Nasty Or Nice? 23rd April

Bramble Cuttings to Rookery Moorings

Breath in!

Time to start the climb up through Cheshire today. We made our way towards Middlewich breathing in as we crossed the narrow Croxton Aqueduct, here we leave wide boats behind despite the first lock being wide itself.

The banks have been raised, possibly to stop too much water going over the overspill

Big Lock is just that, big and can hold two narrowboats. Today we got to share our first lock since the Calder and Hebble, it will be our last until we start going down hill from Birmingham. We chatted to the owners of NB Autumn Haze which looked immaculate, had they recently had her painted? Oh yes, 4 years ago. Four years! There wasn’t a mark on her and she looked like she’d just come out of dry dock. If only Oleanna looked so smart! They were heading up to the Macc, shorter trips for them nowadays after exploring much of the network through the years.

Sharing a lock, we’ve not done that for a while

They went on ahead as we were pulling in for a touch of shopping to tide us over. The small Tescos had most of what we were after, no need to walk on to the larger supermarkets today. Back on board we set off for the Middlewich three locks, we’d already spotted volunteers, so it would be an easy journey around the bend.

Our first narrow lock since Foxton last year

Last year the bottom lock had required some gentle handling, one of the bottom paddles could only be lifted at a certain water level. Today new gates held the water back and the paddle problem is no more. A volunteer headed down to help me, no other boats in the flight, so the next two would be set ahead for us. The bottom gates may be new, but the metal board that runs up to meet the one on the top gates was hanging off at a jaunty angle. I mentioned this to the volunteer, who then mentioned it to another who said they’d mentioned it to CRT several times. Mick had spotted it as he’d come into the lock so stayed back.

Round the bend

Moving into the middle lock Mick misjudged the bywash and his speed, quite a clonk to the port side, he blamed the wind! Hope Tilly wasnt too upset inside! Round the tight bend to the top lock Mick made up for his earlier mistake entering the lock without touching the sides. Here two volunteers helped us ascend. The younger chap was watching the time, Kings Lock chippy would now be open, were there any more boats coming or could he head off to get himself an early lunch?

I walked up towards the junction. I spied activity at Wardle Lock, but couldn’t see if a boat had just descended. A lady popped her head out from under the bridge I was walking over, we both clocked our boats were wanting to head in the same direction, so they held back whilst Mick brought Oleanna past. There was a space outside Kings Lock Chandlers, a rare sight, so we pulled in letting the other boat go ahead.

Time to get that replacement bowthruster fuse. They had to look for the correct one, but they did have it in stock. Their white spirit was also getting on for £2 cheaper than we’d seen at Preston Brook. I did look around for a chimney brush as our original one had come from their stand at Crick, but none were to be seen. Our current one has a short handle and needs to be attached to something longer to do a good job.

Form an orderly queue

Now there was a queue starting to form at King’s Lock. With one boat waiting below, Mick quickly pushed Oleanna over to claim our position whilst I helped at the lock. A hire boat arriving from Wardle followed by another from the Middlewich Locks. The first couple were heading for the Ashby, their last big cruise before resticting themselves to pootleing up and down the Llangollen. The lady on board used to be a sailor, single handing across the oceans.

Up we went, the lady from two boats behind joining to help, only a short cruise out for them at the moment.

Only fourteen swans in the next pound, we used to count so many more when NB Winding Down was based at Elton Moss. We also spotted what looked like a new Morrisons Daily which would have been even closer than Tescos for our small shop today.

Such a dusty shame

Rumps Lock, one boat in, one boat out. A couple heading north from Droitwich. The Kiderton Arms now looks totally unloved. Through the last fifteen years we’ve watched it have a new roof, a pub, a thai restaurant, possibly other versions of itself. Today black fabric covers the downstairs windows, dust the upper windows and behind it another new housing estate is being built.

Time for lunch, we tucked onto the end of some armco above Rumps Lock and watched the boats following us come past. Not a place to moor for the night due to the proximity of the road we pushed on.

At least one house in the estate will have a chimney

This stretch of canal is possibly the one we know the best, although it’s been five years since we travelled it last and there has been a lot of building work happening. One lone half timbered Cheshire house sits in amongst new houses, it’s windows shuttered off. Hopefully it will recieve some tlc and have a new life once the estate around it is completed.

Moston Mill

Up the two Booth Lane Locks, a hire boat just leaving the second one was confused by us leaving the gates for them. There used to be a couple of boats moored on the offside by the winding hole, but they are long gone. By Stud Green Bridge a building is having a revamp and the slatted fence has nesting boxes at about 10ft intervals along it, what a nice idea.

Moston Mill just below Crows Nest Lock 67 (Booth Lane Top Lock 67) is also having some work done to the banks, it looks very smart. Back in the 1880’s there was a big mill pond behind it. It last sold in 2020 for £820,000, now the value is estimated at £960,000.

Nice or Nasty?

Crows Nest Lock was the first lock north we would pass through when we were on NB Winding Down, our old shareboat. Going out it was Nice Lock, coming back to base it was Nasty Lock! Mick thought that the nice lock moments outnumbered the nasty, as we’d done the Four Counties Ring on one occasion. I then pointed out that on another occasion we’d picked WD up from Aqueduct Marina after she’d been blacked and returned her to base. So maybe this equalled it out. Now it just brings back memories of our time when a week possibly two were eagerly waited for.

A few changes along the on line moorings above the lock, no longer the ice breaker and a farm shop. A boat came towards us at Elton Moss Bridge. A moment of panic had then they went skew wiff across the cut, it was the helms third day on a boat, we’ve all been there. The old Carefree Cruising yard is very different now, three houses not one sit on the plot and Artie seems to have aquired himself a rather nice soft top Morris 1000.

Under the railway bridge where you used to be able to wind a 57ft shareboat, we stopped at Rookery Moorings, big piling and rings. Out came the tyre fenders soon followed by Tilly whos little legs made a quick beeline for the trees behind us. Last time we moored there she did exactly the same.

More boats came past, most heading towards Wheelock. One very familiar boat in her recent new blue livery came past heading to Middlewich, NB Winding Down. She’s now based at Aston Marina, the owners on board were taking her to the Carefree Cruising base as her gear box had gone. Unfortunatly nobody we knew from the original syndicate, but we said hello anyway.

Are they more boats heading south on this route due to the landslip on the North Oxford, Vazon Sliding Bridge being out of action to give access to the Trent? Or is it just normally this busy. Maybe the later and we get spoilt up north with the lack of moving boats.

9 locks, 1 fat one even though canalplan counts it as narrow, 6.7 miles, 4 volunteers, 200amp fuse, 2 litres white spirit, 274 new houses, 14 swans only, 1000 morris, 2 warm for coats, 2 cold to be without, 1 spinney, 4 little legs, 4 chicken spring roles, 1st sock of pair 17 cast off, 1 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval.