Canal is in many ways the entrance to the Pennine Hills and the Peak
District. Approaching from the Trent & Mersey Canal, as most do, it
marks the beginning of hill country, and is thought by many to be the
most beautiful of Englands inland waterway navigations. A shallow canal,
engineered by the great Thomas Telford, it runs for 27 miles to join
the Peak Forest Canal at Marple
It was surveyed
by Thomas Telford and engineered by Crosley. The canal was opened in
1831, by which time the railways had begun to impact upon transport
systems, and the Macclesfield Canal Company was to remain in business
for only 15 years, before being acquired by the Great Central Railway
moored at Bollington, Hall Green Stop Lock and a stone chamber on Bosley
The canal is the
highest point on the British Inland Waterway system, and therefore prone
to extreme shallowness in dry weather, and frequent early closing of
locks is common in summertime. It is beautifully maintained, with its
12 locks being grouped in one single flight at Bosley, in typical Telford
style. The great stone chambers of the locks are unusual in that they
have double gates at both ends of the lock - the stone was quarried
locally at the Cloud, a hill which dominates the locks.
reaches are overshadowed by Mow Cop, which marks the Staffordshire-Cheshire
Border, and is topped by the ruins of a castellated ruin, known as Wilbraham's
folly. On either side lie the lush green farmlands of Cheshire.
houses border the canal - Little Moreton
Hall, a half-timbered Tudor manor house reckoned to be the most
complete in Britain, (about 1 mile off the towpath), and Ramsdell Hall
built in 1760, with garden lawns sweeping down to the edge of the water.
As it moves northwards, the canal passes through Congleton and on up
to Macclesfield. It was Macclesfield's silk industry which played a
major factor in the building of the "Macc" (as locals call it).
Macclesfield - showing
the undulating Macclesfiled Canal. Aerial Photograph Courtesy of www.webbaviation.co.uk
The canal runs high
above the town of Macclesfield, and arrival is only signalled by the
Macclesfield Marina overlooked by the Publicity Works Mill (the old
Hovis Flour Mill), now cleaned up and converted to luxury apartments.
Macclesfield has several attractions worth stopping for.
a major shopping centre, there is the Paradise
Silk Mill, in Park Lane, a working exhibition of silk spinning and
weaving in Macclesfield since the 18th century. It remained in business
until 1981, and boasts 26 original Jacquard Looms, fully restored and
in working order.
The Adelphi Mill,
Bollington, Macclesfield Canal
Also worth seeing
is the Silk Museum
at the Heritage Centre in Roe Street. This exhibition shows the development
and uses of Macclsfield silk, "from knickers to parachutes", as well
as housing an exhibition on the development of the Sunday School Movement.
off the town through its tree fenced industrial estate, Cheshire comes
into its own, with dairy cattle grazing green fields, clean dry stone
walls, and frequently quite beautiful stone bridges, also quarried from
the Cloud. At Kerridge, just before Bollington, another hill dominates
the landscape, this time the White Nancy, topped by a peculiar white
monument, erected to commemorate the Battle of Waterloo.
boasts two other great Silk Mills at the canalside - the Adelphi Mill
and the Clarence Mill, the latter now converted into light commercial
and industrial units. At this point the towpath is part of the Middlewood
Way, a long distance footpath up to Marple, and it is popular with walkers
and cyclists alike.
is a pretty, well-to-do village with a charm and stye typical of old
mill towns. As you reach the northern limit of the Macc, another great
mill dominates the canal at Marple, the Goyt Mill by Bridge 3, one of
the most impressive mills on the Cheshire Ring. This red brick building
originally spun cotton before transporting it down the Ashton flight
into Manchester and thence to the rest of the world.
economics forced this mill, like all the others on the Macc, to cease
trading in the 1960s, yet it has, like the others, rediscovered new
uses for its old structure, and new shops, a climbing centre, snooker
hall, signwriters, a cafe and Peak Gas, have found new residence within
its splendour. Arrival at Marple is somewhat of a canal climax.
basin is a beautifully preserved and photogenic piece of industrial
heritage, still housing the British Waterways Office and the original
tally office beside the Top Lock - it is well maintained and a mecca
for "gongoozlers" (canal boat watchers). It is a popular place for overnight
mooring, prior to travelling to Whaley Bridge, or down the Marple flight
to Portland Basin.