We set off early this morning, determined to make the most of what would become another stunningly beautiful and supremely hot day. But first the low lying mist needed to burn off. The plan was to get through over 30 locks today, across two different canals. It was an ambitious plan, but if we wanted to make the most of this trip then we needed to do it. We motored through Middlewich, a pleasant enough town to start with that transforms into an industrial site the further south you go. One of the areas we travelled through had its own salt mountain, a huge mound of white salt crystals, easily fifty feet tall. We carried on southward along the Trent and Mersey canal, through a series of double locks (ie, two locks side by side), though we did get stuck at the back of a very slow barge race. We were the third of three boats heading in our direction, with our best efforts we managed to catch up and overtake the boat in front of us at a double lock. We were as primed and ready as a formula one pit crew. Gates open, sluice closed, boat in, sluice open, water in, gate open, gate closed. Go, go, go!
The boat in pole position was manned by just one (massively bearded) man. He pulled over and moored up and so we found ourselves, at long last, with nothing in front of us. It was time to press on. More locks followed this, including several close together, where we used our tried and tested technique. I scouted ahead to the next lock, Elaine and Trevor tackled the first. The Captain and Jerry managed the boat – although they both assisted with at least one lock along the way. This certainly made us more efficient. It seems to have become a tradition now that any time I’m on a boat, I will eventually end up making pizza for lunch. Today was that day. Between locks I threw all sorts of ingredients on top of a couple of pre-made bases, and shoved them into the oven. A lock or two later they were ready. Yum. After several hours of event free barging we made it to the entrance of the Macclesfield canal. To get into this canal, we had to perform a very tight 90° turn, just after a lock, in a narrow stretch of water. The pole was required, and after a couple of attempts we made it in.
The start of the Macclesfield Canal is an aqueduct that actually takes you back over the top of the Trent and Mersey Canal, which was quite exiting – to barge over another canal is a unique experience. The time and effort it took to get here was worth it, as we really did leave the town scenery behind and found ourselves in the heart of the countryside (or so it felt).
We saw rolling fields, woodland, and a huge stately home (Ramsdell Hall), and lots of moored up canal boats. It’s easy to understand why so many boats come here, the views are stunning.
Having not filled up yesterday, we stopped for water at a truly picturesque location, just past a small lock surrounded by greenery.
Trevor and I took this opportunity to perform some boat repairs. The front bumper had a broken chain link and had slipped to one side. We realigned the bumper and removed the broken link, job done.
They had a few secondhand books for sale at this stopping big point, including a kid’s book all about underpants, which was surprisingly appropriate for Trevor, who’d been attempting to dry his underwear all morning by hanging it out on the bow of the boat (it took quite a while for them to dry, as every time we entered a lock they got soaked by canal water, and therefore needed cleaning and drying again!).
In Duck Study news, Jerry decided it was time to conduct a quick security test, and alerted us to a potential problem in the way we were storing our duck food pellets. When I say “alerted”, I mean he found some loose pellets on the shelf and licked them all up. The packaging says it’s suitable for all animals, and Jerry seemed to enjoy them.
After an almost 14 hour day of travelling, taking in 32 locks, we moored up in a quiet location with a great view of The Cloud (the tallest peak in the area, at something around 1,000 metres high). Too tired for anything other than eating tea, we all went to bed happy at getting through such a busy boating day.