Heartbreak Hill


Now that we are happily cruising again, our plan is to head south and east, to be closer to Suffolk. Our planned destination is affected by the start of the winter stoppages, and I hate to say it but they are only 5 and a bit weeks away. Looking at the map is a bit nerve wracking. I haven’t got enough fingers and toes to count the number of locks before the Harecastle tunnel. I am reliably informed this section is known as Heartbreak Hill. Although as we awoke all was peaceful and calm so we could never have guessed what was ahead of us.

Early morning opposite Bramble cutting

After leaving the Anderton lift, we’d aimed for Bramble cuttings, a picnic area just for boaters, but apparently you stand more chance of winning the lottery that getting a mooring here, hence we knocked in the pins opposite, and just enjoyed the aroma of BBQ drifting our way. We were 15 miles from the tunnel and there were 35 locks to pass through. Having languished in a marina for 6 weeks, our beautifully toned bodies were showing signs of neglect so we decided to spilt the journey over a few days. From here we went through Middlewich.

Middlewich

I would have liked to stop to explore this area dominated by its canal trade and the junction of the Shropshire union. But we wanted to get on before the weather broke.

The junction of the Shropshire union canal on the left


We had an enjoyable days cruise, just 9 locks pleasantly spaced out, until we reached Rookery moorings just south of Ettiley Heath, out in the middle of nowhere, perfect.

Early morning at Rookery mooring


It’s just a short distance from the real start to Heartbreak Hill at Wheelock, 26 single locks over 6 miles. To help the old working boats a twin lock was added to most of the locks meaning two boats could travel up or down at the same time. Harder work for the navvies that built the canal but much easier for the boater, and also potentially saves on water.

Wheelock bottom lock, the start of Heartbreak Hill

Sadly in this day and age only half of the twins have been maintained, but it wasn’t a problem because there wasn’t too much canal traffic and although most of the locks were set against us, all the traffic going up hill had naturally spaced out so no queues, or feeling the need to rush because someone was waiting. And of course we’d been blessed with glorious weather.

Guess who’s doing all the hard work

And as always we take great pleasure when we cruise underneath a motorway, the M6 this time.

Under the M6

And an overnight stop at Hassall Green. It was a treat to find ourselves moored up with fellow bloggers on Cleddau, always nice to put faces to names.

Plenty of mooring for an overnight stop at Hassall Green

Another morning and another promising day,

And another promising day, that’s Cleddau infront of us

I’d miscalculated last night at thought we’d done 12 locks but I think it was only 10, leaving 16 left, but hey this has to beat commuting into the office.

It’s a hard life

Not surprisingly we were fit to drop as we neared Kidsgrove, But looking back we would do it all again, it’s a beautiful section of the canal.

But the views are worth it

Then to put the icing on the cake, our son Tim arrived by train to help us through the last few locks. I emailed CRT to book our passage through the tunnel, (an extra necessity thanks to Covid) but to our horror although I asked for a slot after 10am the only spaces left were at 8am. Poor Tim, he didn’t get much scintillating conversation after tea, cause we both fell asleep.