To Endon (April 29)

Last night our pub meal at the Rising Sun, Scholar Green was excellent. The food was good quality and good value, and we even had a bottle of house red thrown in because we bought two specials. We can certainly recommend it.

We left Scholar Green early this morning, around 7:45, with Mow Cop shrouded in clouds. We winded in front of Ramsdell Hall, which looked eerie in the mist, and retraced out route back to Hall Green where we took on water.

Red Bull viewed from the Macclesfield Canal

We got to Harecastle tunnel about 9:30 to be told by the tunnel keeper that we had just missed a batch of boats going south and we would have to wait for about one hour and a half for another slot. Maggie took the opportunity to go food shopping in Kidsgrove and Steve did some boat tidying. The morning mist and cloud had definitely lifted and the warm sunshine appeared set for the day.

Waiting at Harecastle Tunnel Northern Portal

Orion Tug leaving Harecastle Tunnel

We were the only boat going south through Harecastle tunnel so we had a fairly rapid transit; thirty seven minutes according the tunnel keeper at the southern portal who keeps a track of such things. We stopped at Longport for gas and then moved on to moorings at Burleigh Pottery at Middleport where we visited the excellent factory shop. They are particularly noted for their blue and white transfer ware, but in the shop were also pink and white, red and white, brown and white, and even black and white. They supply free tea and coffee to customers. We managed to come away with quite a collection of mugs, teapots, jugs and plates for presents and for our own use. Steve was particularly keen to get a cow-shaped milk jug for use on Albert. Maggie rated it as an emporium of delights.

Middleport Pottery from Trent and Mersey Canal

We turned off the Trent and Mersey onto the Caldon Canal at Etruria. After we climbed the first staircase lock, we worked out way around the outskirts of Stoke. Maggie was horrified when we passed one pottery where there was whole skip full of Emma Bridgwater rejects. She wanted to stop and rummage through through them. There were several difficult low bridges on the outskirts of Stoke that made boating interesting. Maggie operated the electro/hydraulic lift bridge at Ivy House. It was confusing at first and lowering the barriers, by hand, was not simple. However, she only delayed around eight cars who did not appear too concerned.

Statue of James Brindley, Caldon Canal, Etruria

Bedford Street Staircase Lock, Caldon Canal

Ivy House lift bridge

The rest of the journey to Endon was very pleasant. We moored up close to the Stoke Boat Club. We can understand why the Caldon has such a good reputation for scenery and we have yet to get beyond Cheddleton.

Conventional hydraulic lift bridge, Caldon Canal

Tomorrow we intend to go the Froghall and then start to make our way back down the canal.

To Kent Green (April 28)

We left Church Lawton in rain and, although we did have quite a lot of heavy showers, the day was mostly dry. As we moved up Red Bull locks, Wilbraham’s Folly on the top of Mow Cop was shrouded in mist. Our aim today was to explore Hall Green, on the Macclesfield Canal, where Steve’s paternal grandmother was born, and investigate Mow Cop, which has close connections to the Parkin family. Mow Cop was where Bourne and Clowes held the first Primitive Methodist camp in May, 1807. Steve’s great grandfather was a leading Primitive Methodist (Vice-President), and his great-great grandfather who was a Primitive Methodist Minister.

At the top of the Red Bull flight, we turned onto the Macclesfield Canal and moored up just after the stop lock at Hall Green. There were originally two stop locks and two lock cottages here, one for the Trent and Mersey Canal and one for the Macclesfield Canal.

Hall Green Stop Lock
(originally two stop locks with two cottages for the Trent and Mersey, and Macclesfield Canals)

Steve has traced his ancestors in Hall Green back to the 1840s with one, George Fryer, declaring his profession as a boatwright in the 1841 census. Most, however, worked in the local coalmines. Apart for the stop lock cottages, there is little evidence of old properties and none of mining in Hall Green.

We moved onto some visitor moorings near Bridge 87. Despite the reasonable water levels, it appears that the Macclesfield is shallow. We are well out from the bank, particularly at the stern and several passing boaters have commented that it is “always like this”.

After lunch, we decided to climb Mow Cop. According to Person’s Cheshire Ring guide the climb from bridge 87 to Mow Cop is route of the “Killer Mile” a run that four-minute mile runners do in 6 minutes 20 seconds. This annual event is due to be held on May 7. We climbed to the folly, which is around 2 miles, in about 40 minutes. At our age we often stop to “admire the view”. There are certainly some impressive gradients with one, close to the Cheshire View pub, marked as 25%. Pearson claims some are 1 in 3.

Mow Cop Killer Mile

The climb to Mow Cop

The views from the top were breathtaking even with low rain clouds skirting the Peak district and running along the Mersey Valley. In the distance, just below the cloud line, we could make out the outline of the Wrekin. A memorial stone close to the folly commemorates the Primitive Methodist Camps.

Wilbraham's Folly and memorial stone on the summit of Mow Cop

View from Mow Cop towards the Mersey

We looked at the large Primitive Methodist chapel, which must have been visited by several of Steve’s ancestors, and then descended the hill back to the canal using the Gritstone Trail. We arrived back at Albert just as an enormous clap of thunder rolled around Mow Cop and the heavens opened. There is an inviting pub, the Rising Sun, close by. We will probably reward our exertions by a visit as long as the rain does not get any worse.

Yet again only low level GPRS so no images. When we get into G3 territory we will have to do a lot of uploading to catch up.

Images added later.

To Church Lawton (April 27)

We left our moorings at Bramble Cuttings, just south of Middlewich, at 8:45 in the rain. We had waited for the heavy showers to pass but it continued to rain on us until well into the afternoon.

Pigeons nesting under bridge Middlewich

When we got to Middlewich Big Lock, it was already occupied by an Alverchurch hire boat going in our direction so we were able to go through the lock together. This was the first time for long time that we had shared a lock; probably not since Braunston. We took on water at Middlewich and let the hire boat get ahead but we soon caught up with them and continued to follow up the many locks on “Heartbreak Hill”. Luckily there were enough boats going down the flight that not many of the locks were set against us.

Masons marks on lock side, Trent and Mersey Canal

We met Liz Bryant at Wheelock. She was coming down the flight in her boat and had stopped to pick up water. Liz made all the Roses pattern lace on Albert. It was good to meet someone we had only dealt with on the internet.

Spurred on by the improving weather we continued going up the locks until we moored up just below the church at Church Lawton at around 7:00. In all we did 29 locks today! Now the weather has deteriorated we lit the fire today for the first time since we left Preston Brook.

Working and disused duplicate locks near Wheelock

Since many of Steve’s ancestors originated from here, we intend to explore the area tomorrow. One of Steve’s grandmothers was born in Hall Green. Her branch of his family belonged to the Primitive Methodists so tomorrow we intend to travel to Hall Green on the Macclesfield Canal and visit Mow Cop and the Primitive Methodist Chapel.

We still cannot get better than low-level GPRS reception on O2 internet so we will have to upload our images later. I think reception was better around Stoke so maybe we will have better luck on Thursday.

Images added later

To Middlewich (April 26)

We left our delightful moorings at Dutton and travelled south in clear blue skies. We managed to arrive at Saltersford tunnel at the allotted time to go straight through without stopping. We reached the second tunnel, Barnton, and seeing no lights of boats coming north, we entered the tunnel. Barnton is far from being a straight tunnel so it was difficult to see what was happening ahead but we gradually became aware of a boat profile. We assumed, as any boater would, that it was the stern of a boat going our direction, but we were wrong! When a horn sounded we realised that it was a boat coming north with no lights! We then reversed out of the tunnel, about 50 yards, adapting the shape of our chimney coolie hat in the process. The boat was a hire boat from Middlewich. When Maggie pointed out that you should turn on lights in tunnels, and there are signs everywhere saying so, the response from the crew was a pathetic well I turned on the switch but the light didn’t come on. How they managed to find their way in a twisting tunnel in the dark is beyond us.

We passed Anderton again, it was noticeably busier than the first and second times we came through and the several cameras from visitors were focussed on us. Steve had hoped to investigate the Lion Salt Works but it looked closed. We stopped off at The Broken Cross pub in the village of the same name. We had a great Sunday lunch and joined the locals in watching the start of the Bahrain Grand Prix.

We cruised along the Dane Valley and moored up on the offside at the Bramble Cuttings mooring. It is a delightful wooded mooring with picnic tables, barbeque facilities and seats. The area is a BW and Broken Cross Cruising Club joint venture and is the site of a former clay pit. There are narrow gauge rails running up to the canal where Albert is moored. Several mature willow trees are growing between the rails. Presumably, the railroad was used to load the clay into boats. We sat at one of the benches and had Sunday tea; very civilised.

Bramble Cuttings moorings, Middlewich

We were not able to publish a post last night because we had no usuable internet connection. Tonight it is a little better but not good enough for images.

Images published later

To Dutton on the Trent and Mersey (April 25)

The morning began showery. We left Lymm to pick up diesel and have a pump out at the excellent Thorn Marine at Stockton Heath. Their business appears to be under threat from Peel Holdings who own the Bridgewater Canal and wish to develop the site for housing. The pump out equipment was unusual since it was mounted in a supermarket shopping trolley that had been recovered from the canal.

What a great use of a shopping trolley!
(Pump out equipment at Thorn Marina)

Whilst waiting for the water tank to fill a boat passed playing loud Latin-American music with the steerer dressed in a poncho. Well you occasionally see some amusing sights on the waterways. However, this was followed by several other boats with the crews wearing ponchos and sombreros. We found out that they were members of the Bridgewater Motor Boat Club, who moor on the Runcorn Arm. They were on a themed cruise to Oughtrington. Several of the crews, both men and women, sported Zapato-style moustaches. They were having fun!

We had lunch at Moore and the weather began to improve. As we approached Preston Brook tunnel we found a boat had broken away from its moorings and was blocking the navigation. All three mooring pins had pulled out. It was not surprising really given the speed that some boats pass moored boats on the Bridgewater. Maggie got on board the boat, and with the help from crew from another boat, we got the boat moored up again. On board was a lurcher and longhaired cat.

After the tunnel, we had glorious sunshine and great views. We decided to moor up by Dutton and try to get a mooring with a view of the Weaver Valley. We succeeded well by mooring where we where we could see Dutton Lock on the Weaver, the railway viaduct across the river, and Acton Bridge. We took a walk down to Dutton Lock and found to our surprise that the large lock was full of boats, six abreast. It was another boat club cruise. The lock contained 18 boats from the Acton Bridge Cruising Club on their commodore’s cruise. We had a good chat with the crews who even invited us to join their evening karaoke. (We didn’t go.)

Acton Bridge Cruising Club filling Dutton Lock, River Weaver

We then walked back from the lock along a bridleway and along a footpath that took us through a bluebell wood that looked wonderful in the early evening sun. We also heard a cuckoo. What a great mooring, particularly in such lovely weather.

Footbridge near Dutton Lock, River Weaver

Long-horn cattle near Dutton Lock

Bluebells near Dutton Lock

Sluices near Dutton Lock, River Weaver

Change of Plans - to Lymm (April 24)

Yesterday we spent a full day in Manchester. The morning was spent cleaning the boat, which was beginning to look a little grubby after its long journey north.

Mooring at Castlefields

Three of the four railway bridges at Castlefields

Late in the morning the GRP cruiser Dancer, from Coventry, arrived in the basin. They took on water and moored-up behind us. They, like us, were planning to go up the Ashton to the Peak Forest and Macclesfield canals. However, they had recently been in touch with BW and found that there was an unscheduled stoppage on the Ashton Canal. Apparently, a large wire had been caught under a lock gate and it had badly damaged a sill. We hoped that it would be cleared by Friday because we had planned to pick up Steve’ s cousins half-way up the Ashton flight for a trip on Albert. However, late in the afternoon, we found out that the flight would be closed until at least Tuesday (April 28) when BW plan to issue an update. BW is planning to dewater part of the flight to make the repairs and needs Environment Agency approval to do this. Because of our commitments at home, we cannot wait until Tuesday to find out what is happening so we decided to change our cruising plans. We are now not doing the Cheshire Ring but returning home the way we came. However, we will definitely try to explore the Caldon Canal; it was on our reserve list.

This is the first time since we began serious boating in 1996 that we have had to change our cruising plans so we cannot really complain. We just hope that this is not the start of a run of bad luck.

Pevril of the Peak pub, Manchester

Detail of the fine tiles, Pevril of the Peak pub, Manchester

Tonight we are at Lymm again. So what happened in the meantime?

Well yesterday afternoon we went around the Art Gallery in Manchester and viewed the Leonardo Da Vinci drawings. In the evening, we went to a Halle orchestra concert in Bridgewater Hall. They played a programme consisting of Schubert's 5th symphony, Haydn's Sinfonia Concertante, and the Franck symphony. We really enjoyed it. The acoustics in the hall are particularly good.

Today we met up with Steve’s cousins who cam in from Rochdale and Diggle. They cruised with us to Sale where they caught the Metro home. It was great meeting up with them. Just before we left Castlefields, the ex-Cowburn & Cowpar boat Swallow arrived. Steve helped her manoeuvre onto the water point, wind, and then moor up behind us. We were treated to a tour of the back cabin and engine room of Swallow by the ownedr David Lowe. Like many other working boats, she had been at the Easter gathering at Ellesmere Port.

NB Swallow

A well polished National, NB Swallow

Swallow's unsusally shaped counter

Back cabin of Swallow

Hand bowl and soap holes

To Castlefields (April 22)

We woke to mist in Worsley and winded in front of the Packet House.

Packet House, Worsley

The journey down to Waters Meeting was uneventful but we did manage to take some more photos as we crossed the Barton Swing Aqueduct.

Barton Swing Road Bridge (again)

The weather was fine and sunny. We turned left towards Manchester and passed in the shadow of the Manchester United ground.

Manchester United

Unusual paddle gear on the disused Hulme Branch Locks

We got into Castlefields just before lunch. Because of building work, some of the local permanent moorers had been relocated onto to visitor moorings making it interesting moor up without obstructing the trip boats. Several trip boats were due take fans to Man. United in the evening for the match against Pompey.

Castlefields Basin, Manchester

We spent the afternoon shopping and sightseeing in Manchester. In Albert Square, outside Manchester City Hall, there is another statue of Prince Albert.

Prince Albert, Albert Square, Manchester

Some musicians and dancers from Gambia were performing in Piccadilly Gardens. They were great.

To Worsley (April 21)

Left Lymm in glorious sunshine and had a delightful cruise through Little Bollington to Sale where the canal becomes urban and is very straight. As we got to Dunham Steve noticed a quadruple sculler in the distance. They appeared to be turning, but then they disappeared out of sight. We found out later, when we got to the centre of Sale that is was a crew from the Trafford Rowing Club.

Factory at Broadheath

The canal becomes quite industrialised after Sale. We left the Cheshire Ring at Waters Meeting and headed for Worsley. Shortly after the junction, we suffered a minor incident when a group of school kids crossing a bridge threw a plastic file clip at us!

The section through Trafford Park is fascinating, especially the sweet smells from Kelloggs’ factory and the appalling architecture (if you can call it that) of the Trafford Centre. Why does it have domes like St Paul’s Cathedral and Greek statues?
We then crossed the Barton Swing Aqueduct that crosses the Manchester Ship Canal. The Aqueduct has particular significance for Steve. When he was growing up in Lancashire he came to view the bridge with his parents. He can remember watching a large freighter on its way to Manchester from the West Indies go through the bridge and the crew throwing him a banana. In the early 1950s bananas were quite rare and Steve has always considered that banana to be his very first.

Entering the Barton Swing Aqueduct

Coming from the south the aqueduct comes up quickly just after a corner but the views from the bridge are dramatic. It is shame that there is little or no traffic using the Ship Canal. It would be worth waiting for the bridge to swing.

View of the Manchester Ship Canal and Barton Swing Road Bridge

Barton Swing Aqueduct

Lighthouse at Monton Green Bridge

We moored up in Worsley just after lunch and explored the area. The mines, which triggered Britain’s Canal Building Age look forlorn. It is pity that the Coal Authority has restricted access so much that you can only view the mine entrances from a distance and cannot see where the Starvationers left the mines loaded with coal for transhipment to Manchester. However, Worsley is a charming place and the local Heritage Trail is very informative.

Worsley moorings with Packet House

Packet House, Worsley

Where it all began - Duke of Bridgewater's Mines, Worsley
The entrances to the mines are at the rear of the pool

We had a great early evening meal at the Milan Italian restaurant. We went early to take advantage of their special deal, and it was quiet. However, by the time we left (8.30PM) it was doing a great trade with over 50 covers. For a Tuesday night, that was good business. We were impressed with the meal and the service was very professional. In contrast, the large hotel next door, the Bridgewater Hotel, is closed for business.

Tomorrow we plan to go the Castlefields in Manchester, following Brindley’s first canal; the start of the Canal Age.

To Lymm (April 20)

We caught the train from Milton Keynes to Runcorn this morning and picked up Albert from Preston Brook Marina. We are now into part two of our journey through the North-West. We will complete the Cheshire Ring and then return south along the Trent & Mersey, although we plan some small diversions.

Preston Brook Marina

Albert was fine in our absence and, despite not being connected to the usual mains feed, all the batteries were well charged and she started easily. The weather is warm with bright sun and clear blue skies. We took the turn towards Manchester and had a delightful cruise to Lymm. The Bridgwater is broad, deep, has no locks, and in this area, the countryside is very pretty. I suppose the landscape will change tomorrow as we get to the outskirts of Manchester.

A hand-operated crane to position stop planks, Daresbury

Cherry Blossom near Grappenhall

We like Lymm. We managed to moor up on the visitor moorings in the centre of the village and explore its environs before we shopped for provisions at the well-stocked local Spar. We explored the Dingle (gorge) which runs through the village. It was delightful in the spring sunshine. We also discovered the walk up to Lymm dam where there is a sizeable lake. Lymm has a plethora of pubs that even on a Monday appeared reasonably well frequented, unlike some of the Midlands pubs that have succumbed to the recession.

Lymm visitor moorings

Lymm village

Lymm Dam with church

Today, we didn't need to light the coal stove for the first time this trip. Tomorrow we plan to go across the Barton Swing Aqueduct to Worsley.