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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 lock
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.
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