Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Audlem Flight

We visited Nantwich by car during our wintering at Aston Marina so apart from a trip into town last night to visit an ATM we had no need to stay. Visiting by car and arriving by canal are two very different experiences. I suspect a lot of the people who arrive by car are unaware the canal even exists. Ther are plenty of moorings for the visiting boater along with the long term mooring permit only spots.

We untied at 09:00 in bright but grey skies, once out of Nantwich the Cheshire Plain stretches east and west to the horizons as the canal cuts it watery road south. The land is indeed green and pleasant, this is dairy country with only a few fields given over for crops.

Skylarks, swifts, swallows and a Jenny Wren serenade us on our way, we pass the Secret Nuclear Bunker adjacent to the two Hack Green Locks, we visited here by car last winter too. The sun comes out, the cream with it, as we get stuck into the 15 locks that make up the Audlem Flight which lift you 93 feet out off the Cheshire Plain, we passed the Shroppie Fly at lock 13, it was too early to stop so we continue on up the flight, the bywash from the locks were heavy and caused me to bash FL on the lock wall getting in to most locks.

We had a quick chat with Richard on nb Pendle Water as we passed, we last saw him in Stone, he is on his way to  "Llangollen maybe". An Aussie hire crew (the Aussies are everywhere on these canals) from Echuca Moama who live on a paddle steamer on the Murray River, presented Sue with a souvenir pin.

We reached the top lock 3 hours later, a farmers wife was selling cakes at the lock, very tasty.  We moored just above the lock, while Sue jumped into the shower I prepared the Beer Hunter for its first outing of the year. I rode back down the locks for a look around Audlem and a glass of ale in the Shroppie Fly and I bought 4 wooden fender hooks from the house next door.

Tomorrow we cross the border from Cheshire to Shropshire




Shroppie Fly

By wash

Richard on Pendle Water


St James Audlem

Tuesday, 29 April 2014


Left the scenic mooring at 09:30, from here to the end of the canal the quiet rural landscape is largely made up of large farmsteads with ploughed brownfields and lush green pastures speckled with Frisian beef. The canal is well kept, very good moorings with rings thanks mainly to the efforts of the local canal society members.

On the way, we spotted Justice moored but no sign of Steve, further along, I spotted two dogs on the towpath that I recognised before their home and crew, a quick hello, travelling  'incognito'  I was told...Nuff said.

As we reach Barbridge Junction there is a shabby looking Jolly Tar Inn facing us as we turn left onto the main Shropshire Union Canal, the A51 encroaches noisily for a short way but we are soon back into the rural quiet, we moor outside the Olde Barbridge Inn where we had a baguette lunch and the landlady let us sample all five real ales on offer before deciding on a Red Squirrel for me and an Old Faithful for Sue. The sun was hot so we sat in the garden and enjoyed an hour relaxing on dry land.

Heading off we pass the entrance to the famous LLangollen Canal which we will leave for another day. We stopped at Nantwich services to get rid of the dumpables and fill up the water tank. A short 100-yard hop to fill up the diesel tank at Nantwich Canal Centre. While there Sue noticed a boat flying the IOM flag, so she walked down the canal for a chat to Elaine & Steve on NB Skyy turns out Sue used to work with Elaine at Barclays IOM. As they left for the water point and on to Anderton we took their spot on the towpath visitor mooring. We also spotted another boat with an IOM connection as it had a painting of Bradda Head on the side. (see pics)

Another huge Farmstead.

Ex tow horse stables are now a smart home.

Interesting gable end.

Deep lock  at Minshull

Lesley and Joe have their own basin.

Possibly a toll collection booth at Barbridge Junction.

LLangollen Canal 

NB Bradda

Bradda Head IOM

Wooden sculpture.

Skyy hoists an IOM flag when moored, here she just stopped for water.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Shropshire Union Canal

At 09:30 we dropped down Kings Lock and moored next to the chandlery, while I stayed with FL to micromanage the servicing Sue walked into town for some bits from Tesco. She put more in her trolley than she realised and struggled back with 4 heavy bags. She later went back to an angling shop and returned with a landing net and fishing bag.

We came away from Kings Lock Chandlery at 14:00 after having all FL's mechanical bits serviced a little lighter in the wallet but glad she has a clean bill of health. Steve Wedgewood remarked how good FL was looking for her 6 years. As well as the servicing, Steve had a look at the galley grill which Sue has named 'Heartbreak Grill' as it won't stay alight, Steve adjusted the thermal something or other which should help but we need a new thermal thingy fitted to be sure it's corrected. We will get this done another day as we are not waiting around for a parts delivery.

Immediately leaving the boatyard we took a sharp left on to the Wardle Canal the shortest canal on the system terminating at Wardle Lock 154 feet later where the Shropshire Union Canal (Middlewich Branch) begins.

Its a pleasant cruise out of Middlewich past some very smart property to Stanthorne Lock where we had to wait for a while as engineers were trying to remove a blockage from a weir. It was a very hot afternoon and the two men were sweating in all their safety gear including life belts, they were very grateful for the cool bottles of water we provided for them.

After the lock, it is as if you have been catapulted into rural vision, huge farms along the banks as far as you can see dotted with woods. We have moored by bridge 22 overlooking the river Weaver and Winsford Flash to the west. To the east is the west coast mainline, but train noise doesn't bother us at all.

While Sue repaired zips on the cratch cover I gave the solar panel boxes a coat of oil.

Leaving Middlewich

Fishing for a floating fender


View from the kitchen window River Weaver below 

Looking back from our mooring

Forward of our mooring

Sunday, 27 April 2014


A much better day than forecast at one point we were down to t-shirts, only 4 locks for Sue to do, she is still aching from yesterday's marathon lock wheeling. We followed Chris & Roz on nb Kallista through the locks, they are on their way to LLangollen.  Sue was happy when a boat sign written with  'Sunbury on the Thames'  (her home town) came through, she has arranged to meet up with their crew at the Crick boat show but we forgot their names.

Moored up just before Kings Lock in Middlewich and walked over the bridge to speak with Stephen who will do FL's servicing tomorrow. There's a bit of re-jigging of moored boats to do in the morning to get FL dockside.

The pub at Kings Lock is shut down at the moment, which is a surprise as it is in an ideal location with a large residential area opposite and an industrial area behind although it was competing with six other local public houses. We walked down the towpath to The Big Lock for a roast beef lunch.

Middlewich had been associated with salt production since before the Romans arrived. In 1969 a purpose-built British Salt plant was built on a greenfield site out of town at Cledford. When the canals were built they were used to carry the salt to the Potteries and to the Mersey for onward shipment around the world, this traffic petered out as the railways took over.

There are two large hire fleets based in Middlewich, Middlewich Narrowboats and Andersen Boats, many of the boats were still waiting forlornly for hirers as we walked by. We popped into Middlewich chandlery and bought a new kettle to replace the one Sue left on the lit stove without water in it.

A towpath obstacle the horse would never of got past.

About time that came down, like the name though.

These fishermen were the friendly kind.

British Salt plant produces 860,000 tons a year.

The closed down Kings Lock pub.

Big Lock public house.

Depicting a salt carrying boat.

Tight squeeze to get past Middlewich Narrowboats

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Heartbreak Hill

We are taking FL home, well to the place she was built. She has an appointment for a major service check of her engine gearbox stern tube and Webasto central heating boiler at Wedgewood Narrowboats on Monday.

We decided to get up early at 06:00  to get stuck into 'Heartbreak Hill' a stretch of 26 locks but it was pouring with rain and blowing a hooley. We eventually got going at 08:30 when the rain stopped.

Once through Hall Green Lock, we are on the Trent and Mersey two sharp left-handers through Hardings Wood Junction and we are at the first of the 26 Heartbreak Hill locks.  Most of the locks are duplicated locks, that is to say, two boats can either ascend or descend at the same time in a different lock chamber although some were out of action requiring repairs.

We set both of the first pair of locks as nb Wild Thyme was coming up behind us. They were a bit quicker than us, passed us, and where they could they lifted a paddle to help our progress on the way down, a very helpful couple. The wind was a nightmare and it pinned us to the bank on a couple of occasions as I hovered waiting for Sue to open the gates.

We only intended to do half the locks today but as the rain stayed away and the sun came out we pressed on. An exhausted Sue was pleased to be through the last of the 26 locks and on to the water point at Wheelock where she immediately went for a shower while the tank filled... anyone would think she has been working hard, I do all the hard work on the tiller at the back.

While at the water point I got chatting to Ken an 84-year-old from a working boatman family he can trace back to the 1850s. Ken himself was born on his parent's boat and worked on the boats during his teens until 1952 when the work dried up. If I can remember correctly he moved LPG gas between Trafford and Stoke amongst others. An interesting interlude before we moored up next to the kind crew on Wild Thyme.

First of Heartbreak Hill locks.

Canal Tavern at the first lock.

Sun came out but those clouds are flying across the sky.

Leaving the duplicated locks

The real world  M6 motorway.

Arriving at duplicated locks

Sue getting help from a youngster.