Thursday, September 28, 2017

Easy day…

We had another bright sunny day today, fine for the last leg down the Cheshire Locks.DSCF1274

The golf club at Malkins Bank has a new snack bar alongside the canal at Lock 61.DSCF1275
The smell of frying bacon was tantalising… but I resisted.

Lock 61 is also known as Cardboard Lock. Unlike Thurlwood Steel Lock and Beeston Iron Lock though, the name doesn’t refer to the construction material! Just as well, eh. No, alongside there used to be a paper mill.DSCF1276
The now quiet stretch of canal around the settlement of Malkin’s Bank and on down to Wheelock was flanked by industry, with chemical works on the left bank producing salt-based products. The golf course now sits on the Brunner Mond Ammonia-Soda works, using locally pumped brine.

Apart from the canal, the works were serviced by the Sandbach Branch Line which joined the LNWR at Elworth. The Salt line, as it is now known, makes a good, traffic free cycle track, and it’s what I use for running training in this area. It’s just a shame that the bit in the middle, from Hassell Green to just above Wheelock, has been lost.

We made good time, thanks to an idle git who came up the locks first thing and left top gates open on most of the locks. Good for us, though.

Saw Pit Lock, number 64


Under the Salt Line above Lock 65

At the bottom of the Cheshire Locks, Wheelock Bottom Lock, Number 66DSCF1281

There’s just another nine to descend before the northern end of the canal at Preston Brook, twenty miles away.

We pulled in on the moorings at Wheelock, and I reckon we’ll stay here tomorrow. Rain moving in from the west during the morning, apparently.

Locks 6, miles 1

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Heading down the Cheshire Locks

We’ve had a steady couple of days dropping down towards Middlewich, but it’ll be another couple of days before we get there. Yesterday was a fine day, warm sunshine and little wind, but today was a bit overcast with a brisk wind.

Down Church Locks

The earlier chambers of both of these locks are now derelict, leaving just the Telford-built 19th century ones in use.
Most of the Cheshire Locks were duplicated in the 1830s to improve traffic flows as the Trent and Mersey got busier. If there’s a tail bridge below the locks it’s easy to tell which chamber is the earlier and which the later. Brindley’s bridge arch was of stone, Telford’s is brick.

Halls Lock, both chambers are still in use and the earliest one is nearer the camera.DSCF1262

The very pretty Lawton Treble Locks.
These three locks have had two improvements. An original triple staircase to the north of the current line was replaced by single chambers, which were then duplicated.

I said earlier that we do these locks in small bites, so we pulled in at Rode Heath at around lunchtime. We’d had a good run down with most locks in our favour.

Today we couldn’t hope for the same. Several boats had passed, heading in our direction, before we got going. And a hire boat set off just as I was untying, too.

Thurlwood Top Lock, our first of the day.

Alongside, the duplicated chamber was the site of the experimental Thurlwood Steel Lock.
Thurlwood Steel Lock
Opened in 1958 this Meccano-like structure was designed to be adjustable to counteract subsidence caused by brine extraction. But it was unreliable and unpopular with boat crews and was dismantled and sold for scrap in the 1980s. Nothing remains now, apart from the construction date cast into the concrete abutments.

We dropped lucky at Thurlwood Lower Lock with a boat coming up, but it was the only one today. All the rest had to be refilled behind the boat we were following.

Hassell Green Top Lock

We thought about stopping at Hassall Green, but with the weather holding fine we toddled on a bit further, finally stopping at about 1 o’clock near Malkins Bank.

It’s turned showery this evening, but it should be clear again by morning. Six locks to Wheelock.

Thanks so much to those who’ve donated to Macmillan via my Justgiving page. We’re a third of the way to my £400 target. Anyone else out there??? Come on, you know you want to. Just follow the link.

Lock 8, miles 4, 2 days.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Back on the Trent and Mersey, making a start on the Cheshire Locks.

We spent last Thursday, Mag’s birthday, tied up near Watery Lane up on the Macc. Apart from celebrating the special day I had the replacement top box to finish, and the weather was good for that.
So Friday we set off again, a fine day to see us down to the moorings at Poole’s Aqueduct.DSCF1232 

Mow Cop Castle up on the ridge
When the canal was built past Ramsdell Hall the landowner insisted that iron railings be installed along the towpath opposite the hall to allow an unobstructed view across the plain.

And what a view it is…

We stopped for water just above Hall Green Stop Lock, giving Meg a chance to enjoy the sunshine, then carried on, pulling in between the two aqueducts near Red Bull for the weekend.

We had a quiet weekend, an 11 mile run yesterday morning was tough but an essential element in my training for the Manchester Half Marathon.

We’d seen a boat called Annoula a few times while we’ve been up here, but never had the chance for more than a brief greeting. They arrived and moored in front of us yesterday, so we had a good natter over tea and cake.

Mike and Karen, NB Annoula.
Glad to finally meet you properly, have a good trip back to base.

It was under grey skies this morning that we said goodbye to them, then we followed on an hour or so later.

Over the aqueduct crossing the main line.DSCF1248

Past the moorings on the loop…

…and back on the Trent and Mersey Main Line at Hardings Wood Junction.DSCF1250


We turned left here, dropping down the summit lock of the western half of the canal.

Plants Lock

We had a good run down the first three locks, with full chambers set in our favour.

Poole’s Lock, with the aqueduct we crossed a half-hour earlier just below.DSCF1254

You can see why we scrapped the Roman numbering system in favour of the Arabic one, can’t you.. MDCCCXXVIIII translates to 1829, I think.
Pulling in at the Red Bull services for water and rubbish disposal allowed a couple of boats past, so we had a short queue at Yewtree Lock, Number 44. It wouldn’t normally have happened, numbers 44 to 46 have duplicated chambers, but 44 is currently having a top gate replaced.DSCF1256 

The paired locks came into their own further down though, with boats coming up having an empty chamber to use and us going having a full one.

Lock 46
The Anderson hire boat out of Middlewich has a crew of Canadians doing the Cheshire Ring, the same trip with the same starting point we did quite a few years ago.

We pulled in around the corner on the moorings near Lawton Church. This is the way to do the Cheshire Locks, 6 at a time.

I mentioned that I’m running the Manchester Half Marathon earlier. In the past I’ve run for either Cancer Research or Macmillan Cancer Support, but I wasn’t intending to run this one to raise money. However, a chance remark from a friend who rang to wish Mags a happy birthday got me thinking, and I’ve set up a Justgiving page for Macmillan anyway, even though there’s less than three weeks before the event. Any money raised will be of benefit to this donation-funded charity. So if you wish to help me towards my modest goal of £400 just go to my fundraising page.
Much appreciated.

Locks 6, miles 5½

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Just pictures…

I’ve rattled on about the canal as we traveled north, so I’ve decided to skip the waffle and just post pictures of yesterday’s trip, with just a bit of explanatory text if required.

So, after a very misty start the sun broke through giving us a beautiful morning.DSCF1205


One of two kingfishers spotted today.

Confirmation for Paul of Waterways Routes – the waterpoint next to Bridge 68 IS still there and working.

Across Congleton Embankment, the West Coast Mail Line crosses the valley to the west.DSCF1223

Bridges in High Town, Congleton
We pulled in on the moorings here, not for the shops although they are handy, but for Meg to have a comfort break.

Off again, over the aqueduct crossing Canal Road.DSCF1227

Bridge 77, Morris Bridge swapping the towpath back over the canalDSCF1228


It was such a fine afternoon that Meg insisted we stop just past Watery Lane Aqueduct so she could have a good roll on the grassy towpath.DSCF1230

Lovely quiet spot here, good choice that dog!

Locks 0, miles 6

Monday, September 18, 2017

A good day for Bosley Locks

After a weekend of mixed weather moored just outside Macclesfield, today’s forecast looked promising so off we set heading south towards Kidsgrove.

Spey and Gifford cruised past yesterday, on their way from Bollington.DSCF1180
Not sure about Spey, but Gifford is based at the Ellesmere Port Boat Museum. I wonder if they’re having to go the long way home because of the stoppage at Marple?

We were on the move just before 10 this morning, fine and bright and quite warm in the sunny spells.DSCF1181

The two swing bridges between Macclesfield and Bosley were passed with no trouble, the first, at Dane’s Moss, was locked open like on the way up, and the second wasn’t busy.

Broadhurst Swing Bridge

Royal Oak Swing Bridge, no convoy of MGs in the way todayDSCF1183

We pulled in for water at Bridge 53 rather than just above the locks, then swung around the corner to the top lock.

Bosley Top Lock
There was a volunteer here, he saw us coming and opened the gates for us.

We worked our way downhill steadily, having to turn the locks as we were following another boat. Lock 5 caught me out, though. The upper ground paddles have vent holes strategically placed to send a jet of water up any unsuspecting trouser leg… and I forgot to put a boot across one here.
See the hole with the puddle around it? Unfortunately I was straddling it when I lifted the paddle!
It is canal water, honest! It made me gasp, too…

We met a couple of boats on the way up, but had to turn most of the 12 locks.

Fine views of The Cloud from Lock 9. Should really be “The Lock from Cloud 9”

Mags Heading down to Lock 10

We were out of the bottom lock after about 2 hours, not bad for 12 locks. Rather than press on we decided to moor up just before the Dane aqueduct, with views up the valley.

The canal is carried over the river on a fine stone aqueduct, 50 or 60 feet up from the valley bottom.

These aqueducts always look spectacular from below; it’s difficult getting a picture from the canal level…

We had the best of the day for our trip down. It clouded up and we’ve had a drop of rain later in the afternoon.

Locks 12, miles 4½