Tuesday, 4 December 2012

A New Chapter

With thirteen miles and eight locks still to go, we made an early start from Crow's Nest Lock - just as it began to rain (now where have I heard that before this year?) The stretch alongside the busy main road to Middlewich is not exactly the most inspiring stretch of waterway in the country and we were glad to get to King's Lock and turn away from the road.

Middlewich is one of my favourite canal towns. I started some of my first hire-boat holidays here in the 1970s and was particularly pleased to see the Middlewich Narrowboats' (or "Willow Wren Kearns" as I still think of it) fleet looking better cared-for than for some time. 
King's Lock, Middlewich
From the top of King's Lock to the bottom of the Big Lock took exactly an hour (one mile/five locks) and then we were soon at Croxton, where the repaired embankment was looking splendid.
Croxton, repaired  and re-opened one month before schedule
The Trent & Mersey roundabouts is quite deep and doesn't suffer from the long lines of moored boats found on the Shroppie, so we made much better progress than expected. The fact that there were hardly any other boats on the move also helped, although inevitably we managed to meet one at a bridgehole with very restricted visibility.

Arrival at Uplands was something of a baptism of fire - or rather wind. There is a tricky turn off the main line, especially so if you've just stopped at the water point outside, into a narrow, shallow opening and under a very low bridge. Needless to say I didn't take this too quickly, so I was completely unprepared for the crosswind that caught Starcross when we emerged into the marina.  At Uplands you moor on long pontoons, with several boats per pontoon, so there are plenty of potential targets.  I had to back up under the bridge twice to try and get enough speed up to counteract the wind and then, of course, I overshot the jetty!  By now I couldn't decide whether to go in forwards or in reverse so in the end I just let Starcross decide and at least we got in  without hitting anything.
Home at last
After concluding the (few) formalities with Dave, the marina manager, we packed up and made a rush for the bus to Northwich (there wasn't another for three hours!) connecting there for the 37 Crewe bus, which follows a tortuous, convoluted route via Winsford and Middlewich, but which eventually dropped us off back at the car in Wheelock in not much more time than it would have taken by boat.

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