Drenched. 15th June

Hannah’s Walk to Bramble Cuttings, Trent and Mersey Canal

It took quite a bit of persuading to get Oleanna away from the bank this morning, that grass at the bow was holding her in. Pushing off at the back and reversing out into the cut to give more room to swing her bow round eventually worked and we could head towards Wardle Lock.

One chap reading Virus Times

A boat was just coming up the lock, I lent a hand and we chatted on opposite sides of the lock. This chap was travelling with three other boats from somewhere on the Bridgewater, heading towards Chester. He had an umbrella up over his roof and his dog was enjoying the shade it gave. His boat rose slowly as one paddle was wrapped in black plastic, but then this lock did always fill very quickly! Quite alarming on your first time if you didn’t heed the warnings on the gates.

Wardle Lock

We were soon in the lock and descending down onto the Wardle Canal, the shortest canal on the network all 154 ft of it. I didn’t bother heading to check if anything was coming, just shut up the lock and let Mick beep the horn instead.

Wardle Canal

Out of the Wardle Canal onto the Trent and Mersey. Left takes you to Northwich, Manchester, Liverpool, Lancaster even Leeds if you turn right at Wigan. Right takes you to Stoke, Stone, Birmingham, London. Straight on takes you to Carefree Cruising and Elton Moss Boat Builders.

Mick turned Oleanna to the left then reversed her back to the water point. Last time we were here this tap wasn’t in use, but today we thought we’d give it a try again. An adaptor was needed so that we could connect our hose then we waited for the tank to fill. Kings Lock Chandelers was open so Mick headed over to buy some oil for the next engine service. The sun was out and the aroma of chips wafted down from the chippy. Sadly Mick only returned with the oil, no bag of chips for lunch!

The salty white bridges of the T&M

Just before we pushed off again a little boat popped out from under the bridge and turned towards the Middlewich locks, we’d be following.

Work going on

The canopy over the Wharf was in the middle of getting a new coat of paint and several boats were moored on the off side. A new hire company has taken over the site, Floating Holidays. A look at their website and I realised that they are not a new company. For four years they have been based at Poynton on the Macclesfield Canal, but have taken the plunge by taking over the old Middlewich Narrowboats base. Really hope it works out for them after being stuck on the Macc due to lock closures over the years, we’ve also seen at least a couple of companies come and go from this site. If you fancy a boating holiday they are currently advertising a post covid discount.

New services

They certainly are doing a lot of work around the place and signs are going up advertising their facilities. Even the dry dock was getting some attention as we passed.

There was a boat coming up in the first lock, so I lent a hand with the gate and offered a helping hand to the chap from the boat in front of us. Apparently another boat was coming up the locks so we should be able to swap with them, maybe these were two of the boats from the Bridgewater.

Hire boats

As the little boat came out from the bottom of the top lock the chap checked I’d be alright with the gates on my own. I said yes, my body weight most certainly twice his! The boat coming up was still in the bottom lock so Mick and I reset the top lock and waited for it to start ascending the middle lock before we lifted a paddle, saving water and stopping the pound overflowing into the dry dock where a chap was working.

Oleanna made it into the pound on the bend first. I left the gates open and headed down to see if I could help. The chap said he’d be another five minutes, no problem. We stood and watched the water gradually fill the lock, his centre rope getting tighter and tighter as the boat rose. He finally went to loosen it, having to pull his boat onto quite an angle to give himself enough slack. Then in single handing mode he pushed the throttle forward. The boat started towards the top gate, the levels still a good 6 to 9 inches different. Now, at tick over the boat would rest against the top gate until levels equalised, then the boat would help push it open. But this was not tick over, it had quite a bit more umph than that! As I lent against the beam the boat came crashing into the gate, almost toppling me and certainly giving the gate an unwanted ramming!

Collision avoided thankfully

The chap then came to open the gate, not keeping his distance to which I just stepped away, saying ‘I’ll leave you to it.!’ The boat still had forward momentum and now the gate was clear it continued on it’s way out of the lock. He had to give the bow a push so as not to hit us where Mick had brought Oleanna into the side, giving him the widest turn possible around the bend. But by now access to the stern of his boat was blocked by the beam, ladder and paddle gear! He only just made it onto a gunnel to walk back to the helm before he would have rammed the dry dock! What a ….!!!

On our own

Now we could carry on down, in the safety of our own company, just so long as the top gate held.

Hire fleet at home

All the Andersen Hire boats were breasted up three deep, awaiting holiday makers to take them out. We hired Bergen Fjord 12 years ago to celebrate Mick’s 50th and do the Cheshire ring.

The sun was making the most of the day and we were now really quite warm so we pulled in under cover of some trees. They looked really good, lots of climbing possibilities. But all they said was ‘No Tilly, not today’.

Look at them!

A stop for lunch and to swap jeans for shorts brought us into mid afternoon. We pushed on to Big Lock where the pub is surrounded by fencing at the moment, lots of work going. It’s changed hands several times since we’ve been coming this way.

The thin bridge that crosses by the bottom of the lock has been taken away to be strengthened and refurbished by C&RT. It used to have a weight limit to it, then it was closed which meant all pedestrians had to cross over the top gates of the lock. Now that the bridge has gone a temporary scaffolding structure has been erected to replace it. Higher than the original with far more steps people would still rather cross the lock gates. I had assistance from a young lady from a cruiser who was obviously itching to work more locks than sit with her Mum and Dad.

Temporary bridge next to the old one

Onwards now to the recycling centre where we moored up and Mick managed to walk our rubbish in to be disposed of. Good job we’d checked the website and seen that it would close at 5pm, the gates were locked at 5:02! Plenty of cars arrived after this, all whom had to turn, in pre-covid days it was open until 8pm.

We sat and waited a couple of hours and just before 7pm we could hear the beep beep of a van reversing, our Sainsburys delivery, timed beautifully with a storm coming over head. The driver was new, he was a driving instructor until recent times. With shopping sorted for quarantine and disinfecting I stayed below with the spray bottle as Mick pushed us off. No need for the two of us to get wet!

Here come the shopping

Our aim had been to carry on to Croxton Flash, here Tilly would be allowed shore leave tomorrow to make up for today. The heavens opened, then opened some more. Blimey!! The rain was hitting the roof of Oleanna so hard it was bouncing back up under the mushroom vents and letting itself inside. I hurriedly closed windows and moved electrical stuff out of the way, then checked if Mick was okay.

Croxton Flash just about came into view, another boat had taken the mooring we’d been hoping for, nothing for it but to carry on and hope for a suitable place to show itself sooner rather than later. More and more rain, then some more for good measure!

Totally drenched

To my surprise we seemed to be pulling in on the off side, Bramble Cuttings. There was space between a couple of boats and we slotted in nicely. It took a while before we were secure and the covers were up. Mick stripped off his top layers, jeans totally soaked through, all left to drip dry under the pram cover.

Even better trees!

Bramble Cuttings!!! One of my favourites! Except She and Tom said it was too late. All those trees going to waste, Pah!

5 locks, 2.83 miles, 1 left, 1 full water tank, 1 camisole top, 1 fresh coat of paint, 1 pranging prat, 1 gate still water tight, 1 tempting offer, 1 young assistant, 1 long wait, 1 squashed pepper, 6 bags of shopping, 1 exceedingly wet mile, 1 space left, 1 drenched Mick, 1 cat with trees in her eyes.