No-one was on the move when we got up, but that seems quite usual for Middlewich and we pretty much had the canal to ourselves until we approached West Coast Mainline Railway Bridge No 22A where a work crew were getting ready to take their boat under the bridge to join the other work boats just beyond it where they seemed to be working on the offside bank.
As we approached Stockhouse Bridge No 19 a boat coming the other way told us that there was some oil in the canal near bridge 16 and that they’d phoned C&RT but they didn’t seem to be concerned. I sort of shrugged it off as we’ve all seen oil on the water from pumped bilges with a bit of a fuel leak.
However it was not an oil spill like that – it was something we’ve never seen before :
The oil covered the canal from side to side, the piling was covered in it as was the vegetation which dipped into the canal.
I posted a photo on C&RT’s Facebook Page and also phoned them – they said they knew of a problem but didn’t have any details I explained that it was thick black sump oil and that it was covering the canal for about a mile between bridges 16 and 13.
So moral duty discharged for the day we stopped just before Aqueduct Marina for a late breakfast.
As we approached Minshull Lock No 2 the heavy looking clouds which had been approaching finally decided to dump their rain on us, and with the wind picking up it made working through the lock a far from pleasant experience. As usual for this lock we had to queue as a couple of boats worked their way through and so by the time we left the lock, and the rain had just about stopped, we were all rather wet and cold.
We had to queue again at Cholmondeston Lock No 1 and with a boat doing an engine service right at the end of the lock moorings and boats moving round trying to get fuel it was slightly chaotic.
At Barbridge Junction we didn’t meet a boat coming the other way but there were two boats at Barbridge Junction Stop Narrows trying to use the water point (which I understand has now been removed… which might actually be a good idea). From there right down to Bremilows Bridge No 100 there were boats absolutely everywhere and we were a little worried about just how busy the bottom end of the Llangollen Canal would be.
But there was no need to worry – we approached Hurleston Junction and there was one boat heading up the locks and there wasn’t a queue.
We made pretty good time up the locks and at Hurleston Top Lock No 4 the lockie told us it had been quite quiet. We also found out that the middlewich branch was now shut whilst they tried to get rid of the oil and was going to remain closed for a day or so – so NOT going down the lift turned out to be a good idea. Apparently the oil had been dumped into a stream which flows into the canal and the Environment Agency were also involved in the clean up…
The Llangollen Canal has quite a flow on it as it is used to take water from the River Dee above Llangollen and deliver it to the large reservoir by Hurleston Locks. The water leaves the canal right above the top lock.
So unlike most canals progress up the canal is significantly slower than coming down and the deeper draft your boat is the slower the progress as the boat has to fight against the flow when going through bridge holes.
Phone calls were made and a booking placed for a table at The Bhurtpore Inn. So all we had to do was get there in time. We made pretty good time through the locks and along the canal. We got to Wrenbury Lift Bridge No 20 and only managed to hold up about 6 cars
It’s a bit of a walk across the fields from here to the main road in Wrenbury and we decided that on the way back we’d probably use the road and the towpath.
To get to the pub we had to head down to Aston which involved quite a lot of walking on dark country roads – we did cut the corner off at one point but decided that on the way back we’d stick to the road.