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Reservoirs and feeders
There are two reservoirs supplying water to the Macclesfield canal,
Turks Head, more often called Sutton today, and the much larger Bosley.
The feeder from Bosley reservoir joins the canal at Bosley top lock.
Turks Head (Sutton) reservoir is much the smaller and can be emptied
over a busy weekend - and filled again after a couple of days good
Water is also provided indirectly from the two reservoirs that serve the Peak Forest canal. Those are Combs and Toddbrook.
Turks Head (Sutton) reservoir
small reservoir is located south of Macclesfield and its waters
enter the canal just north of bridge 48A. The reservoir itself
is a couple of hundred metres away across the other side of
the main road. It can be approached from the canal by crossing
bridge 48A and walking up the road until the pavement runs
out then crossing over and going through the gate. The dam
can be seen in front of you.
This reservoir is noted for the speed with which it both fills
and empties. One good storm will fill it. One weekend of heavy
lock use at Bosley will empty it! It is filled via a feeder
which curves around the hillside from Rossen Dale about half
a mile away where the water is taken from the stream.
Bosley reservoir, about one mile away (access easiest from
Peckerpool Wood Bridge, no. 55), is worth a visit. This large
body of water provides most of the water necessary for maintenance
of the level. Behind the reservoir is a remarkable network
of feeders, about five miles in extent. These wind their way
around the local hills with short branches leading from take
off points on the various streams. British Waterways carried
out extensive refurbishment as a result of water shortages
in the dry summers of the mid 1990s.
In 2015 Canal & River Trust carried out works to raise the
top of the dam in compliance with the Reservoirs Act. Changes
were also made to the valve tunnel (grade II listed) in the
face of the dam to improve access for maintenance.
A large reservoir alongside the road from Whaley Bridge to
Chapel en le Frith, adjacent to the hamlet of Tunstead Milton
and extending almost to the hamlet of Combs (pronounced cooms),
which was built to fill the Peak Forest Canal. It is the sixth
largest reservoir, in terms of capacity, on the English canal
system, larger than both Bosley (8th) and Toddbrook (9th).
A large reservoir located on the west side of Whaley Bridge
town centre. It's waters are fed through a culvert and can
be seen entering the canal at the very head of navigation just
outside the transshipment shed at Whaley Bridge wharf.
Combs and Toddbrook reservoirs have the first responsibility
to keep the Peak Forest Canal full. The Macclesfield Canal
Act required the use of a stop lock at Marple to prevent water
from these reservoirs getting into the Macclesfield Canal.
However, in modern times there is no stop lock and the water
finds a level!
There are two kinds of feeders; the well known ones that take
water from a reservoir to the canal, and the lesser known feeders
that transport water from the streams in the valleys to the
reservoir. Most reservoirs are filled directly from natural
water courses but on the Macclesfield the lay of the land means
that this far up the hillsides (the top level is 520 feet up)
the natural streams are all very small and none of them would
be capable of filling a reservoir the size of Bosley on its
This is one reason why five reservoirs were planned - five
catchments for the five biggest streams (see
below). The canal company were unable to obtain rights
to extract water from the biggest of the streams crossing the
canal, the river Dane. Its waters were already committed to
the Trent & Mersey Canal Company via the Caldon Canal -
its waters have to cross the Mersey/Trent watershed for the
purpose. But they did manage to extract from a tributary of
the Dane, the Shell Brook, and carry it round to Bosley in
a feeder, and this is discussed below.
It was recognised that it would be just as effective (and
I dare say it was cheaper too) if a large number of streams
could be brought together and fed into the one large reservoir.
As a result several miles of small feeder channels were built
around the hillsides. There were thirteen extraction points
in all. Most of these feed into Bosley, just one into Turks
Head (Sutton), and a couple once fed directly into the canal.
These latter are no longer in use due to subsidence.
One can be seen beside the road that goes under Red Acre aqueduct
at Pott Shrigley.
Every one of the collection points had a structure to separate
water from the stream for the canal while ensuring that the
stream did not go dry. A unique gauging plate was installed
at each one to measure and guarantee the occupier's water in
the stream. These plates are cast iron and contain a slot which
is of a specific size depending on the size of the stream.
The size of each slot is specified in the 1825 Macclesfield
Canal Act authorising construction of the canal.
In two places the collected water, after crossing from one
valley to another, had to be taken to a lower elevation. If
you cascade water down a steep hill it gains speed and force
and is difficult to contain at the bottom so appropriate devices
are needed to control the water. In one place the falling water
is contained at the bottom of a stone chute by well built up
stonework with an inward curve on the top and drained out along
a further feeder. In another place, now regrettably destroyed,
the water was fed down a series of, about seven, stone scallops,
each slowing the water, changing its direction and feeding
it to the next. This must have been a remarkable sight and
its loss is an enormous shame. We are not aware of any similar
structure elsewhere. We have never found any picture of the
device and the description is based on verbal description from
one who saw it before it was bulldozed and a single similar
device at another point on the feeder.
The un-built reservoirs
When planned the Macclesfield canal was intended to have five
reservoirs. Three were never built. The most important of these
was Harrop or Hedgerow reservoir. Hedgerow is in Rainow parish
just to the east of Bollington, between Billinge Hill and Berristall
Farm. The feeder would have traveled through the old part of
Bollington and joined the canal by the wharf at Hurst Lane
Hedgerow and Bollington would have looked very different today
if this reservoir had been built. Besides the obvious difference
of the flooding of Hedgerow valley and the necessary dam across
the valley, the feeder would have wound its way around that
part of Bollington, including along a hillside that was subsequently
quarried! The huge Hurst Quarry behind Water Street would never
have been quarried the way it was and perhaps there would be
a nice green hillside there today.