Monday 18 April 2022

Slow Boat to Chester (not)

 Today's Canal - Shropshire Union (Formerly Chester Canal)

Although the forecast was for cooler weather today and until later in the  week, most of the day was remarkably warm and sunny spells.

We set off for the short distance to Bunbury where we arrived to find a queue of six boats ahead of us at the two lock staircase..

Eventually we made it to the head of the queue but two boats were ready to enter from below. They were familiar with the Bunbury Shuffle and were prepared to let us 'dance' with them. This is a process whereby two boats in one direction and one in the other can use the staircase at the same time, passing in the middle.

These photos, if you know what is happening, just about show the various stages - a drone sequence would make it a lot clearer! The bottom lock was empty and so two boats could come in. However, they cannot fill that lock until the top lock is full. That meant that we could enter the top lock. The top lock is then emptied into the bottom lock so that all three boats are at the same level. Once the intermediate gaates were opened, the boat to our right came forward into the empty space. Meanjhwile the other boat coming up shuffles over to the same side of the lock. This allowed us to move forward into the bottom lock. The first boat shuffles over so that the second boat could follow into the top lock. Once the gates are shut, all boats can proceed as normal!

Twenty minutes later and we arrived at Tilstone Lock and to our surprise there was no queue. Time to admire the splendid flowering tree alongside the lock.

On the way to the Beeston locks we could see this rather ornate building on top of a hill beyond the railway line. It seemed at a distance to be all boarded up. We now discover that this was once called Beeston Towers, a country house built in 1886 for a wealthy timber merchant, John Naylor, from Warrington. He and his brother are credited with being the first to compete a walk from John O'Groats to Lands End - and he also wrote a book about it.

After a variety of uses in 1998 it became a hotel and named The \Wild Boar Hotel. Alas it closed again in 2017 (so well before COVID, but after the local planners discovered unauthorised changes and served a notice for them to be reversed) and has remained empty since then, suffering a substantial fire in 2019. A planning application has been made to re-develop the building but no work seems to have started as yet.

A queue greeted us at Beeston Stone Lock - here the delay seems to be because it takes much longer to fill than others nearby. This lock also has a distinctive round lock keeper;s hut - which many of the Chester Canal locks have.

Beeston Iron lock inevitably had a queue because, unlike all the other locks which are double, this one can only take a single boat at a time, the consequence of distortion of the cast iron lock side walls.

And so to Wharton's Lock where, as we had hoped, the last of the boats ahead of us was just leaving and so we could immediately start to re-fill. The  lock hut here is much more mundane!

We started on the long pound that runs through to the outskirts of Chester. However, some rather sharp showers arrived and so we opted to moor just before Tattenhall Marina entrance. Along here it is not easy to find a place where we could get close enough to the bank. We had to revert to lighting the stove again.

5.9 Miles - 6 Locks

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