Friday 17th July; Vale Royal to Big Wood/Devil’s Garden
We pulled pins around 9.30 and followed tug Jerome down to the locks. Vale Royal is a lovely quiet mooring.
We shared Vale Royal and Hunt’s locks with Jerome, then left them to carry on to Saltersford lock while we waited for the service mooring at Northwich to become free.
It didn’t take long, but as we moored another boat, Harriette, approached so we invited them to breast up. We first saw them moored on the Ashton, having a breather between locks. We emptied cassettes and topped up the water, then they borrowed our hose while we continued nattering.
We had a pleasant lunch stop at Anderton, watching the occasional boat pass, including the massive CRT work boats – three this time with two diggers - and then a smaller vessel which was scooping up cut branches from the water.
We called ahead to Saltersford locks as we set off once more. On the south bank is this strange seemingly derelict works. The walls with windows don’t appear to have anything behind them, not even a floor, just empty space. Very odd. There seems to be some kind of track running under the roof, possibly to do with loading or unloading cargo.
Saltersford locks are huge. There are attractive cottages on one bank.
We were on our own going down, dwarfed by the lock. When I took the photo we were nowhere near the bottom gates but we’d already moved forward and right away from the wall.
The swing bridges that carry the roads across the river are large and impressive. This is Acton Bridge.
Even the weir footbridge at Dutton is much bigger than we are used to on the canals.
Dutton is another very large lock. It has a pair of intermediate gates half way along the lock chamber, which were used when there was commercial traffic on the river. I don’t know if it was a water-saving measure, or more to speed up passage when only a half-lock of water was needed (a full lock takes nearly half a million gallons). I have left the photo uncropped to indicate the width of the lock – we were by the opposite wall. You can see the scale from the ladder, which looks to be the same as you get in a canal lock.
Salterford and Dutton are electrically operated, so there is only one lockie on duty unlike Hunt’s and Vale Royal which had two.
The wind was strengthening as we approached the huge Dutton railway viaduct. You get a much better view from the river, though I think it is possibly more impressive when seen at a distance, from the canal.
It was blowing strongly on the exposed sections of the river, but our mooring for the night was sheltered and warm. Nicholson’s names this area Devil’s Garden, but I think Pearson’s may not – not everyone has heard of the name. Or perhaps they just don’t like to use it. It is just downstream of Big Wood on the left side. There was plenty of room, and just one other boat there at the far end. A small group of young cattle wandered up to have a look but they soon meandered off.
After a relaxing cup of tea, Dave and Meg set off for what should have been a circular walk of less than an hour. An hour and a half later, I was waiting to cook tea so I rang him up to find out why he was overdue. The path he had been expecting to take back towards the river had a locked gate and a ‘no public access’ sign. Eventually he had to retrace his steps. Lucky he took his phone – and there was a signal! An hour’s walk turned out to be more like three. The path by the river was very rough and overgrown so they were pretty tired when they finally got back.
It was a beautiful evening anyway. Dave saw a kingfisher earlier and I watched one fishing opposite our mooring, as well as a couple of grey wagtails pottering about.
12 miles, 4 locks, 5 hours.