This morning, we had more visitors. Our friend Nicola with her son Ewan, whom we haven't seen for the best part of a year. Ewan has cerebral palsy, and this was to be his first trip on a boat. Before we set off, Adrian popped into the village to go to the bakery, and also visited the market, which was right opposite the boat, where he bought a couple of pies we'll have for dinner this evening.
Ewan seemed to like boating, feeding the swans, and watching other boats we passed. The family lives just a stone's throw from the canal near Grappenhall, but when we got there they flatly refused to get off, and insisted we take them on to Stockton Heath from where they'd walk home. There werre some tiny mushrooms growing on the towpath next to where we moored.
Once there, we spent a couple of hours chatting over tea, coffee, and toasted tea cakes. It was great to see Nicola and Ewan, who really are pretty special.
Setting off again, the sun made every effort to come out, and we made good progress on this relatively wide and deep canal.
As we travelled along, we considered further the forecast for Monday, the day we'd planned to do the Ship Canal. If anything, the forecast has worsened, with winds of 28mph forecast. That would be well outside what we could cope with. Delaying until Tuesday didn't look like an option, as the forecast is only a little better. We also thought about ditching the Ship Canal altogether. Then Adrian wondered whether we could go tomorrow instead - so I started making phone calls. Everything needs to be booked 48 hours in advance, so each of the three parties involved (the Ship Canal Company, CRT, and the local council) would have been well within their rights to say no. But they we all excellent, pulled out all the stops, and agreed that we could do the trip tomorrow afternoon. We're booked out of Western Marsh Lock at 3pm.
Then we had to make sure we could get there on time! We decided we'd make an effort to get to Anderton this evening, so we could get an early slot on the lift tomorrow, giving us plenty of time to get to the lock. It means we won't be able to do all of the River Weaver, but something had to give.
So we continued past the distinctive tower of the Daresbury research lab, with the Runcorn water town on the opposite side.
We arrived at Preston Brook tunnel at just the right time (entry southbound is for ten minutes from the half hour, and a boat tied up waiting waved us through. At the stop lock just beyond, the difference in water level is so slight that it was difficult to tell whether the lock was full or empty.
Now back on the Trent and Mersey we passed the site of the Dutton breach, where there was just one boat moored. There are superb views across the valley.
We had to wait a few minutes for the timed Saltersford Tunnel, which is ridiculously bendy. It's only 424 yards long, but you can't see from one end to the other. You actually have to steer round corners!
Barnton Tunnel is a little longer, and you can just see through - although not until your nose is virtually in the tunnel.
We've found a good mooring spot opposite Anderton Marina. We'll get fuel and a pump out tomorrow in preparation for our Ship Canal trip, then wind and go back to the lift. Tomorrow is going to be quite a day!
18 miles, 1 lock. (203 miles, 117 locks)