Wind-lashed to Middlewich

      Arrived in Middlewich today: after a total of 37.35 miles (and 47 locks) since last Friday. The direction had been generally south from Macclesfield to Harding’s Wood Junction and then mainly north to Middlewich.  
     At one point during the morning there had been a long drifting about wait for a lock, during which Boatwif from the back deck had been gazing into back gardens at Malkin’s Bank. They have brown bins round here, she observed, property of Cheshire East Council apparently.  At Tesco this afternoon Boatwif enquired of the checkout lady whether Middlewich is in the next authority, Cheshire West and Chester – but no, no change of council area for Cleddau yet!
      The day started with an eight lock descent to Wheelock, a good place for boat servicing. At the very first lock there was another male act of courtesy. In return for filling an adjacent lock the boater offered to close up CLeddau’s down lock: “One good turn deserves another,” he pronounced. Boatwif then trotted ahead fifty yards or so to the next lock, where a mystery man filled the lock and swung open the gate. In an intriguing accent and with a slight flourish of the arm he then stated:  “This is your lock, for today.” The voice was from Canada, Calgary – and on reflection it dawned on Boatwif that of the (then) four male acts of courtesy met on the Trent and Mersey in the last two days, three had been made by bearded gentlemen.  Some hours later, at King’s Lock in Middlewich, a chap materialised from below the lock. “I’ll turn the lock for you,” he said “She’s still round the corner.” There was no sign of his boat, nor of “her”. Chat ensued and advice was gratefully received about moorings in Chester. The Captain became involved in discussion … the man scuttled away and from the back deck came the shout “I’ve just bought three bags of coal!” Now down below the lock was the coal boat, Alton of The Peak ForestCanal Carrying Company, a very familiar sight for Macclesfield Canal boaters.

     The charming helper was Brian – and he too is bearded. Ladies, the thought occurs that if you have a man in need of a courtesy course, encourage him to grow a beard and then send him off to the northern end of the Trent and Mersey…!
     After the Wheelock flight comes about a three mile lock-free stretch. The wind blew strongly, earflaps were pulled down over ears, a rabbit made a brief appearance

and the Captain checked his speed over the deep water.

Where last September earth-moving equipment occupied a large site between canal and railway line now houses have sprouted. 

A couple more (stiff-paddled) locks down brings the canal to the edge of Middlewich. From the southern side factories, salt works  and salt mountains dominate.

 From the north though, the town is altogether more welcoming.

  The sign details facets of the town’s history (and the nearby lilac tree brings back strong childhood memories…)

 Civic pride is much in evidence via information boards and walking trails; there’s easy mooring down by the park and along to Big Lock…what are three more locks after a morning’s worth of thirteen? So it was down an extra three (delightful) locks today and a boat turn to face back towards the Middlewich Arm for tomorrow. Territory will be less familiar from now on (and completely unknown after Beeston Castle) – here’s hoping the men are still bearded and helpful!

        Stats for the day: battery charge at 68% this morning
                          Distance travelled: 7.8 miles (and 16 locks)
Tomorrow: heading west on the Middlewich Arm to Church Minshull.

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