Thursday 28 July 2016

Summer Cruise Day 17 - Bosley Bottom Lock to Congleton wharf

A slightly earlier start today at 9am.  A cold cloudy morning once more threatening rain that never came.

Shortly after getting underway we crossed Dane aqueduct but could barely see it for the foliage now growing almost as tall as the ramparts.  Pearsons states this as an imposing aqueduct but not from the canal.

The aqueduct is in there somewhere
 Today's section of the canal is quite heavily tree lined with some branches being uncomfortably low in places.  In fact in some instances one has to steer around some to avoid the roof being cleared or worse the cabin sides receiving nasty scratches from the broken ends of the low branches.   That said it is a beautiful peaceful stretch of canal and in the sun would be wondrous with sunlight filtering through, though not today unfortunately.

Some of the low tree branches one has to negotiate.
 This is the stretch with lots of bridges, in fact we passed under 26 in just 4 miles each one with narrows under to carefully proceed through and not pick up a prop jockey or two.  We've had one or two today but going into neutral then a short burst astern usually shook what ever was round the prop free.

After running down a long straight stretch passed Buglawton one comes to the  remains of  Vaudrey's wharf, looking now more like a winding hole.  Its a shame money cannot be found to fix it as it would make lovely visitor moorings.

Vaudrey's Wharf and nothing left to show of its past life.

Charles Vaudrey built the wharf in 1835 to serve his mills at nearby Bath Vale. The railway was opened in 1860 as the Biddulph Valley Line of the North Staffordshire Railway (NSR) and passed under the canal close by. It then provided a transport interchange between the railway and canal.

CBC bought the railway some time after its closure to convert into the Biddulph Valley Way and with it came Vaudrey's Wharf and the land it stands in. However, it should be noted that the land required to provide access from a public highway to Vaudrey’s Wharf and the Biddulph Vaudrey’s Wharf  Valley Way was retained by British Rail and is now owned by BRB (Residuary) Ltd.

For very many years there has been a leak somewhere in the wharf which has allowed water from the canal to run down onto the Biddulph Valley Way. CBC have never felt able to fund the repair of this leak, which is now quite severe, and, in the opinion of the then British Waterways (BW), represents both an unacceptable loss of water and a potential risk of breach.

One of many small aqueducts and narrows along the way
 Not long after the visitor moorings after Vaudrey's wharf is a very interesting overspill weir.  For our non boating reader such overspills allow the canal level to be maintained on a stretch of canal between two distant series of  locks.  As water is let down it would continue to fill the canal until it overflows its banks.  Overspills allow excess water to be run off to nearby streams or rivers thus maintaining a steady level of water.

This overspill is odd in as much as it also includes the towpath across it.  Today low levels meant walkers could keep their feet dry but I should imagine it risky when water is pouring down the overspill.

Towpath and overspill all in one. dry today.

Tree branches almost block this bridge 'ole
As one comes into Congleton town centre we pass under the two bridges carrying road and rail.  Beware here as, in the photo below, you can see a kink in the cut,  Amyjo only just squeeze through here but not without nudging the bank first.

These pots annoyed Chris as they were not ordered by any colour sequence (she has these odd moments sometimes)
 As the visitor moorings here are shaded and noisy because of the road and railway we decided to risk it and see if we could moor at the wharf further on.   At the aqueduct just before the wharf C&RT workmen were working to shore up the embankment.  Their boats and piling barge blocked the way.  One had to sit tight and wait to be waved on though this to cross the aqueduct so be prepared for delays here during the day.

Work boats block or restrict the way by the aqueduct
Whilst piling takes place all canal traffic is halted and one has to wait to be waved past by the contractors
We found a mooring just after the aqueduct at the wharf and tied up.  We needed another shop and after consulting the map on the towpath found a Morrisons was in town.  We shut up boat and took the 15 minute walk into town for a look round.  We had cruised through Congleton without stopping on the way up so we were determined to have a look around and were not disappointed.  There are also bus stops just below the aqueduct so a bus can be taken to and from the town centre which is not far.

Congleton is a lovely town and well worth the visit if only to look at some of the old buildings.  The town centre is clean and worth the walk or bus ride to visit.  A local told me the town had entered to Britain in bloom competition and I reckon it might be in with a good chance.

Walking down to the town from the aqueduct and the town hall in the background

Pretty little garden walk brings one into the town centre

Impressive town hall
The Town Hall was built in 1864 and opened in July 1866. The impressive building was designed by Edward William Godwin and is based on his design of Northampton Town Hall. The Victorian Gothic building was built to impress and to reflect Congleton’s status. It has an imposing stone staircase and a court room on the first floor. On the ground floor there was a large hall for a variety of functions.  It embodies Italian and French Gothic design influences and the inside is equally dramatic with large two-storey Main Hall with exposed hammer beams, minstrels gallery and mansard ceilings. The building is grade 2 listed.

Start of the shopping centre

One for Dela, the local wetherspoons in a converted bank.

Now I was not aware the Bear Grylls was branching out into the cafe industry but if he did I bet the food would be interesting.

After a look around and a break for a costa coffee with bakewell tart we headed off into Morrisons and did the shopping.  The bus station is right outside the shop but we had just missed the half hourly no. 91 bus back to the canal when we got there.  Rather than hang around for 30 minutes letting the frozen food thaw we took a cab from the rank at the bus station back to the boat.  

Wasn't carrying that lot back uphill on foot.

View from the aqueduct.  Access to the road is via the footpath right of way via the private drive on the right.  

AmyJo's mooring at the wharf seen from the aqueduct.

Tonights view from the side doors

Total distance:4.50 miles Elapsed time:2h2m58s Locks:0 
Bridges:26 Average speed:2.19 mph (2.19 lock/mph) 

Wednesday 27 July 2016

Summer Cruise Day 16 - Gurnett to Bosley bottom Lock

Apologies for the late posting of yesterdays blog, we had a strange hiccup in mobile signal where we were moored.  The boat router was indicating it was connected to the GSM network but we could not load anything.  In addition my own mobile phone lost connection and for the last 24hrs has been stuck in an endless searching loop that continued even after removing the SIM and rebooting it.  I had to use iTunes to download and install an iOS update to clear it.

We decided that as we were close to Sutton Hall and we did not visit it last night that we would do lunch there instead.  So glad we did as it's a beautiful place.  Full of little nooks and rooms off corridors that feel like a labyrinth.  Just exploring these was a delight and must be hell for the staff to find the customers to serve their meals.  

Gurnett Aqueduct moorings,  AmyJo is just out of sight behind the furthest boat.
We eventually slipped the lines at 2pm and headed past Alton on its home mooring at Oakgrove then Chris worked the swing bridges again. 

First swing bridge no 49 at Oakgrove
The Oakgrove bridge is electrically operated and only needs a C&RT key to operate.  This is the school run bridge we mentioned in an earlier post.  When we arrived not a car was in sight but as soon as the bridge moved they appeared in their droves from nowhere.

I hover Amyjo mid stream whilst waiting for the bridge to swing

Barriers down and bridge starting to swing.

And on to the next

This hill is known as the cloud.
The view of a large hill called the cloud was ahead, its a prominent hill on the border between Cheshire and Staffordshire a couple of miles west of the Peak District National Park boundary.

At 343 metres (1,125 ft) in height, it is one of the highest hills in the area. Its heather-covered summit plateau is crowned by a trig point from which extensive views over Congleton, Biddulph, Macclesfield, Holmes Chapel, and the Greater Manchester area can be enjoyed. The Cloud sits at the northern apex of a triangle formed by the broken ridge which runs along the border between Cheshire and Staffordshire and the hills stretching south through Biddulph Moor into Staffordshire. To its north, the River Dane wraps around its lower slopes whilst the A523 road runs to its east through the village of Bosley in Southeast Cheshire.

We arrived at the Bosley top moorings at about 3:30pm but all were taken.  We estimated 2 hours to descend so went for it.   As we started our descent hire boats were coming up so all were in our favour.  At lock 3 one of the paddles was out of action and taped up so we had to wait a bit for the boat coming up to fill the lock.  

Busy moorings at the top of Bosley locks

Services at the top lock though you would need to be on moorings to use the showers here.

Chris lock wheeling the first 6 locks

Some paddles were hard work but Chris never gives up despite my offering to take over
 At one on the locks (can't recall which one) a poignant father's day pot of flowers adorned a bench seat clearly in memory of someone's deceased father.  The text was quite touching and obviously heartfelt.  The pot had tipped over in the wind so we carefully uprighted it and cleaned off the dirt from the card.  We tried to read the inscription on the bench plaque but it was so worn it was not possible but we assume the card referred to the memory of the person on the plaque.

At lock eight I took over lock wheeling to give Chris a break.  I still insist she helms at least a few locks now and again.  You never know when that skill may be needed one day, if, anything happens to me.  To be fair she's getting quite good at it now and only nudged one lock entrance though to be fair a raging by wash made things difficult.

Helmsman's view when exiting a lock chamber

Chris likes to get a photo of me when I lock wheel just to prove I did do it.

We continued down until we ran out of ascending boats at lock 6.  Luck was with us though as the locks were still all in our favour.  The boat behind had an elderly couple on board and would have to turn every lock after us so after AmyJo clear a lock and no ascending boats could be seem I turned each lock after us for them.  
We continued like this with locks still in our favour until the bottom lock which strangely was against us.  No matter I turned it in our favour and we descended.  We found one last remaining mooring big enough for AmyJo as we passed it so reversed back onto it.

As the elderly couple passed us I told them I had been setting the locks for them and hoped it helped.  They were more than grateful and did wonder who their phantom lock setter was as they knew we were ahead of them.

Just after they passed us a moored boat backed off the mooring and gestured the couple take their place and then other boat started ascending the locks, he had clearly been waiting for the last boat down so all locks would be in his favour.  The gods clearly were on the couple's side today.

We checked the time and sure enough we cleared the locks in 2 hours.  Not bad for  just the two of us and resetting locks as well.  we eventually moored up at 6pm.

The view from the side doors at our mooring at the bottom of Bosley locks

Total distance:5.11 miles Elapsed time:4h35m51s Locks:12 
Bridges:14 Average speed:1.11 mph (3.72 lock/mph) 

Summer Cruise Day 15 - Bollington Wharf to Gurnett Aqueduct

Today dawned bright with plenty of white cloud cover.  The forecast was for a dry day but this was not the case.

We set of about 9am and headed for Macclesfield.  You may recall we wanted to stop there and have a look round.  As Chris put it, it would be silly to cruise the macclesfield and not see the city.

We got to Macclesfield around 11 am hoping to pick up a mooring just before bridge 37.  These moorings are relatively new jetties and our luck was in as there was just one space left big enough to squeeze AmyJo in.  There was a boat coming the other way so I gestured to him we were pulling in and blow me he shot across my bows and took that very spot we were heading for, no apology just "I saw a mooring so I took it".  Nothing for it but to continue on.  The moorings the other side of bridge 37 are not ideal either.  We cannot get AmyJo onto them due to submerged bank stones, as we had tried coming upstream so on we continued.

Seems today was a popular day to moor in Macclesfield as there was absolutely nowhere to moor.  I'm afraid Macclesfield is going to have to wait for another time.

Leaving the Adephi Mill behind
The mill was constructed in 1856 by Martin Swindells, a local cotton spinner, who also owned Clarence Mill. The Adephi Mill was built for Swindells’ two sons – hence the name ‘Adelphi’, which is the Greek word for brothers. The mill began with the spinning of cotton but was soon converted to the production of fine silk. Within three years of the mill being built, the railway came to Bollington, running virtually alongside the mill. This soon led to a decline in canal transportation, but the Macclesfield Canal remained navigable and the UK’s very first narrow canal cruising club, the North Cheshire Cruising Club, was established there in 1943.
Quaint cottages as we leave Bollington with neatly tended gardens.

Perfection, Living on a narrowboat with you own garden including log cabin.

Once again our departure was watched, this time by the Queen it seems.
Continuing south the canal passes the deep Richmond Hill cutting, which was originally planned to be a tunnel.  Signs of recent repairs are apparent with new supporting abutments.

Our destination was revised and we stopped at the gurnett Aqueduct for lunch.  The only problem are the mooring rings.  Clearly these are spaced for smaller boats that are common here but for AmyJo they were either to close or too far to fit her 67 foot length.  No chance on using Pins as the aqueducts concrete construction lies only inches below the towpath grass.  Our solution was to set long bow and stern lines then take springs from midway along each back to the ring amidships.  This coupled with the centre line is holding AmyJo nicely when boat pass by.

Its nice here so we decided a drink in Sutton hal was on the cards this evening.  As Paul from the Manly Ferry is moored not far from here in his motor home we invited him to join us.

Visitor moorings at the Gurnett aqueduct
The rest of the day we got some much needed maintenance done.  Chris cleaned the porthole drains that were going green.  For our non boater reader our port hole glasses sit in a small channel so that when any condensation runs down the glass its caught in the channel and directed out of a small hole at the bottom to outside.  This stops the porthole water building up and overflowing the channel.  As this can be damp all the time a thin layer of green mold can build up.  Chris hates this so is constantly cleaning this away.

The cleaned Channel and drain hole on our portholes.  The two rubber block hold the glass in  place at the base.
My task for the day was to sort out the back cabin radio aerial as this has started to come loose.  I could turn it with ease and was worried it might be getting wet below it.

Our loose radio ariel
A simple task of tightening up the retaining nut inside?  Not on a narrowboat.  The holding nut is located behind this cabinet that had to be removed to access it.  

The cabinet that has to be removes
Two hours later and 16 screws removed and replaced the job was done.  I also added some silicone mastic to the base of the aerial to aid a watertight seal.

After dinner we wandered off to find the sutton Hall but on passing the Olde Kings Head we met Paul coming out.  Needless to say we all went in hand had a few beers there instead.  The Kings Head is a great pub and friendly ba staff.  I'd recommend a stop here on your travels

Ye old Kings Head

The Aqueduct viewed from below, AmyJo is moored out of shot just to the left.

Total distance:3.82 miles Elapsed time:2h38m13s Locks:0
Bridges:14 Average speed:1.45 mph (1.45 lock/mph)