Well this was supposed to be a cruising blog, with regular updates, but it hasn’t quite worked out that way. According to my last cruising post we were somewhere around Cropredy having arrived there via the Grand Union from Ricky and a side trip to Hawkesbury en route.
So now Zulu is at home in Middlewich on her BW mooring just by Kings Lock below Middlewich Big Lock (thanks Dave!!). We arrived a couple of weeks ago via Coventry, Ashby, Birmingham, Stourbridge, Great Haywood, Stoke, Harecastle and have clocked up 354 miles and 338 locks since being relaunched at Winkwell all those weeks ago, and I have to say that for an old boat with old engine we have done it totally incident free, which gives me great confidence in the old girl.
Middlewich is not the most celebrated location on the waterways but has a special place in my memories as it was here, in 1975, that I first set foot on a narrowboat when the school canal society undertook its inaugural trip, from Middlewich to Llangollen. Willow Wren is long gone, but nobody will pass through Wardle lock without being greeted by Maureen who used to help run the old hire fleet.
The second thing I like about being at Middlewich is the growing reputation of the Middlewich Folk and Boat Festival which transforms the town every summer, and combines music, dance and canalia. I look forward to being here on my own boat next summer but this year we made it by car – the dates will be Friday 19th – Sunday 21st June 2009.
Middlewich has little else to celebrate. It is a working town based on salt mining still very much in evidence, and sadly no railway station. For canal visitors it has a pubs, allegedly a very good chip shop, various takeways and a general air of “may be getting better”, although it never quite seems to get there.
Our new moorings, on the other hand, are excellent. I had bid on the Mooring Tenders system without actually visiting, although I have passed the site many times before, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the old derelict land opposite was now being developed, and that behind our mooring are fields and woods separated from the path by a stream, and during our short time there literally dozens of dogs came past and said hello to Seth, who thinks we have arrived in dog paradise.
Just before arriving at Middlewich we passed some other very nice looking farm moorings, only to find Andante, my lovely old 32ft trad boat, originally sold to Sarah and now in the hands of the third new owner and renamed Saxon. She is still unmistakable and now in her new livery she has been given a lot of attention including shiny brass and gleaming paintwork. She certainly seems to have been given a new lease of life and I hope I may meet her new owners soon.
Without a station, Middlewich is not the most easy place to reach from our other home moorings down south, the choice between car or bus/train being made all the harder due to the crazy way which discounted rail fares appear while planning journeys. It can be anything from 10 to 100 pounds depending on which train and which method of searching you carry out. I will write more about this soon, as I have a number of proven methods of reducing train fares by breaking the journey down into smaller sections.
So with Zulu parked up safe and sound after so many hours of cruising I jumped in the car, turned onto the M6 and duly blew up the radiator before we had even reached Sandbach services. At times like this on a dark cold Sunday night, 150 miles from home, I was so thankful that I had renewed my breakdown cover and spent the next 4 hours dozing off in the cab of a RAC rescue truck. Incredibly the year’s RAC membership was half paid for by not using any petrol on the way home.
So our first day in Middlewich eventually ended on a high after all. I will be back on Zulu next weekend but for now I may use a few of these cold dark evenings to catch up on a bit of retro-blogging and fill in some of the gaps.