Blown away!

Macclesfield to below Bosley Locks, 6.1 miles and 12 locks.
       Ice surrounded the boat again this morning. It was still and calm with few people about as Boatwif trotted down Buxton Road to an early morning Easter service at St Paul’s Church.

Two mini eggs and the Parish News the heavier Boatwif returned to find the Captain ready for action:

         “A hire boat’s just been through, it’s cut us a route through the ice,” he proclaimed. A cup of tea was provided as if to stoke up against the cold.  Then the layers of clothing were assembled in readiness for a chill day…

        Just past Macclesfield marina the canal passes under Black Road Bridge. Last year a small corner site was being excavated and services installed. Now apartments provide neat waterside living.

On the canal goes – the southern outskirts of Macclesfield, Sutton and the Gurnett Aqueduct (popular mooring area) then an open stretch towards Lyme Green.
The wind had an icy blast to it and in unexpected places in gardens and against hedges snow was still piled high.
 The canal weaves on: you might round a bend and slip through the narrow gap that is Broadhurst Swing Bridge – or you might round the corner and find that the bridge is closed. Today the bridge was closed – and another boat was the other side.
Three hearty ladies swung the heavy structure open and onward Cleddauproceeded. A mile or so later came the electrically operated swing bridge at Oakgrove; here four vehicles and a bike had to wait patiently for the boat to slide past. There were more sightings ahead of the snow’s fury, sheltered slopes still snow covered,
 gulleys in valley bottoms still white laced, the microwave mast hill still splashed with snow.
       The top of Bosley locks appeared. While the Captain made haste to empty receptacles and rubbish Boatwif made haste to boil the kettle and to make two cups of soup, survival rations for the crew during their efforts ahead. The Captain hurried on, eager to lock ahead. Patiently Boatwif rode the back deck of the boat while lock 2 was supposedly being filled. Whisk – and away into the murky waters whirled the yellow top of the elderly but faithful Tupperware mug.
           Lock after lock the keen easterly blew – and at lock after lock it was a struggle to keep the boat aligned with the lock entry. At lock 4 an upcoming boat had a large crew. “Let me do that,” said one hefty lad, and he wound up the paddle with ease.

           “Great help, your lads,” the Captain called to their helmsman.
            There was a groan and a sigh: “You should see the food bills!”
      In the field above Lock 6 a flock of sheep grazed; tiny newborn lambs seemed too frail yet to do more than to scuttle after their mothers.

Snow was piled high round the offside of one lock
– and always the Cloud, the massive hulk of gritstone, loomed ahead. The snow emphasises its craggy bulk. How bizarre it was tonight to sit in daylight (British Summer Time) eating supper and gazing up at the very route we climbed last August. Lacking ice-picks and crampons on board there won’t be a second Cloud ascent during this trip.
So it was a “blown away” sort of day: blown away by the warmth of the welcome at St Paul’s Church, a mug lid blown away into the canal, boats blown about in the pounds between locks, the crew blown away by the Arctic blasts that are still making for a largely monochrome landscape…
Onward tomorrow, at least to Ramsdell Hall or maybe further…

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