|Passing the massive Salt Union tower|
I have never seen so much salt. Mountains of the stuff piled up along the river bank for nearly a mile. Not the white stuff you sprinkle on your chips but the brown stuff councils sprinkle on your roads.
Winsford (not to be confused with Winslow or even Wilmslow) is the centre of the biggest salt mines in the country. These are so huge that there are whole roadways underground with heavy trucks and and array of vehicles driving around. In a previous life the car magazine I edited had a photo-shoot for half a dozen road test cars underground in the Winsford salt mines. They barely filled a corner.
|And even further past the tower, the works carry on|
|The mountains of rock salt - ready for a bad winter|
The huge 'Salt Union' tower comes into sight very quickly after leaving our Vale Royal moorings. These days the firm is called Compass Minerals but the emblematic name remains on the tower that kicks off the miles of workings leading into Winsford.
The Weaver kinds of peters out as it reaches the end of the officially navigable waterway. There's just a jetty outside the Red Lion pub big enough to hold a couple of narrowboats. To reach it you have to ignore the C&RT sign warning 'last winding point' a mile earlier. In fact there's easily room to turn the 55ft Harry at the pub, using the ropes to pull it round.
The Weaver runs on under two closely spaced road bridges into the 'Bottom Flash' where the water has spread out across a large lake formed by ground subsidence. It is possible to go into the Flash but there are plenty of warnings in the guides that it's shallow in places and with no-one around to pull us out, we decided to play safe and stay at the pub moorings. There's actually a decent set of council provided moorings in the Flash but whether we would have reached them, I really don't know.
|The Bottom Flash looking back towards the town|
|The spanking new moorings but how deep is the water|
A shame really for some positive encouragement to visit the town at the end of the line would be no bad thing. Salt may have been one of man's most valuable trading commodities over the years but that doesn't seem to have rubbed off on downtown Winsford.
|This is Winsford town centre - appealling, eh|
It's had the crude, seventies style new town treatment. The 'High Street' is now a motorway style dual carriageway and the town centre a low-rent shopping mall with the usual money-saving shops. But there's an Aldi and an Asda too so plenty of choice for boaters who do manage to moor.
After our explore around the town and the Flash we were having a quiet cuppa on board when a man in a wet suit and flippers turned up on the jetty along with his clipboard wielding sidekick. Was this some sort of water based licence checking? Turns out they were doing water level inspections on the bridge, measuring water depths across the river with a neat little hand held sonar torch (the sort of thing that could be handy for us when searching for a bankside deep enough to get Harry into) and checking the bridge pillars for cracks and movement. They are specialists in river bridges, apparently - this was their eighth today. Fortunately this one wasn't about to fall down.
|Our wet suited visitor paddles across to measure up the bridge|