Thursday 16th July; Anderton to Vale Royal moorings via Winsford Bottom Flash
Our mooring last night wasn’t the best choice we could have made. There was a constant background noise from the chemical works, which was annoying but something you can put up with, unlike the alarm which shattered the night in the small hours! Imagine the loudest burglar alarm you have ever heard and you’ll get the idea. We lay there wondering is there a fire? a chemical leak? which way is the wind blowing? but there were no sirens or sounds of panic and fortunately it stopped after about 15 minutes.
As we were preparing to leave after breakfast, this digger came past, being pushed by a large work boat.
We needed some shopping, and were lucky to get the last mooring at Northwich (we discovered later that the moorings reserved for the trip boat can be used – it hasn’t run for years). We crossed the imposing swing bridge, which has two claims to fame.
Northwich seems pleasant enough. We strolled through the pedestrianised main shopping street, where we found a decent greengrocer and a couple of butchers, but it seemed to deserve its reputation of having few places to eat out – we only saw two restaurants, either closed or being refurbished. (A few days later I met a local who said there are lots of places to eat, some on the other side of the bridge. Maybe another time). A local resident by the moorings told us they have Sainsburys, Tesco, Lidl, M&S and Waitrose and a new shopping precinct is being built, with a 5-screen cinema promised. Waitrose is closest to the river so that’s where we went.
We had lunch, then rang the lockie at Hunt’s Lock and we were on our way. If you ring ahead they will prepare the lock, or tell you if there is a delay. The lock is 11’2” deep, so the lockie lowered a rope to pull our centre line up so he could loop it round a bollard and drop the end back down to us. There were freshwater mussels here too (at least that’s what I think they are, they had a furry coating of algae and mud obscuring any details).
The gates are pretty massive and are closed by means of this curved opening gear (don’t know its proper name) operated by a lockie with a windlass way up at the top.
The original ladders in these locks must have been pretty unpleasant to use. Apparently there was a rope to hold onto as well but I bet that was pretty slimy and slippery too. (Don’t they look like slightly alarmed faces?)
The paddle gear (or possibly the gate gear)at the top gates looked hard work – it needed both lockies to wind the windlass.
There are some big boats to be seen on the Weaver, though not necessarily on the move. Some are quite smart and some rather less so.
Vale Royal lock was ready and waiting for us – the lovely lockies ring ahead to say you are on your way. All the locks on the Weaver are paired, and this lock is the narrow one at Vale Royal! The massive work barges we saw earlier were built to fit these locks.
As we drew nearer to Winsford, the surroundings grew more industrial with an enormous works along the west bank. Like the plant at Winnington opposite the boat lift, this is owned by Tata, which also owns the salt works in Middlewich. The Winnington plant was built in 1873 by John Brunner and Ludwig Mond. Between 1927 and 1991 the company was part of ICI, then was known once again as Brunner Mond before being acquired by Tata Chemicals in 2005.
Something appeared to be travelling up the very long conveyor belt and pouring into the enormous bag-like structure. The company produces sodium bicarbonate and soda ash (sodium carbonate, used in the manufacture of glass and detergents among other uses). It abstracts 100,000 cubic metres of river water a day for cooling purposes. The web link above, which gives some history of their use of the Weaver as well as the factories, suggests we look out for the carp which congregate around the outflows where the water is returned to the river – it is warmer than the river water.
There were huge mountains of stuff a bit further up. Meg was alarmed by this monster suddenly appearing and barked her head off!
Then there was this strange structure closer to the town. It looks like some space-age silage clamp with black rubbish sacks instead of tractor tyres to hold down the plastic. No idea what it is - it seems to have been constructed after the Google Earth pictures were taken.
We had been comprehensively warned off mooring at the Red Lion by the CRT guy at the lift – he said it can be very rough, and as it’s likely to be a warm evening and the outside seating is above the pontoon we thought we’d go up to the park moorings at the entrance to Winsford Bottom Flash. It’s a very sharp turn, and we missed it at first, heading into the flash where we could see some moored craft. This was clearly private moorings, so we went past a little way, then turned carefully. The depth is 3’ in most places and we didn’t expect problems – our draught is only 24” – but boats do get stuck every year. We didn’t want to creep about testing the depth with a pole so we just had a look before leaving. The flash looked vast.
We had time for a good look at the park moorings. OK, but rather too close to the busy road if you’ve got a dog. Noisy too. We decided to go back down to the Vale Royal visitor moorings which are lovely.
As we left the flash behind and approached the Red Lion we returned to the bosom of CRT.
Back we went past the rotting wharves from a bygone era. There were traces of a once-complete walkway along the top, now largely collapsed.
Under Newbridge swing bridge for the second time -
and we moored at Vale Royal. There are half a dozen boats here, but it’s peaceful, grassy, and there’s lots of space. A beautiful evening.
9 and a half miles, 2 locks, 4 and a half hours.