Tuesday 30 August 2016

Home stretch and a much over due catch up.

Apologies for not posting for a few weeks.  Things have been happening quite fast so not had time to blog

So to bring you up to date.  We last left you at Goldstone Wharf.  From here we carried on through the wooded cuttings around these parts of the canal.  Chris helmed AmyJo through the Tryley Locks (pronounced Turley) to keep her hand in.

One of several Cuttings a along these parts of the canal
 Needing another shop we stopped off at Market Drayton, picking up a mooring alongside this pill box.  Workmen were busy clearing the bushes and path leading up to the road.

As Pill boxes go this one is quite impressive
 After a spot of lunch and getting the shopping we carried on passing nb Swamp Frogs as we headed out of town.  The moorings here are quite up market and look delightful.

nb Swap Frogs but no sign of her crew though they must be nearby.

When we started cruising in hire boats we used to see several little canalside huts offering fresh produce.  Sadly nowadays these are few and far between here in the North West so we were pleased to come across this one at the Adderley Locks.  We bought the Pork Pie and Apple pie and very scrummy they were indeed. 

A sample on offer with Sausages and Bacon in the black cool box

No one in sight and the honesty box was a lot fuller when we left.
After descending the Adderley locks we called it a day at the visitor moorings above the Audlem locks.  We were treated to this lovely sunset in the evening.

Lovely sunset above Audlem Locks
We have tried to moor at Audlem twice before.  The first time was the Historic narrowboat rally with 32C temperatures when bringing AmyJo to Tattenhall from Crick.  Last time was in February and the locks were closed for winter works so this time we resolved to moor by the Shroppie fly if we could.

We started the descent through the locks at Audlem in warm sunshine at 7:30am.  The forecast was for it to be hot so we wanted to get down the flight before the sun warmed the day too much.  

Sure enough by 9am the temperatures were in the upper 20s.  We made good progress down the flight and were lucky to find a lovely sunny mooring above lock 12 just before the Shroppie Fly.  At 11:30am the temps were in the 30s so we were glad of the mooring.  We got the chairs out and whiled the day away sunbathing and just chilling.  A rare treat for us.
Our neighbour on the moorings was a gent called Brian.  We had a good chat and he showed us round his superbly restored old working boat.  She's only 40 foot with a riveted hull.  Brian found her in a really poor state but he has had her beautifully restored and has created an impressive space inside the little cabin.  Once aboard you would think you were on a 55 footer.  

Brian's superbly restored little boat with big proportions inside.
 In the late afternoon we took a walk into the village.  The locks were busy with boats coming and going so we felt quite smug that we had an easy day sitting in the sunshine watching it all go by.

Looking back up the flight

The visitors moorings below the Shroppie Fly were fairly empty but soon filled up by evening

The Lord Combermere pub does excellent food.

The village church.
The following day turned out to be another scorcher.  We left at 8pm and after watering opposite the Shroppie Fly we followed a single hander down the last of the locks.  Chris helped him and then turned the locks as no one was coming up.  The chap she was helping gave us some valuable help closing the gates when descending as a single hander.  We put his advise to good use.

Entering Lock 12 by the Shroppie Fly

Approaching the next

Finally the bottom lock
 Whilst descending the single hander would motor out of the bottom of the lock and then using his boat pole would first shut the gate opposite the by-wash and then the gate nearest.  This helped push the boat back onto a straight line to proceed.  Using this new technique we worked the last locks with Chris working the lock ahead for the single hander then leaving him to close the bottom gates as he left.  During this time I would empty my lock, climb aboard, exit and close my lock gates with the pole and proceed while Chris turned the next lock for me.

At one of the locks we were passed by an Anglo Welsh hire boat.  It was clear they had not long picked the boat up for as he approached the lock he hit the bridge hard careering across from that he then wedged the boat in the lock opening.  Much revving and thrashing later he eventually got the boat into the lock.  No wonder many of the locks fail during the summer season with treatment like that.

This hire boater bounced off the bridge and crashed about getting into the lock
Clearly not used to by washes
Shortly after the Audlem Locks we came across Mountbatten and her butty but no sign of life aboard.  I wonder if they have new owners yet?

Mountbatten and butty laid up together.
 We were on a mission today to reach Bunbury so a late one was ahead.  With that in mind we stopped for lunch on the now busy Nantwich moorings.  Luck was with us and we managed to get a mooring just before the aqueduct.

Approaching Nantwich Aqueduct moorings that looked really busy.
 We had a fab lunch  in the Wickstead Arms at a very good rate.

Now replete we headed on over the aqueduct and ahead there was a queue of very slow moving boats.  Seams a day boat full of drunken young ladies were going at tick over chatting and laughing oblivious of the chaos they were creating behind them.

Leaving the aqueduct behind we slowed to an almost stop
 To make matters worse the boat ahead of us decided he wanted to stop for water despite a boat already on the point.  He decided to raft alongside said boat taking an age to clear the way and we finally weaved our way around him and the moored boats opposite to take up station behind the day boat.

Squeezing through the throng of moored boats was not easy.  The hire boat behind did well to get through too.
I wanted to pass the day boat but in the girls state I dare not disturb them as they were not standing or sitting too well, the boat heeling over on its side at an alarming angle!  After a mile or so they eventually spotted the queue behind them and let us all pass.

At the Henshall bridge moorings we came across this unusual conversion.  Clearly the owner wanted an open plan feel for his boat, so open plant the lounge was open to the sky.

Open air living perhaps?
 We passed through a very busy Barbridge Junction with the In  doing a brisk trade judging from the large number of customers in the garden.

On the way to Bunbury we found sitting up on deck more comfortable as the slight breeze created by our passage helped to cool us down in the heat of the day. 

Sitting on deck to cool down
We eventually made Bunbury at 5pm just before the volunteer lockies left for the day and quickly descended the locks doing the famous shuffle with a hire boat with us and one coming up.  We moored for the night on Anglo Welsh wharf with their permission and was amazed to find we were the only boat there.  Their entire fleet was out for hire!  The following morning we made our way back to Tattenhall.

With a brief overnight aboard we packed and headed for Essex for the week.  My mother is laid up in hospital in a bad way.  She's now been there 4 weeks and is improving only slowly.  We're in for a long haul for her recovery so we'll not be cruising far for the time being.  Dad is giving me constant updates and is optimistic mum will make a full recovery but she'll need rehabilitation before she can return home.  

Next post we'll have some news to share as AmyJo is going to have a new temporary crew member joining us tomorrow and a new permanent crew member next week.  Will reveal all later.

Friday 19 August 2016

Summer Cruise Day 35 - Weaton Aston to Goldstone Wharf

Another lock free run today and a later start at 9am.  It must have been a good session at the pub last night as we were the only boat to move at that time of the morning.

The run today was not very interesting for the helmsman and the grey cloudy day did not make for interesting scenery.  This stretch is mostly either high embankment with rolling farmland views or high banked tree lined woody sections.  If ever an autopilot could be fitted to a narrowboat then this part of the Shroppie could put it to use.  

Not that we do not like the Shroppie, it is still a lovely canal and we still enjoyed todays cruise none the less, we just wish the promised good weather would get a hurry on and arrive!

Straight as a die for a good few miles

These wild flowers do add a dash of colour to the predominantly green view.

Still straight as an arrow
 Despite the straightness of the canal bridges a add interest as many seem overly ornate for their location.  I quite like the Shroppie bridges along here

Compared to the Caldon the bridges on the Shroppie are quite high in places
 The rural scene of the canal is punctuated with the occasional wharf like this one at High Onn.  Lord Talbot's wharf which hints of some agricultural traffic as well as industrial traffic on the canal.

One of the small countryside wharfs along the route.
 One highlight occurs just before the village of Gnosall (pronounced no-zull).  Cowley tunnel may only be 81 yards long but to consider the Navvies had to cut this through solid sandstone with just pick axes and shovels is an achievement in itself.

Cowley tunnel
 Shortly after passing through the tunnel one arrives at the pretty village of gnosall itself.  The main village is a walk from the canal but Gnosall Heath is what boaters see from the canalside.

Lovely pub as you pass under the bridge 'ole.

This rather eccentric garden reminds me of another less organised garden though I cannot recall the name of the place.
Leaving Gnosall we came across a fishing competition.  Judging from the anglers equipment this was a pretty  serious competition.  Unfortunately the hunched fishers went on for over a mile so tick over was required.

The fishermen, one left his pole to the very last minute before lifting.  I thought we'd smash into it.
 The row of fishermen went all the way to Norbury Junction!  At the Junction things were pretty busy here too.  Boat were coming and going from the wharf.  One came through the bridge hole straight at us.  I sounded the horn as the crew were too busy waving at bystanders on the wharf and not watching where they were going.  Worse, it turned out it was a boat for steering courses.  Clearly the instructor who was too busy waving was not doing a very good job and after sounding my horn he looked back, only just managed to miss us as he passed.

A full Norbury junction wharf

Boats coming and leaving the wharf
 In addition the pub opposite was hosting a classic car rally.  Not sure if they were Enfields or Morgans but they looked great either way.

Classic cars and plenty of gongoozlers

As we pass by still plenty of coming and going at the wharf

Those of you that have eery cruised into Chester will be familiar with the long tuerm moorings at Golden Nook near Waverton, a mile long line of moorings.  Well Norbury makes these look like a layby.  Long term moorings now stretch from a mile before the junction to well after it.  The line of moored boats never seemed to end.

Moored boats a Norbury for as far as the eye could see.
 Eventually the moorings cleared at Grub street cutting, a length of canal in high banked tree lined woods.  Here the famous double arched bridge 57 with telegraph pole is located.

Double arched bridge in Grub Street cutting.
 We followed a hire boat on tick over through the cutting and passed this paddler waiting for us to pass him though at our speed he would have been better paddling ahead.  The hire boat was clearly having trouble steering at any speed above tick over so we politely asked if we could overtake and left them to cruise at their sedate pace with boats starting to queue up behind.

Paddler waits for us to pass him by.
 The quaint little Anchor Inn near High Offley looked quite busy.  This was good to see as last year C&RT wrongly published it had closed.  Social media to the rescue with a call going out to let people know this was not the case and it would appear the pub is now far from closed.

The tiny Anchor Inn.
 In the Long Shebdon Embankment is a Premier foods factory in front of which, on the canal, is a wharf formerly used to transport chocolate from the then Cadbury's factory which served as a centre for processing milk

The old Cadbury's Wharf at Shebdon

Looking back along Shebdon embankment and the wharf, now home to classic boats
 Further along the canal surface took on an opaqueness about it.  The reason was in a field nearby.  This large combine harvester was cutting the field.  The dust generated was settling on the surface of the canal.

At one point this combine was hidden behind a mist of dust. 
 As it was getting no on for 3:30pm we needed to decide, stop at Goldstone Wharf or chance a mooring at the top of the Tyrley Locks.  On arrival at Goldstone we found a nice mooring near the Wharf Inn and surprisingly no infamous Shroppie shelf to hinder us either!  Tonight we'll treat ourselves to a meal in the pub as it was highly recommended by the nice couple on a very shiny nb Bullrush moored behind us.

Total distance:15 miles Elapsed time:6h Locks:0 Bridges:39 
Average speed:2.52 mph (2.52 lock/mph)

Sunday 14 August 2016

Day 34 - Gailey Top Lock to Weaton Aston

Wow what a long day today!  Looking at our travel log I would not blame you if you accused us of speeding.  The reality was an early start, few locks, no queues and a late stop.

I was up at 7am having been woken by a passing boat.  To be fair this boat was going slow, not a sound from the crew and so slow AmyJo never moved,  it was a hire boat.  Its just that I was half awake when it passed and fighting the call of nature so as to stay in bed.  I lost.

Viking Boat enters the top lock on its return to its hire base just above the lock

As we prepared to cast off at 8am two more hire boats passed by.  We should have realised earlier it was Saturday, handover day.  It was going to be busy above the lock.  The second of the two hire boats pulled in to wait their turn at the lock whilst the first went in.  The crew of the second boat kindly offered to let us go next as he too knew what was coming above the lock, plus, I don't think he actually wanted his holiday to end judging from our conversation with him.

I guess everyone passing by takes this photo of the round house.
 Sure enough as we rose in the lock the mayhem was being played out in front of us.  Hire boats were all over the place, across the cut, drifting in the middle unsure where to go, and amongst all this, the manager doing his best to sort it all out single handed.

We waited patiently in the lock for 10 minutes whilst he cleared a way for us, apologising.  "No worries" we called back with a smile from the lock.  I do feel for them when they give boaters instructions that are not followed by those hiring the boats.

Once clear we proceeded on our way with a wave and a thank you to the manager.
Looks quite calm in this photo.  It wasn't 15 minutes earlier.

A common sight now, every mooring on both sides taken up, the cut is really busy now.
 Finally we cleared all the moored boats and could get up to cruising speed.  The sun came out and rounding the bend at bridge 78 we came across this lovely spot of suitable, but empty moorings.  It may look idyllic but those of you that know this canal will know there is a chemical works hidden behind the trees and signs displayed, "No mooring under any circumstance even if a siren is heard"  Enough to put anyone off.  Never mind we're not stopping here anyway.

Too good to be true but no mooring here under any circumstance.
 We made good time to Hatherton junction passing few moving boats and cautiously turned  under the bridge.  Last time we did this in 2013 we were nearly T-boned by a speeding boat coming out of the junction.  Is there a theme starting here perhaps?

Hatherton Junction thankfully clear as we turned.
 From now on the canal becomes straight but with the odd tight bend every so often to catch you out.  The cut is good and wide here and at Slade heath these interesting garden chairs were seen in this canalside garden.

Wheely nice garden chairs (sorry)
 The Fox and Anchor had very few boats moored outside, in fact we noticed a distinct lack of boats moored or moving today, wonder why?  We would find out later in the day.

The fox and Anchor bereft of moored boats.
 After passing under the M54 we came to one of my fave spots on the Staffs, Pendeford Rockin.  This is particularly narrow as Brindley's navvies had to hew their way through solid sandstone by hand to complete the canal.

Pendeford rockin, narrow and shallow.  No one can speed through here.

Another view.  Its so narrow Chris could get off AmyJo for this photo whilst we were still under way.

At the other end two boats wait to come through after we exit the Narrows
 Its not long after the narrows that we come to Autherley junction.  This is our most Southerly point of the trip, From now on we head in a Northerly direction.  The stop lock was clear so we swung AmyJo through the junction and started the last leg of our trip back home on the Shropshire Union Canal and home.

Autherley Junction, straight on to Stourport and right the Shropshire Union canal.

Autherley Stop Lock and the start of the "Shroppie"
 One abiding memory of this end of the Shroppie is its wide, deep and straight. So straight in places you can see a mile ahead.  Another aspect are the lack of locks.  Apart from the stop lock there are no locks until Wheaton Aston some 8ish miles further on.

Last time we came through here we passed this lovely old wooden cruiser and I'd swear this was where we saw her then,  looks like she'd never moved far.
Must spend hours varnishing but then its worth it.  She looks gorgeous.
For a few miles there is not much to keep the boater interested apart from the occasional glimpses of distant views between high tree lined banks and the high and ornate bridges like this one. 

A Braunston style Spire in the distance heralds the arrival at Brewood, pronounced brewed. 

This spire reminds me of that iconic one seen at Braunston
 As we approached the visitor moorings this little boat came past.  She's so small at only 10 foot she looked a little top heavy.  I'd love to see the engine room of this boat as I could not see where one would fit.  I reckon she's all electric with the battery bank being the ballast!

Looks taller than she is long,
 At the visitors moorings in Brewood we came across the leather belt boat.  An odd vessel with an additional bow section strapped to the mother ship.  This small addition served as a shop and workshop for the owner.  We have long wanted a decent windlass belt so after finding a vacant spot to moor we walked back and both got a belt each.  Their website is http://www.daveonanon.com/index.html

The belt boat and additional work boat section.
 Back on our way again and past Countrywide Cruisers with their very well kept boats

Countrywide Cruisers wharf
 Now I could not resist another of my poor joke photos.  This boat must be the least cruised of the fleet as it must smell awful judging from its name (if you say it quick anyway)

Is that pronounced Smelly house?
 More straight runs of canal and we crossed over Stretton Aqueduct.  I've mentioned this in our big cruise home posts that we travel under this aqueduct every time we drive to and from Essex.  Its far more impressive from the road than canal.

The A5 passes under the Aqueduct between Telford and Cannock

The view from the canal

The view from the road taken in 2013 on our way home
Not long after the Aqueduct we spotted this lovely looking boat at Stretton Wharf.  I reckon it is a great restoration project.  Wonder if I could persuade the owner to part with it.  Would be ideal for the River Dee in Chester.

Another "Would like to restore that" boat
 After rounding the bend below the canal is as straight as an arrow to Wheaton Aston a mile or so away.

Its views like this I will never get fed up seeing
 Wheaton Aston Lock is located just before the village as if to halt the boater from proceeding past until one has sampled the village.  Here a rather large goose stood at the by-wash watching us like a sentry, undisturbed as we entered the lock.

Fine figure of a goose.
 As we descended the lock we could hear much shouting and hollering of many men's voices.  Sounded like a battle was being raged.  We also found why there was little traffic on the cut.  Seems the Hartley Arms pub here was having a beer festival and the shouting was the tug of war.

The moorings here were absolutely chocker with boats and the pub was doing a roaring trade by the looks of it.  Seems every man, women, child and dog and anything else living was attending.

Leaving Wheaton Aston lock

Working boats breasted up on long term moorings.

Boats as far as the eye can see and the pub just up on the right.
 Now we knew the cheapest diesel on the cut was to be had here and as we passed under bridge 19 nb Sandloy was just mooring up at the diesel point.  Although about to close we were invited to raft up alongside by the owner and would be served despite the closing time of 4pm being long past.  At 51.9 pence a litre we did not want to miss out if it could be helped!  With grateful thanks to the Owners of Nb Sandloy I backed off to let them on their way once we had both had our fill of diesel and then pulled in whilst Chris settled the bill.  On her return we too continued on our way and look for a mooring.

Still no mooring space long after the lock.
 nb Sandloy managed to find a mooring spot a little further on but offered to give it up for us as they were only 50 foot long and he thought as we were longer we would fit into the space and they would find a smaller spot.   They had been so accommodating at the diesel point I did not have the heart to accept in case they could not find anything further on.  Making the excuse we would not fit and thanking them for their kind offer we crept on.

We did find the last spot before bridge 20 and snuck in there with a foot or two to spare.  We had been cruising for a good 8 hours almost non stop.  Another early one tomorrow too.  Good news was there was live music in the evening and the pub but we were far enough away for it not to keep us awake.

The last free mooring on Armco before the bridge 'ole though more are beyond but pins would be needed.
Almost forgot.  Yesterday we spotted the smallest work boat and today saw the smallest narrowboat so now we reckon we've also found the smallest barge.  Our Enterprise dinghy at 13 feet is longer than this.

Not sure what this tiny barge would be used for but I wonder if its pulled by Thor the little workboat?.

Total distance:16.13 miles Elapsed time:8h18m58s Locks:3 
Bridges:47 Average speed:1.94 mph (2.30 lock/mph)