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Saturday 14th April 2012

Middlewich to Church Minshull Viewpoint

After a somewhat dissapointing end to yesterday when reverse gear was completely lost coming under bridge 168 between Kings Lock & Wardle Lock at Middlewich, we awoke with a sense of trepidation. Although we only have a couple of miles with one lock to go to reach the safety of Aqueduct Marina, we have a considerable amount of bridges some without much of a view through to the other side to see oncoming traffic.

It was dull today but at least it was dry for now. We set off around 12 midday & Lochaber walked ahead for the first couple of bridges as they were close together to warn me of any oncoming boats. Although I was only cruising very slowly it still takes considerable time to come to a stop & a breeze was starting to build up so I couldn’t keep the forward speed as slow as I would have liked.

Approaching Stanthorne lock we passed a boat whose owner told us that another boat was coming through the lock in the same direction, I slowed down to the absolute minimum that I could & just basically let That’s D’riculous go with the flow of the canal until we saw the second boat emerge from the lock, they left the gates open as they spotted us so we just glided in very slowly & I threw a centre rope up just so that Lochaber could bring her to a total stop.

So far, so good! we carried on towards Church Minshull honking the horn loudly as we approached every bridge that we could not see through, only once did we meet another boat when it was too late & frantic hand jestures & more horn blasts got him to realise that he was the only one with the option of going backwards. No contact was made & apologies for all the noise & frantic jestures were accepted on a quick explanation as we passed!

In the midst of all our tense concentration we suddenly noticed a swan following an oncoming boat very closely in its wake, as our two boats passed he immediately turned around & positioned him/herself in our wake very close to the rudder, we had never seen this behaviour before, he was that close he was pecking at the rear fender almost as if he/she was trying to hang on to it. We realised that he/she was in fact catching a free ride, using our wake to pull him/her along, this carried on for around half a mile then he just backed off.

The swan had brightened our otherwise stressful short trip back to Church Minshull. Shortly we arrived at the veiwpoint which is one of our favorite stops before entering the Marina, as once back in the marina our trips seem over, but we weren’t going home until tomorrow afternoon, so reverse gear or not we still had another night aboard & we were not going to waste it in the marina. I checked the weather for Sunday & it was supposed to be bright & sunny with very little wind, this was what we needed as Aqueduct Marina is incredibly open & even a slight breeeze can pull boats to the far end of the marina & our particular mooring takes quite a tight trun to get in & with no revorse we will only have one shot at this tomorrow!

We enjoyed the veiw & watching a couple of guys messing around in thier flying machines, they had parachute type canopies but with small engines of some sort. we are told this is power paragliding!  A nice relaxing end to a stressful day!

Now the nerves need steadying with a few glasses of white & some good food, Gammon steak & all the trimmings should hit the mark!

Today 5 miles, 1 lock, 16 bridges, 2hrs 35 mins 

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Wednesday 11th April 2012  (Easter Week)

Macclesfield Canal Bridge 59 to Hall Green

We had a lay in today, drive plate stress had sort of mentally knackered us over the past couple of days. As I lay on our warm bed I could hear the rain on the roof, oh, well it might be like yesterday & have nice long sunny spells in between the rain!

We had porridge for breakfast, did some cleaning & tidying then set off for Bosley Locks, they were only about a mile further on & by the time we got there the sun was shining. We had a dilemma because we had lost time on Easter Monday, if we went up the Bosley flight we would basically have to come straight back down again either today or tomorrow morning & 12 Locks would mean quite alot of gear changing, so we decided to get the best of the situation & do the first lock No12 & use the winding hole to turn around, then moor at the bottom & have a walk up the flight in the sunshine.

Turned around, back through lock 12 & moored a few yards past the lock mooring, removed one layer of fleece as it was beautiful but kept the macs.

The towpath was very muddy & slippery due to all the rain over the past week. I thought I would photograph each lock as we walked,  We carried on up to No4 then the heavens opened & I mean OPENED! The cloud got lower, the wind picked up & the sky got darker, not a glimmer of brightness or blue sky as far as you could see. We carried on up to Lock 2, watched three lots of miserable boaters make their way through the locks, Caley our spaniel was caked in mud & we were absolutely soaked so we made our way back down

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If you look carefully you can see the rain “sheeting down” in the slideshow.

We walked back to the boat, dried off ourselves & the dog & made lunch! Then suddenly the sun came out so we set off again, disappointed that we had to do Bosley flight by foot but there is always next time when we will have more time.

On the way back we spotted a beautiful house as we looked down from the canal.

We came across a group of canoeists.

We admired the church spire towering over the town of Astbury.

We had come as far as Congleton last year in the summer but needed to turn around so we chose the first winding hole on the map after Congleton, what a fiasco we had with our new longer nb & we thought we were so inexperienced as we made such a meal of a turn, however this year we understood why. That stretch of canal has been drastically cut back & the reeds cleared back, now you can actually see the winding hole which last year was just a mass of thick reeds so you could not even see the shape of the hole! well done BW that complete stretch is much improved.

The day turned out to be mainly sunny & quite a bit warmer than of late.  We carried on along this beautifully peaceful canal to Hall Green & stopped on the rather full moorings just before the stop lock. lots of other friendly boaters moored up & ready to chat. Nice end to an odd day.

The lack of locks on this stretch means that today has not rendered too much wear & tear on the new drive plate & existing gear box, tomorrow however we start to make our way down Heartbreak Hill & that’s a different story.

Today 9 miles, 4 hours, 0 locks by NB, 11 locks by foot! 

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Tuesday 10th April 2012 (Easter week)

Macclesfield Canal, Hardings Wood Junction to Bridge 59

We awoke around 8am & wondered what today would bring with regard to our drive plate issue & if we would get on the move.

Tony from Red Bull Services came around the corner to the moorings around 10am & helped us pull That’s D’riculous backwards into his workshop, not because she wouldn’t start but so that the engine stayed cold & that any reversing didn’t silt up the slipway, we waited with bated breath as he removed the gear box, that was ok, then the dreaded drive plate, yes there it was not totally shattered as with the first one but damaged enough to be making alot of noise & it would have disintegrated within about 10hrs travelling. That would make the travelling hours 142, the first drive plate disintegrated at 74hrs so I can see a pattern appearing.

Tony went off the get another drive plate from  Middlewich.

While we were waiting we wandered into Butt lane the nearest town, only 10 mins walk but up quite a steep hill. The usual collection of small Supermarket, PO, Hardware shop, Newsagent, Bookies & Chipper.

We notice that the town has a Petanque club, haven’t played that for ages, used to have the full set of balls!

Lochaber spotted a plague on one of the houses up the hill stating that Reginald Mitchell the designer of the Spitfire aeroplane was born there.

On the way back down the hill we couldn’t walk past the chipper without grabbing a bag each for the stroll back to see how Tony was getting on with the repairs. The full version of the ongoing drive plate sage can be found on the page “Hooked, now we start living the dream”

New drive plate installed, should get us through the rest of the week & back to the marina, gear ratio slightly adjusted, the sun is shinning, lets go!

We made our way along the same piece of canal that we had walked yesterday & passed the swing bridge on our way to Bosley Locks.

This is Ramsdell Hall, the sgin below tells the story of the restored railings around the Hall & on both sides of the canal.

To the right all the way we could see Mow Cop.

The weather was much better today, even warm when the clouds allowed the sun to peep through, we made our way towards Congleton. The stone distance markers along the towpath were a delight to see on the way

It is just so lovely & peaceful up here, we were quite disappointed that due to the mechanical problems we won’t be able to venture further than Bosley Lochs.

We found a remote mooring spot with a good view & settled down ro a big dish of Chilli that had been in the slow cooker whilst we had been travelling.

Today 9.5 miles, 4 hours, 1 Stop Lock

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Sunday 8th April 2012 (Easter Sunday)

Trent & Mersey, Rhode Heath to Macclesfield Canal, Hardings Wood Junction

The weather forecast for today was not good, very cloudy & light rain most of the day. That however was the least of our problems at the moment.

Anyway, we decided that nothing was going to blight our Easter week.  We left Rode Heath around 10am this morning after the rain had stopped, there are 12 locks between Rode Heath & Hardings Wood Junction all relatively close & we were fairly lucky most seemed to be set in our favour.

This is looking back from lock 45 still on the Trent & Mersey heading towards Kidsgrove, the rain had stopped but the sky remained overcast although it seemed warmer as the wind had dropped today

Any of you who have had a look around our blog so far will have read about the unexpected drive plate problems we had on our first real trip with the boat last year

This is the offending object once removed & once it had been replaced  she was running really well & alot quieter, however at about the same amount of running hours again we are hearing the familiar sound worsening every day of a potential drive plate collapse! We have made it from Aqueduct to Hardings Wood Junction & met a nice couple with nbAdventurer Joey & Carol who also have problems but theirs was in the form of a leak. They recommended Tony at Red Bull Services Ltd. His workshop is just between bridges 97 & 98 at the junction as you turn to go up the Macclesfield canal.  This is Tony’s place.

It can be spotted from the lower Trent & Mersey as you come into Kidsgrove before you turn onto the Macclesfield & go across the viaduct.

Although this will solve our problem & get us on our way it means we will not get to Bugsworth now this week, probably not even Marple, I think Bollington may be the limit if the weather allows. The other issue that is concerning us is WHY we have got through 2 drive plates in only 130hr running time. The suppliers were I have to say very unhelpful in the first instance saying that the whole episode was our fault as we must have hit something very hard, categorically not! I kept all the emails between us & them & I am determined this time to get some answers. I will keep you informed as to how it goes.

This is The Red Bull Pub at lock 43 as you come into Kidsgrove, quiz night on a Wednesday, good meal deals . I made a note of the pub so if the weather is as bad as predicted tomorrow & we are obviously stuck then it may be a pub day!!

We pulled into the 48hr moorings at bridge 97  & walked over to see Tony, obviously it is Easter so no parts suppliers open till Tuesday, but he is happy to take the drive plate out & replace if necessary once he can get a spare on Tuesday.

After speaking to Tony we decided to have a stroll into town as we needed some jam to go with the scones I had in the bread bin! On the way over the aqueduct we saw nbGemima Puddle Duck coming into lock 41, the light had somehow highlighted the rusty colour of the canal water. This colouring is caused by the iron ore from the tunnels.

Harecastle Tunnel is made up of two separate, parallel, tunnels described as Brindley (2,880 yards) and the later Telford (2,926 yards) after the engineers that constructed them. Today only the Telford tunnel is navigable. The tunnel is only wide enough to carry traffic in one direction at a time and boats are sent through in groups, alternating northbound and southbound. Ventilation is handled by a large fan at the south portal.

South portal of the Brindley Tunnel

The Brindley tunnel was constructed by James Brindley between 1770 and 1777. Brindley died during its construction. At the time of its construction it was twice the length of any other tunnel in the world.

To construct the canal, the line of the tunnel was ranged over the hill and then fifteen vertical shafts were sunk into the ground. It was from these that heads were driven on the canal line. A major problem was the change in the rock type which ranged from soft earth to Millstone Grit. The construction site was also subject to flooding regularly, a problem which was overcome by the construction of steam engines to operate the pumps. Stoves were installed at the bottom of upcast pipes to overcome the problem of ventilation.

The tunnel had no towpath, and so boatsmen had to “leg” their way through the tunnel, lying on the roof of their boat and pushing on the sides of the tunnel with their feet. It could take up to three hours to get through the tunnel. The boat horses were led over Harecastle Hill via ‘Boathorse Road’. A lodge (Bourne Cottage) was built by the side of the squire’s drive at the point that the boat children crossed it, to prevent them straying up towards Clough Hall.

The tunnel was twelve feet tall at its tallest point and was nine feet wide at its widest, which proved to be too small in later years. The tunnel suffered subsidence in the early 20th century and was closed after a partial collapse in 1914. Inspections of the disused tunnel continued until the 1960s, but since that time, there has been no attempt to investigate the interior of the tunnel at any significant distance from the portals.

The gated portals can still be seen from the canal, although it is no longer possible to approach the mouth of the tunnel in a boat.

In recent times, water entering the canal from the Brindley tunnel has been blamed for much of the prominent iron ore (responsible for the rusty colour of the water) in the canal, and there are proposals to install filtering (possibly using reed beds) at the northern portal. Telford Tunnel

South portal of the Telford Tunnel

Due to the amount of traffic and the slow process of legging, the Harecastle Tunnel was becoming a major bottleneck on the canal. It was decided to commission a second tunnel to be built by Thomas Telford. Due to advances in engineering, it took just three years to build, and was completed in 1827. It had a towpath so that horses could pull the boats through the tunnel. After its construction it was used in conjunction with the Brindley tunnel, with each tunnel taking traffic in opposite directions.

Between 1914 and 1954 an electric tug was used to pull boats through the tunnel. In 1954 a large fan was constructed at the south portal. While all the boats are within the tunnel an airtight door is shut and all the air is pulled through the tunnel by the fan. This allows diesel boats to use the tunnel without suffocating the boaters. Today the journey takes about 30–40 minutes.

In the late 20th century, the Telford tunnel also began to suffer subsidence, and was closed between 1973 and 1977. The towpath, long disused, was removed, allowing boats to take advantage of the greater air draft in the centre of the tunnel.

A series of smaller canal tunnels are joined to the Telford tunnel. These tunnels connected to coal mines at Golden Hill and allowed both the drainage of the mines and the export of coal directly from the mines to the canal tunnel without the necessity of first hauling it to the surface. Small boats of ten tons’ capacity were used in this endeavour.

The Ghost of Harecastle Tunnel – The Kidsgrove Boggart

According to legend a young woman was decapitated in the Telford Tunnel in the 1800s and her body thrown into Gilbert’s Hole, a coal landing stage within the tunnel. The man had hacked the woman’s head from her shoulders with a piece of slate until it was removed.

It is believed that she now haunts Harecastle Tunnel, either in the form of a headless woman, or a white horse, and her appearance used to forewarn of disaster in the local mines. Some boatmen took long detours to avoid the tunnel, and today the tunnel keepers relate tales of occasional mismatches in the number of boats going in and coming out. Such tales are, however, fanciful, as any such discrepancy would result in a major search operation.

In fact there is no record of any such murder, and the story seems to have been inspired by the murder of Christina Collins in similiar circumstances near Rugeley. The association with another canal ghost ‘Kit Crewbucket’, who haunts the Crick Tunnel, would also seem to be spurious.

So that has given you a history lesson on this area which I hope you have found interesting, we love finding out about the history of the places we visit, it somehow seems to give the visit a purpose other than just a stopping place for supplies etc.

We will be moored up until Tony replaces the drive plate on Tuesday, hopefully,  We are up above the Trent & Mersey on the Macclesfield overlooking the scrap yard, very picturesque! It’s not too bad the yard is lower down so it is not visible from the windows.

Lochaber has cooked a curry, Murgh Makhani from the Co-op it was delicious & more so cos’ Lochaber doesn’t cook often! oh, more wine I really must go!

Today 5.5hrs, 14 locks, 4 miles, 1 knackered drive plate

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Easter Saturday 7th April 2012

Trent & Mersey, Wheelock to Rode Heath

We awoke to the sound of rain pitter pattering on the roof of the boat, but it looked as if it was going to brighten up so we took time having a good breakfast before we set off. By about 10.30am the rain had stopped, the wind was light & the temperature seemed warmer than yesterday.

So we said cheerio to Wheelock, the place where last year we had to call out boat engineer Niel Coventry to replace an absolutely shattered drive plate. The story of this is on the post headed…Hooked! Now we start following the dream.

I had the incident from last year on my mind & at times thought the same problem was re-occurring due to the noisy knocking from the engine compartment, then on the other hand was it just my imagination? I decided to just carry on & see how things evolved, at least this time we know what it is, last year we didn’t have a clue what the problem was & had visions of engines blowing up, gear boxes crunching etc.

At locks 62 & 63 we came across Spey & Chance 2. This is Spey leaving lock 63.

This is the butty following, coming out of lock 62, we had to wait a while as she got stuck & needed some pushing to get her through.

At lock 60 we came across another fisherman with all his gear right on the lock moorings! We like the double locks on this stretch, it makes things much quicker when they are both working.

The rain was still holding off & only a fleece was needed today even the gloves came off! This is the view looking back from Pierpoint Locks

This is lock 54 on the Trent & Mersey still heading for Hardings Wood Junction, inside that huge willow tree is a super tree house! Have a look next time you are there.

We carried on towards Rode Heath as we have stopped there before & it is quite pretty nestled in amongst the village houses, the pub The Broughton Arms does a decent meal & a good pint of real ale & there is a small village shop.

There was a swan on its nest directly opposite our mooring & a large wild meadow towpath side which sloped down quite sharply as it used to be old salt workings & was then turned over to natural wild meadow when the salt mining stopped.

Lochaber is worn out today as he has done 14 locks, not bad for a man with a heart condition! Even Caley the mad spaniel is settling in to boat life this trip. The drive plate was not sounding great when we stopped, but tomorrow’s another day & we’ll take it as it comes.

So, off to The Broughton Arms it is!

Today 5.25hrs, 14 locks, 4 miles, dinner in the pub! 

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April 2011

We now knew that we wanted to embrace the canal life but with a couple of personal obstacles in our way we decided to take our time, find the dream boat, kit her out then when the time was right we could take the “plunge”.

We soon found her, all the high spec we wanted for a liveaboard, clean sleek interior, sleek midnight blue outside & a blank canvas for us to make our own.

Inside new MD boat by Lochaber & Cornish

New MD boat on the wharf by Lochaber & Cornish

Summer 2011

First year problems

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This set of pictures show the drive plate removed from our nb after approx 74hrs cruising!!

We had moored the night at Wheelock after a stressed couple of days in the pouring rain negotiating Heartbreak Hill locks for the first time,  all with odd sounds coming from the engine & we had no idea what they may be. but the boat was still running well, no smoke, no cutting out. In the last lock before Wheelock a terrible crunching sound came from the engine as I put her into reverse, put her into forward expecting the worst but she carried on, just a bit more noisily.  It was at this point we decided to grab a mooring asap at Wheelock & wait till morning to investigate further. In the cold light of day & the turn of the key…..nothing! We started to make some phone calls, the suppliers were not very helpful saying that we must have hit something,  this was proven not to be true, as we had already stated, by Neil Coventry the brilliant engineer that came to our rescue.  He eventually managed to fit a new drive plate & things have been ok since. However neither the supplier or our boat builder would cover the cost of the replacement so that was an added extra we hadn’t bargained for in the first 6 months of owning a new nb.

We also had problems with the fridge not working a wire had not been attached at the back! Warm wine is just no good!

So, don’t think everything is always plain sailing with a new nb, our first year has been to say the least, eventful.

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