Thursday, 28 January 2016

Marston (A visit to a salt works at last)

I should have known that when I said we were moored in Barnton, the largest village in England, that I would get some comments.  This is a close up of part of an information sign on the tow path that substantiates my comment:

This is a photo I was sent as one of the comments (thanks Steve!).

Clearly it all depends on how villages are defined so they are all rash statements unless qualified.
Anyway we needed to take on water and also wanted to clean the outside of the boat so set off for the water point at Anderton on Wednesday morning.  It was still pretty windy but not really bad enough to stop us travelling.  We had to take it easy past some works that were being carried out by CRT.

Once we’d taken on water we set about cleaning the roof.  Here’s Karen hosing it down – she always prefers to do this as it gives her a chance to ‘accidently’ spray me with water for some reason.

We continued on to Marston after lunch and moored up outside the salt works museum – see photo at the top.  The large tank used to hold brine that was pumped up from below ground.  This is the pump house that used to drive the ‘nodding donkey’ (on the left) to pump the brine up.

Once the tank was full of brine it was drained into five large lead pans that were then heated up to boil the brine and leave a residue of salt.  Salt works buildings and machinery were often rebuilt as they disintegrated quickly with the steam and other chemicals that burnt off.

This is another of the five pans, the building housing it has been demolished and the pan
is not being restored.

It’s amazing to think that the Romans started extracting brine and rock salt in Cheshire and their methods of extraction and production were little different to those employed into the 1980s when these works finally closed.  The salt towns were called wiches (e.g. Droitwich, Nantwich, Northwich, Middlewich etc.) and suffered terribly from subsidence.  There are many pictures of houses being swallowed up overnight.  This is a picture of an occasion when the Trent & Mersey canal breached through subsidence.  Apparently it only took two weeks to repair this – I dread to think how long it would take these days because of Health & Safety and other bureaucracy.

When subsidence occurred the holes were soon filled with water and the resulting pools are called flashes.  There was one particularly large area of subsidence that apparently caused the River Weaver to run backwards for a short stretch until it was full.  We have spent many a night moored on the side of flashes as they tend to be wide and not canal like.  This exhibit in the museum invites the visitor to look at the view outside because there is a flash on the far side of the canal – it doesn’t mention our washing blowing away in the wind!

There'll be a break in the blog for a couple of days as we're off to help Lauren and Lewis do some decorating in their new home.

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