There was Conrad, having himself a nice, quiet, solitary multi-day walk along Cheshire Ring Canal Walk when he found his solitude gate-crashed.
It all came about when I received an email from JJ yesterday morning, asking if we fancied joining Conrad for a day, either today or tomorrow. That sounded like an excellent plan, but as that pesky work malarkey tends to get in the way of Monday walking my only available day was today.
And so, after a start which was at a distinctly uncivilised hour for a Sunday, we arrived in Wheelock (which just a few paces outside of Sandbach) at 8am to find JJ loitering on the exact bridge where he said we would find him loitering. Twenty minutes later (having abandoned our car in Wheelock) we were in Congleton, where Conrad was all packed away and ready to walk.
Alas, after a handful of dry days in the last week, and forecast of dryness for the week ahead, today’s forecast was nothing short of soggy. Heavy rain, said the Met Office, from 4am to 4pm. I clutched at my long-established belief that the weather in this country is seldom as bad as forecast and that theory was borne out again today. We did get rained on, quite a lot, but there were dry interludes and never did that rain meet my definition of ‘heavy’. Latterly, it even dried out and brightened up – but only for the last couple or three miles.
It was decidedly soggy when I took this snap (good job I wasn’t in it; I would have let the side down with my blue jacket):
I’ve no idea where I took this next one, because I was chatting far too much to pay attention to our progress and location, but I was paying just enough attention to realise (as we passed a sign about Little Moreton Hall) that we had walked along this bit of canal before. I’ve subsequently looked at a map and now realise that we walked all but five miles of today’s walk on our LEJOG in 2008. On that occasion we chose to take one side of a large triangle by going via Little Moreton Hall, whereas today we took the two sides of the triangle.
Mileposts featured a lot, as the whole of today’s walk was on canals, and I was paying enough attention to this one to come to realise that we were on the Trent & Mersey canal. If we had turned left rather than right at the junction from the Macclesfield canal and continued walking for a couple or three days, then we would have arrived home (which would have made it logistically tricky to collect the car, which was, of course, in Wheelock, not to mention how inconvenient it would have been for JJ whose car was at the other end of the walk).
Rode Heath saw us finally find an establishment serving tea (about seven and a half miles after we first started hankering after tea, thanks to someone having fed Conrad some duff information about a local marina housing a tea shop) and a nice long break gave our jackets time to dry out. Not long afterwards, the rain stopped and, at one point, there was even a hint of a shadow in evidence.
Back at Wheelock we left Conrad to enjoy a bit of peace and quiet, as he continued on his way to Elsworth, when we bade him farewell and peeled off to retrieve our car and to take JJ back to his car.
It was an excellent day (if you overlook the rain), in excellent company, through some very green and pleasant surroundings. The stats for the day were around 14 miles with about 3 feet of ascent (there may have been a tiny smidge more than that, but it certainly wasn’t a lot, as all of the locks we passed were going downhill).
Thank yous go to JJ for suggesting the walk, and for Conrad to allow us to gate-crash his walk!