Sunday, 9 August 2009

Stoke on Trent to the middle of nowhere (updated)

Thursday 6th August 2009
The alarms were set for early, and we got up and left the mooring by about 7:00 – Westport Lake looked wonderful in the morning sun. In the gaggle of geese by the boat was one albino, which was constantly nipped by the others.
At the South Portal

A short journey got us to the tunnel mouth at about 7:30, the BW tunnel ‘keeper’ started getting ready soon after. Checking boat names, licence numbers, number of people on board, and giving us the necessary safety information. The tunnel has subsided considerably over the years because of the salt mining locally, and the published maximum head room is 5’ 9” – which is what we have measured Chalice’s air draught at. Despite our concerns about Chalice’s air draught he said that there would be no problems, but keep our heads down at the lowest point.

We entered the tunnel at just after 8:00 am, the lead boat of several. We could see the other end clearly, and there is a strong draught through the tunnel because of the powerful ventilator fans. We emerged into the sunlight in about 32 minutes. We had been able to make good headway and at no point had we been anywhere near scrapping paint.

Emerging from the Tunnel
Almost immediately we were into the sets of double locks, the beginning of a long flight, known colloquially as “Heartbreak Hill”. Alan and I took turns working groups of locks, cycling ahead between locks to set the next one.
Canalside village

The Cheshire countryside was stunningly beautiful, in the sunshine passing the fields of sweetcorn I could almost imagine myself in the Vendee region. However; the queues for the locks were particularly bad. At one lock a woman was selling homemade produce on behalf of the Great Ormond Street Hospital – so we bought some warm scones and raspberry jam.

At some point in the morning, David looked at me and said, "what have you done to your eye?". I put my hand up to my eye and could feel a small lump in the 'corner' of my right eye, much like a spot. "Great", I thought, "I've got a zit in the corner of my eye", and I went to look in the mirror to see how bad it was. What greeted me in the mirror was a huge bruise, curving up along the crease of my eye. I have no idea how it got there, and am not a little disturbed by it, although it isn't painful.

We kept on towards Middlewich, and Alan and I began to form a plan – a detour to the Anderton Lift. We rang the lift, and booked two passages – one down on Friday afternoon, and another up early on Saturday morning. Then we headed into Middlewich, did a brief shop at the Tescos (not the Express – we were told by a passing dog walker of the bigger one a short distance further into town), and headed of northwards again.
This part of the Trent and Mersey is stunningly beautiful, and fairly quiet compared to the lower reaches, and after Middlewich there are no locks before the Anderton Lift. There are several large lagoons, called ‘flashes’, off to the side of the canal, which you are warned not to venture into as you may hit the original edge to the canal, or run aground. They are privately owned and are due to the subsidence caused by salt mining. All of them are very beautiful, reed fringed lakes. We tried to moor at Croxton Flash, but unfortunately the canal was just too shallow at the edge.
Checking the edge at Croxton Flash

We found a good mooring in a reedy straight shortly afterwards, which was marred only by the rather agricultural aroma. A very, very long day for us – something like 13 hours on the go.
As I prepared dinner Alan sat in the evening sunshine by the side hatch, looking through the photos for the day. He called me over to look at something and I rested my elbow on the side hatch – whereupon a swan promptly bit my elbow, then hissed loudly in disgust as it realised that it wasn’t tasty. Fortunately, I was wearing a loose jumper, and I wasn’t hurt, but the swan kept trying to poke its head in through the window, and attacked us when we tried to shut the side doors. Eventually David went onto the roof and fended the swan off with the boat hook while we quickly shut the doors.

Miles: 17.7, Locks: 35
Total Miles: 180, Total Locks: 209

1 comment:

Bill Rodgers said...

My thought is that I bet they taste like chicken... or at least goose.. uhmm good.