Thursday, May 31, 2012

Rain, an odd lock and something fishy up the Cheshire Flight.

As forecast, today dawned damp and stayed that way, mainly light, drizzly stuff, but it made for a less than enjoyable trip up the rest of the Cheshire Locks.

I mentioned the dead fish in the locks at Hassall Green yesterday, well we continued to encounter them all the way up through Rode Heath to Church Lawton today, so I gave the EA a call to report it. There’s obviously something noxious been released into the canal near Lock 50. Above this point there aren’t any corpses to be seen.

We had about 20 minutes to cruise before we got to our first lock today, then we had a short pound to Lock 53, Thurlwood Lock.

Thurlwood LockSAM_0463 Thurlwood
Meg is being fussed by a lass off the following boat….. and loving it!

The paired lock alongside has been filled in, just the tail bridge indicates that it was there at all.

Second lock at ThurlwoodSAM_0462 Thurlwood

During the 1950’s local subsidence caused by brine pumping made this lock unusable, so an experimental solution was proposed. This was Thurlwood Steel Lock, a complete self-contained lock chamber with guillotine gates. It was assembled at the lock site.
One of the pair of Thurlwood Locks was selected as the subject of this experiment in modern lock construction, but it was not successful; the prototype remained the sole example, and by 1981 the steel lock was not in use and the parallel conventional lock had to be used. The steel lock was removed and cut up for scrap in 1988. 
  © Copyright Dr Neil Clifton and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
© Copyright David Stowell and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
Thurlwood Locks todaySAM_0465 Thurlwood
The steel lock has now gone, and so has the roof on the building on the left.

We met a steady procession of boats coming down the locks, a lot of them hired and doing the Cheshire Ring from Anderton Marina and Claymore Navigation at Preston Brook. So we had a good, easy, trip up, with gates left open for us as we in turn left gates open for downhill boats.

Four locks at Lawton are in a pretty setting and close together so Meg and I stayed off to work them.

Lawton Locks.SAM_0467 Lawton Locks

Then there are the two Church LocksSAM_0472 Church Locks
Unlike the four below, the offside chambers of these locks are both derelict.

These are followed by a short breather, just over half a mile to the bottom of the six Red Bull Locks.

Going up Red BullSAM_0474 Red Bull

We watered and emptied at the services at the BW depot, then went up the next two locks, stopping just below the final one before the summit level.

At Poole Lock, just below the aqueduct carrying the Hardings Wood Branch over to the Macclesfield Canal, a group of BW engineers were discussing the best way to fit another handrail to the tail bridge.
SAM_0476 Discussing new hand rail
This will be part of the ongoing “safety improvements” following the fatality at Stourport last year.

We’ve not moored here before, usually stopping a couple of locks further back. But we want to get an early start tomorrow to get through the Harecastle Tunnel and then down through Stoke. It’s handy here for the Tesco, just around the corner, but we had to shuffle forward a bit to get the TV aerial out of the shadow of the steel industrial buildings alongside. Mags likes to watch the soaps….

Locks 13, miles 4

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Steadily climbing….

On Monday we cruised the two miles into Wheelock, stopping there for a couple of nights. Mags had an appointment to see the doctor yesterday, so we hired a car from Enterprise at Crewe to get us there and back. It cost more in fuel than the rental!

There were quite a few boats moored at Wheelock last night, half a dozen pointing the same way as us. But we had no intention of chasing about to get off first, planning to move out at around 9 o’clock. We wouldn’t have made it anyway, the first boat up the locks just ahead was at 7 o’clock, just as I got up.

Meg walked, breakfast eaten and we were ready to go at around 08:45, so set off, following another boat up.

Wheelock Locks.SAM_0449 Wheelock Locks
The two work boats are there supporting work being done on the offside chamber on Lock 65. These narrow locks all the way up to the summit level are paired, two chambers side by side to speed up traffic on what was a very busy flight. This means that repairs can be undertaken on one chamber without closing the navigation, although some of the chambers are now permanently closed, leaving just the one lock of the original pair.
Lock 66 is having new top and bottom gates, and repairs are also being made to the bywash culvert.

Looking back at the Cheshire countryside, Mags waiting for the next lock to fill.SAM_0450 Cheshire
We made steady upwards progress, having to turn some of the locks as we followed the preceding boat, but meeting downhill boats at others.

Swapping locks with NB Downeaster at Malkins Bank, between L63 and L62.SAM_0452 Malkins Bank
The fine restored ex-WH Cowburn and Cowpar Swan is moored just this side of the entrance to Malkins Bank Canal Services who specialise in working boat restoration.
The Swan was built in 1933 and is still it’s original length of 70’6”. A lot of these old boats had been cut down to make easier to handle camping boats at the start of the leisure boom.
All the WHC&C had bird names beginning with “S”.

At Lock 59 we met a BW crew with a hopper and push tug taking the new bottom gates down to Lock 65. They were fortunate in that both chambers were full by the time we’d come up, as they couldn’t fit the tug and hopper in one chamber.

Tug in nearside and hopper in offside at Lock 59.SAM_0456 Tug and Hopper

New gates ready for installation. It’s good to see them being shipped by water rather than by road.SAM_0454 New gares for L66
You don’t really get a perspective on how deep these locks are till you see the height of the gates….

Horses relaxing in the sunSAM_0453 Relax

Mr and Mrs Goose and the kids….SAM_0457 Geese
They make good parents, Canada Geese. Very protective of their brood.

It was around here that we started to encounter quite a few dead fish as well. No large ones, just about 6” long. There’s no evidence of what’s caused this, but they’re being flushed down through the locks so the problem will still be uphill of us.

Dead fish (and the ubiquitous plastic bottle) in Lock 58 at Hassall Green.SAM_0459 Dead Fish

While Lock 57 was filling I popped in to the canalside shop and bought a couple of ice creams for us to enjoy in the short interlude between Hassall Green and Pierpoint Locks, then we went up the latter and moored just before midday.

Moored near Pierpoint Locks.SAM_0461 Moored above Pierrepoint Locks

The refurbished moorings above Lock 57 were all full, but it’s a bit noisy there from the M6 crossing just beyond anyway. It’s peaceful here, I just had to do a bit of bankside tidying so we could get on and off…

Up to Kidsgrove tomorrow.

Locks 12, miles 2½

Sunday, May 27, 2012

An abundance of anglers and a sprinkling of locks.

Today we left our mooring of the last couple of nights on the edge of Middlewich.

Our hawthorn bush has perfumed the boat in the mornings through the windows, and shaded Meg in the afternoon.SAM_0420 Croxton Mooring
This is 08:20, just look at the sky! Apart from some high haze first thing in the mornings we’ve not seen a cloud for several days.

Just around the corner is Big Lock, aptly named as it’s bigger than the rest….

Approaching Big LockSAM_0423 Big Lock
There used to be a line of permanently moored boats on the left but they’ve all gone now since the new housing development appeared on the opposite bank. I hope the two events aren’t linked, but I suspect they might be….

Today there was just a lone fisherman, but we brought him a bit of luck…

Good sized perchSAM_0424 Big Fish

Looking back at the Kingfishers development from Big LockSAM_0427 Big Lock

There’s just time for a coffee before the first of the three Middlewich Locks is reached. These are now all narrow like all the locks we’ll see till we get to Braunston, and were against us this morning. But they’re quick to fill and empty, and on such a gorgeous morning, who cares anyway?

Mags waits patiently as I set up Lock 75
SAM_0430 Middlewich Locks

We met a boat coming down in L73, then carried on through the town, past Wardle Junction and into Kings Lock.

Wardle JunctionSAM_0431 Wardle Junction
Under the bridge leads to the 100 yard long Wardle Canal, built by the Trent and Mersey Canal Company so they kept control of this potentially lucrative trade route. Beyond Wardle Lock is the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal.

Nosing into Kings LockSAM_0432 Kings Lock

Mags checks that she’s all the way in…SAM_0433 Kings Lock

It was heading out of town that we met the first line of anglers sitting in the sun.

The fine weather had had an effect on their general demeanour. Out of the 19 in the first group, 10 actually “let on”, instead of delving in the recesses of tackle boxes or finding something fascinating about a half-drowned maggot…

Looking back from Rumps LockSAM_0436

For a mile or so the canal and the busy Sandbach road run side by side, and we passed another group of hopefuls before the Booth Lane Locks. Not such a good result this time, barely half a dozen acknowledged our presence. Maybe they didn't see us…

Booth Lane LocksSAM_0438 Booth Lane Locks
The road swings away before Crows Nest Lock, our last lock of the day and the start of yet another long line of blokes desperate for a bite.

Crows Nest LockSAM_0440 Crows Nest Lock

Another mile and a half and we pulled up at around 12:15, opposite Yeoman’s Farm near the delightfully named Paddy’s Wood, although there doesn’t seem to be much of a wood around..

Paddy’s “Wood”.SAM_0444 Moored Near Paddy's Wood

We were immediately visited by a young mum keen on showing off the little ones, and of course hoping for maybe a little bread?

Spare us a crust, Guv?SAM_0442

Now we’re amongst the locks we’re starting the long climb up to the Stoke plateau culminating in the gloomy 1¾ miles of the Harecastle Tunnel. Then it’s back down the other side. Who ever said water finds it’s own level?

I feel a bit sorry for the aging Englebert Humperdinck, who, dragged across the Atlantic from his home in sunny Southern California, had to represent England in the Eurovision Song Contest. Did no-one else want to do it? Whether it was politics or just a rubbish song (it was a bit dreary, wasn't it?) I'm glad he upheld the great tradition of coming in anything other than first. In fact, with just 12 points (douze point) we came in very close to last. But we did beat our friends the Norwegians...
Never mind, we won't get the Hump...

Locks 9, miles 5¾

Saturday, May 26, 2012

We’ve got another ‘ole!

Canal life seems to be full of ‘oles. There’s bridge ‘oles, engine ‘oles, coal ‘oles. And now we’ve one more; a book ‘ole!

There already was a small ‘ole ‘ere. Orchard in their infinite wisdom had fitted the central heating controller here, right where it would get wet in less than clement weather, and handy for the knuckles to switch on as you adjust the throttle. I soon relocated it to the end of the wardrobe (just reach out of bed and push the button on those frosty mornings), and covered the ‘ole with a bit of scrap ply.

Musing the other day on storage and how you can never have enough bits and pieces ‘oles, especially close to the steerer, I decided to make use of the dead space behind, enlarge the existing aperture and make up a box assembly for the inside.

So there you have it. A guide book ‘ole. Or a camera ‘ole. Or a gloves ‘ole. It’s not tall enough to be a beer bottle ‘ole….

I even polished the makers plate before refitting it!

This morning we had a fair bit of traffic streaming past, then it eased off around lunchtime only to kick off again later in the afternoon. Some considerate, slowing down as they passed, some not so, then having to hastily select reverse to line up for the narrow aqueduct just around the corner.
Funnily enough it wasn't so much the hire boats that were chasing about....

Locks 0, miles 0

Friday, May 25, 2012

It’s raining blossom…

Travelling from the flashes towards Middlewich this morning there are several wooded sections to pass through, and the brisk breeze was causing a snowstorm of blossom in places! But the smells of hawthorn blossom and fresh cut grass as a local farmer gets his first crop in were fantastic!

As I was finishing last nights post the local swans kept coming back to try their luck…

The whole world loves a trier… but he still didn’t get any more bread!SAM_0409
There’s a new marina being built on the towpath side between Orchard Marina and the Davenham Road. It seem to have slowed to almost a standstill, but there’s still equipment there and the latest addition is the other half of the towpath bridge that will cross the entrance channel.

Park Farm (I think) Marina.SAM_0410SAM_0411

We had only a short trip to make today, so left it till the morning surge of traffic had died a little, getting away around 11:00.

Leaving south flash.SAM_0412
The white dot in the middle is the ever-hungry swan.

If I had to choose, I’d be hard-pressed to decide which stretch of the T&M I prefer, the bit north of the tunnels along the Weaver valley or this bit south of Rudheath heading towards Middlewich and running above the River Dane.

Near WhatcroftSAM_0413

Lovely, isn’t it.

The towpaths haven’t been cut yet this year, and that spell of rain followed by this warm weather has really got them going.

We need to do a bit of shopping in Middlewich, but don’t particularly like to moor in the town so stop between Croxton Flash and Croxton Aqueduct. Close enough to walk, far enough away not to be bothered.

Croxton FlashSAM_0417

Moored near Bridge 175SAM_0418

We’ll take a day out tomorrow, then head through the town on Sunday. Starting reasonably early, we should start to catch boats coming down the locks as we go up by the time we get to the narrow ones. That’s the plan, anyway.

Graham and Jennifer on NB Best O’ Mates went past this morning and gave us a shout. They, too, have a heap of wood on the roof, the result of foraging last week before the weather took a turn for the better. Ah well, it’ll still be there come Autumn… I’ll have to get a tarp or something though to make it look a little tidier.

Locks 0, miles 3

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Just a Quickie

Only a short post tonight; I want to get out and enjoy the evening sunshine, rather than sitting here tapping away! I do have a good view from the hatch here, though.

Moored at South FlashSAM_0393 South Flash

Leaving Anderton we passed Bruce and Sheila’s old boat moored outside the marina.

Original NB SanitySAM_0371 Bruce and Sheila's Ex

Marbury Wood looked splendid with the sun spearing through the green canopy…

Marbury WoodSAM_0373 Marbury

Just around the corner are some quiet moorings looking out towards Great Budworth. It was quieter still in January 2010, when we were stuck here for 3 weeks.
SAM_0374 Budworth Moorings

From here to the Lion Salt Works at Marston the canal is on a new line built in 1958 to bypass a section that was in danger of disappearing down into old salt workings.

“New” 1950’s channelSAM_0378 New Bit
I’m not sure where the original route ran, probably to the west (left). It’s all been lost due to subsidence.

We left the rural section to swing around to the east of Northwich, turning to the south at Wincham Turn. Wincham Wharf is busy as usual, several canal-related businesses operate from here.

Wincham WharfSAM_0382 Wincham Wharf
There’s been a few boats about today, we gave way to a convoy of three at Broken Cross.

Bridge 184SAM_0388 Broken Cross

We moored on the southerly of the two flashes south of Rudheath, getting tied up at around 1 o’clock. Initially on our own, but now there’s several boats here.

It’s been another fantastic day, a day for spotting youngsters following Mum and Dad around.

Ducklings near MarstonSAM_0380
Cygnets near Broken Cross SAM_0386

The flashes are well know for their populations of Great Crested Grebes.
No “grebelings” to be seen yet.

I opened the side hatch alongside the dinette and got mugged by this lot….
I don’t think you can get enough of chick pics, do you?

Locks 0, miles 5½