Mow Cop (stymied by another breach)

Our last picture of the Trent & Mersey before we left it for the Maccy today

We set off for Stoke, our first stop of the day, soon after nine on Thursday in glorious sunshine.  Light cloud without any sun was the forecast for the day but the sun didn’t disappear until about six!

I was dropping Karen and Buddy off close to the station, so she could pick up some rail tickets whilst I carried on up the first of the five locks in the city.

I’ve mentioned before about how Stoke is famous for its bottle kilns and been into a lot of detail about the terms and language used by kiln workers in previous blog entries.  For today's entry I’ll just say that there were about 4,000 kilns at one time and just 47 remain today, all of which are all listed building.  I’ve brought this up as the first thing of note on our journey was a bottle kiln ūüėä

The kiln was a hundred yards or so before the aqueduct over the River Trent which looks rather forlorn this high upstream:

I dropped Karen off and continued to the lock.  It’s a very deep lock and notoriously slow to fill so by the time I had the lock set and walked back to get the boat, Karen was already back and on board ready to take it into the lock.  She accused me of having a nap as I hadn’t got very far!

Off to the station

Karen in Stoke bottom lock

We were soon up the five locks and at Etruria junction where the Caldon canal heads off to Leek and Froghall.  Once again, we found the visitor moorings at the junction were completely empty, most strange at any time of year.

Etruria junction: Caldon canal goes off to the left, dry dock in the centre and Karen closing Stoke top lock to the right

After a few more miles we passed the visitor moorings at Westport, again these were surprisingly sparseley filled.  There were three or four boats there so probably room for another 20 or so.  A mile further on we arrived at Harecastle tunnel.  This is 1 ¾ miles long and only allows one-way traffic so we had to wait for about an hour which gave us the opportunity to have lunch.  On our previous visits I have never seen the original tunnel, so I had a wander over to have a look at it after lunch.

The southern portal to the now closed original tunnel

The original tunnel was opened in 1777 and a second was opened in 1827 to speed up the traffic flow.  The first tunnel was really low, and boats had to be legged through, so the second tunnel was built with a towpath.

The first tunnel started suffering from subsidence and was closed in 1918.  The towpath in the second tunnel also suffered from subsidence and was removed in 1986 which makes it easier for today’s motorised craft.

The southern entrance to the second (current) tunnel which we went through today

Us moored for lunch outside the tunnel in a queue of one!

Having been through the tunnel quite a few times before I haven’t found much else to say other than it is probably the most boring of all the long tunnels in the country.  Although it has restricted headroom in places it is nowhere near as low as Gosty Hill or Standedge tunnels, so we didn’t even have to clear the roof before going through.

The lowest point

The hills in this area have a lot of iron ore, hence the colour of the water in the picture at the top.  After getting through the tunnel we were at Hardings Wood junction and turning left onto the Macclesfield canal.

Turning onto the Macclesfield

This was only the second time we have been on the canal and we both remember it being quite isolated for most of its length, so we were quite excited.  It also meant we were now onto a different canal guide book which always gives us a feeling that we have moved to a new country.

Now on the North West and Pennines map book, coincidentally showing where we will be in June

Soon after joining the Macclesfield it goes over the Trent & Mersey on the Pool aqueduct and we moored up for a cup of tea just after going over it.  I popped down to the Trent & Mersey to get a picture of the aqueduct, but you wouldn’t know by looking at it that it carries a canal.

We have just gone across the top and moored up

The inscription says it was built in 1828

The Macclesfield canal runs for 28 miles through 13 locks to Marple where it joins the Peak Forest canal.

Whilst we were moored I saw my first speckled wood of the year so perhaps the seasons really are changing.  Before we set off we received an email from CRT with an update on a closure further up the canal.  Yesterday they had to close it at Macclesfield town because of a leak into some basements (a sign of old age?); they had to close the canal for engineers to make an assessment.  The email today said it was taking longer to drain the section of canal, so the assessment will be delayed, and a further update sent out tomorrow.  All a bit unfortunate for lots of people and not just us

If the canal remains closed for another week then we are happy to stay before Macclesfield and make our way by train to Bugsworth (our original destination) next Saturday to climb up Kinder Scout with Judith & Nigel.  It’ll be a shame as we were rather looking forward to visiting Bugsworth by boat again.  At least we will still be able to get to Liverpool on time by turning around and going via the Trent & Mersey and Bridgewater canals into Manchester.  It will involve some long days as it will be a lot further than the original plan of going via the Peak Forest and Ashton canals into Manchester. Anyway, a lot can happen in a week.

The first lock is Hall Green lock and only has a rise of 12” as it was the original start of the Maccy and built as a stop lock to collect tolls and save water loss to a different company’s canal.

Taking on water below Hall Green lock

A bit further on we came across yet another bridge whose parapet had been partly knocked over:

Once we were out in the country we moored up for the day and decided that tomorrow we will walk up Mow Cop, the local hill that can be seen for miles around, especially from the M6.

Our Thursday evening mooring in front of a distinctive Macclesfield canal stone bridge

Our Thursday evening view

We travelled 11 miles through six locks during the day and now have only 12 locks and less than 30 miles to get to Bugsworth.

Just in case you’re still reading here are some of the other bottle kilns we passed today:

Just before Twford lock
In Longport

This is at Middleport pottery, home of the Great Pottery Throwdwon TV programme


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