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….”
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.
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.
We made it up in good time and found a pleasant mooring.
After lunch said our farewells to Tim as he set off on his 20 mile bike ride back home.
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.