Saturday, 12 July 2014

Walking and wandering along the Maccie

We are now back in the outskirts of Macclesfield beside Gurnett. We had a surprisingly peaceful night given we are about 50 metres from a pub. Yesterday was lovely till it stopped being so when we arrived here to moor. But more of that later.

Since the previous post (which only got us as far as Bollington on Monday) we have had a big walk up the Mow Cop – the highest hill around these parts. I think the Northern Walkway in Wellington would give it a run for its money, but even so for two unfit oldies it required a number of stops for breathing regulation. Of course the 9 year old scampered in his usual way … It was a lovely walk through woods, across a meadow (already quite high up), through more woods (muddy) and then through the paddock with young cattle in (very curious but I thought if I ignored them they might turn away before approaching too close). There was no escape route if all went tits up (me, not them as they didn’t have any) as in the next paddock (only approachable over barbed wire above a stone fence) were the BULLS. Anyway, safely through we went up a narrow path and found farm houses, then a village at the top of the hill – the latter was a big surprise as, on our way up, it felt like we were ascending far away from people.
The Old Man of Mow - very imposing and right next to a house!

The big stone called the Old Man of Mow does look like a man – head and shoulders - from some angles; from others it looks like Sam the American Eagle from the Muppets. Imposing though. We wended our way up past farm houses and out on to the village road and asked a chap how to get to the remains of the castle. Immediately we were on the path, we felt again as though we were miles away from civilisation. The juxtaposition shouldn’t surprise me really, as it’s quite common over here, given the population and the age of settlements over centuries. It was extremely windy up on the top (worse than Stout St) and howlingly atmospheric with stunning views out over the countryside in all directions (Cheshire Plain, Wales, and off to the east as well).
The fake castle remains
Balancing in the wind

If we'd known it was a fake we wouldn't have done it ... You can see I am struggling
The castle is an imitation ruin, built in 1754 by a local squire (well, it’s a sure bet he didn’t do it, but a number of his lowly paid labourers quarried the rock at its base, made it into cubes and struggled up to the top of the hill to construct it.) It is imposing and would have made a good redoubt site – impregnable, and particularly good views of where your enemy would be approaching from. Although on second thoughts it would be a helluva climb with the pots of boiling oil!  Apparently it has now become a holy mountain for the Primitive Methodists whose religion was started there back in 1807 by Hugh Bourne, born of a desire for a simpler religion – why not just have no religion, I ask, cut out the middle man, act in a good and kind manner because it’s the right thing to do rather than because you’ll be punished after death if you don’t?

Since then we have been back down to the beginning of the Maccie and turned at the junction with the Trent & Mersey – I made a pig’s ear of it, so thankfully no one was watching …. We moored up (the pig now has a matching set of ears – I seem to have lost the knack of coming gently alongside the towpath and gliding to a stop) not far from there and walked into Kidsgrove to the Tesco’s for a chardonnay, food and soccer ball shop. Strangely enough they had an English soccer ball going cheap … It was good to have an extra carrier in Olek for the groceries, but as this time there were bottles of elderflower cordial (2), chardonnay (2) rose (1), the shopping was particularly heavy. It was probably just as well that we couldn’t find Rose’s Lime cordial! From there we did a short cruise up to just past the stop lock at Hall Green, moored up (better this time, so there is a partly deaf pig somewhere about) at the first mooring past the water point and walked up to have lunch at The Bleeding Wolf pub. Very nice food, and they had angostura bitters which made David’s day as his favourite tipple (alcoholic or non, is lemon, lime and bitters). Back to the boat, fill with water and moved back to the nice moorings near Bridge 86 – the pig is definitely deaf – this time we moored without too much hassle). There was an empty paddock right next to us so Olek and I played kicks with the new ball between thistles and dock. He scampered about and I moved carefully – the ground was full of cattle’s hoof holes. I am not sure how he didn’t twist an ankle but I guess he lands so lightly he doesn’t even dent the surface. I, on the other hand (foot) …

We had a BBQ dinner – we had bought the BBQ and charcoal for when Olek was with us so we had to use it, didn’t we? Prepared the charcoal, and cooked 6 sausages in the time it takes to prepare a dinner party for several people, and sat out on the towpath in the lovely evening sun, drinking rose and, for Olek, lime-ade made by Grammy (juice of 1 lime, half a lemon, 1.5 tsp of sugar stirred in vigorously, top up with water). I got good at making the lime-ade because I had to do it twice – Olek had placed his glass in the place provided in his chair’s armrest and David then folded up and moved said chair …

Yesterday we came back up through Bosley Locks. They are the only locks Olek has done on this trip, but he has now done them three times, so he declared they were his favourite and least favourite, hardest and easiest, … You get the picture. It was a fun game of opposites but I guess you had to be there. Another game we have played on the move is Hangman. He and David had played SpongeBob Squarepants Hangman and I had told Olek that 3 letter words were hardest to guess. He has learned well. But then I am quite tricky too – not for nothing did I play Hangman with classes of 7 year olds back in the 70s. I didn’t realise though that I was in training for being a grandparent!

We moored with great difficulty – not the pig’s ear problem this time – at Gurnett Aqueduct. There are 48 hour moorings here and room for x number of boats. However, yesterday there was room for x – 3 boats. This occurs because inconsiderate boaters want a space between them and the boats in front and behind. Accordingly they leave half a boat length when they moor up, so when the next person arrives and moors they think ‘ooh, better not moor up close to these people’, and they leave half a boat length. And so it goes on. As the moorings fill, people do share rings, but the early arrivals don’t move, so space runs out. We ended up very stressed, tied up (on a curve) very precariously as there were only 2 rings available, no Armco to use the chains on and hard hard ground so no possibility of using pins – David tried hard. In the end we tied the bow and centre rope to one ring between the two and the stern rope to the ring shared with the boat behind. It took us about an hour, much cursing and swearing and moving the boat back and forth trying to work out the best part of the boat to have sticking out from the curve. The first effort took 5 ropes (yes 5) and I wasn’t happy; so we moved back to have the bow sticking out. That involved the aforementioned 3 ropes and left another space for a boat in front which did get used later. We were so stressed that when we went off to find a playing field to make good use of the soccer ball, we left the tiller handle on, the ignition key in … What muppets!

(Sunday morning) We have left the boat at the Macclesfield Canal Centre, and driven Olek home to Scotland. We’ve overnighted with the kids (lovely roast beef dinner courtesy of Tim and equally lovely home made old-fashioned cherry pie and cream courtesy of Marta), and today we will drive to Stalybridge for Sybil’s 70th birthday party, which we understand will have various entertainments. Then we’ll head back to the boat. Tomorrow we have to move the boat to somewhere convenient for Ed to work his magic with a new and smaller alternator. When we have found that place, I think we are both going to wait in the blobbing position!

No comments: