Saturday, 13 June 2015

Tree down

You know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and boaters. We had a nice schedule mapped out for Friday to get older brother Nº2 and wife back to Endon Bank in time to catch the bus to Leek, and connections ensuing. We hadn't allowed for this:


A guy we'd chatted with as he walked the towpath earlier in the day passed us again on his way home to his own boat and then, very kindly, and because he'd learned of our plans, came back 500 yards to tell us about the tree, which must have fallen across the canal in the previous two hours. So we walked up ourselves to see the nature of the problem, and found NB Vision Accomplished just approaching. Since they had "V–A" on the bows, I called them Victoria and Albert – I'm not sure that I did discover their actual names!


Albert thought he might have a go a hacking his way through, got out a saw and settled very comfortably into what seemed a somewhat precarious perch. He made a good job of cutting one or two sections, and older brother and wife helped to drag some of it out.


My best beloved went back to Erin Mae for a length of rope and our boat hook, and they used V–A in reverse to remove some more of the tree. But it looked as though it was going to be impossible to shift the bulk of it from where it sat under water.

There is no mobile connection at all in this part of the Churnet valley. I went back and across to the Black Lion and they let me use their landline to ring CRT. Customer services were closed at this point, but I got the emergency number and rang that. It was a bit disconcerting when the person at the other end said her system couldn't find the Caldon Canal, but I learned later that it's not actually CRT you're speaking to. Eventually she took a message and said she would pass it on.

Back at the boat we chatted again with three generations of a local family we'd talked with earlier on their way to the pub for food. When he learned of the situation, the older man said that the following day, after a business trip to Northampton in the morning, he would come back around 3 p.m. and, if we were still in situ, he would take older brother and wife across the Pennines, back to their home in Sheffield. What generosity!

I rang CRT again in the morning when it was clear by 11 a.m. that nothing was happening, and was put through to the local team who said this was the first they'd heard of it. Obviously the emergency services didn't know how to pass a message on (I know they'd had at least six!). So they were down within the hour to assess, back again later to have another go, but it was clear it would be the next day before they could get the right equipment in place.

The kind man duly returned at 3, and gave brother and wife a lift – though to Leek was sufficient for them to get a connecting service. We settled down for the night. with a weather warning in place and a bit concerned because we were moored on a river section that can be dangerous when in flood. In the event there was just a steady drizzle. In the morning we heard chain saws, but it transpired the CRT team had more than one tree to deal with before getting the winches for our obstruction. Meanwhile, however, one or two boats had gone up and not come back, so clearly had managed to find their way through the jungle. We decided we might as well have a go ourselves, as Erin Mae's draft is only 2 feet. With some trepidation, and some use of a pole, we made it through and tonight have come all the way back to Leek ourselves.

Such excitement!

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