Saturday, 13 August 2016

Keith and Molly Visit.

Saturday 13th August, 2016, somewhere north-west of Sandbach.
Another pretty morning; the last few days have really felt like summer and the early mornings are beautiful. The water is so still and the reflections are magical.
After breakfast, we set off down through the next lock, just a few yards ahead. The second lock, just a few yards further on, was right next to the M6 and the noise was deafening.
It was a strange feeling, slipping quietly underneath what sounded like a lunatic asylum above. Although paradoxically, we do not dislike this section of the M6, as it regularly carries us up to the Lake District.
A dark cloud temporarily gave us a dramatic cloudscape, but it drifted off without dampening our day.
Most of these locks are still paired although for some, like this one, one of the locks has been abandonned. With money short, the temptation for the C&RT, if there is a problem with one lock of a pair, is just not to repair it. In this case, a massive weir had been built inside the old lock - ironically, that would have cost as much as repairing the lock!
A lovely surprise at one lock - we met nb "Edwin" (which moors next to us at Aston Marina), coming up the lock as we were going down. Despite being next door neighbours for the past three years, this was the first time that we had met the owners and so cheerful greetings were exchanged.
At bridge 152, a herd of cows was slowly making its way back to its pasture after being milked. The cows do this route four times every day, so they all know the way and do it on their own. A lovely sight.
Thanks to the crew of the hire boat nb "Vallecrucis Abbey" (the red boat), we did today's first 10 locks in record quick time.Two of their crew walked ahead at each lock in the best tradition of "lock wheeling". Where there was a pair of locks, they set both of them for our two boats; where there was a single lock, they set the lock for us and we re-set the lock for them as we left. On average, 10 locks would normally take us a little over three hours - we did them in well under two hours.
M wonders if this is a record - but it would have to be just a modern one as the old boat people used to reckon to do a lock in three minutes! (those days, paddles were fiercer and boaters would ram lock gates to open them. Today, that would get your licence revoked by C&RT).
Sadly, we parted company with our helpers, with many "thank yous", at the appropriately named village of Wheelock, where we moored up.
We had arranged to meet our friends Keith and Molly, who live in nearby Congleton, for lunch. The visitors moorings in Wheelock are very popular and, being lunchtime, they were full, so we had to go about 200yards further on to moor on pins.
We met Keith and Molly in a nearby pub with the delightful name of The Cheshire Cheese. As pubs go, it was unremarkable but it was very nice to spend time with Keith and Molly and have a catch up over bowls of chips.
Having waved them off, we returned to MM to find that the two water points in the centre of the village were now free. So R skillfully backed MM the couple of hundred yards back through a narrow bridge so that we could fill up with water (and water the geraniums).
We have only done 25 miles since we left Stone - but 44 locks. Perhaps why this section is called "Heartbreak Hill"!
We cruised along happily in the afternoon sun, intending to moor up where we had stopped in 2013. Somehow, we must have missed it because suddenly a lock loomed before us when we were not expecting one! So, there was nothing for it but to go through the lock - and the next two - before we found a suitable mooring.
However, it was no hardship as it was a very pleasant afternoon and we eventually stopped just past the third lock.
There was a road close by, but we were shielded by a bank and there was little traffic to disturb us. The chemical works across the road was an indicator of the proximity of Middlewich.
Today: 6 miles, 13 locks and 3.6 hours.
Trip: 239 miles, 188 locks and 180.9 hours.

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