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March 22nd 2012
Published: March 30th 2012
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Tristram Sprague Voyage Part 2


Nantwich Basin

February 27

Jamie carried out a 500 hour service on the engine. No problems except the stop solenoid would not stop the engine! We spent most of the day in town buying supplies. We have already loaded about £400 of stores. Polished the car ready to leave it behind! Collected a takeaway Chinese from town..could be leaving Nantwich tomorrow? Very pleasant place and area, but we will now be pleased to leave. Won’t miss Otter the coal bandit!

February 28

Early start. Ian soon fixed the stop solenoid. There is a fuse by the starter motor which had blown. Picked up a few last items from the chandlery, paid the bill for services and fuelled up. Gave the staff of the boatyard a crate of beer and said our goodbyes. Headed away at 10.00am towards Penkridge. Took on water at Barbridge, then on to the Middlewich Branch. Brief stop at an amazing emporium at Venetian Marina. Moored below Minshull Lock, waiting for it to reopen after “stoppages”. Champagne celebration!

Minshull, Middlewich Branch

March 1

Sunny, but rain later in the evening. Cleared everything off the roof and got to work repainting the deck. Sue painted the roof, while David did the primer coat for the blacking, covering up the rusty bits! We have changed the colour of the deck paint for the foredeck and after deck to grey, leaving the roof blue. At about noon, the BWB boats came past from the lock...it is now open again! Two boats came past, including one with a very old man playing a very loud radio tuned to Radio 1! The stove works better since cleaning it with the magic powder!

March 2

Sunny, and ice on the canal again! Decided to move a short way and hopefully be able to do some more painting. Stopped in Minshull Lock to paint the blacking on the offside. What a good idea, so long as not many passing boats! Moored on bank overlooking Church Minshull; difficult moorings! Loats of hire boats came by, even late into the evening – all hurry hurry!

Church Minshull

March 3

Grey day. David concentrated on finishing the airing cupboard doors. Sue painted both decks grey, then button backed the seats in the dinette. Lost the ashpan overboard, but retrieved it with the boathook!

March 4

Set off for Middlewich at about 10.00am. Started to be caught up by a boat behind. Ran aground near main railway bridge (22A) due to very shallow water – everybody is asking where it has gone! Spotted some leaking holes in the embankment. The guy behind was nice; delivering a boat to Northwich for pre sale inspection. He helped us, and we helped him by leaving paddles open etc. Arrived at Middlewich at about 1.00pm. On the Trent and Mersey! Very stiff lock paddles. Boatyards hard at it painting hire boats. Watered at the Big Lock! Found fantastic mooring at Bostock Hall, ideal for boat painting! No TV though..never mind!

Bostock – Trent and Mersey Canal

March 5

Very sunny morning at last! At Bridge 176. Up early and painted the remainder of the port side. Changed the colour of the non slip to blue gloss and painted a cream stripe on the bows, which looks good! Later on, moved the boat about 30m down the canal to a picnic mooring on the offside. Did all the paintwork on the starboard side. We couldn’t have asked for more convenient moorings for the work. Picnic site was called Bramble Cutting, formerly a clay pit. Moved on towards Northwich, a very pleasant stretch with several bird filled “flashes” like small lakes. Through the industrial outskirts of Northwich; huge chemical works passed by – pretty grim! Moored opposite a busy boatyard at Wincham Wharf.

Wincham Wharf

March 6

Blustery cloud above. Walked to shops for bread. Set off again, and very quickly left the industrial wasteland behind. Very pleasant section partly through a wooded park. Arrived at Anderton Marina and had £12 pumpout. While waiting, we walked down to the Anderton Lift and went to the visitor centre. The famous lift lowers boats to the River Weaver far below. It will reopen on March 27 restored to original 1875 condition, hydraulically operated, but leaving in place the 1908 modernisation features such as the pulley wheels etc. A hive of activity to get it ready in time! Moored for water, then overnight at the Stanley Arms. Had a very good meal there. Right opposite is a huge factory on the banks of the River Weaver, which produces a sound like dinosaurs walking in Jurassic Park...scary!

Anderton Lift

March 7

Blustery sunny morning. Walked down to the River towpath and took some good photos of the lift. Set off at 10.00am along a very pretty length. Took on fuel at a nice yard just south of Barnton Tunnel. Barnton and Saltersford Tunnels were a great experience, as both are very crooked inside! Three boats are now behind us. We were overtaken by a mad old guy with a restless dog. Found very nice moorings at Bridge 213. Great spot for painting the diamonds on the bows! Sue will be doing the back doors. Planned to walk to Frodsham along the River Weaver path tomorrow morning. Looking forward to seeing our old friends from Fleet, Joan and David when we reach Lymm.

Dutton Bridge 213

March 8

Set out on the final leg of our Sandstone walk. This section is entirely along the riverbank. Walked down to the spectacular Dutton Locks, capable of taking ships, then generally west through some lovely scenery, wooded cuttings and meadows, which amaze because of the industry and development which is so close, but seems to melt into the background! Didn’t see any ships sadly, and all too soon the towns creep back until Frodsham, where motorways, railways, houses and factories once again dominate. Stopped in town, then took a taxi back to the boat. Boated on through Dutton Stop Lock, then through Preston Brook Tunnel. Stopped at Midland Chandlers at Preston Brook, then on to Bridgewater to nice moorings near Moore.

Moore – Bridgewater Canal

March 9

Wild windy morning. Chose a break in the ain to set off. Very breezy, but actually blowing us along north east! Stopped at chandlers at London Bridge, Croppenhall for water. Heard the news that the canal had been closed at Anderton due to a serious leak! We could have been stuck there for many weeks! Arrived at Lymm, and prepared for a great evening with Joan and David.


March 10

Overcast and breezy. Decided to move away from here due to cars splashing our lovely new paintwork from the towpath road! Moved on by wind power alone! Stopped near the aqueduct over the River Bollin, close to where the canal breached in the 1970’s.

Bollin Aqueduct

March 11

Bright morning. However it didn’t last! We had planned to do some final painting on the bow and stern, but as soon as the brushes came out down came the rain! After lunch it brightened up again and we set to work. David fitted a new hasp to the rear doors, then completed the bow diamond decoration. Sue worked on the stern and gave second coats to the blue paint in the cockpit. Luckily the weather held for the day. In the evening, we were intrigued to watch Fred Dibnah’s Building of Britain., as this week he was dealing with canals, in particular the building of the Bridgewater and Leeds to Liverpool Canals.

March 12

Slightly overcast, with blue patches and frosty! Sun appeared as we set off. At first very pretty, passing through the village of Dunham. We were leapfrogging a pair of huge MSC barges almost as wide as the canal. Reached Sale, and the development crept in again, finally on both sides of the very straight canal. Moored at Sale Town Bridge and set off to find a launderette which Sue had tracked down on Yell.com – very easy, in Ashton Lane about half mile away! We found ourselves in the shopping centre which was not unpleasant. Then on through Stretford, with a pretty mucky canal and surroundings, to the junction with Leigh Branch at Trafford park. Admired the Barton Swing Aqueduct. At we neared Worsley, the water turned orange with the iron dissolved from the mines. Had a good meal in the canalside pub called the Barton Arms.


March 13

Sunny! Went for an exploration of this historic place, now a pretty suburb of Manchester. Visited the Delph, where the Duke of Bridgewater linked his 52 miles of underground mines to his new canal, the first in the world. Used “starvationer” or “tub” boats to transport coal from the coalface to the the basin, from three levels of mine, with inclined planes. Took photos of the famous black and white 19thC terrace and the entrance to the Delph, and the estate village. Passed on through Astley Colliery and Leigh, with its huge mills, to a delightful mooring in the Pennington Flash park, with lovely clear water and old industrial buildings. Unfortunately the boatyard was closed, so we'll have to make the sewage tank hold out...again!!

Pennington Flash

March 14

Gas cylinder empty! Started the day with a bit of woodwork, making second layer of shelves in the saloon. Very windy, so lost the generator cover overboard. However, a nice boater coming from Liverpool rescued it! Sue polished all the brass. This is quite a pleasant area, reclaimed from an old coliery and transformed into a park. The canal runs on a high embankment. Pennington Flash is a large lake now used for sailing, but was caused originally by subsidence. Arrived at Poolstock Locks which have security keys; it was a long process helped by a BW operative. But there was no water in the following lock pound, so we had to refill it by emptying the top lock! Entered Wigan and moored first below the bottom lock. On advice from a BW officer, we moved back towards the lock cottage, which was covered by CCTV! During the wild night which followed, the building site opposite caught fire, and the fire brigade were in action for several hours...little sleep!


March 15

Wet and windy! Walked into town, stopping first to see the Wigan Pier, made famous by George Orwell in "The Road to Wigan Pier". Actually an old coal staithe surrounded by warehouse buildings; all of these and the Trencherfield Mill have been transformed into an interesting visitor attraction, linked by waterbus. Went on into town, and shopped at Morrisons...everybody was buying "junk" food! Sue bought a new watch at Next. Back by teatime and did some more woodwork, before heading off to the cinema to see "Gosforth Park. When we got back at about 10.45, some kind persons had let go the front mooring line, so we spent ten minutes rescuing the bow end which was stuck on the other bank! So much for CCTV, but it could have been much worse!

March 16

Clouder and bright, and warmer! Here comes the "big one", Wigan 21 Locks! The lock keeper told us that someone had been through on Friday night and left all the lock paddles open, so that some of the pounds had drained away! He and his mate were busy refilling them. So we took it very slowly with help from the lock keepers to pull us through some locks. Met Gill and Alistair near Lock 77. Saw some old TV's and barrels in lock 66! Took on water, and moved Alistair's car to Red Rock Bridge, where we had a meal at the Red Lion.

March 17

Red Rock

Sunny and mild, more like spring at last! Fuel 60l for £15, engine 539 hours, gas £13.50 for 13kg., pump out £10 at White Bear Marina, run by BWB.

Very helpful people and good value service. Passed through Johnson's Hillock Locks in the rain, sharing with another boat. Moored near Wheelton in a wooded area.

March 18


Bright early, heavy rain later! Moved on early because of the forecast rain. Stopped for a while for a visit to the estate village of Withnell Field. This was built around a former paper mill, now demolished, which supplied banknotes to the world! The main village is built on three sides of a square, the fourth being occupied by a perfect set of stocks!All the streets are cobbled, but there did not seem to be a shop and quite a lot of sensitively designed new development had been built nearby. Moved on under the stone clad M65 bridge, which seemed slightly strange but well done to the motorway builders for staying "in keeping"! Found a pleasant mooring near Riley Green, just past a good looking pub, the Boatyard Inn (though no sign of a boatyard here!).

March 19

Riley Green

Overcast early, brighter later. Set off early to tackle the Blackburn section. The entrance to the town is past rows of mainly well kept gardens, and much of the industry has gone. We ran aground on the corner of the embankment south of the locks, and again in the lock tail. Very helpful lock keeper saw us through the flight, as the locks are a little rough! On to Rishton, where we stopped for the launderette. While Sue was doing the washing, David went back to the boat and was accosted by six youths demanding to get on board and wanting a drink! Eventually gave them a cheap bottle of plonk which got rid of them...in future decided that we must make sure that our wine rack cannot be seen through the side windows!! On through Church and Clayton le Moss to the first of the swing bridges. Spectacular views from here.

March 20

Altham Bridge

Very overcast. Set off at about 10.30am. First came pretty countryside with far reaching views over the valley below. Then joined by the motorway which crosses and recrosses the canal, reminding us that there is another faster world out there! Into Burnley and Gannow Tunnel, quickly hemmed in by old mills and industry. This is particularly fascinating in the Weaver's Triangle, with old covered wharves and a pub. The BWB yard at the south end of the embankment is closed, though no idea why? Rows of millworkers cottages line the banks below the massive 60ft high embankment which strides through the town centre. Many streets are still cobbled and have been renovated. Parkland north of Burnley gave way to countryside near Nelson, with some more large mills...and a B & Q! Ran aground near Colne Aqueduct. Raining by the time we approached Barrowford Locks, which had very stiff gates and paddles. Moored in heavy rain at about 6.45pm, nearly dark.

March 21

Barrowford Top Lock

Sunshine and light cloud. First stop was for Foulridge Tunnel, which is controlled by traffic lights! So we had coffee in the short pretty cutting awaiting the green light! The tunnel is very wet and drippy, and there are tales of the cow which swam through from one end to the other some years ago! At the far end is a wharf with trip boats. Paid a short visit to the village, which has a pretty green and must be one of the highest on the canal, as this is now the "summit" level. The canal is very beautiful hereabouts, twisting and turning through dramatic upland country. Barnoldswick comes as a bit of a shock, having industry and housing on a large scale for this upland area. Greenberfield Locks are very pretty, with a great lock keeper and his three legged dog, who helped us lock down! An increasingly beautiful stretch, transforming into a landscape of low hummocky hills, some with odd trees on top. Sheep everywhere, but no cattle!

March 22

East Marton

Overcast. This is a very pretty spot, looking down from the hillside towards small hills with grazing sheep. After doing some work on the boat, including the bedroom hatch surround, moved past the famous Double Bridge towards Bank Newton Locks. Beautiful setting, looking towards the hills near Gargrave. Passed under the Settle to Carlisle Railway and into Gargrave, with its pretty bridge over the River Aire. Gargrave Locks are spread wider, and at one point the canal passes close to the Johnson and Johnson factory, where Gill's son Owen works! Out into a flatter landscpe and water meadows, where we saw Oystercatchers, Curlews and Herons. The twisting and turning canal between East Marton and Bank Newton is without doubt one of the prettiest sections we have seen so far!

March 23


Patchy sun. Moved on through three swing bridges to Skipton. Nice people in a hire boat opened one bridge; it turned out they had broken down. Their rescue boat was overtaking another boat on the next bend! Met Sue's sister Gill at Skipton, and walked up the Springs Branch below the Castle and old limestone quarries. Visited an excellent street market, and then we ate Gill's delicious picnic lunch. Later chatted to guy at Pennine Cruisers, who recommended we try the Woolly Sheep for evening meal...good call!

March 24


Overcast. Fuel 44.7l. Engine hours: 573. Pump out! Found a launderette open in the town. Slow cruise into the countryside, although the busy main road is not far away. Found a relatively peaceful mooring east of Low Bradley. Needed good TV reception to watch Hornblower!

March 25

Low Bradley

Overcast. Cycled back into Skipton to get some fittings. Towpath quite muddy, so on return developed a technique for cleaning bikes. Laid sideways with the wheels in the canal, it is possible to turn the pedals to spin the mud off! Moved the boat through the delightful village of Kilnwick, and moored on a high hillside overlooking the Aire Valley. Good views, except for some heavy industry and a busy new road beyond the river.

March 26


Very sunny, but cool. A real hard days work! Started by rubbing down the exterior, including the "water" side. How? By blowing up our plastic boat! It is really comfortable, and spent some time lazing around laid out in the sun. We repainted the bow and stern, and touched up the blue on both sides, and some "blacking". Walked back to Kilnwick, which has tall houses converted from old mill buildings. BW is putting in a new electric swing bridge, but having difficulty in making the road barriers operate properly...up and down in a strange order at the moment! A lovely evening, warm and more like spring.

March 27

Lovely morning! Did some more work on the boat, touching up and polishing all round. Had to look into the weed hatch for the first time; less difficult than I thought, given the relative inaccessibility of the engine compartment! As we thought, about twenty plastic bags and some knicker elastic (how did that get there?!) wrapped around the prop! This had been causing a bit of sluggishness, especially when pulling away. Set off at about 1.00pm for the short run to Silsden, which is a pretty town. Found a brand new Coop and did a top up. David walked to the station and caught a train to Leeds, where he met our youngest daughter Eleanor and returned to the boat. Did a short trip out of the town in twilight to moor in open countryside.

March 28


Sunny! Made an early start for long day. Eleanor and Sue walked the first couple of miles to open the numerous swing bridges. A surprisingly attractive section, with wooded hills coming down to the canal bank on the left, and great views over the patchwork fields to the right. Buildings start to close in near Keighley, which merges into Bingley. Stopped at the Five Rise Café for lunch, awaiting orders from Barry, the famous lock keeper of TV fame! A tall chap with impenetrable Yorkshire accent, he saw us safely through the Five Rise and Three Rise locks, with lots of onlookers (aka. Gongoozlers). Claimed that we were one of the first boats through towards Leeds this year! On through another 3 rise "staircase", over an aqueduct and pretty secluded cutting beside the River Aire towards Saltaire.

March 29

Silsden and Saltaire

Sunny. Short trip down to the Mill at Saltaire. Moored and walked back into the village created by Titus Salt for his workforce. The Mill is very impressive and several floors have been converted to an art gallery and up market design shop. The gallery is mainly devoted to the work of David Hockney, and the classical music background makes it a restful place to see pictures. The shop stocks a spectacular range of top quality home furnishings and fittings, the best of world design. The canal from Saltaire to Rodley is full of contrasts - some mills, but a surprising amount of wooded and rural countryside, with tantalising glimpses of large mill owners houses on the hills overlooking the Aire Valley. There is an interesting staircase lock at Apperley Bridge.

March 30


Took Eleanor back to Leeds Station by bus. It was the day of the Leeds v Man U "grudge" match, so the city was full of armed and mounted police! Our friends Mick and Jan arrived, so we had a meal at the Railway PH before moving to Rodley boatyard for a pumpout. The yard owner had worked on restoring the Huddersfield canal tunnel at Standedge, and reckoned it would have been more economical to make a new canal through the adjacent railway tunnel! Drank ourselves into oblivion at the Rodley Barge PH!

March 31

Partly cloudy. Heard the sad news that the Queen Mum had died the day before. Pleasant run down to Leeds. The lock keeper very friendly at Newlay Locks, and the subsequent locks were all manned...a bit of a novelty! Several young kids were mucking about near one lock, and we were worried about them falling in. Moored in Leeds canal basin, and went exploring, but being Sunday nothing was open except for one coffee shop!

April 1

Leeds Canal Basin

Sunshine, then cloud. Early start. Checked over engine for river use and attached our anchor! Locked down into the River Aire. Amazing waterfront with lots of new buildings designed on a warehouse theme. All the locks from here are electric operated. Very bleak landscape most of the way to Woodlesford, then again as far as Castleford. The River Calder is more attractive. Ran aground on a bend near Fairies Hill, but towed off by a passing cruiser and then shared locks. Pretty settings for the locks at Woodrock, Kings Road and Birkwood. Passed over Stanley Ferry old aqueduct, side by side with a new concrete version. Not very inspiring meal at the Ship PH in Stanley Ferry!

April 2

Stanley Ferry

Misty. A long hard day, firstly on the Aire and Calder Navigation, then on to the Calder and Hebble Navigation at Fall Ing Lock. We moored briefly in Wakefield to buy a new gangplank (essential on rivers!) and a piece of wood to use as a lock spike. Some paddles on this canal are opened by inserting this spike into a hole and levering back and forth! Started sharing locks with a particularly unhelpful group of people at Broad Cut, so pulled into moorings near the Navigation PH. Very heavy locks at the Figure of Three, where we nearly had the boat sunk by over enthusiastic sharing boater. They opened the top paddle before we had got into position, and flooded the foredeck! Then into Dewsbury, but not very pretty from here on the river sections. Couldn't share Shepley Bridge Lock...boat just too long, so had to go in diagonally!

April 3

Shepley Bridge

Sunny. Quick clean up of the boat. The canal wanders in and out of the River Calder. Passed our "sharing" boat REM again; they are headed for the Huddersfield Narrow Canal on Monday. Passed Coopers Bridge Junction, on to a very pretty section of canal near Kirklees, spoilt only by the M62. Into Brighouse to find a fantastic Sainsburys right beside the canal...with moorings! Stocked up at last in a friendly town. On through deep wooded hillsides towards Elland. Helped through Park Nook and Eland Locks by three small boys..we worried about their safety at times, but we couldn't complain! Found a surprisingly peaceful mooring at the restored Elland Basin, where we saw a rare Mandarin Duck swimming about in all his finery!

April 4

Elland Basin

Sunny. Left the Basin and entered a very attractive section on a wooded hillside overlooking the Calder Valley. At one lock, we met a man who told us that the name "Sprague" is well known as a manufacturer of capacitors in the US...could it be one of the branches of the family? Arrived at Salterhebble Bottom Lock. This has a bottom gate of the guillotine type, the reason being that the new road is too close to the canal to allow for gate "balance beams". Moored in the Halifax Arm above the basin for water, and walked along the branch canal, which has been shortened. Saw the remains of an old lock buried in the landscaped footpath. The mooring basin features a Premier Lodge...quite inviting and reminded us of living in one while building the boat! On through pretty surroundings up the narrowing valley. Finished the new gangplank, then walked into Sowerby Bridge.

April 5

Sowerby Bridge

Misty. Engine hours 624. 45.6l fuel for £15, and pump out £10.

Quite a difficult basin to enter. Wide, and surrounded by warehouses, some derelict and one converted to a pub and craft centre, another into Shire Cruisers base. Went to see the Tuel Lane lock keeper and then passed the first two locks, through the bent Tuel Lane Tunnel and into Tuel Lock, the start of the Rochdale Canal. At 19ft drop, this is the deepest lock on the whole system. It is built of concrete and is very slow to fill, in order to avoid any problems with flooding boats! Lovely scenery, but the road stays close. Found an excellent launderette in the village of Mytholmroyd. On through increasingly dramatic Pennine scenery, with steep green fields on one side and the valley on the other. Into Hebden Bridge, a pretty town with river bridges and converted mills. Moored near the town centre, opposite a car park.

April 6

Hebden Bridge

Misty. Spent a pleasant morning cleaning the boat in the sun. Explored the town again, before our eldest daughter Kirsten arrived with her husband James and we set off again immediately. Quickly into dramatic scenery climbing steeply towards Todmorden. Moored with difficulty in this section, so gangplank came into its own! Passed a "boat commune" at Callis Mill. Overnight stay at Lobb Mill, but no food in the pub!

April 7

Lobb Mill

A glorious day! Up through several locks to Todmorden. Did some minor shopping and looked around the Town Hall. The pound above Travis Mill had been accidentally drained, leaving us high and dry outside the Cross Keys PH...so naturally we stayed, ate and drank. James pleased to watch the Motor GP on the pub TV! Lovely locks up the the summit level, from where we walked on to Littleborough where the canal starts to descend. This section was not open by this time.

April 8

Summit level

Sunny - again! The hills look lovely today. We begin the long haul descent to Todmorden and Hebden Bridge, a total of 25 deep heavy locks. Some really stiff paddle gear and gates in the higher locks, surprising since many are new. Refreshing lack of "gongoozlers" today! Both James and Kirsten took turns at the helm with the other three on shore "lockwheeling". Record was 6 minutes for one lock! Ate big baguettes in Todmorden, after trying sandwich and burger bar with no sandwiches or burgers! Back to Hebden Bridge, mooring at the basin. Unfortunately, James discovered that someone had broken into his car, but fortunately nothing taken. They then went home.

April 9

Hebden Bridge

Sunny - again! Queen Mother's funeral, so lots of businesses closed this morning. Went into town for a look around and a coffee. Back to the boat for a major repaint both sides. Did the blue and black on the starboard side, then "winded" the boat in the basin and did the port side too! Lots of "gongoozlers" asking where we had come from, and many also complimented us on our boat! Moored next to a boat called "Petronella" belonging to Peter Young, aka. the Fenderman. His boat was an ex BCN Station Boat No, BCN317, built at Bumblehole Basin with a National engine formerly in a tug. Amazingly, it has been previously a houseboat at Scotland Bridge on the Basingstoke Canal near our old home. He was given the boat, and gutted it before rebuilding the cabin. Some hull distortion occurred when he lit a fire to gut the old interior, otherwise sound. He used to live near the River Wey, his mother lived at St John's, so knew the Basingstoke canal well! We bought three of his excellent rope fenders for £35, a small price to pay for such a fascinating chat!

April 10

Sunny...again!! Decided on a walk this morning. Took the steep cobbled path out of Hebden Bridge up to Heptonstall. About a mile of hard climbing brings you to this old weaving village, tightly clustered around cobbled streets. It has two churches, the older of which was abandoned after a storm hit the tower. The village was also the site of a minor Civil War battle. In the afternoon, we watered and "winded" the boat and headed back east. Stopped at the excellent launderette at Mytholmroyd...again. Also stopped at Walkleys Clog Mill, a world famous factory selling other products. Bought some Yorkshire woolly socks and jeans for £3! Off again, and moored at Edward Kilner's Lock 5, east of the village.

April 11


Sunny. Spent a pleasant day in the sun doing jobs. Sue washed the seat covers and cleaned through. David painted the engine bilges (at last!) and completed most of the work on the rear cabin skylight. Later in the day, moored below the lock for a change of view, and to get better TV! We only saw two boats all day, one a hire boat the other a private boat which reversed up to us from the "winding hole". We suspect that they forgot that Tuel Lane Lock is closed on Thursdays!

April 12-14


Spent 3 days off the boat staying with Sue's sister Gill, and enjoyed exploring the Bronte Trail around Haworth, home of the famous three authoresses! The moorland scenery really brought their tales to life!

April 15

Sowerby Bridge

Overcast. Sowerby Bridge is not a very attractive place in general. Very busy main road through the centre, and no noticeable shopping area. However, the Canal Basin is splendid with many large warehouses, some unfortunately still derelict. As soon as we set off, the sun appeared and it stayed sunny and warm all day. We stopped at the wonderful canal side Sainsburys at Brighouse, but due to full moorings decided not to stay overnight. However, we found a great mooring just west of Kirklees Top Lock. Apparently, Robin Hood was in Kirklees Priory just before he died, and fired his famous last two arrows. The first fell into the river, but he was buried where the second arrow fell, and there may be a plaque to commemorate the event...long way from Lincoln!

April 16

Kirklees Top Lock

Sunny. Passed by a hire boat from Sowerby Bridge, heading for Huddersfield, one of the few boats we have seen. Five guys on their annual booze cruise! Turned into the Huddersfield Broad Canal (Sir John Ramsden's) at Cooper Bridge. Helpful dredger crew at Lock 1. Further along piling in progress on the offside. Moored for lunch at a delightful spot beside playing fields near Lock 6. Met the organising Committee of the Huddersfield Canal Festival on a recce. Their boat was "Wild Otter" from Leigh, and they had seen us before at Barbridge! Another helpful dredger at Lock 8, and also a young lad who helped us through several locks, and a friendly policeman at Lock 9! Under the remarkable Turnbridge Lane Loco Bridge, then into Sainsburys excellent moorings. Dredgers at work here too!

April 17

Apsley Basin

Sunny. A momentous day, for some of the wrong reasons! Set off on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal after buying fender ropes. Waited for the dredgers to move, then turned into tight Wakefield Road Bridge. Very nice through the University grounds. Got caught up under a coping stone in Lock 1E....should've learned our lesson! Through amazing Bates and Sellars Tunnels constructed underneath existing factories, so full of concrete pillars and flat roofed...not like proper tunnels. However, the canal could never have been restored without burrowing below building built on its old course. Coffee in a new lock above Sellers Tunnel. In Lock 5E, got caught up below a projecting ledge in the side wall, one of the hazards of a canal where most money went into building new sections rather than repairing the locks. The boat started to tip at the bow like the Titanic and started to flood the fore deck and then the cabin through the vents! Just in time, managed to drop the paddles and refill the lock; by now even the propeller was out of the water. A local "gongoozler" just sat and watched the drama unfold, without lifting a finger to help. No water above Lock 6E, so had to "sluice" through. This involves passing water into the lock pound from the one above, and so on. Then we found no water at Lock 9E, so had to call out BWB. Meanwhile, we had to unjam the gate at Lock 9E blocked by an old chair and some tyres! By now the BWB men had arrived...all 8 of them, and they "bow hauled" (pulled the boat by hand!) us through Locks 10E to 14E. We moored exhausted at Lock 15E. Then we spent a long time removing all the wet carpets and damaged furniture! We were still finding water inside CD cases whenever we put one into the player...lucky that CD's don't seem to be affected by water, although the labels certainly are!!

April 18


Sunny. Another momentous day. All started well, and we passed the first few locks towards Slaithwaite with no problem. Met the first! other boat coming the other way in the lock below the village, the one which had water problems the previous day. We were then got stuck in Lock 20E for 3 hours! Into the new concrete channel built through Slaithwaite. A nice mooring basin and new lock, where we promptly wedged! Sorted that problem, then BWB men reappeared and got us through the next few locks. All the pounds were very low, with only a narrow channel down the centre. Water had to be flushed down several times. Got stuck in the penultimate Lock 41E of the Marsden Flight! Finally arrived at Standedge Tunnel moorings at 17.15.

April 19

Standedge Tunnel East Portal - Marsden

Sunny. Early morning start to get the boat ready. Took off the navigation lights, fender eyes, aerials and all projecting fittings. The boat was then wrapped in heavy black rubber sheathing and attached to the rear of the tug, with the passenger module ahead. At about 9.15 we boarded the passenger boat with some other people, and proceeded into the tunnel, with the guide telling us the history. OK for the first 500metres or so, then there was a huge bang and the convoy stopped dead! It turns out that all trips are accompanied by a land rover which drives down the adjacent disused railway tunnel. So we witnessed the amazing site of vehicle headlights and people with torches popping in and out of side connecting tunnels to check on progress! After the convoy halted, BWB went into overdrive to get things sorted. I had to help the tug driver, who then proceeded to reverse the convoy including our poor boat backwards down the tunnel! There were two problems, a slight list on our boat, and low water in the tunnel. We corrected the slight list, but were told that no boats could go through until the water level was topped up. When the canal was closed, the reservoirs high in the Pennines which fed it were sold off, so all the water to top it up now has to be bought from Yorkshire Water! So we spent a rather frustrating day looking round the Marsden Visitor Centre.

April 20

Planets in conjunction...is this a good omen? Ready to go at 7.30, and attached to the passenger boat with 30 Railway and Canal Historical Society members. Told we could go too, but decided to walk over the top while our boat was towed through! It was a fabulous walk over the moors! Our only concern was the boat several hundred feet below us; every so often, we spotted ventilation shafts with steam rising from the tunnel. Was it smoke from our boat on fire, we wondered?? To our great relief, we joined a large crowd at the Western Portal in Diggle to see our boat emerge from its 3.5 mile underground journey, thanks to Fred Canter the driver and Trev, who steered our boat. Having removed all the rubber sheathing and refitted all the outside gear, Trev saw us through the Diggle Flight with two other boats to moor at Uppermill.

April 21


Light rain. Crash out day! Walked around the pretty village, quite touristy, and had leisurely coffee. Moved the boat through one more lock to a quiet spot overlooking playing fields. As the water level fell slightly, due to the usual problems on this canal, we were able to repaint some hull blacking.

April 22

Overcast day. Set off for Stalybridge. First few locks were OK, then met a pair of hotel boats near Royal George Aqueduct. Water levels started to drop, and we ran aground several times. Had lunch in the lock above Scout Tunnel, then through it to meet 2 boats coming up the next lock. We had to flush water through to get into the lock. the second boat was a Dutch type barge drawing about 3ft of water; how will they get to the top, let alone through the tunnel?! Crewed by an old couple; how will they manage those stiff paddles and gates? The hotel boats were crewed by Americans, with plenty of "hands" despite a very "green" skipper and mate...many hands are what you need on the Huddersfield Narrow! Wedged in several locks by bits of timber, and saw the first ducklings this side of the Pennines! Very relieved to reach Stalybridge, and moored this time outside a new Tesco!

April 23


Overcast. Worst job to do..the washing! Searched for launderette which at first proved fruitless. But we tracked one down eventually, but seemed closed and up for sale! Next door shop had the key however. After lunch and a long session down the weed hatch removing plastic bags, set off down the first brand new locks in the town centre. Nice chap gave us some firewood at Lock 2W, then the home run through Lock 1W with hydraulic gates towards Portland Basin. Nearly got stuck again beyond Asda Tunnel (under supermarket!) where banks had collapsed. Into the Lower Peak Forest Canal at Dukinfield. How the trees have come out now, being several hundred feet lower down the Tame Valley. A very pretty section towards Hyde, and amazing to see other boats again after the lonely cut across the Pennines!

April 24


Overcast. Under Manchester Airport flight path. The sun quickly peeped out as we cruised this beautiful length. Very rural, yet very hemmed in by the towns of the Tame Valley. In Woodley Tunnel we lost the cowl of our chimney, as the roof is very low in places. Hyde Bank Tunnel is much wider and leads towards Marple Aqueduct. I climbed down to view this "wonder of the waterways" from the river below, standing beside a much taller railway viaduct. Started Marple 16 locks, but had a boat behind which caused us to go faster than we wanted. But at Lock 7 we met a boat stuck in the pound above, and started to flush water through to get them off. The Fire Brigade were practising evacuation drill from a disabled boat at top lock no. 16. Reversed into a boatyard to get water, then on up the Peak Forest!

April 25


Sunny. We decided to move up a short distance to find a good painting spot. After a mile or so, we came upon a fantastic section just beyond Lift Bridge 24 at Wood End. The hill rises gently to the south west, while to the north east it falls away dramatically from the towpath wall into the Goyt Valley. A large chimney at Strines dominates the near distance, and further up the valley is New Mills. Horses in the closest fields, and a patchwork quilted landscape below is dotted with farms and cottages. Did all the painting, and the boat looks great again! At about 1am in the morning, a very anti-social boatload came by and had trouble with the lift bridge...very noisy and drunk! Among other boats seen today was Eightsome Reel, one of the boats moored with us at Gailey on the Shroppie!

April 26


Rain overnight, the first for weeks! Blustery sunshine and showers. Engine hours 717. Fuel 122 litres. Moved on in the rain to New Mills and moored at the Anglo Welsh hire base. Took on fuel and had pumpout in between heavy showers. Higgins Clough swing bridge No. 25 was very stiff. Passed over Disley Railway Tunnel. Moored up beyond Bridge 29, Banks End. Set to work pumping water from the bilges. There was more than 6ins below our berth, dating from the flooding in Lock 5E on the Huddersfield! Took about 2 hours to bail out with buckets, and must try to fit a pump if it happens again! Also decided to move the food stocks into one of the central lockers to redistribute weight. Cured the leak through the side hatch; without the rain we never have known about this problem! Nice mooring here!

April 27

Newtown - Bridge 29

Blustery showers. Decided to stay put. After breakfast, fixed up the bikes and cycled towards Whaley Bridge. Visited Bugsworth Basin, presently closed to boats, to see the massive inland port which handled 25,000 boats per year in its heyday, receiving limestone from Doveholes. Cycled into the town, saw the old tramway incline linking to the High Peak Railway...then had coffee!

April 28

A foul day...we were lucky to have had so few! Stayed on the boat all day. Swept the cabin and finally completed the hatch. Re-planned our overall route on the Canal Planner software, and decided to go to Buxton tomorrow!

April 29

Another very wet day. We went to Buxton, taking a short walk along the canal past the Furness Vale Marina to the station. A very pretty train ride through the Peak District past Whaley Bridge, Chapel en le Frith and Doveholes to Buxton, about half an hour. Walked into town, bought some woolly hats at Hawkshead, found some good second hand books and had a cup of tea! We remembered the Cavendish Arcade (formally thermal baths) from a previous visit..nice upstairs tea room under a stained glass roof. The Crescent is being renovated nearby. The town has an air of "gentle decay", and many of the shops seemed run down. Surprisingly lacked the little gift shops that many similar towns have..maybe a good thing? Lasting impression was of very fine buildings in a very fine setting, but something missing!

April 30

After returning to the boat yesterday, we picked a lull in the wet weather to get water from Whaley Bridge. We were lucky not to get wet! Set off towards Marple after rain showers at 2.00pm. Very pleasant run, and even the swing bridges opened without too much trouble. Tight turn at Marple Junction then took on water. Lovely run to High Lane. Found pleasant mooring overlooking parkland with deer at Windlehurst Hall, on the east and a distant Manchester to the west. Would you believe it...two more boats tied up in front only ten minutes later. Yes, its true...find a decent mooring and within a short time everybody else wants to join you! The heavens opened again just after we moored up.

May 1

Hawk Green Hyde’s Bridge 7

Sunshine and showers for first day on the Macclesfield Canal. Stopped at High Lane to buy supplies. Great little shop by Bridge 11 even sold our (current) favourite Warburton's bread. On and off showers saw us through Higher Poynton and pretty countryside to Adlington Basin Marina. Met up again with David and Joan Pearce for a great evening at the Miners Arms. We were interested to learn that David had taken part in the Devizes to Westminster canoe race along the Kennet and Avon Canal in 1997.

May 2

Adlington Basin Marina Bridge 18

Overcast. An interesting day. Towards Bollington, past the magnificent restored Clarence Mill and over the high aqueduct into the village nestling below. Fields full of sheep, lambs and cattle grazing new grass and dandelions. Pump out and fuel at Bollington. The yard man told us how busy things were since the alternative route via Anderton had closed. This was due to a collapse of the canal bank and total loss of water which happened only a few days after we left there! Moored in Macclesfield and walked into the town centre. Visited the Silk Museum which explained the rise and decline of the local silk industry. Then to Tesco for a top up shop. Onwards into very attractive open country, with green fields and hills giving a backdrop to the east. Peaceful mooring just south of Bridge 47 Broadhurst.

May 3

Lyme Green - Bridge 47

Slightly overcast. Moorings right opposite a beautiful green field full of lambs and sheep grazing. Split some logs to make them burn better. Huge thunderstorm with the biggest hailstones ever seen. The poor sheep and lambs..one minute they were gambolling in the fields in bright sunlight, the next minute battered by hailstones, deafened by thunderclaps and blinded by sheets of lightning! Got out the printer and started to print details of property in Wales. We have decided to visit West Wales again and search for an old farmhouse or smallholding from which to run as many businesses as we can manage! We plan to go over on Tuesday after the Bank Holiday.

May 4

Sunny at first, rain later. Spent the morning cleaning the boat and the brasswork. Also went to nearby wood, full of bluebells and an abundance of kindling wood. Collected large bag full. On to Bosely Locks, passing nine boats, which made it seem like the M1. Rain poured down for most of the flight, then eased towards the bottom. Very nice locks, some of the best settings we have seen. Moored at Bosely. Sue spotted an otter!

May 5

Boseley Bottom Lock - Dane Aqueduct

Sunny! Superb walk along towards Congleton, then left to join minor road and a path to the top of the Cloud at 1000ft high, a major landmark to the east. Superb view over the Cheshire Plain.

May 6

Walworth's Bridge 58

This is a superb mooring, one of the best so far! Looking eastwards across fields of cattle towards the Cloud . Very peaceful and uplifting spot. Shame to move but we need to get to Congleton. Very long straight sections, with dramatic views near the aqueduct, including the nearby railway viaduct. Found good mooring at Congleton Wharf, though shame about the condition of what were once impressive canal side buildings, now derelict. Prepared the boat for going away, and walked to find Congleton centre...no luck, the nearest civilisation is the station and some small shops at Hightown!

May 7

Congleton Wharf

Prepared to leave the boat for a few days to go to Wales. Set off by bus and train to Nantwich to recover our car...if it is still in one piece, or even there at all!!


30th October 2012

Tristram Sprague. Narrowboat.
I,m the new owner and have been for 7 years. Will update you on our adventures if you wish. Would love to know the history of the the name.
18th January 2017

Tristram Sprague
Hi Peter, Not sure if you will get this, as you made your comment back in 2012! I rarely go on Travel Blog, but happened to today. I am just writing the second part of the blog, having been too busy for a few years. If you still own Tristram Sprague, would be great to hear where you have been with her. She is named after one of my ancestors, who owned and ran the mill at Upwey near Dorchester in the 17th century. Most of his family then emigrated to the American colonies. Cheers, David

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