We’d planned a visit to the NEC Camping & Caravan Show and left the boat in Audlem and went to catch the 08.59 bus from Audlem to Nantwich Railway Station. We’d read somewhere that buses left from outside the church, so finding a bus time- table affixed to a post in the Butterdings shelter next to the church suggested that this building might double as a bus shelter. We were soon joined by someone else who looked like they were catching the bus and she said that sometimes this formed the bus shelter but she then proceeded to tell us about all the exceptions in the day when you had to stand on a different side of the church and/or road!
The bus arrived punctually and we were the only three passengers and the helpful lady continued to chatter away, and by the time we arrived into Nantwich we knew her life story. We saw the level crossings ahead of us and pressed the ‘stop’ button, but the driver continued on past the station, left at the roundabout before he finally stopped. We were informed by the helpful lady that the stop used to be before the station but since they’d automated the barriers, the bus stop had moved. As I got off the bus I happened to ask where was the stop for our return. “Back round the corner, opposite the pub by the streetlight” was the reply.
Our journey to the NEC was uneventful after that and we sat back and enjoyed the scenery as we hurtled southwards on the train and we had a very pleasant day out.
On our return to Nantwich later that day we went to the appointed streetlight and prayed we’d chosen the right street light as there was no indication that this was a bus stop. Thankfully the bus arrived and picked us up and we got safely back.
We’d seen very few bus passengers on either journey and we wondered whether the lack of signage was to blame. Being cynical we hope that this isn’t going to result in the local council arguing that a service isn’t needed in rural areas.
The BBC weather forecast had told us today would be sunny. It wasn’t wrong. We set off early under blue skies and were reminded of why we love this way of life so much. The birds were singing and we sighted several soaring buzzards enjoying the sunshine too.
We passed by the start of the Llangollen Canal as that is closed until the 7th March for major repairs to Locks 1 – 4.
We continued on through Nantwich, passing the not so secret Secret Bunker at Hack Green and onto Audlem through the beautiful Cheshire countryside. Four locks in total. On the outskirts of Nantwich, through the trees, we saw an amazing spectacle in the distance. An enormous dalek – at least 30 feet tall. It was too far away to photograph – google Snugbury’s Ice-cream Farm, Nantwich for a good look.
We last passed this way in March 2010 and they’ve built a new marina at Audlem since then so we amended our Nicholson’s Canal Guide so we’d know of the facilities it offers for the future.
After a late lunch we went off to explore the beautiful village of Audlem and bought an ice-cream which we ate under the Butterdings outside the church.
Hurrah – on the move again.
Following Friday’s activity of preparing the lock for temporary re-opening, the CRT guy arrived early on site to set the lock ready for us to leave. We were on our way by 9.30am. He let the boat above come down first as he said he needed to let some water through, and then it was our turn. Looking at the pound above, it was obvious that there wasn’t enough water in the lock to get us over the cill so he went up to the next lock to let more water through and asked me to go to the top lock to do the same. Once the pounds were full we passed through quickly and having seen us safely through the first three locks of the day, he waved us off after we’d thanked him profusely for opening the lock early for us.
Photo: Removing the temporary damn. I feel sorry for the guy up to his armpits in the water.
We headed out of Middlewich back along the Arm. The engine sounded much sweeter after its annual service.
It was a grey cloudy overcast morning and it wasn’t long before it started to pour down and the wind picked up. After ten days of no motoring we decided to carry on to the junction and take advantage of the food at Ye Olde Barbridge Inn. Ten miles and four locks. We arrived about 3pm thoroughly soaked and bedraggled and a guy on a permanently moored boat took one look at us and said we were mad! Once indoors we peeled off our waterproofs and thermal layers and battened down the hatches to thaw and dry out. We’d only been stopped about half an hour when the rain and wind stopped and the sun came out!
We headed out to the pub about five intending only to book a table and return to the boat but the lure of the real ale and smell of food was too tempting so we had a drink and an early meal instead and retired early to bed as all that fresh air, food and beer had made us sleepy.
Happy Valentine’s Day. We’ve returned to the boat today after four night’s away at Laura’s after she took pity on us sitting waiting for the lock to reopen. Any excuse to see her, to go and play with Summer, have a bath and do some washing! It was a relief to find the boat in tact after Wednesday night’s Code Red storm which was the wildest night I think I’ve ever experienced. Amazingly even our china man is still in place on the chimney.
The guys from Canal River Trust have offered us a passage through the lock at 10am tomorrow morning and we’ll be ready and waiting. Hopefully, Birmingham, here we come – fingers crossed!
A warm and sunny morning provided the perfect opportunity for Storm to carry out a full engine service; new oil, fuel and air filters all fitted and gearbox and engine oil drained and renewed and anti-freeze topped up, while I washed the outside of the boat. The local household tip will even recycle our oil.
A chat with the CRT staff working on the lock re progress made us eternally grateful to the diesel boat guy for whom the locks are opening on 15 Feb specifically to allow him to move his boat towards Manchester, otherwise the lock would have remained closed until all the works were time-tabled to be finished on 7 March.
They are planning an open day and I was amused that some comedian had been handed some signs with a post-it note attached. I hope you can zoom in to see what the note says. Hrmm – job done!
The note says: Please fix to fence.
Best laid plans ….
Planning to get up and off early, we rose to clear blue skies and although it was gusty, the wind wasn’t as strong as the BBC were suggesting it should be. We were hoping to make it to Barbridge Junction by tea time. We moved off and arrived into Middlewich only to find that Lock 74 was closed. This took me by surprise as it wasn’t a closure I’d been expecting. Anyway a quick look at the Canal River Trust website showed that I’d missed this one and we are now stuck here for 11 days. Thankfully the work they plan is in two phases and the canal reopens for the weekend of 15/16 February before phase two starts on the following Monday. Who said less haste more speed? Oh well, we’ve got loads of food on board, Series 1 and 2 of Game of Thrones, Series 1 – 3 of Luther, and a year’s subscription to Ancestry.com so I don’t think we’ll be bored.
We’ve been away for six nights and have really enjoyed seeing all the family.
Laura picked us up on Wednesday and we borrowed her car to drive home on Thursday to see James and Ali receive their PGCE certificates on Friday.
We returned to Laura’s on Sunday and enjoyed spending time with her and Summer who is growing up far too quickly at five months old.
Max enjoyed meeting up with Poppy for two early morning walks on the Westwood. Their friendship is as strong as ever. I was amazed to see and hear skylarks there so early in the year.
We returned to the boat at lunchtime today and we moved off from the Barton Boat Lift this afternoon and headed south and made it as far as Bramble Cuttings just before six o’clock, which is a former puddle clay pit for lining the canal but the only sign of industrial workings now are two parallel rails that stop at the edge of the canal.