Indigo Dreaming

The journeys of the Narrowboat Indigo Dream

  • Blog Index as a pull down

  • Recent Posts

  • Meta

  • Recent Comments

  • wordpress counter

The Odyssey 2009: Day 43

Posted by indigodream on 5 September, 2009

Sunday 30th August

Northwich to Vale Royal

Considering what an eventful weekend we’ve had, today was unusually quiet.

Inside Hunts Lock

Inside Hunts Lock - see that cog mechanism inside the gates

We had a peaceful night in Northwich – it seems to be a very civilised town which makes boaters like us feel very welcome. A good night’s sleep mean that we got up relatively early (by Indigo Dream standards) and the relaxed lock opening hours mean that we had time to loaf around, enjoying our lattes and giving Lou a big fuss (Blue doesn’t go in for that sort of thing – he’s such a boy).

By 10am we were are Hunt’s lock – their first punters of the day. Unlike the other locks, here they use the smaller of the two locks (still enormous!) on the left – it’s pretty obvious when you see the moorings. The dogs had a rummage, there’s plenty of mooring against the wall,  though we were horrified to see yet another plastic pontoon further up – apparently they’ve been recently installed along the length of the Weaver.

Working the lock

Working the lock

It was nice to see the cheerful lady lock-keeper from Dutton Lock on duty here today, along with a muscular male colleague. They were definitely needed as these lock gates are on a huge cog and it takes an immense amount of effort to shift them. Very nice for us to be spectators!

We mentioned the horrible plastic pontoons to the lockies and it seems that they’re not popular – not only are they very slippery but the local kids seem to think that they’re diving platforms and the lockies spend quite a bit of their time chasing them off. We had though of complaining to BW after Lou’s fall yesterday but we thought that they’d dismiss our concerns because ‘dogs shouldn’t be let off lockside’. But the lockies today said that wasn’t right – lots of boaters have dogs and everyone on board should be entitled to use the facilities and to be safe.

Interestingly, the lockie told us that the river didn’t contain any fish below Northwich because of effluent from the salt works – there are only eels. So I guess that does explain the salinity down at Weston Marsh. You can tell that the river has changed because Hunt’s lock is covered with freshwater mussels.

The lockies at Hunt’s lock didn’t think we’d make it to Vale Royal lock in time for the 10.30 locking but they rang ahead anyway to tell them we were on our way. I’ll say it again, the lock-keepers on this river are priceless.

Convoy coming dowstream

Convoy coming downstream

We didn’t think we’d make the next lock either. The stretch from Hunts Lock to Vale Royal Lock was slow and uninviting (though quite beautiful). We had a multitude of fishermen shouting at us from one side and rowers shouting at us from the other – and at 800 revs we couldn’t get away from them!

As we approached Vale Royal lock we saw a whole convoy of boats coming down-river – the 10am lock down – our hearts sank. But as the last boat passed us he told us that the lockies were waiting for us and that we should go straight in – hurrah! This saved us a 2-hour wait and we were so grateful. But the lock-keepers here were as obliging as the rest of their colleagues. It’s a slow old lock and, once again, a massive amount of manual labour is needed to move the lockgates and manoeuvre the hydraulic sluices. There are big building works going on at this lock – Richard’s New Civil Engineer has  this interesting article about what’s being done there.

Immacualately behaved lock keepers dog

One of the immaculately behaved lock keeper's dogs

Mind you, what really slowed the lock was us chatting to the lockie! We mentioned that we’d been shouted at by the fishermen and the rowers and the lock-keeper told us to ignore them – the navigation’s for navigating. It was so nice to have someone on our side at last!

Vale Royal Lock is fascinating because of its hydraulic gear, but it also has a massive swing bridge – hardly necessary with bridges across both lock-gates, but it was still in operation. Maybe it’s there for the lockie’s two immaculately trained black Labradors – the older one lay in the middle of the bridge and seemed to be enjoying the ride as it was swung open!

There’s something very special about the stretch immediately above Vale Royal Lock. Greygal had recommended it to us as a top spot for dogs, and so it proved. There are very fine moorings a little way up from the lock – there were half a dozen narrowboats here when we passed upriver and we were a bit concerned that we might not get a spot on the way back. But we needn’t have worried, they’d all disappeared – presumably for the 12pm lock downriver.

It was no effort to spend the rest of the morning exploring this end of the Weaver. It really is lovely here – quiet and isolated with a fine towpath running through some perfect dog-rummaging country. There were a few walkers around – just enough to make it sociable.

Duck Sue

Duck Sue

Newbridge swingbridge provides a classic boating dilemma – “will we fit under or not”? There is a water level marker by the bridge but that is only useful if you know exactly how high your boat is what with the three main variables of the fullness (or otherwise) of the toilet, water and diesel tanks. We crept up to the bridge and decided that if the bike came off the roof then we’d just about get through. We had a few inches clearance – plenty – though I ducked anyway!

The lockie at Vale Royal had told us not to bother with Winsford town – he said it was ‘depressing’. I was expecting another gloomy end to the navigation but actually Winsford’s not really visible from the water and the Red Lion pub, with its convenient mooring pontoon, looked far from depressing. We passed nb Penhale here – I wonder if they visited the pub? We moved on, having decided to go right up to Winsford flash (the lockie had advised us that narrowboats could get up there though it was shallow in places). The approach to the flash is deceptively narrow and overgrown – even though we knew it was there, it was still a surprise to see the expanse of the ‘flash’ itself. We didn’t go far in – the sailing club was enjoying the brisk winds a little further on and we didn’t want to disturb them. We turned by the moored boats and did not get grounded!

More gorgeous scenery just below the flash

More gorgeous scenery just below the flash

We enjoyed the cruise back to the Vale Royal moorings – a 2-way trip isn’t a chore when the surroundings are so lush. We moored well back from the sole boat at the moorings and let the dogs have a rummage. Strangely, they didn’t spend much time off the boat – we’ve got a theory that Blue only likes rummaging if it’s slightly illicit, if its allowed then it’s no fun at all!

It was such a pleasant spot here that we decided to ditch our plans for rushing to the Anderton this evening. It was good to have an early finish – we were all moored up by 1.30pm. The swans and assorted wildfowl who live on the nearby weir soon came to the side-hatch for their lunch – half a loaf of bread (full of high-energy seeds) later and they were showing no signs of going away!

I was glad that we’d decided to moor up for the afternoon – the weather, which had been fine, broke down to torrential squally showers – it was good to be snug inside. With the weather so foul I couldn’t be bothered to explore our surroundings and had a siesta instead – bliss!. Richard was a bit more active – nb Penhale had caught up with us by then (waiting for the afternoon lock downriver). Richard took Blue and Lou to meet their little whippet – much barking ensued, mainly from Lou.

Entering the flash

Entering the flash

He also took the dogs for a long walk between showers; well, almost between showers – they managed to find the smelliest, muddiest path then they got caught in a torrential shower –  predictably they returned to the boat muddy, smelly and soaking.

Once again we closed the hatches and settled in for a snug evening on board. I roused myself to cook supper (in my pyjamas) and we settled down to some more DVDs. Although I’d only got up at 5.30pm I was ready for bed again by 10pm! But the mooring wasn’t quite as quiet as we’d expected – the noise of the fireworks (probably the end-of-music- festival celebrations at Preston Brook), echoed across the water, and the loud strains of heavy metal drifted down the river from the direction of Winsoford – all very curious. It was all over by 10.30pm and a blanket of silence ensured a good night’s sleep for all.

Photoblog

Having ones own fire engine is obviously key boatyard equipment?

Having ones own fire engine is obviously key boatyard equipment?

Big windlasses, funny shaped pieces of wood, you need it all to work this lock!

Big windlasses, funny shaped pieces of wood, you need it all to work this lock! It is a shame that the water turbines now only work on one side

generalpaddingtomakewordpressbehavegeneralpaddingtomakewordpressbehave generalpaddingtomakewordpressbehavegeneralpaddingtomakewordpressbehavegeneralpaddingtomakewordpressbehave
Working Rock Salt Mine

Working Rock Salt Mine

odd bits of old industry

odd bits of old industry

but such a good cruise

but such a good cruise

Salting his catch?

Salting his catch?

generalpaddingtomakewordpressbehavegeneralpaddingtomakewordpressbehave generalpaddingtomakewordpressbehavegeneralpaddingtomakewordpressbehavegeneralpaddingtomakewordpressbehave
First a duck comes for some bread ....

First a duck comes for some bread ....

Is that food ?

Is that food ?

need to get in fast

need to get in fast

They are coming in fast

They are coming in fast

in formation

in formation

closer spaced then the planes at Heathrow

closer spaced then the planes at Heathrow

generalpaddingtomakewordpressbehavegeneralpaddingtomakewordpressbehave generalpaddingtomakewordpressbehavegeneralpaddingtomakewordpressbehavegeneralpaddingtomakewordpressbehave
Look, you have to feed me, I walk on water

Look, you have to feed me, I walk on water

4 Responses to “The Odyssey 2009: Day 43”

  1. Greygal said

    Sounds like you enjoyed the Weaver as much as we did…very definitely one of our faves and we can’t wait to go back. The lockies are fab, a real credit to BW, it’s just such a shame that there’s not more money/resources/traffic to ensure a thriving future. We can but hope…

  2. indigodream said

    I loved the Weaver – it’s got it all really. That’s a dilemma – I want it to stay alive with its wonderful lockies, but I also don’t want it to get busy – I’m such a ‘dog in the manger’:-)

    Seriously, though, I’ll join in your recommendations for the Weaver – I can’t believe that some boaters just go down the Anderton boat lift, turn around and just go back up again. I think the Weaver, being benign, might be a good confidence-builder for those new to river navigations.

  3. Mel Blakey said

    Hi,
    I’m really pleased that you enjoyed your time on the weaver. Comments, like the ones you have made and like the one above really make it all worthwhile.
    Unfortunately, there is only a few weeks left, then we are laid off!

    I am in the process of creating a website http://www.weaver.britainswaterways.co.uk (britains, not british waterways). Is it OK if I use some of your photo’s?…

    Regards

    MEL (Weaver Lockie)
    p.s. I was the guy on the last boat who told you to go straight into Vale Royal Lock… It was my day off and I playing on the River!!!

  4. indigodream said

    Hi Mel

    We enjoyed every bit of the Weaver and the lockies made a huge contribution to our positive experience of the river. I’m not sure if I’ve misunderstood, but are BW getting rid of the lockies on the Weaver? I can’t get my head round that – not only because of the great customer service job that you do, but also because of the technical aspects of operating those big locks.

    You’re welcome to use any of the photos from the blog – they’re only a tiny fraction of the photos that we’ve actually got so if you need more then just drop us an email and we can send you a CD.

    I don’t know what the future will hold for your and the other Weaver lockies but I wish you the very best – you’ll be missed.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.