Saturday, November 09, 2019

A fine autumn cruise to Wrenbury

Yesterday there was a gap in the seasonal lows moving in from the Atlantic, giving us the opportunity to move on in the dry, so we took it.
The two Swanley Locks were just around the corner and we were getting ready to go when a private boat went past, followed by a CRT push tug and barge combo. So we gave it another 20 minutes before following on.

There has been a surprising number of boats heading upstream since we pulled out of the marina, presumably having come up Hurleston Locks before last Monday’s closure. It could be busier than usual up here this winter…

We arrived below Swanley No2 as the CRT crew were just emptying the lock, so hung back until they moved off the lock landing.
But they couldn’t get into the lock…
A control box for the hydraulic support jacks was hanging over the gunwale and the boat had jammed in the entrance. Rocking and revving and a degree of pushing finally got it free so they could swing the box inboard and get into the chamber.

We followed them up, keeping back to avoid the considerable amount of water coming up around the cill. The gate wasn’t fitting properly up against the liner.
It’s Swanley No1 that they’re going to be working on starting Monday, hence the workboats going up, but this morning a stoppage on No2 was announced, presumably to rehang the top gate. Unfortunately anyone hoping to get back below Swanley Locks before Monday are now going to be stuck…

Swanley Lock 1

There was a bit of a cold breeze, I’d shunned shorts today in favour of long trousers for the first time this autumn and was glad I did. But the sky was blue, the birds were singing and the sun was lighting up the dying leaves.

The recent rain has left large areas of standing water in the fields.
We got up the three Baddiley Locks without problems, then cruised on for another half-hour or so to moor before Church Lift Bridge at Wrenbury.

Baddiley No2

Today we’ve not seen any of the forecasted sleet but it has rained continuously since mid-morning. A finer day tomorrow will see us tackling the first of the lift bridges. Deep joy…

Locks 5, miles 4

Thursday, November 07, 2019

No way back for a while, a bit of marina-ing and a trip up to God’s Country.

We left Nantwich last Saturday, heading north back to Hurleston Junction and up the locks onto the Llangollen Canal.

Back across Nantwich Aqueduct.
We dropped off recycling at the service wharf, then toddled on, out of town.

This boat’s been here a long, long time.

The roof is so full of clutter now it’s overflowing onto the towpath!

There were no boats about until we got to the junction, then sod’s law dictated that we arrived just behind another boat!

It’s the bottom lock that is dodgy, the sides have been slowly moving inwards making the chamber progressively narrower. Even 6’10” wide boats are snug now!
By now CRT should have started to dismantle the chamber to reinforce the area. Then the lock will be rebuilt to the correct width, hopefully the work will be completed by the end of March. Till then we’ll be cruising up and down the Llangollen.

It was a bit damp as we left the top of the locks, but it did give us a hazy rainbow.
I wonder if the pot of gold is in that house’s garden…

We moored before Bridge 5, Platt’s, and stayed there till late Monday morning, when we moved just a half mile to Swanley Bridge Marina.

Just in time to watch Black Swan get it’s bum wet.

We were allocated a good berth on the Boathouse Moorings, pretty well straight off the bow and onto grass for Meg, and onto a good path for Mags. I collected a car from Enterprise in Crewe, did a big shop at Morrison’s then got lost on the way back after getting tangled up in roadworks.

We had a long day on Tuesday, leaving at around nine and not getting back until half-seven. We drove up to Yorkshire, first for Mags’ annual review at Bentham then for Meg’s regular kidney function check at Skipton.

The distinctive silhouette of Ingleborough.

We had lunch with Mags’ son Howard in between appointments, catching up with news and collecting the mail.

I was a bit boggly-eyed by the time we got home, and was glad of a bit of a lie-in yesterday. We’d booked the berth for three nights, just as well with it being wet yesterday.

Today we pulled out of our berth, paused on the service wharf for a splash of diesel and some solid fuel, then motored out (in the rain again) to moor just around the corner from Swanley Bottom Lock.

The weather is better tomorrow so we’ll head up to Wrenbury then.

One of the items I picked up was a new thermostat for the fridge. It conked out a few weeks ago, at least leaving the compressor running. I took the old one out and fitted a switch instead so I could knock it on and off when required, but it’s now running on the new stat.

Then this morning the Webasto failed to start. It’s been very reliable since I rebuilt it 6 months ago, but this morning it sounded like the air fan had failed. Anyway, I took it out, stripped it down and replaced the air motor assembly with a spare, only to find a poor connection on the live feed. I didn’t need to take the thing apart after all! There’s a lesson to be learned there…
Anyhow, it’s working again now.

Locks 0, miles 4¼ 

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Off to Nantwich

We had another fine day yesterday, but last night it was a little milder and today’s early sunshine didn’t last beyond mid-morning.

We weren’t sure how far to go today, but with wet weather due tomorrow and Saturday we wanted to cruise at least part way to Nantwich in the dry. We’re heading there to pick up supplies before turning around, back to Hurleston and up onto the Llangollen on Saturday – or maybe Sunday.

Away from Cholmondeston this morning.

No locks to do today, so Mags stayed inside. With sun in short supply and a brisk breeze it was decidedly chilly. Time to break out the long trousers, I think.

An escapee on the moorings near Bridge 3
His mates were in the field alongside.

Permanent moorings both sides up to Barbridge Junction

I didn’t quite make the turn onto the main line in one, the wind kept pushing the fore end around, bit I didn’t make too much of a mess of it.

Heading south on the Shroppie.

Built in 1779 the Chester Canal was a link from the salt town of Nantwich and the River Dee in Chester. Terminal basins were built at both ends. The Ellesmere Canal, opened 18 years later, linked the Chester end to The Mersey at Ellesmere port, improving the fortunes of the navigation. Facing increasing railway competition in the mid-eighteenth century, the Shropshire Union Railways and Canal Company was formed in 1846, taking under it’s umbrella the Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Canal from Nantwich to Autherley near Woverhampton, the Chester and Ellesmere Canals, the Llangollen Branch and the Middlewich Branch, among others.
The plan was to build railways on some of the routes, a cheaper option than a totally new line. But luckily this was shelved, and the main line from Ellesmere Port to the Black Country was still profitable well into the last century.

The wide Chester Canal, built to barge standards with wide bridges and a deep and broad channel.

Hurleston Locks, gateway to the Llangollen Canal.

We’ll be heading up there at the weekend. We can’t leave it any later, work starts on the bottom lock on Monday, a full rebuild which will take until Easter.

Coming into Nantwich with the terminal basin of the Chester Canal off to the right and the Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Canal straight ahead. Note the narrow bridges, now.

The embankment moorings, both sides of the aqueduct, were busy, but there was plenty of space where we were headed, around the corner.

We passed Bridge 91, turned around and moored up back a ways.

Definitely stopping here tomorrow, we’ll see how bad the weather actually turns out to be on Saturday before we decide to head back.

Locks 0, miles 6

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Short cruise, long wait

The fuel boat Halsall arrived at our mooring at around 11:00 this morning. Of course, it’s no longer Martin and his dog Sam (I think). He’s now protecting the streets of Manchester as a policeman, apparently. No, the new crew are Lee and Roberta, and very helpful they are too.

The Halsall crew

First thing this morning was a marked contrast to yesterday, bright, crisp and dry instead of misty and damp.

The temperature had dipped below zero for the first time this winter.

So, with a full tank of diesel and several bags of solid fuel on the roof we decided to shove off. Only an hour and a half, I said. We’ll be tied up above Cholmondeston Lock and having lunch by one o’clock, I said. Hah. You know what that chap said about best laid plans…

It started well, although I had to turn the two locks we dealt with today we were toddling along steadily.

Past Aqueduct Marina.

There were a few boats about, but no-one waiting at Minshull Lock. A half hour later saw us passing Venetian Marina, below Cholmondeston Lock.

A boat was just coming down as we arrived, so we were able to take over the empty lock when they left.

We needed to fill the water tank, so expected to be able to get straight onto the water point above the lock. There was a boat there filling as we came up, and another waiting, and another – and another! We joined the end of a three-boat queue! At this time of year!

I’d forgotten that the services at Nantwich are being refurbished and are currently closed, so folk heading this way are waiting to fill up here. The water tap at Barbridge Junction was removed several years ago.

Anyway, we did have lunch above the lock, but not after we tied up for the day as planned.

It was nearly three o’clock by the time we’d filled, and we moved just 100 yards to get moored.

Finally away…

…and tied up minutes later!
We'll stay here tomorrow, head to Nantwich for the weekend then up Hurleston onto the Llangollen on Saturday. That’s the plan, anyway…

Locks 2, miles 2¾ 

Monday, October 28, 2019

Two fine days.

Yesterday we set off from the breach site moorings west of Middlewich. It was a late start; about a quarter to twelve before we were heading up Stanthorne Lock.
The four locks lifting the Branch from the Trent and Mersey to the Shropshire Union Main Line are all deep, all between 10½ and 11½ feet deep.

It was a pleasant afternoon, but cool, hovering around 10°C.

It wasn’t all blue skies though, we did get a short shower from a passing cloud…

Quintessentially Cheshire – black and white cows, black and white farmhouse.

We pulled in after an hour or so, just past Bridge 22 near where Chris and Leslie on Rosie II were moored. We had a catch-up before getting a late lunch.

It was down to close to zero last night, but was up a bit and damp this morning, the world shrouded in mist. The poor visibility didn’t deter some boaters, though.

It was taking a while to clear, but by 11:00 we decided to set off.

Leslie gave us a wave us we left.

The old stables near Bridge 18 are a legacy of when the company ran fly-boats, fast, horse-drawn boats carrying perishables and sometimes passengers. Horses had to be changed regularly.

The Weaver is in flood, properties in Northwich suffered flood damage over the weekend, and the meadows in the valley near Church Minshull are inundated.

Crossing the river in a tunnel of trees.

It was warm in the sun but the temperature dropped to shivering point in the shade.

Today we pulled in just this side of Aqueduct Marina, early afternoon finish again.

Not sure what we’re doing tomorrow. The coal-boat Halsall is on it’s way and we’ll flag Martin down here. Depending on what time he arrives we’ll either push on and up Minshull and Cholmondeston Locks later in the day or leave them till Wednesday.

Locks 1, miles 6  

Friday, October 25, 2019

No justice for a PC, justice for a dragon with halitosis…

We left the Paddy’s Wood moorings under grey skies yesterday morning, pretty much as expected.The canal skirts Sandbach, between Elworth and Moston.

We passed Richard waving out of the window of Pendle Warter next to Elton Moss Bridge, number 160.

Elton Moss Bridge, sometime known locally as Stabbers Bridge, was the scene of the murder of a policeman in February 1873. PC James Green was out of uniform but on duty, keeping an eye on a local miscreant when he was stabbed to death and dumped in the canal here. The prime suspect was a local farmhand who denied the charge, although bloodstains were found on some of his tools. He claimed that it was pig’s blood, and 19th century forensics couldn’t disprove this. He was acquitted by the jury at his trial, walking away free.
James Green was the first Cheshire police officer to be killed on duty.

Half a mile down the canal we came to out first lock of the day, Crows Nest or Booth Lane Top Lock. A boat was just ready to leave, so that was handy for us both.

Below the lock the canal passes under Stud Green Bridge, named for a nearby hamlet but which carries Dragon’s Lane.

Legend has it that the inhabitants of Moston were plagued by a dragon, one of the red variety out of Wales. This one didn’t breathe fire however, instead it used it’s extremely bad breath to render it’s victims unconscious, dragging them off to a marsh to be consumed at leisure. This went on for a while, until the local Lord of the Manor came along on a tour of his holdings. Sir Thomas Venables was a relative of the king, William I (the conqueror) and a skilled archer. He stalked the beast, putting an arrow through it’s eye and then “with other weapons manfullie slew him”.

The valiant chap then rescued the dragon’s latest victim, a young boy, from the swamp and returned him to his home.
The family crest depicted a dragon with a baby in it’s jaws.

The two locks alongside Booth Lane were both set against us, but at least I could leave the gates open on the bottom lock for a boat heading up.

Wimpey’s large development on the other side of the road is moving on apace. Phase 1 is mostly finished and they’re well on with Phase 2.
It’s called Albion Lock, which puzzled me until I realised that development is on the site of the former Albion Chemical Works.

Rumps Lock was the last to deal with before we moored, just above Kings Lock.

We got tied up just before the rain came, and then enjoyed fish and chips from the chippy across the road.

We hadn’t intended to stay more than one night, although the moorings are handy for the chippy, a local shop and the pub they’re also noisy with traffic close alongside. So this morning we dropped down Kings Lock, paused while a boat came down Wardle Lock, then turned sharp left onto the Middlewich Branch and went up Wardle Lock.

Duck! No, swans…

Kings Lock

Between the Trent and Mersey and the top of the lock, the navigation is known as the Wardle Canal, the shortest on the network at only 154 feet long.
It was built by the Trent and Mersey Canal Company in 1829 to connect to the Shropshire Union-built Middlewich Branch so the former could keep control of the junction. The T&M charged exorbitant tolls for boats using the short canal and lock to get to the newer, faster route south using the Shropshire Union.

Up Wardle Lock and we had another half mile or so before pulling in on the new moorings where the major breach occurred in March 2018.

The new edge incorporates a short run of mooring rings.

It was only a bit damp as we came down and up the locks, but this afternoon the predicted rain has moved in. It’s supposed to continue through tomorrow, so we’ll be staying put.

Locks 6, miles 5¼