Sunday 25 September 2022


Today's Canals - Middlewich Branch, Shropshire Union, Llangollen

Only a short stretch left to do today which we hoped to be able to complete by lunch time, giving us the afternoon for various housekeeping tasks.

It was rather grey, but not as chilly as yesterday, with glimmers in the sky. None of the warming sunshine however. After we had moored for lunch there was a short shower and late afternoon what, in this season, passes for a sunny spell.

There were already quite a few boats on the move. The branch is always busy and often queues at all four locks. We wondered if we would have as long a wait as yesterday but as we neared, passing Venetian Marina we could see no boat waiting and, after a boat (0ne of the stag party) came out, there was a wave from the lock bridge to beckon us straight in. The lock is immediately after the marina - its cafe was doing a good trade in breakfasts and morning coffees.

On then to the junction, passing an almost continuous succession of moored boats. No sooner had one stretch finished then another started.

As we rounded the turn onto the Shroppie we spotted two signs in the new CaRT branded style - both the same except each pointing to the other with about a boat length in between. For those who know tis area, these were just as we entered the narrows, formerly a toll stop. The text reads, "Mooring for services only. Max stay 30 mins"

Not unreasonable, you might say, and quite common. The only problem is that there are no services, each was removed some time in the past for different reasons, long before these signs were erected! It is a pity that the sign erecting people are not given some discretion or at least the means of checking when asked to put up something so self evidently a waste.

Arriving at Hurleston there was already one boat in the process of starting up the flight with another waiting on the lock landing (really only room for one boat) We had to wait on the main line before we could make the turn, with then two single handers arriving from the south. With a steady stream of boats leaving the Llangollen, the single volunteer lock keeper was having a rather busy morning.

We continued a short distance to moor in the same spot as when we came up in the spring. It was time for lunch and then down to various items of housework, including preparing tonight's meal. Unusually not a roast (using up time) but a beef casserole.

We had a call from the marina to warn us that the boat which had been using the slot we were booked into had decided to stay on a little longer so the may be some shuffling around to do, but we can go in as soon as we are ready.

5.0 Miles - 5 Locks

Saturday 24 September 2022

Minshull Lock

Today's Canals - Trent and Mersey, Middlewich Branch

We awoke to a wonderful morning.

Cruising on a calm, untroubled canal with a clear sky and a mixture of quite warm in the sun and somewhat chilly in the shade - what else could we ask for?

Just as we were setting off a large flock of geese flew noisily over head, collecting other, small groups as it went. A little later as we passed Croxton Flash, we wondered if this is where they meet up before taking off.

We crossed Croxton Aqueduct. This was originally build wide to accommodate the craft of 9 ft beam that were originally able to trade from Preston Brook to above Big Lock in Middlewich. However when the aqueduct had to be rebuilt in 1937, this was considered no longer necessary and so was reduced in size, no doubt to save costs. 

At Big Lock we stopped to fill with water as Christine had just completed a load of washing. This is not the fastest of taps but eventually we were full. The footbridge below the lock, which seems to be popular with local walkers, was recently rebuilt after it became unsafe.

As we arrived at the next lock, two boats carrying a stag party were just leaving the adjacent hire base so we had quite a wait as they were inducted into the arcane art of lock operation! Eventually we were able to proceed up the three Middlewich locks to Wardle Junction. As we turned right onto the Wardle Canal (all 47 metres of it) we had to wait for a boat coming down. 

We continued along the Middlewich branch towards Stanthorne Lock. We had hoped that, by now, the two 'stag' boats would have made it through but alas the first was only just coming to terms with setting the lock! Time for Christine to go and lend a hand.

It was still very sunny as, just above the lock, we found a good mooring spot for lunch.

We continued promptly as we wanted to get above Minshull Lock today to give us a simple run to Hurleston in the morning. We need the afternoon to prepare for our return home on Monday - just for a short visit.

By now some dramatically black clouds were arriving. Although we could see rain in the distance we do not experience any as a direct hit!

Again there was a queue at Church Minshull Lock - but not the same two boats as before, they had already pulled up for the only pub along the whole of this canal. Since they have to get back to Middlewich by the end of tomorrow and there is about an hour and a quarter's run to the next winding hole, let's hope that they do not too bad a hangover! (News Flash: They passed us around six so much have worked out their schedule!)

The boat ahead of us in the queue had a couple out for three weeks from Autherley Junction. They had already come up the Shroppie and all he ay to Llangollen and planned to return via the Trent and Mersey. They had reached Middlewich, turned right and went into the next lock. They then found that the top paddles were padlocked with no notice to explain. They soon discovered that the T & M has been shut again through lack of water. This left them no choice but to return the way they had come. They seemed remarkably laid back about it!

Another boat arrived to come down so we helped them through before it was our turn. They too had had their plans thwarted by the closure but at least they knew about it before they set off from the nearby Aqueduct Marina.

We moored up at the first opportunity above the lock.

10.1 Miles - 7 Locks

Friday 23 September 2022

Bramble Cuttings

Today's Canal - Trent and Mersey

Yesterday's rain continued after dark but we awoke this morning to a very different scene. The sky was blue, the sun was warm and it stayed that way for most of the day, with just a short period when the cloud covered much of the sky.

Just after leaving we passed the excellent moorings at the site of the Dutton breach. All of the overnight moorers, bar one, had left well before 9.30. We had a very clear view down across the Weaver, here just a able to see the Dutton Railway Viaduct. Mike last crossed this when doing the car shuffle from Runcorn!

We have not had much opportunity in the last few days to include pictures just for the glory of the scene so to correct the balance here are a couple more. The second above is again looking down towards the Weaver with a road bridge in the middle (a barely visible white blob!)

Oh, and another for good measure.

We were pressing on as we were aware of the window for entry into Saltersford Tunnel - 30 - 50 mins after the hour. Our estimate was that we would arrive there just as the window was closing which would mean a wait of 39 mins. We made it (well as close as a boating timetable allows) and so sped through the tunnel and out before the start of entry from the other end. This tunnel is very kinky (oh, yes!) and so it is not possible to see through from start to the end.

After a very short distance comes the second tunnel. This one is much straighter and as a result, with a transit time of around 5 minutes, there is no set timing. You just have to wait until the way is clear. There is a shar[bend as the canal approached the tunnel portal and so it is necessary almost to start entering in order to see. Alas there was obviously one in and they told us that there were two more behind. The third but then told us that the tunnel was clear so we started again. Again, alas, another boat arrived at the same time as we were entering and it appeared not to have noticed us so back we went once more. Finally, we were able to have the tunnel clear for us.

The transit was somewhat unnerving as at times we slowed right down, almost to a standstill. We did manage to get out again, thanks to some increased engine power. It felt as if we might have picked up something on the prop midway.

As can be seen from the above, traffic had now built up and we saw today far more boats in one day than for a long time. This did lead to several close encounters on blind bends under bridges.

The cliff fall on the stretch between the tunnels and Anderton does not seem to have had any work done. The footbridge remains closed as it carries a path that leads up the cliff just where the slip has occurred.

We passed the entrance to Anderton Lift, normally a popular place both for day visitors and boats travelling between the canal and the river. Sadly it is closed for the rest of the season as technical difficulties are taking a long time to fix.

We stopped at the services for the usual water, elsan and rubbish but also to give Mike the chance to check the prop. There was only a little bit of plastic caught there but it felt as though something else dropped away when the first part had been pulled out.

We had a stop for lunch before continuing on through the chemical industrial area.  But first, at Wincham Bend, we noted again this attempt to emulate the Tower of Babel. Not checked with photos from June but we are sure that it has grown since then!

As we neared the large works at Lostock, the dark cloud and the sunshine combined with the water vapour from the plant to make an almost surreal image.

This industry has undergone quite a bit of reorganisation and simplification with the result that this site is being developed extensively. The high fence keeps prying eyes from seeing too much when we passed closest.

From a distance we could see a bit more of the new facility.

When we came this way in June we noted that much of the upgrade to orchard Marina had been done. Since then, however, we had heard a suggestion that work had stopped and, indeed, we could not detect any visible progress. The newer, Park Farm Marina still stays that it has vacancies so perhaps this project is on hold until demand picks up again. 

We also noted that the marinas here are berthing a growing number of wide beam boats. This had become a controversial issue on the North Oxford near Braunston, as the wide boats from a marina there do try to cruise out onto the canal with concern about what happens when they obstruct the navigation. But here there is no opportunity for going anywhere even though at one time barges wider than narrowboats did ply as far south as Middlewich Big Lock. To the north, the tunnels are narrow as well as the stop lock at the start of the Trent and Mersey. To the south, a rebuild of an aqueduct just below Middlewich only takes narrow boats. No doubt we shall hear more of this story in the future.

It was not a surprise to find Bramble Cuttings full but the place just beyond where we moored on the way up was empty. It is a good mooring, with a few rings, but rather poor internet connections.

13.2 Miles - 0 Locks

Thursday 22 September 2022


Today's Canals - Bridgewater, Trent and Mersey 

When we awoke, and a little later when we set off, the weather was dry with a little, watery sun breaking through the thin cloud. However, even at the start, it was not a great day for photos.

After a short distance we stopped at the water point alongside the pub Ye Olde No 3 to fill up.It took somewhat longer than average as the supply is fairly slow.

Lymm Marine fit out and sell boats both wide and narrow. They buy in the hull shells from various specialists and it seems as if they have a healthy order book going by the number of new shells waiting for completion.

Just before Outrington we passed a large workboat with a couple of crew. Judging by their gestures it seems that they were preparing to install another bench seat.

This winding hole near Thelwall has intrigued us before with the mystery about what lies, or once laid, behind the small attractive footbridge. We have not found a lot of detail but the short stretch of water was probably not intended to be navigable but as a landscape feature for Massey Hall. This Victorian country estate was owned in the early 20C by the Rylands family who owned a wire production business in Warrington, at one time one of the largest employers in the town. The Hall was later sold yo Lancashire County Council and used as a residential school for secondary age children with emotional and behavioural problems. It closed in 2007, after which there was a series of allegations of abuse by staff to some of the pupils. At least one case led to an award of £50,000 to a survivor. We have found a reference to the demolition of Massey Hall to be replaced by a modern building.

We reached Thorn Marine in Stockton Heath around 12:30, just as a little rain arrived. This was originally the end of the canal when it was first opened, the section on towards Runcorn followed a number of years later. We only stayed long enough to empty the elsan but as we moved off the rain became steady and heavy and remained that way until well after we moored for the night. Mike, as steerer, eventually needed a complete change of clothing!

We tried for a while to take more photos but it was soon evident that the camera was out of action for the rest of the day.

We stopped very briefly after Christine had had hers for Mike to have lunch. We had intended to eat 'on the go' but it was still very wet and it did not seem worth have two people soaked through!

Near to the end of the Bridgewater we called at Midland Chandlers. We particularly wanted to replace the mooring line that had been chewed up at Tewitfield ('cos Mike let it fall into the water behind the prop!) We were down to our last Elsan container so bought two - the second comes half price! They used to do this deal but when we last bought some they had suspended it. Glad to hear that it is back on again.

We managed to arrive at Preston Brook Tunnel with only a few minutes to wait before the short timed entry slot and followed a hire boat through.

We had hoped to moor overnight on the ringed moorings where the Dutton Breach of a few years back had occurred. This is a popular spot as it had a good view down to the Weaver. Alas, as we were approaching we could see that it is still popular - and full! So we pulled in a short distance before on a perfectly good mooring but without the view. As soon as we were tied up, Mike wen for a complete change! Christine decided that it was time for the first fire in the stove for the season.

16.4 Miles - 1 Lock

Wednesday 21 September 2022

Dunham Massey

Today's Canal - Bridgewater

It was quite pleasant as we set off with numerous bright sunny spells. However the forecast is that the cloud will gradually thicken and that there will be little sunshine after 11. Alas, for once the forecast was correct!

Our overnight mooring had been very quiet and although not on any recommended list of stops, suited us juts fine. In the evening there had been a steady stream of walkers and cyclists but as soon as the light faded we were largely left to ourselves!

The first bridge we came to had this sign warning cyclist to dismount as it is a low bridge. This is often displayed both on the Bridgewater and on CaRT waters. Of course, it is also widely ignored.

In this case we wonder whether the person putting up the sign was just following orders having been told to put them everywhere. Sad that someone could not use a bit of common sense as in this case it would have taken an over 3 m high person to bang their head!

We are always on the lookout for something that we might have missed in the past. This smallish structure had nut stood out before - sorry about the sun being in the wrong direction, we did tell it to move.

Here is the one on the opposite side. We saw the same arrangement a little later but not, so far as we recall, anywhere else.The only point in common is that a stream runs under the canal at both locations. We are uncertain about their purpose but perhaps they are some sort of vent for the culverts.

The sun was bright as we came through Worsley which shows in our picture of the Packet House.

Another obligatory photo is the Manton Lighthouse - we have said enough about it in the past!

And so to the Barton Swing Aqueduct.

The Kellog's factory - we are ticking off all the usual landmarks quite nicely. However not any more for some time as the route through Sale is unremarkable.

Under the splendid cast iron bridge on the left of the photo and out onto the main line of the Bridgewater. Going the other way is into Manchester. No much point going that way at the  moment as all the other routes out of the city are closed for lack of water right now.

The joke on this boat might well amuse many but it does seem a bit unwise to tempt fate and the attention of the authorities! Of course, we might have misunderstood it entirely.

We called at Stretford Marina for fuel. Unfortunately just before us was another boat wanting a full service including pump out which seemed to go on forever - over quarters of an hour. They only charge £15 for a pumpout so it is hard to see how they make much money this way. On the other hand, they are always very welcoming and friendly here.

We stopped at Sale Bridge to have lunch and to make a short shopping trip into the town centre.

We have followed the development of the former Linotype factory over the years. It seems almost complete now with only this small patch still to fill.

However, if our pictures are correct, this is what the site here looked like back in June. The shell of the building - the only part that identifies the original use - was being repaired. Since then, sadly, it seems to have been demolished so that future occupants of the somewhat dreary housing development may well forget the important role that Linotype played in the transition of printing from a task of assembling individual cast letters into a process that used a keyboard instead. We almost all printed material today being created on a computer screen, let us hope there is some way of remembering the industrial past.

We continued as the sky became ever greyer towards our sort-of target of Dunham Massey. The spot we were aiming for - where we moored overnight in June - was occupied so we pulled in just a short distance sooner.

14.1 Miles - 0 Locks

Tuesday 20 September 2022


Today's Canals - Leeds and Liverpool Main Line, Leigh Branch, Bridgewater

Our booking for Poolstock was officially set for 10 am with the request that we be there 15 minutes early. As it happened, our overnight mooring was only just below the first lock on the Wigan flight which is also locked apart from the assisted passages. However, the other three boats due to come through today managed to squeeze in early so we thought that we might be last - although only two lockfuls are permitted anyway. However, both our locking partners from the past few days and one of the other boats let the lock keeper know that we had arrived first and so when the time came he waved us into the first locking. In general, such behaviour is widespread and commonplace amongst boaters. Anyone flouting it  is usually in for a hard time!

We failed to go and look at the short pound between the two Poolstock locks but someone else showed us a photo that had just taken before the lock keepers arrived. There was barely a trickle down the middle. 

The  lock keepers started just after nine and first had to fill that empty pound at least enough to let us through. The only place they can immediately take water is from the junction pound - our first lock and then Poolstock Top are both joined by the junction pound (as well as the currently closed main Wigan flight. A steady flow comes into the junction pound by pumping from the nearby River Douglas but there is a limit on how much can be taken - water is an increasingly precious commodity in an often monopolistic and unregulated market.

This photo shows how much this pound fell before there was enough at Poolstock to let us through. The current very limited schedule of passages is based on the time that it then takes to refill that pound. The situation is exacerbated  by the fact that this area, known to be in serious need of repair, never makes it far enough up the priority list to be undertaken. Perhaps it is time for IWA to devise some effective political action or are they only interested in restorations and southern canals?

We were assisted through the locks so there was not much opportunity to take helpful photos. When  we came up in June, there was a notice on the top Poolstock lock asking boaters to use all paddles to fill as otherwise it leaked out faster then it could fill and so never make a level, wasting a lot of water in the process. Although the notice has now gone, perhaps this photo of a traffic cone stuck in one of the top gat paddles may have something to do with it!

Until mid afternoon, they day was very grey, at first rather damp and occasionally rather chilly. Hence our photos were correspondingly dismal! We did pass this CaRT Volunteer working party that were clearing vegetation. They seemed in very good spirits as well!

We came though Dover Locks - the abandoned pub is no happier than when we came up, although the bright sunny day in June did make the picture we showed here feel much more cheery. The dismal, overcast day today just adds to the sense of desolation that this building, in the middle of nowhere, inevitably creates.

It is a long time since this swing bridge has carried any traffic but the puzzle is: even if it could be opened the canal now is much wider than it seems to span.

We moored just before Leigh Bridge as we wanted to pick a few flood items from the nearby Aldi but first came lunch!

By the time we set off once more there was a good couple of hours of bright, and still warm, sunshine - here as we passed Bedford Basin on the edge of the town.

Last time we showed one of the many former mills in Leigh, several now re-purposed. Here is another one, Brooklands Mill, now home to a number of small businesses. It was built as the third mill in a complex that was otherwise on the opposite side of the canal and opened in 1891. The original Mather Lane Company undertook cotton spinning (much of Leigh was sill spinning) and was merged into Combined Egyptian Mills in the 1920s. This company was set up to rescue 34 failing mills owned by various companies. At one time it was the second largest cotton spinning business in the world. It was later subsumed into the Viyella brand.

A house next to the bridge at Marsland Green looked highly decorated from a distance but it was only was we came close that we realised that it contained a substantial defence facility!

The boat moored alongside is appropriately named.

We continued until just after Vicars Hall Bridge and found a quiet overnight mooring. This was built about five years ago, seeming at least part funded by the remnant of the coal company responsible for a lot of the local subsidence. There was previously a 'temporary' bailey bridge here, presumably to maintain access until the ground stabilised enough. Luckily for the local landowner, it also provided currently a road to nowhere - nowhere just being the next piece of land looking for housing development! (see here for further comments) There is a suggestion that Viridor may create another country park alongside.

11.2 Miles - 3 Locks