Sunday, 31 July 2016

Summer Cruise - Week 8

Although the skies are dark and overcast, the top of Ella is still looking good with the flower tubs, tomatoes and courgettes.  We have received many lovely comments from fellow boaters and walkers as they pass the boat, and we are very grateful for all the comments.

Monday 25th July - Leek to Milton

Today we retraced our steps back along the Leek Arm of the Caldon Canal.  It really is a beautiful stretch of water, having the feel of a river about it.

Towards the end of the Leek Arm we cross the main line of the canal going to Froghall. This reminds me of a similar arrangement of the Macclesfield Canal at Hardings Wood.


We negotiated the left hand turn back onto the main canal and headed towards Park Lane Wharf where we stopped again to empty rubbish and put on water 

At Stockton Brook Locks we saw the sculptures again, this is the one at Lock 7. I have researched the artist and he said he worked with two local Primary Schools 1 day a week over 2 months to help create the sculptures.  The one mentioned on the right hand side is Hillside Primary School. 

Norton Green Lift Bridge required a British Waterways key to raise and lower the bridge.  Much easier than using the windlass!!

Coming through Engine Lock we found an open mooring with views across fields and a large flock of Canada geese, so tied up for the evening and walked Toby.  Unfortunately I have been bitten by a horsefly on my leg which is causing me some discomfort and a trip to the local chemist in Milton was needed to buy the appropriate cream!!

Later that evening we met the owners of nb Rickman, they also own a Bourne Boat builders boat and it was interesting to swap stories!!

Tuesday 26th July - today we cruised back down the remainder of the Caldon Canal and back on to the Trent and Mersey.  Fortunately for us it was very quiet at the Etruria Staircase Lock and we managed to go through them successfully on our own.  News of the death of a boater in the staircase lock on the Droitwich Canal has a very sobering effect, and we took extra, extra care in all  the locks.

Looking back as we left the Caldon Canal, you can see the Caldon on the left and the Trent and Mersey to Stone on the right.  We are now heading for Middleport Potteries and Westport Lake.  

This is the site of the Burslem Arm. The Burslem Branch Canal is a 3/8 mile arm of the Trent and Mersey Canal.  It opened in 1805 and was closed by a major breach in 1961.  It is currently being restored and will add to the regeneration of the Middleport  Canal side area.

Middleport Pottery is a fascinating place to visit and is the home of The Burleigh Pottery.  Only one of the seven bottle kilns remains and this is only because it is built into a wall of the factory.

Following our visit we enjoyed a delicious afternoon tea all eaten and drunk from beautiful Burleigh bone china!

We moored up for the night at Westport Lake, which is traditionally a resort for pottery folk who were unable to make it to the seaside resorts of nearby Rhyl or Blackpool!!  

Wednesday 27th July - woke to grey skies and very wet rain this morning!  However we have been promised it will get better!  Today we take Ella for her first trip through the Harecastle Tunnel, we have been through on our share boat three times and each time have found it quite daunting.  

We cruised up to the tunnel and queued up for our turn to go through.  We watched five boats emerge from the tunnel.  It is only wide enough for one boat and at busy times you join a convoy of up to eight boats.

There are two Tunnels through the Harecastle Hill.  The original one was built by James Brindley who died before it was completed.  This tunnel had no towpath and the boats were 'legged' through by men walking the boat through lying on their backs on the roof of the boat.  A second tunnel was built by Thomas Telford with a towpath which was used alongside the other tunnel.  Today only the second tunnel is open for navigation and after extensive rehabilitation it is in excellent condition.  To enable powered craft to use the tunnel there is forced ventilation to keep the air as clean as possible.  

The tunnel is about 1.75 miles long and takes about 40 minutes to navigate.  We were advised to travel at a speed above tick over as that would create a certain amount of wash and help to keep the boat in the middle of the tunnel and prevent it bouncing off the walls of the tunnel. Certainly worked for us!!

You must take care in the tunnel as due to subsidence the roof of the tunnel gets very low in some places and it is necessary to cruise with your knees bent!!  

We arrived out the other side and turned left on to the Macclesfield Canal where it runs parallel with the Trent and Mersey Canal until it turns right and crosses over the canal on the Poole Aqueduct.  A similar arrangement found on the Caldon Canal but on a larger scale.

The first and only lock for 11 miles is Hall Green Stop Lock, a lock only 12 inches deep which prevents the flow of the water to the rival canal, in this case the Trent and Mersey.  Today it was incredibly busy and we had to queue to get through it!!

We moored up just south of Heritage Narrowboat Marina and spent a lovely evening walking Toby and visiting the Rising Sun for our supper.

Thursday 28th July - as the weather is meant to be very wet for the majority of the day we have decided to stay where we are and have a day cleaning the boat and relaxing. I did the relaxing and Dave walked Toby, fair division of labour!!

Friday 29th July - today the weather was meant to be better so we set off for Congleton.  Unfortunately it wasn't any better and the cruise was rather a damp affair.  No locks and no wind meant that it was possible to cruise with an umbrella up which kept the worst of the rain off! 

We stopped at Heritage Narrowboats to fill up with water and diesel.  This was the boatyard we used to pick up our first hire boat, Ruby Tuesday, in March 2013. (See blog 'Why and How' Nov 2014)

The smooth lawns of Ramsdell Hall reach down to the canal and on the other side of the canal are ornate cast iron railings.  

 This gives the illusion of the canal acting as a sort of ha-ha at the edge of the gardens.

We moored over night on the aqueduct over looking Congleton and the viaduct, very pleasant mooring.  A walk into town to do some shopping ended up with me climbing over a gate and catching my thigh on a piece of wire, ripping my trousers and cutting my leg! Must be a lesson to be learnt there some where....

Saturday 30th July - woke to a much better day and began our cruise back the way we had come.  Dave winded the boat just north of our overnight mooring and we cruised slowly back through Congleton.

Bridge 76 is a lovely example of a snake bridge or turnover bridge which carries the footpath across the canal to the other side.  
This was so the horses didn't need to be unhitched from their boats when narrowboats were horse drawn.

It was very busy and we passed a wide variety of boats including a pirate boat out for the day!!

I particularly like the mile stones on the Macclesfield Canal resembling tombstones. At the beginning of WW2 they were buried to confound would-be invaders and the Macclesfield Canal Society dug up as many as they could and cut new ones from Kerridge gritstone to fill in the gaps. 

We moored up again just north of Scholar Green for the night, with open views on both sides of the boat.

The pirate boat came back, Happy 30th Birthday to Helen, they certainly looked as though they had a great day!!

Sunday 31st July - woke to sunny skies this morning, looks like it could be a better day! We would like to get to Rode Heath today as we are leaving the boat here so that the boat builders can sort out a few problems for us.

We returned through the stop lock and this time it was very quiet!

The structure in front of this lock carries the Macclesfield canal as it crosses over the Trent and Mersey Canal!

From here is a long line of locks known as the 'Cheshire Locks' or 'Heartbreak Hill'. These locks were all duplicated under the direction of Thomas Telford in the  1830s. They are narrow pairs of locks with the chambers side by side.

Some have been made into singles and others have fallen into disrepair.

The Lawton Treble Locks are Telford's work and replaced a Brindley staircase lock which was both time consuming and wasteful of water.

The water here is a similar colour to the water near the Harecastle Tunnel, a peculiar orange shade caused by minute particles of ironstone rock.

As we approach Rode Heath we pass a Canal and River Trust yard with an enormous bank of stop planks used to close off the canal when work needs to be carried out.  You usually see them stored beside canal bridges.

So, Ella is now moored up at almost the exact same spot that she was launched into the canal on 28th September 2015.  We are going to leave her here for Bourne Boat builders to sort out some issues with the paintwork.  We hope to return in a few days time and complete our cruise back to Overwater Marina.

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