We tried for an earlier start today, to beat the rain. Well, we almost made it.
We got off at 09:40, a grey, overcast morning, but still warm. The cloud built steadily through the morning, and we got the first short, sharp shower in the early afternoon while we were in Middlewich top lock. It came on again ½ hour later while we were in Big Lock, and stayed with us through the afternoon. We finally moored at the flashes around 16:45, including a 1 hour stop near bridge 177 during a particularly heavy shower.
Anyhow, we avoided the queues at locks until Middlewich, having Stanthorne lock to ourselves, and just having a few minutes wait for a boat coming up Wardle.
Lots of boats approaching Middlewich
Turning left onto the Trent and Mersey, we joined a short line waiting for the top lock. The hold-up was caused by a boat of learner drivers going down, and a boat whose engine had just failed coming up.
We hauled the break down out of the lock just as the first shower hit us. The owner was convinced he could sort it out, so we left him to it.
Once going again, we had a quick trip down the 3 locks, and a longer one going down Big Lock. As a broad lock, it can take 2 boats at once, which is perhaps as well, as it takes 15 minutes to fill and 10 minutes to empty.
This was built as a broad lock, although all those further down the canal are narrow, in order to enable barges to travel down from the Mersey via the Bridgewater into Middlewich for the salt trade.
Unfortunately, it’s no longer possible to bring broad beam boats any closer to the town than Croxton Aqueduct, a couple of miles north, since the original stone structure was replaced with a narrow iron trough.
We’d been speaking earlier today about the relative lack of moorhen chicks compared to mallard ducklings, cygnets and even Canada goslings. So, just to prove us wrong, we came across 3 families of them today.
This little mite had just been abandoned by it’s mum who took off as we approached It was all of 2½ inches long. They were reunited after we’d passed.
The forecast for the next 2 days is horrid, with 4 inches of rain predicted. Ah well, it’s been good for a while. And I bet the farmers need it.
Locks 5, miles 10.