The Macclesfield Canal
Starting at the summit level of the Trent & Mersey, the Macclesfield Canal climbs even higher and becomes one of the highest levels on the system (518 feet) to overlook the Cheshire Plain and cling to the skirts of the Pennines.
Cruising the canal is full of interest, from the unusual 'flyover' junction with the Trent and Mersey at Hardings Wood, passing the Victorian folly of Mow Cop and timber framed Little Moreton Hall, climbing the beautiful locks at Bosley and negotiating the interesting junction with the Peak Forest Canal at Marple.
Accompanied by waymarked walks, the ‘Mow Cop Trail’ and ‘Middlewood Way’, the canal towpath presents many opportunities for short and long distance walking, staying down near water or climbing high up into the nearby hills with their monuments and follies. The many connections allow walkers and cyclists the choice of either going round in circles or in a long straight line!
Congleton and Macclesfield are both worth a visit, with interesting pubs, Pennine stone architecture and expensive shops which are evidence that this is a desirable place to live, close enough to Manchester to commute, but surrounded by striking scenery.
This late built canal speeded travel from Manchester to the Potteries, Midlands and the south in two fundamental ways. First, less distance than going via Runcorn and not subject to delays by the operation of the tunnels at Preston Brook and, second, it was built after much experience of boatmen’s techniques. For example, where a lock is set close to its neighbour it can be prepared whilst the first lock is being used. This minimizes delay whilst waiting for locks to fill. Telford, therefore, collected all Macclesfield’s locks into one flight and maintained a long level on each side of them by bold “cut and fill” techniques, which gave us eight aqueducts, high embankments and cuttings.
Post war efforts by the Chairman and members of the North Cheshire Cruising Club (founded 1943) and the Inland Waterways Association Second National Rally (1953) drew attention to the lack of maintenance and deterioration of this canal. After a campaigning cruise met apparent sabotage the Peak Forest Canal Society (1964) proposed a ‘Cheshire Ring’ of regenerated canals (including the ‘Macc’) which was finally opened after ten years’ effort in 1974.