Tuesday, 9 July 2019

The Macclesfield Canal - Actually OK until...

(Boat Flamingo - posted  by Alan)

One if several large former mills
Several people had suggested that the Macclesfield Canal is very shallow, so after the tribulations of the Ashton and Peak Forest we were fairly apprehensive. However, the first few miles were no problem at all. The reason became clear when we passed a dredging team. we don't know how much of the canal they have actually dredged, but in practice we found only the occasionally significantly bad bit throughout more or less the whole of the part travelled today. 
This is marked as a visitor mooring, but it's not easy to get on and off

It's an attractive and largely rural canal with a lot of lock free miles, although occasionally you pass a massive and impressive former mill. One of these is at Bollington, and shortly after we stopped for gas and diesel at Bollington Wharf, run by Brian and Ann-Marie McGuigan, who also operate coal boats in the area. Brian advised us of a few bridges that might still be a bit shallow, and which we might bounce through or get slowed by, but reckoned that otherwise we should hit no further problems on the Macclesfield canal until we joined the Trent and Mersey.

Dredging in progress - a very welcome sight
Nearly all the locks on the "Macc" are concentrated in a single and very attractive flight of 12 locks at Bosley - tere is one further shallow stop lock at Hall Green. We settled into Bosley with the same pleasing rhythm, as had been the case at Marple on the Peak Forest the day before, although this time we were going downhill.  

Stop for fuels at Bollington Wharf - great people, great service!

However at lock no 6, we found the lock was a lot narrower than others had been, and realised we needed to proceed with some additional caution. Lock no 7 was fine, but at lock 8, once in the chamber it was fairly obvious that the lock is much narrower across the coping stones at the bottom gate end than it should be - at least 3"narrower than other locks in the flight.  We measured it, and it really is only just 7 feet and half an inch.  This is the width that "Grand Union" boats like Flamingo were actually built to, so even as delivered brand new, and fully to specification, such a working boat would rub the edge, and possibly "hang" as the lock is emptied.  Many "Grand Union" boats have developed a bit of "middle age spread" over the years, and Flamingo is known to be around half an inch wider than its quoted design dimensions - not particularly unusual.  This will not normally be a problem in almost all narrow locks, as usually they are at least 7' 3" minimum, and on some canals as much as 8 feet. However when you find you need to get a boat through a lock that is wider over the "guards", (the rubbing irons that protect the extremes of the hull) than the lock structure it needs to pass through, you generally have a problem - as we now did!

The only swing bridge encountered
I will not detail the steps we took to get the boat through the lock, other than to say what we did was highly unconventional, and used more "creative thinking" than we have ever done for any problem encountered on canals in the past.  It didn't actually involve any damage to the boat or any part of the lock structure, but quite how we managed to make it work we are still not quite sure, as the maths involved seemed to say it couldn't possibly!

Needless to say we were all mightily relieved, as the prospect of working backwards up 8 locks, reversing a mile to a winding hole, (where we might well not have been able to turn anyway - many are too silted),and then retracing our steps to Manchester for several days, only to start South again by a different route was more than any of us wanted to even think about, after all we had endured so far on the "escape from the Rochdale"!

The early part of descending Bosley locks was as it should be
We simply don't understand why this doesn't seem to be recorded anywhere as a known problem.  We had done our research on these canals, and this possibility didn't come up. A lock that ony measures 7 feet and half an inch across the top coping stones will normally inevitably be an issue to quite a few boats, as plenty exist that are wider than this.  It seems there is some evidence that this lock may have been "grouted" in recent times - that is injecting grout through and behind the stonework to seal leaks.  If that has occurred we wonder if it has resulted in the coping stones getting moved inwards, and this is only a quite recent happening.

But "there may be trouble ahead"
We will of course record the problems with this lock with CRT, once we have time to write up exactly what we think the issue is. We were lucky to get through - very lucky.  It is bound to affect other boats, some if who may not have crews prepared to do what we found we had to do!

Marple Junction to Bosley Bottom lock

Miles 17.4, Locks:16
Total Miles 251.3, Total Locks:296

No comments:

Post a Comment

We have (finally!) been alerted to the fact that many people have been unable to post comments on this blog. (It seemed a bit odd, as people used to, but it has stopped occurring). We have changed some settings, so hopefully now possible again. Comments will be moderated, and you will need to enter word verification.