The run up the 26 locks from Wheelock to Kidsgrove is never dull, the paired locks always add interest and of course it’s always a guessing game which ones will be closed this time.
Edit: This trip took place over a few days in November 2022, starting in Wheelock on a Sunday afternoon, then moving at first light each day, before settling down at my desk to work.
I was involved with the Cheshire Locks Project a decade or so ago, which campaigned to get the closed locks reopened. Indeed I built the website on the link. We did have some success and at one point all the locks that were capable of being open – without fully fledged restoration – were navigable again. We even explored one of those closed locks – Church Lock 47 – with a group from the Waterway Recovery Group to see how feasible it would be to do with volunteers. Sadly the answer was not what we wanted. The whole lock needed to be rebuilt as the walls were only held apart with the acrow props we had replaced as part of the project. We eventually concluded that Lock 51 was the most restorable, but even that was a huge project and the ambitions of the project were scaled down. A group of volunteers running jointly under the banner of the local IWA Branch and TMCS does a good job of looking after tidying and painting the flight but sadly a number of locks have closed with assorted problems.
To add to the fun on this climb, the grass-cutting team had just been through and deposited most of the cuttings into the… umm… cut. The constant need to reverse the prop to get a decent amount of drive became very boring after a while. Conversely they don’t seem to have been at all interested in dealing with some of the larger saplings growing at the water’s edge. It’s not all that long ago that nothing was allowed to grow or obstruct more than a few inches above towpath level between the wet bit and the centre of the towpath, but this seems to have been forgotten in recent years. I fear that the sight I saw on the Droitwich a few years ago where the canal was literally not visible from the towpath because of the number of huge reeds, shrubs and the like may become the norm elsewhere. Life may well be “Better By Water” as CRT like to say, but you need to be able to see the water to be sure. I wonder whether the volunteers might fancy a towpath walk with a bow saw and pair of loppers next month?
The photos show a few of the highlights of the trip, including a couple of glorious sunrises and sunsets. Late November may be chilly but it can be stunning. What a shame I didn’t see a single other boat on the move, all the way up the flight.