Hawksemore Bridge to Ssshhh! Secret Bunker
Full waterproofs on to start the day, the mile to the top of the Audlem flight was a damp one. Our newly re-waterproofed coats seemed to be repelling rather than soaking the moisture up luckily. As we approached a boat was just coming up the final lock of the flight of fifteen and a boat pulled out from the moorings behind us.
There is a cake stall at the top lock, the Bakewell Slices and Lemon Drizzle looked especially good. If we’d been coming up the flight they would have been a worthy reward, but we’d not even started, so we were good and started the flight without a purchase. The chap from the boat behind NB Ed’sabout (presumably Ed) came to help close gates on the first lock. We had a bit of a chat as his boat suggested that he was from York. A single hander, he’d been hoping to be able to meet boats on their way up to make his life easier, not follow one down. But we’d help where we could by lifting a paddle to refill a lock for him.
This we did at the second lock. A pause whilst another single hander in a cruiser came up the next two locks. He had left Nantwich yesterday and was hoping to reach Rugeley by the end of Sunday, his wheel house meant that his boat was too tall for Harecastle Tunnel. He’ll have had his work cut out as Canalplan suggested it would take him 27hours to do the journey and the wind picking up later in the day won’t have helped him.
We got into our rhythm of me going ahead to set the next lock whilst Mick set the one above going. At a few locks I went back after we’d closed the gates to lift a paddle to fill it for Ed, but when I could see a boat ahead I had to refrain. Most of the lock beams are grey along the main flight which meant that one grey boat coming up disappeared, I only spotted their crew when they were a couple of locks below us. I warned them about the paddles I’d left up, it looked like Ed was in one of them so they shouldn’t have been a problem to them.
Many of the bottom gate beams have had an extra piece of wood added to them. This is because people, like us, us a boat hook to close one of the gates from their boat as they come down, single handers most probably close both of them this way. Over time the beams must have needed some reinforcement where they get prodded.
After the first few locks the drizzly rain had stopped and layers needed removing before we over heated. We passed a few boats on the way up which meant not all the chambers had to be reset. Between Locks 11 and 12 there is quite a big pound, so we decided to pull in to go shopping as there was a gap. A boat was heading up towards us and a member of their crew was walking with windlass in hand. It was fairly obvious to leave the gates open for them, but the chap at the helm beeped his horn and waggled his arms around in the air as though he was making an attempt to take off! They very kindly told us that they’d told the boat coming up behind to leave the gates for us at the next lock, except we hadn’t wiggled our arms about and we were pulling in. Once moored up I went and closed the gate.
We’ve moored up in Audlem before to pick up a bit of shopping, normally I remember such places better than Mick, but today I had very little recollection of the pretty village. We checked out the independent shops first, buying a paper and a couple of burgers, we’d just missed Boots for some more allergy pills (the horse flies are in abundance this year) and then we picked up everything else we wanted from the Co-op.
Lock 12 has a serious bywash below it. I helped a boat down whilst waiting for our turn and the lady put the boat into full steam ahead to try not to get pushed right over, but that just wasn’t enough and both her bow and stern biffed the side, followed by biffing the arch of the bridge. When our turn came the bywash looked like it had been turned off with only a trickle coming down, so Mick stopped Oleanna in the mouth of the lock and pushed the offside gate closed before pootleing through the bridge totally unbiffed. The trick must be to time your entrance or departure from the lock when there is no-one operating the lock above.
We dropped down the next lock and pulled in to fill with water as another boat came towards us saying they’d kindly left the gates open. A single hander was following us again (a different one) so instead of watching a hose for half an hour I headed down to help at the lock and he made use of the open gate. I ended up being a volunteer at the lock, helping four boats through whilst waiting for our tank to fill. Mick eventually brought Oleanna up alongside some moored boats trying to keep away from a two week old Andy Russell paint job, but the wind wasn’t being kind so in the end we were waved on by the boat that should have been next.
At Lock 15, the last in the flight, there used to be George’s Pork and Poultry. Back in 2012 there was a small gazebo next to the little hut selling produce grown around the lock, eggs and sausages and burgers. We followed them on facebook for a while as they were wanting to have electricity installed to run fridges and freezers for their produce. But all went quiet in 2014. Today there is no gazebo, the vegetables growing seemed to be thriving, but no shop to buy anything. On the hut door there are signs about the community garden and would anyone like to adopt the lock. Such a shame.
Still a bit early in the day so we carried on along through the green rolling fields of Cheshire. The barbecue moorings were nearly deserted as we passed, not an ideal day for getting the charcoal out as the wind was getting quite blustery. We pulled in just before Hack Green locks near to the Sssshhhh! Secret Bunker and gave Tilly a couple of hours of freedom. I would tell you where I got to, but I’d have to kill you! The last two nights she has obviously got engrossed with something and not made her whereabouts known, despite all the calls. In the end I thought I’d try ringing her dinner bell and within a couple of minutes she returned for food. Not convinced this will work everytime, but it’s worth a try.
The evening has been spent gradually closing more and more windows as the wind got more and more blustery. Technical support from Mick has meant my mobile has been backed up for a factory reset. It has been playing up over the last few weeks, not holding it’s charge and even forgetting that it’s been charged. So after a suggestion from a chap at a lock today we are trying a factory reset to see if that encourages it. If it doesn’t work then tomorrow we’ll be able to stop at Nantwich to hopefully get it sorted.
15 locks, 7 more helped with, 5.45 miles, 4 layers too many, 3 single handers, 1 impressed walker, 1 cyclist going back and forth, 0 volunteers, 2 Audlem burgers, 1pm closing for Boots, 1 full water tank, 0 rubbish, 1st brambles ripening, 1 secret mooring, 2 treat chilled medications, 2000+ photos backed up, 1 factory reset, 1 furry cold war spy!