Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Heading south

On Monday we moved to the other end of the long embankment that carries the canal around to the west of Nantwich.

Across the aqueduct over the Chester Road.

We moored just short of Marsh Lane Bridge, there’s easy road access here and we were expecting visitors on Tuesday. Val and John took a last opportunity to come and see us before we got too far away…

Good friends…

We had a good afternoon with them, it’ll be October or November before we’re back within sensible driving distance. We’ll probably be on the Llangollen for 4 months though this coming winter, the stoppage to repair Hurleston Bottom Lock will take at least that long.

This morning we set off in fine weather but a bit overcast.

We’re heading south now, on the Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Canal.
Opened in 1835, this was Thomas Telford’s vision of a modern commercial waterway. Long straights with gentle curves, high embankments and deep cuttings, and flights of locks grouped together for efficiency.

Fifty years earlier the norm was to follow the contours of the land, which resulted in winding canals with locks installed where necessary. But advances in construction techniques allowed Telford to survey a pretty much direct route from Nantwich to Autherley and Birmingham, 39 miles away.
The job wasn’t without challenges though. The high embankments at Shobnall and Sheldon took considerable effort to stabilise, and the deep cuttings often have rockfalls from the steep sides even now.
But the finished canal allowed boats to make the distance from Ellesmere Port on the Mersey to Autherley Junction in 30 hours, almost halving the time using the Staffs and Worcester and Trent and Mersey.

We had an easy day, pulling in on the moorings past Bridge 84, above the two Hack Green Locks, at lunchtime.

Hack Green Locks

Coole Pilate moorings.

Off to Audlem in the morning.

Locks 2, miles 4

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Down the locks and onto the main line.

Yesterday we left it late to cast off; the day was steadily improving and it was 11 before we decided it was good enough. We had a fine, sunny trip down through Baddiley and Swanley Locks, but it was a little tedious at times…

Mags approaching Church Lift Bridge

It was all going swimmingly up to and through Baddiley Top Lock. We knew that there was a boat ahead of us and that we’d have to refill the locks. After all, with the stoppage above Wrenbury we didn’t expect to see any boats coming up. But at the middle of the flight of three we caught up to the end of a short queue.

Ahead of the boat preceding us were two boats with elderly crews, helping each other down the locks and therefore taking a lot longer than normal. Still, the weather was pleasant and we were in no hurry.


A pair of earrings to make Bet Lynch jealous!

No room on the lock landing for us at Swanley Bottom Lock

This was the last for the day, another half hour saw us moored up just past Platt’s Bridge.

This morning we had an earlier start, soon after nine.

By ten we’d watered up above Hurleston Locks and started to drop down the four chambers to the junction with the main line.

Looking a bit black behind us…

There was no-one coming up, and the bottom lock was operated by a pair of CRT chaps.
It’s very fragile now, the walls still slowly shifting inwards. Even our modern 6’10” hull is a snug fit now.

CRT are planning a four month stoppage this coming winter to rebuild the chamber.

At the bottom we turned right towards Nantwich, on the Shropshire Union Main Line. This section is broad gauge, opened in 1779 by the Chester Canal Company. It’s main purpose was the shipment of salt from Nantwich up to the Dee, hence the broad dimensions to accommodate river barges.

Coming into Nantwich, to the right is the terminus of the Chester Canal, ahead lies the Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Canal, opened in 1835 and taking traffic down to the Black Country. Note the width of the bridge, this canal is narrow now.
The Shropshire Union Railways and Canal Company took over both navigations in 1846.

We pulled in at Nantwich Marina’s service wharf for diesel, gas and a couple of bags of solid fuel. Well, you never know…

Then we toddled past the busy mooring, managing to slot in on the end before the aqueduct.

We timed it just right, as soon as we’d got the ropes out it started to rain. Showers this afternoon have moved away and we’ve now got some beautiful late sunshine.

The stoppage at Wrenbury is supposed to last for two to three weeks to enable repairs to the embankment and the canal bank. I‘m hoping that’s not too optimistic…

Locks 9, miles 8 (two days)

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Water, water everywhere…

After thirty-six hours of continuous heavy rain, followed by a day of drizzle, the Midlands and north-west are suffering with flooded roads, fields and houses. The navigable rivers are up as well, with closures on the Trent, Soar, Weaver, Severn and even the Droitwich Barge Canal where the River Salwarpe runs close alongside. The river sections of the Calder and Hebble are also affected.

The Llangollen hasn’t got away with it either. Between Marbury Lock and Wrenbury Frith Lift Bridge the piled edge of the canal bank has failed, forcing the closure of this section.

Luckily we’re past that bit, but the ABC hire base has ten boats on the wrong side of the stoppage so they’ve considerable disruption to deal with as they re-schedule boats to and from Whitchurch.

The breach doesn’t look much, puddle clay protected by a plastic sheet currently keeping the water back, but the culvert alongside has undermined the embankment too so the repair will involve reinforcing that as well as re-piling the canal edge. not a quick fix…

So if you’re planning a summer trip up here check the website for updates first -

The weather is looking to improve a little going forward, we even had a splash of sunshine this afternoon!
More rain overnight though before it finally clears off elsewhere. We’ll also be clearing off tomorrow, heading towards Hurleston.

On the subject of water, I’ve done a bit of a modification on the plumbing for the washing machine. As are most these days, ours has a cold water fill but we’ve always got hot water available as we have to run the engine while doing a wash load. I should point out that we can heat water three ways – from the engine heater circuit, from the Webasto boiler that also runs the radiators and from an immersion heater when we’re plugged into the mains.
It seemed a shame that we couldn’t utilise this spare hot water so I did a bit of a mod some years ago, which did help a bit but wasn’t a full solution.

Now I’ve made a proper job of it, with valves to control the water flow.
Hot on and cold off to fill, hot off and cold on to rinse. The valves are fitted against the rear cabin bulkhead, easily accessible from the steering position while cruising.

Locks 0, miles 0.

Monday, June 10, 2019

A long queue, heavy rain and a chance meeting.

We got ready to leave the moorings for Grindley Brook Locks at around half-ten yesterday. But it took a while to get there…
At one point there were 11 or 12 boats waiting to descend!
We did fill with water and I made a batch of cookies while waiting, though. The lockies were letting 4 boats down then 4 up in turn, so the line of boats lurched forward steadily then stopped for about 40 minutes while the next batch came up. Finally it was our turn, the first boat in our little convoy. I’d bribed the lockies with cookies, but we didn’t get bumped up the queue…

Heading down…

…and Mags keeping an eye on the pissers, streams of water coming out of cavities behind the walls as the lock chamber empties.

We had an easy run down the three singles, all of them either full or with boats coming up. Then we were clear of Grindley Brook, somewhat later than planned but not to worry. Once we got going it only took us 38 minutes to drop down the triple staircase and the three singles!

Fast bywashes on the singles

Out from the old railway bridge below Grindley Brook Bottom Lock

We decided to push on even though the sky was looking increasingly dark.
Heavy showers were forecast in the afternoon, and we’d hoped to be tied up by then.

But we didn’t get away with it, heavy rain came over as we arrived at Povey’s Lock so I tied up, shut the slide and sheltered under the trees. I did venture out during a brief pause in the downpour to draw the top paddles to fill the lock, but hastily retreated to shelter when it came on again.

Fifteen minutes later the rain stopped, the sky cleared and the sun came out.

Steam rising from the wet roof under the hot sun.

We dropped down Povey’s, Willeymoor and Quoisley Locks without getting wet again, meeting boats coming up at each, then pulled in on the straight below Bridge 25.

While we were waiting above the locks we met Roger and Susan on NB Chatsworth. We had met before a couple of years ago, but this time we had a chance for a chat over a cup of coffee, then later after we’d moored, a glass of something stronger… Very pleasant South African brandy, Roger!

Susan and Roger this morning before they set off

We were off about an hour after Chatsworth, they were hoping to get below Swanley Locks today, we were only heading for Wrenbury.

I spotted this very weird effect in the sky as a jet contrail passed in front of the bright sun…

Mags in Marbury Lock, our only one today.

A couple of fine miles later we passed through Wrenbury Frith Lift Bridge.
It always used to be chained in the open position, but is now back in use to give access to the property on the other side of the canal.

We got through the mechanised lift bridge carrying Nantwich Road, only holding up a handful of cars, then pulled in on a sunny spot at the end of the 48 hour moorings in sight of Church Lift Bridge.

The weather looks grim for tomorrow so we’ll stay put, but maybe a little better on Wednesday. We’ll see.

Locks 10, miles 6¼ 

Friday, June 07, 2019

Top of the locks.

We set off from near Roundthorn Bridge yesterday morning. We’d had a productive couple of days; a Tesco delivery on Tuesday and a final visit from Val and John on Wednesday. They came bearing gifts, meringues for Mags, scones, homemade jam and marmalade. We’re going to miss them when we move out of range…

Heading off on a fine morning

Just around the corner near Platt Lane Bridge, a jay hoped down out of the hedge as we passed.

Not a good picture I’m afraid, it was a bit rushed.

Here’s a better one from the RSPB website

They’re a member of the crow family, and I always think that if the more commonly seen members resemble undertakers and accountants, these must be the more flamboyant Elton John or Lady Gaga, the rock stars of the Corvidae. They’re a lot shyer, though.

We picked up a short convoy of hire boats after Tilstock Lift Bridge, but lost one of them before the Hassel’s pair of lift bridges a couple of miles further on.

Bridge 39 carried the Cambrian Railway over the canal, between Ellesmere and Whitchurch.
We passed under a dismantled bridge for the same line a fortnight ago the other side of Frankton Junction.

Bywater hotel boat’s motor and butty, Kerana and Karna Taka, heading west.

We split the load at the last three lift bridges to Grindley Brook, taking it in turns to open them with the ABC hire boat following.

Then we pulled in on the moorings above the locks, handily within water-hose distance of the first tap. We were nearly out of water…

Today we’ve stayed put. The forecast was for wet and windy weather, and we’ve had that, although a bit later than expected. All being well we’ll drop down Grindley Brook Locks tomorrow.

Locks 0, miles 5½ 

Monday, June 03, 2019

A minor change of plan

We had a day off yesterday on Hampton Bank, watching the boats go by. Lots of them too, not so many slowing down either. We were strapped to the bank with springs and breast ropes at both ends, but were still pulled about a bit by some of them. You can’t just blame the hirers either. A fair proportion of them were private boats…

Off from Hampton Bank on a bright and breezy morning.

It must be summer, the Yellow Flag Iris is out!
These beautiful bright yellow flowers stand tall on long stems rising along the reedy fringes of many canals.

After half a mile of windy canal, passing under Clapping Gate Bridge the canal briefly enters Wales again, a southern salient of the Principality dropping down to Northwood before the border heads north again.

We cross back into England halfway along the long straight across Whixall Moss.

Prees Branch Junction

Around the corner from the junction is Morris Lift Bridge, and we were lucky to arrive at the same time as a hire boat from the other direction. The chap crewing and waving his windlass offered to lift the bridge and I agreed with alacrity. This one takes 80-odd turns to lift!

Through Morris Lift Bridge

We intended to press on to moor just past Fenn’s Bank, near Duddleston Bridge. But the newish moorings just past Roundthorn Bridge looked inviting so we pulled in there to enjoy the sunny afternoon.
There’s parking right alongside, so we’ve a Tesco delivery coming tomorrow, then Val and Johnny are coming for lunch on Wednesday. This will probably be the last time we see them this trip.

The weather is looking a bit dodgy over the next few days, “unsettled” as they say. Flaming June, eh.

Locks 0, miles 3½