Canal Companions - Exploring the Waterways, Again

Saturday 20th June, 2015
Sunday 21st June, 2015
Monday 22nd June, 2015
Tuesday 23rd June, 2015
Wednesday 24th June, 2015
Thursday 25th June, 2015
Friday 26th June, 2015

Saturday 20th June, 2015

Marina Stoke on Trent photograph
Black Prince Marina, Stoke on Trent

Drop Cap e got off to a good and early start and motored in the rain through some more of the Dales for the last time before getting on to a motorway which took us to Stoke on Trent. We found the Canal Basin and Black Prince Narrowboats fairly easily and, as usual, too early to arrive, so we went out to the large Morrisons supermarket in the neighbourhood and got in a load of groceries. After lunch at McDonald's, also in the same complex we returned to Black Prince and were shown over our boat.

Geoff on Kayla photograph
Geoff Exploring NB Kayla

Drop Cap ayla is a very attractive, surprisingly spacious boat. The bathroom is very good, and the beds seem comfortable. The fridge works (after we had to get the boatyard to put one foot back on it - fridge trouble seems to be haunting us) and the stove is gas, with a grill and oven but no toaster or microwave, but we did not expect them.

Black Prince Base photograph
Black Prince Marina, Stoke on Trent

Leaving Stoke photograph
Leaving Stoke via the Lift Bridge

Drop Cap he Basin is quite spacious, with a number of private boats moored about and surprisingly few Black Prince boats, compared with Chirk Marina on our first canal adventure. There is a lift bridge at the entrance/exit to the Basin, which one of the girls from Black Prince raised for us. And then we were off!


Harecastle Tunnel Entrance photograph
Entrance to Harecastle Tunnel

Drop Cap o, here we are in our trusty narrowboat Kayla, moored on the Trent and Mersey Canal just in front of the Harecastle Tunnel. We arrived unfortunately ten minutes too late to go through the tunnel this afternoon so we are first in line for 0800 tomorrow. This is a bit of a pain, I wanted to get through and at least on to the Macclesfield Canal today so we were well set for Little Moreton Hall tomorrow. Now we have to play it by ear and see what eventuates.

Drop Cap his evening, however, Mac decided we should push the boat over to the towpath side and fill up with water (surely unnecessary, we have not used much yet) and in so doing the pole slipped and Mac overbalanced into the canal! Unlike many canals where the side of the canal is very shallow, this being the mooring point for boats waiting to go through the tunnel, the water came up to Mac's chest and it was somewhat difficult to get out. Geoff and I couldn't help because we were on the boat, halfway across the canal, desperate to make fast. Mac had to change all his clothes, his brand new on today for the first time cargo pants, shirt, underwear and jumper. He took them all over to the water point with a bucket and washed the canal mud out of them. I will be astonished if any of it dries this week. It's a real pain, since we did not bring much with us.

Boat Leaving the Tunnel photograph
Boat Exiting the Tunnel

Drop Cap he Harecastle Tunnel is one of the longest on the system, 2419 yards, it takes forty five minutes to go through. If there had been no boats coming this way the tunnel keeper would probably have let us go but there were two coming up and there was no time left, last working is at 1600. So we have to wait until tomorrow.

Drop Cap nyway, after a very wet trip down from the Dales it seems to be trying to clear, the sky is mostly blue and the sun quite strong. Long may it last because Mac's clothes were draped all over the roof and sides, hopefully drying. I don't have very high hopes of that, though, it will take a while.
I will get dinner soon, then we might go for a walk along the towpath. Oh, well!

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Sunday 21st June, 2015 (Midsummer Day)

Entering Harecastle Tunnel photograph
Entering Harecastle Tunnel

Light at the End of the Tunnel photograph
Light at the End of Harecastle Tunnel

Drop Cap y the time we were ready to leave this morning we had acquired a convoy of another two boats to follow us through the tunnel.
The tunnel was a weird experience, very long, but you could see the tiny round dot of light from the other end. It was very narrow and low and Mac banged against the side once but otherwise did very well. We were out the other side in half an hour, the average apparently being forty five minutes.

Halls Green Stop Lock photograph
Halls Green Stop Lock

Drop Cap oon we got to the very sharp left turn that led to the Macclesfield Canal, crossed the aqueduct over the Trent and Mersey and started up. The first interesting occurrence was the Halls Green Stop Lock. This tidgy lock only has a difference of one foot depth, ridiculous really, but we did it and carried on, easily achieving Bridge 86 by 1030.

Little Moreton Hall photograph
Little Moreton Hall

Drop Cap his is the place where a half mile track leads from the canal to Little Moreton Hall, a Tudor Manor House which has not been out of the same family's hands until the last descendant left it to the National Trust in 1937.

We moored and locked up the boat then took the footpath across the fields. It was not all that well marked and there were cows and sheep, but we didn't get lost and finally arrived in front of Little Moreton Hall.

 Midsummer Fair photograph
Midsummer Fair at Little Morton Hall

Drop Cap t is the most miraculous building, black and white Tudor timber framed, built with no foundations, just flat on the ground. Consequently it leans hither and yon and the wonder is that it did not fall down two hundred years ago. I have been seeing photos of it in British Magazines for ever and really wanted to see it, and it was one of the main reasons I wanted to take this canal, despite the flight of twelve locks coming up tomorrow. It was well worth the effort.

Courtyard at Little Moreton Hall photograph
Courtyard at Little Moreton Hall

Drop Cap ittle Moreton Hall was en fete, celebrating Midsummer Day, Tudor style. A bit more sun would have been nice but, true to our recent form, Saturday was wet but Sunday was cloudy with quite long stretches of sun. There was a Tudor band playing medieval music using instruments reminiscent of the folk duo who entertained us one night on the River Cruise. They also had parades and dress up games for the children. We had lunch there, soup and a sandwich, Geoff's treat.

Canalside Gardens photograph
Canalside Gardens

Macclesfield Canal photograph
The Peaceful Macclesfield Canal

Drop Cap fterwards we walked back to the canal and carried on, with the intention of making the foot of the Bosley Lock Flight, so being able to get an early start tomorrow. The canalside scene was lovely, with gardens blooming down to the towpath and serenity everywhere.

Snake Bridge photograph
Snake Bridge

Drop Cap t has been a lovely afternoon, not much traffic. We went under two of the so called "snake bridges" the ones designed so the tow horses could switch sides without having to be unhitched. I am not sure how they work, but they must have. Whatever, they make an interesting change in the usual canal bridges.

Today I have walked nearly 8000 steps, 4.5 km, 3km just back and forth on the boat. So I am quite tired tonight.

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Monday 22nd June, 2015

Drop Cap t was raining heavily this morning but it cleared temporarily and continued alternating all day.

Today's adventure was the Bosley Flight of 12 Locks. We haven't done locks for a long time, but approached fairly confidently. A friendly lock keeper appeared and even helped me with a couple of locks but after that I did them all, while Geoff did seven and Mac did five. You need someone on both sides and one driving the boat. It took us about three hours including a stop for morning tea. We felt it wasn 't too bad an experience, really, but there was no leisure for taking photographs, unfortunately.

Fools Nook Swingbridge photograph
Electrically Operated Swing Bridge at Fool's Nook

Drop Cap e filled up with water at the Top Lock and got rid of a bag of garbage. Moving on from the Top Lock we headed for our next adventure, the electrically operated swing bridge at Fool's Nook which of course is the name of a pub. Geoff took the CART key (Canals and River Trust which replaces British Waterways) and crossed the bridge where he opened the control box with the key and activated the bridge.

Going Through Swing Bridge photograph
Going Through Swing Bridge

Drop Cap espite being on a very minor road over a canal sirens sounded, lights flashed and the gates with STOP signs came down across the road. He didn't actually have to stop anyone but as soon as we had sailed through and he removed the barriers a post office van came through.

Along the Macclesfield photograph
Along the Macclesfield Canal

Approaching Macclesfield photograph
Approaching Macclesfield

Drop Cap e carried on through glorious countryside and it really was lovely, quite dense woods, background of misty green hills, almost like Wensleydale, until we reached Macclesfield. We had designated this for a shopping stop but finding a mooring was very difficult. We managed just to squeeze into a spot outside a pub called The Puss in Boots, and went looking for a supermarket. This was not easy and involved walking for a quarter of an hour to try and reach the city centre. We eventually found an Aldi and got most of what I wanted. Then we got a cab back to the canal. It has been quite a tiring day, all up.

Approaching Macclesfield photograph
Approaching Macclesfield

Drop Cap hen we moved off again, don't like mooring outside pubs, they can be a bit noisy, and went on for an hour and a half, without finding a suitable mooring, finally mooring beside the towpath in Bollington which seems to be a suburb of Macclesfield. Bollington has some huge old former silk weaving mills, the reason for the Macclesfield Canal in the first place, which have been converted into housing and a large "Discovery Centre" which is even mentioned in the Canal Companion.

Drop Cap cooked Chicken Rogan Josh and rice then collapsed. Tomorrow I hope we can reach the Peak Forest Canal and I also hope the weather has cleared. We all got quite wet today, locking and driving. And Mac did another step into the canal in his newly dried cargo pants. Luckily just got his feet wet this time.

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Tuesday 23rd June, 2015

Entering Peak Forest photograph
Marple Junction, Entering the Peak Forest Canal

Drop Cap glorious sunny morning greeted us when we awoke and we were breakfasted and on the water by 0800. It was a beautiful trip, rather slower than I would have liked because of the many boats moored on both sides of the canal. The canal was serene and beautiful, then, at Marple, we passed on from the Macclesfield to the Peak Forest Canal.

Peak Forest Canal photograph
Peak Forest Canal

Canal Reflections photograph
Peak Forest Canal Reflections

Drop Cap his is one of the most lovely stretches we have boated on, although the "road works" on the towpath were a bit unsightly for now, later they will be a great improvement.

Swing Bridge photograph
Swing Bridge

Geoff as Bridgemaster photograph
Geoff as Bridgemaster

Drop Cap e had to raise a lift bridge with a windlass and open two swing bridges with the key. We meandered along, thinking about water, shopping and a mooring for the night. The Canal Companion says that the CART gives too much priority to long term, even permanent moorings with little provision for visitor moorings, and it was quite right. We went all the way to Whaley Bridge, (the end of the line) looking for a mooring, and finally got the last one of a "seven day limited" mooring near the water point which we used first. It was walking distance to a large Tesco supermarket so we got a few things, then Mac and I went for a walk to Bugsworth Basins, which would have been our alternative choice.

Bugsworth Basin photograph
Bugsworth Basin

Bugsworth Cakeshop photograph
Bugsworth Cakeshop

Drop Cap s it happened the Bugsworth Basin was fabulous. It is a heritage site of ancient industrial interest as it was used as a depot for transporting lime, coal, slate, etc. The Basin is huge and elaborate with many interconnecting arms and tunnels. Many of them are dead ends now so you would have to be wary of where you pulled in but there were lots of 48 hour moorings, plus a pub, The Navigation, and a pop-up narrowboat cake shop. We decided we would bring the boat in tomorrow to show the place to Geoff.
If we should ever return this way (unlikely) we would definitely opt for Bugsworth Basin as a mooring.

Drop Cap e walked home to the boat and I cooked superburgers for dinner. After dinner we went for a short walk to downtown Whaley Bridge, lots of pizza, kebabs, Indian, Chinese and lots and lots of pubs. Still, not a bad place and it has a Railway station.

Drop Cap e have had some cat sightings today, Geoff saw four, Mac three and me two. One was a sweet black and white with a collar, climbing on a neighbouring boat. S/he came and let Mac talk to her/him, so that's nice, the English are really dogcentric so we haven't seen many cats.

Tomorrow we start retracing our steps.

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Wednesday 24th June, 2015

Bugsworth Basin photograph
Bugsworth Basin

Drop Cap nother lovely sunny day as we moved on from Whaley Bridge. As planned we called in to Bugsworth Basin to show Geoff the place which has scheduled ancient heritage status. Just boating in it was amazing, there is so much there. We crossed bridges and went up and down steps. Judging by what is left, the site must have been huge and bustling back in the day.

Bugsworth Basin photograph
Bugsworth Basin

Drop Cap e had intended to fill up with water there but another boat just pipped us on the post so we headed out again. Through the little swing bridges and the lift bridge which we held up for another boat to go through, with a stop for lunch, we got through to Marple Junction and back on to the Macclesfield.

Drop Cap e filled up with water at the junction and then decided to try and make a push for the other side of Macclesfield before stopping. Tomorrow we have to get to and do the Bosley Locks, so we can have plenty of time on Friday to get to the Harecastle Tunnel by 1500 latest. So, on we go!

Bridge 9 near Macclesfield photograph
Bridge 9 near Macclesfield

Drop Cap filled in some of the afternoon making a tuna pasta bake which would do for dinner if we didn't find somewhere nice to eat out. I was hoping for a night off, but it seemed to take forever to get through the areas of moored boats which you have to crawl past.


Drop Cap ell, we made it to Macclesfield and out the other side to Gurnet Aqueduct where we found a slightly dodgy but not forbidden mooring and went out to dinner at Sutton Hall Pub, a short walk from the canal.

This was a great old place, converted from a large religious building where we had a very enjoyable meal enlivened by pints of cider of three different brands, which we all sampled. Mac had a draught cider and Geoff and I had 500ml bottles - his was Wyld Wood Organic and mine was Thatchers Old Rascal which I enjoyed. It was a slightly hilarious meal and we walked unsteadily back to the boat, taking care not to fall in the canal. It was nearly 2230 and still the sky was light. Amazing.

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Thursday 25th June, 2015

Bosley Lock 12 photograph
Bosley Hanging Garden

Drop Cap grey day greeted us as we headed off for the locks at Bosley. Geoff needed morning tea after doing the first one, then we went through the rest. It was (or seemed to be) much tougher than on Monday. The paddles were very stiff and I literally could not move some of them so Geoff came and added his windlass to mine and we did them together. I was very stiff myself after that and Geoff's blood sugar plummeted again. We moored near the bottom lock, its gates picturesquely draped in water weed like a hanging garden, and had lunch. Cheese and baked beans on toast for Geoff, soup and toast and an apple for Mac and me.

Congleton Visitor Moorings photograph
Congleton Visitor Moorings

Drop Cap hen we ambled on through the really pretty scenery till we reached Congleton where we moored for the first time in designated Visitor Moorings. We went and found a small convenience shop for a few soft drinks and bread, and a bottle of wine. It's amazing what you can buy in small convenience shops in Britain. There is a lot of movement on the canal, many boats passing and heading up towards Macclesfield but not many going down. So we decided to stay here tonight, among a couple of other Black Prince boats, it is only two hours to the Harecastle Tunnel - hopefully.


Drop Cap e ate the tuna and tomato and pasta bake I made yesterday while the guys were cracking on, with crisps and veg and the bottle of New Zealand Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc we bought earlier. Then topped it off with chocolates from the Little Chocolate Shop in Leyburn. Who needs pub meals? Though it is a welcome break for the chief cook and bottle washer (me!)

Congleton Snake Bridge photograph
Congleton Snake Bridge

Congleton Aqueduct photograph
Congleton Aqueduct

Drop Cap ac and I went for a walk afterwards along the towpath. The next bridge along was a "snake" bridge so we had to change sides, then walked along to the Dog Lane Aqueduct over the busy A road through Congleton. A pleasant evening. It has been quite warm all day, even had my fleece off sometimes, just a T-shirt. That hasn't happened very often!

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Friday 26th June,2015

Halls Green Stop Lock photograph
Halls Green Stop Lock

Drop Cap t was raining gently when we woke up but only intermittent showers as we motored equally gently up towards Harecastle Tunnel. We moored at Bridge 86, the mooring for Little Moreton Hall, to have morning tea, then moved on to the Halls Green Stop Lock, where there is a waterpoint to fill up. Here we met a cheerful guy in his own boat, which he sails singlehanded. He has been living aboard and continuously cruising for nine years. Loves it, this is his third or fourth boat. We chatted to him as the tank filled, slowly, and it was very interesting, in that he says that he has done most of the system in those nine years, but we have been places he hasn't, like the Falkirk Wheel and Whaley Bridge and the Mon and Brec. Scotland, of course, is only doable if you do a boat swap, and the Mon and Brec is landlocked.

Drop Cap nyway we went on and reached the Tunnel before we quite realised it, and were the only ones there. Derek, the friendly tunnel master we met last week was at this end today and sent us through practically straight away. So we motored easily through while I cut lunch.


Moored at Westport photograph
Moored at Westport Lake

Drop Cap aving had lunch on the cut just up from the Tunnel we went on for a mile or so and moored early for the night at Westport Lake, a local beauty spot and wildlife reserve, teeming with geese, both Canada and local, mallards, coots, pigeons and gulls plus a lot of other birds I could not identify.

Geese at Westport photograph
Geese at Westport Lake

Drop Cap e walked around part of the lake as there are several tracks around, then went to the Visitor Centre Cafe for afternoon tea. Coffee and toasted teacakes, yum!

Westport Visitor Centre photograph
Westport Visitor Centre

Drop Cap he Visitor Centre was very interesting, very Eco conscious, built of straw bales and roofed with living ground covers, sedum etc. Very interesting design too, it looks, Geoff said like a stranded Viking Ship.

Then we came back to pack and clean the boat. Only three miles to the base tomorrow but it must be back by 0930.

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