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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.

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