Friday 30 August 2019

Summer Cruise Days 24 and 25 Middlewich to Bates Mill Bridge

We are now on the last two days of our summer cruise. One more leg to complete the Four counties ring to do then its north on the Shroppy for home, so two days in one post today.

The sun was shining when we woke, the relative lack of boats yesterday was certainly made up for it today.  By the time we were ready to get underway at least 10 boats had locked up Wardle lock and were ahead of us.

Our mooring in Middlewich
  As we approached the aqueduct where the breech occured last year we could see a queue at Stanthorne lock, a sign of things to come.  We joined the queue third from the lock and whilst Chris helped at the lock I chatted with the helm of the boat behind.  He was moving the boat to the brokerage at Swanley Marina as the owner had sadly passed away.

A queue had formed at Stanthorne lock

Above the lock we passed these paddlers, we're seeing many more paddlers on the canals these days

These cottages looked great with their hanging baskets.
From Stanthorne lock the branch follows roughly along side the River Weaver down below us in the valley floor,  Glimpses of it could be see as we progressed along the branch.

At Aqueduct marina a familiar boat was holding everyone up whilst it winded.  It was none other than Baked Onboard the Pizza boat.  Paul finally got round and we followed on in the flottila that had now formed behind him.

The Pizza boat winding in the marina entranced
 August is always a busy time for canal boating On the Middlewich branch and this year seems to be busier than ever along the branch.  This section is part of the four counties ring and also the Cheshire ring so is always busy. 

We expected a queue at the next lock, Minshull lock, as is always the case but were taken by surprise at the size of the queue.  We joined it 8 boats behind the first boat and several more joined behind us as we waited. Apparently it was as bad above the lock.

The queue ahead of us.  This was taken 30 minutes into our wait

And the ever growing queue behind us. 
 It took us an hour and a half to reach the head of the queue before we got into the lock.  We don't mind the wait, in fact we quite like it as we get to chat to fellow boaters and swap stories of our journeys.  In fact everyone seemed to enjoy the break and all chatted away whilst lunch and tea/coffee/beer was consumed on many of the waiting boats.

Its then a 20 minute run in an almost straight line to Cholmondeston lock (pronounced Chumsten lock). Surprisingly most of the boats ahead of us had dissapeared, we only passed one, and we found only Paul on the Pizza boat waiting at the lock.  We fully expected another long wait but we were only waiting 20 minutes. 

Cholmondeston Lock is right alongside Venetian marina

Maybe this is why there were no queues, two volockies working the lock.
 At Brabridge Junction we turned left and manage to find the last mooring spot outside the Barbridge Inn.  We like to call in here when we are passing as the food and beer is excellent and good value.  Mooring by the pub means we avoid the Shroppy shelf on the opposite bank.  The concrete shelf is what the concrete walls of the canal sit on and is only 2 feet below the surface, sticking out at least a foot in places.  As a result many boats scrape against this when moored up.  The solution is to float wheelbarrow wheels between the boat and bank to hold the boat away from the shelf.

Our mooring last night
 Today we set off on our final leg of our cruise.  We winded at Hurleston junction a short way on and retraced our steps to Barbridge Junction.  We did not take any photos today as my camera is now playing up.  The shutter is not fully opening as can be seen in the photo of the lockies and has been getting steadily worse.  As we've photographed this section several times and blogged about it we would only be repeating the same thing.

AnyHoo after passing through Bunbury, Tilstone, Beeston Stone Lock , and Beestone Iron lock we arrived at Wharton Lock scene of the recent boat stinking I posted about the other day.  Thankfully this had been recovered yesterday so we could lock down without any problems.  

We arrived back where we started our cruise, The Shady Oak pub at 3pm and moored in our favourite spot on the pub jetty.

Moored at the Shady Oak, almost our second home.
So our summer cruise is over,  we've throughly enjoyed it and hope you have enjoyed following us as well.  Our four counties ring cruise has taken us through Cheshire, Shropshire, West Midlands and Stafordshire.  The Stourbridge section took us through Wolverhampton, Dudley and Strourbridge as new waters for us.

We have cruised 158 miles in 122 hours or 4 weeks, passing through 177 locks.  So please keep coming back from time to time as we still have more mini cruises planned before winter ends the season.

Total distance:17.43 miles Elapsed time:10h1m4s Locks:9 Bridges:48

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