Cheshire Ring – Part Two – and a Wedding!

  We stayed at our moorings at Haughton Dale Nature Reserve for two nights (to have a bit of a rest after all the locks!) and had some lovely walks around the area – it’s a bit hilly but then it is on the edge of the Peak District! There was a circular walk that went down into the valley beside the canal, crossing over the river and through the Nature Reserve and back round – and up – to the towpath, it really was very pleasant  and one of the nicest walks we’ve done. Tony repeated it with Sal the next morning. 

We moved on Sunday 20th September, and went only a short distance to Marple Aqueduct. Had we gone further, we would have had to have worked the Marple Flight – another 16 locks, so we saved that treat for the next day! It was a lovely day and there were loads of people about – I wanted to fly the drone but thought that it was just too busy. After a walk over the aqueduct and up the first few locks with Sal, we were on our way back and I spotted a lady looking into the boat – proper bending down and peering in! I shouted out (somewhat annoyed) “would you like to go in and have a look???” – she turned round, and without a trace of embarrassment, said “oh, is it your boat and yes, please, could I?” That surprised me a bit so I said that she could – and she did! Her husband was embarrassed for both of them and very apologetic but they turned out to be a really nice couple and we ended up having a good chat with them! Later on, just before dinner time, the number of people dropped off, so we all went back up to the Aqueduct and I put the drone up, walking on the footpath below the aqueduct to get shots from that angle. It was a beautiful evening with very little wind – perfect for drone flying. I’m still very nervous and unsure when flying – my heart is going 10 to the dozen! I would get much better shots if I went higher and further away but my shaking hands prevent me at the moment!!!

On Monday, it was another beautiful, clear and windless day. We set off – I walked ahead to get drone shots of Tony coming over the Aqueduct and then caught him up on the lock landing for the first lock, just round the corner. The Marple Flight is absolutely beautiful – the prettiest flight of locks we’ve worked so far – but they do have a reputation for having low water levels, so we kept an eye out for that. We got into a good rhythm – the locks were against us, so I drained the first one, Tony steered the boat in, I filled it again and when the water was high enough for Tony to get off, I went ahead to drain the second lock and open the gates, leaving Tony to wind the paddles down and open and shut the gates behind him. This worked really well until we got to lock 9, where we came across a bit of a hold up. Lock 10 had a problem with the ground paddle and was, therefore, taking longer to fill than normal, having just the gate paddle in operation. There were boats waiting to come down, with one ahead of us going up. The pounds were very short, so we waited in lock 9 until the boat in lock 10 (going up) was out and through 11, allowing the boat who’d been waiting for a long time to come down (he said he’d been delayed by four hours!!). He used the water in lock 10 to come down, we then went in after he’d come out. We actually didn’t find it took too long, and were soon on our way again, so don’t know why there had been such a delay. The water levels were really low, though, so we had to take it carefully, but got to the top without further troubles. We later saw the boat that had been coming up behind us, and he’d had fun and games with the water levels and had ended up calling CRT for assistance!  All in all, then, it seems we got away lightly on that flight! We turned into the Macclesfield Canal to stop overnight, on moorings opposite the service point.

On Tuesday, we pushed the boat over to the service point to fill with water and I popped quickly to Asda to get a loaf and a few bits. I thought that Tony would’ve finished filling and been back on the mooring when I got back, but that must be one of the slowest water points we’ve come across and he was still there and still filling when I got back. We did, in fact, give up, as there was a queue forming and we had enough to tide us over, so we left the water point and reversed back out of the junction, back onto the Peak Forest Canal, turning towards Whaley Bridge/Bugsworth Basin and the end of the canal. We cruised for about three miles and stopped at a lovely spot, overlooking the beautiful scenery. The forecast wasn’t great for Wednesday, and it turned out to be correct for once, so we decided to stay put.

On Thursday 24th Sept, we continued our journey and cruised the last few miles to Whaley Bridge. We tried to moor up for lunch but unfortunately, with the low water levels, we couldn’t get near enough into the bank, so we carried on going. When we got to Whaley Bridge, we were fortunate enough to get on the Visitor Moorings – there is only room for a couple of boats of our size –  the rest are long term moorings. After a late lunch, we all walked up to see the Todbrook Reservoir which had recently been subject to a breach. It was very interesting to see the remedial works and it must’ve been very scary for the residents below the level of the breach!! I had an unfortunate slip on a wet grassy bank and ended up tumbling into a bramble bush – only my dignity was injured, fortunately!! 

On Friday 25th Sept, after doing the week’s shop at Tesco a short walk away, we decided to move, as the moorings at Whaley Bridge were both very noisy (right next to the A6) and very dark, as they are under trees and within the shadow of the road. I was surprised that morning whilst washing up – I looked up to the sky and it was bright blue and sunny, but under the trees it felt very dark and dingy and quite depressing! Whaley Bridge itself is a nice little town, but the visitor moorings just didn’t do it for us! We went back up to the junction and turned into the arm which takes the canal to the Bugsworth Basin. The Basin still has a lot of the historical features and is very interesting – and very picturesque! We moored in the Upper Basin and it was lovely!  The road is still quite close, but is bordered by trees, so you can’t see the traffic thundering past and the sound is deadened a little. We had now reached the end of the Peak Forest Canal.

We had enjoyed our cruise on the Peak Forest Canal – in some parts the scenery is just gorgeous and the Marple Flight is very pretty! There are one or two downsides, though – it is exceptionally busy on the towpath – with cyclists in particular – and the canal is quite narrow and very shallow, making steering and mooring difficult at times. Wouldn’t hesitate to do it again, though!

We left Bugsworth Basin on Monday 28th September, after spending three nights in the Basin. The weather had been lovely and we even managed to sit outside in our sunny spot. We had some lovely walks and got some more chores done and also enjoyed a roast dinner in the Navigation Inn (which used to be owned in the 1970s by Pat Phoenix – Elsie Tanner in Corrie) on the Sunday evening. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay there. 

On Monday 28th to Wednesday 30th, we moored at the same spot as on the way into Bugsworth, with the gorgeous views over the hills. The weather wasn’t as good, in fact pretty grotty, so we stayed put. It was whilst we were moored here that we received a call from Dave and Mel – with the Covid situation seemingly getting no better, or possibly even worse, they had decided to bring their wedding forward. They saw little point in waiting for April when the situation could be the same as now or even worse.  They were getting increasingly stressed with the “will we, won’t we” situation, so thought “bugger it, let’s just do it”! So it was all systems go! I’d already bought part of my wedding outfit for the original June date and fabric to make the rest of it, so it was out with the sewing machine to make up the floaty jackety-poncho thing! We also organised a marina in which to leave the boat whilst we were at the wedding, which was a couple of miles from Bugsworth Basin. This meant that we had a couple of weeks to cruise but needed to return to the same area to put the boat into the marina.

So, on Thursday, 1st October, we moved back towards Marple and onto the Macclesfield Canal and moored in the town again, but on the other side of the bridge than before. It was a very dark mooring, though, under trees, so on Friday, we reversed the boat back through the bridge and moored opposite the services again, once room became available, a much more open, bright space. The weather was absolutely foul on Saturday, though, so we didn’t move that day!

By the time we left Marple on Sunday 4th, we had stocked up from Asda, got a few bits from the DIY store and nearly completed my wedding outfit (and had fish and chips!). We moored in a rural spot on Sunday night and moved again on Monday to another equally nice rural spot! We stayed there on Tuesday 6th Oct, as again, the weather was rainy all day.

We left our rural mooring south of Marple on the Wednesday, 7th October and cruised for a few miles, through Bollington and moored in another lovely rural spot about a mile south of Bollington. We still had time to kill and, again, the weather wasn’t very good so we stayed there for two nights. On the 9th October, we cruised to the winding hole, about another mile further south, turned and cruised back up towards Marple. We stopped at Bollington Wharf to get a couple of bits from the local Co-Op and had a pleasant walk with Sal along part of the Middlewood Way which went right past it. We continued our journey northwards and moored opposite Lymme View Marina overnight, arriving just as the heavens opened! We got the rear canopy up pretty quickly!

On Saturday 10th, we cruised for about 4 miles and moored in High Lane, where one of Tony’s Company’s best customers used to have their offices, and he remembered visiting the canal on one of his business trips to see them. We were now seeing it from a different perspective! We both walked, with Sal, on another part of the Middlewood Way – this bit a lot more muddy due to the recent rain!

On Sunday,11th, we cruised the last section of the Macclesfield Canal and returned to Marple, managing to get in on the moorings opposite the service point again. The weather still wasn’t very good and we were fed up of getting wet! Every time it rains we thank ourselves for getting the back canopy fitted. Both dog coats were being used on a daily basis as she got wet twice a day!

On Monday, I popped to Asda to get enough shopping to last us a few days, as well as fudge making ingredients – I was making fudge for the wedding. Sal also had an appointment at the vet for her annual boosters – amazingly, the vet we saw had also given Sal her boosters the previous year – in Wallingford! What are the chances of that?? We stocked up on her medication and flea and worming tablets but when the bill was presented to us, it became clear that it was the most expensive vet we’d visited so far!

It was time for us to make our way back towards the Marina, so on Tuesday, 13th, we cruised from Marple to Bugsworth Basin, quite a long cruise for us of 10.5 lock miles and, of course, it was raining AGAIN!! We filled with water then got moored up, turning the boat and reversing into the nearest arm in the Basin, as it was only an overnight stop. Sal and I had another walk up the old Tramway, fortunately managing to dodge the worst of the rain.

On Wednesday, 14th, after making the fudge, we left the Basin and cruised for a mile to Furness Vale Marina, where we had booked the boat in whilst we were at the wedding. We got moored up, reversing into the pontoon, but had a little difficulty in getting right back as it was shallow. We managed to get close enough for me and Sal to be able to jump off – neither of us liking a big jump! We were soon hooked up to the electrics and able to put a load of washing on – electric  hook up was included in the nightly fee of the marina! I finalised the video I was making for Dave and Mel’s wedding –  I had sent out a request for people to send a video message, as a lot of people weren’t able to attend (only 15 people allowed), and I combined them into one video to show on the day (which turned out very well, I had some lovely messages sent!).

On the morning of the 15th, having packed and with everything ready, the Europcar hire car duly turned up at the allotted time. (We had booked a car with Enterprise who offer “free” delivery and collection, but on phoning them to arrange the delivery and collection, we were told that they weren’t offering this service at the moment due to Covid! They failed to mention that on their website, though! So we’d cancelled our booking and went with Europcar, having checked that they were still offering the service. You pay extra for the service with them, but it turned out to be the same price as Enterprise, at the end of the day, so perhaps the Enterprise service isn’t free after all!. So, sorry Enterprise, you’ve probably lost our future custom.) We set off and had a lovely (driving through the peak District) but very long journey to near Weymouth, where the wedding was to be held. We had one of the farm cottages for three nights, for the duration of the wedding.

We had an absolutely marvellous weekend and the wedding was just perfect! We were all worried that it wouldn’t be the wedding they had planned and hoped for but it was a lovely, special day and everyone thoroughly enjoyed it!!

On Sunday, 18th, we made the return journey north and arrived back to a cold boat! Tony got the fire going quickly and within a couple of hours, the boat was toasty warm again.

On Monday, 19th, we waited for the hire car to be collected…. and we waited, and waited. Apparently, they allow a four hour window for collections – if we’d known we would’ve popped off for a supermarket shop but they’d be bound to come whilst you weren’t there! It was picked up at around lunchtime, so we set off (we had to leave the marina), but had quite a difficult job to get the stern out of the mud – the water level had dropped by a couple of inches so we were well and truly stuck! Tony deployed the barge pole and another moorer in the marina was rocking and heaving and I was on the throttle giving it some Welly and we eventually got free. We cruised back to Marple – for the fourth time! We couldn’t get on the moorings opposite the service point, so had to moor in the gloomy part under the trees. Fish and chips for dinner and we were sorted!

On Tuesday 20th, we set off, after another stock up from the Asda in Marple (it’s down hill and a long drag back up with the shopping!) We travelled for about 8 miles and moored at Bollington Wharf overnight. I walked with Sal for a couple of miles on the way whilst Tony was steering – all the trees were in autumn colours and the leaves were falling – I felt like a big kid kicking through the leaves on the towpath!! The scenery was lovely with all the autumnal colours!

We left Bollington Wharf on Wednesday, 21st October and cruised towards Macclesfield, covering new ground after about a mile and a half. I wasn’t expecting the canal around Macclesfield to be quite so beautiful – when I think “Macclesfield”, I think industrial northern town but, although the canal runs through the outskirts of Macclesfield and not through the town centre, the scenery was lovely and the canal absolutely lovely! I think it has been the biggest surprise of our trip, so far! We moored, in the end, in a lovely rural spot overlooking farmland, just above the Bosley flight of locks. We had managed to dodge most of the rain, but it chucked it down just as we were mooring up, so we all got very wet! Cover up and fire going, we were soon nicely tucked up, though.

On Thursday morning, we arrived at the first lock to be welcomed by a volunteer crew who saw us safely through the first lock. We carried on and completed the other 11, Tony walking with Sal whilst working the locks. We managed to get through them without getting wet, although it was a bit breezy! We stopped at the bottom for a brew, having worked 12 locks in 90 minutes, and, again, the scenery was just stunning! We set off again and cruised for another four miles and moored in a very pleasant spot at Congleton Wharf – there was an old warehouse, now converted into smart apartments on a nice wide section of the canal – the resident geese were noisy and pecked on our boat, but they were quiet overnight, which is the main thing! The weather on Friday was forecast to be awful so we decided, as we’d made good time up to now, to have a day off. We also ascertained that we could bring our Harecastle Tunnel booking forward to Sunday – we had previously booked for Monday but decided there was no point in hanging around. 

On Saturday, 24th, then, we set off and cruised about four miles, stopping at the water point about a mile before the junction of the Macclesfield Canal with the Trent and Mersey Canal and about 1.5 miles away from the Tunnel. It started to rain quite heavily, so we decided that we were near enough to be able to stop there overnight, so we pulled back onto the moorings. I took Sal for her afternoon (wet!) walk and saw a boat coming towards me and thought “I know that bloke”. It dawned on me, after checking the name of his boat – Naughty Lass- that it was Robbie Cumming from the BBC4 programme Canal Boat Diaries, and of course, his YouTube channel, which Tony had been following for a couple of years. I phoned Tony to let him know that he’d be passing the boat soon and he popped out and offered to help him with the stop lock, just by us, but he said he wanted to film it for his vlog, so declined. He decided, though, to moor up just in front of us as it was seriously raining by then. Even TV personalities get wet!!

It was here that we had nearly completed the Cheshire Ring – to complete the Ring, technically, we would have to turn right at the junction and go back to the Middlewich Branch, a short stretch of just under 13 miles. We needed to head south to get through a section which would be closed for winter maintenance, though, and we didn’t have time to complete the last bit of the Ring at that time  – but we look forward to cruising that section at a later date. Instead, we were turning left to cruise through the Harecastle Tunnel to head south………