Moorings ‘with attitude’
Weaver Navigation: Marsh Lock – Winsford – Anderton: 25¼ miles, 6 lock passages
Cleddau and crew had spent the better part of two days and a night tied up to the pontoon at Weston Marsh Lock. Blinds and curtains drawn it was easy to ignore the bright security night lighting around the chemical works on the opposite bank – and to enjoy the sense of space from being so close to the wide Manchester Ship Canal and the even wider Mersey Estuary.
After the Danny had left Marsh Lock en route to Liverpool on Wednesday afternoon (see latter part of previous post here ). Cleddau headed back upstream. On a previous trip the boat had been taken another mile further north on to the very end of the Navigation at Weston Point Docks. Another boater on his first trip on the river had continued along there, returning with the succinct judgement: “Scintillating it is NOT.”
The wind, still brisk, felt less tricky to deal with as the river became less open. From Sutton Weaver Bridge Cleddau followed another boat, interestingly named as Tin Slug. She moored up alongside a couple of other boats at Devil’s Garden. The Captain, always ready to offer advice and experience, bellowed across the river “Watch out for bats in your boat!” He was referring of course to a memory of a bat in the boat’s bedroom back in September 2014.
At this time of the year the last guaranteed lock movement of the day is at 5pm. Cleddau arrived below Dutton Locks and pulled up on the visitor moorings and water point for the night. Behind, downstream was the impressive railway viaduct and the graceful Horse Bridge. No other boats were below Dutton Locks – there was no competition for mooring space, or for the tap.
“Are you SURE we haven’t got anything that needs washing?” said the Captain. This was not his usual concern. More typically he would remark on the washing machine being overworked and engine power being wasted…
The tank was filled (a slow and quiet tap, resulting yet again in a soggy deck). Overnight the hose lay by the boat ready for swift reconnection the next morning. Wow! Showers for two and a washing load under way all before 8am on Thursday. This surely was an en suite mooring!
These are big, these locks. Information up on the lock side records that the largest vessel ever through the locks was the 1,000 tonne St Michael from Holland in 1984. For those who like to visualise locations on a world map here are some:
“I’ll phone the Saltersford Locks for you,” said the Dutton lock keeper. “I’ll tell ‘im Cled-ow is on its way…” Well, Cled-ow was an improvement on the pronunciation when going downstream. Then the boat had been called Cluedo…
It was beyond these locks that, had there been an audience, the Captain would again have regaled an experience. “That’s it, that’s the tree,” he said. Yes, there was the tree that provided a mooring post in 2012, when the low pressure fuel pump failed…That was in April 2012, refresh your memories here in – Immobilised
Swing bridges are frequent features of this river. This one at Winnington has a towpath side where it’s possible to slide under although on the other side of the bridge there is insufficient clearance. These bridges would need swinging for bigger vessels. A cottage beside the bridge has a rather elaborate gable frontage – was it a tied cottage once lived in by a bridge keeper…?
Onward, past the TATA soda ash works – and a boat cavorting about at the bottom of the Boat Lift, its steerer’s intentions never exactly clear. There was an interestingly decorated boat moored near Anderton – and a mile further on hearts were in mouths as a two night mooring site was needed in Northwich.
Of course there is that wonderful new pontoon at Barons Quay, but with a “one night only, no return within 7 days” restriction that was out of the question. Sometimes you can be lucky – this was one of them. There’s a space just beyond the Barons Quay pontoon where the old quay wall is low enough to allow easy boat access. And this mooring ‘with attitude’ was less than 100 feet from the entrance to the new Odeon Cinema. Seats for a 1450 screening of Downton Abbey on release day had already been booked. So how convenient a mooring was that …! (Moored boat as seen from the cinema)
Northwich, unlike Nantwich, doesn’t exude affluence. Midweek the town can seem quiet and drab. Yet it had an indoor market (queues there were at the Haberdashery and Ribbons stall on Friday) and on Saturday there was a busy (monthly) Artisan Market along the pedestrianised High Street.
Onwards upstream later on Saturday towards Winsford – through Hunts Lock, just room for three narrow boats abreast in this lock, on past the shipyards, under the Hartford (Blue) Bridge, through green and pleasant wood lined reaches past Vale Royal Locks. .
Turn before Winsford was the decision, rather than get embroiled with the mooring uncertainties that the weekend’s Winsford Salt Festival might present. Poking above the trees at Vale Royal is the tell-tale shape of a pithead shaft . More visible on the return journey was the winch house and the cables that drive the pithead wheel. There are conveyors and sheds and ridged lines of rock salt and rock salt mounds protected in clamps…
The riversides illustrate nature’s fightback, greenery and woodland taking possession of what had been a heavily industrialised area. On a sunny Saturday anglers, hunched on their fishing stools, were concentrating hard on their lines and their nets. At the last winding point before Winsford (about ⅓ mile before shallow Winsford Flash) Cleddau was turned to head back past the salt mountain ranges and back under the (head-duckingly low) Newbridge Swing Bridge to tie up at Vale Royal. Was this an overnight mooring “with attitude”? There is no road noise although the noise of a hedge trimming tractor became intrusive. There is wide water, a perch for birds, and plenty of space for boats and towpath chairs. In fact it proved a delightful outdoor location for a mid-September Pimm’s!
Drizzle and poor visibility marred the downstream return to Northwich on Sunday morning. There are three rowing clubs on the Weaver: after school rowers were out on the water down at Runcorn; no rowing activity was seen at Acton Bridge but on Sunday morning, regardless of rain, the Northwich rowers were out in force!
Sunday was the eighth and final night on the Weaver. Cleddau moored up on a floating pontoon below the Anderton Boat Lift, ready for an 0915 ascent on Monday morning. Advantages of this mooring? Well, there’s a grand view of an impressive structure, easy access to the Anderton Nature Park, a good position from which to observe passing boat traffic and it’s just a hike up the hill to the Visitor Centre for refreshments, information, sight-seeing and a look through the window at the Lift’s duty controller.
Next time: The usual route back?
2019 Monkton Moments*: 11
(Monkton Moment*- a reference to / recognition of Cleddau’s Pembrokeshire connections)