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Thursday, November 23, 2017

Macclesfield to Congleton and on to Higher Poynton




"The moving finger writes, and having written, moves on. Not all thy piety or all thy wit can cancel half a line of it." ~Khalil Gibran, Lebanese writer, port and visual artist, 1883-1931

     After leaving the swing bridge near the Fools Nook pub behind, I cruised slowly in the warmth of October sun, the canal narrowing in places with large reed beds reaching out from the edges and long lines of boats on permanent moorings. I saw things that Les would have found interesting and no doubt would have taken pictures and blogged about but I find I have to pay very close attention on this narrow, shallow canal lest I find myself stuck in the mud of the shallows so the small, interesting things that catch my eye are there and then gone before I can even contemplate juggling the tiller and the camera.
My Best Beloved and our new sink.
     It only took me about two and half hours to cruise on and moor up just through Danes Moss bridge, number 46, near the Industrial/business estate. A gate from the towpath leads a short walk out to the road which winds through the stores and leads to the London Road. I moored up about noon and secured the boat. An eight minute walk brought me to the main road and Burger King restaurant; not a small commercial shop front tucked in between other concerns with no room to turnaround twice, but a large, proper BK restaurant standing on its own. I reasoned that this might afford them a better chance of actually preparing flame grilled burgers made my way rather than the microwaved, poorly assembled meat lumps on a bun that usually passes for BK over here and I was correct! Lunch was good indeed and a nice treat.
     I noted in my diary that this day last year my right knee was replaced at Warwick hospital and Les and our grandson Jack were home on the boat, replacing the bathroom sink and tiling around it. Les sent me a picture of himself sitting next to the new sink with the message, "With love from me to you. xxxx Get well soon I miss you! xxx"
     The next morning Ken and Sue Deveson appeared at my bow and we walked through the gate, down the small path and out to the car park nearby. They came to show me around the delights of Macclesfield--a town they know well as their daughter Abi, son-in-law Martin and granddaughter Tasha live here. We stopped at Halfords for a couple of items I needed, then continued on into the heart of town, parking in a lot and walking. It was a lovely day, lightly overcast, but warm with no breeze or rain.  Any day it doesn't rain up here is a bonus! After a few more forays into shops for bits and bobs I needed we walked up and found the amazing local bakery Flour Water Salt. Located in an industrial warehouse (soon to move to a shop front nearer the high street), I had the single best latte I've had in this country in the last six years. The Rhubarb Danish was divine and I bought a freshly baked baguette to take away for the week. Ken told me that FWS is among the top ten best bakeries in Britain. They certainly have my vote.
     Afterwards we drove up to Teggs Nose Country Park. Boaters you need to know about this lovely slice of countryside. It is very close to the canal.  If you moor up at the pontoon moorings in Macclesfield, and walk up to Buxton Road bridge no. 37 just across the street from the Puss n Boots pub and walk up hill to the bus stop at Black rd. The park is only a 12 minute walk up hill from the bus stop at Buxton new road at the Settler Dog Walker Barn. For those that are not up to the walk, it is well worth the 14 quid round trip for a taxi up there and then another back down.
     The views of  Jodrell Bank Observatory and the canal are spectacular, as are the views down into the valleys and the scenic way the hills rise up to hug the sky. There are a number of hikes of varying degrees of difficulty from easy, to moderate and there are lovely gems along the paths such as the Library in the Landscape. It is simply not to be missed. Les would have loved Teggs Nose Park if he had known it was so close by the canal and I know we would have visited it. When you stop in be sure to say hello to Martin, the local park ranger. His hard work over a number of years have made this park friendly, very accessible, and Martin is a wealth of information. He is Ken and Sue Deveson's son in law so he is well acquainted with boating.
     Ken and Sue topped off the afternoon by taking me to lunch in Bollington at Italian restaurant Briscola. The food was excellent and the ambience very nice, I can highly recommend them and they do have a take away menu if you are in Bollington and up for Italian. Afterward we drove to Higher Poynton to Victoria Pit Marina where a winter mooring was available to me courtesy of friends. I met Ian Byrceland, marina owner and was shown where the various facilities are located.
     I cruised off again Friday, October 26th on a mist ridden morning, passing the dredger that had been working just ahead of where I had been moored.  I was impressed by how he used the shovel as a metal claw to hold the muck filled barge close to the side of the dredger until I passed. Unfortunately there was an over full barge directly in front of me, just going through the next bridge, headed towards its base in the heart of Macclesfield.

Dredger in the mist!
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A barge in the bridge hole, © Dredgingtoday
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Dredger filling a barge with muck © Dredgingtoday
 The barge had been overloaded with muck from the bottom of the cut and every time it had to pass through a bridge hole it got stuck, requiring the operator to throw it into forward and then reverse repeatedly until he managed to become unstuck and coax the huge barge onward. I had hoped the driver would be courteous enough to pull over into the deeper part of the winding hole directly through the next bridge and let me pass but no, he decided to forge on which left me no choice but to follow at a discreet distance on tick over from bridge 54 to bridge 38 where the barge became well and truly secured to the bottom, half in and half out of the bridge hole with CRT's Swettenham Wharf Yard just in site. We had a queue now of boats behind me, all of us hovering in the cut, waiting for something to happen. Finally the young bloke on the barge manged to back out of the bridge hole and break free. I took the opportunity to s-l-o-w-l-y creep forward next to him as he called out, "I am just too heavy to get through this bridge hole and I need to go get some help."
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Full compliment of barges and dredgers at work, © NB Amyjo
     "Well how about I give your barge a gentle nudge with my boat as you put yours in reverse? At least that way we can go on through the bridge hole and I will signal the guys in the boatyard for you, okay?"
"Okay!" And with a thumbs up from the barge driver, he put it in reverse, I gave NBV a bit of gentle welly and the barge moved gently to the towpath side of the cut, allowing the rest of us to continue on. I slowed as I approached the CRT yard. A huge cat was shoveling up muck from another barge and depositing it in the back of a large lorry. I beeped NBV's horn and called out to get one bloke's attention. I passed on the news that his mate was stuck just the other side of bridge 38 with an overloaded barge and he smiled and gave me a thumbs up. Job done!
    I continued on to Bollington Wharf where Amy and James Tidy greeted me warmly as I took on diesel, coal, kindling and water. I cruised off to moor up on the Bollington aqueduct for four days while I reacquainted myself with the village. Les and I were last moored here for five days back in June 2012 as we waited for some mail to catch up to us Post Restante (general delivery for those Americans reading this). Bollington was a sleepy small village which felt as though not much had changed for many decades. Les and I strolled through different parts of the village each day. On one particularly hot summer day Les bought us both ice creams from the local corner shop and we walked over to to the children's playground at Coronation Gardens, sat on the swings and ate our ice cream while we watched the children play.
     Les commented that he could never have sat here and enjoyed the children at play on his own. A single man watching small children on a playground was suspicious but with me by his side we could sit and watch the children at play, and enjoy the sound of their innocent laughter and childish exuberance. Les loved little kids and I've never met a child that didn't take to Les immediately. He was gifted at spinning amazing stories out of thin air and Les could make almost any child laugh. I have such fond memories of him reading The Gruffalo to our grand daughter Kiera who sat enraptured as Granddad told the story with different voices for the various characters and hand signs like a large claw for the Gruffalo. Though Kiera had heard the story many, many times, she never tired of Les' telling and she always shrieked with surprise and delight, granddad and granddaughter colluding together to enjoy the shared experience.
   It was while moored up here that I met the lovely Bernadette of the Narrow Junk Food Project Boat which I blogged about previously. I was surprised and a bit disenchanted to find that in the five years since I was last in Bollington it had changed, becoming more upscale as commuters with money and jobs in Manchester move in to the area buying new houses springing up like dandelions everywhere throughout the village, changing the flavor and character of village life. I walked to the new Cooperative store for a grocery top up. A young man in his early thirties in expensive casual clothes, shoes, and jacket--clearly a YUPPIE (Young Urban Upwardly mobile Urban Professional)  stood outside the doors with a clip board in hand. As I approached he asked me to sign his petition for a new, second pharmacy in the village. I explained that I couldn't sign it as I didn't reside there.
     Then I stopped and asked, "Why does there need to be another pharmacy? Is there a problem with Rowlands?"
     "It would be nice to have a choice," the young man replied smoothly as he smiled smugly. As an outsider what could I know about the actual issues? While the local branch of Rowlands offers Express prescription delivery, flu jabs, and prescription collection services, they are only open from 8:30 to 5:30 pm Monday through Friday, 9am-1pm on Saturday and closed Sundays. Therein lies the crux of the issue. YUPPIES want to live a "village" lifestyle forcing housing prices and the cost of a lot of other services upward but they want all the conveniences of city living. It is what it is and the times they are "achangin'" as Bob Dylan sang. It just got my back up how smug and smooth this young man behaved while thinking a simplistic answer could buy off an actual query about the nature of the issue. It felt oily and political and left me with a sense of sadness about the nature of change sweeping over so many small villages as they are "discovered". Fortunately there are still lovely folks and old heritage to be found still at Bollington Wharf. The diesel and coal are reasonably priced, the fuel boat NB Alton is based here with trips up to Buxworth Basin every two weeks to service boaters and fuel supplied by delivery van to boaters south of Bollington and below the Bosley lock flight.
     Moving on, I cruised the final four miles to Victoria Pit and gently slid NB Valerie into NB Cleddau's spot while she is gone for the winter to be painted. Mains electricity established, I said hello to Ian, and began to suss out the local area over the next few weeks. I was hoping to find a job in the nearby village of Poynton but there was ought to be had. Waitrose had a position open but I failed the second part of their online multiple choice exam to determine whether or not I was a suitable candidate. After updating my CV, I applied for, interviewed, and was offered a job as an invigilator for Poynton High School and Performing Arts College however it only paid £7.58 an hour with two hours a week during school exam times. Not enough for me to support myself. The woman who interviewed me was sad I couldn't join her team, saying, "What a shame Jaqueline, you would be a lovely addition to our school."
     While it didn't work out for me, the experience bolstered my confidence and made me really consider what work I wanted to do, was qualified for with only a Bachelor's degree, and what would be available in the area. I discovered that Library Assistant is the perfect job for me. I have the necessary skills and abilities, and the pay is sufficient to allow me to support myself. I cannot get a job in academia over here because of my lack of an advanced degree. I was a known commodity at WSU and departments were willing to overlook this in favor of my many years of experience with students and my service to the University community; this is not going to happen over here where I am an unknown and foreign commodity.
     I have applied for two positions with the Cheshire East Council and I began to study public transit to Nantwich, forty miles West, and Alsager, twenty miles westward. This is when I discovered to my chagrin, that one can travel the length of this country but traversing the breadth becomes problematic. It would take three buses and most of the day to reach Nantwich from here at a cost of £12 each way or three trains and £31!
     I am quite isolated here at the upper end of the Macclesfield unless I want to join the hordes of commuters flowing into and out of Manchester each day and I don't! After considering cruising options (as a Continuous Cruiser I have to abide by the requirements of my boat license to cruise on a bonafide journey and to move the boat a minium of every two weeks), looking at places where access to public transit was readily available from a variety of different places on the cut in a timely and affordable manner, I realized I could not spend the winter up here. Bereavement Benefits run out on January 24th 2018 and I have to have a job to support myself by then or soon after.
     After nearly a month here I will be leaving the sanctuary of the marina and cruising once more, this time on a mission: I need to move down the Bosley Lock Flight, off the Macclesfield Canal and onto the Trent & Mersey Canal, through Heartbreak Hill as the Cheshire locks are known, and down to Hassell Green before December 25th to avoid being trapped up here by winter lock closures. I will be leaving here next week, and cruising each day beginning December 4th, until I am down on the Trent & Mersey. I should be able to make it to Nantwich on or before December 20th, taking weather into consideration.
     Why Nantwich you ask?
     This lovely town of 17,0000 is located on the Shropshire Union Canal. There are excellent services and amenities in the town, and good services for boaters on the cut. I can cruise from Nantwich to the winding hole at the bottom of the Audlem locks, cruise back northward into Chester, cruise the nearby Middlewich Arm which connects the Shroppie with the Trent & Mersey, cruise onto the T & M and up to Northwich, back down and across the Middlewich arm to the Shroppie and then up the Llangollen as far as Whitchurch and still access brilliant bus service at various good points along the canals into Nantwich. It isn't hundreds of miles but if I move every two weeks (and I usually move every week to top up water and dump my rubbish) I should be able to stay in the good graces of Canal and River Trust with whom our boat is licensed. I have been in  contact with CRT's national Welfare Officer about my situation and he is working with me and the local Cheshire East enforcement officer to gauge my situation. Once I am employed, if I find it necessary to take a  marina mooring or a CRT permanent mooring then I will do so.
  Besides being favorably located near various canals, Nantwich holds many wonderful memories for me of Les. We spent over a month in the area in late spring of 2011while Les had dental work completed. I wrote my blog post titled Bliss! about our time there. I was  going to link that post to this one but I found as I reviewed it that most of my pictures have disappeared from it! I've no idea what I might have done to cause this, but it certainly ruins the flow of the post which is tragic because it its a really good one. Ah well, it is what it is, as is life without Les. I can only go forward now so, on I go....Happy Thanksgiving to all of my American family and friends. This is my favorite holiday. I can celebrate a gathering of beloved family and friends, good food, and giving thanks. Wherever you all are, please know I am with each of you in spirit! Blessed Be! Jaq/Momma/Mim xxx

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Happy Thanksgiving Jaq! I’m cooking a turkey casserole in Germany and thinking of you x. Sally

Paul and El said...

We lived in a lovely little cottage in Bollington for 6 months whilst Elaine was undergoing chemo at Christie's hospital Manchester. Its a lovely place to live.

Judith Emery said...

Hope you don't find it too arduous a journey to Nantwich and have some joy in finding suitable employment. Nantwich is one of my favourite places along with Audlem.
Judith nb Serena. XXX

stevefree said...

Hi,
We have just moved on to OverWater marina at Audlem with Tumbleweed and agree that it’s a lovely area. The marina is excellent as well and very friendly.
I have been told that they are reviewing the bus services locally and by April there could be less buses and even routes dropped. It sounds as though services that cross into Shropshire could be hit most.
Happy to offer my services as a Lock labourer when you get a bit closer.
Steve

Anonymous said...

I tried to wish you a happy Thanksgiving Jaq but I don’t think my comment worked. We were thinking of you as we ate our Germany-style turkey dinner. X. Sally

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Sally,

I can close my eyes and smell the turkey and your delicious cooking all the way over here! How does a German style turkey dinner differ from the Traditional American style? I trust a wonderful time was had by all and your lovely granddaughter must be so big now and running everywhere.

Love Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Paul,

Bollington is lovely. Now when I p ass back through I will be thinking of you and Elaine.

Jaq

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Judith,

I have to move smart from Bollington, down the Bosley lock flight and then down the Heartbreak Hill to Hassell Green where I will be past all the upcoming winter lock closures. then I can catch my breath, re-group and carry on a little bit each day.

I too fervently hope I am hired for one of those jobs. If not, the search will continue and I will register with the Job Centre in Nantwich. I am excited to begin this new part of my life and get things sorted.

Stay warm and dry,

Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Steve,

Many thanks for sharing that about Overwater and the possible cut in bus services. Good to know and thanks for the offer of help wit some of the locks. I promise to keep it in mind,

Jaq

Pip and Mick said...

Hi Jaq,
We'll be down on the Shroppie after the New Year, so if we can be of any assistance with locks let us know. Suspect we'll head up to Chester before heading southwards.
Good luck with dodging the stoppages on your way to Nantwich.
Pip NB Oleanna

Anonymous said...

Here in Pullman we had a very traditional turkey day ... two days in a row with different guests ... second round got the yummy left overs. I do hope your job searching turns out splendidly and you get through winter in cozy comfort.
Karen

Jane Fritz said...

Hi Jaq,

Happy Thanksgiving to you as well! I had four friends over for dinner here in the yurt -- my first Thanksgiving celebration in my Tiny Home. It was very special!

My friends, Pastor Andy Kenally and his wife Shawna, were piloting a couple different narrow boats while they were on sabbatical. He told me that it was hard work. Narrow boats are not for sissies! I'm paraphrasing, of course. He said, and I agree, that you are amazing to tackle this all by yourself. Strong you are, woman!

Sending lots of love from North Idaho,
Jane

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Mick and Pip,

Thank for the offer of help with locks. I appreciate it. I will definitely keep an eye for your boat. It would be great to meet up in person.

Jaq

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Jane,

Lovely to hear from you! I can see you in your lovely round home sipping tea and chatting to the kitties. so your dinner guests had experience with narrow boats! What a small world. there are things that can go wrong and inattention can cost you a limb or your life at locks and swing bridges, and even in a marina if one comes home from the pub too drunk to get in the boat. Many bodies have been fetched from the cut over the years, of marina moorers who were too drunk to swim. It is a slow paced lifestyle but like all things in life it requires one's undivided attention when dong anything with or on the boat.

Love Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Karen,

So pleased to hear you and Jim had a two lovely Turkey Day dinners! No turkey for me; too expensive. A small turkey to feed 6-8 costs over $20.00 here! I was alone anyway so there was no point in cooking a feast for just myself.

Today is holiday baking day. Getting things sorted to head out again onto the cut. It's good to know you are holding me close in your thoughts.

Love Jaq xxx

ertuck said...

Hi Jackie I look forward to your blog and how courageous you are in continuing to cruise and live on Valerie, very well done indeed and keep up the very human and informative postings please as we are all interested in your travels and travails..
Long may you cruise..
Eric

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Thank you Eric for following along on my journey and for your encouragement.

Jaq

Anonymous said...

It was a turkey casserole because as you know turkeys are not available or really expensive over here. And yes. Running everywhere. X

Carol Ives said...

I once stayed with a friend of a friend in Bollington in one of the small cottages. They are really cute little places with huge kitchens, small living rooms with massive inglenook fireplaces. They have communal gardens at the back some with the original commmunal outdoor toilets!!! Also Nantwich was the place I first Les, it wasn’t far from my then home in Crewe. I came bearing cake, friend for life!!! Lol

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs