Saturday 29 April 2017

Bovine Encounter and a View to Die For, literally.

Ever since we moved AmyJo to Tattenhall we promised ourselves we would one day make the climb up to Beeston Castle.  Today, with the weather looking settled and whilst we're moored nearby we decided we would fullfill that promise.

After lunch we packed a backpack with water and Smudge's treats and set off with Smudge along the towpath to Wharton's Lock.  Here a turnstile leads onto a footpath across fields to the castle.

There is a convenient tunnel under the nearby railway that is gated either side.  On the far side are more fields, the first containing cows.  Now neither Chris nor I have been up close to cows until today and this particular herd took a bit more interest in Smudge than I like and so we pushed on keeping him on a short lead.   It was a bit frightening when a dozen of them decided to follow us trying to get to Smudge who was happily trying to play tag with them.  Luck was with us and another dog walker appeared and the cows seemed to prefer their Collie more so we made our escape.  Perhaps Lisa's David on WaL (What a Lark) could advise how to deal with inquisitive cows please?

Having survived the cows we neared the castle hill
 There is a lovely manicured farm house at the foot of the hill, in fact, the farm is the neatest and most well kept we have ever seen.  Not a blade of grass out of place.

The bowling green lawn outside the farm house
 The entrance to the castle grounds is via an impressive gate house that also serves and a gift shop.  Here you can buy anything from a pen to a full suit of armour, though I would not recommend the latter as its to darn heavy to lug back to the boat.

The castle gatehouse
The climb up to the summit is quite gentle at first but don't be fooled as it steepens the further up you go.  Clearly designed to wear out attackers before they reached their goal, however, even half way up the views are to die for.  I reckon many an attacker died on their way and as would see these views.  A view to literally die for.  Its clear to see why the castle is so located.

Only a third the way up

but still one can see for miles
 The last section to the inner Bailey is the steepest by far.  One certainly gets to work ones lunch off getting to the top but persevere the prize at the top is well worth the hike.  They do provide strategically placed benches to rest along the way.  They are quite comfy too!

The main castle keep atop the hill

And steeper approach ramp over a very steep drop.
 On reaching the summit your are greeting with amazing views of the Cheshire plain from the Wirral right across to Wales.

A zoomed in view of the Shady Oak and the canal where AmyJo hides behind the larger tree

A panorama of the Welsh hills
According to Wikipedia Beeston Castle is a former Royal castle, perched on a rocky sandstone crag 350 feet (107 m) above the Cheshire Plain. It was built in the 1220s by Ranulf de Blondeville, 6th Earl of Chester on his return from the Crusades. In 1237, Henry III took over the ownership of Beeston, and it was kept in good repair until the 16th century, when it was considered to be of no further military use, although it was pressed into service again in 1643, during the English Civil War. The castle was partly demolished in 1646, in accordance with Cromwell's destruction order, to prevent its further use as a stronghold.
Not a lot left  and you can just make out Peckforton Castle nearby
 A final look round before we left and we spotted Tattenhall Marina in the distance.

The marina is centre and canal on the right

Were these the doors to the main hall perhaps?

Wall of the outer Bailey

The castle is now in obvious ruins. The walls of the outer bailey, along with the walls and gatehouse of the inner bailey, are separately recorded in the National Heritage List for England as designated Grade I listed buildings. The castle is also a Scheduled Ancient Monument, owned by English Heritage. It is rumoured that treasure belonging to Richard II lies undiscovered in the castle grounds, but the many searches that have been carried out have failed to find any trace of it. Quite surprising when you consider during the 18th century the site was used as a quarry.

One of the caves formed by quarrying

 Close up view of the hill taken on our way back to AmyJo
Retracing our route back we were relieved to find the cows had moved far over the other side of the field and were oblivious to our presence.   We then collapsed in the chair for a well earned rest.

Friday 28 April 2017

Gunwale painting and Abandoned Hire Boat Recovery

Having stopped overnight at Bunbury Wharf we backed AmyJo up to the lock and round into the poly tunnel used by Anglo welsh to paint their boats. .  It was quite tight getting her round under the bridge 'ole and into the polytunnel but she got there with inches to spare.

Half way into the tunnel a familiar rattle could be heard, and the tiller shook profusely and then the engine stalled.  We had picked up a prop jockey but we were not prepared for what we found when I went down the weed hatch.  This....

It was the air trunking from an industrial space heater.  Presumably left in the cut from days when the wharf was in use before Anglo Welsh took it over.  It survived the Axiom only by the strong wire spiral that forms its shape.  Unfortunately that same wire wrapped up the axiom completely into a large tangled mass. Two hours later we finally removed the trunking and settled in for the night.  

Over the next few days I got on with the task of repainting the gunwales.  I used Fertan rust cure for newly bared steel, following up with undercoat/primer and finally top coat.  The tunnel has a space heater so we could keep nice and warm for painting despite the chilly temperatures outside.

A nice snug fit

The Starboard gunwales before work commenced

and the Port side

Port side finished

and the bow.  Have to say they turned out quite good even if I do say so myself
With the work done by Wednesday we moved AmyJo back out onto the main wharf as we were staying to help out on the Anglo Welsh open day again.

On Wednesday Steve, the yard manager, got a call from his American hirers saying they would not be returning their hire boat as they found the locks "Far too arduous" and had checked into a hotel.  The boat was abandoned by Cow Lane bridge in Chester.  Somehow Steve had to get the boat back but was short on hands to do it so I volunteered my services.

Next day, together with a good friend Mark, Smudge and I set off from Chester in the abandoned hire boat and thanks to all the locks being in our favour we got back to Bunbury by tea time, in good time for the boat to be prepared for its next hirers the following day.

Bring Andton home for Anglo welsh
 Smudge, bless him, was at first confused.  Why were we on this strange boat dad?  Its not as nice as our home is it?  Still he soon settled into the routine adopting his now favourite look out position.

All clear ahead Cap'n but mind this boat here.
We ended the week with Bunbury open day and once more I manned their day boat, Bella, for them. The weather was kind if a little chilly and we reckon we gave about 150 folk a trip along the cut to Tilstone lock and back.  I do believe a few bookings were made to hire the boats too.

Happy passengers at the mercy of yours truly at the helm (I never lost one overboard, honest)
Not wanting to over do Steve's hospitality on Tuesday we moved up to the Shady Oak for a few days and will now work our way up to Ellesmere Port over the next few week,s having now started our new phase of living out on the cut for the summer. 

So far we're enjoying it immensely and Chris loves coming home after work to a different place.  We have an app on the mobile phone called "Find my friends" and she can locate AmyJo and I using that.  Her work mates find it amusing she does not know where home will be until she finishes work each day.  Good job we don't row that often, I might turn my locator off so she cannot find me :-)

Total distance:2.93 miles Elapsed time:3h29m14s Locks:Bridges:4 
Average speed:0.84 mph (1.99 lock/mph)

Thursday 13 April 2017

Day 14 and 15 Barbridge to Bunbury

Yesterday we made the last short run of the trip to Bunbury Wharf.  Along the way we stopped off at the Calverley services to top up with water and use the showers.  Whilst there butty Saturn passed by with her tow Dane heading for the port museum.

Motor Dane pulling Saturn pass us at Calverley

Saturn is always instantly recognisable even before you see her cabin
 We pulled into a vacant mooring just above the staircase at Bunbury for the night and watched as two by two the old work boats locked through.

Lindsay and Keppel

The King and Ilford

The King
 This morning I got on and made some apple pies for Chris to take down to Essex for my parents.  They turned out very Kipling (exceedingly good if I may say so myself).  She will be gone over the holiday weekend and I'll be laying new decking and path at the house.  

After lunch, and after Smudge's walk, we moved AmyJo down onto the Anglo Welsh Wharf as all their boats bar one are out.   I feel for the owners of the boats on the moorings above the locks.  We were only there a few hours this morning before we moved but got bashed several times by passing or waiting boats.  We even had crews jumping on and off the boat!  Where has respect for other peoples property gone these days?  Bet they would not like it if I kept driving a 30 ton truck into their homes or their cars heh?

We'll now be here for the coming week for two reasons.  One, AmyJo is booked to go into their poly tunnel to finally get her gunwales repainted plus a few rust spots on the roof dealt with.  Second, as payment, I am going to help out around the yard during the week preparing for their open day on the 23rd (all are welcome by the way) and just doing general jobs where needed.  I'll also be helming their day boat doing free trips along the cut and back for taster sessions.  I really enjoy that so look forward to then.

Total distance:2.79 miles Elapsed time:2h12m59s Locks:0 Bridges:5 
Average speed:1.26 mph (1.26 lock/mph)

Easter Cruise Day 13 Willey Moor Lock to Barbridge

A slightly better morning today and an early start at 8am for us.   Daughter Joanne wanted to visit so we arranged to meet her at the Barbridge Inn as this was easy for her to get to.  Setting off early meant we would get there mid afternoon all being well and, as it happened, all was well.

Lovely views as we passed through the rural areas.
 As we approached the liftbridge at Wrenbury we found the crews of nb Storyteller and nb Grandad Dyer readying to get under way.  Apparently they got stuck for two hours at Quosey Lock last night as they could not close the gate and called out C&RT to fix it.  It was fine for us this morning

The lady on nb Grandad Dyer was already waiting to lift the bridge as we approached. We paused and waited for the others to round the corner then, all three boats passed under the bridge in quick succession. We then went on ahead and opened the next bridge and allowed the other two boats to carry on their way.

nb Storyteller following us and nb Grandad Dyer just going under the bridge

Chris goes on ahead to lift the next bridge for us all;.
 We next met Storyteller and Grandad Dyer at the Baddiley Locks.  Working together we got through them quite quickly.  I never did get their names so apologies if you are reading this.  It was a pleasure cruising with you for a while.

Chris and the Lady from nb Grandad Dyer work the locks together even though her boat was through the lock.
 The run from the locks to Hurleston is quite straight and nondescript.  One can see a long way ahead through the bridge 'oles.  StoryTeller and Grandad Dyer both stopped for diesel at Swanley Marina and we waved them goodbye as we passed.

Nothing to see for miles
At Burland we passed Mountbatten and her butty sitting all on their own.  We understand they are now up for sale.

Shame the coal runs have finished.  John and Hnanah did a great job.
We locked down Hurlston Locks in record time.  We were the only boat coming down and very time the gates opened for me a boat was just leaving the lower lock.  In fact I was surprised when we pulled into the bottom lock.  It normally takes a lot longer to get up or down these locks.

Closing the top gate on the second lock down
We were lucky to get a spot at the Barbridge Inn as there were boats pulling in all the time.  One small historic tug had hogged most of the moorings outside the pub and only moved back when their freind in another old boat pulled up.  Turns out there is an historic boats rally at the Ellesmere Port Museum over Easter weekend and the boats were making their way there.

We got in opposite the pub and deployed the anti shelf devices again to good effect.  Joanne joined us at 4pm and we then went over and had a meal to celebrate her birthday tomorrow, 12th.

Total distance:11.42 miles Elapsed time:6h19m11s Locks:11 Bridges:32 
Average speed:1.81 mph (3.55 lock/mph)

Wednesday 12 April 2017

Easter Cruise Day 12 Whitchurch to willey Moor Lock

Sorry for not posting the last few days.  To much going on in the evening left little time to post.  We are now moored for a while at Bunbury but here is the rest of the cruise story so far.

We'd had some rain overnight so when we emerged the day was cold, breezy and overcast.  Chris wanted to go into town to get some sunglasses but now the weather is changing there seemed no point but we still went for they anyhoo.

Chris got her sun glasses and we headed back to AmyJo but somehow we got a little off track and came across these lovely buildings.

This building was the former School house built with funding from the will of Jane Higginson.  The will left instructions to build the school house for teaching poor children.  Up to 1897 it had be used primarily as girls school but the school moved to another building as more and more children were attending.  It then was used as an infant school.

The former schoolhouse for the poor
St Alkmund's Church is just up the road. Alkmund was one of the sons of King Alhred of Northumbria. The succession was disputed by a usurper, Eardwulf, who killed Alkmund's father and brother, and then Alkmund, in 800 AD.

St Alkmunds church
Alongside the school house is another lovely looking building, the former Grammar school.  The school was founded in 1550 by Cannon Sir John Talbot who gave a fee of £200 to Thomas glaton to establish a school free from church control.  The present building of 1848 is actually a reconstruction and is thought to be similar to the original.  It has now been convered into flats.

The lovely form grammar school building now flats

When we got back to AmyJo we had lunch and then got underway.  Taking the painkillers and the walk had eased my back to a comfortable ache up to now.

After stopping for water at Grindley Brook we met the Nb Story Teller and nb Grandad Dyer at Povey's lock.  The lady from nb Grandad Dyer helped Chris reset the lock before returning to her own boat.  We then repeated this at Willey Moor Lock where we moored up for the night intending to try the pub when it opened at 6pm as it has never been open went we past it in previous years.

Closed as we descend the lock but open after 6pm

After dinner we took the short walk back to the pub and had a pleasant pint there.  Its a lovely little pub and a bit querky with all its ornate tea pots and Toby uugs everywhere.

Very ornate tea pots here
and there

Total distance:2.82 miles Elapsed time:3h8m16s Locks:8 Bridges:7 
Average speed:0.90 mph (3.45 lock/mph)

Easter cruise Day11 Cole Mere to Whitchurch arm

We woke undisturbed this morning to bright and for once, warm sunshine.  After the usual routine we got underway at 9am as is now the norm for us.  

It was a steady run  with not much worthy of a mention until we got to Hampton Bank.  We had seen this boat with the most unusual name called "Luckie Mucklebackit" on our way upstream and it was only now this evening we found the significance of it.  More later.

The Luckie Mucklebackit is a bit of a celebrity around this area.
We had a lovely cruise past Bettisfield passing several boats, well the season is now getting into full swing so its to be expected.  Our plan was to moor just before Prees junction and walk the Mosses with Smudge.  

All was going to plan and we manage to moor on the visitor moorings before the Junction.  Whilst tying the lines a familiar 
twinge was felt in my back and as I stood up a searing pain confirmed my back had gone.  The usual muscle spasm that has plagued me for years came back to haunt me after a good spell with out it occurring.

Chris so wanted to walk the mosses I persuaded her to go on whilst I settled down with some pain killers.  It was looking like we were going to be here for the night.

The Bettisfield mosses straddle the English border, near Whitchurch and Wrexham.  They lie in  one of the biggest and best raised bogs in Britain. Its astonishingly varied wildlife makes it a place of international importance.

Part of Britain’s third largest lowland raised bog they are now a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Natural England and Natural Resources Wales have been restoring the Mosses, since large-scale commercial peat cutting was stopped in 1990. This preserves the irreplaceable record of our past in the peat, conserves rare boggy biodiversity, provides wider environmental benefits and mitigates climate change by keeping the peat carbon stored in the bog.

Chris and Smudge followed one of three routes through the mosses, theirs taking in 1.5 miles of a circular walk

The end of the walk brought them back to the canal and a much appreciated cuppa and spot of lunch.

By now the pain killers were doing their job and my back felt good enough to continue cruising.  Chris slipped the lines and we got underway again.

First job was to make the left turn and pass through the lift bridge 45, an unusually low bridge whose deck sits on the canal surface.  We could see to boats approaching in the distance but they seemed to take forever to even begin to get close.  We opted to closed the bridge as traffic was building and left them to operate it when they finally got there some time later.

No passing under this lift bridge unless you are in a mini sub.
At the next lift bridge 42 another boat was already there and her crew opening the bridge.  We waited in the ever increasing breeze making holding staion tricky and once through their crew motioned us through which we obliged.  Poor woman than had to wait as two more hire boat crept towards the bridge coming from the opposite direction to us.  She did not look too pleased they were taking their time.  As we passed them we asked them to get a move on or she would have to close the bridge on them.

We finally reached Whitchurch but not before threading our way through all the boats at the viking boats yard.  I just got through the bridge before meeting boats coming upstream past the yard.  It was a bit of threading the needle but we got through unscathed.

On winding in the arm we moored up in exactly the same sport we did on our outward journey last week.

Now, back to the Luckie Mucklebackit.  At the entrance to the Whitchurch arm a new memorial garden has been created in memory of Mike Johnson, who it appears, was the late owner of the Mucklebackit.  Seems he was a very active member of the Shropshire Union Society and played a big part in the upkeep and restoration of the canal hereabouts as well as the Montgommery canal.  The Whitchurch Arm Society owe him a lot for the current excellent condition of the arm.

Oh, and on further investigation it seems the Luckie Mucklebackit was also a steam locomotive.  Ironic that a narrowboat should sport the name of a train  (or is it the other way round) that in a way helped to kill off the working boats in the end.

Total distance:10 miles Elapsed time:4h37m32s Locks:0 Bridges:23 
Average speed:2.22 mph (2.22 lock/mph)