Saturday, November 18, 2017

A vet visit, an early start and then onto the Welsh Cut.

Meg’s visit across to the vet in Middlewich went as planned. Val and John arrived first thing on Thursday, then Val drove Meg and I over to drop Meg off for her x-rays.

By lunchtime my fingernails had all but disappeared, so I rang up to find out what had gone on. She was in recovery after the scans, but the nurse couldn’t tell me much more , only that she was OK.

We went back at around 4 o’clock to collect her, and I had a good long chat to the vet. The plates show that she has arthritis in both her elbows now, as suspected. And the elevated temperature, cough and lack of appetite seem to be down to some sort of congestion in one of her lungs. The pictures weren’t conclusive, but we’re hoping that it’s pneumonia rather than something more sinister, and she’s now on a broad spectrum of antibiotics in the hopes of clearing it up. To try for a better diagnosis the plates have been sent to a lab that specialises in interpreting the results, and we should now more by the time we go back for a review next Thursday.

I’m taking her off the Tramadol; it’s very effective at managing the arthritic pain but a side effect has her panting a lot. Combined with the lung problem she’s wheezing and struggling to get her breath, so I may go back to the paracetamol-based Pardale V for a few days. I think we need to clear up the infection before concentrating on long-term management of the arthritis. She does seem to be a little brighter today, so the half-dozen antibiotic tablets a day may be having a positive effect. Here’s hoping.

I’d arranged a Tesco delivery at Henhull Bridge for first thing on Friday, expecting to moor there overnight on Thursday. But by the time we’d got Meg back it was dark so we had to make an early start. Luckily it was only 40 minutes away.

Chris and Lesley on Rosie II reversing to turn around at the junctionDSCF1909

Another early bird, Martin on the fuel boat HalsallDSCF1911

This northern stretch of the Shroppie, between Chester and Nantwich, was built in 1779. It’s purpose was to connect the salt producing areas around Nantwich to the River Dee, and was built to broad beam dimensions so barges off the river could navigate it. North of Chester and south of Nantwich the connecting waterways are narrow.

This hasn’t happened before – a kingfisher hitching a ride!DSCF1917

Off he goes in a flash of blue.

Tescoman came and went, and we turned around to head back towards Hurleston Junction, mooring for the night just below the locks.

This morning was cool, with a brisk northerly keeping the temperature down. But the sun was shining most of the time. Today’s plan was minimal; up the four locks, fill the water tank and empty the rubbish, then moor up 20 minutes further on. And that’s just what we did.

Into Hurleston Bottom Lock

On the way up

Looking back from the top lock

That’ll do for us, a wide, dry towpath, mooring rings and afternoon sunshine. Perfect for a few days.

Hurleston Locks will be closed from Monday for repairs to Locks 2 and 3, and an inspection of the bottom lock which is getting narrower. So it’ll probably be quiet after tomorrow. We’re booked into Swanley Bridge Marina for three nights towards the end of the week for Meg’s return vet visit and Mag’s review with her doctor up in Yorkshire. Then we’ll be heading through rural Shropshire and into deepest, darkest Wales, where the men are men and the sheep are nervous…

Locks 4, miles 4½

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Across the Branch

We’ve taken the last couple of days to cross from Middlewich on the Trent and Mersey to Barbridge on the Shroppie. The Middlewich Branch is 10 miles long and runs roughly south and west from Middlewich, rising through 4 eleven-foot deep locks (I’m including Wardle Lock in the count…).
It’s mainly rural, most bridges that cross are accommodation bridges for the scattering of farms that dot the landscape.

Passing the field-side moorings near Bridge 25.DSCF1887

The West Coast Main Line crosses the canal a little further on.DSCF1888

Long straights, arched bridges.

This waterway was one used by fly-boats, fast narrowboats hauled by teams of horses and carrying perishable cargoes and even passengers. Stables for regular changes of horses were built along the routes.

Converted boat-horse stables

An annoyingly persistent buzzing made me duck down to listen to the engine, thinking that something had come adrift. I should have looked up rather than down…

We pulled in between Bridges 13 and 12, overlooking the Weaver valley and the village of Church Minshull.DSCF1895

This morning we were off at around 10:00, with half an hour to go to Church Minshull Lock. The weather has been consistently grey the last two days, calm and cool but at least dry.

Crossing the Weaver on a 50 foot embankment.DSCF1899

Church Minshull Lock.

A boat had passed us while we before we set off, and we’d met no-one, so expected this one to be full and weren’t disappointed.

Another long straight heading towards Venetian Marina and Cholmondeston LockDSCF1903

The Branch was built by the Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Canal, now the southern section of the Shropshire Union Canal, and used the same modern technique of “cut and fill” Rather than meander around the countryside following the contours like the 1st generation of canals, embankments and cuttings allowed for a more direct and faster route.

Hedge laying above Cholmondeston Lock

Permanent moorings both sides as we approach Barbridge Junction.DSCF1906

We pulled out onto the Shroppie main line and reversed onto a mooring just north of the junction.

Meg Update-
Poor old Meg doesn’t seem to be improving any, although she’s been off the boat she’s pretty uncertain on her feet. She’s hardly eaten anything either for the last three days, which is a worry. So we’re heading back to the vet again tomorrow, with those x-rays we’d originally planned for last Monday to be taken. We really need to get to the bottom of what’s wrong. Good friend Val is coming across to pick us up and take us back to Middlewich, I couldn’t get a hire car at short notice so she’s stepped into the breach. What a star.

Thanks for all the good wishes, hopefully we'll have a better idea of what's wrong tomorrow.

Locks 2, miles 8½

Monday, November 13, 2017

A poorly pooch, and very nearly a fuel crisis as it gets colder…

Last Thursday we headed down the canal from Marston, mooring just outside Middlewich.

Passing Wincham Wharf

This boat won’t be following us to Northwich!DSCF1836
Although it could have done before the original Croxton Aqueduct was washed away and replaced by a narrow iron trough.

It was a cool, grey day, but at least it stayed dry.

Tata Chemicals’ Lostock works steams gently in the calm airDSCF1838

There’ll be three marinas in less than ¾ of a mile when the new one at Bilinge Green opens…
Orchard Marina where Seyella was fitted out, then Park Farm Marina with it’s long exposed pontoons…DSCF1842

…and the slowly progressing Oakwood Marina.DSCF1844

We would often break the trip to Middlewich with an overnight stop at the wide open spaces of the southern of the two flashes, but we passed it by.DSCF1848

Another encounter with those reed cutters near Bridge 177DSCF1853

We pulled in for the evening between Bridge 174 and Croxton Aqueduct, and enjoyed a colourful sunset…DSCF1861
…at a quarter to five! It’s getting late early now…

We were up early on Friday to cruise into Middlewich, stopping to top up the water tank and then going up Big Lock before mooring up near the park. Meg had an appointment with the vet at 10:50.

She’d been off-colour for a couple of days, no appetite and no enthusiasm and she’d also developed a cough and a bit of a limp. Individually the symptoms probably wouldn’t have bothered us too much, just something to keep and eye on. But all together was a worry.

Blood and urine tests and a thorough going over didn’t show any specific problems, but a course of antibiotics for what may have been a chest infection was prescribed. The limp on her left fore concerned the vet more, maybe a further spread of her arthritis. A minimal dose of painkillers was to be tried, to see if she could be made more comfortable.

She was up and down over the weekend, although she did seem to improve yesterday afternoon. We’d arranged another visit to the vet for first thing this morning, with an option for her to stay in for x-rays. We both had reservations about this. She’s an elderly dog, and a general anesthetic can be risky. And anyway, we wouldn’t be putting her through the trauma of surgery if the scans did show something amiss. So the vet and I agreed we’ll try a course of stronger painkillers that can be used with her current anti-inflamatories. Tramadol was recommended so she’s on that for a fortnight. But we’ll being going back on the 23rd to review her condition.
She’d not had her previously prescribed painkiller before we went up, so she had a Tramadol capsule when we got back. And she’s been a lot better today. Brighter, more interested in what’s going on, and she’s even been on and off the boat a couple of times as we cruised through Middlewich and back out into the country. And she’s got a bit of appetite back, too. So it’s looking up, but it’s early days.

I made a quick visit up to Tesco’s and then we set off, stopping at the old wharf for water then going up the three Middlewich Locks. With our extended stop-over we’d got close to running out of solid fuel. Just half a bucket left after I‘d stoked the stove this morning. I did have a fall-back option if we’d had to stay longer, Tesco sells 10kg bags of smokeless but it’s an expensive way to buy it. And we’ve all those logs on the roof with nothing to cut them with until I get my saw chains back!

We pulled in at Kings Lock for diesel and half a dozen bags of smokeless before reversing back across the junction and turning in to the very short Wardle Canal.

A canal across to Middlewich from the Chester Canal at Barbridge had been proposed as early as 1772. But it came to nothing until an Act authorising the construction of the Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Canal was passed in 1825. Part of the proposal was to revisit the idea of a Middlewich branch, only this would be to narrow beam specs rather than the wide beam earlier plan.

The Trent & Mersey Canal Company nearly had apoplexy. The more modern B&LJC (now the southern part of the Shropshire Union) is a wider, deeper and more efficient canal than the earlier Trent and Mersey, providing an easier route to the industrial powerhouse of the Black Country. The T&MC management was afraid, understandably, that they would lose trade to the Shroppie via the new link. So they insisted on building the first 164 feet including the bottom lock of the branch, to be able to control the traffic. This is the Wardle Canal, and boats using it had to pay high tolls for the privilege of using it.

The deep Wardle Lock

My Lady Margaret in the foreground, someone else’s in the background…

We went up Stanthorne Lock then pulled in soon after Bridge 26.

Stanthorne Lock

Moored for the night.

We’ve been economising on fuel for the last two days, but now we can let rip.DSCF1883

Mags is pleased and Meg is sleepy.

Since the last post – Locks 6, miles 9½

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Bits and bobs…

We’ve been hanging around Anderton for the last few days. Yesterday we went north for Mags to make the first of her annual two visits to the doctor for her MOT, and it’s handy here for getting a hire car and parking it overnight.

Mooring under trees is a bad idea at the best of times, but at this time of year it’s a very bad idea!

But there are some compensations in the amazing colours…DSCF1816

Crosses but no noughts in the sky

We moved down to the services to top up the water tank on Monday, before turning around to head for the moorings this side of Barnton Tunnel. Contractors were out cutting the reeds back, using a couple of purpose designed craft for the job. One had horizontal cutting blades on the front, the other had a wire basket scoop.

Both were driven by tracks with paddle blades attached which struck me as an inefficient method… until it comes to disposing of the collected cuttings.

Up he goes…

…and higher still!

Coming past again this morning though, it didn’t seem they’d made much impression.

Heading back towards Anderton

Through Marbury Wood

Although I’ve still not got my chainsaw chains back from the sharpeners, I’ve still being collecting wood. Three more good sized logs joined those on the roof that I’d picked up near Sutton Bridge on the Weaver.

We wound up mooring near the Salt Barge again, in a sunny spot that allowed the solar panels to top off the batteries.

We’re heading down to Middlewich, then westward towards the Langollen. There’s a month-long stoppage on the Hurleston Locks that we need to get past before the 20th of November. After that, onward to Wales for Christmas.

Mags has got another visit up north for the second half of her medical review, but we’ll be on the Welsh Ditch by then.

Since last post, Locks 0, miles 4.

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Back up onto the cut

On Thursday we came back upstream from Devil’s Garden, through the two locks and stopped for the night in Northwich. It was fine but cool as we set off, heading towards Dutton Lock to meet the lockies there at the arranged time of 10:30.DSCF1754

Patient angler

Just downstream of Dutton Locks the backwater returns from it’s detour over Dutton Sluices, under a wooden bridge.DSCF1759

The arches are constructed of laminated timber, probably the earliest use of this method for bridge-building.

We were a little early at the locks, giving me and Meg a chance to have a wander round.DSCF1762



Boats from all over were visitors to the navigation during it’s heyday…DSCF1764

As it says above, the largest ever to come up here was the Dutch-registered St Michael in 1984. She loaded at Winnington Salt Works.

Coming out of Dutton Locks

Danish-registered Iholm at the recently demolished Winnington Works
Photos from

Lots more photos on the link.


The lockies arrived spot on time, emptied the large chamber and we were through and on our way again by about five to eleven. 

Dredging above Dutton

Acton Swing Bridge.

The old stone bridge across the backwater is still in place and can be seen under the swing bridge to the right. The fixed bridge over the navigable channel was demolished when the swing bridge was opened in 1933.

Abutments of the old bridge.

Saltersford Lock was ready for us when we arrived, and we were up and out by midday.

Leaving Saltersford Lock
The lockies didn’t get mince pies today; instead it was chocolate cupcakes and flapjack!

Our single-boat-sized mooring on Barnton Cut was vacant as we went past, then we ducked under Winnington Swing Bridge and past the boat lift.DSCF1785



The trip boat, Edwin Clarke, is just on the way down in the west caisson…DSCF1795b

Plenty of room on the moorings below the lift…DSCF1796

…and in Northwich where we pulled in.

Yesterday morning we were heading back to the lift but not go up just yet, first we picked up our guests for the day.

Meg greets John, Val and Harry the dog

After elevenses we set off, turning around and heading back up through town to Hunts Lock, before turning again to moor on the town moorings for lunch.

John and Harry taking the air.

Heritage boats Ilford and Saturn are tied up near the maintenance depot.DSCF1803

Saturn is 110 years old and is of wooden construction, built for the Shropshire Union Canal Carrying Company.
Ilford is a little newer and of composite construction, having iron hull sides and a wooden bottom. She was built in 1912 for Fellows, Morton and Clayton.

Heading back to the lift after lunch.

I hadn’t bothered booking passage to go up, there’s so few boats about it didn’t seem worthwhile. And so it turned out; after just half an hour we were in the lift with the lower gates shutting behind us.

Last look at the Weaver

We had a bit of a wait while the Edwin Clarke was loaded into the adjacent caisson. Although each side can work independently, it’s more efficient if the rising caisson is counterbalanced by one coming down.

Waiting to exit onto the T&M at the top.

We turned right and moored up, having had a very enjoyable day.

Mags and Val

So that’s it, our annual Weaver excursion over for this year. Back on the narrow and shallow, now. And we’ll have to do our own locks!

Oh, KevinToo, you are an old flatterer…
Hi Carol, yes, and they’re both in pretty good nick!
Hi Steve. We didn’t tempt fate by spending Hallowe’en at Devil’s Garden, just the nights either side…

Locks 2, miles 11½ (2 days)