Creatures – and creature comforts…

Higher Poynton to Rode Heath, 27 miles, 26 locks, 2 swing bridges

“What would you like to do for your birthday?” Boatwif was asked.

Her answer was emphatic, unswerving. “NOT be on a motorway…” But a south east to north west road journey back to the boat was to be made, it being accomplished the day before the birthday. Would a birthday on the boat deny Boatwif the creature comforts she might have in her bricks and mortar dwelling?  (Definition of creature comfort: something such as food, warmth, or special accommodations that gives bodily comfort).

Monday became Day 1 of the year’s final cruise. Sheep are better than early commuter traffic belting past a bedroom window, but their persistent pre-breakfast baaing from the field behind the moorings was certainly a rather raucous birthday dawn awakening.  Later in the day the dulcit (not) tones of the Cheshire Three were raised in a Happy birthday chorus…! It’s hard to choose whether North Cheshire sheep or the Cheshire Three made the greater racket…!

Creatures of many types, real and artificial, were encountered during the southbound trip down the Macclesfield Canal. There are sheep, more sheep, sheep /goats (?), black-horned sheep, herons, ducks, geese, cows and alpacas between Higher Poynton and Congleton.

The world seemed a happy place on Monday, three dayboats packed with happy day trippers were met, one tied up so father and young son could do some fishing. “Have you had any bites yet?” Boatwif asked.

“Well one,” said the boy, “but it dropped off…”

A kayaker paddled past, before returning and overtaking the boat.

Into Bollington, known by many as Happy Valley

As ever a cruise through this happy community reveals an eye-popping array of mock wildlife.

Is this an indication of the comfort humans derive from looking at animals, in or out of their natural habitat…?

Approaching Macclesfield good intentions (and paintwork protection) became the focus. There are three sets of “narrows”, places where the stonework pillars of old swing bridges remain, although the bridges are no longer in place. Guided by hand signals from the bow deck the Captain slowed and hovered the boat so that weed and bramble pruning could take place… In recent years the efforts of volunteers and Canal and River Trust have kept the canal-side vegetation under much greater control; it was memories of previous September travels in these parts that brought out the secateurs. Success – Cleddau slid through each of the narrow gaps, no extra scratches gained!

Niggling away during an otherwise pleasant day was a domestic concern, an apparent breakdown of a creature comfort. The central heating had failed. Not another Webasto saga, surely…

The heating had fired up initially and then the main radiator remained cold. The radiator was bled, air gushed out.  The header tank, which had emptied, repeatedly guzzled water and antifreeze – and the system went into noisy shutdown protest. The Webasto was re-set, but the unhealthy sounding noises continued. Best to shutdown the system completely… On chilly autumn mornings lack of morning radiator heat and morning hot water is inconvenient – and joyless…

Some head scratching and contact with Ed Shiers, a Leek based engineer, brought hope. The Webasto power unit is tucked in a tight space underneath the back deck and perhaps that needed to be bled of air too… The  mooring planned at Gurnett Aqueduct for the birthday dinner was perfect for an Ed liaison – and there it was that in one and the same location creature comforts were provided (a good meal at a fine dining pub)   and warmth restored (heat-producing radiators and timer-controlled hot water).

Sutton, the village up the hill from Gurnett Aqueduct, is a well-manicured sort of place. Taking a different route up  from the canal Boatwif came upon a seat by the crossroads but in a pleasant situation. Someone was resting on it, rather something… As Boatwif continued on route to the village shop she kept pace with the real -life postie busily depositing mail through letterboxes, before encountering another postman.

Across the road a cricketer was in action  and a bit further along some musicians were set up for a gig.       Scarecrows had been seen here before, years ago (2012).  This apparently sleepy village must retain a community spirit – and it certainly respects its past.

By Wednesday Cleddau was on the move again, onwards to Bosley Locks, making a smooth transit down in 90 minutes, assisted by two volunteer lock keepers.    Two upcoming boats were crossed, one in the short pound between locks 8 and 9, the space to pass reduced by a small moored cruiser.

After Lock 12 why pause? Showers were merely swift spitting episodes and a long lock-free pound lay ahead.

Onward, through Congleton (and its confusion of bridges),  the wind beginning to pick up and hats (not of the sun variety) were searched for. Ducks huddled on the bank side, feathers fluffed up as protection against the chill. By late afternoon squalls of rain were descending over the Ramsdell Hall railings.

There was a blue sky at Ramsdell Hall railings on Thursday – and a blue flag flying alongside the Union Flag at Teapot Hall. Onward, through the Hall Green stop lock, crossing on the aqueduct above the Trent and Mersey locks, left at Hardings Wood Junction   (look, 23 downhill miles to the Anderton Lift, that and the Weaver Navigation being this trip’s destination.)

Below the first T&M lock is the closest place to moor to Tesco, so the edible creature comforts could be restocked… Onward then, down, down, down, past Church Lawton, to tie up at Rode Heath.

These are changing, indeed turbulent, times… and the weather, though thankfully not turbulent, is certainly changeable. If conditions are favourable push on, if not, stop early, put on the kettle and turn on the heating!

Monday: Higher Poynton to Gurnett Aqueduct: 8¾ miles

Wednesday: Gurnett to Ramsdell Hall railings: 12¼ miles, 12 locks, 2 swing bridges

Thursday: Ramsdell Hall to Rode Heath: 6 miles, 14 locks

2019 Monkton Moments*- 10   

(Monkton Moment*- a reference to / recognition of Cleddau’s Pembrokeshire connections)

Number 10: at Heritage Marina, from nb Strait and Narrow, “I’m from near Whitland”





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