4th July 2012
A reasonably early departure and a slow journey across the Pennines (by road) saw us at the boat by late morning. It was raining most of the way, but got heavier as soon as we had finished loading the provisions. The next exercise was where to leave the car safely and, once left, how to get back to Python. We decided to take the car to Church Minshull and arranged to leave it in the pub car park some 5 minutes walk from the canal. There is an Arriva bus every half hour back to Northwich and it was a little over a mile from there to walk back to the boat No problem except the rain was relentless and we got a taxi in the end.
After setting off from Middlewich, the first lock on this deep section of the Trent and Mersey was wide, but there was no boat to share it. Strangely the next locks were narrow and boats appeared from all directions especially at Wardle Lock where quite some interest was shown in Python. Despite all the rain, the Middlewich to Barbridge stretch was slow going and we bottomed under several bridges.
The Badger, where we left the car, turned out to be excellent for food and drink and reasonably priced too.
Thursday 5th July
This was to be the second and last day of car moving. We made our way back from Audlem via Crewe and Nantwich, courtesy of Arriva and Cheshire County Council sponsored buses, finally casting off mid morning. Once again it was dull with some light rain and there was very little traffic on the move after we had turned onto the Chester section at Barbridge and away from the Cheshire Ring.
Our proposed stop at Beeston Castle was reached in good time and we moored in open countryside beyond where Michael showed what could be done with a single gas ring and a small one at that. The food was great.
Friday 6th July
It rained heavily all day and we gave up on Chester and pressed on to Ellesmere Port.
The water cascaded off the hills ran along the towpath and finally discharged into the canal along much of the route.
The museum staff welcomed us and tied us up to the FMC (Fellows, Morton & Clayton) boat Ferret for the night. We later found out that Ferret was sinking and has to be pumped out every day!
Some friends of the Clayton tar boat Spey were working overtime and we were treated to the starting up and running of her 20hp Bolinder engine which has a 200mm bore piston and is started by a blowlamp. It turned out that they knew about the CCT boat Python and the New Dawn project and we had a useful conversation
Saturday 7th July
A much better day with sunshine and the odd shower.
We walked down to the ship canal and saw a fair sized ship pass by empty.
I was impressed by all the conservation work which had been carried out in sympathy with the canal village. A far cry from my last visit many years ago.
Having walked round the canal village while waiting for the museum to open, we came upon a boarded up pub with the usual metal sheeting over the windows. Michael commented on the fact that there were pint glasses on the tables outside. Mystifyed we asked a local walking his dog who knew a lot about the history of the Port. He said the pub was still open and the busiest in town!
The museum was very enjoyable and full of interesting exhibits particularly Joseph Skinner’s horse boat Friendship and the starvationer boat from Worsley mine. Outside there were several interesting craft including Bigmere from Kelloggs Ferret, Mendip Stour.
Sadly many of the boats were leaky and in need of some TLC.
We spent some hours there before visiting the excellent café and exchanging CCT info. for Museum pamphlets at reception.
We then went in search of the remains of Dawn (a Cuckoo boat) and found some likely ‘knees’. Dawn was scrapped here some 4 years ago.
With a promise to help us with New Dawn we said our farewells and set off back to Chester.
This section was almost as quiet as the Chesterfield and the wildlife was amazing.
Sunday 8th July
Sunshine and showers again and many moored boats linear and in marinas typified this section back to Barbridge Junction.
We got to Nantwich in good time and met Sue Cawson with Thea who had towed Saturn from Northwich.
Thea visited Retford and Worksop last year but could not get through Stret Lock. She allocated us a mooring at Audlem and offered to move Python for us before the festival.
Later we ventured into Nantwich in pouring rain and found the Black Lion a wonderful half timbered pub full of Chesterfield sofas food and real ale.
Michael soon introduced us to the locals and we had a good time.
Monday 9th July
More sunshine and showers and a short trip saw us at the bottom of Audlem locks where a very kind lady with a fruit and veg stall (which we had patronised earlier) lent us a trolley to drag our belongings along the soggy towpath back to the car.
After a meal in the Shroppie Fly and a visit to the Mill we were homeward bound after an interesting few days.
Michael Edwards and Richard Allsopp.