Monday, 3 August 2015

Back in the Trent Valley

Not blogged for a couple of days so here is a catchup. From Coven Heath we pushed on down the Staffs and Worcester Canal stopping for the night at Baswick bridge 96. We walked to the Radford Bank Inn which is a Crown Carvery. We did not hold out much hope but we were tired and hungry after 15 miles and eleven locks. We had a massive carvery for £5.79 each. It was pretty good food, for the money it was fantastic, it fed both of us with lots of leftovers for spot.

Photos below show how deep some of the cuts are on this stretch of the canal - not just deep but narrow with few passing places but extremely impressive.
Bit overgrown around here

Back in the Trent Valley

River Sow Aqueduct

Tixall Wide
 Tixall Wide is supposed to have a good population of kingfishers.  We didn't see any here but have seen plenty while we've been out this year - Jan even saw one catch a fish and fly off.  They are an extremely shy bird and very difficult to get anywhere close enough for a photo before it shoots off in a very low straight flight in amazing speed.
Gets narrow here

Jan's Photo at Fradley Junction
Next day found us at Fradley Junction. We managed to just fit on the 48h moorings below the lock mooring. It is amazing how many times we manage to fit 45ft Tilly May onto the last mooring space. A meal in the Mucky Duck. We had done quite a few locks in the last few days, one observation we have noted this trip is the large number of boats that arrive at a lock and stop with their boat and do nothing to help the boat in front but are happy to accept help from the boat behind. At times when we have encountered a queue of boats it was not unusual to see 6 or 7 people standing by boats talking while one person struggles on the lock.  So saying, there was  plenty of movement going up towards the junction and there seemed to be a lot of seasoned helpful boaters; also we had help on a couple of locks from Fradley by 2 CaRT volunteers and later from IWA volunteers at Branston Lock - the latters had a stall selling cakes and other goodies which Chris could not resist!!

Moored last night at Stenson after picking up some milk in Willington. We had already decided that the Dragon would be packed on a sunny Sunday (we were right it was heaving) so we pushed on and found a good mooring at Stenson. Had a very nice kebab at the Bubble Inn and suffered with the hot weather during the night.

Friday, 31 July 2015

From Endor onto the Staffs and Worcester Canal

Had a nice meal in the Boat Inn last night. It is obviously a popular location as we had the last free table on a Wed night. We set off from Gnosall with a plan to get into the Staffs & Worcester. This section of the Shroppie is amazing! Once through the Cowley Tunnel the scenery looks like Endor (2 points for SciFi specialist who can identify Endor)

Cowley Tunnel

Once in a wile you appear out of the trees onto a raised embankment with views as above. Panoramic photo taken on my little Sony.

We finally moored in the middle on nowhere just past Coven Heath. Had salad an new tatos for tea. Jan woke about 4am and took the last 2 photos. Nooks like a nice day.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Long Day - Tree Down - Flights in Abundance

Having had to moor up on previous night due to "tree down over canal" we decided to move on earlier than usual today so set off at 8.45am having made sure Spot had been out for walk, TM tidied up, etc.  Only a few boats passed us going upstream by then.  Having tackled first 3 locks on Audlem flight on our own, thought "should not be a problem" - think again!!  We were soon followed by nb Ibex (working boat built 1927 and recently bought by young couple, moored at Norbury Junction with friend Peter on board).  Peter was brilliant through the locks with us: as we entered each lock Jan and I opened the lock and got TM into lock, once lock filled up with TM ready to move out, Jan then went up to the next to 'set' it leaving me and Peter to exit TM and enter Ibex, was fast and furious passage (Jan: felt like a working passage).  This went all the way onto the top lock of the Audlem flight, then (no rest for the wicked) we pushed on (or were pushed on by Peter) to the next Adderley Flight of 5 locks.  Again, same routine followed and we were soon through there.  Does this guy ever slow down?  Onto the next flight, Tyrley Locks - could not lose this chap.  Same routine and we sailed through the locks in short time.

Cannot thank Ibex crew (small baby on board) and Peter enough helping us through the locks.  Stood looking down the Audlem flight, there was a boat in each of the 15 locks coming up - only 2 boats were going down!

At the end of the climb of the 3 lock-flights, we had been through 22 locks, covered 10 miles, all from 8.45am to 4.15pm.  Amazingly, due to Peter's help and the couple on nb Ibex, it was nowhere as an arduous task as would have been thought.  Although a cup of tea was welcome at the end mooring!

Mention must be made to the state of the lock paddles and gates: all mechanisms really well maintained and the gates light-weight.

Adderley Flight

Adderley Flight

 The top of the Tyrley Locks was total chaos! By the time we managed to get through the melee we counted 26 boats that had finally got passed the downed tree and were now waiting to go down the flight.
Woodseaves Cutting
No sooner had we entered Woodseaves Cutting than we saw the CaRT boat with the chaps that had removed the tree.

Working boat Woodseaves Cutting
By the time we reached the sight of the downed tree there were four working boats moored(including nb Ibex) collecting the wood. Most boats looked like they had a year's supply of wood. It must have been a big tree!

We finally moored at Goldstone Bridge next to the Wharf Tavern. Probably one of the most dog unfriendly pubs we have been to.  Spot found a new friend - picture above.  Friend very interested in coming aboard TM - could be something to do with a bit of Spot's tea left in her bowl?!

While at Goldstone we met nb Melusina and her new owners of 3 hours. Watched them unload a van full of stuff onto the boat - mattresses, etc just before the heavens opened!  and talked to them about what they will be doing. nb Melusina is unusual in that her engine in front mounted.  Saw them again this morning: mum in Marigolds cleaning.

Shebdon Embankment looking over to The Wrekin

We set off heading to Norbury Junction, first onto Shebdon Embankment then back onto Grub Street Cutting. Switching between huge views and tree tunnels.

Knighton Cadbury Wharf

Grub Street Cutting

Norbury Junction and the catch-up with the working boats

Ibex moored at Norbury Junction
We have moored at Gnosall planning on going to the Navigation Inn but we will have to walk a little further because it is closed. Boat Inn here we come.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Audlem and Working Boats

A shortish cruise yesterday. After all the rain we took time to dry stuff and move up five locks to moor in the centre of Audlem. Last weekend there was a historic boat festival here so we were lucky to find a mooring. Tilly May is surrounded by old working boats, most of which are fascinating and quite magnificent having been well restored. Moored opposite us across the canal is Saturn the horse drawn boat we saw at Middlewich a couple of weeks ago.  No horse seen and it has no engine, so will be interesting to see how it moves!

Before we set off yesterday from Henhull I walked Spot down the towpath and got talking to a chap on a live-aboard nb Jezebel. Ashley is a birdwatcher by profession. He told me about doing breeding bird surveys and bat watches and guided birding walks. He was involved in two companies, Bird Information Ltd, which rented pages to keen bird watchers so they get the latest information about rare bird sightings. Also he operates bird watching tours in Spain via Aquila Bird Tours. It is amazing the interesting people you meet on the cut.

Above horse statue created from old working boat parts

Panoramic of Cheshire Plain

The baby River Weaver
Due to a tree fallen across the canal at Woodseaves Cutting , there was no access further up the locks so ...... off to the pub! Had a good pint and a super meal at The Lord Combermere.  Good service and dog-friendly.  Also called into the local craft shop where we bought the Canal Companion books ready for next year's southern trip (also bought some dominoes and a pack of cards for when we get bored - is this senility creeping in?!!)

Monday, 27 July 2015

Wet Nuggets on Locks

What can we say about yesterday. It Rained! All day it rained. From the moment we got up until the moment we went to bed it rained. It rained big drops, it drizzled. It rained from the north, from the south, from the east and from the west. It rained straight down. It rained horizontally. Did I mention it rained.

Even through the rain the countryside was beautiful and we passed some fantastic houses. The properties below were picked out by Jan as our next home.

Apart from the persistent rain the other irritation of the day was the six boats waiting to go up Minshull Lock. There were 6 boats in front of us when we arrived at the bottom of the first of 2 locks.  We waited until we were third in the queue then Jan went up to help out. She was joined by another lady who was presumed be from the boat in front of us.

Jan: as per yesterday, 3 of the boats in front of TM were hire boats and hardly any of the boats' residents helped and those who did, didn't seem to know what to do. After an hour's waiting we were in the lock. By the time Tilly May was in this first lock there was now another six boats queuing; nine people stood like nuggets on the towpath chatting and one poor lady on the lock doing any work - it turned out she was from the boat behind us and was helping me to get the queue moving quicker so we could get out of the rain.  However, she couldn't move up the lock until a hire boat of 4 lads had come down - they stood on the bank under an umbrella waiting for the paddles to be done for them! I think the lady would have been be there for some time.  Sorry to be a whinge but I do find it frustrating when this is supposed to be team work.

Last weekend was a historic boat rally at Audlem so we expect to see a few old boats today. In fact the first working boat passed us at 8am this morning. They must have left very early to get here for 8am.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Cleaning and back on the T&M

Two days without a blog! Thursday night saw us moored just above the boat lift still on the Weaver. We spent all of Friday morning cleaning Tilly May. She did need it.  I concentrated on the outside and Jan inside. By 2pm she looked much better so we moved to the boat lift moorings and booked the next run up at 4pm. We were entertained by a brass band playing in the marquee on the grassed area by the lift and met Glyn and Dave and Willow (their 5 month old Golden Retriever, a great furry ball of fun) on nb Grand Affair.  We shared a long trip up the lift in the pouring rain. We moored on the 48hour moorings on the T&M canal and had a shower before heading for the Stanley Arms for a few beers and something to eat. The strange thing about the pub was it was full of identical springer spaniels. It turns out that one of the locals has a springer that had 13 pups, all but one of which now live in Anderton!

The bar in the Stanley Arms

We were joined by Glyn and Dave and Willow and had a great couple of hours chatting about dogs and canals. The bar was packed with people and dogs, mostly canal folk.  We had a great evening and had a few too many beers.  Glyn and Dave were stopping at the boat lift to take friends down onto the Weaver on Saturday. We could not do a blog as we had zero signal on all devices but we'd swapped blog addresses so we can keep in touch.

Site of new Marina near Middlewich

Pontoons in but not yet flooded

Saturday morning we headed back down the T&M passing the site of a new marina and stopping at Middlewich for supplies. We wandered around the market stalls on the main street and bought some nice bread and snack food (lots of local produce, cheeses, etc but had run out of local pork pies before we got there - Chris very disappointed). We had a quick pint in The Vault before heading back to the boat. A very strange pub.  More of a big wooden hut that only sold draught lager or cider. Populated by the more colourful folk of Middlewich.  Anyway a pint of Stella went down well.  The move through the four locks in Middlewich was like pulling teeth. When we arrived at the lock there were 5 boats queuing in front of us. Three of the boats had picked up their hire boat just below the lock and had only been on them for half an hour and hardly hadn't a clue about team work - after all, if you have 5 people on board isn't it assumed you only need 1 to pilot and the rest can help on the locks or do they just stand around? Jan got really frustrated so helped on the top gate paddles for the 4 boats in front of us just to speed things up. The other holdup was a broken ground paddle on the second lock so it took an age to fill. It took three hours to get into open country and we managed to moor at 6:30pm both knackered. Home made chicken curry for tea and in bed by 8:30pm!!

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Runcorn and The Manchester Ship Canal

Last night we moored at the Devils Garden with the aim of continuing down the Weaver today then turn around and head back to the Anderton boat lift and moor where we did the first night on the river.  The first few miles towards Runcorn were very rural. The valley was widely spread so we could see open country on either side of the river until we reached the M56 Bridge.

M56 crossing the Weaver
Just the other side of the bridge we passed the Runcorn Rowing Club; those nice people who gave us birthday cake yesterday. However nobody was in so we left a message on their Facebook page to say a huge thank you.
Once past the Rowing Club we had our first look at the massive Ineos chemical works at Runcorn. I think it looks like an alien city from some Sci Fi film.

During the time we passed the works and again on the way back we only saw 3 people on site and no moving vehicles but you could sure tell by the noise and the steam emissions that it was working.

Weston Marsh Lock
We travelled as far as Weston Marsh Lock which is the lock onto the Manchester Ship Canal. This is as close as we are ever likely to get to cruising on it. It is also the northern most point of our cruise this summer. As the banks on either side of the Weaver are quite high, we couldn't get a good look at the Ship Canal which was a pity, but hey ho we got there! We winded at the lock and headed back up the Weaver.

Ineos Chemical Works

From the chemical works' pictures above and those of the countryside below, it is obvious what a contrasting river this is.  It is absolutely fascinating! and not worth missing.

The Devils Garden where we moored last night

Jan having a chat with the lock-keeper at Dutton Lock.  He was the guy who whistled happy birthday yesterday.
All the CaRT lock-keepers we have met on the Weaver have been extremely helpful and they all seem to have a brilliant sense of humour!  We think the one in the photo above is only 'on duty' on the locks from April to October and is a film 'extra' during the winter - how's that for variety!

Down to the Devils Garden

Woke up yesterday morning on Vale Royal Cut to 'cwark' from heron, calls from canada geese, swans and the occasional cormorant as they were all grooming themselves across the river from our mooring.

Picturesque start to the day taking Spot up into the local woods for her morning constitutional while Jan mucked out the galley from a major fry-up of last night - however, I did take her a cup of tea in bed as it's her birthday today.

Set off for Devils Garden, a mooring spot close to the mouth of the Weaver. This involved moving back through the two locks we came up yesterday, past the boat lift and through Saltersford and Dutton Locks.  As usual had a bit of a banter with the lads on the locks - Saltersford first.  When we came to enter Dutton Lock, the keeper was whistling "happy birthday".  It seems the guys at the first lock had notified those on the next.  Jan was quite choked.

Hunts Lock 

Hunts Lock

Derelict site on lower Weaver

Derelict site on lower Weaver

Derelict site on lower Weaver

Salterford Lock
 I have to say that the CaRT chaps on the Weaver have all been very helpful, friendly and informative. You could not ask for better service.

Acton Bridge: note it's designated as a bridleway

The Weaver was a thriving commercial waterway for goods to and from Cheshire depots and from abroad, all traffic linked to the canal system - due to alternate transportation the waterway traffic fell into disrepair

Dutton Viaduct 

Dutton Viaduct

Bottom end of the Weaver

We have found the Weaver to be a total picture of boat life.  From historical commerce to current day transport; it is a truly beautiful place to visit.  The surrounding countryside of the river is absolutely beautiful.  It's been well worth the effort  to come down here and see.
We are finally moored at Devils Garden along with 3 other boats. Suddenly a small launch arrives full of equipment which they start to unload. Shortly a mixed coxed four row past and moor. Then another 2 rowing boats and a second launch. They all gather in the field, it turns out it is a birthday picnic from the Runcorn rowing club. We know this because a nice lady arrived at our boat bearing birthday cake. What a nice end to Jan,s birthday. Today we intend to cruise down to the Manchester Ship Canal then back up to our original morning on the Weaver. It is a good spot to do some house work. The boat needs a bit of a clean inside and out.