Sunday, 3 August 2014

Along, long day, and lots of miles.

(Boat Chalice - posted by Alan)
Sunday 3rd August.

Wardle Lock - First of the day
We are very much hoping that we can squeeze enough time to do a big trip to the North that takes in much of the Leeds and Liverpool canal - far further than we have ever managed to travel up from the South before.  We spent more time yesterday with the excellent CanalPlanAC website, trying to convince ourselves we have enough time.  I guess if we are strictly honest, we do not, as it comes out as consistently long boating days, with really little contingency time to offset any delays, or anything "breaking", (whether that be part of the canal system, part of our boat, or any combination of the two!).

Descending the Trent & Mersey narrow locks in Middlewich.
However we have decided to go for it, and to see what is possible, have put in a long day today, (although admittedly not a hard day, as very few locks were involved).

"Big Lock" is a broad one, unlike the others
The locks at Middlewich can be very busy in August, but a reasonably early start largely allowed us to escape the mayhem that was clearly only going to get worse as things got busier.  In the middle of the Middlewich locks where there is a 90 degree bend between locks, a hire boat decided to try theapproach of just powering out of a lock, carrying on straight at the 90 degree corner, with no attempt to steer around - it made a particularly impressive bang!  At one lock Cath got so concerned by a lady who insisted on sticking her fingers in the pawl mechanism of one set of paddle gear as a very confused young man was trying to wind, that I thought she might actually confiscate the windlass!  This crew in particular really did look like the proverbial accident waiting to happen - I'm a bit squeamish, so if fingers are going to get amputated, I'd prefer not to be there to witness it.

One of the "flashes" - the result of salt extraction.
Once away from Middlewich, there are no more locks on the Trent & Mersey until you pass through the shallow Dutton Stop Lock many miles later, and close to the end of this canal.  However you do get lots of other features, including three tunnels, none of which boats can pass in.  Two of these tunnels, Saltersford and Preston Brook have timed operation, and going North you have a period, starting on each hour when you may enter - miss it, (as we did in each case), and you have to wait until the next hour.  (Soutbound boats go on the half hour, which should avoid boats ever meeting in ther middle, if people stick to the rules).

The industry at Northwich is impressive, but not attarctive.

Steering into a Trent & Mersey tunnel
After Preston Brook, you join the Bridgewater Canal.  This canal is generously sized, and without locks - not at all what one would expect of what was effectively the first canal built on the network that grew from it.  You can make good speed on this canal, but it does have a huge number of linear moorings - in fact I'm always staggered by just how many boats are tied up on it.

The stop lock at Dutton
We made an impromptu stop to check a potential problem that may be developing with the alternator that charges all our batteries, (remember how I said we had not built in adequate contingency for breakdowns!).  Not finding a cause, we then continued a few more miles, bujt I wonder if we may be in trouble already?

Preston Brook Tunnel, as we are waiting for our timed entry.
In the meantime, this is certainly the most miles we have done any day of the current trip.

Middlewich to Little Bollington (Bridgewater Canal)
Miles: 30.7 (Chalice), 0 (Sickle), Locks: 6

Total Miles: 409.0, Locks: 200

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