Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Bright, breezy and bl**dy cold!

It was the wind that did it. Coming down from the north, cutting straight across the canal. And there’s not a lot to stop it on this section, as it passes through mainly flat pasture land.
It was about half-ten when we got away this morning, the frost had just started to melt in the watery sunshine. Church Lift Bridge was just a couple of minutes up the cut…DSCF1961

…followed by Wrenbury Lift Bridge.

The ABC hire fleet is all home, making it a little congested above the road bridge…DSCF1964

Fine open country, but that wind was whipping straight across!DSCF1967

With the two lift bridges done we were looking forward to four locks before we arrived at the bottom of Grindley Brook Locks. Marbury Lock has a series of “pissers”, jets of water through the lock wall draining cavities behind the brickwork.
A very good reason to keep side hatches closed when negotiating locks!

On the offside DSCF1968there’s a metal fence, an unusual addition on the lockside. Probably because of the proximity of the lock cottage. The horizontal bars are decorative though, with a barley-twist along the length.

It’s about 40 minutes from here to the next lock, Quoisley. But it took us quite a bit longer…
Don’t look a gift horse log in the mouth!


After loading up we moved on a bit, pulling in on a wide bit of towpath where the chippings from cutting them won’t be a nuisance. They were reduced in length, split, then stacked back on the roof. Being as we’d stopped anyway we decided to have a bite of lunch before moving on again.

Shade at Povey’s Lock, bright sunshine across the fieldsDSCF1973

Meg is back in her favourite spot

She seems to be improving day by day now. She was even eyeing up a ball this morning, but it’s a little early for chasing about.

There was another pile of logs a bit further on which I took advantage of, snaffling bits that didn’t need the attention of the chainsaw this time.

Approaching the bottom of Grindley Brook Locks where we pulled in for the night.DSCF1978

Up Grindley Brook tomorrow, then relax with no more locks for a bit. Plenty of lift bridges, though…

Locks 4, miles 5½

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

A grand day for it…

…whatever it may be! In our case it was a cruise up to Wrenbury.

Yesterday afternoon Richard and Ruth arrived, pulling in just beyond us to deliver 10 bags of Excel, before heading onward.

Mountbatten and Jellicoe, Chamberlain Carrying CompanyDSCF1950
We’ll be seeing them again when we need diesel or solid fuel.

After a cold night we were off at just before 10, good to be on the move again on such a fine day. Swanley Locks were just around the corner.DSCF1952


There are two Swanley Locks, with about 5 minutes between them, then there’s about 40 minutes to the three at Baddiley.

Meg is feeling well enough now to supervise the lock operations…DSCF1954

The middle Baddiley lock has a particularly savage bywash, but Mags crossed it with aplomb.

A lot of the locks on the canal have awkward bywashes, due to the continuous flow down from the River Dee. Especially the singles at Grindley Brook. But that same flow makes the canal desirable for winter cruising as it’s unlikely to freeze.

But the standing water alongside does…

After leaving the top lock we had another 1½ miles before arriving at Wrenbury, mooring just shy of Church Lift Bridge.
This one is the first of the Llangollen Canal lift bridges, the second is a little further on, carries a road, and is mechanised. Tomorrow’s job.

I put the bird feeders out, and within 20 minutes we had blue-tits, long-tailed tits, and a cheeky robin. But I interrupted them by going out and chopping up the rest of the wood on the roof. It’s all stacked in the cratch now. The weather looks good for the rest of the week, so we should be at Whitchurch for the weekend, even at the speed we go!

Meg is showing steady improvement, she’s eating well, is walking okay and there’s no bagpipes in her chest any more. There’s just one more day of antibiotics, and I’m cutting her steroid dose in half now as well. Fingers crossed…

Hi Steve. We’re only going to be here for tonight, so we’ll probably miss you. Not leaving till 10 in the morning though…
Hiya Carol. Yes, it’s been a worrying time, but we’re hoping we’re over the worst now.

Locks 5, miles 4

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Time for a bit of a catch up…

I’ve been a bit remiss, not posting as often as normal. But there’s not been too much going on. We moved up the canal a little on Wednesday, turned into Swanley Bridge Marina and got established on our allocated berth. I wasn’t looking forward to this, the day was wet and very windy, not good for maneuvering in the confines of a marina. But we chose a bright spell around lunchtime, so only had the wind to worry about, and that wasn’t as bad as anticipated.

New Moon last Monday

Thursday I picked up the hire car, and we went across to Middlewich to visit the vet again. A local specialist had had a look at the X-rays and had advised a consultation with him, followed by a CT scan, then maybe chest surgery. Apart from being financially prohibitive, I wouldn’t want to put her through that. Even after the surgery there’s be a long period of recovery. So we opted for a short-term fix while we thought things over, a steroid injection to open up her airways and make her more comfortable.

We got her home and she was a lot brighter, even had something to eat for the first time in a week!

Anyway, Friday was a trip up to Yorkshire for Mags to see her doctor for the annual review. Everything is fine, so we had lunch with son Howard, picked up the mail and headed back.
On the way back we had a call from the vet to check on Meg’s condition and with the suggestion that, as she’d responded well to the steroid injection, a short course of oral steroids might be of benefit. Making her breathing better would encourage her to eat, building up her strength so she’s better able to fight off the chest infection.
So I dropped the girls off at the boat and drove over to Middlewich to pick up the prescription, then over to Crewe to drop the car off. After driving about 240 miles I was glad to let their driver bring me back to the marina!

Meg continues to eat, only small quantities of chicken and fish at the moment but that’s a vast improvement. She’s breathing a lot easier and is a lot chirpier. We just hope that she’ll stay the same when the courses of antibiotics and steroids are finished. Fingers crossed.

We came out of the marina yesterday morning, but only cruised up the cut for 200 yards. I’d picked up my freshly-sharpened saw chains while we were up north and the chainsaw breezed through that stack of logs we’d accumulated on the roof. Half of them are chopped too and are drying in the cratch.

It’s very satisfying having a load of free fuel to burn!DSCF1949

We’re staying put today and tomorrow, the local fuel boat, Richard and Ruth, Chamberlain Carrying Company are heading up the canal in the afternoon and they’ll be dropping some bags off solid fuel off with us.

Montbatten and Jellicoe, ready to load at Burland WharfDSCF1948


Then we’ll toddle on on Tuesday, aiming for Wrenbury.

That’s it, going to put my feet up and watch the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix now.

Locks 0, miles ½

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