Cruising Statisitics for June for Narrowboat Firecrest

Cruising stats

  • 51:24 hours cruising
  • 77.2 miles covered
  • 18 days cruising, 12 days moored
  • 39 locks
  • 5 Tunnels including Harcastle, Froghall and Leek tunnels

Power required for electric propulsion

  • 1,017 watt hours per hour cruised
  • 677 watt hours per mile cruised

(Real world figures for the electric propulsion on Firecrest over the month of June)

Electricity usage

  • Propulsion 52kWhrs (25%)
  • Domestic 160kWhrs (75%)
  • Total 212kWhrs

Sources of electricity

  • Solar Panels 93kWhrs (44%) (nearly twice what we used for our electric propulsion)
  • Genset 119kWhrs (56%)
  • Genset run hours 16

Note: Cruising time is based on time from unmooring to starting to moor up.  It excludes stops for water and fuel, but includes waiting for locks and sitting in locks waiting for them to fill or empty.

The Future

We have had two new solar panels delivered to Firecrest. One is now fitted to the roof, but neither are yet connected so are not yet adding to our solar power.

Solar Panelbeing fitted to Narrowboat Firecrest
Work in progress

As I write this it is now 12 days since we ran our generator and our batteries are still at 60% so there is no need for us to run it again for a few more days. – Brillient.

Full Steam Ahead

Just south of the Gurnett Aqueduct is the medieval village of Sutton, or to give it it’s formal name, Sutton Lane Ends. It’s only a little place, but has a tardis like village shop and tea room. It’s an easy walk from the canal where there’s some pleasant 14 day mooring just before the aqueduct itself.

Firecrest is the furthest boat in the line

We’re definitely in Braidbar country, seeing several tootling up and down. We’ve have had some lovely conversations and struck up friendships as we’ve discussed batteries and solar panels. This week we found ourselves moored next to Kumpali, one of the newest Braidbars.

Kumpali

Still dancing around the dilemma of social distancing, Paul, Kim Eric and I decided a pint in the pub was the nicest way to pass an hour chatting, so instead of descending the steps to the crowed Kings Head, we strolled across the field to Sutton Hall. A rather grand timber framed house with gardens to match.

Sutton Hall


After a few hours more than we’d intended, we thought it time to return to our boats but found ourselves surrounded by steam driven traction engines.

Some were tractors, there were steam rollers

one thing they all had in common were that they were beautifully polished

And loved by their owners

We would have loved to have found out a bit more about them, but the ale had been flowing and whilst the conversation was amusing and light hearted it was neither repeatable or socially acceptable, even if it did make us laugh.

A good day had by all.

Sutton Hall sheep

Heading into the Cloud


One of the many nice things about the Macclesfield Canal is that all 12 locks are contained over a mile, known as the Bosley flight. Tim didn’t take much persuading to stay on board to help us up, but that did mean we couldn’t hang around Ramsdell. Once we had returned triumphant from our Mow Cop ascent, we cruised on to base camp, to moored overnight at the Dane Aqueduct. Expecting our next exertions to be wielding the windlass, was forgetting that Tim is 30 years younger than us, and when he saw the rocky outcrop across the fields there was no stopping him, “come on Dad, we can be there and back before Mum’s cooked tea….”

Tim and Eric waving from the Cloud


And they were, admittedly a late tea, but I was able to stand on the Towpath and with the help of the binoculars, saw them wave to me. The Cloud, as it is known, is the gritstone quarry which provided the stone to build the locks. There was some debate the next morning whether we should join the caravan heading north. A faulty swing bridge beyond top lock, implied that there would be a backlog of boats unable to move on. But word came down the locks that we should proceed. Some people rely upon pigeon post, here we have goose gossip.

Bottom lock Bosley flight

Due to the on going need for water management, passage on this flight is only permitted between 8 and 1. We assume this is to consolidate the two-way traffic thus reducing the need to set the locks. It suits me just fine, although I imagine it’s frustrating for the boaters with deadlines.

Guess who’s doing all the work


We made it up in good time and found a pleasant mooring.

Top of Bosley flight

After lunch said our farewells to Tim as he set off on his 20 mile bike ride back home.

The Railing and the Scaling

“What’s that up there?” said Tim, pointing up towards a rocky outcrop as we joined the Macclesfield Canal. “It must be Mow Cop” I replied trying to sound knowledgeable, even though I’d just glanced at the map. It continued to be visible as we cruised through Scholar Green and as it was coming up to 4pm we moored up by Ramsdell hall.

Ramsdell Hall

I wouldn’t mind living there, with a view like that, looking west towards the Cheshire Plain. And that’s what the owners in 1827 thought when the canal was being built. As is the want of some wealthy land owners, they weren’t entirely happy at the thought of an 19th century super highway spoiling their view and negotiated with the company to have decorative railings erected along their section. The Ramsdell Railings have since been replaced by replicas but remain a pleasant feature,

Decorative railings

and the view is still worth looking at.

But we all agreed it would be far better from the top of Mow Cop. So refreshed after a good nights sleep, we set off up various steep footpaths up 600feet to reach the summit. Stopping to say hello to the Old Man of Mow

The old man went to Mow

No, not that one. The rocky outcrop, that is a 65 foot gritstone pillar. It’s formation isn’t certain. Some accounts say there used to be a demarcation cairn on the top showing the boundaries between the Little Morton and Rode Hall Estates. Or perhaps the Cheshire, Staffordhire borders. The Cairn has long since been lost but the pillar remains, possibly because it was of poorer quality gritstone, or that it was used as a lifting aid within the quarry. Regardless, which ever angle it is viewed from it remains impressive.

The old man of mow


Another 5 minute along the trail is the Mow Cop folly.

Mow Cop

Built in 1794 as a summer house for the lord of the manor. I expect he had “help” to carry the picnic.

A grand day out

There are divided opinions about it’s pronunciation but Mow, as in Cow is the way it’s spoken locally
It’s owned by the National Trust now, but although the structure is railed off, thankfully we were still able to scramble over the rocks.

Someone had to stay on safe ground, to take the photograph

And just as we expected, the views are outstanding. When conditions are right, it is possible to see Liverpool cathedral over 30 miles away. We could easily see the huge satellite dish at Jodrell Bank 10 miles away

I’m sure we can see Wales, but no Firecrest

High viewpoints like this always inspire people and 1807 the first meeting of Primitive Methodist movement was held here. Contrary to what its name implies these weren’t the earliest Methodists but a breakaway group, who felt that the organisation was drifting away from its original Wesleyan roots (circa 1738). They wanted to retain more focus on lay people rather than a hierarchy of leadership that was becoming the practice, and more focus on the rural communities and remain accessible the poorer members of society. A century later the two bodies realised they had more in common and in 1932 joined together as the modern day Methodist Church.

The climb was well worth the effort.

Tomato Soup, anyone?

We were in for a treat, our son Tim had the opportunity to join us for a few days. Ironically the last time we saw him was 8 months ago when he met us at Kidsgrove to travel south. Today he was arriving by bike so we booked our passage through the Harecastle tunnel for an afternoon transit. We said our goodbyes to Westport Lake, (built by the Victorians after a mine collapse)

Westport Lake

And set off to wait for him at the south portal. The original Harecastle tunnel was built by James Brindley and completed in 1777 but it was constantly beset by problems. I’m sure the original bargees didn’t like it as it would take them over three hours to leg through the 2630m. They would lie on their backs on the roof of their boats and walk sideways along the walls, not easy and hard work. The children walked the horses over the hill on the aptly named Boathorse Road. 50 years later Thomas Telford built a second, bigger tunnel that included a towpath, which greatly reduced transit time. But it was still a difficult tunnel to pass through. In the 1970’s the Towpath was removed, and now apart from it being long cold and drippy, it’s fairly straightforward. There is an interesting page on Wikipedia about the two tunnels. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harecastle_Tunnel

The old 1770’s and the new, 1820’s.


Although there’s a booking system in place, the tunnel keepers seem to exercise a degree of common sense and as Tim arrived earlier than expected we joined the last morning convoy. We dutifully paid our respects to the boater who didn’t obey the rules.

Mr Bones looking a bit shaky today

And emerged after about 45 minutes, in time for a bowl of tomato soup for lunch.

Happy to see daylight again on the north side of the tunnel

Ok I’m only joking, the canal isn’t really full of tomato soup, it’s the iron ore deposits leaking out of the older tunnel that discolour the water here. It always feels a bit chaotic around Kidsgrove, there are excited boaters waiting to use the tunnel, a lot of long term moorings, and bends and bridges and junctions to negotiate. But we were following the signs and headed south onto the Hall Green Branch on the Macclesfield Canal

We’ll be heading towards Whaley Bridge

Within half a mile we felt like we had emerged into a different world as the Hall Green Branch crosses over the Trent and Mersey on an aqueduct,

Looking down from the aqueduct

and we arrived at the Stop lock. This was a good one for Tim to practice on as the difference is only 6 inches. In the days when companies owned individual canals stop locks were put in place to force the boaters to stop and pay their dues.

We had to look hard to decide whether we were going up or down this lock.

3 happy boaters heading north on the Macclesfield Canal

Tim Eric and Cheryl

Backtracking


The geese came to see us off as we left Leek to retrace the route back to Etruria. We went back through the tall tunnel

North portal Leek tunnel

I had a bit of scary moment at the Endon Services, when the door of the Elsan drain slammed shut on me and I couldn’t get out. Of course my phone was inside the boat so the only thing to do was to shout for help. And if Eric was inside Firecrest, I couldn’t guarantee he’d hear me. So I was extremely grateful that not only did he come to my rescue but 2 other boaters also came running. If either of you are reading this, please know how much your willingness to come to my assistance means to me. Having been rescued myself, it was time to become the rescuers ourselves. We came across z duck tangled up in fishing line. We were able to cut home free and bring him into the boat whilst we unwrapped him.

Plum sauce or freedom

He swam away back to his friends, one of whom was showing him which way to swim

Follow the arrow

We’re getting used to seeing unusual things on the canal, roundabouts and even penguins

Ok not a real penguin

Giant dragonflies

And Middleport pottery upside down

On reflection, it’s still fascinating

We settled down on the Trent and Mersey at Westport Lake to await our next adventure

Westport Lake A perfect place to spend the evening

A little bit about Leek


Looking back towards Leek tunnel

The Caldon canal has an arm that used to go into Leek but sadly before restoration occurred the last mile or so was filled in and reclaimed to build an industrial estate. When I tried to find out a bit of Leeks history online neither its wiki page or the “visit Leek” page mention the close proximity of canal. However as a boater Leek is a destination not to be overlooked. Admittedly it’s a bit of an uphill slog when the sun’s shining, but after 25 minutes you are rewarded with a fascinating market town. Full of interesting architecture.

Perhaps not quite as well maintained as it should be.

Thanks to the precautions we’re all having to take we didn’t get to visit the Brindley Museum. In the late 18th century local man James Brindley set up his millwright business here, before he went on to engineer canals. But fellow boaters have told me it’s well worth it, and of course we have to leave something to do next time….Eric took the opportunity to do some work on the boat whilst I continued exploring the town.

And Leek has not one but two LYS. (That’s a Local Yarn Shop to the uninitiated) the first Bibelot, doesn’t carry a huge selection, but has a lovely haberdashery, if only I had a sewing machine on board.

The fancy black and white, is now a Wetherspoons, Bibelot is next door

And the second is called Love my socks which yes as you’ve guessed specialises in all things socky, which is ok by me as I love knitting socks.

Love me socks

I dutifully supported both businesses and came away happy. Leek is a lovely town, full of curiosities character and independent shops and cafes.

Getliffes yard

And the mooring was pretty too.

We’re going to Leek


We left Froghall basin just after 6 am. Up through the narrow lock.

6am locking, too early for my liking

Athough this time it took a while to fill the water tank, going through the tunnel early reduced the risk of needing to pass oncoming boats in the narrows. It paid dividends, the journey felt surreal, it was just us and the birds.

No one around but us and the birds

Mind you those birds seemed glad of the company. I’d got off the boat to work one of the locks and before we knew it they were hitching a ride. Ducks are usually quite skittish and don’t hang around us humans, unless we have a loaf of bread with us, so it was quite amusing that they stayed on board for a good 5 minutes.

Dropping by to say hello

Our journey took us back under the aqueduct.

Leek Aqueduct

And once we had climbed the 3 locks with the lovely cottage

Postcard perfect

And turned the sharp U Turn junction

Gently does it

We began our trip along the Leek branch, back over the aqueduct looking down on the Froghall branch

Ahoy down there

It was a pleasant journey, quite different to the Froghall branch, lots of very desirable houses with garden mooring. We had been warned that the Leek tunnel was also difficult, but we’re not sure why. Enough room to swing the proverbial cat.

No worries there, mate

Sadly when the canals were abandoned , someone had the bright idea to reclaim the land and built an industrial unit over the last half mile that would have taken boats right into this lovely historic town. So the canal peeters out Leaving just a shallow 40′ winding hole.

Pretty, but nowhere else to go

Luckily though, there is good mooring for about 6 boats after the last full size winding hole, even though you have to reverse into it.

Moor here, it’s about 20 minutes walk into town.

So here we stayed for a few days to enjoy the town , and Morrisons.