Tuesday:  Haldean Hall

I had just sat down around midday, after two hours or so intense spring cleaning while Nick was still scrubbing the roof. A chap walks by and comments on the division of labour! Huh! Since then I’ve sorted the bedding, out airing in the sun, had a further scrub around nether regions of bathroom, and I've cooked lunch, thereby cutting out the hassle of our main meal tonight. Meanwhile, Nick has scrubbed the roof and still has to do the cratch cover which is particularly disgusting, particularly after creamy deposits from our transit on the Anderton Lift added to the green grunge stuck to it over last summer and trebly worse after the wet April.

Anderton, the cold and the damp seem a lifetime away today, as we bask in our second day of sun in one of our favourite spots on the Macc, up on an embankment. In the field below are cows with baby calves, and a couple of locals escorted a new mum with her newly born on spindly legs, over the pretty stone bridge ahead and down away into a field just now. It was good to catch up with 60’s Hippy Gran, Annie, who has a mooring here and we learn that her boat is on the market because her mum’s health is failing and she is going land-side to look after her, as opposed to putting her in care. So if any one is interesred in taking up this lifestyle on an idyllic mooring in Cheshire, we can put you in touch.

On Sunday we travelled along by the lovely woods where I had walked with Elanor the previous week, then through the dire chemical works and  then parallel with the A550 and finally on up the small flight of locks into Middlewich. Then on to within a mile or so of Wheelock. We were at the bottom of the flight, which climbs up away from the Cheshire Plain, before eight yesterday and slowly laboured up Heartache Hill  with your truly, mostly tho’ not completely, on the helm, valiantly holding the boat from pulling back, then careering forward in each of the 28 locks! Aagh! I was so exhausted, quite unable to appreciate this beautiful mooring. I was too exhausted even to haul myself into the galley (it was Nick’s responsibility for the excessively heavy day – I had asked to stop at one of the few attractive stopping points on the climb) but he was anxious to see the job done. He took over and very good it was!.

 

. . . . . . and as the sun starts to set, a very tired Nick is back for the n’th time on the task started early afternoon – that is the scrubbing down of the cratch cover, a Herculean effort and the final fifth is taking longer than the first,  the entire effort having taken dozens of buckets of water from the canal. My mum would definitely award him a putty medal or might stretch to a bronze or silver!


 

Thursday: SW of Bollington

So, we didn’t travel on Tuesday at all and Nick was even up early on Wednesday scrubbing the last evil gunge off the cratch cover. It is now folded neatly on the roof. So, yesterday we travelled on into Congleton where we walked into town for provisions and caught the bus back up to the canal. The weather still amazing and we only went a tad further to a beautifully open point a few miles short of the Bosley Flight where you see the hills rising to the north west, while to the east, way below, in the Dane Valley the trains travel over a handsome viaduct while all around are woods and fields, It really is a lovely spot and in the evening we walked awhile in cool woodland below the canal under the aqueduct.

It was only at eleven or so as we approached the top of the Bosley Flight and I do believe I have a quite unpleasant allergic reaction. Is it all that wonderful hawthorn blossom, I’ve been bleating on about with enthusiasm or have I been suddenly struck with hay fever – to keep Nick company? He took his first tablet today.

As we motor into Macclesfield we note that the towpath has been closed, just as it was five years ago when we picked up some walkers. But further along we see some contractors doing some handsome stone buttresses –
great to see some builders can still create beautiful stuff in
the old style.

We are presently moored just south of Bollington, weathering a storm of blossom and seed as we came in to land. Just such a beautiful spot! Shame I feel rough.
Meanwhile Nick has shelled out on a new brass tiller handle and is fixing a crazy spiral handle that was once the stem of an ivy tree.
Quirky? Yes! Suited to purpose? I’m not at all sure!
And isn’t an over-weathered stickman quirky enough?


Friday: Higher Poynton and onwards towards Marple

It was not an allergic reaction – it was a heady summer cold and thank goodness I had Night Nurse on board to put me out last night. When I surfaced this morning (that stuff really knocks me out) there was no heat haze or morning mist but a fresh breeze, along with a blue sky. And I was feeling somewhat better.
We stopped briefly at Bollington to visit the excellent butcher there and gently motored on, We are now at Higher Poynton where we once spent a miserable few weeks with no engine on our first winter out.

This time we’ve planned it beautifully for rhododendron time. We moored for lunch opposite a spinney with fresh lime-green oaks sporting young leaves, with silver birch creating a green lace-work against a blue sky and .... stands of rhododendron. Magic!

And now we are moored a mile or so short of Marple with Marple Ridge ahead of us. We stopped to collect bread from the ‘best ever’ baker in High Lane and it has not disappointed. Across the way, is the emerald green, steeply sloping Lymme Park with cattle and deer. On the tow path alongside, the hawthorn blossom hangs heavy.

We have had the A-frame holding the cratch (and incidentally my washing line) down for the third day. Last year it didn’t come down at all, telling you what a disappointing summer it was, apart from a wonderful April while we were still in Hungerford. I can remember that Simon, Nick’s son, said our web site dealt with weather after location. It is true that, living on board the weather tends to dictate our activities and mood, as well as navigation. And this is what I will miss most when we go land-side. Nature is always right on our doorstep, at the moment in all its splendour. What I won’t miss is anxst about washing, loos which tend to get smelly and need pumping out, washing up in a mini sink, struggling on my knees in corners and crannies, the cold, and no TV. Though I have learned to appreciate Radio 3 and 4, and though I have read and read, I still would like the option of tuning in to a good TV drama or documentary now and then. What else will I miss? The watery ripples on the roof of the boat, particularly while I wake up; the canal-side towns which don’t boast enormous supermarkets; and last, but not least, the friendship and camaraderie on the cut.


Thursday 31st : Marple

Quite a lot has gone on since I last wrote of our progress. First, the magical late Spring, early Summer weather has gone. Along with it the lilac, roses, laburnum, hawthorn blossom, and the stunning hazy peaks in this beautiful part of the country.
Mary was somewhat astonished to see me at Marple Meeting on Sunday, which turned out to be a surprisingly large gathering with 20+ present, which is about all the room can take.  A comfortable hour of quiet, followed by a few warm reunions – it really is striking how much I feel as though I’m coming home, although I attended here for just 20 weeks or so in the winter of 2008/9.

On Monday Nick nipped off down to Newbury for ‘business’ and left me in charge of Gloriana. On Monday I managed to get a fair bit of the cratch painted, particularly the bare wood which was crying out for attention and I even carried on in the early hours of Tuesday. Mary came at tea time and took me up to the heights of Mellor – just another beautiful village in this part of the world. From the church which dominates the landscape you look over hills, valleys, fields with sheep and horses, towards the towering buildings of central Manchester way to the northwest. The church, mostly Victorian, is particularly lovely, a mixture of plain with some lovely stained glass, old and modern, a beautiful bronze mother and child and some exquisite needlework. In recent years archaeologists have unearthed evidence of a Stone Age village around the hill and the findings (which are continuing) are presented. Back on the boat we enjoyed a stir-fry and a sad, summer jelly (marginally set!)

Next morn I was up betimes washing up, and ‘doing morning things’ in the bathroom. Then I cuddled back into bed until, an hour or so later i was aware of a drip, drip – huh, a tap left dripping. When eventually I launched myself forth ‘twas the loo which was dripping onto the bathroom floor! Panic and language unmentionable – I felt under the seat of the loo, found a tap and turned it, only to make the flow worse....find my phone.. phone ... where? (more indescribable language) Where? Where? Got it and Nick answers, thank the Lord! Answer; turn the tap in the opposite direction and .... immediate crisis over, that is,  except I have a totally full tank (thank goodness it was recently emptied or this situation would be a whole lot nastier! Slowly calm down and assess the situation. Do you know that when you haven’t a loo situated conveniently, you always need it – so I locked up, walked to the sanitary station, then down to town where I had a calming coffee (a reward for the trauma) and then availed myself of a most civilized Costa loo before returning to the boat and considering my options. So, I visited the launderette and sorted the sheets and towels and rang Mary who soon arrived to take me away from the ‘issues’ aboard. So, we enjoyed the last day of hawthorn loveliness, sitting in her garden looking at the blossom, cream and pink, and across fields to the viaduct and beyond, the aqueduct. There was a Friends Meeting in the afternoon and after further garden sitting with a welcome glass of Rose Cava, sallied forth to the Norfolk Arms for supper before heading into Stockport to pick Nick up.


Saturday 2nd Bugsworth Basin

We are planning a fire tonight; that’s how miserable it is! In spite of the dull, overclouded conditions coming along, the Peak Forest Canal is still stunning; the towering Mellor Moor (1000ft) on our left with higher, exceedingly misty heights beyond. There were stands of yellow flag at intervals along the way and the cooler weather means the hawthorn blossom is still stunning, the breeze occasionally sending it whirling like confetti. On the hillsides the rhododendron is coming into flower and there are briar roses in bloom. There are still 60+ tedious turns of the windlass to open the lift bridge at Woodend. We stopped short of Disley and I walked up to the centre to find another new artisan baker who has set up there. A blackboard by the road advertises what bread is ready when, none of it before midday. But the bread is delicious! And the chocolate brownies! I have made one loaf since returning to Gloriana, having found a sour dough recipe that takes six, rather than 10 days to prepare. However it doesn’t seem so suited to boat life where I need to bake every second or third day and  loses its potency. It may be that the hot weather ‘overcooked’ it – so it’s back to the drawing board for bread on board. Meanwhile, we’ve enough slices ready for toast for the next 2 weeks in the freezer section of the fridge. And who cares when we’re in the ‘Mecca’ of artisan bakeries, Higher Poynton and now Disley!

We walked up into new Mills this morning, intending to do the Millenium Walk, missing the smell from the sweetie factory – they must have a long Diamond Jubilee break. It is good to see that New Mills is looking quite prosperous with some fresh shops and a number of trendy art galleries though it’s sad to see the organic shop and the greengrocer have gone. We bought a few bits from the one greengrocery stall set up in the tiny market place and it was great to see the owner greeting customers by name and even offering to deliver bags home for elderly shoppers. When it came to actually climb down into the gorge to do the walk we changed our mind because of the dull weather and Nick’s condition - he had forgotten to take his hayfever tablet and is still trying to shake off a chesty cough.
So now we are in Bugsworth, as busy as we’ve ever seen it for a while, with a hotel boat doing its changeover day and at least a dozen other boats. We’ve even managed to get our favourite mooring (where we originally met Rick and Wendy).