We turned left at Middlewich back onto the Trent and Mersey heading North. Soon you come down three narrow locks close together and then comes Middlewich Big Lock:
This is the first of the three narrow locks with Leo just coming in. Below this lock is a tight left turn with a dry dock leading off the canal. Once we'd got down there were three boats below manoeuvering in a very tiny pound. All good fun - the moral is take it slowly!
And here is Middlewich Big Lock, which, as you can see, takes two boats at a time. Pas Mèche is on the left with a boat called 'Dunarunna' that we have seen quite a lot lately.
Now you may well ask why there is a big lock taking 14 foot wide boats when just round the corner is an aqueduct only 8 foot wide (shown in the picture). All down to history as the aqueduct was rebuilt when it failed but only as a narrow one.
On Wednesday evening we moored on one of the flashes on this bit of the Trent and Mersey. These are wide lakes caused by subsidence from pumping the salt out as brine from the rocks beneath. Here you can see Helen sitting in the sunshine (yes we have had some).
We went for a nice walk from the mooring passing Whatcroft Hall shown here, or rather we passed the gates to its land.
Almost back to Leo on our walk we climbed up to a railway bridge over the canal and a parallel road. We had thought the railway was disused, but as you can see it wasn't! The heavy goods train made the bridge shake as we walked over the footpath by the side of the railway. The driver gave us a hoot and a wave.
It was a short cruise on Thursday morning to Anderton where we used the amazing boat lift to take us down 50 feet onto the River Weaver. If you've never seen this feat of Victorian engineering do go and see it. There is a fine Visitor Centre and cafe too.
Boats drive in at the top level into a caisson (think of a bath) that takes two narrowboats. This caisson then descends as the other one comes up, all controlled by a huge hydraulic ram underneath each.
Here you can see our two boats gently easing into the caisson at the top.
This view is taken looking back and you can see the shutter that seals the caisson so that the boats continue to float all the way down.
This photo is taken as we are part way down and you can see the trip boat in the other caisson going up and passing us.
This is the other caisson and you can see the huge hydraulic ram underneath it. To give an idea of scale you can see in the middle at the left one of the attendants on the lift.
And here we are at the bottom with the shutter opening to allow us out onto the River Weaver.
Leo has already come out by this point and, looking back, you can see Pas Mèche just coming out of the caisson.
It is a wonderful and quick way to come down what might have taken perhaps 5 locks.
Once down the lift we turned upstream to Northwich.
This view of Northwich taken from our mooring shows the basin with marina berths opposite and, to the left, one of the two swing bridges across the River. Fortunately these do not need to be swung for us; we can creep underneath.
Northwich, like some other salt towns round about, has suffered terrible subsidence from brine pumping below the town. Several old buildings are fixed to a steel or wooden frame which can be jacked up if they subside. This is one example. Look at the bottom of the timbering and see below.
Here is a detail showing the whole building is mounted on a steel framework.
We liked the extravagant colouring and plasterwork on the old cinema, now a bingo hall.
Yesterday (Friday) we cruised up the River a few miles through two of the four locks on the Weaver.
You don't meet vessels like this on the canals! Needs a bit of TLC though.
We moored Friday night at Vale Royal and this is taken when we went out for a walk nearby. This peaceful scene is from Newbridge, a little further up the river.
You don't often see this sign!
Today (Saturday) we have cruised up to the navigable limit and back past the Anderton Lift to go downstream towards the Mersey.
Here is the Salt Mine referred to on the sign above. It has winding gear but all enclosed presumably to keep the salt out of the weather.
We think this must be salty spoil from the mine. Certainly nothing was growing on it. You can see the size of it from the trees behind.
At the official end of the navigation at Winsford there are two bridges over the River. However if you cruise under these and a little further you come out on Winsford Bottom Flash, a large lake. Some of the lake is too shallow for us, so we went cautiously but venturing out here feels quite adventurous and we managed to get back safely this time.
Here we are out on the wide open waters of the Flash. Having found (by dipping with a pole) that it was a lot deeper on the left (East) side perhaps we'll go a little further next time, but enough adventure for today.
Ian is turning round to watch Pas Mèche which has turned round already. We went a little further but not far.
Now we are back on the proper navigation and the curious huge pile in the background is probably salt again but covered with plastic sheeting to keep it dry.
The River Weaver navigation was built to take small ships to the many industrial sites on its banks. The Wharf shown here gives an idea of the scale of the activity at one time. Nowadays there is no commercial traffic on the River or at least we have seen none.
We intend to stay on the River Weaver for a few days, travelling down to Weston Marsh where there is a lock that gives access out onto the Manchester Ship Canal and thereby to Manchester, Liverpool and the River Mersey. You need special clearance to go on the Ship Canal so we are not doing that this time, but we plan to go back up the Anderton Lift on Wednesday.
After that our plans have yet again been thrown into disarray as not only is the Rufford Branch of the Leeds and Liverpool closed (this gives access to the Ribble Link and the Lancaster Canal) but also a building has collapsed next to the canal into Manchester so that is closed too. We are thinking about our options at the moment, so watch this space. We might turn left at the top of the Lift or we might turn right. Never a dull moment.