Middlewich seems to be the centre of our universe at the moment as we headed off down 'Heartbreak Hill' for an overnight mooring in Rode Heath, a small village with a nice pub, The Broughton Arms. On the way we passed by this farm where the calves had just been released from the barn to their mothers in an outside pen, the din from them all trying to find each other sounded chaotic.
And the view from the side of the canal as we made our way back down the 11 locks to Rhode Heath, I'm guessing for the third time this season.
A 9:30am start next morning as we headed off from Rhode Heath once again and straight to the first of 14 locks for the day. We planned to get to Wheelock today, another small village. An overcast day with some light showers but we managed to dodge the worst of it, as we were mooring up the rain really came down heavily. With the rain finishing off a longish day, I hit the shower. Showers on the boat after cruising are much better than first thing in the morning, the water is scorching hot!
We scored a lot of rain overnight so we didn't move off the boat until next morning where we got going early, cruising the 300 metres to the Services where we filled with water and dumped our rubbish. The water point at Wheelock was nice and fast and we were off reasonably quickly, trying to make Middlewich around midday for lunch with friends. Today, Saturday, we had another eight lock day ahead of us.
You know you are getting close to Middlewich when you pass British Salt. So much salt!
And of course The Kings Lock pub is right in Middlewich at, you guessed it, Kings Lock.
I rang our friends as we locked down into the junction with the Middlewich Arm and Kevin was straight up to help us through the last three Middlewich Locks, we moored just above Big Lock, so called because it is large enough to take broad beam boats. Apparently the plan was to be able to have broad beam boats move from the Mersey River (coast) inland as far as Middlewich however, all the tunnels can only take narrowboats. It was lunch at The Big Lock pub overlooking the canal and a long chat and then again over the next few days before the ladies decided they would like a larger shopping centre, we headed off up the Middlewich Arm to Nantwich.
We see this boat often as we head out of Middlewich, it's a historic boat, the hull built in 1860's and was horse drawn up until 1928 when it was converted.
I wouldn't recommend the kids using this slide into the canal, I've seen some of the things that float in there and get thrown in too.
It's a two day trip to Nantwich for us stopping overnight near Venetian Marina along the way. Rachael and I stopped off at Aquaduct Marina just before mooring and spent an hour touring through Knight's Boats, a brand new boat would be nice but!
Here we are following our friends up one of the locks along the way, the girls working the locks together, getting ready to let the water go. Practicing for next year's cruising perhaps?
It was a couple of nights stay in Nantwich and with everyone contented, shopping bags stowed we headed off to the winding hole to turn and go back the way we had come. Not my favourite sort of day, we had waited for the rain to subside but half way to the winding hole down came another shower. Fortunately, we were nearly at Barbridge when the rain came down again, a little short of our original destination but at 12:30pm it was a good time to moor and grab lunch at The Old Barbridge Inn.
It was also the best place to watch the rain, enjoying a nice hot lunch and a drink or two, we decide to stay at Barbridge for the night and head off in the morning.
Today (Sunday) we said farewell for the second time to our friends after stopping short of our destination the day before, they continued further on along the Shropshire Union Canal (SUC) towards Chester and we turned right at the junction to head down the SUC Middlewich Arm. There was a queue at the first lock, we were number four to use the lock and several boats coming up the lock as well. This continued for all three locks today as we followed the same boats. This is lock number two for the day with the old lock keeper's cottage beside it now converted into a residence as most are.
We followed a hire boat with six older (50 or thereabouts) ladies on board and plenty of booze on board too. It was entertaining to watch as they made their way back to the Middlewich hire base, running aground on several occasions and hitting the side of the canal so hard I thought the boat was going to run up on to the tow path. It kept our day interesting! For what should have been a three hour trip it turned into a long day, more like five hours with all the queuing. However, we managed to dodge the rain all day and moor up just in time for a heavy downpour that has lasted over an hour so far.