Trouble at t Aqueduct

The Tame aqueduct links Ashton under Lyne, Lancashire, with Dukinfield, Cheshire. A solid stone aqueduct with 3 arches it crosses the River Tame. Most people think that it's on the Peak Forest canal, but, strictly speaking, it's a branch of the Ashton canal. The Peak Forest starts at Dukinfield Junction, an end on connection immediately on the South side of the structure.

For months now, Keir, contractors for the Canal & River Trust, have been giving it a much needed renovation. The job has gone on longer than expected as it turned out to be in worse shape than anticipated. that's something I'm familiar with on old wooden boats. They're nearly finished now, but I became puzzled as to why they appeared to be attempting to fill the river in. I've now asked some questions and learned the story.

The first part of the job was to erect a lot of scaffolding on both sides and underneath the aqueduct. I did wonder when i saw this going up, what would happen if heavy rain in the hills should cause the river to rise. The scaffolding was pretty much blocking the two side arches, but this is OK because the water runs through the middle one doesn't it? Apparently they were warned that actually it wasn't OK, but professionals know best.

Everything was fine until we had that day of wild weather a few weeks ago, when thw whole country was disrupted by flooding. Every drop of rain that falls in Stalybridge, Mossley, Greenfieldm Saddleworth and all around has to exit via the Tame aqueduct. When there's a lot of rain it brings with it trees and rocks and shopping trolleys by the dozen. The scaffolding acted as a seive, holding back the debris, thus completely blocking the side arches. The middle arch couldn't handle so much water, so it began to back up, thus increasing the pressure on the old stonework. Something had to give and luckily it wasn't the aqueduct, they built 'em well back then, but the river bed. The force of water scoured it out down to the aqueduct foundations.

The aqueduct can't be left with its foundations exposed, so they made a roadway down the steep steps that lead down to the river and have brought in an incredible tracked dumper that can drive up and down this slope to deliver countless tons of rock to restore the river bed.

Rock being deposited in the river bed.

The scaffolding has now mostly gone from the West side.

The steep roadway.

The dumper breasts the summit.

Bah Humbug at the Jobcentre

Every Thursday there's a demonstration outside the jobcentre in Ashton, protesting about workfare, sanctions and the generally dickensian attitude towards anyone who is unemployed or too ill to work that prevails today. Some of the protestors are also very good at giving advice to those claimants who have been unfairly treated (that's most of them in my experience) or are simply baffled by the byzantine bureacracy that is involved in claiming a pittance to not quite live on.

Some people enjoy protesting, but, sadly, most of the public see protestors as a nuisance and don't engage with the issues being raised. Someone came up with the idea of coming up with a very appropriate Dickensian theme for last weeks demo. My lovely Em made the Victorian costumes and the Rev David Gray rewrote some carols to sing. He himself was typecast as Mr Bumble. Unfortuately I missed most of the performance but I understand it went down well, despite being interrupted by a couple of young thugs who Em thought were out of their heads on some substance. I got there at the end and took these pictures.

A Good Trip

Today we ran a short trip to Lumb Lane and back for a group called Just Life.  It was a really enjoyable trip on a nice sunny day. We had a few problems (as usual) with rubbish on the blade. One of our guests was from Africa and he was really interested in the plants that grow in Britain. He didn't know about brambles, stinging nettles, rosebay willowherb etc that we just take for granted. here's some photos.Yes I did point out to our crew member that dangling his foot over the side was not a good idea.

5th January 2010 A Cold Christmas for Captain Kit Crewbucket

2010-01-05 @ 13:52:18 by ashtonboatman

A Cold Christmas for Captain Kit Crewbucket.

Captain Kit Crewbucket is a lucky black tomcat. In February 2003 he appeared under a tarpaulin in the hold of "Forget me Not". He was lost, terrified and wouldn't come near anyone. We estimated his age as about 6 months. Gradually as we put food out he learned to trust us. When I brought his food at dusk I would look under the tarpaulin and just see his two eyes shining in the dark. I thought it looked a bit ghostly, so I named him Kit Crewbucket after a spirit that is said to haunt Harecastle canal tunnel. One of the museum staff took a particular interest in our new arrival, but he called the cat Captain. As all readers of T.S. Eliot will know, a cat has three names, so he became Captain Kit Crewbucket.

Soon Captain Kit realised that he was on to a good thing on the boats with plenty of admirers to give him titbits and make fuss of him. He has become something of a celebrity at Portland Basin, with a regular column in the WCBS newsletter and occasional appearances in the local paper. Fans would visit from foreign places (like Yorkshire) in the hope of a glimpse of our celebrity pussycat.

It must be said that Captain Kit has always enjoyed the summer more than the winter. Basking in the sun has always been more his style than sheltering from the dreich drizzle and, his particular bette noir, snow.

When it began to snow, just before the Solstice, the Captain began to show a marked reluctance to come outside. When he did he would carefully hop between my footprints to avoid his paws sinking into the white stuff. After New Year the temperature dropped more and everywhere became covered in an 8 inch freezing white duvet. Kit had made himself a nest aboard "Hazel" and refused to leave it even for his favourite cat treats. It seemed like the time had come for the Captain to be given a holiday from the boats.

My partner, Emuna, loves cats. She used to have a wonderful black and white cat called Oedipuss who lived to be a grand old lady of 20. After Oedi died, Emuna decided not to have another cat. For several years, As Oedipuss got older, she had been reluctant to go away because she would not trust anyone else with the precious puss. She felt that having a cat was too much of a tie.

Emuna enthusiastically offered to look after Captain Kit for a while at her little house in Ashton, so we drove through the deep snow to park the van as near the basin as we dared, then trudged down to collect him. Cats generally don't like leaving their territories, and Kit was no exception. He struggled and yowled as I carried him through the deep snow to the van (which by then looked like a mobile ice cream).

Soon we were at Emuna's house and, after spending about an hour hiding under the bed, Captain Kit realised that lying on top of the bed was much more comfortable, and he's hardly moved from there since. He seems to be taking quite nicely to being a house cat. Now my concern is whether I'll be able to prise Emuna and Captain Kit apart when the time comes for him to resume command of the boats.

The End of The Flea Market Stall 15th December 2009

2009-12-14 @ 19:24:59 by ashtonboatman

The end of the Flea Market stall.

We started doing recycling trips with the boats in August 1996. At first we collected metal and clothes/bric a brac. We thought that we would develop it by starting to collect waste paper, glass etc, but the bottom fell out of the market for these commodities and, when it started to recover, the council started collecting them. However, a successful jumble sale or two showed that there was money in clothes and nick nacks, so we decided to give car boots a try. These went well, so we decided to have a go at council run markets, settling down on the Tuesday flea market in Ashton market place. To begin with the returns on this were marginal, but we were so broke in those days that we stuck at it for lack of any other income.

The big turn round came when we invested £40 in a secondhand stall that was advertised in Loot, and asked for a pitch, ie an area where you can erect your own stall rather than renting a stall from the council. We got our investment back the first day we used our own stall.

Our pitch was in front of the town hall steps. An excellent location, but we were forced to return to a ready made stall after a councillor complained about it being untidy. (He'd be untidy if he had to stand in that wind all day). After one time when we failed to make our stall money I approached the market management again and they let us have a pitch opposite Kwik Save alongside the market hall. At first this didn't do too well, but after a while our customers found us and soon other traders started to join us.

A bombshell hit when pitches were suddenly banned completely because they made the place look untidy (councillors again, or one particular one). A load of traders, including me, went to a meeting in the council offices and got it reversed.

On the morning of 25th May 2004 I drove, towing the market trailer, into town to set up our stall. I could see a big plume of smoke in the town centre and thought I hope that isn't the market hall. It was! If you have pyromaniac tendencies have a look at

The fire actually helped us. We were given a new pitch on a busy corner right in front of MacDonalds.

I should have mentioned the market trailer. This excellent box trailer was built for us using part of an old caravan chassis by Benchmaster Engineering of Mossley. It was a great boost when we got that as it meant that market stock no longer had to be unloaded from a boat in the early hours of the morning, then put back at the end of the day.

Anyway, things went well for the last 5 years, though sometimes it's been a struggle to find enough volunteers to keep it running. The stalwart for many years was David Lloyd, but, sadly, he was taken away by a heart attack.

Just lately I've been concerned about the amount of my time that the stall has been taking. Now that we have a huge shop on Stamford St in Ashton the income from the stall is not so crucial, and I keep thinking about all the other things that I could be doing on the boats with the 15 hours of my time that it takes each week. I was thinking of ways that we could carry on running the stall with less of my involvement when the powers that be dropped another bombshell. Our pitch was to increase in price from £10 to £90! We could reduce this by trimming down the area, but this would mean trimming down on takings too. I asked about moving back to our old pitch alongside the (rebuilt) market hall, but they aren't allowing pitches there now. Probably because they are so terribly untidy.

So, that's it. I've enjoyed 12 years market trading and, for a lot of that time, it was a lifeline to the Wooden Canal Boat Society. Now we have the problem of what to do with shop rejects as we all hate dumping them. The market stall kept down our landfill contributions considerably. I think it's sad that the tidier uppers of this world are steadily destroying our wonderful markets. They did it to Tommyfield Market in Oldham, which is now a shadow of it's former self.

Have a look at our untidy stall at market13

Oaken Clough, Ashton under Lyne 1th October 2009

2009-10-17 @ 06:28:14 by ashtonboatman

Another day.

It's Saturday and as usual I'm spoilt for choice as to which of my many tasks to tackle today, well, this morning anyway. This afternoon I will go to the AGM of the Medlock & Tame Valley Conservation Association. This is the charity that has taken charge of the wonderful wildlife garden created by Mildred Burlinson. It's situated about a mile from Ashton town centre just off the Oldham Road. I worked for Mildred looking after the garden for 12 years. Recently I've been trimming Sycamores in the garden, but I don't have a lot of time to devote to it. More volunteers urgently needed in this wonderful place. There's also a big old victorian house attached to the garden, which, unfortunately, seems to be being viewed as a liability rather than an asset. I wish I had time to help more. Have a look at the website