Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Bridge hopping. Sort of...

After the service was completed last Friday, we made the short journey to Barbridge junction and moored up for the night. It is rather busy here and with at least two hire boats with all male, testosterone and alcohol fueled, we did not expect a quiet night...

Wrong!  They were gone very early the next morning, causing ner a ripple, just to prove that you really cannot judge a book by its cover!

Before we moved off, Ali decided to give the starboard side of the boat a clean, having completed the roof and port side a few days previously. All went well until a boat helmed by a middle aged male sped by, causing us to rock somewhat. Ali did let him know, politely, his reply was that he was on "Tickover". Bow locks he was. He turned at the junction and moored up. When we passed him a short while later, we indicated just what tickover was. He was somewhat subdued.

We bimbled on and were soon at Bunbury. A very helpful volocky assisted us down the staircase and we were soon past the crowded hire base into what to me, is one of my favourite sections of canal. It is very scenic, wooded and full of wildlife. Past Iron lock and Beeston Castle soon dominates the skyline.

Beeston Castle

There seems to be more and more Giant Hogweed, it looks stunning but is so dangerous

We moored up just prior to the reopened Shady Oak. It was a beautiful afternoon and so with some maggots left, out with the rod. Caught a few decent perch and one fish which I believe to be a Ruffe?

It was busy here. But, all the boats seemed to turn in the winding hole. It soon became apparent that this was the weekend exodus from Tattenhall marina. Short cruise to the pub, then back onto their mooring. It was noticeable how little shall we say, scuffs in the blacking they exhibited. Not many locks tackled, if any methinks.

Sunday morning was forecast for rain. We had a little, but by late morning the clouds departed and we made the slow journey into Chester past the extensive Golden Nook inline moorings. A chance to gongoozle the various craft though, albeit somewhat tedious.

It did not take us long to get to Christleton. We prefer mooring here rather than in central Chester. The Cheshire Cat is also convenient for food and a drink or two.  As the 48 hour moorings (with rings) were all occupied, we had to use the pins. The ground was a little soft and even with two used, they worked loose during the day. Once again, most traffic turned in the winding hole, therefore passing us twice. Returning to the same marina methinks.

On Monday we walked into the beautiful city of Chester. We even nearly completed the wall, only to be stymied by works closing the famous clock bridge. The Cathedral was also a port of call. Then lunch at the Cheshire Sandwich company. We both had salads and thoroughly enjoyed them. Me a Greek and Ali a Caeser.  Worth looking out for their shop with its small 1st floor cafe.

We spent the rest of the day browsing as you do, and admiring the varied architecture.

It would be rude to leave too early, so we went to the botanist  This is a rather unusual pub, serving out of the ordinary food and good beers. We have been here before and to a branch in the Albert Dock in Liverpool. This made us miss the last bus back, so a taxi was called, costing only slightly more than the bus would have!

what a great idea for a dead tree trunk

On Tuesday, it was hot. We decided to make a visit to the marvellous Chester Zoo. It is perhaps over 40 Years since I last visited, but it remains a wonderful place, so green and well kept with the animals housed in suitable enclosures. Worth the two buses to get there. Even the animals were wilting in the heat and that included the Dromedaries!  Ali had the unenviable distinction of being poo bombed by a fruit bat.

All in all, a marvellous place and well worth the visit. Tickets obtained via the tourist information office are discounted and being a tight arse, this pleased me no end.

Loved this they had ice 'lollies' and obviously loved them

a bit of the canal in the zoo, an CRT exhibit on helping local habitats
(we loved that the water inlet was a leaky gate!)

They were having great fun in the water

Going for a swim 

Had a great time, he even chased the ducks off of the pool 

our sunset last night

Deciding our time was up, we today turned and left Christleton. After a sticky, hot night it was good to get going again, with a breeze fanning us. The humidity level was even higher than in the bat cave at the zoo. We are now moored in...Tattenhall Marina for two nights. We are in need of a wash fest. Ali is off to Northampton this weekend, but we are returning to Chester before she goes and I will sit it out on the bank.

Sorry, but two days in a marina is enough!

22 Miles.
6 broad locks.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Sunshine, hayfever and a lot more boats!

The weather has certainly warmed up since we left our last location at Moore. Both Ali and me are past sufferers of hayfever. Since I pased my 4th decade, this seems to have moderated. But not now! The hot weather has really brought on pollen bloom and both of us are suffering with Sneeze's, sniffles and sore eyes. At least it has been warm.

We had an agenda of sorts as we have booked into the Nantwich canal centre for a service on Friday. Having travelled through the three tunnels and back onto the T&M, we moored for the day at Bramble cuttings, a short way out of Middlewich. Time to get the whirly gig out and finish drying the washing on what was a fantastic summers evening.

The next day soon saw us in Middlewich. Watered up below big lock and then up we went. Many a boat travelling down, less going up so it made an easy flow, aided by some friendly "Volockies". Once past the hire base, time for the turn onto the Wardle canal and Middlewich arm. We fully expected this to be busy, but no, a boat exited the lock as we approached and so we were straight in and up. That must be a first.

A shop stop completed and we bimbled on in glorious sunshine. It is so nice to see once again, boats moving. I think we have seen more in the last few days than throughout our Pennine travels. We moored up for the day just before Aqueduct marina. This really is a beautiful stretch of canal. In fact we like this area so much that we may well tarry a while.

Thursday saw us complete the arm, then turn at Barbridge south. Chatting, we have decided that once the service is completed, Chester and Llangollen really do need revisiting. Yes, we know it will be busy, but after our splendid isolation, we will enjoy that. After all, most people are on holiday, so a great atmosphere.

So we moored just short of Nantwich marina at lunch time and while Ali went shopping, I got the fishing rod out for the first time this year. Quite productive, several good sized Perch, roach and a Moorhen chick!

Not as bad as it sounds. The little blighter swam over the line and got its legs tangled. I managed to haul it in much to its mothers chagrin and untangle it without injuring it. It was soon swimming off none the worse for its adventure, being soundly scolded by mum!

The weather breaks somewhat on Friday, so after the service we may not travel far. At least this gives us the opportunity to make use of the on site launderette and have a supermarket delivery of the more bulky items.

It is so nice to be back on canals with more traffic and narrow locks.

15.5 miles.
8 locks.

Monday, 22 June 2015

It all went downhill, quite literally and figuratively!

Friday was to be our penultimate day on the Rochdale. When we first planned this trip and decided to go clockwise from Waters meet on the Bridgewater, we suspected that the last few days covering our return to Manchester, would be somewhat urban and challenging.

We were correct...

We left our mooring just above the River Irk aqueduct early, at 0630 to be precise. It was a chilly day. Our plan was to hit the twenty locks down to the junction with the Ashton as early as possible. We had also hoped that after contacting Red Bull for the services of a volunteer locky (volocky), one would appear. No such luck. Neither did the volocky who offered his services whilst we were moored in Littleborough turn up. Hey ho, not a problem.

Short chug to the first lock, then the rather strange Grimshaw lane vertical lift bridge. This is key operated, the road bridge lifting on four hydraulic pistons. Of course we reached this at rush hour, much to the chagrin of local motorists. Ali was not fazed one jot!

Another chug and we were in for the relentless slog down the locks. The water quality was by now awful, more like a plastic soup!  Ali fished out numerous items from the locks, including cones and 2 plastic barriers (which we are sure were back in before long). The ubiquitous shopping trolleys we felt rather than saw, mostly.

Failsworth. What can one say. Deals were going on at each lock. We were not in any way threatened, but it just felt rather sinister. On the face of it, quite tidy away from the actual water, but an aura of unpleasantness pervaded, it was not a good experience. This continued all the way down to Dulcie street junction, which we reached by mid afternoon. We were physically, but more so mentally exhausted and so very sad that our entry and introduction to Manchester could be so dispiriting. A left and a short journey up the Ashton, brought us to the peace and security of Telford basin. As this is enveloped by a gated development, after obtaining the code from a resident, we felt safe to leave the boat.

A walk into Manchester enabled us to collect a parcel from Piccadilly post office, containing the ANL fuses for the bow thruster. Well it did when we proved that the package had been signed for at the branch and it was finally "located"...
We deserved a meal out and a drink, so we enjoyed a pizza then back to the boat for a relax.

Saturday dawned wet and cold. We had rather indulged alcohol wise the previous night and so it was not an early start. We didn't even make the locks before we came across a group 'shooting up' under the last bridge on the Ashton Canal.  We arrived at lock 84 as a hire boat was just about to exit. They must have had an early start, perhaps that is why they looked so fraught?

We soon found out just why they did, Piccadilly lock is beneath a building. It is dark, somewhat fetid and thoroughly unpleasant on a good day. With a male prostitute " at work", with a line of customers in the shadows, it is disgusting. They did not miss a stroke as we negotiated the lock, we were invisible, apparently. At the far end the drug dealers and their red eyed customers were evident, it was 10:15 am.  Needless to say, our impression of this end of the Rochdale was not enhanced by this experience. We are broad minded, but, come on, there are boats with children on board, the hire boat we had passed being one, no-wonder the children were inside.

Further down, a rough sleeper had been using the towpath under a bridge as a shelter and someone for their toilet!

We descended the rest of the locks despairing of the future of this part. No wonder so few boats venture up or down this section. Once down, we found a mooring in Castlefield basin. This part of Manchester has a totally different feel. Non threatening and cosmopolitan, world's apart from what is only a few hundred yards away. To sooth our frazzled nerves, we went to for a drink (or two) and a meal.

Sunday was a day of rest. Ali had slipped opening one of the latter gates on the greasy cobbles and injured her arm. After a late start, we walked to the marvelous museum of science and industry and then back to the Wharf for Sunday lunch. The last 29 locks over two days and the environs had really taken it out of us!

Look closely - a different boat causing a bit of a stir

and the one at the back waved as they went past ... 

new signs around

Today, we have bimbled out of Manchester. No locks, fields and trees once out of the urban area and something more, birdsong.

A boat across the cut today, we went to haul it back in and pin it back to the bank, but were surprised to find the owners on board, they were so engrossed in their books they hadn't noticed they had come adrift 

The circuit is worth doing. The scenery cannot be beaten, the payback is the grittier areas dropping into Manchester.  A crew of three (or more) or travel with another boat so the locks can be shared may have made it easier as it is hard work.

So now heading south.  Hoping the weather perks up.  Moored just short of Moore on the Bridgewater.

28.5 miles.
29 broad locks.
1 moveable bridge.