Researched and Written by Jeannette Briggs
The Macclesfield Canal was built to link the Trent and Mersey Canal from the Midlands to Manchester via the silk weaving town of Macclesfield. It is a narrow beam canal and is relatively "new" in that it was not started until 1825. Thomas Telford was hired to make the initial surveys for the route of the canal, but it was an engineer called William Crosley who was actually responsible for its construction. He did however follow Telford's method of "cut and fill", which was to build the canal rather like a railway embankment and as straight as possible over embankments and through many deep cuttings.
In this respect it is like the famous Shropshire Union Canal, which was also constructed well into the 19th century. There are locks but they are all grouped together in a flight of 12 at Bosley, Cheshire. Today the canal forms part of the famous "Cheshire Ring" of cruising waterways, and is much loved by those who venture on this part of the canal network. I should state here and now that this canal tends to be very shallow in places and that you should take care when choosing a mooring as not everywhere is suitable - test it out with your pole first...
At Bridge 86 you can moor your canal boat and take a short detour on land to one of the most outstanding mediaeval buildings in the whole of England - Little Moreton Hall. These little opportunties to discover are essential part of a canal boat holiday. This is a timbered black and white moated manor house dating from the 15th century and is astonishingly well preserved, with all the oak furnishings and pewter tankards and platters. The Hall is in the care of the National Trust and is one of their most visited attractions. After Bridge 86 the canal continues through wonderful peaceful countryside for many miles. You will soon approach the town of Congleton.
Congleton is left behind as you now continue over a high embankment towards Bosley and the only flight of locks that you will encounter on the whole length of the Macclesfield Canal. Bosley locks are in really lovely surroundings and they lift you and your canal boat up to over 500 ft above sea level. You leave the Cheshire Plain far below you as you work your way steadily upwards. You will have to open, fill and close 12 locks in a short distance of one mile, but at the top your reward will be a magnificent view. No mean achievements for the new comer to a canal boat holiday
Above: The Canal at Bollington - photo by Roger Kidd and reproduced by kind permission.
Once beyond Macclesfield you approach the village of Bollington, and you will pass some magnificent scenery as you journey along your canal boat, with views of the hills all around you. You pass over a huge embankment and two aqueducts, all of which were necessary to enable the route of the canal to be continued over this very hilly terrain. Bollington is another canalside town and if you just started your canal boat holiday this is where you can arrange your canal boat hire. It has all necessary facilities and shops for stores.
It is - literally - all downhill from here! As you turn left into the Peak Forest Canal you will see the flight of Marple Locks as they descend in front of you and you are surrounded by the hills of the Pennines - a lovely setting, and one which is justifiably popular with narrow boaters whether new to a canal boat holiday or seasoned canal boaters. Because of its popularity Marple sometimes has a lack of overnight moorings (a bit like Llangollen in this respect - everyone wants to stop here) and you are advised to get here early in the day to secure a good place to moor here. You now have to choose whether to descend the huge flight at Marple Locks and continue along the Peak Forest and Ashton Canals towards Ccentral Manchester and the junction at Waters Meeting. Or you will need to turn your canal boat/bike around and retrace your journey to the Trent and Mersey Canal once again. There is a short spur off the canal at Marple which is the Upper Peak Forest Canal, but this is short and you will have to complete a turn around at the dead end which is challenging in a canal boat. Decisions! You can of course consult the sections about each of these routes on this Guide.
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