This evening we’re moored at Crooke just below Wigan on a beautiful autumn evening. The sun’s getting very low and the leaves are turning and falling at a rate of knots, we wake everyday to the boat covered in them. We have unpacked our winter clothes from under the bed and have had to have the fire on everyday. The Canal and River Trust do all their major repairs over the winter and issue a list of the dates of the stoppages. So we are having to plan our cruising carefully so we aren’t stuck on the wrong side of some of these essential works.
Edmund came last weekend to help us down the Wigan flight of 21 locks on Monday. Our friends Eric and Cheryl who are due to move onto their boat in a few weeks also came to give us a hand. We teamed up with Colin and Carole from The Wool Boat again. It was so lucky we had a big lock crew as the elderly chap, a single handed boater who was ahead of us slipped and fell head first into the canal. I was heading to the bins with our rubbish when I saw him go in head first. Luckily, he was just shaken with a little graze on his head. So we sent our trainee emergency ambulance crew, Edmund, ahead to keep an eye on him and to do the locks for him. It was an overcast day with a couple of showers. It took us quite a bit longer to get down the flight than it did to get up, as we had wait while our very soggy friend showered and changed into some dry clothes and also we had to fill all the locks after the other boat ahead of us departed them.
It was great to be chauffeured down south by Jason a couple of weeks ago to Alice’s 21st birthday party. They picked us up not, so bright, but very early at 04.15. We left the boat at Riley Green while we were away. We got to the house around 9ish, for the first time in 10months and picked up a few bits and pieces we actually have room for. The kitchen seemed SO wide compared to our very compact narrow kitchen. Dale made us all pancakes for breakfast. Heather, Jason & the children stayed at the house with Ada and we booked into the Kings Langley Premier Inn. The bed in the hotel room was absolutely massive, compared to our small double bed on the boat.
By mid afternoon about 9-10 hours after leaving the boat we were having canal withdrawal symptoms. So, off we toddled a few yards to walk along our most familiar stretch to the Grand Union Canal from Kings Langley to under the M25. There were lots of hops all ripe and winking at us, so we just had to pick some. We all had a fantastic evening at the party. Sunday afternoon we strolled back along the canal to Louise and Paul’s in Abbots Langley before heading back up north. The M6 on the way down and the M1 on the way back were both on their very best behaviour.
Just as we were approaching Riley Green (where we were leaving the boat) we came across ‘Ribble’ a restored Liverpool short boat, fully laden with 30 tons of sand it was delivering to Burnley. ‘Ribble’ had run aground under a bridge due to it being fully laden and the water level was about 9” lower than it should’ve been. So, the only thing we could do was pull it through. We tied their bow to ours and we had to go full blast backwards. Slowly, but surely we shifted her after about 45 minutes.
I have done my first natural dying while we were moored at Cowling near Chorley. First, I used some onion skins we’ve been saving since we moved aboard, John used some for solar dying in the summer. The second batch I collected acorns, crushed them and soaked them over night. Although my good friend Jenny Dean in her book ‘Wild Colour’ suggest soaking for several days, I just couldn’t wait that long. I dyed some of my old clothes and some left over curtain material I picked up at the house which I will will shred to make a rag rug to go beside the fire. I got varying oranges from the onions and a lovely brown from the acorns. I need to get some fleece prepared ready to pop in the dye bath as things flower & fruit next year. I quite fancy using some of the dreaded ‘Japanese Knotweed’ that’s in abundance along the canal, to make some indigo, however, I think I’ll have to closely follow Jenny’s advice for that one.
Our blackberry wine is snuggled, maturing in the airing cupboard and a batch of mead is sitting on the shelf in the saloon near the fire happily fermenting away. The book suggests leaving the mead for a year to mature – well I’m not at all sure about that one!!!
Over the next few weeks we’ll pootle up and down the Leeds and Liverpool Canal near Burscough before heading down the Rufford Branch where we’ll spend the first 3 months of next year due to the locks being closed for the planned stoppages. It’ll be so lovely being a mile or at the most 5-6 miles away from the Overells.