Starting From The Bottom. 17th June

Bramble Cuttings to Rockery Railway Bridge 158

With a distance to cover today Tilly had no choice but to stay on board this morning, the doors were kept firmly closed. A boat pulled up for a short while at the other end of the moorings, possibly just to give his dog a comfort break.

A little visitor pointing due north

We pushed off about 10:30 headed northwards. The nearest winding hole about two miles away at Whatcroft Flash. The sun was doing it’s best to show and a damselfly decided to stop and soak up some rays on the phone that currently runs Waterway Routes as we cruise. My photo doesn’t really show how much the turquoise on it’s tail zinged out.

Just enough room to get through

A short distance further a tree was down across the cut, leaving a gap just wide enough for a narrowboat to squeeze past. Soon we came across a C&RT tug boat, whom we thought might be heading that way to help clear the blockage, but they were there to move skip boats about.

Whatcroft Flash

No moorers at Whatcroft Flash, another favourite spot of ours, but then the towpath was showing how much rain we’ve had recently, a right quagmire. We winded with ease at the wide water and returned to towards Middlewich.

A very Cheshire house with giant bear to guard the log pile

My messages to people at Chipping Norton finally got a response this morning. The feeling there is still quite a positive one, even if the government haven’t given the theatre industry any guidelines for when they reopen. The fact that Will had not mentioned restructuring of the organisation or redundancies on the horizon helped me make my mind up about the job in Vienna. There are so many factors to consider, dates so tight they may as well be a pair of latex gloves, not enough room on the boat for two models, I’d have to turf Mick and Tilly overboard! I’ve weighed up the pros and cons over night taking all factors into account, too many to bore you with. My heart has been shouting ‘Take it take it!’ My trip earlier this year had been a great one and it’s very flattering to be asked back. But my head has shouted louder, I’m not willing to stop cruising (now that we can again) for a couple of months to get two shows designed and I’m also not willing to compromise my work. So very, very sadly I have turned Vienna down. Hopefully they will approach me again as the cheese shop near the theatre needs further investigation and the gluten free Weiner Schnitzel needs another try, it just won’t be this year.

My assistant ready to help

Back on the cut, Mick brought us in below Kings Lock where my young helper was lurking hoping she could help again. Apparently their cruiser has engine problems so they are stuck at the moment and in the last few days she thought she’d helped 23 boats through the lock. A chap was trying to persuade his dog to cross the top gates, the dog reluctant to walk over the gaps. I waited as my assistant wasn’t able to close the bottom gate on her own. The dog then misplaced a paw and ended up in the drink, the chap pulling on it’s lead to keep it’s head above water. Thankfully the chap was young and managed to pull the dog out by it’s legs as the lead had long since slid over it’s nose. Thank goodness we hadn’t lifted any paddles.

Oleanna adding to the boats

Below the bottom Middlewich Lock a chap was doing some work on an Andersen Hire boat. As Mick waited for me to set the lock he chatted to the chap. He is eager to get the hire boats back out with holiday makers, but there have been no dates given to them. He really hopes when the time comes they are given some notice, all his boats are still winterised, they need checking over and making ready for the season. For this he needs his staff who are all currently furloughed. So the Prime Minister standing at a lectern saying ‘from tomorrow you can go on a boating holiday’ will not be helpful.

Starting at the bottom of the Cheshire locks

We worked our way up the three locks each set against us. As Oleanna came into the last one a boat approached from above, NB Ghia (?), we’ve been playing leapfrog with them the last few days. They were hoping to reach Bramble Cutting today to let their cats out, I did warn them that there may now be few friends to find after Tilly had free range yesterday!

First narrow lock on the T&M

With the lock just over half full I glanced to the stern of Oleanna, where was Mick? He’s normally in view, usually about to step off and help open the gate. But where was he? I crossed over the gate just as Mick appeared from inside with water proof trousers as it was just starting to rain. The chap from NB Ghia said he’d done that the other day and now he knew why he’d been given a funny look when he appeared back at the helm. Mick has been made aware of my concern.

This chap had a knack of standing in the way

Onwards to Kings Lock, by now waterproofs were required and rumbling over head meant we wanted to get up the lock as quickly as we safely could to get tied up and out of the soon to arrive deluge! So this was when a helpful(?) gongoozler decided to lend a hand. Normally in the sun this would be fine, I’d carry on as normal and if he wanted to help fine. But trying to keep two meters away as someone stands in the way on the bridge isn’t helpful. ‘Do those things go into the ground underneath and keep the gates closed?’ ‘How do you know you can open the gates?’ All the time the rain getting heavier, he didn’t mind he’d had his fish and chips!

Ring your order through and you’ll beat any queue

Quickly we tied up on the first rings, battened down the hatches and settled down to lunch as we steamed away inside Oleanna. Still no chips!

Only two

Things started to improve so on we pootled. Only two swans today in the whole pound where once we used to count 40/50 odd.

Very gold

At what used to be the Kinderton Arms a new sign post has gone up, continuing the Thai theme that the pub has had for a while. A small sign in the window advertises delivery.

Mountains of salt

Near where the Bisto factory used to be we could see lots of orange cables and small traffic cones along the towpath. This is investigative works for the new Middlewich Bypass.

Cables

When Booth Lane Bottom Lock came into view we could see some activity going on. There was a boat in the lock and a white circle on the front bulk head made me zoom in with the camera. I was fairly sure it was the ‘Blue Boat’. A couple walked up and down either side of the boat and then a border collie could be seen. Most definitely the ‘Blue Boat’ with Mr and Mrs Blue Boat and their dog, our summer cruising is now complete.

Is it?

As our bows crossed below the lock we had to remind them who we are, ‘We used to have the yellow boat!’ Back in August 2015 we came across Pat and Roy on the Huddersfield Narrow. We then leapfrogged each other to Keadby Lock. Every year since then we have seen them somewhere on the system, up on the Macc in December 2016 and in Middlewich. We’d been wondering if we’d see them and there they were. They tend to spend winter around Macclefield so maybe they were one of the first boats off the Macc yesterday when the locks were opened for a few hours to help boats escape. One day we’ll find ourselves in the same place and have a proper conversation, after we’ve reminded them who we are.

Handrail

Booth Lane Middle Lock has had a hand rail added to the steps leading down to the towpath, now you can happily fall in the direction of the canal but not onto the towpath. Not seen one of these before, suspect somebody had a bad fall.

Nice Lock

Next Crows Nest Lock, number 67. Nice Lock. This was the nearest lock to our old shareboat base, so on the way out it was Nice Lock and on the way back Nasty Lock! Now it’s just Nice with the large trees alongside. A couple out for a walk stopped and watched as we rose up in the lock, I think it’s the first time we’ve had gongoozlers along this stretch.

Such a nice lock

Things have changed even more at Elton Moss Bridge. Two boats were moored up outside the old cottage, a chap chatted from the stern of his boat that had an identity problem. Was it a Braidbar boat or a Kingsground boat? Between the cottage and the long wooden shed a new house is being built with large windows over looking the canal. A long line of homebrew barrels filled the wooden shed where Carefree Cruising touch up paint used to live.

New house

Artie never misses an opportunity to advertise!

Arties new house

On we pootled past the new houses and where once the Carefree boats used to wind, now all over grown. Under the railway bridges as the clouds grew dark overhead again. We pulled up to the first free set of rings, then moved along to avoid ants nests. Just as the last zip of covers was done up the heavens opened again, this time a hail storm. Due to the numerous ants outside we decided that Tilly should be kept it, the last thing we wanted was a cat off her face on Oleic Acid.

9 locks, 10.22 miles, 1 straight on, 1 mystery mastic gun, 0 chips, 0 shore leave, 1 helper, 1 hinderer, 2 watchers, 2 ants nests, 1 decision, 0 trip to Vienna, 1 sad designer, 1 full days boating.

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