Wheelock to Nantwich
4th November 2010
20 miles - 9 locks - 8 hours
The forecasts predicted heavy rain but thankfully it all fell overnight. I woke several times to hear the rain drumming on the roof, but by a small miracle the last squall passed over at dawn and held off all day. We had grey skies all day with a constant promise of better things to the south west, but we never quite made it to the brighter lands on the horizon.
Yesterday's solitude was maintained as we made our way north along the Trent and Mersey and into Middlewich. We were two hours into the Middlewich Branch before we met another craft, a Middlewhich Cruisers hireboat hurrying back to base. The area around Middlewich used to be home to some sizeable chemical works but sadly these have now closed and we are left with yet another empty plate of concrete with a huge cairn of rubble in the middle. A sad sight repeated all round the system these days. The altered empty building rate relief policy has a lot to answer for.
Lost industry at Middlewich
One benefit of late autumn cruising is the scope for views that are usually obscured by foliage. This length of the Middlewich Branch canal crosses many small deep valleys which are choked with trees. Suddenly, we were able to peer down into these grottos, each complete with a little beck running through a carefully monitored culvert. This is all agonising stuff for an aqueduct hunter - which of those flights of steps lead to a dull culvert and which lead to an aqueduct?. Its impossible to tell.
Autumn on the Middlewich Branch Canal
We stopped off at Venetian Marina for a much needed pump out (10 days cruising since the last one) who charged a reasonable £15 including Blue. One snag of cold weather cruising is kindling. We need a fire every day and whilst we carry a good supply of fuel we always run out of kindling and resort to scavenging to replenish our stocks. Jeff made the sensible observation "Why don't we have an axe on board to let us split logs into kindling?" The boy's got a point and a quick foray into the chandlery yielded one serviceable and axe for the princely sum of £8.50.
Escaped pig at Minshull Lock
Then it was on to Barbridge Junction as the light started to fail, continuing beneath Hurleston Locks and on to Nantwich, mooring up about 8 hours after we started. With just a glimmer of sunset left we undertook the first half of the end of season service, extracting the still hot engine oil and replacing the oil and air filters. I would have liked to replaced the small drive belt which is so stretched and thin that it squeals for the first two minutes of each day till it warms up enough to stick. However, by then it was so gloomy I couldn't see the nuts so left it for another day.
Juliana at Barbridge Junction - another classic from Taylors of Chester
It wasn't a great photographic day as it was far too grey to bring out the colours.