Val and John came visiting yesterday, to where we were moored near the Navigation in Maesbury. My home made bread was pretty solid, the yeast was a bit old I reckon, so she’d baked some for us and brought it over, along with some milk.
Now that’s what I call BREAD!
With yesterday being quite a bit milder than recently, and a night forecast to only dip marginally below zero, we planned to have a go at getting back to Frankton today.
I still had to break ice for the local swan family to come for their tea last night, though.
With no new ice overnight there were there waiting for breakfast. Don’t worry Val, they had my crappy bread, not your lovely stuff!
Full moon last night…
We were off at just before ten, getting a good start through the loose lumps of ice just thinly glued together by the remains of Tuesday night’s frost. It had all been broken up by the workboat going up on Tuesday before slightly freezing again.
We paused to pick up some well-seasoned birch logs that I’d spotted near a culvert on the towpath side, then toddled on, making good time towards Aston Locks.
You can’t go fast along this stretch anyway, it has a posted speed limit of 2mph and it’s too shallow for any more speed. The patchy ice didn’t make any difference.
It all changed when we passed the workboat, the crew cutting back the offside veg below the locks.
Above here the ice hadn’t been touched since Tuesday when they brought the boat down. It was lying about 10mm thick, but still manageable.
Between the locks it was very thin, due to the slight flow as the water runs down the bywashes.
Clear water below the bywash of Aston Lock 3
The locks were all empty, so we rattled up them easily.
Aston Lock 1.
With no boats passing through since the first layer of ice formed, above the locks was quite a lot thicker. It was up to an inch thick along the straight towards Heath Houses. Maybe we should have stopped at Queens Head…
I had cause to think that several times as we crunched our way onward to Graham Palmer Lock. Luckily there are three long straights here, with only moderate bends in between. Narrowboats are not fond of going round corners when there’s ice on the water.
The worse thing was that the ice was thinner under the overhanging trees on the offside, so the thick stuff on the towpath side kept try to push us into the foliage. Constant corrections on the tiller were needed to keep in the channel.
Whoops, here we go again…
The thickest ice was in the last mile as the canal broke out into the open, exposed to the elements. Here it was over an inch, especially crossing the wide of the winding hole.
Thankfully the water was again clear below Graham Palmer Lock, due to the constantly-running bywash, and the chamber, against all expectations, was also ice-free.
But we were back to the thick stuff in the last few hundred yards to the moorings at the end of the Weston Arm. There were two boats here; they’d tried unsuccessfully to get out and up the locks today. The ice in the middle of the open junction was very thick.
Leaving Graham Palmer Lock
We pulled in just through the bridge, rather than proceed further than necessary. Then two boats came down, having been chaperoned down the locks this lunchtime.
The first was struggling to make the turn into the arm and the water taps, so I backed off into the bridge hole and motored out into the middle, breaking the ice up into lumps to clear the way. They both managed to get up the arm then, but we stayed where we were, opposite the stretch up to the locks.
I expected to have flayed all the blacking off the sweep of the bow after over three hours of breaking ice, but it wasn’t too bad.
We must have done a good job last time!
It wouldn’t have mattered too much anyway; we re-blacking next month. And, as Mags pointed out, at least we’ve got rid of any loose stuff!
Locks 4, miles 6