Tuesday, April 08, 2008
Snow on the Peaks – and Down Again
At Marple Junction, we turned right and started heading south again, as the canal skirted round Marple Ridge towards Whaley Bridge and Bugsworth. Although we had been at the same level (about 500 feet above sea level) since Bosley locks, 16 miles south of here, it was as if we had suddenly climbed higher – we found ourselves looking down valleys and across them to higher hills. We were on the Peak Forest Canal, just on the edges of the Peak District. We came here in 1978, on our second canal holiday, and tackled the whole route from Great Haywood to Whaley Bridge and back in just one week. Ambitious, but we made it – just!
No such punishing schedule for us this time! We left Great Haywood way back at the end of February, though admittedly we have taken many diversions since then. We have not had to battle against the slow speed enforced by the shallowness of the Macclesfield and Peak Forest Canals, but just relax and enjoy it!
We had read in our old edition of Nicholson's Guide that Bugsworth (aka Buxworth) Basin was closed, but a quick check told us that it was now open again. Worth a look, we thought. It certainly is a massive project which has been undertaken by a faithful group of volunteers over 30 years. We have some pictures here, but for more (fascinating) information have a look at their website. Apparently it was one of the largest inland ports on the whole canal system, handling vast amounts of stone and lime, which were then transported by canal all over the country.
The weather forecast over the weekend was for snow in northern England, so it was no real surprise to find a white landscape as we woke on Sunday. It certainly emphasised the fact that we were surrounded by higher hills! We stayed put and enjoyed lunch at the Navigation Inn. Some beautiful canal scenes, crying out to be photographed! More snow fell later in the day, when most of the first layer had melted, so the next morning still presented us with snow-capped hills, before we set out to return to Marple Junction and start down the 214 feet drop in level through 16 locks in just one mile. We normally reckon to cover about 3¾ locks or miles per hour, so potentially this step down could have taken us nearly 4 hours. In the event, it only took us just over 2, as the locks are close enough together that Dave could walk ahead and start the next lock filling while the lock was still emptying where Val was on board Zindagi. A very pleasant flight of locks, in mixed surroundings, with town and country and busy road and rail bridges. We also had some help on the last few, from a friendly cyclist who filled the locks ahead of us, using a large spanner instead of a windlass!
After coming down this flight, we started looking for somewhere to moor for the night, but had to travel on a bit first, crossing the Marple Aqueduct, itself nearly 100 feet above the river Goyt, next to a railway viaduct a little higher. We eventually moored only a few hundred yards from a housing estate, yet in what seemed like a remote piece of countryside.
Dave's morning walk revealed that we were also very close to a local nature reserve, with plenty more rural gaps before we came right into Manchester suburbs. Butterbur plants here are coming into flower, too.
A short run for 1½ hours this afternoon (with two more turnover bridges!) brought us here to Dukinfield Junction, where the Peak Forest Canal joins the Ashton Canal going down into Manchester itself and the Huddersfield Narrow Canal going up into the Pennines. Despite the fact that we are right into the Manchester conurbation, it seems quiet enough, apart from the persistent honking of the Canada geese! We need to stay here for a couple of days to get some 'chores' done, then on up towards Huddersfield, meeting Dave & Julie in Stalybridge on Saturday.