Round the bend

Church Lawton to Biddulph Aqueduct: 8.2 miles, 7 locks

            Are you optimistic by nature – or pessimistic? When the rain is so persistent that even the ducks have disappeared into the bank side growth it takes an optimist to see a positive in the day’s weather…

            “Too wet even for the ducks!” called out the Captain at about midday, echoing a conversation he’d overheard earlier.

            “But great for water levels,” cheerily announced a boater from his moored vessel. Cleddau by then was back on the Macc – which is prone to shallow water. From an optimist’s point of view 2012 will have been a good year for water levels, as was today! In steady rain there are those who grit their teeth, pile on the waterproofs and just proceed with their plans. The Captain is a teeth gritter – he gets garbed up in every form of waterproof – but can be known to complain a little about the difficulty of handling sodden ropes, the slipperiness of surfaces, the discomfort of saturated gloves, the misery of feeling cold under a waterproof jacket heavy with rain. ”Everything takes twice as long when it’s so wet,” was heard during the morning casting off routine, and again at Red Bull during the watering, off-loading rubbish and sanitary procedures! During a day of constant rain, mostly of the steady and often heavy variety, thorough pessimists would have been driven round the bend… but the forecast for tomorrow is for a fine day.

            What of the route? Three locks up to Red Bull, and a stop at the Services: would that other service stops had such strong water pressure, bins for general rubbish and for dry recyclables, toilet and shower block plus elsan facilities. Opposite the Services sits a neat little garden summer house, recently painted in patriotic colours. There was absolutely no breeze and the union flag hung dankly from the mast, in appearance nothing like those frantic Jubilee and Olympic flag-waving days! One more lock, this one right beside the pub, deserted mid-morning, but with an optimistically persuasive sign.  Then a brief Tesco stop followed by one last lock in the Red Bull flight before the sharp right turn at Hardings Wood Junction onto the Macclesfield Canal. The rain, a waiting boat, two large work barges and another boat approaching from Harecastle Tunnel made for an interesting turn, but it was managed impeccably! The canal bears right again round a bend, continues for about a quarter of a mile and then there is another sharp right turn, across the aqueduct, the Trent and Mersey locks now below. So, a 270 degree turn to get back on the Macc. (See map.)

            The rain poured. Other boaters operated the Hall Green stop lock while an umbrella-covered crowd gathered at the door of one of the lock cottages. Knitted goods being sold for Macmillan Cancer Appeal was the cause… Mow Cop was shrouded in cloud; cows cowered under hedges; a group of rough shooters walked down the tow path, a pair of pheasants (?) for the pot.  A squirrel darted down a tree and there was movement (made by something white and fluffy) in the hutch on the front of a cruiser. But by and large people were absent from the canal or the tow path…

            Past Scholar Green; past Ramsdell’s Railings (why are there glorious mooring places available today but not when needed?), through a rural corridor, eventually to the golf course outside Congleton. At Congleton Wharf the road cuts below a short aqueduct (an underbridge this would be called on the Bridgewater Canal) and with the cloud beginning to lift even The Cloud could be seen.  

Moored up, cows are not Cleddau’s neighbours tonight, but trains! From galley and saloon windows trains can be seen racing across the viaduct towards Macclesfield, Stockport and Manchester.  This beautiful mooring place so invites a walk down into the Dane-in-Shaw Pasture or along the Biddulph Valley Way. A CD to accompany an evening meal was plucked randomly from the shelf tonight: it was Hinterland, Portraits of Preseli – and would you believe it, the first track is called Autumn Rain. That title clearly explains why Boatwif didn’t take a walk this afternoon!

            Tomorrow: up the Bosley 12 locks and onwards towards Macclesfield.

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