Hi humans. Joe the Cocker here again. This is my first blog of a new year. Of a new decade. It was mine and my hudad’s New Year’s Day walk. Yes, hudad. I love that word. I know that it is not a real word but it should be. I learnt it from a Facebook friend. We set out to do a cobweb shifting walkies in one of my favourite local areas. We were going to drive the few miles to Acton Bridge in Cheshire to walk along part of the Weaver Way in the direction of Dutton Locks and towards Frodsham. My hudad loves this area and so do I because I can run off lead. But, when we pulled up at the Leigh Arms we were shocked by the number of cars parked in the pub car park and along the roadside. It looked as if the entire population of Cheshire had the same idea as us. Luckily, my eagle-eyed dad found what was possibly the last available spot for the car. He made the decision to walk in the opposite direction to the rest of the crowd. That doesn’t mean that we were to walk backwards rather we would walk towards Saltersford Locks in the Northwich direction. We decided that we would turn my hour long walkies into a two hour walkies and to do a six mile loop.
The River Weaver and Weaver Navigation has recently burst it’s banks and flooded the adjacent fields. Some considerable damage was caused to narrow boats and pleasure boats moored along the banks as they were swept downstream. The fields have since had drainage channels excavated to clear the standing water. The mud remains and the usual dry path was sticky and slippery. There was little point in my dad trying to stop me from getting muddy. I was definitely going to be filthy at the end of this outing. My dad was trying to think what we could call our outing. It was going to be a two hour long adventure so it wasn’t a trek or a hike. It wasn’t walkies. It wasn’t even a bimble like our last outing. Maybe it was a stroll or a saunter. He settled on it being a pootle. A pootle around two waterways in the Cheshire countryside. It was ideal for a New Year’s Day on a day with perfect weather. It was chilly but not frosty. There was only a slight breeze and wait for it, SUNNY! It was a quiet peaceful morning after last nights celebrations and fireworks. I really didn’t cope that well when the fireworks were banging and flashing. My dad had to hold on to me tightly as I was terrified. Thankfully it’s all over now.
The only disturbance to the still quiet morning was the sound of the birds on and around the river. My enemy but preferable to explosions in the sky. As we trudged through the mud along the edge of the now empty fields the evidence of the recent floods became more apparent. Fences were strewn with washed up debris and the banks of the river were covered in plastic bottles and branches from upstream. My favourite stile had been smashed to pieces in the path of the river. When I say it was my favourite that is what my dad called it. It was a stile that stood at the edge of the field without a fence on either side. I have waited at this obstacle twice in the past waiting for my dad to lift me over it. He found this so amusing and tried to take a photograph of me each time I waited at it. I think that this is not funny at all because he has trained me to wait at stiles for him to pick me up. How was I supposed to know that I could just walk around this one. He thinks that he is so clever. I don’t!
Then it happened. He started his annoying singing. ‘The Saints are Coming’ by The Skids. A 1978 post punk song. One day I will be able to enjoy the silence on a walk in the countryside. But, obviously not today!
We soon passed into another field trough a kissing gate. This is a huge field that is usually filled with grazing sheep. I normally have to be on my lead even though I am over trying to chase sheep. On this occasion the field was completely empty and so it was off lead time again. What can I say? Zoomies! I had a mad ten minutes. It was great fun to have a good blast. We carried on along the banks of the Weaver Navigation until we came to a footbridge over a diverted section just before Saltersford Locks. Up to this point we had walked along the Weaver Way which also shares this section with the North Cheshire Way. Within a few hundred metres of the locks we climbed a short road section to join the towpath of the Trent and Mersey canal.
At this point the canal disappears into the Saltersford Tunnel. This narrow and winding tunnel is 360 metres long and the footpath climbs over the top of it until it re-emerges from the gloom. The entrance area to the tunnel was extremely muddy. I managed to run through the squelchy mud and became covered in the black stinky stuff. As we started the gentle decline from the roof of the tunnel we had glorious views over the surrounding farmland. The canal was quiet with a few narrow boats moored here and there but with not a soul to be seen. The towpath was muddy but it was too late to start worrying about getting dirty. We could hear church bells ringing in the distance. This was reminiscent of an early Sunday mid-winter’s morning. My dad said that this is the best of England.
At this point my hudad started to become preoccupied with his new watch. He gets obsessed with gadgets and this one seemed to really keep him happy. He was tracking our distance travelled, our altitude gained (minimal on this walk), calories burnt and believe it or not, the time! He had a two minute sit down on a bench overlooking the canal while he fiddled with his watch. I think that he was happy with that short rest and we moved on. After passing under the A49 we turned left at a small canal shop and headed slightly downhill past Davenports Tea Room. Onwards towards the Acton Bridge swing bridge which we passed underneath. Then it was across the pub car park to the car. It was a nice two hour unplanned walk. We both enjoyed it for different reasons. My hudad because it cleared his head in the fresh air and me because I had a good run off lead and managed to get absolutely filthy.