Sunday 30 November

We enjoyed a cup of coffee in bed while our combined brains tried to complete the Daily Telegraph cryptic crossword. With only two clues yet to solve we got up and I cooked brunch and listened to the Archers Omnibus while Max & Storm went off for a long walk along the towpath. (The two outstanding clues were solved later in the day).

Max waiting patiently on the steps for his walk ...

Max waiting patiently on the steps for his walk …

We intended visiting Little Moreton Hall this afternoon (a National Trust property) and moved the boat to the recommended mooring close to the cross-country footpath identified in our Nicholson’s Canal guide. This warned us to beware of nettles and brambles but did not mention a footpath of deep puddles and impassable thick mud. Sadly we had to abandon our plan – a shame as the hall is apparently the finest example of black and white timbered architecture in the UK and we were looking forward to comparing this to ‘Flemingate’.

 

Little Moreton Hall visible through the trees.

Little Moreton Hall visible through the trees.

Having failed to find a drier route to the hall, and as it was such a lovely sunny afternoon, we decided to take advantage of the weather and instead strolled along lanes closer to the boat, enjoying the Mow Cop hill to the east and views towards Jodrell Bank to the West.

The quality of light as dusk fell was amazing.

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Saturday 29 November

After a very lazy start we set off about 11.45, having shopped first for our favourite Saturday newspaper. We made really good progress. I was steering and Storm was doing the locks and after two hours we’d done 1 mile and 7 locks (generally the hourly rate rule of thumb is to add the locks and miles together and divide by 4).

The beautiful Cheshire Autumnal countryside still looked lovely, despite the mist.  Max enjoyed a good run too.

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The locks continued to be set in our favour and we turned off the Trent & Mersey Canal at Hardings Wood onto the Macclesfield Canal and we headed north for about a mile and half before mooring up just north of Scholar Green on an established mooring site with rings.

The promised sunshine didn’t materialise today and the misty conditions didn’t lift so we settled down for the afternoon to read the papers and keep warm by the stove.

Friday 28 November

We woke earlier than usual and were underway by 9.30am, having cleaned the ash out of the stove  and tidied the boat. The weather was grey and misty but by lunchtime the sun had appeared and the sky was peppered with patches of blue.

The locks ahead of us are all uphill ie they need to be empty for us to enter and then we fill them once we are in the lock.

The first two locks were set against us which didn’t bode well with another twenty nine ahead of us to Hardings Wood Junction (on the outskirts of Kidsgrove) and so we had to empty them first before we entered and started refilling. However, locks three and four were empty and we were able to go straight in.

At Lock 67, the fifth lock of the morning, we met a single hander coming towards us and he’d left the gates open as he intended to wind and return the way he’d come.   He told us to go ahead. Afterwards we raised the paddles to empty the lock again so that it would be ready for him by the time he’d turned round. This was our good deed of the day.

We continued onto Wheelock and used the sanitary facilities there.   We were there about an hour and a half as we have a slight issue with our self-composting toilet. It doesn’t self-compost and it keeps getting a urinary tract blockage which entails dismantling the pipe-work and cleaning out the lime-scale on a regular basis!!   It’s not painful but is annoying.

With all waste buckets emptied and pipes running freely again we set off up the Wheelock flight of locks to Malkin’s Bank. These comprise pairs of single locks and thankfully at least one of the pair was empty and we made reasonable progress.

We passed under the M6 and then there was a bit of excitement when we spotted a smart yellow private helicopter in the field beside us, which was just taking off after having presumably picked up a passenger.

The rest of our journey was uneventful and we motored on to Rode Heath. It was nearly dark by the time we stopped and I hadn’t realised how cold my hands were until I tried to use the ropes to tie up.

It was heaven to run them under the hot tap and leave them soaking in the bowl of warm water for a few minutes to thaw.

(8 miles and 17 locks)

 

 

 

Thursday 27 November

Laura and Summer came to see us today and we spent the mooring preparing the boat in readiness.

We had to let the fire go out as it is too hot for little fingers. Despite not having added fuel to it since early evening yesterday, we had to douse it with water to put out the coals and lay wet cold towels onto the cast iron to take the heat out of the metal.

I made some leak and potato soup for lunch and also a Bakewell Tart as Laura had put in a special request for her favourite home bake.

We had a fun afternoon of play and waved them both off before it got dark.

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We always feel a bit flat when visitors leave and I like to keep myself busy. I relit the fire and then set about updating this blog.

Wednesday 26 November

We left Bramble Cuttings once Max had tired of exploring the entire area and headed towards Middlewich.

With bare trees it is easy to spot birdlife hiding amongst the branches and we spotted a kingfisher ahead of us, expecting him to fly off as we approached, but he must have known we didn’t have a camera ready because he stayed put and even turned round as we went passed to show off his good side. By the time I’d got the camera he’d flown ahead off us and continued to taunt us for another mile or so by just staying too far in front so that we didn’t get a decent photograph. We’ve been told that Kingfishers occupy a limited patch and after about a mile he turned and flew back the way he’d come.

The rest of our journey was uneventful.   As we approached Big Lock, we met a boat coming towards us which meant that the lock was set in our favour.   We stopped just before Andersen Boats to fill up with water and from there we could see the first two narrow locks ahead of us.   We noticed an unusual number of high-viz jackets moving around the second lock which made us a little nervous as the last time we’d seen activity like this was when the lock ahead of us was closed due to damage.

Anyway as we approached, we realised that the jackets belonged to guys doing community pay-back and they were sweeping the area around the locks and cutting the grass.   We breathed a huge sigh of relief.

We carried on through the locks and moored up just above Kings Lock where there was plenty of space. We noticed the swan count had risen since we were last here and at least twenty were seen with more arriving all the time.

 

Tuesday 25 November

We woke quite late and were quite snug under our 13 tog duvet. We’d left the salon door open to help the heat percolate through the boat and Max wasn’t sure whether this was an invitation for him to share our bed.   He plucked up courage during the night and joined us.

We left Anderton at ten and whilst it was frosty, the early mist was clearing and we motored on under clear blue skies.   We’d planned to motor on to Middlewich.

The journey from Anderton to Middlewich is a journey of contrasts. As we left Anderton we passed through the leafy Marbury Country Park and then on past the Lions Salt Works which closed in 1986.   The first time we passed by here the Salt Works were derelict but over the last five years these have been restored into a museum and it now looks as though this will be ready to open to the public in early 2015.

The canal then enters an industrialised area with an enormous ICI factory dominating the canalside, with many overhead pipes criss-crossing the canal.   Once through Rudheath the canal enters an area of beautiful open countryside, the canal overhung with trees. As we passed one tree a pair of beady eyes in a black furry face appeared from a crevice in the tree trunk. It was too quick to photo but I think it may have been a mink – it was too dark to have been a weasel or a stoat.

We approached Bramble Cuttings at about 1pm and as there was no-one moored there we decided to stop as this is one of our favourite mooring sites on the Trent & Mersey.   Max likes it too as he has free reign to come and go as he pleases.

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We spent the afternoon catching up on admin and will travel on to Middlewich tomorrow.

Monday 24 November

We are back on board after more than three weeks at home stripping out our old first floor kitchen, moving walls, making good and redecorating to transform the ‘L’ shaped sitting room into a rectangle and creating a small utility room.

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From this narrow dining end of the lounge to …

 

… new improved wider dining area in the lounge.

 

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.. and the small utility room in place of the larger first floor kitchen.

 

 

The anniversary of our year afloat passed while we were away and we’ve returned to Northwich on the Trent & Mersey. Our train journey from Beverley viat Sheffield and Stockport was straightforward with no delays.

The boat was quite chilly and the first priority was to light the fire, before even making cuppa.   It took a few hours to warm the boat through by which time we’d paid our marina dues and manoeuvred our way off our jetty mooring and out of the marina, turning left to moor up close to the Anderton Boat Lift Visitor Centre to await our Tesco delivery.

I’d placed the order from home and had opted for an evening drop in case we were delayed. I’d had to give the marina address on the website as Tesco wouldn’t delivery to the visitor centre and I’d given precise instructions to the driver directing him to the visitor centre car park. However, I hadn’t bargained on the barriers blocking all the entrances to the car park from 5pm and the inability to get any kind of phone signal while on the boat.

At the appointed hour of our delivery we were to be found armed with shopping bags, standing in the dark on a frosty night beside the main road waiting to intercept the driver and redirect him to a spot closer to the boat. He arrived 40 minutes into the allotted hourly slot. The driver was very kind and even offered to help carry our bags to the boat.

Amongst our groceries was wine and this was welcomed by the time we’d stowed the groceries.