Friday 12 May 2023

Macclesfield Canal. Bollington Wharf.

 Hello again!

No doubt, Dear Reader, you’re wondering where we’ve been for the last seven months.

Well, as planned, at the beginning of November last year (2022) we slid into a very cosy and secure mooring at Bollington Wharf.

Legend would be under the watchful eyes of our friends Brian and Ann Marie while we went off to stay with Frankie and Harry in France until New Year. (To avoid confusion, our Ann-Marie has a hyphen, and Bollington Ann Marie doesn’t.)

The car journey down to the south of France didn’t go exactly as planned; we were booked on the Newhaven – Dieppe ferry and had arranged to stay with Mum and Dad in Fleet the night before, however our car broke down on the way. Thankfully it made it to Mum and Dad’s driveway, but instead of boarding the ferry, our first day travelling was spent shopping for a new car. Two days later we were back on track, happily motoring through the French countryside in a new (to us) Citroen C3 Picasso. We stopped in Brittany to stay for a couple of nights with Jacqui and Al in the lovely house that they’ve just finished renovating...

...before carrying on south to Jussas, near Bordeaux, where Frankie and Harry live.

The time flew while we were there. The main reason for going was so that Dave could give Harry a hand in the workshop, and Ann-Marie could help looking after Thibault and Axelle. It sort of worked like that, but in reality it was a lovely long holiday. December was full of birthdays, and of course once Christmas loomed closer and other family folk began arriving, work in the garage dwindled somewhat, so Dave didn’t get as much done as he’d hoped. He did get quite a lot of the time consuming rubbing down done however, and on his days off he took advantage of the workshop facilities (and Harry’s expertise) and gave our car a new cam belt & water pump and a good service.

Christmas and New Year were fabulous, with Jon & Jo and Chloe & Shandy arriving with all their kids, turning Jussas into a delightfully chaotic melee of cousins.

Here are a few photos of the highlights.

 The journey back home was nice and smooth with another stop off at Jacqui and Al’s, then three  nights at Karen’s before driving back up north to the Wharf.

Before we went to France we’d both had Achilles injuries and had to stop running, so while we were down there we restarted the Couch To 5K program. We went out first thing in the morning two or three times a week, so by the time we came back we were ready to return to parkrun. Karen’s local one at Frimley Lodge was the test, and we both did OK; no ankle pains and respectable finish times.  

Back at Bollington we had a few days sorting ourselves out before discussing with Brian and Ann Marie about what they needed us to do to help around the boat yard. Dave was tasked with crewing with Brian on Nb Alton’s fortnightly three-day run, delivering coal, gas and diesel on the Macc and Peak Forest canals, plus going with Brian or Ann Marie on van deliveries to the places the boats can’t access while the winter closures are in place, and generally helping out around the yard. Meanwhile Ann-Marie would be working alternate weeks in the chandlery/office; serving passing boats with coal and diesel, general admin and taking hire boat bookings.

This was Ann-Marie's workplace....

This was one of Dave's.....

...and this was the other.

Van deliveries may be hard graft, but driving round the Cheshire countryside first thing in the morning does have it's perks.

The original plan was that we’d do a few weeks work in return for Legend’s mooring, but it soon turned into something a lot bigger. For various reasons, by the end of January one of their boat crew had left, and the person they had on trial as a replacement only lasted a day and a half. On top of that, the couple who were running the office and yard every other week gave notice, leaving B&AM desperately short handed. We couldn’t bring ourselves to leave our mates in the lurch, so we agreed to stay on till the end of March while they got sorted. It was hard graft; Alton’s weekend coal load alone was about 10 tonnes in 20kg bags. But we got every other week off, and having free use of the workshop, partial gas bottles, split coal bags and shore power, as well as not using any diesel, made boat life through the winter months dramatically easier.

It also meant that when Chloe and Shandy began building their ICF house in Randlestown, Co. Antrim, we could zoom over there on our weeks off to help. Ever since he left the RAF, Shandy had been trying to join the NI Fire Service. He’d been through the recruitment process, been accepted, and was just waiting for a start date. About a year ago they’d sold their house, bought a plot of land with foundations and planning permission for a four bed bungalow, and were living on-site in a static caravan until they’d sorted out their finances enough to start building. That happened a lot quicker than they’d hoped, and of course Sod’s law decreed that - almost to the day - the ICF materials turned up at the same time that Shandy got his basic training start date, meaning that after the first month of building he wouldn’t be there much. And when he was there he’d be either knackered after running hoses all day, or polishing his shoes and ironing his uniform. 

We’d already arranged to go over for a week to give them a hand, going by ferry from Liverpool to Dublin and slotting in an Irish Parkrun on the way.  As the week wore on it became obvious that they were going to need more help, we needed to get home for the coalboat run and a pre-booked holiday in Wales, but could just fit in another week between that and a party, so we agreed to come back, but had to fly this time.

Here's some photos of the build.


Leaving Liverpool on the Dublin Freight ferry.

Insulated Concrete Formwork (ICF) 

The panels are easy to handle and quick to build. 

The house is progressing well

The bracing in place. This keeps the walls straight while they're being built and stops them deforming when the concrete is poured.

Scaffolding planks so we can reach the top.

Getting up to wall-plate height.

The Static family home while the building happens. We were cosy in the caravan.

Back to Liverpool on the ferry for another stint at in the wharf .
After a frantic week got up to wall-plate level just in time for the first concrete pour.

Lunch on the scaffolding. No time to stop.

The walls are full of concrete.

Back on the plane home again. There's still loads to do before the roofers can take over, so it won't be long before we're back again.

So, between those two weeks, as well as a damp, muddy coal run...

...we had a fabulous, relaxing and fun-filled five day break in Anglesey with Bob and Mandy. They'd got an apartment in Beaumaris for a fortnight and had very kindly invited us to join them for the second week after their grandchildren had gone home.

The fantastic Beaumaris Castle.

South Stack lighthouse on Holyhead.

Newborough Country Park

Last day dinner with our terriffic friends at the Boathouse in Red Wharf Bay.

We chose Leeds Bradford for our second trip to Ireland so that we could go straight to Kate's 70th birthday party in Keighley when we got back.

That was a really good do with lots of Kate and Dave's friends that we hadn't seen for yonks. Somehow we found the energy to boogie all night long. We had a night with Kate & Dave, before heading back to the wharf.

So for the first three months of 2023 - apart from a short trip to Wales - we were either working in a coal yard in Cheshire, driving to catch a ferry or a plane, or running around a building site in Northern Ireland. Understandably, we were a bit broken by the end of it all, and things like monthly boat maintenance and this blog had dropped off the list of priorities.

However, we did find time to take care of one bit of boat maintenance. In a corner of the workshop at the wharf, Dave noticed an industrial sewing machine. We’d been needing a new cratch cover for a year or two, so we figured that if we bought some material and some new zips, it would not be beyond the wit of man (or Dave) to rustle one up using our old one as a pattern.

Taking our old cratch cover apart.

The new material. It's PVC backed acrylic canvas, so it's inherently waterproof without any treatment and should last for ages. 

Our new cover in progress.

 So when we pulled out of Bollington Legend was wearing a new, zippable, and beautifully waterproof front cover. We’re very pleased with it.

Somehow, we managed to slot a bit of a social life in-between everything else. Dave and Kate came to stay for a couple of days, and Clive and Fiona came and had dinner while they were here; a fab reunion for all concerned.

A lovely catch up with or old 2cv club mates.

At the end of March, after lots of goodbyes, tearful hugs and promises of return visits, we left our friends’ cosy yard and moored up about half a mile away on Bollington Aqueduct so we could get to the other side of the boat before moving on. It didn’t take us long to adjust back to our quiet little boating life; Legend got cleaned up after a winter under the trees, Dave caught up with the monthly boat checks, and we felt like ourselves again.

We’re sorry we left you for so long, Dear Reader, but we’re back now and hope you’ll stay with us. This year our plans include the Standedge Tunnel, the Calder and Hebble and South Yorkshire Navigations, an upstream trip on the River Trent through Newark and Nottingham, (including a run up to the top bit of the Chesterfield that we couldn’t get to last time) and the River Soar through Loughborough and Leicester. Somehow we’re going to squeeze in trips to France and Ireland as well, so there’s plenty of excitement to come.

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