GREAT CANAL WALKS: MACC MO­SEY

Take a six-mile stroll along the Mac­cles­field Canal, tread­ing the line be­tween the Cheshire Plain stretch­ing out on one side and the be­gin­ning of the Pen­nines ris­ing up on the other side

Canal Boat - - Con­tents - TEXT AND PIC­TURES BY MARTIN LUDGATE

Come with us along the Mac­cles­field with its fine stonework, aque­ducts and far-reach­ing views

This month’s walk starts at Con­gle­ton rail­way sta­tion, con­ve­niently placed where the rail­way crosses the Mac­cles­field Canal. It was just as con­ve­nient for the land­lord of the Nav­i­ga­tion Inn in 1848, who could see which way the wind was blow­ing and changed the name of his pub to The Rail­way Inn on the day the line opened! It’s still open to­day, as is the Queen’s Head on the other side of the canal.

Those ar­riv­ing by train should take the smaller exit by the south­bound plat­form; those ar­riv­ing by road can park in the sta­tion car park and cross the foot­bridge to reach the same point.

From here, a pedes­trian ac­cess leads down to the tow­path of the canal, which is in a cut­ting at the low­est level of a se­ries of bridges – the rail­way bridge spans the canal, the old road (which used to cross a level cross­ing) also bridges the canal; the whole lot is over­shad­owed by a high-level 1960s bridge car­ry­ing the mod­ern main road.

Leav­ing th­ese as­sorted trans­port routes be­hind and head­ing south-west, the canal es­tab­lishes its iden­tity as a ‘mod­ern’ canal from the lat­ter years of the canal age as it passes through a straight cut­ting, largely hid­den from Con­gle­ton’s hous­ing es­tates.

Soon you will reach a char­ac­ter­is­tic fea­ture of the ‘Macc’, and one best ap­pre­ci­ated by walk­ers: a tow­path turnover bridge. Many canals fea­ture th­ese in­ge­nious bridges, whose de­sign en­abled the path to switch sides with­out the need to de­tach the towrope, but the Mac­cles­field ones are par­tic­u­larly fine, the sweep­ing curves of the stone walls

‘On a re­ally clear day, you may even be able to see be­yond the Peck­for­ton hills to the Cl­wydian hills of North Wales’

earn­ing them the nick­name of ‘snake’ bridges.

An­other fea­ture of the Mac­cles­field is aque­ducts, and you’ll soon find your­self cross­ing a fine cast iron ex­am­ple which spans Canal Road (known as Dog Lane be­fore the canal was built; this name is still some­times ap­plied to the aque­duct). A for­mer wharf and an­other turnover bridge fol­low, as the canal heads out into coun­try­side with views open­ing up on both sides.

You’re fol­low­ing the very edge of the Cheshire Plain as you walk south­wards: the first hills lead­ing up to the Peak District and Pen­nines rise to your left, while on your right the plain stretches into the dis­tance, where glimpses of the Peck­for­ton hills some 20 or more miles away are vis­i­ble through gaps in the tow­path hedge in clear weather. In fact, on a re­ally clear day, you may even be able to see be­yond them to the Cl­wydian hills of North Wales.

You prob­a­bly won’t even no­tice the next wa­ter­way struc­ture of note: a coun­try lane passes un­der the canal in a tiny aque­duct – more like a tun­nel, and with only 8ft 6in head­room for ve­hi­cles, but once again dis­play­ing the canal’s char­ac­ter­is­tic fine stonework.

The canal con­tin­ues south west­wards, ac­com­pa­nied by the rail­way a few hun­dred yards away, and crossed by a se­ries of mi­nor roads on stone hump­backed bridges. Away to the left, on the top of the ridge of hills, you will clearly see Mow Cop Cas­tle – not ac­tu­ally an an­cient ruin, but a folly built to im­prove the view for the squire at the nearby Rode Hall. If you’re feel­ing en­er­getic, turn off south east at Bridge 85, bear left, cross un­der the rail­way and fol­low a foot­path up the stiff climb to the top of the ridge – on a fine day you will be re­warded by a splen­did view over the whole of Cheshire.

Half a mile fur­ther along the tow­path comes an­other chance of a di­ver­sion – a foot­path on the op­po­site side leads to Lit­tle More­ton Hall, a fa­mous Tu­dor half-tim­bered manor house open to the pub­lic. Not open to the pub­lic, but an im­pres­sive none­the­less, is Rams­dell Hall, whose gar­dens the canal skirts.

At Kent Green you pass the re­mains of a cou­ple of for­mer Mac­cles­field Canal fea­tures: a nar­rows marks the site of one of over a dozen wooden hand-op­er­ated swing­bridges which were once spread along the canal’s route, of which only a sin­gle ex­am­ple near Mac­cles­field sur­vives in orig­i­nal con­di­tion. The build­ing along­side it was once the Bird in Hand, a leg­endary canal boaters’ pub

which sur­vived into the 1980s with no real bar, a beer-only li­cence, and drinks brought up from the cel­lar in jugs.

Tech­ni­cally, Hall Green Stop Lock marks the end of the Macc, with the canal be­yond there built, owned and op­er­ated by the Trent & Mersey com­pany as a branch of their canal. That ex­plains why the shal­low wa­ter-con­trol­ling stop-lock is sit­u­ated here, rather than at the phys­i­cal junc­tion. As you pass the lock, look out for a cou­ple of un­usual fea­tures: the dou­ble-length cham­ber (it was built as two locks, one fac­ing each way, to cope with a wa­ter level dif­fer­ence in ei­ther di­rec­tion), and the rare com­bi­na­tion of a sin­gle bottom gate but dou­ble top gates.

A lengthy cut­ting ap­proach­ing Kids­grove is fol­lowed by an em­bank­ment pierced by two more aque­ducts. The canal first spans a main road, and then bridges the Trent & Mersey Canal, be­fore turn­ing left to run par­al­lel with it. A cou­ple of locks on the T&M bring it up to the same level, and the two canals meet un­der a tow­path bridge at Hard­ings Wood Junc­tion.

From here it’s just a few hun­dred yards to Kids­grove Sta­tion (with a set of steps lead­ing up from the tow­path) – but do carry on just a few yards fur­ther for a quick look at Hare­cas­tle Tun­nel be­fore catch­ing your train back to Con­gle­ton.

Pass­ing Rams­dell Hall’s lawn

A typ­i­cal fine stone bridge

Road, rail and canal at Con­gle­ton

The un­usual Hall Green Stop Lock

Aque­duct over the Trent & Mersey Canal

The T& M top locks, seen from the junc­tion

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