Renewal and regeneration

  30th – 31st March 2012

Boatwif had woken up with a start on Friday morning: sunhats… don’t forget the sunhats! The assembling of “stuff” vital for an Easter cruise was pretty well complete, and once loaded, she and the Captain headed the 150 miles north to the Macclesfield Canal. Usually the journey is via the M6 route but on Friday the route which goes further north towards Derby and then west towards Stoke-on-Trent was chosen. What a surprise at Meir, a Stoke suburb. Where there had been a derelict garage, demolished and cleared, now there is a shiny four storey NHS centre.  Further on, where there had been quite the most depressing of rundown housing estates, its petrol station closed, its pub trashed, houses torched, now new homes have been built and a flicker of stability and hope has appeared.  May this area prosper…

At her mooring Cleddau sat low in the water, filled up with both fuel and water two weeks ago. Operation Unload proceeded at a pace: food staples for a fortnight, full wind and waterproofs, the mint and the basil pots, fresh bedding for the Relief Crew, clothing to withstand temperatures from 70 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit (21 to 4 degrees C) and, of course, the medium length pole, so painstakingly painted at home. (Pole-painting and a pootle) At 2.30pm the boat pulled away from the pontoon and a three goose flypast swung low overhead as if in farewell! Cleddau was off on her Easter cruise, destination the Anderton Lift and the River Weaver. Few other boats were moving on a now cold afternoon, although just before Bollington a weather beaten boater pushed his craft away from the bank and pronounced his intention: “I’m going Macclesfield to do dancing.” Through Bollington we passed, observant of recent improvements on the aqueduct towpath: not here the usual swampy quagmire, rather now a bright and dry gravel path! Further on a stretch of Kerridge towpath had been renewed too. On we chugged, fire smoke in our faces, but  not sunhats, instead fleece hats on our heads! We squeezed into an overnight mooring at Gurnett Aqueduct, closed up the boat and warmed up…

An early start on Saturday morning: 0810. It was damp and the visibility murky at best. But by the time we had shoved open (and closed) the Broadhurst Swing Bridge, operated the electric Royal Oak Swing Bridge at Fool’s Nook and  the 12 locks at Bosley conditions were brighter. While the southern canals are suffering water shortages, it is not so here. Waves gushed down the side weirs above each lock; waterfalls raced over top and bottom gates while at Lock 11 an inch or so of water covered the lock sides too… Then came the Bosley to Congleton stretch – catkins and fresh reed growth, butter yellow forsythia, trees greening in the higher branches, magnolias bursting into bud, birds competing as in a song contest and an artist’s palate used by a child to splodge a mass of  daffodils along a bank – the natural world in regeneration!

A mid-afternoon mooring at the Ramsdell Hall railings. Through the windows on the towpath side can be seen the black and white railings, and black and white cows – a perfect pastoral scene.  Nearby a sign outlined a footpath route to Little Moreton Hall, so Boatwif,  equipped with mobile phone (switched on), walking pole (extended) and National Trust card (in purse), traipsed across a range of dry and lumpy fields – to find the house not open. Well, not open until 4th April. But such a house: from our narrow little home on water to a grand house surrounded by water. “Cheshire’s most iconic black and white house – Tudor skill and craftsmanship at its finest,” proclaims the 2012 leaflet. And while Boatwif was strolling back along part of the South Cheshire Way what was the Captain doing? Why, painting his longest pole, of course!

Tomorrow, on to the Trent and Mersey Canal, to start the descent of Heartbreak Hill…

FRIDAY: 8.82 miles, 0 locks, 0 swing bridges
SATURDAY: 13.5 miles, 12 locks, 2 swing bridges

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