Since Wednesday we’ve been moored in the same place and although we planned to move yesterday, after a disturbed night’s sleep on Thursday due to strong winds and heavy rain, we decided to stay put another day as the weather didn’t improve as dawn broke. Instead we caught the bus into Chester to buy some stain and varnish for the boat.
In the evening, I made some bread and this got the thumbs up. We also watched a couple of DVD’s – ‘Sleven’ and ‘In Time’ – two of our better choices. (James – we’ll return Sleven in the New Year!)
This morning the sky was a brilliant blue and the sun was shining! Amazing how two days can be so different. We moved up to Calverley sanitary station and emptied the bins and filled up with water etc. We also used the showers there which were superb with very hot water (a luxury, as some of them tend to be just warmer than luke warm).
Then we moved onto Bunbury Locks, a staircase lock where there is no pound between the two locks. We went down through here alone as there were no other boats in sight. The last time we went down we did the Bunbury Shuffle. There were two boats coming up and we all entered the locks at the same time (us going down and the other two coming up). The shuffle occurred when the gate opened between the two locks, when the water levels are the same. One of the pair coming up moved along side us in the upper lock and the other boat shuffled sideways in the bottom lock to allow us to move alongside them, and then the boat that had moved first alongside us, shuffled sideways to allow the other to move into the upper lock beside them (a bit like square dancing!)
We also passed through two newly refurbished locks at Beeston which only re-opened on Thursday having closed on 4 November. In total six locks later we moored up near Beeston Castle which we plan to visit tomorrow, weather permitting.
It is comforting to see other boats around with smoke wafting from their chimneys.
We filled up with water yesterday and moved off to moor up in the countryside.
Yesterday afternoon we walked with Max along the tow path for a couple of hours as it was a lovely, mild Autumnal day with hardly a breath of wind, and weak sunshine casting really long shadows. On our return I made a cottage pie for tea and undid all the afternoon’s good work by making some scones which I’m sure won’t last long!
Today was a day for hobbies – Max chose swimming to escape my saxophone playing so I reverted to knitting. Storm did more work on his locker tops.
I’m sorry if you have been logging on frantically over the weekend for an update but we’ve been on dry land since Wednesday evening (20th), staying at Laura’s while we babysat.
Well our best laid plans were a little delayed as the order at the chandlers didn’t arrive on Tuesday as planned. We finally left Middlewich last Wednesday morning, still minus our fan belt which they promised to post on to us, in brilliant sunshine but an hour later we were being sandblasted by hailstones resulting in a healthy pink complexion by teatime.
Along the Middlewich Arm we went straight through the three narrow locks (the last time we went through these we had to queue as this route is very popular in the summer) and arrived at Barbridge Junction at 3pm. It is quite busy here with lots of boats moored up permanently and we decided to turn left towards Nantwich to look for a mooring as we needed to be close to the road so we could be picked up easily.
We were lucky and found a space although the mooring sign suggested 48 hours max. We realised how cold our hands were as we struggled to tie up. Mugs of hot soup soon helped thaw out the fingers. After a brief discussion we decided that as we would return to the boat over the weekend, we could move it after 48 hours or so if it proved to be a problem but the waterways are fairly quiet a this time of year.
Storm planned to make some new locker tops over the weekend as the damp has got into our front ones and they are now quite rotten. I’m referring to the external tops that form the seats at the front of the boat under which we store our coal and logs.
We purchased wood in B&Q on Saturday and brought the new tops back to the boat on Sunday while we had use of the big car and we’ve returned to the boat at lunchtime today, shopping first at Morrisons for fresh provisions.
After a quick sandwhich we cast off in the lovely sunshine and headed towards Hurleston Junction (the start of the Llangollen Canal) and turned the boat around, first making use of the sanitary station there. I got the binoculars out as there were two birds that caught my eye, a Buzzard sitting on the fence of the Hurleston Reservoir and the other sat in the top of a tree, which was unfamiliar and having trawled through my bird book, I think was a Shrike.
We headed back towards Barbridge Junction and moored up outside The Olde Barbridge Inn. Their Monday ‘special offer’ dinner menu tempted us inside.
We’ve spent the weekend moored by the Big Lock and the Big Lock Pub, in Middlewich and haven’t moved far from the fire. I forgot to add more coal to it before we went to bed on Saturday night and I couldn’t revive it yesterday morning so Max helped me clean it out.
We had visitors yesterday when our daughter Laura, Marc and baby Summer came for lunch.
Today we moved the boat up through four locks and are now moored on the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal, having left the Trent & Mersey Canal behind.
Our travels through the locks were not straight forward. I steered the boat into the first lock and Storm closed the lock gates and the rear sluices behind me and started to fill the lock with water from the pound above by opening the front sluices. However, before the lock was full, the pound above ran out of water and there was insufficient water in the lock and I couldn’t get out. Each lock has a ‘cill’ which is a piece of stone that the lock gates sit on and there is usually about four foot of water above the cill. Not on this occasion and Storm had to let water out early from the lock above to flood the pound. I edged forward and at one point my bow was sitting on the cill and the water was going down in the lock, due to leaking lock gates, behind me, meaning that the stern was starting to be lower than the front (not a good position as boats have been known to sink because of this problem. I got off the boat and Storm hurried to let more water out of the lock above us to provide additional water. Slowly the water rose and I’m glad to say the boat floated out of the lock. In all the excitement (slight panic) we forgot to take photographs!
I’ve just finished reading Shane Spall’s book ‘The Voyages of The Princess Matilda as Seen on BBC4″ and there are quite a lot of similar stories between her boating adventures and ours!
We are staying in Middlewich until tomorrow afternoon as we’ve placed an order for boat parts at the chandlers so Storm can carry out his regular boat service and change the various filters etc in the engine bay.
Under the terms of our licence we can stay in any parish for two weeks and as we wish to be in Chester for Christmas which is not too far away, we are only moving when we need to.
A disturbed night’s sleep due to the wind knocking the boat against the bank and the rain beating on the roof, although by 8am it had quietened down when I took Max for a walk along the towpath. I returned to find Storm cooking breakfast in honour of HRH’s 65th birthday
After a lazy morning, listening to music loudly through our lovely new Bose wireless speaker (thank you again to all my work colleagues for this fabulous leaving gift) we moved the boat along to the Anderton sanitary station to fill up with water and empty out our rubbish.
I have been asked what do we do for services – so here you go…
The distance between sanitary stations varies as do the services they offer. Services offered may be a water tap, rubbish disposal, elsan disposal and/or sewage pump out, and some offer showers with hot running water and washing machine facilities although the latter are becoming quite rare due to the cost of repairing mechanical failures. [Our boat is designed with elsan cassettes as pump out facilities are costly and harder to find than elsan points. We have a water tank on board that holds 580 litres and filling this can take some time, especially when you get a tap that has little pressure and so we try to use water sparingly. We also have a washing machine on board which uses quite a lot of water so we only put a wash on when we know the tank is full.
As the weather was not brilliant today, we only motored on for about another three miles and moored up in open countryside but near a pub and spent the afternoon catching up with chores. We will frequent the pub later.
We left Runcorn in sunshine and headed back towards Preston Brook and then turned right towards Northwich and onto the Trent & Mersey Canal at Dutton Stop Lock, our only lock of the day. The water level in this lock varies by about 6″ from full to empty and it was built at the request of the Bridgewater Canal Company to stop the Trent & Mersey Canal Company pinching its water.
We passed through three tunnels today: Preston Brook 1239 yards, Saltersford Tunnel 424 yards, and Barton Tunnel 572, all of which operate a one way system and we ‘d to wait about 20 minutes before we could enter the first on the hour and the second on the half hour. The third tunnel just asks that you check it’s clear before entry, which isn’t as easy as it sounds because it’s quite crooked and you’ve to be lined up with the tunnel entrance before you can see through.
The temperature dropped noticeably at lunch-time although we don’t think its cold enough for the thermals yet.
We also passed the site of the 2012 canal breach which closed the canal for about six months and cost about £1.5m to repair.
There’s quite a dramatic clip on You Tube showing the breach
We spent the night at Anderton next to the Anderton Boat Lift that takes boats from the Trent & Mersey down to the River Weaver. This is now a major tourist attraction with all the associated entry turnstiles, information centre, manicured gardens and entry fee … the first time I saw it in 1985 it was just a rusting structure that seemed forgotten and you could walk right up to it without paying good money for the pleasure.
A tasty dinner of liver and bacon casserole, and a DVD followed.
We woke to a fine and sunny morning. We tried to have a lie in but Max had other ideas so we got up and I carried on unpacking. Storm undertook some essential maintenance in the engine bay where he discovered that the bilge pump, which keeps the engine bay dry, had stopped working. This allowed him to use his Draper wet and dry vacuum cleaner for the first time which proved to be a big success.
By 11am we were ready to leave Preston Brook and went to settle up with Norma to pay our mooring fees for the last five weeks and for the maintenance they’d carried out on our behalf as they’d repaired our stove. We paid a brief trip to the chandlers and bought a flue brush so that we can clean the solid fuel stove chimney properly.
We turned the boat around using rope and pole – Storm holding the stern rope on the bank while I poled the boat round from the front, so as not to cause too much disturbance to the neighbouring boats and once facing in the opposite direction we started the engine and headed off down the Runcorn Arm.
The arm is quite rural for much of its 5 mile length and in the morning sunshine the trees provided us with a beautiful display of Autumn colours, and in the slight breeze the leaves were falling like confetti.
We arrived into Runcorn at about 1pm and moored up outside the Arts Centre as invited by the towpath board to explore the delights of Runcorn. The Arts Centre building itself was not an architectural gem although its terrace afforded us a tempting view of the Runcorn Bridge that spans the River Mersey and the Manchester Ship Canal.
We walked underneath along the Runcorn promenade and marvelled at the engineering delights of the bridge.
We continued our walk and headed back into town and came across the line of the old nine locks that used to lower barges from the Runcorn Arm into the River Mersey (before the building of the Manchester Ship Canal). We called in at the butchers, visited the market, Iceland and the Co-Op for fresh meat, fruit & vegetables and returned to the boat for a rest.