Kidderminster Trip Day 2 – a technical perspective
We cruised for 9 hours and covered 13 miles, and lost 110 feet of altitude. I was particularly interested to see how the electric propulsion working through the lock flight at Bosley. 12 locks in the space of one mile.
I have to say it was lovely coming down the flight, no noise of engine or exhaust reverberating around the stone lock chambers, no diesel fumes to breath as I wait for the locks to empty, and able to hear Cheryl from the lock side. I think Cheryl would say it was B#### hard work – the locks gates weigh about a ton each but are surprisingly easy to move for their weigh. But some of the lock paddles are really hard work to wind up.
We travelled 13 miles and used 198AH (10.4KWhrs) from our batteries, which means we used just under one fifth of our battery capacity cruising today. That equates to just under 3.5 litres of Diesel and at the price we last paid works out at £2.50 for the whole days cruising. We can replenish that much power in about 1 hour from our diesel generator.
I measured the power we used during the lock flight itself and in the 1hr 40 minutes it took us to do the 12 locks we used just 16AH (0.8KWhrs) from our batteries, so we used the equivalent of under a quarter litre of diesel to come down the flight.
I am closely monitoring our batteries to see how they perform. We started the days cruise with the batteries at 52.4 volts and ended it at 52.3 volts. For people who are used to Lead Acid or almost any other type of battery such a tiny volt drop after using a fifth of the batteries capacity is unheard of. But our LiFePO4 (Lithium Iron Phosphate) batteries have almost no voltage drop between 20% and 80% state of charge.
Over all I am pleased with how little power we are using to cruise, its is a little less than I had allowed for from all my research and calculations.
Marple locks are having new gates installed during this year’s winter maintenance program and today Canal And Rivers Trust held an open day to allow the inquisitive the opportunity to descend down onto the floor of the dry lock. We like to think of ourselves as inquisitive so off we set, sadly on foot as we’re still not cruising.
We also took the opportunity to get there by walking along the Middlewood Way, the disused railway line that ran from Marple to Macclesfield. The route was closed down by Beecham in the 70‘s but in the 80‘s the 10mile route was revived as a public right of way for horses cyclists and walkers. And best of all, it’s well maintained and virtually mud free. Although horse riders don’t follow the same rules as dog walkers have to, in clearing up after their animals so we still had to step carefully. Joking aside it was a pleasant walk and we’d like to complete the remaining 6 miles from Poynton to Macclesfield at some point.
Back to Marple locks; these are a flight of 16 locks that descend 210 feet (62m) on the Peak Forest canal.
Along with a lot of other people, we were being shown lock 14. Impressively deep at over 6m, that’s 2m deeper than average.
When in use the water level changes by almost 4m. 44000 gallons of water are needed to lift a boat up to the next level.
There are about 1500 locks being maintained by CART and they are all inspected monthly. Besides emergency work, there’s a planned winter maintenance program to replace those beyond repair. The gates are individually made in the Midlands at the Bradley workshop. They are made out of English Oak (that is grown in France) and each one costs between £25000-£35000. They should last 25 years, but boaters have a tendency to bash into them as we’re swirled about in the filling locks and those carefully fitted snug gates soon begin to leak. Leaking lock gates are boaters equivalent to motorists pot holes, it’s a never ending job to keep them working efficiently. And at least motorists don’t get a cold shower if they drive over a pot hole.
Although the gates need replacing regularly, the stone and brick structure of the lock is still what was originally built 200 years ago. It took 1000’s of navvies 2 years to build the 16 locks at Marple.
To be able to look at the lock from the floor was both humbling and awe inspiring as the precision of and skill of those early engineers is still valued today.
By the time we emerged from the locks we were in desperate need of a bowl of warming soup and we stumbled upon an artisan deli called “All things nice” and too right it was all very nice. It’s made it onto our list of eateries to visit again. We ended up having more than a snack so it’s beans on toast for tea tonight.
All in all a very satisfying day.