Hike Northbound through Britain with Daryl May
Click for Southbound hike
The Crown Hotel, Nantwich had an amazingly sloping structure
DN24 Inside Crown Hotel
 Days N15 - N24                                                                    English Midlands
Day N24 - Nantwich to Northwich
Day N23      Through the Winsford sewage farm         Day N25
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Southbound Home
Friday, April 13, 2007

Time of departure: 8.45 am
Time of arrival: 3.00 pm
Place departed: Nantwich, Cheshire
Place arrived: Northwich, Cheshire

Miles: 14.8
Cum miles: 392.9
Percent complete: 42.4

Bed sign Premier Travel Inn, Northwich  **
Cost (for bed only): 52 ($104)
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DN24 Side road tall trees
Breakfast at The Crown this morning was poor except for the kippers (smoked herring), and the toast. A beetle (doubtless of the death watch variety) dropped from the old ceiling beams into my cereal. This got me looking at the ceiling in this extraordinarily misshapen 16th-century building. The stairs that sloped "sideways" and the not-level floors had already astounded me, but cued by the falling beetle, I now looked up with more curiosity.  As with the Talbot in Worcester, sagging beams rested on other sagging beams, though here they had been reinforced (clumsily I judged) by probably 19th-century steel braces.  These old buildings have the potential to collapse (not to mention burn), and I wondered how often their structures are inspected.  I started to feel sorry that I was an engineer.  We worry about things others don't worry about. Today being Friday the 13th, we might even worry more.

After my scunner of a day yesterday, today started uneventfully.  I was determined to take the day as it came, and not to measure my progress against any expectations. On nice and flat, minor roads, I sailed through the first ten miles into Winsford, fluently taking advantage of a couple of shortcuts without needing GPS assistance.  Map reading on the PDA is now pretty well automatic for me.  I have few nav problems - as long as the maps are right.

At Church Munshall, I sat on the grass verge to take Jennifer's daily call, which is now a nice routine for me. She called when she was up in the morning.  For me, that was typically 11 am, which is a good time for a break. I was then re-energized by her encouragement.  I was similarly helped when my friend Gerald called some evenings.

As Jennifer's call ended at Church Munshall, a puppy from a nearby home befriended me, but quickly ran off into the road in search of other adventures. An adventure he nearly got; just at that moment a truck was passing and had to brake. The driver, seeing me on the verge, gesticulated angrily in my direction before driving on, as if it were my dog. The dog was safe in his yard by this time, but I was unsettled by the near miss - not just of the dog, but of me. What if the truck had swerved? The significance of the occasional wood cross by the roadside, often with flowers, is not lost on me.

At Winsford, my next shortcut proved short in distance but long in time. I chose a very minor lane that the Ordnance Survey map showed would continue as a public right-of-way to a pedestrian bridge across a river and then to the road I needed.  The right-of-way was mapped to lie along the edge of a sewage plant.  Having gotten into the sh-- through most of my working life, I should have realized what was coming.

The right-of-way may well have been there, but - if it was - it was covered in bramble bushes, forcing me to veer to the left in the direction of the you-know-what.  I may or may not have entered the sewage plant itself, but my path certainly lay on some sort of sewage drain-field, as the grass grew profusely, my boots squelched, and vertical pipes emerged from the ground at intervals, suggestive of an underground world that even Cerberus would have shunned. Worse, however, was that it took an interminable time to tiptoe through the dry patches in this area instead of taking the mapped shortcut.  I then had to find a hole in the fence to exit, and after that to descend a steep slope that I made in fear for my once-broken ankle, before reaching the road. Next I passed a noisy and dusty quarry. And a salt mine, too, the labor at which I readily could relate to after my own efforts - especially since the Romans mined it right here, undoubtedly staffing it with slaves and any hikers they could rope in.

Having gotten out of the sh-- and past the quarry and the salt mine, I thought my worries would be over.  But now I couldn’t locate the bridge across the river, or more precisely across the Valeroyal Cut of the Weaver Navigation Canal.  Without crossing this stretch of water at this pedestrian bridge, I would have to return to the road-bridge at Winsford perhaps enjoying another traverse of Winsford’s sewage system. I started to think of the River Parrett at Combwich back in Somerset, where my pre-trip research had disclosed the existence of an old bridge – until later Yvonne Haggett advised me that it was long gone.

When a planned route leads to some sort of dead-end, such as bramble bushes, or fences, or water without a crossing, or just private property . . . when this occurs, there's an almost illogical drive to make the route plan deliver on its promise. It’s human nature not to want to take time to retreat and find another route.  Thus in Dartmoor, and here again in Winsford, I could easily have gotten into worse difficulty than I did, just by pushing ahead. "Man succumbs in Winsford sewage farm" the papers would have read. Or “Man croaks in Valeroyal Cut”. My friends would have given a nonchalant shrug as if they'd expected nothing else.

But the bridge was there, albeit hidden.  I crossed it with relief.

Determined not to scurry for accommodation again tonight, I grabbed a room at the Premier Travel Inn on the way into Northwich after finding one local B&B unavailable in Davenham. As I’ve related, and it occupied my attention often, with the dollar down against the pound, Americans find Britain expensive. Accommodation and restaurants often cost about twice what we're used to. I guiltily checked into this quite basic motel. My price-consciousness was, of course, affected by the considerable duration of my trip.
Day N23                               2007 and 2008 Daryl May                                 Day N25