Sunday, October 17, 2021

A grand day for a hold-up at Hurleston!

Friday morning started a bit gloomy, but by 10 the sky had cleared and it was bright and sunny. Just look at that sky as we left Barbridge!

Approaching the junction, with a boat heading up onto the Middlewich branch.

A few years ago the tap above the junction was removed, now the bin compound has gone too.

When we arrived at the bottom of Hurleston there was a boat waiting on the very limited lock landing so I hung about below the bottom lock until they were heading up. It took a long time to empty the lock, it turned out that the previous boat had left an unnoticed top paddle up.   
We'd just filled the top lock ourselves and a volunteer lock-keeper came down to ask us to just pull out of the chamber and tie up as there was a problem ahead. The boat preceding us was stuck in reverse gear so they were intending to haul it up the locks. But with traffic building above he wanted to drop a couple of boats down before we followed up.
With the already low pounds this left the broken-down boat stuck on the bottom, it took 5 of us to push it far enough out so it was floating again.

We did eventually reach the top to see a queue of 4 boats waiting at the top, and looking back another 6 or 7 waiting below.


  We moved on for another half hour before pulling in on our regular spot below Bridge 5.

Solar panels went up and we were fully charged by mid-afternoon. Lovely.

We're moving in to Swanley Bridge Marina tomorrow for three nights. The appointments that were cancelled by our doctors surgery 10 days ago are now rescheduled for Tuesday, so we'll be heading up to Yorkshire just for the day. Assuming they've got the flu vaccine in... 

Locks 4, miles 3


Thursday, October 14, 2021

Out of the boat park and back up the locks.

With visits done for the time being and the car going back on Tuesday (it was a very nice metallic blue Mini Cooper S Countryman...) it was time to leave the marina yesterday morning. It's been ok here, but it's not like being out on the cut.

With a gas bottle and both solid and liquid fuels required I pulled round onto the service wharf but couldn't find anyone to serve us. A phone call went unanswered, so, after 20 minutes, I untied and we set off for Chas Hardern's yard instead.

While we were hanging about a hirer out of Whitchurch came in for water so I helped them tie up and we had a chat about diesel use. They were worried that they might need some before getting back, I told them they'd be fine. Anyway, I said we'd wait for them at Wharton's Lock, the first up the cut, about an hour away. Just so long as another boat didn't intervene... 

Back past The Shady Oak

I'm sure it's busy in the summer, but at this time of year it's only open Thursday to Sunday.

I was just helping a boat down Wharton's when another did intervene, they'd passed the marina entrance before the hirers had made their exit, so we shared the lock with them instead.

Arriving when we were just about to leave they had the lock to themselves, but weren't put out by me taking another offer. We pulled in at Chas Hardern's and got all we needed, by which time our erstwhile lock partners had gone up Beeston Iron Lock (only one at a time in this one anyway) and the hirers had passed us too. I moved up to the lock landing and helped them up, then they insisted on helping me up as I was effectively single-handing. I was grateful, Iron Lock is a pain, having no ladders in the chamber.

Leaving Hardern's, all filled up.

We shared Beeston Stone Lock, with them insisting on doing the work, then we parted company as we were stopping above the lock while they were pressing on for a pint or two in Barbridge.

Two very splendid chaps, Damien and I think Richard

We moored in front of the boat we'd earlier shared Wharton's Lock with, and arranged to "do" the remaining ones together today.

So at 10 o'clock we set off in convoy, unfortunately following another couple of boats with crews that were earlier risers than us!

Waiting below Tilstone Lock.

Seyella and Tranquil in Tilstone Lock

It's only 15 minutes from here to Bunbury Locks, the two-chamber staircase which is the last one on the Chester Canal.

With the Anglo-Welsh hire base below it's always pretty congested here...

We'd caught up with the preceding boats so had to hang around till we could go up.

Coming up Bunbury Staircase Locks.

Taking our leave of the couple on NB Tranquil.

We pushed on, past the busy Calveley wharf, and on towards Barbridge. I'd intended to pull in on one side or the other of the junction with the Middlewich Branch, but a fine strip of grassy towpath just this side of Goodwin's Bridge looked inviting so we stopped there instead.

We'll be off up to Hurleston Junction tomorrow, up the locks onto the Llangollen.

Locks 6, miles 7½


Monday, October 11, 2021

A few days in the marina

 So, as planned, we moved down to Tattenhall Marina last Wednesday.

Busy bringing on the sheaves...

After a steady lock-free 2½ mile trip we turned into the marina under the towpath bridge.

Moored on the visitor moorings.

The schedule for the next few days was -

Pick up a car from Enterprise Chester on Thursday

Head up to Ingleton for doctor visits for both myself and Mags on Friday.

Up to Windermere for Mags' Great-Granddaughter's wedding on Saturday

Day off on Sunday

Into Chester for Mag's Covid Booster on Monday.

Return the car on Tuesday and leave the marina on Wednesday.

The Friday appointments got cancelled due to lack of Flu vaccine so we toddled off into Wales instead to spend the afternoon with Val and John. But everything else has gone to plan.

Congratulations Emma and Mark.

Friday morning saw the arrival of three floating homes, a little basic in design but practical I suppose.

That's about all the excitement we've had. The day boats alongside have gone out and come back again a couple of times, there was a few boats moving about in the marina at the weekend, but that's about it.

On these fine evenings there's been some beautiful views out across the plain.

Looking east towards Delamere Forest...

...And southwest, with Beeston Crag and Peckforton Castle on the left and right.

We leave here on Wednesday, heading back uphill towards Barbridge then Hurleston and on up onto the Llangollen. 

The cancelled doctor's appointments are now next week, but we'll book into Swanley Bridge Marina and go from there. There's a stoppage on Baddiley Locks starting on the 8th November, so we need to be west of there by then.

Locks 0, miles 2½   

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       

Friday, October 01, 2021

Right turn for Chester

Over the last few days we've crossed over to the Shroppie main line, and made the right turn to head north towards Chester.

By late afternoon Tuesday I'd got fed up with resetting our mooring pins every time a boat went past, so we joined the queue to go up Stanthorne Lock. An hour later we were tying up on the rings just past Bridge 26.

Queue below Stanthorne Lock.

Since the breach a couple of years ago CRT have restricted the flow through the lower paddles, hence the queue.

Wednesday morning saw us off at around 10, fairly bright skies but with a cold wind blowing. I'd intended to get as far as Cholmondeston Lock but decided to pull in close to Aqueduct Marina instead.

Looking over the Weaver Valley to Church Minshull.

Yesterday we set off late, after waiting for the showers to blow over.

Past the marina and around the corner we came to Minshull Lock which had to be emptied before we could go up. Then we had a pleasant hour or so to the next, the delightfully named Cholmondeston Lock. A bit of a mouthful!

I was surprised but pleased to see a pair of volunteers working the lock, so it wasn't long before we were pulling up on the water point above the lock. 

Unfortunately filling the tank was considerably slower than coming up the lock, but it turned out to be a blessing. We'd just got going again when the heavens opened, so I dived into the first available space on the 48 hour moorings just up from the lock. 

We didn't move again...

Overnight rain had cleared by early morning and it has been a fine but cool day today. If only that wind was a little lighter...

Heading for Barbridge Junction

Bridge 1 ahead, crossing the junction

Along the left bank there's a row of Victorian gas lamps, converted to electric but most damaged now. They must have been installed for a reason, but maps dating back to the late 19th century don't show any sort of construction that would warrant the extra lighting.

There was a flour mill a bit south on the main line though, and a warehouse straddled the canal next to the junction. Both gone now.

We made a right turn at the junction, heading towards Chester.

The bridges are wider here, the Chester Canal was built to take barges coming up off the Dee at Chester to collect salt from Nantwich. Not just the bridges, the locks are all broad as well.

We stopped at Calverley services to empty a loo tank and drop off rubbish, then toddled on to Bunbury Locks, a staircase pair.

The building to the left is a row of boat horse stables. 

We shared the staircase with another boat, but she was just dropping down for a toilet tank pump-out before returning to her permanent mooring above the lock.

It's been a couple of years since we were here, and I'd forgotten how attractive it is.


Tilstone Lock, with an unusual circular lock-keepers hut alongside.


This was our last today, we pulled in above Beeston Stone Lock at around lunchtime, under a Simpson's sky.


We'll be here for the weekend now, waiting out the strong winds and torrential rain that the weatherman has predicted.

Locks 6, miles 13¼


Monday, September 27, 2021

All the Cheshire Locks done…

On Thursday and Friday we dropped down the locks to Middlewich. Our good fortune lasted through the first day but deserted us on Friday, all the locks with us on Thursday, all against us with queues on Friday. That’s the way it goes, I guess.

Thursday morning’s beautiful weather.

Past the golf course at Cardboard Lock, named for the box factory that used to sit on the offside.

Lock 65, Wheelock Top, with a boat leaving the offside ready for me.

I lost a half an hour at the bottom lock, a boater coming up had had his spaniel abscond so I tied up below the lock and helped him look for her. Of course, she turned up on her own…

We pulled in on the services for water etc., then stopped again for me to visit the animal feed store for Amber, before pushing on out of Wheelock and moored for the night near Paddy’s Wood.

Friday morning we had a slow start and we’d had several boats pass before we got going. The banks along this section have been built up in successive layers as the ground slowly subsided due to brine extraction.

Salt was big business around here…

Arriving at Lock 67, Booth Lane Top or Crow’s Nest, I wasn’t surprised to see a queue of two boats waiting and a third in the lock.

It took a while to get in the lock ourselves, then the pounds between the locks were all low along Booth Lane.

Dry bywash at Lock 68.


The levels were a little better below Rumps Lock, but still a couple of inches down, making it frustrating trying to get in to moor. Got there in the end though. Fish and chips from Kings Lock chippy for tea. Still good.

Yesterday we left the Trent and Mersey, dropping down Kings Lock, then turning sharp left and up Wardle Lock.

Wardle Junction, below Kings Lock.


Wardle Lock

When the Middlewich Branch, running from here to Barbridge Junction on the Shroppie, was first proposed, the Trent and Mersey Canal Company insisted on keeping control of the junction at this end, so constructed this short cut, complete with lock and keeper’s cottage, themselves. 

The Wardle Canal is the shortest in the UK at just 154 feet long.

Rather than moor amongst the houses we toddled on to moor at the breach site just outside the town. Unfortunately all the rings were occupied so we’ve had to rely on pins hammered into the unyielding towpath edge. It’s only for the one night though. We’ve a package coming to the Post Office today and then we’ll move on a little.

You may wonder why we’ve turned onto the Middlewich Branch when we were intending to go up to Leigh. We’re now on Plan B. There was no space available at Pennington Wharf, so our fall-back position is Tattenhall Marina, up towards Chester on the old Chester Canal. A little nearer to cruise to, a little further to drive from up to Windermere a week on Saturday for Mags’ great-grand-daughter’s wedding.  It’ll be reet, as they say in Yorkshire.

Locks 11, miles 7½