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  

Wednesday, July 07, 2021

And we’re back, with a clean, shiny bottom too!

 I left you several weeks ago as we came out of Llangollen, heading back to Chirk and our appointment with the bitumen brush at Chirk Marina. We steadily worked our way back downstream, arriving outside the marina a day or two before we were due in.

It all went a bit pear-shaped, though, pretty well straight away. The marina uses a slipway to haul boats out, and with limited headroom we had to remove the large top box from the roof. That turned out to be a waste of time though, as Seyella was too deep to get onto the trolley to be hauled out! To be fair they did try hard, but I got a call at Val and John’s (where we were staying) on the Tuesday afternoon saying that they couldn’t do it.  So John dropped me off to collect the boat again on the Wednesday afternoon, after I’d had my second Covid jab (Hurray!), and we were all back aboard later that afternoon.

We cruised up to Fron to fill the nearly empty water first, then turned around to head back downstream. Ringing round secured us another slot, this time at Ellesmere’s Blackwater Meadow Marina, but not until the end of June.

Amber making life a little difficult as we cruised along…

Back over the Ceiriog into England for the last time this trip – hopefully!

So we spent the time pottering back and forward, a few days near Frankton Junction and back to Ellesmere, then a few more at Hampton Bank and Prees Junction and back to Ellesmere. Now you can see why I haven’t bothered to post! We seem to have been doing that a lot!

Our first cygnets of the year near Ellesmere.

Amber enjoying the sunshine…

Feeding time for the moorhen chicks.

Ugly little blighters but their mother loves’ em!

I’ve not been idle though. I bought a recovered oak restaurant table top, then cut it, planed and chamfered it, and finally oiled it, and it’s now our dinette table.

A lot better than the one we had before made from a piece of chipboard with an edge glued on!

While we enjoyed that period of fine, dry, weather towards the end of last month I also repaired a few spots, mostly around hinges and fittings, where rust had bubbled the paint. They should be good for another year or two.

We spent the last weekend of June around Ellesmere, then Seyella finally went in for blacking on the Monday morning. John picked us up to spend the duration of the work with them.

I spent the first couple of days waiting for the phone to ring, them telling me there was a problem. The expectation was too much so I made the call on Wednesday, to be told they were running a bit behind, but the hull had been washed, scrubbed and scraped, and the first coat of Intertuf 16 had been applied that afternoon. Hallelujah! Hull, stern gear and anodes were in good condition, requiring no immediate remedial work, although the edges of the baseplate at both ends will need to be reinforced the next time she’s out of the water. No big deal, that one.

Mags enjoying the sun in Val and John’s garden.

It was Saturday afternoon before we could get back aboard, they’d applied two coats all over and an extra one along the water line. They also coated the inside of the weedhatch, a place where another boatyard I’d entrusted the work to conveniently forgot…

By half-two I’d paid the bill and we were heading out onto the cut again. 

We pulled up at the moorings near Hampton Bank for the night, then moved on down to past Prees Junction to meet a Tesco delivery to top up the cupboards on Monday evening.

Out on the moss yesterday morning.

Moorings near Roundthorn Bridge.

We were intending to move on today but Amber has been poorly, neither of us got much sleep last night as she needed to go out every hour or two. A bad case of the runs… probably something she picked up. But she seems to be better today.

And that’s about it, all up to date. I promise I’ll try to keep up now.

Locks 2, miles 61½