Into winter hibernation

Little did Cleddau or her crew know in early October last year that she was leaving Victoria Pit on the upper level of the Macclesfield Canal for what would be a Gap Year Plus…

Tixall Wide to Aston Marina, 9 miles, 3 locks

Monday October 1st dawned dry, though breezy. This really was to be the final boating day of the 2018 cruise. There was a short final stroll along the towpath at Tixall Wide,    the bank now clear of all but one of the weekender boats.     Walkers who know where to look (opposite the Tixall Gatehouse)    might spot the plaque commemorating Beau the Boating Basset… 

From some distance behind another boat pulled away, turned on the Wide and left.    It was the beautifully kept wooden cruiser and her tender, spotted at Tixall on a previous occasion.

From aboard there was a last look at the elaborate Gatehouse,


then it was back towards Great Haywood Junction    and a left turn onto the Trent and Mersey Canal heading north towards the Potteries… 

A mile along and Cleddau was rising in Hoo Mill Lock,     number 23 from the Shardlow (eastern) end of the canal.

It was 15 months ago when Cleddau last came this way but some incidents from previous cruises never quite fade. Here at the second lock, at Weston,    the Fence Post Incident was recalled, when a stray chunk of wooden fencing in the lock chamber had disabled the prop,making for an eventful arrival by the lock bollards… And above the lock a family of swans practised their hissing at the Captain.    Would these be grand off-spring of the fierce male swan that once chased Cleddau through Weston, furiously pecking and jabbing at the stern fender…

One does wonder whether Weston residents saw eye to eye with the local planners: the mixture of new canal side building styles always seems to have a jarring effect.


At the northern end of the village there is a tricky bridge with limited visibility beyond it.  The four-strong male crew of the oncoming boat slewed across the canal and came to a halt on the offside – not in itself an unusual occurrence but it was the third hire boat seen since Great Haywood sporting all male middle-aged crews.    Just an observation…

Onward, Virgin trains    and great numbers of Canada geese   to the east, gentle hills to the west.    There’s a stretch of permanent moorings near Sandon and it’s good to see the Rowans are still there…!   

Progress continued: under Salt Bridge    and then, at the very last lock of the day, of the year,    there were Pirates…

A couple had booked a Scholar Green hire boat to cruise the Macclesfield and Peak Forest Canals: the water shortages interfered with that plan… and now they were heading south until they’d need to turn round.      Did the Pirate Captain and his shoulder-perched parrot appreciate the irony that their Heritage fleet boat is called Bosley…?!   

Onward, colder now, passing more Canada geese,    cattle  and a fine house.    The bridges seem offset from the canal – and lower.    Tell-tale damage marks on the brickwork indicate various boat impacts…

Another lock in view, Aston Lock.    First there’s an exit from Aston Marina – and closer to the lock is the entrance. 

This arrangement allows for one way traffic through the central pinch point where the fuel pump is sited.    The diesel tank was topped up before winter (to reduce condensation and the possibility of diesel bug developing) then Cleddau pulled forward, left the marina via the exit, moved back along the canal, re-entered the marina at the entrance  – and moored up on the agreed pontoon.

Relief!  Here was safe winter mooring    (beside Celtic Spirit, a good name!) after a whole gap year away from the Macclesfield Canal.

Elevation Stats:
Macclesfield Canal to Aqueduct Marina: -387 feet
Aqueduct Marina to sea level: -138 feet
Sea level to Bedford:  +90 feet
Bedford to Aston Marina: +176 feet

Waterway Stats: 
Total distance: 820 miles
Distance on canals and locked navigations: 285⅔ miles
Distance on non-tidal rivers: 469 miles
Distance on tidal waters: 65⅓ miles
Lock total: 250 locks

It was exactly a year ago, on 6th October, 2017, when Cleddau was cast off from her Victoria Pit mooring.  She headed south west for a paint job and various works at Aqueduct Marina near Nantwich. Little did her crew know then that events would conspire to prevent her return. There was an overrun on the boat completion which delayed her collection, there was the canal breach at Middlewich in March which closed the route back via the Trent and Mersey Canal, there were dates to make, deadlines to adhere to, canals and rivers to cruise, a stretch of sea to cross, all to get to the Bedford River Festival in mid-July.

Then Cheshire’s dry spring and hot summer left insufficient water for the Bosley Locks. On September 13th Canal and River Trust announced that at least 5 weeks of prolonged rainfall” were needed to restore water levels fit for navigation – followed 15 days later on 28th September by another announcement that the water levels in canal and reservoirs had improved sufficiently to reopen the locks on 6th October. In the latter half of September the Macclesfield & Peak Forest Canal reservoirs have benefited from significant rainfall, resulting in an increase in water levels both in the reservoirs and the canal”. 

By then it was too late, too late for Cleddau and crew – the decision to surrender a much loved mooring had been made and a replacement found. This winter there’ll be no companionable warming pub grub at The Boar’s Head  nor bracing tramps up into Lyme Park. Instead at Aston there’s 26, a much smarter restaurant altogether and closely manicured landscaped grounds to stroll around… 

For now though let Cleddau settle in to enjoy her well-earned hibernation!


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