You must have heard the phrase “any port in a storm”, no doubt sailors are glad of any shelter they can find when the seas rage and the winds roar. OK I may be over egging it a little but we are taking shelter from storm Hannah in the picturesque, if somewhat battered little town of Lymm. We spent the first night right in the centre of town, almost in the town square in fact but more on that later. We have now moved out to moor amongst what look like premiership footballer’s houses. The large sturdy three story dwellings are dwarfed by huge mature trees which in turn are made to look puny as the wind throws them around like weedy saplings.
We have been in this same spot for thirty six hours now and it has barely stopped raining for most of that time. The wind has increased as the day has gone on but we are happy to snuggle up by the fire and indulge in the three r’s of reading, writing and relaxing. We think it’s the sensible thing to do when the weather turns foul like this but then we are lucky enough to have no schedule, no dead lines and even, if we choose, no particular direction. That can’t be so for the many boats that have passed by today, battling against the wind and rain, their stoic captains standing firm on the back of their boats wrapped from head to toe in water proofs and looking for all the world as if they are on a vital mission to ‘get the cargo through’. To be fair to them they almost certainly have a limited time slot in which they have a fixed route to cover, particularly the hire boaters, and for them a day off is simply not an option. You might expect them to be grim faced, even miserable in such circumstances but the astonishing thing is that they are no such thing. We feel each boat approach from some way off as the water it is displacing strains us against our mooring ropes with a groan and I’m grateful that I took the trouble to hammer in double pins to hold us fast.
Moments later these defiant warriors of the waterways glide swiftly past us, ignoring the normal etiquette of passing moored boats slowly, as they fight to control their craft in the gusty winds. We peer out at them through misted, rain obscured windows and without exception they wave and grin back at us as if there is nothing more pleasant than being cold and wet for hour upon hour on the back of a narrow boat. It’s amazing but they look genuinely happy with their lot. I know from experience that their beer, wine or tea at the end of the day will taste sweeter than ours will, but I’m also happy to sit in the warmth by the fire and wish them safe passage. Each to their own as they say.
Despite the awful weather I really like Lymm. We had a wander around yesterday before the storm set in and it’s a delightful little place. It has a river that has been dammed to form a tranquil lake, a fine selection of pubs and eating places, a lovely little heritage centre and a grand square that is unique in that it isn’t where it used to be. Unfortunately for Lymm and its peaceful residents that lived quietly overlooking the original village square things took a turn for the worse back in the eighteenth century. The Duke of Bridgewater was building a canal to move coal about and make his fortune during the industrial revolution and when he and his agent John Gilbert reached Lymm they hit a bit of a problem. They were disappointed to find that the place was a tad hilly and in order to route the canal around the village they would have to spend time and money building expensive locks. Unfortunately for Lymm they also noticed that the village square with it’s surrounding picturesque cottages just happened to be on a single convenient level and in exactly the right direction so they solved all their problems by just digging their canal straight through the square. It must have been like an early version of HS2 and if your home or the hub of your community happened to be in the way of ‘progress’ it was just tough luck. The house on the left in the picture has had it’s corner cut off to prevent it interfering with the line of the canal bank, what you might call a close shave in terms of compulsory purchase. Aside from this act of vandalism and profiteering on a grand scale the canal did bring prosperity and a disproportionate number of ale houses to Lymm so maybe all was forgiven and forgotten in the end.
Something remarkable also happened here in that we just happened to be here on the right night to enjoy some live music. We always seem to land in places the week before or the week after events of interest but to our excited delight we discovered that on our first night here there was an open mic session at the Brewery Tap pub. The local Lymm brewery ales were superb and whilst the music varied from stunning to stumbling it was all received in a generous manner and we found ourselves staying up well past our bedtime. I probably should have resisted the temptation of the Lymm Dam ale at 7.4% but heh, when sailors reach a safe port in a storm, well, that’s what they do isn’t it?