Monday, April 07, 2008

Back on the Macc! – Aqueducts and Embankments

The more observant among you may have noticed last time that, although our narrative left us moored on the edge of Stoke on Trent, the 'Where Zindagi is Now' link showed you that we were in fact already back on the Macclesfield Canal and moored up at Congleton Wharf. You may remember that we were there with Shireen at the end of February, before we made our trip down onto the River Weaver and back.

One of the characteristics of this canal is that it seems to follow the contours like some of the earliest canals and then suddenly 'leap' across a valley on a massive embankment and/or an aqueduct over a road, railway or river. Right there at Congleton Wharf, the canal crosses a busy road on a fine aqueduct and then, about a mile later, crosses a river valley on an enormous embankment, echoed by the railway viaduct (just a few feet higher) a little further down the valley.

One result of this way of building the canal (nearly 200 years ago) is that all the locks are concentrated into one flight of 12, raising the level by 118 feet just as the Pennine foothills draw closer. Here is Zindagi just a few hundred yards from the foot of the locks and you can just see the railings of another aqueduct (over the River Dane) on the left. Here it is from river level!

That climb took us up to about 500 feet above sea level, and the canal stays at this level for the rest of its length, all the time getting closer to the hills, and still with those 'trade mark' turnover bridges (here's another one!) and an increasing number of enormous red-brick mills, mostly converted into use for light industry. This former textile mill is just outside Bollington, and it is interesting to see how very industrial this whole area once was, largely based on the canal.

Just near Macclesfield, we saw a dramatic reminder of the engineering involved in building and maintaining canals. This vast landslip didn't block the canal, but it easily could have done, and the tow path was obviously out of action!

And so, on to Marple Junction, where we joined the Peak Forest Canal just after Marple Wharf, complete with old buildings, seen framed here by yet another turnover bridge.

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