Nantwich to Goldstone Wharf
5th November 2010
16 miles - 27 locks - 9 hours
We had a long leg ahead of us today and planned an early start, but it didn't work out that way. The problem was our choice of viewing last night - The Godfather part 2 which ground on for an interminable 3.5 hours before we sought out our beds at 11.30pm. We could have turned off part way through but we kept thinking it would improve!
In the event we were off at 9.00am under a mild autumnal sun reaching Hack Green Locks and the site of the not so secret nuclear bunker a couple of hours later. The locks were surrounded in barriers and plant ready to repair works next week, as was the bridge which had had one side removed ready for rebuilding.
We paused at the Weaver Aqueduct so that I could slither down the embankment to grab a photo. I was surprised at the size of the Weaver this high up and could appreciate how the wartime plans were prepared to make the river navigable to this point and then install a lift to a widened Shropshire Union, making a broad line all the way from the Mersey to Birmingham. If this plan had come to pass the shape of this area would have been so different.
The Audlem flight was a comparative hive of activity, with two boats descending and a Springer rising way above us. These locks are always a joy to work but on this occasion the flow of water cascading round the locks was so strong that entry without bumping was an impossibility. Half way up a lady was selling windfall apples at 50p for half a dozen - so we stocked up with two bags and munched our way to the top.
Adderley Locks are strange in that I have passed through them many times but always struggle to remember anything about them, except the top one. The adjacent farm has taken to selling free range eggs and fairy cakes from a little honesty booth so we took advantage of both to keep us going till we get home.
Adderley honesty booth
I think that all the leaves in Shropshire have fallen into the canal at Market Drayton. The cut was covered from one side to the other and we had to reverse every minute to make any semblance of progress. In truth we were never truly free of leaves but whilst we were moving forward we let them be. The rain started as we approached Tyreley Cutting which, in spite of the wet and the leaves, was absolutely stunning. We debated about refilling with water at the Tyreley locks as the last stop was four days ago way back at Froghall. As it turned out the tap was broken which settled what had been a hotly contested topic all the way up the locks.
Tyreley's golden carpet
The rain fell harder and harder as we passed through Woodseaves, with the sun long gone and the canal barely visible in the deep gloom. We were relieved to come to a stop at Goldstone with the light fully gone and the rain descending in stair rods.
Today it finally dawned on me that the rythm of cruising out of season has to change. Normal days travels are no longer prossible and an hour lost in the morning can't be recovered later on. 7 hours is a sensible maximum but at hat rate completing the Four Counties in six days is extremely challenging. On the flip side - we have the entire canal to ourselves which is heavenly.