Anderton Boat Lift Ride-Out 2008

The initial long range weather forecast for Sunday, 22nd June, had been suggesting rain, rain and more rain.   By Friday, however, this had changed to showers, possibly heavy, and high winds (up to 65 mph) in the north of the country.  As the BBCâ??s north starts in the Midlands and we were heading for Cheshire, that meant us!  The start point was the north bound Trowell Services on the M1, leaving at 0915 hrs.  This meant it was going to be an early departure from home for us to cover the 65 miles.  Karen and Neil (H) were joining Yvonne and I for this ride so they stayed overnight in order that we could leave at 0745 hrs.  As usual, we left 15 minutes late so we missed our arranged meeting with Jackie and Will (F) at the Saxondale traffic island.  Pushing on, we arrived at the M1 services in good time to meet up with Ian (B), our lead rider for the day.  There were five other bikes present, including that of Jackie and Will who had, quite rightly, carried on when it had become obvious we were running late.  We were â??Tail End Charlieâ?? for the run to Heanor Tesco where we met the rest of the riders.  It was nice to ride again with Terry and Eric (Bananaman) after our Welsh trip together.

Seventeen bikes left for our first destination, the Churnet Valley Railway at Kingsley / Froghall.  As in the past with Ian, as soon as we were out in the countryside, the ride became one of his â??Magical Mystery Toursâ??.  Although it threatened to rain, it remained dry to give us a pleasant run into northern Staffordshire.  I had not been to this preservation railway before, so it was a disappointment when the only train on view was a diesel.  Although the DMU was a Midland unit from the 1950s, I am a steam man and so that was that!

After a coffee it was time to head off to Cheshire and the Anderton Boat Lift.  Please note that if you are riding with Pete (W), then after a stop, remind him that helmets need to be fastened before starting off!  Another good ride (with more narrowing roads) saw us arrive at the Boat Lift and park up by the side of the Trent and Mersey Canal.  A short walk took us to the visitorâ??s centre where we were told that all boat trips had been cancelled due to the high winds (anything in excess of 30 knots).  With nothing left to do, everybody dived into the cafe or headed over the canal to the pub for refreshments.

The Anderton Boat Lift was designed by Edwin Clark and built in 1875 in order to aid the transportation of salt from nearby Northwich.  It was the first ever boat lift to be built, and is currently the only one in England.  It is known as the â??Cathedral of the Canalsâ??, linking the Trent and Mersey Canal to the River Weaver, 50 feet below.

The next part of the ride took us back into the Peak District to Blaze Farm at Wildboarclough, near Macclesfield.  Here we had home-made ice cream!!

At this point I must leave the account for some breaking news.  It has come to the authorâ??s attention, reported by a reliable source â?? the man himself, that Lah Lahâ??s name was spelt wrongly in the original Welsh report.  How does he know this?  Has he been secretly watching a certain TV programme?  Unfortunately, the informant would not divulge the correct spelling so I must assume it is La La!  Apologies are offered if a mistake was made.  On the same theme, it was noticed at the farm that there were two other people, who, it was felt, would make ideal companions for La La.  They were similarly attired in sleek all-in-one rain gear, although it must be said that their outfits were not as colourful as La Laâ??s.  Now, even though this couple reside in Lincolnshire, where it is flat, they were noticed in their La La type gear in an area of high ground, just like La La himself was in Wales.  There seems to be a pattern emerging here!!  Rest assured that my informants will keep their eyes open for other future appearances.

Leaving the farm, Ian headed towards Ashbourne, whilst individuals or small groups broke off, as and when necessary, in order to make their own way home.  Yvonne and I returned via Mansfield and Newark, having covered 260 miles.  Although the wind caused problems with broken branches on the roads, and the black clouds threatened rain, it remained dry for 99% of the time.  It was disappointing that the lift was cancelled, but Iâ??m sure everyone would agree that it had been brilliantly planned and lead by Ian.  Well done!

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