The Macclesfield fizzled out at Hall Green stop lock, which was a shame as we like it a lot. Rivalry between the Macclesfield and Trent & Mersey canal companies meant there were originally two stop locks and two lock cottages complete with two lock keepers who kept beady eyes on the water.
The next section of waterway is the canal equivalent of a Curly Wurly, aqueducts looping over locks with arms branching off here the and everywhere, the more I think about it the less obvious it becomes but fortunately map reading is Nick’s department. Orange Harecastle water even smelt of the tunnel today and there was lots of it….flowing over gates, lapping onto the towpath and transforming run-of-the-mill bridges into chimney crunchers. The mysterious quantities of the orange stuff was the main topic of conversation for anyone near the top of Heartbreak Hill.
Woweee, the clockwise Four Counties queues were long, which made for an easy life going anti-clockwise on the ring, twin locks also made for a speedy journey as one or other was always brimming with water. The sun came out so being in no rush we moored up opposite a farm then lost ourselves in the usual things you do at home – with the unusual addition of a herd of cows dawdling past the kitchen window for milking, then back a little while later for more grass. Murk is snoring, after five hours of boatside sitting he feels he’s put in a good day on dog duty.
Other than one man making fenders on the towpath, everyone had cleared out by the time we left this morning. Greenery spiralling out of control on the run in to Congleton meant the boat disappeared from time to time as Murk got walked. With so many boats about we figured the Congleton bridge moorings would be fine, as it turned out we were lucky to get anything at all. Up the steps to the pub and down the hill, the town has just about everything…except a key cutter (so far as we could see) – down to our last BW key after losing one to long grass the other day.
Two or three miles after lunch, the skies grew darker but the rain held off. A very productive afternoon, in narrowboat terms: blacking the stove and repairing the cratch cover. Home for tonight is just over the fields from Little Morton Hall.
The day started well when, arriving at the swing bridge I met a guy quite keen to operate it himself, with his boat moored he’d taken up position as bridge operator while he waited for friends to catch up. We’ve come across a few lunatics who swing bridge for fun and are always happy to see one pop up with their gleaming BW key.
Alton was open for business so we pulled over for diesel and gas, blocking the path of anything else on the move. There was one boat, but the couple sandwiched between us and the piling didn’t seem to mind stopping for a while, explaining as liveaboards they carried everything including the kitchen sink so their boat sat deep in the water – if Uncle Bulgaria is out on the canals, we found him.
Bosley locks were busy but other than one shifty boater sneakily turning a lock against us everyone seemed to be enjoying climbing up or down a flight with the water working in the way it was orginally planned.
Plenty of space when we arrived at the bottom, a pretty spot that just shot up in our mooring ranking as we managed to get 3G. Wandering Murk towards the river for a cool off we saw our favourite coloured boat – by the time Murk had been dunked the owner sat outside reading. ‘For gods sake don’t go into one about how much we like your boat…’ Nick muttered from a few paces back. Five minutes later we were inside helping ourselves to a tour while the lovely guy held a wet Murk outside. Beautiful boat complete with Rayburn and a bed with a curtain! We both went on about how much we liked it before settling in for some heavy weight chat – UM, you’d have been proud!
Boats slotted into gaps as the afternoon went on, one long line of boats wiggle round the corner and away now. Today was a great reminder of how different everyone’s 60ish ft is, an enchanting and intriguing part of this floating life.
Water forced us from our lovely Higher Poynton mooring in the end. The tank couldn’t have had much left although other than a few initial carefree gallons we were careful with our consumption – to the point that we might have pulled away with a quarter of tank but with no gauge it’s impossible to know. An in-line gauge could be on the wish list.
The weather has been ridiculously hot and we’ve trundled over the hills into Lyme Park just about every which way there is. With boats continually passing by and afternoon trips to the tuck shop for sweets straight from the 1970’s we’d have happily stayed another day, such a lovely place to be.
With no locks ahead we set off into plenty of traffic, every bridge is a winner, reversing guaranteed. On past Bollington Mill it didn’t seem long before tying up in Macclesfield and heading off in search of a supermarket. Not the closest supermarket, it’s not canalside at all, it was a rucksack mission with quite a heavy load due to the little food we had left onboard.
Finally onto the waterpoint, water rushing into the tank sounded great. The remainder of the afternoon turned into a bit of a battle to find a tv signal given there was so much good sport on. We’d moored five times in total when Suzi Perry finally stopped talking like a robot or disappearing altogether.
Sleeping with the port-hole out means daylight in the bedroom, which means being woken as the sun comes up. So we were up pretty early, it was boiling hot and Nick was feeling the queasy consequences of his Stalyvegas dip.
Three miles soon passed before arriving at the bottom of the Marple flight. I’d remembered the paddles as arm jammers but we must have toughened during our stint up north as they came in just on the stiff side of okay. A few boats coming down bought some much needed water. By the top of the flight we’d thrown a spanner in the works of some Cheshire ring plans, having broken news of the Ashton stoppage to a few boaters.
Under the bridge and onto the Macclesfield, boats suddenly appeared all over the place, bridges needed to be treated as two-way streets again, it seems a long time since that has happened. Higher Poynton was practically chock so it was lucky to turn into one of the very last moorings. Breezy as usual up here, with the doors wide open the boat has been like a fan assisted oven – payback time for condensation months. Happy days.
Nick reached an all time high for narrowboat showers in a day. There was the usual morning shower, another when lock work got too hot and the pre-barbecue shower. Oh yes, and the after falling in the canal shower. Right in. Head under.
It had seemed odd when he leapt off, windlass in-hand declaring ‘Let’s do Stalyvegas!’ Seconds later he’d done it in style. A spectacular fall, more in its simplicity than anything else. Used to Murk launching himself at water just lately, I looked up at what seemed a simple walk of the wall. For the tinsiest moment I smiled figuring, ‘Huh, Nick jumped in,’ before realising it was very very unlikely he’d do that. Helped out by a sweet passer-by, he was re-showered and back out on the paddles in no time. At least the dip was top side of Stalybridge, the water gets muckier as the town gathers pace.
No two ways about it, the last (or first depending how you tackle it) day of the Huddersfield Narrow is quite a tough one. Locks are stiff and take time but more than half the trip is rural and bursting with greenery. Stalybridge visitor moorings were empty despite the town being a hive of mid-summer activity. We moved on through Portland Basin, where having spoken to a Canal and River Trust area manager further up the canal, we reluctantly turned left onto the Peak Forest. The air stayed warm as the sun began to set, barbecue lit, we motored on away from the Ribble Link route – it can wait and so can we.
It was nice to wake up to the roof cracking in the heat. The drop down to Uppermill is packed with views, a few boats moving up for their tunnel bookings meant a couple of locks in our favour but left long they soon leak empty. The waterpoint is tucked next to an old wool warehouse, now home to Huddersfield Canal Society, tank filled we finished the last few locks into Uppermill. Moorings are hopeless in terms of the solar panel but boats bobbing about in dappled sunshine make for a pretty place to stay. The town centre is no distance away and after carting back a sack of dog food we headed out again to stock the fridge. Still unsure where tomorrow will end up as there’s been no update on the Ashton stoppage yet.
All walked out from the last few days but the moors are impossible to ignore when they won’t be outside the window for much longer. It was another steep climb to Pots and Pans, then a beautiful evening walk in the sunshine above Dovestone reservoir.