How could it be that the ideal mooring about a mile from Middlewich, not once, but twice, had to be given up last Wednesday…?
Mid-afternoon the boat had been pulled in, the Captain had threaded the stern rope through the mooring ring and tied it off, Boatwif was still holding the bow rope when the Captain’s mobile rang. Not so unusual – but news was of the O word.
150 miles away OfSTED had given half a day’s notice of a two day inspection. The Captain’s presence was much needed on Friday. Some quick thinking had to be done: get back to Middlewich, a good place to moor the boat and to hire a car. First the boat had to be turned around, but the nearest winding hole was nearly three miles further on.
Just past Bridge 180 there is a vast area of open water, the result of salt workings subsidence. The turn had to happen. “It’s only a foot deep over there!” bellowed a watching boater – but all went well.
Cleddau was now southbound, passing again the gnarled trees and the striking array of white blossom. The hire car idea had been modified – why only forty odd miles away on the other side of the county was Boatwif’s car. On the phone Cheshire Mum decreed that the transport could be sorted… Tied up again at the rural site (though pointing in the opposite direction now) there was another telephone conference. The Captain would have to be picked up in Middlewich at 8am the following day.
Onwards again – to moor up below Big Lock for the night.
Was that though a good spot to tie up for the next few days? Some shady dealings on the opposite bank made it an unattractive proposition.
Another plan was hatched. At 0615 on Thursday Cleddau ascended Big Lock and cruised another two hundred yards. Then she was turned round to point north again and pulled back into position (all done using sign language only so as to avoid waking sleeping boaters…) By 0700 mooring ropes were secured, with the TV aerial erected and positioned. By 0745 Techno Son-in -Law had arrived to pick up the Captain and drive them both back to Macclesfield. From there it was but the usual 2 hours 40 minutes back to Bedfordshire…
But why? Duty. Loyalty.
14 years of being a governor, 12 as Chair – the small matter of not being in the locality does not get in the way… The current Chair was on a family visit in Holland, the Deputy was on business in Spain, the next most experienced governor would be attending her son’s graduation at Oxford – so the now no longer Chair was called back to face the music…
“Remember when I had to be in Colchester – and I had a telephone interview with the Chief Inspector?” the Captain recalled. “Remember when we were on the Middle Levels and then we managed to moor at Ely…” Memories swam back of short notice recalls to the middle school frontline. Once, though, it couldn’t be managed, not back from Southern California…!
So what can a Boatwif do when marooned in Middlewich?
- Explore the main shopping street (and find in the DIY store a very small bag of compost for the rooftop herbs and a roll of hi-vis duct tape to adorn the mooring pins)
- Find a laundry (not a laundrette) to get sheets, pillowcases and duvet cover washed
- Walk the towpath, back to the Middlewich Arm – and walk the entire length (all 154 feet / 47 metres) of the short Wardle Canal
- View the plaque at Wardle Lock commemorating Maureen Shaw
- Investigate the library – and discover Middlewich’s Roman past.
Inspired by the last point Boatwif set off to explore: over the bridge at the far end of Big Lock, over the River Dane, a footpath leads up to a vast flat open space. Here at Harbutt’s Field is the site of a huge Roman fort. It was in use between AD 70 and the early part of the 2nd century AD. (You might find this Youtube video of interest). Latterly the fort seems to have been reserved for temporary housing for Roman troops on their way to northern Britain. From then on Middlewich developed into a salt working settlement.
By mid-afternoon on Saturday the Captain was back, delivered by Cheshire Mum. It had all been very worthwhile and the school had achieved a much deserved OfSTED ranking.
Glad at last to leave Middlewich Town Moorings (pleasant and safe as they were) the Captain cast off – and 90 minutes later Cleddau was moored up on Billinge Green Flash, there again, the northernmost point of Wednesday’s travel!
OfSTED Stats: 320 road miles, while the business of leaving Middlewich, returning to it and then reaching the northern turning point was 12 miles – and three trips through Big Lock!
Remaining miles and locks to Liverpool: 92 miles, 17 locks
Monkton Moments* to date: 0
(Monkton Moment*- a reference to / recognition of Cleddau’s Pembrokeshire connections)
(On Sunday Cleddau continued northwards, in bright and sunny conditions reaching the Bridgewater Canal. More on that next time…)