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Sunday 30 April 2017

Depressing descent into Manchester.

This post is a few days late as we have gone home for a few days. So on Thursday we set off early from Dukinfield Junction as I had a train to catch.

Even if they built a tall chimney like this out of brick these days. I wonder if they would finish it with as much detail as this on top of Junction Mill, built in 1867.

This is the bridge across the end of the Peak Forest canal at the junction and it is a very graceful affair.

We arrived at Fairfield Junction and the top of the locks on the Ashton Canal so stopped and had breakfast before starting down to Manchester. Once paired there is only one lock working now. You may recognise the bridge in the foreground as it it is the image of the one at Dukinfield.

I'm not sure whether it was the very dull weather with occasional spitting rain, the rubbish that was everywhere in the canal or just the general neglect of the area that made it a very depressing run down the locks. I am also sure those b----y hand cuff locks don't make for a skip and a jump at the locks. They ntake so much faffing about with. It took me a while to realise that this was not a foreign language. I wish more people loved their city enough not to strew rubbish everywhere and let their dogs and to the pollution. It was very disappointing after being in Birmingham and being pleased, by and large, that the whole area seems to be much tidier and well kept. This stretch of canal was just depressing.

This is Clayton Junction where the once five mile long Stockport Canal sped off. My spirits were lifted somewhat after the next lock as the environment perked up. We were obviously nearer the city centre and where the Commonwealth Games had been held in 2002, and now the Etihad Stadium stands along with the training ground and the National Velodrome. Lots of money had been spent on the towpath with little solar lights sunk into the surface to light the edge of the path. It was a shame that nothing else had been done to sort out the area to this point.

The tram system joins the canal just at this point and we also met our only other boater at lock 9. It was nice to see another boater. Mind you we found that some paddles hadn't been dropped etc.

I think the honours were even when City played United on Thursday night.

Looking back you can see the words on the bridge, coming the other way it is largely hidden by vegetation.

These are the ungrateful Canad geese whose gosling, our first, we rescued from the lock with our washing up bowl. Following this we saw lots more goslings, most in groups of 5 or 6. So maybe these aren't the best parents.

Nearly at the bottom now, lock No.2 and the Urban Spalsh building that has been christened Chips. It was at this point we realised that we only had 2 hours before my train was leaving.

 In it's hay day this area must have been extremely busy with lots of little arms etc. It is now Piccadilly Village. It seems that you can moor in these basins but we still had more locks to go as we were heading round the Ducie Street Junction and up the Rochdale Canal for a couple of locks to New Islington Wharf. I got to my train with 10 mins to spare. The journey home was swift and as soon as I got home I flashed up the car and was speed back to Manchester to pick Helen and the animals up. The reverse will be done on Monday evening.

Wednesday 26 April 2017

Another leg of the Cheshire Ring completed.

Last nights film. 'Their Finest Hour' was very good. I laughed out loud and had a little weep a couple of times and enjoyed a film about making a war film with in a film about making a war film! The Theatre is also a throw back to the old days. £5 to go back in time, but much neater and no smoking. I was a little flummoxed when the film stopped at one point, but quickly realised that it was the ice cream break!

We got underway about 0930. We had heard a few boats moving before us but didn't know where they were heading. Once we got in the top lock we found that there was a single hander ahead of us, so no records will be broken today. Only 8 miles to Dukinfield Junction but not so quick.

That is the first lock done and on the way down. What with going a couple of locks down to help out the boat ahead and closing his gates etc etc I'm afraid I didn't get many photos of our trip down the locks today.

After a few locks you pass Oldknow's Warehouse. He was one of the promoters of the Peak Forest Canal as it would obviously help in his business. I don't think I had really taken in the fact that there was a covered berth when we have passed before.

Helen has been spending a bit of time at the bottom of locks, where the sun doesn't shine, so has been feeling the cold. Where as I was stripping off layers of clothes as I went.

After the main road at Lock 9 the canal becomes much more rural and enjoyable, as there are still plenty of folk about to chat to. By the top locks there are mainly locals who have seen it all before and not too interested. Further down there are the walkers and visitors, and they are always good for a chat. Everywhere is greening up now.

Almost there, just two  more to go I think. There was a tug and butty following us down with several crew, who when we met up had a quiet winge about us going slowly. I was unusual calm and said nothing other than I am helping a single hander down as well as our own boat. They didn't offer to close up my bottom gates for me, just lingered above until I had done it. Not very friendly. We did see a strange, to us, bird. We thought it may be turtle dove, but it may have been a female cuckoo!

The lone boater stopped for his lunch at the bottom so we were ahead of the pack as we passed over the Goyt Aqueduct with the railway viaduct next to it. It all has reminders of  Chirk on the Llangollen Canal.

Soon afterwards we were entering the Hyde Bank tunnel. Normally we would moor up just before here following coming down the flight, but we continued onwards to the Junction.

Next came Woodley Tunnel which is very definitely single working. The fog hasn't descended in the picture, it is our stove as I have just put some wood on it.

This company started in 1874 when a partnership between Andamson and a Henry Booth was formed as a boliermakers. Soon after this building was built, in 1887, Henry Booth retired but Admanson continued. Next to this part of the factory are another two large extensions dates 1898 so business must have been good. They started to make factory overhead cranes at the turn of the century. In 1904 his two sons joined the business and Joseph  passed away in 1920. The business carried on though and diversified as industrial needs changed and in 1960 they were making boilers, electric cranes and doing press and welding work. As far as I can tell they are still in business today. 

This is the Peak Forest Canal version of a turn over bridge at Hyde with a cast iron bridge.

The last bridge on the canal is this lift bridge. It was just what Helen needed, a bit of exercise, to get her warmed up.

After the Woodley Tunnel we swapped the Goyt valley for the Tame valley. There seems to be a linear country park along the way, along with a massive sewage works as you get closer to the junction. Both are quite steep and wooded. Here the first view of the Portland Basin Chimney, or more properly the Junction Mills chimney, which was built in 1867 and is 210 ft high. This are must have been fantastic in those days as every time a boat passed there must have been some new structure of building to see that wasn't there the last time! The bridge is a rail line.

Tuesday 25 April 2017

Many mills to Marple.

The forecast was correct, with the morning dawning bright blue but 1deg. Luckily I had heeded the advice of the Met. Office and bought a bag of coal, and more to the point had set the stove to stay lit through the night, so we woke up to a very comfortable boat.

Just through Bridge 37 are new ponton 2 day moorings, new to us that is. I suppose it was easier than moving the debris that stopped you getting close to the side.

The sun shining on the gorse on the hills drew the eye to the gilded sight of the slopes above, and more views to see. No snow overnight though.

On the approach to Bollington is the Adelphi Mill. The mill was built by the Swindells family in 1856. They were owners of other mills in the area. It started as a cotton mill and then converted to silk before going back again. During WWII the mill was producing parachutes for aircrew before finally stopping production in 1960's. It was then taken over by Britax for making webbing straps for automotive use. They in turn stopped in the 1980's and now is a mixed use property. It is really good that it has been saved and certainly adds gravitas to the town. 

The second mill by the canal was also built by the Swindells, in connection with the Brooke family in 1834. It had five stories for spinning, 2 for weaving and an engine house. It was further extended in 1841, 1854 and 1877. To survive after this date the local mills had to specialise to survive. The Clarence Mill went on to make fine cotton counts for use in lace and muslins. In 1936 they were spinning silk and then in 1946 they were making 'Sylex', a thread so fine it was like silk. The mill closed in the 1970's but survives like the Adelphi Mill the other side of he aqueduct.

Looking back from the aqueduct is White Nancy that sits atop a local hill. It was built in 1817 to celebrate victory at the Battle of Waterloo by a local farmer. It is named after one of his daughters, or after the horse that carted the material to the site! It was unpainted until about 1926 and is normally white. However for special celebrations it gets suitably adorned. We stopped for fuel at Braidbar boats. Not the cheapest at 73p but needs must. I can now boast that I have had 'dealings' with Braidbar boats, and I didn't have to polish the paintwork before they would allow me alongside either. I saw a No. 146 is that the newest?

At High Lane this bridge marks the entrance to a short arm that was originally a T shape, but is now L shaped. The missing arm lay to the south where coal was brought from pits on a railway. The pits closed by 1914 and the arm was filled in with pit waste. The other arm was used for transhipments by road and this continued up until between the Wars. Pickford's were known to carry barrels of hats made in Stockport, bound for London. By 1943 the boaters that were using the arm for mooring banded together to form the North Cheshire Cruising Club.

The outskirts of Marple are heralded by the Goyt Mill. This mill was relatively late, being built in 1905 as a steam powered spinning mill. At it's peak in 1930 it employed 500. It closed in 1959 but went on to produce plastic foam, but is now small unit lets.

 We topped for water at the services at Marple and dumped the rubbish before heading to the junction and turning to back down the Peak Forest to moor opposite the club there. So that is the Macclesfield Canal completed once again.
A lovely house from where to watch the comings and goings at the junction. The Marple looks start their descent to the left.

There is a terrace of new houses the other side of the Charity boat moorings and the old covered warehouse is getting even more decrepit. The The Canal Company Offices right by the bridge appear to be under developement at the moment, and I wonder if the old plans to develop the wharf are going ahead after many years delay. 

After a bowl of parsnip soup we headed into town to track down the Post Office. The sun on some hill were in juxtaposition with the heavy black clouds that gave forth snow/hail for fleeting minutes. But we have managed to stay dry all day.

I was impressed that the street furniture represented the canal too.

On the way back there was this heron and crow that seemed to be having a bit of a slagging match. In the end the heron flew off being dive bombed by the crow. The Regent Cinema in Marple has the 'The Finest' showing for £5 so we will spend the evening out. That must mean there is no Master Chef on the TV!

Monday 24 April 2017

Superb scenery.

Another week's wait to see what 'Line of Duty' is all about!! We were off about 0930 and although the ground was wet there hasn't been much rain at all over night. We were off about 0930 and just as we were underway a hire boat came round the corner and over the aqueduct.

This photo of the turnover bridge was taken yesterday. It wasn't quite so photogenic this morning in the dull drizzle.

This is the house that Helen will buy when we win the lottery. It has a great view down the Shawbrook Valley. The photo is from the aqueduct. We passed Vaudrey's Wharf at the north end. It was supposed to be under threat of being filled in due to a leak, but it survives still.

A little further on and in the opposite direction is the railway viaduct. A good view but windy today. I had let the hire boat pass but they stopped for water just after Bridge 68.

The Cloud starts appearing and as you progress up the canal it's aspect changes, and in fact is seems to change sides of the canal too.

There had been a boat pass us so we thought that the locks would be all our way, but they are leaking or somebody had set off well before us. The bottom few locks seemed to have paddles broken etc but we managed to get a good steady pace going and we were soon at the top, despite the occasional short showers.

We got to the top in good time and stopped to top up with water. The best thing about the Macclesfield Canal are the views. The hills seems to rise from the bank of the canal and the valleys drop away on the other.

We passed through the Oakgrove electic swing bridge (Fool's Nook) and Helen was girding her loins for the manual bridge at Danes Moss nature reserve to find that it is being left open temporarily as the footpath appears to be rerouted. How temporary this is I'm not sure.

As we approached Gurnett these lambs were racing backwards and forwards along the side of the canal. It was great to see them with their tails swinging behind them. I couldn't see the normal elastic bands round their tails so that they will drop off at a later stage.

The views to the hills lead you onwards. By now the showers had stopped and the sun was out, the wind was starting to pick up though.

Last time we passed they were repairing this spills was just before the Gurnett Aqueduct. It is a nice aspect of the hills, houses below and the road from the canal. The pub down below is also a good pint. But we carried on today.

As you approach Macclesfield it seems like you are cruising down the moat of a castle with this stone buttresses and walls. There is a bridge, but no drawbridge. We pulled up opposite the mill and before the Puss in Boots pub. We did see that there are new pontoon moorings through the bridge. I suppose it was easier to put them in rather than pick up all the lost stones that made it very awkward to get the boat alongside.

Once moored up we were off down to town for some shopping. As we passed M&S we popped in to see if they had a meal deal and we were in luck. Very enjoyable it has been too. We are relentlessly moving on as we have to be in Manchester for Thursday as we are off home again.

Sunday 23 April 2017

Heartbreak to Big Macc.

It was a nice short walk in the sun to collect a Sunday newspaper and some milk. I have found myself checking the football results in the paper these days, before everything else. I have high hopes that Hull City will maintain their position in the Premier League at the end of the season to ensure a proper status during our City of Culture. If there is any justice!

We were off about 0930 in lovely sunshine but with the wind still with a little bite to it. I loved this arrangement with two bridge holes for the two locks and the lock landings for both sides. at lock 137, Hall's Locks.

Mow Cop was calling in the distance, but once again we will have to sail past and not get to the top. I promise one day we will.

So called 'Heartbreak Hill' passes under the keel very easily as there is plenty to keep you busy as the locks are ticked off, but between there is much to please the eye as the countryside has great appeal with rolling hills and views, rather than a hedge or bank of trees. This is no Heartbreak, it is a joy. Mind you what it would be like in the wind and rain I wouldn't like to say.

Red Bull Services were all quiet. We had a few low pounds but nothing really to delay us. For the Red Bull Locks a gaggle of hire boats had made it from the AngloWelsh Base to add numbers to the scene but the more the merrier on a day like this.

This sign seems to be a little different to what I was expecting. The plaque is on the parapet of the aqueduct of the Macclesfield Canal over the Trent and Mersey. Firstly it is called Poole Lock, when it is plainly an aqueduct, and non of the the locks are called this these days. I also see that the last numbers are IIII. I thought this should be written IV in Roman numerals? Anyway I believe that it means 1829.

This is the aqueduct in question. Unfortunately nothing was crossing at the time. When we arrived at Hardings Wood Junction, where the Macclesfield peels off from the Trent and Mersey, there was a boat that had not managed to make the turn and stemmed the buttress. They retreated for a second go and allowed me to go ahead of them. I was glad all went well for my turn in under the bridge or else I would have felt a right Muppet.

Here we are crossing on the the aqueduct pictured earlier. The rise of two locks enables this to happen. It is a long time since we have completed coming down to Hardings Wood from Middlewich, in fact we haven't done it in 'Holderness', so is another tick for us.

It is not too far up the canal before you get to the Hall Green Stop Lock where the Trent and Mersey and the Macclesfield Canal Companies built locks with only marginal falls to protect their very precious water. In fact the narrows coming into the lock mark the join of the two canal, rather than the junction. Each company built a lock to protect their interests as can be seen by the narrows at the one that remains.

The first beautiful stone bridge was not long in coming. These bridges on the Macclesfield are magnificent and worth the trip to see, especially with the sun glowing on the stonework.

We stopped at Heritage Boats to purchase a bag of coal as the forcast is for cold returning, so I thought I should be prepared for some nights in by the stove again. I have plenty of logs. Ramsdell Hall has a beautiful outlook over the Cheshire Plain. The central part of the building was built about the middle of the 1700's. The wings were added a couple of decades later. The house is in private hands, and who would want tom part with it.

We soon arrived at Congleton Wharf and moored up. My first job was to put the aerial up to check for the 'Line of Duty' availability. We failed!! As the warehouse was right in the way. Never mind we abandoned ship and headed into town. Helen had her thoughts on a Sunday roast. She had penciled in the White Lion and as it turns out that was the first one we came to. They were even still serving meals at after 1500. They had run out of pork, but the beef was lovely. We thoroughly enjoyed our meal and a couple of pints too. The first was a special St. George's brew and the second was a chocolate orange stout, that was disappointing. We then went in search of the Beartown Brewery Tap. On ther way there we passed a Titanic owned pub, and just a few doors down a Joule's pub! And I walked past them both!!! We were soon in the Beartown Brewery tap and having a pint of Kodiak Bear. It was very good with very definite tastes that hit just about all the different taste buds. I would like to go back and try the others, but as we had decided to move a to find a signal on the TV I thought that I should resist. I think that Congleton would be a great place for a pub crawl. Next time maybe.
Oh I forgot to say why the brewery is called Beartown. It dates back to the mid 1600's when a very important job was the bear keeper. His bear died just before the local market fair and he would be lynched if there was no bear to perform. Unfortunately he had no money to buy a replacement, but he managed to convince the Vicar to sell the town bible, or the money to purchase a new one,  to get a bear, Hartlepool has its monkey hangers and Congleton has it's bear. This is celebrated in the town.