Saturday 20 February 2016

Audlum day 7 - A friend makes an improvement on the hire boat front at Bunbury.

Not much to post about yesterday.  The weather started off dull and proceeded to get duller and windier then finishing of wet with drizzle.  

Having dropped down Hack Green top lock Chris heads off to set the bottom lock.

Up to now the rain held off but signs the wind was picking up appeared on the cut but it was still manageable.

Small wavelets on the cut as the wind started to build.
 We stopped off at Nantwich services to dispose of rubbish and top up the water.  The gent on the front of this boat decided he wanted to be a frozen scarecrow so stood on his boat roof as we passed pronouncing he was freezing up solid.  Seemed a happy sort of chap and was clearly enjoying his life :-)

Our pretend scarecrow gets ready to climb on his roof and act his part
 Once again the visitors moorings were busy with boats and not a soul moored on the winter moorings out of town.

Approaching the services.  Clearly popular as a winter mooring with plenty of boats moored.
On the way to Barbridge we kept an eye open for Mow Cop but the drizzle that had now set in meant it was shrouded in the mist.  We think we got it in this photo but having never seen it we can't be sure.

Is that Mow Cop in the hill in the murk
The trip from Coole Pilate went without much to speak off and we wound up outside one of our favourite haunts, the Barbridge Inn for the night.  Of course Chris,  when asked if she wanted to cook or have a meal in the pub, naturally chose the latter.    We always enjoy the food here and have no complaints so far.

Now I've always wondered why Coole Pilate got its name.  According to Wikipeadia  Coole Pilate means a croft growing pill oats. A brine spring is shown on an 1831 map of the area, and is presumably the source of local place names such as "Brine Pit".

Little is known of the early history of the area. A square perforated stone hoe believed to date from the Bronze Age was found in a field to the west of Old Hall in 1936, suggesting possible settlement during that period. Coole Pilate is not mentioned by name in the Domesday survey.

Today the weather was not to good with rain from the onset but at least it felt a good deal warmer at 8C.  We set off about 10am and kept the observation deck (pram hood) up to shelter from the rain.  

At our first locks, Bunbury Staircase, we met up with the new assistant manager of Anglo Welsh cruisers, Steve, a good friend of ours and stopped for a chat.   He has had a bit of a sort out of the boats and noticeable is the fact there is now room for boats to pass in opposite directions with the hire boats now only 2 boats deep instead of 3.  All it took was for him to re-arrange them by size to fit in better.  Not rocket science but hopefully will make things easier at the lock in future.

At Tilstone Lock we were just about to open the paddles to descend when nb Rosemary caught up.  We let them into the lock with us and we worked with them through Beaston Stone and Wharton lock but going single at Beaston Iron lock.

At 2pm, and despite the now steady rain, we decided to stay out one more night so stopped at the Shady Oak which is now becoming a popular haunt for both us and the moorers at Tattenhall.  

Tomorrow we'll return to the Marina as Chris is back at work Monday but we'll be out and about again at Easter for a couple of weeks.

Total distance:9.5 miles Elapsed time:5h57m25s Locks:6 Bridges:23 
Average speed:1.16 mph (3.02 lock/mph)

Thursday 18 February 2016

Audlum Day 6 - A walk around and Coole Plilate

We don't seem to have much luck at Audlum. We could not stop last time we passed through due to the historic Boat rally and last night we went back to the Shroppy Fly for a meal only to find out the kitchen was closed due to and electrical fault.  Unperturbed we walked into the village and had a super meal in the Lord Combermere.  As a bonus to make up for it they even served my favourite pint,  Shroppy Gold.

A bright start to the day moored below Audlem bottom lock
 The weather seems to be at six's and Severn's at the moment as after yesterdays wet and miserable day, today dawned as bright as a spring day should.  We decided as the weather was perfect I would give the drone another flight and video the locks.  We walked up to the middle of the flight and my earlier assumption was correct as we found C&RT working on lock 10 and 11.

The tow path was quite muddy but firm to work on in wellies.
 At lock 11 we found it had been drained and work well in hand getting it ready for the coming season. Its the first time Chris and I had seen the use of stop planks so stopped and had a good look.  We know what stop planks did but how they were deployed was new to us.  You can see the tarpolene being used to make the seal on the photo below

Once mid way I launched the drone and we walked back down all the while videoing the locks.  It was actually quite tricky to keep on course, watch the video feed and walk to follow it all at the same time so Chris became a spotter warning me if the drone got too close to the trees and giving directions to avoid them.

You can just make out Bumble B as we call it (the white dot in the sky).

Chris zoomed in and captured the drone in action.

Once we reached the Shroppy Fly I packed everything up and we then wandered into the village.  St James Church looked resplendent in the morning sun and was a dominant feature of the village.  The church dates from the late 13th century with additions in the 19th century.  Interestingly the church is not recorded in the Domesday Book for some reason.

St James Church dominates the sky line
 We paused for lunch in a very quirky cafe call the Priest house.  A wooden boarded room barely 12 feet by 9 feet, still with what looks like the alter serving as a counter, and tables along a wall of sweet Jars from floor to ceiling.  The food was good value and you could read one of many books from the shelves while you wait.  No we did not buy any sweets, Chris would not allow me to.

New nestles with old.  We could feel right at home in this court yard mews.
 We got back to AmyJo at around 2pm and got underway straight away.  We passed Overwater marina and decided we would stop in the middle of nowwhere.  By now clouds were beginning to build up and a breeze was filling in.

The entrance to the marina
Along the way we came across a flock of Canada Geese. All eyed us suspiciously as we passed. We thought we would nickname them Gongeeslers as they watched us until we were well past them.

A flock of Gongeeslers

As we came to Coole Pilate moorings we found that they were deserted as far as the eye could see so we moored there for the rest of the afternoon. By now the breeze had fizzled out so the temperature became quite pleasant in the sun and the clouds were beginning to disperse again.

The sunset this evening was superb and Chris managed to put her photography to good use to catch this great shot.  How she manages to take cracking shots like this I do not know.

Lovely sunset.  What looks like a building next to the sun is actually a post

Total distance:1.75 miles Elapsed time:1h30m25s Locks:0 Bridges:5 
Average speed:1.16 mph (1.16 lock/mph)

Wednesday 17 February 2016

Audlum Day 5 - Ripped Off.

 We woke this morning to the sound of rain on the cabin roof as expected and looking outside the weather look dull indeed.  We knew rain would feature today as we (I that is) like to follow the weather forecasts.

We nearly decided to stay put but cold and rain does not put us off, besides the new canopy was paying for itself sheltering the open hatch area a treat.

We set off about 10am and luck was with us as all the ice had disappeared, thank god.  Not a soul was about and we never saw another boat until we pulled into Overwater Marina for water as a wash load was needed plus, after today, we would need showers too.  At £3 for just water we'll not be stopping in that marina for water again any time soon!  They know they are the only source between the lower lock and Nantwich.  What a rip off!

We had the cut all to ourselves

The rampart of a bridge that was.  Could this have been a railway bridge perhaps?

My off shore sailing gear still comes in handy on days like this.

Some of the bridge 'oles looked tight but we fitted through even with the canopy up.

Once out of the marina we headed for Audlum locks a short distance on.  Our debate as to whether the winding hole would be big enough was soon answered as we found we could have turned the Titanic in it (Well a model off it anyway).  Pearsons had it as a 60 foot winding hole but 80 foot is more realistic.  

 Once winded we backed onto the lock landing and I took a recky up the flight.  Surprisingly the lower locks as far as the Shroppy Fly all looked in water and functional with one or two sporting new ladders.  Presumably the work is now taking place further up the flight.

Audlum bottom lock in water
We had planned to stop on the lock landing initially,but it was clear boats could still come down the flight from the visitors moorings below the Shropphy Fly so we roped AmyJo to a spot the other side of the winding hole then settled in for some lunch.

Once fed and watered we had a stroll up to the Shroppy Fly with a view to having a pint or three but it was shut so, the Bridge Inn just up the way a little got our money instead.  We'll try the Shroppy again tonight.

The Shroppy Fly looking a lot wetter than last time we passed by it.  It was 30C and sunny then.

The busy visitors moorings below the pub.   Not a single boat on the winter moorings where we were moored though.
One has to wonder if C&RT's winter mooring policy is really working here in the North West.  We have passed several on our travels and even moored on them but all we have seen have not had any boats on them but visitor moorings are rammed with boats.  Am I missing something?  Perhaps the fees are putting boaters off?

Total distance:2.71 miles Elapsed time:3h3m41s Locks:0Bridges:7 
Average speed:0.89 mph (0.89 lock/mph) 

Tuesday 16 February 2016

Audlum Day 4 at Hack Green

With overnight temperature dipping to -3C we woke to a bright morning and deliberated whether we could move due to ice.  The sun was out and again not a cloud in the sky. The cut where we were was free of ice so we figured if there was any it would be thin and would easily break up.

At 9am we got under way.  We knew a change in weather was coming and so wanted to get settled somewhere before the wind and rain forecast hit.  

We should have stayed put as rounding the first bend we were met with a layer of thin ice.  A boat had passed 30 minutes before so we simply followed the path he had taken and the ice still broken.

Chris had been looking out for the 6 wooden sculptures shown on the plaque opposite Nantwich services.  The horse we had seen so kept and eye open for the others.  We spotted two but as one can see they are barely recognisable.  In fact one could not help thinking that perhaps a squirrel had been eating them, and I don't mean the 4 legged version.

Not sure what this was supposed to represent but what ever it was it is now unrecognisable
 A short way on and another sculpture.  This one could be two birds or two leaping fish.  Any ideas?

Not sure if this sculpture is complete or been beheaded
 A long the way cats ice formed in sections sheltered from the wind and in places started to get fairly thick making a horrendous noise as it gave.  We did think we made a bad mistake at one point but as we got closer to Hack Green locks the ice was less frequent.  

We arrived at Hack Green Locks expecting both locks to be against us as the boat that left earlier must have gone up them but surprisingly borth were in our favour.  By now the wind was increasing and clouds were forming.  We wanted to visit the not so secret secret bunker so decided to call it a day on the 48 hour moorings above the top lock and save Audlum for when this latest weather system had passed tomorrow.
Entering the first lock, the first narrow lock since we left Tattenhall.
 We found a spot between two boats leaving ample room ahead and behind us for other boats to moor.  The tow path here, whilst soft, was not too muddy and we had rings to moor by.  As it was only 11.30 we had a welcome cuppa and an early lunch then set of for the bunker.

Moored up at Hack green visitors moorings
 The bunker is only a short walk from the moorings along a narrow lane and could be seen from the bridge

I know it was a secret but how did they hide a building that size?
 The entrance fee of £8.25 each was well worth it and I found the bunker extremely interesting.  More so than I thought I would.  It put the reality of what I had live with as a kid into context.  One is allowed to walk its corridors and a sequence of numbered rooms tell the story of the bunker,what life in each room was like and it's purpose.  All lit by gloomy light and with recorded tannoy messages to add to the atmosphere.

One of the main corridors running the length of the bunker

One of many communications rooms, though I doubt red bikinis would be the fashion there, let alone red ones.
 There are a number of communications rooms ranging from radio transmitting to a full telephone exchange to aircraft control rooms.  All set out with equipment of the cold war era

This room housed the British Telcom Emergency Communications Network E.C.N.  It consists of an advanced telephone and high speed teleprinter exchange.  The room was known as the Message Switch Exchange.

Every panel was a myriad of knobs ad dials. Must have taken some training to use.
 In each room a board gave a description of its use.  They even have a room in which they  reproduced a mock up of a Russian Missile launch centre complete with the twin launch key console.

The bunker house 130 civil servants working shifts 24/7 so there were dormitories for the staff.  In the female dormitory 18 beds and wardrobes were provided for their off watch rest.  The sign on the wall invited visitors to rest and sleep on the M.O.D. beds for a while.  Chris, being Chris, duly obliged. 

Whilst all this was very interesting what really bought the cold war into focus for us was one room set out as a secure blast bunker complete with flickering lights, loud crackling radio sounds and every 5 minutes the simulation of a nuclear bomb going off nearby. Deafening and not for the faint hearted!  

After saving the country from a nuclear holocaust we needed a coffee in the canteen to celebrate, together with "Secret Scones" peculiar to the bunker canteen.  I guess the secret was what was in them but they tasted OK.

Outside the bunker
 The bunker was commissioned as a radar centre during WWWII and later expanded to provide a centre to run the region in the event of a nuclear war.  Out side remains a RADAR dish as a monument to the bunker's latter day use.

Cold war radar played a big part at the bunker when it was in use.
 We both felt the bunker was worth a visit but through out, several doors were off limits and locked in the basement level. The bunker is now a branded tourist attraction and is decommissioned.  In the grounds next door is a new RAF building and hanger (in the background of the photo above)  Both fenced off and off limits to civilians.  Is it really fully decommissioned I wonder, or just dormant behind those locked areas?  My imagination getting the better of me perhaps.

Total distance:2.72 miles Elapsed time:2h13m14s Locks:2 Bridges:7 
Average speed:1.22 mph (2.13 lock/mph) 

Monday 15 February 2016

Audlum Day 3

We woke at 8am this morning to a lovely warm cabin as the fire stayed in over night.  Outside a sharp frost and -1C did not look inviting but the sun was out in a cloudless bright blue sky.

We planned to stay on our mooring today and as the sun was quite bright I was looking forward to see how the solar panels would perform and they did not disappoint.  At midday we saw 99watts being generated and the battery charge go from 92% to 95% over the next few hours.  This  meant with the inverter and fridge running we were still getting a charge into the battery's as well.

After breakfast we set off to have a wander round the town.  We did this last time we were here in 2014 but for some reason this time the town felt different probably as we were more aware of our surroundings this time.  We also had more time on our hands to explore in more detail.

One thing Nantwich is renowned for on the waterways is the height of its embankment.  One does not see the true size of it from the canal.  Its only from the road below that its immensity becomes apparent.  Must have taken the navvies an age to build.

The embankment towers over us at roof height.  AmyJo can just be seen above yours truly.
 Following the street from the canal towards the town centre are these lovely Almshouses in Welsh row.  All 6 have been modernised giving double occupancy and are beautifully maintained.

Welsh Row Almshouses
 Above the door is a shield and inscription.  Anyone up on their Latin?  Answer in the next post.

 The houses in Nantwich are far from boring.  This particular house may have been a school perhaps with its own bell tower, certainly from the slats thats what it would appear to be.  Or was it a small church at some time I wonder?

School house of just an elaborate dwelling.

Just before the town centre is what looks like a tutor beamed building housing the Cheshire Cat restaurant.  Looks like any other old building until one reads the plaques outside.  The one on the right reads

"Widows Almshouses"  Built in early 17th century as cottages.  Converted in 1676 to almshouses for 6 widows by sir Roger Wibraham, moved by the death of his wife and sons"

The second tells of structural repairs made by W.A.Schofield.  He saved the almhouses from deterioration and colapse and preserved them.  The work took 6 years and included the creation of the Cheshire Cat. 

The widows almshouses with the restaurant on the left
 The town centre was bathed in sunshine but, unlike last time we were here the blooms are only just starting to grow, whilst the war memorial has now been restored completely.

Down one of the side streets we came upon the Vine Inn pub.  As it was lunch time we decided to go in for a meal.  We can highly recommend the food here and for the real ale lovers like me there are several superb ales to slake your thirst .  Excellent value for money and I can reveal the burger tower is just that, a large tower.  Two home made 8oz burgers in a batch with salad and Chips.  Each burger was a good inch thick and topped with a rasher of smoked bacon and cheese.  It beat me!  It not often that happens!

Back at AmyJo, still bathed in sunshine, we took advantage of the near calm conditions and got the drone out.  This was the first time I got to use it fully and had it in the air for a good 20 minutes

Did this before but could not resist.  The white square on the grass is my make shift landing pad.

Our mooring.  We reckon we are in exactly the same spot we moored back in 2014.
With such a fine day we hoped to capture a great sunset but sadly whilst good, it just did not have much effect on the clouds that were now starting to appear

The start of the sunset.
Disappearing behind the trees
We know the sun would set behind the trees so once more the drone was pressed into service but the results were disappointing to say the least

This is the best of several shots by the drone taken from 60meters up.

Tomorrow we plan to move on to Audlem  and winded below the bottom lock as they are closed still for repairs.  One issue might be the winding hole.  According to Pearsons its only 60 feet but Hutchinsons makes no mention that its under 70 feet so could be interesting.  Will be be able to wind or will we have to reverse back to Overwater Marina?  We see tomorrow