Silence is Golden
I AWOKE early to the sound of silence, as a fantastic golden sunrise appeared from behind the trees across the water, stirring the swans and ducks from their slumbers. I opened the side hatch to gaze across the canal, the sun glinting off the water before slanting its amber-coloured rays across the reeds in the distance. It was just the first of many magical moments to come on our canal holiday. We’d done this sort of thing before, so knew what to expect when we arrived at the boatyard late one Monday afternoon in early spring. However, after stowing away our gear, we familiarised ourselves with the boat with the help of one of the friendly staff, who gave us some tips and pointers to see us through the next four nights.
Then we were off with me at the helm, the good ship Grey Partridge slowly making its way out of the marina, past the moored boats and into the slowly gathering twilight. Memories of our previous canal excursion, on the Worcester to Birmingham canal three years previously, came flooding back as we chugged along at a sedate pace through a rural utopia, to a stopping point recommended by our boatyard. Only a couple of hours later, in the gathering gloom, we were hammering in the mooring pegs and battening down the hatches in the middle of nowhere, or so it seemed. Good job we’d brought along some provisions for our first night. Settling ourselves down in the cosy interior after a meal cooked in the generously equipped galley, we were surprised at how good the reception was on the colour TV. Before long though we were comfortably in our beds. Next morning, whether because of excitement or just a keenness on my part to get moving, I was the first awake. Soon I was joined by the rest of my shipmates, my wife and her parents. Then we were off again. Armed with my trusty Pearson’s guide book we pulled away from the bank and headed along the Trent & Mersey canal towards the small town of Middlewich, ultimately aiming for the former Victorian spa town of Nantwich. But first came the locks. There’s always an air of anticipation when approaching a lock. The crew prepare themselves to disembark and the helmsman gets ready to ease the boat towards the towpath to let the crew off before teasing the 60ft craft through the gates. After a quick stop at Middlewich for a nosey around and to pick up more provisions, followed by lunch on board, a few more locks came and went before the canal headed back out into idyllic Cheshire countryside and some stunning scenery.
Thanks to our Pearson’s we’d already chosen our next overnight stop, the Barbridge Junction - where we’d join the Shropshire Union canal- mainly because it offered not one but two canalside pubs where we hoped to find good food and fine ales. We found both at the Barbridge Inn, only a short walk along a towpath packed with boats and across a bridge. Fortunately there were a few visitor moorings spare, clearly marked and with rings set in concrete to make parking the Partridge easier. The next morning promised another bright, clear day so it was on with the big push towards Nantwich. We made excellent progress and arrived in good time, deciding to head past while scanning for a suitable mooring before attempting to turn around . . . not easy in a canal boat that at 60ft was as long as the canal is wide! We found plenty of visitor moorings to choose from so secured the boat and headed into historic Nantwich for lunch and a spot of shopping, taking advantage of the local bakery to buy that night’s meal. But it was soon time to head back to Anderton, so using our Pearson’s and memory of what we’d seen on the way we decided to motor back to where the Trent & Mersey canal overlooked the pretty village of Church Minshull. Soon, following another comfortable night, the sun would set on our canal holiday for the last time, this time near the old Lion salt works.
It was a reminder that business not pleasure was the original reason for the canal system which criss-crosses huge swathes of the country. And after reluctantly handing the Grey Partridge back to the boatyard, we were all agreed . . . as far as pleasurable holidays in this country go, it was certainly the business.
BUY a canal guide such as a Pearson’s or Nicholson’s . . . it will help you plan your route.