We met at the Stanley Arms in Anderton, near Northwich. An “off the beaten track” pub but with a large dining room. We had placed our meal orders on arrival and the friendly staff allowed us to use their facilities before we set off. The weather was overcast but dry and we took a short walk along Old Road to a footbridge over the Trent and Mersey Canal. The bridge gave us a good view of the twin tanks of the Anderton Boat Lift, which lifts boats fifty feet from the River Weaver Navigation to the canal. The canal’s first sod was dug by Josiah Wedgwood in 1776. He was looking forward to fewer breakages of his pots when barges replaced lorries! The towpath was reached from the bridge and we walked westwards along it with the canal to our right. We then had a view of the Stanley Arms we’d just left. Soon, we reached Barton, the largest village in England, and the first of two tunnels we’d encounter on this stretch. The tunnel’s not wide enough for two boats to pass, but it’s dead straight and boat pilots can see if it’s clear to enter. There’s no towpath so we had to walk the Barnton Tunnel Horse Path. The tunnel is 572 yards long and we soon returned to the towpath with sunshine breaking through and coats being removed. The path was very muddy in parts because of the recent rains but we managed without mishaps. We left the canal to walk down to the River Weaver where saw the unusual sight of canal boats overtaking! The speed limit is much higher on the wider river – six miles an hour instead of four! We soon came to Saltersford Locks. These were similar to the Dutton Locks we saw on the last walk, with railway style signals to show if they were clear to enter. After we passed the locks, we crossed a footbridge over a loop of the river and followed a footpath along the edge of the fields on the north side of the river. This path took us through a number of fields separated by kissing gates as the river meandered gently before parallelling the noisy A49. We saw a caravan park on the opposite bank and lots of motor cruisers and canal boats moored on that side. We soon came to the Acton Bridge swing bridge taking the A49 across the river and left the bank here to take a drinks and snack break at the Leigh Arms (where we started and finished the last walk). Suitably refreshed, we walked along Willow Green Lane to reach the canal and head back towards Anderton on the towpath. What we thought was a light shower developed into a downpour and waterproofs were hastily donned. We stopped under some overhanging trees which gave us a bit of cover and the rain eased off. We had to leave the towpath again when we reached the Saltersford Tunnel which also has no towpath. Although this tunnel is shorter (424 yds) than the Barton Tunnel, it has bends so boaters can’t see if the way is clear. To avoid arguments over who has to reverse when boats meet in the middle, a timed entry system was introduced. Twenty minutes one way, twenty minutes the other way and ten minute gaps between the two. We returned to the towpath but soon had to walk up and over again as we came to the Barton Tunnel once more. We were in sunshine again now and soon back on the towpath. It had been a busy day for boaters – I’m sure we saw more boats on the move than any of our other walks. One boater joked he should charge for photos! We had another mile to walk before we saw the welcome sight of the Stanley Arms on the opposite bank and crossed over the footbridge to the pub. Off with the muddy boots and a good sit down while we all tried to remember what we’d ordered to eat! Headmistress Anne reminded us and we enjoyed a hearty meal watching the heavy rain we’d just missed.
Thanks to Anne, Ken and Dave for organising.