We arrived at the boat on Friday night and after getting the landline hooked up we unloaded the car and got everything loaded on board and stowed again. Once that had all been done we headed out to find some beer… Well we had to start as we meant to go on and Market Drayton has several very good pubs so it would have been a terrible crime not to slake our thirst with a pint or three and The Red Lion, home of Joules Brewery, was our choice for the evening and the Double Hop, the Blonde, and the Slumbering Monk were all on fine form.
One of the advantages of having an eager crew is that there is always at least one person willing to make an early start and today was no exception. So as one person gets the engine started another is in the kitchen making the first coffee of the day, and as for the others… well usually the noise of everything else going on drags them from their slumbers.
We cast off relatively early – really 07:24 is not a time you should be seeing on a Saturday morning. The sky was overcast and the forecast for the day suggested that the weather was pretty much set for the day..
When we arrived at Adderley Top Lock No 8 at 8am the Adderley Farm shop wasn’t actually open so we couldn’t pick up any fresh meat which we needed to do as a last minute change in crew had meant we only had carnivores on board.
We took it gently down the locks, there were a couple of other boats on the move but it all went quite smoothly and we got through the 5 locks in quite a reasonable time.
Although we knew that our planned stop for the night at the badger was quite easily achievable we know from experience that Audlem can always ruin any well made plan, so breakfast was a rather fine bacon sandwich and coffee on the move.. But because we’d planned for it there were no problems at all and it was just before 11am when we arrived at Audlem Wharf . We did a quick shop for provisions, including getting some meat at Audlem’s wonderful little butchers shop. We had planned on maybe having a pre-lunch drink but apparently none of the pubs in Audlem open before 12 noon on a Saturday so we moved on.
The last three locks of the flight were as easy as the rest and by this time the sky had cleared and the sun had come out. So it was quite pleasant as we headed down through Hack Green Bridge No 86 and pas the secret nuclear bunker.
The moorings at Nantwich were as full as ever and it was a last minute decision to stop at Acton Bridge No 93 and take a short walk over the fields to the Star Inn in the village of Acton. The pub is easy to find, the beers were in good form and the menu looked good so it’s probably worth considering as an overnight stop if the fleshpots of Nantwich don’t appeal.
Whilst trying to find out about the Star Nick had discovered that both Ye Olde Barbridge Inn, and The Jolly Tar supposedly had some real ale, and as we had time to kill we decided to check both of them out. By now the weather was more like late August than late September and apart from the wasps it was very pleasant sitting outside in a beer garden.
Whilst we were at The Jolly Tar we watched several boats going through Barbridge Junction most of whom made a reasonable attempt. We discussed the right way of going through the junction – do you do it slowly and gently and get sneered at or do you do it with flair and panache and look good if it works but risk ridicule if it goes wrong.
With the aid of Nick standing on the bridge we went for the flair and panache and the closest we got to the edge was swinging the rear in to allow Nick to get back on. As we headed along the Middlewich Branch one of the slight disadvantages of boating at this time of year started to make its presence felt – and that is dusk. Yes it goes darker earlier at this time of year but its the time from sundown to it going dark that really takes you by surprise. There was still enough light to wok through Minshull Lock No 2 and we made it to our planned mooring spot before it was totally dark, but not by much.
After supper we took the torch and headed down the totally unlit, and remarkably busy, road from the bridge down into Church Minshull and the pub where were were meeting Simon. The Badger was a warm and welcoming sight and the beer was good, and apparently its cheaper in the public bar… or so we were told by a local. They had 4 beers on and changed one during the evening and we were all slightly more relaxed when we walked back up the dark lane, which thankfully was a lot quieter now, and back to the boat.