31 December 2015

We are now moored near Telford’s  having moved the boat on Sunday, through the six locks and down to the basin near Telford’s.   We stayed on board that night but since then have been staying at Laura’s.

There are on-going problems at Chemistry Lock with leaking lock gates and boaters are finding it difficult to open the gates as the lock empties faster than it fills.  Thankfully there were two boats coming up just as we arrived and a guy from the CRT had a tow rope fastened to the gates from his truck to help pull the gates open.   Once the gates were open, we passed through without any problem.   This lock is going to be repaired next week as part of the Winter stoppage programme.

The new Waitrose store has opened opposite the Shot Tower and we stopped for a few minutes to pick up a pint of milk – we were disappointed that the contractors haven’t included any mooring rings outside the store – hopefully these will appear very soon.

I steered the boat through the three staircase locks while Storm operated the locks.   This was the first time he’d done the locks here and he was concerned that he’d messed up the water levels but we passed through OK.

I popped back to the boat today to check everything is OK and to make Storm a birthday cake.   We’re celebrating both his birthday and New Year’s Eve back at Laura’s this evening.

 

 

 

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Christmas Day

We started the day with a cooked breakfast and then took Max for a walk round the very pretty village of Christleton before being picked up to go to Laura’s at lunch time.

Before Laura came to pick us up she rang with exciting news to say that Marc had just proposed to her while they’d been out on their morning walk, and she’d accepted! Hurrah!  Another hat to buy.

Our invitation to Laura’s for Christmas Day stipulated that the dress code was Christmas Jumpers.   Max also joined in the spirit of the occasion.

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Once at Laura’s there was much celebrating and a fun afternoon was spent opening prezzies, drinking champers and watching Summer play with all her new toys and charm us with her new winning smile.

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Christmas Dinner was perfect and once Summer was bathed and put to bed we sat down  to watch Skyfall.

 

Christmas Eve

It was a bright sunny morning for the final leg of our journey to Christleton on the outskirts of Chester.

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With no locks to do, I serenaded our journey by playing Christmas Carols on the saxophone. Apparently Max, from his usual vantage point on the roof, was running from one mushroom vent to the next trying to work out where the noise was coming from.

There was just room for us to moor close to the Cheshire Cat.

We then listened to Radio 4’s nine lessons & carols from Kings College Chapel in Cambridge, which really got us in a festive mood, followed by a quiet evening on board.

Tuesday 23 December

Last Wednesday we left Middlewich in a hire car from Enterprise and enjoyed five days staying with James & Ali.

While at home we went to the newly opened East Riding Theatre and saw a fantastic performance of A Christmas Carol.

We also caught up with friends and family and exchanged Christmas Cards and prezzies.   The car was more laden on the return, although the majority of the gifts seem to be labelled for Summer.

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In festive mood we left our mooring in Middlewich early this morning to head to Chester for Christmas. It was so early we needed the headlight on – something we’ve never used in the morning before. It was amazingly mild this morning – 11 degrees, a far cry from last Monday when we needed to break the ice.

 

Breaking the ice last week

    Breaking the ice last week

Eating berries on a mild winter's morning ...

Eating berries on a mild winter’s morning …

The three single locks on the Middlewich Branch were all set in our favour.

We stopped at Barbridge Chandlers for oil and air filters and ten litres of oil before turning right onto the Shroppie. (Storm is hoping to service the boat while we’re in Chester.)

We stopped at Calverley for water and to offload our rubbish.   Just as we were moving off a boat overtook us and I hoped we’d have company for our trip down through the double locks ahead of us.

You may recall I was hoping for something similar the last time we went into Chester back in August. I must be jinxed as I was to be unlucky this time too. The passing boat winded just before the start of the locks at Bunbury, and went back the way they’d come. To add insult to injury, every lock was empty and needed filling before we could go in so it took quite a while at each lock.

We reached the moorings at The Shady Oak, near Beeston Castle, just as the sun was setting.

 

(15 miles and 9 locks)

 

Sunday 14 December

We’ve stayed put in Wheelock today.   I took Max for his morning walk and we found the Wheelock Rail Trail that goes from Alsager to Sandbach.   We picked it up just outside Wheelock and walked about two miles of it before retracing our steps part of the way but then left it at the old station platform and climbed up to street level, passing the two station cottages on the way which had some interesting junk art on the walls. It’s a shame these are hidden from the road as their audience is limited to just those people who leave the trail at this spot.

I made it back in time to listen to Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs and Sarah Millican’s choice of music moved me to tears, particularly her story of walking back down the aisle with her second hubbie to McCartney’s The Frogs Chorus.   I’d never listened to the words before. She said they’d got their guests to sing along and to make all the animal noises.

I then set about giving the inside of the boat a thorough clean from one end to the other – black spaniel hairs get everywhere!

We then all went out for a walk and I showed Storm the interesting route I’d discovered this morning before coming back to the boat for a very late lunch.

The forecasted rain didn’t really materialise today – we’ve had a couple of short showers but otherwise it’s been fairly mild.

The rest of the afternoon was spent being very lazy in front of the fire – a spot of reading and knitting.

Saturday 13 December

Another frosty morning and in exposed places we saw that the canal had a thin veneer of ice on it. Shall we stay or shall we go?   We deliberated over a cooked breakfast and as the sun was shining we decided to go as tomorrow’s forecast suggests rain.   It was noon when we finally left Rode Heath and we expected that most of the ice would have melted by now.

I was doing the locks today and I walked with Max between most locks so he had fun running backwards and forwards.

I don’t know what the collection noun is for a lot of santas but at Malkin Golf Club about twenty of them on a bike ride, dismounted from bicycles and peered over the bridge at me, said, “Ho Ho Ho” got back on their bikes and cycled off again with the red robes flowing behind them.

It was 3 o’clock by the time we reached Wheelock and decided to call it a day.

(4 miles, 14 locks

Friday 12 December

Awoke at 8 and by 10 am we’d consumed a full English, washed up and put everything in its place and were underway.

We passed through Hall Green stop lock which ensures the Macclesfield Canal water doesn’t escape into the Trent & Mersey by lowering boats just one foot. From here we crossed the Red Bull Aqueduct over the Trent & Mersey Canal and then turned left down to Hardings Wood Junction.   Here we took another sharp u-turn left to head back towards Middlewich along the Trent & Mersey.

We passed through 3 locks first before we paused to top up with water at Red Bull Services.

Afterwards Max enjoyed helping Storm with a further 9 locks over a two mile stretch that lowered us 82 ft 5” overall.   We arrived into Rode Heath just before 2pm and moored up.

Apart from a brief sleet shower as we turned onto the T&M today the sun shone all day.

 

Our Rode Heath mooring in the sunshine

Our Rode Heath mooring in the sunshine

Another dozen mince pies baked this afternoon and a shepherds pie cooked.

(5 miles, 13 locks)