Yesterday it has to be said was not a good one. Frayed tempers and lowered pounds and a cold wind did not add up to happy cruising. It looked as if today was going to start where yesterday left off, but then, lo, the sun came out and all was cheerfulness again. We'd set off at seven (and put in ten hours before stopping in time for tea), negotiated a few more big locks and Bunbury (where no one got confused this time and we two boats going up executed rather a nice shuffle with one coming down), and buy the time I was making sandwiches for an early lunch, having made tea and porridge on the move, hard captain that I am, we were turning onto the Middlewich Branch.
We've not been here before, and it was lovely - so glad we didn't change our minds about coming this way. The fields full of dandelions that we saw on the way down are now fields of perfect dandelion puffs, the air thick with a snow of their seeds. We passed beautiful bluebell woods, a haze of blue. The view through the trees over the fields and flashes was breathtaking. I don't understand Cheshire; the more you descend, the wider the vistas and the bigger the views.
We tied up on the towpath just short of bridge 29 (or possibly 30). All along here there are (small, floppy) signs saying the towpath is closed for improvement works, and I wasn't sure whether we were meant to moor there, but the signs weren't very big or insistent, and there isn't anywhere else as there is alot of improvement going on. I chap on a little roller or something similar came rolling along and I thought he was going to tell us to bugger off, but he just wanted to ask about the boat. The towpath along here is lovely, covered in wild flowers and with lots of moorings with picnic tables and barbecue stands, thanks to the Shropshire Union Canal Society, who seem to be really active and to do good stuff. They also managed to keep sending us their rathr lush newsletter for years after we stopped sending them a membership subscription.
Jim used our newly acquired First Mate guide to go and find the shops and most importantly a cashpoint while I waited for Liam on Ariel to catch up and sell us some diesel, and sought expert advice on the pubs of Middlewich. So many, and yet not a mention in the Good Beer Guide. Well, apparently there's a reason for that, so we stayed on the boat (well, the towpath) and enjoyed the lentils I started cooking at lunchtime. Here is a brief recipe interlude: Impromptu Lentil Curry. Take half a small pack of lentils. Add two tins of tomatoes and chop them up. Add a good dollop of HP sauce that you found in the back of the table cupboard and a sprinkling of black pepper. Cook slowly on the stove top for an afternoon, then go to Tescos and buy some curry powder. Add two teaspoons of this and serve with naan bread. It was jolly good and some much needed healthiness. Now all I need is some fruit.
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