Category Archives: Middlewich Branch

How Different Our Day Would Have Been. 13th May

Bridge 22 to Rookery Railway Bridge 158, Trent and Mersey

No shore leave for Tilly this morning, we weren’t going to risk her getting carried away and not returning for hours! With a mooring in mind we pushed off in the glorious sunshine to find the next winding hole to turn in.

Shuttered house

Just over a mile and a half away there it was, for a change nobody was using it. Mick swung Oleannas bow in towards the V and started to turn her just as a boat came round the bend, they’d have to be patient for us to finish, which they were. Then we were on our way northwards again to be able to head southwards.

Bridge after bridge

More fields were being ploughed, hay turned, cattle grazed with a few very young calves having a rest by Mums feet. The branch is so rural, just the West Coast Main Line to break things up. We passed the cottage with it’s painted shutters, a new coat of paint has been added avoiding the roses. The converted stable block is another must for a photo.

On the new rings

By the time we had descended Stanthorne Lock it was lunchtime, so we decided to try out some of the new mooring rings at the breach site. I walked along to have a better look down at the side of the aqueduct where the breach happened. You can’t get down to see from below, but from above there is a definite scar where the water pushed everything out of its way.

Looking down to the river

The bank has a fresh layer of grass taking hold, but at the bottom there is still earth showing. The bank of the river has been made good and twigs mark where a hedge will grow in the future. The stone up on the aqueduct almost certainly marks the spot, a local dog has also left it’s mark here!

After lunch we swapped with a boat coming up Wardle Lock. A horn sounded below, then the bow of a boat appeared round the bend just after I’d lifted the bottom paddles. The bow hit the far side of the bridge as the chap at the helm tried to get their boat to turn, then the cabin top took a bump as the angle aligned perfectly. A chap walked up towards the lock and saw that I was opening the gates, ‘Thank you!’ He hadn’t realised there as a boat in the lock.

One swan!

I walked on to set King’s Lock leaving Mick to navigate around the hire boat and turn. As he waited for the lock to empty he spotted that the annoying water point at the junction has gone. Here there used to be boats moored up outside the chandlers, boats turning into and out of Wardle Lock, boats waiting to go up King’s Lock with another sat on the water point. Such a busy busy junction, all empty now.

Up above NB Elk was pulling in. We saw New Year in with Brian a few years ago at Bugsworth in the hold of NB Tench (I doubt he recognised us, we were yellow then). We wonder where Tench is now as her owner sadly died in a boat fire a year ago.

Four more and a boat in front

When on NB Winding Down we’d always count the swans in this pound. A popular spot for them, a fence was even put up to keep them from wandering onto the road. But we now seem to arrive when the numbers are low. At first count there was only one who’d made the effort, but another four were hiding at Rumps Lock.

We once bow hauled a boat here along the treacherous towpath

Some work has been done by C&RT on the lock landings along this stretch. For years the concrete edge has been collapsed and you had to choose where to step off your boat carefully.

Salt mountain

British Salt is always an interesting sight. The mounds of white stuff outside looking like part of the Alps and indoors the more pristine mounds were being rounded up by a very diddy digger. A short distance further on is a footbridge that goes to nowhere now. When we first bought into Nb Winding Down here stood the remains of the 1920’s factory for Bisto.

As we reached Booth Lane Bottom Lock, we’d caught up with a boat ahead. I asked if the locks had been full when they arrived, ‘Yes’, ‘The same here!’ I helped with the gate and reset the lock for us.
All the locks on the Trent and Mersey today have had chains and padlocks at their bases. I’ve not noticed this before.

Nice lock

Crow’s Nest Lock 67 is a nice lock. It used to occasionally be a really nasty lock too, but now it’s just nice. This was quite often the first lock we’d go through on NB Winding Down, it was also quite often the last before tidying, cleaning and packing away after our time on board. I helped a hire boat down, then it was our turn.

Artie’s back yard

Artie’s backyard is still a mishmash, the cottage looks like there are new owners and a boat is pulled up on a permanent mooring where the Carefree Cruising turn arounds used to happen. New build houses over look from behind and Artie’s new backyard is settling down well, it really is a huge house.

We’d originally planned on mooring at Wheelock, but the afternoon was ticking on. A fill of water also required, so once through the railway bridges we pulled in where there are rings, deployed our tyre fenders and settled down for the remainder of the day.

Today would have been the first day of the fraud case in Derby. The last few weeks we’d have spent cruising to get to a mooring. Mick would have been in court today, I’d not have been allowed to watch until I’d given my evidence. Our life would have been taken over by it for the next four weeks. How different today was, we made the most of the lovely weather and cruised.

I wasn’t too enamoured with this outside to start with. The friendly cover too thick for my liking and the towpath had just been cut, removing all the tastiest morsels. But after a while I found a good patch of trees. These provided me with very good climbing and a group of crows and magpies flocked to join me, serenading my achievement at climbing so high.

She came out to see what all the fuss was about, I think my new friends were being a touch too noisy. As we walked back to our boat a Tom stuck his head up out of another boat. ‘Excuse me is that Jingle Cat?’ This is the name I go under on social media. This was my Tom friend Ben. I met him in the Bugsworth outside ages ago, his memory is better than mine. She and Ben Tom chatted away whilst I found more grass and then disposed of it as only cats can. Then I spotted Ben Tom’s cats inside his boat. Olga and Betty. They shouted at me then hit each other, I’m not that surprised as I would never ever dream of living with a cat!

7 locks, 8.16 miles, 1 wind, 1 right, 5 swans, 1 bumping boat, 2 boats with boats in front, 0 water, 2 familiar boats, 1 with a repaint, 2000m, 0 court, 67 nice lock, 1 Ben Tom, 1 hour chatting, 2 bickering cats, 0 yarn news.

Success! and Feeling The Need For A Narrow Lock 12th May

Whatcroft Flash to Lea Hall Bridge 22, Middlewich Branch

6am. Beautiful

Blimey, now that the sun has come out it wants to be out all the time. It woke me at 5am and again at 6am. This did give me the opportunity to send the London Leckenbys a supportive message.

Two tired faces

They eventually set off from Clapham Common on the Moonwalk after midnight, by 00:30 they had walked the first two miles. At 5:00 two thirds of the route had passed under their feet and at 8:45 there was only one mile left to conquer, which they did. A photo was sent through with them proudly showing off their medals this afternoon, after they’d had a well earned sleep. They raised between them over £2000!

Our day wasn’t to be quite so energetic, but we both felt the need to do a narrow lock, which actually meant we’d have at least four to do before stopping for the day. As we had breakfast we were joined by another boat, so we decided to push off and leave them to enjoy the view by themselves.

Sunny weather hat

Mick’s Akubra hat came out for the first time this year, this meant that the sun was most definitely out.

Bramble Cuttings

The heady smell of wild garlic in the wooded stretches accompanied us towards Bramble Cuttings, a popular mooring spot on the off side. All spaces were taken, good job we didn’t want to stop there, we knew where we were heading.

Back in the narrow world

Across Croxton Aqueduct we pulled in at the tip to dispose of old engine oil and glass.

Big Lock

There was nobody to share Big Lock with so worked our way up on our own. The bridge here has been closed, the weight limit of ten people must no longer be safe. So the only way across the lock is by the top gates. As Oleanna ascended a chap arrived, put his bike on his shoulder and walked over the gates, this actually looked reasonably safe compared to him then riding it past the off side of the lock!

We pulled in by the park and walked up to Lidl and Morrisons, popping something important in the post. All the times we’ve been to Middlewich we’ve never visited Morrisons, I think it opened around 2015, so our days of passing through several times a year on NB Winding Down were over by then. Morrisons is currently our favourite as they tend to have a really good Free From isle. Sadly today though I was left disappointed with just an average selection to choose from.

Our first narrowlock since Foxton in January

After lunch we pushed off and headed for the locks, all narrow from here. Only a couple of boats at Anderson Boats. We’d not seen any of their boats until today. With Marple still closed the Cheshire ring is out of action so most of their customers must be heading south for the Caldon and the Four Counties ring.

The bottom lock was empty, the next pound looked a touch low. No volunteers to help today. Once Oleanna was level I’d emptied what excess water there was in the second lock and walked back to see if I could close the gate behind. But there wasn’t sufficient water to get over the top cill. I went back up and opened a paddle at both ends of the lock to let water down. Mick had reversed back into the lock below and waited before trying again. Gradually he inched forward, I kept an eye on his progress as I wanted to stop the flow of water as soon as I could as the next pound is very short. I got a thumbs up he was through.

Between the second and third lock
The new bench, everyone has taken it’s photo so I didn’t want to be left out

As Oleanna rose in the second lock I walked up to let more water down. The bottom two locks had been empty but luckily the top one was full, so I could let the water down without having to steal anymore for the pound above. As she rose in the last of the three a boat came towards us so we could leave the gates.

Just about empty

This next pound is normally chocka full of boats. Middlewich Narrowboats with it’s hire fleet and then all the Carefree Cruising share boats. But all the share boats were out and sadly Middlewich have ceased trading.

A ghost town

Only three boats in the pound. At Kings Lock Chandlers, normally filled with boats their moorings were empty also. It was like a Ghost Town!

Oleanna on the Wardle Canal

I walked ahead and turned right stooping under the low arched bridge that leads onto the Wardle Canal, the shortest canal in England at 154 feet long. We’d decided on a short detour up the Middlewich Branch.

Two reasons for this. Firstly we wanted to see for ourselves where the breach had been last year that closed the canal for so many months. We’d had a plan to cruise up the Shroppie to see Jaq on NB Valerie after Christmas when we’d heard she’d put NBV up for sale. But Valerie sold very quickly and Jaq returned to the States before we could get there, so our plans changed.

Secondly we like the Middlewich Branch and have spent a couple of Bonfire Nights over looking the flashes on the River Weaver, another of our favourite moorings. We’d bought supplies for a barbecue and knew the towpath would be wide enough for us if there was any space to moor.

Taking their time

Hire boats came towards us, no need to close the gates as the lock would soon be filled with a boat going down. Gardens were filled with people enjoying the sunshine and as we passed one boat I spotted The Tiller People chatting. We’ll most probably pass them on our way back and have longer to chat then.

The breach site

Out from under the numerous bridges we reached where the breach had been. In March 2018 paddles had been lifted at both ends of Stanthorne Lock, the amount of water coming down the canal was too much for the bywashes and over flows to cope with, so the water had found the lowest part of the towpath and over topped it. Exiting the canal where an aqueduct crosses the River Wheelock.

Does this stone mark where the breach was? The river just visible below

A huge chunk of canal went with the water. This necessitated a major repair and closed a popular link between the Trent and Mersey and Shropshire Union Canals. In December 2018 the breach was mended and the canal reopened.

New concrete edging on both sides, new fencing and towpath with a few rings for mooring. A neat job, it just needs nature to do it’s bit and tone the newness down.

Farmers busy well after dusk today

Once up Stanthorne Lock we pootled our way past cows and farmers collecting hay in the fields. The green fields and views wonderful to see again. As we came through Bridge 22 we could see that the end of the moorings was free, the best end, with the best view. We pulled in and claimed the mooring we’d been aiming for all day.

A lovely warm evening

I was told I had until they came in, so an un-specified time limit, so it should be as it was almost my ding ding time! Hungry I decided to do my own catering, they were far too busy sorting out their barbecue. My first course was removed from me. My second still had moving legs so when it looked like this was going to be confiscated I headed deep into the nettles. From here on I was busy, very very busy. The towpath had good pouncing, the field below had a few trees and more friendly cover.


We ate our barbecue sat looking over the flashes below, as the sun started to set there was no sign of our little thug, none what-so-ever. This is when we have to trust her. Everything cleared away, still no sign. An hour of TV, next to no light left in the sky, still no sign. Whirling the big torch around had no effect. Just incase she wasn’t still busy and had got herself lost I popped her litter tray out the back. Within five minutes she jumped on the back of the boat, ravenous! Well mice aren’t as filling as they used to be.

9 pm Beautiful

It has been a successful day, except we’ve failed in one way. We need to get hold of some daffodil bulbs. Our mooring tonight is currently a vacant location on the Les Biggs Memorial Daffodil Trail. Jaq had ear marked their favourite moorings and as she travelled round the network after Les died, she would plant a bulb and scatter some of his ashes. Here was one of the sites. Sorry Jaq. We will be back, hopefully with a bulb to plant next time.

6 locks, 1 big, 5 narrow, 6.99 miles, 1 right, 1 card going to be late, 2 medals, 4 very tired feet, 8.5 hours, 2 clueless hire boats, 1 favourite mooring to another, 1 boat without TV, 2 corn on the cobs, 4 veg kebabs, 2 turkey steaks, 2 bananas with chocolate, 1 dirty stop out cat, 4 friends, 6 trees and only I know what else! 1 Mrs Tilly stamp of approval.