Rewind to Thursday 2nd October
Today was all about logistics:
First Richard took the day off and went up to Middlewich to get Indigo Dream from the boatyard. She’s had an exciting time as first Neil Coventry worked his usual magic on the engine and then Indigo Dream has been flashing her bottom! The engineers pulled her out onto the slipway to re-set the prop and better investigate the Vetus stern gland. It was a bit scary because they found that the original hadn’t been installed properly and the shortcomings of the original installation were now showing! It says a lot for the robust design that it’s lasted eight busy cruising years, including many many tideway adventures. The boatyard fitted a new vetus stern gland, properly this time!
After sorting out the bill (reasonable), Richard single-handed the boat down to the moorings above Big Lock, where we were due to congregate later in the day.
Our human guests this weekend were our favourite vet, Steve, wife Helen and youngest son Alfie – they cruised the London Ring with us last year and are tremendously good company.
Our canine crew were Ollie, Herbie and Steve’s ancient spaniel, Arun. Ty was going to spend the weekend with Simon (nb Tortoise) and Carrie (nb Blackbird) who offered to be his refuge.
Simon and Carrie have a shore base in Brentford so how’s this for logistics – Richard drove up to the boat with all the boat stuff (big bag of washed towels, human and hound bedding); then after work (could not take the day off), I dropped Ollie and Herbie off with Steve, he would drive them up to the boat. Then I drove Ty up to Brentford before taking the car to Watford Junction station and catching the train up to Crewe. Phew! Steve and family got to the boat around 11pm and I turned up at 1am! But it was all worth it as we had cars and people all in the right place and left us ready for a long-weekend of fabulous cruising….
Rewind to Friday 3rd October
Middlewich to Northwich (River Weaver)
Herbie and Alfie were soulmates – neither left their duvets without a great deal of persuasion 🙂
We had a most relaxed start to the day, luxuriating in the fact that we’d done all our commuting yesterday. Steve is an early riser, as is Arun, but the rest of us loafed around. Alfie continued his greyhound studies – with his natural teenage talent, and Herbie’s expert tuition, he’s turning into an accomplished bed/sofa monster with a great affinity for snoozing!
We eventually mooched down towards Big Lock, where Steve grabbed the last of their supplies and on we went – this was the only lock of the day so we were soon relaxing with coffee, pastries and good conversation. Now, when we’re with greyhound people, we talk greyhounds; when we’re with boaters, we talk toilets; but Steve and family are very well-read so we talked about everything else! One of their four sons is studying philosophy, so reasoned argument and challenge is obviously the norm in their household; so it became on Indigo Dream 🙂
We whiled away the rest of the morning, enjoying the balmy weather, the scenery and the company. Poor Arun the spaniel is very ancient and is on her last legs as she has an intractable liver condition. However, she really enjoyed cruising and although she’s desperately thin, she was in very good spirits and is not in pain.
Arun thought that the sheepskins might be a tool for her to work on her retrieving skills; Herbie soon put her straight – “relax” he said “and whatever you do, don’t lie on the concrete – we have standards to maintain!”
Unusually for us, we hadn’t stocked the boat up with food, though I could have rustled up a lunch, However, we happened to be passing the “Old Broken Cross” at a suitable time so we moored up and went to the pub. The Old Broken Cross is dog friendly and really cosy inside, but it was such a lovely day we decided to sit outside. The hounds were getting on really well and Arun was a bit gobsmacked by the luxurious life of the greyhound, with comfy sheepies and special orders of sausages. Arun is a working gundog and normally eschews the softness of the house, but she soon got the hang of it!
We had a good lunch – plain pub grub but well done…
We dragged ourselves away – we had booked a passage down the Anderton boat lift at 4pm, and although we weren’t far away, we may have been a bit too relaxed so far….
The stretch leading up to Anderton is quite amazing and is rapidly climbing up my canal league table – the flashes are quite unique and the salt works, ancient and modern, give the landscape real purpose.
When we got to Anderton, there was a hire boat waiting to go down. We moored up and Richard went to check the timing of our passage down to the Weaver. There had been some muddle so we had a bit of a wait – time for me to have a bimble with the hounds and for our guests to browse through the visitor centre. When our time came I had a real d’oh moment – I’d released the centre rope (we didn’t moor up properly as it was only a short wait) and set off. The boat suddenly lurched violently – I hadn’t realised that she’d been securely tied at the stern. I overheard some tart comments from the boatlift staff about “women drivers” but managed to redeem myself with a perfectly-placed, neatly controlled entry and mooring in the lift’s caisson. We were joined by the hire boat and down we went. Because it was the last passage of the day, the other caisson didn’t come up as we descended – apparently they leave both caissons down overnight so that the hydraulic gear is not accessible to vandals 😦
Ollie and Herbie are old hands at this pub business 🙂
We had a big decision to make now – upstream to Vale Royal or downstream to Weston – we didn’t think we’d have enough time to do both, especially with the manned locks now on winter opening, which meant no passage after 4pm.
We decided to head upstream to Northwich initially – we’d top up with supplies at the local supermarket, have a bimble round town and find a pub.
We moored on the left just beyond town bridge, the lock opening hours having forced us to stop a lot earlier than we normally would. However, this gave the menfolk time to explore the Waitrose opposite and for the rest of us to relax with the hounds.
Later on, we decided to explore the eateries of Northwich – there are surprisingly few, far fewer than I remembered from previous visits in fact! There were lots of attractive cafes, now closed, but pubs seemed few and far between. Luckily we’d left the dogs on board, we struggled to find a pub for ourselves, let alone for the hounds! In the end we settled on a huge Weatherspoons – the Penny Black (not dog friendly) which had reasonable beer and good pub grub.
After a good dinner we bimbled back to the boat and gave the hounds a last walk – we had a quiet night, just as well, because we had quite a drama to come in the morning…
As we cruised through Marston, we could see a large and distinctive tower in the distance. I did some preliminary research on the boat but didn’t get anywhere. So I made that my project for when I caught up with the blog. I spent some time looking at maps and photos and I think it was the tower of St Mary and All Saint’s church in Great Budworth. The tower certainly makes its presence felt, so maybe it’s not surprising that the Church is a Grade 1 listed building. It is an old church, the oldest parts date back to the 14th century; the newer parts were build in the 15th and 16th centuries.
The church is one of many listed buildings in the village. Great Budworth itself sounds like a very active community which takes great pride in its heritage – this is another village that was mentioned in the Doomsday Book.
Indigo Dream will be spending the winter in Cheshire, so I think we’ll put this village on our “must visit” list – I was worried that it might not have a pub, but it does – the George and Dragon – which serves food AND is dog friendly. We will have to make sure that Henry Beanz is with us so that the pub can be properly reviewed.