Wednesday, 14 September 2016

There and back again

We're killing time on a canal where time killing is no hardship at all. In a couple of days we will hop in a car and go family visiting but, meanwhile we've been to visit the spot where the first great canal builder, James Brindley, served his apprenticeship then turned around and returned to an earlier stopover at Bollington. And, in between, experienced the mother and father of all thunderstorms.
Born in 1716, Brindley was apprenticed to a millwright in Sutton near Macclesfield, to begin a working career that started as a millwright and ended as the master canal engineer. A plaque on the wall of the property that is now a house records the fact but why no official blue plaque I wonder? Forty years after his death, the Gurnet Aqueduct was built to carry the Macclesfield Canal above the river valley there and it's a few steps down from there to the house.
Just as well, as the skies turned black while we were out, thunder rolled and we dived into the local pub for a couple of pints of Timothy Taylor's while the heavens opened before braving the dash back to the boat.
You won't embarrass this nude sunbather in a canalside garden
Today the rain's gone and the sun has shone brightly as we headed back northwards to Bollington. It's simply impossible to believe the change in this pretty little town of gritstone terraces where wine bars and restaurants stand where once were ironmongers and butchers, and executive cars with their personal plates squeeze into parking slots on the cobbled streets that once echoed to the sound of miners and millworkers.
A quiet side street, once the main road through Bollington

Wine bars and restaurants are now the local shops

Bollington's fine cricket ground with grass viewing terraces
Less than a hundred years ago, it was all smoking industry chimneys, now it's 'happy valley' - a bijou commuter spot for Mancunians.
The huge canalside Clarence Mill, one of just two left here
The immensely knowledgeable Tim Boddington at the Discovery Centre in the huge Clarence Mill talked us through some of the town's history: how the ash from its three immense steam engines was ferried by tramway across the canal and piled high on the other side, the wharves along the aqueduct where coal was off-loaded down staithes and carted away in horse drawn wagons, the rebuilding of the aqueduct in stone to stop the sides slipping, the mining that went on all around the area. He was, excuse the pun, a mine of information.
The canal aqueduct: uniquely the sides are built in stone

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