Round the Island Race

Our daughter's in-laws live on the Isle of Wight and sail. Yesterday Ray Foster, his son Pete and a friend took part in the epic Round the Island Race sailing their yacht Shikari along with over 1500 other yachts. Conditions were good and they managed to complete the circuit in respectable time, for their boat, of 9 hours 52 minutes finishing in 1236th place. Well done to the crew. Slightly different boating from tackling locks on the Grand Union!

Ray Foster aboard Shikari on the River Medina
(in 2013)

Passing The Needles
(with Pete Foster)

Macclesfield PS

Just remembered that our recent two-week trip along the Trent & Mersey, Macclesfield and Peak Forest was memorable for the absence of one of those annoying events - a trip down the weed hatch to clear the propeller. These events can sometimes happen on canals that appear quite clean but they are perhaps more common where water is shallow and of course are common in urban areas.

Given the environs of Stoke and the renown shallow nature of the Macclesfield & Upper Peak Forest canals, I was waiting most days for the dreaded signs of "stuff" around the prop - lack of progress and black smoke from our Ruston. I did on a couple of occasions experience what must have been some build up of vegetation around the prop at the notoriously tight bridge holes on the Macclesfield, but this was easily cleared by a short burst of reverse.

We must of either been lucky or perhaps the steady stream of boats using the route had cleared the way - summer boating.

I expect that now I have posted about it the next time we leave the marina we will probably pick up something very nasty! Am I chancing my arm mentioning it?

Back to Aston

On Monday the weather was glorious. We left Etruria and cruised back to Aston Marina in glorious sunshine. Although Stoke Locks can never claim to be pretty, operating them has certain charm, particularly the lock crammed so close to the railway that one its balance beams is particularly short. A steady stream of boats came the other way and their crews helped with lock operation so it was a fun morning.

Entering the short tunnel by the incinerator, Stoke-on-Trent

Watching Albert leave Trentham Lock

At Barlaston we passed the moorings of NB Lodestar, Barlaston Boatyard. Lodestar was in the dock. We had passed her a week earlier on a tight bend of the Peak Forest Canal as she returned from the Gardner Rally at Bugsworth. What a wonderful set up the house and dock make. Not particularly obvious from the photograph is the lock beams feature in the garden.

Barlaston Boatyard

As we passed Fuller's Yard, Roger was busy tearing apart NB Apollo's old wooden passenger cabin. On our way north it had been complete! Roger appeared to be enjoying himself and I inquired about the brass plaque that used to be on one of the seats that commemorated Cliff Richard having a trip on the boat (when on the Regent's Canal). It appears that Roger has kept it safe. Two locks later we met Roger's twin brother Martin moving his wonderful tug Cutter north towards the Yard. Meeting both identical twin brothers within few minutes was a bit uncanny.

We made Aston by late afternoon, moored up and had a pleasant night on-board as the sun set.

Tuesday morning the weather was again bright and sunny so we cleaned the boat roof. It was grubby and not been done for some time. After lunch at the excellent marina Bistro we headed home to Northants. 

We'll be back at Aston shortly, when commitments allow. All in all our Macclesfield and Peak Forest Canal trip, with its good weather, was a memorable journey and one we shall be keen to repeat again.

Harecastle & Etruria

It was gloomy this morning as we left Ramsdell, but at least it didn't rain today. We made our way steadily towards Harecastle Tunnel and joined the queue waiting for the one-way passage south. Recently, because of safety issues, they have started checking boat horns and lights. Because we were the last of four going south we pulled over to the tunnel keeper's office for the checks and soon found that our horn didn't work. It eventually made a strangled squeak but that wan't good enough for an emergency warning so we were loaned an air horn.

Emerging from Harecastle Tunnel

Because we were delayed entering the tunnel we had a good clear run through. It was slightly less gloomy as we emerged from the tunnel into Stoke.

Moored up outside Middleport Pottery (Burleigh)

We stopped at Middleport Pottery for lunch in their cafe, a visit to their excellent museum and a session in the factory shop (Burleigh). The pottery has recently received a grant from the Princes Regeneration Trust. Since our last visit it has turned into a  great visitor attraction. The site was full of young children with bears for a teddy bear's picnic.

Fun tea-pot lights in the Middleport Pottery Cafe

We stopped for the night at Etruria outside the Industrial Museum with the wind getting up and it turning quite cold. The stove was called into action again (and it is June).

Taking on water at the CRT Etruria Wharf

Ramsdell Hall

What a change in the weather from the last few days! Stayed moored up in Congleton this morning.

Since mobile internet was back on I did some scientific editing and watched the rain. After running the engine to charge up the batteries we took a break by walking to the Spar convenience store just up Canal Street. We followed this by lunch and then headed towards Hall Green stopping at our favourite visitor moorings along this stretch of the canal, the moorings near Ramsdell Hall.

The views over the fields towards Little Moreton Hall were not as good as our last visit since it was misty. We had a series of heavy rain showers and lit the fire. Cows in the field opposite who had recently given birth brought down their offspring to paddle in the canal.

Young calves being introduced to the canal 

As the light faded, with the misty wet atmosphere we were treated to a glorious setting red sun.

Cheshire sunset after rain

Tomorrow we head for Stoke via Harecastle Tunnel.

Bosley and Congleton

On Thursday the warm hot weather continued and we left for Bosley with the aim of going down the lock flight on Friday. As we were about to leave I discovered our data allocation on Three had run out and we no longer had internet access. Considering the amount of editorial and social use we had had over the last week it was probably not surprising. I had even taken a hour long web conference.

Clarence Mill, Bollington
We stopped at Bollington on the aqueduct for lunch and phoned up Three for more data. Unfortunately it doesn't come immediately so for the rest of Thursday and Friday we were not web connected. 
An interesting Canada Goose family 
(note the duckling in the foreground)
Canada Geese are found all over the canal and it is well known that family groups run nurseries to look after their young. Near Kerridge we found a variation on this where two geese were looking after twelve goslings and a stray duckling decided to join them. The adults didn't chase the duckling off and appeared to tolerate it.

Macclesfield turnover bridges

We moored up above Bosley Locks. The long line of permanent moorings above the top lock, and the lack of formal visitor moorings, makes it difficult to judge where to moor up. We chose a great location with good views across the Cheshire Plain and across to The Cloud. There were sheep in the field on one side and cattle on the other. Swallows raced up and down the cut catching insects and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. Temperatures reached over 20 degrees C. On Friday morning a hare hopped along the towpath by the boat - a first for us. It stopped by a gap in the hedge and then disappeared into the field. Pity no camera handy.

Bosley Locks are set in glorious country and are a flight that you can enjoy operating. On Friday, in hot sunny weather and with little boart traffic, we really enjoyed the descent although we had to stop in the last lock for a cold drink refresher (not beer - honestly).

Descending Bosley Flight on a hot day

We took on water by Bridge 67 and had a sandwich lunch and moored up for the day at the basin in Congleton. After a trip to a local convenience store, and a excellent hardware store that appeared to have everything, we investigated the local hostelries. In the end we went for the recently refurbished The Railway Inn which, as the name suggests, is alongside the railway station. The interior design is well done and is full of local railway interest. We had two excellent dinners and they a have good selection of ales and ciders. We can recommend it. The only slight negative, was that by the evening clouds had formed and the hottest day of the year ended in  rain showers.

Whaley Bridge and Poynton

Some days the weather is just glorious for cruising and today was one. We reversed out from our mooring in Bugsworth Lower Basin and found the water point occupied. With another boat queuing, it appeared pointless to wait, so we left for the end of the Peak Forest Canal - Whaley Bridge. This involved just a short journey (less than an hour). The section of canal from Bugsworth junction to Whaley Bridge is lined with permanent moorings, which doesn't add much to its charm, but the basin at the end of the arm, and the town of Whaley Bridge, are delightful.. We took on water in the basin from a gold painted water point!

Whaley Bridge Basin

Gold water point - shades of Olympic Post Boxes?

Whaley Bridge with the Mechanics Institute flying the flag

The basin at Whaley Bridge used to be an important transhipment base for burnt lime, just like Bugsworth. In this case it connected to the Cromford and High Peak Railway. The town still has a rail link, but unfortunately not to Cromford, just north towards Manchester.

Transhipment wharehouse with the dock in the centre

We can recommend Whaley Bridge as a place to visit, but mooring up there doesn't appear to be an option, which is a shame. Our trip back to Marple was delightful. With less boats on the move it was straightforward boating. Maggie took to the towpath near Newtown.

Operating a Peak Forest Swing Bridge

Operating a  Peak Forest Lift Bridge

Railway signal box

At Newtown the Swizzels factory is alongside the canal and the air has a sweet aroma. Around the corner the canal runs through woodland and there is suddenly a heady aroma of wild garlic. A bit of a olfactory clash!

The work on Lift Bridge 24 was paused for lunch as we passed through and there were few boats on the move. At Marple we turned back on to the Macclesfield Canal and moored up for the night at Higher Poynton by the "wide" just by Mount Vernon Wharf. We visited the Trading Post for an ice cream. 
Mooring at Higher Poynton

Before our evening meal we took a stroll around the area. Alongside the canal runs the Middlewood Way trail which near here is on the bed of an old railway line in a cutting. As we reached Nelson Pit we heard a lot of noise coming from the cutting. It was a scout cycling group that had stopped at the former Higher Poynton station, where there is still a platform. They were having great fun.

Former Higher Poynton Station being used by scouts

As the sun started to set we watched a heron fishing in the "wide".

Heron fishing

Bugsworth Basin

Albert at Bugsworth

Bugsworth is a delightful place to moor. It is a "golden nugget" in the canal system. Its historic significance is great because, unlike many other former industrial sites, it is basically entire and has been well preserved. It has an extensive labyrinth of basins which makes mooring a pleasure. All around the site there are boards and artifacts explaining the significance of the basin and there is also The Navigation, a free-house which is part of Bugsworth's history.

Passing a delightful cottage on the Upper Peak Forest Canal

We left Marple on Monday morning, scheduling our trip to arrive after the popular weekend Gardner Rally had finished. This made sure that we could get a mooring but it did mean that there was a steady stream of boats passing us leaving the rally. The other navigational problem was that contractors were working on a lift bridge which officially was open only from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM. As a result of these problems we had a slow and challenging trip along the Upper Peak Forest Canal towards Whaley Bridge.

Views towards Kinder Scout
As might be imagined, many of the boats coming the other way were Gardner-engined and smartly turned out. An unusual boat was a small classic wooden cruiser. She was immaculately turned out. 

Classic Wooden Cruiser 

The butty Gosport passed us towed on short straps by a modern tug. Since we crossed by moored boats and a corner this was challenging steering.

Butty Gosport
We arrived at Bugsworth around lunchtime and sought a suitable mooring. We firstly attempted to moor up in the area between the upper and lower basins called The Wide where there was plenty of space, but found it too shallow. After some winding and maneuvering we ended up mooring in the Lower Basin near where we moored last time we visited. It turned out to be a good decision because we found a mooring alongside the site of the former Stone Crusher. This gave us a lovely "patio" to enjoy lunch in the afternoon sunshine.

Albert at Bugsworth Lower Basin
("Patio" to the left)
After lunch we explored the site, walked up the tramway and visited the Navigation Inn for a "quick drink". It was busy with dog walkers. 

Tug deck with miniature garden 
Today we invited four of our oldest friends to join us at Bugsworth and lunch at The Navigation. It was great meeting them and having a good natter.

Edward & Anne, Maggie (with kettle), David & Lesley 

This evening we have the best weather of the day with warm sunshine.


Today the wind was not so strong but it was still strong enough to make it chilly out of the sun. We left Bollington around 10:30 and had a very pleasant cruise to Marple. Being Sunday, walkers, cyclists and joggers were enjoying the towpath.

Sunday at Higher Poynton

Goyt Mill, Marple
We reached Marple around lunchtime and moored up close to the Ring O'Bells. Their trip boat, The Bell, was on the point of arriving with 18 people for three-course Sunday lunches so our plan for a midday meal had to be changed. In the end we booked for roast dinners in the evening. They were sizable and tasty. Needless to say we didn't manage to finish them.

Sunday roasts at the Ring O'Bells, Marple

Following the meal, a walk along the locks at Marple was called for. The historic boat Elizabeth had moored up at junction with the Peak Forest. Powered by a Gardner engine, she was on her way back from a rally at Bugsworth.

Historic narrowboat Elizabeth

We looked at the top half-dozen locks and remembered our trip up the locks three years ago when we got firmly stuck. This time I noticed a roller by the bottom gates of Lock 9 where Stockport Road crosses the canal.

Bridge Roller, Marple Flight


Yesterday, we left our overnight mooring just below Bosley Locks. There was a bit of an early morning rush and before you knew it we were third in a line of five boats going up the locks. Although it was sunny there was a stiff breeze that lasted all day. As one steerer going south noted, "a good day for sailing".

Moored up at Bosley with The Cloud behind
Operating Bosley Locks

I was being helpful and assisted a single-handed boat going south. The male steerer noted to Maggie "Your husband was so kind I could marry him!" 

Around Fools Knook (Oakgrove) a group of buzzards were taking advantage of the wind and put on a wonderful display of aerobatics. We were prepared for some "fun" at the electrically operated swing bridge since opening it can cause traffic to back up onto the A523. Last time we passed this way we caused a lot of aggravation opening the bridge because it was school-run time and traffic backed-up quickly. This time the crew of a boat going south were in control and four boats passed through in one session. One Land Rover driver did, however, manage to moan.

Oakgrove Wharf

We made fair progress and pressed on to Gurnett Aqueduct for lunch. The only problem with pausing there was the rings are very badly placed and we had to resort to pins and trying to get pins into a modern concrete-lined bank can be frustrating. I did eventually manage it and without bending a pin.

After lunch we moved a little way to through Macclesfield to Bollington where we moored up for the night on the embankment close to the magnificent Clarence Mill. 

Former Hovis Mill, Macclesfield

Moored on the Embankment, Bollington

Bollington is a delightful village and we took some time to explore it. We didn't, however, climb the hill to have a close look at  White Nancy the memorial to the Battle of Waterloo. It has been given a facelift in time for the bicentenary celebrations

White Nancy above Bollington

Moored in front us was the Wool Boat who featured recently in Waterways World. Maggie bought some llama wool for baby knitting.

Wool Boat and Clarence Mill

In the evening we eat at the excellent Lime Tree Restaurant. It was only half-way through the meal that we realised that we had enjoyed meals at their sister restaurant in West Didsbury about 18 years ago!