Wednesday, February 29, 2012

End of February, end of winter?

We’ve been letting the stove go out overnight, it’s just been too warm. This morning I took the opportunity of having a cold flue to give it a good cleaning out, then stripped out and cleaned the throat plate and grate.  Final job was cleaning the glass in the door before laying and lighting. We keep the stove in during the day, just ticking over gently, in case it’s cooler in the evening.

By the time I’d done this, walked Meg, and had a largely unsuccessful trip to Burland Stores (not much in the way of fresh stuff this time of year), it was time to pull pins and get going.

We had a staggered start, the first stop was going to be the services at the top of Hurleston Locks, and we’d only be queuing if we all left together.

Bridge 5 is still in a bit of a sorry state, at least on the southern face.

Bridge 5SAM_0002 Bridge 5
It’s been like this so long that the warning signs have faded!SAM_0001 Bridge 5
And we’ve an unnecessary apostrophe….

The facing bricks are all stacked awaiting refixing, but I guess the bridge must be structurally sound as it’s still in use.

We arrived at the services above the locks just at the right time; Rock’n’Roll was just pulling away after completing their ablutions.

Arriving at the top of Hurleston LocksHurleston Top

We did our “essentials”, then followed Moore2Life down the flight of four locks.

Dropping down Hurleston Top Lock
SAM_0010 Hurleston Top

We were surprised not to meet anyone coming up, but with the three crews helping each other we got down quickly.

In the bottom lockSAM_0015 Hurleston

There are no fierce bywashes here to push the unwary (and the prepared) boater off course. The twelve million gallons of water a day that flow down from Horseshoe Falls at Llantysilio enter Hurleston Reservoir above the locks. From there it feeds the ever-thirsty taps of  Cheshire.

Mags made a left turn onto the main line after leaving the lock, I closed up and crossed the canal to meet her on the far side.

Leaving the Llangollen, Mags swings Seyella out onto the Shropshire Union Main LineSAM_0016 Hurleston Bottom

This section of the main line, formerly The Chester Canal, was built to wide beam dimensions to allow barges to navigate from Chester to Nantwich. Bridge ‘oles and locks are all 15 feet wide.

Bridge 100, the wider arch is obvious compared to Llangollen Bridge 5, aboveSAM_0019 Br 100

Barbridge Junction is where we turned right, off the main line again and onto the Middlewich Branch. We’re back onto narrow canals again.

Under Bridge 1, Middlewich Branch. This one is still wide-ish, though.SAM_0021 Br 1, Midd Branch

With just two locks to go before we moored we were making good time, but then met boats coming the other way.

A bit of a queue at Cholmondeston LockSAM_0025 Cholmondeston Lock

These locks on the branch are all deep, around 11 feet, and take a few minutes to fill. But we were soon through and on our way.

Mags in “Tiller Girl” pose.SAM_0027 Mags on tiller

We caught up with boats again at Church Minshull Lock, Chas was just taking M2L in as we arrived, and a solo boater had slotted in between. I locked the single-hander down, then we followed on.

Leaving the 11’ deep Church Minshull Lock.SAM_0030 Minshull Lock

We’d decided to pull in shortly after Aqueduct Marina, and it’s here we caught up with the convoy for the final time today. Just as the sun came out for the first time.

We took the dogs for a walk in beautiful, warm evening sunshine, foraging for firewood on the way back.

Sunset on the Middlewich Branch.SAM_0033 Moored near Aqueduct
The plume of smoke in the distance is George with his barbeque….

That’s February done, and the Llangollen left behind. Next stop Middlewich, then the Weaver.

Locks 6, miles 6½

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

It’s getting busier….

The closer we get to the Shroppie main line the more boats we see on the move. Today we’ve met at least half-a-dozen, and only one of those was a hire boat.

We were a little later away today, Carol and George wanted to have a look around the pretty village of Marbury before we moved on. It was, though, only just after 10 when we pulled pins.

The convoy heads towards WrenburySAM_0002 Away from near Wrenbury
Just along from where we’d moored is Thomason’s Bridge, and a winding hole given the same name. Hire boats coming in off the Shroppie maybe only get this far before having to turn around. The winding hole has certainly seen some service!

Thomason’s (battered) Winding HoleSAM_0005 Thomason's Winding hole

There are three lift bridges near Wrenbury, but the first at Wrenbury Frith is normally left open.
SAM_0006 Wrenbury Frith Br

The second carries the main road through the village, which can be fairly busy. Ann jumped off Moore2Life to deal with this one, though.

Wrenbury Lift Bridge, with the hire base for ABC Leisure on the other side.SAM_0009 Wrenbury Lift Br

Looking back, M2L coming through with Rock’n’Roll lining up nextSAM_0011 Wrenbury Lift Br

Molly’s looking for her Mum… SAM_0011 Wrenbury Lift Br

We pulled up in Wrenbury, just after Church Lift Bridge, to make a quick visit to the shop. At least us and M2L did. George and Carol didn’t need anything so pushed on to Baddiley Locks.

There are three locks here, and Meg made friends with a local dog at the middle one.

Mags comes in to Baddiley Lock No2SAM_0013 Baddiley Middle

Meg’s mate, some labrador there, I reckon. Don’t know where he got the stumpy legs from, though.SAM_0014 Meg's Mate

We made short work of the three, George had left each one with a paddle up so they were full by the time we arrived. We returned the favour by doing the same for Chas and Ann.

It was as we approached the two locks at Swanley that we met several boats on the way up. We were able to swap locks at both.

George had walked up to lock us through after they’d got tied up, but we were already out of the bottom one by the time he arrived. He was able to help Ann though, as M2L arrived soon afterwards.

We joined R’n’R tied up just beyond the entrance to Swanley Bridge Marina.

Day’s cruising over, moored near Swanley Bridge.SAM_0019 Moored nr Swanley

Tomorrow we’ll be saying goodbye to the Langollen, turning left onto the Shropshire Union main line, then right onto the Middlewich Branch to pick up the Trent and Mersey.

The “Welsh Canal” has been kind to us this winter, very little ice, very little snow while the rest of the network seems to have had to deal with quantities of both. It’s a good canal for over-wintering.

It’s certainly a lot quieter during the off-season than it is in the summer. We may well be back…

Locks 5, miles 6½                                                                         

Monday, February 27, 2012

On the move again.

NB Rock’n’Roll caught us up on Saturday after their diversion down the Montgomery. To celebrate the occasion we had, as Carol put it, a “get back together get together”. Much chatting over a bottle or two? of wine.

Catching up, R’n’R pulling in above Grindley BrookSAM_0001 RnR arrives above Grindley Brook

The dog pack were glad to be together….SAM_0002

We’d moved to just above Grindley Brook Locks, and this is where we stayed till today.
We all had to fill with water before we tackled the locks, especially us. For only the third time we’d actually sucked the tank dry this morning. Unusually we were the first away, and, tanks full or empty as appropriate, we started down the locks at just before 10 o’clock.

Top lock of the triple staircase.SAM_0001 Grindley Brook

Moving into the bottom lock of the staircase, Moore2Life in the top chamber.SAM_0002 Grindley Brook

Rounding the corner to the top of the three individual locks, we saw another boat coming up. We swapped locks with them, but they had to wait as Chas and Ann come down, followed by a hire boat who’d managed to sneak in before R’n’R.

Swapping locks below the staircase.SAM_0003 Grindley Brook

Now we’d passed a boat coming up all three locks were set in our favour, so we had an easy run down.

Leaving Grindley Brook under the old railway bridge there’s about a mile to cruise before arriving at Povey’s Lock. Just time for a coffee.

Into Povey’s Lock, M2L arriving behind us.SAM_0005 Povey's Lock
Someone’s been busy, nice new footboards top and bottom!SAM_0006 Povey's Lock
There are some splendid mooring spots around here, with fine views across the rolling farmland.

One of the SUCS moorings near Steer Bridge.SAM_0008 ood moorings near Quoisley

The locks come regularly as we head towards Wrenbury, spaced out along the canal. Willeymoor and Quoisley went past, then we arrived at Marbury Lock, followed shortly by M2L.

Chas and Ann at Marbury.
SAM_0010 Marbury Lock
The lock cottage is looking well again after renovation.

We pulled in on our agreed overnight stop, just below the lock.

Below Marbury LockSAM_0012 Below Marbury Lock

We hadn’t seen anything of George and Carol since the water tap above Grindley Brook. They arrived about an hour later, having followed the hire boat heading back to Wrenbury, then NB Jandai, down the locks. With those two in front and NB Tristram Sprague coming up in between, they did well to be only an hour behind us!

We’re making tracks again now. We’ve decided we’re all heading for the Weaver, and we want to be up at Anderton  by the weekend. So it’s long 4 hour days for us!

Locks 10 (yes, 10!), miles 4½

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Bye Bye Balmaha

Mo and Ness left this morning, continuing their trip up to Llangollen. They’ve arranged to meet Carol and George this afternoon near Hampton Bank, about 3 hours away.

NB Balmaha pulling out of the Whitchurch Town ArmSAM_0006
Mo just can’t help fooling about….SAM_0008
….nor can Charles!SAM_0003
They’ll have had a good cruise, it’s been a beautiful, warm, sunny day. Tee shirt weather outside, nearly got my shorts out….

Unfortunately I had to spend most of the afternoon with my head down in the engine ‘ole, fixing a niggly leak on the new pipework leading to the blow heater. That’s sorted now, and I tidied up some more piping down there while I was at it.

After such a fine day we had a marvellous sunset.

Sculptured cloudsSAM_0012
Locks 0, miles 0

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Lots of lift bridges and a Pancake Party….

We left the Prees Branch yesterday, heading back up to the main line and turning right towards Whitchurch. I couldn’t post while we were down at the end of the branch, my 3 MIFI modem let me down for the first time; no network no matter where I put it. Then yesterday evening we had guests….

Two nights without getting on-line and my inbox is stuffed with 162 messages, and I’ve 60 posts to catch up with in Google Reader. Guess what I’m doing after posting this…

Heading back down the branch, following Moore2Life through Allman’s Lift Bridge.SAM_0003 Allmans Lift Bridge
Turning onto the main line….SAM_0005 Out onto Main Line

…..and through Morris Lift Bridge. My turn to do this one.SAM_0006 Morris Lift Br

The day was overcast but mild, and now the half-term holiday is over, there wasn’t another boat moving.

We took it in turns to do the bridges, seven of them in all, so our little convoy plodded on without interruption.

Tilstock Park Lift Bridge, green instead of the corporate black and white of BW.SAM_0007 Tilstock Park Lift Br

This stretch of canal is remote and peaceful, pasture on both sides with the odd farmhouse nestling in a fold in the land.

M2L following on near Fens BankSAM_0010 Near Fens Bank
The two Hassell’s bridges were dealt with, then we passed the hire base at Whitchurch Marina.

Still waiting for the season to start here…SAM_0013 Whitchurch Marina
We didn’t see any Viking Afloat (or Yellow Perils, as they are called by some) boats out during the school holiday. I guess this base doesn’t start until Easter.

Round the left hand bend, past the entrance to the Town Arm, through New Mills Lift Bridge and we moored on the right on the visitor moorings.

Moored near WhitchurchSAM_0014 Moored at Whitchurch
I think Ann’s telling Charles off about some transgression…

We were met by Mo and Ness off NB Balmaha. We knew they were heading this way, and would have been here sooner had they not got frozen in for a few days in Market Drayton.

We already arranged for Chas and Ann to join us for a pancake party, it being Shrove Tuesday and all, so the invite was extended to include Mo and Ness as well.

Mags made the batter, I tossed the pancakes, the guests brought the wine and we all had a very enjoyable evening. Sorry, no pictures, you’ll have to go to Balmaha’s or M2L's blogs. I was too busy with the frying pan…

Today was supposed to be wet and windy, so no cruising. We had the wind but very little rain. We had a trip up into town for a bit of shopping, and Charles invested in some new technology. I’ll let him tell you about that….

Catching the bus back, Ann somehow managed to convince the driver that I should have a bus pass like she and her husband. A bit of a double-edged sword, that. I saved 85p, but must be looking a bit careworn. I’ve still another 9½ years before I qualify! Maybe the driver needed glasses…..

The Rockers seem to have enjoyed their trip on the Montgomery, not withstanding the incident with the geese. We’ll hang around here till they catch up, I reckon.

Oh, and as promised, Hi, Dad and Ann! Open-mouthed smile . My Dad and Stepmum have recently gone on line and are still sometimes having a little trouble with this “interweb thingy”. They’ll get there in the end…

Locks 0, miles 6½

Prees Branch

We had two reasons the turning into the Prees Branch; the first was to get diesel down at Whixall Marina, the second to was to have a longer walk down the remains of the branch.

We headed down to the Marina this morning, Ann opening Starks Lift Bridge for both boats to go through.

Starks Lift Bridge.SAM_0001 Starks Lift Bridge
The pay–at–pump price is currently 87.3p, so both boats got fully topped up. We each needed a gas bottle so that was sorted out as well.

We moored just outside the entrance to the Marina and after lunch took a walk down the remainder of the Prees Branch to see how far we could get. The navigable section of the Branch actually ends shortly after the Marina entrance.
The branch was built to cater for the villages heading down towards Prees, but never actually reached Prees, terminating near Quina Brook. The unnavigable section down to Waterloo Bridge is now a nature reserve.
This stretch is still in water although heavily silted and overgrown.

At Bridge 4 there is an earth dam across the canal to allow the farmer easier access to his adjacent field.

Bridge 4, looking north.SAM_0027 Br 4
The watered section ends before Waterloo Bridge, at a substantial piled dam.

End of the watered section

SAM_0004 Piling Dam
Even though it's now dry the channel carries on to another dam where Waterloo Bridge used to stand. The humpbacked bridge has been removed for safety, and the channel has been filled in.

Waterloo BridgeSAM_0007 Looking back at Waterloo Br
There's another barrier further along where a culvert used to go under the canal. The channel carrying the canal over the stream has been removed, and the stream has recently been dug out. In the debris on the bank side there are several old bricks presumably to do with the structure.

Culvert crossing.SAM_0015 Culvert Dam

A little further on the local kids have made a camp in the canal bed, then there's a short wider section before the canal disappears under overgrowth. The channel continues but is almost impassable with brambles and small bushes.

Lord of the Flies?SAM_0014 Den

Charles standing in the wider section of the canal bed.SAM_0012 In Canal Bed

Some timber edging still exists on the far side from the towpath.SAM_0008 Remains of timber edging
This is as far as we went. It didn't seem worthwhile fighting our way through the vegetation further on.

As well as the channel, the first few hundred yards of the towpath is also in very good condition. It seems unlikely, however, that this section of canal will ever be reinstated.

At first glance, it seems odd that the first mile of the canal is in very good condition and still navigable, but then it deteriorates rapidly. The reason for this is apparent once you know the origin of the basin which now contains the marina. This was originally a clay pit, the clay used for repairing and re-puddling canal beds. The clay would have been transported by boat, hence the need to maintain the first mile of the branch in good condition.

Returning to the end of the navigable section near the marina.SAM_0026 Towards the marina
Locks 0, miles ½