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Great Haywood to New Mills

19th July 2003

7 Days, 79 Miles, 47 Locks

Day Miles Locks From To
1 6 3 Great Haywood Bridge 85, Sandon
2 13 15 Bridge 85, Sandon Festival Park Marina, Eturia
3 8 8 Festival Park Marina, Eturia Endon Bank (Caldon Canal)
4 15 8 Endon Bank (Caldon Canal) Westport Lake
5 12 0 Westport Lake Bridge 61, Buglawton
6 8 13 Bridge 61, Buglawton Bollington
7 17 0 Bollington Forest Vale
8     Forest Vale New Mills
  79 47    


Day 1 (Saturday)

Since we were doing the trip one way only, the first task was to drive up to New Mills in the Peak District and drop off our car, to be positioned ready for the end of our canal trip. From New Mills we went by mini-bus to the Anglo Welsh depot in Great Haywood.

The narrow boat “BURSTON”, a 48 ft four-berth was waiting for us at Great Haywood, with engine running!

nb BURSTON at Great Heywood

We soon had all our gear on board and changed in to shorts and T-shirts as the weather was really quite warm. We were given a 10-minute explanation of the systems by Ken of Anglo Welsh, and then he accompanied us to the first lock, Hoo Mill Lock, a mile or so northwards along the Trent & Mersey canal.

Hoo Mill Lock

It takes a while to get the hang of steering the narrow boat. First of all you tend to make too exaggerated swings with the tiller, when only slight movement is required. Secondly, you have to get used to the fact that the boat pivots in the middle, and if the front end goes right the rear end also goes left! Thirdly, you soon learn that if you go into neutral and stop the propellor, it becomes very difficult to control the front end of the boat. And trying to go backwards....... well!! After Hoo Mill Lock we chugged through Weston village, where we used to live years ago, and on to Salt. Sandon Lock was soon upon us, and after that we decided to tie up for the evening by Bridge 85, with a fine view of Sandon Hall.

Moored near Bridge 85

Day 2 (Sunday)

We had invited Ann, Rog and Thomas to join us on the Monday to do the Caldon Canal, so on day 2 we had to get as far as Etruria to be ready to meet them. Leaving Bridge 85 we travelled north to Aston Lock, near Aston-by-Stone, and then on to the Stone flight of 4 locks. The area gets quite built up after Yard Lock, where there is a small boatyard and the old Joules Brewery building. Leaving the area through the Newcastle Road Lock, we journeyed on to the next locks, the Meaford Flight, south of Barlaston. By early evening we had reached the Festival Park Marina at Etruria, where we moored for the night. This is a really nice area with a Toby Carvery and plenty of facilities required by boaters.

Day 3 (Monday) Caldon Canal to Endon Bank

Ann , Rog and Thomas turned up at the Festival Park Marina early in the morning, and we were soon on our way towards the Caldon Canal. The entrance to the Caldon splits off from the Trent & Mersey Canal below Etruria, and goes past a statue of James Brindley, the builder of the Trent & Mersey.

James Brindley

We soon reached the Etruria Staircase locks, two locks together and the only staircase lock in North Staffordshire. Fortunately we had read enough beforehand to know that the top lock has to be filled up before you enter the bottom lock, so there is sufficient water to lift the boat up in to the top lock. Sue was pleased to have the additional help on the windlass from Rog and Thomas to get us through these locks, whilst Ann watched proceedings from the front of the boat having a dicky knee! We were soon through Planet Lock and cruising along a very pleasant area adjacent to Hanley Park. This was followed by a derelict area of factories and warehouses – it seemed strange to see such magnificent buildings in such a state of repair, as in the South East of England they would be snapped up for “conversions”. But the economies of the Pottery Towns must be poor, and there is obviously no demand yet for these old areas.

Rog, Ann, Thomas, Mick & Sue

Rog and I had to swing in to action at the lock to save 4 ducklings that had been swept over the weir, much to the alarm of the mother duck who was quacking for all her might nearby. Shoes and socks off, we waded into the canal and managed to catch the four errant ducklings and reunite them with the mother duck. The shot off up the cut, never to go near the weir again (hopefully!).We stopped at Milton for lunch in a nearby pub, and Rog left us to cycle back to pick up the car. He was to reposition it at Endon Bank, and then come down the canal to the Stockton Brook locks. We moored up for the night at Endon Bank, and Ann, Rog and Thomas left having had a fine day!

Day 4 (Tuesday)

We wanted to go on the Caldon Canal to Froghall, but decided that there were too many locks and it was too far, so we elected to take the Leek Branch as far as Leek Tunnel. This went through very pretty countryside and had the advantage if their being no locks. The area around Leek Tunnel was particularly “pastoral”, and could have been a scene from a Constable painting.

Sue at Leek Tunnel

Could be Constable country!

After winding the other side of Leek Tunnel, we returned from whence we had come along the Caldon Canal, passed Etruria, and moored for the night by Westport Lake. It was a really hot day and we were both looking forward to a shower. Unfortunately the water pump tripped the fuse box after Sue had had a shower, and we were unable to sort the problem. We called the Anglo Welsh service engineer and he came out to fix it early the next day. Since I could not have a shower I opted for a walk along the canal bank to the Pack Horse Inn in Longton for a cooling pint!

Day 5 (Wednesday)

A short distance north of Westport Lake was the Harecastle Tunnel, 2,926 yards long. There were at one time three Harecastle Tunnels. The first was built by James Brindley in 1777 after 11 years work. Since there was no tow path trough this narrow tunnel, the boatees had to “leg it” on the ceiling of the tunnel whilst the horses were led over the hill to the other side. Thomas Telford completed a second tunnel in 1827 to ease the bottleneck, and it is this one that is in use today. Originally it had a tow path, but this has been removed to make the tunnel wide.

Harecastle Tunnel

Inside the tunnel

The Harecastle Tunnel is “one-way”, and boats go through in convoys. Upon entering the tunnel the wooden doors are closed behind you, to help with the ventilation fans, and you are immediately engulfed by the blackness and the noise of the fans. The only way of seeing where you are is by the halo of light cast by the headlight on the boat on the ceiling of the tunnel. It is cool and dank inside, and for the first 500 yards or so it is difficult to steer the boat in a straight line. You bounce from one wall to the opposite wall in an alarming manner. After a while you get used to it, and manage to keep the boat reasonably straight. It take 45 minutes to go through, and half way there the speck of light that is the exit seems miles away! The other striking feature of the tunnel is the colour of the water at the other end – a murky tomato soup colour – a result of the ironstone strata leaching out.

Exit of Harecastle Tunnel

After leaving the tunnel we soon reached Kidsgrove, and took the left hand channel of the Macclesfield Canal, which then swings to the right over the Trent & Mersey Canal over the Poole Aqueduct. From the Kidsgrove Junction, Marple is some 28 miles and 13 locks.

Left turn takes you over the aqueduct on to the Macclesfield Canal

Looking down from the aqueduct at the locks on the Trent & Mersey Canal below.

Snake bridge near Congleton

We moored for the night at Bridge 61, near Buglawton, and had dinner at the nearby Robin Hood pub. Here we got talking to another boatee, Lee on Mr Dylan, who was a builder who lives on his boat travelling the country. When he runs out of money he stops for a couple of months to work. What a lifestyle!

Day 6 (Thursday)

The weather on Thursday was cooler and it was raining a bit, which was good really as we had 13 locks to pass that day including the 12 locks of the Bosely Flight. The locks took most of the morning, and in the afternoon we were cruising through very pleasant open countryside with lots of wild life, including numerous herons.We moored south of Bollington on Thursday evening.

Day 7 (Friday)

We continued northwards on Friday through pleasant countryside, and past the Stately pile that is “Ramsdell Hall” …. Sights you would not see from the road. We were soon at Marple Junction, where we were greeted by a man walking along the tow path eating Fish & Chips. This was too much. We moored up immediately and Sue went off in search of the Chippy.


Sue at Marple

Tunnel to Marple Locks

Looking down the Marple Flight

Samuel Oldknow's warehouse

After that we went in to the town, and had a look at the locks on the branch of the canal going to Manchester. From Marple Junction we went down the Peak Forrest Canal as far as Whaley Bridge. Not being impressed at all with Whaley Bridge, we returned to Forrest Vale to moor for the evening.

New Mills Marina


End of our first trip

We returned the boat at 9 a.m. on Saturday morning, and spent the rest of the day driving around the Peak District exploring.