Tree Fall and cruising on to Scholar Green, Kidsgrove

We woke to dull skies and rain today. The forecast was that the weather would improve, but it didn't - the rain got heavier and it was wet for most of the day. We planned for a quick run down to Bosley Locks, but as with many boating plans this didn't quite happen. We got to Fools Nook where there is an electrically operated swing bridge and found that it is a really well used bridge. Not only does a large volume of local traffic cross the bridge, but it also feeds a main road (A523) with a T junction within a few metres.  Traffic quickly backed up on all the roads as we operated the bridge, even though took the boat through quite quickly and it was mid morning (not the rush hour).

Just around the corner we found NB Alton who operate from a wharf close to Oakgrove stuck with most of the navigation blocked by a fallen tree. It appears that they were on their way to Etruria for the weekend boat rally fully loaded with diesel and had just left the wharf when the tree fell in front them. Squeezing past the tree they ran aground. They were quite firmly stuck so we helped by pulling on lines to get them afloat and then  back onto their moorings. This took some time and quite a lot of effort. The crew of Alton had rung BW for help. They had contractors in the area sorting out fallen tree but unfortunately they had to finish that job first and it was taking time.

Fallen tree and NB Alton firmly aground

Back cabin stove alight on Alton

Once Alton was clear we had a go taking Albert past the obstruction and we got on better, having less draught. However, just when we thought we had go through the obstruction we ran also aground. Three further attempts followed but all to no avail. We then reversed alongside Alton, had a cup of tea and waited. Not a lot happened for around an hour, except the rain got heavier, so we had an early lunch.

Three other boats eventually arrived and all being shallow draughted they got through with varying degrees of ease. Because each boat nudged the tree a little making it a wider channel and the contractors appeared to be taking sometime to arrive, we thought we would have yet another attempt at getting through. Nudging the tree firmly with our bows, and then taking as wide a line as we could, we finally got past the tree and headed off for Bosley locks. In all we spent around two hours trying to get around the tree. The only positive was having an interesting chat with the crew of Alton.

The heavy rain continued and most boats appeared to have decided to batten down the hatches for a wet afternoon. There should have been superb views from the locks, particularly of The Cloud (hill) which dominates the area but unfortunately it was in cloud! All locks were set against us but we made steady progress down them. It was then just a matter of getting as far as we could down the Macclesfield towards the Trent & Mersey.

Maggie indicating that we are in the second lock of the Bosley Flight
(Well I think so)

The Cloud, near Congleton - in cloud

Another great short boat, Bosley

"Snake" bridge near Congleton

The rain abated as we passed Congleton and we finally found some excellent visitor moorings near Scholar Green. As the cloud lifted this evening we got better views of the Cheshire Plain and Alton passed us on their way to Red Bull. As a coincidence there is a red bull in the field opposite, he spent part of this evening playing head butting with his male offspring for our amusement.

For the first time in about two weeks we lit the stove tonight.

Gurnett, Macclesfield

On Wednesday the weather was still warm and sunny and we retraced our steps back to Marple before turning down the Macclesfield Canal towards Kidsgrove.
Goyt Mill, Marple

Rope marks on a bridge near Marple

The journey through Higher Poyton, and Bollington was delightful. We paused for lunch near Poyton but we would have liked to spend more time exploring the area.

Hovis mill, Macclesfield

We moored up just outside Macclesfield at Gurnett Aqueduct. The visitor moorings were busy but we got a prime spot. We walked around the village and found residents putting up bunting for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.
Plaque dedicated to James Brindley who was an apprentice stone mason at Gurnett, Macclesfield in the early part of the eighteenth century

Bugsworth Basin

On Tuesday we set off in bright sun down the Upper Peak Forest Canal to the famous Bugsworth Basin.  The Peak Forest clings to the side of the Goyt Valley and there are great views of the peaks including Kinder Scout.

Swing Bridge, Upper Peak Forest Canal

We moored up in the lower basin and explored the site for the afternoon. The literature available at the site is marvellous and describes the transhipment of lime, the boats, and the important tramways that brought material down from the peaks to the canal. There is plenty of evidence of the tramlines since they used stone sleepers. A small section of rail, on one of the bridges, remains.

We found some seasoned visitors moored up in some of the backwaters of the site, but quite honestly it is such a wonderful site that any of the mooring locations are great. Although the site has a 48hr limit it appears from the signage that they are not particularly strict about the limit when there is not much pressure on moorings.
Bugsworth Upper Basin

Mooring in the lower basin at Bugsworth

Plaque commemorating the Engineers and the first Wharfinger

Excellent model of the site when working - made out of cast iron 

That evening we had a great meal in the Navigation Inn alongside the basins with Stephen & Gail Cannon, Maggie's brother and sister-in-law. We can recommend both the ale, cider and the food. That night we went to sleep to the sound of the a stream rushing over a nearby weir - quite soporific.

Marple, Stuck in Lock Pound

Turnover Bridge, Peak Forest Canal

On Monday we started our journey towards Bugsworth by cruising along the Lower Peak Forest Canal to Marple. The Peak Forest is a picturesque canal and even the first section leaving Ashton-under-Lyne is pretty, although there was still plenty of rubbish in the canal.

Working Boat Alton passes Albert by Woodley Tunnel

The Peak Forest has several aqueducts and some short tunnels along this section all making for an interesting cruise. The tunnels, including the opened out tunnel near Marple, all require one-way working. We had to wait at Woodley Tunnel for two boats, one was NB Alton delivering coal and diesel around the area.

Leaving Woodley Tunnel

Impressive Railway Bridge near Marple

Hyde Bank Tunnel

Hyde Bank tunnel looks wide enough to take two narrow boats but it states clearly on the signs that it is not. The tunnel profile is also not very helpful. You have to position your boat in the centre to get good headroom.

Leaving the opened out Rose Hill Tunnel

Marple Aqueduct and train on the adjacent Viaduct

Maggie managed to get some good photos as we crossed the Marple Aqueduct, particularly since a train passed conveniently along the viaduct as Albert crossed the aqueduct.

Marple Locks

Vegetation on the lock gates, Marple Flight

Our trip up the Marple Flight was epic. The eighteen narrow locks are not that difficult and the surroundings are very pleasant. The problem was water distribution. We made our way quickly up the first few locks passing other crews on their way down. Most of the crews complained that they had serious problems towards the top of the flight with very little water in the pounds. The pound above Lock 12 was mentioned more than once.

True to form as we got closer to the top we began to struggle. We started letting down water from pounds above but at Lock 12 we were confronted with a wide and long pound with very little water. Some locals stated that they had never seen it looking so low. A mud bank extended over part of the pound and some ducks had settled down on it. We tried to leave the lock and find a way through but quickly ran aground in the centre. Maggie stayed ashore and tried letting water down but to no avail. We rang BW. They agreed to send someone to sort out the problem but recommended that we try sending down water from  higher pounds. After waiting for about 40 minutes for water levels above to recover and letting down as much water as we dared, Albert finally got moving again and struggled into Lock 13. We then let down water from Locks 14 and 15 and finally got up the flight just as the BW staff arrived. It turned out that the top of the flight was suffering water shortages because a feeder pipe from the top of the locks is blocked.

Marple Junction

We were lucky enough to find a good mooring at Marple Junction where the Macclesfield Canal begins. We found that were moored just below the Ring O' Bells pub which is a great local. They serve a good selection of real ales and ciders and were very helpful. We had a quick drink, to help us recover from our exertions, and then went shopping at the Co-op. We arranged a meal order for our return. Our meals were delicious and we sat outside in the evening sun. A great end to a very hard day.

Portland Basin

On Sunday morning we left Piccadilly early to get up the Ashton Canal to Portland Basin. The Ashton has a long history of being difficult for several reasons including security and rubbish. The guides point out that security has been much improved over recent years (there are high security fences over many sections) and we found no problems at all. However, its reputation for having lots of rubbish was well founded. 

The environment close to Manchester city centre was good but from the start we hard some difficulties. We had to let down some water from the pound above to fill the first lock and getting over the cill was a problem. We were followed by NB Bleasdale so we only had to unlock the paddle mechanisms but all have handcuff locks.

Ashton Canal near Piccadilly

As we progressed slowly up the flight, we picked up debris on the propeller. It got gradually worse and just after the Manchester City Stadium I had to take my first trip down the weed hatch. The first item out of the hatch was football supporters scarf. A passer-by asked if it was City or United. Neither I reported - Middlesborough. Maggie said she was relieved that the supporter was not still attached. The debris was mostly polythene bags but it also contained copper wire.

City of Manchester Stadium

Lock 11 Ashton Canal

On several occasions we ran over objects that felt and sounded like shopping trolleys. We also collected a traffic cone in the prop but that came out easily without a removing the weed hatch.

Powerful flow down the bywash on Lock 13

At Lock 13 we were greeted by a powerful bywash at the lock entrance. We assume that this was because BW were trying to send some water down to the lower pounds. The only way to get through the flow without being pushed into the wall was to enter the lock at some speed. 

Water sports at Fairfield Locks, Ashton Canal

At the top of the flight a group of young people were having a great time in kayaks. We were impressed how they moved over when requested. We took on water at Fairfield "Junction" and watched BW removing rubbish from the lock. They were unable to use the "spare" former duplicate lock to send down water because the paddle mechanism was blocked with rubbish - mostly logs.  We found the Ashton Canal locks surprisingly benign although the amount of rubbish was a big issue.

Along the section between Fairfield and Ashton there are a number of low bridges. One took us a by surprise but we squeezed under with the chimneys removed and the exhaust folded down. It turns out that the bridge we had most trouble with had only 6' 4'' headroom.

An Ashton Canal Shopping Trolley

Mill and River Tame, Portland Basin

We decided to moor up  Portland Basin Marina for the night. Five pounds gave us a secure quite mooring.

Portland Basin, Junction of Huddersfield Narrow, Ashton & Peak Forest Canals

Piccadilly, Manchester

Dover Lock Inn, Abram

We left Dover Lock on Saturday with the intention of having a shortish day's cruising to Castlefields which is our usual mooring spot in Manchester. The hot weather was forecast to continue and we got off early for this lock-free cruise.

Plank Lane Lift Bridge, now customer operated

Although it was sunny, the wind, as the BBC forecast stated, was noticeable. We certainly noticed it at Plank Lane where we stopped to negotiate the lift bridge and found it difficult to get away from the bank. We stopped at Worsley and had lunch. When we stopped here in 2009 this was the furthest north Albert had been - now that spot is Gargrave.

Spinning Mill at Leigh

Mooring at Worsley

The rest of the journey towards Manchester was straightforward although it was livened up by an incident near Patricroft. We came up to a very slow boat that beckoned us to overtake and they then promptly steered into us. I stopped it hitting our cabin by pushing it off at the last moment. The boat was appropriately named Meander!

We crossed the Barton Swing Aqueduct and I again took lots of photos of one of  my favourite (perhaps the) waterways locations.
Manchester from Barton Swing Aqueduct

Containers stacked six-high near Old Trafford, Manchester

At Waters Meeting we turned into Manchester and moored up in Castlefields. Since our last visit the area has gained a beach (yes a beach!) and the bar under the railway bridges that was closed is now operating. The moorings have gone down hill slightly with weeds growing in profusion. However, the whole area was busy with people enjoying the warm sunshine. We moored up with the intention of going up the Rochdale Nine on Sunday. That was until the crew of the boat moored up next to us, Bleasdale, invited us to join them going up the locks that afternoon so we could tackle the Ashton Canal on Sunday morning. Having a boat with a crew familiar with the locks to accompany us was an offer we couldn't refuse.
Castlefields Beach on a hot Saturday

The journey up the Rochdale Nine was a revelation. The crowds of revellers spilling out from the many bars that line the route were amazing. At the first lock there were "bouncers" ensuring that customers didn't get too close to the water. All the nine locks are individual with an assortment of mechansisms to raise paddles and open gates. In places there isn't even a towpath and the canal dissappears under buildings. One lock, Dale Street is directly under a building.

Lock One on the Rochdale Nine

Operating a lock with "Bouncers" controlling the crowds

Operating a gate using a winch

Deansgate Locks

Canal Street

Underneath Manchester

Operating Dale Street Lock, Rochdale Nine

Notice & Graffiti by Dale Street Lock

The revellers were very good natured all along the route, and some offered help with gates. There were some who asked questions about boating, some more coherent than others depending on their alcohol intake. A negative part was the large amounts of broken glass that littered the towpath.

Moored up in Piccadilly

That night we moored up at the top of The Nine near Dulcie Street in Piccadilly - it was quiet.