Saturday, 17 August 2019

WaL day 20 ...5 miles, 22 locks, 6.5 hours ...

Tuesday (6th) was going to be a very busy day so it was another early wake up at Wheelock on the Trent and Mersey Canal ... we were on our way at 6:45 ... George on the tiller and me on lock duty.  The 22 locks that we're navigating today are often known to boaters as 'Heartbreak Hill' or to the boatmen of old 'The Cheshire Locks.
Arriving at the first lock of the day number 66 ... through flights of paired, and single uphill locks ...
 Watching What a Lark approaching ...

under bridge 152
Whilst George was bringing WaL up and out of the lock I'd walked on to the next one to turn it and open the tail gates then walked back to close the top gates ...

Passing WaL once again I'm now waiting at lock 64 ... another 'pair' where both lock chambers were full ...
with wide-open panoramic views ...

leading through the small hamlet of Malkins's Bank near Sandbach where the sun is doing it's best to break through the clouds
Historic working boats in a short arm as I walk on to the third lock of the day ...
Paired locks can be really useful on busy days with boats able to pass through quickly, up or down; the boater normally choosing the lock which is already in their favour.  The problem comes when there's suddenly a bottle-neck because one of the pair have been removed or unusable.  Here at locks 62 only the one is operable ...
from here I can see locks 61 just a short hop, skip and jump away and because it's so early (5 past 8) there are no other boats ... yet!

Here comes WaL now, passing the short arm where the working boats are moored and coming into the lock
I've closed the top gates of lock 59 as George is entering lock 60 where he says that he'll close the gates after exiting to save my legs, remembering to tie WaL off before stepping off her!
Looking back at WaL leaving the lock





as I arrive at locks 60 where both locks are empty so didn't require turning

There are stables at lock 59 and I wonder if they were once for the working boats' towing horses of the distant past
I can't see lock 58 from here and it's now 8:50 so once I've seen WaL through I'll re-board for a comfort stop ... for both of us!
Here he comes
I've got off the boat at bridge 148 and walked under the M6 to ...
locks 58 from where I can see the next pair and something caught my eye at the point where the bridge meets the water in the centre of the photo above ...
it's a pulsing spume of water caught in the sunshine!
Open gates and an empty lock 58 the heavy traffic is rushing past on the M6 motorway.

Only one working lock at 57 Hassell Green and this was where we meet the first moving boat today, coming downstream and since the chamber was full I signalled to George to wait while I opened the top gates and helped them through ...

WaL coming up lock 55 now and locks 56 are just through that bridge after which it's about half a mile to the next batch so I'm having a rest onboard with the tiller ...

George's pictures of donkeys and calves as we cruise   ...
to lock 54 where we're now meeting more boats coming towards us using the lefthand chamber to descend as WaL rises in the one on the right.

Looking back at 54 from lock 53 I can see that a boat is catching us up!
Here he comes again ...
and we continue to cruise through Rode Heath where I'm once again on What a Lark for about 20 minutes

It was 11:15 when we reached locks 52 where it was a busy scene and George has pulled onto the lock landing.  There are boats in both the locks ... on the left one has just come down and one is now going up, and on the right a boat coming down and George is waiting to take his place ...
I walked up to see what the situation was above lock 51 and could see that there wasn't another boat waiting to come down so decided that I would turn the lock when the current occupier departed and signalled my intention to George who started to bring WaL over the width of the canal to be ready to enter when the lock was empty and the gates open.

If you look carefully you can see WaL hiding behind the trees ... he was soon up and through the lock and we continued through lock 50 of the Lawton Treble Locks with me walking ahead after each lock.
Here I am looking down from lock 49 Halls Green Lock and there appears to be a bit of a stand-off ... due to the strong wind here the boat coming out (right) is unable to get the bow out into the channel and the green boat is having to hover ...
the steerer is trying to push the vessel into the stream ...





and eventually manages to be on his way

After helping the boat in the paired lock 49 down I can see George leaving lock 50.
Busy, busy!
I can see the Mow Cop folly tower from here which was built in 1754 by the Lord of the Manor as a summer house.  It is 355m above sea level with spectacular 360° views over the Staffordshire Moorlands and Cheshire Planes and now belongs to the National Trust.
George leaving lock 50 and another boat is coming down lock 49 and having the same problem as the previous boat with the gusting wind ...
but this steerer decides on a different tack and pull his boat off the side with his middle rope ...
In the meantime George lines WaL up to enter the empty lock
Phew! Lock 47 the last of the day where there is only one locking still working. It was nearly 1:30 pm by the time we were through and moored up ...

at Church Lawton
and could relax after what was a quite a gruelling cruise taking us up hill 256' or just over 78m.