Hong Kong Phooey. 11th April

1st Laneside Lock 54 to Irk Aqueduct

Last night we’d decided to give ourselves a bit of a lie in today as the next few days will require early starts. However we were both awake early so no point in just lying there thinking about sleep. We didn’t rush to get moving and pushed off around 9:30.

1st Laneside Lock Cottage

Lock 54 needed topping up. Whilst that filled I walked down to the next lock which was just about full, topped that up, opened up the top gate then walked back to the top lock to open it for Mick and Oleanna. The bywash was running like a good un so I decided to save my legs the walking back and forth to set ahead, hopefully the locks would mostly be full by the time we got to them.

The towpath wasn’t too busy, walkers, runners, dog walkers. It was a touch chilly. A chap walked past me with hood up, a scarf or black mask over his face. The next lock was full and I noticed this chap pause to open the gate for us. Not an unusual thing to happen. I waved to thank him, he carried on walking away. I wondered how any more locks would be sat with their top gates open for us.

Thank you!

At the next lock down I lifted the paddles to empty the lock. I looked down to the next lock. The same chap was there. He was looking back towards us with either a camera or binoculars. Now hang on! Your average towpath do-gooder opening lock gates for us was one thing, but checking back on our progress?! Nowadays you don’t often see white men out in the open wearing masks. Who was this masked super hero?

Sarge? No.

Rosemary, the telephone operator? No.

Penry, the mild manoured janitor? NO!

I walked back to mention my suspisions to Mick, I was fairly sure we knew this chap. Mick poopood my idea, no it couldn’t be. I zoomed my camera in to the next lock, if he could spy on us, I could do the same back. No hood or mask now. Glasses, the profile looked right. It had to be.

It has to be

When I spotted the windlass I was certain of it. But would we catch him up? Or would he continue on down the towpath ahead of us setting locks and then don his disguise again and vanish?

I knew it!

The next lock was taking some filling so he was still there when we arrived. Yes my suspisions were correct, it was Paul Balmer, come to lend a hand a day early. A while ago Paul had offered to lend us a hand into Manchester if he was available and he’d pencilled in today and tomorrow as possibles. With the weather being bad yesterday he’d though that we might have added two days together avoiding getting a soaking, but we’d battled onwards leaving only 10 locks for today.

Paul, mild mannered map compiler and lock wheeler

After we’d both lifted paddles, Paul walked on down to set the next lock, leaving me to close up behind Oleanna. Quickly into a routine ready for even more locks tomorrow.

All that stonework revealed

Below Lock 60 a chap was being very busy clearing away earth, grass and allsorts. One patch remained a very neat rectangle of turf. Around the lock there had been various bits of dayglow tape and large numbers on the bottom gate. The chap was very proud of his efforts and didn’t understand why C&RT had been round some of the locks and repainted the tops of the bollards back to white from the yellow he thought was better for the cyclists to see. I thanked him for his works on clearing the mud and reexposing the stonework, not sure I agree with him about the bollards!

Railway Bridges 69 A and B

Below Scowcroft Lock 61 two railway bridges cross the canal. The original bridge had to be replaced as it couldn’t take the weight of modern trains. According to the chap in Littleborough Museum you can feel the train adjust to the side for the new bridge when you are on a train. The old bridge appears to be held up with colourful strops.

Oleanna following Paul to the next lock

We were soon pulling in below Walk Mill Lock 63. There was enough depth for us just before the River Irk Aqueduct, no other boats, we’d still not caught the boat ahead of us that had been in Littleborough. A busy towpath, but once a dash had been made to the otherside Tilly was in the friendly cover and left us humans to enjoy a cuppa on board.

Arrangements were made for tomorrow as Paul would be returning to join us in the morning at Failsworth Top Lock. He headed off to walk the next section of the canal that he’d miss tomorrow, all the time checking on his map data for Waterway Routes. Every three years Paul aims to walk, cycle or boat the whole network himself checking all the information is correct on the maps. People like us assist by informing him of changes we notice as we travel the network, accuracy is very important, 5 digit grid references are required before new bins, water points, moorings etc can be added to the maps.

Fuel to get us into Manchester. Click photo for recipe

Some baking was required to help with energy levels tomorrow, so I made a batch of flapjack with a layer of bramley apple in the middle. Hopefully there’d be enough sugar to help keep us walking on to work the next lock on our descent into Manchester.

Ten years ago when we brought Lillyanne out of Manchester we’d missed food at the pub and ended up having an Indian takeaway, no-one had the energy to cook! Tonight we decided to see if Modhubon was as good as we’d remembered it, or do we only remember it being good because of all our hard work that day. We chose a couple of dishes, one we’d not heard of before, Chicken Akbori Chum Chum, it was very tasty.

10 locks, 1.6 miles, 1 mystery helper, 1 busy playground, 6 hours shore leave, 0.75 stamp of approval, 2 many woofers, 1 motorbike, 3 peacocks, 3 papadoms, 1 chumchum, 1 dansack, 1 mushroom bhaji, 2 very full boaters, 1 early night.


2 thoughts on “Hong Kong Phooey. 11th April

  1. DonM

    A few years ago when we were just starting down Farmers Bridge Locks in a hire boat a suited businessman appeared and started operating the lock. When I first saw him I thought he was from the then BW and I wondered if we had done something wrong. Paul’s windless came out of his briefcase to assist. It turned out he was there to assist Adam in Debdale on their way up the flight. We had met Paul a couple of days earlier in Birmingham and have also come across him since on another visit so he clearly gets around. He certainly is the best dressed lockie I’ve come across.
    I hope Tilly’s stamps of approval have gone to Paul to further enhance his maps. 😉

    1. Pip Post author

      Paul does get about. NB Waterway Routes is moored in Birmingham so if he is about when we’re in the city we quite often meet up. Very handy with a windlass.

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