After being unable to do recycling trips by boat for a couple of months because Lumb Lane bridge was being repainted it was great to get out on the boats again for the first Sunday in April. Here are some photos I took on the trip.
After being unable to do recycling trips by boat for a couple of months because Lumb Lane bridge was being repainted it was great to get out on the boats again for the first Sunday in April. Here are some photos I took on the trip.
Thursday 9th February. "Hazel" the boat was in Stalybridge but we needed her in Ashton for the Valentines trips (still undersubscribed if you and your lover would like to book a place). Anyway, it was an excuse for a training trip.Tony had invited his friend Joe who found us after a mystery tour of Ashton. We took "Forget me Not" up the 3 locks to Stayley Wharf, Kim Tranter having his first go at boat steering, which he took to like a duck to water. We then left her in the care of Joan Wainwright while the rest of us walked up to Knowl St Heritage Boatyard to collect "Hazel".
Nigel Carpenter shafted the boat down to the winding hole and winded her, before working down lock 7.
Jannice Brown and Barry Atherton joined us Tony Hewitson bowhauled down the locks through Stalybridge town centre. George Hewitt took on her usual role of lockwheeler in chief.
It was a dull cold day with occassional flurries of snow so everyone was well wrapped up but in good spirits.
Back at Stayley Wharf, Joan had been heating up some delicious soup that had been donated by Bev Ackford who was unfortunately unable to join us for the trip. This was shared out and consumed as Joan steered us along the long pound to lock 3.
Then down the two locks and along the next pound to lock 1.
From lock 1 it was a level run through the Asda tunnel to Portland basin, where our crew made an excellent job of breasting up with minimal instruction from me.
It was an excellent trip. Everyone worked well together and enjoyed themselves, mostly just seeing what needed doing and doing it without having to be told.
When we were tied up, some had to go, but the rest of us went up to the shop as it was Hazel the person's leaving do. After a little mix up we found her in the nearby Station Hotel where she organises a Knitting and Crocheting session on a Thursday afternoon. For the last 2 years Hazel Mayow has been our volunteer organiser but, now that the funding has run out, we'll have to organise ourselves or return to anarchy. Hazel has a liking for cake, so we covered the pub table with extreme ceam cakes from the Polish shop. Poles seem to excel in the art of cake making. Luckily Hazel hasn't completely gone as she wil be coing back as a volunteer. I took my camera with me but clean forgot to take photographs, sorry.
All in all it was an excellent day. Thanks everyone.
I met Em on Ashton bus station in November 1988. We hit it off straight away but for years and years we lived in separate establishments. Hers a neat and tidy little house, mine a leaky old boat. Eventually, sometime after I became homeless because "Hazel" sank (this was before her restoration) she allowed my scruffiness to move into her house, and I learned to live with her regular cleaning frenzies. Neither of us were really that bothered about being married, being old hippies, and we certainly didn't want a wedding with all the fuss that it entails. The trouble is that we're both getting to the time of life where Google ads frequently send us links to funeral services. When one of us pops our clogs, unwed, the survivor would have an awful time dealing with the legalities of property, pensions etc. We're not going to follow the Hindu tradition of Suttee so, barring horrible accidents, one of us has to go first. We decided to quietly slip away to Cardiff and get a couple of friends to act as witnesses.
There was a fair bit of fuss really, I had to have a bath and wear posh clothes, Em dressed up and carried flowers from Victoria and Springy's allottment. It was a lovely little ceremony and we promised all kinds of difficult things then got a bilingual certificate to prove we'd done it. Thanks to Springy, Victoria, Joy and Ric for being witnesses. Afterwards we all went for a really nice meal in a pub near Taffs Well.
I hope nobody is too upset at missing out on the wedding of the year with carriages and top hats and the blushing bride done up like a meringue. Sorry, but both of us would have hated that.
I'd like to show you the wedding pictures but the only one of her that Em will allow is this one from our honeymoon.
"Hazel" was booked for a birthday trip on Saturday 1st October so we loaded up our guests at Portland Basin and towed her with "Forget me Not" to tie near Marple aqueduct. The weather was sunny and the water up to weir level so it was a really good trip with good company. Our guests really enjoyed it. We left them there as some of them were staying overnight, running back to Portland Basin with "Forget me Not" ready for the recycling trip on Sunday morning. Once again this was in wonderful autumn sunshine, we had a great bunch of volunteers and a good haul of saleable stuff to go to the charity shop.
After the trip me, Tony and Aaron took "Forget me Not" back up to Marple ready to bring "Hazel" back on Monday. For the return trip our only guest was Bridget, who was testing the boat for wheelchair friendliness. She's suggested a few modifications but thoroughly enjoyed the trip and I hope she'll be back as a volunteer. Here's a few pictures of the recycling trip and the Sunday evening trip up to Marple
Click on the link for a video.
Here's another video link to click.
While we were away at the Bollington Historic Boat Gathering I had to keep popping home to check on the boats as we had no volunteers able to look after the pumps. this involved various train journeys. I like trains, even modern ones. Here's a picture of a Cross Country Voyager set rushing through Adlington as I waited for the local train to Manchester on 16th September 2016.
Immediately out of the station they clatter over the pointwork to join the route from Hadfield (formerly the Great Central Woodhead route)
I was surprised by a class 66 with a train of stone empties heading for the Peak District, carrying on with the kind of work that the Peak forest canal was built for.
Eventually my train arrived.
@ 20:15:00 by ashtonboatman
It was a hot sunny day and I was busy working on the boats at Portland Basin when I noticed a wheelbarrow parked on the towpath across the canal. As we have wheelbarrows on the boats for collecting on recycling trips, I went over to see if someone had borrowed on of ours. When I got there I could hear banging and slushing noises from the other side of the stone wall. The ground drops steeply down about 20 feet of wooded rocky bank to the River Tame. I looked over and saw three men sploshing about in the river and dragging out rusty bikes, scaffold poles etc. One of them saw me looking and explained that they had decided to clean up the river.
This public spirited explanation was slightly marred by the fact that they only seemed to be removing metal objects, leaving behind much, equally unsightly, but valueless, plastic.
They dragged their ochre encrusted booty up the bank, over the wall and managed to load it into the sagging barrow ( which wasn't one of ours). I imagine they must have had a van nearby because it's over 2 miles to the nearest scrapyard that takes iron.
I think it's a good thing that people clear up and weigh in the clutter that others have carelessly discarded, but I also see desperation in the men's actions. I haven't seen this sort of activity since the 1980s when long years of unemployment spurred the picking up of beer cans, dragging ditches for scrap metal and other forms of scavenging. Anything to make a few bob to try to make ends meet. Are we now going to have another no hope generation like that of the Thatcher years? Growing up with no understanding of the concept of working for a living.
Despite having to scrape a thick coating of ice off the van windscreen I was surprised to find that the cut had frozen overnight yet again. Fian had spent the night boatsitting and I was a little concerned as she tends to feel the cold. Smoke was drifting from "Forget me Not"s chimney, so she was obviously awake, but I followed proper boating etiquette and avoided her cabin until she emerged. She said she had had a wonderful night and actually enjoyed being woken by squabbling geese at 3 AM!
After checking the bilges and feeding Captain Kit I carefully climbed across the ice sugared boats and started "Southam"s big engine to back her over to the towpath side for easy access by volunteers. "Forget me Not" and "Lilith" made a fine sight breasted up at the wharf. Soon people began to arrive and I had a busy time allocating people jobs, giving out safe boating information to first timers, of whom there were many and generally checking that everything was ready, dealing with a closed damper on a range that was causing people to be kippered etc.
As 10 AM approached I asked everyone to climb aboard and began shafting "Forget me Not" and "Lilith" round to face towards Droylsden. This was easier said than done as the ice, though thin, was a great impediment.
With the two currently unpowered boats a little way past 90 degrees of their 180 degree turn I noticed that the person I had asked to steer "Forget me Not" had taken it upon himself to go and start "Southam". Despite my waving he untied the boat and set off, but stopped again when my dancing, waving and shouting was relayed to him.
I had a dilemma that often occurs when working with volunteers. It's important for smooth running and safety that everyone follows the skippers instructions, but if you're too severe in imposing your authority you soon find yourself working alone.
I ran over to "Southam", which was now drifting in the middle of the cut and could only be accessed by climbing down off the footbridge. I found that the stern end mooring line was still tied to the T stud, it had been simply lifted off the mooring pin and thrown aboard instead of being untied and coiled ready for use as it should be. Even worse, the mooring pins had been left in the towpath. I climbed back on to the footbridge, retrieved the pins and re-gained the boat, explaining, I hope tactfully, that I had good reasons for my steering allocations and pointing out the shortcomings re lines and pins.
Moving the boat forward I nudged her past the bows of the other two boats and quickly explained that as I towed "Forget me Not" forward the line from "Lilith"s stem should be taken back and tied on to "Forget me Not"s stern. I took the strain of "Forget me Not"s line on "Southam"s T stud and pulled her forward, though she bounced off the knuckle of the Peak Forest turn because "Southam"s premature move had resulted in the turn being incomplete. My instructions must have been misunderstood because "Lilith"s line had not been carried to "Forget me Not"s stern and, as the two boats had separated, had to be thrown some distance. At the third attempt the line made its target, but almost too late. Boats do not have brakes so, once "Forget me Not" was moving her 15 tons or so was not going to stop. Seeing "Lilith" lurch into line I engaged forward gear again, but a few minutes later waving and shouts of Stop caused me to pull the lever back to nuetral again. "Lilith"s line had not been properly secured and was slipping off. There was no way I could actually stop the train of boats so had to let them drift while the line was re-secured. "Southam" stemmed up un the outside of the turn by the old Junction Mill chimney, now an icon of Ashton. "Forget me Not" wedged in alongside and, once more, the ice made things difficult as we tried to shaft the boats off the rubbish. As I tried to back her out "Southam" picked up a sturdy canvas bag on her blades, which had to be cut off, hanging over the side with a knife while young Daniel Cocker held on to my feet.
Eventually we got going again. Julie Edwards had rung up earlier to say that she would be late and would catch us up. She was waiting at Margaret St Bridge and hopped on to "Southam"s sterndeck as we passed, sharing with me the noise and smoke for the rest of the journey.
Despite my efforts with the knife, there was clearly stil some rubbish on the blades. The engine was struggling and making black smoke, the rudder was juddering and the water was boiling round the stern rather than going back in a clear stream. I kept giving bursts of sterngear to try to throw it off. This had some effect, but never got the blade completely clean and it would always pick up some more. As we passed the site of Robertsons Jam factory, now nearly demolished, a grunt from the engine indicated more rubbish collected. I tried reverse again and the engine stalled. Restarting it, I tried forward again. This unravelled the rubbish, but, looking down into the water, I could see something trailing behind that would obviously go back on to the blade if sterngear was engaged.
We tied up "Forget me Not" and "Lilith" breasted at Fairfield Junction quite neatly and winded "Southam", a manoeuvre slightly impeded by the crap on the blade, then everyone unloaded themselves and started digging out barrows from "Forget me Not"s hold. There were lots of new people and setting off on the collection round was a little chaotic. Most people got the hang of it quite quickly though and soon the two teams were busying themselves collecting from the Moravian Fields estate.
With so many people the speed of collection made up for time lost at the beginning of the trip. I became a little disappointed by the quantities and began to wonder where half the volunteers were, beginning to grumble that they were probably back at the boats having a brew, only to find that they were actually all busy emptying a garage full of stuff that had been donated.
When we had knocked on the last front door and barrowed the last load back to the boats, Fiona started handing out dishes of the excellent food that she had brought, with alternative options for carnivores and herbivores. Time to relax and eat and chat.
After two plates of excellent grub, I picked up the cabin shaft and started poking at the tangle of garbage on the propeller. This turned out to be mainly carpet, which was wound tightly on and bound with all manner of fibrous plasticky stuff. After much prodding and pulling I managed to get it all off, building a great mound on the sterndeck.
The next task was to wind "Forget me Not" and "Lilith". This is carried out by pulling them forward alongside "Southam" then, as their bows approach the tug's stern, pulling back on their front lines whilst shafting the stern ends sideways. This usually swings them round quite neatly and puts them in a good position for setting off, which was achieved quite neatly this time.
With the train travelling quite nicely along the canal and Kevin enjoying having a go at tug steering, I decided to walk alongside, stopping at Lumb Lane bridge (one of the lowest on the canal system) to try out the video function on my new camera The early morning frost had given way to a really nice sunny day, with refreshingly cold air. I enjoyed my walk, but kept my eye on the boats to make sure that everything was OK. I jumped back on board before the tricky turns through Guide Bridge, which were negotiated neatly by the steerers. I took over at Margaret St bridge to deal with the tricky arrival at Portland Basin. The procedure here is for "Southam" to head straight for the wharf then swing round to run parallel to it. "Forget me Not" follows and, if you judge it right, she will run neatly alongside the wharf to be stopped with her back end line (which is on the front of the engine room) while "Lilith" neatly slides alongside her. "Southam", once the towline is thrown off, then goes over to the towpath side of the canal to make it easy for volunteers to get off. She is then shafted back across to tie alongside "Lilith" (trying to do this by engine power is a nightmare because of the impossiblity of manouvering this boat in reverse gear).
Very quickly all the volunteers melted away in the afternoon sun and I made my way home.
@ 11:46:44 by ashtonboatman
Friday morning at Portland Basin. The snow and ice had departed overnight and so I was able at last to drive the van down the hill to the wharf. I noticed Mr Woodcutter perched on the hatches of "Elton" peering into the watery interior. I had been unable to keep the boat afloat during the icy period. I think ice had prevented a bilge pump from switching off, so it ran until the battery was exhausted, then the boat filled up with water.
As I walked over to talk to the woodcutter my eye detected a movement near the stern end of "Hazel". A flash of electric blue whizzed out across the water as a kingfisher took flight. It is years since I've seen a kingfisher at Portland Basin. I was delighted. It seemed like an omen of good things to come in the awakening year.
Mr Woodcutter came back across the boats and I set him up with some waste wood to cut up for the boat ranges. He is the first volunteer I have ever come across who never tires of cutting wood. Consequently we have not had the usual Christmas firewood crisis this year.
Mr Woodcutter is an excellent fellow, and yet would be despised as a scrounger by many, which is why I call him Mr Woodcutter. He is a simple man, not in the sense of being a simpleton, but of enjoying the simple things in life. He enjoys walking and physical exercise, which is why he comes and cuts our firewood. Most of all he enjoys a skinful of good quality ale (none of your cheap lager thank you very much). Unlike many who get the taste for alcohol, Mr Woodcutter seems to be very much in control of the drink, rather than the drink being in control of him.
Mr Woodcutter's dislikes include employment, which is why some people would have little time for him. Personally I feel that the idle rich, who live by renting out their inherited assets, are more of a brake on the well being of the populace than the few who choose to take the pittance that the dole offers in return for a less stressed life. Post triumph of capitalism that is an unpopular view!
Mr Woodcutter is an expert at staying one step ahead of the system, and good for him. He is fascinated by the Loch Ness Monster and often stays near Inverness, which he considers to be the best place on Earth, in order to catch a glimpse of the fabulous beast. So far he has been unsuccessful.
I lit fires in "Forget me Not" and "Southam" to dry the cabins out, then started the petrol powered pump to raise "Elton". As the water gushed from "Elton I started sorting out the bilge pumps that had failed during the icy period. Soon the boat was floating again and the woodcutter had run out of work for his bowsaw. We picked up saw horse, bowsaw and firewood sacks and walked the quarter mile to the bit of woodland that I look after. Mr Woodcutter was happy to get to work cutting up the sycamores that I felled a week or so previously.
Returning to the boats I put some pies in "Southam"s oven and carried on sorting out pumps. Mr Woodcutter niether eats nor drinks during the day so I enjoyed my meal alone. He cut loads of wood, which I collected in the van later. By the end of the day, which is about 3PM at this time of year, things seemed to be getting back to normal after the disruption caused by wintry weather.
Our entire photo archive is being uploaded onto Flickr by the wonderful Kath Walls. To have a look go to http://www.flickr.com/photos/40839614@N05/
@ 20:23:12 by ashtonboatman
Friday morning I arrived at Portland basin to get the usual working party on the boats started. As I looked through the gates I immediately knew something was different, but it took me a few seconds to realise that "Elton" had sunk. "Elton" has always been the Cinderella of our little fleet. She is currently mainly used for sorting out recyclable metals. She really needs a Prince Charming to come along and start tidying her up. To some extent that has started, as Andy Smethurst and Terry James have made a good job of painting her back cabin in Grand Union colours.
For a while I'd been concerned about her increasingly sieve like qualities, but kept putting off the unpleasant task of moving all the useful items in her hold to search for porous bits of the bottom. My failure to make a stitch in time had led to the current situation.
Soon I had the 2" pump set up and gushing water from "Elton"s bow. As she gradually rose up in the water I went about my normal tasks, helping volunteers to get their jobs done. Ken was busy repairing "Forget me Not"s shutts and Gary busied himself cutting firewood to see us through the winter. Arfa kept "Forget me Not"s range going and showed visitors round the cabin.
Eventually the revving and slurping of the pump told me that "Elton" was nearly empty. I set up an electric pump to remove the dregs of the water and hoped for the best as it was fast approaching time for the afternoon's jaunt.
Some months ago we acquired a Bolinder semi diesel engine that had formerly powered a Grand canal barge in Ireland. When first motorised "Forget me Not" was fitted with a bolinder, sadly scrapped in 1959. It has always been our intention to re-fit one, but soaring prices had made it look unlikely that we would ever succeed. Happily, this one was affordable, though of a slightly different, earlier, design to most.
I had arranged for our engineering department to have a look at a functioning Bolinder in the FMC motor "Rudd", moored at Bedford Basin in Leigh. So it was that Ike Isherwood, Chris Duxbury and me climbed into the society's old Transit van for the trip to Leigh.
When we eventually found Bedford Basin I was surprised to see my old boat, Bridgewater packet "Parbella", tied up and looking a bit neglected. I recognised her by a dent in the bow. For two years in the 1980s I steered "Parbella" between Liverpool and Frodsham carrying grain.
Round in the basin we found "Rudd" and Tim Young, her owner, welcomed us aboard. Lester was already there. We all climbed into the engine room and admired the gleaming engine. Tim explained the principles on which the Bolinder operates. It is largely steam engine technology applied to internal combustion. He explained all the dreadful things that can go wrong. Lester looked increasingly worried.
The discussion turned to reversing. Bolinders reverse by injecting fuel at the wrong time and so reversing the rotation of the engine. this doesn't always work and sometimes the engine stops. You always need to have a strategy for dealing with this if it happens.
Our engine has no reversing mechanism. In Ireland they didn't bother with reverse, stopping the boat by running into something. For operation with a butty we need reverse, so the discussion moved to means of achieving this. One way would be to discreetly fit a gearbox under the cabin floor. The other way, which seems to be favourite at the moment, would be to assemble a reversing mechanism from spare parts and specially made parts.
The plan now is to arrange a viewing of our engine, which has an extra esoteric feature of water injection, by various Bolinder experts.
On return to portland Basin I was pleased to see that "Elton" was still floating. Closer inspection showed a problem though. The electric pump had been running continuously while I was away but the water level in the boat was higher than when I left. This meant that the water was leaking in faster than the pump could shift it out again. I rigged up a bigger pump but this just flattened the battery in no time. Evening was drawing on and I was fighting a losing battle. I decided to let her sink again and have another go in the morning.
Saturday Morning I met Anthony Benson on the wharf and started the 2" pump again. We rigged up a big electric pump in the stern end, connected directly to a generator. Overnight I had charged up a stack of batteries, so I was confident about using the big electric pump in the bow too. Soon the boat was afloat and the two of us got stuck in to moving things around until we had traced the source of the influx. In fact, there were two, Tony found one and I found the other, almost simultaneously. With the aid of that wonderful boat bodging material - expanding foam, both were soon plugged. With automatic pumps rigged up I could then retire for a much needed wash.