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)