I have 21 working days before I am free (last day at the shop – 31st May). I intend to start my big cruise as soon after that date as possible and have been looking at where I might go.
There are two canals I definitely want to explore because of the countryside they are in and they are the Macclesfield and Peak Forest Canals. Both of these skirt the upper levels of the Peak District. I also want to revisit the Shropshire Union as I loved it so much when I cruised it the year before last.
So my tentative route will be up the Trent and Mersey to Great Hayward where we turn onto the Staffordshire and Worcester. No doubt we will spend a few days here as it is one of our favourite places. It has great walks, the River Trent and a lovely farm shop, as well as water and rubbish facilities. Then down the Staffs and Worcester, passing close to Stafford, as far Wolverhampton, where we turn onto the Shropshire Union. This canal heads eventually for Chester but we will turn off onto an arm called the Middlewich Arm which will take us across to the Trent and Mersey at Stoke on Trent. The Macclesfield starts here and runs to Marple where we will turn onto the Peak Forest.
The return route is uncertain. The quickest way will be to return down the Macc. and then turn left onto the Trent and Mersey which will return me to Great Hayward. However that means I need to navigate the Harecastle Tunnel – very long, very low in parts and very dark and drippy. I hate tunnels; just the idea of all those thousands of tons of earth above my head is enough to freak me out. So I may retrace my route if I wimp out and have a detour down the Llangollen Canal which joins the Shropshire Union and leads into Welsh Wales.
The great advantage of having 3 months to cruise is that it doesn’t matter what route I take and it also won’t really matter how busy the canals are (and being that it will be June to August, they will be busy!) I have plenty of time, so following a very slow boat or queuing at locks won’t (hopefully) stress me out. Finding moorings might be more of an issue but my usual pattern is to leave early, cruise till lunchtime and then moor for the rest of the day to explore etc. Most holiday boaters cruise all day so I will hopefully be moored up before the rush!
I am a little nervous now it’s getting close but also very, very excited!