Saturday, April 30, 2011

Middlewich Madness

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, there’s one thing the Royal Family do for us; allow us to show the world how good we are at pomp and ceremony. Wasn’t it a spectacular event yesterday. Not that I watched it, of course…..

I bet there’re a few sore heads this morning, and not just at the Palace!

We intended to get off reasonably early this morning, to avoid the rush of novice boaters leaving the hire bases in Middlewich. But that plan went a bit pear-shaped when I got lost on my morning run. I’d scheduled about 8 miles, including 5 mile splits (where you run a fast mile then have a short recovery, before doing it again another 4 times), but missed a turning on the way back and was nearly in Sandbach before I realised! So my 8 miles turned into over 11, and I was knackered when I got back. That distance, at a good pace, without a drink is not good for the metabolism.

Anyway, so it was nearer 11 than 10 when we got away.

We dropped down Kings Lock, then threaded our way between the boats lined up on the starting grid at Middlewich Boats, before joining a short queue at the top of the 3 Middlewich Locks.

Middlewich LocksThere were no hire boats moving, they were all waiting at base for new crews, so it was just private boats this morning all with the same idea; get through the locks before the hirers set off. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve nothing against hirers, we used to do it too. But en masse?

We stopped for water at the old wharf, then pulled around the corner to moor for 30 minutes while I dashed to Tesco.

Then on to Big Lock, which as the name implies, is bigger than the others.

It took us ½ an hour to refill and descend this lock, it’s very slow. No-one else turned up while we were here, so we dropped down in splendid isolation.

In Big Lock.

No, we haven’t contracted leprosy. The white blotches are where I’ve rubbed down scrapes and scratches, then primed them. Though if truth be told there’s more scrapes than sound paint after this winter. I’ll now hand flat the whole gunwale to bring it all level before topcoating again in black. Another couple of days and it’ll be as good as new. For a couple of weeks. Then there's the other side to do.

The reason Big Lock is, well, Big is to allow broad barges access to the town for the salt trade. From here up to the Mersey the canal was built to broad standards. Unfortunately the original stone Croxton Aqueduct just north of the town was replaced in the 1930’s by a narrow steel trough, so Big Lock no longer needs to be big. It does mean that 2 boats can share it, however, which is just as well considering how slow it is….

Crossing the narrow Croxton Aqueduct.

We moored up just around the corner from the aqueduct, and spent the afternoon watching a stream of hire boats heading north. We’ll stay here tomorrow, then move on a bit, probably up to the Flashes.

Here’s another story on the “Three men in a Boat” episode on the Manchester Ship Canal last Sunday. I can’t believe the quote –

“But we want to get across that no matter how deep or inviting it may look you should only go in if it is part of an organised activity.”

Nanny state, or what.

Locks 5, miles 1½

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