South west for winter: Day 2

Day 2: Downhill, on a dampish sort of day

Bosley to Biddulph Aqueduct, 3¼ miles, 12 locks

Rain-streaked windows at 8am is not the inspiring sight you want to see as you contemplate working a flight of locks. Via 12 locks the Bosley Flight on the Macclesfield Canal   lifts the canal 118 feet in just over a mile. 

(View from the Top Lock).

Working the locks requires muscle power and leg work from lock wielders, patience and accuracy from boat steerers.

In dry conditions on Saturday (would more rain hold off?)  Cleddau entered the top lock at 1002.  Just in the distance could be seen a figure working his boat down in lock 2. He was climbing up – and then down – the ladder attached to the side of the chamber. “Single hander,” the Captain deduced. “We could be slow …”

Down the flight Cleddau started, Boatwif operating with a long arm windlass. The gate paddles on the lower end gates are notoriously tough to wind, but a longer armed lock handle gives more leverage…

Lock 1…

Lock 2…

lock 3.

Time for crew duty swap.

Behind the boat ominous black clouds gathered.  The stillness that often precedes a squall was felt, but yet, thankfully, only a few raindrops fell. Wetter though was the spray from leaky top gates  – and curiously white spume clung in places to the front gates  and chamber sides.

About half way down the flight, while Boatwif floated deep in an empty lock, a face peered down into the chamber. There was a flash of movement, black clad legs and yellow covered arms across the lock bridge. The gates were opened and an arm waved Cleddau forward. The arms it transpired belonged to the son of Rob the Lock. (See here for an account of when Rob was previously met, two years ago in Stoke -on-Trent.) The pair, father and son, had reported to Bosley to aid the onward journey of a boater who had left Paddington (yes, Paddington, London) some 11 days ago. They had worked the locks for him from London – and the boater is heading for Manchester, aware apparently of the lock closures further along at Marple. In due course it was between lock 8 and lock 9 (Boatwif’s HALOUS lock) that the upbound boat from Paddington crossed with Cleddau.

The downward journey proceeded.

Locks 10…

Lock 11. Here tall trees were beginning to hint at shades of autumn gilds and bronzes.

Lock 12. A quiet unremarkable exit from the Bosley Flight was noted at 1212.

Onward, on level water now, the Cloud to the left, the painted cow her usual pretty self.

How different a familiar route can seem in a different season.  Crab apples littered the towpath.A tunnel of trees shimmered, a paint chart of green shades.  The canal creeps along, rural, remote it seems from roads or urban sprawl, passing under a succession of neat stone arched bridges.

A boat was moored at Vaudrey’s Wharf, and then, just before Congleton, a prized mooring lay ahead, on Biddulph Aqueduct. Just one boat was there – and gently Cleddau came in, bow to bow now with nb Valerie.

Out onto the towpath came Jaq, ready to take a rope, ready for conversation. Tea, Welsh cakes and a shared dinner on board Cleddau made for a very sociable afternoon and evening.

Tomorrow Cleddau and crew will continue onward to join the Trent and Mersey Canal and to start down ‘Heartbreak Hill’…

After Day 2 the destination now lies 27 miles and 34 locks ahead…





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