High winds on the High Peak

So, after last year’s disruptions (the breach on the canal at Middlewich, the water shortages that closed Bosley locks), it seemed timely  to cruise along all of the Macclesfield Canal from end to end.

Once past Victoria Pit Moorings at Higher Poynton it’s about another five miles to the end of the Macc, where it meets the Peak Forest Canal at Marple. Onwards Cleddau cruised then, past many moored boats, past the Man Shed like no other (at Bridge 13), past a wooded section,   through High Lane, to moor overnight opposite the park where deer used to graze. .

The air temperature might be cold but it is Spring, a time for new life:

The canal approaches Marple, passing right beside the looming Goyt Mill.    It is a huge noiseless structure now, built in 1905 purely as a spinning mill.  It was steam powered, water for the boilers being taken from the canal.  Coal and raw cotton were delivered by boat. In full production in the 1930s, it employed nearly 500 people, but the run-down of the cotton industry forced it to close in 1959. Now though it has been divided into small units and a number of businesses operate here.

It’s a narrow passage through to the canal junction:  then a sharp left turn down Marple locks (currently closed) and a sharp right turn towards Bugsworth Basin and Whaley Bridge. It was a clear day and the hills of the Peak District were immediately apparent.

The offside bank has had a significant clearance   since Cleddau’s last cruises this way,  in January 2016  and in July of the same year.

There were frequent sightings of solitary female Canada geese. Back at Macclesfield the crew had watched a goose creating her own shallow nest of twigs and sticks on the wharf side opposite, moulding the nest with her body, then lining it with feathers plucked from her own body. Here along the Peak Forest Canal there were numerous nests, each one occupied by a female goose, focused on her work of incubating eggs.  How long does it take for eggs to hatch, one wonders: This comes from Geese.Relief

Canada geese lay between four and nine eggs per year. The average is five. The female lays one egg every one to two days, usually early in the morning. She does not leave the nest, eat, drink, or bathe while the eggs are incubating. The gestation period is 28 to 30 days.

The first of the four boater-operated bridges hove into view (Turf Lea Lift Bridge);  this requires a windlass, a lot of breath and even more patience…

A couple of miles along the canal there was a “Can I pass?” from behind. A young man on a paddle board had passed once before and now was overtaking.   Before the cruise was over he made a third pass: “How many miles will you have done?” the Captain enquired.

“Oh, about 35,” came the reply.   (Did that mean he was paddling seven lengths of the Marple to Whaley Bridge stretch…?) Several days before another not so young paddle boarder had overtaken Cleddau.  Northern canals, it seems, are now becoming the domain of paddle-boarding MAMILS…

Onward: grand views; more roosting geese;  a smoothly running electric lift bridge; a key operated swing bridge.

Then came the smell, the distinctive aroma of boiled sweets at the New Mills Swizzels sweet factory. / Not much further on was Del Boy’s boat…

The harsh easterly wind had been a constant companion all morning. Where there were hedges and trees on the Goyt Valley side they were not providing much of a windbreak.   Periodically Boatwif ducked below to upgrade her headgear: the first hat of the day, a crocheted multi-coloured number with playful tassels, had loose weave and was really quite draughty; the second hat, a  dark blush pink fleece lined hat, was discarded for being too itchy; in a third attempt at keeping the head warm Boatwif deployed a fleece hoodie – but it wasn’t really warm enough and the sides impeded visibility; flicking the hood of the heavy windproof boating jacket over the hoodie seemed effective although the combination felt cumbersome. Finally (a Goldilocks moment?) Boatwif found relief, warmth and comfort with her dark blue thermally lined mountain cap, with ear flaps and chin strap, bought in North Wales at least 25 years ago…

Onward, through the final swing bridge at Furness Vale, past the tidy marina with its brightly painted boats, past Andy Russell’s painting dock and some familiar faces…

Left turn at the fork   and up past Teapot Row, past the good life farm  to reverse into the lower basin.

Despite Bugsworth Basins’ apparent isolation a well-insulated boat is a bonus here: there’s the fast-flowing Black Brook which races past the lower basin on the north side, while the A6 bypass on the south conveys road traffic noise. However, hunkered down inside a cabin the noise is minimal. The entire site is well looked after by volunteers of the Bugsworth Basin Heritage Trust,  there is a resident warden on site and the once stark remnants of an industrial past are now being overtaken by wildlife and wild plants.    


It was a cold and windy exit on Monday morning,  pausing on offside moorings to do a Tesco shop. “Polar bear weather again,” commented another boater…  Then began the return cruise along the canal, above the Goyt Valley. Occasionally trains ran along the Whaley Bridge line (see the old railway signals).  Paddington Bear was hurrying to the station (!)  purple flowers were tumbling down garden walls    and Cleddau slid smoothly through Carr Swing Bridge  The air remained clear and cold. Why is it that trains never appear on the New Mills viaduct when the camera is to hand…?!  The red Danger Beware Giant Hogweed sign is still there in the winding hole though this particular intruder seems dormant at the moment.

There was a great catch up chat then with the folk on nb Bosley,  an unobstructed  passage under New Mills bridge  and a crawl past the floating workforce… 

Don’t be in a hurry along this glorious canal; pause, soak up the views, investigate the Torrs Riverside Park, explore some footpaths.

The wind had dropped on Tuesday; the more distant hills were obscured in hazy mist. Back at Marple and the Junction a Holiday Afloat boat stormed under the bridge  – with nowhere to go… The Marple locks remain out of action while lock 11 on the 16 chamber flight is being rebuilt.

Cleddau wove her way past and re-joined the Macc. Back through Marple, back past the mill where one of the businesses is Uniquely Chic Furniture.

By midday Cleddau had reached Victoria Pit moorings. Now this really was the end of the 2018 Summer Cruise. Courtesy of owner Iain Bryceland, she will be tied up for a few nights –  and then the 2019 cruising season can really begin!.

Higher Poynton (Macclesfield Canal)  to Bugsworth Basin (Upper Peak Forest Canal) and back: 21 miles, 0 locks

Afterthought: In a previous post there was reference to Bayko; what a wave of nostalgia it brought.  Baby Sis (from West Wales) responded first, plainly recalling it but with Health and Safety concerns (those metal rods – children’s eyes!); next to report was Scottish Sis, waxing lyrical about the much sellotaped instruction sheets; finally from mid-Wales, Senior Sis recalled her favourite pieces, the white fencing with the swing gate, the gable roofs and the bay windows. – and provided a useful link .

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