Thursday 24 March

We lost all phone and internet signal on Tuesday morning as we left Wrenbury and headed towards Wales and we’ve only just picked it up again today on our way back.

I opted to steer on Tuesday and the first challenge was to pass through Wrenbury’s Lift Bridge that carries all the village traffic over the canal.

The approach to the bridge is at an angle and the entrance to it is very narrow, placed just beside the Alvechurch Boat Centre’s hire base which is usually busy with people who  stop what they are doing to watch you pass through, and all this  adds a little to the anxiety levels.

Storm went off with our waterways key to operate the bridge controls that trigger the traffic lights and the  barrier mechanism before the bridge starts to rise.

The aim is to get through the bridge as quickly as possible without infuriating motorists too much as they are always in a hurry and without making contact with the sides.  I took a wide swing to the right to get a good line of sight and despite there being a bit of a breeze this morning I managed to pass through without incident.

After that we cruised on through another seven locks before arriving at the Grindley Brook Staircase of three locks.  Here there is a resident lock-keeper on duty who controls the flow of boats up and down.   Today we didn’t need to queue and were able to go straight in.   Even with a lock-keeper on duty we were a bit short of water in the middle lock as I heard the bottom scrape over the cill and struggled to move the boat forward but we made it to the top without any problems and moored up.

I took the opportunity to go off and use the CRT sanitary block where I could enjoy a longer than normal shower with lots of hot water.

In the afternoon we continued on, passing the end of the Whitchurch Arm and through four pedestrian-only lift bridges before mooring up in open countryside for the night near Platt Lane.

After a quiet night, we woke to the sound of hire boats on the move.   They always set off early to take advantage of their week’s hire as most of them aim to reach Llangollen and back in the week.

We moved the boat down to the Whixall Moss Roving Bridge and we winded in the mouth of the Prees branch before mooring up again.   We wanted to explore the branch on foot.  It is navigable as far as Whixalll Marina and still in water through the Nature Reserve.

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Here we came across two swans sitting on nests with their mates hovering nearby to guard against intruders.  We also watched a pair of tree creepers scurrying up a tree in search of insects.

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On our walk back we spotted a mink who paused briefly to look at us before scurrying off into a nearby stream.   Their fur is so dark and their is no wonder that it was once in great demand when you see the characteristics of how it ripples as the mink moves.  Sadly it didn’t linger long enough for us to get a photo.

Once back on the boat we began our return journey, followed by another boat, and we played leap frog with them through the various lift bridges.   By the time we arrived at Brindley Brook we were the lead boat and again we didn’t have to queue for the staircase.   John the lock keeper, renowned for not being particularly chatty, was on good form today and he passed the time of day.  We continued on to Willeymoor Lock where we stopped for the night and treated ourselves to a couple of meat pies at the Tavern there.

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This morning, in an attempt to try to beat the forecasted showers, we were up early.  However, we didn’t beat the showers and having donned waterproofs, we headed back to Wrenbury where we moored up for about an hour so we could pop to the shop.   The showers passed over and we continued on as far as Greenfield Bridge before mooring up mid afternoon in open countryside before the rain began again.  It was nice to see that the Hawthorn is starting to leaf up and the horse chestnut trees are starting to bud.

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