Thursday 18 July 2019


Today's Canal - Peak Forest

We had moored overnight just a short distance from the Marple Aqueduct and the flight of sixteen locks.

As soon as we set off we passed under Occupation Bridge and then entered a narrow cutting. When the canal was originally built this was Rose Hill Tunnel and the bridge was at the northern entrance to provide the local farmer access across the canal from one field to another. However, unlike the other two tunnels on this canal, Rose Hill had a history of problems and in the second half of the nineteenth century there was a major roof collapse. It was then decided, rather than attempt a repair, to open out the tunnel into the narrow cutting we have today.

The main new feature of the aqueduct that we were looking at today was the new offside railing. It took a number of years to obtain agreement from planners, heritage experts and many others, following a risk assessment. Although access had been blocked from either end, it seems that there were too many reports of people getting off a boat to walk along.

he aqueduct is both a Grade 1 Listed and a Scheduled Ancient Monument so there were plenty of debates about a suitable structure. To avoid making unnecessary changes to the stonework, each of the sloping bars is fixed into existing concrete on the inside of the stones. The vertical bars are a secondary fixing and only intermediate holes were made into the coping stones.

Shortly after traversing the aqueduct we arrived at the first of the Marple Locks. The initial section is very much in woodland and at tines there are impressive views down the steep hillside.

A permanent lock keeper arrived after we had worked the first few locks and was both helpful and chatty. He was walking down to the maintenance yard below in search of some spare clay for a repair that contractors were doing at Lock 11.

It was this lock that had to be completely rebuilt over the last winter following a major movement in the walls. The previous year the next to top lock had also had similar work so the flight had been closed for most of two years, affecting especially the option of the Cheshire Ring.

The field and wall opposite the lock appear to have been used for equipment and material access - it is just possible to see where the wall has been rebuilt and the grass is just beginning to cover the land beyond.

The problem today was that the occupier of the  property alongside the lock had complained that his garden was being flooded by canal water. As the lock walls have just been rebuilt it was though unlikely that they were the sources but it was proving difficult to work out what was happening so a series of bore holes were being dug to trace the source, possible from the pound above.

We were joined by two volunteer lock keepers for the last two locks. They have recently moved to a house near to the junction and just started as volunteers.

At the junction (just above the top lock in the previous picture, we turned and reversed back through the towpath bridge to the service point just the other side. Fortunately we did not need the water point as there was congested competition for that facility (and it was reported to be very slow) but there was enough room for us to access the elsan drain. W also needed to remove some more rubbish from the prop which had started to distract us in the top few pounds of the flight.

Those task completed we went back under the bridge and moored for (late) lunch just around the corner. Despite being signed as an official mooring we were disappointed not to be able to get at all close to the bank. Our jumping skills were tested once again.

After lunch we cruised along the Upper Peak Forest, which was constructed on the side of a hill - it is a real tribute to the engineering skills of that time that it remains viable today. We had numerous views of the hills across the valley. The immediate canal side is again very green.

There are three lift and one swing bridge to be operated along this section. We were fortunate at the first to arrive just as another boat ahead of us had opened up. This one has a multi-wind mechanism and can be quite tiring to work!

This meant that we were first to arrive at the next lock which Mike was not looking forward to as he recalled that six years ago this was especially difficult to open. Imagine his surprise when  he saw this - an automated control panel. Not only touch button but also very speedy. After letting both boats through, closing the bridge he turned to walk gto our boat when he spotted another boat just arriving that he had not spotted on its way. Conscience dictated that he re-opened the bridge for them so that now we were in a convoy of three.

The next bridge was the swing bridge which look as if it was reasonably easy to open but now we were in the middle of the convoy so that at the fourth bridge we again ushered through and into the front of the line. This meant that we would arrive at Bugsworth first!)

As we arrived at New Mills we passed the famous Swizzles Matlow sweet factory where they make lover 300 different varieties, including Love Hearts and Refreshers. The company began in 1928 in London but the impact of the Blitz led them to relocating here into a former textile mill. It was here that the wicks for miners lamps were made. If passers by did not already know what was made in these buildings, their noses would soon work it out!

One of the boats moored at the marina just after the next bridge inevitably brings a smile. The legend on the side says Trotters Independent  : New York - Paris - Peak Forest. However, once the giggle dies away, the question has to be Why?

We continued along the rest of the canal until at Whaley Bridge Junction we turned left for the short distance to Bugsworth Basin. We were concerned about whether there would be room, despite being rather substantial, as we had not passed an alternative for some distance (all the places marked on our guide were already taken) Fortunately there was plenty still available even if the mooring we chose was rather shallow and we have a defensive most (ie a gap between us and the bank) Several more boats arrived after us, in addition to the bridge convoy and by the time everyone was tied up for the night not much room was left.

Christine took a look around the extensive basin - some pics.

An information panel indicated that the main traffic out of Bugworth was limestone from nearby quarries and that in 1808 over 2000 boat loads were manually filled. The journey from here to Manchester took 10 hours, through 34 locks but this was a major improvement in speed and f reliability compared with what was previously possible.

8.0 Miles - 16 Locks

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