Thursday, 12 July 2018

Deva Victrix by way of a castle.

We got up early, well it was for us, because we had a plan!

We are aiming to reach Chester after the weekend. The reasoning being that moorings will be easier to come by. The long pound into the city contains a marina and extensive linear moorings. Past experience has taught us that the normal pattern of many of the residents, is to leave the marina/moorings on a Friday evening or Saturday morning, cruise to the winding hole near the Shady Oak, or Chester above the locks, turn and moor up to enjoy the pubs. Not many seem to negotiate the locks. So normally, weekends can be very busy.

So, by getting an early start, we could drop down the three Beeston locks, and hopefully grab a mooring near the Shady Oak, before the fleets arrived.

But... It is very quiet. never know. So off we set. Descending broad locks on your lonesome is somewhat easier than ascending. It's far less turbulent for a start and using one gate does ameliorate some of the effort. Down stone lock, then the iron lock a short distance down. This was constructed in cast iron due to the instability of the ground I think. After that, a short chug along a very scenic pound, paralleling the infant River Gowy.

Next and last for us, Whartons lock. A bit of a bugger to fill due to leakage from the bottom gates, but we were down and our intended moorings in view. Busy...nope! The only boat moored when we arrived was a CRT work boat. So we took our pick of the moorings. Is it the weather, the World cup? Who knows, but there is very little moving.

The main motive for mooring here was not the pub, believe it or not! It's the location. Beeston castle sits atop a quite sheer sandstone outcrop and from its summit on a good day, gives a fantastic panoramic view.  From the Welsh hills, to the Pennines, the Wreakin to the Dee estuary.

It was however, very warm, but we set off along part of the Sandstone way, to the visitors centre at the base of the hill. It is a location visited often when I was a lad. The photographs speak for themselves.  Fantastic.

From the bottom

nearly there

last push

the boat is down there somewhere

Yep - zoom

 Stunning views

and as the sun sets

A stop at the cafe near the entrance on our way back, then to the boat. Aerial up, telly tuned and all good for THE match...

On the subject of the hot weather, we are so very glad that our roof is painted a light colour. This reflects the sun, rather than absorbing the heat, making the boats interior a lot cooler, especially with the side hatches and bow and stern doors open. So we were cool even watching the game.

So. England won! To celebrate, we went to the nearby Shady Oak. Shall we say, not somewhere we will be stopping on the way back!

Sunday.  Forecast to be the warmest day of late. No locks to weary us, just the long slog towards Chester.  It's a very pleasant area. The canal is broad, bridges wide. We made a fairly early start to beat the  heat. All went well. Very little in the way of boat traffic though, even Tattenhall Marina seemed quiet.

Then the interminable slow slog past the moorings at Golden Nook. For those not familiar with this location, I will explain. The farm on the none tow path side of the canal grows narrowboats, cruisers and the odd wide beam. Over the years,the moorings have expanded and now the linear extent of these moorings must be in the order of a mile and a half!

spot the buzzard (there are lots about)

You are expected to pass any moored boat with consideration. Slowing before you approach to barely tick over engine speed. This we always do. But when passing such a length of moored boats, it does make for a tedious passage.

But. As a diversion, to break up the tedium, a boat moored up on the towpath side, had come adrift. The canal was blocked. The "Nappy pin" holding the stern rope was sort of attached , but the pin holding the bow had been pulled out. The bow was virtually touching the moored boats opposite, but residents were unconcerned.  Perhaps because they don't move much.

Ali jumped off our boat, whilst I semi secured ours. With no one home, we managed to eventually pull it into the bank and re secure it. The front pin was bent , suggesting some force had pulled it out. Sods law, by the time we had sorted this, two boats appeared behind us, so we waved them through.

Anyway. The sun beat down. We passed through Waverton, dodging a wayward hire boat manned by a saga crew and then onto Christleton, on the outskirts of the city. About four boats moored up! Unheard of here, usually so busy. So we moored up and had a walk through the village. Doing our homework via Google, it appeared that The Ring of Bells is now the pub of choice over the Cheshire Cat. We just had to drop in for a reccy and a quick pint.

Back on the boat. It's an age thing I suppose, combined with the heat, but I sort of had a snoozet.  Even snored according to Ali, but I doubt that...

Then a splendid meal in the Ring of Bells, rounded off the day.

Monday morning. Now we had planned for an early ish start, in order to clear the locks before it got too hot! But not that early. 0640hrs, woken by the sound of an engine running at high revs. Got up and realised it was our neighbour. The rule is no running engines 2000-0800. Really tis common decency though. About 0715 the lady residing on this boat, switched off and left for work looking at her T shirt. Now these are 48 hour moorings. So why is she using them if she works locally? Anyway, we were up. So we got ready and set off. Five broad locks first, then a stop for a Waitrose shop, the store conveniently having its on 2 hour moorings.

Then we bimbled through, below the famous wall, and towards the Northgate staircase. By Jove, we spied a volocky ( volunteer lock keeper ). As we approached, he swung open a top gate in welcome, so in we slotted. A bit of water level adjustment and we were on our way down.

Big locks here, heavy gates and many winds of the paddle to raise or lower same. But we were grateful for the help.

Into Tower wharf. This area is both historic in canal terms, but needing some TLC when we were last here. It is now a lot more pleasant after the redevelopment . We topped up the water, emptied the cassettes then moored up. Whilst we had lunch, wash load done.

The canal from the wall

By 1400, we were off into this beautiful city. Basically, we have walked the city centre and The Rows and also completed the wall walk, the complete circumference. Ali also walked between the first five locks of the day, so I dare not complain of sore feet!

In the evening, as if we had not had enough walking, we went back to the city centre, for a fantastic meal at one of our favourite places, The Botanist. Never miss it when visiting Chester.

On Wednesday, we had an overland excursion to Liverpool, thanks to Merseyrail . Just over £5 Each, return! See separate photo heavy post. Fan bloody tastic.

We returned to the boat to meet Andy, the other half of the formidable Mrs Owens and enjoyed a shandy or two at the Thomas Telford. Thank you Andy for taking the time to come and see us water gypsies. Lovely to see you again.

Wednesday we got up early, for us anyway. Reversed across to the water point and did the necessary.  Then to the bottom of Northgate staircase for about 0830. There was a volocky on duty and a CRT work boat descending. We were soon into the bottom lock and made a slow but very gentle ascent of these deep chambered locks.

After passing through the veritable sandstone gorge atop which sits the city wall, we moored in the town centre, almost. After a quick shop in M&S, it was off to the cathedral for our 11am appointment. We had booked to do the "Rooftop " tour. We met our guide Matt off the cloister. There were only five of us in total, so it was quite intimate . Then, it was up stairs and passageways not normally accessible to the public, with Matt giving a very informative and amusing narration of the history.

Suffice to say, the views from the top of the tower were splendid. A tour not to miss when in Chester.

So back to the boat after an essentials shop in Tesco. Moored just behind it so an easy carry for the booze, I mean, bottled water! Then we were off. Going uphill now and these broad locks need a little more respect ascending, due to the turbulence from the ground paddles. We were alone, so no second boat or crew to make the passage easier, but we took it steady and arrived in Christleton once again . Match night... Quick meal in the Cheshire Cat, then tv on.

Shame about the result, but the boys done well.

So that's it. Farewell Chester, always a pleasure.

Total distance 15 miles 20 broad locks.

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