Lymm (Bridgewater Canal) to Dutton Hall (Trent & Mersey Canal): 12.91 miles, 1 tunnel, 1 lock
It was a beautiful sunny morning. On the tow path a local lady engaged the Captain in deep conversation: how she loved boats, how she and her husband had moored a boat outside their home for years, how they had travelled the canals widely – and then, poignantly, she explained that after his early death just before retirement the boat had to go, but that later she hired a boat to prove to her grandchildren that she could handle a boat. A spirited lady indeed.
Over Lymm Bridge and into the village went the Cleddau crew to re-stock the cupboards and to off-load some dry recycling. What a pretty, tidy place. Iconic black and white timbered buildings give the village a cohesive feel: Lymm is a conservation area and the small supermarket in a prime position overlooking the stocks and the Cross has more the look of a library than of a well-known national grocery chain! Sadly no coffee shop was yet open so it was back to the boat to untie the ropes and set off west.
Shortly after the countryside returns beyond Lymm the canal is crossed by the M6, passing over the Manchester Ship Canal a couple of hundred yards north via the Thelwall Viaduct. Stockton Heath next: separated from Warrington, a large conurbation, by the Ship Canal and the River Mersey. Chemical works and cooling towers became clearly visible.
It was at Higher Walton that the long line of fishermen was encountered: “The Monday Match,” said one chilled person. Another, unscrewing his thermos flask, asked whether there might be a spare blanket on board!
After Moore, a pretty looking village, there were glimpses of modern buildings by a bridge. The buildings were extensive – this is the site of the scientific research laboratories at Daresbury. (Is this the place Cheshire Mum’s friend, the Physicist /soon to be a bride, sometimes visits?)
The second motorway of the day – the M56, and then the canal arrives at Preston Brook. Frequently along the Trent and Mersey tow path are neat black and white mileposts, miles given between Shardlow in the East Midlands and Preston Brook in the north west. The transfer from the Bridgewater to the Trent and Mersey is via the 1272 yards of tunnel. No tunnel keepers here, just an instruction board to state the 10 minute gap per hour when boats may proceed. Arriving at 1345 thus entailed a 45 minute wait before first one, then another boat emerged from the tunnel.
A little stop lock and about two miles further on from the southern portal of the tunnel Cleddau is now moored. Behind is one of those white painted Trent and Mersey canal bridges – and just over the hedge is a rather stunning view. Regular readers may remember the Weaver Adventure in April. From here the Dutton Locks of the Weaver Navigation can be spotted, fifty feet below, only accessible of course, by the Anderton Boat Lift. Do Relief Captain and First Mate remember looking up at the canal above, boats floating along the skyline it seemed? Late afternoon under a lightly quilted sky and with a wide open view this spot seemed exactly the right place for Cleddau to be!