Another bit of Ashton history goes up in smoke.

For ages we've had such a poor turnout for weekday evening recycling trips that we've had to do them by road. I was pleased on Monday 4th to find that we had plenty of volunteers.

Aaron took the tiller and we had a pleasant journey down to Fairfield.


On Monday evenings we collect on Fairfield Road and Gorsey Fields.  This time most of our crew were youngsters who were shy about knocking on doors, so they did the barrowing back. We had a reasonable haul to take to the charity shop.

On Tuesday afternoon we had a trip on "Hazel" with a really nice couple with an autistic child. The mother seemed interested in the canalside history. As we passed Oxford Mills

https://britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/101084307-the-oxford-mills-st-peters-ward#.XU6ORfzTVuQ

I told her about their history   and about Hugh Mason who had them built  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugh_Mason

As we passed the old mills on the returned trip I noticed a strong smell of burning plastic. I checked in the engine room to make sure that nothing had fallen on to the exhaust manifold, but that was fine.

I went home for my tea. While I was there my friend Bev Ackford rang to tell me there was a fire in a laundry near the canal.

On my return to Portland Basin I found that there was an even better turn out for the Tuesday evening trip. Ominous black smoke was billowing from a big fire close to our intended route.  I was unsure if it would be safe to run the trip but Debbie Leach told me that she had just cycled up the towpath to join us and there was no problem.

After a bit of boat shunting we set off, rather later than usual. As we approached the burning area we were enveloped in smoke but I could see that the fire was well back from the canal so we would be able to pass safely.


Fire persons were busy working between the fire and the canal, pumping water out to spray on to the burning buildings. There was some banter with the fire crews about them stealing our water.


Oxford Mill was an E shaped building. One wing had been largely demolished before it was listed. As we passed I saw that the fire had spread from the relatively modern buildings where it started into the upright and middle stroke of the E. The remaining wing remained untouched, though shrouded in smoke, so I hoped that this at least could be saved. I had noted previously that it was used for storing stuff in cardboard boxes.

At Brewery bridge tape had just been put up to close the towpath. A smart young firefighter was just climbing the steps on to the bridge. Debbie, who never misses the opportunity for a bit of banter, asked him if he was touting for business. I chipped in by offering him a lift to Canal St (Canal St is the heart of Manchesters gay village). He took it in the spirit intended.


We had another good collection in the Ashton Hill Road area of Droylsden. By the time we were ready to return it was nearly dark, so I turned on the headlight. At Brewery Bridge, at the South end of Pottinger St, we got a good view of the fire. The brigade's efforts had seemingly been in vain. The whole area was now blazing well, particularly the top of the E, presumably turbocharged by whatever was in all those boxes. The gable end of this wing was close to the canal and it was clear that parts of the building had already collapsed. If the gable were to fall outward as we passed we would be toast.

We backed up into the bridgehole and I managed to get a pin into the tarmacced towpath (grrrr) to tie to.

I left the boat guarded by Aaron and walked rather a long way round to Portland Basin to collect the van. Kids had removed the tape on the towpath and were whizzing up and down on bikes despite the danger. I chose not to go that way.

The streets had a carnival atmosphere, like a huge free  bonfire party for the whole community. As I walked I heard a rumble as anothe bit of historic mill tumbled.

Returning with the van I had to take an even longer route as the main Stockport Road was closed. Luckily I know the back streets well. We unloaded the goods from the boat into the van. I parked it up for the night then, after taking a few photos,



I retired to "Forget me Not"s cabin for the night.

In the morning I woke at about 5 AM and made coffee. As i lay in bed enjoying my first brew of the day I could hear intermittent bursts of police radio. I hoped they wouldn't try to stop me returning the boat to her home, as I clearly couldn't leave her there. I felt the boat move as though someone had stepped aboard, then heard a rat tat tat on the cabinside. I stuck me head out and saw a man and a boat. He had made an early start to go to Manchester but "Forget me Not" was blocking the bridgehole. I explained that I wasn't dressed yet. He offered to move the boat. I agreed and, as I dressed, I could feel the hull grinding against the copings as he pulled her backwards.

He tied the boat to the railings of the high level footpath that leads to Guide Bridge Station, at just the right height to decapitate passing cyclists. Luckily there were none and I was soon untied and on my way, kicking up lots of froth, presumably from chemicals washed into the waterway.

I had to walk back from Portland Basin to collect the van. On my way I took some pictures of the smouldering remains being damped down.

All in a Days Work

Sorry there are no pictures with this. I was too busy all day to take any. We were booked for a "giving back" trip for which we have some funding. The idea is to take local young people for a trip and give them each a go at steering, working locks etc (under close supervision). The trip is from Portland Basin, up 3 locks to Staley Wharf, wind and return. This should take about 4 hours.

The level on the Ashton pound was well down so we stemmed alongside Cavendish Mill (possibly on microwaves thrown from the flat windows). I had a phone call from Christine, our shop manager to say that someone had 'phoned to complain that they were bringing a boat down and it would be difficult to get past sunken "Southam" at Knowl st. The words bus, through and get spring to mind!

Working up the 3 locks was straightforward and our guests were enjoying getting involved. Above lock 3 is a long pound (well, long for the HNC) and I was dismayed to find this the best part of a foot down. It's tricky to get through even when full.

We removed a log and a huge plastic pallet from the paddle recess.

I asked Tony to go ahead and "find some water". A difficult task as the only source is the short, though relatively deep, pounds through Stalybridge. I warned him that there was a boat coming down, so he would need to make sure he left enough water for them to get through.

Right outside the lock "Forget me Not" stopped in mid channel. She would go neither forwards nor backwards (nor sideways for that matter. Tony rang to say that he'd let as much water as he dare out of 4-5 pound. Of course, its effect on the long pound was minimal. A lot of thrashing about and pulling on lines achieved a few yards progress, then we stuck fast again. Tony rang again to say that he couldn't get any water from the next pound up as it was already completely empty. I noticed it was like that earlier in the week, though it was getting a feed from above. He would have to top it up from the Armentierres Square pound.

I started emptying the ballast tanks and our guests decided to consume the buffet lunch that we had provided. Tony rang again very angry to say that the downhill boat had arrived and the people were very rude to him and accused him of stealing their water, oblivious of the fact that he was filling a pound that they needed to fill anyway. I think perhaps they imagined that he had emptied the pound, which he had not.

With lunch eaten and the ballast tanks completely empty I decided to have another go. I attached a long line to the back end rail and got all the young lads out of "Hazel" to join Aaron and Kim in pulling on it. When we finally got a co-ordinated pull the boat moved, initially for a short distance, but another effort got her moving properly. (just here the bottom is strewn with boulders from a section of washwall that collapsed and was rebuilt, leaving the original material in the cut).

Aaron carried on pulling on the line, which was fine as I didn't know when I might need more assistance. As we approached the Tame aqueduct Aaron was having trouble with his line catching in vegetation. I became pre-occupied with a couple of our young (and generally well behaved) guests who had climbed on to "Hazel"s roof. This is not allowed anyway, but I was particularly keen to coax them down before the aqueduct as a fall into the river would be very serious (and my fault). What I didn't notice, until the engine stopped, was that Aaron had let go of his line and it was trailing in the water. It had got itself wound round the propeller. Aaron has often badgered me to let him jump in to get rubbish off the blade. This time I let him, as the only alternative was me getting in.

With the rope successfully untangled and Aaron in the engine 'ole drying out we carried on, only to stick fast in the narrows, a favourite place for dumping as it's close to a secluded dead end road. Our tug o war team was deployed again and we were soon moving well, though bouncing over submerged bikes and trolleys.

We winded at Staley Wharf with some difficulty and immediately headed back. We stuck again at the narrows and just above lock 3 but, with the routine now established, were soon moving again.

Our guests had to leave as their time had run out. Despite (or perhaps because of) the difficulties it seemed they had enjoyed the trip

When the two arrogant men with windlasses appeared, strangely from the nearby road, "Forget me Not" was down lock 2, which was refilling for "Hazel", just being bowhauled out of No3. They complained that we had held them up for 2 hours, though I'm not sure how. I think they had some exchange with Tony, who was fuming. He has a short fuse. They asked me to stop and let them past, even though their boat wasn't even in sight yet. They headed off up the cut to join their boat.

It's not unusual to be asked to pass by speedy pleasure boaters. Most people have no idea how difficult it is to pass a deep draughted boat, especially one towing a butty. I usually  try to help, sometimes at the cost of a stemming up, because I don't like being tailed by a floating sulk,  but this request was ridiculous even if I had been well disposed towards these particular gentlemen.

We were soon through Whitelands Tunnel and working through lock 1. One of the aggrieved men arrived as we were hauling the butty into the lock. He sat down and started using his 'phone. When the lock was nearly empty he came over to me and asked me to talk to CRT. He had clearly given his distorted tale of woe about us terrible boaters to the duty manager, who was now telling me, via the 'phone, to let them past. So, presumably, we were being expected to wait below the lock for this boat to work through after us then go speeding ahead. Grrrr.

As we were closing the gates after the butty the fabled boat appeared at the far end of the tunnel. Despite getting stemmed on a shopping trolley behind Asda and making a pigs ear of breasting up, it was another 5 minutes after we were tied up and the engine stopped before the other boat arrived. On board was a well known local sourpuss.

We all know that the Huddersfield Narrow is a difficult and shallow canal. We also know that it is maintained on a shoestring. Wouldn't it be nice if boaters co-operated to help each other through such difficulties, listened to each other even, rather than jumping to conclusions and telling tales to CRT. I once got the cane in school because of that sort of behaviour. I still haven't forgiven Mandy Hough for telling those lies.

Almost to Heaven

Someone said the Rochdale Canal was heaven one side and hell the other. I chose to charter "Hazel" for my boating holiday and invite some long unseen friends along. The original plan was to go up the Caldon but with various stoppages this became impossible, so I decided on the Rochdale instead. We had to go through the Hell bit to reach heaven. Unfortunately, the water shortages meant that we could only get to the edge of the celestial bit, just above Littleborough. We nearly got stranded there as CRT declared a stoppage at 07.30 (Having assured us that it would be fine to stay where we were for a few days) and immediately started locking up the locks. It took much whingeing on the 'phone from me to get them unlocked. It was great to see old friends Neesa, Dan, Eric, Stuart, Adeline and Eloise as well as some of our regular crew who came along to help work the many locks. Hard work but I enjoyed it. Thanks to Lesley and Mary for many of the pictures as I didn't take a lot.

Green scum on the Ashton Canal.

"Hazel" having her batteries charged.

At New Islington Marina.

A small amount of what we removed from the blade.

As far as we got. Lovely place to spend the weekend.

Neesa

Dan
Early morning at Durn (Lock 47)
Waiting for CRT to let us out.

Rochdale in the morning.
Mary
Eric
Early morning at the Boat & Horses, Chadderton.
Kevan
Lesley
Niall
Sarah

Catching up

There's been so much happening I've not had time to take many pictures or post anything. Here's a few anyway, starting with theLymm Historic Transport Festival, which, as usual, was wonderful.

The view from "Hazel" with my old boat "Parbella" over on the left.

A good turnout of traction engines etc again.

Early morning, the engines wait for their fires to be lit.

I particularly liked this little steam lorry.

Joseph Garside engine, used for hauling sand at Leighton Buzzard. I used to work on the Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge railway, originally constructed for the same purpose.

Our display panel with "Parbella" in the background.

I didn't take any pictures on the very hot trip back to Ashton or the Sunday recycling trip when we were joined by our great great nephew Marcus Kirby. However, Marcus drew a picture of "Hazel" with me in the hat perched on top celebrating the participation of the England football team in the World Cup.

The next time I got my camera out was on the Tuesday night recycling trip. I left the boating to Aaron Booth. We were also joined by Fliss Johnson, Lorrainne Howlett, Norman Lee and Geraldine Buckley. It was a lovely sunny evening for a trip in good friendly company.

Fliss, Lorrainne (with Missy) and Geraldine (with Snitch).

Norman perched at the bow, looking for wildlife to photograph. Note the parched grass in the background.

There was an anxious moment whenn I thought Aaron was going to put the stem through the window of the moored boat whilst winding at Fairfield. All was well though, missed by inches!

Down the Locks to Manchester

We were seriously mob handed working down from lock 16 on the Ashton Canal to Lock 92 of the Rochdale, near Deansgate Manchester. Some were experienced, some were new to working a pair through a flight of locks, but it all went pretty well and I think everyone enjoyed themselves. I'm back home now but the boats travel on to Middlewich for the Folk and Boat Festival.



When we reached Dale St lock, the first on the Rochdale, we were held up by a steel wide beam boat working down ahead of us. They were having trouble undoing the anti vandal lock on one of the bottom paddles and couldn't get the lock fully empty on one paddle. Our volunteers sorted it out and continued to help and advise as we followed them down the flight. We referred to them as the clown boat as all they lacked were red noses.
The clown boat, demonstrating where not to stand whilst steering.


The Beast From the East

The media dubbed it "The Beast from the East", snow and freezing winds coming at us from Siberia. By the time it reached Ashton it was more of a pussycat. Despite this, Claire, our marketing person, had to drive her disabled son to school because the bus company had cancelled its services.

I woke in "Forget me Not"s back cabin at about 5.30 AM. I revived the fire to warm the cabin up. Outside was uniformly white. I had a lot to do as the boats were a bit messy after the tree planting trip and there was lots of  stuff in the van that needed unloading before it went to do deliveries for the shop.

At about 7, after enjoying coffee and muesli for breakfast, I went out and started lighting fires. Both the squirrel stove and the back cabin range feed into the central heating on ""Hazel". Our guest for the day hailed from hot places like Sudan, so I wanted the boat to be nicely warmed up. The van was unloaded, it was mostly firewood from Knowl St, then I started  rooting about in the snow on "Forget me Not"s deck  for bits of scrap we'd pulled out of the cut.

At about 9.20 I started to panic. No crew had arrived yet and the first guests had showed up whilst I was moving "Southam" out of the way. The guests went off to Asda and Aaron and Tony arrived about 10.30 and started clearing snow from "Hazel"s roof and salting the steps to make them safe.

In fact our guests, a group called Refugee Action, didn't arrive until well past 10.  The safety talk was translated into Arabic and Sudanese then, with everyone aboard, we set off. I steered the motor, Aaron steered the butty and Tony dealt with the lines. The floating snow had coagulated into thin ice which we cut through easily.

It was a shame I couldn't take photographs as many picturesque Christmas cardy shots presented theselves as we went along. Just after Walk Bridge a couple on the towpath photographed our passing. I invited them to come on Sundays recycling trip.  


Though only thin, the ice made winding at Lumb Lane difficult. On the outward trip the low sun shone brightly, but, as we winded, the sky greyed over and snow began to fall. Tony took over steering. As we headed into the East wind I began to regret not putting on even more layers.

As we passed the railway sidings at Guide Bridge  Tony pointed out a group of orange clad workers sitting in a minibus. He told me he had a friend who worked on railway maintenance but in bad weather they weren't allowed to do anything (elfin safety) but would just sit around chatting for their entire shift. The world's gone mad!

Our guests spent most of the trip indoors, not surprising really, but they came out all smiles saying they'd enjoyed it. After a short break we welcomed another dozen refugees on board. This time Aaron and Tony took the motor and I enjoyed a lovely quiet ride on the back of "Hazel", feeling the warmth from the back cabin range. We headed off into a snowstorm, then the sun came out again.

We finished the second trip at about 2.45. Our guests departed and we sat down in "Hazel"s warm fore end to have a brew, before shafting "Southam" back into the basin then going our various ways home. A good day.


More Trees Planted

Today Tony and me got a few more trees planted, near the motorway in Audenshaw. I also cut back some sycamores that were threatening trees planted in previous years. We pulled out some shopping trolleys and a bike. Back at Portland Basin we tried to breast up to Southam but "Forget me Not" stemmed up in mid basin. The level is about 9" down but the water should be deep here. I poked around with a keb and managed to move something big but couldn't get it out of the water. It felt like a submerged tree trunk. Here's some pictures of "Forget me Not" around Guide bridge.

Tree Planting Day

Today was supposed to be a canal clean up but CRT hit us with a load of paperwork that I haven't got round to completing yet, so I thought I'd get a few trees planted. All unofficial guerrilla planting. I only invited a couple of people as I'm not very sociable at the moment. Niether of them showed up as both were feeling ill, the winter lurgi that keeps coming back I think.


After waiting a bit and having trouble starting "Forget me Not"s cold engine I set off up the Peak Forest on my own. The level was down and almost immediately I stemmed up in mid channel. When I eventually got away a wheelie bin rose to the surface then sank again.

I got up to the site of our Solstice fire that wouldn't burn, removed the remnants of the bonfire then planted an oak in the ashes. From there I carried on to Hyde where I winded the boat and started heading back. Joe Hodgson, tree surgeon par excellence rang. He had just arrived at Portland Basin. He walked up the towpath and met me at Well Bridge.


At Globe bridge I got off and walked on to work the lift bridge. Joe successfully got the boat through the Great Central railway bridge and the lift bridge, both sources of trouble, then stemmed up un the same wheelie bin back near Portland Basin.

When we eventually got off this we turned left towards Guide Bridge and I got off to take these pictures. We planted more trees on spare land at Guide Bridge, winded at Lumb Lane and got back to Portland basin at dusk. A nice day.

Passing Oxford Mills.

Joe hides behind the wonky chimney.