It's now Saturday 23 July - exactly two months since Wren left Ellesmere on her epic birthday voyage and she's back on familiar water near Middlewich heading towards Barbridge and the junction with the Shropshire Union.
The trip back down the Caldon Canal was completed on Thursday morning with just one notable wildlife sighting to report - 4 young mink playing on the towpath - Peter got quite a good photograph of one of them swimming across the canal. I hope Wren can explore this little canal a bit more sometime in the future.
Back on the Trent and Mersey there were more familiar places for Peter to spot. We made a short lunchtime visit to Middleport Pottery which still produces pots and also has a good cafe, serving the famous Staffordshire Oatcakes, and runs factory tours - worth another visit sometime. It was just a short journey from there, past Westport Lake, where Peter used to sail, before the entrance to the Harecastle Tunnel was reached and where there was a delay of more than hour while boats from the other end travelled south. Wren's journey northwards was completed by about 4pm and once back in the warm sunshine what was most noticeable was the strange colour of the water in this part of the canal - a deep shade of orange which is apparently caused by run off from the nearby mine workings.
After the tunnel there was just one more lock to negotiate before a mooring was found for the night and where our friends Alex, Roger, Mirjana and Biggles joined us for some refreshment and later for the pre-arranged music session in the Blue Bell which is located very close to the canal.
On Friday morning Alex took on his First Mate duties once more and provided much valued assistance down the next 25 locks before unfolding his trusty Brompton bike somewhere near Crewe to travel back to Ellesmere. He later sent a text to say that he'd arrived home in about 3 hours - it will take Wren another 3 days to do the same!
The last time Wren was on this stretch of the canal she ran out of diesel due to the incompetence of the crew. Luckily this won't happen today as we filled up yesterday after leaving the Harecastle tunnel. We've just moored in a very picturesque and popular spot overlooking the village of Church Minshull - it was somewhere very near here that the famous canal activist, historian and writer L. T. C. (Tom) Rolt moored his narrow boat Cressy in the 1940s. The book Narrow Boat tells the story very well.