Biddulph Aqueduct to Lyme Green: 7.66 miles, 12 locks
Biddulph Aqueduct this morning was glorious, the sun sparkling over the valley, dog walkers and joggers enjoying the tow path, voices floating up from the pasture below where more dogs and children were being exercised.
It was mid-morning before Cleddau pulled away from her mooring. Approaching boaters squinted into the sunshine, brims pulled low over their eyes. It takes about 90 minutes to cruise between the Biddulph Aqueduct and the bottom of Bosley Locks, the canal weaving through pleasant countryside. Often an old stone bridge crosses the canal: always the proportions are pleasing and in today’s sunlight the curve of the arch often curled into a reflection. Trees filtered the sunlight, creating abstract patterning on the water. On the right, wherever the bank is not masked by hedging or trees, there are views of the Cloud. How this hill mass intrigues: a gentle giant’s chaise longue as you walk beside or cruise the lower canal, a rounded hulk from the lock flight, and in sharp light the old quarry workings appear like jagged teeth.
Just after midday Cleddau cruised through Old Driving Lane Bridge hole, the raised foot path over the canal spillway an indication that the bottom of the locks was near. No other boats lurked along this beautiful stretch where often there are several. Lock 12. Here began the climb... Ahead a boat was moving up the flight, (“We came up that Heartbreak Hill thingy yesterday,” confided the elderly lady, implying that matters were bound to be better today). Draining each lock before Cleddau could enter seemed no effort on such a glorious day. At about the half way point one, then another boat came down – and everyone smiled. Did all Cheshire smile today, it’s a weekend day after all, an additional bonus after yesterday’s endless drenching? Is the joy of a sunny dry day after a wet spell in these parts another explanation for the “grinning like a Cheshire cat” expression?!
Top lock: lock 1. Here sits a Services block and a water point. Tight manoeuvres are frequently called for here. The boat departing from the water point paused, hesitated; what was the problem? Men with barge poles and boat hooks were prodding the water. Huge floating islands of reeds were clogging the narrow channel. Slowly each one moved, breathed even, but only at its own whim. An approaching boat crawled forward, the reeds being prodded and pushed from the bow. The boat that had followed up the locks passed next – would they get through? As Cleddau was prepared to go a small day boat chugged forward, turning round to face back towards its base. Boathooks to positions, the heavy one for the Captain on the back, the lightweight one within Boatwif’s reach on the bow. Slowly both boats moved off, zigging and zagging to avoid these malevolent obstacles. Five vanloads of reeds have been collected and taken away for disposal in recent days, apparently, far more than usual...
The day boat led – slowly. Seven crew were on board though two lads leapt off on a blackberry hunt. At Oakgrove Swing Bridge Cleddau was waved past, the day boaters keen to work the bridge. The hills and Macclesfield Forest were ahead, breathtaking views. There is a long stretch of good mooring available at Lyme Green: here Cleddau was tied up – and within minutes the day boat caught up, passed wide – and became stuck in shallow waters. Minutes again after it had released itself another boat was stalled in exactly the same place, before wriggling free. The bank slopes gently into the water there, a popular access point. Yes, different neighbours across the canal tonight, not cows, not trains but Canada Geese...
So, 3 on the Cheshire Ring clock reached, the 518 feet contour attained, home mooring now only about a three hour cruise further north. Tomorrow should see Cleddau tied up back at 2, back at Higher Poynton.