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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 – Day 33

Posted by indigodream on 29 October, 2014

Rewind to Friday 5th September

Westport Lake to Congleton

Lovely morning at Longport Lake..

Lovely morning at Longport Lake..

We had a tentative plan to get in the car first thing and visit the Westport pottery museum/gallery that we passed yesterday. But instead we decided to start the day with a car shuffle and get on up to the Harecastle Tunnel, which can sometimes be a boating bottleneck.

It was a lovely morning, so while Richard did the car shuffle I took the hounds for a walk round the lake. They were still weary after yesterday’s adventures, so yappy dogs, vexatious bottom-sniffers and assorted wildfowl were left in peace. We walked right the way round the lake – I was afraid it might be a bit too far for Ollie, but he was in good form and seemed to enjoy it tremendously.

We got to the far end of our walk just as Richard appeared on his bike – good timing – and set off from our mooring just after 11am.

We were pleased there were no boats at the Harecastle Tunnel portal – Richard likes being first in the queue to get through! I was surprised that the water wasn’t its trademark orange (the result of iron sediments from years of mining) The tunnel-keeper confirmed what I suspected – the orange sediment settles overnight and is gradually stirred up by passing boats during the day.

We're now on the Macclesfield Canal, crossing over the Trent and Mersey - bye for now :-)

We’re now on the Macclesfield Canal, crossing over the Trent and Mersey – bye for now 🙂

A convoy had just started through at the far end, so we had a bit of a wait, enough time for the hounds to have a bimble and for us to have a chat with the tunnel keeper. As well as a general gossip, the keeper gave us a safety briefing and safety leaflet – all new since the terrible accident that killed a boater in May. He also gave Richard a very handy map showing the route over the top of Harecastle Tunnel, made the cycling much easier!

We observed a stream of boats coming out from the tunnel, accompanied by a cloud of diesel fumes – this is one reason why it’s so much nicer to be at the head of the convoy! The tunnel keeper ran the fans for a brief while, then he let us through. We were followed in by just one other boat, though when we got to the far end (which didn’t take very long with Richard at the helm), there were a lot of boats queuing to come through.

Now we were back on some very familiar territory – our old share boat, nb Dragonfly was moored at Heritage Wharf on the Macclesfield Canal and she spent a LOT of time on this stretch, especially as most of our co-owners just cruised the Caldon Canal (we were a bit more adventurous and still remember the fuss that our passage of the Standedge Tunnel caused, even though Dragonfly was totally unhurt!).

We turned left at the top of Heartbreak Hill (the Cheshire Locks) onto the Macclesfield Canal and then took the sharp right turn over the aqueduct and said “au revoir” to the  Trent and Mersey Canal. We were soon at Hall Green, a 1′ stop lock and the last lock that we’d see for a long while. We stopped for water here and mused on what to do next. Richard had left the car at Harecastle but we decided to do the shuffle a bit later so that he could enjoy another cruise on what used to be our home ground.

The first of many fine stone bridges on the Maddlesfield canal..

The first of many fine stone bridges on the Macclesfield canal..

We enjoyed a tranquil cruise to just outside Congleton, where Richard cycled back to the car and I moved on in search of a mooring. It’s always tricky in these circumstances – I wasn’t sure how far I could move in towards town and still find a mooring place. I think I bottled out a little too soon when I snaffled the last mooring rings right by Dog Lane Aqueduct. It was a good enough spot, though I found out later that there was plenty of space further along (and nearer to a decent pub). Never mind, I moored up and took the hounds for a stroll – our job was to find a suitable parking space for Richard. We found a spot on a nearby road just as he drove past – more good timing.

We seem to have lost some photos here which is a shame as the route back to Stoke across the top of the Harecastle Tunnel goes through a nice park.

The boaters on the moorings were a chatty bunch, apart from one chap, who kept walking past Indigo Dream and scowling at my back ropes. I checked and re-checked them but couldn’t see any reason for his disapproval – it was quite disconcerting! We also met a chatty group of lads walking a few lurchers – they obviously used them for hunting and their dogs probably don’t get the standard of care that I’d offer. They were very interested in the greyhounds – we were quick to tell them that they were old and slow (sorry Archie!) and neutered – can’t be too careful with dog thefts on the rise at the moment!

In due time, we wandered off to find a pub – the Queen’s Head, recommended by a local boater, was quite a walk from the mooring. What surprise us was that we were moored high above the road, but the time we got a little way along, the canal was in a deep cutting and we had quite a climb up some steep steps to get to the pub. This was very hard on Ollie and I hoped that the pub would be halfway decent. The pub is dog-friendly but it was very full inside, so we found a spot on their quiet back terrace. The food was very good here and they didn’t charge us for the hound sausages, so it got a Henry seal of approval.

We searched for an alternative route back to the boat to avoid the steep steps, but it involved some complicated navigation around the back streets of Congleton. We just had to take it slow down the steps, making sure that Ollie didn’t slip or slide. We came across a hire boat moored at the bottom – we’d met them earlier in the day with their yappy out-of-control little dogs. Henry and Archie were exemplary, despite much provocation (we don’t worry about Ollie, though he can be quite assertive in a quiet way).

It was a bit of a trek back to the boat, but it was another lovely evening. We got back just before dark and settled down for the night – I’m writing this just as the clocks changed back and light evenings are already a distant memory….

Photoblog:

Ollie enjoying a bimble around Longport Lake :-)

Ollie enjoying a bimble around Longport Lake 🙂

Halfway through a busy holiday and the hounds are too tired to bother the local wildfowl...

Halfway through a busy holiday and the hounds are too tired to bother the local wildfowl…

Harecastle Tunnel Portal (South) - the Trent and Mersey is an interesting canal...

Harecastle Tunnel Portal (South) – the Trent and Mersey has some interesting features…

The convoy comes into sight - this is a very straight, very dark tunnel - although these boats look close, it took an age for them to emerge :-)

The convoy comes into sight – this is a very straight, very dark tunnel – although these boats look close, it took an age for them to emerge 🙂

Archie always forgets to pace himself - he's all go at the start of the holiday but as the days weear on we got less "Olympic Looking" and more "Olympic Snoozing" :-)

Archie always forgets to pace himself – he’s all go at the start of the holiday but as the days wore  on we got less “Olympic Looking” and more “Olympic Snoozing” 🙂

This is a newly restored swingbridge - judging by the multile fendser I assume that nb Rosie just beyond has been clouted a few times :-p

This is a newly restored swingbridge – judging by the multiple fenders I assume that people look at it too closely and so nb Rosie just beyond has been clouted a few times :-p

The sign for the pub, crudely daubed on every stone bridge nearby, really made me cross - it's grafffiti!

The sign for the pub, crudely daubed on every stone bridge nearby, really made me cross – it’s graffiti on a lovely bit of stonework!

Heritage Marina - our old home :-)

Heritage Marina – our old home 🙂

 

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