Saturday, 30 September 2017

Climbing Heartbreak Hill

200 years apart: M6 motorway and C19th canalway. I know which I prefer
They call the long miles of locks that climb out of the Cheshire plains 'Heartbreak Hill' and when you've spent two days in the rain working your way up the Cheshire Locks you can understand why.
We are heading south west towards Stoke on Trent and the Midlands and the locks have been coming steadily: a flight of nine; a short gap, then a couple, then another couple and just when you feel like a breather, a flight of five.
But, oddly enough, I enjoy these locks. Most are twinned so a boat can go up one while another goes down the other. That means fewer queues on a busy canal. They're handsome locks, too, as the canal climbs among the smooth fields and oak trees of Cheshire's prime cattle country.
Money well spent? More towpath becoming high speed cycleway
Though it's a main canal route it's been six years since we've used it and its details had slipped from both our minds. But every so often, a bend, a building, a lock brought back a memory of our last trip. The saddest I recalled immediately we neared it was at Wheelock Wharf where we had been filling with water when a shocked girl walked up and said: "Amy Winehouse is dead!" Six long years ago; it's hard to believe.
Tonight we are moored up, 25 locks up the climb, at Church Lawton - a spot I can barely recollect but Vicky remembers vividly - "there's a big house, a church and a graveyard with a boater's grave." Between our memories we could probably recollect a whole canal.
The last six locks today were done in pouring rain but as we settled in the warm with a cuppa I could only feel sorry for the two wet crew slowly towing a broken down hire boat back to its base at Middlewich: only 25 locks to go, lads.

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