I am Linda and along with my husband Richard and our dog Muffin we enjoy our summers on the UK's canal system

Tuesday 4 October 2011

Monday 3rd October

A leisurely morning and some shopping then we headed upstream. The locks are double locks with one large one and one huge one! The lock keeper at the first set of locks (Hunts Locks) told me that the smaller of the locks puts 140,000 gallons of water down the river and the larger one 500,000 gallons! The second set of locks (Vale Royal Locks) is the top lock on the river is only using its enormous lock at present so works on a timed basis so that water isn’t wasted. It has to be one of the biggest locks I have ever been in - there was another boat in with us and we were tied up together but we still looked lost! The dimensions of the lock-chamber are 220' long x 42'6” wide, with 15' of water over the sills. The gates are still powered by water-driven Pelton Wheels though one of the lock keepers has to give it a helping hand nowadays. We carried on upstream to the Newbridge Swing Bridge where we thought we would have to turn round as the bridge was too low, but we inched along and got under with only the solar lights being knocked :-) As we went on we could taste salt and came across the Winsford Rock Salt Mine which is Britain's oldest working mine. It lies almost 200m under the Cheshire countryside and has a fascinating h istory. Rock salt was first found in Northwich in 1670 but it wasn’t until 1844, when prospectors were looking for c oal with which to heat saltpans, that rock salt was discovered in Winsford. During the late 19th century the salt industry descended into chaos due to over-capacity. In 1888, Salt Union, which consisted of 66 salt operators from the area, was formed in an attempt to bring order to the market. However, with salt also being supplied from the Northwich Mines, the market remained over-supplied. Despite having mined out some one million tonnes of rock salt, the Winsford Mine was shut down in 1892. In 1928 the last mine in Northwich flooded, resulting in the re-opening of the Winsford Mine. The mine re-opened with technology on its side and rapid expansion of the mine began in the 1950’s due to the use of rock salt to de-ice the country’s expanding road network system. It has since grown steadily and, today, the mine at Winsford now stretches 5km east to west and 3 km north to south. We carried on to Winsford where British Waterways relinquishes ownership of the river. We could have carried on into Winsford Flash but it is very shallow and we didn’t fancy finding ourselves grounded! We turned round and headed back upstream mooring just above Vale Royal Locks. We had a very strange neighbour requesting a meal! I was talking to a passer-by who said that there had been a Canada Goose and a Greylag swimming around together over the summer and she assumed that this must be the offspring!

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