Round t' North

We’ve just been all round the North with essential coal supplies for those hardy folks in the far-off frozen wastes of Cheshire and beyond. It was a late start from the yard so we only got as far as Oxley Moor, which meant a pint or three with Orph in the club there. I viewed this as a kind of limbering-up exercise for the rest of the trip.


The following day, we were joined by Peter Baldwin, the skipper of an old Grand Union boat, who came out on the pretext of helping us down the locks from Gailey, but actually wanted to experience the joy of driving an up-to-date, sporty, sleek and stylish vessel from the famous “Josher” stable. This was obviously an eye-opening experience for him, having only been used to the lumpen wallowing of an ex-Grand Union skip. Undaunted by the torrential rain, he declined to vacate the tiller, which put me in mind of that other great hogger of the steering-stick, Nicholas Hill. Peters' help was appreciated by us though, so we waived our usual fee and charged him nothing at all for the privilege, and off he went in his own personal Nirvana. (Nice cars, those Nirvanas).

We ended up that night at Weston, the home of Ian Braine’s maintenance fleet, having passed though the dredging works at Great Haywood junction. This work in progress seems a little odd to me, as this junction and its immediate environs has always seemed to be one of the deeper parts of the Trent & Mersey Canal. Don’t get me wrong, the whole canal needs dredging, but there are plenty of worse lengths than the one being worked on. I wonder what the deciding criteria was. I can only surmise that CRT have had complaints from boaters who have been hitting the water-logged, sunken tree-trunks of which there were a few in the area. These could, (and should) have been removed individually, and the dredging team better employed elsewhere. Actually, the tree-trunks should not have been left there in the first place.


Up in Stoke-on-Trent, we noticed a subtle change to the building on the off-side above Twyford Lock. Somebody has transformed what was quite a pleasing looking derelict building into a flat-roofed ugly building. Very little has actually changed, but the difference is quite severe. Oh well, at least it is being used again.


The Macclesfield Canal is always a pleasure. We keep our regular customers stocked up with coal along this and the Upper Peak Forest Canal by making deliveries three or four times a year; we’ve had some of these customers for twenty years! 

The one place that we really miss on the “Macc” is The Globe, a now closed pub over the railway line below Mow Cop. We had some great times in there, including a memorable Christmas with John and June Anderson. Christmas Eve ended with an almighty splash as Mr Anderson fell in the cut - he blamed the dog (the smallest Yorkshire Terrier in the world) for pulling him in. 

There are, however, some fine pubs still around along here, The Rising Sun at Scholar Green for one, and The Queens Head in Hightown, Congleton for another.


Talking of pubs, the return down the “Macc”, left at Hardings Wood Junction, and down the Cheshire Locks gets us to Malkins Bank just above Wheelock. This is the home of Pam and Malcolm, the mainstays of the popular band “Steamhead”. Malcolm generally plays banjo whilst Pam is a dab hand on the tea-chest bass. Fantastic! They took us to ‘The Beer Emporium”, a micro-pub in Sandbach, which is a fine establishment, well worth finding. Needless to say, the beer was excellent. Click on the picture to visit their website.

A noticeable feature of our recent trip was the scale of tree cutting that has taken place. As I saw written somewhere else, it almost makes the canal fit for purpose! Lets hope that this standard will be maintained. © John Jackson 2014