Thursday, 24 July 2014

Three Canals and Mr Grumpy

The day started well but quickly deteriorated at the first lock which happened to be the last lock on the Shropshire Union Canal. Wardle Lock is at the western end of Wardle Canal. At 47 metres it’s the shortest canal on the network.  Apparently the Trent and Mersey Canal Company built Wardle Canal to prevent the Shropshire Union Canal from joining the Trent & Mersey Canal at Middlewich Junction.  The Trent & Mersey Canal Company then charged a toll on all boats using Wardle Canal.

Wardle Canal from the junction to the lock

The plaque on the bridge in the above photo shows the canal construction year as 1829.

We had Wardle lock turned against us twice!  We’d passed a boat coming towards us on the final approach to the lock but the crew of the hire boat below the lock closed the top gate and emptied it. Jan went forward but the hire boat crew exited the lock and closed the top gate.  Immediately the boater following them raised the bottom gate paddles empting the lock for a second time.  The boater behind us asked why we hadn’t gone into the lock and I explained it had been turned against us.  He then went forward to the lock and I heard raised voices.  Mostly from the boater in the lock.  Life is too short to get stressed about these things.  Although Jan; with her damaged wrist; declined to help them through the lock.  The boat crew departed the lock still voicing harsh words and leaving the top paddles up.

As we worked Waiouru down through Wardle Lock Jan went forward to the junction and advised the hire boat crew at the junction to wait until Waiouru had exited Wardle Canal.  Of course they didn’t!  When I exited the lock I found their boat square in the middle of the Junction pointing directly at Wardle Canal.  I don’t know how they expected me to turn left (or even right)!  Somehow I managed to squeeze Waiouru past them and the lady in the bow of the hireboat commented “You must have done this before!”  It was an interesting manoeuvre with my left hand on the throttle, right hand on the tiller and middle hand holding the mobile phone aerial down to prevent it striking the bridge arch.

We squeezed our way through the single lane where the first of the hire bases is located avoiding striking any of the moored boats.

Room for only one boat

As we approached Middlewich Top Lock a boat passed going in the opposite direction.  We’d have the lock.  But at the lock we could see someone turn it against us (again).  It appeared to be a solo boater but Jan subsequently discovered the lady was below “doing lunch”.  After assisting the boat up through the lock she and I started to work Waiouru down only to observe a person below empty the next lock.  We were both getting rather fed up with the situation and decided to wait in the lock until the boat below was ready to exit.  We then crossed in the pound only to observe the 3rd lock being emptied in front of us.  They must do things differently on the Trent & Mersey?

Below the three Middlewich locks is a water point and we took the opportunity to top up the tank.  The water point is located in the middle of a derelict CRT property.  There’s an old BW sign on the larger of the two derelict building advertising the site as a business opportunity.

My guess is they are both heritage listed and this is deterring interest on the part of local developers.

We cruised around the corner and moored adjacent to the children’s playground before walking to the local Lidl and Morrisons supermarket for essentials.  Back at the boat everything was stowed and lunch consumed.  We then headed for the final lock of the day.  Middlewich Big Lock is a broad lock capable of holding two narrowboats.  Why was it a broad lock when all the previous locks were narrow?

Big Lock from below

Jan applies pressure to the gate beam to avoid the lock collapsing! Smile

I assumed the lock was a double because the canal was constructed for wide boats.  But shortly after we departed the lock we crossed Croxton Aqueduct which was NARROW.  All very confusing until I read the current aqueduct replaced the original wide aqueduct.  It therefore appears the Trent and Mersey Canal was built for wide boats until just after Big Lock.

We continued on north mooring at one of the larger ‘flashes’ that can be found in these parts.

Tonight’s view out the side hatch window

‘Flash’ is the local term for a flooded subsidence.  These flashes are the result of salt mining in this area.  Salt was mined in the area for almost 2000 years.  A salt making house was apparently known a a ‘wyth’ (wich) and the local area has at least three towns with wich in their name (Nantwich, Middlewich & Northwich).  The salt was extracted from brine wells and the water removed in evaporation pens (pans).  Salt being very corrosive, there isn’t much to see of old salt extraction structures.


Peter and Margaret said...

Wardle lock is the location where in 2013 I was patiently waiting my turn among 3 boats waiting to go up - the other two were on the lock landing, I was on Kings Lock Chandlery landing having shopped there. During my wait a hire boat pulled into the water point, connected their hose and commenced lunch while they waited for it to fill. As my turn to enter the lock arrived, having been set by Margaret, the hire boat crew quickly packed up their lunch, disconnected the water hose, and promptly pinched my lock, moving straight in to the emptied lock with open bottom gates. Margaret, whose view was restricted from up there on the lock was most surprised it wasn't me entering, having been left stranded in the basin with nowhere to go. Like you, I accepted the situation without a murmur, but I can certainly see how lock rage starts.

Paul (from Waterway Routes) said...

Lock turning is mostly a problem for the six weeks of the school summer holidays. Normality will return in September but, until then, you need to make sure you stake your claim firmly to locks, water points and anything else you wish to use. It looks like Jan has been practising using her limited weight on balance beams - that (usually) stops them being closed in front of you.

Marilyn McDonald said...

I watched an owner pleasantly but firmly let a boat crew know they would be third in line for water after me and the owner yesterday morning. I was impressed. I am English enough to hate queue jumping and usually we (David - I'm steering but with him in spirit) will go and indicate our place in the lock queue. We also try not to let it bug us, but wasting water in a hot summer gets my goat. You are clearly a more patient and tolerant person than me, Tom!

Andy Healey said...

Good job you are not on the Llangollen! We are and have have seen some antics this week by hireboaters.

Tom and Jan said...

Hi Andy
It was one of the reasons why we decided to avoid the Llangollen during the school holidays! :-)