky

The next day we had yet another lock flight, this time The Johnson's Hillock Locks, seven in all.  Once again I was totally exhausted by the time we got to the bottom and was beginning to dread what was ahead of us - the Wigan Flight!   However, that wasn't for today thankfully.  As we were cruising passed Chorley we spotted another very imposing religious establishment.  This one turned out to be the Temple of the Latter Day Saints.

Temple of the Latter Day Saints

It wasn't long before we arrived in Adlington and made use of the facilities at the marina before mooring up for the night.  The moorings weren't far from the town centre so I went for a walk up to the Co-op to stock up on a few bits and pieces.  When I got back Clive had been checking the weather forecast for tomorrow, Sunday, and it wasn't good!  In fact it was really bad - 70mph winds and torrential rain - oh dear!  Well that settled that, we're going nowhere!  Another boat was moored just in front of us and her cap'n came back to have a word with us, he wanted to know if we were going down the Wigan Flight and if so could they come down with us - we said yes please, but not tomorrow!  He introduced himself as Norwyn and his wife is Sheila and they live in Suffolk.

The weather forecasters certainly got it right, it was a terrible day!  The rain was lashing down and the winds were really strong.  One or two holiday boaters were braving the elements but it wasn't really a good idea.  One boater had moored up on the opposite bank a little further down from us and at one point both his mooring pins came out and the boat just shot across to the other side of the canal - not good!  We stayed inside, in comfort, all cosy and warm - we're not daft!

Unbelievably we have reached the end of April already - where has this year gone to!  At least it wasn't raining, in fact it was a lovely morning.  We were up early as we had arranged to meet Norwyn and Sheila at a water point at the top of the Wigan Flight.  They were setting off before us to give themselves time to fill up with water before tackling the flight.  So we were off by 8.30am had a lovely cruise through the countryside.  We spotted something strange in the water and wondered whatever it was until we got close enought to see!

Strange obstacle in the canal - a hay bale!

Sure enough Norwyn and Sheila aboard Shell Bell were waiting for us at the water point as arranged and within a few minutes we were ready to start on the first lock of 21 - groan!  Fortunately I wasn't feeling too bad, still coughing but I felt I could cope.  We got into a really good rythm with the locks, doing what Clive and I call "oversewing". 

Top of the Wigan Flight of 21 locks

We got the boats into the first lock then whilst it was emptying Sheila went down to the next lock and set it.  When the first lock was empty I opened the gates, the boats came out, I shut the gates then walked down the towpath passed the next lock, which Sheila was working and went onto the third which I then set and waited for the boats to come in and so on and so forth right down to the bottom.  So in actual fact each of us did ten and a half locks each!  We did the flight in very good time, three hours and forty-five minutes, which included stopping in a lock for elevenses!  All in all it went very well indeed and fortunately I didn't feel too bad at the end of it all. 

Norwyn & Sheila aboard NB Shell Bell

Besides the 21 locks in the flight we had another two to negotiate as we turned left onto the Bridgewater Canal, the Poolstock Locks - so 23 locks, not bad for a days work!  We cruised for a short while then moored up on the visitor moorings at The Dover Lock Inn where we met up with Norwyn and Sheila for a well deserved drink that evening before having an early night!

May 1st 2012 - We didn't rush to set off this morning, I had a bit of a lie in!  We finally set off about 11.00am and had been travelling for about half an hour when we arrived at Plank Lane Lift Bridge.  I went ahead to operate the bridge but when I put my BW key in and turned it the message that popped up was "No Power" !!!   As it happened there were three BW guys hanging around so I went over to ask what was going on and it turned out that there had been a power cut affecting quite a large part of the region and there was nothing they could do but wait for the electric supplyer to get it back on again!  Obviously Norwyn and Sheila, who had set off before us, had got through OK before the power went off!  So I went back to the boat and informed Clive of the problem then we moored up, put the kettle on and waited, and waited, and waited.  Finally at around 1.15 I saw the bridge starting to rise!  There were several boats queuing at the other side waiting to come through as well and it was a crew member from one of them who had opened the bridge, he waved us through!

The Plank Lane Lift Bridge opening at last!

A couple of hours later we arrived in Worsley and moored up - what a pretty place!  Everywhere you looked there were Tudor buildings, it was a beautiful spot.

The moorings in Worsley

We had a very peaceful night then the following day, before leaving Worsley, we called in at a boatyard to fill up with diesel.  Whilst Clive was doing that I went for a walk around the green and looked at some of the wonderful houses that had been built on the site of the old mineworks.  One of them had 3 cars parked outside, two Range Rover Sports and a Rolls Royce - wow!  All the houses looked as if they had been there for centuries but in actual fact they are only about 100 years old but were built in keeping with some of the really old buildings in the Tudor style.  On the green is a monument and I found out later that it is actually the remnants of the chimney for the mineworks!

The green

We cruised through Worsley looking at all the lovely new housing being built on the old brown sites adjacent to the canal then spotted something which looked quite out of place in this urban setting - a lighthouse!

Urban lighthouse!

A short time later we came to the Barton Swing Aqueduct.  This structure is designed to carry the Bridgewater Canal over the Manchester Ship Canal and can be swung around to allow large ships to pass underneath.  Adjacent to it is the Barton Road Bridge, which also can be moved for shipping.  Beyond that is the modern bridge carrying the motorway too.

Crossing the Manchester Ship Canal

Looking back once we reached the other side this is the view of the aqueduct:

Barton Swing Aqueduct

A while later we arrived at Waters Meeting, where we turned right, we cruised through Sale and then about an hour and a half later we arrived in Lymm where we moored up for the night.  It was very busy, nearly all the moorings were taken but we managed to squeeze Lady Arwen in with a shoe horn!  Once moored up we went for a walk up to Sainsbury's to stock up with a few bits and  pieces.  Lymm is very pretty and obviously very popular with boaters!

The next day we had a very long cruise.  The good thing about the Bridgewater Canal is that there are no locks!  There was a tunnel, The Preston Brook tunnel but that was all.  We made a brief stop at Thorne Marine Chandlery at Stockton heath as Clive needed some rust treatment, undercoat and paint as Lady Arwen's paintwork is in desperate need of some TLC!  Once through the Preston Brook Tunnel we came to a fork where we turned right onto the Trent and Mersey Canal.  For quite a while we found ourselves meandering through the countryside in the company of the River Weaver, a waterway we haven't done yet.  At one point we spotted a narrowboat navigating the Weaver across the fields.

Narrowboat on the River Weaver

Another thing we spotted whilst cruising along was a Jay!  We often see them flying amongst the trees but they are not easy to photograph as they seem to be rather shy.  This one just happened to land in a tree very close to the canal and on a low branch too so I managed to snap him!


After a while we cruised past the Anderton Boat Lift, an amazing piece of engineering that lowers narrowboats down from the canal onto the River Weaver - we really must do that one of these days!  Finally we moored up at The Lion Saltworks.  A place we have moored at several times before but the first time was back in 2005 on the very first day of our very first narrowboat experience.  We had a hire boat for a week and by the end of that first afternoon after cruising for no more than half an hour after leaving the marina we were both well and truly hooked!  We decided to pop to the pub for a quickie before dinner only to find when we got there that it wasn't open for another half hour!  We returned later and had a drink then came back to the boat for tea.  We discovered the following morning from a fellow boater that we had missed an excellent evening of folk music in said pub - if only we had stayed another half hour we could have enjoyed it too and probably joined in! Doh!

We were now back on very familiar turf.  We both absolutely love this part of the Trent and Mersey, the scenery is really beautiful.  We had planned to do a detour up to Nantwich, one reason being that I was desperate to get to a launderette and there is a very good one at Nantwich Marina.  The second reason was to meet up with Clive's cousin Josie and her husband Chris and also Clive's new found cousin David - David is the one who discovered him whilst researching their family tree via  They share Gt Grandparents on both sides of the family as two brothers (their grandfathers) married two sisters (their grandmothers) so they are doubly related!  Also, our good friends Heather and Les Welch live in Nantwich and we wanted to meet up with them too.   So after negotiating four locks we arrived at Kings Lock, Middlewich where we turned right onto the Shropshire Union Canal then after a few more locks we moored up for the night just before Church Minshull.  Just after we moored we had some visitors call in for tea!

Jemima Puddle Duck and friends!

We arrived in Nantwich the next day but too late to use the launderette, which closed at 4.00pm!  So we went for a walk up into town and did some shopping at Morrisons.  We tried not to buy too much because it's a hell of a long walk back to the boat with heavy shopping bags!!  The next day we headed off to the launderette with four bags full of washing!  The last time we were at a launderette was the day before we left Huddersfield - its a good job we brought far too many clothes with us on this boat!  It didn't take very long to get it all done and back on board - so nice to have lots of clean clothes!  The following day was Bank Holiday Monday and we had arranged to meet Josie, Chris and David at The Olde Barbridge Inn at Barbridge Junction so after I had returned to the boat from the launderette Clive turned the boat around and we retraced our steps.  We managed to find a mooring right opposite the pub, excellent.

We had a great time with everybody at the pub, though lunch was a bit of a fiasco!  We had ordered our meals just before 2.00pm and soon after 3.00pm we were informed that there was no haddock available!  Josie, Clive and David had all ordered haddock!!  So they made new choices and I also changed my order to something a little lighter as we were eating out again that evening!   Five minutes later the waitress came rushing back to say they had managed to get more haddock, so they went back to their original orders.  Finally at about 3.30pm our food arrived.  They were very apologetic and did make an adjustment to our bill in the end - I should think so too!  At 4.30pm we said our goodbyes to everyone as they set off on their journeys home, David to Chester and Josie and Chris to The Wirral - we walked over the bridge and we were home!   Heather and Les came to pick us up at 6.30pm and took us back to their house for a meal, which was wonderful - Heather is a very good cook!  I was amazed that I even managed seconds considering I had only finished eating lunch at 4.00pm!  Poor Heather had to go to work the next morning and she was very tired after a busy weekend so they drove us back to the boat.

The next day we set off once more and returned down the Shroppie heading for Kings Lock.  We decided to actually moor up for lunch because Clive really wanted to wash the boat!  He had managed to do the starboard side (right side!) whilst we were in Nantwich but the left side was really dirty.  As it was a lovely day he decided now was his chance!

Washing all 57 foot of Lady Arwen!

We resumed our journey after lunch and soon arrived at Kings Lock.  This time we turned right, back onto the Trent and Mersey and set off up Heartbreak Hill!  This is the name given to the many locks on this stretch of the canal.  On the way up we passed the salt works where an enormous amount of salt is stored and bagged.

Very big pile of salt!

We did the first five locks, which was quite enough, then moored up just before Wheelock for the night.  The next morning after filling up with water and emptying the bins at the Wheelock services we hit the locks.  The majority of the locks in this flight are duplicates - two locks side by side but each lock is a single so they don't take too long to fill and empty.   After ten locks we arrived at Hassall Green and decided to moor up.  We were only going to stop for lunch but the rain settled in so we decided to stay overnight.   The next day we were just getting ready to set off when Clive noticed we had a stowaway!

Brown Lipped Snail

He was quite a pretty snail as snails go!  Anyway, he was gently removed from the window and put in the grass!  Then we were off - another thirteen locks and we finally arrived at Kidsgrove!   Again a very familiar place to us, we spent three weeks iced in here back in January 2010!  We didn't stop this time though, we carried on through another two locks and moored up so that we could go shopping to Tescos!  We got back to the boat and set off again straight into another lock then when we came out the other end we turned right onto the Macclesfield Canal.  One more lock at Scholar Green then we moored up just before the rain started opposite Ramsdell Hall - a lovely spot where we have moored before.

The next morning Clive got up early and left me in bed fast asleep while he cruised through Congleton and out the other side.  There were no locks to do - yet!!  After about three hours, by which time I had woken up, he moored up again in a great spot on an aqueduct right at the bottom of the Bosley Flight. 

We both woke early the next morning, about 6.15, to glorious sunshine but it had been very cold during the night and there was a slight ground frost but the amazing thing was the canal, which looked as if it was steaming!  It looked absolutely stunning in the brilliant sunshing as the mist swirled about the boat that was moored up in front of us.

Steaming canal!

We had a cuppa and some breakfast by which time all the mist had burned away .  We set off up the Bosley Flight of twelve locks at 8.00am and reached the top at 10.00 - record time!  We were very lucky as the majority of the locks were in our favour, only a couple of very leaky locks had filled up and needed emptying.  We also met three boats coming down as we neared the top so it all helped to speed things up.   When we came out of the top lock we pulled in to fill up with water at the water point and empty the bins at the Bosley BW Services then we headed off again.  Clive has been keeping a record of all our moorings in our map books , he marks down how good the TV signal is and whether we have a Vodafone signal or not.  There was one spot marked on the map which said that the digital TV signal was very good so he was heading for that, its a Grand Prix weekend!!   We were stunned to find that when we arrived and moored up it was only 10.30 in the morning and we had already done a day's work!  So here we are - ironically the weather has been absolutely gorgeous for the last two days and we have been inside.  However Clive enjoyed watching the quallies yesterday and the race itself today.  No doubt it will be raining tomorrow when we want to travel!!  We'll see.

April 22nd 2012 - Foulridge Wharf near Barnoldswick

Posted by clivenmel on 22 April, 2012 at 14:35

We left Cooper Bridge and cruised on down to Mirfield and then on to Shepley Bridge where fortunately we found a mooring.  We got settled in then walked up to Martyn and Cani's for 6.00pm.  We had a really wonderful evening, Cani is a wonderful cook (well she is a chef really and is used to cooking for huge numbers of people!).  We had tapas to start with followed by a magret du canard (duck breast to you!).  It was really great to spend the evening with them, there was lots of food, lots of chat (mainly in French!) and lots of booze!!  We finally wended our way homeward to the boat at some unearthly hour - well after midnight anyway! 

The following morning we left Shepley Bridge and meandered along the Calder & Hebble navigation.  This is a combination of river and canal and it has some very interesting lock paddles.  They are not operated with a normal windlass like other paddles but with a piece of wood, rather like a rectangular baseball bat and they are not easy to operate believe me, flipping hard work!

The bank paddle, its a bit like a capstan.

Using the hand spike to operate the paddle

You wind it over then take the spike out, put it in another slot and wind again.   

There were several locks along this waterway with these paddles and I have to say I was very glad when we got to the last of them!  We made very good time that day actually and finally arrived in Wakefield and a lock called Fall Ing Lock.  There was a boat in the lock already and two waiting to go in at our end and another one waiting to come in at the other end and several people standing around the lock - what was holding everything up we wondered.  So we moored up and went to find out.  It turned out that a boat had come into the lock and they had then started trying to fill the lock to raise the boat up but the lock just wouldn't fill, they realised in the end that the bottom gates weren't actually shut!  They emptied the lock again and tried to get the doors to shut all to no avail.  By the time we arrived they had been trying to sort it out for over an hour and in the end they had phoned British Waterways and were waiting for help to arrive.  Sure enough a couple of guys from BW finally turned up in a van.  They tried all sorts of things to get the gate to shut but nothing worked.  In the end one of them climbed down onto the boat in the lock and using a long rake started furtling around in the bottom of the lock by the gates to see if he could find what was causing the problem - eventually after quite a while he snagged something on his rake!

He's got something!

Up it comes!

The culprit - a child's buggy!  It is quite amazing what people throw into canals and rivers!

Anyway everybody cheered, we were all delighted that the obstacle had been removed and we could be on our way, however all that was a bit premature, the gate still wouldn't shut!  The BW man did a bit more firtling with his rake and found something else but it was large and extremely heavy and he couldn't pull it up out of the water.  In the end he managed to move whatever it was just enough so that the gate could actually shut - hooray!  He contacted his office and they agreed that they would send out a boat in the morning with a grab hook on in order to remove the offending article from the lock!  By the time all this was over it was too late to go anywhere so we remained at the top of the lock for the night.  It was actually very peaceful and quiet.

The following day we got through the lock and continued on our journey.  It was rather overcast and threatening rain but we kept going for a while then the rain started and we managed to pull into the side and moor up just to sit it out till the rain had passed.  It gave us chance to have a spot of lunch and a cuppa.   We carried on and as we got nearer to Castleford we started seeing some very large craft, fortunately they were all moored!

Very large barge - you can just see the bows of a narrowboat in front of it!

Obviously in order to accommodate these large boats the locks have to be bigger than normal.  Here we are just leaving a very big lock - well at least we thought it was big!

Leaving a large lock

However a little while later we arrived at Lemonroyd Lock.  I got off the boat and went up to operate the lock and when I saw it I was absolutely gobsmacked!  It was the biggest lock I have ever seen in my life!  Fortunately it was electrically operated and I promptly unlocked it and gave my thumb some exercise pressing the button.  Finally the gates opened and Clive brought Lady Arwen in through the gates - I think he nearly had a fit when he saw the lock.  It is soooooooooooooo huge it could easily accommodate a dozen boats the size of Lady Arwen!

Lemonroyd Lock - what a monster!  Can you see Lady Arwen tucked into the corner?

By the time we got through the lock the weather was starting to deteriorate again so we moored up on the visitor moorings at the top of the lock and settled in for the night.

The following morning we set off again and the next lock we came to was Woodlesford Lock, which was slightly more modest in size that Lemonroyd but not by much!  However this one was beautiful!  There were beautifully tended flower beds all ablaze with colour and members of the local community hard at work weeding and keeping the beds tidy.  It was really lovely.

Members of the community hard at work on the flower beds.

We cruised on and it wasn't long before we arrived at Castleford Junction where the canal divides heading towards Goole one way and Leeds the other, we turned right onto the Leeds Liverpool Canal heading for Leeds.  It was with some trepidation that we approached Leeds as we had heard horror stories yet again about boaters being attacked and boats vandalised etc so we had no intention whatsoever of mooring up in the city, we wanted to get right through as fast as possible!   We soon started to see evidence of the city, the first sight were two large, colourful apartment blocks - I'm not really sure whether I like them or not but they are certainly different!

Colourful dwellings!

We cruised past The Armouries and we could hear jousting going on behind a large fence and just make out horses with knights aboard in colourful armour, then we were into the locks and before we knew it we were right in the heart of the city.  Here we are approaching Granary Wharf.

In the heart of Leeds on the approach to Granary Wharf

We came up through another lock  and found ourselves right outside the Hilton Hotel!  There were a couple of other boats there two and another lock in front of us.  There was an ancient British Waterways guy helping out with the lock as there was too much water coming down, yes I said too much water!!  Everywhere else in the country there is a water shortage and hosepipe bans in force but there is certainly no shortage on the Leeds Liverpool Canal!  Clive had a chat with him and he informed us that we were too late to get up the rest of the lock flight before it was locked up for the night and he suggested we stay put here at the wharf until the morning.  We decided that it all looked pretty safe and as there were several other boats staying too we should be OK.  As a treat we went to one of the many restaurants around the wharf for a lovely meal that evening.  It was very enjoyable indeed and when we set off back to the boat after our meal the wharf looked absolutely beautiful with fairy lights in the trees and the buildings all lit up, gorgeous!

Granary Wharf by night

The following morning we continued up the flight of locks and were lucky enough to have another boat share the locks with us, which halves the work involved.  We were quite surprised really how quickly we left the city of Leeds behind us, we seemed to be out in the countryside in no time at all.  We passed Kirkstall Abbey on the way - a place close to my heart because when I was at secondary school my house was Kirkstall, the green house!  A short time after passing the abbey we hit the Forge 3 Rise.

Double locking

We finally arrived at a lovely village called Rodley but the weather had deteriorated and we decided to moor up and hunker down for the night.  It continued to rain the next day too and as we are in no hurry to be anywhere we decided to stay put.  No point getting wet and cold for no reason is there!  I will add that since leaving Huddersfield I had been suffering with a chest infection and just couldn't stop coughing!  I was slowly becoming a Covonia addict - it really yummy cough medicine!

Another problem also came to light once we had left the marina, our batteries didn't seem to be holding their charge very well at all.  Considering these were new batteries, which are not yet a year old, we were not happy at all!  Clive tried everything to sort them out but we were really struggling as the power was lasting only four hours maximum, which was no good to us at all!  My major concern was the freezer because it was full of food and the power was going off around midnight and I was really worried that it would all defrost, however I checked it daily and it seemed to be holding its own.  It was something we were going to have to get sorted though and soon!

Tuesday April 10th 2012 - the rain had finally stopped so we upped sticks, left Rodley and continued on our way.  The canal wended its way through lovely countryside, often wooded and very tranquil.  We even spotted a deer up in the woods at one point.  For the first part of the journey there were no locks, just lots of swing bridges, mainly manually operated but a couple were electric.  Eventually we came to a double lock rise and then a triple lock rise.  These are staircase locks where each lock is joined to the next, sharing gates. 

Looking back from the top lock


We continued on our way, through Shipley, where we tried to moor up but couldn't get into the side for love nor money!  We kept going and went up through another lock and a swing bridge just outside Saltaire then almost immediately we were in a lovely wooded cutting and we managed to moor up for the night.  It was really dark and peaceful and we slept like logs!

The next day was going to be a big one!  I knew I had my work cut out for me as first of all we had a double lock flight, then a triple followed by the dreaded Bingley Five Rise!   I could have done with three Shredded Wheat for breakfast but settled for two crumpets!  We were delighted however to meet up with another boat when we arrived at the Dowley Gap double.  The boat was called Sea Wolf and her crew were Tom and Jeannie, a lovely couple.  Jeannie is actually from Huddersfield originally but left many years ago, as did we.  Anyway, once again having another boat to lock with made life a lot easier.   We negotiated the double with no problems and a short time later arrived at the Bingley Three.  There was supposed to be a lock keeper on duty but there was no sign of him so we just made our way up the flight without him.

Lady Arwen & Sea Wolf at the top of the Bingley Three

However when we got to the top lock there was a swing bridge immediately after it and when I went to open it I discovered it was padlocked and we couldn't open it!  Jeannie said she would head up to the Bingley Five Rise, which wasn't very far along the towpath, to see if she could find a lock keeper.  In the meantime Clive phoned British Waterways to see what was going on.  A short time later the lock keeper turned up and unlocked the gate, apologising profusely for keeping us waiting, he'd been chinwagging with the other lock keepers at the top of the Five! 

We cruised around a large bend and there before us loomed the Bingley Five Rise.  Now we have done many lock flights with far more than five locks in them - one had 29 for example!  However, this flight of locks raised the canal by 60 feet in only 5 locks, but they are very deep!  We had to wait for a boat to come down before we could set off.  Needless to say it is a very popular spot for Gongoozlers (the boater's term for people who watch boats going up and down locks!)

The very popular Bingley Five Rise

Finally we were on our way up with the help of a lock keeper who bore a strong resemblance to Lee Evans, the comedian!  He started off by asking me what kind of music I liked and the conversation went from there, all the way up the flight!  He was a real character.  When we reached the top we parted company with Tom and Jeannie as they were continuing on and we were calling at a local boatyard to see if we could get our batteries sorted out.  We managed to pull in and tie up  alongside another narrowboat at the boatyard and Clive went off to have a chat with the engineer who came back to have a look down in the engine room and ponder over our batteries.  In the end he took one away and said he would test it overnight and report back in the morning.  However, he came back later that evening and told us that it was definitely not holding its charge and that they would all need replacing unfortunately!  Bummer!  He very kindly said we could stay the night where we were, which we were very glad about because it was tipping it down by this time!

Then next morning we headed straight to Puffer Parts, a chandlery in Riddlesden and it didn't take us long to get there.  It is run by a lovely Scottish gentleman and there was very little that he didn't stock in his shop.  After a lovely chat about Scotland, Tighnabruaich in particular (where we used to live) we got down to the business of sorting out our batteries and it wasn't long before we had everything we needed.  We also decided to swap all our lights over to LEDs in order to save power.  Then we headed back to the boat and Clive set to swapping the old batteries for the new ones and I went for a walk along the towpath to find a shop to stock up on provisions.  When I got back Clive was finished and after a spot of lunch we set off again and in no time at all the battery light was flashing to tell us that we had full batteries - what a relief. 

There were lots more swing bridges along this canal and we met up with two more boats so it was bridge hopping all the way.  One boat would pull in and they would open the gate then the other boats went through and so we took it in turns to operate the bridges along the way.  Eventually one boat pulled over and moored up so that left two of us.  Our fellow boaters were an older couple, very Yorkshire!  Their boat was named after a Star Wars character, Jar Jar Binks!

Jar Jar Binks!

We cruised along through really beautiful countryside, there were beautiful dry stone walles dividing all the fields and we also passed through quite a lot of woodland, some of them with a hazy blue carpet of bluebells just opening.  It was very tranquil and peaceful indeed.

Pretty wooded cutting

However all this peace and tranquility was about to change!  We were approaching the town of Silsden and we had both noticed very dark clouds over to the left and it was quite obvious that it was raining in the distance and it looked as if it was heading our way.  We decided it was time to find a mooring and the sooner the better. 

Storm approaching

We soon found a spot just before the town, pulled in and made short work of mooring up.  First thing to do was get the pram hood up quick sharp and we did it with not a moment to lose as the heavens opened and it poured with rain for quite a while.  Jar Jar Binks had pulled in in front of us too so we had neighbours for the night.  Once the rain had passed it was all peaceful and quiet again.   Whilst I was making the dinner Clive swapped all our halogen bulbs for the new LEDs, which all worked beautifully.  The best thing of all though was the fact that we had full power once more, no worries about the batteries running out any more, what a relief. 

Friday 13th April 2012 - unlucky for some maybe!  However we set off after breakfast, once again with Jar Jar Binks and headed towards Skipton.  There were a few more swing bridges but it didn't take us long to get there, we arrived just before lunch and moored up right in front of a large BW barge.  Jar Jar Binks was immediately in front of us.  Once we were moored up we went to find Tescos as we were running short of supplies.  Once back on board we hunkered down because it was raining again!   The next morning Clive noticed there was a police woman on guard just behind the BW barge and the towpath was cordened off with tape - wonder what's going on there he thought.  We heard later that it had been a suicide!  It was less than 100 yards behind the boat but we hadn't been aware of anything at all.  I do remember hearing voices late at night but assumed they were just people on their way home from the pub!  Very sad.  

We decided to try and find a better mooring a little further into Skipton and we also needed to fill up with water and have a pump-out.  We knew that there were facilities a short way along the canal in the basin so we set off after breakfast.  We filled up with water first then headed into the basin.  Clive decided it would be better to reverse in as the pump out needs to be on the port side (left!).  I had jumped off onto the bank with the centre rope and was just guiding him back when he realised that the throttle lever wasn't responding, it was extremely stiff and he was struggling to move it, then it jammed altogether in forward gear and he couldn't get it out so he turned the engine off!  Fortunately I had the rope and was starting to haul the boat into the side when a kind gentleman came to help me.  Eventually we got Lady Arwen safely into the bank and tied up.   Clive went down into the engine room to see if he could ascertain what had caused the problem but he was scratching his head, there was nothing obvious.  Fortunately there was an engineer on hand and he came to our assistance.  It turned out that it was the gear cable that had failed and between Clive and the engineer they managed to get it replaced.  Thank heavens it happened where it did, if it had occurred whilst we were out on the cut we would have been in serious trouble!  After all this excitement we decided to moor up in the basin itself as a space had become vacant.  So we just moved the boat across to the other side and moored up, right next to a statue of the famous Yorkshire cricketer, Sir Freddy Trueman!

Moored in Skipton Basin next to Sir Freddy Trueman

In actual fact we were only supposed to moor here for a maximum of 24 hours but we decided to ignore it for once unless somebody came to move us.  The reason being, we were expecting visitors!  Clive's mum and dad drove over from Huddersfield on the Sunday morning and arrived about 11.00am.  It was great to see them again.  We had a cuppa and a chat then we went to find a nice pub doing food and it didn't take long, there are quite a lot of pubs in Skipton!  After lunch we all returned to the boat for a while then Mum and Pop left us and headed back to Huddersfield.

I was still feeling pretty rough and coughing like mad so decided I really needed to seek medical advice.  Fortunately there was a health centre just at the other side of the car park from Sir Fred so I rang first thing in the morning and got an appointment for 10.15.  I saw a very nice doctor who confirmed I had a chest infection and gave me some antibiotics and a new inhaler - the one I had been using was several months out of date!  I had assumed all along that it was a virus, in which case antibiotics were a waste of time but the doc thought better.  So I started a course of Amoxicillin.  We decided to remain in Skipton for one more day but I was very conscious of the fact that we hadn't really been for a look around nor had we been to the castle!  So the next morning we set off up the tow path along a little leg of the canal and within ten minutes we were at the castle.  I was pretty sure I had been before, probably on a school trip but it was a very long time ago and I didn't really remember much about it except the gatehouse that led straight off the main street.

The Gatehouse

We bought our tickets and set off to explore the castle with a printed sheet telling us all about it.  Its an amazing place really, in the most fantastic condition considering its age.  It was originally built by the Normans back in 1090 but it has been added to and subtracted from over the years.  Edward II granted the castle to Robert Clifford in 1310 and it remained in the Clifford family for many generations.  A new wing was added at one point to accommodate Henry VIII's niece.

The original part on the left and the new wing on the right

The most famous part of Skipton Castle's history was the three year siege during the English Civil War after which a surrender was negotiated with Oliver Cromwell.  Lady Anne Clifford was the last of the family to own it until 1676 and it is reputed that she planted the ancient Yew tree in the inner courtyard in 1659 when it was a sapling.

Ancient Yew

The castle is now owned by  Sebastian Fattorini, an Italian jeweller.  The new wing I mentioned above is still occupied to this day by members of his family.  When he bought the castle at auction back in the 50s he pledged to renovate the castle and reopen it to the public so that it could be enjoyed by everyone and also earn its keep (pardon the pun!).  Evidently at the time it was in quite a state, all overgrown and going to wrack and ruin, not so today, it really is a credit to him and is a wonderful place to visit.  We stopped off in the castle's cafe and had a bit of lunch then headed back to the boat.  It was only mid afternoon so we decided to take our leave of Skipton and cruise to pastures new.  There were three swing bridges to negotiate followed by three locks and by the time we came up through the last lock it was 6.00pm and time to call it a day.  We were just on the outskirts of Gargrave.  The following morning we set off once more and were straight into the locks.  We actually did nine locks altogether, in the pouring rain, before finally mooring up out in the countryside just before the village of East Marton.   Next morning we set off again, three more locks and we arrived at Foulridge Wharf on the outskirts of Barnoldswick where we moored up.

Boats have to have a safety certificate issued every four years, a bit like a car's MOT!  Lady Arwen is almost four years old now and her Boat Safety Certificate is due at the end of April.  So we had arranged for an engineer to come and do the test here at Foulridge Wharf on Saturday morning.  Mark duly arrived as arranged and after two cups of tea and a lot of chat he went through the boat with a fine toothed comb.  He checked absolutely everything and at the end of it all she passed with flying colours - phew!  Thats it now for another four years thankfully.

To celebrate we went out for a lovely meal at the Cargo Cafe about 100 yards from the boat. 

April 2nd 2012 - Cooper Bridge, not far from Huddersfield

Posted by clivenmel on 2 April, 2012 at 9:35

Well folks we are finally off on our travels once more!  As I promised in the last one I am going to start posting a regular blog from now on.

Just to fill you in on the last few weeks, Clive celebrated his 60th birthday in style with a lovely party attended by family and friends, some of whom travelled quite a distance to be there.  For example Heather and Les drove over from Nantwich, Josie and Chris from Liverpool, Shirley and Barry from Cranfield, Bedfordshire and of course our daughter Vicki and fiancee Ben who drove up from Grantham - it was great to see them all.  The highlight of the evening was when I presented Clive with his special birthday cake and when I say special I really mean that.  A friend of my sister Thelma made the cake in the likeness of our narrowboat Lady Arwen, which had just crashed into a low bridge!  It is brilliant, right down to the mushrooms and the solar panels on the roof, see for yourself!  It was delicious too!

Clive's awesome birthday cake!

Unfortunately at the beginning of March we had part company with our borrowed ship's dog, Jesh, when her mum Pat Britton returned home from New Zealand.  We were very happy indeed to see Pat again but rather wistful when she took Jesh away with her!

Farewell ship's dog!

Fortunately Pat has been back to visit us a couple of times since and she did bring Jesh with her as well.  Jesh just made herself at home as if she had never left!

On another sad note, my lovely Auntie Dorothy, my mum's sister, passed away a couple of weeks ago. 

Auntie Dorothy

She had lived in Africa for most of her life since marrying her husband Robert "Beau" Mason, whom she met whilst she was in the Land Army during the war.  He whisked her away from Blighty when she was only 22.  She has a lovely family, my cousins, Charlotte, Chloe and Robert.  The girls still live in Africa, Chloe in Johannesberg and Charlotte in Zambia but they both came over for the funeral.  Clive and I and my brother and sister, Nicholas and Thelma, flew over to Jersey on Monday morning, the funeral was on Tuesday morning.  It was a beautiful day and she had a lovely send off.  Although it was a sad occasion it was also really wonderful to be with our cousins again.  We haven't all been together since we were children when the whole family came back to England for a few months, several of which they spent at our house in Huddersfield.

Thelma, Rob, Me, Clive, Charlotte, Nick and Chloe

We also had chance to explore a bit of Jersey.  Rob very kindly drove us all over the place showing us various places of interest and we went for a lovely walk along a headland and enjoyed a lovely sunset on the way back.  We flew back to England on Wednesday morning.  Goodness knows when we will see our cousins again, maybe individually but it is unlikely we will ever all be together again.

Once back we had to start planning our departure from Aspley Marina.  We did manage to do a bit of Spring cleaning!  We took the boat over to the service station at the other side of the marina and Clive managed to shampoo and rinse one side of the boat then he turned her around and did the other side too.  I in the meantime emptied absolutely everything out of the cratch onto the bank and when it was completely empty Clive hosed it all down and gave it a good scrub, which was desperately needed.  All through the winter months, whilst we have been in the marina, we had nowhere to put the hot ashes from the stove so I purchased a couple of big tinfoil turkey roasting tins and we used these to deposit the ash in until it had cooled sufficiently to decant into an empty coal bag to be disposed of in the bin.  The problem was that the hot ash had a habit of puffing into the air inside the cratch and coated everything with a gritty layer - nothing escaped it and it was a right mess!  We felt much better after it was all shipshape and Bristol fashion again.

On Saturday morning we moved the boat out of her winter berth and cruised around the marina to fill up with diesel, water and have a pump-out.  We bought some more coal and a few other bits and pieces, settled our bill, handed back the car park permit and the gate key and then we moved the boat about a hundred yards down the canal and moored up again!  The reason for this is that we had another 60th birthday party to attend in the afternoon, Clive's old school pal, John Greenwood's.  Our friends Martyn and Cani (John is Martyn's cousin) kindly gave us a lift to the party and we had a really lovely time, it was good to meet up with everyone again.  Afterwards Martyn and Cani dropped us off at Clive's parents' house so we could say our goodbyes to them (I don't think Mum really wants us to leave at all!) .

Finally, Sunday morning dawned and it was time to leave at last.  We had a very good send off indeed from my sister Thelma and her family - Nick, Sam, Jamie, Molly and Daniel.  In fact Molly came to help me lift the Locomotive Bridge (she turned the key and pressed the button) and once we were through we headed off down the canal with two stowaways - Thelma and Jamie!  Jamie was very helpful indeed at the locks, he helped me to open the gates and also to put the paddles down once the boat was out of the lock.  They did several locks with us and then we arrived at one lock where Nick was waiting for us to arrive.  Jamie once again helped me with the lock and then it was time to say goodbye.  Clive and I carried on down the canal without any bother apart from one pound (stretch of water between locks) which was extremely low, Clive had to guide the boat very carefully down the middle of the channel to avoid getting beached, it got quite hairy at one point!  However he made it through  and we were on our way again.  We stopped in one lock to have a sandwich and a cuppa before continuing on our way .  Finally we arrived at a lock which took us from the Huddersfield Broad Canal onto the River Calder followed by a very sharp right turn, through a flood lock (which was open) and onto the Calder and Hebble Canal at Cooper Bridge.  By the time we arrived it was 3.30pm and we decided enough was enough for our first day, don't want to overdo it!  So we moored up on the very pleasant visitor moorings and after months of being in the marina, flanked by two boats, looking at a pub out of the front window and a carpark and the ringroad to the rear it was bliss - grass, trees and birds singing overhead, lovely!

Cooper Bridge moorings

We have arranged to meet up with Martyn and Cani again on Tuesday evening as hopefully we should be able to moor up very close to where they live in Mirfield, so we have decided to stay put until tomorrow before cruising down there.  I am very glad actually, I woke up this morning feeling extremely stiff, battered and bruised from all yesterday's locking - I'm out of practice, been getting fat and lazy for the last six months in the marina with no work to do!  So I am very happy to have a day to recover!

So that's all folks for now.

February 19th 2012

Posted by clivenmel on 19 February, 2012 at 8:20

Surprise, surprise - we're still here!  This is a very short blog just to bring you up to speed!

I am very sorry that there has been no activity on the blog since the beginning of September, the simple fact is that we arrived in Huddersfield, moored up in Aspley Marina and basically hit the floor running and haven't stopped since!  Its been a constant flow of visitors; visiting; dining out; parties; Christmas; New Year, etc etc  We are back in our hometown, the one we left in 1985 when we moved to Scotland.  After 5 years in Scotland we moved to Port Stewart on the North West Coast of Northern Ireland and two years later we moved to Cambridge, where we remained until 2008 when we moved aboard our narrowboat, Lady Arwen.  All through the years we have only ever made flying visits to Huddersfield for one or maybe two nights at the most.  Those of you who have followed our blog from the beginning will know that our maiden voyage back in September 2008 brought us to Huddersfield and we stayed here in the marina for two weeks.  That was a great opportunity to catch up with family and old friends.  We have been doing the same since arriving here on September 26th 2011.  It has been really great to just hop on a bus and go and visit Clive's parents and other family members and we have had lots of visitors to the boat as well. 

We had a lovely time at Christmas with the whole of Clive's family - I cooked Christmas dinner for 13 of us at Clive's parents' house and it all went down very well apart from the fact that I was not very well, I had a shocking cough and would have been better staying in bed all day!  The other thing that made Christmas great was that our six year old granddaughter, Indy, flew over from Colorado Springs to spend two weeks with us, which was lovely. 

I said this was to be a short blog and I mean it, it is just to let you all know that we are still afloat and alive and kicking but I will resume the blog in a few weeks time when we finally leave Huddersfield and set off on our travels once more, probably some time mid March when all the Winter stoppages on the canal system have reopened.  Our intention is to head onto the Leeds Liverpool canal, make our way to Leeds, then we wil negotiate the Bingley Five Rise (a big lock flight!) and on up to Skipton, the furthest North we will have reached by boat!  After that we will head West and hope to reach Liverpool!  After that - well we don't really know, we haven't planned that far ahead! 

One little snippet of news is that we currently have a ship's dog!  Well a borrowed one really!  Her name is Jesh, she is a Wesh Terrier and belongs to a lovely lady, our great friend, Pat Britton, the mother of Lindsey and Philippa, our pals in New Zealand.  Pat is currently in New Zealand visiting her daughters and had left her dog with a good friend of hers who unfortunately fell and broke her hip whist on a shopping trip to Huddersfield!  Needless to say she couldn't care for Jesh whilst recovering so we offered to have her on board.  She is an absolute sweetie and we are really enjoying having her on board.  She has taken to the role of ship's dog admirably, though it is not the first time she has been aboard, Lindsey and Pat came to stay with us in August 2010 and Jesh came too.  The only problem we have is that she is very uncommunicative - she doesn't bark, at all!  (That's a lie - she actualy barks in her sleep when she's dreaming but never when she is awake!)  So knowing when she wants a pee is all down to guesswork and reading her body language or basically just taking her out every 3 or 4 hours!  Other than that she has been no bother whatsoever.  We are really going to miss her when Pat gets home at the beginning of March so I am hoping to persuade Cap'n Clive to let us have a ship's dog of our own - watch this space!


We have two family birthdays this week, our son Gareth  will be 32 on Wednesday then on Thursday it is Clive's birthday but his is a special one, its got a nought at the end!!  Yes Clive is going to be 60 and he was really looking forward to getting his bus pass but unfortunately the Government have moved the goal posts and he won't now get it until he is 63 - how mean is that!  We are having a family party on Saturday to celebrate this milestone and will be dancing the night away to the sounds of the 60s - very appropriate don't you think!

On a sad note, one of our good friends from Cambridge and an avid blog follower, Moyra Borg, lost her battle with cancer on Saturday, 21st January, 2012, aged 49 years.  She was a lovely lady, a fellow musician who regularlyt attended our Friday folk club and was kindness itself, she would help absolutely everyone and was much loved by us all.  This photograph was taken only a short time prior to her death on a visit to Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge for some treatment but it sums her up perfectly, she always had a smile and a wave for everyone regardless of how she was feeling.  RIP Moyra, you will be sadly missed. xx

Moyra Borg

Right, well that is all for now folks.  As I said earlier, the blog will resume on a more regular basis once we have set off on our travels again.