Thursday, 25 June 2015

The Harecastle Tunnel

Forgot to mention re the Rising Sun pub yesterday: owner and staff recognised not just us but also Spot.  All made a huge fuss of her but, having traversed the 12 locks, she made a vain effort to be friendly but eventually scrambled under a table out of the reach of everyone for a well earned rest - not quite antisocial but exhausted and in need of peace and quiet.

Easy journey to Harecastle tunnel, only one 1-foot lock to go through on Mac canal.   One chap from boat of 6 helped us through, said he had to work off his breakfast! Others were taking on water, washing pots, etc - what a busy canal life!

Had an hour to queue at Harecastle entrance before boats coming up had cleared (time for a brew).  CART chap very chatty and helpful.  We discussed breeding of working dogs; he had working spaniels, his dad had been a Crufts judge of spaniels.  It's amazing the people you meet on the cut.

Having waited for our entrance into the tunnel, we witnessed those coming out: the second boat exiting had chap on tiller, lady wife/partner in bow room.  All that could be seen from lady was huge eyes like saucers.

As we have been through the tunnel on previous occasions, and being stupidly blind to any problems, we motored through and again thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  I set up the camera for Jan to take photos whilst on our journey (she's not a David Bailey!) and those below are the result.  "Into the breach dear friends".

When we emerged from the tunnel, the following boat said "not my cup of tea" - maybe they should take coffee instead.

As we said in a previous post there are in fact 3 tunnel through Harecastle Hill. You can just see the earlier James Brindly tunnel to the right of the Telford tunnel now in use. The Brindly tunnel was closed due to subsidence.

Westport Lake

We moored for the night at Westport Lake. As you can see it is a great place to stop and gives Spot a chance to swim in the Lake.  Going home for 2 weeks for various commitments and to watch the water going down the shower plughole but we bet we'll be stir-crazy within 2-3 days and want to get back on TM for the ensuing journey!

Watch this space!!

The House of the Rising Sun

Yesterday I took this photo of Tilly May moored in the middle of nowhere. It was a nice sunny morning all we had to do was fill with water and move down the 12 Locks in the Bosley flight. Contrary to our original thought is was harder going down the flight than when we came up it. There was nowhere to tie TM at the bottom of the lock for me to close the lock gates after use and let Jan prepare the next one. However we were followed down the locks by a boat with six crew so one came and gave us a welcome hand down the last 6 locks.

We had a steady cruise in the sun to Scholar Green and the Rising Sun pub. When we stopped at this pub on the way up the Mac we were made very welcome so we had to call in on the way back. They remembered us and we had a great night with good beer, good food and great company. This pub is a must if you visit the Mac. Moor at bridge 87.

Today we go back through the Harecastle tunnel - takes about 45 minutes - to moor up at Westport Lake before leaving TM at Festival Marina for a couple of weeks as we have some pressing stuff to do at home. The plan is to return to TM and head North back through the Harecastle and on to the Anderson Boat Lift.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Locketts Bridge in the Sun

We woke yesterday to some much needed sunshine after yesterday's constant deluge.  We had a nice slow cruise back down the Mac towards Bosley Locks. The plan was to stop at Royal Oak Swing Bridge and have a meal at the Fools Nook pub. However the pub has closed down so we opted for a remote mooring near Locketts Bridge.

We cannot get over the amazing views offered from the elevated position of the Macclesfield Canal (it looks even better now it is not persisting it down with rain).  The views have such variety: deep valleys, high hillsides, remote pockets of chocolate-box stone-built cottages, deep woodland and flat lush grassland.  It really is an area worth visiting.


The View

As you can see from the three photos taken from our evening's mooring, we are in a beautiful remote spot with only the sounds of the birds and a few sheep.  Currently moored above Bosley locks - the 12 we traversed through a few days ago.  Will wait till today to tackle them, though at least it's downhill this time!

Being left with bits and pieces of salad stuff, peppers, onions, etc took a packet of chicken thighs out of the freezer and cooked a curry for tea (Jan adds "delicious"!).

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Back onto the Mac in the rain

(Jan) - For those who follow our blog:  it was Chris's birthday yesterday.

We set off from Bugsworth Basin this morning as we needed supplies from Tesco in Whaley Bridge and also a pump out.  For fellow boaters, there is a Tesco super-store at B37A on the Peak Forest near Bugsworth Basin, just a few yards' walk, very handy. 

The best way to describe the weather today was heavy showers, lots of heavy showers.  There is something about lying in a boat snug and warm listening to the rain thundering on the boat outside (last night).  Makes you feel so snug, but life goes on and move must happen.  So batten the hatches and move on with a very depressed looking wet Spot.  Do you leave her depressed or put on her weather coat and exacerbate her misery?!!

Despite the weather, one thing that always gets to your soul is the bird song first thing in the morning.  As we have been moored last night in deep woodland, there is always the deep echo of bird-song, the blackbirds and blue tits.  Makes you appreciate that 'lonely' morning song.

So pleased we travelled along this canal stretch yesterday and saw the picturesque sights as today all was overcast with deep clouds over the hills.

We returned to the Boars Head for a meal. Jan had the last portion of game pie. The food is very good and the staff very dog friendly.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Peak Forest, Bugsworth and Pat Phoenix

We have no apologies for the number of photos included in this post. The Macclesfield and Peak Forest canals are spectacular. Apart from the lock flight at Bosley the Mac and the section of the Peak Forest are lock free. Both hug the contours of the land which means that every turn gives up a surprise. The mixture of industrial history and beautiful scenery make this the best canal journey we have taken so far. The mills and viaducts just appear out of nowhere as you turn the next corner.

Goyt Mill

Goyt Mill
The Goyt Mill was built in 1905 for the Goyt Spinning Company Limited.  It was purely a spinning mill.  It was steam powered and water for the boilers was taken from the canal.  Coal and raw cotton were delivered by canal.  When in full production in the 1930s, it employed nearly 500 people, but the run-down of the cotton industry forced it to close in 1959.  It stood empty for a few years and was then used until 1981 for the manufacture of plastic foam.  Since then it has been divided into small units and more than 80 businesses now have their business in the Goyt Mill.

Macclesfield and Peak Forest Canal Junction
 Considering how wonderful the two canals are we were surprised at how little canal traffic we encountered. However towards the end of the Peak Forest we noted an increase in the number of dilapidated boats permanently moored on the off side. It would be a nice place to drop out.

As you can see from the photos above the views from the canal are breathtaking. Even when the canal is tree lined you can see glimpses of the hills and valleys beyond. The Mac in particular has large sections cut into the side of a hill or built up on an embankment to pass over a valley. So we have an elevated position above the towns and valleys.


At Marple Junction we took the decision to head towards Bugsworth Basin instead of the other direction towards Ashton-under-Lyne and Manchester.  Two reasons: having been through such fantastic countryside, we did not fancy going through many miles of built up suburbs and towns, the other reason was on the immediate start of the Ashton section there are 16 locks in quick succession rising 214 feet - granted, they were downhill but, as we are heading back towards Stoke this week, it would have meant turning round and coming back uphill through them.  No chance!!

Last night we moored at Bugsworth Basin and had a meal at the Navigation Inn (formally owned by Pat Pheonix of Coronation Street fame). The basin is an amazing piece of engineering. It has so many arms and tunnels Jan got lost last night when she took Spot for a walk.

Map of Bugsworth Basin

Initially, the canal terminus and tramway interchange was to have been located at Chapel Milton, 3 km east of Bugsworth; the route then being continued by tramway to the limestone quarries at Dove Holes. This would have involved the construction of a reservoir at Hockham Brook, and a flight of locks at Whitehough to raise the level of the canal to the tramway. Due to the difficulties of organising sufficient provision of water to supply a summit pound which could cope adequately with the heavy lock consumption, the reservoir and locks were never built; the canal terminus and tramway interchange being instead constructed at Bugsworth.
Bugsworth Basin

In 1846, the canal and tramway were leased to the Sheffield, Ashton-u-Lyne and Manchester Railway, and ownership subsequently passed to the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway, the Great Central, and finally the London and North Eastern. The Peak Forest Canal Company was dissolved in 1883, and the complex was closed c1927 by the LNER; the site remaining abandoned until 1968 when the IWPS began their ambitious restoration project.

Tilly May at Bugsworth Basin

Bugsworth Basin

Extensive robbing of stone had destroyed the former buildings and upper wall coursings, but the essential site layout remained intact. Restoration over the past 25 years has included the reconstruction of the upper masonry of the tramway embankment bridge and the almost complete restoration of the original wharfage areas and retaining walls, of which there is a total length of some 2 km. 
Opened on 31 August 1796, Bugsworth Basin became one of the largest ports on the English narrow canal network, and remains unique as the only complete example of a canal and tramway terminus in Britain. Granted the status of a Scheduled Ancient Monument in 1977, the Basin complex and its associated structures and physical remains are now protected by law under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act.
Here endeth the history lesson.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Macclesfield in the Drizzle

Late start about 10.00am - couldn't tear ourselves away from the peace and tranquility of our surroundings - just nice to chill.  Canal alternated between high vistas open to picturesque deep valleys to tight woodlands.

As you can see from photos below, it is pointless to tank through the countryside as there's so much beauty to behold. It was unfortunate that the weather was misty and drizzling so we could not see the distant hills.

We were not really looking forward to convert from the beauty of the Macclesfield canal to the suburbs, but it has been an eye-opener of what can be achieved in conversion of history to modern age without losing the feeling of the area.

View of Bollington from Bollington Aqueduct

View of Bollington from Bollington Aqueduct

Although we have cruised through the very outskirts of Manchester today, there are some very pretty villages, some of which have become suburbs without losing the character of the original.  It is obvious from the mill buildings, mill owners' houses and adjacent terraced houses what manufacturing history is attached to this region.  The birthplace of Hovis bread was in the mill adjacent to bridge 38/37 - now converted very aesthetically into canal-side dwellings.  The most impressive mills is the now-converted huge Clarence Mill.  We believe this was the original silk mill of the area and now houses small businesses, a canal-side cafe and converted apartments.

Clarence Mill Bloomington

Clarence Mill Bollington

Clarence Mill Bollington

Fellow boaters had advised us to moor at bridge 37 as there is a Co-op store only a few yards from moorings - very useful for topping up - and to use the 24hr pontoon past the bridge.  Looking at Nicholsons' Guide, there were 2 water points around B37 on the left side - these are now redundant and the water point is just before Peak Forest Cruisers.

We weren't sure which direction to take at Marple Junction but, having looked at the 16 locks towards Manchester (Ashton canal)- "no problem going down" says Jan but as, we have to come back up them sometime next week, it has been voted a definite no-no.  So we are heading towards Whaley Bridge along the Peak Forest.  Spot doesn't care as long as she can get the usual attention and chews! 

Once showered we popped to the Boars Head in Higher Poynton. A good pub doing simple pub grub. The staff were very friendly. The beer was Thwaites and Black Sheep and slipped down well. Jan had lambs liver and I had home made mince beef and onion pie. Both were very tasty and very good value for money. Compared to the meal we had a Sutton Hall it was much better and considerably less than half the price. We will eat here again.

PS Chris's birthday today!

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Bosley Locks and Sutton Hall

Trepidation / delay from Jan to start as we were about to go up 12 locks to ascend 118 feet.  We were told it would take us about 3 hours to go up, best achieved was apparently 2 hrs 15mins.  Ha Ha! - we did it in 1 hour 55 mins with only 3 locks in our favour.  Reason for speed: Chris was told in local pub how to moor on current lock while partner closes current lock and has time to walk up to and open next uphill lock.

View from top of Bosley Locks

As we have now entered Peak District, scenery speaks for itself: it's magnificent.  There are close woodlands where the birdsong is muted / echoed but there are wide moorlands and valleys where the views are breathtaking.  Came across boaters at B53 Locketts Bridge.  They had gone down Daintrys Road Bridge and got their props damaged due to shallow water in the off-cut.  We had no problem.  Problem we did have was at B47 Broadhurst Swing Bridge.  Passing boater told us they had had some trouble with youths on the swing bridge, "caused them some trouble".  When we got to the bridge only minutes later,the lock mechanism had been superglued and, if not for a boat coming from the other direction with knowledge and equipment, we could have been there for a good while.  CART was contacted to absolve the problem and said they would be there within the hour.

Both me and Jan have decided to return down the Mac as the views are so breathtaking and the local people /  boaters so friendly.
View from the top
After mooring close to the Gurnett Aqueduct we went for a meal at Sutton Hall just a short walk over the canal. Even though we were there early it was very busy. Seemed a very popular meeting place for local successfuls - lots of chelsea tractors and 'pretty' people. Lovely building and setting. Very friendly staff and good beer. The food was ok, not the best meal we have had but ok. However we expected better for the price. Weather forecast not good for today so we will see where we end up.

Friday, 19 June 2015

The Macclesfield Canal

Yesterday started our trip up the Macclesfield Canal. The weather was cool and cloudy but no rain. We had no locks to do as the locks on the Mac are bunched together in one flight. The Bosley flight has 12 locks over about a mile and raises the canal 118ft to well over 500ft above sea level.

The scenery on the Mac is fantastic. It reminds me of the Ashby but with better scenery. The Mac has a number of Snake Bridges (See Photo below of Jan on Snake Bridge) they are a clever design. They move the towpath from one side of the canal to the other in such a way that a horse drawn boat did not have to unhitch the horse.

Jan on a Snake Bridge at Congleton.

Railway Viaduct taken from bottom of Bosley Locks
Our journey took us past this fantastic viaduct I don't know what it is called or where the rail line goes but it is electrified.

Spot crashed out

River Dane taken from top of Aqueduct

Cloud Fell
We moored up at the bottom of Bosley Locks just before the aqueduct over the river Dane with Cloud Fell behind us. When we arrived there were three buzzards fighting and playing overhead. The cry the buzzards have just gets right to my soul.

Our plans have changed slightly so I think we will be returning down the Mac after we have been down the Peak Forest Canal. We can say we will enjoy a second trip down the Mac, it is such a wonderful canal. Today we will do the Bosley Locks and moor at the top to have a meal at Sutton Hall. More of that later.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Harecastle and the Rising Sun

Today started overcast and the weather forecast changed to rain in the afternoon. Our main aims for the day were fill with water, go through the Harecastle Tunnel, and get some supplies from Tesco.

Entrance to the Thomas Telford Tunnel

The Harecastle Tunnel is 2926 yards long and takes about 45 minutes to pass through.  It is one of three parallel tunnels. The first built by James Brindley, the second by Thomas Telford so that there was a two-way traverse, the third built many years later to take Stoke Kidsgrove railway.  Due to subsidence the Brindley tunnel was closed, and the rail tunnel also ceased to operate, leaving the single file tunnel of Telford's still operating.  Due to modern diesel engine fumes a fan system was introduced to clear the air within the tunnel.

We filled up with water while waiting for our turn to go through the tunnel.  We were told we would probably have to wait for an hour.  It is only wide enough for one way traffic so boats move in convoy organised by CRT.  There were about 7 boats in our convoy.

Taken by Jan inside the tunnel

Once out of the tunnel we took a left turn onto the Macclesfield Canal and then promptly took a right turn and crossed over the Trent and Mersey Canal via the Poole Aqueduct. Just over the aqueduct we moored and walked to Tesco for supplies (Jan says thanks to Chris for buying an All Terrain Shopping Trolley (ATST!!) - not quite 4x4 but far better than having to carry shopping bags. By the time we returned to the boat the rain had started to we moved up one lock (very deep at 1 ft!) and moored by bridge 87 only a few yards from the Rising Sun pub.

Mow Cop Castle

Super atmosphere in the pub.  Locals and visitors treated alike, very friendly.  A great plus for us as they are also very dog-friendly.  We've put a comment on Trip Advisor re the pub and their food as we were really impressed with all.