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Monday, 25 June 2012

Via Manchester to Wigan

Monday 18th June A pleasant day but not warm. We were recommended whilst taking coffee (!!) to visit Grappenhall which was just 2 miles further on from Stockton Heath. The old part of the village around the church is on the south of the canal and includes a length of cobbled street, two recommended pubs (by others, too early for us) and some pleasant houses.
Fantastic carving in this reredos

The church was heavily altered by the Victorians but had an incredibly beautifully carved pulpit and had a magnificently carved reredos depicting the Last Supper. It was carved by men working at nearby Dunham Massey (NT) that we visited last year.
This lead lined Saxon font was found buried when the church was extended.

One of the customers sitting outside one of the pubs asked if we had seen “The Cheshire Cat”, and as we hadn’t, pointed it out to us. Why on earth would a stone carver incorporate this in his stone shaping?
The Cheshire cat on the church tower

We moved on, stopping for water at a remote, but popular, water point before stopping near Dunham Massey. It was a lovely evening so I polished the brasses and of course it then rained overnight! A lazy 8 miles in the day.

Tuesday was a lovely day, lots of sun and not too much breeze, though it was cool. We moved into Sale to re-provision before reversing about a mile to moor close to the house of two friends we were seeing that night. Had a good meal and a wonderful evening after a hard 6 mile cruise!
We could not see the Linotype offices last year until other buildings were demolished

It has been many years since we saw one of these fuel brand signs
When we started driving there were very many brands around

Wednesday & Thursday we moved into Castlefields in Manchester and did city centre things. I had noticed that my feet got damp when I wore one pair of shoes, yet they looked sound, until I bent the soles and saw large cracks in the soles! New shoes were bought from a firm that has its UK head office in Lubbenham and we pass it each time we travel into Market Harborough from Debdale. On Wednesday we entertained friends who were old customers of our business years and whom we re-met when up here last year.

We also went to see “Lady Windermere’s Fan” at The Exchange Theatre having been recommended to go by Tuesday’s friends. We didn’t know what this strange structure was when we entered the Exchange building, it held a theatre for around 400 people, we sat in low “banquette” seats at stage level, and had to keep our feet in so the actors didn’t trip over them. A very enjoyable evening, but the weather whilst we were in the city was wet and windy.
The stage taken from my seat. We didn't need opera glasses!

This weird structure, a bit like Tardis, is the theatre inside the fabulous Exchange.

Friday 22nd and a foul day, but we had to move after filling and emptying. Carol stayed below whilst I suffered the heavy rain and gusting winds, but not for too long as we had decided to visit the Trafford Centre. We had never been before and both were jaw struck by the place. It immediately reminded us of Planet Hollywood resort hotel in Las Vegas, incredibly tacky but an incredible amount of money poured into its building, great fun. The best thing about the place was The Pen Shop and was able to get some propelling pencil leads I have failed to find in Leicester or on-line. The weather lifted a bit but we had more heavy rain over night, we decided not to cruise on as the weather was bad.
I found out later I was not supposed to take photos, but the main food court area is
designed to look like an ocean liner and Katie Price was due on stage to sign books

The statues are of marble, the columns of polished granite, the trees are false....of course!!

Saturday Stayed at Trafford and watched qualifying for the European GP before moving off. It was breezy but brightening and we cruised to Leigh in about 2 hours, we cruise fairly fast on this deep, wide, lock free canal. On this occasion the Barton Swing Aqueduct was not closed, as it was both ways last year. Over the two days we have managed 0 locks and 13 miles.

Sunday 24th was a GP day with the broadcast to start at 12.15. We had a coffee and bought some fresh salad and were going to stop until after the GP until I noticed that the Plank Lane swing bridge a mile along the cut was BW controlled and only operated between 10 and 2, with a half hour lunch break so we set off, only to arrive and find it had changed to being boater operated so we passed through under our own control and tied up to watch the race. Normally the GP in Valencia is a boring procession, but not so this year.
The gate opening mechanism at lock 86

I walked part of the way up the Wigan flight & saw all these Giant Hogweed plants
I also paced out the lock length, Nicholson says they are 60 ft, I reckon they are
near 70 ft & on our return I'm going to measure them with my tape & we might go up!

Race over we pushed on to Wigan arriving about 5.30 mooring outside the BW offices after 6 miles and 3 locks, a week’s total of just 33 miles and 3 locks.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

From Chester to the Bridgewater

Monday 11th and to our surprise Carol’s phone was ready for collection so we were away at 11.30 with Masie accompanying us, with me doing all the lock work and the girls nattering on a fine day moderately warm and some sun.
Does Old Mother Hubbard live here?

We carried on to moor outside Tattenhall marina, but the thing that disturbed our day was a phone call with BW Wigan over booking into Liverpool. I asked to go in around 25th June, and certainly to be there by the 28th as we are to return to Leicester & want to leave Lily plugged into the mains. Wigan said that all trips were full for June, last year we only had to give a few days notice! Disaster was averted when they called us back around 4pm to say there had been a cancellation & we would be going in on the 28th, hoorah!!

Deer on the land by Beeston Castle below which a WW2 fuel store was buried
Tuesday 12th started bright and sunny, but clouded up with a cool breeze and we cruised on with Masie through to Nantwich. We crossed with a boat in the Bunbury staircase, as did Masie following on. Masie was delighted that I was able to work her through the Beeston Iron Lock as there was no lock ladder and the lock landing stage  through in pairs due to the lock having distorted, so I had to do it twice over. (I heard a few days later that this only applies with 2 full length boats as the distortion is only at the top end of the lock). Calverley services were welcome before we passed Barbridge and Huddlesford junctions. Over the two days 18 miles and 11 locks, and a walk into get a coffee!!

Wednesday 13th we cruised the short distance and two locks to Heald Green where we moored on the SUCS moorings before going to see the Secret Nuclear Bunker. Well it’s not secret any more but close to the canal and a very interesting stop. It greatly worried Carol to read just what she had lived through in terms of possible war scenarios without realising it. The bunker started life as part of a radar base, and was developed at the height of the Cold War to provide a secure, blast proof base from which to administer the country in case of a nuclear war.
The State of Alert is shown

The multiple warhead for a Trident missile
This nuclear bomb was in service from 1966 to 1998

We had a near nuclear experience on the lower level when I said to Carol “I know that chap” to which she concurred, as did he, before we realised he was Pete who had phoned me on Jubilee Sunday about tuning in a satellite tv. We had met in Wigan & Liverpool last year and whom we had hoped we might meet again, with Sue & nb Sokai, this year. When I told him about my booking problems he had said something had cropped up that prevented them going to Liverpool, yet here we both were. We shared a good natter over lunch and arranged to carry on with it in the evening back in Nantwich.
Sitting with Pete & Sue experiencing the sound of a nuclear explosion nearby

To get back we reversed down the two locks to the winding hole and got totally soaked as the heavens opened! Anyway we didn’t see anywhere in Nantwich we fancied eating at so we dined separately and then had a really good evening over a glass (or two++) of red.

Thursday and after a quick beverage and fruit shop we left Nantwich and turned towards Middlewich, the direction many others were using to get to the weekend canal Festival. Weather was pleasant, if cool, so being 4th in the queue for the first lock was no hardship. I had a good natter with the treasurer of the Cheshire IWA, a sprightly 80 year old, who said their branch too was suffering from a shortage of young committee members. We stopped where we had last year but had forgotten about the ledge 6 inches below water level. It mattered this time as the wind got up to very strong gusts and heavy rain bashed us onto the ledge through the night, despite my best efforts at fendering. It kept Carol awake much of the night, but not me!!!
Church Minshull mooring
The wind overnight almost blew this geranium overboard!

Friday we were away before 9, it was fine and less windy. As so often happens, I had cast off the bows and was about to do the same with the stern when a boat came through the bridge! We met at the first lock, he was another spring chicken going to man the IWA presence at Middlewich & then on the next weekend to do the same in Northwich. The boat that arrived after us had its crew already togged up in waterproofs & willies, yet it wasn’t raining, they were prepared and by the second lock we certainly needed them! It was exactly the same last year but this year we had quite a queue squeezing into the short lengths between bridges already taken up by Festival goers.
At the Festival we saw “Gerald” again, but not Roy, and also Jim Macdonald’s Elizabeth a very unusual and old conversion of an old working boat that delighted Leicester IWA when they joined us at one of our 1996 Golden Jubilee Harborough Festival, repeating their attendance in 1946. Sorry, heavy rain, no pics. Lso saw Alton and filled with diesel at 84p and the rain came down so heavily I expected Noah to float by on his Ark! It brightened up a bit later as we cruised past Northwich to moor but there were more showers, though it was mild.
We moored alongside the old Lion Salt Works and were delighted to see that this scheduled monument won one of the BBC Lottery appeals and is now in the process of being restored to show how salt used to be made in the area.

The floor inside the building, plenty to restore!

Saturday 16th Started overcast and with a poor forecast and we cruised to the Anderton services which are the last ones on the direct line to Liverpool before Wigan, other than those at boatyards where charges are levied. We intend to divert into Castlefields to hopefully have friends join us for a meal, returning their favour from last year. There was one boat at the services as we arrived, which we did a minute or two before another arrived from the opposite direction, followed by another, replacing the original boat. These are busy services and on one of the boats the crew knew Lily Pad from Loughborough Festivals and knew friends Mick & Lynda.
A steady cruise, managing to arrive at Barnton tunnel as the tunnel was clear, only one boat wide we were pleased to see it clear. We arrived at Saltersford just in time for a passage, these being limited to 0 to 20 mins past going north, 30 to 50 mins past coming south. Heavy showers brightened(!) our way and we were glad of the trees growing on the river Weaver side as they broke the strong winds. Carrying on to Dutton Stop lock it didn’t attract me in for a swim like last year, but I was not able to shut one of the bottom gates and there was nobody around to help push, I reported it to BW.
Our luck held as we were again just in time for Preston Brook tunnel (0 to 10mins past north, 30 to 40 mins past south) and entered the tunnel to see a light up ahead!! We checked the time, we were right and carried on. We never got any closer and then they left the tunnel, why do people use navigation lights in tunnels, or if they do, why don’t they cover the white rear light? It gave us a few anxious moments. The weather carried on not very pleasant when we were out the other end and we carried on to Stockton Heath where we moored where we did a year before and wandered in for essentials (Costa!!!).
Our mooring at Stockton Heath

Sunday and as we have an appointment with friends 4 hours cruise away in Sale on Tuesday we stayed put, watched the British Moto GP and cleaned the oven. What a great way to celebrate Fathers’ Day! The weather overnight was very wet but it brightened around 10 and the sun poked through. Calls from daughters wished me a happy Fathers' day, the words in an email from one got me damp eyed, but we needed papers & coffee. Carol took a coat, I packed one & didn't need it, great coffee & good papers & we decided we'd do "Sunday Lunch" at a pub and sought one out, the London Bridge by the canal was suggested. We stopped by at Thorn Marine to get an oil filter & fuel additive & asked if they were still threatened with redevelopment, which they are. Peel Holdings, owners of the Bridgewater and lots of other stuff have plans to build 5 homes on the site. This photo is of a protest meeting some time ago.
Thorn Marine protest a few years ago

Thorn Marine now on the right of shot

Back to Lily to start jobs, such as my special Fathers' Day treat of cleaning the oven plus watching the British Moto GP, and what a tremendous race it was!

Whilst eating lunch I saw yellow jackets at work on the canal bridge by the pub. Coming out we found it was this large hole & the Police were about to close the A49 whilst it was repaired. We were glad Lily is a good 100 yards from here as there is obviously going to be a lot of noise from the repair. 

The meal was pretty good & I got 3 special Fathers' Day pint glasses for nothing, the beer was from one of the oldest family brewers in the country J.W.Lees. I tried 3 of their bitters and enjoyed them all. As you can see from the photos, the weather turned to bright sun and warm as the afternoon progressed.

During the week we covered 54 miles & 24 locks

Final bit of a rant. I just received notifications by email about Wheaton Aston & Market Drayton services both being closed because of blockages. When will people realised that elsans & pumpouts are for waste & paper only, not baby wipes, disinfectant wipes, nappies etc. I feel sorry for people with full tanks because of these mindless individuals.

Monday, 11 June 2012

In and around Chester

Monday to Sunday I’m not going to break this down into days as we have not gone anywhere other than a trip down and up the staircase 3 locks to use the services which we did on a drizzly lunchtime, sharing the locks with a Hardern hire boat on the way down. In their week’s holiday they cruised from Beeston Iron Lock up to Llangollen and returned and then on back into Chester for a night before returning to base. It would have taken us around 3 weeks I reckon, they did it in one and a week of awful weather too!!
On the canal herons never stand still while we pass, this one in Chester
must have got over his fears or have been very hungry, we saw it catch one.

On the way back up we shared with Masie in Global Spirit who was spitting feathers as earlier that day she had been cruising with her new cockpit canopy up and had torn it on a low bridge! She later improvised with a brolly poked through the hole during the downpours, with her mooring behind us.
Umbrella repair to hood

Apart from those exciting bits we joined in with the happy folks of Chester as they thronged the streets on Bank Holiday Monday as their Giants paraded through the city and then meandered around the stalls but resisted the temptations of the burgers, cheeses etc on offer. 

We later took Carol’s new phone back to get a refund.....and failing to get that from the shop have now started a “complaint” with Orange. We did various other bits in Chester, but I noticed this wonderful brickwork. They were apartments built in 1889, commissioned by the Duke of Westminster to improve housing stock, but they only had a communal wash house and no internal toilets or bathrooms. 

On Wednesday, whilst Carol went to a service in the Cathedral I dropped her phone into a shop advertising phone repairs. He told me they’d get it repaired by Friday morning, but when I eventually got through to them on Friday I was told the parts had not arrived, but might be in by later, but on Saturday it was sure to be done.......well it wasn’t, we are now assured it will be ready on Monday.
A magnificent Cheetah

Killing time we had a lovely day at Chester Zoo which we gather is the largest in the UK. It and the animals were in fantastic condition with very large pens and with the zoo actively participating in working to help re-establish good herds in the wild. 
Jubilee decorated zoo train

One reason we suspect it was in such good nick was that it is celebrating its diamond jubilee and the Queen had visited it three weeks before us. It was a simple 20 minute bus ride from Chester and we strongly recommend it.

This juvenile "Black Rhino" was very photogenic.
Black Rhinos have a semi prehensile top lip which gets a bit dark
Last year when in Liverpool we had talked (OK, I had talked) about going to Port Sunlight but never made it, so on Friday we took the bus to get there and really enjoyed it. It is amazing what Lord Lever achieved from making soap. The estate is like a slightly more modern Bournville but with a lovely mixture of architect designed houses. 
One of many architectural house types

At a time when most rental property for workers was lines of slums at a cost to build of just £60, his houses cost £250 to build, had indoor bathrooms and hot and cold running water and each house had its own back garden. So it could be seen he wasn’t exploiting his workers, setting an 8 hour working day and organising that there were many sports and social clubs as well as providing allotments and trying to get everyone to grow their own food and arranging immense works days out.
Lord Lever arranged for this incredible war memorial to the over 500 of his employees
who died in WW1. The bronzes are of an incredible an very moving quailty

In Port Sunlight is the Lady Leverhume Gallery where are displayed some of the immense collection of works of art he well as owning four very large houses......from making soap!

On Sunday I had thought we might take the bus to Rhyl on the coast as I thought we might be able to do it for free (bus passes). I was told we’d have to pay, and then I saw it would take 2 hours each way and just knew our bladders wouldn’t make it, so decided to go by train. People said we were mad as there was nothing to really see and so we went to Llandudno and had a lovely day, including a bit of a paddle and a trip up the Great Orme on the cable railway just as the sun started to break through. 
Descending from the Gt Orme 

We are so glad we did, both of us had been there in our childhood but remembered nothing of the place. We can recommend the trip. By the way Rhyl & Prestatyn looked dire and we have never seen so many bungalows or static caravans, we were so glad we hadn't bussed there!!

Conwy Castle seen from the train
There are some things I have to do at the seaside

At Chester station we failed to hire a post horse and caught the train

And finally, these people love their view from their bedroom window
note the enormous TV filling almost the whole window!

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Autherley Junction to Chester

Monday 28th May  fine warm and dry day with clouds building towards evening. I walked off to the Morrissons store to the east of the canal to get Carol’s paper and for fresh fruit before we cast off at 9.30. For those who have not cruised on The Shroppie, it is a remarkably straight, wide and lock free canal and along much of its length has neat, solid, concrete edges on the towpath side. What is not easy along its length is mooring as the profile of the canal has stone, shelving ledges to the concrete, unless it is in a cutting where in many places 6 inches of water covers a solid rock shelf that might extend up to 6 feet from the bank, so beware!
Along the early part of this day we saw a chap walking his two Dalmatian dogs, and carrying his little black bag of dog present, but as we approached one of his dogs made another donation to the environment, yet the owner made no attempt to collect it. A we passed I asked if he was going to collect it, he said he hadn’t seen his dog do it, got very irate and showed his little bag and said he always picked up and frankly I think from his demeanour that had I been on foot he would have taken a swing at me. I think he had seen it, saw that a hose would have been best suited to clearing it.....and maybe his black bag comes out with him every day, filled perhaps with soil, so he can pose as being a collector!
Lovely Shroppie cutting

This apart we had a reasonable cruise to Wheaton Aston where we were 6th boat in the queue. Two boats in from we saw Roy, dog Thomas and his historic boat Gerald. He is always immaculately turned out and this day was no different with freshly pressed shirt and trousers. We saw him last in Middlewich last June and he was heading there again so we exchanged news etc whilst awaiting our turns. We naturally filled with diesel needing a further 172 litres at 73p before cruising on and met many boats including a line of 5 boats at one bridge including 3 cruisers. 

At 4.30 we tied up at the start of the Norbury Junction moorings where we tried to do a Bbq but were only able to finish off the cooking as I couldn’t get the damp charcoal to burn well. It was noisy though as the farmer was cutting grass alongside, at least it kept me company as I polished the port side.
Tuesday 29th started overcast and cool enough for Carol to put trousers and sweater on and again it was 9.30 when we set off, but stopped almost at once to empty things at the services block. It was slow through the first cutting as there was the bole of a very large tree partway in the canal with fenders around it, BW are obviously considering the best was to deal with it. 

We passed the first of many long lines of off-side moored boats on this canal and met 2 boats in Woodseaves cutting, by now in sun, but the boats we met had met 6 or 8 boats going our way. 

We reached the top of Market Drayton locks just after 12 behind some complete beginners. I tried to help them but it rather backfired, and also had some interesting chats with BW bods, including the chap in charge of water.
The beginners stopped for lunch after the locks and we carried on past many more moorings with it getting warm to hot for a steady cruise to Adderley Locks. We bought some lovely lamb steaks, burgers & sausages from the farm shop by the top lock before descending the 5 locks and lucked into what we believe was the last good mooring between the bottom of this flight and the start of the Audlem flight. The Bbq was out again and this time it worked a treat and the lamb steaks were thoroughly appreciated, and we had a lovely panorama view.
The lovely view by our mooring

Wednesday 30th A bright day in the end after light cloud at the start. Carol woke and was up at 7.15, disturbed by boat movements nearby, and saw the 3 boats in front of us had already gone so she decreed we should get under way at once with porridge on the hoof! Sadly we entered the flight of 15 locks behind a very slow boat we had first encountered at Norbury. It is amazing how on very easy locks some people can be so slow! In the flight we crossed with 4 boats and we stopped outside the Shroppie Fly to fill with water before finishing the last 3 locks.

Lovely lock cottage by the Shroppie Fly

Lily filling with water at Audlem

We had intended to stop at Hack Green to visit the Nuclear Bunker, but had made an arrangement to meet friends on Friday in Chester and wanted to get there in good time so have decided on our return trip to make an excursion back there before carrying on to Middlewich. On the lovely afternoon we carried on to Nantwich and arrived just after 2, and guess what we were drinking about half an hour later? Well she hadn’t had a Costa since Sunday!!!
Great clock in Nantwich

Fantastic Riley in concours condition in Nantwich

A marvellous gate in Nantwich

Thursday 31st and the weather had changed ready for The Jubilee, there was drizzle overnight and occasionally through the day, though I was still in shorts Carol was in trousers. We had a steady cruise all day but most boats turned off up the Llangollen or towards Middlewich. One boat was stuck trying to get into the bottom lock of the Llangollen, I hope that it was just that they had fenders down, other boats were waiting to use it.
We were surprised at the number of boats we met coming from Chester and we met boats at most locks. We called in at the cafe near the Iron Lock for a disappointing coffee, we will not call in on the way out. After passing immense lengths of moored boats we tied up just before the outskirts of Chester, but not before we had tried to get into the side in about 3 three places but had been defeated by mud. We used the services at Calverley shortly after the Middlewich Arm, these are the last ones before Chester, our map shows another water/Elsan point alongside one of the Chester locks but they have been discontinued because of continuous vandalism.
Friday 1st June Was just a simple 2 hour cruise to a mooring just behind the Bingo hall. Once settled and having had lunch we walked into the city to Costa and then bought Carol a replacement phone as the glass on hers has become scratched by texting and in bright light it is difficult to read. We bought her an almost identical one, though it has updated features, and then returned to dress Lily for the weekend. This is the first time since I had a major accident at the National Festival on the Thames 6 or so years ago which resulted in me now having a metal shoulder & restricted movement. We felt we had to do something! Weather was reasonable during the day becoming lovely in the afternoon.

We went out with friends we made in Chester last year and had a lovely time and great food but don’t ask me where other than it was near Tarporley & well away from the canal.

Saturday 2nd the weather worsens, rain overnight and drizzle through the morning. We had come here to join in with Jubilee festivities and also to see polo being played on the Rodee, Chester’s famous race course, used since the Romans were here. After lunch we made our way there, the sky grey but the fine drizzle had stopped, and paid our £6 to get in. All we can say is that we are glad we did so and if there is another tournament near to us we’ll go to watch. It is fast and furious and hard. The ball is hard and it hit very hard and if men or horses are hit by it they really know it, and riders also get their legs crushed between horses as they try to ride each other out of the way.

Carol talked to a couple close by us as I was “treading in” divots between pukkas. Their street near to or mooring is holding a street lunch and all day street party all day on Sunday and they invited us to join in!
Sunday 3rd Oh dear, what weather! We decided not to go to the street lunch! We tried to return Carol’s new phone as though it is almost the same model it needs finger touch not the tap of a pointer and our fingers are too fat. Our daughter Clare wondered what was going on with very odd texts Carol sent by accident as her finger hit the bit of screen to side of where she aimed! That failed as the right person was not in the phone shop.
But we consoled ourselves by looking forward to watching the great procession down the Thames, but the rain ruined the reception on our TV, so we decamped to Wetherspoons with Carol’s iPad & watched their soundless TV but with the iPad giving us a live feed from the BBC, though it was interesting to find it was about 2 minutes delayed from live. The beer was good too, and we enjoyed chatting with others there.
Joseph is the Audlem flight volunteer lock keeper
sadly we first saw him at the end of the flight
All along the canal there are these stop plank boxes
They are now "Heritage" objects and must be preserved.

Our week included 39 locks and 58 miles.