Once upon a time…
Cardinal W and I have moved again. The day was a tad more blustery than it initially seemed, and more blustery than Her Majesty’s Met Office had promised, but once we were going we were going and there’s little to no stopping. The Cardinal and I crabbed at an interesting angle in the more exposed places, and at one of the locks he steadfastly refused to come close enough to the towpath to let me board, so I had to walk him in on the rope.
We called first at the services at Wheelock, and are thus now disposed of recycling and rubbish and suchlike, and replete with H20 for all purposes. Wheelock is a curious service area, being provided with no mooring rings, just three crumbling, ancient posts to lash a boat to.
This stretch (maybe all of it?) of the Trent & Mersey Canal is a little (as in “entirely”) under-provided with opportunities for impromptu mooring, the banks being ‘orribly overgrown and/or eroded. The “they” certainly don’t seem to want a chap to linger longer in this neighbourhood. The only options are the “official” moorings. From Wheelock the next of these is at Middlewich.
Middlewich, whereupon we have but one more unfamiliar lock, one vaguely-familiar lock and a half a mile more through town and we shall have completed our 110 mile 96 lock excursion du demi-année. Earlier post with maps and stuff here. Tis a sobering thought that what the Cardinal and I have enjoyed mooching around over some near six months, the Fuel Boat Halsall does roughly once a fortnight… delivering as they go.
Tis six miles and – to where I planned to moor – some six locks (although I only did four locks in the final analysis). The six miles struggled to be scenic, being strangled by townships and in the latter stages by the salt industry (on a monumental scale). Notable Benny; if a town name ends in “…wich” then it is likely a salt-industry town, likely Roman in origin. Middlewich.
There are wide-open tracts where (winds may blow freely) and where sheep may safely graze. These are were-sheep, grazing in safety.
While just across the canal and road, on t’other side, is this sort of thing.
I met a CaRT tug as I was working through the second lock of the day, with two very cheerful, very competent chaps moving, I think, the detritus from the recent work on the Middlewich locks to wherever such stuff goes. Thank’ee kindly for your assistance, chaps, and for your timing which allowed me to just cruise the Cardinal out of the lock and away, leaving you to cruise in. Much appreciated!
For a goodly portion of its route through town the canal runs alongside a busy road, but somehow – possibly something to do with increasing familiarity – the canal retains a certain good-goshness about it. We chased some swans into town, and my wee video camera at the bow decided to record a four-minutes and twenty-eight or so seconds of our final approach (Heathrow Control this is Jumbo seven-seven-two-one-niner, heavy, for runway six-six-seven east, reducing to eleventy-twelve thousand feet, over…)
If it all looks a touch indecisive at the finale that’s because there was indeed a change of decision…
The video is deceptive because the camera has an uber-wide-angle lens, but you’ll notice a white-ish boat steaming past towards the end.
The couple on this boat were rising in the lock as I approached, and saw me. I slowed down (even more), as a civilised chap does, expecting them to be polite (and to save themselves some work) by just hopping on and cruising away leaving the top gate open for me to just cruise in. Nope, they looked at me again, flapped their arms about like windmills being tilted-at, and deliberately, needlessly, closed the gate on me… two boors.
Er – thanks, chaps. Not. Makes note in diary to return the favour one day.
They then insisted on passing on the incorrect side too, leaving me to pull in to the lock landing, moor up temporarily, walk ahead, re-open the gate that they had just shut in my face, walk back to the boat, untie and then and only then, manoeuvre in.
Well, they did me a favour in reality. As I began to approach the lock landings to do just that, muttering about nincompoops and quarter-wits, I got a closer look at the towpath and noticed – cue the Hallelujah Chorus – mooring rings hitherto hiddden. I reversed back off the landing, added an extra half-length for good measure so that any boats using it would not be disconvenienced by me, and moored up. These moorings are better than the ones I was heading for – more open, feeling more secure during this, the week of “School Half-Term” when the country’s spawn are allowed to roam free and to terrorise the world. The traffic noise is easily tuned out.
Town this may be, but town it was always going to be for this stop anyway. Je suis content.
These moorings have the benefit of the “Mobile Signal Tree” peeping over the horizon…
…and there are shops within tottering distance, so for the first time in a week or three, I have fresh spuds and cabbage and carrots and broccoli and onions and stuff.
Wheeee! Frabjous joy.
This morning, after last night’s really wild and windy hissy-fit, dawned with a spot of sunshine, and while the clouds have settled in again, more star-shine is promised for later. The solar panels have been shown the soggy end of the squeegee in preparation.
Sometime during the evening or perhaps even the night two more boats have oiked up, one to stern being the boat that I last saw moored on a lock landing halfway down the Wheelock flight, the one in front of us seemingly having staggered up through the lock and then moored actually right on the lock landing bollards.
Is there any better, more succinct way to say “bugger you lot, I’m special“?
Tis approaching ten-thirty of the morning o’clock and there are still no remorseful signs of life on the boat, not for them getting up at first light to move out of (potentially) everyone’s way…
Let’s be charitable and assume that they just managed to get through the lock, moor up with a lattice-work of string to the bollards, drop the fenders, align the tv aerial and then go inside to draw all of their blinds before having some dire medical emergency.
I ought to be ashamed of myself for doubting them.
But I am not. Tis in reality just boorish behaviour when there are manifold opportunities for more polite mooring, these beginning just some fifty yards on from where they had their hang-nail/spot-of-indigestion/first-yawn-of-the-evening medical emergency.
UPDATE: These creatures are in a direct line of sight from my desk! 10:40am, Mr & Ms Special surfaced, tightened their ropes, and went into the pub (The King’s Lock, to the right of frame). Twenty minutes later, first boat of the day to be disconvenienced by them came up through the lock and danced around them. No medical emergency then, just selfish and a bit thick.
Were I to be moving the boat today it is just this breed of pillock that can make life impossible. May they always live in interesting times.
Fortunately, for me at least, tis but a moot point, since I am not moving today!
Not gumpy old me.
We’ll sit here a while instead, tottering back and forth to town to stockpile fresh vegetables and other healthy delights (and raiding the two charity shops in the High Street).
Our next move will see us close the loop entirely, and pass back over the site of the Middlewich Breach.