Yesterday, as predicted, was wet for most of the day. Meg and I ventured out for exercise, and I made a visit to Tesco’s for groceries, but that was about it.
Today didn’t look too promising either first thing, but has steadily improved as the day wore on.
Leaving Middlewich moorings at 09:30 on a dull morning.
We had the three Middlewich Locks and Kings Lock to deal with before we left the town, and were disappointed to have them all against us. We’d expected a few boats coming down.
Mags makes the turn into Lock 72
It’s always a bit congested alongside Middlewich Boats
Luckily no-one was coming. We did meet an oncoming boat under the bridge just before the junction, but he backed off to let us through.
Mags heading for King’s Lock, the entrance to the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal under the bridge to the left.
Leaving Middlewich, the next 2½ miles of canal is shadowed by the busy Booth Lane, with three locks to do before peace is regained near Crow’s Nest Lock.
A heron watches us approach with studied indifference…
…but bottles it at the last minute.
It was along the Booth Lane stretch that we started to meet boats coming the other way, leaving the locks set in our favour. We didn’t have to turn another lock all day…
Into Booth Lane Top Lock, No 68
Heading into Wheelock village the canal follows the valley of the river of the same name, becoming quite bendy in places.
A bit of gardening would improve visibility on some of the bends…
We watered etc. at Wheelock Wharf, timing it well as another boat was leaving as we arrived. There’s normally room for two or three boats to get on here, but access was somewhat hampered by the butty Maria, moored alongside one of the taps.
There’s some doubt as to whether this is the original Maria built by Jink’s yard at Marple in 1854. Records suggest that she was replaced by another of the same name, in 1915, by the same builder. 160 or 99 years old, she’s a venerable old lady, but still shouldn’t have been left blocking a water point.
We pulled on to the visitor moorings at Wheelock for a bite to eat and a quick visit to the pet superstore for dog food, then set off to tackle the start of the steady ascent into Stoke. We’d just got going, heading towards another boat that’d left the bottom lock, when I recognised the oncoming craft. It was Dave and Dylis on NB Trundle.
They moor on the Soar, where we’re heading. We always seem to meet up heading in the opposite direction! Anyway, both boats pulled in and we had a quick 5 minute catch-up before heading our separate ways. Have a good trip, you two!
It was a bit chaotic at the bottom of the Wheelock Flight. Above the bottom lock the locks are paired, but the offside of the bottom pair is out of action (again!). Most of the traffic was heading downhill, using both the adjacent chambers till they got here…
Above Lock 66
As we headed up to L65 there were four boats in the short pound between the locks!
(There’s one out of sight, still in the empty lock to the left)
With plenty of boats coming down we made short work of the locks up to the golf club at Malkin’s Bank, where we intended to stop.
Swapping locks at Malkin’s Bank
The bank near the golf course was a bit overgrown and a boat coming down had left Lock 60 open for us, so we pushed on up another 2, stopping below the pair at Hassall Green.
Moored below Hassall Green, with a view of Mow Cop in the distance and the M6 buzzing along in the foreground.
With the wind coming from the north-west there’s no noise from the motorway here.
It’s been a long day by our standards, but very enjoyable. It means we’ve now only a short trip to Rode Heath tomorrow, where we’ll take at least one day off.
Locks 16, miles 7½