Thursday, July 29, 2021

A pause and a surprise meeting in Market Drayton before toddling on.

 We cruised the short distance to Market Drayton on Sunday, tying up near Bridge 63 at around noon.

Squeezing over a fallen tree at Brownhills Wood.

We’d read on the stoppages list from CRT that towpath works were ongoing in the town, supposed to be in stages starting at the far end. So I was surprised to see the section between Victoria Bridge and Lord’s Bridge, where we often moor, fenced off.

With this section and the 48 hour moorings from Stafford Road to Berrisford Road aqueduct now unavailable I was surprised to see plenty of space beyond Lord’s Bridge.

Filled up by mid-afternoon though.

We spent a couple of nights here, then moved through the bridge to the services on Wednesday and spent another two nights near Stafford Road Bridge. It was here that Pete from NB White Atlas spotted us and he and Dawn came to us for a brew, cakes and a good catch-up. We first met them way back in 2014, and our paths have crossed briefly a couple of times since.

With the water topped up again this morning we set off towards Tyrely Locks at just after nine-o’clock.

Talbot Wharf.

The Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Canal, now known as the main line of the Shropshire Union network, was constructed by 1835. At the start of the railway revolution, the B&LJC was intended to compete with the new upstart. To do this it had to be efficient, using a direct route as much as possible. Gone was the first generation Brindley-type contour canal designed to follow a level as much as possible to avoid the expensive and painstaking construction of aqueducts, embankments and cuttings. Instead Telford surveyed a bold route from Nantwich to Wolverhampton crossing valleys on massive embankments and negotiating ridges in deep cuttings.

Another time-saving idea was to group the locks together into three main flights at Audlem, Adderley and Tyrley. There’s just one odd one further south at Wheaton Aston and a shallow stop-lock at the junction with the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal at the southern end.

Tyrley Locks, just south of Market Drayton, is a classic example of this technique. The canal rises 32½ feet through 5 locks in just over one-third of a mile. But the slope it negotiates extends for more than twice that, with a steep-sided cutting leading to the bottom lock and the remaining four following closely.

In the cutting towards Tyrley Bottom Lock.

We waited for Richard on the fuel boat Mountbatten to come down, then moved on up ourselves.

The flight tops out at Tyrley Wharf, with fine canal-side buildings dating from 1840. 

From here the canal disappears into the gloom of the first deep cuttings, Woodseaves. This cutting extends for nearly 1½ miles of narrow, shallow waterway and is around 65 feet at it’s deepest.

Woodseaves Cutting

High Bridge, No. 57.

We managed to get nearly all the way through before meeting another boat, just north of Cheswardine Road Bridge. Just 20 minutes after emerging into the sunshine we pulled up on the moorings opposite Goldstone Wharf.

We’ll be riding out Storm Evert here tomorrow. 

Locks 5, miles 5½


Sunday, July 25, 2021

Another lock flight, another easy day.

 After a couple of days moored near the top of the Audlem Locks it was time to move on. Cupboards are looking a little empty, as is the water tank.

We had the final pair of locks to deal with to finish the Audlem flight and they were just around the corner. We timed it well with boats coming down,  and were heading across country towards the next set of locks at Adderley after only a half-hour or so. And that included a visit to the little kiosk at the top lock that sells cakes, ice-cream and snacks.

Towards Adderley. Beautiful countryside.

George and Carol had told us on Friday that they would lock-wheel for us up these five locks too, and they were waiting for us as we arrived at the bottom.

In less than an hour we’d ascended the locks and were looking for a place to pull in. George and Carol had parked near the top lock so we didn’t want to go too far,  but the moorings above are affected by the notorious “Shroppie Shelf”, the concrete step that sticks out from the bank a few inches below water level. Here it extends out more than a foot, no good for Amber so we pushed on with George regularly dipping the water to find somewhere more reasonable. We finally pulled in just past Bridge 67, where we could get the fore-end within a few inches of the bank, even though the stern was out a couple of feet.

After lunch of toasted cheese sandwiches followed by chocolate brownie and ice-cream (from the top lock kiosk) they left us to head home. Thanks once again, both. Hope to see you again soon.

Oh and a quick shout out to the couple on Bessie Surtees, blog readers whom we passed near the top of the locks. Good to meet you, have a good trip.

This morning Amber and I walked back to the locks to take a couple of pictures that I didn’t get yesterday.

Bridge 67, Bettonwood Coppice Bridge is a turnover bridge where the towpath crosses sides, and is unusual in that it has two separate ways across.

Logically, the crossing for farm access allows for that to be gated while the crossing for the canal can be left open without restriction to boat horses.

Adderley Top Lock.

Tomorrow we’ll be heading in to Market Drayton for supplies and services.

Locks 7, miles 2¾ 

Friday, July 23, 2021

A little help from our friends…

 As planned we left Nantwich on Tuesday morning, following a boat moving at a very leisurely pace. It was actually quite enjoyable, chugging along at just above tick-over with no pressure from following boats.

We arrived at Hack Green Locks with the sun really starting to get strong, so I insisted Mags had to wear suitable headgear…

Where did you get that hat?

Up Hack Green.

The two locks were cleared quickly, and we pressed on, past the extensive Overwater Marina and over the Weaver valley on a long embankment.

The Weaver has turned back northwards at this point. It rises in the Peckforton Hills and runs south to just past Audlem, where it changes it’s mind and turns north again. It’s confluence with the Mersey is only 15½ miles from it’s source, but it takes a roundabout 71 miles to get there.

We were originally intending to stop at either above Hack Green or Coole Pilate, but the weather was so pleasant that we pushed on and climbed the first four of the fifteen locks at Audlem. 

Lock 13 and the Shroppie Fly

We pulled in on the long pound above lock 12 after a very enjoyable trip.

George and Carol, ex of NB Rock’n’Roll and more recently WB Still Rockin’ live nearby, having moved onto terra firma late last year. I gave them a call and they drove over for a brew and a chat, the upshot being that we had a locking crew for the next nine locks on Wednesday!

Heading up the Audlem “thick” where nine locks come in rapid succession, lifting the canal around 56’. The whole flight rises ninety-four feet.

It was quite slow going up, by the time we’d got Lock 8 we’d caught up with the boats ahead, and had to wait at each of the remainder. Still, it was a pleasant morning and we got there in the end, pulling in on the last long pound above Lock 3.

Mags and our locking crew, George and Carol.

They must have been missing us, today we were invited to their home for lunch and a very enjoyable afternoon chatting, and tomorrow they’re wielding windlasses again to take us up Adderley Locks. Thank you both.

Locks 15, miles 6¾

Monday, July 19, 2021

Flippin' 'eck it's hot!

 Too hot for poor Amber with her woolly coat. We have a long walk in the morning, getting back by 8, then, apart from toilet breaks, she spends the day sat in front of the fan or on the bed in the shade under a damp towel.

We came down Baddiley and Swanley Locks last Thursday, having an easy run down with boats coming up most if not all of them.

Baddiley Bottom Lock.

Clearing the five locks we passed Swanley Bridge Marina then spent a few minutes chatting to Richard and Ruth, waiting at Burland Wharf for stock for their next run.

Essential maintenance…

We didn’t go much further, pulling in just past Bridge 5.

We’d normally stay here a couple of days, it’s a nice spot, but we moved on on Friday morning, pausing above Grindley Brook Locks to fill the water tank and drop off rubbish before dropping down onto the main line.

Fine but a bit overcast. How we wish for that cloud again now!

Looking down the flight.

There were a couple of boats coming up so we were able to swap, and with three lockies on duty it was an easy run down.


We were out onto the Shroppie (formally the Chester Canal) by just after 11.

We cruised into Nantwich and dropped into a spot just before Bridge 92, Nantwich Junction Bridge.

The short branch to the right, now used by Nantwich Marina, ends at the terminal basin of what was the Chester Canal before it was incorporated into the Shropshire Union Canal network. This broad navigation, opened in 1179, linked the towns of Nantwich and Chester, connecting to the Dee. The original proposal was to join the Trent and Mersey at Middlewich, but the T&M proved reluctant, fearing loss of trade to the north, so it was cut to Nantwich instead.

It wasn’t that successful though, struggling to make ends meet until the opening of the Ellesmere Canal in 1797 provided a link to the River Mersey at Ellesmere Port, and then the construction of the Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Canal, finished in 1835, took the navigation right down to the industrial powerhouse of the Black Country.

The bridge ahead is the first narrow one heading south, marking the junction of the B&LJC and the older navigation.

We stayed here one night, then moved on over Telford’s impressive iron aqueduct to moor further along.


We’re moving on tomorrow, early-ish, probably finishing up above Hack Green Locks or the moorings at Coole Pilate.

Locks 9, miles 7

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Two days to Baddiley

I think we’ve done more miles and locks in the last three days than in the last three weeks! Still, it’s so good to be on the move again. Especially in such fine weather.

We stayed the night below Grindley Brook on Monday, then set off on Tuesday morning, with no particular destination in mind. Perhaps as well as it turned out.

A bit dull when we got going but it improved later.

Poveys and Willymoor Locks were descended without problems, we had a single-hander ahead so I closed up for him, and a boat following closed up for us, so we made good progress. But it was at Quoisley Lock that the wheels came off. Remember that lump of wood that wedged the prop at the bottom of Grindley Brook? I said it had done no damage but I was wrong. Approaching a long queue of boats at the lock (more on that in a minute) I noticed the bilge pump was running, something it never normally does. We tied up and I lifted the hatch to see water in the bilge and all over the plates either side. It had pushed up past the seal and was spraying out as we cruised.

Now, normally it shouldn’t get that far, but lifting out the weed hatch assembly I could see why that log had actually bent the bottom plate which normally fills the hole through the uxter. So there was nothing deflecting the water thrown off the prop. I hadn’t noticed when I cleared the prop on Monday afternoon.

The top plate which normally seals to the weed hatch trunk was also slightly distorted which compounded the problem. Nothing that the judicious use of a big hammer and straight-edge couldn’t sort out though. I replaced the seal while I was at it, then mopped out the remainder of the water that the pump wouldn’t clear.

Queue at Quoisley.

By the time I’d got this done CRT had resolved the problem that caused the long queue I mentioned. A paddle had failed on the lock but it was fixable without a full stoppage. Rather than carry on in convoy though we decided to stay put for an hour or so to let the traffic ease. I think there were 15 boats waiting to go down… And more to come up.

So we finished up just a mile or so further on, in a pleasant, sunny spot.

Evening mooring.

This morning we were on the move at around half-nine, brighter than yesterday but breezier too.

Marbury Lock was 20 minutes away, and timed well with a boat just leaving the lock and another waiting below when we left it. Then we had about 50 minutes to Wrenbury Frith Lift Bridge. We dropped lucky here too, the bridge was being lifted by the crew of an oncoming boat so we were waved through.

No such luck at the mechanised bridge next to the Anglo-Welsh base, but now it’s been updated with automatic gates and an operating plinth on the towpath side it’s a lot easier to use. Church Lift Bridge takes us back to manual operation, then we pulled in for me to make a quick trip to the village for bread and a few more bits (cream cakes for Mags!).

A bit of a curfuffle at Church Lift Bridge

We toddled on for a little while longer, pulling in just above Baddiley Locks.

I’d picked up some logs earlier in the day, a chopped up branch that had fallen across the towpath a few days ago. So this evening I set up the chainsaw and cut them up into rings. Not easy though, I hadn’t realised it was oak! Still, it’ll burn for some time once it’s dry. And it’s got all summer to do that!

Dropping down Baddiley and Swanley Locks tomorrow, intending to moor above Hurleston ready to drop down onto the main line and head to Nantwich on Friday.

Locks 4, miles 7½ 

Monday, July 12, 2021

Dodging the showers and a bit of a queue at Grindley Brook.

We finally got away from the moorings at Roundthorn Bridge on Thursday. Amber’s tummy was still a bit uncertain, but stable enough to be able to move on without fear of any “accidents”.

A couple of miles on we had to negotiate the lift Bridge at Tilstock Park.

This is unusual in that it’s not painted the traditional black and white of most of the canal infrastructure. A little research led to the fact that it’s actually owned and maintained by Shropshire County Council, and not the Canal and River Trust.

During construction of the section from Frankton to Whitchurch (originally to be the Whitchurch Branch) the work stalled at Tilstock Park. Until the digging started again there was no need for a bridge here, when it did the Ellesmere Canal Company conveniently forgot to build one. So the local landowner made his own, and the current one is adopted by the local authority.

After the bridge we toddled on to moor between Blackhoe Bridge No. 40 and the disused Cambrian Railway Bridge 39. This carried the branch line to Ellesmere from the main line at Whitchurch, across the mosses.

Friday saw us tied up near the Whitchurch Arm, just a couple of miles and two lift bridges further on. Moving on in the morning and being moored by lunchtime meant that we missed the showers that tended to develop in the afternoon. We spent a wet Saturday here, and on Sunday morning I had a walk up into town to collect a package. I usually follow the footpath that roughly traces the route of the filled in Whitchurch Arm rather than taking to the road. There’s little evidence of it now, just an overgrown bit near where it ducked under Smallbrook Road.

The terminal basin, once bustling with boats, is now a park. In the wet weather though it’s origins are evident in the form of large puddles in the grass!

When I got back, in need of water and with rubbish, recycling and loo tanks to empty, we moved on to join  the queue above Grindley Brook Locks. We were seventh in line, not the worst that we’ve seen but it was still a couple of hours before we were able to start the descent of the triple staircase followed by the three single chambers lower down.

Staircase locks, where one chamber drops directly into the next, are a solution to a rapid change in elevation, but tend to be a bottleneck as boats can’t pass in the flight. The duty lock-keepers operate a three up, three down policy to keep the traffic flowing fairly freely.

Having negotiated the staircase we had an easy run down the three singles with boats coming up. Until we came under the bridge at the bottom lock where there was a bang under the counter and the engine stalled. We drifted out while I restarted the engine, but the prop was well jammed and it stalled as soon as I engaged gear, forward or reverse. With the help of the couple on a boat waiting to go up we got tied on the lock landing, where I managed, with a big hammer and a mooring pin, to dislodge a lump of wood which had wedged itself between the blades and the underside of the hull.

No damage done, luckily.  

We waited for Richard and Ruth, on Mountbatten and Jellicoe today, who dropped us off a gas bottle and topped up the diesel tank. They’re going slowly, Richard is still suffering from a bad fall several days ago, leaving him with broken ribs and painful bruising. but he’s soldiering on, bless him.

Sorry, I seem to be very short of photographs to accompany this post, must be out of practice.

Here’s one though…


Tomorrow we’ll continue on towards Hurleston where we’ll rejoin the Shroppie main line and head south.

Thanks for all the welcome back messages, by the way.

Locks 6, miles 6¼