Sunday 24 July 2011

Stepping Stones and Saddleworth Moor

Our Boating Story is now in day 9, the 12th July and Mum finds a superb place to stop for lunch in Uppermill where a gap in the towpath wall gives onto a path down to stepping stones across a wide, shallow stream. The stones let you in to a lovely park with swings and slides for the little ones, ice cream vans and acres of mown grass. The stream itself invites wading, splashing about and eventually some knee deep "swimming" till all children are soaked and in need of changes of clothes. Nice one Mum.

Our cast of characters is joined here by "The Magnetic Fisherman" (or, as Dave would have it, "Professor Pat Pending"). We first meet this aging hippy, his wife and their boat 'Thistledown' at the grassy halt in the Peak Forest Canal, walking towards us along the towpath dipping a weighty item into the water on a line while his wife followed along with clipboard and pen, taking notes. He looks a bit professorial so we assumed he was a researcher for the Waterways, doing some kind of techie survey of the state of the moorings. Nothing of the sort. He's just an old bloke supplementing his income by fishing for lost mooring pins, pin hammers and windlasses which he then cleans up and sells for a few quid from his boat. When he told us all about it (amused that we thought he was doing a survey) his wife adopted a slightly pained "what are these people going to think of him?" expression.

We move on to Dobcross where we are intructed to stop overnight as the next stretch, the "Diggle" flight of 10 locks up Saddleworth Moor (famed for the Moors Murders but stunningly beautiful) is another controlled section and allegedly locked. The Magnetic Fisherman poo-poo's this, susses out that the locks may look padlocked but actually are not, and chugs up 3 locks before running aground. He then breaks all the rules in the holiday boater's instructions by letting water down through the locks himself (we're meant to seek BW help for this) so that he can keep going. He'll not get through Standedge any quicker, so we and Oxford decide to be law-abiding and await the morning

Tomorrow, the dramatic Standedge Tunnel (pronounced "stannidge") awaits - The longest (3 miles, 418 yards), deepest (638 feet below ground at the summit of the moor) and highest (645 feet above sea level) canal tunnel in the country. Almost 2 hours underground chugging gently through, BW chaperone and guide on the aft deck, hi-vis clothing, life jacket and hard hat(or a 5 minute taxi ride over the top if you don't fancy the subterranean lifestyle).

Can't wait


1 comment:

Mr Silverwood said...

Picture of the scout tunnel looks great.