Tuesday, March 06, 2012

There and Back Again…

Or, To Winsford and Beyond!

After a crispy night today dawned damp and misty.

Vale Royal at just after 7 AMSAM_0001 Misty Morn

By 10:00 though the sun was starting to make it’s presence felt, and we finished up with another fine, sunny day.

We were underway shortly after 10:00, still heading upstream. Newbridge Swing Bridge has the lowest headroom on the navigation, at just over 6 feet.

Approaching Newbridge Swing Bridge – cautiously.SAM_0002 New Bridge
I was pretty sure we’d get under OK, but it was hard to tell through the woodsmoke…
We did, with a few inches to spare, although my internet aerial rattled against the underside.

Moore2Life was next….

Will we, won’t we?SAM_0004 Very Low Newbidge
Er, no. Ann had to dash to the front, remove the chimney and shove the satellite dish inside.
No drama from the Rockers, though.

From here it saltworks pretty much all the way to the head of the navigation. The Winsford Rock Salt Mine sits to the west and 150 metres below ground. It supplies vast quantities of road salt for winter gritting from over 137 miles of tunnels.

M2L and R‘n’R cruising past the mine, No.5 shaft headgear in the background. This brings the rocksalt up from the mine.SAM_0006 Salt Mine
All along the riverside there are huge heaps of salt, stored ready for use.  There’s a lot more this year than the same time last year, I’ll bet!

There’s lots more info on the mine here.

Salt, salt and more salt.SAM_0007 Road Salt


SAM_0028 Big Boys Toys
Big boy’s toys, eh.
On the east bank old spoil heaps have been transformed into parkland for Winsfordians to enjoy.

Spoil to grass.SAM_0008 Parkland

Under Winsford's pair of bridges there’s a short winding section of fairly narrow river which opens out into the expanse of Winsford Bottom Flash.

Out onto the FlashSAM_0011 Flashes

It unadvisable to venture too far, though. It’s notoriously shallow, and BW make it very clear that this is beyond their jurisdiction. If you get stuck here you’re on your own!

We all turned around, a little gingerly, and rafted up for a photo opportunity. Pity about the sun, though.

All smile on Winsford Bottom FlashSAM_0014 Flashes

Here we’re less than two miles from the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal. It has been proposed to dredge a navigable channel across both Bottom and Top Flashes, then build an inclined plane to take boats up the 80 feet difference in levels. It would make a fine circular route, but it’s not going to happen, is it.

We reversed our route, under the Winsford Bridges with the collection of shopping trollies and assorted detritus, then away from the town, passing those salt piles again.

This guy was here on the way in. Stuffed, do you think?SAM_0018 Still Life No, he twitched!

Cruising back down Vale Royal CutSAM_0030 Vale Royal Cut
Grand, isn’t it.

The area was named after Vale Royal Abbey, established under the Royal patronage of Edward I. He had an ambition of creating a huge cathedral, rivalling any other in the country. But financial setbacks meant that it was 100 years in the building, and never was the magnificent building originally planned. It’s history was plagued with scandal, abbots and monks being accused of lawlessness, financial mismanagement and abuse of privilege, resulting in the murder of two abbots by local people.
It ceased to be an abbey in 1539 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the church was demolished and a lot of the buildings remodelled and incorporated into the house which still stands today. It’s just a quarter mile to the south of Vale Royal Lock, to the west of the river.

We arrived a little early at the lock, having booked passage for around 12:30. Time for the dogs to have a run around (and a run-off) before we were locked through by the obliging BW crew on duty.

Waiting at Vale Royal, R’n’R just arriving.SAM_0038 Vale Royal Lock

Cormorants roosting on Vale Royal CutSAM_0037 Cormorants

While we waited, George spotted a couple of branches that would be suitable for our fire….

That’s George (behind the tree), fishing with his boat hook.SAM_0039 Vale Royal Lock

He seems pleased to have got the wood…SAM_0040 Vale Royal Lock

Avoiding a couple of racing skiffs we arrived at Hunt’s Lock open and ready for us.

Coming throughSAM_0043 Coxed Four

Pampered pooches in Hunt’s LockSAM_0045 Pampered pooches
Meg makes do with a rubber mat on the counter. She’s tough!

We ended our day moored up at Town Wharf in Northwich, just a stone’s throw from the shops. We’ll be here till Thursday morning, then we’ll continue our journey downstream.

Moored in NorthwichSAM_0049 Moored at Town Wharf

Locks 2,  Miles 8

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