Thursday, 30 June 2016

On the Trent & Mersey Canal going south

Fresh water mussels on a lock wall
Where would you rather be.....

Here on the M6
 Or here looking in the opposite direction..

After going nowhere yesterday, today has been our longest day on the move so far this year.  We set off early at 8am, went through Wardle Lock to the junction with the Trent & Mersey Canal and started on our way south.  The scenery in this part of Cheshire is mostly very rural, pleasant enough, but not particularly attractive.  The canal starts off straight and wide but just outside Middlewich turns into a typical meandering Brindley canal.

However despite what the northern Trent & Mersey may have missed in some departments, what it doesnt have is a shortage of locks. By the time we stopped out in the countryside south of Sandbach exhausted after 6.5 hours travelling we had ascended 18 locks.  Fortunately we didnt have to wait at any of them as there are relatively few boats on the move and many of the locks are paired which doubles the chance of a lock being set in your favour.

We are now a day ahead of schedule again and so well set up should the rains return.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Rain stopped play

Wet weather exactly as forecast so we havent moved all day.  Tomorrow is looking better so we can look forward to a lengthy cruise then.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

We get to Middlewich before the rain

The weather forecast continued to show heavy rain from 1pm and we were running out of groceries.  So there was little choice but to start off as soon as possible and make for Middlewich, a journey of about 4 miles and 1 lock.  There we could moor, walk to the supermarket, buy 3-4 days of provisions and be back on board before the rain started.  Everything worked to plan although the rain turned up about half an hour late and has continued most of this afternon.  We are resigned to staying in Middlewich tomorrow as the forecast is even worse.

Forgot to mention - today we saw our first kingfisher of the year, a flash of electric blue flying down the canal ahead of us about half way through the journey.

And another PS - having just turned on our wifi I noticed another nearby router: "MI6 Surveillance Van No. 5"!

Monday, 27 June 2016

Towards Middlewich

Densie moored on the hillside near Church Minshull
We are now in the next phase of our holiday travelling from Hurleston near the junction of the Shropshire Union  and the Llangollen Canal across Cheshire along the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union to the junction with the Trent and Mersey Canal at Middlewich.  Today was forecast to be dry and tomorrow wet so we planned to make the complete journey in one go.  However once we arrived at lunchtime at the lovely moorings at Church Minshull with extensive views over the wooded contryside we decided to moor up for the day.  In any case we are 1.5 days ahead of our plans and so have plenty of time to stop if the fancy takes us.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Off the Llangollen, back on the Shropshire Union

Wrenbury Church Tower

Wrenbury Church Tower
 Apologies for the lack of a blog yesterday.  After 2 days with no or very poor internet connection we are back in civilisation with a good service.  We only needed to travel for 2 hours yesterday and arrived at Wrenbury at lunchtime.  After eating we walked the couple of miles into the village, bought a cake, and looked round the moderately interesting church.  The photos show mediaeval carvings on the church tower.

Waiting for the next lock at the top of Hurleston Locks with distant views of the Penines

This morning we set off at 8:50 and moored at the Alvechurch Boat Hire Centre by the Wrenbury electrically operated lift bridge for a 250 hour oil change.  An hour later we weere able to leave continuing to cruise down the Llangollen Canal.  We reached the end of the Llangollen Canal at the bottom of the 4 Hurleston Locks and moored up for the night at 14:20.  The day and been dry, cool and breezy - pleasant boating weather.  Within minutes of us stopping it started to rain

Friday, 24 June 2016

Back to Grindley Brook

We are booked in for a 250 hour engine oil change at Alvechurch Boat Centre in Wrenbury on Sunday so it's a couple of easy days cruising to get to the nearby mooring by tomorrow (saturday) evening.  As rain was forecast for later today we set off early at 8:45 and after a surprisingly quick passage descending the 3 staircase locks and 3 normal locks at Grindley Brook we moored soon after the bottom lock at 10:50.  The forecast rain duly started just as we finished mooring and didnt finally stop til mid afternoon so we stayed here for the rest of the day.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Continuing back down the Llangollen

Moored in the countryside near Whitchurch
We finished our shopping in the morning and then set off down the canal in glorious weather.  Nothing new to report, much the same as when we cruised in the opposite direction late last week.  We moored at 14:00 in a pleasant isolated area with only mediocre internet connectivity.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Back on the Llangollen, moored at Ellesmere

 A couple of pictures from yesterday's visit to the restoration site that speak for themselves:

And now todays blog:

End of navigation on the Weston Arm
We had an excellent meal at the Queens Head last night with very good local beer - highly recommended.

This morning we left the Montgomery and started our journey back down the Llangollen.  After leaving Queens Head soon after 9am we arrived back at the Weston Arm at 10:30 and met three other boats also planning to leave the Montgomery via the Frankton locks at lunchtime.  As there is little room for mooring at the locks we stayed put until close to the time we were due there.  This gave us the opportunity to fill up with water, have an early lunch and pay a quick visit to the end of the Arm.  The Arm formed part of a grand scheme around 1800 to create a canal from the Dee at Chester to join the Severn at Shrewsbury. Having built the canal from Chester and what now forms main part of the Llangollen Canal the plans were abandoned at the time the canal had reached Weston. The route from Chester to the Severn was actually created some 30 years later with the construction of the Shropshire Union Canal.  The photograph shows a 100 yard section in water but without navigation access and seems to be maintained as a nature reserve for water plants.  Beyond this anything that remains is hidden beneath thick and inaccessible woodland.

Once the other boats had left the Weston Arm moorings we followed them to Frankton.  Here we had an hour or so wait at the bottom of the locks whilst the boats in front ascended the locks and the lock keeper allowed two boats down the staircase.  Once through the locks we turned right at the junction to go down the Llangollen to moor an hour later back at Ellesmere.

Our plan is to return to the Shropshire Union Canal and then cut across country to the Trent & Mersey Canal at Middlewich.  We dont believe there will be any further easy opportunity for major shopping until we get to Middlewich and so we need all provisions required for about 5 days.  The long life stuff we bought today, we will go back to the supermarket tomorrow morning to buy fresh veg and meat.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

To the end and back again

End of navigation - Redwith Bridge
 In the morning we went out for a 2 mile walk down the towpath.  A quarter of a mile from our mooring there was a lift bridge and a couple of hundred yards beyond that the winding hole that provides the final opportunity to turn before the end of the canal. The formal end of navigation is at Redwith Bridge a quarter mile or so further on but boats dont normally come this far as they cant turn round here.
Rebuilding the canal

One day we will be cruising here

mmm- bit of work to do

Beyond Redwith Bridge there is active restoration.  One section is in water but the level is low - I believe leaks are preventing it being opened.  Beyond here work has started on rebuilding the canal.  However a short distance further on one can see how much how much work still needs to be done with canal which seems to have been cleared in the past now largely hidden by a thick mass of reeds and scrub.  By the end of our walk the canal has almost completely disappeared being little more than a depression at the edge of a field.

Orchid - species unknown
We returned to the boat for lunch and then set off, first going down to the winding hole beyond the lift bridge to turn around and then back up the Aston Locks where I noticed a lovely purple orchid, the only one we have seen on our journey.  We have moored for the night a Queens head just above the top lock and will be having a meal at the pub this evening.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Down the Mongomery Canal

Perry Aqueduct
Red Bridge
Unnamed bridge on narrow section of canal

 It was raining heavily when we awoke and so we didnt leave our mooring until 10:30.  Before setting off down the canal we pushed the boat over to ther other side of the Weston Arm where water taps were available.  Having filled up we went on our way down the Montgomery Canal through the Graham Palmer Lock.  This was a new lock built as part of the restoration as a small adjustment of the original water levels was found to be necessary.  It is named in memory of Graham Palmer, the founder of IWA's Waterways Recovery Group which did much of the work for the initial restoration.

This was followed by a 3 mile stretch of mainly straight sections of canal to the small village of Queens Head, named after the local pub.   The journey was slow as there is a speed limit of 3 mph, which in any case would be difficult to achieve because the waterway is fairly shallow and is narrow in places.  The canal is very attractive with wooded banks, nearby grassy fields and distant vews of the Welsh hills and very peaceful as there are fewer than 10 visiting boats on the whole canal.  The last and only time we ventured down the Montgomery Canal was over 10 years ago.  At that time Queens Head was the end of navigation,  since then restoration has been completed on the next 2.5 miles.

Going into new terroritory, we descended the 3 Aston Locks.  At the last one we met some CRT workmen who were carrying out repairs.  One of the lock walls was leaking and water had excavated a large void from behind the wall.  After patching the wall the workmen were using a small digger to fill the void with clay some of which had been transported to the site down the canal.  From Queens Head the speed limit is reduced to 2 mph, which is as slow as Densie can manage keeping in gear.

We have moored for the night just beyond the small village of Maesbury Marsh, a few hundred yards before the current limit of navigation.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Onto the Montgomery Canal

We have left the Llangollen Canal to spend a few days on the Montgomery  Canal.  This canal built in the late 1700s originally stretched some 35 miles into the countryside of east Wales from Frankton Locks near Ellesmere through Welshpool to Newtown but it fell into disuse and was finally abandoned in 1944 following a catastrophic breach near  Frankton in the 1930s.  In recent years thanks to the efforts of the Inland Waterways Association the first 7 miles have been restored and work continues on the rest.  Since closure it became an important nature reserve and for that reason boat access is limited to 12 boats in and 12 boats out each day.  This requires boat passage through the Frankton Locks to be booked in advance.

Help with descending the Frankton Locks

Densie moored in the Weston Arm
Our booking was for 12:00 today so we left Ellesmere after turning around at the bottom of the arm and headed along the very winding Llangollen Canal to arrive at Frankton at 11:45.  Almost immediately a helpful lock keeper confirmed our booking and assisted us through the initial 2-staircase locks keaving us to complete the remaining 2 individual locks on our own.  We moored in the short section of the disused Weston Arm at 12:45 and had lunch.  Soon afterwards it started raining and so we decided not to move further today - very wise as the rain has continued all afternoon.

Saturday, 18 June 2016


Sadly this eagle owl on an electricity post was plastic

Denise checks that the single width Ellesmere Tunnel is clear

The Ellesmere Arm ends at a small wharf near the town centre
A shorter journey today of some 8 miles with 1 lift bridge as we have booked passage through Frankton Locks onto the Montgomery Canal on Sunday - they are only open 12-2.  More information on that tomorrow.

We had a peaceful, dry, cool but moderately sunny journey through the extensive peat bog nature reserve of Whixall Moss and then onto a much shallower and narrower meandering stretch of canal that took us through attractive woods, past lakes and through a short tunnel to the small town of Ellesmere where we moored at lunchtime in the short arm that leads off the main canal.

We walked into Ellesmere in the afternoon to do some shopping.  We were very pleased to discover that the town's Food and Drink Festival was on this weekend.  So we walked around the two venues and bought some local cheese, smoked trout sausages (!) and cakes.  Walking around the small town centre we found a delicatessen which provided the opportunity to get some more farm cheese.  But for the bulk of our shopping we had to go to the new Tesco, "new"  in the sense that it wasnt there when we were last in Ellesmere over 5 years ago.

17th June - Grindley Bank Staircase Locks

I had no internet connectivity last night so here is yesterday's blog:
Quoiseley Lock - another strong by-wash

Instructions for Grindley Bank Staircase Locks

Ascending Grindley Bank Staircase Locks

The weather is finally improving - barring a couple of very short showers today's was a very enjoyable cruise through quiet but pleasant countryside with a range of different canal experiences.  Soon after leaving our mooring we ascended three isolated locks as yesterday each with strong by wash currents.  In the late morning we reached the Grindley Bank Locks which consist of three individual locks followed by a staircase of 3 further locks. Fortunately the staircase locks were operated by two lock keepers ensuring quick passage and preventing mistakes by  inexperienced canal users.  Staircase Locks require some care and thought - see the photo of the list of instructions.

At the top of Grindley Bank we turned the boat around and reversed to the sanitary station to put our pumpout fixtures adjacent to the bank.  Having emptied our waste tank we turned the boat around again and moored up to the water taps to refill our domestic water tank.  With the first tank empty and the second full we were able to continue a bit further along the bank and stopped again for lunch - bacon sandwiches using up the spare bacon from yesterdays pan fried duck dinner.  Then on again through 3 lift bridges at Whitchurch and another a couple of miles further.  We moored for the night a mile beyond the final lift bridge having cruised for 7 miles through 9 locks and 4 lift bridges in about 5 hours travelling.  Having stopped we are now in sunshine and the sky is largely blue with a few wispy clouds.  A good day's work. 

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Up the Llangollen - Locks, bridges and more rain

Despite earlier weather forecasts predicting continuous rain today when I looked at the Met Office web site this morning there was no really bad weather indicated until the evening.  So another fairly long day cruising looked likely.

Swanley No. 2 Lock, note the bywash on the right

Wrenbury Church Lift Bridge
After setting off at 9am we travelled through the very isolated agricultural countryside, mainly given to pasture.   The canal took us up the two Swanley Locks followed by the 3 Baddiley locks rising  over 30 foot in total. We were helped considerably by the steady stream of boats coming down the locks. After the first, every lock was emptied ready for us to enter.  Beyond Baddiley there are the two lift bridges at Wrenbury, the first being manually operated by a lock windlass and the second electric.  Just through the second bridge the rain started and so we moored up for lunch.  An hour later it was dry so we moved on up the canal.  Only for a further hour however as it began raining yet again. So we moored, this time for the day, in an isolated spot near the small village of Marbury.

The Llangollen Canal canal is unusual in that there is a significant flow as the canal is used to take water from the Dee at Llangollen to a reservoir at Hurleston Junction.  The effect on the boater going upstream is that progress through constrictions such as bridges can require extra power from the engine and each lock has a bywash whereby water can continuously flow down the canal.  As shown in the photograph these bywashes come out below the bottom lock gates and most send a strong flow of water right across the waterway making entry into the lock difficult.  Some skill is required to counter the sideways pressure on the boat and avoid a heavy bang from the boat hitting the lock entrance.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Nantwich and the Llangollen Canal

Finally a rain free day, barring one short shower.  Having set off for Nantwich at 8:40, we descended the two Hack Green Locks and moored at the eastern end of the town which provides our last opportunity for major grocery shopping for several days.  We were pleased to find empty spaces as in the past mooring here had often proved difficult but it seems that CRT have now persuaded some long stayers to move on.
View from Densie after passing over Nantwich Aqueduct
Climbing the Hurleston Flight
It was a mile or so walk from the large canal embankment that goes around Nantwich into the town centre, followed by an hourand a half's shopping and a mile back laden with heavy bags.  It was a pity that we didnt have time to wander around as Nantwich is an attactive place with a good range of small shops, cafes and restaurants with apparently few premises taken over by charities.

Then off again, with lunch on the move, to Hurleston Junction where we turned left off the Shropshire Union onto the Llangollen Canal.  Immediately after turning one is met by the 4 Hurleston Locks which take the canal up 32 foot.  We were aided by a couple of lock keepers who are on duty during the whole of the summer as the Llangollen Canal is very popular and queues can easily build up.  About a mile further on we moored for the day out in the countryside at 3pm after rain started.  It stopped as soon as the boat was roped up but we were tired and werent tempted to move again.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Audlem's 15 locks in the rain

The weather forecast suggested a dry period this morning sufficient for us to descend the 15 lock Audlem flight.  Unfortunately whilst entering the 3rd lock the rain started and continued for the subsequent 2 hours.  The journey, though wet, was fairly easy as there was a steady stream of boats ascending the flight ensuring that almost all locks were set in our favour.  At lock 13 we stopped to fill up with water and then continued down the remaining 2 locks.

Moored at the bottom of Audlem flight - view from the window
When we finally reached the bottom of the flight at lunchtime the rain had stopped but as we were both wet and hungry we decided to moor up for the day.  Luckily as it turned out as within 2 hours there was a torrential  downpour with thunder and lightning.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Adderley Locks

First job in the morning was to prepare a shopping list and make the fairly lengthy walk to Morrisons in Market Drayton. As we were walking back it started to rain but not badly enough to prevent us setting out after lunch wearing waterproof jackets and trousers.  With the right clothing and provided there isnt a strong wind cruising in the rain isnt too uncomfortable.  As we will see locks can present more of a problem.

The light rain continued and became heavier as we approached the top of the 5 Adderley Locks 3 miles from Market Drayton.  So we decided to stop, but by the time we had tied all the ropes the rain had ceased.  So we set off again. At the second lock Denise slipped painfully on the wet stones but fortunately hasnt appeared to suffer any real damage.  The rain started again so we moored for the second time at the bottom of the flight rather earlier than we had hoped.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

A rainy journey to Market Drayton

It was raining when we got up this morning,but it didnt prevent us setting off at 9:15.  Within an hour we had cruised over the mighty Shelmore Embankment, 1 mile long and about as high as the tops of the trees in the surrounding countryside. Problems with its construction meant that it was not completed until 5 years after the death of the engineer of the Shropshire Union Canal, Thomas Telford.  After Shelmore we passed through the busy boating centre of Norbury Junction where there are many useful facilities including a chandlery, sanitary station and a boatyard.  Also there are extensive permanent moorings, some provided in the stub of the abandoned canal to Newport and Shrewsbury.
Waitkng to descend Tyrley Top Lock
Beyond Norbury the canal took us through the impressive Grub Street Cutting, over the second great embankment of the day at Shebdon, similar in size to Shelmore, and then through Woodseaves Cutting.  This was cut through solid rock and is very deep and narrow, barely wide enough for two boats to pass during much of its length.  There followed the descent through the 5 Tyrley Locks and the short journey to Market Drayton where we moored at 3pm.

Soon after we arrived the light rain which had continued on and off all day became a downpour.  However it didnt spoil our journey on what must be one of the most impressive sections of the canal system.  An spectacular achievement considering it was built around 1830 by an army of navies working with pickaxes, gunpowder and shovels.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Embankments and Cuttings - onwards to Gnosall

Avenue Bridge

Rye Hill Cutting Bridge

The weather forecast was much the same as yesterday - a pleasant morning with rain in the afternoon. We set off at 9:30 and were soon out of the fairly flat and uninteresting farmland into low hills where the Shropshire Union canal keeps to a constant level with the help of a continuous series of deep cuttings and high embankments. Unfortunately trees along side the canal often prevent good views from the embankments but the dark heavily wooded cuttings are delightful.

There was steady traffic on the canal and we had a short wait at the single Wheaton Aston lock.  Then onwards to Gnosall (pronounced nose-el) where we moored after a journey of 10 miles.  Here we had lunch, and soon afterwards the rain started, just like yesterday.

Friday, 10 June 2016

Autherley Junction and the Shropshire Union Canal

Waiting at Autherley Junction as boats leave and enter the Shropshire Union

Joining the Shropshire Union

Signpost at Autherley Junction
 As rain was forecast for this afternoon we wanted to make good progress this morning.  The weather was cooler but pleasant when we set off at 9:25.  The first few miles consisted of a series of extravagent meanders as we approached the outskirts of Wolverhampton in one section travelling 3 miles to achieve a direct distance of 1 mile.  By 12am we had arrived at Autherley Junction where Telford's Shropshire Union Canal joins the earlier Brindley Staffs and Worcs Canal.  There we were held up by dredging works causing a delay in passage through the stop lock built to prevent the later canal stealing the water.  We were third in the queue but once the dedger moved out of the way we were able to pass quickly through the stop lock.

Then onto the mainly straight and deeper Shropshire Union Canal where we had lunch on the move finally mooring up at 13:15 at the excellant Shropshire Union Society moorings a couple of miles south of Brewood when the sky began to look threatening.  We were lucky as within half an hour there was very heavy rain which has continued on and off for much of the afternoon.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Penkridge, Gailey and beyond

According to the weather forecast today is the last completely dry day for some time.  So we set off at 8:30 with the intention of cruising for longer than usual to build up some slack in the plan.  Everything worked well.  By 11:00 we were at the small market town of Penkridge where we stopped to stock up with groceries for the next 3-4 days.

Typical scenary on the Staffs and Worcs

Enetering Longford Lock

Approaching Gailey Lock
 After a quick lunch on board we set off again, climbing 7 more locks to reach Gailey where the A5 crosses the canal and there are useful facilities.  We took the opportunity to fill up with water and to enjoy ice lollies bought from shop at the unusual round former toll office.  Then out into the countryside passing the interesting Schenectedy International chemical works, and mooring a mile or so further on at 3:45pm.

Phil's photo of Densie passing through Four Ash Bridge
On the last leg we were pleased to meet Morning Mist with whom we had spent several days cruising on our trip to the Fens last year.  A bit further on we had our photograph taken by a towpath walker who turned out to be Phil, an IWA colleague, who was investigating plans for new industrial buildings next to the canal

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

On the Staffs & Worcester Canal

We were on the move by 9am heading north towards Great Haywood.  Very pleasant weather with blue skies and a slight breeze though increasingly humid.  As always we were on the look-out for birds, nothing much to see - a buzzard and several herons but there seem to be very few swallows and martin around this year.

Densie entering Tixall Lock on the Staffs & Worcestershire
Despite a few minutes wait at both Colwich and Great Haywood locks we made good progress.  At Great Haywood Junction we turned left onto the Staffs and Worcestershire Canal and after 2 hours cruising we stopped near the Staffrordshire Boat Club at 1pm after a journey of 10 miles and 3 locks. Soon after lunch there was a heavy rain shower but the air is still humid.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Out for June!

At last we are back on the water again for a leisurely cruise and it feels wonderful.  We  did make a week's trip in March to Mercia Marina to get the Densie's leaky stern gear repaired, but that doesnt count.
Moored near the Bloody Steps

This morning we waited until our EU referendum postal votes arrived before driving to our marina. Having unpack we discovered that we had left the fruit and vegetables at the house.  Not wanting to return to rotten bananas I drove back to the house to pick up the missing items.  We finally set off at 14:15 and after an uneventful cruise in warm and humid weather we arrived at Rugeley at 5pm where we moored up for the night at the last empty space near the Bloody Steps, scene of a 19th century murder.