Festival Park to Bridge 86 (Little Morton Hall) : 8 miles, 1 lock
To date : 1021 miles, 728 locks
We noticed the boat that came in to moor in front of us had turned around before mooring up so they were facing back towards Etruria Junction. It was a share boat from Aston Marina so Mick went and told them about the problem with the Ivy House lift bridge which we had a closure email saying it wouldn't be open until the 18th. The couple on the boat had intended to cruise down the Caldon and were now revising their plans, not wanting to risk being caught on the other side of the bridge and being unable to return the boat to the next shareholders.
We needed a new gas bottle and on the other side of the canal is a well known place that sells them cheaper than anywhere else. So this morning we reversed back across the very wide section of canal where we were moored..... a bit of a battle in the wind..... and Mick went to get a gas bottle. He got chatting to a fellow walking his little dog who said he'd read the blog. He was about to head out on a six month cruising adventure of his own. Paul, we wish you all the best and hope you enjoy every minute.
We had our last cruise through the potteries, bidding farewell to Wedgewood, Burleigh, Middleport, Longport. It's been one of our favourite places to visit with it being so steeped in fascinating history. How we wish we could wind back time and spend a day wandering the towpaths in the heyday of Stoke. I feel the same way about the Goldfields back home. I'd love to have seen the area in the Goldrush.
Despite our fascination, it's not always pretty. I felt sad to see a pair of geese standing in a pile of broken bottles and rubbish and I felt infuriated to see the lovely historic brick potteries buildings slathered with graffiti. The moorings where we've stopped a couple of times before at Westport Lake were deserted today.
We filled with water at the portal of the Harecastle Tunnel, checking the tunnel light was working and having a cup of coffee while we waited for the tank to fill. The sky was clearing and the sun came out. How lucky are we with the weather at the moment!
The trip through the tunnel was quick and out the other end we stopped for coal at the little wharf just beyond. Then it was a turn off onto the Macclesfield Canal. We moored just after the aqueduct that carries the Macc over the Trent and Mersey below. It was lunchtime. We moved on then, aiming for bridge 86 where planned to moor for the night and visit Little Morton Hall.
There was only one lock for the day - a stop lock of about two feet deep. A big dog came out of the lock house to lie beside the lock and watch us as we went through. Mick gave him a pat and as we closed the lock gate behind us the dog got up and went back inside. As we passed Sherbourne Wharf we saw through the window of the office that they sold cruise guides. We'd been looking for some time for a Pearsons that covers the Macclesfield but have had no luck. We quickly hit reverse and hovered beside their hire boat so I could cross over and buy the book. Perfect.
There was neat concrete edging and rings on the stretch just before bridge 86. There is also lovely iron railing alongside. Unfortunately the wind was quite strong as it was a very exposed stretch of canal. I got off the boat with centre line in hand but the wind just took the boat and I really thought I was going to have to let go of the centre line and let it fall into the canal. Somehow I managed to pull the boat across enough for the stern to come in by hooking the centre rope through one of the rings. Mick jumped off and it took a fair amount of brute force from both of us to get the boat into the bank. We were battling the wind for a good few minutes with the stern on our side of the canal and the bow right across on the other. This was the worst wind we've encountered while out cruising.
We quickly got the boat tied up so we could walk the mile or so across the field to visit the National Trust property recommended to us by Jean and Andy. There was a sign at the gate by the canal showing a straight dotted path from "you are here X" to the property. Simple. Off we went. It started off ok along the path of where the farmers tractor had travelled often. There were stiles to cross and gates to go through, fields to walk across. As we went the muddy conditions got progressively worse until the last section - when we discovered we had to actually go diagonally across a field not straight ahead as the sign had said - that was just a quagmire. It was about ankle deep in mud, water and cow poo. We tried a few spots to cross it and in the end decided there was nothing for it but to do the best we could and cross it. Oh, how I wished I hadn't worn my one decent pair of walking shoes. Never mind.
Little Morton Hall was an absolutely amazing building. We've never seen anything like it. The earliest part of the building was built between 1504 and 1508 for William Moreton, with each successive generation adding to it until about 1610. We thoroughly enjoyed wandering through the rooms and especially the "long hall" that runs the length of the top floor. The building had incredible timberwork.
After we'd waded our way through the cow poo and back to the boat I got out a bucket of water and brush to clean my shoes!