You may recall I posted about a possible passage through Dee Locks in Chester and on up river into Farndon (click here). Well following my post I was contacted by a good friend David Andrews who until recently was a committee member of the Chester Heritage Trust. His email gives a fascinating insight into event of a trip made by Narrow Boat Auriga. David has kindly allowed me to share his email with you. Below is his account
The reason for me writing is that in your September blog you talk about the state of the Dee Branch and navigation of the Upper Dee, a subject in which I have been keenly interested in for many years. I have made the passage over the weir twice some years ago and the experience was fantastic, both going upstream and also downstream. Here are a few useful facts which I have picked up from various people who have made the trip. A 28 ft. tide at Liverpool should just top Chester Weir. High tide at Chester is 1hr 5 mins later than Liverpool. There is (I am told) 2ft 6ins of water over the weir when the water level is up to the path along the groves. I went to check this last Sunday but the state of the tide prevented me from doing so. By using the gate in the weir by the Dee Bridge a further 12" ? of draft can be obtained. Apart from passing over the weir the main hazards are safely passing the railway bridge pillars, avoiding floating debris and on the downstream journey judging your approach to the Dee Lock as by then the tide is starting to ebb strongly and there is no landing stage to use as a refuge. There is still a statuary right to navigate this lock although as you know virtually impossible. The last time it was used was by "all by water". A person circum-navigating Wales for charity in a small inflatable.
I have recently come off the Chester Canal Heritage Trust where as you possibly remember I was a trustee, but one of the things we were working on was to try to get the C & WC Council to adopt a scheme to unify the canal and river for the benefit of locals and visitors. This still rumbles on with no great vision from the Council.
As you may be aware the IWA is to hold a campaign rally over the Dee Branch next June 6th, 7th 8th. and hopefully this will really start the ball rolling. At the moment CaRT do not see the point in restoring the Dee Lock (which is slipping down into the river) unless there is somewhere worth going, so any scheme must include a lock in the weir. It very tricky getting it right as things stand at the moment. You really only have about half an hour at the most at exactly the correct moment to complete the passage and only then when there is at least a 30ft tide. High tides are Chester are not entirely predictable as atmospheric pressure and wind direction have quite an influence. Some years ago I took a series of photos of Edmund Mortimer taking his 72ft narrow boat Auriga over the weir and into the canal in text book style and I have attached these for your interest. He had previously taken his boat up above Farndon and turned it at Crewe Hall. This is the furthest upstream I have know a narrow boat
navigate (I am not sure of the upper limit of legal navigation, but I think it might be Farndon).
I hope you find all of this interesting, and I wish you all the best with your future boating!