Friday 17 May 2024

Tarvin's Lock, Chester

Today's Canal : Chester

Our 'sort-of' plan was to turn around in the winding hole just beyond where we moored last night. This would avoid the necessity of both going down and up the Northgate Staircase which is notoriously heavy work. The three locks are especially deep which in turn means long rods to the paddles that let water from one lock into the next.

However, by yesterday morning we were already on to our third and final elsan cassette and there is nowhere nearer on the way back than Calveley, several days away. There are, however, boater services at the entrance to the Dee Branch and Taylor's Dry Dock at the bottom of the staircase!

It was a pleasant day when we set off just after 9 am.

There was a short run before the locks, mostly in a deep rock cutting at the base of the city walls. Our first glimpse was of the corner with a turret high above us.

In the middle of he deepest part is a bridge that is often called The Bridge of Sighs, inspired by a more famous one elsewhere!

And then, under a more prosaic modern dual carriageway, is the top of the Northgate Staircase.

Before going any further we checked through the new set of instructions in case any advice has changed - still basically as we remembered.

The top lock was already full but before we can start the descent we have to prepare the lower two. The bottom one has to be empty - it was. However, the middle lock has to be filled half way.

Walking down to complete the preparations. Mike passed a small garden, with instructions Do Not Mow! It was built to remember Mike Carter  who died in 2017 after a long time as a volunteer and worker on the canal. Let's hope that someone equally enthusiastic can be found to keep it looking smart.

The marker board in the middle lock is not easily seen from a dista mce so we have put an arrow to show where it is, the level now approaching the central green position when we can begin the descent in earnest.

Once we had started it was quite straightforward but heavy work so we were relieved when we were able to exit at the bottom, underneath the main rail line into Chester station.

Just around the corner is the service point - we did not need water, just the three elsans to empty! We were, shall we say, relieved to find that it was working = we had no Plan B in case it was out of order.

This was once an important junction, with a short arm and three locks down to the River Dee. This connection was very much part of the reason for building the canal as the river was already an important coastal port. Hence the provision of Taylor's Dry Dock, not only for making repairs but also Graving (ie cleaning) the hulls to ensure that they could cruise as smoothly as possible. Unusually we found it empty this time so we could see the workings. 

Once we could set off once more we proceeded to wind (ie turn around) in the large space outside the workshops and stores. There was room to manoeuvre without coming anywhere near moored boats or the banks.

And so back to the staircase once more. This time the preparation required the top two locks to be filled whilst, obviously, the bottom lock had to remain empty. (No other boat had passed through since we came down)

At the top stands the imposing former lock keeper's house. Mike chatted to the occupier who, it transpired, was tidying up after his garden shed had caught fire from a faulty trickle charger at 1 o'clock at night. Fortunately a passing policewoman in a car on the road above spotted sparks, came go investigate and called the fire brigade before going to wake up the sleeping residents! He also told us that the building was here in the time of Nelson! Just as well it did not catch fire. Just beside the bouse, under the dark recesses of the bridge, is the rubbish disposal point we were looking out for (it used to be down at the Dee junction)

And so back alongside the city walls, past our two day mooring and tied up at the Waitrose Stop and Shop two hour mooring. After stocking up, hopefully to the end of this trip next week, we had our lunch including a couple of rolls just purchased. Then it was off to tackle the first three locks up and out of Chester to Christleton.

This site that was once part of the Lead Works and Shot Tower, is the last to be developed and has been acquired by McCarthy Stone who plan to create 56 retirement apartments and other facilities - see here. Should be really attractive.

At the terraced housing we mentioned on the way down we noticed that several were were either for sale or recently sold. Although the properties are quite small - two bedrooms and a bath room on the ground floor - they must make a good starter home and, at a price somewhere around £225,000, more affordable than other places not far away.

Some of the bouses had these plaques built into their walls. We have not found any reference to their origin but we wonder if they were old fire insurance markers, or perhaps denoted a specific housing scheme. Surely at least one of the C's stands for Chester!

Finally, Tarvin's Lock and a pleasant mooring just above where upon we just about collapsed until time to make the evening meal!

2.5 Miles - 9 Locks

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