Cleddau returned from the River Weaver to canal level last Saturday morning. Into the Anderton Lift at the bottom Cleddau sailed, accompanied by the 70 foot long Largo, to rise slowly fifty feet up to the Trent and Mersey Canal. Down below in the grounds a bouncy castle and children’s games had been set up and a PA system installed. At the top the entrance railings were festooned with bunting and a fleet of smart cars was parked alongside. What was going on? Heritage weekend, maybe?
Loathe to turn right and head straight back up the Trent and Mersey to home moorings a whimsical diversion had been mooted. Cleddau was winded and she began a slow plod northwards along the canal towards its terminus at Preston Brook. Suddenly, after months afloat, tunnels and bridges were providing unexpected challenges. Visibility is poor at this bridge hole, this tunnel snakes and
Why go north, when the chosen route back is south, then to turn north at Hardings Wood Junction? Well, lodged in the memory had been the lovely mooring in September 2012, overlooking Dutton Locks on the Weaver below. Just nine days after mooring at this spot two years ago the canal embankment had given way, tons of earth and water had slid downhill, boats were stranded in a waterless ditch and a massive boat rescue and canal repair operation had to be undertaken. So here the site of the slide is now, a clear view over the Weaver Valley and a sign recording the date of the breach.
Cruising the waterways can provide quite unexpected surprises. Down at Hunt’s Lock on the Weaver a pair of pals from the nearby lock keeper’s house lay close together. The cat had ambitions though, to be a boat cat, and had to be prevented from jumping aboard.
Regular readers might remember the famous painted cow near the bottom of Bosley Locks (It should be passed again in the next few days), the painted bears in Congleton and the painted lions in Northampton. Near Acton Bridge on the Weaver it was a surprise to pass a painted penguin… And up on the canal was an ornamental dog nearly the size of the boat it stood on.
What else has been unexpected? Two boat names deserve mention: recognise this fictional name (from The Diary of a Nobody)? Or this? It’s a new boat, just four weeks old, named after the owners’ admiration for The BFG.
Come Sunday Cleddau was heading south again, towards Middlewich and from there the steady climb uphill would start. What was this? A partly developed marina near Northwich – would there be room to turn boats in there?
Onwards on Monday through Middlewich. It was a slow, slow journey, with time to examine the remaining blackberry crop at Lock 74, and time and a half to decide which boats should move where in a tangle of moving and moored boats at the Middlewich Arm Junction just yards from King’s Lock on the main line…
You see the familiar and sometimes gasp at its ordinariness: just outside Middlewich a fork lift truck was adding to the pile of pure white salt. The company here, British Salt, are specialists in pure dried vacuum salt products.
It isn’t just the eyes that register the unexpected during this wandering life, sometimes it’s the ears. Impressed by a young woman’s analysis of various lock users’ habits Boatwif asked: “Did you grow up near canals?”
Back came an unexpected reply: “No, on a bus going round Europe with my parents.”
Then there was a totally unexpected drinks party. A boater took a line (mooring rope) as Cleddau pulled in near Wheelock on Monday afternoon. An invitation was issued: “Come on board. Come at 5, bring your own drink.”
On arrival with a couple of cans of cider the Captain murmured that this was very nice, to which came the reply: “It’s what we do, we’re Australian!” Eight adults, strangers sharing the same stretch of canal side mooring, spent a convivial couple of hours aboard someone else’s boat. Said Australians are professional boat movers (globally), currently moving nb Pandora from Skipton in Yorkshire to Nottingham. Still not quite sure whether their tale of water skiing along their irrigation canals in Queensland is true or not…!
Where is Cleddau now? At Rode Heath, quite some way up Heartbreak Hill, with 12 locks still to do to reach the Macclesfield Canal.