Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Lock free, but slow progress.

Well, we had a somewhat leisurely start. Despite the two hire boats that arrived late in the day, then we're up chatting on the bank at 0715hrs. It was a lovely morning, they are on holiday and obviously enjoying themselves.

But we, chilled. After nine, well after actually, we showered and decided a wash load was a good idea. So travel power and washer on. We were moored only a 100 yds from a water point, with a hot day forecast, so a good move.

Washing done, we watered up and just before midday, we were off. In some ways not the wisest of moves. Mad dogs and Englishmen and all that! It was hot. And our journey today involved passing extensive linear moorings. But it also had sections of shady cuttings, just not enough!

On the face of it, this section of the Shroppy, lock free, is rather boring. But the magnificence of the engineering involved to make it so, is understated. The canal maintains its level course, by deep cuttings and massive embankments. These are now tree shrouded, thus camoflauging the extent of the engineering ingenuity. So, whilst this level section appears somewhat boring, think of the work involved in its construction and it is anything but!

Probably one of the most photographed bridges on the system
 (well you just have to don't you!) 

What makes it something of a drag, is the extensive linear moorings, especially around High Offley. Miles of moorings, passed in the heat at tickover. Some great views though across Shropshire.

So we prodded on.

After passing the renowned Anchor Inn, we could at least increase speed a little. We were now entering Grub street cutting. In parts, a narrow channel cut through the bedrock. Not a lot of depth here, especially when you are forced towards the bank by centre channel hoggers . But we passed the test and moved on.

It was odd. Passing through Double culvert bridge it was almost as if we were once again on a river, with a considerable flow. The reason soon became apparent when the bow wave of the Norbury wharf trip boat hit us!

Rounding the bend, he appeared at speed. Now they say, you should never create a breaking wash on a canal. Will somebody please tell that to Norbury Wharf! After the bow wave passed us, we bobbed up and down before hitting his turbulent wake! Business to run, so sod you lot seems the mantra. I pointed to the wake he was creating to the steered, but I don't suppose he could hear me over his labouring engine!

I posted this to Norbury wharf FB.

'I fully appreciate that you run a canal based business in somewhat constrained times, but please, show a little consideration for the infrastructure and other boaters.

Today at about 1430, we were travelling south between Double culvert and High bridges. Your trip boat had both a bow wave that almost stopped us and a wash that would destroy the bank. Show your fellow boaters and customers respect for the waterway environment please.'

We stopped on the visitor moorings at Norbury junction. The trip boat did slow upon passing moored boats, so credit due. But, why so fast when you are showing customers the slow pace of canal life, other than revenue?

Chilled out, walk and then to the Junction Inn for a meal. ok, but not in any way a gastropub!

There must be something in the water around Norbury!

We left our mooring and watered up. Then onto the Shelmore embankment. This is monumental, giving fantastic views West, glimpsed through the trees. It's quite wide, but not that deep, especially towards the banks, were the "Shroppy shelf"exists to trap unwary boaters.

We were travelling about a quarter mile behind another boat, both keeping a steady unhurried pace. All was good with the world.

Then we hit a wave. The cause of this appeared around a slight bend. An ex working boat, hogging the central channel, but more pertinantly, travelling at speed!  Now we know these boats are deep drafted and need the centre of the channel. That is not a problem. But his speed was. He made absolutely no effort to slow as we passed, causing us to pitch and yaw, hitting the bottom as he drew the water from beneath us. His wash then dealt the final blow, so much so that kitchen drawers slid open.

What was that all about then? It's just pure arrogance and bad manners. We never got the name of the boat, as we were clinging on for dear life as he passed!

Then calm...

The chap ahead of us had pulled in for water at Gnosall and he also remarked about the same reckless boater as we chugged past him. This is a pretty place, the moorings well cared for. Leaving the village, you pass through the impressive Cowley tunnel. Only 81 yds long, but hewn from the stone. Then into another very straight cutting with some fine stone bridges  crossing it.

As moorings became more frequent, causing us to slow our pace, so did boat movement heading north. It appears finally to be getting a little busier. We sort of got behind a small extended convoy of three. We kept in this for the next few miles into Wheaton Aston. The two boats ahead of us moored up, whilst we pulled onto  the empty service dock beside bridge 19. On the road above sits a garage. By means  of a very long hose, boaters can fill up with red diesel. This place is renowned for being the cheapest source on the system and is normally very busy. We were lucky to slot straight in and fill her up, 68.9 per litre! Once completed, we reversed back a little and settled onto a mooring. It was early afternoon, but rain was forecast and having stayed dry thus far, we decided not to push our luck.

It didn't rain until the evening, then not much!

Not sure how they see over the plants but it does look lovely

& this cheeky chappy was tucking into the hawthorn berries

15 miles, 1 tunnel (Cowley)

Monday, 16 July 2018

Heading South.

We are not sure that this is a wise move. We have really enjoyed our time in the Northwest and Wales, but it is time now for pastures new.

The drought has finally broken here, with some heavy overnight downpours. This will not do the river levels any harm and as the canal system hereabouts sources it's water from the River Dee, should maintain them as well.

But, further south?

Due to the stoppages, particularly the Middlewich breach, our only option is to repeat our journey, navigating the Shropshire Union canal  once again. No hardship, apart from the interminable Golden Nook moorings! Over half an hour passing these extensive linear moorings becomes a tad wearisome at just over tick over. Then a farewell to Beeston castle and up the broad locks. A tad tricky these ascending alone.

Lots of buzzards in these parts

We did share a lock with a duck, she stayed in and had a ride up, not sure if its the same one that was in the previous lock whilst we emptied it and then came paddling out when the gate was opened.

We decided to stop just above Tilstone lock. A very pretty setting, with wooded slopes and the river Gowy just below us. There was ner a breath of wind, but the sky was brooding. A good spot for kingfisher spotting though, we saw several darting below the trees, too quick to photograph though. From previous trips, we noted that the invasive Giant Hogweed is common in the upper Gowy valley, its course isolated from normal footfall. Awful stuff if skin comes into contact with it, but it has a structural beauty none the less. The picture shows the invader, with its harmless native cousin in the foreground.

We were not far below the last of the broad locks for us for a while. This is Bunbury staircase. Below this sits the Anglo Welsh hire base. The hirers almost exclusively head for the Llangollen and who can blame them, but they miss out on a beautiful stretch of canal towards Chester and the city itself. (Barring Golden Nook!)

After something of a dearth of service points in Chester, we are heading now for the land of plenty. So, washer on before we untied, then a second load after the staircase.  Once again, we were assisted by a volocky, so an easy passage up.

At Calvaley,  we replenished the water and disposed of the waste, then on towards Nantwich. I must admit, the tiller twitched at Hurleston junction, but we have spent a goodly time on the Llangollen already. Tempted though! But onwards went we.

Richard & Ruth heading for the Junction , sorry to have missed you guys, next time!

We managed to stop on the 24 hour moorings near the iconic wooden horse near Nantwich basin entrance. This was so we could make use of the tumble dryers situated in the launderrette in the basin. Whilst this was tumbling, coffee and cake in the adjacent cafe filled the bill nicely, the back to the boat and off.

Saw N.B Annie (Dave & Ange) moored on the embankment, but no sign of life aboard. Enjoy the Golly both, pity to have missed you.

We really wanted to get to Audlem, but the clouds were rolling in. Up two narrow locks. Should we chance a soaking or let discretion dictate?  The deciding factor was the lack of boats on the normally popular Cool Pilate moorings. Loads of space, so we moored up. Sods law meant it stayed dry !

Perhaps being Friday 13th?
Triskaideka day...

At least Ali got to watch the fantastic Anderson v Isner  marathon semi final at Wimbledon, and the other semi, Djokovic v Nadal, to the end of play for the day.

Saturday dawned bright, not that we actually saw the dawn, but you know what I mean. Others had moved on before us, leaving us virtually alone on the moorings, unheard of at this location.

Initially, our immediate plan was to ascend all of the locks in the Audlem flight, 15 of them. Being narrow locks, they are not too difficult, but it does become a little tedious and repetitive after a time. It was getting hot when we arrived at the bottom of the flight. One boat was just exiting the flight on our arrival and they said they had not seen another boat descending thirteen of the locks from their overnight mooring.

So off we went, up two locks then debated whether to stop below or above the third lock for water and to empty the waste. All quiet, so we opted to go up. Sods law, a boat appeared whilst we ascended the lock and slotted into the service bay otside the Shroppy Fly pub. So we emptied whilst sitting in the lock as tother boat was on the only water point. No problem though, as we only wanted to top up and there are plenty of points ahead.

I would think the next ten locks were in our favour, so we made good time. We then met two  boats descending. Now we really wanted to watch the Wimbledon semi final between Djokovic & Nadal. This was on at 1300. We had time to move to the bottom of the Adderley lock flight, moor up, tune in and prepare lunch all for 1255!

Great match, could have gone either way.

It was nearly 1600 when we pulled the pins and began the flight. Only five locks and we saw not a soul. A beautiful late afternoon, seemed a shame not to enjoy it, so we carried on. It remains eerily quiet boat wise. We passed straight through Market Drayton, not a Shropshire jewel for us, then we reached the very picturesque Tyrley flight, hewn out of the bedrock. Only another five locks!

Up we went,  somewhat more slowly now, but again without seeing another boat . Probably because of the lack of lock use, the byewashes were fierce, throwing the boat as you approached the lock mouth. At the top,  we used the slowest tap on the system to top up. So slow that a hire boat appeared behind us!

The final leg for the day was passage through Woodseaves cutting. The canal is cut into a hill, with steep wooded slopes. The offside is somewhat overgrown, giving the impression that it's only wide enough for one boat. Two can pass, but the one North bound would be in the foliage. We saw ner a boat though and arriving at Cheswardine bridge, we slotted into one of the last mooring spaces. It was nearly 2000hrs by then and after eleven miles and 25 locks in the day, we were ready to rest.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Ferry cross the Mersey.

A quick trip back to my home town, via the railway from Chester, the Ferry across the Mersey being our intention and a wander around the docks. No way of arriving at the moment by our own boat. We loved every moment. Let the photos speak for themselves.

This picture has been done using 15000 jelly beans