Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Heading for the border…

But there’s a way to go yet!

Last night wasn’t as cold as it has been, but now the water temperature is low even an overnight of around 0° puts ice on the surface.

A couple of boats had been past by the time we got going, so at least we didn’t have to break any this morning, just elbow it to one side.

Nantwich has extensive moorings on the embankment, either side of the aqueduct carrying the canal over Welsh Row.

Crossing Telford’s aqueduct at NantwichIMG_3083

Nantwich also marks the junction of the Birmingham and Liverpool Canal with the much earlier Chester Canal.

Bridge 92, last on the B&LJC

The Chester Canal terminated at Nantwich Basin, on the right here. IMG_3085

So we’re now on the Chester Canal. Opened in 1779, it’s a grandad compared to the Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Canal, opened in 1835. The older canal has an entirely different character to the later.
Gone are the long straights over embankments and through cuttings, this canal follows the contours rather than cutting them, so it’s a lot more bendy. The bridges are wider too, as are the locks, but we’ll not see any of those before we turn off at Hurleston Junction.
The canal was built to accommodate barges from the River Dee in Chester, and a terminus was built there, connecting to the river through three locks. 

Chester CanalIMG_3088

Our trip on this canal wasn’t long; less than half an hour later we were at Hurleston Junction, where the Llangollen Canal joins the Shropshire Union Main Line after dropping down four locks.

That’ll be us, thenIMG_3089

Mags waiting to come up the bottom lock.IMG_3091

We were following a single hander, but the boat coming down had left the locks set for him. He actually invited me to go first, but I’m sure he’s glad I declined, otherwise he’d have had to turn all the locks as he followed us up. Nice of him to offer, though. 

Looking down the flight from the top lockIMG_3095

Our locking technique was judged by a critical audience…IMG_3094

We topped off the tank again at the services above the locks, then carried on, mooring just short of the hamlet of Burland. We’ve got visitors coming tomorrow, and there are moorings closer to the road bridge, but they can be quite muddy. Meg and I will go and check them out… Now it’s turned mild the frozen towpath will return to mush in the wetter sections.

Oh, and a Happy New Year, everyone! Not too much to drink tonight, now…
Martini glass
(that's what they'll look like if you have too many...)

Locks 4, miles 4½

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Through the crunchy stuff to Nantwich.

Well, it had to happen sooner or later. All these cold nights we’ve been having finally dropped the water temperature enough to leave us with a coating of ice on the canal. We encountered areas of thin, slushy stuff a few days ago, but this was the genuine article.

A boat had moored ahead of us last evening, and as I was making preparations to leave, so were they. Mine got slower… might as well let them go first, eh?

Off we go, following the gap cut by NB Elusive IMG_3071
It was not to last. They pulled in just past Bridge 84, only a few hundred yards on. As we passed he said it was too thick, he didn’t want to take his blacking off. If he’s out all winter he’d better get used to it…

It was getting thicker, though. Only a couple of millimetres thick when we left, it was maybe 6 or 7 up to Bridge 85.IMG_3074

The ice thinned again at Hack Green Locks, and we met another boat below, so it was well broken down to Nantwich.

Hack Green Locks

It’s sometimes difficult taking pictures at this time of year. The sun is too low behind, looking ahead you can’t avoid your own shadow.

Instead of moving onto the embankment above Nantwich and the moorings there, we pulled in just before Bridge 91. The day had brightened considerably after a dull start, and this is a sunny spot, unlike the tree-shaded moorings further on.

We had some stale bread and there were some optimistic looking moorhens hovering about, so I threw some onto the ice alongside.

This one had trouble keeping his balance!IMG_3078

He cleared off when a mallard and a group of rowdy gulls joined the party…IMG_3079
“Get out of it, that bit’s mine!”

I’ve got a bit of shopping to do before we leave in the morning, but, all being well, we’ll be moored on the “Welsh Canal” this time tomorrow.

Locks 2, miles 3½

Monday, December 29, 2014

Almost like summer.

Well, I did say almost…

Beautiful clear blue skies, no wind, but anywhere not touched by the sun still has a coating of last nights frost.

A thin sheen of ice lies in some of the lock chambers, tooIMG_3046

Shropshire Union Rope Trick
Frozen ropes are one of the downsides of frosty nights!

We were away before 11:00 today, looking at the downhill run to Audlem.

Audlem LocksIMG_3050

Care was needed on the lock sides…

But a fine trip down, nonetheless.IMG_3053

Meg enjoyed it too. There were plenty of dogs being walked up and down the flight, some up for a bit of a chase about.

We got to the moorings below Lock 11 at 12:10, just 90 minutes to do the 9 locks, and most were set against us. We thought it was a bit early to stop, so, after a mug of soup and a brew each we set off again, with the remaining 4 locks of the Audlem flight to do.

Audlem Mill and the Shroppie Fly, above Lock 13 IMG_3055

We topped up the water tank, and disposed of waste here, then pushed on accompanied by an inquisition three generational family.

We hadn’t seen a boat all day, in fact we haven’t seen one for several days, so imagine my surprise when we arrived at the bottom lock to find a boat arriving below. Then another! If only they’d got here sooner we’d have had the locks set for us, As it was the first boat would have had the “good road”.

Leaving Audlem Lock 15IMG_3056

Just to the west of Audlem the River Weaver reaches it's most southerly point and turns back to head north to Nantwich and Northwich. The canal crosses the infant river on an embankment with a culvert through it.

River Weaver, now north-bound

The extensive Overwater Marina, a mile below the locksIMG_3061

We reached the moorings at Coole Pilate at around 14:45, and called it a day. A good day.

Moored at Coole Pilate

Anyone for a barbie? George and Carol?

Nantwich tomorrow for pre-New Year shopping.

Locks 13, miles 3¼

Sunday, December 28, 2014

A special morning…

I had a great long run this morning, just over 10 miles on the lanes and back roads either side of the canal. The temperature had dipped to below -4°, so it was a bit chilly till I got warmed up, and I had to be on the lookout for icy patches, but I really enjoyed it. Then, after a bite to eat, Meg and I took a walk back up Adderley Locks.


On the way back down again, a real treat…IMG_3032

He’s spotted us…

Good vantage point – Oi, we’re over here!IMG_3035

A bit higher…
I had to use maximum zoom for the last couple of pics, so they’re not brilliant, but so much better than I’ve been getting from the back of a moving boat!

Made my day.

On such a fine day it would be a crime not to cruise for a bit, so we did – for a bit.

It was near on midday by the time we got going, but we were tied up again near Cox Bank, near the top of the Audlem flight, by just after 1 o’clock.

Off towards AudlemIMG_3041

Fantastic light and shade.

Audlem Lock 1IMG_3043

The Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Canal, now the main line of the Shropshire Union, was built in competition with the early railways, and so had to be efficient. The locks were grouped in three main flights, at Tyrley, Adderley and Audlem. Audlem is by far the longest flight, 15 locks over 1½ miles drop the canal 93 feet. But it’s a lot quicker to work a flight like this than to deal with the same number of locks scattered over a longer distance. The windlass-winder stays off, and can trot down to set the next one while the current one is emptying.

We only did the top two today, tomorrow we’ll drop down a further nine to the moorings near Audlem village, leaving the final four for maybe Tuesday.

Locks 2, miles 1½

Saturday, December 27, 2014

A couple of hours, dodging the showers.

Last evening’s snow didn’t last; it turned to rain later, only traces of it remained this morning. But that was crunchy underfoot after the low temperatures overnight.

I had some shopping to do before we left this morning, and we’d been plagued by intermittent showers, so we left it till gone 11:00 before we pulled pins.

The dogs opposite turned out to see us off.IMG_3013

It was an uneventful trip to the top of Adderley Locks, the 2½ miles taking around an hour.

Still some persistent snow on the fields…IMG_3015

…and on the towpath through Betton WoodIMG_3018

A buzzard was toying with me through here, flitting across the canal to land in the trees, then taking off again as soon as I pointed the camera his way.

That’s the best I could do, unfortunately the camera chose to focus on a branch much nearer.

The towpath swaps sides at Betton Coppice Bridge, a turnover or snake bridge that allowed the boat horse to cross without dropping the tow.

Betton Coppice BridgeIMG_3019

As we approached the top of the Adderley Flight of 5 locks another shower blew over, this one cold and sleety. So  took the decision to call it a (short) day and tie up on the moorings above. Annoyingly this length is edged in concrete, with the notorious “Shroppie Shelf” lurking a foot below the water.

The copings were cast in place, and the shuttering used only dropped below the water level about a foot. When the concrete was poured it oozed out below the shuttering, forming a ledge which sticks out into the canal several inches. Many boaters carry wheelbarrow wheels to use to hold the hull off the shelf, but in this case we couldn’t get closer than about 14”, too far to expect Meg to jump. We’d just decided to carry on when the rain stopped and the sun tried to make an appearance, vindicating our decision.

Heading down Adderley Locks IMG_3020

Adderley Bottom Lock, number 5

There was quite a bit of water coming down, making the bywashes fierce. Good planning though means that most of the flow goes down, rather than across, the canal.IMG_3024

We moored up between the lock landing and the 48 hour moorings on rings. There doesn’t seem to be any restriction on these moorings, and the towpath is a little drier than further along.

TV is good here but internet is dire. I’ll have to jiggle about with my dongle to get a signal.
Jiggling successful...

Locks 5, miles 3¼

Friday, December 26, 2014

The north wind doth blow…

…and we will have snow!
Meg wasn’t impressed when we went out this evening…

All being well we’ll be moving on tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Clipart Clipart
Ho, Ho, Ho and all that stuff…

Have a good one, don’t eat too much. And, boaters, make sure your chimney is swept…
Free Clipart
It’s been calculated that the old?? gentleman would be hard-pressed to deliver all those presents during the darkness hours of Christmas Eve. But then, we don’t know what technology he might be using, do we? Inertial damping, à la Star Trek, would protect him and the reindeer from the massive G forces necessary to get from house to house quickly. Or maybe he can travel in a time vortex, effectively freezing time around him so he can take a leisurely year to visit all his customers, a year which to us would seem only a matter of hours.

Or maybe it’s just magic….

Monday, December 22, 2014

To Market Drayton for the last bit of shopping.

We weren’t planning on moving yesterday, perhaps as well. It was very windy from mid-morning on. We only saw another two boats braving the elements. I had some wood to chop and a repair to do outside, so I was glad that it stayed fine.

The tunnel light bracket had all but rusted through…IMG_2969

…so I made and fitted a new one. I knew I kept those un-needed radiator brackets for something.

That’s why there’s some spare holes…

We had a spectacular sunset for the Winter Solstice.IMG_2974
Pity I couldn’t find a spot that didn’t include the telegraph poles.

It was still windy this morning, though it seemed a little calmer than yesterday. I thought about hanging on for another day, but tomorrow is also predicted to be blustery so there wasn’t a lot to be gained.

Off along Shebdon Embankment this morning.IMG_2976

At the far end of the embankment Cadbury’s built a processing plant to provide chocolate crumb. The crumb, produced from locally sourced milk and cocoa, is an ingredient in the finished product, and was shipped by narrowboat to Bournville.

Cadbury’s Knighton factoryIMG_2978

The disused loading canopy makes good shelter for several ex-working boats.IMG_2980

It was 6 miles to the locks at Tyrley, embankments and short cuttings to negotiate as the canal heads steadily slightly west of north. The embankments give fine views off to the west, but that’s where the wind is coming from too, making it a bit awkward at times.IMG_2986

There’s a long line of linear moorings around Goldstone, finally left behind at The Wharf Inn.

After the wide views off the raised sections, the next 1½ miles feels almost claustrophobic.

Woodseaves Cutting is the longest and deepest on the canal, the sides rising to over 50 feet above the canal.

 It starts just before Cheswardine Bridge…IMG_2991

…through rock-cut sections…

…and under High Bridge…IMG_2995

…before emerging from the gloom at Tyrley WharfIMG_2997

The working boatmen were very reluctant to cruise through here after dark, being generally a superstition lot they weren’t prepared to risk meeting up with the creature that supposedly haunts the slopes. We’ve been through once in the evening, and it’s not difficult to imagine there being a leering shape peering down from the dripping, overhanging vegetation…

We topped off and emptied tanks at the wharf, then set off down the flight of five locks.

Watering up at Tyrley

Mags heading down Tyrley LocksIMG_3002
She’s just passed the notoriously powerful bywash below Lock 4.

Below the locks a tree stump has had a face for a while, but this year it’s gone all festive!IMG_3004

Another 20 minutes saw us tied up near Bridge 62 at Market Drayton. Tomorrow I’ll be up in town shopping, getting the cupboards topped up again. A quick trip up to the market on Wednesday (always worth a visit) will be followed by a short cruise out of town to spend a couple of days out in the sticks.


This afternoon I felt the Christmas Spirit move me, so I dug into the storage under the bed and pulled out the decorations. We’ve now got a tree up…

Ho, Ho, Ho!

Locks 5, miles 7½