Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Two Thousand Miles

Our visit to the Middlewich Folk and Boat Festival was to be followed by a trip up the Macclesfield Canal to Marple, then a perambulation around the remainder of the "Four Counties Ring" that takes in the, er....three, ...counties of Shropshire, Cheshire and Staffordshire. First of all though I had to return to work for a fortnight, leaving Starcross in the tender and loving care of Aqueduct Marina at Church Minshull.
The crew reassembled there on Saturday morning having firstly collected our guest, Annette, and daughter, Robina, from Kidsgrove station, where they had left their car for the weekend. We had lunch on board and then got away back along the Middlewich branch on a lovely early summer's afternoon. By 16.00 we were back at Middlewich, negotiating Wardle lock under the ever-watchful gaze of Maureen, who lives in the lock cottage there. "Who made your chimney?", she said. But I'm afraid I rather spoilt her little joke by telling her that I didn't know, because I suspect her next line would have been "You'd better get him to make you another after you've been through the next bridge." The bridges on this part of the Trent & Mersey Canal have notoriously low headroom, but I'd remembered that and removed the offending item whilst in the lock anyway.
The first few miles of the Trent and Mersey Canal out of Middlewich parallel the main road and offer hardly the most inspiring canalside scenery.

By now the rain had started and it was quite heavy at times - as were the paddles as we climbed the locks away from Middlewich. The sight of the recently demolished canalside Bisto factory came as a shock although less unexpected was the closed and boarded Kinderton Arms at lock 70. On what must have been a particularly thirsty trip on a Willow Wren Kearns hire boat in the early 1970s we stopped here for a drink and were talked into a game of dominoes by the locals. After a few rounds of "fives and threes" they asked us if we knew the version of the game called by some obviously local name that I've now forgotten. We had to say that we'd never heard of it - at which they were amazed - not surprisingly as it turned out to be just the standard version that everyone else knows as "dominoes" anyway. Unfortunately, it doesn't look as if anyone will be playing dominoes, or anything else, in the Kinderton for a long time, if ever again.

This time, we carried on past it and eventually the rain stopped and the sun came out and we tied up for a very pleasant evening in the countryside just short of Wheelock, where we enjoyed this fabulous sunset.

Shortly before stopping for the evening though, we passed a milestone in our ownership of Starcross - or rather we passed two thousand of them with bridge 162 "Stud Green Bridge" representing 2,000 miles of boating since we bought Starcross in November 2004.
"That was a great day" said Annette, "although there were quite a lot of locks. Will there be any tomorrow?"

If only she knew!

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