Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Descending "Heartbreak Hill"

(Boat Chalice - posted by Alan)

Sadly derelict, but atmospheric twinned lock.
The Trent of Mersey Canal falls continuously from Kidsgrove (near where we started today) to Middlewich (our likely ending up point).  It does so fairly spectacularly, as to descend all the locks, including the final three narrow ones into Middlewich, is 32 locks.  We had done three of them last night, so 29 to go.

Passing the trading boat "Hadar" - not an old boat!
The boatmen sometimes knew this as "Heartbreak Hill", but in reality these are nice easy locks, sometimes in flights, sometimes on their own, and the descent is not at all arduous.
[Subsequent note:  It has been suggested since I wrote this that it is not in fact an old name for these locks, but a relatively recent one.  I think this is probably correct - boatmen I believe generally referred to "the Cheshire Locks".]

Thurlwood - Cottages front onto the canal.
Another lovely feature of these locks is that many of them were twinned - two narrow locks sat neatly side by side.  Many still remain with both locks operational, although others are locked out of action, and in some cases completely derelict.  At other places the second lock is long since in-filled.  If you don't know them well you can't predict whether the next ones will be twinned, allowing queues of boats to pass through twice as fast, or whether you will hit a single one, where several boats are stacked up waiting their turn. (Yes, it really does get that busy on this canal).

Example of a working pair of twinned locks.
In practice we only hit one substantial hold up, which I remember as being Lock 57.  Here we did have quite a wait, (although nothing to compare to what has happened subsequently!)

Charlie oversees progress.
Despite the occasional hold-up, I really like the T&M, and really enjoyed being back in the swing of lots of locks, after periods whete we have often done long lock-less stretches.

Salt is still a major industry - they use big shovels.
The canal is a firm favourite of mine, but the long approach to Middlewich is somewhat marred by the canal being paralleled by a busy road for several miles.

At this stage our plan was still to continue further North up the Trent and Mersey, and good places to tie up only start appearing after you have passed the junction where a branch from the Shropshire Union joins, and locked down the final three closely spaced narrow locks.  Again there was a bit of queuing, but really not that bad.

Trading narrow boat Alton - this IS an old boat.
Once again essential supplies were taken on board from a conveniently located Tesco, and we went to the "Big Lock" pub, (so called because it sits beside the one wide lock on the stretch), for an evening meal.  Enjoyable enough, but not spectacular either, although I think by then I had perhaps got over-tired, and would not fully have appreciated even top-rate nosh!

Red Bull (Trent and Mersey) to Middlewich
Miles: 12.3, Locks:29

Total Miles: 200.4, Total Locks: 146


  1. Brian on Harnser20 August 2011 at 15:08

    Hi Alan, I thought the name "Heartbreak Hill" was a modern name for the early pleasure boating days.

  2. You've got me wondering now, Brian.

    You may well be right - I'm not very good on detail of these more northerly waterways.

  3. Thank you for posting our photo, it was nice to meet you and hope you have many happy days with Sickle. We look forward to seeing you out on the Old Boat. We are now off to Foxton for the festival. Happy cruising.