The Macclesfield Canal (or the ‘Macc’ as it is affectionately known) was approved by an Act of Parliament in 1826 and completed in 1831, the route having originally been surveyed by Thomas Telford though its construction was engineered by William Crosley. As one of the final narrow canals to be built, the ‘Macc’ was created using many of the lessons learned previously being incorporated into its fabric. Of course, this meant it was honed design dedicated specifically for the carrying of commercial goods. Who would have guessed that 140 years later, its principle use would be for leisure craft.
Of particular note on the canal are its stone bridges and more specifically, the Snake or Six Change Bridges. These provide for the towpath changing sides and the aesthetically pleasing structures were designed and built to allow horses to move over without having to untie them from boats. This is an example of what made the Macc a ‘state of the art’ waterway. There are also two stone aqueducts, one across the River Dane and one at Bollington. It is worth noting that the majority of structures along the canal have listed status and its entire length falls within a Conservation Area.
The canal is just over 26 miles (42 kms) in length and runs from Marple Junction, where it meets the Peak Forest Canal, to the stop lock just beyond the northern entrance to the Harecastle Tunnel on the Trent and Mersey Canal at Kidsgrove.
It was built to service the stone quarries, coal mines and textile mills of the immediate area as well as providing another link between Manchester, the Potteries and the industrial Midlands.
In 1847, the canal was bought out by a railway company before moving amongst railway operators of various guises until railway nationalisation in 1947. Throughout this period and beyond, commercial traffic continued and when it ended in the early sixties, the waterway was navigable when leisure use took over a few years later. Remarkably, no restoration was required though clearly, maintenance needed to be addressed by the newly formed British Waterways.
The ‘Macc’ is the most elevated section of the popular Cheshire Ring and provides some stunning views over the Cheshire Plain. From Marple Junction, it traverses a route that passes through High Lane, Higher Poynton, Bollington, Macclesfield itself, Congleton and finally Kidsgrove.
A remarkable restoration of the canal’s milestones took place in the 1980s. They had been buried during WW2 as a precaution to prevent the possibility of enemy soldiers using them to find their way in the event of an invasion. All of the stones bar three were dug up and re-erected, the three that were not found were replaced with new stones, cut to a size and quality to match their more senior colleagues! All are made from Kerridge stone. You will pass through Kerridge just north of Macclesfield if you choose to cruise or walk this route.
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