After a ridiculously busy return trip across the Middlewich arm - there were nine boats waiting at one lock! - we headed north from Middlewich, sharing the does-what-it-says-on-the-tin Big Lock with nb Dunnarunna.
The Trent & Mersey north of Middlewich is mostly really pretty, and dotted with 'flashes' which are big lakes caused by subsidence.
The stretch around Northwich has to be the exception to the 'really pretty' rule as the canal passes right through some still-active chemical works, complete with sounds, smells and steam.
Soon after this we arrived at Anderton and booked ourselves in for the Anderton boat lift which descends 50' down to the River Weaver below. First you cross a mini aqueduct to access the lift...
Then you get let into the caisson which contains the boats as they're lowered down to the level of the river. 50' feels pretty high as you peer down to the other caisson below, which is waiting to come up as you go down.
Next the caisson smoothly descends, giving you just enough time to imagine all the hard work 50' worth of locks would involve. Halfway down we waved at the trip boat which was on its way up.
And soon we were out onto the River Weaver, heading upstream into Northwich.
Northwich is undergoing a lot of redevelopment at the moment, which started with the development of Northwich Quay marina. This was being built when we were here two years ago so it was nice to see it completed and looking good.
We had a lazy morning in Northwich the next day before setting off to Vale Royal, which is a lovely peaceful mooring. From there, we headed upstream the next day passing some still-active salt works near Winsford.
Winsford bridge is the official limit of navigation but you can carry on a little further to reach Winsford bottom flash. This looks really inviting to explore as you head upstream but is apparently very shallow in places. We turned soon after taking this photo.
nb Leo were slightly braver and ventured further out into the flash, testing the depth with a pole at the front as they went. As they turned we did notice some sludgy brown spray from the prop, suggesting they'd maybe pushed their luck a bit far!
For some reason there is a water point near the entrance to the flash and we did try to get in to fill with water. Even though Pas Meche isn't especially deep we did go gently aground approaching the water point so decided to abandon the refilling to avoid beaching ourselves with a full water tank.
Instead, we headed downstream, back through Northwich and passed the Anderton lift again.
The locks downstream of Anderton are huge, our two boats felt tiny in Saltersford lock. Fortunately like all the Weaver locks they're manned so this is definitely the place to come for lazy boaters.
Huge locks are a hangover from the Weaver's commercial carrying days, as are the enormous swing bridges which cross the river. This is Acton swing bridge which rotates around a central island. They do still work even though the big ships no longer run on the Weaver.
Unless you're going out onto the Manchester Ship Canal, Weston Marsh is journey's end at the northern end of the Weaver. We passed a good mile of chemical works before arriving at Weston Marsh lock, where we moored for a look round this no-man's land between the river and the canal.
The lock is still operational in theory although we wondered how many boats a year actually pass through it as it looks pretty derelict.
We made it to the limit of navigation near Weston Point Docks, access to which is blocked by a low swing bridge which normal boaters cannot operate. Leo is winding (that's turning to landlubbers) at the junction with the disused Runcorn and Weston Canal.
We made it back to the Devil's Garden moorings (which are a lot nicer than they sound) for the night.
After a return trip to Northwich we called time on our Weaver jaunt and went back up the Anderton Lift. We really enjoyed the Weaver, it's a lovely varied river and about as tranquil as river cruising gets. We have met a few people who are scared of going on rivers but the Weaver has to be about the best place to start for nervous boaters.
After the Weaver we had planned to go into Manchester, from where Leo and us would go our separate ways. However, the Bridgewater Canal into Manchester is currently closed for several weeks so we had to rethink our plans. So, after a final meal at the Stanley Arms we said goodbye to Leo as they headed north towards Liverpool and we retraced our steps south to Middlewich.
Since then we've crossed back across the Middlewich Arm (for the third and surely last time this year....!) and rejoined the Shropshire Union canal, heading south this time. We found a perfectly sized mooring on Nantwich embankment last night.