There are a number of “must do” places on the UK canal network – Bingley Five Rise, Salterhouse Dock, The Curly Wurlys near Skipton, Caen Hill Locks, Pontcysylllte Aqueduct, the Falkirk Wheel, the Kelpies, Barton Swing Aqueduct, Anderton Boat Lift, the Boat Museum in Ellesmere Port. We are lucky enough to have visited all of these, and this week we added another of our favourites – Heartbreak Hill. Over just 12 miles between Middlewich and Kidsgrove we climbed 31 locks. And we really enjoyed the experience.
A quick quiz question before I tell you more. If you look carefully in the photo above at the footbridge, you will see it has a small gap in the middle. Why?
Between Mandy, me and the two dogs we make a great team for things like Heartbreak Hill. She tends to steer the boat, and with the dogs’ help I do the paddles and gates. Doing a stretch like Heartbreak Hill gets us into such a routine that much is done almost unconsciously. For instance these are deep locks, and going uphill we have to make sure not to let too much water into the lock too quickly, or the currents will bang the boat into the lock gates. Instead we have developed a technique of two turns of the windlass, wait two minutes and then the next two turns.
And because we were rising we saw some amazing views across the Cheshire countryside. At the end of the “hill” we were all tired but very happy. I love Heartbreak Hill.
And the gap on the footbridge? Back in the day, narrowboats were towed by a horse with a rope, and the gap allowed the boat to do locks without unhitching the horse. Every day is a school day on the canals.