We said goodbye to the Kinnings and Blue Pearl on Thursday morning because they intended to make their way down the Shroppie, whilst were heading south using the Trent and Mersey Canal. We shall miss their company after 12 enjoyable days boating. However, they did follow us down the Middlewich Branch as far as Aqueduct Marina before waving goodbye. The weather was, in Scottish terms, dreich.

Cholmondeston Lock, the first on the branch, was busy and we had a queue of around three boats ahead of us. Getting into the lock was made difficult by a fibre glass cruiser abandoned on the moorings closest to the lock – why do people do it!

Pearsons guide for the Middlewich Branch sings its praises. I have to say that in the drizzle it was still possible to understand why. The views from the embankments and aqueducts are stunning, particularly over the River Weaver.

Church Minsell from the Middlewich Branch, SUC

At Stanthorne Lock, close to  Middlewich Albert stalled approaching the lock landing. It turned out that we had “picked up a blade full”. A quick trip down the weed hatch revealed a mass of reeds and baler twine - strong stuff.

At Wardle Lock Middlewich we found the historic boat Elizabeth moored up. The length between the Trent and Mersey and Wardle Lock is the Wardle Canal. It is celebrated by an inscription on the Bridge by the junction and at 154 feet is Britain's shortest canal. It was the canal equivalent of a ransome strip when the Shropshire Union was operating commercially.

Historic Leisure Boat Elizabeth

Unfortunately Maureen Shaw's cottage at the junction had been vandalised followed her death. It would be a great pity if it was to deteriorate too far. Let’s hope it becomes a home again.

We had been having some troubles with the recirculating pump on our Aldi gas central heating – rattling and poor circulation. I had rung ahead and Kings Lock  had obtained one for me. We stopped to pick it up as we turned onto the Trent and Mersey. Mooring was tricky on their wharf because there was a disabled boat on their moorings. As we filled with diesel a boater informed us that he was going down the lock and intending to turn down the Middlewich Branch and he had opened the gates of Wardle Lock. The boat turned out to be NB Oak. The boat is well known to us because it was moored alongside Albert at Bradford-upon-Avon when we bought her. She has a sumptuous fit out in oak, of course, and is Gardner powered. She also shares several features with Albert, notably a cupboard in well deck. The first owners of both Albert and Oak were close friends and they split a pair of 1930s brass car headlights for tunnel lights.

The new owners were really sold on the boat because of the quality of its fit out. We were equally impressed when we went on board Oak back in 2003.

NB Oak leaving Kings Lock Middlewich

We moored up for the night just south of Kings Lock on the visitor moorings. Although we had moored there before, it is not exactly one of our favourite moorings because of the near proximity of a main road. However, with the coal fire going and the convenience store opposite we were happy.