We left Hassall Green and our day got off to a fairly good start as we met boats coming towards us through the first two locks, although they were very slow in entering and leaving the locks as they were very precious about their paintwork.
We then passed under the M6 motorway and continued our way down “Heartbreak Hill” or the “Cheshire Locks” (as the old boatmen call them), towards Wheelock.
Today was Laura’s first day back at work after a year’s maternity leave and we were just waiting to enter Lock 66 when a car just like Laura’s little yellow mini passed by on the road overhead.
A quick call to her mobile determined it had been her as she was just on her way to see a patient in Sandbach. What a spooky coincidence!
We overtook two hire boats in Wheelock who’d pulled in for water and made our way past Elton Moss and through lock 67 and down towards Middlewich where we counted five swans in total and turned left onto the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal.
At the lock in here we were warned to look out for a blue hire boat ahead of us that was causing problems. We try hard to be kind to hirers as we were once hirers ourselves, but some people just don’t observe the expected courtesies of the canal.
We didn’t catch them up but we think we may have discovered the results of their antics when we got to Cholmondeston Lock (our last lock of the day), when we couldn’t open the bottom gates. Thankfully when going up in a lock the gates open inwards and so we used the power of the engine to help open the gates. We knew something was amiss as soon as the bottom doors closed behind us because the boat began to rise before Storm had opened any of the paddles. As he got to the top paddle he discovered that this had been dropped and the paddle was permanently open allowing water to flow into the lock unabated.
A hire boat wishing to go down in the lock came to speak to us and we offered to help them by lending our weight to the opening of the bottom gate and we were successful so they could continue on their way. We then rang the Canal & River Trust’s emergency number to alert them to the problem.
We moored at Barbridge and treated ourselves to a very welcome steak and ale pie at The Olde Barbridge Inn.