Home is where you moor it…

HOME IS WHERE YOU MOOR IT are the cheesy words on a reusable shopping bag, another one of Techno Son-in-Law’s gifts that has had residence rights on the boat for some time. 

So where has “home” been in recent days…?

There was the lovely mooring at Wedgwood, cows and Canada geese near neighbours on the opposite bank. From Wedgewood   it’s now a familiar trip northward through Trentham to Stoke-on-Trent.

At the southern end of Stoke’s boundaries (remember Stoke is an amalgamation of 6 towns: Hanley, Burslem, Fenton, Longton, Stoke-upon-Trent and Tunstall) is the football ground. For years it was known as the Britannia Stadium but now it is called the bet365 Stadium. Close by were moored two familiar boats, open for business. The Captain had become irritated by the very slow progress of a boat ahead. (“The washing machine is on, the engine isn’t going fast enough to recharge the batteries…,” he muttered.)  He drew the boat in ahead of the two boats, ordered asked Boatwif to hold the mid-rope, then, hobbit-like, he headed for a second breakfast… Que Sara Sara is a famous boat now, a Celebrity boat in fact, having played a role in the (mis)adventures of the Celebrity 5 Go Barging.  Filmed way back in March but broadcast in July the Oatcake cook had to sign a non-disclosure agreement to prevent her revealing her involvement. Perhaps it was fortunate for the Captain that it was she who cooked his cheese, sausage and mushroom Staffordshire oatcake and not a certain retired politician…

Second breakfast enjoyed (!)  onward went the boat, the roar of traffic along the parallel A500 a shock after days of cruising through rural Staffordshire…

The bottom one of the 5 Stoke locks was reached, the slow boat waiting below…

Oncoming boat traffic was steady. Once above the top lock (seriously deep this one)  the canal is at summit level, extending 3½ miles on to reach Harecastle Tunnel.

Just past Stoke Boats and just before Westport Lake a clutch of camera-wielding students seemed to be establishing a project site.  Mooring space was plentiful at the Lake (unlike the last stop here just 18 days before).  Readers who live in the bricks and mortar world can probably look out of their windows after dark and see overhead street lighting. Here at Westport Lake lights inset into the towpath were noticed for the first time – very reassuring for any night-time strollers…

From daylight into darkness, from one county into another –  by Sunday morning the floating home was looking for moorings in Cheshire, first on Red Bull Aqueduct (to allow for a Tesco shopping expedition; apologies to the Surrey boaters who may have regretted keeping faith in Boatwif’s navigation skills…!) Onwards then to Hall Green Lock and the moorings there.

There’s a Cleddau history here: an unfortunate back deck slip (17th September, 2014) searing its location ever since into Boatwif’s memory as Broken Wrist Lock. … But Hall Green is a fine place for some boat keeping tasks – a water tap within easy reach, a straight mooring edge, all in a sheltered area protected from mischievous winds. So ‘home’ was moored here to allow for some spit and polish on a boat coated by months of travel dust, dirt and bird messaging… (Note: see how rain bubbles on a clean and polished surface).

‘Home’ was moved again then, a few miles further on, to a very favourite location. There was a conversation to do with the weather (in umbrella-type weather at the time) with nb Passing Clouds at the Heritage Marina fuel point and then, onwards, creeping past the black and white Ramsdell railings (where three volunteers were defying the showers to paint the horizontal bars).

It’s a tranquil place, farmland beyond the railings and farmland on the opposite side of the canal. In 1827 the Macclesfield Canal Company arranged to slice through the Ramsdell Hall Estate. That was before the arrival of the railway and any roads are some distance away.

A circular walk alongside the canal to cross at Bridge 87 involves a back road, with good views up to the Mow Cop folly, past the Heritage Marina gates (where Boatwif paused to drool at the sight of an array of rubbish bins), onward past the gates to Ramsdell Lodge and to the fine house of Ramsdell Hall. There are a couple of other interesting and individual houses before the accommodation bridge leading across the canal is reached. Here it was not quite PYO (Pick Your Own) but Pick Your Way…

After a quiet night there was a different home mooring to visit. Trek along a farm track, across four fields, over two stiles and past a herd of docile cows to find an ancient house moored within a moat.

Visited before, it is Little Moreton Hall in South Cheshire. Free guided tours are available throughout the day. The house was started in the 1500s by the Moreton family, the huge open Great Hall being the earliest part. Over about another 120 years there were additions, extensions and remodelling, all the time the building works being designed to impress. Not everyone could afford 37,000 individual pieces of window glazing or to install bay windows or to have fine furniture   – or to add an upper storey to form an impressive Long Gallery. To today’s eye the property might appear as an outrageous amount of ‘Tudor bling’…

A new exhibition area (open since June) invites the public to view a flat used by National Trust staff until a couple of years ago.  While views from Cleddaus galley windows are often over fields and cows, hedges and hills, the view from here is of the courtyard through which hundreds of history-seeking fans regularly stream. What a place to have spent the early years of life     

Heading back across the fields provided more good views, of the Mow Cop folly,  high above Scholar Green and the privately owned Ramsdell Hall.

Where would be the next mooring for the Cleddau floating home? And would it take long to get there…? Gently chugging along a particularly sleepy stretch of canal south of Congleton there was a droll enquiry from the towpath. “Are you looking for the M6?”

Er, no!

Onwards, past hay bales, a golf course and a giraffe…

Then, what a surprise – what a triumph! There was a Cleddau-plus size mooring at Congleton Wharf, and, what pleasure this gave, there was a Cheshire East nearly empty rubbish bin right there. Twice in recent days boaters had asked about where to get rid of rubbish. It’s about an 8 hour, 16 lock cruise between the Red Bull Services and Bosley Services. In that time domestic rubbish mounts up. Now it seems rubbish bins are conveniently placed along the towpath in Congleton. Rubbish for recycling, however, remains destined for Bosley).

Congleton Museum is a good place for quick local revision. It’s Bear Town.

A past mayor, John Bradshaw, (1602 -1659) is remembered for a particular event, being a signatory to the death warrant of King Charles I.

On display too are hundreds of Roman Cheshire-found coins.

After two nights at Congleton Cleddau crept onwards, pausing at the tap at Bridge 68 to be brimful of water, after all history teaches how a reliable water supply is essential to survive a siege.

A siege? Well, the next location will be below The Cloud at the bottom of Bosley Locks, 12 locks from a tap and several days from fresh supplies. It’s HALOUS season (Have A Lock On US) when members of the Macclesfield Canal Society operate the locks over the Bank Holiday weekend to raise the Society’s profile and to raise funds.  This afternoon during a short tech rehearsal roof flags were raised on Cleddau. There’s no flagstaff on a castle keep so the fine set of broom handles and bungee cords will just have to suffice!

Further 2 Monkton Moments* to report:

  1. “I’m from Dinas.” (A boater at the Harecastle Tunnel northern portal).
  2. “Are you from Pembroke Dock? Do you know William Rees?” (Addressed to the Captain at Hall Green).

2019 Monkton Moments*- 9   

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


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