To Vale Royal Cut (5 April)

It was fairly obvious that we would enjoy the Anderton Lift but today we found out just how great the River Weaver is, and now I can safely say we're fans of both.

Tonight we are moored up at what Pearson rates as "one of the most idyllic moorings on the inland waterways network". He refers to Vale Royal Cut. The spring sun is setting but this afternoon we have seen grebes, cormorants, kingfisher and heard a woodpecker drumming. The wild flowers under the trees are beautiful with carpets of wood anemones, celandines, and violets.

We started the day by going down the lift. The kind operators of the lift met us on the towpath, got us a skipper's pack and explained the process to us. All very professional but with the added feature that one of the operators was being trained and therefore we got a very full explanation. We were the only boat going down.

Entering the Anderton Lift Aqueduct

We entered the aqueduct and looked down onto the river. Fifty foot looks a long way when you see it straight down. They then penned us into the aqueduct holding area, filled the gap between the caisson doors and the aqueduct doors with water, raised the gates, and then let us into the caisson. We moored onto hooks on the side of the caisson and then the doors closed behind us.

Looking out over the River Weaver

Entering the caisson the Anderton Lift

View of underside of caisson showing the hydraulic piston

Because we were the only boat going down we were able to moor up onto the outside of the caisson and get good views across the river. The water between the two sets of doors was then drained and shortly afterwards we began our descent. There was some juddering to start with but that soon stopped and we then had a very smooth descent. At the bottom another operator raised the guillotine gates and then we were off onto the wide expanse of the River Weaver. There was little current.

Leaving the Anderton Lift

We moored up for a cuppa on the lift visitor moorings and got our bearings. We decided to go upstream.

Albert on the visitor moorings, Anderton Lift

The river was very quiet and we didn't see another boat on the move until we got to Northwich where we moored up by the swing bridge. We shopped in Northwich and phoned Hunts Lock, our first upstream lock, to schedule our journey. The locks are large and operated manually by BW personnel. It was important to work out our schedule because the lock at Vale Royal has strict times for up and downriver locking. The locks all have quaint railway-style signals to indicate which lock is in use. We used Vale Royal large lock because the smaller lock is out of commission because of a bank slippage. Some serious civil engineering is going on to fix it with big hole in the ground. A fishy smell came from the empty lock because of the thousands of rotting freshwater mussels cling to its sides.

Empty small lock at Vale Royal

Vale Royal Locks, River Weaver

We managed a delightful evening walk around Hulse's Island which lies between Vale Royal Cut and the River Weaver.

Pool alongside River Weaver

River Weaver Navigation marker

Tomorrow we plan to go to the limit of navigation upstream and then go for a trip downstream. However, we will have to get out timing right to fit in with the Vale Large Lock timetable.