Red Bull Aqueduct to River Dane Aqueduct (bottom of Bosley Locks), 9 miles, 1 lock, 1 breakdown
Weather forecasters were insistent that gales would prevail by late afternoon. Hence the plan to do the relatively short hop along the lower contour of the Macclesfield today, leaving the flight of twelve until tomorrow. The one lock of the day, about half a mile on from the overnight mooring, is barely a lock, just a 12 inch change in water depth at Hall Green where officially the Trent and Mersey Canal ends and the Macclesfield Canal starts.
Cleddau glided into the cutting before the little lock and Boatwif hopped off with a windlass and wound up the paddle. There was a shout from the Captain (not unusual) although the words were rather disturbing. “I’m stuck in reverse,” he yelled, “all I can do is go backwards.” And so he was, gliding away from the lock, rather than towards it. Gradually the boat came to a halt. The Captain’s head and torso disappeared from view, in due course to reappear, the boat now going forwards. As it came into the lock the yawning hole of the engine compartment was exposed. More ducking and bending. Were we to block the lock, two boats ahead waiting to come forward? Was this to be another River and Canal Rescue callout? A shout (another one) – and the Captain brandished a two feet long tool. “Always a use for this,” he said. Boatwif re-boarded via the side hatch and away we chugged. Mutterings of “Heritage” were audible … Just over a mile further on lies the Heritage boatyard and hire base, and on we limped, the Captain manipulating the below floor gear lever with a one-time fire rake.
Negotiations with the boatyard were not promising: one engineer sick, the other on holiday. Then in a light bulb moment the (absolutely non-technical) manager summonsed a name to the forefront of his brain: Tony! Tony, only ten minutes away by road (an hour by boat), Tony who had twice worked on Cleddau’s hull. Soon along came Tony with his tray of tools. The diagnosis of snapped gear cable was correct. The chandlery could not supply a replacement (well, not a replacement red one, only a black one – remember the non-technical manager). So, teas and coffees later the job was done, black gear cable properly connected up, the engine hatch replaced, the spread of tools (and the all important fire rake) tidied away.
The cruise resumed – slowly, following a slow boat, past the famous white painted Ramsdell railings, past miles of farmland to either side, on and on until the golf course heralds Congleton. From the wharf is a view of a short little aqueduct over a road and also first glimpse of the Cloud, the hill that looms loftily over the town, over the Biddulph Valley and the Dane Valley. On we went, passing one boat, which as a house, might have required planning permission for its rooftop structures. A couple of hours later today’s destination had been reached – the bottom of Bosley Locks.
Time now for Boatwif to demonstrate her own flexible thinking. She is an avid fan of bungee cords, those colourful elasticated lengths, somehow associated with bike shops. How Boatwif can arrange them as drying lines for washing on the front deck, as airing lines in the “glory hole”, as fasteners of picnic table, carpet sweeper and sundry awkward items. With rain forecast Boatwif created yet another criss-cross of bungee arrangement under the cratch on the front deck. The washing is now dry!
Mid-afternoon the mile-long towpath walk to the top of the locks was taken. Word on the towpath yesterday was that “they were chucking water down the locks to help the Trent and Mersey where water was low due to an unidentified breach”. Overflow weirs were splashing and foaming, side ponds were gurgling, water chasing down side channels sounded like waterfalls. So there’s no water shortage up here… here’s hoping nobody is aground below Heartbreak Hill.
Tomorrow to Sutton, just south of Macclesfield.
FOOTNOTE: a reader of yesterday’s blog has e-mailed the following re. The Monkton Moment: “Said pharmacist is pretty well keeping him (Haverfordwest Man) in employment” (at Marks and Spencer). Or so claims her husband!