Sunday, 9 February 2014

Last Run, Day 3: Nantwich to Market Drayton

Martin arrived at about ten o'clock having come from Kendal by train and bus and getting to the boat exactly when he said he would. Another crew member, Hugh, was coming from Knaresborough but his journey was more complex and although it would involve him passing through Nantwich we couldn't really afford to wait the extra hour for him so he agreed to get a bus on to Audlem and meet us there.

He was just walking down towards the second lock of the flight as we were coming up, having arrived in the village ten minutes earlier - an all-round excellent piece of transport planning and execution. Having a crew of three meant we flew up the remainder of the Audlem flight as well as the five locks at Adderley just a bit further on. By now I was really enjoying being back on the Shroppie, the first time I'd come this way since we left our mooring at Norbury Junction two years ago. It's not just the views and the drama of the embankments and cuttings, it's the sense of purpose that this canal still seems to hold. Unlike much of the narrow canal network you can almost (and I did say "almost") imagine commercial narrowboat carrying returning here if there were just some favourable changes in the economics of freight transport to make it possible.

We had timed our departure from Nantwich perfectly and were just tying-up at Market Drayton as the light began to fade.  The Talbot Inn, the nearest pub to the canal, was still closed at 6.20pm so instead we walked up into the town and ate at the Red Lion. The Red Lion is the brewery tap of the re-created Joule's Brewery. Joule's was a famous name in brewing and it's takover and subsequent closure by Bass Charrington was the subject of an early protest march by the new "Campaign for Real Ale" (CAMRA) in 1974.  Joule's has three houses in Market Drayton and we managed to visit two of them, along with one or two places selling beer from other breweries along the way.

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