|I hate to say it but selfishly moored on the lock landing at Big Lock in Middlewich|
We headed off for Middlewich in the morning; the plan being to arrive at the same time as Judith & Nigel stopped off on their way up the M6 for parental visits to Yorkshire. Soon after leaving we went through Billinge Green flash, one of our top ten mooring spots, and were surprised to see it had been converted into a marina.
|90-berth marina opened in August this year at Billinge Green flash|
We were last here two years ago when we took the new boat out for the weekend for a test run before taking her down to the Midlands. We had stayed at the flash that weekend; it won’t be the same again.
A little further on we went through Whatcroft flash, a favourite mooring spot for many people and consequently usually has boats moored along the towpath but was completely empty today. I wonder if there are plans to convert this to a marina too 😉
|Passing through Whatcroft flash|
Talking about favourite mooring spots we then went past one of Les’s favourite spots. I do wonder though how easy it will be to moor there now as the reeds on the opposite bank have somewhat making the passage very narrow.
|One of Les Heath’s favourite moorings (just one boat’s length of Armco, so ideal for being isolated)|
We stopped for water below Big Lock in Middlewich and Judith & Nigel arrived soon afterwards. All the Trent & Mersey locks after this one are narrow locks, taking one rather than two boats at a time, until the canal reaches Stenson lock down at the Nottingham end of the canal; hence the name Big Lock. Judith & Nigel stopped for a cuppa and to help me finish off the fruit cake (Karen has promised an apple cake next). I mention the cake as I inadvertently said that Nigel’s favourite was fruit but it’s actually apple cake. They may be popping back into see us on their way back home next Sunday so will there be any left for him?
As Judith & Nigel were leaving, two boats came past and went up Big Lock. I went up to get the lock set for us, expecting the boaters would have closed the top gates. A shame, but they hadn’t but one of them, in a sailaway, was mooring up at the lock landing. I said, a little sarcastically, ‘I’ll close the gates for you’. They looked at me as if I was mad and I came to the conclusion that they had only just started boating, especially as they were in a sailaway that looked very new (a sailaway is a shell and engine and little else, leaving the owner to fit out inside). The other boat was a single-hander and I suspect he went off expecting them to close up the lock.
Anyway, I closed the gates, dropped the paddles and set the lock for us. By the time we came up the lock and were ready to leave we saw the couple were clearly moored up at the lock landing as they had packed away their tiller arm and were padlocking the rear doors. I politely explained that it’s not the thing to do as people need a place to park their boat while setting the lock or dropping off crew. Again, they didn’t seem to understand and told me they were just going for a drink in the pub. I explained that some people get very angry about this sort of thing but it’s their choice. The girl asked me what they should do, and I just repeated that it’s their choice. [I’m not as bad as Mike, honest Aileen 😉]
|Looking back at Big Lock - our last broad lock until we hit Braunston in a couple of weeks|
We moored up around the corner for lunch and to do the weekly supermarket shopping trip. We didn’t leave again until about 3.30pm and noticed that the sailaway was still moored on the lock landing; they had obviously gone for more than a drink. In fact, we bumped into the single hander a bit later, and he told us that they had told him they were finding somewhere safe to leave the boat whilst they went away for a while ☹
We then went up the three locks in the middle of Middlewich and it was so nice to be back in single width locks. They are so much quicker to operate and we were soon through them heading for Kings Lock, the last lock of the day.
|Bottom lock of the Middlewich 3 (they are fairly deep at 12’ each)|
When we came out of the top lock, we weren’t prepared to see the pound totally clear of boats. Usually the pound has permanent boats on the offside and all the Middlewich hire boats on the towpath side. We had heard they had gone out of business earlier in the year but hadn’t realised that everything had gone already ☹
I wonder how much the Middlewich breach contributed to their woes – many hirers would head off down the Middlewich branch to cruise the Llangollen canal for their holidays which would not have been possible this year due to the tragic breach. Hopefully a buyer will be found for the boatyard soon.
|An unexpected boat-free pound between Middlewich top lock and Kings lock with the boatyard service point in the distance|
Just before Kings Lock the Middlewich branch heads off right towards the Shropshire Union and Llangollen canals. No boats will have headed along here for eight months now as the breach happened back in March.
|The start of the Middlewich branch|
Technically it’s not the start of the Middlewich branch as the very short stretch before the lock in the background is the UK’s shortest canal, the Wardle canal. It was built by the Trent & Mersey canal company, so they could control the junction with the Middlewich branch which was owned and managed as part of the Shropshire Union.
It was getting quite dark when we went through Kings Lock and by the time we had gone another ¾ mile before mooring below Rumps lock it was even darker. In fact, it was so dark that you are spared a picture of our Saturday night mooring spot, as a photo wouldn’t have come out.
|Instead you can have a picture taken the following morning 😊|
For once we’re going to do the locks over two days rather than one and stop half way up on Monday night. This is because we are meeting up with Dave & Barbara on Tuesday evening, at Red Bull which is at the top of the flight.
When we set off we were straight into Rumps lock as we had been moored just below it on Saturday night. We had to keep Buddy on his lead because the cat from the lock cottage was sitting on the lockside which really wound him up. He would have been on his lead anyway as the lock is right next to the main road from Middlewich to Sandbach.
|Leaving Rumps lock with a British Salt factory on the left, Buddy on his lead in the middle and the Sandbach road on the right|
Judging by the number of bare trees now, autumn is nearly over, and winter is setting in. Although I must say that now the frosts of a week or so ago have gone it is feeling relatively mild with temperatures reaching double figures.
Cruising in the sun always makes me look for and think about butterflies but I’m afraid we haven’t seen any since returning from France & Italy just over two weeks ago. I know they are still being seen in the south though with sightings of clouded yellows, small coppers and red admirals which, I suppose, makes me a little envious.
Soon after the British Salt factory and some open farmland we approached the three locks on the Booth Lane flight. Every time we come through these locks we notice how the housing estates on the far side of the road, which is still alongside, have expanded.
There were four working boats tied up at the bottom and it was nice to see one was still in the British Waterways colours of blue and yellow.
The first two locks are typically named Booth Lane Bottom lock and Booth Lane Middle lock but for some reason the top lock is called Crows Nest lock rather than Booth Lane Top lock and I have to admit I prefer Crows Nest.
As we were only cruising for three miles Karen walked Buddy for the journey and as we moored up the skies darkened, and we got a great view of a double rainbow.
Once again Buddy was interested in some cows and their calves, but they were the other side of the cut, so he couldn’t investigate further.
This weekend we cruised a leisurely ten miles up nine locks. The next couple of days will be busier as we have 26 locks to get up before we get to Harecastle tunnel where we are booked to go through first thing on Wednesday.