Sunday, March 18, 2018

Another dose of the white stuff at Ellesmere, and looking at alternative plans…

We moved down to Ellesmere on Friday. Thursday wasn’t as bad as predicted, we had rain in the morning but a bright sunny afternoon. But we decided to stay anyway. Friday was pretty good, a cool breeze but dry and often sunny.

Passing Frankton Junction


Bridge 68, with the number plaque fairly obviously purloined from the now-removed Bridge 89 on the Montgomery, and mounted upside down!DSCF2739
Recycling at it’s best!

We're into rolling fields of grazing land here…DSCF2740

…and the spring lambs are much in evidence.DSCF2746

We topped up with water at the maintenance yard, disposing of rubbish and recycling at the same time, then turned into the Ellesmere Arm to find somewhere to moor. Spoilt for choice, there was loads of room so we pulled in on a sunny spot to let the solar panels finish the batteries off.

Val and John came over yesterday for lunch, bringing some joint aid supplement pills for Meg. The weather had started to turn, we had frequent light snow flurries all through the afternoon, then they turned heavier, big fat flakes replacing the fine dry stuff we'd had earlier. Unsurprisingly we woke to this…
I’d hoped we’d seen the last of the snow, but it is only mid-March, after all.

Now then, on Wednesday night, near midnight, part of the canal crossing a small aqueduct near Middlewich collapsed emptying the stretch of the Middlewich Branch between Stanthorne and Wardle Locks and stranding several boats. It looks like a big repair job… Breach1

Photos from

Luckily no-one was hurt, although a few of the people on stranded boats had a rude awakening, I‘m sure!
The first thoughts in these situations are for the boats and owners, I’m sure, but a major recovery operation rescued thousands of fish and eels from the drained section, putting them back into the unaffected Trent and Mersey Canal below Wardle Lock.

The boats between the breach and Wardle Lock, some in the above picture, could be refloated by building an earth dam and pumping water up from the T&M. But the small Springer in the top picture, above the breach, is likely to be there for some time…

There’ll be considerable pressure for a quick solution; the breach is on two major cruising rings and is a busy link between the Trent and Mersey and the Shropshire Union. It could have been worse. If it had happened at the height of the season it would be chaos for the boat hire companies.

We’ve got a booking in the middle of May to cross the Ribble Link up onto the Lancaster Canal. It seems unlikely (understatement!!) that this will be fixed by then so our direct route north is now unavailable. We could head south on the Shroppie after leaving the Llangollen, turn left onto the Staffs and Worcester at Autherley then left again onto the T&M at Great Heywood. Instead of the 11 miles and 4 locks of the direct route from Hurleston to Middlewich we should be taking, the Shroppie-Staffs and Worc-T&M route involves 98 miles and 90 locks. I think we’d need to postpone the Ribble Link crossing…

But there is a possible alternative… I’m looking into a short cruise on the Manchester Ship Canal, joining it at Ellesmere Port and leaving it at Marsh Lock, up onto the Weaver. Then we can rejoin the Trent and Mersey at the Anderton Boat Lift. Various things to consider, not least the acquisition of a Seaworthy Certificate, before we can use the MSC. They don’t exactly encourage narrowboats. If we can do it the journey time will be much the same as the original route. Watch this space…

Locks 0, miles 4½


Carol said...

Blimey Geoff you're getting very adventurous! Good luck in your planning, hope it all works out for you both. Stay safe and warm. xx

Paul (from Waterway Routes) said...

And the two cruising rings are the Four Counties Ring and the ??? Ring...

Does Ellesmere yard have separate recycling as well as the normal rubbish?

Geoff and Mags said...

Hiya Carol. It's only 1½ hours on the MCS. Just have to organise access at both ends. That might be the tricky bit...
Hi Paul. Yes, Mmmm. Was thinking of the Cheshire Ring starting at Aqueduct Marina maybe??? Or the new North-West Cheshire Ring, taking in the Shroppie to Ellesmere Port, MSC to Pomona, Bridgewater and T&M. Might be checking that out this Spring... :-)

Geoff and Mags said...

Oh and yes, Ellesmere Yard has dry recycling and glass recycling, as well as general rubbish.

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Geoff,

I had a chat with a crew on one of the fuel boats earlier this week and he said a raft of working boats which were moored up on the Northern T & M and planning to head for the annual Easter gathering at Ellesmere Port this coming weekend now were planning to just as you are planning, but in reverse order. Of courses not only does the ship canal not like narrow boats on their patch, they don't allow convoys so this will be an unofficial, large group of working boats who all happen to be making their way to Ellesmere Port for Easter!

As we have seen, CRT is in fund-raising mode to get its hands of 2.5 million for the breach repair and I suspect it will take at least a year to complete. I've also heard tell that a bore hole was drilled at the bottom lock on the Hurleston flight and water geysered up out of it. So it is anyone's guess how long the lock will hold or if it will, until next winter's planned stoppages.

Stay warm and dry, and give my love to Mags,

Jaq xxx