A most splendid cruise indeed, if a little fraught with boat traffic… #narrowboat #England #boating #canals

A few days ago, lazily, I took the Cardinal up through a couple of locks in the town of Middlewich – and nearer to a supermarket, thus having less distance to lug some shopping back to the boat. These moorings were right in the middle of town, albeit a relatively civilised town…

Middlewich Town – this stretch was sans H20 during the breach. Civilised moorings, but still urban moorings.

The shop in question was through a couple of alleyways, along a couple of roads, through a car park and Bob’s your aunty. Rather delightfully, the place sells 227g bags of very potable cocaine coffee for a third or less of the more usual price, £1.20 versus £3.60 and upwards. An incentive to shop there if ever there was one.

Once the grocery baskets were sated I decided to move on again, on very nearly indeed the  last leg of our cruise around the (now repaired) Middlewich breach thingummy. February it may have been but the sun was shining, the twirds were bittering and, where disturbed by floating take-away wrappers and empty beer cans, the water was sparkling. Light mast down, stove flue pipe off, tiller bar on, engine start, fenders up, ropes untied and tally ruddy ho, Doris!

It was over the breach repair (see previous post for details), up through the 11′ 1″ rise of Stanthorne Lock and out into the countryside that makes the Middlewich Branch canal one of the best. Aristotle or Democritus or someone, it may even have been Churchill, once remarked that there is nothing quite so tickettysplendid as messing about in boats, and I am beginning to agree. We pootled, we mooched, we cruised at minimum tick-over revs past lines of moored boats, and we punctuated our cruise by passing under railway bridges.

A thing of functionality rather than beauty.

The main-line railway (and road) bridges are rather akin to the mole on Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s bum, in that the occasional dash of the blot upon (even on the sit-upon) serves only to accentuate the glowing alabaster-white beauty of the ensemble. Or, in the case of the English countryside, the alabaster-green of the whole (except when it snows, then it’s alwhite alright to describe it too as alabaster-white).

Home to birds and home to the Lollopping Greater-Spotted Graffiti Artist.

The new bridges are invariably ugly things, designed and built under the lash of the small grey accountant, and they also serve to make wee boaters …we boaters …appreciate the ancient bridges more than ever, standing as they do, just, and only just, like inmates in an Old People’s Home waiting in line for “Happy Hour” at Matron’s Bar (half-price anti-inflammatories, sedatives and laxatives, the latter two needing especially careful balancing if dignity is to be maintained).

Proper English countryside at last.

Some of these long-established, happier bridges have stood the test of time so well that they now allow foot and carriage passage from nowhere to nowhere. This is all to the good, because at my age (and, if you’re honest, your age) it is easy to forget where you started from, why you’re moving and where you’re going).

Doubtless due to the clemency of the weather the Cardinal and I encountered something on the order of a dozen other boats moving about. Haven’t seen such terrific traffic since Trafalgar. Well, since late summer of last year, in any event. Damned peasants. I threw mouldy cabbages and dead cats at them as we passed, and they all apologised for using my canal.

TBH (“TBH” is “Youngspeak” for “to be honest”, usually indicating someone being nothing of the sort) it took a moment or three to remember to pass on the wrong side (the “foreign” side, the right) and to allow for the swinging of the bows as we shared the shallow water. I actually had to give way at a couple of bridges! This insane traffic is one of the chief of reasons why I prefer the canals in winter over summer – fewer folk to get in my way.

I had a few potential mooring targets in mind when I set off, but the day was such a glorious one that I just kept on pootling (at our customary 2½mph), deciding that I would look for space on the “official” moorings outside Aqueduct Marina or, if they were filled with the vessels of Messrs Hoi and Polloi, continue up one more lock and seek safe harbour near Venetian. In the event the moorings near Aqueduct were what we captains of large vessels call “entirely empty”. This was doubly fortunate since one of my urgent tasks is to make enquiries in re the blacking of the Cardinal’s bottom, and Aqueduct Marina is tippetty-top of my list of places to get such done, if possible. The moorings are within easy strolling distance of verbal enquiry. Sweet!

Cold moorings on the Middlewich, near Aqueduct Marina.

Summer in England, and most especially summer in February in England, is a fleeting thing, and winter set in again overnight. The moment the sun set (but only on this portion of the English Empire, never the whole) the shires everywhere went from “shirt-sleeves and pints in the beer garden please” to “shall you take the penguin for its evening walk or shall I?” Confusingly, the photograph above is of sunrise the following morning, and that is the last of the overnight freezing fog and the grass is frozen.

Fields in deep freeze.
Countryside awash with badger, rabbit, mole, vole and squirrel, squabbling over whether a Duffle Coat ought to be buttoned up left over right or right over left.

This mooch onwards of some six and a smidgen miles and one lock puts us within two miles of closing the loop, so to speak, and being back where we began when we began.

However, for reasons alluded to earlier in this post, the loop is not to be closed for at least a week or two yet – for the Cardinal and I are now becalmed upon dry land. I kid you not, we are not upon the water…

More of that in the next post, with a little bit of video (and a lot of coffee).

Events moved apace, and there is much to tell.

So, for the mo’, à bientôt mes little post-French amis.

Damn this “French Style” coffee, just damn it to Hell. Wherever could I have bought ten packets of it? Tis doin’ my nut in.


Ian H & Cardinal W.


    1. A touch of moggy frist – or even foggy mist – some cold and a spot of low sun can work wonders. Not the sort of weather in which you’d want to be sleeping under a hedgerow though, or in a tree – I am in awe of wildlife that survives and thrives doing just that. 🙂


    1. Thank’ee kindly – at the moment it is going rather too slowly! At least last night’s howling gales have abated and we even have some sunshine this morning. Fingers crossed. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Now those pics of frozen fields of frozen fog are the kind I remember. 🙂
    I hope you are able to avoid the peasantry of the water as much as possible.
    Are you going to live aboard while they black him? That will be… noisy and it feels like risking the tipping over the cardinal when you have a small shift in your sleep.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. To make the experience a complete one we have some very high winds here this evening, with more forecast for overnight! We’re up on blocks and everything is rattling around. Typically, the wind is blowing at us right over some wide-open fields…

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    1. Absolutely so, so long as I remember to only get off at the stern while we are here (where the ladder is), because everything else is six foot higher than normal and over concrete! 😉

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  2. I second Pat’s inquiry. Does one stay aboard in dry dock? How long does the process take? Scraping before coating? Oh, please offer a video of the Cardinal with his bottom out of water. And, how often is black bottoming necessary?

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    1. My legal team advises me to reply “No comment”… Seriously, I shall answer these questions and, I hope, more, in the next instalment of SOAP – um, I mean, the next blog post. There is a short video to come of the Cardinal being hauled out of the water, and photos of parts not often made public. Roughly every two years is the suggested schedule for blacking… The first time that I had the Cardinal “done” took a two-day weekend, but I am fairly certain that my status as a green-as-green “rookie” innocent was taken advantage of by the boatyard. The process here will take something over a week (more if the weather continues to be unco-operative)! 😉


  3. Middlewich looks quietly civilised and a chance to replenish the covfefe store cupboard. Now intrigued to know whether you can live on the Cardinale whilst in dry dock – shall have to wait.

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    1. The supermarket involved used to be a Tescoids when I last visited, but in the months that I have taken to re-visit Middlewich it has morphed into something called a “Jack’s”. No idea what that is, but it’s something to do with the original founder of Tescos, Mr Jack Tesco, or some such. The range is …limited …but the prices are right! I get through a little bit of coffee, beginning each day with a cafetiere of the stuff as I read the internet, two if there’s anything interesting going on… Then later in the morning I begin to take my intake of coffee more seriously… 🙂


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