First But Forth. 28th September

Bosley Bottom Lock to Gurnett Aqueduct

With no other boats having arrived last night we didn’t feel under pressure to be at the locks waiting for them to open at 8:30 this morning. The alarm was set for 7 but then we had a fairly normal start to the day. This did however mean that we wouldn’t be first up the locks. Three boats came past, two before 8:30 and vanished up the bottom lock.

Grey but The Cloud was still in view

Yesterday afternoon Mick had walked up the flight and closed quite a few gates that had either blown open or been left, so we already knew the locks would be set against us.

Old trainers came out of the cupboard as rain and mud were a high possibility this morning. With the temperature being low we also risked our padded waterproof trousers, an intermediate waterproof covering for legs needs to be found for such days.

Low pound

Last year we climbed the locks in a group. A single hander in front a boat mover single hander behind, all done in the sunshine a well oiled machine by the time we reached the top of the twelve locks. Today we were on our own with constant drizzle, but thankfully we still got the wonderful views.


Every now and then I could see someone ahead, were they coming down or going up? They were going up. The pounds between locks 10 and 12 were both very low, but with umph from the engine then neutral Mick managed to get Oleanna over the bottom cills. After about five locks we did encounter our first downhill boat, a single hander with a volunteer helping, apparently there were two more boats making their way down.

Coming up

At lock 6 you get the great view to the Cloud, no pretty flowers today.

Looking up ahead to Lock 5 the lock seemed to be being emptied. Next time I looked I thought I could see the stern doors of a boat. Eer Hang on! How could that be? Mick gave me one of those looks! Next look up there was a boat heading towards us.

Two boats in one lock!

I zoomed in on my camera. I had been right that a boat was coming down and one was going up. The road bridge masking the fact that I was seeing two locks and not just one.

Towpath surface changing

After all the rain yesterday and drizzle this morning I’d been expecting a muddy towpath. This must be where the aggregate is being used as a new surface covers part of the towpath. Quite a relief as in the past parts of it have been quite a boggy mess, today it was all dry underfoot.

A handy volunteer near the top

We picked up a volunteer at Lock 3, he set the lock above and then waited for the next boat coming downhill, Lock 1 sat waiting for us with it’s gates open.

Out the top lock onto the summit pound

Plenty of volunteers on hand at the top, although they were all having a good chat. We disposed of rubbish as the last couple of feet filled the lock, then left it open for the fourth boat of the day to head down the flight.

No cars to hold up today

Now on bridge duty with the key of power in hand I pushed the buttons at Royal Oak Swing Bridge.

Annoying lock!

Turned the key in the lock of Broadhurst Swing Bridge. Returned it. Then gradually turned it trying to lift the white handle to release the bridge with each fraction of a turn. Eventually I found the position it worked, the handle lifting easily, the bridge swinging effortlessly. When I pushed it back there was no need to turn the key to release it, it just came straight out.

Where to moor for the day, hopefully before the rain started in earnest. After Leek New Road Bridge the world opens out, hills as far as the eye can see. Even today in the drizzle they looked wonderful.


It was slow going, shallow in parts, especially where you didn’t expect it. At Gurnett Aqueduct we pulled in towards a space, but grounded as another boat came past also looking to moor up. It took quite a bit to push us off and then reverse with major umph. A second gap looked more appealing despite the mooring rings being in very unsuitable positions. Extra rope was required and a mooring spike driven in as far as the concrete trough would allow. This would do us for the day.

By the time we’d done all the chores Tilly was not impressed with the very VERY wet outside we’d managed to tie up today. The stove was stocked up with coal and this became a more attractive place to spend much of the afternoon.

A VERY wet afternoon

Panto has most definitely woken up today. Emails zooming between Macclesfield, Bristol, Kent and Chipping Norton. Working speakers, cinema screens, sight lines, cloths which hopefully have finally been ordered today. Tilly of course decided that the outside wasn’t too bad after all, but returned frequently for ‘thank you for coming home’ Dreamies just as I’d got all my plans out on the table. Tracing paper isn’t too keen on muddy dripping wet cats!

12 locks, 5.05 miles, 1st in line, 4th up, 4 coming down, 2 hot legs, 2 low pounds, 2 swing bridges, 0 held up, 1 boat up near the hills, 1 damp day, 1 excessively wet afternoon, 2 crinkly paw prints, 1 flying cat.