Tuesday 26 November 2013

Peak Forest Canal. Dukenfield to Strines.

After such a fabulously long summer it came as a bit of a shock to us, and no doubt most other people, when autumn turned up. One day it was warm and sunny, the next it wasn’t. Simple as that.
Having said that, the day we boated from bridge 4 to the bottom of the Marple flight we had beautiful weather and some glorious autumn scenery.
Along the way the canal passes through two tunnels at Woodley and Hyde Bank, then over the Marple Aqueduct. The roof is a bit on the low side in the Woodley tunnel
and it’s not helped by having a towpath running through it. Half way through we found, or rather our chimney found, the extra low bit. Judging by the gouges on the wall we weren’t the first and we got away fairly lightly. Luckily we’d not yet fitted our new, taller chimney, so the old with the reshaped top is now our traveling chimney.
William Jessop’s aqueduct at the bottom of Marple locks is very impressive. We know this because we read all about it. We also read that it’s over 100 ft. tall and has pierced stanchions and is made of Gritstone and yada yada yada because we read all about that too. What we actually didn’t actually do is actually get to look at it. Not through lack of trying though; as well as drifting very slowly over it and taking photos of the equally (we imagine) railway viaduct next door,
we went down the footpath that goes under it and up the field on the other side. No doubt when Mr Jessop first unveiled his masterpiece to a hushed and awestruck public, the views from where we were standing at the top of the field were of a gleaming stone edifice carrying a shining ribbon of water over the abyss of the Goyt Valley. All we could see were the railway viaduct and lots of trees. If you stand on a wall and strain your neck you get the fleetest glimpse of the top of it under one of the arches.
Now we’re not for one minute suggesting that anyone should come along and de-forest the entire area just so we can get a butcher’s at a bridge, but it would be nice if you could at least see the odd piercing without having to resort to hiring a helicopter.
We left Legend for a couple of nights and went to Chesterfield to pick up post and be marshals at a firework evening at Stavely. Anne used to work for the council and was involved with it, so we went along to help out. At the moment our lives seem to be dominated by hi-vis clothing.  A very pleasant evening with, thanks to Mark, a very yummy fish supper afterwards. On the Sunday we got back to the boat to find that the front pin had pulled out; it had drifted away from the bank and was now at 90˚ right out in the basin. Don’t know how long it had been like that. Luckily the back end was tied to a mooring ring, so we didn’t have to resort to wading out for it and it was an easy job to get it sorted. 
Our five days at the bottom of the Marple flight included Halloween which is our 1st meeting anniversary. Over the years we've acquired one or two traditions.
On a Monday morning with a sunny forecast we thought it was about time we made the effort and went up.
Marple is a lovely place to be; for a start there are the locks which begin in woodland and climb up to the junction with the Macclesfield in the town. It’s a beautiful flight with lots of little quirks and memorable features that make going up a real pleasure.
There also a country park off to one side with lots of walks and the town is itself is just big enough to be useful. We had a fabulous day; the weather was glorious and there were lots of gongozlers taking photos and chatting to us. When we first started boating we felt very self-conscious about being watched working locks, but now we’re a bit more confident and, hopefully, a bit better at it and we don’t mind so much. Few people can resist watching a boat coming up or going down a lock - we were just the same when we were house dwellers and went to Foxton for a day out – and we always try and engage with them if we can. If they’ve got kids Ann-Marie will get them pushing gates. To see the pretty boats is one of the main reasons people come to the canals; keeping a tidy boat and being as nice to our visitors as we can be isn’t just something we see as our duty, but something we enjoy doing. A boat that looks like a derelict shed with a pair of grumpy old gits on board doesn’t do anyone any favours.
One thing we do find amusing is how stereotypical people are; it’s always the men explaining to the women how the locks work. Mind you we’re completely stereotypical boaters; Dave steers the boat while Ann-Marie does all the hard work with the windlass and the balance beams.
Just above the 16th and final lock there is a beautiful snake bridge on the right under which is the beginning of the Macclesfield Canal. For the first 100ft or so it goes through what was once a stop lock, installed in the days of competing canal owners, to prevent water from the Peak Forest going down the Maccesfield.
Now the gates are gone but the lock walls remain, as does the warehouse and covered loading dock alongside it. We went through and onto the services, then moored up on the visitor moorings on the other side.
After our 48hrs were up we went on to the next winding hole and turned round to come back to the Peak Forest. With hindsight, even though the winding hole wasn’t that far away, it would have been easier to back out through the stop lock to the junction then turn there; more space, deeper water.
We went about a mile and a half up the cut to a lovely spot overlooking the valley that we’d recced the day before.
(When it's not misty like this the view is beautiful, we just liked this photo.)
A lot of places are quite shallow near the edge, so we tend to take a dip-stick with us when we go for walks to check where we can get in. It makes us seem really fussy; is it deep enough? Is there somewhere to park the car? Is there phone signal? It’s the little things that make all the difference.
We had visitors at the weekend; David & Kate came for the afternoon and brought Roger and Mary with them so we went back down to Marple to pick them up. While we were there Brian and Ann Marie came along on Alton so we bought some coal and a couple of bottles of gas. We’d been holding off until we caught up with them rather than getting it from somewhere else and our second bottle had run out the night before. How’s that for timing?
Our guests arrived in the afternoon, so with a crew of six, two full gas bottles, a roof full of solid fuel and more baked goods than you could shake a Mary Berry at, we set forth once more for a little pleasure cruise up and down the Upper Peak Forest. Naturally we were in stereotype mode; the boys at the back discussing dwell angles and ballast distribution
and the girlies up front taking about knitting and scones. David had a go at steering and got signed off on blind bridge ‘oles, and the female crew members restrained themselves and managed not to eat any cake until we’d backed through the stop lock again. All in all a decidedly successful afternoon.

The following morning we did another trip down to our mooring at Strines, put the bird table up and resigned ourselves to looking at the view for a couple of weeks.

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