The clock rounded

Stanthorne Lock, Middlewich to Ramsdell Hall Railings, Macclesfield Canal

So, made it – completed the Ring, the Four Counties Ring that is, reaching Hardings Wood Junction just after midday on Wednesday 23rd September, 17 days after leaving it to head south in a clockwise direction…

If the map of the Four Counties Ring were a circle (which it blatantly isn’t) and if the Ring were a clock face (not that either!) then 14 days after leaving Hardings Wood Junction Cleddau and crew were near Middlewich at the 50 minutes to the hour point…

By then Cleddau had one more lock to descend, Wardle Lock, before re-joining the Trent and Mersey Canal at Middlewich.

Monday 21st September had seen an early start and yet progress initially was very slow, with a long wait at the lock. Wardle Lock marks the start and finish of Wardle Canal, at 154 feet the shortest canal on the English waterways system. For many years the lock keeper’s cottage was lived in by Maureen Shaw, her life remembered on a plaque nearby. 

The Captain began to fret about likely boat queues all the way up Heartbreak Hill; a mere 31 locks over 12¾ miles lies between Middlewich and the junction back onto the Macclesfield Canal. A sharp right angle turn is required on exit from Wardle Lock – but one boat from the queue turned left, northbound, one paused to fill up with water and one crossed to King’s Lock chandlery to fill up with fuel.

Relief.

Luck held as over the first five upbound locks there were no hold ups. The sun was shining, there were waves and exchanges with Geoff on nb Seyella, while inside Mags, it transpires, was celebrating a really significant birthday (see reference to ninety fork handles here – and belated birthday congratulations to her).

It’s a familiar route now – King’s Lock, salt works,    Rumps Lock (how the Kinderton Arms has been upgraded in recent years),    snazzy apartment dwellings now near the Booth Lane Locks, (a new nursing home according to the roadside sign),   Crow’s Nest Lock…

Onward to Wheelock to service the boat – and then, already 6 locks down, to start climbing again.

When you start uphill from Wheelock it’s a pretty relentless ascent. Experience tells you that the lower locks provide a kick when the top paddles are wound, but somehow, however carefully and slowly they are raised, the boat surges and pulls, rocks and rolls in the chamber…

Slow progress: Locks 66, 65, 64… The Captain was windlass wielder and walker between locks, while Boatwif on throttle and tiller, occasionally lowered the offside paddle. The locks are paired narrow locks, although several are out of action.

At Lock 63 the Captain grabbed the secateurs to trim the offside pyracantha.  The single handed boater ahead lost his rope, and temporarily his boat, at one point. By Lock 60, with fatigue setting in and judgement weakening, his boat was wedged between a central pier and the bank…

A familiar though hazy view appeared to the south east, Mow Cop, perched on the ridge above Scholar Green. Next was the small white painted bridge, “Jaq’s bridge”, remembering a photo taken ( here) of nb Valerie cruising through the ice in December 2017…

Traffic noise began to interrupt the idyllic rural scene, the M6 crossing the canal just below Lock 58.

Onward, upward, to moor at Hassall Green after Lock 57.    It’s a favourite spot – and a fine place to meet the crew of nb Firecrest). Though it had been an 8¾ mile, 16 lock day it made the next stage of the climb easier.

Keen for another canal-side lunch and a face to face chat the Tentatrice crew drove up to Rode Heath on Tuesday, about 90 minutes by car for them, 2 miles and 4 locks for the Cleddau crew.

Also seen that day:  new canal side fencing,    a striking wind vane,    some swings over water     and a pig with its snout in the trough…

Wednesday. In rain, first heavy, then lighter, the climb up Heartbreak Hill continued.  A handwritten poster on the middle Lawton Lock was a reminder of Mary, who lives nearby and via crafts and cakes, jams and chutneys, she has raised many thousands of pounds for charity.       Mary at Lawton Locks in September 2014:

At Church Lock one boat had exited, but on the lock landing crew from a motor and a butty were re-attaching their two boats.   Only by moments a sighting of the butty being hauled through the two locks had been missed…

On past Church Lawton, mist and murk shrouding Mow Cop in the distance.

Onwards, upwards, to the Red Bull Locks, one boat ahead and a cheery volunteer lock keeper eager to help. The canal approaches Kidsgrove, arable farming on one side, dairy farming on the other and a railway line too. Then at Lock 45 one of the paired locks is out of action.     Bizarrely it seems, now nearly in Pottery-land, there’s a seaside scene right opposite Red Bull Services…

The climb continues, under the Poole (Red Bull) Aqueduct that carries the Macclesfield Canal above the Trent and Mersey.   Two more locks to go, the water now a shade of orange, affected by the iron oxide that leaches into the waters in the Harecastle Tunnel.

And at 1215 on Wednesday Cleddau re-joined the waters of the Macclesfield Canal.    The clock had come full circle, the Ring had been rounded, the Four Counties completed…

In a sudden moment  (well, “back in the north” now!) the air temperature plummeted. Cleddau scuttled through the Hall Green stop lock, pressed on through Scholar Green and pulled up at the Ramsdell Hall railings,   where, for the first time since 2018, the fire was lit.  Blissful warmth filled the boat and eased the chilled bones…

As the sun went down the latest calculation could be made – just 20½ miles and 12 locks remain before returning to the September 2nd starting point at Higher Poynton…

Stanthorne Lock, Middlewich to Ramsdell Hall Railings, Macclesfield Canal, 16¼ miles,  33 locks

Since leaving Higher Poynton on 2nd September: 136¾  miles , 108  locks, 2 tunnels

Boat bloggers spotted or met: Free Spirit, Tentatrice, Still Rockin’, Percy, Jubillee, Seyella, Firecrest

Monkton Moments*- 3 (Monkton Moment*- a reference to / recognition of Cleddau’s Pembrokeshire connections)

  • “Aargh, Cleddau – Pembrokeshire – Haverfordwest”
  • “Oh, Cleddau, know where that is, have rowed longboats at Aberaeron…”
  • ”Cleddau, that river goes through my home town – ‘Av’fud’west”

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4 Responses

  1. Jaqueline M Biggs says:

    Lovely post Sue, with so many good memories. I am pleased you two didn’t have to pull on your wet weather gear once for this trip. Reading your posts is such a comfort, and an escape from the terrible and trying times unfolding here in the States.

    Love Jaq xxx

  2. Sue says:

    Hi Jaq,
    Yes, it’s been a very good trip. When we started out we really didn’t know how far we would get or how limited we might find it due to the wrist injury. I was very apprehensive initially but by the time we got to Tixall Wide we’d found strategies to cope and decided to continue along on the Staffs and Worcs and then on the Shropshire Union Canal.
    We are so sorry that times are so tough and worrying in the States this Fall, environmentally and politically. As ever you are in our thoughts, Jaq. Keep strong.
    Love
    Sue /Boatwif

  3. Barbara says:

    It was lovely to meet and chat by Ramsdell Hall railings a few weeks ago! Your blog is great. Lovely pictures – you have a real gift for describing places and events. Hoping to see Cleddau (Cluedo!) again on one of your future trips.

    Best wishes

    Barbara, Jonathan and Spot the dog

  4. Sue says:

    Hello Barbara,
    I remember our conversation very well indeed – and I have relayed the archaeological segments to my Macclesfield daughter and granddaughter.
    Cleddau is back on her home mooring now so it will probably be 2021 before we are able to moor at Ramsdell Hall railings again. It really is one of our very favourite mooring spots.
    The next /last blog post of the trip is in development – keep an eye out for it!
    Thank you for your wishes. It would be lovely to meet again – I shall keep an eye open for your lovely dog.

    Sue /Boatwif

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