Sunday, 2 June 2019

Meadow Lane Bridge - Wyken Basin

Sunday 2 June

The best laid plans . . . I had hoped for an early start today so that I could get back to base in good time. As it was, I overslept and was not able to get away much before 6.00am.

I did, however, make good time and caught up with some other early birds as they started their ascent of the Atherstone flight. It soon became apparent that there was a singular lack of water in some of the pounds and this was not helped by us going up. By the time I was waiting to go into the bottom of lock 7 I had ground to a halt.

There was no way I would get to the side so stuck my nose into the gates as far as I could go, and that enabled me to walk the gunwale and get off up the steps at the front. Then a problem appeared round the corner from lock 6 in the form of a boat heading for the full lock!

I explained my predicament to the steerer of said boat and asked if he would mind me letting down a lock-full of water to assist movement in the pound. He was, however, not keen on this idea, unless his boat went down with it.

I had no alternative but to get back on Chyandour and endeavour to move backwards in the centre of the pound. With the extra water from the emptying lock it was just about possible but, when the descending boat came out of the lock I was pushed onto the mud and got stuck.

Fortunately I remembered a trick or two from those who taught me years ago and was able to free myself. Once in this lock water levels improved because of the extra held in Baddesley Wharf Marina.

I continued without further incident up the flight and, with the help of the Volunteer Lock-keepers, reached the top just after 11.00am.

It was coffee o'clock so I moored briefly on the Visitor Moorings for second breakfast!

After this refreshment it was easy going and I was able to ring Gwyn at Hawkesbury about 2.15pm to warn her of my imminent arrival. I had arrived and moored up in Wyken by 3.00pm.

What a trip! What next, I wonder?

Locks 12   Miles 15.9                                         Total Locks 221   Total Miles 330.25

Saturday, 1 June 2019

The Taft to Meadow Lane Bridge

Saturday 1 June

After a very restful night I made an early start, saying farewell to The Taft at about 5.45am.

Farewell to The Taft
There was not much else moving this early and I got all the way to Wood End Lock before meeting another boat. The bottom gates (with cranked beams) proved just as tricky as ever, and the one that refuses to stay closed lived up to its reputation!

By the time I got round the corner to the Fradley locks the Volunteer Lock-keepers had arrived so my passage to the junction was made much easier. To add to their service, one of them went round the corner to open the swing-bridge on the Coventry Canal for me. Star service.

Time for a coffee before continuing.

After a while I found myself at the end of a queue following a slower boat and this continued all the way to Fazeley. I decided to moor up for lunch opposite the old Peels Wharf CRT offices, and this gave a chance for the boats in front to get on and up through Glascote locks.

This proved to have been a good choice as, by the time I got there, they had all moved through.

The rest of the journey was quite uneventful and I decided to moor up for the night just short of Meadow Lane Bridge at 4.45pm.

Locks 6   Miles 27.5                                        Total Locks 209   Total Miles 314.3

Friday, 31 May 2019

Barlaston to The Taft

Friday 31 May

Once again we had a leisurely start as Gwyn was due to catch a train home from Stone at 1.34pm.

We set off from Barlaston at 8.45am which would give us plenty of time to get to Stone for her train.

However, when I checked the trainline app it announced that this train had been cancelled! As she had a "valid on this train only" ticket we were a bit concerned.

A quick phone call to the helpline elicited the information that, as the booked train had been cancelled, she could catch an alternative.

It just so happened that we arrived in Stone in time for her to catch the 11.34am train instead and she eventually arrived home before she would have caught the original train! Result!

Meanwhile, I continued by boat on an uneventful journey and stopped for the night at The Taft.

I did catch one picture of some beasts having a cool time!

Real cool cows
Locks 14   Miles 15.8                                        Total Locks 203   Total Miles 286.8

Thursday, 30 May 2019

Westport Lake to Barlaston

Thursday 30 May

We have an easy day today so it was nearly 9.00 when we set off.  Before we left we saw a flotilla of Canada geese.
3 pairs of adults and 19 goslings 
We made our way through the Potteries to the five Stoke locks at Etruria passing a couple of the old bottle kilns. The few remaining ones are presumably protected, but they do not seem to be very well looked after as they all have plants growing in them which can’t be doing the brickwork any good. 

The Etruria Festival is this coming weekend, so we met boats making their way there. Just one more lock, Trentham Lock, before we moored in Barlaston at 12.30. We had lunch and then walked to the shops to stock up a little as Steve is going to be on his own for two or three days. The rain that had been threatening all morning never really arrived. We treated ourselves to a meal at the Plume of Feathers as we had so enjoyed our visit there a few weeks ago.

Locks 6   Miles 8.25                                        Total Locks 189   Total Miles 271.00

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Rode Heath to Westport Lake

Wednesday 29 May

Rain is promised for later in the day so we set off promptly. Unfortunately everyone else had the same idea so we were last in a line of five going up the first few locks. However because some of these are paired locks (see entry for 30 April), and there were plenty of crew helping each other, there was not too much hanging about. 

And it is always good to chat to other people about where they are going and where they’ve been!

The water level was very low in places, so we were glad that there were a few boats coming down the locks as well as our convoy going up. 

Although it was cloudy and grey, the rain held off and we reached Harecastle Tunnel in the dry. The waiting area looked very crowded as we approached the tunnel with narrowboats and cruisers all lined up. However, it turned out that the cruisers were waiting for another two of their group, so five narrowboats including us were allowed through almost straightaway. 

This journey through took us 50 minutes which was much longer than when we went through earlier in the month as we were following a very slow boat. When we emerged, it was raining. We moored at Westport Lake which is a lovely spot with an eco-friendly visitor centre.

Westport Lake
Visitor Centre with a green roof and straw walls.
 Apart from the expected geese and ducks here, there are dozens of swallows and swifts flying around the lake and the trees.
Tonight's companions.
The rain continued for most of the afternoon and evening, so apart from a short walk to the visitor centre and along part of the lakeside, we stayed on the boat. Steve lit the fire as it felt quite chilly.

Locks 12   Miles 6.25                                     Total Locks 183   Total Miles 262.75

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Middlewich to Rode Heath

Tuesday 28 May

There was a lot of rain and wind overnight and the boat was covered in sycamore keys which made a change from the may blossom and willow fluff (technical term) we had blowing on us last week.  

It was still raining when we set off from our mooring, but we only went a little way before stopping at Andersen Boats Wharf for a pump out. The sun came out while we did the three Middlewich locks and King’s Lock. The sun also shone for the next four locks, but Steve got wet steering the stretches in between the locks!

We stopped for lunch on the visitor moorings at Wheelock having done eight locks.

Later in the day, the showers became fewer and less heavy and the sun was quite warm. We made good progress as many of the locks were set ready for us and although we had planned to stop at Hassell Green, we did four more locks and moored at Rode Heath. Twenty-two locks in total today. 

Pub meal at The Broughton followed by a walk through the woods down to the Lawton stream and back to the canal.

No photos today – too busy doing locks!

Locks 22   Miles 10.25                                    Total Locks 171   Total Miles 256.50

Monday, 27 May 2019

Northwich Quay to Middlewich

Monday 27 May

We went back home on Saturday for the weekend and returned today, arriving back at the boat just before 11.00. We were soon on our way and it took us less than an hour to arrive at the Anderton lift. Steve went to consult about when we would be able to go up the lift – answer was 12.50, so we had an early lunch while we waited.

Waiting for our turn.

We will be next.
 We went into the lift more or less on time, but it is quite a slow process as the boats coming down also have to be loaded, and none of the Victorian machinery works particularly quickly. So we emerged out of the lift to turn on to the Trent and Mersey Canal at just before 1.30.

Just a thought before we leave the Anderton lift – the hydraulic ram is a one-piece column, so there is a hole in the bed of the river as deep as the column is long!
The hydraulic ram.
The morning weather was very mixed – a cold wind, sharp showers, but also some short bursts of warm sunshine. The rain set in more steadily during the afternoon, though the sun did still make the odd appearance.

About three hours later we arrived at today’s only lock – Middlewich Big Lock. We had help through the lock from the crew of an Andersen hire boat, being given tuition by a man from Andersen’s. We were very happy to let them practise on us!

We moored up soon afterwards.

Locks 1   Miles 10.75                                    Total Locks 149   Total Miles 246.25

Friday, 24 May 2019

Barnton Cut to Northwich Quay via Winsford

Friday 24 May

Our intention today was to boat the rest of the Weaver, so we left our mooring around 9.00, went back the way we had come yesterday, passing the Anderton lift and then continued on to the part of the river we hadn’t yet explored. The wonderful lock keepers at Hunts Lock and Vale Royal Lock worked us through with great cheerfulness. There were a few more narrowboats on the move including Celtic Kiwi which we passed twice today as we each made our way up and down the river.

Hunts Lock
Most of the bridges on this stretch are high, but there is one very low one. We removed our chimney and trusted that we'd be OK. 
A low bridge.
Steve ducks down.
There are some beautiful sections around Vale Royal, and then Meadowbank Rock Salt Mine appears. There is an awful lot of rock salt piled up!
A pretty bit of river.
Meadowbank Rocksalt Mine
A lot of rocksalt.
Winsford is the end of navigable water for narrowboats, though some do venture out onto Winsford Flash and risk running aground. We kept safe and moored in Winsford Marina – not really a marina, just an inlet where you can moor. 
View towards Winsford Flash
Winford Marina and Picnic Site
Having said that, the picnic area around the marina was the most attractive thing we saw in Winsford. We walked up High Street which was mainly closed fast food outlets. It would seem that improving the A54 made the High Street a dead end at both ends, with access to the A54 only in the middle. We decided not to bother exploring further (sorry, Winsford!)

We had lunch and then set off on our way back, through Vale Royal and Hunts locks again as far as Northwich where we moored in Northwich Quay Marina just after 3.00. We are going home for the weekend so we will leave the boat in this safe mooring while we are away.

Northwich Quay Marina
We did a little shopping at the very convenient Waitrose next to the marina and then went for a walk around Northwich which looks a much more prosperous town than Winsford with several independent shops.

We had a curry at the Bombay Quay – again very convenient to the marina.
The weather today was not as sunny as yesterday, but still dry and reasonably warm.

 Locks 4   Miles 12.75                                  Total Locks 148   Total Miles 235.50

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Lion Salt Works to Barnton Cut

Thursday 23 May

A warm sunny day from start to finish.

We had a leisurely start as we wanted to visit the Lion Salt Works and it doesn’t open until 10.30. We thoroughly enjoyed the time we spent there – it is very well worth a visit, explaining the process of producing salt from the brine stream flowing under the ground in this area.
Lion Salt Works
A 'flash' or lake caused by subsidence after brine extraction.
After lunch we continued on our way to the Anderton lift. We moored alongside Celtic Kiwi which was the boat we had been moored behind at the salt works. We were booked on the 4.30 passage, but when Celtic Kiwi moved forward on to the lift mooring ready for their 3.45 passage, they discovered that there would be a space on the same passage for us, so Steve went and changed our booking. (2 narrowboats will fit into the caisson for each passage.)

The Anderton Lift
Going into the lift.

So by 4.00 we were on our way down to the River Weaver. (If you want full details of how the lift works, please consult their website.)

Going down.
The other caisson going up as we're going down, showing the hydraulic ram.

We turned right and went as far as this side of Saltersford lock, so now we’ve seen it from both sides even if we’ve not been through it!

We moored up at 5.00 at a lovely open site on the river and enjoyed a walk along a little more of the Weaver Way before settling down for the evening.

The peace of the River Weaver.

Locks 0   Miles 5.25                                        Total Locks 144   Total Miles 222.75

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Weaver Aqueduct to Lion Salt Works

Wednesday 22 May

Our overnight mooring was equipped with picnic tables and a barbeque stand and the towpath grass had been recently mown – this section is beautifully looked after by the group which has adopted it.

Steve made an early start at 7.30 (in the rain!) leaving me to get up in a more leisurely fashion. We wanted to get to Middlewich to spend some time with friends who are moored there for a few days. I managed to be ready for the first lock, Stanthorne, followed by Wardle Lock as we arrived in Middlewich. By this time, the weather had considerably improved and it was warm and bright.

We turned left on to the Shropshire Union, and almost straightaway arrived at the three Middlewich Locks where we had a bit of help from a volunteer lockie. We moored in front of our friends’ boat and joined them for coffee. Then we ladies went shopping and left the men to chat.

We moved on after lunch; just one more lock, Middlewich Big Lock – big in that it is a broad lock, though it is not very deep.

The next few miles were through the green flat Cheshire countryside until we reached the outskirts of Northwich and an enormous soda ash works. A little further in is the Lion Salt Works Museum and we found a space to moor alongside the works. 

We will visit there properly tomorrow, but for today we just had a brief look around their shop. We then went for a walk around some of the woodland and lakes of the Northwich Woodlands before having a meal at The Salt Barge.

We were pleased to see three more swan families today including one belonging to the pair we saw sitting near Wardle Lock (see entry for 30 April).

The Wardle Lock Swan Family

Another family.

Locks 6   Miles 14.50                                        Total Locks 144   Total Miles 217.50

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Christleton to Weaver Aqueduct

Tuesday 21 May

We set off at 8,30 on a bright, sunny morning though the wind was chilly especially when the clouds obscured the sun. As the day went on, the clouds became fewer and we had a beautiful day’s weather.

We did six broad locks including Bunbury staircase before stopping for lunch. We had company for all but the first two of these – a Canaltime boat with folk from Durham who had hired boats on different canals for many years. The staircase had a volunteer lock keeper on duty – a very welcome helper.

After lunch we stopped at the cheese shop at Calveley Mill – not just for cheese but also one or two other goodies.

Having turned on to the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union at Barbridge Junction, we journeyed on through the flat, green Cheshire countryside.  It was on this stretch that we saw our first cygnets.

Daddy Swan is just out of shot.

Just two narrow locks and then we moored for the night near a (very) small aqueduct over the River Weaver.

A smaller River Weaver than in last week's pictures.

Locks 8   Miles 16.00                                     Total Locks 138   Total Miles 203.00