Tuesday 29 July 2014

Big Trip Home Day 18 - Another Missed Opportunity and Home But Not Exactly

First of all our apologies for not posting the last two days.  Sunday night our was our meal with Joanne and last night turned into the early hours of this morning before we got back from the Shady Oak to AmyJo.

Today we are almost home, at least we're back in Chester.  

We had just released the mooring lines this morning when Mark from Dee O Ghee appeared to say hi.  Unknown to us Dee O Ghee was moored two boats back from us.  They had returned from Audlum historic transport festival and would be returning to the marina today.  It was too late to stop so we made a promise to meet up in the marina later.

The stretch of canal into Chester continues into the Cheshire countryside with only the river Gowy for company.  The route is petty in its own way but there is not much to photograph until Tattenhall Marina is reached.  We're staying out until the weekend so this time we passed it by.

AmyJo's Home port
Progress is slow once you pass bridge 114.  Golden Nook moorings stretch for over a mile and a half to bridge 116.  Tick over all the way you pass an eclectic group of boats, some new, some old and lovingly cared for and others ready for the graveyard.  For someone living in Chester I have to say this is not a good introduction to the city but don't give up, keep going you will get there in the end.

Moorings at Golden Nook seem to go on for ever.
Once clear of the moorings one can return to cruising speed for a few miles.  After following the A51 for a few miles the canal swings away towards Waverton and Egg Bridge.  For those low on supplies this is your first chance to shop in the village.

Leaving Waverton, here the tow path is much improved into Chester
Two gastro pubs line the tow path on your way into Christleton, the Cheshire Cat (highly recommended but very busy) and the Old Trooper (good food and reasonably priced)

The renowned Cheshire Cat pub and restaurant.

Old canal Mill at Christleton now converted to apartments

The Old Trooper and poles around collapsed embankment 
From here the canal descends into Chester via Christleton, Green field, Tarvin, Chemistry and Hoole Lane Locks.  Chemistry lock is named after  a nearby works making Gallic acid used in Tanning.  

The first major landmark as you approach the city, the old water tower
In the distance is the old lead shot tower.

Chemistry lock though no works exist these days

Little canal side cottages try to hide behind planted bushes, were these once
 homes for the chemistry or water  works employees perhaps?
 As you approach the city the old warehouses are now converted into plush apartments and canal side restaurants and pubs until cow lane bridge 123e.  Here a winding hole saves the boater from the depths of the deep Northgate staircase locks into the Tower wharf basin below.  If one does not intend going on to Ellesmere Port most boaters wind at bridge 123e

Our Mooring at Cow Lane bridge.

The Mill Hotel restaurant boat.  Notice the yellow flag above the bow.
This boat has rudders at either end and does not need to wind.

Cow lane bridge and winding hole to the right.
Tomorrow we'll decide whether to continue and stop in Tower Wharf or wind and return.

Our route today
Total distance:9.57 miles Elapsed time:5h14m25s Locks:5 Bridges:24 

Average speed:1.83 mph (2.78 lock/mph) 

Big Trip Home day 17 - Grumpy Old Sod and a Pleasant Evening to End The Day

Those of you that have been following our trip may have realised that after stopping at the Barbridge Inn last night we were now facing the wrong way and you would be correct.

We started our day with a short run to Hurleston Junction where we winded and headed back.  This time we kept straight on for Chester.

After an hour we had to wait our turn at Bunbury Locks.  Whilst waiting an old couple is a very small boat joined the queue and he went for a rekky.  He stormed back announcing to his wife "Blithering idiots had left the bottom paddle half open ma".   Seems the people working the lock had not noticed it was open.

Later when we moored for lunch by Chas Harden boats having descended Tilston, Beeston Stone and Beeston Iron Locks they came past and he announced VERY loudly "Yes its them, bunch of incompetents".  For some reason the old fool got it into his head we were working the lock.  The fact we were both on board waiting our turn seems to have escaped him some how.  So if you ever meet a very small boat named Elfin, give him a wide berth, he'll only hurl insults at you.

Iron Lock.  The red sign warns the lock is warped and only one
boat at a time should use it.  We still saw boats locking in twos.

Newly thatched cottage.

The rest of our trip proceeded without further abuse from or sight of grumpy man.  After descending Wharton's Lock we stopped upstream of the Shady Oak.  We had heard this pub had gone down hill, and it seems to have a little but none the less its still worth a stop, and, we were made more than welcome by other boaters moored there who seem to be regulars.  Hence why our blogs are two days late instead of one.  A good time was had and a very late night followed.

Beeston Castle stands sentry and is seen for miles.

Our mooring by the Shady Oak and a great evening to end on.

Our route today

Big Trip Home Day 16 - A Return to Barbridge and that Dinner Date.

Not much to say for today as all we were doing was retracing our steps back to Barbridge and that all important dinner with Joanne.

First was to go down Wardle Lock and wind ready for the trip back.  It was really sad to see Wardle Lock cottage in its current run  down state.   The are signs of restoration but its a sad sight to see now.  Poor Maureen Shaw would be horrified to see it today.

Wardle Lock Cottage. Gone is the lovely tended garden and flowers,
Wardle Lock cottage in August 2002
What was good to see is a memorial plaque to Maureen with some memories she had shared.  Chris and I had the good fortune, like so many, to meet Maureen twice when we hired "Olivia Ginger" for a two week trip from Stone up the Llangollen many years ago.  What amazed us was, as busy as Wardle lock is, she remembered us and welcomed us by name, stopping for a chat as we worked the lock.  How she got anything done is a mystery.

The lovely Memorial to Maureen Shaw, may she be resting in peace.
We winded AmyJo below the lock as no one was around and hoped to top up with water, however, right on the water point an angler had set up camp and was sound asleep in his tent.  He got up when he heard me tell Chris to move his rods so we can come alongside.  Now that might seem a bit mean on our part but hey, its a busy junction and we needed water.  If not us some one else would have woke him sooner or later.  Perhaps he should choose his fishing swim a little better next time.

We only took a few photos on the trip back as we had already done them.  This trip we were held up for over an hour each at Minshull Lock and Cholmondeston Lock (in photo below) as boat traffic was very busy.

All the boats on the left were queuing for the lock  while we are in it.
Eventually we got back to Barbridge and turned left.  We found a mooring just short of Barbridge Inn and waited for Joanne to arrive.
Good job we booked ahead as the Inn was quit busy.   The food was superb and the steak is some of the most tender I have had in ages.  Highly recommended. If you there over a weekend booking a day or two early is a must.  Joanne came back with us to AmyJo for a while then headed back home and the joy (not) of work in the morning.

Our mooring tonight
Just a short walk to the Barbridge Inn

Our route today

Saturday 26 July 2014

Big Trip home Day 15 - A Plea from the Homeland and a visit from a good freind

At 7am this morning I rolled up the cratch covers to find a rather damp and dirty looking roof so out came the chamois leather and the had it looking good as new in no time, well just in time for Chris's morning coffee.

We got under way at a respectable 9:50am and first on the trip was the Nantwich Aqueduct.  Living as we do in Cheshire we had no idea just how high some of these aqueducts are until now.  Sections of the canal seem to be constantly at roof top level for most of the last few days.

The approach to the aqueduct

The A51, Nantwich town centre can be found that way

The opposite side.
Not long after the aqueduct is Nantwich basin.  Passing through here one needs to be alert as its reasonably tight due to boats moored across the cut to one side leaving only just enough room for boats to pass.  The basin itself sits in an arm running off the main section at a 45 degree angle.  For us to get onto the pump out would mean some serious reversing through the throng of boats moored there.  I knew we were OK so was saved the embarrassment.  Along side the basin is the home of the Nantwich and borders Yachting Club though no sail mast can be seen only motor yachts.

Moored boats jutting well into the main line.

Looking back down the arm as we pass.  This taken looking astern
and we have just come from left of the sign.
The Yacht club with Acton church in the background

From here the canal passes through the Cheshire country side where some of the tow path is now part of the 40 mile Weaver way, stretching from Frodsham in the north to its most southerly point at Audlem, the route leads you along the River Weaver and Navigation, as well as the Trent and Mersey, and Shropshire Union Canals.

After Henhull moorings we started to recognise familiar features and knew home was not far away.  First up, Hurleston Junction that heralds the start of the Llangollen canal.  This is quickly followed buy the high grassed banks of Hurleston reservoir.

Hurleston Locks at the start of the Llangollen canal.

Boats queuing to enter the locks

Hurleston reservoir bank
A mile or so further on the Barbridge Inn looks welcoming and a little further still Barbridge Junction.  At this point Chris and I discussed our options.  As we still had another week left do we carry on to Chester or swing right and visit our friend in Middlewich?  Looking at the Pearsons and basing on our current travel times of the last few weeks we figured we could be back at Barbridge by Sunday evening so we threw a right turn onto the middlewich arm.

The Barbridge Inn, we will be paying visit on our return

Approach to the junction, Chester straight on, Middlewich to the right.

We see this every time we pass on the A51 but at a much faster speed

Our start of the Middlewich
We did this stretch of the canal many years ago in a hire boat called Olivier Ginger a 70ft boat.  I made a right mess of the turn then hitting the bridge but today AmyJo rounded the junction with no problem much to my relief.

The countryside here is typical Cheshire plain.  Beautiful views across fields and farms can be seen. At the bottom of Cholmondeston Lock is Venetian marina looking very busy indeed.  We had hoped to top up with water after the lock but as the lock gates opened we were confronted with two hire boats on the water point being washed and serviced making exiting the chamber very tight indeed.

Two mile further on we came to Minshall Lock.  Here there was a boat with six people at the bottom and one with three people behind us.  As the lock was in our favour Chris opened the gates and I took AmyJo in.  Chris really struggled with the offside paddle while both crews stood and watched from their boats.  She simply could not get it open so I had to open it for her then run back on board. I then called to Chris very loudly.  " I do so like a good audience don't you?"  after which one of the watching gents eventually came and helped.

Unknown to us whilst we worked the lock, Joanne had tried to ring her mum and we did not hear te phone ringing.  A terse message on facebook a little later from her warned "Mother can't get hold of ya !!!! Try to stop near a nice pub tomorrow and I'll come down and we can have dinner out !!! XX"  

After booking a table at the Barbridge inn we eventually realised its the 26th and pay day for her is not until next week.  Seems she has too much month at the end of her money then!

Shortly after we passed the very spick and span Aqueduct marina looking just as new as the day it opened several years ago now.

Aqueduct Marina

Stunning views of the country here

Just after the Weaver aqueduct at bridge 15 we came across a sign saying "Distinctive Designs" and Ice Cream.  With the heat of the day we could not resist so stopped to buy some.  It was a delightful looking farmhouse with a beautiful garden.  When Chris returned the view with her there with her new big white hat reminded me of a very English garden.

Quintessential English garden scene

Kayakers pass us by  at a rate of knots

We worked our way through the moorings by Clive Green and arrived at Stanthorne Lock.  As we approached a boat came out of the lock and we were waved in.  Chris was about to get off and was told no need we'll lock you down.  Three very nice ladies were manning the lock as their boats were waiting below.  I have to say this was the most pleasant lock we have used the entire trip :-)

Good use of logs from the cut down tree.
 Finally as we passed under bridge 28 we spotted a good mooring.  Realising it was Saturday and at Wardle Lock there are two hire boat companies handing over boats to new hirers today we decided the safest thing was to stop here.  A passing boat confirmed our decision, informing us it was "chaotic down there".  Just as well as at bridge 29 a few yards ahead of us it was entertaining to watch as novice hire boaters tried to get through their first narrow bridge 'ole.  Some coped well and others....  one even complained he got it wrong as there was far too much current in the bridge 'ole!  Believe me I never mock, it was me in that position years ago so I do feel for them.  It must be daunting being given charge of a 70ft boat for the very first time and then left to get on with it with little or no tuition.  

Our mooring tonight on the outskirts of Middlewich
Oh I nearly forgot, our friend Tony made it aboard and we spent a good few hours catching up.  Tony and I work at the same refinery so he gave me all the Gos while I've been away.  We even had to batten down while he was aboard due to a heavy rain shower.  What rain you say? Yep and heavy too.  Knew I should have not wiped the roof down.

Our route today

Total distance:13.00 miles Elapsed time:6h21m53s Locks:3 Bridges:40 
Average speed:2.04 mph (2.51 lock/mph)

Friday 25 July 2014

Big Trip Home Day 14 - Day of rest, no Shop till you drop more like.

Last night's sky at Coole Pilate was one of the most memorable of our trip so far. I lent out of the day room side door to take in this stunning view.

I think this is one of my favourite sunsets of the trip so far.
After yesterday's Lockathon and lack of essential supplies (beer shortage for one)  a big shop was necessary so the decision to stop in Nantwich was made. 

We upped sticks at the more respectable time of 8.30am and made good time to HackGreen Locks.  In the first a boat was coming up and Chris chatting to their crew found they were Americans from South Carolina enjoying the coolness of the English summer!  When Chris told them Audlum was busy due to the historic transport festival their faces lit up and were a picture of joy.

It was at the second lock an even bigger surprise was in store for us.  We had just locked down and were exiting the lock when Chris spotted a familiar boat coming towards us for the lock.  It was Bloggers Mark and Corrine in NB Dee O Ghee.   We pulled in to the lock landing, tied up and manage to chat briefly as they ascended the lock.  It was lovely to meet them at last and we plan a good catch up later as they share the same mooring arm as us in the marina.

Mark and Corrine with the real Dee O Ghee just behind Mark

We were just outside Nantwich we came across this sunken boat.  Tape indicate its presence is known and we wonder how long it had been there and how long will remain there

It pains me to see boats like this.  They were once someone's pride and joy.
We got to Nantwich around 11am and found a mooring near the Nantwich aqueduct.  Once buttoned up we left AmyJo for a walk into town and the shopping spree we needed.  Nantwich is much like Chester in many ways and is lovely to stroll around its little alley streets and shops of all sorts.  We came upon Clewlow's butchers of Pork pie fame and we can add their Steak pies and Corn Beef Hash pies are a must, absolutely marvellous!  Its worth wondering in to the shop look around.  Its one of the best appointed butcher displays I've seen in years.  I dare you to go in and come out empty handed!

Town Square looking great with the blooms and new epitaph

The town church bells were ringing out for a wedding.

Clewlows butchers, well worth the walk to visit.
  Further and over the river Weaver we found a Morrisons.  Chris ever optimist, chose a small trolley.  Now us gents know only too well the small trolley is never big enough  and when we got to the till it was over flowing with food, and beer of course.

Its a good fifteen minutes walk back to the boat from there so we hailed a cab and saved the arms.  Once everything was packed away we spent the rest of the afternoon we sat out in the cratch and watched the world go by.  To our surprise a large heron landed opposite us on the offsite and proceeded to catch fish.  He (I assume its a male?) caught 4 in a matter of 10 minutes.  We were mesmerised watching him and amazed he could see anything in the muddy water of the cut

Magnificent bird on the offside from us.
We were due a visit from one of our friends today but he could not make it so were moving on tomorrow to be closer to him so he can visit us then.

Our mooring tonight by Nantwich Aqueduct
Our short trip today
Total distance:3.49 miles Elapsed time:2h22m47s Locks:2 Bridges:9 

Average speed:1.46 mph (2.31 lock/mph)