Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Heading North towards Manchester


Since our last blog we have moved in a zig-zag fashion across the map to find the Macclesfield Canal which is our chosen route North to Manchester.  Having retraced our steps down the Llangollen Canal finishing with the four Hurleston Locks in the pouring rain, we went North, first on the mainline of the Shropshire Union and then following its branch to Middlewich.  We arrived there at lunchtime and foolishly decided to walk into the town.  We got thoroughly drenched, spending some time under a large café umbrella with a strange gentleman who told us all the delights of the neighbourhood.

Having been wet once our enthusiasm for standing at the tiller getting soaked again was reduced so we stayed the night there.  On Saturday morning David and Victoria had to deal with an exploded Mozzarella cheese (the hazards of boating are surprising) so we set off first.  At Middlewich the Shropshire Union branch meets the Trent and Mersey Canal, so you first drop down a huge lock onto the T&M and turn right straight into the King’s Lock which starts the climb Southwards.back towards the Potteries and the Midlands.  It might seem illogical to go South when you mean to go North, but that is how things go on the canals where there are few routes.

The locks round here are very deep – mostly around 10 feet each:

 We climbed what is called Heartbreak Hill with endless locks over several miles.  We did not find this difficult, indeed with pairs of narrow locks we sometimes had the two boats going up side by side.
Leo in left hand lock and Pas Mèche in the right hand one
Once into Kidsgrove, at Harding’s Wood Junction there is the most amazing canal junction where we needed to turn left onto the Macclesfield Canal to go North.  However, like a motorway junction we went under an underpass (they call them aqueducts for canals!), carrying the Macclesfield, then up 2 more locks and turned right to swing round and back over the aqueduct to set off in the right direction.
Top of Aqueduct - see the other canal below

Taken from Leo sitting on the bridge with Pas Meche below
Sunday evening we walked from a remote spot on the Macclesfield Canal across the fields to Little Moreton Hall which is the best example of ‘black and white’ Cheshire architecture, now owned by the National Trust.  Unfortunately it had closed for the day but we were able to admire the outside of the building sitting in a very square moat:
Little Moreton Hall
Early on Monday we met a fuel boat and filled up with diesel.  This is a splendid experience.  You simply hail the boat as it goes past, tie up alongside and get your tank filled.
Fuel Boat alongside
Filling Pas Meche
 The Macclesfield has some splendid ‘roving bridges’.  These take the towpath from one side of the canal to the other and are designed so that you do not have to unhitch the horse as the horse does not go under the bridge until it has crossed the canal (think about it).
Roving Bridge on Macclesfield Canal
That afternoon we climbed a flight of 12 deep locks to reach the highest navigable canal in England at over 500 feet above sea level.  Views from here approaching Macclesfield were excellent.  You really feel you are in the hills.  And, as I add this posting we have come off the top end of the Macclesfield Canal and joined the Peak Forest Canal, travelling to its basin at Bugsworth nestling in the Peak District Hills.  This afternoon as a change we have been walking, climbing up the nearest hill a thousand feet above the canal.  This is called Chinley Churn and gave us good views of Kinder Scout just across the Hayfield valley from us.
'The Cloud' from Bosney Locks
And here to finish is a fun picture of Leo in a lock coming up the Bosley flight.  The heavy rain recently has caused a lot of run off from the fields and it is this, we were told, that has caused all the bubbles when the water is disturbed.  It was like having a boat in a bubble bath!

1 comment:

  1. Strange men (and strange Middlewich delights? Sounds like the soft centre of a Wicca trio), exploding mozzarella, grave-like locks, topologically confusing spiral canals and horses (but knot tow-ropes) and bubble-bath barges... who would have thought a bargee's life was so interesting and varied?

    W & D

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