Incidents and Breakages

Breakages seem to have been a recurring theme in recent days.

Remember that bit in Tales of the Unexpected about the aborted visit to The Lion Salt Museum?   Late on in July the Cleddau crew had “camped out” (moored outside) The Lion Salt Museum at Marston, toured the outside exhibits, paid the entrance fee – and then been banished from the site due to a COVID notification.

Safely back up from the Weaver Navigation (Wednesday 11th August) Cleddau continued her cruise southwards along the Trent and Mersey Canal. Only a mile or so further on from the Anderton Boat Lift is the Salt Museum. Would it be open?

It was.

An 11-minute video / virtual tour here  gives a very good overview of the site and the galleries. (Watch it on full screen or skip it…)

A dramatic photograph of “The Great Canal Burst” shows how  very suddenly subsidence occurs and how the canal has collapsed, been drained of water and how large pools / “flashes” have formed. (Historic breakage)

Not shown in the video was a temporary exhibition of pictures of wedding dresses from different eras, modelled and photographed at the Salt Museum. They were an unexpected presence among details of gruelling worker experience, salt grades (Fine Salt, Common Salt and Fishery Salt) and the salt export trade.

Back to the boat (under the close supervision of a watchful heron) to cruise on for a couple of hours, through the modern TATA chemical works and past the Broken Cross pub to moor again at Whatcroft Flash.

Next morning brought the first opportunity to use and appreciate a souvenir, the favourite ‘morning cuppa’ mug (a purchase made way back in 1994) having suffered terminal injury. (Breakage number 2)

Away from Whatcroft’s sparkling waters early on Thursday, sensing that boat traffic would be heavy along the canal…

Within 90 minutes Cleddau had reached Middlewich to pass through Big Lock (2 boats side by side), the Middlewich Three and King’s Lock (the glorious aroma from the King’s Lock Chip Shop being a serious distraction to paddle-winding duties). A glance over the wall gives an indication of the potential for congestion here: the Middlewich Arm archway to the left, Trent & Mersey straight ahead, lock queue, a water point, King’s Lock Chandlery and backwater to the boatyard…

Onwards, up through another four locks over several miles. If you know where to look you might catch a glimpse of the old farmhouse now surrounded by new housing and at Crows Nest Lock the transformation from partly hidden Moston Mill (see picture here  ) to modernised home is very striking.

During a glorious evening opposite the well-tended veg garden near Rookery Bridge entertainment was provided by frequent flypasts from low-flying geese…

There are 34 locks and 13½ miles between Middlewich and Hardings Wood Junction where the Macclesfield Canal leaves the Trent and Mersey. On Friday, 9 locks done, 14 lay ahead.

Despite an early start Cleddau arrived at Wheelock, lock 66, just behind a small cruiser.

The surge and suction are always strong here at the bottom of the Wheelock Flight – ask not how a coffee cafetiere got broken and the contents of the stool box were spilled across the floor… (Breakage number 3)

These are twin locks and as Cleddau rose beside the cruiser the owner exclaimed: “So that’s what those sticks are for!” He was gazing at the two pennants fluttering on Cleddau at the front end of the roof. He rushed inside his boat to emerge brandishing a flagpole. “Just like yours – we’ve got four of those on the boat and we thought they were table legs…!”

Up the boats climbed, in sight of each other until the locks became singles.

It was after the Golf Club at Malkin’s Bank at Lock 61 that confusion arose: it was very breezy, ahead a boat flying a Lancashire Rose from its stern seemed to be having trouble near a winding hole. Was it winding? Was the other boat in view also winding? Eventually the boats stopped moving so Cleddau began the progress towards Lock 60. The two boats were back against the towpath but people on the towpath were straining on ropes.

An item blew off the stern deck of the closest boat. The Captain slowed, set now on a rescue effort. Was it a back deck mat? Short boat pole grabbed, the item was fished for. This was not an easy mission as closer to Cleddau’s stern the item floated. “Stop the revs,” the Captain called to Boatwif  from a squat position on the deck.

The wind was the winner, the item disappearing under Cleddau, and Cleddau being blown into the blackberry bushes. Scratches on the rear part of the port side. Screams there were meanwhile from the boaters still clinging onto the ropes. “We’ve broken down. We’ve broken down…”

Some things you have to surrender to the deep – such was the mat.

Cleddau slowly continued along to the lock where three helpers regaled their tale: the broken down boat had been stuck for three days, steel wire wrapped tightly around its prop. Divers from RCR (a waterways call out service) could not shift it and the boat was to be towed to Nantwich to a dry dock… (Breakage number 4) The boat manoeuvrings had been the Lancashire Rose boat’s good deed in towing the broken down boat into a safer position and into greater sunlight…

Onward then to Rode Heath, ably assisted by some youthful volunteers at the Pierpoint Locks.

“Never seen a boat coming through here before,” said an onlooker at the Lower Thurlwood Lock.

“You can be a gongoozler then,” was Boatwif’s reply.

“A what? You’re making that word up…!” How useful is a smart phone in checking someone’s claims!

Saturday saw the final haul up the Cheshire Locks.

Mary was in position at the Lawton Locks and it was great to meet her again. She is still creating textiles and goodies to sell for her Hospitals and NHS fundraising efforts, now at the £25,000 point.

It was at Lock 45 (the offside chamber) that disaster seemed to have struck. “I’ve lost all power,” the Captain shouted as the boat was rising in the lock. “We’ll have to pole the boat to the bank…” Investigation established some power through the left hand throttle, none through the right. (Throttle reminder here:  ) The boat was moved out of the lock under engine power and checked. Yes, the cable to the right hand throttle had failed and the amount of play in the left is different from previously.   (Breakage number 5). Able to limp on, the climb continued.

4 more locks to the summit level.

Under the aqueduct that carries the Macclesfield Canal above the Trent and Mersey Canal.

There were voices and laughter coming from in front of the newly refurbished Canal Tavern. Two men (one fairly elderly) and a young teenage boy were peering down into the emptying lock chamber. Outside the pub a woman was animated, a man sat at a table and another man seemed to be – well, half dressed… Black trousers/ tracksuit bottoms were down below his knees and his underpants were black too. His appearance and behaviour were a source of great jollity to the unseen audience inside the pub…

Steered by the Captain the boat came into the lock, the gates were closed and Boatwif went to wind the paddles at the far end of the lock. The elderly man was totally mystified by the lock operation, the paddles and the need to level the water.

“We’re from Cumbria,” said the other man, “from Workington on the coast, here for the football…” By then the woman too was at the lock side, her large wine glass now empty. The teenage boy obligingly opened and closed the gate – and off Cleddau set to make the first attempt (of two) at turning onto the Macclesfield Canal.

About 50 yards after the turn is a bridge. Never before have people been seen on the bridge, but as Cleddau passed below the dozen or so Workington supporters straggled noisily above, singing lustliy. It was a sound not heard for many months as the gang weaved their way towards the football ground…

And the result: Kidsgrove Athletic 0 – Workington 1 Perhaps it was the lusty singing that gave the Workington team their edge!

Cleddau had arrived back on the Macc, soon to observe that the footbridge at Hall Green Stop Lock has had a coat of paint!

22nd July

14th August

It was mid Saturday afternoon and hire boats were emerging in swift succession from the Heritage Marina.

Safe from rollicking football supporters, motor traffic and overflying geese Cleddau was pulled in at the Ramsdell Hall Railings for a couple of nights rest and recovery…

Anderton (Trent & Mersey) – Ramsdell Hall Railings (Macclesfield): 25½ miles, 35 locks 

(Monkton Moment*- a reference to / recognition of Cleddau’s Pembrokeshire connections) .

2021 Monkton Moments* total now: 10

Lancashire / Yorkshire / Tudor Rose conversations: 3



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