Up two, down six…

Church Minshull to Beeston, 9.14 miles, 8 locks

Usual preparations for departure were momentarily delayed this morning.  The Captain grabbed the camera to photo the chimney to which he had made some emergency adjustments last night. Early evening the stove had begun to belch smoke, oozing and billowing it back into the cabin, it unable to escape because of the force of the wind. A quick tilting and weighting of the “coolie hat” had been the solution to that problem.

High winds were forecast for today – high winds there were. Off past Aqueduct Marina Cleddau chugged, the parent swan busy with her brood.
At Church Minshull Lock a queue of boats, the high winds and a strong by-wash stream in front of the gates made operations, well, challenging! Eventually on the boat chugged, the crew appreciating temporary relief from the wind while passing through a deep cutting. Here was another of the Shropshire Union Canal Society mooring sites,
 ideal in BBQ weather! There was one more uphill lock to do, just past the improved looking facilities at Venetian Marine. Voices, laughter, high-viz jackets, tents, tables, about a dozen folk in all – what was going on?

To fund its activities the Canal Society provides paddle and gate operation while boaters browse the lock-side wares – books, jigsaws, bric a brac, chandlery items, jams, cakes and marmalades.

The boat rose in the lock, the Captain espied some useful booty and somehow that is why one Canal Society lady announced “ He wants tyres, that’s assuming I’ve got you married to the right husband…!” Unravel that!

     “Watch the wind in the gap,” warned an oncoming boater. Broad open fields on both sides and a farmer spreading rich-smelling slurry over his land made that canal stretch unforgettable.

         The last mile or so to Barbridge for the Shropshire Union main line is lined on both sides with moored boats. As you approach the Junction there is an odd sensation:  beyond the bridge cars run by but is there no more water?

 There was a sharp right hand turn for Chester, (the left hand route heading south for Nantwich, Market Drayton and Wolverhampton). First locks – the Bunbury Staircase.

Last September Cleddau came down the Rochdale Nine broad locks into Manchester, since then all locks have been narrow… “Windy on that corner,” said the Volunteer Lock keeper (working a Friday as usual).

There was a squeeze past two hire fleets, at Bunbury and at Beeston, some beautifully wooded stretches, circular lock huts from the Chester Canal Company days,

the Beeston Iron Lock

and then the landscape changes. High on a sandstone outcrop looms Beeston Castle

while across the valley on the other side of the canal a distinctive line of sandy turf-topped hillocks appears.

 Two points for the records:
1. Cleddau and crew are now within the Cheshire West and Chester local authority area.
2.The boat, by about 50 metres, is in unfamiliar territorial waters, having previously cruised once to below Beeston Castle (September 2009).
        Tomorrow: to Chester – or not as far as Chester, that is the question…


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