Thursday, 12 April 2012

A Good Day - Well Mostly! - Church Minshull to Adderley

(Boat Sickle - posted by Alan)

No delays at "Minshull Lock" this time.
It was only last August that we last passed along the Middlewich Branch, back to the "Shroppie", but the differences this time went far further than we were just using "Sickle" instead of "Chalice".  Really our last trip on this arm, and on the first locks after that, was memorable for a reason I would prefer to forget - the queueing.  Last time we had hoped the worst was over when we finally made it through Wardle lock at  Middlewich, but we in fact hit far worse at Minshull lock, which took in excess of 2 hours to get though, both because of "sheer weight of traffic", and because many of the crews involved took a very long while to work their boat through.

However no such problems today - Minshull lock was the first, and we worked straight through it.  We continued to bounce or slide through many of the bridge holes though, (they are shallow!), and suffered some hold ups after an initially approaching boat did a U-turn ahead of us, and then travelled ahead of us somewhat slower than Sickle likes to go.  However before long we had turned off the arm, and were heading South down the "Shroppie" main line, (I'll let Cath tell you how the turn went, if she wants to, otherwise we'll not mention it!).

Nor any delays at Hack Green
Cath has been rather distressed on this trip, our first since the loss of Charlie the dog, as the reminders of having him with us on a similar route just last summer are all too frequent.  I had to follow a boat for some distance with an enthusiastic Cocker running from side to side to enjoy the view.  The dog was hardly a "ringer" for Charlie, but "running from side to side to admire the view" was very much a Charlie thing, and I also found happy memories flooding back, but obviously also accompanied by the sadness that we no longer have him.  The strange thing, of course, is this trip would probably not have happened if we still had him - we never really did work out how we could fit him, as well as us in Sickle's back cabin!

Powering past the strong weir flows on Shroppie locks
Our first locks on the Shropshire Union, at Hack Green, had also seen us queuing last year, but again no delays this time - athough I'll swear the live-aboard boat moving slowly through the locks the other way did exactly the same on our last passage!

Approaching another Audlem lock.
By the fifteen lock Audlem flight, I thought we were getting into a rhythm, with Cath constantly going ahead to set-up the locks, (nearly all against us), as I followed up with "Sickle".  A piece of advice - never assume it will continue to go well!  A large crew on a boat behind were slowly catching us, as I was finding it difficult to close up top gates behind me,  I can't do big jumps since I broke my pelvis, so I have to know I can just get easily back on to the boat - quite tricky on Sickle, as it's counter is deeper than most modern leisure boats, so it can be a big step up, if water levels are high, relative to tow-path.  The crew behind had a lock wheeler ahead, but they showed no enthusiasm for closing my "exit gate", even though we would all have been quicker if they had.  At one lock I struggled repeatedly to get Sickle where I could step off and do what was required, but they just watched me struggle.  Having managed to shut the gate, however, Sickle got drawn on to one of the offside weirs, which takes heavy flows of water around the locks.  This was part of the problem in the first place, and we were well and truly stuck, until finally hauled off by a rope stretched right across the cut.  Clearly my error, but when I suggested to their lock wheeler they might close the gates after me, they said they were going to be reducing to less crew, and not sure they could.  In practice they never did catch up, and the rest of the flight passed smoothly.

Tame sheep at lock-side.
To try and regain time, we decided to also press on through the subsequent 5 lock flight at Adderley.  By now we were back in a rhythm, and this went well, other than the treacherously muddy and slippery state of the tow-path made it hard for Cath to stay on the lock-wheeling bike.

I wouldn't mind living where we moored up!
With quite a lot of locks worked, and miles covered, we realised we had already done very nearly 200 miles.

Church Minshull to Adderley Top Lock
Miles: 17.5, Locks: 24

Totals for extended trip....
Miles: 198.0, Locks: 142

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