Our very leisurely progress along the Macclesfield canal has brought us to the small town of Bollington and the scenery along the way just keeps on getting more spectacular. It’s so rare to be in such hilly terrain but this area even gives the Leeds and Liverpool Pennine section a run for it’s money. On a short evening stroll along the tow path we found ourselves peering down onto roads fifty feet or more below us with steep climbs to and from the tow path. The high embankment that carries the waterway towers over rooftops in places and in 1912 the town paid the price of this ambitious construction when the waters breeched and cascaded to the streets below. Building the canal through such terrain was incredibly ambitious and you can only admire the sheer audacity of the engineers and the belief they must have had in themselves. The towering Adelphi and Clarence mills that loom high above the water are further evidence should it be needed of engineering excellence from the early nineteenth century.
The nature of the landscape and the twisting route of the canal through Bollington make it difficult to get a perspective of where the town centre is. We chose our mooring for it’s proximity to a handy boatyard for supplies and because it offered plenty of light and open space for what we wanted to be a two night stay. Being reasonably fit and mobile we never considered how far it might be to amenities like pubs or restaurants but for the poor folks who arrived and moored behind us it became quite an issue.
We were alerted to their arrival by the loud roar of an engine and excited voices which predictably put me in meerkat mode to see what was going on. What I found was a hire boat with five mature people on board trying to moor. They had the prow in about ten feet behind us and one chap managed to step off and attach a mooring hook to the steel Armco which seemed like a perfectly good start. The helmsman then decided to give the boat full power with the tiller hard over to port which had two effects, one desirable, one not. The rear of the boat moved towards the tow path which was great but the whole boat also took off at speed in a forward motion which was inevitable. With their boat now six inches from the back of ours they managed to get a couple of the crew off to desperately pull on ropes. The voices had gone from excited to full on panic mode now. During a brief lull in the bedlam I politely pointed out that we were about to run our engine to top up the batteries and heat up water to which they replied that it would not affect them as they would be out and about exploring. My intention had been to give a subtle hint that they might like to pull back a few feet but it passed them by.
The gentleman on the front of the boat asked if there were any pubs or restaurants close by so I referred him to the large map on the towpath showing all the local amenities and left them to it. About ten minutes later curiosity got the better of me and I looked out only to find them still tying up. The man on the prow seemed to be weaving some kind of rope sculpture around the T bar on the front of the boat whilst the rest of the crew wrestled with centre and rear ropes with mixed results. They did get settled eventually and after a quick spruce up they gathered excitedly around the map to plan their evening out. They didn’t seem to be able to make a decision so I popped my head out and pointed out that the map was actually back to front and had to be read as if in a mirror to make any sense of it. I thought that this information and the fact that they had engaged a local jogger to interrogate would be sufficient to steer them towards supper but it seemed not. It was now forty five minutes since they had arrived and they were all back on the boat. Gill and I came to the conclusion that after much dithering they had decided that all the eating places were beyond their walking abilities and they were preparing to move to a more convenient mooring. The man on the front was peering at his macramé and wondering how to undo it.
On our late evening stroll we found their boat abandoned about a mile up the canal. It was loosely tied to mooring pins amongst a jungle of vegetation. The back end was about two feet from the bank so presumably they had all had to clamber off the front and as we looked down from the canal there they were heading off in the fading light in search of a late supper. I really hope they had a nice relaxed meal and that they do a bit more planning before their next stop. I also really, really hope that after a few drinks and arriving back in the dark they remembered to get back onto the front of the boat rather than the back!
We’ve had a good look at Bollington this morning and can confirm that it’s very hilly indeed. Think of an upended egg box with a canal running through it and you’re pretty much there. It seems to have a couple of nice looking restaurants and pubs so we plan to call here on our way back and get some healthy exercise whilst eating and drinking to excess. It’s all about balance isn’t it? Oh, and maybe a bit of planning.