We survived our first night on the Trent & Mersey thanks to the repaired Dutton Bank holding just fine. It felt more like winter than the very end of summer so we were all wrapped up as we embarked upon two significant tunnels, navigating the twists and turns. Victoria doing quite well in this one despite her fearful face of concentration. The boat is going about 2mph not the 200mph that the photo suggests.
The narrowness of the tunnels and canal in general took a little getting used to after months of being based on the large commercial waterways of the north. The photo below shows how small the tunnel is. Mind the flowers!
We stopped at the top of the Anderton Boat lift and went in search of someone to book our passage on the boat lift down. We found the booking office (it's not obvious but it is downstairs in the Information Centre through double doors), only to hang around and wait for someone to return from lunch! Once successfully booked on we did not have to wait long at all. The CRT operatives were very helpful and chatty and after our safety briefing we made it down the lift. It's a really impressive piece of engineering, the trip takes about 5 minutes to drop 50 feet but the whole sequence of securing boat and altering water levels takes a good bit longer. Click here for more information on the lift
It was fun to be back on a river once again and not have to concentrate so much on steering. We boated along the River Weaver to Northwich and moored between the two bridges right in the town centre outside a lovely new development of flats and houses (as per photo). Opposite there is a new marina being built although in our three days on the Weaver we did not see many boats moving at all.
Thursday 19th September
Bad rain this morning so we set off late. Continued along the River Weaver until its navigable limit. On the way we climbed through Hunt's Lock and Vale Royal Locks (useful to give the lock keeper a call and if possible they will have the locks ready for you). All the locks on the River Weaver are manned, reminding us of the River Thames, and providing respite for David's lock bitch (aka Victoria)! Although she still felt important as the technique on the Weaver is the lock keeper dangles a rope down and you have to hook your rope through and tie it and he pulls it back up. The locks are very deep so holding Pas Meche with both bow and stern ropes kept her nice and steady. The Weaver opens up and is a lovely pretty river, the landscape mostly dominated with salt mines and associated industries but broken up with nice countryside and woodland. Just before the end there is a very low bridge and we had to take the chimney down and the flowers - boaters with high boats beware! We got to the end and passed through onto the Bottom Flash at Winsford, this is a nice open lake where there are a few private moorings. Shame there are no visitor moorings here but the lake is apparently very shallow in places.
We turned in the lake, moored outside the Red Lion pub and popped into town but we chose to move on for the night as the pontoon for the mooring here is not so great, wonky and missing bollards or rings to tie to. Would be safe if you chose to moor here and go to the pub but we preferred the more open countryside moorings at Vale Royal in the photo below. The rain cleared and it was a great sunny evening.
Friday 20th September
Set off from our mooring back down the two locks to Northwich. Very short day today as Victoria was going back to Leeds for the afternoon and evening to see friends and then family (lovely to see everyone, Happy Birthday to our niece Rosa and good luck at uni for our nephew Lewis). Moored at the same spot in Northwich for the evening. Last train back Leeds - Manchester, Manchester - Northwich. Thankfully Victoria did not fall to sleep on the train after all the wine and wake up in Chester. The train station is about 1 mile walk from the suggested mooring in Northwich town centre.
Saturday 21st September
We set off from the mooring in Norwich heading for the Anderton Boat Lift, deciding to save the rest of the Weaver for another year. We telephoned the lift to check on availability, there were plenty of free slots despite it being a weekend so out of peak season I do not think you would have a problem getting a space by just turning up. You can book but that costs £5 and obviously ties you to being there on time etc whereas it's free to just turn up. We booked on and in the Information Centre we bumped into Mary and Shaun from NB Zyggy (Zyggy's photo blog click here). We previously shared locks with Zyggy on the Leeds & Liverpool at Bank Newton. Zyggy are rushing back to London for winter so did not have time to boat the River Weaver but they joined us on PM for the ride up. We walked back to the mooring to move PM onto the holding mooring for the lift to be greeted by an unhappy CRT operative who said we were late. It turned out we should not have been booked on one so soon if we were not on the holding mooring so make sure you are there on time! Shaun and Mary had the grand tour once Victoria rushed through the boat and moved her pyjamas and David's dirty socks off the floor. The tour did not take long (much more time efficient than showing someone round your house). Despite the CRT operative getting wound up we sat in the lift for ages waiting for their trip boat to come in at the top. Opportunity to have a cuppa and share boating stories with Zyggy crew.
We turned right out of the lift and continued a little way down the Trent and Mersey canal. Nice and quirky to be back on narrow canal again. We moored opposite a flash north of Middlewich. Lovely mooring - nice surface for a run in the evening.
Sunday 22nd September
We set off early to head for Middlewich. We've been having gearbox troubles so needed to get to a boat yard. Nice canal, hit the locks where there was a little queue being a Sunday - not used to queuing having been on such quiet northern waterways! The first lock is a double lock (but we are not sure why as the canal is definitely narrow in places) then the remaining locks are narrow.
They are so much easier - unless you have a gearbox that does not go in reverse then you need an energetic Dave to jump off and pull on ropes...... staying in Middlewich for a few days whilst we wait for parts to be delivered. Still, the weather has turned again and is now more like summer than the start of autumn. Please comment if anyone has any ideas of things to do in Middlewich!