Reservoirs & feeders  



Turks Head reservoir

Bosley reservoir

Combs reservoir

Toddbrook reservoir

Reservoir feeders

Un-built reservoirs


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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 rain!

Water is also provided indirectly from the two reservoirs that serve the Peak Forest canal. Those are Combs and Toddbrook.

Turks Head (Sutton) reservoir

This 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

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.

Combs reservoir

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).

Toddbrook reservoir

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!

Reservoir feeders

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 own.

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 bridge 27.

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.