Sunday, July 17, 2016

North from Middlewich

The Trent & Mersey is truly impressive in its variety and contrasts. Today, the thinning urban scene of Middlewich, then quite riverlike, with “flashes” on occasion, stretches where the canal has widened into something of a lake because of land subsidence. The it gets narrow and twisty, sometimes so narrow that the passing of two boats would present quite a challenge. There were no locks today. I'm not getting enough exercise!

And then comes Northwich, with its very intrusive salt industry; pipes and chimneys, steam and rusting iron.

We came across a man playing “fetch” with his dog. Nothing unusual, you'd think. But in this case, you'd be wrong. This fetch was rather different. So was the dog.

The two of them stood next to a long, tall hedge of hawthorn, blackberry and wild rose. There was a small gap into the hedge, a field beyond it. But the game starts a yard or two to the side of the gap. The man takes the ball, and he hurls it with some force over the hedge. It goes quite a distance. And off goes the dog through the gap. He doesn't get to see much of the ball as it curls through the air and hits the ground. But he's determined. And he finds the ball within moments. Goodness knows how! His owners certainly don't. And he loves it, and he never fails.

The Anderton Lift comes next. Transporting boats the 50 feet between the canal and the River Weaver below since 1875. We didn't stop to look around. We will on our way back from Liverpool, and we'll come out and cruise the Weaver another year, probably travelling the Llangollen Canal on the same trip.
Barnton Tunnel is straight, 572 yards long, and you can see the exit from the entrance. It's also only wide enough for one boat, so there's no entering if you can see a tunnel-light ahead!
Saltersford Tunnel is shorter, at 424 yards, also only single-width. But this one is very bendy, and you can't see one end from the other, so entry at each end is governed by a timetable, restricted to one ten-minute slot each hour. We were fortunate to arrive within one such slot, so we sailed straight in. And it was bendy!
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Out the other end, and we heard one of those noises that no boater likes to hear. The sound of something large and hard being struck by the propeller at 2000 revs a minute. Grace slips the engine into neutral, and we wait. Behind us, something large, black and shiny bobs to the surface briefly, then sinks again. Engage forward gear gently. Everything feels OK. Phew!

We've been amazed and delighted to see along the T & M large clumps of beautifully-coloured wild geraniums. We've never seen so much of it before.
But we've also never seen before so much of this very attractive but very undesirable, invasive Himalayan Balsam. I really can't report every sighting!
We stopped not far before bridge 212, an absolutely lovely spot overlooking a sharp fall of around 60 feet to a plain that stretches out into the distance towards more hills. We wondered why it was that the concreted bank only has enough mooring rings for four or five boats, when there's actually space for twice that!

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