12 July. North! At least as far as Barbridge Junction, where we swing onto the Middlewich arm of the Shropshire Union Canal, (a low bridge marks the turn, and it’s a blind corner –lovely!) The locks along here are extremely deep, and can apparently get very busy – they take ages to fill, so the boats back up waiting. There are a couple of big marinas as well, so it gets pretty hectic at weekends. We make our way to Middlewich – a pretty sharp turn with locks involved. By the time we’ve navigated our way through the town, negotiating the masses of moored narrowboats at the yards, and stopped for water, we’re ready to stop for the night. Mooring is just before Big Lock (and it is!) and the conveniently placed Big Lock Pub. Of course we did, and very good it was too.
Big Lock pub, Middlewich
13 July. Now we’re on the Trent and Mersey Canal, and the first task of the day is Big Lock. Fortunately there’s someone else to go through with (it’s one of the double-width ones) and we’re away up towards Manchester. Some interesting features of the canal here are the flashes beside the channel (keep to the marked bit!) where there are the rusting remains of scuttled boats from the fifties. Many have been raised and restored, but some are beyond help.
derelict in Billinge Green Flash
The landscape takes an industrial turn after we go through Broken Cross, the canal passing under the pipes of the ICI works, where an unexpected club mooring makes things interesting.
After passing the Lion Salt Works (seen on the BBC’s ‘Restoration’ programme, we have lunch at Marbury Country Park, before going a little further to moor up at Anderton, where the shore party investigate the Anderton Boat Lift.
14 July. Timing is the thing, heading north from the Anderton lift. There are tunnels, and they are on a timer…first comes Barnton, and then Saltersford – you have a twenty minute slot between the hour and twenty past going north, and then it’s a two hour run to Preston Brook tunnel if you don’t want to wait around. There are no towpaths in the tunnels, and it’s easy to imagine the old boatmen ‘legging’ their way along while their horses went the airy route over the top. Passing the Black Prince boatyard is a bit of a squeeze, too. Just before Preston Brook is Dutton Stop Lock, with a grand fall of six inches…not so much a lock as a water control mechanism, but it seems very strange going through the motions for such a small change in level!
Dutton Stop Lock
Preston Brook Tunnel is impressive, with an almost cathedral-like space below the second airhole from the west; we emerged to find ourselves now on the Bridgewater Canal, and after passing under the M56, we head further north, past Daresbury ( a very modern ‘innovation campus’). The canal is wide, and although Mum’s search for a post office is in vain, the scenery’s not bad. There are no locks, and we chug peacefully along some way above the Manchester Ship canal.
Lymm (above) seems to be almost all marina, with a boat at the bottom of the garden the order of the day. We finally moor up at Little Bollington, on a windy canal bank.