The 26 Cheshire Locks from Wheelock, near Sandbach, to Red Bull, near Kidsgrove have become known as Heartbreak Hill. Since the 1830s, however, when most of the locks had duplicates built alongside them this has hardly been an appropriate nickname. Not only did this improve the flow of goods in and out of Stoke-on-Trent but also reduced the likelihood of a lock of water being wasted.
The most efficient use of locks occurs when one boat ascending is followed by one descending but this cannot be relied on to occur so the pairing of locks increases the chance of a lock being set to suit the next boat going up or down.
This principle was not understood by British Waterways during the water shortage last year as they closed one of each pair in the Hillmorton flight. I wonder if the new Canal and Rivers Trust which has assumed responsibility for the English waterways will have a better understanding. After lock 57 there are two locks which were never paired and this is where we stopped for a few days, near the village of Hassall Green. We always find something to interest us wherever we stop and this is no exception.
First on the list was a visit to The Romping Donkey . A pub with a name like that has got to be interesting! It is in the process of being restored after a change of ownership and some major demolition work. Rumour has it that the new owner was fined £40,000 for unauthorised demolition of a listed building. Hopes for a sympathetic restoration were enhanced, however, by watching two men from the Peak District building a new dry-stone wall around the perimeter of the property. The local stone is sandstone so the style varies a little from the more commonly seen constructions in limestone. But a pretty job just the same.
Constructed in corrugated iron, it would have been a Tin Tabernacle to those who built it back in the 1880's.
It started life with a different name and a differed location. It was originally in Crewe Road, Alsager and was then St. Mary's church. In 1883 it was brought to Hassall Green on a horse and cart and re-erected on the present site.