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Trent and Mersey - Part 4
Middlewich to Preston Brook - (June 2007)
The Trent and Mersey Canal was designed and built by the Staffordshire engineer James Brindley. This section follows the River Dane Valley north from Middlewich to Northwich and close along side the Middlewich to Northwich railway line after leaving Middlewich Junction and navigating through three locks above Anderton Boats hire center with a great view of Middlewich Church.
From the last lock in Middlewich, 'Big Lock' the course is lock-free as James Brindley followed the contours of the land as closely as possible, as was his style.
After less than half a mile you will cross over the River Dane at Croxton Aqueduct, which is a narrow replacement for the original, wide beam, structure which was swept away during a flood in the 1930s.
The next feature of interest is a 'flash', with a warning to stay in the main canal profile to avoid running aground or snagging on submerged obstructions, close to Croxton Farm north of Bridge 175, here we saw Great Crested Grebe and their offspring. There are two more flashes before Marsden, these flashes were created as the result of subsidence, probably due to salt (brine) extraction. We moored on the first official moorings north of Bridge 176 at Bull's Wood, just above the waterways picnic area before Bridge 177.
After Wincham Wharf the canal swings due westward and after a mile you will come to the old Lion Salt Works with its free entry museum. The Lion Salt Works Museum won a National Heritage Lottery Fund grant (2007) of over £4 million to restore the old salt works to part of their former glory. The Lion Salt Works is recognised by the European Parliament as a site of industrial and archeological heritage. A small, but interesting museum at the moment but well worth a visit.
Our cruise continued on to the historic Anderton Boat Lift and down on to the Weaver Navigation and Weston Canal.
The Anderton Boat Lift was constructed in 1875, closed in 1983 and re-opened for traffic in 2002 after extensive repairs and renovation. The Anderton Boat Lift is toll free to BW registered craft. Visitors can use the trip boat to experience the lift and enjoy the well laid out gardens and interactive centre (charges apply).
Once we rejoined the Trent and Mersey heading due north west we passed through the Barnton and Saltersford Tunnels we only had to go another 4 miles or so to reach the Preston Brook Tunnel and the end of this section. Preston Brook was the point where the transfer of cargo used to take place, from wide beam vessels from the Mersey ports onto narrowboats for carriage inland.
From here we cruised on up to the Runcorn Branch and the Bridgewater Canal, AKA The Duke's Cut.
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