Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Up the last flight.

Up Tyrley Locks today, unfortunately in the rain. The forecast led us to believe that it wouldn’t rain till after lunch, but you can’t trust these weather people, can you.

By the time we’d filled the water tank it was going on for 10 o’clock. The canal leaves Market Drayton on an embankment, but at Tyrley Castle Bridge it enters a cutting which leads to the bottom of the 5 Tyrley Locks.

Contemporary buildings at Talbot Wharf

Just half of the ducklings chasing about near the moorings just past Newcastle Road Bridge.DSCF2968

Looking south-west from the embankmentDSCF2969

Soft dog Chester and owner at Tyrley Castle BridgeDSCF2970
They came past us while we were filling with water. Well the owner did, but Chester refused until I’d got back on the boat. I don’t normally have that effect on dogs…

Approaching the bottom lock at Tyrley, and there’s a boat coming down. Good timing.DSCF2973

These locks are known for having savage by-washes, so I was hopping on and off the boat as we moved up. Consequently I didn’t get any pictures until we got to the top.

Canal cottages and converted stables at Tyrley Top LockDSCF2976

You’ll probably have to click on the picture to enlarge it…

That’s the last concentration of locks done now. There’s one more chamber at Wheaton Aston and the final shallow one just before the junction with the Staffs and Worcester at Autherley.

From the wharf the canal dives very quickly into the first of the deep cuttings. Woodseaves Cutting runs for about 1½ miles and is around 60 feet deep at it’s deepest.

There’s supposed to be a mysterious “monkey man” lurking in the cutting, in 1879 it reputedly attacked a man and made off with his horse! No sign of it today, although I did spot a mink drying itself on a log.

In the cutting, High Bridge appropriately crosses the deepest bitDSCF2995


It might be the deepest section, but it’s not the most impressive. At the southern end, just before Cheswardine Bridge, the channel is cut through several feet of solid rock.
No heavy equipment in 1835. All done by hand with the aid of black powder.

It had been raining gently since we left Market Drayton. But now it started to get heavier so I decided to call it a day at Goldstone Wharf, just a half mile from the end of the cutting.

It’s supposed to be damp again tomorrow, but with no locks to do at least Mags can stay dry. We will move, but probably not too far.

Locks 5, miles 3½

Monday, April 23, 2018

Up Adderley Locks to Market Drayton

We had a fine trip up the 5 locks at Adderley this morning. Not much sun, a little breezy but no rain.

We timed it badly though. An early boat had come down earlier, passing us at around 7am, so all the locks would have been empty ready for the first boat up. Unfortunately it wasn’t us. A boat moored in front just pipped us to pole position, so we had all the locks to turn as we went up.

They are close enough together though for me to trot up to the next one and start it emptying before going back to let Mags out of the lock she was coming up. We actually caught up with the preceding boat, even though they had all the locks in their favour!

Coming up Adderley Locks

Out of the top lock, and a boat has finally arrived to go down.DSCF2956
He’ll have an easy run down now.

It was three miles to Market Drayton, passing through the rolling farmland typical of Shropshire.
On the right hand, to the west, runs a dismantled railway line, visible as the line of trees in the above picture. The Nantwich and Market Drayton Railway began life as a single-track branch line, opened in 1863. The route was soon adopted by the Great Western Railway and the permanent way was doubled. It was an important goods route, with up to twenty trains a day in each direction carrying mainly manufactured goods from the Midlands. Passenger service ceased in 1963, and freight in 1967. The lines were lifted in 1970.
There’s a preservation/ restoration society campaigning for the restoration of the line between Market Drayton and Cox Bank at the top end of Audlem Locks. Unfortunately the southern terminus, Market Drayton Station, now lies partly under Morrison’s supermarket. Click here for details…

There are several spots along the Shroppie that are reputed to be haunted… Betton Wood is one of them.DSCF2959
No spectres or ghostly apparitions to be seen today.

A line of permanent moorings on the offside under a dramatic skyDSCF2960

We’d arranged with Richard and Ruth to pick up diesel and solid fuel from Mountbatten and pulled in alongside where they are moored near Bridge 64.
Ruth is busy tarting up the paintwork on the butty Jellicoe.

We could have bought diesel cheaper at Norbury or Wheaton Aston, but this lovely couple has kept us and the other boaters on the Llangollen well supplied through the winter, in some pretty poor conditions. They deserve our support.DSCF2963
We’ll not see them again until next winter, I guess.

We pulled in a little further along, just shy of Bridge 63. In the morning a bit of perishable shopping, a top up of the water tank just through the bridge, and we’ll be off to Tyrley and the last flight of locks. Then we’ve 25 miles with only 2 locks to deal with to Autherley Junction.

Locks 5, miles 3½

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Slow but easy up Audlem

Slow because we got caught in a procession of boats climbing up the remaining 11 locks of the Audlem flight, easy because we had unexpected help!
We were ready to go by about half-nine, but a single-hander went past, so we thought we’d leave it for a bit, have a brew while he got ahead. Then another couple of boats passed, one of which was another single-hander…

We’d decided to leave just after 10 and take our chances in the queue when there was a knock on the boat and there stood Steve and Angie, who moor Tumbleweed No5 in Overwater Marina. They knew we were coming this way, and walked up to offer their services. An offer we accepted with alacrity!
So after a bit of a chat we set off up the locks.

Audlem Lock 11, with Steve and Angie waiting for us to enter.DSCF2946

We made good time for a start, with Steve and I closing up and Angie going on ahead, setting the locks. But then we caught up with the queue ahead, and things slowed down considerably.

Barrel-roofed stables alongside Lock 9 (I think).DSCF2947

Slowing down now as we wait for the preceding boat to move ahead.DSCF2948

There were boats coming down in the top half of the flight, which did speed things up a bit, and we left the top lock at half-twelve, just under 2 hours from starting out.

Audlem Top Lock

We’d promised our temporary crew members ice cream from the little help-yourself shop at the top lock, but the freezer was empty by the time we got there. So we made do with a  sandwich and a chocolate brownie each, with ice cream from our freezer.

Steve and Angie set off back down to the marina via the village, and we carried on a little further, mooring below Adderley Locks.

Pulling in below the 5 Adderley Locks

It wasn’t until I dumped the photos onto the laptop that I realised I hadn’t got a proper picture of Steve and Angie. Sorry guys. Thank’s for the help though. Have a good summer.

We’d decided to stay put today, thundery showers were forecast overnight, and rain most of today. Neither of which happened, of course. We did have a few spots of rain this morning, but the day has been mainly dry if a bit dull.

Up Adderley tomorrow, then on into Market Drayton. That rain will probably arrive tomorrow, then…

Locks 11, miles 2¼

Friday, April 20, 2018

Making a start on the locks.

There are 29 locks on the Shroppie between Hurleston and Autherley Junction. The first two we met were at Hack Green, just about 45 minutes after setting off this morning.

A bit overcast this morning as we got away from Nantwich.DSCF2924

At Bridge 91 there’s a stop gate fitted in the narrows, to be used in the event of a breach on the embankment.
There’s one at the other end too, next to Bridge 92.

This section of the Shropshire Union was opened in 1835, originally the Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Canal. Thomas Telford was appointed Principal Engineer, and he incorporated the latest techniques in the construction. The 18th century canals tended to follow the contours of the land to avoid expensive earthworks and civil engineering, but things had moved on and the B&LJC was built to be as efficient as possible.
Gone were the meandering bends of the Oxford and Trent and Mersey Canals, now the canal made a bold line across the country, with embankments and cuttings going over and through the ridges and valleys encountered on it’s route. Where elevation changes were necessary as the landscape slowly climbed up towards the Black Country, locks were grouped together to make passage quicker.

Long straights are part of the character of the ShroppieDSCF2933


Heading up Hack Green Locks, just two to break us in gently…DSCF2929
We met boats heading down both of the locks, so passage was easy.

Another 40 minutes saw us arrive at the bottom of the Audlem Locks, after passing the large Overwater Marina on the offside.

Overwater Marina

This oyster catcher seemed a little out of place, sat on top of a pile of gravel and screeching at the flock of Canada geese foraging below.

An embankment just south of Audlem is pierced by a tunnel carrying the River Weaver.DSCF2938
At this point it’s turned north after reaching it’s southern limit just west of the village. It’s now wiggling it’s way towards Winsford where it becomes navigable, before finally emptying into the Mersey near Runcorn.

Arriving at Audlem

There was a boat going up Lock 15 as we arrived, so we pulled onto the lock landing. During the season there’s a water-bus service from here to Overwater Marina and back.

We had a fairly slow trip up the first four locks, but pulled in on the moorings below Lock 11 at soon after 1 o’clock.

Lock 15, Audlem Bottom Lock

Lock 13, with the lock cottage, the Shroppie Fly and Audlem Mill on the far side.DSCF2943

We intended to take a day out here tomorrow, but the weather is turning a bit and there’s thundery showers forecast later. They may linger on into Sunday, so we decided to go up the rest of the locks tomorrow, aiming to be done before getting wet. Then we’ll hang about on Sunday instead.

Locks 6, miles 6

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Two fine days take us out onto the Shroppie.

Is it safe to say that Spring has finally arrived? Or am I counting my chickens too early? Well, we’ve two good days, in fact today has been almost summery.

Leaving at around half-nine yesterday morning we toddled our way steadily towards Wrenbury. The day started overcast but brightened up later.DSCF2886

Another brood of ducklings
I wonder what happened to those on we saw near Fron, separated from Mum and Dad….

The lift bridge at Wrenbury Frith, alongside the nursery, was traditionally left in the open position. But now there’s a sign requesting it be closed after passage. Something to do with the holiday home (I think) on the towpath side of the canal, I expect. It actually didn’t make any difference to us; a boat was coming through and they waved us on too.DSCF2890

The mechanised road bridge was passed without incident, as was the manual Church Lift Bridge.

Mags coming under Church Lift Bridge

With the warmer weather nature seems to have finally got into her stride. The hedgerows are bursting out with green, and banks of marsh marigolds, or Kingcup,  are flowering on the damp canal banks.



The blackthorn is in flower too, a white shroud covering those wicked 2 inch-long thorns.DSCF2905

Hawthorn and blackthorn are often mixed in the canal hedgerows, but the blackthorn flowers before producing leaves, whereas the hawthorn works the other way round. And the blackthorn produces edible sloes (much favoured for flavouring gin…), the hawthorn’s small, red berries are unpleasant to the taste. However they have been shown to have health benefits… I particularly like the idea of making them into a tincture with brandy or vodka. Got to make you feel better, eh!

We caught up with a hire boat leaving Wrenbury, going really slowly. Really, REALLY slowly. We were overhauling them on tick-over… However their locking technique was good, so as soon as they’d cleared the top of the Baddiley three locks they didn’t hold us up.

Mags waiting above one of the Baddiley Locks as I fill it up, with the bywash in the foreground.DSCF2899

After the Baddiley Locks our preceding boat pulled in for lunch, so we had the benefit of full locks at Swanley with boats coming up.

We pulled in past Burland, on rings with the left side facing the afternoon sun.DSCF2909
The solar panels made short work of topping off the batteries.

We’d not bothered with the stove all day, and didn’t relight it in the evening, but it was noticeable by it’s absence this morning… At nine o’clock, in the early sun,  it was warmer outside than in!

We were on the move by a quarter to ten, under the last few bridges to the top of Hurleston Locks, where we filled the water tank (slow tap) then dropped down the flight to join the Shropshire Union Main Line.DSCF2913


We met boats coming up so we didn’t have to refill any locks and were down in short order. We knew that Jaq on NB Valerie was knocking about somewhere, so I’d texted her to say we were coming. She was moored below the locks and walked up to meet us and help with the last couple.

One of the two lockies on today and Jaq as we exit the bottom lockDSCF2915 

We swung around to head towards Nantwich, then pulled into a vacant slot behind Valerie. We spent an hour catching up with the news from the last 2 years. We’d not seen her since before she lost her husband, Les. She’s looking well, but is obviously still missing him. I hope we cheered her up a bit…

Two lovely ladies

We said our goodbyes and continued on to Nantwich. This is the old Chester Canal, built in 1779 and connecting Nantwich with the River Dee at Chester. It was built wide to accommodate salt barges coming up off the river.
The original plan called for the connection to be made to Middlewich with a branch to Nantwich, but the Trent and Mersey Canal Company was having none of it, so the route was adjusted.
It ends at the end of the arm now used by the Nantwich Canal Centre, but a connection to the Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Canal was made at Bridge 92, Nantwich Junction Bridge, when that canal was opened in 1835.DSCF2918
The Ellesmere Canal, running north from Chester to reach The Mersey at Netherpool, soon to become Ellesmere Port,  opened in 1796. This was only part of the grand plan to connect the Severn to the Mersey, only disconnected ends of which were realised.

Map from www.shropshireunion.org.uk Click to enlarge.

The three canals were merged in 1846 to form the Shropshire Union Railway and Canal Company.
The embankment moorings were fairly full, with just a couple of spaces towards the aqueduct, but there was lots more room south of the road crossing.

Over Nantwich Aqueduct

We pulled in just around the corner, in bright sunshine. The final few % needed to top off the batteries provided by the solar panels before late afternoon.

We’ve been vacillating between routes north for the last few weeks, since the breach at Middlewich effectively cut the easiest way off at the ankles. We’ve finally decided to go the long way round, via Wolverhampton, then Stafford and Stoke. It’d be really good if this weather holds for the next 5 weeks…

Locks 10, miles 12