Rudheath to Whatcroft

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We met at the canalside, Old Broken Cross pub where the staff had opened for us to use their facilities and take our meal orders. We set off along the towpath of the Trent and Mersey Canal with blue skies and a light breeze. Immediately we found that predictions of a muddy walk were not exaggerated. While the towpath was fairly wide, picking out the least treacherous part to step on was quite a challenge. An unusual canal boat was soon spotted tied up on the far bank – a pedaloe! A first for me on the canals. We soon passed under the A556 we’d travelled on earlier and were wafted by the smell of freshly baked bread from the Morrisons depot on the far side. Shortly we reached Orchard Marina. Here we had a spell of heavy rain although it didn’t last too long. The canal is well served for marinas here as we soon came to Park Farm Marina and Oakwood Marina. With the blue skies back we had water on both sides, with the “Big Billinge” fishing lake through the trees on our right and the canal on the left. The canal became more scenic here with “Wides” on both sides. These are shallow expanses of water caused by subsidence from salt mining. Walking was tricky here as the most solid and less slippery ground was near the trees which overhung the towpath. Avoiding the branches and mud at the same time called for some unusual gaits! A sharp turn to the right took us under a railway bridge and in just under a mile we left the canal at bridge 179 in Whatcroft. We took Manor Lane and were grateful for the solid ground. Soon we came to the family run farm and café of Riverside Organic. Named after the nearby River Dane, the farm produces all the food served in the café and we had hot drinks and snacks there. The timing was good as the heavens opened as we sat and watched from inside. By the time we were ready to carry on, the downpour had subsided to very light rain and stopped completely soon after. We made our way along Shurlach Lane towards the A556. Our intended route through fields had been considered too muddy on the recce and recent rains made it wise to avoid this section. We stayed on Shurlach Lane and turned on to the A556 to Gadbrook. At Gadbrook Road we took the underpass beneath the A556 and took the imaginately named East Avenue, Central Road and West Avenue to Middlewich Road, which took us back to Broken Cross and the Old Broken Cross pub. Changing out of muddy boots, we settled down to our well earned food and drinks. Thanks to Anne and Tom for organising and recce.

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