As the title says – we have been active for two weeks since the last post, explored three waterways – Bridgewater Canal, Trent and Mersey Canal and River Weaver – and welcomed cousins, Julie and Phil on board for a week’s cruising!!! So from being pretty slow on it last update our time suddenly got a bit more productive – lucky we had a rest!!!!!
We finally left Lymm after the Bank Holiday weekend after the boat traffic lessened somewhat. It wasn’t long after “ropes up” that the clouds became darker and the skies opened up. Julia and Bron made discreet descents into the dry cabins whilst Malcolm and Bob fought bravely on in the deluge (and thunder!!!) bringing us to safe moorings near Moore. So much for avoiding rain and wind – just Noah’s Ark type deluges!!!!
Things got slightly better on Wednesday (weather wise) and we made good progress to Preston Brook – stopping briefly for chandlery supplies before tackling the 1239 yard Preston Brook Tunnel. We found an average mooring soon after the Dutton Stop Lock which leads you from the Bridgewater Canal onto the Trent and Mersey Canal. The next morning we travelled about a half a mile and found the best mooring with a view and rings to tie up and everything – we were just a tad disappointed that we hadn’t pressed on just a little further but it is now marked on our maps for next time!!!!
On Thursday we conquered two more tunnels (Saltersford and Barnton – where Bob managed to sweet talk a beautiful tomato plant from another canal boat!) before arriving at the iconic Anderton Lift seeking a time to descend. The Anderton Lift is a beautiful piece of engineering, enabling boats to move between the Trent and Mersey Canal and the River Weaver – a 50 foot drop!!!! We only had to wait a couple of hours before we were allowed to wind (turn) our boats around and prepare to be instructed further. What excitement!!!
It is a bit of a slow process as you go into the first stage and the gate is lowered behind before proceeding to the actual lift tank. And then when the boats ascending are safely in their tank the process begins – one lowers and the other raises. The view is great and the descent slow and steady. So good to experience this as it is one of those things that you know about and really must experience as a narrowboater!!!!
Safely down and exited we were cruising the River Weaver towards Northwich where we picked up moorings within easy walking distance to the town centre and shops. Malcolm and Julia arranged to hire a car and make a trip back to Leicester to see their new grandson and his mother while Bob and Bron spent Friday exploring the town, doing shopping and getting a haircut.
Once they returned on Saturday morning we set off towards Winsford, enjoying cruising a wide river for a change, enjoying the sights and enjoying just moving along. Everyone had told us to spend time along the Vale Royal Cut and we did – the moorings are easy to get into, the views relaxing and peaceful and the walks along the river stimulating. Not hard to be relaxed in these circumstances!
On Sunday we headed down to Winsford to pick up our cousins, Julie and Phil, check out the available moorings (not good at all really) and top up provisions (we always forget something at the supermarket). With Julie and Phil safely on board we cruised back to Vale Royal Cut where Julia and Malcolm had saved us a mooring (having returned slightly earlier). We settled in for a big catch up over a roast dinner before retiring – in anticipation of the new experiences over the next few days.
Coming back through Northwich, Julia, Julie and Bron went off in search of yet more necessary shopping, leaving the boys to empty out refuse and fill up water. With amazing timing we returned just as they finished and left the facilities to the three or so boats which had started lining up. We cruised past the Anderton lift and continued downstream to Barnton Cut and moored. On a surprisingly warm and sunny afternoon we availed ourselves of the grassy bank and enjoyed a long happy hour before the cool evening air drove us indoors – at least we got a couple of hours of sunshine!!
Tuesday morning hailed the start of the search for the elusive kingfisher with Phil making the first sighting while Bob rushed for his camera – and missing it. From then on every bird was a kingfisher including the large white birds that are prevalent (they go under the alias of swan!) and tend to circle our boats in flocks. So the sighting of “a flock of large white kingfishers ahead!” was the cry heard often that day.
We continued downstream to Devil’s Garden and decided to explore the nearby town of Kingsley where Bob had heard there was a good restaurant (turned out to be a cafe which didn’t open for dinner!) and a farm shop selling meat. We found both but decided to return to our boats (after a swift half at the pub and an exploration of the churchyard graves!) for happy hour (disturbed by over friendly cows necessitating a quick retreat indoors!), dinner and a quiet celebration of Julie and Phil’s wedding anniversary.
Although we did think about going to the end of the River Weaver we decided to only go as far as the Weston Canal section where the M56 motorway makes its way across. There we turned and after using the facilities at Sutton Swing Bridge, passing our previous night’s mooring at Devil’s Garden and going back through the large Dutton and Saltersford locks we moored again at Barnton Cut and searched for kingfishers with Julie being the lucky spotter.
We anticipated making the short trip back to Anderton Lift on Thursday morning and getting a booking to return up to the Trent and Mersey but the fates conspired against us and there were no available lifts that day for us. A blessing in disguise as we also learnt that Bob had to attend an appointment for his eye on Friday in preparation for his cataract surgery next week. So after a quick rethink we returned to Northwich, Bob and Phil retrieved their car in preparation of driving to London on Friday and Bron and Julie prepared themselves for a day of taking full responsibility for Celtic Maid, ascending the Anderton Lift and finding a mooring close to a roadway so the Bob and Phil could find us. And of course making sure that the 4.00am alarm actually went off and the men knew where they had to go.
Friday dawned. Phil and Bob set off to London on time, Bron and Julie successfully prepared and took off (losing and retrieving a fender, forgetting to tighten the tiller handle screws and bumping heads countless times as the need to run from one end of the boat to another arose) and we successfully made it to the Anderton Lift in time for the ascent. Despite small technical hitches with the computer programming of the lift we finally got to the top (unscathed despite the wind buffeting us off course whilst attempting to enter the lift and untimely directions from the staff regarding fender lifting!!!) and made our way along the very narrow Trent and Mersey in the strong wind to find moorings at Rudheath/Broken Cross and awaiting the safe and successful return of our men. Finally at about 5pm they arrived back and after safely parking the car returned to us for a happy hour where we swapped stories about our adventures for the day. All felt pretty proud of their achievements for the day with the boat safely moved and preparations for Bob’s surgery well underway.
On Saturday we progressed finally to Middlewich and finally found moorings near the winding hole and close to the town centre. When Bob and Phil retrieved the car from Broken Cross they found a park a very short distance from the boat enabling easy carriage of luggage for Julie and Phil’s departure on Sunday. We all went out to the Big Lock Inn for dinner and returned for a civilised night cap on Celtic Maid before retiring.
Sadly this morning we bid farewell to Julie and Phil – what a great week we have had. They have been wonderful guests helping out in more ways than we could have imagined – we appreciate greatly their companionship and generosity in helping us out and although we will see them next weekend we will miss them greatly.
So now its our usual Sunday night roast with Julia and Malcolm and then we tackle the trip to Kidsgrove – in what looks to be appalling weather over the next few days!!!!