As expected we woke to find the weather had changed. The sunshine was gone, the clouds had rolled in, and with them came the rain.
After a huge and delicious breakfast, the whole crew (including security officer Jerry) put on their wet weather gear, and off we went.
Their was only one target for today: The Salt Barge, a dog friendly pub. It was eight hours and twenty locks away.
Having spent the whole trip so far in bright sunshine, it was quite a shock to the system to be operating locks in the rain. It was fun, to start with. Half a dozen locks into the journey and the novelty had very much worn off.
We sat in one lock in Middlewich for a while, waiting for the water to completely drain, until I spotted that one of the rear sluices was still open. Which one of us did that? Turns out it was me. What a rookie mistake to make (and on the last full day of barging… you’d think our experience in Manchester would’ve taught me something!)
We all took it in turns to drive the boat today, with Trevor taking the brunt of the bad weather, but I did my part. I did a few bits and pieces, such as taking us around a tight horseshoe bend, and parking us up in a lock, without touching the sides. My boat handling skills are coming along, but I am still very much the junior in that department.
At lunchtime we moored up in Middlewich, got off the boat, and walked a little way along the Shropshire Union canal (which meets the Trent and Mersey at Middlewich). This is where, earlier in the year, there had been a huge canal breach. A sink hole had opened up and destroyed part of the canal. It was an eerie sight, viewing a dry canal. Sad, in a way.
The Captain, Elaine, and Jerry headed back to the boat whilst Trevor and I bought provisions for lunch. For the first time this trip we ate lunch whilst moored up. This also gave us the opportunity for some more boat repairs (the tiller handle still needed more work), and the rain had finally stopped.
One particular lock that sticks out is The Big Lock, it’s the only lock we’ve been through that can take two boats at once. It was being operated by one old lady when we arrived, then more and more people turned up, until we had a boat full of novice crew being trained, a women who had purchased her own narrowboat but hadn’t a clue how to use it, the old lady previously mentioned, a grey man (grey hair, dressed in grey), and about half a dozen dog walkers. Lots of hustle and bustle, but we got through it.
There were just a handful of locks left to complete, and the long, final stretch of the day’s journey was upon us. It was the perfect time for taking showers, getting ready for our pub trip.
By the time we’d all washed and changed, we were there. We moored up, locked the boat, and walked a short distance to our target for the day.
We’d spotted The Salt Barge when we came past this way a few days ago, had checked out the menu, knew that it was our kind of place, and had been focusing on it all day.
Sadly the food wasn’t great, but it didn’t matter. It was somewhere cosy, where we were all welcomed (Jerry enjoyed himself, he curled up on my jumper and fell asleep), and we could just sit and chat. No worries about cooking or washing up.
This has been a very adventurous holiday, quite a different experience to last year’s journey along the Llangollen canal.
It gave us a chance to reflect on the trip, the highs and lows, the good and the bad.
We also answered the question… “where next?”, but you’ll have to wait until next time to find out the answer.
Thank you for following us on our ride around the Cheshire Ring, we all hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as we have.
Until next time.
The Not-So Famous Five