As Scottish poet Robbie Burns wrote, "the best laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft a-gley." In other words the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. That's what happened with me and my plans to come off the Macclesfield canal and quickly work my way down the Trent & Mersey's Heartbreak Hill to Hassell Green. Another word for it is weather. While I was enjoying the weekend painting course at Bollington Wharf, the weather was conspiring against me. Damn Gina!
Tuesday morning, moored up at the top of Bosley locks, I had a grocery delivery from Ocado. Friends Amy and James Tidy appeared and at 11 am we began moving down the 12 lock flight at Bosley. Hugging them goodbye at the bottom lock, I cruised off through the cold and headed back down towards the beginning of the Macclesfield canal. This is a narrow, shallow canal that winds through some spectacular countryside, passing through the town of Macclesfield which I will be sorry to leave behind. It is a lovely place with good shops and restaurants and small town feel even though it is a market town with a population over 52,000. If you ever find yourself there be sure to have lunch at Silktown Fryer on Castle street. You can go in the left door and order a takeaway or enter the right door and sit down in their cafe which is bright, very clean, and the service is excellent. But the fish and chips are why we are here and they are divine!!! I know it is probably sacrilege to say I am not a fan of Britain's favorite fast food but I always find the fish greasy and the batter claggy. Most chips are just so-so. The Cod as this establishment was encased in the most amazing batter. It was well coated, crispy and brown, but light as a feather and there was not one drop of grease pooling on my plate. The chips were hot, golden and delicious.
Right, back to cruising: I left the top lock at 11 am and arrived at Scholar Green near the stop lock and the water point at 3:48 pm--just as dusk fell. that was five hours of continuous cruising with winds gusts of 30 mph grabbing at the boat. My hand was locked around the tiller like a corpse with rigor mortis. By 3 pm I was shivering with the cold. My down jacket while warm, is not water proof. Five hours of perspiring in it made it damp on the inside. My fingers were numb at the very tips despite wearing Alaskan mittens and I was knackered which always makes the cold worse.
From the bottom of the Bosley flight to Scholar Green is twelve miles and in all of that stretch--not counting boats moored permanently year around--I only saw 15 boats moored up. I was the only boat on the move the entire time. The cut seemed abandoned and empty in the diluted light of a gray day in which the sun came out briefly once I reached Congleton and then teased me through a mast of clouds as it quickly dropped lower in the sky, affording no real warmth. I did stop in the bridge hole at bridge 85 to step inside, have wee, stoke the coal fire and turn the Ebispacher diesel heater on to heat the indoor rads. I was about 45 minutes away from Scholar Green and I wanted the boat toasty warm inside with plenty of hot water. I find stopping in a bridge hole on a very windy day for a quick dip inside is a good way to do it barring any boats following or approaching. The bridge hole keeps the boat from being buffeted about by the wind and allows one to take off cruising again without having to regaining control of the boat.
At my destination I moored up about five feet from the bow of another boat with its bow pointing towards mine. Behind him was the open mooring for the water point. I figured my 125 feet of hose should reach the tap and I felt bad about mooring so close to the other boat but it is winter and needs must. No telly to be had in this cutting so I didn't bother putting up the antennae. Inside I stripped off my outdoor gear, lit a fire under the tea kettle, hung my damp things to dry and climbed into a scalding hot shower to thaw out. Ten minutes later I was nice and warm in clean, dry clothes with a mug of hot cherry and cinnamon tea. Darkness closed around NB Valerie and me.
Thursday arrived and the weather forecast was for even higher winds straight out of the north with very cold temperatures. Neither materialized in this safe little pocket just outside the grip of the Cheshire Gap. Meteorologists use the term Cheshire Gap when referring to the lowlands of the Cheshire Plain, providing as they do a passage between the Clwydian Hills, in Wales on the one hand and the Peak District and South Pennines on the other. (The Macclesfield canal travels along the Eastern edge of this gap, rising 118 feet with the Bosley lock flight to run cheek by jowl with the hills of the Peak district.) Weather systems are often guided down this "gap", penetrating much further inland than elsewhere along the coast of the Irish Sea way off to the west of my location.
|The black arrow marks the Cheshire gap and the tiny pink mark at its leading edge marks my current location.|
|Saturday morning 7 am.|
|Using my Caravan Flow Through Cleaner with a lambs wool on the end to clear the solar panels. The handle holds water sucked up from the bucket through the lambs wool end.|
|Job done! I love this telescoping handled cleaner and my collapsible silicone bucket. Les nearly had a heart attack when he saw the price of the bucket--£11! It has been worth every penny and collapses down to a slim disc easily stowed away.|
|A Canal and river Trust (CRT work barge laden with new lock gates for the work on the Bosley flight just after Christmas.|
|These small blue bargettes are the work horses of CRT. They push and pull larger barges laden with muck, oak lock gates and everything in between all along the cut.|
|The view back down the ramp!|
|The footpath between two houses that leads to the ramp out os sight off to the left. Behind me is Little Moss Lane and the way out to the shops.|
|This trek to the Coop shop is 6/10th of a mile one way and wouldn't you know it but there is also another caution and blockage on the sidewalk ahead!!|
|The Co-op is just beyond, where the car is parked.|
|A brilliant idea! Re-purposing old red phone boxes for other use: this one has a Defibrillator inside.|
|NB Valerie moored beyond the blue boat at Scholar Green. The post in the foreground is the water point. The actual damaged bridge with a caution closure is on around the bend and out of site beyond NBV by 1/10th of a mile.|
I am getting antsy sitting here second guessing the weather. It has snowed all day Saturday and today is Sunday. The snow still falls although now it is small, dry flakes. I have repeated the cleaning of the solar panels, washed clothes, and generally tried to keep things cleared off outside in the hopes I might be able to head off soon before I do end up frozen in here. Below is a screen shot of the Met Office weather forecast for today and next week. It looks as though I could make a break for it once again about Thursday.
I am frustrated and I will admit it--I am frightened--at the thought of traveling down through 36 locks and 44 miles to get to Nantwich. I am constrained by time due to the winter closures of locks on between Red Bull and Hassall Green which take place just after Christmas. Les had years of experience with winter weather on the cut. We were such a good team. I could trust his judgment. If he said, "I Know what the weather service forecast but I think we are safe to go down as far as Wheelock," off we went and I could have the greatest confidence in Les' judgment. I have no confidence in my own judgment. This is my first winter on my own. I don't mind moving in winter but I cannot afford to get iced in somewhere for very long without water and shops. I am fortunate in having many good friends--boaters all--who have offered to help me down these locks. I just need to say "Okay we're setting off on this day," and they will be there for me. I don't want to risk their safety and well being in weather that could put them at risk either because all of them are driving to get to me.
|Here is the route I need to follow. The arrows indicate the direction I am traveling .The red X's mark the water points along the way. There was no way for me to mark the locks.|