Thursday, June 28, 2007

Away at 10:30 after a dry night. The morning is bright with sunny spells, but breezy. The canal continues to improve as we head away from Stoke, narrow and isolated in places .
We stopped at Milton where there are useful shops east of bridge 18, then on to Engine lock, named after a pumping engine house that used to be here. Had to clear the prop of various debris just before the lock. I’m pleased to say, mostly vegetarian in nature.

A pleasant rural stretch with 2 lift bridges brought us to the 5 locks at Stockton Brook. The village is hidden by trees, so the flight is in an attractive setting with an impressive Victorian water works at the bottom. The only intrusion is the main road crossing above lock 7.

Long Butts Lift Bridge
Stockton Brook Flight
The exit from the top lock was blocked by floating reeds. Too heavy to lift out, so I moved them to one side.
Another mile or so took us to our overnight stop just past Endon basin.
A few minutes before, we passed what is enigmatically described in Nicholson’s guide as “Obstruction in Centre of Channel”. It turns out to be the pivot column of a long disappeared swing bridge. Looks a bit like the maritime version of those painted traffic islands on roads, and about as easy to go around!

Maritime “Traffic Calming”
Locks 6, miles 3½

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

We knew we were in for a long day today, but with one thing or another we didn’t get away till nearly 10, and within 100 yards had stopped again at the service point.
Then we had a good run through the remaining 3 locks before Harecastle tunnel, arriving at the tunnel at 11:10.

BW workgang moving replacement gates for locks on the Cheshire flight.
Derelict near the tunnel. It must have been someone’s pride and joy once.
Unfortunately there were 6 boats waiting ahead of us, and the ‘keeper told us that it would be 40 minutes before the passage was clear of a north bound “convoy” of 8 boats.

Queuing for the tunnel
His timing wasn’t bad, we entered at 11:47 and exited at 12:28. The longest time we’ve ever spent through this tunnel. It’s quite exciting the first few times, but tends to get a bit boring after a while.

Our arrival back into daylight revealed another queue of 9 boats waiting to go north! A busy old spot today!

13:10 saw us moored near bridge 117, so I could make a quick visit to B&Q 10 minutes away (it must a compulsive thing; I can’t seem to be able to pass a DIY store without visiting…), then we were off again onto the new pastures of the Caldon Canal.

First obstacle was the 2 rise staircase just around the first corner.

Etruria Staircase Locks.

Then Planet lock, and a little further on, Ivy House lift bridge. There’s a large development of new Redrow houses being built nearby, which is likely to make the bridge a lot busier. I can see some arguments arising between boaters and drivers in the future!
We carried on until we were clear of the outskirts of Stoke, then stopped for the night near bridge 15.

We expected the first couple of miles to be unattractive, and were not disappointed. Derelict factories and cleared areas line both sides of the channel, the odd premises still in use are protected by razor wire and high walls. Quite a bit of rubbish in the water, too. On the plus side, things can only get better, on the minus side, this canal is a dead end, so we’ve got to come back the same way.

The weather has been better, just the odd shower but with a cool wind. The sky cleared later, and it's fine and sunny now, but still breezy.

Locks 6, miles 9½

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

We’d already decided to stay put on Sunday, not because of the weather (although it wasn’t brilliant) but to avoid the crowds. On Monday morning, the weather was appalling, strong wings and horizontal rain. So we stayed where we were for another day. Very little movement on the canal, only hire boats who need to keep to a schedule.
The news is full of the flooding, pretty well nationwide. I’m glad we’re on the canal rather than on a river.
I even put the chimney back up and lit the fire!

Today dawned fine and dry, but with a chilly wind from the NW. We got off at 10:00, and by 14:00 were moored up on the 48 hour moorings near Red Bull. A lot more boats on the move today, taking advantage of the break in the weather.

Paddle gear on the Red Bull flight.
Lock 45, Red Bull
Had a chat with a chap who’d bent his rudder in a lock and needed a boatyard to sort it out. He’d passed the junction to the Macclesfield Canal which would have taken him to Red Bull Boatyard, and his next chance would be at Malkins Bank. Although he has a bow thruster, he didn’t think he’d be able to turn right round to go back. Hope he gets sorted, his wife didn’t look best pleased. They are out for the summer, but this could put a hole in their plans, not to mention their budget!

Locks 14, miles 4½

I forgot to mention that when I logged on tonight for my email, there were 27 stoppage alerts from BW! I think 15 were for navigation closures due to high water levels, including the Trent, Severn, Soar and Aire, and even warnings on some canals, including this one, where the Trent joins and leaves it at Alrewas!
The remainder included a lot for trees down, mainly on the Shroppie, probably due to waterlogged ground. I think that there are going to be a few hire boats late back to base this week!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Not quite as early as planned, but we were away at 09:20. Most of the locks were in our favour, so a quick trip through to Hassall Green and moored by 10:30.
It just started to spot with rain as we tied up.

Took these pics coming up the Wheelock Flight.
Locks 7, miles 1½.

Friday, June 22, 2007

We’ve spent more time dodging showers these last 3 days than actually cruising. Wednesday wasn’t too bad, just occasional spits of rain. Last summer when we were looking for a suitable boat, we inspected ALICE, a 57’ David Piper, fitted out as a live-aboard by the owner. The standard of workmanship is exceptional, but the layout is unconventional. This probably explains why she is still for sale. She is moored now at Harrals, at Wincham Wharf, and is certainly worth a look by anyone seeking a live-aboard.

NB ALICE, the white boat against the wharf, at Harral Brokerage in Northwich. (Ref 4650)
We came down through Northwich, and moored for the night at the flashes as usual.

Yesterday we set off at 09:30, in bright breezy weather. Unfortunately it wasn’t to last, with cloud filling in from the south. We got away with it till Middlewich, but from here on the showers started.
We pulled over just after Kings Lock, and I popped across the road for a fish and chip lunch, then set off again in a drier spell. But inside 10 minutes we were in a deluge again. Took 5 minutes just below Rumps lock for it to pass, then pressed on through the next 3 locks. Moored for the night just above Crows Nest lock.
The navigation was quiet in the morning, but got busy after Rumps. Part of the traffic was 7 craft from the Acton Bridge Cruising Club, returning to home waters after a fortnight trip around the Cheshire Ring. They’ve booked the Anderton Lift for most of Saturday morning to get back down onto the Weaver!

Today once again started brighter, but rapidly deteriorated. We left it till 12:30, hoping for a break in the rain, but our trip down to Wheelock was pretty damp.
Did some shopping for dog food (a useful pet supermarket in the village) and bread and milk, then onto the services for water etc.
No sign of improvement in the weather, so we called it a day on the 48 hour moorings just past the village. We can see the 1st of the Wheelock flight from here, and we’ll get an early start in the morning to tackle them before the weather breaks down again.

Locks 9, miles 15 (in 3 days!)

Stop Press - Just put the link on to Harrals, and I see that someone has paid a deposit on ALICE. They'll be buying a very good boat.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Stayed where we were yesterday. A day of showers and bright periods, better in the afternoon. I got the shelves in the back cabin mostly finished, just got to make a small door now. Next job will be rebuilding the control panel area.

We’ve changed our plans. We were intending to get up on to the Leeds and Liverpool, and get somewhere near home for the middle of July for Mag’s doctors review. Then we would need to hire a car to get us down to near Dad’s, on the Soar north of Loughborough for a do on the 21st. Sister Sue and her husband Trevor are coming over from New Zealand for a couple of weeks.
We were worried that we’d have to leave Meg in an unfamiliar car while we were in the restaurant, it may be hot that day, and it would be a long drive there and back in the same day. We’ve been offered as bed for the night at my brother’s house, but then we’d have to find somewhere secure to leave Seyella.
So the upshot is that we’ve switched our trips around. We’re now heading back down the Trent and Mersey, aiming to arrive in Dad’s area mid July. The restaurant he’s booked has a mooring on the river, so we can stop there and leave Meg on the boat. After a few days we’ll head back up the Soar and turn onto the Trent going north up to South Yorkshire, and then onto the Leeds and Liverpool from the Leeds end. Mags has postponed her doctors review until early September, so we should have plenty of time to get up to Gargrave, or maybe East Marton.
So that’s this summer taken care of!

We set off this morning at 09:25, up to Daresbury Laboratory where the navigation is wide enough to turn, and then back down to Preston Brook.
A quick stop at Midland Chandlers, and then we just made the transit window for the tunnel, entering at 10:40.
We came back in to daylight at 10:55, and were amazed to see 5 boats waiting between the lock and the tunnel, and a further 7 above the lock! All ready to go north through the tunnel!

Between Preston Brook and Saltersford Tunnels we came across 2 groups of boats, heading north. We’ve never seen it so busy on this stretch. Then it dawned on me that these will all have been visiting last weekend’s Folk Festival at Middlewich, and will now be heading home.
I’m glad we’re going the other way.

A clear run through Barnton, serviced at Anderton and moored at our favourite spot near Marbury at 14:30.

Locks 1, miles 10½

Sunday, June 17, 2007

A bit of a panic this morning. On our morning walk, Meg dived into some bushes chasing a bird, and disappeared. The area around the boat lift is all reclaimed woodland, with pathways running through. I spent the next 10 minutes quartering the area to no avail.
So I decided to go back to the boat, keeping an eye out on route, and if there was still no sign, I’d leave my jacket and camera and run the area.
On to the towpath, and there’s Meg, sat at the front of the boat! She must have realised we’d got separated, so came back to wait for me. We had a very relieved reunion, believe me!

We went off again, keeping a close eye on each other, and went down to the river to have a look at the lift from that side.

Anderton Lift from the Weaver.
We set off at 09:40, aiming to get to Saltersford Tunnel to catch the end of the transit “window”, around 10:10. Only just made it, after waiting for a couple of boats to clear Barnton Tunnel first.

Barnton TunnelOn to and through Preston Brook Tunnel, 3 boats in front and one behind made it a bit smelly with fumes, but not too bad. I intended to stop at Midland Chandlers under the M Way bridge. But surprisingly they were shut. There’s nothing pressing, so we’ll pick up what we need somewhere else.

Stopped for the day at 13:30, just after Red Brow underbridge, now on the Bridgewater.

Locks 1, miles 8½.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

We were going to stay here today so I could get on with my woodwork in the back cabin, but Mag’s sister Dot, her husband John and son Paul wanted to come and see us, so we moved the short distance up to the Anderton Lift 24 hour moorings, near to the carpark.
On the way we used the services near the marinas, so we are ready for the 1st leg of our trip around the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

Had a pleasant afternoon, then settled down for the evening, but no matter how hard I tried, could not get a decent TV picture. The one programme I like to watch is Dr Who, and it was hard work with the spotty, blurring, unstable picture. The surrounding trees prevented the use of the dish. Still, it’s not the end of the world, is it.

Locks none, miles 2.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Stayed put yesterday – it rained all day. For a change, didn’t do anything, either. Just sat about reading.
We did arrange to call in to Orchard Marina to finally sort out the oil pressure gauge, and arranged a Tesco home delivery for while we were there.

The cygnets are growing fast.
So we left the Flashes at 10:15, and arrived at the marina at 10:45, just as our 11:00 Tesco delivery finished unloading into Mike’s garage! Better than being late, I suppose.
Of course, it was another 4 hours before we got under way again, but we did top up with smokeless fuel, gas and diesel, and I purloined a ¼ sheet of oak faced MDF to put some shelves in where the washer used to live. And the oil pressure gauge is giving sensible readings.

Through Northwich with a quick stop to get a Father’s Day card, then moored at our usual spot near Marbury Country Park.

The day started showery, but brightened up. It’s looking a bit threatening now, though.

Locks none, miles 4½

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

We tried for an earlier start today, to beat the rain. Well, we almost made it.
We got off at 09:40, a grey, overcast morning, but still warm. The cloud built steadily through the morning, and we got the first short, sharp shower in the early afternoon while we were in Middlewich top lock. It came on again ½ hour later while we were in Big Lock, and stayed with us through the afternoon. We finally moored at the flashes around 16:45, including a 1 hour stop near bridge 177 during a particularly heavy shower.

Anyhow, we avoided the queues at locks until Middlewich, having Stanthorne lock to ourselves, and just having a few minutes wait for a boat coming up Wardle.

Lots of boats approaching Middlewich
Turning left onto the Trent and Mersey, we joined a short line waiting for the top lock. The hold-up was caused by a boat of learner drivers going down, and a boat whose engine had just failed coming up.
We hauled the break down out of the lock just as the first shower hit us. The owner was convinced he could sort it out, so we left him to it.

Once going again, we had a quick trip down the 3 locks, and a longer one going down Big Lock. As a broad lock, it can take 2 boats at once, which is perhaps as well, as it takes 15 minutes to fill and 10 minutes to empty.
This was built as a broad lock, although all those further down the canal are narrow, in order to enable barges to travel down from the Mersey via the Bridgewater into Middlewich for the salt trade.
Unfortunately, it’s no longer possible to bring broad beam boats any closer to the town than Croxton Aqueduct, a couple of miles north, since the original stone structure was replaced with a narrow iron trough.

We’d been speaking earlier today about the relative lack of moorhen chicks compared to mallard ducklings, cygnets and even Canada goslings. So, just to prove us wrong, we came across 3 families of them today.

This little mite had just been abandoned by it’s mum who took off as we approached It was all of 2½ inches long. They were reunited after we’d passed.

The forecast for the next 2 days is horrid, with 4 inches of rain predicted. Ah well, it’s been good for a while. And I bet the farmers need it.

Locks 5, miles 10.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

An overcast and cool morning first thing, but still OK for T shirts. We had a short shower overnight, but it’s dry now.

Off at 10:45, and a ½ hour saw us arrive at the first of the 2 Swanley locks. Once again a short queue. Ahhh… the joys of summer cruising…

Through those 2, then another hour to the top of the Hurleston flight, where we filled up with water, emptied the loo and got rid of the rubbish.

Mags in Swanley No2
Just timed it right, we’d just finished as a boat came out of the top lock, so dived straight in. Had a chat with the lockkeeper as we were going down, he said that since the 1st of April there have been 3,200 boats through the locks! Looks like being a busy year. And with the opening of the new Swanley bridge Marina, it’s set to get busier.

We got down the first 2 locks without incident, but as Mags tried to exit No 2 a hire boat pulled out of No 3 and blocked the way. Mags had to go round on the outside, and was not amused! Anyway, the holidaymakers will have an anecdote for when they get home, about this mad woman on a 57 footer giving them grief. They were suitably contrite and apologetic.

In Hurleston locks
Out of the flight without having a go at anyone else, and turning onto the Shropshire Union at 13:00. A steady run to Barbridge, and the right turn onto the Middlewich Branch, heading for, would you believe, Middlewich. The sky had cleared and it was getting hot again.

Barbridge Junction. Straight on for Chester, turn right for Middlewich.
We were lucky to turn into the branch before 3 more boats that came down the Shroppie from the north. As it was we were able to go almost straight into Cholmondeston (pronounced Chumston??) lock without queuing.
There were 4 waiting on the other side to come up, though.

Cholmondeston queue and Venetian Marine
Toddled on to the next lock at Church Minshull, then pulled over soon after bridge 8.
A pleasant but popular spot. I wish BW had cut the grass though. You need a machete to get off the boat!

A bit overgrown! But a nice shiny boat!
Locks 8, miles 8.

Monday, June 11, 2007

A better start to the day, today. Fine and bright.
Away at around 10:30, and a ½ hour run to Marbury Lock. A bit of a queue, but soon we were through, and cruising on to Wrenbury.

A quick passage through the lift bridge, only had half a dozen cars waiting by the time it was back in position.

Wrenbury Mill and Lift Bridge
Stopped after the bridge to pop into the village for bread and milk.

Got off again at about 12:30, and after a quiet morning, it suddenly got very busy with boats. We had a gentle run down to the 3 locks at Baddiley. We were following another boat, so had to fill each lock before we could go through, but we weren’t in any hurry.

Queue at Baddiley No 3 lock
We pulled over for the night about 10 minutes after the last lock. All alone on the mooring for a while, but by 18:00 there were another 4 boats with us.

It’s been very hot in the sun this afternoon, so I left it a while before doing a bit of varnishing in the engine room, then cutting and polishing the RH side of the boat. Both sides done, now. She certainly looks better.

Locks 4, miles 6.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The towpath here is busy with walkers, and the water busy with boats so we decided to move on for a bit and find a quieter spot.
So we set off at around 11:25, through the next 3 locks and stopped on a 48 hour mooring not far past bridge 25.

It was going to get noisy later near Povey’s Lock, with this Grass Track meeting just getting under way....
Willeymoor Lock Tavern. Right next to the lock (as the name implies…)
Moored for the night.
Overcast today, cooler with brief glimpses of the sun around midday. We stopped about 13:30, so I made a start on the changes to be done in the “engine room”.

Now the washing machine is in the galley, I can change things around a little. On the right I’m fitting a new door and some shelves for “ready use” bits and bobs. And where the washer was will be coat hanging space.
I’m then going to reconfigure the controls and instrument panel, so I can see the important gauges from the tiller position.

Locks 3, miles 2½

Saturday, June 09, 2007

We decided to move on for 2 or 3 hours today. The morning was bright and warm by 07:30, heralding a fine sunny day.
Away around 10:00, into a day of bridges and locks, 4 lift bridges, 13 fixed bridges and 6 locks.

Fairly quiet today, less boats moving than yesterday. I reckon that most of the hire boats are back in their bases for turn round day.
Gentle cruise down and through Hassel’s No 2 lift bridge, and I walked the ¼ mile or so to No 1 to get it ready. Mags arrived, and so did 3 other boats from both directions, so we waved them through before closing the bridge.

Hassel’s No 2 lift bridge.
Another boat returned the favour at the next lift bridge, so we went straight through and on to Grindley Brook. A short wait, then an uneventful run down the 3 lock staircase.

Coming down Grindley Brook staircase.
This is followed by 3 single locks, and we had to wait for a boat coming up the middle one. Unfortunately, as the pound was drained to fill the lock, Mags and Seyella were left sitting on a mud bank! She was not a happy bunny…
I tactfully chose not to take a photo, instead braved nettles of Amazonian proportions to get back on board and retrieve the situation.

After all the excitement we decided to call it a day at the bottom of the flight, so moored on the 48 hour visitor moorings just past the railway bridge.

Locks 6, miles 5

Friday, June 08, 2007

A last bit of shopping, then we were off again, heading roughly eastward. The Shropshire countryside is attractive, very rural, with just the occasional village.

Country Views
One of the long straights across Whixall Moss leads to the Prees Branch, intended to go further than it’s current terminus after about a mile. It’s now the home of Whixall Marine.

Long Straight to the Prees Branch
We stopped for the night just after Bridge 43 at 15:30.
Just one lift bridge today, typical of those on this canal.

Morris Lift Bridge
Locks none, miles 8

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Yesterday we planned to service at the Sanitary Station just outside Ellesmere, then down the short arm into the town. If we can get a mooring, we were going to shop, then move out, heading on towards Whitchurch.
Well we followed the plan up to and including the shopping, but decided to stay overnight. The presence of a Chinese Takeaway was the deciding factor for me!
There’s a good shopping centre, here, and it’s a pleasant place to walk around.

Looking for a mooring on the Ellesmere Arm
Ellesmere Basin
Several buildings around the basin, including the old dairy, have been demolished to make way for a “mixed use development”.
I’m pleased to see the old warehouse has been reprieved.

In the morning we tried to ring Carol, another friend, and daughter of Val and John who visited us at Moore. She’s now living and working near Wrexham, only about 12 miles away.
Anyway, we finally got to talk, and arranged for her and her friend Amanda to come down to see us this evening.

So we had a blitz inside the boat, and I got on with a long overdue cut and polish on the outside of the cabin. Until I develop the knack of walking on water I can only do one side at a time, so the right hand side will have to wait!

With the visit, we’ll stop a second night here. The moorings are 72 hour, so we won’t be overstaying.

Locks none, miles 1

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

A bit of a lie-in today after yesterday’s early start. We got away at about 10:30, and joined a bit of a queue to go through the 2 New Marton locks. Still, we were clear by 11:30.
Had an easy run past Frankton Junction and the entrance to the Montgomery Canal. We’ll come back to the Llangollen when it’s quieter, and “do” the Montgomery then.

Heading towards Frankton Junction
Another 2½ miles saw us mooring up just this side of Ellesmere, on a 48 hour mooring near the unfortunately named Stanks Bridge. Just in front of us is NB WILVIR, first met on the Ashby in the winter, and last seen briefly near Fradley earlier in the year. Their dog, Gunner, and Meg spent a ½ hour playing, while we caught up with the news. Bill and Virginia are heading for the Montgomery on Friday.

Locks 2, miles 6

Monday, June 04, 2007

We decided to get off early to avoid as much traffic as possible through the narrow sections this side of Trefor. So we were up bright and early, and on the move by 07:15.
Last night’s rain has eased, leaving a cool, damp, misty morning.
We had to go down to the basin to turn around, and, even with the early start, we were still behind 2 other boats on the way out of Llangollen.

Back from the basin after turning around
Llangollen from the canal
Out from the narrows there are superb views over the Dee valley

Dee valley and dog walker
We reached Pontcysyllte Aqueduct at around 09:00, and were able to go straight across. Standing on the opposite side of the boat from the towpath, it looks a long way down!

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct
Another hour saw us back over Chirk Aqueduct and back in Shropshire. We motored on until 12:30, when we stopped just before the New Marton locks. Enough for today. After the fast run up the Lllangollen, we’re going to take it steady on the way back and enjoy the scenery.

Locks none, Miles 11

Sunday, June 03, 2007

We were intending to head back today, but decided to stay another 24 hours. Had a walk around the town in the early afternoon, bought myself some new boots and a pair of those walking sandal things.

Got back to the boat not long before the heavens opened, and from then until the early hours of Monday morning there was almost continuous heavy rain.

Good job I had my walk up to Horseshoe Falls in the morning, then!

Llangollen Basin Moorings
On the way up to Horseshoe Falls
Horseshoe Falls
The source of the Llangollen Canal

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Last day of our trip today, a little bit sad because today we say goodbye to Neil and Val till the next time they come over, but tinged with anticipation of travelling over the most impressive structure on the canal network. We need to be in Llangollen by 11:00 to meet Howard, so we were up early to get a good start.
A beautiful sunny morning when I took Meg out for her early walk and took these pictures.

Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

We set off about 07:30, and were on the aqueduct in a few minutes. The sun was high enough to cast a shadow of the structure with Seyella on top onto the field 120 feet below.

A sharp turn at the far end of the channel took us onto the last leg of the trip, the navigable feeder up to Llangollen. This section was never considered as a proper navigation, merely as a feeder to deliver water to the Shropshire Union Canal and Hurleston Reservoir. As such it is shallow and very narrow in places, only wide enough for one boat.
But it is still very attractive, with the mountains rising to meet you as you travel west. The arable farmlands of Shropshire give way to sheep grazing on the slopes.

4 miles from the aqueduct and we came to the first of the narrow sections, where we had to reverse into a passing space to allow 2 boats to go through. Then on to the second, where we were lucky to meet no-one.

Rock cut narrows
We arrived at the visitor moorings above the town just before 10:30, and moored on the line rather than going down to the basin. The charge of £5/night is not extortionate, as it includes unlimited electricity. I think most folk would rather stay over than turn around and tackle the last 5 miles again, so BW have a captive audience. I like to think that the fee goes towards maintaining this vulnerable section.

Llangollen Visitor Moorings
N&V packed, then we all trooped down to the Wharf Café for a coffee and to meet Howard.

Wharf Café
Had a word with Geordie the boat horse, one of several responsible for hauling boatloads of tourists up to Horseshoe Falls.

Then we said our goodbyes, and Howard, Neil and Val set off back to Ingleton. They have one more night in the UK, then fly back tomorrow noon. It’s been an enjoyable few days, next time they are over we’d like them to stay with us longer.

Mags has nieces in Colwyn Bay, so Barbara and her husband Dave came over to say hello and catch up. This took a while, we haven’t seen her for 20 years!

Locks none, miles 4½