Tuesday 26 July 2011

Nurse! The Screens!

Leaving behind the excitements of the "Stan'idge" we steal a march on the Oxford boat, somehow finishing our breakfasts and shepherding the children round the Marsden Visitor Centre and then getting under way before Commander Dave and Fran fire up their engine, so we are first into the fast paced succession of locks down the Marsden Flight. Lock 42 East down to 23 East, they come in quick succession.

In theory you are bring down a lock full of water with you, so you should never run out. In practise these are the poor condition locks with leaky gates including the one with the broken cill 'threshold' which led to our need to do this circuit anticlockwise in the first place, so we are all supervised down by British Waterways guys including BW Terry, our tunnel guide from yesterday.

One lock has such leaky lower gates that the guys cannot fill it enough to allow easy opening of the top gates, and 5 of us have to lean on the beam to persuade it open against the 10-12 inch water level difference. One further down still has no BW help and we are advised to tow it open with the boat in reverse. It needs full power and a bit of a (gentle) run-up to break the water's grip enough that water can leak round the ajar door and fill the chamber.

We descend into Slaithwaite (pronounced more like "Slaw-it") - a truly beautiful village where the canal runs down the high street and the high street has prospered as a result - artisan bakers, deli's, organic fruit and veg shops, chocolate gifts, fancy hair dressers. Here we meet the Darlingtons , famed narrow boaters and authors of the "Narrow Dog" books. Dad goes and schmoozes them up a bit, enthusing (genuinely) about the books and making a fuss of famed 'narrow dog' Jim (a whippet) and his new partner-in-crime (another whippet) but comes back rather alarmed to report witnessing a rather beginnerish aborted attempt to moor up and throw ropes etc.

Mum at this point gets excused lock-wrangling on the grounds that some bad insect bites incurred early on in the holiday have suddenly exploded into big half-a-grape sized blisters. Mrs Silverwood is renamed "Nurse-the-Screens" due to her heroic efforts at medical intervention and we use Slathwaite's pharmacy to buy dressings and stuff, but Mum is reduced to flip-flops which are not the safest lock-busting equipment. Em-J and J-M step up to the plate and become heroic lock-wranglers, impressing everyone.

We are sadly now, definitely on the way home, and Friday 15th (Day 12) sees us descending to the bottom of the Huddersfield Narrow and emerging into Aspley Basin (in Huddersfield itself) and back to territory we have covered before.

All good things must come to an end


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