Saturday 23 April 2022

Swanley Bridge Marina

 Today's Canal - Llangollen

Today was to be mainly about preparing the boat to leave it for a few weeks whilst we return home. For Christine this meant a thorough clean and for Mike to collect the car from Droitwich Marina.

But first we had to go the final mile into the marina. We had a taxi booked for 10.30 so we set off promptly as we had to ask in the office to which mooring we had been allocated.

All went well and Mike had time to wait before the taxi arrived - a really friendly private hire taxi from Nantwich. He was dropped at the station where he was able to buy his ticket from a machine on the platform. At least it came up wit the same fare as we had obtained on-line!

The first train was just a single coach and was already nearly full when it arrived. By the time around 30 people waiting had boarded it was very tight and Mike was the last one on. At least it meant he was the first off when, only a short ride later, it arrived into Crewe.

After having a coffee and picking up a Meal Deal for lunch later on, he checked on the platform for the train to Smethwick Galton Bridge. After about half an hour wait it came in just a couple of minutes behind schedule. This would not normally have been of concern as the website always leaves plenty of time to change platforms. The offered schedule gave about 50 minutes wait but Mike spotted that if he moved swiftly (the other line to which he was changing is at a different level) he might just make an earlier connection. Fortune was on his side today as he still had two minutes before it arrived. There was even time to book a taxi from Droitwich station to the marina.

After collecting the car it was back to the motorway to drive up the M5 and then the M6. Although there was plenty of traffic about, no delays and Mike was back at the boat soon after three. 

We then finished off the packing up and loaded the greater part of what needed to go home into the car so that we could get away promptly in the morning.

Just realised that, despite Pip's chiding, we have not reported on Mad O'Rourke's pies that we had in Tipton. My fellow crew members were a bit sceptical when I first floated the possibility, but once they started on the pies there was no further doubt! Well worth it - Andrew walked to get them and, at least for him, it was not at all far to go and on the way he called at a supermarket for a dessert treat as well!

1.0 Miles - 0 Locks

Friday 22 April 2022


 Today's Canals - Shropshire Union, Llangollen

We had a fairly slack schedule for today as we are aiming towards Swanley Bridge Marina where we will leave the boat for a while whilst we return home. Hence a later start than usual.

We awoke to a grey and windy morning and it was still like that as we set off. We only had a few minutes, under one bridge, before we stopped at Calveley Services for a full service. 

There was an historic boat that had been to Ellesmere Port but they were in no hurry to return to their base. The skipper had restored, over 8 years, what had been all but wreck when he acquired it. By the time we left the weather had turned much brighter.

Barbridge Junction and no mad steerer charged out at us this time!

Yesterday we spotted a couple of vans with some equipment, working on the off site in undergrowth but we could not see what they were doing. As we passed through Barbridge Narrows what seemed to be the same two vans were parked up and again a couple of men were walking down to just below e canal. We a closer view we could see that they undertake CCTV Surveys so perhaps someone is checking up on all of the culverts, some still unknown, that have too frequently collapsed ithout warning and closing a canal for some weeks. Repairs are often extensive.

Some of the tress are now well advanced in growing this years fol'iage but others, as here, still stand stark against the bright sky.

We stopped at Hurleston Junction for a long lunch break. When we arrived we had the stretch all too ourselves - but by the time we left we were sharing it with one other.

When we set off again one boat had just come down but otherwise the flight of four locks was completely quiet. This photo shows the lovely bright weather but does not convey any impression of just how strong the wind was blowing. In a couple of the intermediate pounds, the boat almost sailed across the water whilst Mike closed up the gate. Fortunately he kept it on a long leash so he could pull it back again. Even so he still had to do a rather extreme manoeuvre to line up to the next lock.

We did not meet an oncoming boat until we emerged from the top lock.

We only went about a kilometre further until we found yet another completely empty Visitor Mooring. There were plenty of boats on unrestricted moorings where they can stay up to 15 days (the VM is only 48 hours) We opted for the ease of mooring rings as we will be moving on tomorrow - car shuffle day.

Later, Christine discovered that there was water in the bottom of our 'wine cellar' (a cooler space in the floor on top of the base plate). We forgot to report in the blog a few days ago that we discovered a water leak that showed itself firstly in the bathroom and then, on inspection, at the back of the under-bunk cupboards in he front cabin. At first we could see no possible source of this leak but eventually Christine, by accident as she was looking for something else, spotted that the water filter just before the main water pump, was dripping. Mike was able to tighten up the bowl and the drip ceased. We put a container underneath to check and for some days it has been completely dry. Of course, our concern is that we do not know how it came to leak. Will it return?

The wine cellar problem suggested that water was collecting in the bilges under the cabin. There is a bilge pump for that but usually needs to be operated manually. It is located rather inconveniently under the back door steps. With contortion it is just possible to get into the space. Mike emptied out all of thew 'tuff' that normally resides in this step and found at least 2 cm of water. The bilge pump removed quite a bit but not the final cm. Our only option was to mop it up, spongeful by spongeful. Eventually, with much grunting and using Christine as a weight top tilt the boat one way or the other, Mike reached a point where the space was almost dry. We will now have to wait a while to see if it stays that way or will more water find its way to the lowest point? Ah, the joys of being a boat owner!

4.4 Miles - 4 Locks

Thursday 21 April 2022


 Today's Canal - Shropshire Union

Another brilliant day - a bit breezier but pleasantly fresher. It did make boat handling require a tad more attention!

Through the day the sky was generally blue but mostly with a thin hazy cloud layer.

A day of to halves  - just over two hours level cruising before the final six wide locks. Again, Golden Nook moorings took about half an hour at a very slow pace to pass.

Eventually we arrived at Wharton's Lock, today's first. We shared all but one lock today but with three different boats!

We spotted a wonderful woodland splash of  bluebells but, as we usually find, it is difficult to capture the blueness on camera from the boat.

The boat we shared the first lock with rather wanted to persuade us to try the same at Beeston Iron Lock. It is likely that this would have been OK but with dire warnings posted beside the lock, we declined the invitation!

We warned them that we were probably stopping for lunch in the next pound so that they should not wait for us at the Stone Lock.

The arrangement below Iron Lock is very awkward for boats wanting to ascend. There is a hire base and bridge just 100m before the lock with most of the towpath allocated as a Visitor Mooring. Between the bridge and the lock the bank is not really suitable for mooring and the metal lock landing is a very short and not at all friendly to boats. With Mike preparing the lock, Christine was left to hold the boat just before the bridge where the Shroppie Shelf  makes itself felt. Another boat arrived and in the process Christine became very seriously stuck on mud but this other boat managed to pull her free. In reward she let them go ahead of us!

The Stone Lock was the first after lunch and we were joined by a CaRT workboat. The two person team had just finished a smart brick paved area at Ellesmere Port Museum and were on their way to their next job near Barbridge.

We paused for a while to allow a boat to clear Bunbury Staircase and took advantage of a water point - usually difficult to access on a hire boat turn around day! By the time we were ready to go up we were joined by one of the boats we shared with yesterday!

We continued for a short while to the next Visitor Mooring at Calveley where we found plenty of space and enough depth of water to be afloat tonight!

9.4 Miles - 6 Locks

Wednesday 20 April 2022


 Today's Canal - Shropshire Union

We awoke to a beautiful clear blue sky and we a noticeable warmth to the air.

Before leaving, Mike took a stroll around the basin to take a better picture of Taylors Boatyard.

On the way he noticed a line of graffiti that he had not seen elsewhere - Putin Finds Brexit. We must have missed it but it seems that this was a popular urban myth in 2020!

The Northgate Locks were a short distance away and another boat had just gone up so when we arrived Mike had to walk up the flight to adjust the levels before we could make a start with the boat.

All was going well until the boat was coming up into the middle lock. By this time the crew from a boat waiting to descend came to talk as well as a volunteer lockie coming on duty. In the distraction Mike forgot to work the paddles in the correct sequence so the whole flight took longer than it should have done. And then the lock keeper decided to bring the other boat down the first lock at the same time as we were coming up - but did not tell us. However, all was good humoured and we sorted it in the end without too much loss of water.

We promised a picture from the depths of the middle lock.

A view from near the top looking down to the railway line that crosses just below the  bottom lock. We stopped the nearby Cow Lane Bridge Visitor Moorings as, from here, it is just a couple of minutes to the main shopping area.

Christine wanted to visit M&S, Body Shop and elsewhere, so whilst she was doing this, Mike did the food re-stock at Tesco. After the goodies back to the boat he returned to Wilcos for various glues to repair several items - and other hardware items.

Eventually we managed to have lunch but Christine spotted that one of the loaves of bread from tesco was out of date so, before we could leave. Mike had to take it back - he also picked up the one item be had missed on Christine's earlier shopping list. (He obviously needs more practice!)

In the end it was only just after 2 when we set off - with another boat just passing us so an opportunity to share the work of the next five locks. The large Boughton Tower is part of  an important water treatment works and dominates this stretch of the canal.

We continued towards Waverton from the top of the flight - the demolition work has progress apace since we saw it yesterday! Soon after Egg Bridge we managed, after a few failed attempts, to find a mooring close to the bank. And we did have good piling to chain to.

4.6 Miles - 8 Locks

Tuesday 19 April 2022


 Today's Canal - Shropshire Union

The weather today was rather better than expected - we had quite a bit of sunshine and kit seemed warmer than forecast.

We (ie Mike) set off earlier than usual as we did not quite make our target yesterday, following the delays at several locks. We also had a Zoom meeting with a friend from Cornwall that was booked for 10:30.

Soon after leaving we passed the entrance to Tattenhall Marina.

After a little while we arrived at the start of the Golden Nook farm online moorings. These are well-known for being rather long and perhaps not the finest of facilities. No doubt those who continue to use them enjoy a lower mooring fee than at the nearby marina! The first half are on a comparatively narrow section of canal and it is not helpful when double mooring is allowed. 

It took us 39 minutes at tick over to pass the complete line. Almost at the end and we spotted that the March of Wide Beams has even reached here. There is very little cruising range for such a boat - Nantwich to the south and Ellesmere :Port to the north (unless venturing out onto the Manchester Ship Canal) It can only really be used for residential purposes, or perhaps a weekend holiday home.

We moored up in good time for the Zoom meeting - mobile reception was not its strongest so at times we struggled a little with the video.

Afterwards we set off once more. In Christleton we noticed this former light industrial unit - the sign says that it has been acquired for replacement with residential units. The afrtist's impression makes it look more like Palm Beach than canalside!

This tree may well have had a massive haircut - and looks impressively stark against the sky - but it remains quite a hazard to shipping!

We paused just before the first lock of the day in order to fill up with water. The pub at the adjacent bridge has closed and is being converted into a Costa and three canal-facing apartments. The plan involves the demolition - very much underway - of one part of the building that had long looked in need.

At Christleton Lock a very cheerful unofficial volunteer assisted us through and then at the next lock. He told us he has been doing it for 20 years and simply enjoys being in the fresh air and meegting people.

He also warned us that Tarvin Lock is very slow as only one top paddle is working - the other has been broken since last summer. He was absolutely correct! Still, it gave us time to watch the cricket match at the rather splendid Chester Boughton Hall Cricket Club. The Cheshire Over 60s team were playing a friendly against Shropshire.

A small patch of land alongside Hoole Lane Lock is being kept specially for wildlife!

Work in the centre of Chester close to the Steam Mill involves laying a rather large pipeline along pafrt of the towpath which has been diverted for the purpose. Hopefully it is only temporary as it does not do much to enhance the environment!

Close to the Bus Station a large fire resulted in unpleasant smoke and fumes drifting across the canal. W could not see exactly what was happening, but this report says that it was in a third floor flat and no-one was injured. At least the fire station is across the road!

The canal then runs just outside the city walls - cannot imagine permission being given for just a project today! The heritage lobby would have a field day. Unsurprisingly, this is called the Bridge of Sighs.

We needed to get as far as the elsan point at Tower Wharf but this entailed dropping down the three locks of Northgate Staircase. The operation is unusual and involves running water between the locks before starting the descent to balance the levels in the middle lock go a red-amber-green marker on the chamber wall. 

The locks are quite deep and these photos do not really give the full effect of being down the bottom of the middle lock. (We will try again on the way up!) They are also very slow and it took three quarters of an hour to get to the bottom.

We moored for the night in the Tower Wharf basin.

From here a short Dee Branch used to provide a connection with the River Dee. Although the first two locks can be navigated - the first takes boats down to a small set of moorings - the bottom lock has been non-operational for some time, 

If a boat gets this far and is in any doubt, a large steel; gate blocks the way under the road bridge and into the old lock.

The area surrounding the branch has been done regeneration and the lift bridge can still be used (but to no real purpose!)

According to an information panel, this water tower was built in 1322.

8.0 Miles - 8 Locks