Summer 2011 was wet and I picked it to show off the canal system to Canadian family. It was the first real canal boat holiday I’d arranged myself and, despite the weather, confirmed I had a serious case of the narrowboat bug.
And the morning of our first full day was WET!
Day 2: Nantwich to Wheelock via Middlewich, Cheshire (Shropshire Union Canal Middlewich Arm to Trent and Mersey Canal)
Wet! Actually not a typical British summers day as I remember them; much wetter!
We were up early, at least me and Aldo were and a welcome cooked breakfast and espresso rose-tinted the gathering storm clouds. But by the time we got to Barbridge, the junction with the Middlewich Arm of the Shroppie, it was throwing it down!
Different degrees of wet weather
This and the likes of ‘Raining cats and dogs’, ‘Raining stair-rods’ and ‘Black over Bill’s Mother’s’ is amongst the many regional sayings for the weather being ‘a bit damp’. Or as the Irish put it quite poetically, ‘it’s a grand soft day, thank God’ for when it’s not actually pissing, hooring, throwing or pelting down! It’s called the Emerald Isle for a reason.
Most would not lump the occupants of these British Isles together as the same people but we often shelter under a common roof when it comes to the weather. And Aldo was experiencing this tie-that-binds as officially the first time he had deliberately got wet with his clothes on! Even the yellow Sou’wester wear didn’t stop us getting proper soaked.
New found helmsman skills
The poor conditions notwithstanding, Aldo negotiated the full right turn onto the Arm with considerable skill. We kissed the bank with more than a peck on the cheek, but he skilfully avoided hitting any of the two lines of moored boats and disturbing the snug and dry occupants. Once on the way to Middlewich, the clouds attempted to thin and we even saw glimpses of the sun; now we could get away with the occasional use of the brightly coloured ladies fold away umbrellas to stay dry (we vowed to find more manly equipment as soon as was feasible).
We drifted across the rural Cheshire Plain to our second lock of the day just before Middlewich junction, another sharp right-hander onto the Trent and Mersey canal. Someone at least as inept as we were had parked immediately opposite the junction, a no-no in any Highway Code. Once again Aldo’s ability at the helm came through and a heavy “full astern!” swung us round, albeit at the expense of nearly drowning occupants of the tow-path behind us!
We slid into the next lock and up onto the T&M heading south, missed the poorly marked water point (we’d been told to fill up every day as the weight would keep Henry’s nose down and help with maneuverability – what did they know?!), dodged another shower and sailed southward.
Any watering hole in a storm
This was a long day, the trip took us 9 hours with 9 locks. There’s an advertised water point just south of Middlewich junction on the Trent & Mersey, as you exit Kings Lock (as I recall), so it’s easy to miss.