When we were at Audlem on our way out on the Friday one of the single handed boats was stopping on the visitor moorings and told us that “tomorrow is going going to be really hot”. Of course it wasn’t and the Sunday started off pretty grim too although it did turn nice in the afternoon.
Monday started off bright and it was already quite warm when we cast off, and it just got hotter and hotter.
There were very few boats moving, actually make that none at all, and we arrived at Hack Green Bottom Lock No 29 and worked through without anyone else around – not even one of the boats moored above the locks showed any signs of life. Of course that was too good to last and as we approached Moss Hall Aqueduct a couple of boats cast off in front of us and, of course, they were rather slow which is just what you’d expect.
So we slowly made our way up the flight and there was a lot of sitting around waiting, and standing round holding ropes and it was hard to find any shade so with the sun shining down it started getting rather warm.
Adderley Locks were even slower than Audlem – I suspect it was one of our slowest passages ever but eventually we arrived at Adderley Top Lock No 8 where Nick picked up some supplies for home from the farm shop.
We got back to the moorings, backed in and had a bite to eat before packing up and heading home.
It was another damp morning when we set off on our way back, wetter than Saturday morning and it really didn’t look like it was going to change much at all, so we envisaged just being rather damp by the time we moored up for the night. Not many boats were on the move, and you could hardly blame anyone for not moving, and we had a pretty uneventful trip back to Middlewich Junction by which time it had stopped raining but it was still quite overcast.
When we were in King’s Lock No 71 I walked round onto the Middlewich branch to see what was going on with the lock and found it full with a single handed boat sitting in it adjusting his roof furniture, however when he saw me he moved out of the lock and moved onto one of the moorings. We worked through the lock and were chugging slowly through the visitor moorings when a hireboat pulled out in front of us – and that was the start of the queue we were stuck in for the entire length of the canal.
Once again several of the boats were very short on crew so we ended up helping most of the queue through the locks.
We stopped for brunch on the Eardswick Visitor Moorings taking a calculated risk about moving boats and where we would end up in the queue at Minshull Lock No 2, and as it happens it really made no difference at all and it took about an hour to get through the lock when we got there. The queue had a varied mix of crews – people from the UK, a crew from New Zealand, a crew from Los Angeles and Hawaii and everyone was well natured and chatty, although the pigs in the farm by the canal sounded far from happy.
The weather had been slowly improving since Middlewich and by now the sun was starting to show and burn off the low cloud and it was starting to turn into a nice day.
Barbridge Junctionwas it’s usual madness – we saw a boat do a three point turn in the junction without sounding their horn at all so we approached with caution. We sounded our horn and waited for a reply and hearing non we edged forward with a lookout on the front deck, and it was a good thing we had one because as we nosed out through the junction a boat came straight through on the mainline without stopping and he looked extremely annoyed when we pulled out immediately behind him.
We made slow progress to Hurleston Junction but from there on we made good time and easily found a spot on the visitor moorings. We walked along the canal to Davids Bridge No 90 and took the Nantwich Riverside Walk route into town where we had several good beers and a good meal at Naaz before wandering back up Marsh Lane to the canalbank and back to the boat.
It was slightly later than planned when everyone woke up – I guess the fresh air, exercise and beer really did its stuff. It was a bit damp when we opened the doors and got the engine started and we waited for a couple of minutes before casting off to allow a couple of boats to go past and get a little ahead of us.
We were passing Church Minshull Visitor Moorings when a boat came up behind us and the woman on the front desk shouted at us that they wanted to come past. We replied, quite civilly, that there were two boats in front of us and we were simply keeping pace with them. They got more and more insistent that we let them past so we slowed down and pulled over and told them that they had until the next moored boat to get past us.
The man at the tiller speeded up to such a speed that their boat sucked all the water out from under us which grounded the stern and started dragging the bow out into the main channel and their boat. At this point he basically exploded : “We all pay out licences fees.. you don’t own the fucking canal, you shouldn’t be going so fast”
He sped off dragging a breaking wash and we let him go.
When we got to Stanthorne Lock No 3 they were exactly where we knew they’d be and where we’d told them…. stuck behind the two boats that were ahead of us. The woman holding the boat just ignored us but we learned that they’d been boating continually for 8 years … you would have thought that they’d have learned that speeding on a canal gets you nowhere.
We had to queue to get through Wardle Lock No 4 but everyone else turned left to go down the locks so we were able to go straight into King’s Lock No 71 … well I say straight in : there were boats double moored on the offside and a boat moored on the towpath between the lock and the junction so things were a little tight.
It was all quiet at Rumps Lock No 70 and we were just about through it when a boat turned up to come down, but by the time we got to Booth Lane Bottom Lock No 69 we were at the tail of a queue of about 5 boats, many of which only had a couple of crew on them. We decided to put our crew onto the bottom lock and the middle lock to help work the queue through, which was much appreciated by several of the boats.
The pound above Booth Lane Middle Lock No 68 was down by several inches – apparently one of the two boats which had been causing the queue had left the paddles open at both ends, but there was enough water to get up to Booth Lane Top Lock No 67 were it was good to be able to shelter under the large trees that overhang the lock.
It’s about 1.2 miles from the canal to Sandbach and we thought we might have a drink in the Cheshire Cheese before heading up the hill into town but it was being refurbished so we couldn’t.
It’s not a bad walk to Sandbach but it was extremely warm and humid so it was a little unpleasant. However it was worth it as Sandbach is a very nice little town and its market square is extremely impressive.
Sandbach market square with its pubs
The two crosses were destroyed several hundred years ago but were reconstructed and although they would have originally been brightly painted they are still quite impressive and something you’d more associate with Ireland
The reconstructed crosses in the market square
One of the pubs we really wanted to visit was The Old Hall which dates from about 1650 and has to be one of the most impressive pubs we’ve ever drunk in:
The Old Hall Inn, Sandbach
They have 6 real ales – three regulars and three guests, and all the ones we tried (in the two visits we made) were in very good form.
We also visited some of the pubs round the market square and also The Beer Emporium which is a shop that sells an impressive range of bottled beers and also has several on draught. We had a good meal at the Eastern Spice which isn’t licensed but you can bring your own alcohol.
So all in all a great place to visit and one we plan on visiting again now we’ve finally made it after all these years.
We walked back to the boat but there is a bus that runs from Sandbach and down to the canal on its way to Crewe (the 38 service with the last bus leaving from On the Common at just past midnight) which is worth knowing about.
After an easy drive up on Thursday night followed by a wander round Market Drayton which ended up with all soaked to the skin in a rather unexpected and sudden rainstorm we made a relatively early start, eased out of the moorings and headed north under rather gray skies.
Our plan was to reach Church Minshull and The Badger for the night, stopping for the odd beer along the way. We’d decided to try an experiment with the new inverter and had brought along a cheapish slow cooker – Nick threw all the ingredients into it and turned it on and it started warming up. As the power still hasn’t been hooked up on the moorings the batteries needed a lot of juice putting back into them and we were charging at about 40 amps for a couple of hours before it started to drop.
We stopped just before Adderley Top Lock No 8 for breakfast and, after buying some bacon from Adderley Farm Shop, we headed down the locks. We met a couple of boats coming up but things went smoothly and we made quite good progress.
It’s a pity that that didn’t continue…
We were waiting above Audlem Lock 3 No 15 as there were a couple of boats ahead of us including a single hander who was waiting in locks for the next one to get ready before moving out and an Alvechurch hire boat came steaming down the pound and wanted to know if we were “waiting for the lock” …I said yes and they pulled in behind us. We waited for a boat to come up and then I moved into the lock and immediately they were asking if I was “working alone”. I said I wasn’t and that my crew were helping move other boats through and would be there in a minute.
We went through the lock and into Audlem Lock 4 No 16 and someone from the Alvechurch boat was there again asking me if I wanted to to close me in. I told them no – that my crew would be back in a minute!. The lock emptied and we opened the bottom gates and waited for a boat coming up the next lock. Time for another visit from the Alvechurch boat who wanted to know why we weren’t moving out of the lock. We explained to them that we were waiting for a boat to come out of the next lock … that way boats weren’t floating round in the pound. We were told that “But we want to come through the lock and pull in behind you”. It was made quite clear to them that that was not going to happen, and that all they’d do is waste water and not actually gain any time at all. We tried to explain about the size of the pounds in the flight but it probably fell on deaf ears (or the ears they didn’t have their headsets in.. which they made very pointed use of)
We had to wait for a bit at Audlem Lock 9 No 21 as a boat coming through lock 10 had lost its chimney and was looking for it.
We moored on the offside at Audlem Wharf and went to The Lord Combermere for a pint which was in very good form. When we came back the Alvechurch boat was moored on the water point but noticably wasn’t watering. They saw we were going back to our boat so immediately cast off so they could stay in front of us…. Which was quite handy as we wanted to water up anyway so moved over to the water point, filled up with water, emptied the portapotti and had a pint at The Shroppie Fly whilst the tank filled up
We stopped at The Olde Barbridge Inn for a pint – there were a lot of boats already moored for the night and we did consider stopping but we weren’t on the best of moorings so decided we’d stick with the original plan and went on our way
As we were passing Nanneys Bridge No 8 Peter Stockdale leapt out and waved at us. By now the canal was quiet and as we passed Aqueduct Marina it became obvious that everyone else had given up for the night.
The pork which had been cooking in the slow cooker all day was very good and we washed it down with a bottle of Pinot Noir.
It was raining a little as we made our way across the farm yard and down onto the track that comes out right opposite The Badger Inn – it’s a much nicer walk than using the main road. The Badger lived up to expectations with some very good beers and when we came to walk back to the boat it had stopped raining