Victor: The Green Flag fiddle

Published: Wednesday, 10 May 2017

 IT WAS two years ago that the Macclesfield Canal was awarded the Green Flag award, which means that every two years there is a further inspection to show that the aims of the award are still being met.

Green Flag crewIt was on Monday (8th May) that the further inspection was undertaken, with people from the award scheme having a conducted tour by senior Cart personnel, starting on the Peak Forest at the rather tarted-up Marple Flight.

Then it was along the Macclesfield Canal towpath that they all walked (pictured) with our keeping up with them and discovering what it was all about, and wondering what would happen when they saw the broken bridge I wrote about that was being shored-up by workmen. 


But ahh! The Green Flag people were diverted into vehicles, coming back on to the towpath after the bridge—clever eh?  And off they went again along another very obviously tarted up section proudly displaying 'Welcome to the Macclesfield Canal' signs, though strangely all facing the waterway.  As all boaters using the waterways know, there is now a plethora of signs littering the waterways, and I wonder how 'green' is that. Then there was a display of young canoeists, again with volunteers to impress the Green Flag lot.

Totem awardBut someone obviously had their own idea of the Green Flag award, as our picture of one totem pole sign clearly shows.

By using vehicles and walking, quite a distance of the canal was negotiated, until arriving at the Bosley Flight, where there were a great many volunteers around the fancy toilets at the top of the flight, and the top lock gates nicely painted, but that was the end of the tour.

No way were the Cart people allowing them down the battered flight and the drained pounds—yes we had encountered the following day another empty pound just two locks down, but this time there was the young lady from Harecastle Tunnel in charge of letting water down to cover all the unsightly mud.

We arrived at the flight on the way back—you've guessed—not a single volunteer in sight, they had all obviously done their 'time' to impress the Green Flag people.  And I'll guarantee it will have worked.

And after a 20 minutes wait there was enough water in the pound to cover the mud and allow us to go forward.  But I reckon if any of those Green Flag lot had ventured down yesterday there would not have been any mud in sight. It has to be 'green' don't you know! This was a different precariously low pound to the one we met on the way up, so it is obviously a daily occurrence.

Top gatesNo volunteers

When we ascended the flight last week there was ner a volunteer in sight, and as I mentioned none this time going down. No volunteer is going to put up with those extremely difficult gate paddles on the flight. Of the 24 of them on the bottom gates only four were fairly easy.  The others needed a very long windlass to move, and even then they were difficult to wind up.

Obviously all the volunteer hours had been used up to impress the Green Flag people, for after all, as well as 'green space' the scheme is about such as volunteers.

When we attempted to descend the flight, we soon realised why there were low pounds, as the picture above shows, the top gates of the bottom lock show the reason, and yes, the bottom gates of that lock were in a similar condition, allowing the water to leak out of the above pound.

I expect the Macclesfield will keep its award, but to me it will be like most of the other awards so often scattered around—worth very little.

Long termThe Peak Forest Canal

But back to the Peak Forest Canal, and there have been changes since we last ventured this way in September 2006, when the canals were under the jurisdiction of British Waterways, and looking back at the boat's log there was an entry of how few boats there were and how it was 'easy going'.

The number of boats must have multiplied ten fold. Near any civilisation there were lines of moored boats, many again licence-less and scruffy, that obviously hadn't moved for many a day. Yet the official (paid for) moorings were empty.  The picture shows one of them with just a single boat, yet around the corner there were nine boats moored, where owners did not have to pay.

It is obvious that this, like High Lane on the Macclesfield is a no-go area for Cart's licence team, and word has spread.


There as been a number of comments on narrowboatworld about the dredging on the Peak Forest—I mean of course the lack of dredging.  It is well known that Cart dredge from bridge to bridge, and we were often ticking along nicely then exit a bridge and virtually stop.  Such was the lack of depth that we could pass moored boats with the revs of normal cruising speed yet moving at tick-over speed.  We soon discovered it was better to reduce revs to get anywhere.

Perm Tesco WhaleyAt least we had first hand what the complaints were about, the lack of dredging is bad—really bad.  One advantage for many moored boats however, they were moored on the bottom, so would not move when boats passed!

One moored boat that really annoyed was at the end of the few moorings for the large Tesco supermarket at Whaley Bridge (pictured) that was obviously being re-fitted out as the interior had been taken out with bits scattered about. 

I asked in the store how long it had been there, and being early customers just after the store opened, the fella at the till called someone over, who told me it had been moored there for weeks and could have been months on the restricted moorings.

Not really fair being right next to Tesco, with other boats moored, meaning a tramp for provisions.  Surely the owner could have the decency to moor further along the moorings to allow visitors to use Tesco.

It was obvious that the system of stopping taking shopping trolleys away from the store doesn't work, as the crash to our propeller under the bridge told that at least one had escaped.

At BugsworthThird time lucky

As you will have gathered we finally made it to Bugsworth Basin, with none of the stoppages that prevented us the last two times we had attempted, but afraid we were not at all impressed with the Peak Forest due to its obvious lack of dredging and really too many moored boats.

There certainly was a difference from the last time we cruised it 11 years ago, mind you there were plenty of moorings at the basin itself, as perhaps being next to the Navigation Inn it had a visit from the enforcement team!

It was the cruise up to the basin that we logged our 10,000th mile since we started boating 23 years ago, and 6,246 locks after the Bosley Flight.  And these are not the normal vastly exaggerated Cart statistics, but the totals taken from the two boat's daily logs over the years.

Giant HogweedGiant Hogweed

Now regarded as the most dangerous plant in Britain, Giant Hogweed contains toxic chemicals in its sap known as furanocoumarins that can cause serious burns and blistering when it comes into contact with skin and the affected area is then exposed to sunlight.

Burns can last for several months and some sufferers report they remain sensitive to light for years afterwards, yet on the Peak Forest Canal there is a private plot were it is being cultivated!

Of course it is spreading, with plants all along the side of the towpath for many yards, all capable of 'stinging' a member of the pubic, with the Giant Hogweed clearly thriving. The picture shows the main plot of the dangerous plant.

How is this allowed?  How has Cart missed such a dangerous plant on its waterways, that has obviously been there for years? It should be eliminated without delay as the infestation is clearly spreading rapidly.

Spectacular viewsThe good bits

The good bit indeed, of both the Peak Forest from Marple to Whaley Bridge and the Macclesfield canals, with both boasting some of the most attractive scenery and views from any waterway, with the Peak Forest having spectacular views over the hills, as pictured.

The Macclesfield with its many embankments allows really spectacular views of the Pennines on one side, and in the far distance the Cheshire Plain on the other, with rolling hills and valleys galore as you travel the canal.

It is a dog lovers' heaven, with paths galore on both the Macclesfield and Peak Forest canals, that is for those who actually walk their dogs.  Ours had a minimum of a two mile (via counter) walk every evening, with paths through woods, fields and even a golf course, making them the best waterways we have every encounted for paths and trails.

Victor Swift