Friday, 10 August 2012

Our First Time Ever On The "Macc"

(Boat Chalice - posted by Alan)

Pleasant overnight mooring at Etruria
Well it was "thumbs up" for Etruria as an overnight stop - a very pleasant and quiet location, with good facilities immediately to hand.  We knew we were far enough from the tunnel that we were unlikely to get there for the first released batch of Northbound boats, so didn't rush to get away.

One of the few canal-side kilns to survive.
North of Etruria, up to the tunnel, is a bit of a mixed bag.  It is one of the few stretches still to retain some of the derelict, or near derelict buildings related to the pottery trade, with some surviving industry, often in newer buildings, intertwined.

It's not many months since "Sickle" had the same pole position.
We noted at Westport lake that not that many boats were actually moored, and we probably would have found a mooring last night, but I was quite pleased to have tried Etruria instead.  At the tunnel mouth there were no boats at all.  Bryan, the tunnel keeper we have met several times before, was on duty, but now sporting new Canal and River trust logos.  His estimate was for a wait of around 1 hour 10 minutes, before we could go North.

Odin models his new life jacket - still a bit big on him!
As there had been some debate on Canal World Forum about how often the rescue boat gets deployed, I made a point of having a chat on the topic.  It is indeed correct that it has already been used around half a dozen times this "season".  I must admit this initially quite surprised me, but when you hear the list of problems encountered, (example boats centre line around the propeller), I suppose it isn't that surprising.  I was also surprised up to 8 boats can be let in in one direction - I thought it was less.

Entering the tunnel.

Well on the way through.

About to exit.

Turning on to the "Macc".
The reality was we waited over an hour and a half for the last of four Southbound boats to emerge, but we have always found the initial estimates to be optimistic!  Very surprisingly no more Northbound boats had arrived, so we went through alone.  Bryan had said "travel at normal cruising speed - anything up to 4mph".  Well 4mph is a challenge, but our 29 minutes represents about 3.4 mph average.  Given how low some of the roof gets, I'm not sure I would wish to go much faster, and I don't think many people do!

Hall Green Lock.
In fact "Chalice" gave us a bit of a scare, smoking heavily, as we left the tunnel, and continuing to do so, even when I slowed down a lot.  We pulled over to investigate, but found nothing obvious.  Curiously when we got going again, the exhaust was perfectly clear, and it was if nothing had happened.  A bit of a mystery, really!

We just love this "snake" bridges.
Shortly after the tunnel, we turned sharp left onto the Macclesfield Canal, at Hardings wood Junction.  This is a completely new canal to us, and we had little idea what to expect.  Quite early on we encountered the stop lock at Hall Green.  This lock is the only one I have ever encountered with a single gate at the bottom, and a double gate at the top,  There is presumably some historical reason why, but I'm not clever enough to guess it!

We stop regularly for brief toilet breaks for Odin.
The Macclesfield is in many places a truly stunning canal.  It passes spectacular, and often dramatic, scenery.  It also has some exceedingly attractive stone bridges, some of them geometrically pleasing "turn-over" bridges that switch the towpath from one side to another.

Stunning backdrop at Bosley locks.
Apart from the shallow Hall Green stop lock, all locks on the Macclesfield canal are in a 12 lock flight at Bosley.  These narrow locks have double gates at both ends - something we are unfamiliar with, and no obvious way of crossing the top, except for those brave enough to just walk aross balance beams with no handrails, (which of course our sons did, and we refused to do!).  The locks were ideal for "Odin" to shadow Michael up many of them, and enjoy some periods of training, as well as socialisation with other people, other dogs, and other animals.  This is a wonderful environment for introducing young dog to the world.

Michael walks ahead with Odin.
We got very lucky with boats coming down the locks, leaving empty chambers waiting for us - it was only towards the end of the twelve that Cath had to work setting locks ahead.  These are easy locks to work, anyway.

We had reckoned we could make Oakgrove, which seemed to have a suitable pub for vegetarians with a dog in tow - and indeed we did.  In fact the "Fools Nook" didn't initially look that promising, but in fact furnished us with an excellent mean, good beer, and a nice bottle of wine.

This really is a stunning location.
There is a busy main road immediately alongside the canal at Oakgrove, and I thought it might impact on our sleep.  In practice I think we were all tired enough not to be disturbed by it!

Etruria (Trent & Mersey) to Oakgrove (Macclesfield canal)
Miles: 17.1 Locks: 13
Total Miles: 241.6, Locks: 104 (Worked)

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