Thursday, October 08, 2020

Back to Nantwich–again!

We spent a few days moored not far above Bunbury Locks before turning around and heading back south.

One of the jobs that needed doing but that I’d been putting off was to deal with the decidedly forlorn looking dinette cushions. Fourteen years of use had left their mark – literally! They were made by Wilsons of Kinver so are of good quality material and are zipped, but I was still worried how they’d turn out, especially redoing the buttoning! I needn’t have been concerned, a trip through the washer left them looking like new and the buttoning wasn’t a huge problem…

Turning around above Bunbury Locks on Tuesday.

We stopped at Calveley to top up the water tank but held on to the rubbish for when we got to Nantwich today. The bin compound was already ankle deep in rubbish strewn from ripped open bags…

Then another short stop was made as I trotted across the road to grab bread and milk from the shop at the Texaco garage near Bridge 103a. We carried on, now in the rain, to moor just shy of Barbridge Junction.

We took a day off yesterday then headed off to Nantwich this morning.

Chris and Leslie on Rosie II were moored a little further on…

Just beyond the junction the channel narrows where a gauging lock was once installed. This is where craft would be checked for draught and the resulting tonnage calculation used to determine tolls due. Different cargos attracted different rates per ton.

Between here and Junction Bridge old maps show a building straddling the canal, a photo from the 1950s, found on Midway Boats’ website shows it was a transhipment warehouse.

The roof of the toll-keeper’s house can be seen to the right in both pictures. The small hut to the right was once attached to the warehouse.

The temporary Meccano bridge was erected the other day to replace Goodwin’s, Bridge 101, which was closed for resurfacing work on the main road.

Giving way to the high bow of Tench, built in 1936 at Yarwoods in Northwich for Fellows, Morton and Clayton. I wasn’t arguing…

 

Autumn is on the doorstep!

We topped off the water tank again, got rid of rubbish and recycling and slotted handily on the end on the moorings on Nantwich Embankment. We’ll have a couple of days in town to top up the cupboards and pick up some items I’ve ordered online, then we’ll toddle off again.

Locks 0, miles 5½ 

Friday, October 02, 2020

Another week, another update.

The highlight of the last week was a visit by George and Carol, during which we went for a day’s cruise up to this side of Audlem and back. Their boat, the highly specified and well maintained wide-beam Still Rockin’ is up for sale and they’re temporarily renting a property. Tuesday was a chance for them to get a boat fix… 

But before that we headed further along the Middlewich Branch last Saturday, pulling in above Cholmondeston Lock for the rest of the weekend.

Bridge 18, currently under repair.

Looking down across the Weaver valley to Church Minshull.

Venetian Marina, just below Cholmondeston Lock.

We took a day off on Sunday, then Monday we cruised the last 1¼ miles to Barbridge Junction and turned left up to Nantwich.

Barbridge Junction Bridge 1, with a couple of boats heading our way after turning in off the main line.

The offside bank below Hurleston Reservoir has become a popular mooring spot in recent weeks, and I can see why. But the landowner, presumably the water authority, disagrees.

 

But not everyone is taking notice…

So on to Tuesday and George and Carol arrived mid-morning, and after a brew and something to eat we headed off southwards.

Going up Hack Green Locks.

Must be a good view from up there!

We arrived back in the town late afternoon and said farewell to our guests after a really enjoyable day. Thanks guys!

We seem to be alternating between dry, sunny days and wet windy ones. We stayed put on Wednesday watching the rain come down, then yesterday, after topping up the food cupboards, we left Nantwich, this time heading north.

Over Nantwich Aqueduct

A stop at the wharf saw the rubbish and recycling disposed of and the water tank topped up, then we got going again, pulling in for the afternoon and night just up from Henhull Bridge.

A fine evening walk with Amber.

This elusive little chap tried to avoid the camera but I got him just as he took off…

That cycle of good days and bad is coming to an end, rain forecast later today so we got going soon after nine, past Hurleston and Barbridge Junctions and on towards Chester.

A few boats on the Hurleston lock flight.

All being well we’ll be heading up there ourselves next week.

Barbridge Junction.

It’s some time since we went north from Barbridge, usually we head across the branch to Middlewich. But we thought we’d have a change.

It’s an awkward, blind S bend under the A51 at Wardle Farm Bridge and I remember thinking that it’s not a good place to meet another boat…

…so of course we did!

Calveley Wharf and moorings.

There’s a waterways depot here now, but the area was once sidings used for transhipping goods to and from the canal and the adjacent railway.

Just around the corner and under Bridge 104 are mooring rings and we pulled on here to wait out the stormy weekend weather.

Since the last post – Locks 6, miles 25½  

Friday, September 25, 2020

Windy and busy on the Middlewich Branch

We left it till Wednesday to move on up the Branch towards Barbridge. The weather was better and we hoped it would be a little quieter…

I kept an eye on the queue below Stanthorne Lock, but it was just gone eleven by the time there were only a couple of boats waiting to go up. At one point there were five lined up end to end! The trouble is that it’s slow to fill and empty, and, being the first lock in this direction above the extensive Middlewich moorings, tends to be a bottleneck.

Below Stanthorne Lock

The day was fine, dry and bright, but there was a brisk breeze blowing the clouds about in a classic Simpson sky…

Mags was feeling the cold…

…but happy with it!

We didn’t get too far, just a couple of miles, and pulled in Bridges 20 and 19.

There’s a pleasant walk running from Bridge 19 along the edge of the woods and over the Weaver on a small footbridge that I was looking forward to introducing to Amber, but the towpath is closed just this side of the bridge because of repairs further on.

We were going to move on today, but the wind put us off so we stayed put and watched the bundled-up boat crews zipping past as if the air friction would warm them up… With springs both ends and a bow breast rope we didn’t move about – much.

We’ll definitely be on the move tomorrow though, honest!

Locks 1, 2¾

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Anderton to Middlewich, a spot of painting and Amber gets her boat dog baptism!

Last Tuesday we left Anderton heading up towards Middlewich.

Halsall reloading coal and fuel at Anderton Wharf

Half-wide boats at Wincham Wharf, built to fit through Dutton Stop Lock and and the tunnels to the north to access the Bridgewater Canal.

We pulled in on the grass at South Flash on Tuesday night, then turned around on Wednesday morning to moor against the concrete edge a bit further back.

This spot is ideal to paint the gunnels as the boat stands clear of the bank due to the angle of the cast coping. I got one side done on the Wednesday, then cruised back to Billinge Green to turn around again to get to the right hand side.

It was as we came in to moor again that Amber decided to see if she could jump a three foot gap and realised to her dismay that she couldn’t… I hauled her out, looking very sorry for herself.

She’d not long dried off when she plunged into a muddy ditch while playing with another dog further along the towpath. So she had a second dip in the fishing pond alongside the canal. A most disgruntled dog.

Anyway, amongst the excitement I got both sides painted and the left side washed and polished too, so that was a job well done.

So Friday morning we were on the move again away from the wide waters of the flashes and up past the fine Whatcroft Cottages, beautifully situated beside the canal.

Some sections of the canal along here are getting very overgrown with reed beds extending well out across the channel. It makes negotiating the bends a game of chance whether there’ll be a boat coming or not…

Through the wooded section alongside the River Dane.

A pause while a boat comes over Croxton Aqueduct, the third since the canal opened in 1777.

Instead of going up into the town we pulled in below Middlewich Big Lock for a couple of nights.

 

It was busy at the locks, boaters taking advantage of what might be the last of the good weather before Autumn arrives with a vengeance.

We left it till Sunday before moving up through town, heading up Big Lock then the four narrow locks to moor above Kings Lock after turning around.

Leaving Big Lock

Up the three narrow locks…

..and waiting below Kings Lock.

Yesterday was Mag’s birthday. I won’t say how many years, but remember the old Two Ronnies sketch in the hardware store? Where Ronnie Barker comes in asking for fork handles and is given four candles? Well, Mag’s cake would have needed ninety fork handles… 

Val and John and little Harry came across to wish her a happy birthday, Val had baked a splendid cake but the candles were conspicuously absent… So I dug out some that said Happy Birthday.

Later on we spent over an hour on Zoom, a conference call with the family dropping in and out from all over the country and as far away as Canada wishing her a good day. And it was!

On another fine morning today we pulled pins and dropped down Kings Lock, filled with water then turned left under the junction bridge. Up the deep Wardle Lock and out to the edge of town saw us moored on the rings at the site of the breech below Stanthorne Lock.

Waiting to turn onto the branch under the bridge to the left.

Moored below Stanthorne Lock.

This will be the last fine, warm day for a bit, rain and wind with cooler temperatures are moving in overnight and are set to linger for the rest of the week so I got the right side of the cabin leathered off and polished before we had a late lunch. Glad that’s out of the way.

We’ll steadily roll across the Middlewich Branch this week, then down to Nantwich again when we run short of supplies.

Since last post… Locks 7, miles 12.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Lost locks, a banana bonanza and an uplifting end to our Weaver excursion.

I really, really should get back to blogging more regularly. Then you won’t have to lose an hour of your life reading what is shaping up to be another long, rambling post!

Right then, where were we? Ahh yes, Sutton Bridge, last Tuesday. We took the day off as intended on Wednesday, Amber and I had a walk up river to see what there was still to see of Sutton Locks. Not a lot as it happens.

Sutton Locks were built as the entrance to the Weston Canal to protect the water levels in Weston Point and Runcorn Docks. Frodsham Lock had been in existence for several years before the Weston Canal, maintaining a navigable head of water above the tidal estuary. But I’m guessing that it’s associated weir wasn’t high enough to cope with seasonal flooding and high spring tides, so Sutton Locks acted as a barrier to these variable levels. Interestingly the two adjacent and different-sized chambers had pairs of opposing gates so that boats could lock up or down from the canal depending on the river level.

Using the excellent mapping system on the National Library of Scotland (https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/#zoom=16&lat=53.30215&lon=-2.69697&layers=6&b=1)you can see the original arrangement and the current situation…

From 1898…

…and now

The locks are to the right if you’re struggling, clearly marked on the OS map.

The locks are now buried in the trees and bushes in the bend of the channel, and the spit of land separating the locks from the weir stream is considerably shorter. With the opening of the Manchester Ship Canal in 1894 the Weaver Estuary was no longer tidal so Sutton Locks were no longer needed. The channel to the south-east of the locks was opened up, removing a good lump of the lock island. The locks were left to gently decay into oblivion. But not before they were joined by several old, redundant work boats, some narrowboats, some Mersey/Weaver flats. These versatile cargo vessels were the mainstay of the carrying fleet on the Weaver and up and down the Mersey, sail driven in the open waters and drawn by a team of men or draught animals in confined channels. As trade decreased and moved to larger, motor-driven boats the old ones were decommissioned and often left to rot in out of the way places. One of these graveyards is the disused lock cut at Sutton.

1975 Image purloined from https://www.gooseygoo.co.uk/site/mersey-flat-daresbury/

One of these sits in the chamber of the small lock, closest to the towpath. It’s the corpse of Daresbury, built in 1772 and used on the Weaver for coal carrying. She was still in use in 1956, there’s apparently a photo (that I can’t locate…) of her in Northwich at that time. By 1985 she was no longer needed and was sunk in the lock chamber and left to rot. A survey was carried out by Navy divers with a view to raising and restoring the hull, but it was found to be too far gone.  

There’s very little to see now, it’s probably clearer in the winter when the foliage has died back, but there’s only barely visible copings to spot from the towpath. And a bit of the timber of the old Daresbury.

The transom, I think.

flooded hold…

…and ironwork off the fore end.

 

The reed bed obscures all of the other craft dumped in the cut.

On Thursday morning we made the trip back upriver, not all the way, just up Dutton Lock and stopping at Acton Bridge.

Dutton Railway Viaduct

Bridge over Dutton weir stream.

Amber relaxing aboard…

…and ashore.

We had a Tesco delivery scheduled for arrival at three o’clock on Friday and it arrived handily. It was only after the driver had left and we were unpacking that  realised that the six bananas I’d ordered actually turned out to be six packs of six!

That’s a lot of bananas!

We do like bananas, but for breakfast dinner and tea for the next week would have been too much, so I separated them, wrapped the stems and stored them in the cool of the wine cellar.

It’s supposed to keep them fresh for a fortnight. We’ll see…

In the evening, after packing away the groceries and filling the water tank we left the noisy environs of the bridge and moved up to the peace and quiet below Saltersford Lock.

Approaching Saltersford Lock on a beautiful evening

Saturday saw us up the lock in company with another three boats, and stopped on the grass at the nature park just past the lift for the weekend. This morning was our last on the river for a bit, our passage up the boat lift was booked for 11:30 and we went up with another boat.

Heading for the lift

Passing the down caisson at the halfway point.

At the top we swung right and slotted into a gap just vacated by someone going down. How lucky was that!

We’d only been tied up for a half hour when Halsall came chugging along so I flagged them down, filled the fuel tank and swapped an empty gas bottle.

 

We’ll head back towards Middlewich tomorrow.

Locks 2, miles 10½