Thursday, 31 July 2014

Unexpected Meetings and a change of direction

We are now moored on the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union, having turned right at Barbridge Junction.  On Tuesday we left Nantwich after a couple of days there.  On our 'day off' from boating we walked into the town, which has some lovely old buildings and in the afternoon went for a country walk.

There is a sculpture trail at Nantwich along the canal.  We were not impressed with most of the art pieces but rather liked this barge horse which is portrayed leaning forward and taking the strain as he pulls a barge from a standing start.

As you can see there are some fine buildings on the road into town.  It is about half a mile into Nantwich from the canal but well worth the walk, though if, like us, you want to see the Museum don't go on a Monday as it's closed!

This old pub is called the Cheshire Cat.

Cheshire is famous for its black and white buildings but just look at the angles of the walls on this one.

Our walk in the afternoon arose when we looked at the map and realised that the Llangollen Canal was not far away on foot.  We have decided not to go up the Llangollen in school holidays because of the crowds but decided to walk over in the afternoon.  Most of the walk was through sweet corn which did rather restrict the views.

Below you can see Helen walking towards the top lock of the two Swanley locks on the Llangollen.  We followed that canal for a little way and then came back to Nantwich by a different route.
The canal passing Nantwich is on a high embankment because the owner of the neighboroughing park would not allow Telford to build on an easier course across his land.  Where the canal crosses the A51 it does so on an impressive aqueduct:

A narrowboat is just crossing the aqueduct in this photo.  The aqueduct is only wide enough for one boat at a time.

And here's the view from Leo looking down to the road from the canal.  Unlike the much more famous Pontcysyllte Aqueduct in Wales there are stout railings here to stop you falling off a boat into the road.

Having set off from Nantwich on Tuesday we came soon to Hurleston Junction where four locks lead off to the left at the start of the Llangollen Canal.  Just as we had passed the junction we passed a boat going the other way.  The name, Theddingworth, sounded familiar and then we looked more closely at the people onboard and realised it was our friends Graham and Alison.  Heavy reversing followed and we moored for an hour or more to enjoy a coffee together:
Helen with Graham and Alison on Leo
It was lovely to finally meet them on the waterways and to have the opportunity of guided tours of our respective boats.  But they had an appointment with the Llangollen and ours was with the Middlewich Branch.  So we carried on to Barbridge Junction and moored on the embankment above Church Minshull, a favourite spot.

Here is Barbridge Junction.  The Shropshire Union goes forward behind the blue boat towards Chester and the branch to Middlewich goes under the bridge to the right.

At the second lock on the Middlewich branch we met Duke and butty Duchess, a pair of hotel boats.  Duke was sitting above the lock while the butty was pulled through the lock by hand.   We had last seen these fine looking boats moored at Oxford in 2012.  They are now under new ownership by a family concern with son, daughter, Mum and Dad and up to 7 guests.

This is the view from the window of Leo, looking towards the village of Church Minshull.  The canal is on an embankment here, hence the view, and the River Weaver lies just below.  We walked into the village in the evening.

The walk is a bit of a scramble in places above the River Weaver but as you can see has its compensations, the Badger being right next to the church in the village, though strangely this pub is not mentioned in the Nicholson's Guide.

In the next few days we'll be going through Middlewich, turning right to go up the Cheshire Locks (or 'Heartbreak Hill' as they are sometimes called).  Our sights are set now on the Huddersfield Narrow, one of the challenges of the canal system that we have not yet met.  That canal climbs to over 600 feet above sea level to cross the pennines through the longest canal tunnel in the country.  So lots to look forward to.

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