Tuesday 23 July 2019

Westport Lake

Today' Canals - Macclesfield, Trent and Mersey

We were warned that today would be the start of a very hot spell and indeed it started as it meant to go on.

There was a wonderful blue sky but a gentle breeze all morning kept us more than comfortable.

Christine had been intrigued both last night and this morning by small groups of cattle that sought shade and water alongside the canal. However, last night they made off before she could take a photo. Mike spotted these first thing but they were either too shy or just liked turning their rear end towards onlookers!

Off we set - the cruise from here to the end of the canal is very pleasant and there are numerous bridges to keep the steerer from nodding off. Alongside bridge 85 we spotted this cottage with unusual chimneys protruding over the towpath hedge.

Ramsdell Hall is set back from the canal just enough to present a wide front. It was built around 1750 and has been a family home ever since - although for various reasons it has changed families several times. It was recently on the market for £2 million so perhaps it has yet another family there now.

Oh look, another group of cattle that know how to pose properly.

There is a swing bridge at Scholar Green but it is normally left open. It does not look as if it has much use - the path on the offside is well overgrown.

This milestone marks 26 miles from Marple Junction and is just 'a but' above the Hall Green Stop Lock which was originally the end of the Macclesfield. Hence, the canal is often described as being 26 and a bit miles in length.

However, what was originally the Hall Green Branch of the Trent and Mersey continues for over a mile until it connects in at Hardings Wood.

Near the junction we spotted a place to moor which is only a short walk to a nearby supermarket so we rapidly pulled in - not a spot on any of the guides but well worth knowing about!

We walked to Tesco and back by which time lunch was the agenda! We were not keen to hang about too much as we know that the moorings at Westport Lake can easily get over subscribed late in the day.

Oh look, there is the junction with the Trent and Mersey. We arrived at the north end of Harecastle Tunnel shortly after the junction, expecting to have a wait. However, as we arrived at the waiting point another boat was just being ushered into the tunnel and the keeper looked across from the opposite bank (where they have the tunnel office), took our details, made sure that light and horn were working and that the steerer was wearing lifejacket and we were off with barely time to draw breath! Hence no photos from that end.

About 37 minutes later (the boat in front was a bit slow so we had to run on tick over for part of the journey)  and we emerged safely at the other end.

Our projected night mooring was busy but there was plenty of space - we pulled into a gap left by a boat just pulling out. We also noticed that nb Cyan was also moored, just a little closer to the tunnel. Later, after a rest in the heat and a visit to the elsan point, we managed to find  the energy to walk back and chat to Jennifer and John, who have just come down from the Caldon where (shh! don't tell anyone) they managed to donate a front button to one of the locks. They are heading into the dark depths of the tunnel tomorrow for the first time. We also extolled the benefits of making the trip to Liverpool and also that our experience of the Ribble Link was nothing like as hairy as some recent You Tube contributions have tried to make out.

To make up for the lack of afternoon photos, Christine took a post six o'clock walk around the lakes. She reports that there were plenty of birds around the lake, not just the menacing type, but - worryingly - lots of rats. The obsessive feeding of birds around water does have unfortunate side effects, but no-one ever seems to believe the warnings.

Oh look, there's a reminder of the past. Who was he?

7.7 Miles - 1 Lock

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