Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Down and nearly out

Looming out of the mist the Gothic ruin of Mow Cop Castle
We are on our final miles of the Macclesfield. Will we be sorry to leave it? Yes. And no.
On the plus side, it offers superb scenery, pleasant towns and the opportunity for fine walks. (Incidentally, given the option, I'd advise tackling it south-to-north as the enticing hills are always ahead of you).
On the minus side, it's shallow, badly needs dredging and, being up in the north west you'll inevitably get more than your fair share of rain. But it's the shallowness that irks and frustrates the most: even normal draughted boats run into problems; we're deep in the water so we were often reduced to less than a crawl.
Some of the bridgeholes are a disgrace – thick with silt and mud. The daft thing is that everyone knows it. Tell them you got stuck at Bridge 20 and local boaters nod knowingly and say: "ah yes, it's a bugger is that one." So why, if everyone knows it, isn't something done? I haven't a clue.
Anyway, rant over. We stopped at the canal's eponymous town (I do like that word). Macclesfield was once one of the biggest weaving towns in the country. It's all gone now of course and though the town sprawls for miles it doesn't offer the casual visitor a lot. The centre is small, lassooed in by a one-way system and has had much of its character smashed out of it in ugly shopping developments. It does have an Aldi though!
Entering the final lock of the handsome Bosley flight
Heading south we reached the only locks on the canal (bar the nominal stop lock at the end). The 12-lock Bosley flight is a handsome construction in hefty stone that drops the canal 120ft in less than a mile. We went down them in 90 minutes, thanks in part to the German hire boaters who'd just come up and, mistakenly but handily for us, left the top gates open behind them.
We moored at the edge of Congleton, second largest town on the canal, and woke up to rain. With no sign of it stopping, we bussed into the town – listening to an entertaining conversation at the bus stop on medical matters between two grannies: 'yes, he had a colonoscopy and a gastroscopy before they operated. And did you know, they glued him closed afterwards.'
Congleton is nice enough. It's seen better days but is trying hard and is a likeable little town. It even has an Aldi - but trying to cross the road to reach it would involve walking 400 yards of safety barrier to the nearest road crossing then 400 yards back. So we didn't. Why do planners assume everyone travels by car?
When the rain finally stopped we dashed (if that's the word) a few miles to a pretty mooring near the National Trust's Little Moreton Hall, which was shut.
Today it wasn't raining, just windy, so we took a walk up Mow Cop, the local hill which boasts a ruined castle at its top. Actually, it's not a real castle but an 18th century summerhouse which has gradually crumbled to Gothic ruin. Easy, in the mist, to imagine bats and vampires around the rocks.
It's a killer to walk let alone run up it in just 6min 50sec
To reach Mow Cop, it's a stiff walk - 1 in 5 and, near the end, 1 in 4 gradients. It took us about 45 minutes. They hold the 'killer mile' run up the same road. The record is just under seven minutes! The view from the top is worth the puffing – even on a misty morning you could see the Welsh hills far away in the west.
Mow Cop is also famous for being the spot where the Primitive Methodists were started at a marathon 14 hour service. It's a wonder anyone had the enthusiasm for Methodism after all that! Near the castle is the Old Man of Mow, a massive jagged rock that, you've guessed, looks a bit like an old man. Apparently the whole of the top of the hill was quarried for rock and the Old Man is all that remains of the old hilltop.
The Old Man of Mow looking rather stony faced
The hilltop also had several coal mines and, seemingly, there is even an old tunnel below it which was part of the transport system to bring the coal down to the canal below.
We walked down via the South Cheshire Way, which goes as far as Grindley Brook on the Llangollen Canal a full 50 miles away. A fabulous sunset tonight rounded off an enjoyable day. Tomorrow will most likely be our last on the Macca. Hopefully it will be a sunny one.
A stunning sunset tonight promises a fine day tomorrow

1 comment: