Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A lazy day to Market Drayton.

Had a day against the bank yesterday. Got a bit more done on the left cabin side, easier now I’ve got that old polisher going. But it’s still going to take time. I would have done some more today, but the towpath has switched sides for a bit so I have had to make do with giving the right side a wash instead.
Quite a few boats on the move, though most seem to be going south at the moment.

I had a walk around Audlem, a pleasant village with good amenities and an impressive church.

St James' Church, AudlemThe sandstone building dates from the late 13th and early 14th centuries, and is Grade 1 listed.

Inspection Launch Lady Hatherton built in 1898
We had a family of moorhens in the reeds opposite, and they regularly came across for something to eat. The chicks, even though they were well grown and capable of feeding themselves, still preferred mum to provide.

Typical teenager…..We had the 2 top locks of the Audlem flight to climb just around the corner, so waited for a boat coming down so they were ready for us.

Audlem Top Lock

Then we had a very pleasant, gentle cruise to the next group of locks at Adderley.

Adderley Bottom Lock, No 5.
We weren’t as lucky on this flight as we were at Audlem the other day. We arrived directly behind another boat and there were none coming down, so each chamber had to be emptied before we could use it.
Still, it wasn’t too much of a hardship and we were at the top in an hour.

Two boats arrived to go down just as we arrived, so they would have had an easy run down.
We picked up a dozen fresh free range eggs from the smallholding alongside the lock. On the Audlem locks we bought a punnet of fresh gooseberries the same way, just an honesty box to put your money in. They were good in a crumble.

After leaving Adderley we had an enjoyable 3 mile trip to Market Drayton, arriving at just after noon.

Cruising towards Market Drayton

We filled and emptied the tanks as required and then found a spot on the 2 day moorings by Bridge 62, before I toddled off into town to fill up the larder.

Moored near Bridge 62.
It’s pretty busy here, both on and off the water, but we’re only stopping the one night.

Steve on NB Just Heaven came across my scribblings yesterday and left a comment on a post from February last year. A photo I took shows their boat on the canal near Kinver. I dug it out but unfortunately I’d the camera set on low res so can’t enlarge and crop the photo how I'd like.
Might get another chance on this trip, Steve.
However, they've just been down onto the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal, which is where we're bound, so their blog is a useful source of info for us.

Locks 7, miles 5

Don't forget....
I’m running the Great North Run for Cancer Research UK. SmileyCentral.comPlease sponsor me!

Monday, June 28, 2010

A good day for Germany…

But not so good for England. Comprehensively beaten in the World Cup by what was definitely a better team, and then having to settle for 2nd and 3rd behind the German driver Sabastian Vettle in the European Grand Prix in Valencia. Still there was one consolation; Michael Schumacher, 7 times World Champion and returning from retirement this year to drive a works Mercedes, trailed in 15th.
Mark Webber’s spectacular crash when his Red Bull car did a back flip after hitting the back of Heikki Kovalainen’s Lotus is a testament to the strength of these cars. Both drivers walked away. It could have been so much worse.
It was another scorcher yesterday, I reckon the hottest so far. A day for sitting in the shade and watching the boats go by. But even that entertainment palled as they became few and far between just after lunchtime.

Moonrise over the Hack Green Bunker
Hack Green Bottom Lock
We were away before 9 this morning, wanting to keep our options open for the day. A gentle hour’s cruising saw us at the bottom of the Audlem flight of 15 locks.
On the way we passed Duck Corner, a popular feeding spot for the locals…..
And the newly opened Overwater Marina

Audlem Lock 14 (they’re numbered from the top…)
We had an easy passage up the locks. With traffic coming down and no-one directly in front of us all the locks were with us. Just one was a quarter full, so I trotted up and lifted the paddles to empty it, before going back to let Mags out of the one below.
As she came out of the lock I was amazed to see a guy opening the top paddles to fill the lock! He hadn’t checked to see if there was a boat coming, nor whether the lower paddles were up. He took no notice of my shouts or Mag’s horn blowing, so I had to sprint up and put him straight.

We called it a day after 13 locks, and pulled over on the very pleasant 2 day moorings at Coxbank.

Moored at Coxbank.

The afternoon was a little cooler than the last couple of days, with high cloud moving in. So I set to with my newly acquired second hand polisher on the cabin side. I’d fitted a new cable and fabricated a polishing mop out of an old wooly hat, and it worked well. A lot less effort than doing it by hand!
I’ll post a picture when it’s done.

Had a phone call from friends Derek and Gloria on NB Completely Foxed this evening. They’re heading north up the Shroppie so we’ll have a chance to get together in the next couple of days. That’ll be good.

It’s just started to rain…..

Locks 13, miles 4

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Up to Hack Green

Another hot, dry day. Meg is struggling a bit with the temperatures, she’s a bit listless. I’m keeping her coat brushed out, but there’s still a lot of it. At least we humans can strip off.

After a shopping trip up to Morrisons we were off, along the embankment above the town and over the aqueduct crossing the Chester Road.

Nantwich embankment
Telford’s Aqueduct.Thomas Telford, who surveyed the course of the navigation, wanted to go a bit further west, maybe something like this…..This would have kept to within six or eight feet of the level at Nantwich Basin. The Basin was the terminus of the earlier Chester Canal, completed in 1779. Telford was contracted to build the Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Canal in 1825, but it was another 10 years before the link from the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal at Autherley Junction up to Nantwich was completed.

One of the difficulties was the integrity of the many embankments along the route. This canal was intended to be a high speed link from Birmingham to Manchester, so kept to a fairly straight South-North line running across the rolling countryside through cuttings and over embankments. This is in marked contrast to earlier canals like the Oxford that winded along a particular level, avoiding large earthworks and flights of locks.

Telford wanted to avoid building another troublesome embankment around Dorfold Park, but faced immovable opposition from the owner of Dorfold Hall, James Tomkinson. So he had to follow the route we have today.

We had a very gentle cruise up to the two locks at Hack Green. There was one boat in front of us, but three behind as we started up.
We moored above the top lock, within sight of the radio mast of the (Not Very) Secret Nuclear Bunker. A relic of the Cold War, it’s now a visitor attraction.

Moored above Hack Green
I reckon we’ll stay here tomorrow. With the England – Germany game and the European Grand Prix on, I think a lot of folk will be staying put.

Locks 2, miles 3

Friday, June 25, 2010

We’ve passed!

Yes we’re now the proud parents of a brand new Boat Safety Certificate.

Pretty isn’t it.
No problems, just a pipe clip to be fitted on the gas line behind the cooker. Excellent.
Now we can concentrate on our journey south.

I started cutting and polishing the cabin sides yesterday, but gave up when I started to melt in the heat. I got around 6 feet done, only another 40-odd to go.

Got chatting with a guy on a boat further up the moorings. Keith on NB Jack of Spades has a 240v car polisher that is surplus to requirements, that he’s willing to part with for a couple of beers. Should make life a bit easier. I'll go and pick it up in a bit.

Locks 0, miles 0

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Fred got it wrong!

Fred Talbot, the Granada weatherman, isn’t usually too far out. And, to be fair, he was only out by a few hours. He’d forecasted rain overnight, clearing in the early hours, but it didn’t rain till quarter past nine this morning. It didn’t turn out to be much though, just 45 minutes and then the sun came out again.
We could do with more, the Northwest is officially a drought zone, as of today. Hose pipe bans are imminent….So if you’re planning on cruising the Leeds and Liverpool this summer, maybe it’s time for Plan B?

We had an impressive moon last night, just a couple of days off full.Today’s trip was quite short, just 4½ miles to Nantwich.

Nosey cow…

At Barbridge Marina there’s a couple of recently delivered boats… still in shrinkwrap!
We turned left at Barbridge onto the main line of the Shropshire Union, dropped off the rubbish and continued on, past Hurleston Junction.

Hurleston Junction, the Llangollen Canal to Wales.
It was quite busy when we arrived at Nantwich, but we managed to slot into a Seyella sized gap on the embankment north of the aqueduct. I rang Geoff Bryant, the BSS examiner, and he’s able to fit us in tomorrow afternoon. Fingers crossed…

Locks 0, miles 4½

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Busy on the branch

We got away at 10:30 this morning, but were a long way behind the first boats on the move today.
Another fine warm morning, clouding up a bit later and with a bit of a breeze to make it feel a little cooler.
There was only 1 boat in front of us at Stanthorne Lock, so we were through and on the move again after half an hour.

Out of Stanthorne LockThere’s a 7 mile long pound between Stanthorne and Minshull Locks, with 22 bridges to negotiate, and I was pleased that we’d timed it nicely to avoid meeting any of the boats coming the other way.

Another one passed in the nick of time…..

Ivor and Mel Batchelor with their working boat and butty Mountbatten and Jellicoe.Don’t need any coal today, thanks.

Our easy passage wasn’t to last though, and soon after we had to stop to avoid a Viking Afloat hire boat full of Dutch people. It wasn’t their fault, we just arrived at the narrows at the same time.

Church Minshull nestles in the green Weaver valley.
Then we arrived at Minshull Lock, to join the end of a 5 boat queue.

Queuing at Minshull Lock
With each boats crews helping out, we soon got all the boats up though, not bad, 6 boats up and 4 down in an hour.

There was another short queue at Cholmondeston Lock, but we were up and moored above by 15:00. It’s amazing how many boats were pulling over to moor after 14:00. All to catch the 3 o’clock kick off of England’s make or break game in the World Cup. (If you don’t want to know the result, look away now….)
They won 1-0, finally getting their act together.

Notice anything different?
The decorated border around the glazing has gone, and we’ve gained a couple of ducks….
We fancied a change.

I’ve been following Maffi’s and Andrew’s debate about the speed of passing boats. A couple of boats moored on linear moorings back near Stanthorne have strong views, too.

And if you’re near Coventry this exhibition has got to be worth a look.

Locks 3, miles 8½

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Hot, init!

Phew! Last week we moved a couple of hundred yards to find some sunshine, now we’re looking for shade!

We stayed put on the bank on Sunday, had a very pleasant day waving to all the boats going past. They were leaving Middlewich after what appears to have been a successful Boat and Folk Festival.

Teatime for our neighbours
We got away yesterday, under clear skies and gently cruised down to the town. There were still a lot of boats heading the other way, usually in pairs with a few minutes between. I guess they must have been queuing at Big Lock, the only one in Middlewich which takes 2 narrowboats.

Picture postcard Whatcroft Lodge

Above the Dane Valley
We arrived at Big just as another couple of boats were coming down, and shared the chamber going up with NB Shy Swan.

Leaving Big Lock
It was about 13:00 and pretty warm by this time, so we pulled in near Bridge 172. It’s handy for the shops here, and also for Ed to get to us to repair our heating boiler. As it turned out he couldn’t make it, and came today instead.

It’s pretty noisy near the main road bridge, so today we moved on a bit, up through the three Middlewich Locks, to moor on the branch across to the Shropshire Union.

The distances are very precise at Town Wharf
Up the 3 narrow locks
Meg finds a cool spot halfway up the locks
Under the bridge onto the Wardle Canal.The sign states that this is the shortest canal in the country, only 154 feet long. It was built by the Trent and Mersey Canal Company, up to Wardle Lock to ensure that they kept control of the junction from the branch to their own water.
During the heyday of commercial carrying the canal companies jealously guarded their investment by charging tolls for boats moving onto their canals. These links were usually at locks, often very shallow ones like those at Dutton or Hawkesbury, to prevent unpaying boats from sneaking through. Alongside would be a building, doubling as a lock-keepers and toll house.

Above the lock the water was under the control of The Shropshire Union Canal Company.

Leaving Wardle Lock, now on the Shroppie.
Ed turned up just after 2, and soon had the heating boiler purring like a kitten, rather than snorting like an asthmatic drunk…..

Ed repairing the unit…. In the shade.
We were thinking of moving on out into the country for the night, but we’re only a few minutes away from the excellent fish and chips at the Kings Lock chippy…. Couldn’t resist the temptation.

Locks 5, miles 5
I’m running the Great North Run for Cancer Research UK.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Heading South

Well, we’ve got everything done we needed at Anderton, so now we’re off, destination Sharpness on the Bristol Channel, 150 miles and 75 locks away.
We’ve a couple of things to do on route, Ed’s going to repair our heating boiler, and we’ve a (hopefully successful) Boat Safety Scheme examination at Nantwich. Then it’s all systems go.

The weather has been a bit mixed. Cool days under cloudy skies with a brisk northerly, then warm days when the wind drops and the sun comes out. Yesterday we had heavy showers around lunchtime.

Aren’t mushrooms amazing. This one wasn’t there before the rain.
I don’t think we’ve been in Anderton in the summer before. There’s a lot more green stuff around at this time of year.Meg swimming is something you don’t see very often, it must have been warm!
Today we had a steady cruise around Northwich, ending up moored at the flashes near Whatcroft.

I thought it’d be busier here.
There are a few more boats in this popular spot now.

A couple of stories in today’s Mirror…. A guy gets 12 weeks suspended for brutally killing a swan, and another gets fined £100 for fly tipping after leaving a couple of pot plants in a car park for a friend to collect.
Is the law an ass? You decide.

Locks 0, miles 5½