Monday, 15 July 2019

Heading East

Tuesday 25th June
Following a couple of weeks catching up with a few appointments and a very enjoyable week with family in Bristol and Dursley we returned to the boat and readied ourselves for the next leg of our journey.
During our break I contacted the lock keeper at Keadby, to arrange our passage onto the river Trent, and the pilot who we had been recommended to use for crossing the Wash.
The lock keeper advised us that the best tide for the Trent was Friday 28th June  giving us three days to get across to Keadby. We were given two windows for the Wash crossing, 2-7th July and 14-21st July, these allowed for suitable tides but the weather would be the most significant factor in determining the date and I was asked to contact the pilot on the 28th to check.
This meant that we had a few days of long cruising ahead of us.
That Tuesday morning we awoke to heavy rain drumming on the roof so we readied ourselves, donned our waterproofs and got underway for Castleford, our target for the day.
We waved our goodbyes to Dewsbury and set off down the short arm to rejoin the Calder Hebble at Thornhill. Turning left in pouring rain we set off along the wide canal heading for Horbury. This canal is wide and deep due to its being used by large boats supplying coal to the large Thornhill Lees Power Station back in the 80's, traffic which has long since ceased. There were also several large coal mines along this stretch of canal and we passed some of the large wharfes that at one time would have been very busy places.
Approaching Thornhill Junction at the end of the Dewsbury Arm
We arrived at the lonely Millbank lock, once overlooked by the Ingram Colliery, but now in quite countryside, locking through took a while as half of the lock gear was broken. The rain continued to pour and the whole atmosphere was more typical of a late November day.
A mile or two later we arrived at the next pair of locks known as the Figure of Three, due to a third lock, now long disused, that linked the canal to the river. We continued on arriving at the last canal lock dropping us down to broad cut and the wonderful Navigation Inn, sadly, on this occasion, we had to pass by to reach Broad Cut Low lock. This lock dropped us down to the river Calder thankfully unaffected by the rain. The river takes the route under the M1, through Thornes lock and on into Wakefield.
Broadcut Low Lock from the River Calder
We left the river close to the Hepworth Gallery heading along a short stretch  of canal leading to Fall Ings, once another busy coal loading wharf.
It was with trepidation that we entered the large and deep lock here, it has a bad reputation, however some work has been carried out making passage easier but time consuming as it took a long time to empty.
From here we left the Calder Hebble and joined the Wakefield branch of the Aire and Calder with its mechanised locks. We left the river again to join the long canalised section starting just above Stanley Ferry,  I covered our last journey down this stretch in our blog back in August 2017, no stopping for us this time, and we pressed on through the three locks taking us back to the river at Methley. The rain was starting to ease a little and again thankfully the river was still open so we continued down to the confluence with the river Aire at Castleford.
River Calder meets River Aire at Castleford
Entering Castleford Lock
That evening our friends June and Keith came down to join us and they gave us a lift to eat at The Victoria in Allerton Bywater, thoroughly recommended, the food was superb.
A drier day greeted us for our next leg heading down to Bramwith Junction to join the Stainforth and Keadby canal. Again I have covered this stretch earlier in the blog but with brightening skies we made good progress and enjoyed the long spell on the river to Knottingley, this part of the river passes the huge Ferrybridge power complex, still holding on to its cooling towers even though the coal fired part of the plant in now closed.
Coal Tippler at Castleford

River Aire below Castleford
Extensive bridge works near Brotherton
The sun was now shining as we passed through Knottingley and the enormous boatyard close to the Bank Dole junction. We pressed on through the long straight waters that typify the canal round here passing through the large locks at Whitley Bridge, by the M62, and Pollington a little further on.
There are proposals to bring some large barges through here carrying containers and aggregate dredged from the North Sea, sadley there was no evidence of this traffic on this occasion.
We arrived at the junction at Southfield reservoir, a huge lake used to balance the water levels when the large ocean lock is used at Goole. Here we turned right to enter the New Junction Canal, dead straight for five miles with a number of lift and swing bridges to negotiate breaking the monotony. There is also one lock at Sykehouse,the first lock up since the summit of the Rochdale.
We arrived at the aqueduct crossing the river Don always a welcome sight when travelling in this direction, before turning left at Barmby Dun to join the Stainforth and Keadby. We moored up just below the lock at West Bramwith..
The River Don aqueduct flood gates
I called the lock keeper at Keadby lock to confirm our passage through (24 hrs notice required) and he said all was ok and that we would be the only boat going through.
Thursday morning arrived and we set off through the lock dropping us down a few feet and got underway heading for a lunch stop at Thorne, we called at Stanilands marina for fuel before a hour or so break in very warm sunshine. Whilst locking through West Bramwith Lucia fortunately spotted a notice informing us that we had to book passage through Wykewell Lift bridge, thankfully I managed to do this but it would not be passable until 3 pm that afternoon.
We were soon through and on through the several swing bridges between Throne and Keadby, the canal runs alongside a busy rail line and one of the swing bridges near Crowle, requires contacting the signalman who closes the level crossing to road traffic to prevent a queue forming over the crossing.
The crossing that is interlocked with the swing bridge near Crowle
This stretch of canal passes huge wind-farms with their enormous turbines casting fast moving shadows across the flat landscape around us.
On the approach to Keadby we reached the fascinating Vazon railway drawbridge. The rails are only a few meters above the canal so the bridge has to slide at an angle to give passage through, this requires a wave to the signal man who operates the bridge from the signalbox. It is amazing to watch this enormous structure rumble into life sliding both tracks to the side and away from the canal.
Link to video showing bridge in operation
The signal man waved indicating we could proceed before the machinery creaked its way back into its normal position.
Making good progress on the approach to Keadby
We arrived at the pleasant moorings at Keadby and tied up for the night.
Passage was booked at 1330 the next afternoon so we managed a lie in that morning before preparing ourselves for the tidal Trent.
The lock keeper called us on the radio indicating that he was to open the swing bridge around 1300 to get us into the lock ready for the tide.
Entering Keadby lock
Video of our leaving Keadby lock

I always get a nervous feeling before embarking on these journeys, I had done all I could to prepare the boat but there is always that feeling of what if, the tide can be fierce and on a spring tide there is a tidal bore known as the Aegir. This was our third time on the river, heading south, and we have had varying tides but always good weather, this time was a neap tide, and warm and sunny the tidal flow was a lot less than on previous occasions, we made our lonely way up stream and I called the lock at West Stockwith to check if any traffic was leaving, glad I did as the keeper was about to let a couple of boats out, he held them in the lock until we were safely past. The two narrow boats that entered the river were cracking on at fair rate and soon overtook us, commenting on the lack of flow as they passed by.
Tidal Trent below Gainsborough
Torksey Viaduct, a welcome site approaching the lock

We pressed on reaching Torksey and our turn off the river some 4.5 hours after starting out, we had to wait a while for the lock to be set, but were soon up on the calm of the Fossdyke canal.
This canal was originally dug by the Romans as a link from Roman Lincoln to the Trent, just like a roman road it is straight for most of its length.
The Fossdyke Canal

Passing through Torksey we noted that no moorings were available, it was a warm Friday evening and clearly a lot of boats were out for the weekend. We decided to press on and head for the the next moorings at Saxilby, again they were full so we had no option to try for the next ones at Burton Waters only to find these were also full, by this time the light was beginning to fade along with our hopes of finding a mooring, however we finally claimed a spot right outside the Pyewipe Pub, a bonus as it was open and after a long journey I was ready for a pint!.
During our trip I had made contact with the Wash pilot and he confirmed that Tuesday 2nd July was looking good for our crossing, I checked with our insurance company and they charged us thirty odd quid to extend our cover for the crossing. Everything was now falling into place and the excitement was beginning to build. We had a few days to get down to Boston so we could slow down a little before reaching Boston on Monday.
Saturday morning saw us pass through Lincoln with its large Brayford Pool and Glory Hole, after which we stopped to do a bit of shopping.
The Glory Hole, Lincoln
We have been to Lincoln a couple of times before so carried on through the lock dropping us down on to the river Witham.
Leaving Lincoln onto the Witham
Looking back at Lincoln Cathedral
Barney Lock halfway along the way to Boston
We had been told previously that the run down to Boston was boring as the artificial river course is straight (another roman waterway) and the surrounding scenery hidden behind tall flood banks. Whist this is true we found it far from boring and enjoyed or trip down stream to Southrey where we stopped for the night, hereabouts the waterway is accompanied by an old railway and close to the moorings is the site of the station for the village, the platforms still remain but little else. The line closed in the 70's, at which time it was possible to reach Kings Cross from Southrey in under 3 hours.
Old signal box near Woodhall Spa below Southrey
We were close to RAF Coningsby and even closer the old airfield at Woodhall Spa, these were both home to the 617 "Dambuster Squadron" and were treated to a fly past of a Lancaster bomber as we cruised along.
Typical Witham views

The next morning we travelled a few hours further to moor at Langrick Bridge, here there is a small boat yard  and is a recommended place to fill up with fuel before heading across the Wash.
Monday morning arrived and we called at the boatyard to fill up with fuel and water before heading down the last few miles of the Witham to reach Boston around lunchtime.
Boston Stump comes into view

Boston is a pleasant town although few english voices are to be heard as you walk around, with the weather been so warm and sunny it really felt as if we were abroad.
The moorings are plentiful  with numerous pontoons available and they are secured by a CRT lock.
We moored next to an old Norfolk Broads cruiser, and the chap on board came across to ask if we were crossing the Wash. He wanted to follow us out into the Wash but they were headed for France so would not be turning into Kings Lynn. During our discussion I asked what his plans were for the journey, they hadn't really decided where to stop etc and were armed only with and old chart and an app on their phone. The only plan they had was to follow the coast round to Ramsgate before crossing the channel.
We also made contact with Cherryl and Ian who were on board a lovely Yorkshire built dutch barge called Serren Rose, they were also crossing the Wash and the pilot would be travelling with them with us following.
Following a walk round the town we got and early night in readiness for our adventure the next morning.

The tower of St Botolph's church otherwise known as Boston Stump

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

The Rochdale Canal

Monday 27th May
Last time we cruised the Rochdale canal we swore we would not do it again, jet here we were moored below lock 83 in Ducie Street basin full of apprehension of the days ahead. We had called CRT to see if we could get a volunteer to help us up the 19 large locks, but unfortunately, due to the bank holiday none were forthcoming.
A hire boat headed for Sowerby Bridge had passed us the night before and I had mentioned to them that we were on our way up in the morning, they agreed to travel up with us and once we were through the first lock they were waiting to join us.
They had a crew of four on board so three available to do the locks, this made life much easier and we made good progress, with two operating the lock the boats were in and two ahead setting the next lock.
CRT  advice not to moor until after lock 64 at the Rose of Lancaster pub as the canal passes through some of the poorer areas of Manchester, we had no problem, all the locals we came across were more interested in watching our climb up the locks rather than cause us any problems. More of a problem was the amount of rubbish in the canal necessitating in a couple of trips down the weed hatch to clear the propeller.
Swans old spinning mill near Rochdale

Our arrival at the moorings was greeted by a strong aroma of vinegar from the Sarsons vinegar and pickle factory close by. Last time we moored up here we tied up close by to the pub, however this time the moorings were in poor condition with collapsed wash walls and shallow water. I later learned that the proper moorings had moved to either side of the aqueduct a little further on.
Tricky Moorings
After a fine meal in a very busy Rose of Lancaster we retired ready to resume our climb towards the summit the following morning. Again we were joined by the boat we had travelled with the day before and again made good progress towards our stop over at Littleborough, a further 17 locks and 9 miles away.
The trip through Rochdale is a bit grim in places with all sorts of obstacles in the water, care has to be taken along this stretch to avoid continuous tangles around the prop.
A historic boat rally had taken place in Hebden Bridge during the bank holiday and due to the size of these boats they had no option but to come back over the summit to travel back down to Manchester. We met the first of these as we passed through Rochdale and it was good to see boats using this neglected waterway.
Passing under the M62, the towpath is to the left of the bridge and
is removable for widebeam boats

Leaving Rochdale we arrived at lock 50, locking up the advance crew returned to tell us there was a boat stuck in lock 49 ahead of us, further investigation showed that they had filled the lock but were unable to open the top gates due to a bad leak in the tailgates, this looked very much like a blown cill and water was pouring out faster than it could get in. The crew on the boat in the lock had called CRT and they soon arrived as did another of the historic boats. The CRT team concluded that the cill had indeed blown and that a stoppage would be required to repair the problem. Fortunately there was enough of us around to force open the gates to get the boat up and the historic boat down.
I returned to the boat only to find that our partner boat had broken down, we towed them up to the lock and, thankfully, there were enough bodies to get us through. We continued our trip up to Littleborough, leaving the hire boat behind to wait for an engineer.
It was with great relief to arrive at the moorings, having used the facilities we moved back across the canal to tie up. We decided we would have a rest day here so settled down on some very pleasant moorings close to the town.
Old hall near Littleborough
Looking across to the Pennines
Littleborough is a charming little town and doesn’t feel as if time has yet caught up with it, nestled away amongst the hills, with charming little streets and shops. I took a walk to look at Hollingworth Lake above the town, the lake area was once the playground of the local community and has the air of a seaside town with amusements, chip shops, pubs and cafes. There are good views towards the M62 motorway as it climbs its way up the Pennines on a large viaduct.
The beach at Hollingworth Lake

Littleborough Bridge
Returning to the boat we prepared ourselves for the day ahead to climb the last 13 locks to the summit.

Thursday morning brought heavy rain as we set off, the first few of the locks were problem free but as we arrived at the last four or five locks the usual problems occurred due to a lack of water.
The problem had been compounded by the half dozen or so of historic boats coming down the day before, we had to let water down from the pounds above each lock carefully rationing the supply, as we passed through. The rain teemed down but had little effect on the water levels, however, we finally arrived at the waiting pound below the summit level. The pound before was so low that I had to use the pole to push the boat off the many mud banks we ran aground on.
Waiting to go over the summit was the boat we had met in the damaged lock, they were waiting for the water level in the summit pound to recover before proceeding, so we went to investigate and agreed that we should be ok to set off. The friendly couple on the boat NB Matilda had set off from Mercia Marina and it transpired that we had been moored on the same pontoon during our time there in the winter.
We set off together to cross the summit, always a relief as dropping down the other side seems easier, we dropped through 3 locks to moor near Walsden close to the eastern portal of the Summit railway tunnel. It was here, during the nineties that a train of tankers had caught fire inside the tunnel, it took weeks to extinguish the flames, and the flames could be seen coming out of the air shafts across the moorland.
Crossing the summit pound
The hills surrounding the summit pound
We decided to continue our descent into Todmorden the following morning, NB Matilda decided to have a day exploring the area so we entered the locks on our own. As we were dropping the first lock a chap appeared to inform us that there were two boats behind us, they seemed to be in a hurry and were soon snapping at our heels even though they had to refill each lock. A few locks above the town the caught up with us and were letting so much water down the head gates were overflowing making it very difficult to open the tailgates. We had to get the assistance of a couple of ladies out walking to get the gates open, at which point I asked the following boats to wait at least on lock behind so we could get through.
Flooding locks due to boats descending behind us

We arrived in Todmordon but the moorings here are poor with damaged banks and shallow water, we finally found a spot on the outskirts of the town.
Saturday morning brought better weather and we cruised the 5 locks and 3 miles to moor at Stubbings Wharf just above Hebden Bridge.
This stretch of canal had suffered badly during the 2015 floods, the river had risen so much that it came over the bank and into the canal causing a torrent to flow down the waterway, the south bank is very steep here and the rains had caused the land to slip into the canal blocking and destroying a 100 m or so of the canal. It took months for the damage to be repaired.
The repaired section following the landslip
At lock 13 we met Vicky’s friend Lou, who lives on her boat close by, she helped us through the last couple of locks and joined us as we arrived at the moorings right outside the pub. She joined us for lunch before we went to visit her moorings. The little community here put a lot of effort into keeping their moorings tidy and have created a lovely area alongside the towpath.
The next morning we headed through the three locks down to Hebden Bridge, arriving at the second lock we waited for a boat to come up the lock, this was a hire boat with female crew who had been out for the weekend. They had been told that they could turn the boat round in the pound between the two locks, this would have been easy had there been enough water. We helped them round and then down the next two locks into town, they kindly gave us a bottle of wine in return for our help.
We moored up waving goodbye to the Manchester ladies as they had to get back to base, we elected to stay in Hebden for a couple of nights and were soon joined by NB Matilda.
That afternoon Toby and Marge called to see us and we went to sample some of the local brews.
Anna, Nick and Nat joined us on Monday and we returned for another good lunch back up at Stubbings, followed by a walk around the town, the weather was much improved and we had an enjoyable day.
Hebden Bridge

The following morning we set off for Sowerby Bridge, 5 miles and 4 locks downstream, the trip was mainly dry but heavy rain was forecast, thankfully this didn’t arrive until after we had moored up above Tuel Lane lock.
This lock is the deepest on the system, some 19 feet, it was built to replace two locks that had originally carried the canal through the town centre. After the canal was closed in the fifties the town was subsequently developed and the canal was built over, restoration necessitated in the construction of the deep lock and a tunnel under the main road.
Sowerby Bridge tunnel
The lock is manned Friday to Monday but passage has to be booked outside of these times, we had booked through for Wednesday morning.
That morning the lockkeeper arrived on time and penned us through first thing, we dropped down the last two remaining locks onto the Calder Hebble below.
We met up with Chris and Karen Payne, who live locally, that evening and enjoyed catching up over a few pints.
Sowerby Bridge is another charming little Pennine town and we spent the day walking up the hills overlooking the valley, the views from the top are stunning and are worth the climb.
Old Hall above Sowerby Bridge
Views across the valley above Sowerby Bridge

The Calder Hebble Canal
Sowerby Bridge was a transhipment town and the large warehouses around are testament to this. The Rochdale was built for 70 ft boats whilst the earlier CH was built for boats around 10ft shorter.
We set off on Thursday morning to be joined later by NB Matilda at the 3 locks at Salterhebble, these locks require the use of a hand spike to operate the paddles, quite difficult at times, requiring an implement resembling a pick axe handle.
Hand Spike mechanism
The first of these locks is quite short and tricky to negotiate, not helped by the bad leaks of the headgates.
Salterhebble Guillotine lock

We passed through the remaining two locks of the flight, sharing with another shorter boat who joined us through the locks lower down, we carried on down to Brighouse where we planned to spend the next few nights. We tied up on the moorings behind the large Sainsbury’s.
We passed through Elland where significant damage had occurred during the 2015 floods, the bridge over the canal had to be completely rebuilt and a lot of work was also required to restore the town basin.
Elland bridge repaired after the floods
More flood restoration

On Friday morning we were chatting to a couple of the local CRT staff who advised that we would be better mooring round the corner close to the basin, Duncan and Jude called down to see us and helped us move the boat round to the wharf outside the old Sagar Marine works, now a lively pub and restaurant.
We went out to lunch in the pub now part of the climbing centre in the old flour mills, the company, food and beer were all good.
Duncan and Jude left us in the afternoon and by this time the rain had arrived again, the waterway joins the river Calder below Brighouse so this began to cause us some concern as the river can rise quickly here and is often closed in wet weather. We began to consider whether would have to leave the boat in Brighouse as we had planned all kinds of appointments now we were back in the area.
Friday and Saturday nights are music nights at the old Sagar building and we enjoyed entertainment both nights, Saturday we went to watch a very talented reggae band, giving a reggae lean to some great covers.
The old flour mills, now a climbing centre
the dots on the side of the tower are the climbing steps
Luckily the river didn’t rise too far and had dropped by the following morning, we had another visit from Toby and Marge before we were joined by Chris and Carole Clarke and there two granddaughters. They stayed with us for a trip down to Mirfield, during which the rain arrived again, we enjoyed their company and Chris kindly helped Lucia do the heavy river locks.
The rain eased as we arrived at Mirfield and having said our goodbyes we settled down for a quite night.
Monday brought more rain but the river remained open and we were able to make our way down to Dewsbury basin where we had arranged to leave the boat for a couple of weeks.
The trip across the Pennines was less eventful than last time we did it, but the Rochdale has a feeling of neglect about it, unfortunately it has a bad reputation resulting in fewer boats, but with a bit more attention from CRT particularly around the summit more boats would be encouraged and hopefully improve the route.
The next chapter in our journey takes us down to Wakefield, the Aire and Calder and onto the Trent heading towards Boston and hopefully another bucket list trip across the Wash.

The Calder Hebble above Brighouse

Sunday, 9 June 2019

The Macclesfield and Peak Forest Canals

Leaving the Llangollen canal we arrived at the Shroppie, turning left and the short hop up to Barbridge. The village moorings were very busy but we managed to squeeze into a spot vacated by a leaving boater. These moorings require a large gap between the boat and bank due to a shelf under the water.
Monday 13th May
Another fine dry day saw us setting off for the short hop to Barbridge junction, we had passed this on our way to and back from Chester, this time however, we made the right turn onto the Middlewich branch, taking us down to the Trent and Mersey canal, the branch is a short but delightful canal with 4 deep locks spread out along its length, a few years ago we traveled along here stopping at the delightful village of Church Minsul, today however we carried on crossing the large embankments with fine views across the Weaver valley. We arrived at the third lock, dropping down to the pound that suffered the major breach in March 2018. We crossed the site close to the aqueduct that carries the canal over the river Wheelock, the banks and embankment have all been repaired and apart from the new concrete edges there was little evidence of the devastation that had occurred.
The repaired breach site

Image result for middlewich breach pictures
An aerial view of the breach 
We arrived at the final lock of the branch and dropped onto the T&M, turning right to head south towards Stoke on Trent. We climbed the first five locks of "Heartbreak Hill" before tying up at the village of Wheelock for the night. This is a nice little place, now mainly a suburb of Sandbach. It was here that we received the depressing news that the Leeds Liverpool canal would not re-open until the 18th June, this meant that we would have to cross the Pennines via the Rochdale canal, something we had vowed not to do again as it is prone to closures and suffers from a lack of water over the summit pounds. All this was also subject to the lock at Marple re-opening on time scheduled for the 24th May.
Crossing the M6
Tuesday morning brought more fine weather, we had arranged to meet Dave and Anne Brice that evening at the Rising Sun in the village of Scholars Green so an early start was require as we had some 10 miles and 27 locks to negotiate. Our climb started immediately and carried on until we reached the service station up at Red Bull close to Kidsgrove. I covered our last trip up the hill in our blog
The double locks of "Heartbreak Hill"

Leaving the services we climbed the last three locks reaching the summit of the T&M, between the last two locks we passed under the start of the Macclesfield (Macc) canal crossing overhead on an aqueduct.
Passing under the branch to the Macclesfield
Once through the top lock we arrived at Hardingswood junction, here we turned right to start our first time trip along the Macc.
Hardingswood Junction

Shortly after the junction the canal turns sharply to the right now running parallel to the T&M, another sharp right hand turn took us onto the aqueduct and over the canal we had just traveled up.
A mile or so further on brought us to the stop lock and the true start of the Macc, the stop lock was built as the two canals were run by separate companies and the T&M wanted to control access to their water, as they were concerned that the new canal would take trade away from them.
Evidence of the rivalry was indicated by the two different lock keepers cottages built alongside.
The stop lock at the true start of the Macc
Note the two contrasting cottages of the two companies

A short distance further on brought us to the moorings at Scholars Green just as Dave and Anne were arriving. We walked the short distance to the Rising Sun and had a great evening catching up with their news. Dave and Anne are currently exploring Europe in a motor home and it was interesting listening to their adventures and how they were also coping with life in a small space.
Scholars Green Moorings
We decided to stay put for another day so we could walk up to Mow Cop, an impressive landmark that had provided a backdrop to our recent travels we could see the imposing peak from the top of the locks at Hurleston. The walk from the moorings was a couple of miles climb and steep from the start, so we took our time as the weather was warm and sunny.
The views started to unfold as we made our ascent, soon arriving in the pretty village that lies just below the summit. The summit is capped by what looks like a castle but is actually a 17th century folly. The views from here were as good as any I have seen in this country, The 360 degree view looks over Derbyshire, Staffordshire, Shropshire, Cheshire, Lancashire and North Wales. We could see a large portion of the area we had covered over the last couple of months with Beeston Castle and  the Welsh Hills prominent. Other features that we picked out were the large radio telescope, at Jodrell Bank and Manchester Airport.
Mow Cop Summit

Thursday morning arrived and we decided to make our way further along this delightful canal mooring above the town of Congleton. We visited the town that had almost become our home as I had briefly worked there, during a short career move, back in the eighties. The town is a quite a pleasant place and lies about a mile downhill from the canal. We managed to find another oatcake shop so loaded up with some of their goodies to take back to the boat. We had moored close to an impressive Aqueduct, another on designed by Telford, he surveyed the route of the canal but the engineering was undertaken by William Crosley, however, being a Telford canal this required large aqueducts, cuttings and embankments, remarkably there is only one flight of locks along its 26 miles.
Congleton Aqueduct
Leaving Congleton we crossed over the enormous embankment and aqueduct that spans the Dane valley. The canal meanders quite a bit here avoiding the impressive hill known as the Cloud.
The Cloud
This brought us to the bottom of the flight of the 12 Bosley Locks, we made good progress through even though we had to drain the first half dozen. The locks are easily operated, well built and in good order and it wasn't long before we met the three lock keepers near the top.
The bottom of Bosley Locks
The view from the top
Once on the higher level we made our way to good moorings just outside of Macclesfield, these are adjacent to the business and retail park just off the Leek road.
Sunday morning we decided to move a little further along, here the canal leaves the outskirts of the town through lovely countryside with views across Cheshire dropping away to our left and the hills of the dark peak to our right, this point is closest to the Peak District National Park.
The canal soon returns to the edge of Macclesfield and we moored up adjacent to the Puss in Boots pub, after mooring up we realised that there are now good pontoon moorings just beyond the bridge, however we stayed put and went off to explore the town. Again, as was the case at Congleton, the canal keeps its distance from the town on a ledge above the river Bollin. We walked the mile or so down to the town which straddles both sides of the valley so we had to climb the steep hill to reach the centre. We liked Macclesfield, although small it retains a lot of its original shops sitting alongside the usual chains, its impressive town hall is testament to the wealth the town must have enjoyed in its heyday as a center for the production of silk. It also has a lot of pubs ranging from the modern such as Weatherspoons to some old traditional establishments.
Macclesfield Silk Road
We decided to return to the Puss in Boots close to the canal and went to sample their very reasonably priced carvery, this exceeded all expectations and the landlady even provided a pick from carvery for Scruff , for a small fee, this was gone in seconds!
Back to the boat we moved on again reaching the boat yard at Bollington Wharf we received a very friendly welcome here and filled up with water and tipped out the Elsan for a small £2 fee.
Bollington Aqueduct
We pushed across the canal to moor beside the enormous Adelphi Mill now converted to offices and apartments.
We took a stroll into the village, a charming spot with its gritstone cottages, nestled in the valley, here the canal crosses on a very high aqueduct, another very impressive structure.
Monday morning brought bright and warm weather and we set off heading for our next port of call at Higher Poynton, passing the impressive Clarence Mill en-route.
Clarence Mill
 This area boasted 74 coal mines in the past but little evidence remains of them today. The canal has a number of wharfs and basins around here, these served the various collieries and tramways. We moored by the wide section of the canal overlooking the playing fields, a lovely spot with
a wide aspect to the southwest, its a very popular spot and the spaces were soon filled.
It was approaching time to change the engine oil as we were nearing the 250 hour point since leaving Mercia in March, I took advantage of the fact that there was a recycling point nearby and was able to dispose of the old oil and filters.
The wide at Higher Poynton

Tuesday morning and we decided to head for the Peak Forest canal at Marple junction, passing through more sublime countryside before arriving at the pretty junction with its charming wharf.
Approaching Marple Junction

At the junction we passed under the stone bridge, turning right to head towards Whaley Bridge, to the left is the first of the 16 locks that make up the Marple flight.  As we leave the junction the view to our left sees the land falling rapidly away to the river Goyt in the valley whist the hills climb away to the right, this pretty much sets the scene for this canal as it makes its perilous way along the side of the valley.
Views across the Goyt Valley
The Goyt eventually becomes the Mersey at Stockport
The views are stunning looking across the valley towards the South Pennine hills. Progress is slow as the water is quite shallow in places and is interrupted by several lift and swing bridges all adding to the charm of this old waterway.
We passed an interesting boat on our way.
What a" Plonker"

As we approached the town of New Mills, straddled across the valley, we arrived at the Swizzler factory, home of Parma Violets, sherbet dabs, love hearts and other such famous sweets, the factory is in an old mill, having relocated here from London during the blitz. The building sits right along side the canal and the smell emanating from here brought back many childhood memories, also tempting us to go and see if they had a factory shop. Alas all sales are now done online.
We carried on passing the long marina at Furnace Vale before arriving at a junction, the left turn leading to Bugsworth, we carried straight on passing the useful Tesco store before winding at the historic wharf in Whaley Bridge. Retracing our steps we moored up in the heavily wooded section between the town and the junction.
We walked back to explore the town, particularly the area around the basin, which was the western terminus of the High Peak railway. We had explored the other end of the line on the Cromford  canal, previously, the railway linked the two canals making its way over the Peak District by meas of inclined planes, a good website explaining this remarkable feat of engineering can be seen at
There is an old trans-shipment warehouse where goods were moved from train to boat and vice versa under cover. Evidence of the old rails can be seen as well as the old incline making  its ascent up to the hills.
Whaley Bridge basin
Just around the corner from here is the very old Goyt Inn, well worth a visit.
The next morning we cruised around the corner to Bugsworth basin to be amazed at what we saw here.
The restored basins are a mecca for the industrial archaeologist, once the busiest inland port in the country, the basin was built for the trans-shipment of limestone and lime from the surrounding area, opening in 1795 to serve the six mile Peak Forest Tramway connecting the quarries.
 It is a beautiful place with many restored wharfs and basins, a testament to the society that came together to restore this incredible place, back in the sixties. There are also the remains of lime kilns where limestone was processed into lime, a product used for mortar, whitewash and for improving acidic soils. The process involved the stacking of layers of coal then limestone, creating a furnace after firing the lime was removed from the bottom of the stack. Whilst today the area is a green oasis for wildlife, in its day it was a filthy industrial site with smoke and caustic fumes belching from the kilns.
Visit  for further information and details about the organisation now caring for the site.
A view across the basins

A sample of the old tram rail
old sleeper stones

We spent the night here before moving back down the canal to moor at the top of the locks at Marple, giving us a day to explore before the long awaited re-opening of the flight.
We liked Marple, a much larger place than we anticipated with many local shops and a large and useful Asda. We walked down the steep hill below the town to reach Marple Bridge, another charming little place nestled in the valley alongside the river Goyt.
Marple Bridge
Here we enjoyed a good lunch with my brother John and his wife Tracy who were attending a country music festival nearby.
Climbing back up the hill we came to the point where the lock flight passes under the road, following the flight back up to the top. We noticed that a CRT workboat had passed through on a trial run testing the repaired locks prior to its re-opening.
Saturday morning arrived and we went to meet the lock keeper, he was busy briefing his volunteers before unlocking lock 16 at the top of the flight.
These locks are some of the most picturesque on the system, the top four dropping down along side the houses of the village. Details of the locks can be seen here
The locks were opened in 1796 and are a civil engineering marvel dropping 210 feet to the aqueduct that crosses the valley 100 feet above the river.
It was at the aqueduct, nearly two years ago, that we received the news that the locks had closed due to the collapse of lock 15.

The rebuilt lock 15
Lock 15, last time we were here there was
a gaping hole where the grass is to the side of  the lock
The rebuilt lock 11
Old warehouse above lock nine
The trip down was a real pleasure and we were assisted by 2 lock keepers making good progress we arrived at the bottom in under two hours.
We continued along the Lower Peak Forest canal, crossing the Goyt valley over the impressive aqueduct. We traveled this stretch almost two years previously, details of this journey were written in an earlier blog.
We reached the end of the canal at Portland junction to moor up for the evening before our descent into Manchester.

The end of the Peak Forest at Portland Basin

Heading East

Tuesday 25th June Following a couple of weeks catching up with a few appointments and a very enjoyable week with family in Bristol and Durs...