Marple – Lock 15

As I mentioned in the previous post, the Cheshire Ring has a lot of locks – 92 to be precise.
And they come in batches.
We collected our narrowboat near Congleton close to the SW end of Macclesfield, and headed off in an anticlockwise direction.
After a peaceful day cruising we suddenly come upon the Bosley Locks – 12 in a row.
This is where we cut our teeth on the locking process. Not particularly difficult, once one has the hang of the sequence. This entails entering the lock, closing the gates, operating the paddles to let the water in, or out as the case may be, opening the gates and manouevring the boat out. Have a look at The Boater’s Handbook, published by British Waterways which includes very good descriptions with diagrams on the operation of locks.

Lock 66 – First of Heartbreak Hill

After locking up along the Macclesfield, we arrived at the delightful little town of Marple, where we joined the Peak Forest Canal and commenced locking down, heading
towards Manchester. Immediately we encountered the Marple 16. The first picture shows Lock No 15 with another narrowboat busy locking up.
Time for a brief chat with other boaters while helping each other with the operation.
The Marple flight is quite a pleasure, being very well maintained and scenic.
It is close to a touristy town, so there was never a shortage of curious onlookers watching these strange people engaged in this apparently pointless task of taking a
boat from one water level to another!

Lock 65 – Second of Heartbreak Hill

Very soon after that, we arrived at Portland Basin, where the Ashton canal begins it’s route through Manchester itself.
We had been warned that one should should not overnight anywhere in Manchester due to unsavoury types possibly lurking about with mischief on their minds.
Sounds easy, but that meant doing 27 locks in one day! And these locks were somewhat different. Not only were they generally in a bad state of repair, but due to the aforementioned unsavoury types, the mechansms are padlocked to prevent them being tampered with, and the locks and canal drained.
One is provided with a British Waterways key for these, but it does slow the operation down somewhat.
We set off at 0700, and it chose that day to rain.
We made it through the first 18 by lunchtime, stopping for a break at the Piccadilly Basin, where we joined the Rochdale Canal. Only 9 to go we said! But we hadnt reckoned on the Rochdale 9 as they are known.
These are much wider – double the width of those on the Macclesfield. A blessing in a way, as we only needed to open the gate on one side to allow our craft through.
Just as well, as these were incredibly heavy to operate. Not only in poor condition, but there had been a lot of rain recently and the water was flowing over the tops of the gates.
There was no way that Karen could handle the locks, so she had a ‘crash’ course in handling the boat, which she did very well, to her credit.
So we negotiated this section in about 4 hours and finally moored up for the night in Castlewood Junction at about 1800.
We certainly enjoyed our well-earned ale and glass of wine!

Helmsman’s view – locking up

Next followed a few relatively lock free days. We cruised leisurely down the Bridgewater Canal and into the Trent and Mersey where we commenced locking up.
After which the peace was shattered by Heartbreak Hill! A series of 26 locks, in a distance of approximately 6 miles, over which the canal elevates 250ft.
We did take 2 days over this stretch.
And then it was back into the Macclesfield and to Congleton where we returned the boat.

It was still a wonderful trip, as the locks are a part of the charm of the waterways.

And whether negotiating locks or cruising leisurely, there is still nothing better than messing about in boats!

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