Middlewich – Acton Bridge.
Surprisingly another clear sunny morning, with an horrendous afternoon forecast, but couldn’t get away early because breakfast is 8am at weekends! Quick marching soon led me out of Middlewich and into rural Cheshire. The first few miles had the added attraction of the River Dane on the left, meandering at times up against the canal and then across the fields.Mock Tudor mansions with large well kept grounds were securely on the other canal bank. These expensive looking estates certainly were in prime settings – it is Cheshire – think footballers. A black mink slipped into the water next to this house. A kingfisher flashed by. As you can see from the picture starlings were doing what starlings do best, congregating in mass flight from the trees.This whole area was previously a vast salt mining site and subsidence has been a problem for the canal, in parts there are large flashes alongside creating a lake-like atmosphere. In some places the canal has had to be rebuilt altogether and the concrete sides stand out. You can see from the clouds the gathering storm.New marinas were being constructed further along and I wondered whether they were making use of these flashes.The established marinas were full of boats at this time of year.
Back to industry as I passed right through these chemical works and on past the old Lion Salt works which is now a museum. More of the canal’s industrial past came round the next corner in the shape of the famous Anderton Boat Lift. The River Weaver 50ft below navigates into the Mersey at Frodsham and originally salt and coal were sent down on chutes and inclines from the canal. As traffic increased the lift was designed and opened in 1875, working on a double hydraulic system until updated to electric at the beginning of the 20th century. It was declared structurally unsafe in 1983 but eventually has been restored, this time using a hydraulic oil system, and was reopened in 2002. An amazing feat of engineering.By now the threatened rain and wind had arrived but my saviour for the day was a great little cafe hidden away in their visitor centre which deserves a mention. What’s more is that they had a sale on in their bookshop. Looks a good trip here with the grand-kids when the lift is operating.
Two canal tunnels followed, the Barnton, 572yds and the Saltersford, 424yds, apparently some of the first attempts at canal tunnelling. They are both narrow and there is a rota system for boats to pass through, I of course went over as there is no towpath.Between the two is an idyllic basin where I came across this chap fishing in the pouring rain. I don’t usually find fishermen particularly chatty as they are concentrating on the line. My response from him when I tried to start a conversation was a terse “better than sitting at home”.
In a couple of miles I had completed the Ring at Acton Bridge, if I’d carried on a little further I might have come across the section of trekking pole I lost in January. Drying out over a drink in the nearby Leigh Arms i had time to contemplate this enjoyable four day canal walk. Full of interest both places and people, an insight into our industrial past, a good surface for walking at this time of year whatever the weather – all in all better than staying at home. On guard!