Monday, 27 May 2013

The Macclesfield Canal

I probably shouldn't be setting myself a target beyond the next one, but I'm going to anyway. The next target of course is a week's worth of riding in the Pyrenees at the start of July, and I'm training for it assiduously. Not necessarily loads of hours, but a carefully planned schedule to get me to where I need to be just over five weeks from now.

My mind wasn't drifting on to the next plan until we were tidying out the garage a week or so, and came across a book called 'A Complete Guide To The Macclesfield Canal' by H. L. Gilman, published in 1992. I'm happy to report that the title is accurate - there are 233 pages of fairly dense typeface to describe the 27.75 mile length of the canal; 8.5 pages per mile. And that's the style of the book - there is no extended history of its purpose, its financing, its building and its restoration. Nope, the majority of the 233 pages are taken up with a detailed description of what you can expect to see by, in and over the canal from its start in Marple, Cheshire, to its conclusion in Kidsgrove, Staffordshire. There are descriptions of pubs, locks, bridges (there are 98 of them you'll be anxious to know), types of plant in the hedgerow, the nature of the canal's sluices, and so on, and so on. For most people, it would be a work of devastating tedium, but for me, it was a wonderful find, and whilst it's not exactly gripping, it's a nice way of bringing on that sleepy feeling at bedtime.

There's more to it that that of course; I regularly run from what I now know to be Bridge No. 43 at Gurnett to, well anywhere between Bridges 69 (Wallworth's Bridge) and 93 (Hall Green footbridge). I normally do it early on a Saturday morning. I normally enjoy it, especially if the sun's shining. I normally encounter all manner of wildlife that time of day. And I normally blog about it. Of all the escapist nonsensical things I do, it's the most escapist of them all, because there's no traffic to worry about, just the occasional over-enthusiastic canine, and there's music in my ears. I'm properly in a world of my own, and occasionally that world doesn't involve pain.

So I love that canal. I don't don't whether I'd love its northern section quite as much; I've only covered parts of the Marple to Macclesfield section. But no matter, I love the southern half. I was out walking last week, and alongside the thought that I've never run the northern half, another realisation bounded into my head; at 27.75 miles, the canal's only a mile and a half longer than a marathon. And then it occurred to me I haven't tapped anyone up for sponsorship for a couple of years now. These three thoughts converged to create the plan....I'm going to run the length of the canal, from Marple to Macclesfield, and raise money for the Canal & River Trust. It's hardly a charity that pulls at your emotional heartstrings, but the trust now runs and looks after over 2000 miles of canals in England and Wales, miles that give a lot of boating people, walkers, riders, runners and indeed sit-and-ponderers a lot of pleasure. When the moment comes, I'm not going to ask for a lot - £1 a person perhaps ("Pledge A Pound?") - but just enough to help maintain a little bit of our heritage.

I'll probably aim to do it the first weekend in September to give me chance to build up my run distances when I get back from the Pyrenees, unsupported other than Mrs M dropping me off at Marple and picking me up at Kidsgrove. There'll be no medals, timing chips, race numbers, nothing organised at all about it in fact. Just one bloke, a camelbak with 2 litres of water, and a few energy gels. Until I started writing this I was only 90% sure I was going to have a go, but I've put it in writing now, so I have to don't I? Right, fingers crossed for a reasonably dry summer so that the towpaths stay nice and dry.

And finally.....not much to report on the cycling front. I was out earlier, not jealous of those doing much greater distances than me today (Tour of Wessex people chapeau-tipping moment) given the cool and the breeze, though perhaps a little jealous yesterday, when the weather was gorgeous and I was stuck in my car covering the 470 miles from Macclesfield to Exeter and back; worth it though to mark the rite of passage of Son finishing first year at university.

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