Thursday, 14 August 2014

New mates, broken gates and a hundred-year-old man

We are here!
Regular readers of our aquatic adventures will be familiar with my ramblings. I often find the minutia of life in the towns and villages we pass along the canals, equal to the pleasures of actually cruising. Take Monday for example: we were travelling between Hebden Bridge and Todmorden and fell into conversation with a boater who lived in Todmorden, and told us the best place to moor, drink, etc. Nothing unusual about that. Then he told us it was where Harold Shipman first practiced medicine and that he was one of his patients. “Evidently he dispatched a couple of elderly patients before moving on to Manchester,” he said.  “Nice chap,” and walked off.
Looking back on last week’s blog we were both getting pretty paranoid about getting off the Calder and Hebble as the locks were getting shorter and shorter. When we reached the last flight of three, some CRT (Canal & River Trust) workmen were doing some routine servicing there. We got through the first OK, and the second was a real squeeze, (about an inch in it). How we got in the last one I don’t know. It took three goes. I drove hard against the cill, and with one of the workman on our front rope got in. Then the top bracket on the gate broke. It just snapped, so I had to take the boat out. There followed a lot of head scratching before they lashed up the gate with straps and we tried again. It was a huge relief when they opened those gates and we turned left into canal country again and Sowerby Bridge.
Our third attempt at getting into the top lock at Salterhebble. The CRT men ponder on whether the gate will close. I'm just worried if I will get in.
A bit of a lash up, but it got us through
Since then we have been cruising with Ivor and Diane on “Paramour” and their beautiful border collie, Mick. He recognised me from the Caldon Canal, where they live, (not Mick stupid, Ivor) when we were there in May. It was Diane’s birthday while we were in Hebden Bridge and we had them on board for a spot of bubbly and some chocolate cake.
Looks like Mick wants a bit of Diane's birthday cake as well
There were more gate problems to come as we dropped into Hebden Bridge. The gates would not shut on lock 7 due to an obstacle under the water and the CRT man who turned up with a grappling iron used “Paramour” to “swing his hook”. He couldn’t shift the obstacle and called for his mate Bob, who did. After a pleasant two-hour wait in the sunshine, it was resolved.

We use "Paramour" as a launching platform for the CRT to throw his grappling hook.
Mick the collie looks on.
I am a big fan of Hebden Bridge, though it was nothing like I remembered it, when we visited last in 2008. Towns always look very different from the water and HB was no exception. I met up with a pal who always comes to our beer festival in St Albans and sells all sorts of Brewiana, but otherwise we just enjoyed the weekend and the surroundings. Pat went to the spiritualist church on Sunday night and I trawled round a few of the better pubs. We even popped into the Hebden Bridge Picture House on Saturday night to watch “The 100-Year Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window” with Diane and Ivor. There were a lot of subtitles but it was very watchable and very funny. I think it helps if you have read the book though.

The Rochdale Canal at Hebden Bridge. We're the second boat up on the right.
Hebden Bridge has become quite “New Age”, and has a large gay population. In “pink” circles it is known as the “Lesbian capital of the UK”. It is a charming place of alleyways, turrets, bijou shops and restaurants, surrounded by the dales. Evidently, a recent on-line campaign to make Hebden Bridge Britain’s capital city, attracted thousands of supporters! No, I didn’t quite understand that either, but it was in the Telegraph last year. We got a good mooring and stayed throughout the weekend, braving the remnants of Hurricane Bertha on Sunday evening.
On Saturday I caught a bus into Huddersfield and sought out a little music shop in a village to the south of the city, that sold “Mainland” ukuleles. This is the only place in the UK you can get this American brand and I had a great hour or so, playing all sorts of shapes and sizes. I think I will wait until we are in the US in December to treat myself to one. They sound great and look superb.
A very groovy "Mainland" Mahogany Tenor Ukulele
Then there was the slow climb over the Pennines again. The guide books all say this is a challenging waterway and they are not joking. It’s very slow going and there are many pounds between locks with no water in them.  And the weather has turned with lots of wind and showers to contend with over the last three days. But we have the summit yesterday and are back in Lancashire again. Tomorrow we start our descent into Rochdale and on, into Manchester next week.
Crossing the border, high up in the Pennines
Toodaloo chums

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