The Big Hole. 16th March

Norbury Junction to Wheaton Aston Winding Hole

29249113_10158043099001515_8030739174434799616_nWe woke this morning to pictures all over facebook of a breach that had occurred on the Middlewich Branch overnight. If you are a boater you are more than likely to have already heard about this, but other readers won’t have. I’ve taken the photos from various sources on facebook so it’s hard to know who to credit. 

29244184_10155072044542331_3925731878140641280_n‘A short section of embankment containing the Shropshire Union Canal, Middlewich Branch, has collapsed overnight, causing water to drain from the canal into the river below. Our emergency engineers were on site all night dealing with the breach, and the canal is currently drained between Stanthorne Lock and Wardle Lock, on the south side of Middlewich town centre, a distance of just over three quarters of a mile. The towpath has also been closed along this stretch. Between 15 and 20 boats are within the drained section and we’ll be contacting all the owners today with offers of assistance.
Engineers are on site now trying to understand the cause of the breach and will be making an initial assessment regarding how to progress repairs, likely timescales and costs.’ C&RT information from facebook.

29257502_364894817321970_765824150987079680_n29313081_364894803988638_7307229109967388672_nThe pictures of the breach kept on appearing during the day from various angles, up high from a drone, below the aqueduct where it had happened, from the towpath (brave people to stand there). One boat was very close to the incident and the chap on board was helped onto dry land by the police in the middle of the night. We know of one Carefree Cruising boat that is in the pound. The chap on board got up to make a cuppa and wondered why the boat was listing, looked out the window to see no water. Luckily no one was hurt.

29261247_364894867321965_8414602739803226112_n29339750_10155678296064121_6651349902645264384_nThe Middlewich Branch connects the Trent and Mersey Canal to the Shropshire Union Canal and forms part of a popular cruising ring called the Four Counties Ring. At the moment the Cheshire Ring, another popular cruise is closed due to a lock on the Marple Flight being rebuilt, this is currently due to reopen at the beginning of May . These closures mean that many boaters will have to rethink their summer cruises. Hire companies in the area may well loose custom.

There are rumours that C&RT plan to put in means for single file traffic so that the navigation can reopen for the summer, closing over winter for a more permanent repair. These rumours are suggesting it will reopen in 3 weeks! Just sorting out an engineering solution, then getting it to site will take a lot longer surely.

Fortunately for us we were well away from the area. We may have to look for a new Bonfire Night mooring for this year though. Where we have been the last two years is in the pound above the now drained one. We could get to the mooring overlooking the flashes, but the reverse to the nearest winding hole would be over a mile and through four bridges. Anyhow we haven’t planned on where we’ll be come November yet.

P1250453smP1250467smP1250481smOnce we’d put down our phones and turned off the computer we started to continue on our way. Today was meant to be wet, but we only had the odd small shower. The sky had enough blue for a table cloth as we pootled along the remainder of the pound to Wheaton Aston. Through Gnosall and Cowley Tunnel (all of 81 yards) where it’s not worth going into tunnel mode. A tree had fallen at the entrance and a group of high vis clad chaps were waiting to put a floating pontoon into the cut to gain access to it, but there was enough room to get round so it didn’t bother us.

P1250507smP1250519smAlong more embankments and through  cuttings where the tree canopy created a guard of honour for us to pass through. Many flowers were out, daffodils, crocus and primroses brightening up the banks, hope they survive the weekend. Day boats came towards us, managing to regain control and stop zigzagging to keep a straight course as we crossed bows.

P1250544smOn reaching Wheaton Aston we pulled over onto the mooring by Turners Garage. Here they sell Red Diesel for farm use and to boats. The original owner when he first took over the garage supplied his friends and then he opened it up for other boaters. Here the diesel is some of the cheapest on the network and we’d be foolish to pass by without filling up. If it had been in the summer we’d most probably not have filled up a couple of weeks ago as the price was 62.9p compared to 76p on NB Halsall.

P1250562smI walked over the bridge to see what moorings were available, there were two so we pulled through the bridge and positioned ourselves furthest away from the road bridge as we could. With the forecast being for strong winds and temperatures around freezing with snow, we shall stay put for the weekend. We have a service block in front of us, shops in the village and plenty of coal to keep us warm.

DSCF7114sm0 locks, 1 in view though, 7.48 miles, 1 short tunnel, 71.55 litres, 1 gas bottle still gasping it’s last flames, 1 very funny tree, 2nd towpath with vans! 2 useful shops, 1 gardeners crack, 1 paper on order for tomorrow, 1 very big hole in Cheshire, 20 dry bottoms.

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