Wednesday 26th August
At last, a week later and now into September, we have an internet signal – in Wales.
It rained a lot overnight (that is, 25/26th August) but didn’t wake us up at getting-up time so we had a bit of a late start, after 9.30. But the sun kept peeping out behind the clouds, and although there was a chilly wind (woolly hat for me to start with) it soon warmed up. As we approached Croxton Flash we wondered where the canal had gone ….. (the blobs on the flash are Canada geese).
The light looks a bit strange – we were under some trees but the sun wasn’t quite out so I think the camera got a bit confused.
We had a good day for locks. Nb Thunder Road was waiting for us at Big Lock (which is a double), but they were stopping for shopping so we went on without them. Here they are off to the moorings.
I helped a share boat through the first of the three Middlewich locks. The owners were on their first week of ownership - their first week on the canals too - and were keen to pick up locking tips. On their way out from their base they had moored on the visitor moorings above Wardle lock and gone to the pub. When they came back there was a boat sunk in the lock! No wonder they were a bit nervous. We were soon joined by a couple of volunteer lockies so we had a fairly quick passage up the three locks. One of the volunteers had some photos on his phone of the boat being recovered. They couldn’t understand how it had sunk – it was a short boat and sank by the bottom gates, so it hadn’t been caught on the cill as you might think. (For those who aren’t boaters – the cill, or sill, is a projecting bit of stone or concrete below the top gates which stops the bottom of the canal above the lock collapsing into the lock. There is usually a line marked on the edge of the lock indicating its position and a sign warning boaters to keep ahead of it, as you will come to grief if you don’t!) The boat was refloated using two airbags to bring it to the surface and then pumps were used to get rid of the water.
At Wardle Lock we waited for a boat to come out before we went round the corner and into the lock. The cottage is still being renovated – there was a light on inside but it didn’t look as though a lot had been done to it inside, let alone outside.
There is now a plaque here about Maureen Shaw, who used to live in the cottage and helped many a boater (us included) through the lock. I didn’t have time to read it as there was a boat waiting and it’s only polite to chat to the crew, isn’t it? I expect you can read the text online if you Google it but as I write I can’t get an internet signal fast enough to search. (I’ve got one at last – here’s some info. http://middlewichdiary.com/2013/03/memories-of-boatwoman.html
We moored up for lunch at the far end of the 48-hour moorings. What joy to have Armco piling to moor against! That is one thing I have really missed this year as we have spent most of our time on the northern canals which don’t seem to use it.
There was a decent internet signal here, so while Dave took Meg off for a walk and to buy a paper I posted yesterday’s exploits, such as they were. The sun came out and by the time we got going again it was t-shirt and shorts weather. We had a small delay with a boat completely across the cut. I hopped off and rapped on the door for the startled owner to appear – he had been watching the athletics on TV and had no idea his pins had been pulled out by the last boat that went past. I had heard the speed merchants approaching just before we left and braced myself for impact but luckily they throttled back to come through the bridge just before they reached us.
I helped the chap pull his boat back to the bank, and after that we had an easy cruise through Stanthorne lock (where we have waited in an 11-boat queue before now), with a boat coming out as we approached, and another appearing at the top as we opened the top gate. It was pleasant to be back on the Middlewich Branch as we’ve not been this way for a few years. It’s not particularly beautiful or spectacular, but it’s pleasant countryside and there are loads of quiet spots to moor. The most interesting things we saw were the converted canal stables, though they make for a boring photo, and Minshull Wharf house which is pretty.
We decided to make for Church Minshull and stopped just round the corner from the road bridge. I went off for a run, passing Thunder Road once more as they moored further back. You know ‘earworms’, where you can’t get a tune out of your head? Well I had just got Springsteen’s ‘Thunder Road’ out of my head by the time we moored and blow me down it’s back again now.
Meanwhile Dave and Meg had gone off to check out the Badger up in the village, so we went there later and had a very pleasant meal. The road from the bridge is narrow and busy so we came back via a footpath. It was lucky Dave had gone that way with Meg and knew where it went, as it was getting dark especially in the woods. Then there was a heavy shower before we got back which was a shame!
6 locks, about 10 miles and 5 and a half hours cruising