Ten meeting-less, appointment-free days stared out from the calendar; time then for a cruise… but where to? From moorings at Higher Poynton to Bugsworth Basin? No, that’s about a 10 hour trip, can manage further than that… To Uppermill, on the Huddersfield Narrow, and walk up to Standedge Tunnel? No, there have to be long cruises between mooring places on the Huddersfield, and it is still very cold… To Lock 57, that favourite bistro, down near Sandbach, on the Trent and Mersey Canal?Yes – then no. Lock 57, provider of delicious food in a quiet contemporary setting, closed down in January, and sold everything off. To Wheelock then, 9 locks and 2 miles further on, and turn round shortly after. So that was the decision – to Wheelock. It would entail cruising along the Macclesfield Canal, down the Bosley 12, continuing to Red Bull, bearing left at Hardings Wood Junction, and descending Heartbreak Hill, 32 miles and 39 locks in total…
It was a good start on Thursday: the Cleddaucrew arrived at the boat at 3pm, unloaded their survival rations and more jumpers and fleeces than had ever been on board before, cast off at 3.26pm, arrived at the water tap at 3.34pm and started to fill the tank. But there, moored nearby Bailey’sTrading Post was nb Bosley. Swiftly along the towpath trotted Bosley’s crew for a catch up. First acquaintance had been at Bugsworth in 2011, they awaiting delivery of their new Braidbar-built boat, Cleddau just refitted throughout the front two thirds of the cabin. Next meeting had been a year ago, near Rookery Bridge on the Trent and Mersey. On that occasion there had been a guided tour of Bosley and tea taken in luxury… The wind sharpened yesterday, so once there was water in the tank the kettle could be boiled, the new stainless steel double-lined chimney installed,
the fire lit and the cake tin raided. There were boating tales to swap, they across the Ribble and up to Lancaster last summer, Cleddau to Huddersfield and through Manchester… Daylight faded, guests departed, and on day one Cleddau had completed just 50 yards of the Easter cruise.
Day two: “We are iced in,” gasped the Captain just after 8am on Friday.
The sun was shining brightly – but not warmly. There were jobs to be done and stuff to be stowed. The morning meandered on until at midday the ropes were untied and the cruise got under way.
Faint birdsong could be heard above the chinking of ice floe sliding under ice floe. A Canada goose scrabbled to move through water, its progress impeded by a slippery plate.
Snow curled in wonderful formations on the bank side, stubbornly remained in hollows and bushes, lay sprinkled across the hillsides.
Icicles lurked under Bridge 22 and the temperature refused to rise.
The crew were in thermals and windproofs; horses seemed to be in double blankets.
At Clarence Mill on the northern edge of Bollington a chill wind blew. It wasn’t even 2pm – but a rare mooring space on the aqueduct ahead beckoned.
Cleddauwas tied up, for lunch, for the afternoon, for the night!