Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Cruising up the Macc

Since the last posting we have climbed 'Heartbreak Hill' and turned onto the Macclesfield Canal heading North once more.

After a few days at home we came into Middlewich on Friday stopping to replenish supplies at the Tesco's in the town.  On Saturday morning we came down Wardle Lock and turned right on the Trent and Mersey Canal heading up what are properly called the Cheshire Locks, but often referred to as Heartbreak Hill.  There are 31 locks in 12 miles but unlike many other places these are not in a closely spaced flight, but with significant gaps of level canal in between.  So there is more getting on and off the boat.

The 'Wich' suffix to the place name Middlewich is an indication that we are in salt mining lands.  Here at a salt works you can see piles of the white stuff.  Surprisingly part of the pile was outside in the open air despite the rain.

Many of the Cheshire Locks are double not in the sense of having 14 foot wide locks but in having two 7 foot width locks side by side.  This certainly increases the number of boats that can pass.  Here however the right hand lock was being mended.


You can see the M6 crossing the canal behind this set of locks.  The arrangement of double locks is even more adaptable than a single wide lock in that you can have one boat going up and one going down at the same time.  Not so good though if you have a broad beam boat.

We took a couple of days coming up the locks and you can see now that the rain has stopped and the blue sky has arrived.  You can also see here that the canal water becomes increasingly orange the higher you get.








 Just below a close linked pair of locks we met the boat below which is also called 'Leo'.


On Monday we arrived just below the services at Red Bull, close to the summit, and met as arranged our friends John and Ali on their boat Triskaideka.

 It was time for John to have a hair cut - or having it mown with clippers by Ali and Helen was there to record the occasion.

And here we all are beside the boats.  We had a lovely meal together at the Red Bull Hotel and then retired to Triskaideka for drinks.  As a result we had a late night but John and Ali were up and off early and set off down the locks going North while we finished breakfast and ambled on upwards.  It was lovely to see them again, having met last year on the K&A.





On Tuesday we carried on up the remaining locks to the summit near Kidsgrove and then turned right onto the branch leading to the Macclesfield Canal.


In this picture we have come up the penultimate lock and are looking back to the aqueduct that carries the link to the Macclesfield Canal over the Trent and Mersey.  This is like a motorway junction in that you go up 2 locks turn right and then come back over the canal you've just left.
 This view taken from just by the top lock shows the entrance to the branch under the bridge to the right.  Straight on leads under the railway and very soon to the entrance to the Harecastle Tunnel which goes through the hill to Stoke on Trent where we were in early May.


Yet another canal junction sign but they are fun.  We are heading to Macclesfield and towards Whaley Bridge.

Here is the view from the Aqueduct looking down on the penultimate lock shown above.



The bridges on the Macclesfield Canal are nearly all stone built and beautiful.  Here you can see two of them.


















We have moored and intend to stay two nights by bridge 86.  The chief attractions here, apart from the lovely view from the boat over the Cheshire plain are that you can walk to Little Moreton Hall which we missed going in when we came here last and you can also climb Mow Cop for the view.



This is the knot garden at Little Moreton Hall, composed of miniature box hedges and beautifully kept.

 This is a sort of joke in stained glass.  The family who owned the house for centuries were the Moreton family.  The wide open mouth of the dog is a 'maw' and the barrel at the bottom is a 'tun' so you have 'Maw Tun' or 'Moreton'.  We learned on our tour as well the derivation of 'threshold'.  Thresh was the name given to the deep layer of grass and dried vegetation laid on the earth or stone floor to make it warmer.  At the door was a cill of stone about 9 inches high to hold in the thresh, hence threshold.  I didn't know that before!




Here is the internal courtyard of the Hall.  It was built between 1500 and 1560 and has been very little altered since.  It is a truly remarkable Tudor building.


This is the classic view of the outside.  Look how the building has shifted and moved over the years.  The gallery on the top floor was an afterthought and has put great strain on the supporting timbers below.  The National Trust have now built a metal cradle below that storey to spread the load.

Mow Cop is one of a number of gritstone hills that stretch North from here towards the Peak District.  It is 1100 feet above sea level and has superb views over the Cheshire plain towards Wales and North to the Peak District and Manchester.

On the top of the ridge are some large outcrops of gritstone and this one has been left from quarrying.  It is known as the 'Old Man of Mow' and it really does look like a man in this view.


















Also on top of the hill and visible for miles is a folly built as a ruin by Randle Wilbraham, a local squire, in 1754.  Given its position perched on a rock it must have been quite difficult to build.


















We've had a lazy afternoon today but will be off again tomorrow to Congleton and towards the Bosley locks which is the only flight of locks on this canal.  Longer term we are heading for the Peak Forest Canal and will then venture to the edges of Greater Manchester to pick up the Huddersfield Narrow Canal as our route over the Pennines.

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