On the Wednesday morning of our holiday we left our overnight mooring at Hack Green Locks at 6.45am and were at Nantwich by 7.50 when we stopped to fill up our water tank. It was obviously damp underfoot again as Richard in his wellies hangs onto the boat to stop it drifting away from the bank; why he didn’t just loop that centre rope around a mooring ring I have no idea! After leaving Nantwich we travelled north, past Hurleston Junction where we had joined the Shropshire Union Canal a few days earlier and on to Barbridge Junction. Here we did a (very) sharp right turn onto the Middlewich Branch which links the “Shroppie” with the Trent & Mersey Canal. Despite loving this section of the canal I only took one photograph and that’s when I hopped off the boat to capture a train crossing the bridge whilst our boat passed by. Trains were passing at the rate of about one a minute until I had my camera in position, then nothing; it took ages with Jon holding the boat until a train passed by.
For some reason I took no photos of the very interesting and busy junction where the Middlewich Branch joins the Trent & Mersey Canal, nor did I take any at the Middlewich double lock where we encountered a boat in trouble which we helped rescue and get on its way. On Wednesday evening it was almost totally dark before we were able to find a suitable mooring for the night, so after tying up and before thinking about our evening meal it was time for a tipple. We had brought with us a fair amount of home-made red wine, rather potent but very pleasurable and a glass always made us jolly whilst we recalled the day and planned the next adventure, be it the next day or the next year.
On Thursday morning, once again, we set off early and soon passed Anderton Lift and on through Barnton tunnel where there was a winding hole to turn the boat around and then back through the tunnel to Anderton Lift where we stopped for water and a few photographs. The mechanics of the lift at this time were all in pieces as it was in mid-restoration; nevertheless one can see what an awesome structure it had been for lowering narrow boats down to the River Weaver below. After we had filled up with water we started to retrace our steps back down the Trent & Mersey Canal, onto the Middlewich Branch and through to the Shropshire Union Canal. Here we turned left at Barbridge Junction and in a short distance turned right again into the Llangollen Canal once more and then moored up for the night soon after climbing the Hurleston flight of locks. For some reason there are no photographs of this part of our trip, I can only assume it was very dull and grey, and perhaps too dark for the slide film I had in my camera.
Friday, and it’s our last full day of the canal holiday, time to make the most of it and cover as much ground as possible. We left our mooring at 6.50am and by 8.30 we had come to our first manually operated lift bridge, a few are counterbalanced and lifted by simply pulling on a chain, some are hydraulic and have to be lifted by winding for ages with a windlass; Richard nonchalantly poses by one of the latter whilst Gotrik passes by. We arrived at the lift bridge at Wrenbury at probably one of the busiest times of day for road traffic, at 8.45 in the middle of the school-run. After holding up the traffic whilst we passed by, it was then quite a walk along the canal to a point where we could board again, so many moored boats along that section it’s difficult to pull into the bank.
By mid-day we were once again at the busy staircase locks at Grindley Brook, this time there was a lock-keeper in attendance but he could see we knew what we were doing so just chatted to us as we ascended. Apparently he had had to sort out a dispute earlier in the day, but we had already heard about that at one of the locks previously from boaters going in the other direction. By 3.00 we were by the hire-base but passed it by to go on a little farther to explore the Prees Branch of the canal which was a suitable turning point so we’d be facing the right direction for the short trip back to base in the morning. At 4.15 we moored up for the last time just 15 minutes from base and then spent an hour before dark cleaning the boat, inside and out, before settling down with a glass or two of red for an evening of planning our next canal adventure. Thank you Gotrik, it was a great week!
Postscript – We hired a boat in 1993, 1994, 1995 and 1996; by this time Lynne and Jon were truly hooked and planning a life afloat. Richard had left school and was living away from home whilst training to be a chef so his parents set out to sell their house and buy a narrow boat. After much deliberation they chose a builder to make the boat of their dreams and this commenced in the latter part of the 1990s. The Daniel Eve was to be their home for the next few years until Jon and Lynne took over a boatyard on the Grand Union Canal and it was here Lynne fell in love with a wide beam boat so The Daniel Eve was sold in 2005 and they moved into their new boat, which is where they still live. The photograph here is of The Daniel Eve at Tixall Wide sometime soon after Jon had completed her magnificent paint work. I had many pleasurable hours cruising with Jon and Lynne on that boat over the years they had it, for which I’m very grateful.