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The Odyssey 2009: Day 44

Posted by indigodream on 5 September, 2009

Monday 31st August

Vale Royal to Bridge 209 (Trent & Mersey)

Vale Royal moorings - looking downstream

Vale Royal moorings - looking downstream

There was a little more sense of urgency this morning – whereas the other locks open at 10am and stay open, Vale Royal has a lock downriver at 10am then there’s not another until 12 noon. Richard helped me to untie the boat – the plan was for him to walk the dogs down to the lock and I’d take the boat. Unfortunately I managed to drop one of our 2-way radios into the river – we searched for it with the boathook and the strap emerged once before sinking to the deeps forever. This put us under a little time pressure but I still got to the lock in plenty of time. It’s a little awkward as the horrible plastic pontoon which now forms the lock lay-by isn’t actually in sight of the lock! I cruised down to the lock, fearing that I might be too late, but the lock-keeper waved me back signalling 10am – precision timing, I was 2 minutes too early.

I was quite proud of the reverse manoeuvring that I did to bring the boat neatly into the pontoon. Richard had hoped that the dogs would be able to get back on board at the lock but the lockie won’t let people on/offload so the dogs had to be guided safely down the pontoon – this time without any mishap.

Leaving Vale Royal lock - you can see the 'works' on the right

Leaving Vale Royal lock - you can see the 'works' on the right

The lock-keeper had advised us to give the Anderton boat lift a ring as soon as we were through the lock. Just as well that we did – they had one free slot at 12.15pm – they were otherwise fully booked. Interestingly we could ring and find out about slot and be advised to get there by a certain time without having to pay the £5 booking fee – sweet. This gave us plenty of time to enjoy the stretch from Vale Lock to Hunts lock which was greatly improved by the absence of fishermen and rowers 🙂

We picked up Sue and Ken in Northwich, and we encountered some of the area’s now legendary kindness. Ken and Sue had been asking a local man where they could buy a pint of milk (the latte’s were under threat!) – he’d told them that the nearest place was Sainsbury’s which was too far away in the time that they had before we picked them up – never mind. Then just as they were boarding, the man ran to the boat and gave us a pint of milk from his own supplies – what a nice thing to do.

Northwich Shipyard

Northwich Shipyard

We got to the Anderton boat lift at 11.30am.  The ‘lift-keeper’ came down to talk us through the procedure and assured us that we had time to explore and admire the structure. After his clear explanation we knew exactly what to do and what to expect – that’s always reassuring.

Note: Dogs are not allowed off the boat here – either on the boat-lift moorings or further up on the viewing area.

The whole procedure of lifting/lowering took some time. The trip boat coming down was late, apparently they always are. The boats waiting in the lower caisson must have been there for around 20 minutes before the trip boat came in.  It was well past 12.15 when we got into the caisson and once we were there we had another wait while the boat coming down got into position. It’s impossible to get bored here though – the ‘lift-keeper’ explained the mechanism, we looked up, down and along the structure and took far too many photographs!

The Anderton Boatlift

The Anderton Boatlift

Throughout the process, the ‘lift-keepers’ carefully explained the procedures – it’s interesting at the top because we had to move from the caisson to the aqueduct then wait there while they shut the gate to the lift and opened the gate at the far end of the aqueduct. All stringent precautions to prevent the canal from draining into the river in an emergency! The lift-keeper kindly walked along the aqueduct to act as a lookout – there’s a fair bit of traffic on this stretch of the canal. He gave us the thumbs up and we moved into the winding hole – you can’t turn left out of the aqueduct – you have to turn right into the winding hole, turn, then head back up the canal.

The Trent & Mersey was so busy compared to the Weaver – bit of a shock really. There’s plenty of interest here though, with two tunnels and some stunning views over the Weaver Valley. The Saltersford Tunnel is on a timer – boats can enter from the south for the first 20 minutes past the hour. We arrived at 22 minutes past – what a dilemma! Richard decided to go for it, on the basis that there’d be a  time buffer to allow boats to clear the tunnel before they were allowed in the other way. He was right, though I did feel a bit sorry for the queue of three boats waiting on the other side.

Happy days.......

Happy days.......

We stopped for lunch shortly after the tunnel – there’s a wonderful view down towards Saltersford Lock on the Weaver – it looked like a fantasy land, like something glimpsed through the back of a wardrobe maybe…..

We spent the last bit of the cruise looking out for likely moorings – we’d need to leave the boat for 5 days and we needed to be reasonably close to a road for offloading. We eventually moored between Bridges 109 and 110 – there towpath’s very soft near the bridge but further on there’s a hard edging which made for a secure (we hope!) mooring. It was a bit of a trek back to the bridge. The boatyard kindly let us park our cars in their car park while we got organised – they lock the gates at 5pm-ish but we just made it out before they went home.

We set off South, writing ambitious lists of what we were going to achieve when we got home at 8.30pm. Ha Ha!!!

A glimpse of the beautiful Weaver valley from the lofty Ternt & Mersey

A glimpse of the beautiful Weaver valley from the lofty Trent & Mersey

Richard’s car broke down on the M40 (don’t ask). At least we broke down where there was a wide lay-by so we felt safe to sit in the car while we waited almost 2 hours for the RAC to arrive (promised time was 30 minutes). There was also a path off the motorway onto a leafy lane behind – this was a good spot for dog-walking (on-lead). There was a car parked in the lane with a single male occupant – he was very pleasant but I did wonder what he was doing there. I didn’t feel threatened – Blue unexpectedly caught a rabbit in the bushes (even though he was on the lead) and you should have seen the look in the lone man’s eyes when this big dog strutted past proudly with a rabbit dangling from his mouth!

Luckily Richard’s car was fixable, just needed the right tools so we were able to drive home. We didn’t get back until 11.30pm, to a house made messy by building work. I wish I’d stayed on the boat but Blue and Lou were delighted to be back on their ‘proper’ duvets.

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