The Dark and the Light

Weekly Photo Challenge – Contrasts: I wasn’t looking for the sign of the cross but as I have explained in an earlier post, foreign churches provide respite and salvation from the beloved’s own religion – shopping.  This one was especially cool and dark, in stark contrast to the heat rising from the narrow streets of Lucca – ‘hotter than a match head’:


Outside in the bright light, even the locals seemed to be struggling with the heat:

Outside in the bright light

If you can dream…

Having returned to Bosley, I cannot drag myself away.  Following on from the previous post, here are some more images, including some of the residents. The black and white treatment changes the atmosphere completely but I think it remains Spring like:

On the embankment Towards The Cloud Lock 12 footbridge The Locals

(click on the images to enlarge)

I was always oddly proud of this local literary connection – due south of Bosley along the A523 is Rudyard Lake, another reservoir built to feed a canal, this time the Caldon.  John Lockwood Kipling and Alice Macdonald liked the place so much they named their son Rudyard (30 December 1865 – 18 January 1936).

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss……..

My Back Pages

Long ago I lived in the village of Bosley on the edge of the Cheshire/Staffordshire border. To its east is the Peak District National Park and to its west, The Cloud – the village sits in a spectacular setting.  Bosley once boasted a quaint petrol station at the Buxton crossroads, an Italian restaurant, a village shop and post office, but no more. What remains is a church, two pubs, a farm, scattered housing and a reservoir below the nearby hills which feeds the Macclesfield canal. Despite all this you could still speed down the A523, which slices its heart, blink and miss it.

The Macclesfield canal connects the Trent & Mersey at Kidsgrove with the Peak Forest Canal at Marple.  It is at Bosley that the canal crosses the river Dane by Telford’s magnificent single arch aqueduct and then begins the 118 feet, 12 lock ascent to the Macclesfield level.  The mooring on the approach to the bottom lock, high on the embankment above the river and in the shadow of The Cloud is one of the finest on the entire system.  Despite having to cruise through a monsoon, I was determined to moor there overnight – our reward was waking to the most glorious morning we could have wished for – Spring had arrived.

Bosley Bosley Bosley Bosley Bosley

Later that morning we walked down to the river Dane from the Old Driving Lane Bridge No. 57, crossed the fields to Bosley Mill and then climbed up to the church, emerging onto the A523 opposite the Queens Arms.  Three houses along from the pub is where I used to live – far too convenient.  A lady was tending the garden of my old home so I introduced myself. Within a few minutes we were kindly granted a tour of the cottage – being back in those rooms again (much improved) 32 years after I last closed the front door was a strange experience.  As a child Mrs K attended the junior school next door and has now lived in the cottage for 29 years.  Nevertheless, part of me is still there.  “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now”.

(this is how the cottage looked during the addition of a garage – the tractor driver is my eldest son, now somewhat older).

Heartbreak Hill

I have climbed Heartbreak Hill five times and, following this most recent trip, descended it once.  The Trent & Mersey canal climbs out of the Cheshire Plain by a long series of locks to the summit-level at Hardings Wood Junction where you can continue south through the dark, dank 1.75 mile Harecastle Tunnel or choose the light and the Macclesfield Canal – on this occasion, we chose the latter. The right turn at the junction neatly takes the canal back on itself and over Poole Aqueduct – beneath you is the Trent & Mersey where your younger self travelled some thirty minutes previous.

Many of the locks on Heartbreak Hill are doubled, although not all of the parallel locks are still usable – some are filled in, some abandoned and, most alarmingly, some are accessible but too narrow. Our greatest ‘heartbreak’ was discovering that the Lock 57 Restaurant had gone the way of the adjacent Romping Donkey pub – both at Hassall Green and both closed for business. Consequently we pressed on, mooring at Church Lawton, six locks shy of the summit.  In the days when the UK boasted a mainframe computer manufacturer, I worked nearby at ICL Kidsgrove – this is familiar territory.

I have included the colour image to show the state of the water – it is Tango orange, the result of iron-rich springs seeping into the water from the nearby Harecastle Tunnel. Not a place to go for a swim, intentional or otherwise (might work as an instant tan 😉 )

TangoMilepostLock gear and WinthorpeAbandoned lockWinthorpePoole LockKidsgrove summit

Click on the images to enlarge – in particular the last to pick up on the reference to the “Kidsgrove Gas Light Company”.

The long day closes

Weekly Photo Challenge: On Top.  Back on the good ship Winthorpe and we feel on top of the world – and the final photograph was taken from on top of a bridge – tenuous, I know.

It had been a long and busy day. The drive down the M6 starts well enough at the Carlisle junction but the further south you travel the busier it gets, the more likely the delays – it never disappoints.  Arriving at the boat is always a relief and once the car is unloaded. the bed made up, the kitchen stocked and the coffee made, life immediately takes on a gentler pace. It very quickly feels like home.

I don’t know what the next two weeks has in store but today the weather was near perfect. We took a slow walk along the towpath to Audlem as the long day closed in a soft April light:


The Shropshire Union

Bridge 79The Shropshire UnionThe Shropshire UnionOverwaterOverwater

As anyone familiar with the English canals will know, the grooves worn in the iron bridge guards are from the ropes of horse-drawn working boats – a tangible connection with a distant past.

There is a good wifi connection in the marina, hence this post.  It may be the last for some time.

(click on the images to enlarge)


We are about to embark on another trip on the English narrow canals, this time from near Audlem to Bugsworth Basin, sometimes known as Buxworth or vice versa.  I once lived over the hill just outside Whaley Bridge and many a bike ride or walk would find us at the basin.  At the time this was a long-standing restoration project with no immediate prospects for completion. Stop locks were in place just beyond the aqueduct and the entire basin dry.  It is a delight to be able to take a boat into this complex interchange which was finally reopened in 2005 on completion of the £1.2M British Waterways project.

I don’t expect Caggy Stevens ever operated on this part of the network but he was one of the last commercial operators on the English canals, a breed of men who had worked their entire lives on the narrow waterways.  I nearly ‘bumped into him’ on the BCN in early April 1978. Suddenly he was there and just as suddenly he was gone – as can be seen from the wake in the first image, he was not hanging about; he had serious work to be done.  It is a pity that no such encounters with the working past will be had on our next trip.

Caggy Caggy

(click on the images to enlarge)

Connection to the Internet will be intermittent at best for the next two weeks so I will not be very active on WordPress.  TTFN.

Travel theme: Brown

The fishing village of Staithes, hides on the North Yorkshire coast above Whitby.  It has a lived-in, unprettified look which makes it feel genuine and not too different from the photographs in the Francis Frith collection dating from the 19th and 20th Centuries. We approached on foot from Runswick Bay, along the Cleveland Way, perhaps the best way of finding the village; from this route there is little sign of modernity as you walk down the partly cobbled path onto Seaton Garth.

In the window of the Family Butchers they even try to maintain early 20th Century prices – pre-decimal signs advertise Prime Steak @ 1 shilling and tuppence per pound (about 11 new pence).  The illusion is shattered by the modern pricing of Moor’s Heather Honey @ £5 per jar.  A jar of honey or 45 pound of steak – the choice is yours 🙂

I always imagine the Francis Frith collection in sepia tones but those of Staithes are not; by way of compensation I have reproduced mine in golden brown, texture like sun:

Staithes harbourStaithes High StreetThe river - StaithesStaithesStaithes(click on the images to enlarge)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Nostalgic

Given the title of this week’s Photo Challenge, it seems legitimate to once more raid the archive.  This picture was taken in the early 1980s at the top end of the Trent & Mersey canal near Preston Brook.  The lady, Leah, was living out her days on the narrowboat she once worked with her husband, Jack Tolley, although the boat had long since stopped trading.  There is a sad nostalgic air to her expression which appears in a photo album from the time alongside these words of J R R Tolkien:

I sit beside the fire and think of people long ago,
And people who will see a world that I shall never know.Leah Tolley

I spoke to her and she was very friendly, not in the least concerned at being photographed, just mildly bemused.  I have included this second photograph to show more of her narrowboat; look closely and you will see the traces of a smile:Leah Tolley

(click on the images to enlarge)

Travel theme: The Four Elements

I struggled to come up with a set of photographs for this Travel theme; I could find four separate pictures with no connection between them but that didn’t seem very satisfactory. Consequently I have opted to represent all the elements in one photograph; you might have to cut me some slack here but if you look closely they are all present, more or less:

Great HaywoodThe picture was taken below the lock at Great Haywood on the Trent & Mersey canal – click on the image to enlarge.  Here is the same photo with a hint of colour – I could not decide between the two:

Great Haywood

Photographic memory on the Llangollen Canal

I do not claim to have a photographic memory in the normal sense, quite the reverse, I suspect I have a memory which is in large part based on photographs.  We recently took a trip along the Llangollen Canal, a place I last visited in 1977; the odd thing is I could remember virtually nothing from the previous visit other than the well-known highlights such as Chirk and Pontcysyllte Aqueducts.  This prompted me to go searching for some pictures I was convinced I had taken with a Mamiyaflex C330 on 120 roll film – I could find no black and white contacts but eventually came across some colour positives. For some long forgotten reason I had temporarily abandoned Kodak’s black and white Tri-X Pan in favour of colour; the results looked good held up to the light but with no suitable projector they were filed and forgotten. There were no prints, no album, no hooks for associated memories, so the detail of the trip was lodged in the brain’s discard folder and drip fed to the recycle bin; so this is the conundrum – how much of my long term memory of events is based on the actual experience and how much is based on a collection of pictures.  The evidence would suggest it is mostly the latter; regardless, it was an interesting exercise akin to time travel with a few surprises along the way.  I will eventually do a ‘then and now’ post but I was quite taken by this pair of hotel boats ascending locks somewhere between Hurleston and Ellesmere.  The first is my favourite because it shows something maybe I had never noticed before; just beneath the tiller can be seen a brown dog nosing its way, uninvited, into the boatman’s cabin.  This will be Kerry, our delightful red setter who went through life convinced that the entire world loved her and would welcome her muddy paws regardless of circumstance; she was mostly right:

Hotel boatsHotel boatsHotel boats

Click on the images to enlarge – the original 120 positives were scanned using a fairly ancient Epson Perfection 1650.  The associated TWAIN drivers are not supported beyond Windows Vista and whilst 120 film is supported it fails to auto-detect the format – the solution is to switch everything to manual and scan the transparencies individually – tiresome but worth it.