Somewhere between Audlem and Nantwich we lost a day – Nick’s blaming the week of course, but the end result is that we’ve been putting in a few miles to get where we want to be. Not such a bad thing as the weather is hardly June and we’ve covered this water quite a bit before. Nantwich was jam-packed when we stopped at the services yesterday lunch time, before moving onto the mooring rings by Aqueduct marina last night.
The rain looked as though it might have finally given up this morning. A few miles on and we were into Middlewich. One happy boater yelled, ‘I’ve just come up the locks, so they’re all against you’…and off he went chuckling to himself. Thanks for that then.
Lion Salt works is part way through what looks like a massive transformation to turn the place into a heritage centre. Fishery, bay, crystal and lump salt was produced on the site between the 1840s-1986. The salt was pumped as raw brine, evaporated in large iron pans, crystals were raked into blocks and dried in brick stove houses. The canal was the beginning of a very long journey for the salt blocks, which were exported to India, Canada and West Africa.
Another water top up at Anderton Services where is was great to meet someone who has followed our travels via the blog. Hope you have a lovely summer Jennifer and although not likely now you have your own boat, if you ever need a boat/house swap then Tasmania sounds perfect to us! You can have the dog too.
Round the bend we found another surprise. Fly no42. THE boat we wanted but was sold by the time we were finally ready to buy one. It’s the boat next door tonight.
There was no escaping the fact it was summer on The Four Counties Ring today. Can’t really blame the traffic when you are the traffic etc etc etc. It was constant, from start to finish. Most boats moving in the same direction as us are heading to either the Chester rally or the one at Ellesmere Port or both. You need a ‘Russell Newbery’ engine to qualify for one or the other so there are a lot of those chugging about. A pretty happy crowd, unlike people from the opposite direction, fed up and reporting tales of historic work boats moving through Audlem – towing, crawling in tandem and generally taking forever. Thankfully the mass of general traffic stopped us getting anywhere near close.
It was a bit of a long day in then end as after negotiating the busy Tyrley Locks we had a food and water stop in Market Drayton…a few miles of straight and narrow before plunging into the mayhem of Adderley Locks and then deciding to continue on.
Audlem never disappoints. Fairly sure the stalls set out amongst the grasses and hedgerows are the genuine thing but if not then they’re a genius bit of marketing made all the better for a drenching of evening rain. Soggy bunting, cakes under umbrellas, scones hidden away at the back of wooden huts and empty jars of sweet peas – an impossibly perfect step back in time.
Very happy to find a mooring below lock 13 as there was barely an inch to spare along the way.
The solar panel was putting in over 11 amps this morning meaning the batteries were topped right up by the time we woke. Taking turns at the tiller we showered on the move which is still the strangest thing to me. Norbury Junction was busy with what seemed like boats poking out from just about every angle. The cuttings are long and narrow and with a fair amount of traffic around they involved lots of pulling over, shuflfing about and rewinding. The sky darkened as we finally emerged from Woodseave Cutting, the rain came pelting down making our minds up not to continue down the Tyrley Locks today. Some very soggy boaters pulled in infront of us about half an hour ago – yuck. Dodgy 3G so this may never appear.
The previous times we travelled the Shropshire Union we kept finding ourselves involved in conversations with people who enthused, ‘Oh lovely tropical paradise,’ or ‘Fantastic, Shroppie Tropics.’ We’d smiled back, secretly wondering what planet they were on…things look quite different in January, which made for a very pleasant surprise today. Foliage twisting and turning itself inside out, round and round creating a tropical snow globe. Time drifted under dappled sunlight, winter mooring spots were unrecognisable way below the undergrowth.
Finally had our leafy fill for the day, so pulled over in time for the last IPL, cake making, boat washing and a unusually successful BBQ. The solar stars have just come to life, latest recorded time so far. Evenings are beginning to stretch into night.
Cambrian Wharf comes complete with the strangest squawking noise. It starts about 6am, happens randomly but often and finishes about 8pm. For a couple of days we were looking skyward, scanning the balconies of the highrise towers for a parrot in a cage but nothing, eventually coming to the conclusion it‘s some sort of pigeon deterrent. The locals don’t seem to know what it is, some even claim they can’t hear it… giving the mystery sparrow hawk a sinister kind of a twist.
Waited for the naughty historic workboats to move off from a night on the waterpoint before filling the tank then leaving the city behind. We’ve warmed to the first hour or so of the main line, its raw and blatantly disused closed up look has a certain appeal. But on past Smethwick Junction we’re still not feeling the love. Grimy and dull it goes on, up past the Black Country Museum, on, through Coseley Tunnel, on, winding round scrap yards, on, through Wolverhampton where, finally through a flight of 21 locks requiring a conservation key a trillion times over things suddenly cheer right up. Even on a sunny Saturday in May there’s hardly a soul about, in 15 miles and 24 locks we only passed one boat and that was Black Prince looking lost. A far cry from the caravan of boats we were part of arriving in from Bournville.
Took a right, then a left through the stop lock and onto the Shropshire Union. Green and lush and full of boats.
It wasn’t exactly snow but it was white and frozen and definitely on the ground this morning. Another bright start we set off with more straightness ahead. Pulled in at Turner’s Garage for some of it’s legendary cheap diesel, along with a couple of bags of coal and a gas bottle. Just one lock today, rasing us up to …more straightness.
We’ve eaten our way round the menu wheel again, the fridge is looking pretty bare. Perhaps we’ve gotten a little more hardy but it’s nasty out there tonight and really not cold in here, the bathroom is also bearable thanks to the luxury Dimplex heater. A big day tomorrow, moving onto Nicholson Guide no. 2, bought in Guildford before we ever stepped foot on a boat – obviously the BCN is where we figured it’d be nice to hang out. Time will tell.
Still long and straight but with sunshine and birds and lots and lots of boats – so many weaving about we slipped back into the habit of actually checking if it’s clear to steam on through bridges. Once again Norbury Junction did not disappoint, warm, clean and a plentiful supply of boater cast-offs which we added to, rather than the other way around for once.
Call us box tickers but despite the fact this stretch has a certain wilderness appeal we seem to ploughing on in search of the BCN – two January visits and we’ve had our Shroppy lot, the tropic summer twist would add another dimension but according to Nick he can ‘imagine that, so no need to actually do it.’ Last time he began to believe this wasn’t an adventure we shot out onto the flooded Thames and cacked ourselves.. careful what you wish for.