Having done this before we knew just where to stop and what the timings were. The weather was a bit mixed but considering the time of year, and the weather we’d had just a week earlier we were quite lucky, and we managed to dodge quite a lot of the rain.
It was another pretty grey and overcast day when we got up and oddly enough no-one else seemed to be thinking of moving, and it wasn’t long before it started raining again and so we made our way slowly back to Middlewich Junction and back onto the Middlewich Branch.
There was no sign of anything wrong at the River Wheelock Aqueduct and it came as a complete surprise to hear a few days later that there had been a major breach of the canal which closed it until the end of year.
From time to time the rain would stop and the sun would try to come out before the rain came lashing back in. Although there aren’t many locks on the Middlewich branch they are all rather exposed so when the rain comes sweeping in there isn’t really anywhere to hide
But slowly the weather got better and by the time we chugged through Nantwich it wasn’t that bad. We moored up and walked down into the town for some beers and a curry.
It was raining when we got up, the sky was a uniform grey but at least it wasn’t too cold. It stopped raining quite quickly but the clouds didn’t clear – and that sort of set the weather for the day : showers and grey dullness.
There was an interesting temporary structure at Bridge No 17 Narrows – where it looked like a farmer had built a temporary bridge so he could get across the canal. Not that any of us would have used to to cross the canal as it looked extremely unsafe.
The canal was extremely quiet and we made good time across the rolling Cheshire countryside to Stanthorne Lock No 3. The canal through to Wardle Lock No 4 was moderately moored up but there wasn’t a queue for the lock and there weren’t any moving boats on the main line so we were able to swing straight round and up into King’s Lock No 71
Unlike our previous trip up here when there was just about no water above Booth Lane Middle Lock No 68 there was too much water plus a blocked by-wash so water was flowing down over the tow path making things rather unpleasant. So whilst we worked the boat through the lock I used a pole from the boat to basically punch a hole through the weeds which had blocked the grating up which, although it didn’t completely clear the problem, did allow a lot more water to flow through and the water level slowly dropped back down to a reasonable level.
We stopped on Rookery Moorings for a bite of lunch so that when we got to Sandbach we could get straight into a pub. The moorings here are good and deep and straight and there are some rings although the spacing is a bit odd so we had to use a mooring pin as well. We did the same trick as last time at Sandbach in that we went up through Wheelock Bottom Lock No 66 – which is a duplicated lock so we went up the right hand lock, turned in Wheelock Winding Hole and went down the left hand lock (which was already full so we didn’t waste any water) before mooring up on the visitor moorings by which time the rain had returned with a vengeance
The Cheshire Cheese Pub was open so we popped in for a pint and tried to check on bus times into town. The pub was extremely busy but we managed to find a seat in the corner whilst we drank our beer before leaving the pub and walking up and across the canal bridge to the bus stop where we waited for about 4 minutes before the bus into town turned up.
The bus doesn’t take that long to get into town and by the time we did the rain had backed off again so it wasn’t too bad wandering round the town centre and round the market in the market square which was starting to wind down but was still quite busy.
We had a table booked at The Old Hall in the evening but headed there for a pint before exploring the other pubs in the town centre.
The Beer Emporium is a great little bar – its really an off licence that carries a huge range of beer but also sells several Real Ales and Craft Ales. It can be extremely busy so you’re likely to be either standing up for your drink or wedged in round one of the small number of tables.
The Lower Chequer is off the end of the market square at the top of Crown Bank and is a two roomed Joules pub which is full of character.
After wandering round town we headed back to the Old Hall for our meal and had a table near the rather impressive fireplace
We’d never eaten at The Old Hall, or any of the pubs in the Brunning and Price chain, but the food was extremely good and we had a very enjoyable time.
We travelled up to the boat on Thursday night and, after doing a shop at the ASDA, spent a pleasant couple of hours in The Salopian Star drinking beers from the New Brew Brewery before wandering back to the boat. The landlord of the Star is really enthusiastic about his beers, so if you are passing then don’t forget to stop in for a pint or two, and you’ll probably get tasters of what’s lined up in the cellar if you are lucky.
We woke early on Friday morning to a frost, the back deck boards were a little slippery and the engine exhaust steamed for a few minutes until the engine warmed up enough. Surprisingly no-one else was on the move, or even starting to get ready to move, when we cast off and headed north towards Adderley Top Lock No 8. We, obviously, made good time and when we got there we had no problems getting through the locks. The little stall for Adderley Farm Shop by the top lock was totally empty and most of the farm animals were hiding.
We got to Audlem Top Lock No 13 and that’s where it all started to go wrong… again. We’ve not had much luck going down Audlem the past few times which is annoying because it’s really quite an easy flight if you take it steadily and don’t let the by-washes intimidate you. There was a boat going down… very slowly, very slowly indeed with only two people – one steering and one working the locks. Help was offered not only by our crew but also by another boat however they made it quite clear that they did not want any help at all … not even someone going ahead and getting the locks ready. They were quite abrasive and even basically told the Volunteer Lockies where to go! I’ve noticed over the past few years that there seem to be more “selfish” people on the canals – I think we can all agree that there are some people who don’t want to slow down at all when they’re on the canals which sort of negates the reason for going on them in the first place but the number of people who seem to be taking the “We’re doing this our way and at out speed and damn anyone else” attitude is increasing.
So we made our way slowly down to the Audlem Vistor Moorings (Above Wharf) where we pulled in and went for a quick couple of pints in The Lord Combermere which is sort of becoming a bit of a tradition for us on this flight, and given that the next place for a beer close to the canal is Barbridge it seems quite a reasonable thing to do.
We took the path across the fields to Chuch Minshull and made ourselves comfortable in the little bar in the Badger and had several pints of very good beer before making our way back across the fields to the boat.