Wotsit! And A Missed Decision, 3rd October

Marple Junction to Murrys Winding Hole, Lower Peak Forest Canal

Chilly view from bed this morning

A chilly morning, mainly due to letting the stove go out so that Morag could sleep on the sofabed last night. The stove is a touch too close for duvets in the middle of the night! The central heating soon took the edge off.

School pals

After breakfast it was time to say goodbye to Morag, she was heading off to see her son who is studying at Manchester University and it’s his birthday tomorrow. It was so lovely to have her to stay and have a proper time for a catch up.

Goodbye Macclesfield Canal

The covers were rolled back, waterproof trousers put on, we were ready. Two volunteers were by the top of the Marple flight. One chap, Rob, had been there at 8:30 to unlock the locks, he’d had a long wait for his first boat, us, at just gone 11.

Hello Peak Forest Canal and Rob

The other chap, who’s name I didn’t catch, walked on down the flight, topping up locks where needed and opening the top gates. This meant my steps for the day wouldn’t include going backwards and forwards between locks.

One down, 15 more to go

We soon got into a rhythm. Rob closed the gate behind Oleanna, I walked to the offside and lifted a paddle, then Rob would lift the towpath side. Occasionally we swapped sides.

The locks are quite deep

Many of the bottom gates overhang the narrow bridge below, so the gates tend to be easier to push from down there, but only if you are tall enough! I thankfully am just within the useful height range.

There was plenty of water coming round the bywashes, most probably because most of the locks were already full, so any water we were adding went straight round.

Heading to Lock 13

Rain came and went, sunshine did the same but for shorter periods. The weather hadn’t discouraged walkers up the flight. By Lock 13 two lads were eating snacks on the steps, then they rushed through the boatman’s tunnel to the bottom of the lock as Oleanna came out. I took the more convoluted route down steps to the horse tunnel under the main road.

New wall

The lock that was rebuilt a few years ago is now weathering in, the new dry stone wall alongside the towpath now the only clue to the works that went on to rebuild the bulging lock sides.


With Lock 9 being open ready and waiting for us we dropped lock 10, the level in the intermediate pound rising almost to the top of the lower lock. Rob spotted that the overflow there was blocked, not helping on a pound that can easily overfill. Here we were surrounded by numerous eager gongoozlers all over hanging the lock sides and keen to help push gates.

At Lock 8 Rob headed off down the flight, it was 11:50 and time to go and lock the gates on the bottom lock at midday. So we were left to work the next few locks on our own, no hardship.

Nearly there

A young lad ran up to see what was happening, obviously wanting to help but a touch too shy to ask. He was very quickly recruited and despite his height disadvantage he was able to open and close the gate from the lock top, with me reminding him to keep an eye on where he was putting his feet as the edge of the stonework got closer and closer.

Lock 7’s top gate was closed but had a paddle raised for us. The level looked equal, but obviously not quite! No matter how much I pushed and bumped and pushed it just wasn’t going to shift. Where were all those keen helpers now!! Nowhere to be seen. I tried to be patient, but it simply wasn’t going to help, the lock had reached a point where the same amount of water was leaking out through the bottom gates as was coming in at the top. Eventually a dog walker was recruited to help, that extra bit of force making all the difference.

That’s a pisser

Rob and the other volunteer reappeared at Lock 5. They’d had a ping on the whatsap group for the locks and another boat had just started down the flight ten minutes before it was due to be locked. Rob stayed with us as the other fella walked back towards the top.

Open sesame

Rob was a very chatty chap. You could tell he’d not been volunteering long as he’s not fully realised just how loud you have to shout across a lock as it empties or fills. He started in May, his enthusiasm for gaining knowledge about the locks is commendable. Originally from Whitley Bay he used to walk the beaches there, but recently he’d found himself in Manchester walking the canals, so he managed to volunteer and here he is. Apparently last year there were four volunteers on the flight on Sundays, but this year it started off with just one, him, the old volunteers having gone elsewhere.

Bye and Thank you Rob

At Lock 1 he suggested I climb onboard and he’d work the lock, the gates needing to be unlocked and locked again. We thanked him as Oleanna dropped in the lock, the noise from the pissers from the lock walls taking over.

Now across the aqueduct, no chance of doing a Giles today, there were photos needing to be taken especially as the sun had come out, now we’d finished the locks!

Waiting for them to come through

Up ahead a boat was coming towards us, they’d missed the locks, but turned out to only be a day boat anyway. They were soon followed by a second day boat near Hyde Bank Tunnel where we pulled into the side to let a third boat through. This was a charity boat that would also wind once it had crossed the aqueduct.

This is when we realised that we’d forgotten something! Today at the top of the flight we were going to make our minds up as to which route we’d be taking across the Pennines. With lock closures and lack of water around the north our choices have been fluctuating almost daily and we’d obviously rather not get stuck. Maybe we’d allow ourselves another day before our final decision had to be made!

We carried on, pulling in on a length of armco before Bridge 9, the rain starting in earnest again, just as Tilly went off to explore. In one lull between showers Mick made use of the new chimney brush. The wire handle a touch shorter than the old one. Maybe we can fix the two handles together adding another 9 inches to it’s length. Once the chimney was swept the stove was lit. The temperature inside also rose with the assistance of the oven being on for a roast chicken.

But it’s raining!

16 locks, 208ft 9″, 4.33 miles, 2 tunnels, 1 left, 1 wave goodbye, 1 enthusiastic Rob, 1 very wet flight, 3 boats on the move, 4 hours shore leave, 1 happy cat, 9 more inches needed, 1 cheesy wotsit on the cratch.