Category Archives: Trading Boats

Prelude To Wigan. 28th May

Bridge 84 to Bridge 61

Subjects covered on the Geraghty zoom this morning included dayglow macaroons, coming in 14 seconds behind and contraband chilled medication. Don’t worry no names being mentioned here, just in case!

Part way through a boat started to slow more than normal as it passed us, from the azure blue I knew who it would be. NB That’s It would be our locking partner for the Wigan flight, the owners Brian and Jo come from York. I popped my head out of the hatch to say hello and make tentative plans for the boats to meet on Tuesday.

Being waved into the lock

Once the zoom was over we were ready to push off shortly after a Silsden Wide Beam had come past us. Not far to the top of the flight where we could see that the hire boat was on the water point and NB That’s It was just moving in to the lock. Thankfully they’d glanced behind them and spotted us, we were waved on.

Time to get into training for the Wigan flight, today would be a prelude. Seven locks, a third of Wigan. Jo said that there was a cruiser ahead of us, they’d not been able to share the locks with them as they were wider than a narrowboat. A volunteer had been seen walking down the flight, maybe setting the locks ahead of the cruiser.

Heading down the flight

Once the top lock was set emptying I walked ahead to fill the next lock, the cruiser visible in the lock below. Apparently the lady was a complete novice, so we didn’t want them to feel they were under pressure, so we took our time emptying the second lock and then walked down to the third.

Jo, Mick and Brian

Here a chap walking his dogs asked if we’d a spare windlass and he would go and set the lock ahead for us, what a nice man. He’d walk ahead help the lady on the cruiser, refill the lock for us and open the gates. We were starting to get into the swing of only opening one gate for the boats to exit making our work less at each lock. At Wigan if we have no volunteers this will help as one of us can already be setting the next lock down the flight.

There will be a few more photos like this in a couple of days

The volunteer walked back up the flight and offered to finish closing a gate for me. He then stood looking at his phone for five minutes before carrying on up the flight. Our volunteer was much more help. There was plenty to chat about with Brian and Jo, I suspect there will be plenty more on Tuesday. They pulled over stopping for lunch, but we wanted to carry on, getting a few more miles ticked off today. A rendez vous time for Tuesday was made, early!

Hmm, him again!

We soon passed the cruiser that had been ahead of us. Now seeing it up close it was familiar, it was the chap who’d stolen the lock off us in Blackburn! A pause at Botany Bay water point where we managed to avoid a day boat winding unintentionally.

Flag iris’s, Micklemas Daisies and Rhododendrons filled the banks with colour. This stretch always seems to take an age with lengths of moorings. The bottom of the canal a touch lumpy. We’ve been hearing on social media that the level here is down by a foot, well that is man’s speak for about 8 inches. This of course does mean the bottom is closer to the top than usual, hence the bumpyness.

We passed Frederick’s Ice Cream parlour. Yes I did say passed, next time! Outside was NB Burnt Oak who trade as Jubilee Fibres, spinning and dyeing yarns as they travel the waterways. I only found this out now whilst writing the blog, another next time!

Our chosen mooring before the Wigan flight is a stretch of armco just after bridge 61. On our previous stops here we’ve been on our own. Today however we joined four other boats. The first place we stopped at Tilly was allowed off the boat to explore, soon afterwards Mick noticed quite a few bees buzzing around the bathroom window, we’d found another bees nest.


Thankfully Tilly wanted to come and tell me all about what was just down the bank, so she got whisked up and back onboard so we could move without confusing her. She still got to have a couple of hours shore leave before she decided it was dingding time.

A catch up phone call with the London Leckenbys was had. 60th birthdays to hear about along with Andrew catching covid, thankfully after 8 days he’s now testing negative and Josh his son is willing to be in the same room as him again.

7 locks, 10 miles, 1 locking partner, 1 swirling day boat, 1 wide beam, 1 handy man, 1 novice being shouted at, 2nd bees nest in a week, 1 brother on the mend.

Rangerless. 10th October

Lock 31E to Lock 8E


What a beautiful mooring, even if we were on a list and in a winding hole. We woke up this morning quite late considering we’d gone to bed early last night. After a cuppa in bed Mick pulled us forward onto the lock landing to take advantage of the morning sunshine hitting our solar panels.

Lovely, who needs electric!

This morning the battery bank was down to 34% so any solar we could gain today would help this evening, thank goodness for Lithium. We do have lots of night lights, but we’re too old for candle lit dinners!

Out comes some more

After breakfast, sausage sarnies to help use up the defrosting freezer, Mick decided to have a go at removing more of the cable from the alternator pulley with the aid of a hacksaw. He allowed himself fifteen minutes and came back with a handful of copper wire. There is still more around the pulley!

Time to get moving, think it was about 10:30, hard to know exactly with no trip computer to refer to. We hoped to make up for yesterday and get a good distance in towards Huddersfield and a good number of locks lower. Richard yesterday said he’d send round a message to other volunteers to see if anyone could help, but sadly we’d not heard from anyone, we’d be on our own.

The sun made the day another stunner. Bright blue skies, views just about everywhere you looked. There were plenty of people out for a walk, some sauntering, others far more serious about it. I was out for a walk to get locks filled ahead and then back to let Oleanna free from the locks above. This of course means walking three times the distance. I kept this up going through the closer locks but stopped when they became a touch too far apart, I was going to walk far enough as it was!

Look at that blue!

The bywashes were flowing yet we still managed to have one low pound. Between 28E and 27E there is a line of moorings, the paddles on the lock above have stops on them so you can’t flood the pound below. Mick wound the off side paddle up as I walked back from below, then I lifted the other. When it came to lowering the paddles again this proved almost impossible on the off side, as there wasn’t enough space for me to be able to lift the mechanism to release it from the pawl. I tried everything including hitting it with my windlass, in the end I somehow managed to get it moved and lower the paddle.

Shhh sneeking past

We’d been warned of a vocal local moored above Lock 26E. I’d already set the lock for us in advance so hoped we wouldn’t get abuse. Anyhow I was hoping to cut him off with what a glorious day it was before he got started. His genny was running and washing hung around the trees. Mick brought Oleanna into the lock, lining her up meant being very close to shouty mans boat. But we did okay and didn’t hear a bean from him, I was slightly disappointed!

Shuttle Lock 24E is a guillotine lock, the top gates are operated as normal but the bottom one has a large metal rising door. Within this is a fairly standard paddle, wound by a windlass. The guillotine gate is also windlass operated, the spindle kept safe from nare do wells by a cover opened with a handcuff key. Six years ago the lock was operated by C&RT as there were safety issues with it. Today try as I might I just couldn’t get the handcuff key to open the cover, it had been over tightened. Mick and I swapped over, in the end the mallet was called for to get it shifted.

Mick worked the lock and I descended into the dark chilly lock with numerous gongoozlers peering down at me. The guillotine raised and below I could see a pipe across the top of the opening at an angle restricting the height somewhat. Our fresh bucket from the toilet only just fitted below it.

The pound below seemed slow going to me and sadly there was nowhere for us to pull in by The Handmade Bakery, a must if you visit Slawit. I got to walk back to lock the guillotine, but had no mask or money to buy Mick a lovely loaf of bread and wish I still could eat their wares, they used to do homemade baked beans on toast!

We still waved

At Darmouth Lock we missed the jolly waves from Pete’s (Mikron Producer) Mum and Dad who used to live there, earlier this year they moved away. So all we got today was the silhouette of someone sat at a computer screen.

Now in a new channel the canal is low and very narrow, thankfully our bucket fitted here too. Below Pickle Lock 22E there was the Hippie Boat, they were busy and we’d only stopped for a quick lunch, szechuan pork on toast another defrosting thing eaten up. Salmon came out for our evening meal, not much worth saving now.

At 21E Waterside Lock there is a local celebrity, Tinker. Tinker has taken a fancy to sitting around the lock, C&RT have put up signs saying he lives nearby so not to worry, he’s not lost. I thought Tilly could spare a couple of her Dreamies. Well blow me down, Tinker is the first cat I’ve ever met who turned his nose up at them! Well I hadn’t come home had I, I was still out!

Blackberries past their best now

The narrow channel beyond reminded me of last time, Frank had joined us to help crew and he’d spotted the bank of Blackberries, he and Mick became mountain goats collecting that nights pudding whilst I stood at the next lock all wrong handed.

I gained two very keen crew a few locks on, they both demanded to help with the gates, then ran down to tell their Dad all about it. The next lock I then had six extra crew, their brothers and sisters and Dad now helping. I hardly had to lift a finger. A close eye was needed to keep everyone safe, Mum and the youngest stood and watched. I asked how it was at home with eight of them. She asked if she could run away with us and pleaded with me to take her with us.

Titanic Mill

The big Titanic Mill built in 1911 has been converted into 130 apartments and sits proudly at the bottom of the valley. What a lovely place it would be to moor with such a great view, but I seem to remember it being shallow, we still had quite a way to go


Narrow locks, both paddles up to fill locks, overhanging stones locks through Linthwaite.

The pumps have stopped pumping from the river to the canal, the levels are too low

Did you know that in 1931, Bank Bottom Mill in Marsden set a record of 2 hours 10 minutes for making a suit of clothes, direct from sheep to wearer? The cloth industry was big round here.

Dappled sunlight

Back into the woods, my step counter clicking away. There is one pound longer than the others on the eastern side, I could have got a lift, but I’d walked all the way from Marsden so I might as well carry on. This did mean I got to walk over Golcar Aqueduct and see the horseshoe falls on the River Colne.

Horseshoe falls at Golcar

The final three locks of the day, I was pooped and found bottom paddles left up and gates open, not a welcome sight. But they were soon sorted and we were on our way down. Last time empty pounds had held us up here, today the levels were good.

Nearly there

Last lock of the day Isis Lock 9E, one of the locks on the network with poetry on it’s beams.

We pulled in onto the bollards below, almost into the side. This would do us for the day. The sun had boosted our batteries to 49%, so phones could be charged again. Laptop still off and showers on hold until things improved again.

9E last of the day

Salmon pasta and wine tonight, Mick is now 3/4 of the way through the book on the Standedge Tunnels, the most of a book he’s read in years! I wanted to do some crochet, but with Tilly sat on my knee a large blanket would have been too warm for us both.

22 locks, 229ft 10″ descended, 4.3 miles (?), 9+ miles walked, 1 more handful of freed wire, 0 rangers, 1 constant stream of walkers, 2nd blog handwritten, 1 more stunning day on the HNC, 1 guillotine, 1 Hippie Boat, 1 Tinker, 3 wasted Dreamies! 2 aching knees, 1 aching back, 1 big sense of achievement, only 8 more locks to go.

Old Friends. 26th September

Brook House Winding Hole to Hall Green Footbridge 93, Macclesfield Canal

With Harecastle Tunnel booked for this afternoon we didn’t want to be sat in queues at the locks into Stoke today, the alarm was set and we pushed off with our first cuppas in hand at 7:30am. Slowly and quietly past the other moored boats, a little glimpse of Barlaston Hall, we can still dream, and on past Wedgewood.

Trentham Lock

Trentham Lock was almost in our favour, we helped set it for the first boat soon to come towards us. Then we were on the long pound heading in towards Stoke.


I headed below to prepare breakfast, it being Sunday and an early start we deserved bacon butties, with a few mushrooms and ketchup.

The hot dog on legs and Shooting Range are still there. The wood clad boat now has weeds, maybe intentional, growing in it’s gutters (wonder if we’ve had a quote for the gutters in Scarborough yet?) and Shufflebottoms has had the bank side seriously cut back. Owls and Halloween graffiti have been added to the walls along with a lot of scrawl.

Stoke Bottom Lock

Stoke Bottom Lock soon came into view. This huge concrete structure kind of fits it’s surroundings of the A500 Queensway and the house alongside it, today only five vehicles parked in the drive and on the road. This lock and the next four are currently being locked up overnight as vandals have been emptying pounds. We arrived at 9:30 so this wasn’t a problem for us.

No train for us whilst in the lock today

A train sped past over Cockshute’s Lock just before we arrived. Boaters hope to get a photo of their boat in the lock as a train passes, I wonder if train drivers keep a tally of how many narrowboats they get to see here?

A couple of fishermen were set up on the towpath in the next pound, I got my first ‘Ay up Duck’ as I walked ahead to the next lock. Here the lock was half full, or half empty and the first downhill boat was approaching. I was there first so lifted the paddles to empty it. If I’d known that it was a single hander I’d most probably have filled it and helped lock them down. The lady was very chatty and said she was being followed by several boats, the first one being a hire boat that she’d had to go back and help as they were doing their best to adjust water levels with all four paddles open on the top lock.

Waiting to use the next locks

Johnson’s Lock is just round a bend, so the line of sight from it isn’t good, the gates were just opening as I came into view, chance to holler up to leave the gates for us. Above the next boat sat waiting in the short pound, another single hander who’d come to help the hirers whilst he waited. All downhill boats today were heading back to moorings, their summer cruises coming to an end.

Up at the top

We rose as another boat descended Stoke Top Lock, then some do-ci-doing happened to move the three boats round each other and we were on our way up to the summit of the Trent and Mersey. As another boat was waiting to come down we didn’t get a chance to drop off rubbish at Etruria Junction bins and we didn’t fancy turning or backing down to them, so it could wait for the next ones.

New Bridge

The huge wasteland that has laid dormant for as long as we can remember is starting to show signs of redevelopment a new bridge crosses the canal to link it to east.

A group huddled around a large sign where the canal used to have an arm. Burslem Branch Canal used to head off here to the north, a trust was set up in 2011 with an aim of restoring and regenerating the branch.

A new footpath has been opened this year connecting the old port to Middleport and an artwork showing what the area was most probably like just before the branch breached in 1961 which saw it’s closure. So many bottle kilns.

Along the towpath is a long mural, the painters fuelled with oatcakes. It makes for a far jollier scene than the fence used to be.

Middleport Pottery stands bold and proud, showing buildings in the area just what they could become. We still haven’t visited, so it has been added to the ‘next time’ list. Stoke Boats had plenty of boats out on the hard, one looking like it needs quite a bit of tlc, another being jet washed to within an inch of it’s life.

Such a small flag!

Under Bridge 127A. Up ahead we could see a small flag fluttering on the stern of a boat, far smaller than we’d expected from a member of the Flag Bubble! There sat Barry by NB AreandAre and Sandra reading an information board. We’d known they’d be here and shouted out ‘Veg Box delivery!’ Last year in Lockdown 1 they were moored close to us at the bottom of Hurleston Locks, we became a little community on our ‘home’ moorings.

Barry’s waterways cards

We pulled up in the next space, thankfully plenty available at this time of day. Chance for a catch up with them and get to meet one of their grandsons. Barry had his greeting cards on display for sale, so we bought a few and had a go at the raffle, winning another card. It was very good to see them again after their elongated trip to New Zealand last year.

Mick selecting raffle tickets

We’d arrived in plenty of time for our next rendez vous. The well deck contents were stowed in the shower, strawberry plants popped on the roof. Gosh there’s a lot of space in there! Just before 2pm we walked back to say our farewells to NB AreandAre and to await our visitors, Bill and Lisa.

Lisa, Bill and Mick

Lisa used to be a Stage Manager in Scarborough and Bill is an actor who has lived in our house much of this summer. They have recently moved to Stoke so it was an opportunity to meet up not to be missed.

Tunnel bound

We pushed off and headed onwards towards Harecastle Tunnel. At the moment you can just turn up in the morning and join the queue to go through, or you can book passage in the afternoon. We were joined by a hire boat and another behind, neither had booked but were added to our passage. We were given the safety briefing, nothing new from our last trip through, horn and light tested.

Harecastle Tunnel

Life jackets were handed out and because Mick would be at the stern by himself we equipped ourselves with walkie talkies. A few years ago a tragic accident happened in the tunnel when the chap at the helm bumped his head on one of the tunnel profile changes and fell in. His wife was below and didn’t notice anything until the boat started to bump the sides. So it’s best to keep talking to each other to make sure you are there. We acknowledge each other, even when stood close at the stern, every 100m (this is also a bit of a joke between us pointing out the direction of the closest exit).

It’s quite well lit at the front

Bill, Lisa and I sat in the well deck and chatted our way through the tunnel, catching up on all sorts. After the third boat entered the tunnel the doors at the southern end were closed, the fans cranked up and the flow of cold air could be felt coming past us. Harecastle has no ventilation shafts so the air is moved using the fans.

Sitting the bow is a whole different experience from being at the stern. Having your head around about 4ft lower in the tunnel and not looking over the cabin top makes it seem cavernous. I was waiting for it to get really tight, it got a touch smaller, but never tight at the pointy end of Oleanna. Water Explorer has our passage through the tunnel at 45 minutes, not bad as we were following the hire boat, the chap at the helm not having done so for thirty years.

Popping out the northern portal we slowed whilst the hire boat worked out which way they were going. They wanted to go right, the lady kept pointing that way, but to do that you have to go left first. They turned and we followed only to come face to face with a boat wanting to exit the junction. Mick made sure he informed NB Bethany May who were following us from the tunnel as we apologised to the on coming boat.

Past the moored boats

The canal turned over the top of the Trent and Mersey and we managed to find space on the aqueduct for a cuppa. It had been lovely having Bill and Lisa with us for the trip, hopefully we’ll get to see them next time we come through the area.

They were given directions back to Kidsgrove Station via the Trent and Mersey canal. Our trip from Westport Lake had taken an hour and three quarters, journey back would take 15 minutes by rail replacement bus, plus the walk.

We decided to move on a touch further and get onto the Macclesfield Canal properly. On the next stretch of moorings there were a couple of familiar boats from Lockdown 1 and ‘Home’. The Pooh Boat with it’s toys in the windows and ducks on the roof, wonder if their dog still barks as they come in to moor each time? Then a touch further on was NB Plum, Solar Afloat who was one of the Flag Bubble with Barry and Sandra. Next door was The Toastie Boat who turned up to Hurleston at the end of our time there.

Onwards to Hall Green Lock, the stop lock between the Trent and Mersey and Macclesfield canals, all 1ft 3″ of it. We pulled in just past the water point and quickly got our Sunday dinner in the oven, roast chicken, Yum!

Onto the Macc proper now

7 locks, 12.67 miles, 2 canals, 1.5 miles of tunnel, 1 straight, 1 left, 2 go right, 3 lockdown boats, 12 years, 4 cards, 2 SJT friends, 0 shore leave! 1 roast chicken, 1 long day, 1 lovely day.