16 – 4 – 30

Rose Hill Cutting to Bugsworth Basin, 8.1 miles and …

No, the title isn’t some obscure date from the last or this century, just some vital statistics:

16 locks up the Marple Flight (a climb of 214 feet); 4 bridges to wind or swing; 30 boats moored at present in Bugsworth Basin.

After just under three hours of effort Cleddau reached Marple Top Lock. On the way up at least four boats were passed going down and there was one ahead and one behind also going up. Conclusion: lots of boat movement, including at least two crews of Norwegians who had set off from Stoke-on-Trent “to do the Cheshire Ring”.  Marple locks are hard – very heavy gates and stiff paddle gear so those boat crews sporting 6 fit young(er) adults certainly benefit! The locks, spread out over a mile, provide a glorious walk. At the bottom is the roofless Rose Hill Tunnel followed by the amazing stone aqueduct high above the River Goyt, overshadowed by an even higher railway viaduct. The bottom half of the lock flight weaves its way up past bushes and woods, with just glimpses occasionally of the hills beyond.

This morning not far from the bottom a posse of life-jacketed workers marched down towards the boat. Was this the new C&RT authority’s much trailed Brian Blessed type volunteers…? Somehow, they didn’t all seem to fit the profile… None the wiser, the steady lock work continued.

Just a few locks from the top the posse returned, their role revealed: members of Marple Heritage Society who take responsibility for litter-picking and gardening along the lock flight. Indeed their efforts deserve appreciation.  There were delays, waiting for boats above to drop down and swap places; there was a protracted tale from a BW worker about a damaged gate but Cleddau‘s progress continued. The upper five locks come close together and boat action attracts spectators. Perhaps the Captain should be grateful that his gentle skid on a muddy slope and spectacular break fall was witnessed by only three others! Muddied, a trifle grazed, but there was no serious damage.

Top Lock reached: to turn right – or to continue? To be tied up back on the Macc – or to feast eyes again on the Derbyshire Peaks. The horizon was clear and the Peak Canal won. Only a further six miles (and four bridges) to Bugsworth. High above the Goyt Valley the canal proceeds. So much more water than usual (rain!) The foliage so much greener and fuller than last time (New Year). Smells stronger than usual, the love heart sweets of the New Mills Meltis factory and the freshly rained-on thick vegetation. So many more moored boats along the way than on previous occasions. And then, at Bugsworth, the large inland port, built to tranship limestone from the Derbyshire Peaks down into Manchester and beyond came  “Just moor where you can find a space,” from the Bugsworth Preservation Society rep. Cleddau crept past Lower Basin (13 boats there) towards the Middle and Top Basins. Boats to the left, boats to the right – and then, with such skill, and closely observed by other boaters, the Captain reversed Cleddau into the Middle Basin Arm, a favourite mooring spot, neatly beside nb Betty B.

Thirty boats are moored here this evening, rather more than the three on Cleddau’s last visit at New Year!  Up to the Navigation Inn for an evening meal (no “Elsie Tanner”* presence sensed but the  new chef of three weeks’ duration was keen to please). And afterwards lively conversation with Betty B’s crew, followers of Kathleen & May and enthusiasts too of locks and paddle gear (and, believe it or not, of composting loos!)

Tomorrow: the final cruise, back to moorings at Higher Poynton.

*Pat Phoenix, who played Elsie Tanner, one-time owner of the Navigation Inn.

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