Thursday, 23 May 2013

The Macclesfield Canal

Well as the majority of this post has taken place on the Macclesfield Canal I thought it was only right to credit it as the title.

We've finished off the last stretch of the Trent and Mersey Canal that we’re doing for now, the southern length of it from Kidsgrove will have to wait for a few years until we start heading back down South again.
Came across a couple of new things in the process though, firstly were a stretch of narrow paired locks (about 25 of them along a 6 mile stretch and referred to as Heartbreak Hill) although with a choice of two, one was often empty so speeded things up a bit.
The second new experience was after making the turn onto the Macclesfield Canal that takes you over an aqueduct that crosses the Trent and Mersey Canal that we’d just travelled up. Here’s Nicky just lining up for the Aqueduct and then crossing with the Trent and Mersey Canal in the background.

Walked up to a place called Mow Cop that had a small fort or folly type thing although it wasn’t the best walk with the boys as it was largely by road. We’d also read about the Old Man of Mow and found him hiding a little distance away at the top. Apparently when they quarried the stone from here they left this column of stones that stand about 65’ high. Not necessarily all that clear by the photo, but you might be able to make out a face.
We stopped for about five days at Congleton, right on the embankment with an excellent outlook both to the East and West.
The main reason for stopping here was that we wanted to walk up to The Cloud that is a fell about 2.5 miles away and a 1,000ft up and it was well worth the effort.
I guess this is what you’d call unobstructed views and were in every direction.

Remembered the rug and a flask of coffee this time so stopped a while to enjoy the outlook and then the boys kept watch whilst we posed for the other photo.



Another nice walk was along a disused railway line (Biddulph Line) that's at the end of the embankment that went for about a mile or two towards the town centre or about four miles in the other direction and crosses into Staffordshire I think it was. Well worth checking out if you’re ever in the area.

There are just the thirteen locks on the Macclesfield canal, one that is just a stop lock close to the start of it and only adjusts the water level by a foot or so and the other twelve are bunched together over the course of a mile.

Nicky took us through the first six locks and actually did quite well on one of them, the rest of the time it was like a heavy rock drum solo with all the banging that was going on. Had the, ‘but I was caught by a gust of wind’ excuse and the ‘but it was a tricky access and then had to line it up’ excuse and then a change of tack from defensive to offensive and the ‘well you don’t do any better’ that we all of course no isn’t true . . . .

We’ve done quite well for us, we’ve travelled about fourteen miles in eleven days and are now just moored outside of Macclesfield. This puts us about half way along this canal so maybe the next blog will be a Macclesfield Canal Part II. Have to say that so far though it has been excellent, a nice scenic canal with good walks to be had.

Quick little ‘Cookery Corner’ before I go and aimed at those who like us have tried and failed to get Yorkshire Puddings to rise over the years. Fancied a Toad in the Hole for a change so looked for a recipe on good old t’internet and came across what seems to be an impossible to be successful at pudding mix.

The ingredients are:

1 Egg
82 grams of plain flour
100 ml of milk

Now you break the egg into a bowl. Sprinkle some of the flour onto the egg, mix, and repeat until all the flour's in there. Mix it with a fork though, not a whisk, as it just becomes a stodgy ball. Then gradually add the milk and by the time it’s all in, the mixture is fluid enough to give it a proper whisk, but only for a minute or so until you’ve got a nice even consistency and leave it to stand for an hour or so.

The recipe said to cook it for 25 minutes at gas mark 8, but I found this too long and too hot so I now only do it for about 15 to 20 minutes at gas mark 6. As usual, put the baking tin towards the top of the oven (not too high though as they do rise) with a little bit of oil for about five minutes to heat up before pouring in the batter and away you go.

As they say that the ‘proof is in the pudding’ (sorry for the pun) so here’s a picky of Nicky’s first attempt using my secret formula.

See, even after all these years of training her in the kitchen (taught her everything she knows as she couldn’t cook when I found her) there’s still something else to pass on.

Apologies for those of you who can already turn out good Yorkshire Puddings and I’ve bored you these last few minutes, but there maybe others who like us have struggled in the past. Anyway, if anybody should try this out, let me know how you get on.

And so in signing off,

Day 215 in the Badger Sett Narrowboat - 390 miles and 157 locks further on from when we started.


Wednesday, 8 May 2013

200 Today

200 today, well that’s how many days we’ve lived aboard. When we started out in October we thought well if we can get through a winter aboard then we should be okay. Well here we still are, not a single moment of regret and I can’t even recall having a bad day. The longer evenings are certainly a bonus and gives us more time to juggle travelling versus walking the boys and fitting in the other stuff we want or need to do.
My phone went for a swim the other day, luckily it was okay and still worked as it was in my jean pocket, unfortunately though, I was in my jeans at the time, yes, fell in I did. It was of course Nicky’s fault and I proceeded to tell her why as she just stood there watching me, but found out afterwards that she new it wasn’t her fault cause I didn’t shout loud enough or make more of a fuss about it. (Note to self, have a bigger tantrum when trying to blame her for something in future). No photo of the episode, which is lucky for Nicky as if she’d have taken one whilst I was in there floundering she’d have quickly followed.

As for the River Weaver, well it was the first river we’ve done on Badger Sett although with the dry period we’ve been having the flow was probably less than some canals so didn’t necessarily learn much about river navigation. Mooring is more designated areas than on the canals, but some of those that were there were quite nice with our favourites being at Dutton Locks and Vale Royal. It wouldn’t necessarily be a waterway we’d head back for again, other than to do the Anderton Boat Lift with someone and then stop a few days at the mooring places we’ve mentioned.

A couple of pickies for you, the weir at Dutton locks, us enroute to Vale Royal and a shot of the river near Winsford.



We were all decked out with our lifejackets, including the boys of course.

On our last day on the river they even did a pass by of a flotilla of boats for us, well okay, it wasn’t really for us, but for a navy vessel that had travelled along the Manchester Ship Canal and up the river to Northwich. Shame is though, off all days, the Anderton Boat Lift broke down so some narrow boats that were planning to come down couldn’t make it for the day.


Our mate Bod from Oz was in the UK for a few weeks and popped up to stay with us for one night. Came laden with beer he did and set about getting through them with me playing catch up seeing I’m a bit out of practice. Here he is doing his spell in the bar.

Thing is with these Ozzie blokes, well he’s not really an Ozzie as he’s a brummy that moved to Jersey as a teenager before emigrating to Oz about four years ago so he’s a bit of a geographical mongrel I suppose, but he’s got this fa├žade of being a drinker from sun up to sun down, but it’s this weak stuff and my pee has probably got more alcoholic content so give him something strong (only talking 4.5% mind) and he has to have himself a nana nap later in the evening.

What a lightweight. . . . . . , but good to see him nonetheless.

We’ve left Northwich now having clocked up one day short of seven weeks in the area. Probably stayed longer than we thought we would have, but with Nicky going back home for a week and then our youngest son and girlfriend coming over for a week followed by our eldest son and girlfriend for a week, the problem with our prop shaft followed by a couple of weeks on the River Weaver, time just passes you by. Although we don’t travel much, we put some distance between us and Northwich by travelling a massive 9 hours in three days that took us 15 miles and 9 locks down the Trent and Mersey Canal and into new territory for us as we head for the Macclesfield Canal.

Just had some of the hottest days so far this year, so the boys took the opportunity of having a splash about to cool themselves off.

And finally the one,

 that didn't get away.

And so in signing off,

Day 200 in the Badger Sett Narrowboat - 370 miles and 119 locks further on from when we started.