|Going down the top lock of the Marple flight|
We had our first rain for a while when we got up on Friday, so we stayed put for the morning. I must admit it wasn’t until lunchtime that I found out it was Friday – I had spent all morning thinking it was Saturday. I was looking forward to getting our weekly paper and had already put last week’s in the recycling bin first thing.
After lunch we wandered down to the locks to check on the progress on lock 15 and they said they were ahead of schedule and should open at three rather five. To be honest, the previous day they had hoped to open at midday so to our minds they were behind schedule.
| Removing the rest of the earth dam below the bottom gates|
| Removing the stanking planks at the top of the lock|
When we got back we moved the boat down to the junction as it had stopped raining and at least we would be in a better position to find out when the locks finally opened.
At 3 o’clock the locks and pounds were back in water and the main man said they had a couple of hours of testing to do then it would open at 5. In the end they finished at 4 o’clock and we were off: the first boat through the flight since the middle of September. It was a double edged sword really as it was exciting but we also knew there would probably be loads of crap in the water and especially further towards Manchester because of lack of boat movement.
It took 20 minutes to get through the top lock because so much had to be removed before the gates would open. We were getting concerned that if it took 20 minutes on each lock then we wouldn’t be down the bottom for over five hours! As it was, the remaining 15 locks were fine, and it took us five minutes over two hours to get down.
| In lock 15, the lock that had been rebuilt|
The complete side of the lock on the right had been removed and rebuilt.
|Just about to leave lock 15|
The locks on this flight are so deep that boaters have to use the ladders to get back down to the boat. As you can see, the ladder was new too, so before I went down I joked with the CRT guys about testing it and they told me that was my job 😉
Quite a few of the workers had stayed behind to see the first boat through. We wondered how long they would have waited until the pub called – there was a big celebration happening in one of the locals for them.
This guy was so happy to see the locks opened, he wanted to close the top gate and paddles of ‘his’ lock. Mind you he had changed out of his work gear ready to get down the pub as soon as we had gone 😊
|One of the foremen|
Lots of locals were out to witness the reopening too but as they were expecting it to be an hour later those that were there were there by chance.
| Being photographed coming out of lock 15 (the high viz guy was the site manager)|
When the canal was opened in 1800 it was in two sections. The Lower Peak Forest canal ran from Ashton under Lyne, where it meets the Huddersfield Narrow and Ashton canals at Dukinfield Junction, down to Marple. A tramway then ran from the end of the canal to the top of Marple where the Upper Peak Forest canal ran on down to Bugsworth and Whaley Bridge. The locks weren’t built until 1804 due to lack of funds, so goods were transhipped onto the horse drawn tramway at the top and bottom.
The locks are amongst the deepest in the country, with an average drop of over 13 feet. Lock 9 demonstrates this well as when the lock is full boats are above the main road but when emptied boats travel through the tunnel under the road.
|The end of the canal?|
Evidence of the old tramway can still be found at various points down the flight. It crossed the tail of lock 10 and the track groves can be seen in the remains of the bridge.
| Tram track grooves ringed in red|
|Karen emerging from one of the lower locks|
Soon after the flight we crossed Marple aqueduct which is scheduled as an ancient monument and is England's highest aqueduct. It is rather grand when seen from the river Goyt below but is also quite impressive when crossing on a boat especially when a train is also crossing on the viaduct.
|Crossing the River Goyt on Marple aqueduct|
The aqueduct has been subject to much controversy because, over the winter, it has been closed to install the railings you can see in the picture above. They were installed for H&S reasons even though the public have no access to that side of the canal. You can imagine that most boaters and people interested in our heritage were up in arms about it. Many aqueducts are still open on the non-tow path side – will they be fenced off too? And what about locks, where the public can generally get around all sides?
| When we crossed in our old boat in spring 2015 before the railings were installed|
Just after the aqueduct is the remains of a tunnel whose roof was removed in the late 1800s due to subsidence causing roof collapses.
| All that remains of Rose Hill tunnel|
We carried on for a couple more miles before mooring up for the night just before Hyde.
|Our mooring Friday night|
A busy day, cruise-wise, for us – 16 locks and four miles 😊
Saturday should see us do the final push into Manchester, another 18 locks and 10 miles so we will be starting before 4 o’clock this time 😊