Monday, June 27, 2011

Tanked up, and it’s a small world….

With weather like we’ve enjoyed these last couple of days, the best place to be is on the water. I needed a few more bits and pieces from B&Q, so yesterday we decided to motor up Bridge 191, where a 10 minute walk across the fields emerges just 200 hundred yards away from the store.

Fine looking tug style narrowboat near Marston.

This is painted in the livery of the United Alkali Co Ltd. The finish is so new you can smell the paint in the hot sun.

All this area has suffered from subsidence following brine extraction, in fact an old building alongside Bridge 192 has recently been demolished. The bridge itself has been “adjusted” as the surrounding ground slumped.

The canal bridges around here are generally built with a flat deck on supports, rather than the more traditional brick arch. This allowed for local subsidence, as the bridge deck could be removed, another couple of courses of brick added to the supports and the deck replaced. The earlier deck position can clearly be seen under Bridge 193.

Bridge 193.

We turned around and headed back to moor just at the edge of Marbury Wood, to watch the boats go by.

Moored near Marbury.

It was a lot busier than when we were here for 10 days 18 months ago…..

Marbury Sunset

Today we headed back to Anderton, filling and emptying the appropriate tanks at the sanitary station, then turning into Uplands Marina for fuel. 140 litres of diesel, a gas bottle and a bag of solid fuel (I know, it’s nearly 30º, but we had a frost this time last week….) left the wallet a little lighter, but that’ll do for another month. I also left our old prop with Dave to see if anyone wants it (17x12, RH, 1½” shaft) and an alternator for repair.

We got chatting, and it turns out that he used to live in the same village as us in the Dales, and we have friends in common. He also knows one of Margaret’s sons, Eric.

Crows flocking over the fields towards Little Marston.

How come they don’t bump into each other?

NB Bluebird at Harrals at Wincham Wharf. She was used as a floating office at a canalside development in Worsley, but I’m guessing is now for sale.

NB Bluebird

We moored up near Broken Cross and I walked up to Orchard Marina to have a word about the wood I’d ordered. He’s got the sheet material but is still waiting for the oak framing, hopefully in the next couple of days.

We’ll hang around nearby till it lands.

Locks 0, miles 7½

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Still here……

I said last time that we’d stay where we were for the weekend. Well, we did, and then stayed on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday…. till today.

The weather was partly to blame, with blustery showers regularly blowing over. But I’m still waiting for my panels and framing timber to arrive at Orchard Marina, until I get those we’re kicking our heels a bit.

I have made a start on the bedroom refit, using wood recovered from the original cabinetry.

Basic structure for bed-head cupboards.

We met up with Bob and Joan on NB Caroline again, we’d shared locks upstream a week or so ago. Had a couple of pleasant walks with Joan and the dog Sally before they headed back up onto the canal last Sunday.

Bob had a “Senior Moment” as he came out of the lift….

“But he said to turn right…..” Yes, but after you get under the bridge!

They sorted themselves out and moored for the night above the lift.

NB Caroline coming in to moor.

Today we thought we’d better move before we take root, so I walked up to the booking office and arranged passage back up to the canal for 12:50. That gave us time to have a trip to Northwich for the services and shops beforehand.

Sorting out cupboards and drawers for the refit has thrown up lots of stuff that we’d packed away when we moved aboard and not seen since. The charity shops on the High Street have done well out of it.

Early rain had cleared by the time we got away, but the fresh breeze blew the cobwebs away and put a bit of chop on the water.

Choppy Weaver.

We arrived at the lift and were told by the operator that we weren’t on his list, and we might have to go to the back of the queue. I tried to ring the office to sort it out but couldn’t get through, and by this time they’d found our booking so we were back on.

Waiting for the lift.

The trip boat, MV Edwin Clarke, leaving the lift.

Our turn to go up next.

We pulled over above the lift, and will stop until tomorrow. We’ve moved less than half a mile as the crow flies, but we’ve a different view from the window!

A year or so ago we were travelling with our friend Carol on NB Corbiere, and had a look up the Erewash Canal from Trent Lock. On the way back down there was a chap interested in Carol’s boat, and he took a couple of pictures. If you look on page 100 of July’s Waterways World you’ll see her there, in all her glory. (Corbiere, not Carol!). The article is about “new” historic narrowboats with an interesting pedigree. Corbiere was built as an apprentice project at Babcock and Wilcox in Glasgow in the 60’s. Built like the proverbial outhouse, she’s a tough old boat.

Carol prepping for the repaint at Shireoaks on the Chesterfield Canal, way back in April 2008.

Locks 0, miles 3

Friday, June 17, 2011

Finishing what we started – almost.

We pushed on today up to Northwich, then back to the lift. We didn’t get up onto the canal though, it started to rain when we arrived so we put pins in at our regular spot just upstream of the lift.

We’ll maybe stay here for the weekend, avoiding the busy area around Anderton. Though with a poor forecast, there probably won’t be too many boats about.

Yesterday evening was fine with blue skies, and Acton Bridge looked impressive in the late sunshine.

Acton Swing Bridge basking.

Oops, a big photo faux pas there! (bottom left).

Our Tesco delivery arrived on cue, and by 10:30 we were on the move, following a couple of boats to Saltersford Lock. We joined them in the chamber, breasting up to the smart tug-style NB Edith, then had a steady cruise to Northwich.

The high wall of the Town Wharf was pretty busy, but we managed to sneak onto the end where the bank is lower. Meg was ready for a pee by the time we got tied up and she can get off here without a leg up.

Having had a grocery delivery earlier I didn’t need to go up to Sainsbury’s, but we'd arranged for the mail to go to the Post Office here. It was very busy, with a queue almost to the door, so I had a walk around the corner to check out the timber merchant. I’ve ordered the sheet material and framing from Orchard Marina, our boat builder, in order to match the existing panels. But I still needed some softwood battens for mounting noggins and they had just what I wanted. I just had to be a little careful with passing cars and pedestrians, carrying 4.2m lengths of timber. They’ve also got a range of sheet stock, and can get marine ply by order, so I might be back….

Two more trips to the Post Office were fruitless, both times the queue was even longer, so I gave it best and decided to walk back in the morning with Meg.

While I’d been to-ing and fro-ing a gaggle of boats had arrived, lining up to get on the service point.

It’s not just the Post Office that has queues….

I guess the moorings here are busier than normal because those above Vale Royal Lock are closed while the towpath is upgraded. Or maybe it’s always like this on a Friday.

Locks 1, miles 6¾

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Shorter than planned….

I got stuck in yesterday, doing some of the preparation work before redesigning the bedroom. Wall cupboards came down, trims came off and the walls got 3 coats of silk emulsion after the redundant screwholes were filled.

At the moment we’re a bit cramped, with the cupboards gone their contents are stacked around the dinette, and the dismantled units themselves are stacked up. I intend to re-use a lot of the panels where I can.

Today we intended to head back upstream, stopping somewhere on Barnton Cut. It was a dull start to the day, and by the time we were ready to move out we had a little light rain.

Leaving Devil’s Garden on a gloomy morning.

Curving wake on a long bend.

That railway viaduct again.

We arrived at Dutton Lock and had to wait for the lockie to empty the chamber for us. We’d got in with the gates shut behind us when NB Amy arrived, so the gates were opened again so we could go up together. We'd met before, sharing the mooring at Vale Royal last week.

Just above the lock the towpath crosses the river loop on an elegant wooden arched bridge.

Dutton Horse Bridge

The spans are constructed of laminated timber, the individual layers are visible in close-up.

It took a while to get through Dutton Lock, and we knew we’d arrive at Saltersford while the lockie was having his lunch, so decided to pull in at Acton Swing Bridge to fill with water. I hadn’t realised but there’s also an elsan disposal here so we made use of that as well.

The day was looking a bit dodgy, so we had a council of war and decided to stop here overnight. Another reason; it saves me hauling bags of shopping from Sainsbury’s in Northwich; we’ve ordered a Tesco delivery for tomorrow morning. He can pull right alongside here.

With turning the bed through 90º, the TV needs to be resited, so I’ve been threading a new aerial lead and power supply to the new location this afternoon. I looked out of the window at one point and saw a sight that’s not so common any more….

Acton Swing Bridge being swung!

Just seen the weather forecast. Looks like it might be a soggy trip to Nothwich tomorrow. Still, it’s not so far.

Locks 1, miles 3½

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Weaver Weather

You need good weather to enjoy the Weaver, and we’ve had it these last two days. It’s no fun battling high winds and heavy rain on the lower stretches where the banks flatten out.

We’re supposed to have another day of warm dry conditions before it goes downhill again towards the weekend.

We made a shopping and services trip into Northwich yesterday, which took so long that we ended up at the bottom of the lift again for another night. But this morning we were off at just after 10:00, heading downstream.

The Boat Lift looks impressive etched against the bright sky.

Busy this morning, two going up; two coming down.

On Barnton Cut, heading towards Saltersford Lock

The rising ground dead ahead is through where Saltersford Tunnel takes the Trent and Mersey Canal further north, 50 feet higher than the river.

We just missed out at Saltersford Lock, a pair of boats were just on the way down. If we’d been 5 minutes earlier we could have joined them.

Waiting for Saltersford Lock

NBs Gemini and Carpe Diem going down.

Another boat came up, and then it was our turn, joined by a narrowbeam Dutch barge and a small launch.

Acton Bridge is a couple of miles further on, and we were surprised to see empty moorings here. It’s a popular spot, close to car parking (for those boaters that have cars!) and a pub.

Acton Bridge and empty moorings.

We caught up with NB Gemini just before Dutton Lock. They’d stopped for water, and were taking it easy knowing that we’d have to wait for the lock-keeper to finish his lunch.

Dutton Sluices through the new towpath bridge, the lock is round the corner.

Poor old MV Chica is looking no better….

Three of us shared Dutton Lock, then NB Gemini pulled in to moor below the lock while Strawberry Fields followed us further downstream.

Out of Dutton Lock

The electrified West Coast Main Line crosses the river on the spectacular Dutton Railway Viaduct just below the lock.

Dutton Railway Viaduct

The Grade II listed structure was built in 1836 and carries the railway on 20 sandstone arches.

Unfortunately it’s graceful outline was marred in the ‘60s by the addition of the overhead cable gantries. Such is progress, I guess.

There was only one boat on the meadowside mooring at Devil’s Garden, so we pulled in there. This is another popular mooring spot, but for entirely different reasons than those at Acton Bridge. Here we’re way out in the country, no pub, no cars, no noise.

Devil’s Garden

Mags doing her “I see no ships”.

Later in the afternoon we were joined by another narrowboat, then 3 wide beam boats arrived, having come on to the river at Marsh Lock from the Manchester Ship Canal. They’d come down the Leeds and Liverpool from Rufford, then into Manchester and onto the Ship Canal near Salford Quays.

Locks 2, miles 10¼

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A very pleasant walk and a trip back downriver.

We decided to have a day off at Vale Royal; it’s a quiet, peaceful spot and there’re some good walks around.

Vale Royal Sunset

Although forecasted for sunshine and showers, it wasn’t too bad at all, but we had a cool wind again.

Meg and I set off back down to Vale Royal Lock for a good mooch about before crossing the river and walking a fair way up the opposite bank. Unfortunately we couldn’t get all the way to Newbridge, so had to turn around and retrace our steps.

Looking across the three Vale Royal Lock Chambers.

The original (nearest) is now the level control sluice.

Original lock chamber

The middle was built during improvements in 1861, and the largest on the far side was completed in 1869.

NB Ashanti heading downstream in the big lock

Superbly sited old lock house.

A lot of the rhododendrons have “gone over” now, but some are still well in flower.

And the rabbits have made good use of these tree roots to make stable entrances to the warren.

We moved off today at around 09:40, following three other boats to catch the 10:00 “window” at the lock.

Waiting for Vale Royal Lock.

The other three are breasted up on the right, R to L NBs Elysium Days, Travellers Joy, and Cindy Babe.

We were to share this and Hunts Lock this morning.

Line astern through the one open gate.

The walls are covered in colonies of Zebra Mussels (Dreissena polymorpha).

Every so often one would spit out a stream of water, but I couldn’t catch one in the act….

There’s around 20 minutes of cruising from Vale Royal Lock to Hunts Lock, and this is where the sunny skies turned grey and the first of today’s showers blew over. It had stopped by the time we got into the lock, though.

Towards Hartford Road Bridge

Near the lock is Yarwood’s Boatyard where a variety of boats were built from the mid-19th C to the 1960’s. Just moorings now, though.

Yarwood’s Basin.

Through Norwich without stopping, as we knew that the others in the “flotilla” were wanting water, and we pulled over in very heavy rain above the boat lift (again).

The huge bearing upon which Northwich Town Bridge swings.

Not very often now, though.

The weather cleared after we’d moored (typical) but we decided to stay put. With a pretty grim forecast for tomorrow we’ll probably not move until Monday, now.

Thanks for the text, Carol W. Wee-hee indeed!

There’s an article in the Townsville Bulletin from north eastern Australia which has caused a minor stir. I reckon he was being flippant, if you read some of his other columns (on the right under “more”) you’ll see why I think so. I particularly like the “Tale of Chicken’s Backsides”!

And those doing the Cheshire Ring are going to have a bit of a problem….

Entire Ashton Canal

Sunday 12 June 2011 until further notice
The Ashton Canal is closed from 9am Sunday 12/06/11 following asset failure at Lock 3. In the interest of safety the entire canal has been closed.

British Waterways apologise for any inconvienience this may cause.

Further updates will appear on Waterscape at 12noon on Monday 13/06/11.

Enquiries: 01782 785703

Locks 2, miles 4¼

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Heading Upstream.

We’ve been on the Weaver for a few days over the last couple of weeks, but actually moved no further than Barnton Cut downstream and Northwich upstream.

Today we corrected that, heading off towards Winsford.

We were intending to do this yesterday, but I had a repair to make before we moved off, and by the time I’d done that the heavy clouds were massing to the west.

Furry alternator belt.

It’s not done so bad. It’s lasted nearly 5 years.

I keep spare belts, but as we were only a 20 minute walk from Anderton Marina (Isuzu agents), I stuffed a tenner in my pocket and toddled off with Meg up onto the canal. RootiLinkng through the rack of assorted sizes I came across the one I wanted, but couldn’t buy it ‘cause I hadn’t enough money on me. £13.81 for a fan belt! I did go back later with increased funds, but I think I’ll try for an equivalent at Halfords next time.

Still, shouldn't complain. It'll be a darn sight cheaper than Sue and Vic's latest repair!

As I said, by the time the new belt was on and checked out, the clouds were looking pretty threatening so we decided to hang around till today. I’m glad we did, the showers when they came over didn’t last long but they were certainly heavy. One even had hail mixed in with the rain!

We moved off today at around 10:00, with a forecast of sunshine and showers. In fact we’ve not seen much of either, just an odd gleam through the clouds, but on the other hand just the odd spot of rain.

A short stop at Northwich gave me the opportunity to stretch my arms with a grocery trip to Sainsbury’s, then we filled and emptied the appropriate tanks across the water at the sani-station.

Last time we were here the bins were full, so the compound contained several bin bags of rubbish alongside them.

The bins are now empty, but the bags are still there!

What’s all that about, then! Probably the Safety Elves don’t allow the bin-men to pick up bags any more…..

Pilings show where the innovative Floatel used to stand (moor? float?).

Northwich Marina

From the town it’s only a short distance to Hunts Lock were we joined two other boats waiting for the lockie to finish his lunch. Then he arranged us tidily in the lock chamber.

Slotting in to Hunts Lock.

A very gentle rise of 11’ took us up onto the pound where the tug Proceed sits outside Jalsea Marine, still gently decaying.

Tug Proceed, a little less paint, a little more rust than when we last came this way.

She’s British built but was in service with the Belgian Navy. (I didn’t know Belgium had a navy! Maybe it’s sitting in Northwich?)

20 minutes took us to Vale Royal Lock, where we had 15 minutes to wait for the passage window.

The navigation was improved in 1889, when larger locks were built alongside the existing chambers. The channel was also dredged deeper, enabling larger vessels to navigate to Winsford. Mostly, now, boats use the smaller chamber, but there’s a problem with Vale Royal and the larger of the two has to be used. 220 feet long by 42 feet 6 inches wide it takes over half a million gallons of water to fill, so BW have set up a schedule with specific times for up and down passage. This allows for more efficient use of the water as several boats “stack up” waiting for passage.

Vale Royal large lock

Lots of room in this one!

Ashanti and Caroline, our erstwhile travelling companions, pressed on to Winsford but we pulled in on the quiet mooring about 10 minutes above the lock.

Cruising Vale Royal

Just got tied up when we had a short shower, but the sun is out again now.

Oh, and the new propeller has acquitted itself admirably today. At river speed, around 4½ mph, we’ve lopped 150 rpm of the engine speed, and it’s QUIET. Delightful.

The crew of NB Rose of Arden left a comment on Tuesday’s post. They had the same noise problem and it turned out to be a failed engine mounting. Thanks chaps, I guess I’m going to have to spend a bit more time upside down in the engine ’ole….

I was just about to post this when a couple of boats arrived, coming downstream. It was NBs Ashanti and Caroline coming back from Winsford. They’d moored at the Red Lion, hoping for a meal there but they don’t do food anymore. Then they were advised by a local BW chap not to leave their boats unattended; the “little darlings” make a sport of untying boats left there.

So they turned around and came back here.

Locks 2, miles 4¼