Rewind to Friday 12th September
Middlewich (Big Lock) to Middlewich Branch Bridge 30/31
There was a bit of an “end of the holiday” feel to today’s cruising, but while it was our last full day of cruising for a little while, the Odyssey wasn’t quite over….
We had a smooth passage up Big Lock then up the three deep and narrow locks that mark the start of the Cheshire Locks, nicknamed, with some accuracy, “Heartbreak Hill”. We passed along the top locks of heartbreak hill on our first ever narrowboating adventure on a hire boat; I wouldn’t drive the boat then, so I ended up doing all the onshore grunt work. I recall being so tired at the end of the day that I needed both hands to lift my pint. Ah, happy memories of the trip that sparked our narrowboat obsession! 🙂
Back to the present, once we were past the locks, we had to negotiate the busy passage past Middlewich Narrowboats – just beyond lock 72. This spot has always vexed me as the canal is narrowed by permanent moorings and hire boat moorings; then there’s the manoeuvres of the hire base staff as they move the boats around. It was characteristically busy, and although I’m now experienced enough to move Indigo Dream in tight situations, I don’t have to like it! I’m torn, I want to support boatyards, because making money out of canalside businesses can’t be easy, but impinging on the navigation in order to do it has never seemed right.
Our first stop of the day was Kings Lock boatyard – we’d booked Indigo Dream in there for some maintenance as we knew that we were having a few boating-free weeks.
Our job list was a bit extensive but the priorities were:
- get our webasto services as Kings Lock is a recognised service place
- get our vetus stern bearing checked – it’s been leaking ever so slightly for a while and Richard was using increasing amount of grease to keep it dry. Kings Lock also have a certified vetus engineer.
- get our engine serviced while we’re in the territory covered by Neil Coventry, who fitted our engine – we reckon that he does a superior service and he knows our boat, which we think makes a difference.
There were many more miscellaneous jobs, mainly to do with working out where the water in our cabin bilge is coming from. It’s been a problem for months and although we have a few suspected leaks, nothing quite explains the amount of water that’s coming into the cabin bilge. We need to have a section of the cabin floor replaced at some point (it has a temporary patch at the moment), but we figured that there wouldn’t be time for that before we needed the boat again on 2nd October.
With our maintenance list sorted, we headed off to our next appointment, this time with Andy Russell, who did Indigo Dream’s much admired artwork. He has such a good reputation that we’ve decided to ask him to repaint Indigo Dream in her entirety (and re-do the artwork). The trouble with having a good reputation is that everyone wants you – Andy Russell’s next available paint slot is in Spring 2016! We’ve booked an Autumn 2016 slot so that paint has a good few months to cure before being challenged by the rigours of our summer cruising.
We set off for Aqueduct Marina, where we knew Andy was working today. The Middlewich Branch is undeniably beautiful, but it’s not my favourite waterway.
I had a bit of a to-do when I saw a big truck, then a tractor going over a narrow canal bridge ahead. I hear a horn tooting and assumed it was from the traffic; the road was quite busy so I heard a horn again and thought nothing of it. What I hadn’t realised was that the horn was from a short narrowboat coming out from under the bridge and he was just in my blind spot – oops. There followed some frantic dodging but the boats passed each other with room to spare and neither of us visited the trees or the towpath. I apologised profusely but the man on the helm had obviously had a fright and made some uncomplimentary remarks – oh dear!
It was a much longer cruise to Aqueduct Marina than we expected so our plan of having a short day’s cruise then heading for home became unrealistic. Never mind, it was a nice enough day, though more overcast and not quite as warm as previous days. Because we weren’t in a rush to get anywhere, we took some time to have a pump-out at Aqueduct Marina. We also had a chat with them about winter moorings, as it’s a pleasant spot with several miles of lock-free winter cruising available. Sadly they were already fully booked, which gave us pause for thought – definitely time for us to make a decision on our winter plans….
When we finished in the marina, we headed back to Middlewich. We’d planned to moor just above Kings Lock Boatyard (for easy dog access), then move her over to the yard in the morning. On the way back, we came to a quiet lock with a deserted towpath. There was a hire boat coming up so Richard took the hounds off for a bimble while I waited at the lock moorings. Richard got chatting to the hirers and the hounds went off for a rummage…….and an illicit race with a young retriever that was just out of sight below the lock. The next minute, the retriever’s owner was shouting at Richard that “one of your dogs is in the canal” – Archie Beanz had taken a dive! Richard went down to retrieve Archie from the water – he had a few little scrapes from trying to scramble out (unsuccessfully) over the hard edge but was otherwise unhurt.
Although the visitor moorings on the branch were pretty busy, we found a mooring quite close to Wardle Lock. Richard found some convenient street parking nearby – very handy for packing some of the more bulky items into the roof box.
We wanted to finish our holiday with a special meal. We had a desultory wander around Middlewich but didn’t see anywhere we fancied, so Richard suggested a place that he’d seen during yesterday’s car shuffle. We needed to car to get there and Richard wouldn’t tell me the pub’s name – mysterious!
I was delighted when we arrived at “the Three Greyhounds” pub – perfect!
The Three Greyhounds pub is dog friendly, but it was quite busy inside so we sat outside on their covered terrace, which was just about snug enough with the outdoor heaters on. There was great excitement in the pub – this was the first time that the Three Greyhounds had ever been graced by three greyhounds! The staff made a fuss of the hounds and took photos – sadly the hounds were far too tired to pose so their photos haven’t appeared on the pub’s website. 🙂
As well as being perfect for our canine pack, the pub also does truly magnificent food and, despite the gourmet menu, the chef was happy to do some sausages for the hounds (splendid sausages I should add). An evening at a hound-perfect pub was a good antidote to a slightly lacklustre day and was a fine finish to our holiday.