Biggles Goes to Bugsworth

Leaving Marple after lunch on Tuesday, we headed on up the Upper Peak Forest Canal, over 500 feet above sea level. It winds along the side of the Goyt Valley, with splendid views over the valley and the Peak District.

Going through New Mills is a surreal experience: as you approach the Wharf you pass alongside a factory building where all the vent fans seem to be canal-side. You go from being slightly cold to cruising in a very warm breeze, just like standing in a huge hairdryer. And it smells overpoweringly of sherbet. It’s where they make Love Hearts of fond memory.

Just before Whaley Bridge, the canal splits: straight on for Whaley Bridge, or left for Bugsworth Basin. We went left. The basin is an amazing place, a remarkable example of a restored industrial heritage sight; the whole basin is Scheduled Ancient Monument. Somewhat of a misnomer, Bugsworth Basin comprises several basins, and was the biggest inland port on the canal system in it’s day: it was a major interchange between the canal system and the Peak Forest Tramway bringing raw materials down from the High Peak, principally limestone. There were also lime kilns and all the trimmings.

Bugsworth Basin

Sir felt at home immediately, and went off to explore some of the ruined buildings without further ado.

Bugsworth BasinBugsworth Basin

The place is in a splendid setting, with the Peak District all around, and a decent pub right at the basin (incidentally once owned by the Coronation Street actress who played Dot Cotton).

Bugsworth BasinBugsworth Basin

It was such a lovely spot, and such a convenient height wharf, that we spent Wednesday washing and polishing one side of Song & Dance as well as exploring the site. It’s also clearly a very popular spot for boaters to hole up for a few days.

Bugsworth BasinBugsworth Basin

The only downside is the major road/dual carriageway that runs alongside the site. Still, at least they didn’t build the road over the basin… the road is a by-pass for Whaley Bridge and Buxworth – apparently the village renamed itself because they didn’t like “Bugsworth”.

The other minor snag is that you can’t turn the boat round except at the entrance – getting out can involve a significant reversing exercise in cramped conditions. There are times when a bow thruster is really useful.

Leaving on Thursday morning, just as we passed some cottages at the entrance, something small and brown flew across the cut and attached itself to the cottage wall. It didn’t fly quite like any LBJ that came to mind, and we thought it might even have been a large butterfly. On closer inspection by the Binocular Queen, it proved to be a bat. Quite what it was doing out and about in broad daylight, we weren’t sure. Anyhow, it stayed there until we were out of sight. Another little canal cruising mystery.

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