The Bunbury Shuffle

Saturday, rain, and more decisions… so we took the easy way out, and just carried straight on. We could have turned left at Hurlestone Junction and headed up the Llangollen Canal towards Swanley Bridge Marina but knew we’d be doing that in less than a week anyway. We could have turned right at Barbridge Junction, and headed out towards Middlewich, but we’d have to turn round to get back to Swanley Bridge, and reckoned we’d be heading outwards via Middlewich after Sidmouth anyway.

Straight ahead would lead to Chester, if we got that far before turning round. And we weren’t planning on going that way after Sidmouth: we’d both been that way before, and had no plans to go beyond Chester this year. So straight ahead it was. No decision, no contest.

The Shropshire Union leading to Chester changes character: it becomes a broad canal with locks that will normally take two narrowboats side by side. The balance beams are still painted grey though!

First up was the Bunbury Staircase. A two stage staircase, with a sizeable hire base surrounding it, it proved to be a busy spot on a Saturday (turn round day no doubt). The bo’sun last hired a boat from Bunbury in 1972 or thereabouts: it’s rather more hectic now.

Arriving at the top chamber to find two boats already entering the bottom one, we were getting prepared to wait a while, but the hire company Maître D assured us that you could get two up and one down at the same time by playing the Bunbury Shuffle. It’s a bit like those old games where you had 15 tiles in a 4 by 4 holder, and had to rearrange things by sliding things in and out of the single empty space.

Amazingly it worked OK, no tears or water was spilt, and having had enough for the day, we moored up not far beyond, hoping for a quiet evening as we’d had to use pins, and after the recent rain the ground was muddy and soft.

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