Monday 30 September 2019

Back to the marina

After a busy three weeks back home, yesterday we set off in the car after harvest service at church in Egloshayle. The forecast was for a rather wet and windy journey with plenty of spray on the motorways, whilst the traffic was nor reported to be a problem. In the event, the first part of the journey up to Exeter and the M5 was wet but most of the trip was dry and even sunny for a a short while. Rain did return for the last part just before we turned of the MK6 towards Nantwich. Apart from delays in road works, the timing was as predicted and we reached Aqueduct Marina just before 5.

We unloaded the car and started up all the systems on board, Just for once we did not have any complications but were grateful that we had brought a prepared meal with us.

We allowed ourselves a slow start to today and we needed to go into town for shopping as stocks were quite depleted - we managed to do a lot of 'using up' in the last few days so we brought less than usual with us. It was just after 11 before we were ready to go out!

We went first to Morrisons in the centre of Nantwich where we bought the majority of our list. After a quick (naughty, we left the car in the supermarket car park!) walk into town to visit Clelow's, the butcher we  diverted to EWM - Christine thought that Mike needed a few more leisure shirts!

Finally we called at Sainsbury as Christine had a good discount token which we used principally on re-loading our freezer.

By the time we had off-loaded the car and stowed everything away itr was time for a late lunch.

We had intended to leave the mooring today but heavy rain was expected within the hour so, after getting almost to the pout of untying our ropes, we changed plan and stayed put until the morning.

This gave Mike a chance to make a start on repairing the finish to the wood around most of the windows which is showing signs of weathering. During our stay at home, we had tracked down some suitable tins of finish, especially an oil and wax preparation for the inside as well as some exterior varnish for parts which are open at times to the weather. Initial impressions look OK even though it is never possible to remove completely the areas where moisture - mainly condensation -  has penetrated the surface.

Hopefully we will find enough dry spells tomorrow to get at least to the other side of Middlewich!

Friday 6 September 2019

Church Minshull

Today's Canal - Middlewich Branch

With only a couple of cruising hours left, plus one lock, we had no need to make an early start and it was mid morning, after some domestic activities, when we decided to make a move. As soon as we started to unloose our mooring ropes and draw pins, then a couple of boats tuned the corner just behind us and so by the time we were at the lock (only 100 m away) we were ate the back of ta queue of three, although the first was able to enter the lock quite soon.

Stanthorne Lock is very deep and takes some time both to fill and empty so it is little wonder that at busy times it an be quite a bottleneck, along with the other  three locks on this branch.which is just under ten miles from end to end.

Eventually it was our turn - on this occasion all the arriving boaters were happy to help each other through and to speed things along just a little.

It was mixed weather - a little rain, grey at first

then a little blue started to break through

and finally quite bright. We paused at the last visitor mooring before the marina to have lunch.

However, when we set off for the last quarter of a mile, the wind was strengthening and by the time we had turned off the canal it was quite tricky to manoeuvre. We had already been shown where to moor and so we planned our approach as best we could, watching the flags indicating the wind direction. Alas, our allocated slot was occupied! Also, the service mooring was busy and as we looked around we were quickly blown down the water to the end of the marina where we did eventually manage to turn around and then come in to a vacant slot.

The mooring manger was in a meeting for a little while so we did one or two other tasks as we waited - failing to obtain a replacement bolt for the side hatch was one of them. Not that the chandlery lacked effort! They did not stock the correct size item but they scoured their supplier catalogues, made a phone call to one of them and then looked on-line but to no avail. Full marks for effort. We do not know how the bolt became damaged but it looks as if something caught it when the hatch was open, just enough to pull the housing part out of shape. Ideally we want one with exactly the same footprint of fixing holes as it attaches to a metal door. We had a similar problem with one on the sliding hatch at the rear door but at least that screws into wood.

Finally we made progress on where we were to moor - it seems that there has been a moving around of several boats and we were caught mid process and that first slot would not be free now until tomorrow. Instead they allocated another mooring but in a different bay of the marina so we had to navigate around in the strong wind.

All was going well until the final turn to reverse into the narrow space - the adjacent slots were occupied. By now the wind was blowing almost head on to the reversing boat which meant that a small variation would blow the front of the boat either one way or the other. Whichever direction Mike tried for it was the wrong one until about the fifth (at least!) attempt he picked the right angle and, in the end, slid into the space quite smoothly. At least we avoided hitting anything in all of this to-ing and fro-ing.

We drive into Nantwich, about three miles away, and called at Morrisons to pick up a few items including rolls for lunch on the way home tomorrow as well as fill the fuel tank

5.9 Miles - 1 Lock

Thursday 5 September 2019


Today's Canals - Trent and Mersey, Middlewich Branch

We do not have challenging targets for today and tomorrow - we are now booked in at Aqueduct Marina to leave the boat there whilst we make a trip back home. As a result we can hake things at a much more leisurely pace and the weather today helped. Although there were a couple of light showers they did not amount to much and quite frequently we had good sunshine.

Almost as soon as we cast off, Mike could see a boat coming the other way at the next bridgehole, with boats moored either side of the canal. Rather than push our luck, he reserved back, not far from where we had started! By the time we reached the next bridge, closer to Anderton Marina, a hire boat had just set off but this time we were much close to the bridge than they were. Reversing round a sharp bend would not have been a bright idea anyway.

Next came the service block and both water taps were already occupied, leaving a space not quite large enough for us in between. We also knew that there had been problems with the sewage systems on this site so a Closed notice was not a surprise. Hence all that we could do was come as close as possible and dispose of rubbish.

However, a CaRT person arrived to check the toilets and elsan and told us all that they were now OK and left them unlocked. However he did still leave some of the Closed notices, despite removing some! By the time we had done the disposals, the other two boats had finished and moved off so in the end we opted to fill the water tank here anyway!

Time then to set off along the level pound to Middlewich.

New pipework being built across the canal at the Tata chemical works.

We have remarked on this development twice already in previous weeks this year but this time managed to catch all of the detail on the hoarding - looking up the web site the developer is unusual in that it uses crowd funding for its developments. Invest in this set of houses for a return of around 10% - but no investment protection!

We stopped for lunch at Bramble Cuttings - surprisingly no other boats were moored there. Before leaving Mike started to look at some of the patches of external paint that will need some work.

Mid afternoon we set off again and arrived at Big Lock where a boat going up saw us coming but decided to close the gates on us! Obviously not heard about water saving . . .

We pulled on to the park moorings just above the lock so that Mike could pop to the nearby Tesco Express for four items.

On again, up the three locks (first narrow locks for several weeks!) and we turned right at Wardle Junction, onto the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union (pedantically the first few metres re the Wardle Canal!)

Up through the lock with no delay - again to our surprise there was no queue in either direction.

Just before the next lock we moored up for the night. All of the new mooring rings provided as part of the breach repair were occupied - some of the boats looked as if they were taking advantage of them having no specific time restriction - those closer to to the town all have a 48 hour limit. (Actually, all but one left the next day - never should make assumptions!)

11.1 Miles - 5 Locks

Wednesday 4 September 2019

Anderton and Car Shuffle

Today's Canals - Bridgewater, Trent and Mersey

As Andrew was leaving us by the end of today we continued our journey for the morning before tackling the car shuffles, bearing in mind the need to get to a train station.This turned out to be a good move as most of the morning was very pleasant by by early afternoon rain and strong winds prevailed.

We began by completing the last part of the Bridgewater, passing the turning at Waters Meeting which goes off to Runcorn.

We called briefly at Midland Chandlers but failed to find any of the items we were seeking -  none were urgent and we wanted to be quite specific although a chance to look at some options was helpful. In any event we kept an eye on the time so that we arrived at the first tunnel entrance at the correct time. By the time we were through and on to the Trent and Mersey we were in bright sunshine.

Just after the tunnel comes Dutton Stop Lock - our only lock of the day.

It was very pleasant cruising but we did have to readjust to being on a narrow and shallow waterway once more!

This somewhat draped bridge does amuse us.

Even though still in sunshine with plenty of blue sky to be seen, the occasional darker cloud foreshadowed what was to arrive in the afternoon.

A very green stretch - there has not been enough really hot sun this year to leave us with scorched plants or grass.

We arrived at the northern portal of Saltersford Tunnel (which is immediately followed by Barnton Tunnel) having missed the sign about timed entry. We knew that one of them was timed and the other not but as there was no mention on any of the three signs at the tunnel entrance we carried on in. We were very fortunate that no other boat opted to come in the opposite direction as when we emerged we discovered that we should have waited another quarter of an hour and might have had to back out! Luck was on our side today.

After completing Barnton Tunnel it was a short run to Anderton where we found our overnight mooring and checked again on train times, booking a taxi to take Mike and Andrew to the station. Since Andrew did not want to leave until early evening (he does not like the motorway around Birmingham) we took our time to enjoy a second day of Christine's  first soup of the season.

Our booked taxi was over ten minutes late arriving. This was one of the companies that uses a sophisticated computer system that includes the ability for the customer to track where the taxi is before it arrives. Hence we already knew that it was late before it set off and also that just before reaching us it took a wrong turning. We were unimpressed that 'traffic' had to take the blame. We did make it in time to buy tickets and catch our train but it was close than it should have been.

We both travelled first to Crewe where Mike quickly caught a train to Stone and shortly afterwards Andrew took one to Nantwich. Reunited with our respective cars we made our way to Aqueduct Marina where we have booked a mooring for the next three weeks back home. Mike quickly called at the office - very friendly - and found out where our berth will be. Andrew then drove both of us back to Anderton where Christine had an evening meal ready and waiting for us. Andrew set off as planned early evening.

8.4 Miles - 1 Lock

Tuesday 3 September 2019

Preston Brook

Today's Canal - Bridgewater

Not a day with too much to write about as our primary aim was to make as much progress along the Bridgewater Canal as ;possible so that we can get to a useful railway sgtation close to the canal by midday tomorrow. Andrew will be going home and Mike will collect our car from Aston Marina ready for the return home on Saturday. Fortunately, apart from a short period of very light drizzle it was dry and at times sunny.

OK, so we did have to cover about 100 m of the Leeds and Liverpool until we passed under Leigh Bridge!

At Worsley this famous bulding is always a candidate for a photo! However, this time the reason is that we spotted an estate agent's sign outside the half timbered house. The details reveal that it is a three bed house over four floors. There is little land and only one dedicated parking space but also a share in a garage. As far as we can see, it is just the right hand side - the left is currently a dental surgery. All for £375K.

We have see this bridge construction just south of the Trafford Park shopping centre for some time now and wondered what it was for. Since we came here a couple of months ago the tram's e;lectric wires have been installed so that settles it!

We turned right at Stretford Waters - Manchester lies the other way, which we passed along at the start of this cruise.

By late morning we were at Stretford Marine where we had arranged to collect a replacement fuel cap, lost in the water at our last visit. As we arrived two other boats were already tied up being serviced so we had a wait mid stream until there was room for us to pull in. We also needed water, elsan, rubbish, gas bottle, coal and diesel! Whilst it is a small business they are very friendly and most helpful - cannot recommend them too highly at what they do.

Once we were ready to leave we cruised non-stop until our night mooring, just a little short of the Waters Meeting junction at Preston Brook. there were several pleasant sunny spells.

31.0 Miles - 0 Locks

Monday 2 September 2019


Today's Canal - Leeds and Liverpool

We had moored overnight just short of Wigan Top Lock so our day began with a short hop to the water point. We already knew, from Andrew's reconnaissance last night, that there were two other boats ahead of us to go down the flight as soon as it is unlocked at 8.30.

We were able to enter the flight just a couple of minutes before 9 - we first had to let the other boats go own and then refill the lock. Because of a substantial weed problem in the area, only the ground paddles of the top lock were available. Hence it took some time to fill.

As we worked through a trailer bearing a weed cutter was delivered to site. Alas we had to move on before we could see it actually launched into the water.

We soon built up a rhythm and were managing around 10 minutes per lock. Most of the morning was quite sunny.

The pub beside the top lock is still open, even if it did not look especially prosperous but the Navigation Inn a little further down is well and truly shut. No chance of squatters here. It is a noticeably large building.

Some of the pounds have rather large areas which can lead to significant circling currents. These are usually hard to detect (until the boat goes where it should not) but the surface weed made them all too obvious. (OK, so we have not captured it on a movie so you will just have to take our word for it!)

Most of the locks are the same depth although one or two are remarkably deep. Towards the end of the flight a couple are less than half the depth of the majority. Hence the access bridge across the lock tail has to climb much higher.

The former lock cottage takes its security seriously - almost Fort Knox.

The last lock we needed to do in the flight (there are two others that we did earlier in the year around the corner on the Liverpool direction) was 21 from the top. We exited at 12:25 - three and a half hours overall, not a record by any means but a quite respectable time. Much faster would require a significant team that could have each lock ready to enter and closed, with paddles raised to empty it almost instantaneously!

At the junction we turned left towards Leigh.

Just after the junction is the new bridge still under construction although since we were here in June the side rails look to be complete.

Soon after we arrived at the two Poolstock Locks where one boat was just leaving the first and another had almost emptied the second. Shortly after we moored for lunch at the by now familiar Stockman's Flash.

After lunch we continued along the level pound only interrupted by the Plank Lane lift bridge where we generated significant queues of cars despite ensuring that we did so for a little time as possible. No wonder the bridge is not available for boats during rush hours.

We moored for the night at Leigh Bridge where we locked up and walked into town to re-stock our food stores - Christine was especially keen to call at the butcher we have been to several times in the past. We came through the indoor market but were a tad disappointed by the two fruit and veg stalls. Their range was not as good as we remembered it. Finally, to Tesco for all the rest.

After we had returned to the boat, little but persistent drizzle arrived and we definitely to not overturn our previous plan to stay put for the night.

9.5 Miles - 23 Locks

Sunday 1 September 2019


Today's Canal - Leeds and Liverpool

The day began rather grey although most of it was a strange mixture of bright sunshine and short, but heavy, rain showers.

We set off early as we needed to be sure of mooring tonight as close to Wigan Top Lock as possible. At present the flight is only open for entry at the top between 8.30 and 10. Outside these times it is locked.

We had about an hour's run through the outskirts of Blackburn before the top of the Blackburn flight of locks. Along the way there are two very large former mill buildings. The first is the Imperial Mill, now in a very poor condition. It was opened in 1901 as a spinning mill with the latest ring technology. It was intended to undercut competitors further away from Manchester with lower manufacturing and transport costs. It was initially very successful but, along with the rest of the Lancashire cotton industry, suffered once cheap imports came into the country from India. For several decades no-one has managed to create an effective business plan for its conversion. This is not helped by the location which is surrounded by industrial areas and is some distance from the city centre or any other up market housing, so it does not look a great bet fror apartments. Meanwhile it has been Listed to prevent its demolition.

The other is Daisyfield Mill, a corn and flour mill opened in 1871 and ceased production in 1968. It was later redeveloped as offices and was occupied for some time by Granada Television who had studios here. More recently a large part has been occupied by the NHS with various small businesses using other parts. A plan was put forward last year to convert much of it to apartments. We have also seen a website that claim it was a secret torpedo factory in the last war!

Eanams Wharf was converted to offices some while ago, together with a Caribbean style restaurant. It is currently occupied by several small businesses.

This housing development looked a little stark with tall, thin, properties, all for rent.

By the time we arrived at Blackburn Locks, sunny spells took over from the overcast sky. We paused briefly to use the disposal facilities towards the bottom of the flight.

The edges of these locks provided opportunities to catch the edge of the boat as the water emptied. We kept a close eye but in one lock and extra, hidden, 'bump' in the wall did catch us for a few seconds whilst the boat scraped its way off.

After the flight we started to edge our way out of town - this is a view of the Blackburn Rovers stadium.

We wondered what this very large development was for - it did not quite seem to be either apartments or offices. Later we discovered that it is a residential care project by Verum Victum in conjunction wit the local authority. It will provide 71 apartments for Intermediate Care and 78 for Extra Care. It is due to open later this year.

An unusually formal market for the boundary between Blackburn with Darwen and Chorley.

This building is now a bat sanctuary and originally party of a water treatment works below - according to a helpful walker on the towpath. We have not yet been able to find out any details.

Some really warm sunny spells.

We passed through the small village of Withnell Fold where housing was built for the workers at the paper mill, which produced various types of paper, generally to a high quality. It later merged with Wiggins Teape. It opened in 1844 and closed in 1967 when it became too old fashioned and failed to invest in modern competitive equipment.

We had lunch on the go as we were approaching the Johnson's Hillock Locks. The weather turned very quickly from bright sunshine at the top . . .

. . . to this at the next!

We made excellent progress and completed the seven locks in 70 minutes. At the bottom, the start of the former Walton Branch can be seen under this bridge. The aim was to connect to the Lancaster Canal at Preston but the decision to use a cheap tramway across the Ribble Valley led to its failure as a commercial operation.

Botany Bay - now a retail outlet for bargain purchases.#

A really bijou way of cruising the system!

This could be yours for just £15000.

A very heavy shower arrived without warning - ouch!

But before long we could see distance hills in sunshine.

We passed alongside Haigh Country Park and golf course, with a glimpse of the original Haigh Hall (now a hotel) in the trees. This low bridge carrying the towpath over the entrance to a small basin puzzled us. It was probably built for the estate but around 1901 it became the base for Wigan Rowing Club (founded 1872) who built  a splendid boat house alongside the basin. It seems likely that the club folded in the 1960's.

We moored just short of the Top Lock so that we could get a better tv signal! Andrew walked to the flight and reported that we had made a good choice as the short visitor mooring was already full -with just two boats!

21.8 Miles - 13 Locks