Down and then back up again

From The Badger Inn to Turnover Bridge No 132, a distance of 18 miles, 1½ flg and 33 locks.

It was a bright and sunny morning, but far too early given that it was Sunday, when we cast off and made our way towards Middlewich and the slow climb up hill to Kidsgrove, and apart from some problems with weed and a dead rabbit (luckily Nick only had to clear the first of those off the prop) it was a pretty easy run.

Middlewich Junction was, as always, slightly busy but there were no big queues and two boats waiting below the lock to come up. Simon navigated the junction with easy and it was just about 09:30 when the boat slipped into King’s Lock No 71 and the first lock on the long slog up hill.

The first few locks on the flight are quite spaced out so there was plenty of time fo us to have breakfast on the move. Nick’s question of “What would you say to a nice sausage sandwich” of course only has one sensible answer – which is “Hello, sausage sandwich”, but of course the Father Jack response of “Feck Off Sandwich!” was also used. So we ate breakfast as we cruised past some extremely large piles of salt.

The weather continued to get better and sitting in the shade at Crows Nest Lock it felt more like a summer day than the end of September, but as Nick said the weather often does this at this time of year..

The countryside surrounding the canal is an odd mix of industry, wasteland and agriculture and just beyond Rookery Railway Bridge No 158 we weren’t sure if the smell was industrial, agricultural or if someone had dumped a load of Surstr√∂mming on the fields. We’ve all smelt some pretty unpleasant things over the years and done things like fishing screwdrivers out of boat sewage holding tanks but this smell beat all of those into a cocked hat. Luckily it didn’t last that long and our sense of smell only took about 10 minutes to fully recover.. either that or the sewage works at bridge 156 stinked nearly as badly.

Solid and steady progress was made through the locks which just never seem to end. A short stop was taken just above Wheelock Flight Top Lock No 59 for lunch before we cast off again to continue the slow slog up hill.

The weather was holding and the sun made the walks along the tow path between the locks quite pleasant. A lot of people were out for walks with family or their dogs, or both, and there were a few cyclists as well.

As the evening drew in we approached the top few locks. The Red Bull Inn at Red Bull Lock No 43 was scoped out as a potential place to eat and drink and seemed at a quick glance to be more than adequate if other places to eat and drink couldn’t be found. We went through Red Bull Top Lock No 41 and decided not to visit the “The Canal Tavern” as it all sounded rather noisy and finally stopped for the night a few hundred yards short of the tunnel.

A quick scout round showed that Kidsgrove really hasn’t improved in the 14 years since I was last there and we ended walking back down to the Red Bull for some extremely good home cooked food and a good selection of beers from Robinson’s. Towards the end of the evening we headed back to the boat via The Bluebell – a pub with no juke box, no TV, no pool table or gaming machines – but lots of very good beer including an excellent mild and a beer which we think was called Fruit Bat which seemed to taste of peaches.

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