D for Departure

Friday was D-Day, D for Departure Day. The 2014 Cleddau Cruise was at last under way. Months have been spent in planning and executing the engine and rear cabin refit; weeks have been spent in reorganising the interior and doing pre-cruise checks; days have been spent in preparing the route plan, Higher Poynton on the Macc to Bedford on the River Great Ouse. Now departure moment had come.

Cleddau was backed out of her home mooring,

winded (turned round) and refuelled at Bailey’s Trading Post. It was early and quiet. Two workmen were eyeing up the broken railings of the footbridge over the Braidbar dock
– presumably it will be repaired, painted and almost elderly by the time of Cleddau’s anticipated return in September.

What a joy to be journeying this May: hedges are full of hawthorn blossom,
the lilac is still prolific,
there are still swathes of forget-me-nots and even bluebells in shady spots still shine with a piercing blue. The route is familiar, the slopes of Lyme Park to the east, past Lyme View Marina, past the house with the tennis court, towards Bollington.

It was while cruising past Clarence Mill that the first of two Monkton Moments* occurred. (Monkton Moment* – a shorthand expression for someone’s recognition of the boat’s name and crew’s connections with the far west of Wales).  “Cleddau, that’s swords in Welsh isn’t it? Cleddau, that’s Pembrokeshire, isn’t it?” a distinctly northern voice called. “My parents moved to Sheffield in 1946, the Aberdaugleddau, river, Milford Haven…” More words were lost as the boats drew further and further apart.
Then, at Buxton Road Wharf in Macclesfield, a man was polishing the last of the Peak Forest Cruisers. “That’s Pembrokeshire, isn’t it!” he called.

When you cruise a familiar route you mentally check the familiar views, the well known landmarks – and you notice the differences too. Why were there A4 pieces of paper or card attached to trees and posts in the Bollington area?
Well, that it seems, is just one of the many aspects of the Bollington Festival, the notices being “Post A Poem”. How curious it was to walk down into Bollington and to pause en route to the butcher to read a poem attached to a lamppost…

The impressive chimney at Clarence Mill had a makeover (last year?) and now, minus the scaffolding and the foliage growing out of the brickwork,
the neat cleaning job is very apparent.

On past Kerridge to the outskirts of Macclesfield. Here’s a place much in the news in recent days, the large AstraZeneca pharmaceutical manufacturing plant. What is the future for this company? Questions are being asked in parliamentary committees about it…

Through Hurdsfield, a suburb of the town, splashes of colour drawing the eye.
At Macclesfield Marina there was a new sight: up on the side is nb Quackers,
Cleddau’s erstwhile mooring partner. Is she being surveyed, ready for a sale?
There’s plenty of wildlife about: see these endearingly fluffy new Canada goslings.
But in the season of new life it was surprising to see in the water over ten short miles a dead lamb, a dead cat, a dead Canada goose and a dead bird.

Moored up on Friday at Danes Moss there was time for a quick exploration of the nature reserve: grasses sharply green
, brilliantly blue bluebells, a stand of trees, straight and solemn in stagnant water.

Saturday dawned warm and bright.  It was an hour to Bosley locks (1007 as the boat slid into the top lock) but a slow descent. But who dare complain on such a perfectly blue and balmy day… There was a cloudless sky, though dominating the view for miles around was the hulk of The Cloud,
which in the 1830s had been the source of the Chatsworth gritstone which lines the 12 lock chambers.

There was a pause for water at Buglawton. Pressure is fierce here but conversation developed with a nearby gardener, a trainer of secondary school history teachers. When boating chance conversations can be swift but mundane but this was a lady with whom lengthy time could enjoyably be spent.

An overnight mooring on the Biddulph Aqueduct – the trees are in full foliage now and there is a cow parsley frill along the bank edges.
Throughout the afternoon and early evening voices drifted up from the valley bottom, from youngsters playing in the River Dane below.

In the afternoon heat** (will there be many more afternoons like this?) the Captain proclaimed it Pimms time, the first of the season…

Good job there’s room for a pot of mint on the front deck…

Sunday: Congleton to Westport Lake. Cleddau is oh so familiar with this route now, cruising it twice in both directions in the last few weeks. There was the usual routine: a newspaper picked up in Hightown, a feasting of the eyes at the lovely scene at Ramsdell Railings, a top up of water at Hall Green stop lock,
a smirk at Flirty Gertie,
a less than elegant right hand turn at Hardings Wood Junction – and a long wait at the Harecastle Tunnel north portal 
before a southbound convoy was allowed. Visitors around Westport Lake were slowly ambling along, or fishing, or (in the case of a young man) swimming in the water while a queue snaked behind the ice-cream van at the children’s play park. Summer, it seems, is here!

Tomorrow: a drop in at Stoke Boats to return a key and to request inspection of a worrying noise from the new engine…

Total distance to Bedford:  341 miles                  Distance so far: 27 miles

Total number of locks to Bedford:  143                Locks so far: 13

Heat**: hearts and minds these past few days have been with Cal Son and family, caught up in the firestorms in Southern California. There temperatures of 103F  (39C), high Santa Ana winds from the desert and  less than 5% humidity provided conditions ideal for wildfires. The family had 10 minutes to evacuate their home in San Marcos on Wednesday – and were camped out in a friends’ house in Carlsbad until allowed to return very late on Saturday evening.

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