A cold night – a blue morning.
No need to hurry off, not planning to go very far... So, after several more old working boats had chugged past, returning from the Ellesmere Port Easter Boat Gathering, Cleddau was made ready to set off: TV mast and phone aerial dismantled, washing machine in action, side hatch closed and a second coat of blue paint on the repaired bollard. Extra clothing layers were donned and the two close together Church Locks tackled.
Downhill. Then comes Halls Lock, quickly followed by the Lawton Triple Locks. Two hire boats, both with large crews, were met.
At the top of the Triple Locks an energetic young woman shouted over that a lady was selling jams and marmalades further down the locks – and she’d bought plum jam for her porridge. Aah – this is a familiar figure to the Cleddau crew, last time we met she’d raised £13,000 for the Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital.
It was while heading out of a lock across the pound towards her that a Monkton Moment occurred. Long-term readers might recognise this term and this occasion was fairly typical. A boater announced:
“I know the Cleddau river. It’s near my home – Narbeth.” Well, well, Narbeth was mentioned on the radio last night, its museum shortlisted for a national prize. So, this was the first Monkton Moment of 2013, a recognition that Cleddau has a link to Pembrokeshire!
There was a scrabbling with gloves and purse and then a purchase made – chutneys. Now the lady’s donations have reached £15,000 and she has added home-sewn aprons to her wares.
On then to Rode Heath. “Are you sure about those figures?” boaters knowledgeable about the Red Bull to Wheelock stretch of the Trent and Mersey might ask. Surely there aren’t 10 locks between Church Lawton and Rode Heath... there aren’t, but if you want to turn round and you can’t manage it in the Rode Heath winding hole it’s another two locks down and two locks back up to accomplish what you came to Rode Heath to do (in this case, to post a letter and a card!) There is a winding hole here, about half way along the towpath beside the open green slopes which are Rode Heath Rise. A small plastic boat was moored very close to the turning area, a pair of swans was busy creating a nest where
the bow needed to go – and the wind was making precision turning very difficult... the manoeuvre was abandoned and the boat was moved on, down through Upper and Lower Thurlwood Locks to turn some way beyond. Was that manoeuvre any easier? Hardly, much silted mud was stirred up, it took an age – and the Captain’s Nicholson’s map book flew off the back hatch and into the murky waters... Then followed the cruise back to Rode Heath via the two Thurlwood locks and a battle with the wind to tie up but by early-afternoon the mail was in the post.During past cruises Boatwif has gazed curiously over Rode Heath Rise.
Now she knows it falls steeply down to Lawton Brook which races along the valley bottom and where children paddle and play in the summer.
Forty years or so ago a conveyor stood there, a relic of the salt works.
One more boaty tale: on Friday the boat moored in front of us (a wooden-hulled narrow boat built in 1969) is to be craned out of the water and driven to Leeds.
Its new owner (“the four best and the four worst days of my life”) was transferring it from Burton-on-Trent and the Dutton breach has affected his planned route. “Arm and a leg it’s going to cost me,” he said, dolefully. Maybe the replacement Nicholson map book for the Captain won’t seem so expensive after all...
(Tomorrow: back uphill to the Macclesfield Canal, to moor on the Poole Aqueduct or at Ramsdell Hall Railings)