Monday, November 30, 2009

To moor at Moore….

We moved up to Ye Olde No 3 pub to meet out Tesco delivery on Friday morning. Showery and windy, so a good job it was only an hour. Then pulled around the corner, turned at the winding hole and moored for the night.

Saturday morning we retraced our steps to stop just short of Lymm. There are good moorings actually in the town, but TV reception is not so good, and there’s always folks about, peering in the windows. We were only 15 minutes away on foot, convenient for those bits and pieces I always forget to order on the delivery. Mustard and mince pies, this time.

Yesterday was a day for putting your feet up in front of the fire. There were still some intrepid individuals about, wrapped up in waterproofs against the heavy, blustery showers. Not us though. Apart from a couple of hours out with Meg, we stayed under cover.

Today was different day. The clouds had blown away overnight, leaving blue skies and bright sunshine. Still a cool breeze though. We moved off at around 10:45, through Lymm and under the M6.

Contractors are busy patching the towpath. It’s used for vehicular access to some of the houses, and takes a lot of punishment.

Towpath Repairs

Under the M6
It’s only a short way further north that the motorway starts the climb onto the impressive Thelwall Viaduct, which carries it over the Manchester Ship Canal and a loop of the River Mersey.

The village of Thelwall is just a little further along the canal.

Between Lymm and Thelwall
When the canal was built, as well as bridges there were a lot of aqueducts constructed to allow roads and streams under the navigation. They’re known as “underbridges” around here.

Thelwall Underbridge
Not very imposing at canal level, but a substantial bit of stonework from the road below.

We were soon passing Thorn Marine where we'd picked up fuel the other day. We'd also picked up a bit more information about the canal here. I’ve already mentioned that this was a terminus from 1771 to 1776. The reason is that the landowner at Walton Hall, a little to the west, refused to allow the canal to pass through his park.
It took 5 years of lobbying and wrangling to get an agreement.

Meanwhile, boats were unloaded at London Road Bridge, under covered wharves that used to be here.
Bonded goods were stored at the Customs House, which is the front bit of this house.

Boats were turned for their return journey at Wharf House.

Wharf House

We pulled over at Moore, near the handy Post Office-cum-General Store. It’s stayed fine and sunny, but the wind has made it feel cold.

Even this heron seemed reluctant to brave the cold water…..
When we were up in Gargrave, I fitted a Sterling Alternator to Battery Controller. After living with it for a month, I can honestly say that it was a good investment. The batteries charge faster and hold their charge longer. Instead of 3½ hours of engine charging, we’re down to just 2. Makes for a big saving in diesel. Of course, you don’t get owt for nowt. At the last fill, fuel consumption has risen by around 5%. When you consider that the alternators, after start up, are punching out 130 amps, it’s not surprising that the engine is working that bit harder. But the shorter stationary running time offsets this by a considerable margin.

Locks 0, miles 7½

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Fuelled up, on to Lymm

This morning I went for a run, the first for some time. Coming down the Wigan flight I lost my footing while pushing open a particularly heavy gate, and strained a muscle in my groin. It’s starting to feel a little easier, so I thought I’d give it a work out. 5¼ miles at a steady pace, and no aches and pains. So I’ll gently ease into my training for next year, now. First race is Liverpool (as usual) in March, only this time, instead of going by car, we can go by boat along the new Liverpool Link! Wow! The ½ marathon starts and finishes at Albert Dock, only 5 minutes from the mooring pontoons at Salthouse Dock.

After breakfast and pooch walking, we were away around 10:15. Just an hour took us to Stockton Heath and Thorn Marine. 140 litres of the red stuff, a dozen bags of solid fuel and a few bits from the chandlery left my wallet lighter but the boat considerably heavier. Still, that’ll last at least a month. We spent a bit longer than needed at the boatyard just chatting to the owners. Nice people.

The original plan was to make for Dunham Massey today, but after Lymm it started to cool down a bit so we decided to stop just the other side of the town, near the winding hole. Just a short cruise to Ye Olde No 3 pub for Tescoman tomorrow, then up to Dunham, I reckon.

I didn’t take any photos today. So here a couple from earlier this year.

Goring Weir, River Thames, in May
Pertinent Message near Thrupp.
Locks 0, miles 7

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Blown to the Bridgewater

After yesterday’s abortive attempt to move northward, we did rather better today. The forecast was for blustery showers and sunny periods, and for a change it was spot on.
Moving out from Marbury before 10:00, we watered at the services at Anderton, passed the lift and through Barnton Tunnel, and arrived at Saltersford Tunnel just on time. Like Preston Brook, this one-way tunnel has timed passages, northbound on the hour and up to 20 minutes past. It’s only a 10 minute passage, but there’s a dogleg in the middle which prevents a clear view through.

Up to now we’d been fairly well sheltered from the brisk wind, but, emerging from the woods at the north end of the tunnel, we were exposed to the full force coming up the Weaver Valley. Splendid views, though.

Weaver Valley
Windchimes doing double duty on NB John Henry
Acton Swing Bridge carries the A49 over the Weaver from Warrington to Whitchurch.
This road crosses the river again further south, west of Nantwich. It’s barely more than a stream there though. The Weaver Navigation is closed to boats at the moment, with high water and a strong stream.

Looking towards Dutton Lock

Just visible is the wreck of the Chica, sat on the bottom above the lock for the last 16 years. I mentioned her when we were on the river in May 2008.

MV Chica, from previous post.
Oh, heck. Floating Pennywort on the T&M

We arrived at the south end of Preston Brook Tunnel with about 10 minutes to spare, then dove underground, leaving the Trent and Mersey behind, and re-appearing into daylight on the Bridgewater Canal, and into a heavy shower. It was sunny at the other end!

It doesn’t look like Claymoore Navigation have many hire boats out.
The rain soon stopped, and so did we. We pulled over at Moore, and I popped across to the handy Post Office to send Howard’s car parts that I collected yesterday. We’re staying here tonight, and then will go to Thorne Marine for fuel (all 3 types!) tomorrow. We’ll probably end up somewhere near Dunham Massey.

There’s a comment on yesterday’s post regarding the government proposal to sell off BW property, requesting more info. Here there’s the Inland Waterways Association response, and there’s funding information if you follow the link from Andrew Denny’s site Granny Buttons.

Incidentally, there’s discussion of another BW sell-off at Marsworth on Granny B and also on Sue’s blog, No Problem.
If this goes ahead, at least the money raised may stay within BW’s control…..

And finally, the Staffordshire Sentinel reports a boat fire in Stone. Three boats involved, one unfortunately Terry and Monica's Phyllis May. This is the boat they sailed across the channel and down to the South of France, then across the Atlantic (deck cargo this time) to cruise the Intracoastal Waterway down the east coast of the States.
What a shame, but at least no-one was injured.

Locks 1, miles 11

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A surprise visitor and a change of plan.

We moved down to Anderton on Sunday, to wait for the arrival of a visitor on Monday. Howard, Mags’ son who now lives in Ireland, decided to make a flying visit over to see the family before Christmas. He arrived on Monday morning, and stayed the night. Mags was kept in the dark (with difficulty) so she was delighted to see him.

Howie and a sleepy Meg
I’ve already mentioned the fine walking around here. There are several carved sculptures scattered around the park.


The boat lift, salt works and a salt barge in stone.

The boat lift
The main entrance to Anderton Nature Park
The colours look a little off as these were taken on my phone, and I had the light set on “incandescent” rather than “outdoor”, which gave them a blue cast. Doh. I’ve had a bit of a play in my photo software, but they’re not quite right.

We need to get diesel and coal, so decided to have a run up to Thorne Marine at Grappenhall on the Bridgewater. We could get what we need locally, but we may as well go somewhere different for a few days. So, after waving Howard off, we set off ourselves.

Howard’s car is in Ireland, having it’s MOT (it’s called ITC over there, apparently), and needs some parts. He was quoted nearly £400 with a 3 week delivery over there, so we had a ring around and ordered them from the local ford dealer. Less than ½ the price, within 3 or 4 days. H had to fly back for work tomorrow, so I was to collect the bits and post them on. No problem, we’ll be up to Grappenhall and back before they arrive. Or so I thought.

We came out of Saltersforth tunnel, after about an hour, to receive a voicemail from the dealer. He’d pulled a few strings and got the parts this morning. They were ready to collect.

So we went on to the next winding hole, about a mile, turned around and came back through both tunnels, mooring up at the edge of Marbury Wood again. This is about the closest spot that’s pleasant to moor. It’d be nearer at Wincham, but then we’d be right alongside the main road. From here, Meg and I had a pleasant 2 mile each way walk to get the bits, mainly through the nature park.
We’ll head off again in the morning (sunshine and showers forecast), stopping at Barnton to drop the parcel off at the Post Office.

I’m sure there are a lot of you out there who’ve heard that the government is proposing to include BW property in it’s £16bn asset sell-off to reduce the public debt. British Waterways are becoming more dependent on income from this source, as government grants are cut year on year. Losing this funding would be potentially disastrous for maintenance and future restoration projects. It’s not being over dramatic to suggest that less popular waterways may be closed to concentrate the available budget on those that see more traffic. After all the hard work that’s gone into restoration and improvement over the last 40 years, it would be criminal to let it all slip back.
If you feel the same way, please sign this petition. The more pressure we can put on, the more chance the powers that be will reconsider this proposal.

Locks 0, miles 8

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ambling back to Anderton

It’s been pretty windy these last couple of days, but, although we’ve had some heavy spells of rain, we’ve not had it anything like as bad in South Yorkshire. The news yesterday evening showed narrowboats up on the towpath at Todmorden.
It was last spring we were up on the Calder and Hebble, after similar high water in January. NB Pipestrelle was high and dry on the towpath then.

The river Calder runs alongside the canal here, and burst it’s banks, flooding the navigation.

Tuesday was a fine dry day, at least until evening. So I took the chance and sanded the right hand side below the gunwale in preparation for painting. Still fine, I slapped a coat of paint on by roller. Pushing my luck now, I thought, but I was on a roll so turned around in the flash and did the same on the left side.
OK, it’s not to my usual standard. It’d normal take me a few days to sand out, prime and fill the scratches and scrapes so they did not show through the final coat. This was just a quick sanding to key the surface and remove any loose paint. But it has made it look a lot better, at least from 5 feet away!
I just got away with it. The left side was just tacking off when the first of the evening showers arrived.

After rain yesterday today’s forecast was for dry but windy weather. So we thought we’d make a move back towards Anderton. They were right about the wind, strong gusts in the early hours got Mags out of bed to check whether everything was OK with the boat rocking so much. Me, I slept the sleep of the just and the innocent. Didn’t hear a thing.

There’s a handy Spar shop near bridge 83, and we were running short of milk so decided to make a quick stop. There’s a winding (turning) hole there as well, and when we arrived NB Empire No 2 was making hard work of turning around. Every time they got the stern around it was blown back again by the strong wind coming through the bridge ‘ole.
So I hopped off and took a line to pull the stern around. We got the boat around, but then the wind blew her across the winding hole, and held her fast in the shallows.

Empire No 2 stuck.
I manoeuvred alongside, took the bow line and towed her back into the channel.
The chap had only bought her a couple of months ago, and was taking her back to Wincham Wharf for a repaint.

Shopping done, we pushed on past the large Brunner Mond chemical works.

There’re some good moorings just before the factory, handy for Rudheath.

The works straddles the canal.
They produce a variety of alkali products for industry, and are working towards building a “sustainable energy plant” using non-hazardous waste and biomass (plant material) as a fuel. There’s a leaflet here describing the proposal. The fuel is to be transported by road and rail. I wonder if they’ve considered water? The site is ideally placed, and there’s only one lock between here and Manchester…….

Past all the moored boats at Wincham Wharf, and around the tight left hander at Wincham Bend, there’s a clear run to the extended line of moorings around the Lion Salt Works at Marston.

Moorings near Marston
We pulled over on one of our regular spots, just on the edge of Marbury Wood.
It’s very pleasant down on the flashes, but there’s an absence of footpaths away from the canal. Walking the same bit of towpath every day gets a bit boring, so Meg and I had a good stroll this afternoon, through the woods and across to Anderton, and back through the nature park on the south side of the canal. She almost got her first squirrel, just a couple of feet away. She was so close when it shot up a tree that she made it part way up as well, all four paws hanging on the trunk for a second.

Locks 0, miles 4½

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Leaving the squirrels in peace…..

Time for a move again today. I’m afraid this is what the next few weeks will consist of; a few hours cruise, a few days stopped. At least until the way south and east is open again. Big Lock at Middlewich is due to re-open after gate repairs on the 18th December, and then we’ll be heading down to Great Haywood. The plan is to get a berth in the new marina for a week or so, hire a car and do the Christmas visiting from there. Well, that’s the plan, anyway.

When we moored at the edge of Marbury Wood there were a couple of guys fishing, with a tent up on the towpath. They stayed until Friday, suffering the wind and rain that was thrown at us, before upping sticks and toddling off.
I checked to see if they’d left their rubbish behind, it’s more common than you’d think. You might expect that if these guys had carried their cans of Asda Extra Strong Lager and sweetcorn for the fish to the fishing spot, they’d be able to carry the empties back. Not always the case.
On this occasion there was only the errant margarine box and a few odd bits of newspaper. Until I looked closer….

22 Double A batteries, no less! I wonder what they used them for?
Anyway, they’re now in the rubbish at Anderton Services. Not ideal I know, but a better solution than letting them corrode in the undergrowth.

Meg and I have had some enjoyable walks around the area, there’s lots of paths around the Marbury Country Park, The Anderton Nature Reserve, and down on the river. I bet the squirrels will be glad to see the back of us! She's not actually caught one, but she's given them plenty of exercise.

Today was the first properly good day for a while, with patchy blue skies and a warm sun when it showed it's face. So we decided to move on, past Northwich, to the flashes, areas where the canal has flowed into subsidence following salt brine extraction.

We were just preparing to go when Mags said “There’s a small boat going past”. I looked up, expecting to see a small cruiser or truncated narrow boat cruising by, to see this..

Tug Ben Appleton
She was out on her maiden voyage, and, apart from a dodgy starboard rudder, behaved well.

Tug and proud crew.

We went back to Anderton, to the services, before turning around and heading south.

BW services at Anderton, Uplands Marina on the left, Anderton Marina on the right.

NB Sancerre has just pulled out of Uplands. You can imagine how busy this place can be on a summer Bank Holiday weekend!

Wincham Wharf was busy with boats for sale on the water and on the bank. We came to look at a couple of possibles here on our boat search, but finished up down the road at Rudheath.

Wincham Wharf. Wanna buy a boat, mister?
Orchard Marina is where we bought Seyella. I see they’ve put new signs up….

But the sign saying “Pump-out out of order” is still there. And the sign advertising diesel, coal and logs for sale now says diesel, coal and logs for sale. Hmm, no change there then.

One disappointment was the coalman, who moored just along from the marina, has ceased trading. Have to find an alternative supply now.

Just 15 minutes further on we pulled over on the edge of the larger of the 2 flashes. The smaller one, called Billinge Green Flash from the nearby farm, was the proposed site of a new marina. I say was, permission has been declined twice.

Billinge Green Flash
The wreck marking the shallows hasn’t improved with age….

We’ll be staying here a few days, I guess.

I’ve had problems with my laptop recently. Toshibas are apparently know for overheating as they get older, one of the solutions is to raise the unit off the table to give better airflow to the fans. I made a frame up to do this last year, but over the last month the problem has got steadily worse, the machine overheating and shutting down after about an hour with the cooling fans running flat out.
So I thought I’d bite the bullet and strip it down, to see if I could find the problem. I used to build PCs, and have upgraded plenty in the past, but laptops are new territory. You have to be a bit inventive to get one of these babies apart, believe me!

Anyway, it succumbed in the end, and I found the problem.

The copper coloured thingy is the cooling fin assembly on top of the processor. The 2 fans blow air through the matrix to keep it cool. The 2 felt-like pads on the top were blocking the matrix completely, mixture of fluff and dust that can’t be seen or removed from outside of the case. No wonder the poor thing was getting hot under the collar.

So an hour carefully stripping it down, 2 minutes to clean it out and 10 minutes re-assembly (I knew what I was doing by then) and it’s running like a song. Using less power (the fans aren’t running as much), running faster with a cooler CPU and more reliably. I wonder how many have been thrown out for a similar problem.
It’s still showing it’s age a bit though. One of the two USB ports hasn’t worked for months, and if I hit the M too hard the key flies off. The optical drive has to be coaxed into reading CDs or DVDs, and the eject button on the card slot fell off last year. But it’s my friend, and I love it.

Locks 0, miles 6

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Moving on – A pair of tunnels and a change of scenery.

We thought it was about time we moved on a bit, we were in danger of taking root! We’ve had a few different neighbours, hire boats either side of the weekend from Anderton, and a couple of private boats too.

Meg and I have enjoyed the walking around here. There’s easy access to the Weaver by a couple of routes, the towpath is not too muddy and Long Acre Wood is stuffed full of exciting smells for a dog’s nose.

Squirrels, squirrels!

It’s been a bit showery though, so we hung on till today’s good forecast.

Heading off.

The canal winds it’s way along the slope on the northern side of the Weaver valley, with good views across the river.

Above the river
There’s another popular mooring spot a mile or so further on from our last mooring. In fact, if it hadn’t started raining we’d probably have finished up here.

NB Harry and Astroturf roof.
At Acton Bridge there’s a Black Prince hire base. It’s always busy here, with lots of boats moored or, in the season, milling about.

Acton Bridge
If you’re going to meet another boat, sod’s law says it’s going to be here. All quiet today though.

There are 2 Acton Bridges. On the canal it’s a modest brick arched affair, but down on the river just a few hundred yards away it’s an impressive lattice constructed steel swing bridge. Sorry, couldn’t get a decent picture from the canal.

I’d planned to be at Saltersford Tunnel in time to catch the 11:30 transit window, but, with slowing for all the moored boats and spending several minutes at tick-over trying (unsuccessfully) to get an elusive kingfisher on film, we arrived a few minutes late. Not to worry, it’s not as if we’re in a rush to get anywhere.

Moored at Saltersford Tunnel.
I took the opportunity to follow the horse path over the top, and had a look into the basin between the two tunnels.
The canal is very wide here, with evidence of wharves on both sides. With a road giving access to the river at Saltersford Lock, it’s likely to have been for transhipment between the two navigations before the construction of the boat lift.

I'm quite fond of these 2 tunnels, hanging on the hillside above the river. Saltersford, the shorter of the 2 by 150 yards, twists and turns through the ridge. This makes it impossible to see the far end, even though it’s only 424 yards away. It’s only a couple of years since timed entry was introduced. Before that it was always a bit of gamble, hoping you got past the middle before meeting a boat coming the other way. The one nearest it’s respective entrance was expected to reverse out again. Interesting, especially with hire bases at either end! Barnton, on the other hand, must have been laid out when the surveyor was sober. Apart from a touch to the right near the end, it’s straight and the end is visible. There are no timed restrictions on this one, you just have to look to see that nothing is coming.

Into Barnton Tunnel. The spot of light between the underside of the arch and the top of the boat is the far end.

¾ of a mile further on the entrance to the boat lift is passed.

Anderton Lift
We’ll be dropping the 50’ on this next week. Have to remember to book, though; out of season it’s operated on a reduced schedule.

We made a stop at the facilities, then cruised through Marbury Wood (more squirrels!) and moored just on the far edge. There’s a short section of concrete with a few rings here with a view across the canal. TV is good here, as well.

Marbury Wood. Another set of squirrels for Meg to terrorise…..
Locks 0, Miles 6½

Friday, November 06, 2009

Crossing the Line

We had a grandstand view of bonfire parties over Runcorn way last night. There were some pretty impressive display, pretty expensive too!
They were lucky in that the afternoon rain had cleared, leaving a dry night.

We got off this morning at around 10, with a visit to make to the Sanitary Station around the corner on the Runcorn Arm. Chores done, we turned back out onto the short branch down to Preston Brook Tunnel and the Trent and Mersey Canal.

Hire boats at Claymore Navigation
A delightful run-about, Star.
The tunnel is one-way, operated on a timed basis. Southbound, we could enter from ½ past the hour to 20 to, and we had a 15 minute wait for our 10 minute window.

Waiting for the tunnel.

With no boats following, and plenty of time to get through, I took the opportunity of stop in the tunnel for some photos. I should have told Mags first though, she thought we’d broken down!

Looking up an air shaft.
A lot of bricks go into lining a tunnel.
The repaired section near the middle, now lined with pre-cast concrete sections.
The tunnel was opened in the 1770’s, and was extensively repaired in 1984. At 1239 yards long it’s the second longest on the Trent and Mersey, and the northern end marks the junction between this canal and the Bridgewater.

The predicted rain had arrived by the time we emerged into daylight. So it was quickly through Dutton Stop Lock, and we pulled in about 15 minutes further on.

Dutton Stop Lock is an odd size, being about 11’ wide. It has a drop from the T&M of only a couple of inches, but effectively protects the 15 mile pound to Middlewich in the event of a breach on the Bridgewater. On the other hand, if one of the embankments of the T&M above the Weaver failed, the maintenance guys for the Bridgewater will have to be quick with the stop planks to prevent their canal from emptying through the tunnel and backwards through the lock.

Locks 1, miles 3½