I follow the canal path to Middlewich which I learn was a Roman salt town from the first millennium. It started life as a temporary camp which became gradually permanent reaching its heyday in 150-350CE.
I find it sad how settlements have reasons for being and then lose their sense of identity if that purpose is lost, just as we humans can, and yet we can and do find new identities. I don’t see why it can’t be this way with settlements too, especially ones with rivers and canals running through them.
Middlewich seems to be attempting a come back as a staging post along the canal, this being its most vibrant area these days, with the tow path freshly laid and information signs for visitors, though some little work will need to be done in Northwich to the north before anyone would want to pass this way heading there!
Middlewich itself doesn’t have much going for it to attract a visitor at the moment, and I am about to give up even finding somewhere to have lunch when I come across the Mococo community cafe, run by the church. It’s a clean, modern affair with internet access, books, homemade soup and snacks and pleasant staff.
It is unexpected and a godsend (if you will excuse the pun) after a street full of shops with not an open restaurant or book shop to be seen. It is frequented by locals of all ages and I notice on the wall a best new comer award for the region’s town in bloom award. I eat carrot, celery, and potato soup and a lemon muffin, and they are good; I am relived, I feel ill, my body aches in an indiscriminate kind of way, and I wonder if my time of the month is due. I awoke this morning knowing I needed to sleep all day and I have already walked 8 miles in the rain.
Enough is enough, I think, and give myself permission to go look for a bus to take me to my night’s resting place.
My arrival in Nantwich is soon followed by a sudden rain storm and I check into the Crown, an old Elizabethan coaching house in the town centre, and settle down to a long night of e mail correspondence catch up.
I do some research into wyches; the information board told me it refers to salt towns, and it would certainly seem to be true of the Cheshire wyches, and I guess the Cheshire plains must once have been under water with the sandy soils of Lancashire suggesting beaches of those long gone seas, but Wikipedia tells me it is Old English and derived from the Latin for simply “place” or “settlement”.