Monday, 9 June 2014

Climbing the "Cloud" in the Rain.

Monday 9th June, 2014 near Congleton.
The day started dry and we realised that a little fellow was watching us carefully as we had breakfast.

The forecast was only for the odd shower, so we started off up the lane from the next bridge towards "The Cloud", a high fell ridge almost 1,200ft high that is reputedly topped with ancient earthworks. The ridge and summit can be seen for miles around. We took our waterproofs in R's back-pack just in case. M bought new "boating shoes" for the 2014 season (very elegant!) and she thought that this would be a good test for them.
As we walked up the lane, we could see our objective clearly in front of us.
A little further up the lane it started to spit with rain.  Then the spit became a patter, the patter became a shower .... and so on. By the time we reached the footpath leading up the side of the Cloud, it was raining hard and we had both donned our waterproofs.
The route that had been suggested by the locals in the pub last night basically took us straight up the end of the 700 foot ridge.  This was mostly a gradient of about 1 in 2, and hard work. It was also very slippery and through dense (very wet) vegetation.
Near the top we found a beautiful clump of rhodedendron, which surprised M as she didn't think that they could thrive on such damp, acid soil. However, we have seen a lot of rhodedendron on this trip so it is obviously happy in this kind of environment.
By the time that we reached the top, it was raining really hard and we were getting increasingly soaked. But the summit was still a delight. Very reminiscent of Haystacks in the Lake District, with its peaty soil, heather, bilberry and low growing juniper.  A very soggy M has her head down against the rain (and the camera)!

Sadly, the rain obscured the fine views for which the Cloud is renowned.  Apparently, on a clear day it is possible to see as far as Wales.  We could just about make out the canal one mile away!  We decided that it wouldn't be a good idea to go down the way that we had come up or we would definitely have slid all the way down!  Therefore we followed a good path that took us back along the ridge. This turned out to be a much gentler descent but we had no idea where it was taking us. We had tried and failed several times recently to buy an OS Map of the area. However, in the end, the path did bring us back to the road although the detour added about four miles to our walk - and still it rained.
Eventually we got back to the top of "our" lane and walked the mile or so back to the boat. The nearer we got to MM, the harder the rain fell until it was coming down in torrents like stair-rods. Our waterproofs were saturated but at least they kept our bodies dry; however our dripping trousers were clinging to our legs and our shoes were full of water. We squelched back on board and laughing at ourselves, stripped off on the rear deck under the umbrella (which we had left on board!). Despite the rain it had been a wonderful walk!
As we changed thankfully into dry clothes, the rain stopped and, would you believe it, the sun came out!
The mountain of wet clothes went straight into the washing machine and, after a reviving cuppa, we cruised on down towards Congleton in the sunshine while the washing machine did its stuff. That's British weather for you!
On the way we stopped to fill up with water. The water point was obstructed by a C&RT workboat so we had to moor up against it while we left our sodden shoes out in the sun to (start to) dry. They were still drying 24 hours later!
As soon as we moored up, our trusty washing line came out to dry the newly washed clothes.
Our mooring spot this evening is on an embankment high above a narrow wooded valley just outside Congleton. The birds are having their evening sing-song and the sunset is just magic.
Today: 3 miles, 0 locks and 2.6 hours.
Trip: 77 miles, 40 locks and 49.9 hours.

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