Branching Out

At the end of yesterday we came through Middlewich and joined the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal.  This is where our route south diverges from the route we used coming north.

So today we were on a new canal getting used to its quirks and characteristics.  The bridges were slightly wider than the boat and usually easy enough to see.  I suspect we could have come the whole length of the canal with the cover up at the back, but the bridges might have been just a little too exciting.  There was also at least one willow tree that would have had a swipe at us.

Fortunately the weather was kind to us so there was no need for the cover.  It was cool at the start of the day but gradually got warmer and brighter – my woolly hat came off and my sunglasses went on.

There were more boats moving than we’ve become used to.  At each of the locks we saw somebody arriving, leaving or both.  The locks are deep but fast filling.

Bartimaeus Entering a Lock
Clare Driving Bartimaeus in to a Middlewich Branch Lock

Sometimes fast filling narrow locks can throw a boat around.  Water rushing in from underneath catches the boat and slams it against the front of the lock.  One way to avoid this is to open the lock very slowly.  The other is to sit at the front of the lock while it is filling.  We did a bit of both.  These locks have a massive buffer in their lower section to act as a shock absorber.  Going down you have to be careful not to get the boat caught on it.

Shock Absorber in Lock
Bartimaeus Resting on the Shock Absorber

This branch is almost entirely rural – there are only a very small number of canal side gardens.  A few mooring spots had barbecue stands and spectacular views.  We dawdled through these today, but didn’t stop.  A kingfisher flew ahead of us at one point. We moored up for lunch where we’d seen it, but it didn’t return.

Lock Arm in Garden
Lock Arm Decoration in Canal Side Garden

Towards the end of the day we reached the junction and joined the Shropshire Union Canal mainline.  When we tried to moor up we were really pleased that we had bought our wheel fenders.  The edge of the canal has a sill, and even some quite large stones right at the edge.  With the wheel fenders deployed we are moored securely a foot out from the bank.

Underwater Obstacle behind Bartimaeus
Underwater Obstacle behind Bartimaeus