Hazel Sponsors’ Outing

From Colin Scrivener, sponsorship co-ordinator.

Every year we organise a weekend when the Hazel sponsors can meet and have a boat trip. This year the date was fixed for the 13th & 14th of September. The plan was to cruise the Upper Peak Forest Canal from Marple to Whaley Bridge on Saturday, returning on Sunday, and the notices were duly sent out. Because Hazel is now too infirm to travel Forget me Not would be used, as she has been for the last two years.

Hazel_2 In July Forget me Not had set off, with Lillith in tow, on a trip to Lymm with the stock for a charity shop the Society had booked. They were to travel via the Macclesfield Canal as there were several more items to collect en route. Having reached the top of Marple locks the gearbox on Forget me Not failed so that Lillith had to be pulled back to Ashton to go the short way to Lymm.

As our weekend in September approached the gearbox was still awaiting parts. At least the boat was in the right place but she could not move so that it looked as if we would have a static event. Then salvation came with the offer of a tow from Gillian and George who live on Jackal, a rebuilt ex Fellows Morton & Clayton boat.
On a glorious sunny autumn morning I drove up from Bromsgrove and parked by Marple top lock. There was a group of people by the boats and Chris introduced me to Gillian and George, Paul Jamieson who represented Macclesfield Mind, Jack Farrel and Harold and Erika Hill, officers of the Marple Lions, Andy Roucham of W.C.B. Society and a reporter from the local press. The first formality was the presentation of a sponsorship cheque to the Society from Marple Lions,which was duly reported. Once the press had taken all the details and had departed we climbed on board. The boats were untied, George clutched in Jackal’s engine and set off, the tow rope tightened, Forget me Not shook herself free from the gravel and followed meekly behind.

The upper Peak Forest canal is exceedingly beautiful but it is also very shallow. As both boats are deep draughted our progress was very leisurely, but on such a glorious afternoon this was no hardship. Dead motor boats are usually very awkward to steer but perhaps as Forget me Not had started life as a horse boat she followed Jackal very well, although it was quite exciting for me steering round some of the tight turns and when meeting other boats.

Before long Chris had a brew going and then served up massive tasty sandwiches which were most appreciated. Trust Chris to look after the inner man. Once we were replete Andy and Gillian went ahead to work the first of the lift bridges. We did not want to have to stop as it is difficult while towing. Great care had to be taken at New Mills with a turn into a low bridge and then a congested channel past the boatyard. Our boats caused quite a lot of interest with the other boaters.

Late in the afternoon we approached Whaley Bridge. As all the moorings towards the town appeared full we turned into the Buxworth arm where there was space. We found a spot where we could get near enough to the bank to get on and off the boat and tied up for the night. Everyone agreed that it had been a most pleasant way to spend a sunny autumn afternoon. Goodbyes were said, cars were shuffled and everyone else went home while I stayed on Forget me Not, very much looking forward to spending the night in a boatman’s cabin again.

Later in the evening I went across to the Dog & Partridge to see about a meal. It was a really friendly pub with an interesting menu and several real ales on hand pull pumps, the Deuchars I.P.A. was in excellent condition. I chatted to several of the local boating residents while a very good blues band entertained us. It was quite late before I returned to the boat and settled down for the night. Next morning, after a sound night’s sleep, I drove to Stalybridge to attend the quarterly meeting of the W.C.B.Society after breakfasting in Tesco. Once the meeting had finished Chris and I drove back to the boat for the return journey.

There was only the two of us so we turned the boat and Jackal took up the tow once more. It was another beautiful afternoon as we cruised slowly back again. When we reached Woodend lift bridge Gillian and George decided to stop for the day. Chris walked to Disley station to get the train back to Whaley Bridge for his car and then returned for me. Having thanked our tug crew for their help we left. As we drove up the track I looked back at the two boats in the sunshine and felt rather sad to be leaving.

Having been re-united with my car I had a very pleasant drive home using the old roads enjoying the views across the Peak District, a fitting end to a most enjoyable weekend. It is a pity that more of the sponsors had not been with us, they certainly missed a treat. Next year we may try to organise an outing further south to try and tempt more people.

One thought on “Hazel Sponsors’ Outing

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