The last few miles of the Macclesfield Canal take us through Congleton. We used to get tantalising glimpses of the town when we drove up to visit Firecrest in build, but we’ve never actually walked around this little town. The signage from the canal was also intriguing.
We moored to the north of the town near Stanley’s bridge and walked the mile and a half into the centre.
Despite some old timber framed buildings and an attractive town garden, the day was damp and miserable and I wasn’t inspired to spend long exploring. I suspect the town has suffered economically.
But this isn’t a new thing, in 1620 the town was struggling to attract visitors to it’s bear baiting contests. As legend has it, when the town couldn’t find the money to buy a bigger more aggressive beast, they used the funds raised to buy a town bible to buy a bear instead to keep the bear baiting entertainment going. Thankfully they have more respect for their animals nowadays.
We continued cruising south, under the last of the gorgeous snake bridges so familiar on the Macclesfield Canal. These ingeniously simple designs allows the old horse drawn barges to continue seamlessly when the Towpath changed sides because the horses didn’t need to be unclipped and refastened.
And one last lock to be tackled at Hall Green. This was originally the end of the Macclesfield Canal, as the mile long Hall Green Branch was built by the Trent and Mersey Canal company in order for them to charge tolls and to retain the water flowing down the Macclesfield Canal. Originally it had two chambers that enabled either side to be the higher or lower level. Many stop locks have been removed from the system, but due to the draft of the Harecastle tunnel and the shallow depth of the Macc the 12 inch drop at Hall Green is one of the nicer locks to work.
With only a mile to go, we crossed the aqueduct and looked down onto the rusty Trent and Mersey, under bridge 97,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A mamouth days cruise today which Eric will post some technical details separately. But the big excitement was doing our first locks in Firecrest.
A bit like buses, nothing for 5 months then a flight of 12 all in one go. We could already see a difference in the landscape as we ventured into unchartered waters. I looked behind me and saw the the Peak District disappearing in the distance.
Believe it or not I still lack a lot of confidence when it comes to driving. (Or perhaps it is Eric who lacks confidence when I am driving, but I can’t say I blame him.)
Which meant that Eric got to stay in the boat whist I did all the hard work
The Bosley Flight is 12 narrow locks descending 36m spread over a mile. It’s very pretty but having not worked a lock since we helped John and Martina down the Wigan flight last summer, it was hard work.
The sun was shining and it was quite exhilarating to be cruising without restriction, so we pushed on and probably over did mooring up just above Hall Lane stop lock for the night. Eric has been able to collect some interesting figures about our fuel consumption and efficiency which he’ll post separately.
The Macclesfield canal starts at Marple Junction. It leaves the Peak Forest canal and travels 26miles south to Kidsgrove. The route of the canal was given permission by an act of Parliament in 1826, surveyed by Thomas Telford and construction was engineered by William Crosley and finally completed in 1831 at a cost of £320,000.
There are some beautiful bridges that curl around onto the tow path. They’re known as Snake bridges and were designed where the towpath crosses to the opposite side to allow the horses to cross over without being untied from their barges. (Information taken from the Macclesfield canal website)
we’re moored just after bridge 2
Despite the grey and miserable weather, the boat is so nice and snug, we’ve changed the duvet from the winter 10.5 tog to our brand new 4.5 tog. I kept a blanket close at hand in case we were cold overnight but no, the lightweight duvet is just right.
And finally a bit of colour, Eric went out to buy some wiring supplies and came back with flowers for me.