Sunday 27 August 2017

Oh dear, now we're getting closer to home I'm getting lazy with the blog again. Though to be fair whilst a delight to cruise this section of the T&M is not very note worthy and for some reason we took very few photos of this section.

We did have a visit from eldest daughter Amy armed with a mound of post and parcels last night.  One of which was a new harness for Smudge as we feel he had out grown his old one.  The new one has a good handle to grab him if needed and the lead loop is really strong.  It is also fully adjustable so should last him a good while.

Smudge sporting his new harness
 After finally completing Heartbreak Hill and descending Kings Lock we found a hire boat in front turning into the junction.  With boats moored on the water point I hovered mid channel until Chris gave me the all clear to proceed.  

Unusually there was no sign of traffic coming down from the Middlewich Branch so after resetting the lock after the hire boat it was our turn and I swung into what is the shortest canal on the network and into Wardle Lock.

Kings Lock and chandlers of the same name on the left.  I had just turned under the bridge to Wardle Lock

Sign on the Bridge 'ole,

The canal here was built in 1829 so that the navigation authority of the Trent and Mersey Canal could maintain control over the junction.  Wardle lock or more commonly, Maureen's lock, is next to the lock keeper's cottage where boat woman Maureen lived.  I remember our hire boat days chatting to Maureen whilst we passed through here, she was such a lovely, cheerful lady.  Sadly she passed away on 2012 but there is a plaque at the lock in her memory.

We found the moorings above the lock surprisingly empty so pulled in for the night on the first set of visitor's moorings.  In the evening we took ourselves off to the local Tesco for some bread and milk.

Moored in Middlewich above Maureen's lock

Total distance:5.79 miles Elapsed time:3h33m25s Locks:6 Bridges:16 
Average speed:1.63 mph (3.31 lock/mph) 

Today we continued our journey along the Middlewich Branch.  Traffic today has been best described as heavy.  So many boats on the move in the other direction. 

According to Wikipedia this Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal  runs between Middlewich, where it joins the Trent and Mersey Canal, and Barbridge Junction, where it joins the main line of the Shropshire Union Canal. It is 10 miles (16 km) long, and was planned as part of the Chester Canal, which was authorised in 1772, but the company ran out of money, and construction did not begin until 1827. The Trent and Mersey insisted that there should be no direct connection at Middlewich, and instead built the short Wardle Canal to join the two, charging large compensation tolls for traffic passing along it.

The canal became part of the Shropshire Union system in 1846, which was taken over by the London and North Western Railway within a year. Traffic on the branch was always limited by the compensation tolls, and it was not until 1888 that they were abolished.

Along the way we did see a novel way of rounding up cattle at one farm as we passed.  Days of one man and his dog seem to be replaced with one lad and his quad nowadays.

New solution to rounding up the herd

Though now and again the old method still had to be applied

The lad was charging around the herd, who must be quite used to this as they stood their ground and took quite some cajoling to move along. 

Considering the amount of boats we'd had heading towards us we steeled ourselves for a big queue at Minshull lock which is the norm for this time of year.  This was the scene that greeted us.  Not a boat in sight and one leaving the lock ahead of us!

No queue!  We like this lock as its quite pretty here

Having gone through plenty of locks this trip Smudge is now well versed with locking procedures and stands watch casting a critical eye over AmyJo as she enters the lock from the lock bridge above.  He then checks everything is OK with a glance at Chris then helps close the gates though he does get under Chris's feet tangling her in his lead at times.

Keeping watch to make sure we get in the lock OK.
 We found some lovely moorings with Picnic tables in the sunshine so pulled in for the day.   We then sat out in the cratch watching all the boats go by.

Total distance:7.03 miles Elapsed time:3h15m44s Locks:2 Bridges:22 
Average speed:2.16 mph (2.77 lock/mph) 

Wednesday 23 August 2017

You get two posts for the price of one today as we had an evening out for a meal.  When we got back it was too late to blog.  Aren't you lucky we're so generous :-)

Hardings Wood to Rode Heath.

A bright start this morning, much to our relief after yesterday's rain, in fact it stayed pleasant all day.  The morning felt much warmer as the breezy winds had subsided over night at last.

First turn into the Junction
 Hardings wood is an unusual junction in as much as you pass over the Trent and Mersey on an aqueduct  and then for a while it runs parallel with it, then swings round to meet it.  Two locks on the T&M below raise the canal to meet our part of the junction and turning left we then use these locks to pass under the canal we just traveled on.   The Map below should make it clearer.

Hardings Wood Junction.  Our route comes in from bridge 95 via the Arrow marked "1"
We then follow the route shown in the blue circle marked "Cheshire Ring" to lock 43

First one crosses over the Trent and Mersey then a tight left turn and a run parallel.  Finally another left turn brings you out at the junction proper.

Left to Middlewich for us.

The turn is quite tight and there was only just enough room to swing AmyJo round to line up for the first locks.  There is actually a mooring opposite the junction and I was glad no boat was on it!

Barely enough room to get round but we made it
 We found all the locks are duplicated, that is two locks side by side.  This was to improve traffic flow during the busy working boat days.

At the second lock, 42, is a memorial to one Mikey Sutton.  Seems 19 year old Mikey took up a dare by his 13 year old friend to jump the lock.  Apparently Mike almost made the jump successfully but slipped smashing his chin on the opposite lock wall as he fell into the empty chamber and then drowned.  Such a shame.

Mike Sutton's memorial as a reminder to teenagers of the danger of jumping locks

Although not a wide lock Mike almost made it but slipped on the capping stone and fell in.
 From now on the locks would be in pairs except one or two that were now singled due to dereliction of their partner lock.  Most were against us so we had to turn each one in as we descended.
Disused second lock

Working together, I would help Chris shut the heavy top gate then open one paddle getting back aboard AmyJo before she descended too far.  Once I was aboard Chris would then open the other paddle.  We got into this routine and we worked well together for the next few locks.

And a fully working pair
An uneventful cruise down the locks was had with only one boat coming up all the way.  Nearing Mow Cop in the distance we finally stopped at some lovely moorings above lock 53 and had a meal in the evening at the Broughton Arms canal side pub.  At £10.45 for a 10oz Rump steak it was good value too!

Mow Cop always looks great from the canal

According to Wilipedia Mow Cop Castle is a folly at Mow Cop in the civil parish of Odd Rode, Cheshire, England. It is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade II listed building. The ridge, upon which the castle sits, forms the boundary between the counties of Cheshire and Staffordshire, the dioceses of Chester and Lichfield and the ecclesiastical provinces of Canterbury and York.

Smudge allowed to run free for a change in a large field alongside our mooring

Moored for the night, the field is behind the tree

Total distance:3.27 miles Elapsed time:3h26m22s Locks:12 Bridges:15 
Average speed:0.95 mph (4.44 lock/mph) 

Rode Heath to Wheelock

This morning dawned grey but warm and stayed that way all day.  We rarely saw any sunshine at all for the grey cloud .  Today we continued our descent of Heartbreak hill starting with lock 53.

Lovely lock cottages
 It was clear we were near C&RT offices as the locks around here barely dribble unlike those further way.  Again we adopted the same working pattern as yesterday so making lighter work for Chris.

Dry top gates for a change, not a dribble anywhere in this chamber

Waiting for the lock to empty
 Today we were in luck as more boats were on the move and after our first three locks another boat with a crew of four had caught us up.  Between their crew and Chris we managed to make better progress, we even set one paddle for the boat behind us who were most grateful, helping Chris shut our gates in return.   Until, that is, we reached lock 62.  This is a single lock as its neighbour has now been filled in.   The boat in front of us, despite being well manned, was taking a long time to enter each of the the following lock chambers slowing everyone down.  No matter for us of course but the boat behind us was not too pleased about it.

At one lock Nb Cledeu (hope I spelt that right, apologies if not)  passed us, the lady asked if we enjoyed the Macclesfield as she reads our blog.  Sorry we did not have time for a proper chat but it was nice to meet you and yes we loved the Macc very much.  Nice to know we do have at least one reader that enjoys our burblings :-)

Looking back at the two locks as we leave them behind

After lock 65 at Wheelock we decided to stop for lunch as it was 2pm.  Talking to the moored boat crew in front of us we were informed the moorings were few and far between from here to Middlewich so we decided, again, to stay put for the night.  At least we can keep having our power naps at this rate.

Total distance:3.68 miles Elapsed time:4h30m22s Locks:14 Bridges:17 
Average speed:0.82 mph (3.92 lock/mph)

Monday 21 August 2017

Summer Cruise Day 44 Congleton to Hardings wood Junction

This morning's weather can best be described as dull, wet and murky.  Rain in the air and dampness everywhere made getting underway more of an effort for some reason.

Nearby railway viaduct

Rain never far away

Who would live in a house like this?

We stopped at bridge 77 in High Town and walked to the nearby convenience store but only got half what we wanted so another shop is on the cards. 

At this part of Congleton the canal is criss crossed with numerous bridges and at one point the canal is forced to kink round the peers supporting them.  AmyJo only just squeezed through without getting stuck.

Road and rail bridges and the kink in the canal below

We followed another boat from here called nb Slowcoach all the way to Heritage marina where they turned into it. Slowcoach he was not until he reached a bridge 'ole.  He passed under them so slowly we always caught up with him at each one.

Stately Ramsdell hall

We were getting closer to Harding Wood Junction as we came across this quaint little cottage and shortly after Hall Green Stop Lock the original interchange between Macclesfield and Trent and Mersey canals.

Quirky Tea Pot Hall
 Signs the weekend was upon us as unlike yesterday boats were coming at us thick and fast all the way from Congleton despite the wet weather, plenty of helm brollies were being brandished and these were up and down like a brides.... as each shower came and went.

nb Slowcoach ahead weaves round oncoming boats

Many like this one brandishing golfing brollies

Hall Green Stop lock might have been in our favour but with barely a foot drop in level we never could be sure.  In fact the way levels were We could have just opened all the gates and gone through

Hall Green lock is always a joy to pass through as its so pretty with the cottages nearby.

Smudge doing his, eating a large cigar impression, hows about that then boys and gals.
 As we approached the first turn of the junction at Hardings Wood we found a nice mooring at Pool Lane aqueduct so decided to stop for lunch as the rain was now persistent.  We had barely tied up and the heavens really opened up with a heavy downpour.  Looking like it was setting in for the rest of the day we thought we'd stay here the night and have all day for heartbreak hill,  all the locks down to Middlewich on the Trent and Mersey.  

Whilst feeling smug and supping a cuppa listening to the rain hammering on the roof a lady boater tried to moor up nb Tarka in front of us looking absolutely soaked through.  Her boat ran aground whilst she struggled with the center line.  As quick as I could I went to her aid and helped her moor up in the deluge.  Later as a thank you she presented us with a home made Apple and Blackcurrant Crumble.  This was consumed with diner and was really delicious.

After diner and checking the maps we found a Tesco superstore was just half a mile down the cut.  By now the rain had stopped. We crated Smudge and off we went for a shop.  Needless to say our arms are now 2 inches longer from humping the shopping bags back to AmyJo.

Moored up on Pool Lane aqueduct just before the rain got heavy.
 An odd occurrence happened today, or, rather over the last 3 days.  My mobile phone lost signal 3 days ago and has been searching for a network ever since.  Try as I might rebooting it had no effect.  As a last resort I plugged it into the laptop and using itunes managed to update the operating system software (iOS) and bingo the phone now has a good signal.

Stranger still, Chris was checking odd blog posts to see where we moored here last year and exactly the same thing happened to my phone then. (click)  Most odd indeed.


Total distance:6.02 miles Elapsed time:3h37m14s Locks:1 Bridges:28 
Average speed:1.66 mph (1.94 lock/mph) 

Saturday 19 August 2017

Day 42 Lyme Green to Congleton Aqueduct

After the usual morning chores and preparation we got under way in bright morning sunshine though a little on the cool side at first.  The sun soon warmed things up and as the morning progressed it got hotter and hotter.

Leaving the Lyme Green mooorings

We had a good run to the swing bridge at Dane Moss and only one car left queuing as we passed through,  clearly when schools out this road is hardly used.

Swing bridge at Dane Moss
 We reached Bosley top lock to find it in our favour.  Another boater coming out of the services kindly opened the gates for us.  Unfortunately this was the only lock in our favour and with no boats coming up we had to reset each one as we descended.

By lock 4 the sky was looking pretty dark and threatening.  Distant rumbles of thunder accompanying it.  We prepared for the downpour to come and carried on.

Dark angry sky and clear signs of a deluge to come.
 Chris donned her boaters coat but in the end we only received a light shower, the rain scudded across in front of us.

Only a few spots of rain but still we thought the worst

Within minutes the sun re-appeared and all looked good,  We had dodged the worst of the rain.  In fact the sky has had some pretty dramatic cloud formation all day some rain leaden and some with accompanying thunder.  Luck for us we dodged all the rain.

Love these cloud formations

Even better at lock 5 two volunteer lockies appeared with two boats coming up which meant the rest of the locks remained in our favour.  Odd that other than two more boats before the locks these were the only boats we met on the move all day.  Perhaps the freshening breeze might have had something to do with that.

Fabulous cloud formation over the aptly named "The cloud" hill

Another darkened sky crossing ahead of us

But we worked the locks in bright warm sunshine

Thats the royal we of course.  I gave Chris a rest at lock 6.

For the rest of the trip we remained bathed in sunshine, they say the sun shines on the righteous :-) Rain clouds moved all around us but somehow we manage to keep clear.

The canal skirts round the cloud for some distance and the view of it is magnificent.  I'd like to go up there one day, the views must be spectacular up there.  The cut out plateau near the summit is the source of the stone blocks quarried to build the Bosley locks.

The cloud now washed with sunshine
 Just before Vaudrey's wharf we came across this gaily coloured boat flying the rainbow gay flag.  Clearly the owners are comfortable and open with their emotions and are happy to show it.  Have to say the boat sparkled with all sorts of bling and is clearly very well maintained. 

I guess being gay is clearly not a problem for George and Louis.  Good for them I say.

On the approach to Congleton at 3:30pm we found some lovely moorings on an aqueduct to stop for the night.  The sun is shining and the solar panels are working flat out keeping the batteries fully charged.  Now for that afternoon power nap!

Total distance:7.84 miles Elapsed time:5h37m44s Locks:12 Bridges:32 
Average speed:1.39 mph (3.52 lock/mph)