Tuesday 4 March 2014

Macclesfield Canal. Bosley Top Lock to Three Oaks.

The big news for us at the moment is that Chloe and Shandy have sold their house. They’ve got a cash buyer who wants to complete in four weeks so it’s all going to be a bit hectic in Daventry for a while. They plan to bunk up with some mates of theirs until Shandy finishes his college course then move over to Ireland and stay with his mum and dad till they can get themselves sorted.

As we feared, the temptation to ascend Wincle Minn proved too much.
In fact during the two weeks we were at the top of Bosley locks we had another hike up the 400m Croker Hill,
and climbed The Cloud which, although only 360m, feels a lot higher. This is partly because we started from lower down and partly because the path was almost vertical.
Brian and Ann Marie went off on their monthly run to Elsmere Port so we worked the locks for them on their way down.
The Macclesfield canal was built around 1830, about 40 years later than the canals at either end of it, meaning that Thomas Telford could use the working experience of a whole generation of bargees in the design of it. The straight lines across big embankments and aqueducts mean that progress was as rapid as possible and the 120’ descent is made in one flight of 12 locks in just over a mile. The paddles were made big so that the locks emptied fast, but the sluices were designed so there was hardly any turbulence. It really was state of the art high tech stuff, and it means that nearly 200 years later a good crew can drop a fully laden 72’ boat down the whole flight in just over an hour.
These days, at that rate, you bring an awful lot of water with you, but it wasn’t always so. At each lock there used to be a side pond into which, when emptying, half the water could be drained, making it available for the next fill, and saving the lower locks and pounds from overflowing. None of these side ponds are in use anymore; in fact the one next to the top lock has been turned into a garden, but it makes you realise that even at a time when it was all under threat from the railways, canal design was improving and evolving.

Apparently Macclesfield is known as “Treacle Town”. Depending which source you listen to, this is either because of an incident involving a spilt wagon-load of treacle which was scraped off the cobbled streets by the locals, or to commemorate the benevolence of the silk mill owners who gave a barrel of treacle to their workers at Easter. One can only imagine the joy and rapture that must have eclipsed the mill workers upon learning that instead of a pay rise this Easter they were to be presented with a whole barrel of treacle. Whatever, there is now a Treacle Market on the last Sunday of the month.
We heard that the January one was a bit of a disaster with stall-holders hanging onto their gazebos in the teeth of a hurricane, but the last Sunday in February dawned bright and dry so we went along for a gander. There were no end of stalls selling local food and produce; lots of Cheshire Cheese of course, several bakers with delicious looking bread and cakes, hand-made chocolates and petit-fours as well as honey, wine, preserves and pickles of every shape and size. About the only thing we didn’t see for sale was treacle.
At the other end of town there were lots of craft stalls and antique sellers. We very nearly bought loads of stuff, but in the end we were very restrained and came home with a lovely big pork pie. As Dave is so fond of saying; “There’s no meal in the world that can’t be improved by the addition of a pork pie.”

After their run up the T&M Alton came back a week and a bit later and we were on hand again to help them back up. The day after that we took Legend down which meant that we’d walked the flight about ten times altogether.
We moored for one night at the bottom, then moved on a couple of bridges to what we’ve named Three Oaks (for obvious reasons)
for four more nights, most of which we spent in Chesterfield. Anne’s house is now on the market so we had a weekend helping tidy up her garden and doing odd jobs around the place in the hope of attracting more potential buyers. If you’re in the market for a six bedroomed house in Chesterfield with a huge kitchen and a very tidy garden we’d love to hear from you.

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