Monday, October 04, 2021

Just a little further...

Where we were moored above Beeston Stone Lock got a bit annoying by Saturday morning; there was something underwater that grated on the hull every time a boat went past. So when I spotted a boat coming up, we moved up to take advantage of them leaving the lock full. Having dropped down we only went 100 yards and moored again on the rings there.

A fine, firm bank, but no phone signal and so no internet either. A nuisance, but no more than that. A couple of necessary calls were made back up on the lockside.

I had a couple of jobs to do outside yesterday so we stayed put, enjoying the sunshine. Today started fine but deteriorated to blustery showers, we hung on and then luckily dropped into an hour long window of dry weather which was long enough to drop down two locks and moor near Bridge 109.

The first lock was Beeston Iron Lock, built, as the name suggests, from iron plates rivetted together.

From when the Chester Canal was first opened the Beeston Locks were a problem, the canal cutting through an unstable area of sand. 

What is now the Iron Lock was originally a staircase pair like those at Bunbury, but it collapsed in 1787 and company funds didn't allow for repairs so a plateway for overland hauling was built as a temporary measure to keep goods flowing.

The canal remained in a precarious financial position until local developments made it's future a lot brighter. The Ellesmere Canal from Chester to Ellesmere Port opened in 1805, allowing a merger between the two waterways to become the Ellesmere and Chester Canal. The subsequent Parliamentary Approval for the Middlewich Branch over to the Trent and Mersey Canal, and the Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Canal from Nantwich to the Black Country prompted the repair and reinstatement of the two locks. Beeston Stone Lock was massively re-engineered in stone, but Beeston Iron Lock used an innovative method with iron plates flanged and rivetted together. These plates were secured to masonry king posts built into the ground on the sides of the chamber. It's still working well, but subsidence has caused it to bow slightly, making it unadvisable to be shared by two boats.

When the lock was built there was an unfortunate oversight. There are no ladders in the chamber to allow crews access to their boats lying nine feet below. I suppose the engineers Telford and Jessop were concerned that the alcoves would compromise the rigidity of the structure.

 So if you're single-handed you have to make sure you've a rope ashore to draw the boat in and out of the chamber. 

This is further complicated by the tail bridge not having a slot for the rope to pass through, but judicious use of the boat hook to pick up the line as the boat drifts out works ok.

The next lock down, Wharton's Lock, is of original brick and stone construction, and has ladders. Hurray!

The canal along here runs close to the wooded north bank of the River Gowy, but the trees thin out above Wharton's Lock, giving a view across the fields to Beeston Crag with the 13th century castle on it's western bluff.

The long-distance footpath of the Sandstone Trail crosses the canal at the lock.

We dropped down the lock and moored up within sight of the Shady Oak pub at Bridge 109.

Tomorrow's weather is looking rough so we'll be staying here, then moving the short distance to Tattenhall Marina on Wednesday.

Locks 3, miles 1½       

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