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Lots-a-locks

Thursday 17 October 2019

It was a bit chilly last night and the last thing I felt like doing was getting out of my nice warm bed.

But, it had to be done! We had a big day ahead. In order to get closer to our final destination tomorrow arvo, we had to knock over lots and lots and lots of locks.

And we are off again

Our lock-type education continued today with a new style being introduced.

Most of this trip the locks have been single. They are quicker to fill and empty than the double locks but only one boat can use it at a time, meaning there can be quite a wait if there is a queue of boats. Especially if they are all travelling in the same direction. Double locks allow two boats in side by side to go either up or down together, which is great if your both going the same way. We haven’t shared a double lock this whole trip.

Waiting

Today we came across two narrow locks side by side! Best of both worlds. Quick to fill and empty, but providing the flexibility for travel in either direction without having to wait for others. When they work it’s terrific, but sadly some of the locks were out of order, once again returning us to the original one way traffic style and slowing our progress.

I’m not complaining though. The best aspect of slow travel is that it gives you time to stop and smell the roses. Literally.

And photograph stuff growing on other stuff!

The autumn leaves are stunning at the moment and I can only imagine how pretty the countryside will be in a few weeks time.

We were travelling in tandem with another boat which had started out just before us. Two boats, two drivers and 4 lock workers made for a pretty efficient system.

John and Jude setting our lock

We wizzed along, climbing up and up and up. And before we knew it we were over half way and it wasn’t even midday.

A few more friends along the tow path

Grahame caught another “Ducks in Flight” photo which has definitely put him in the lead for this category.

Grahame’s pic

We tied up at Rode Heath for a breather and an early lunch at the Broughton Arms.

Ellie sniffs out another canal side pub
Fuschias in the beer garden

Our friends in the other boat had stopped a few locks earlier, to have a late breakfast and a cuppa, but they overtook us again while we had lunch. We soon caught them again and we completed the day working together. Many hands make light work.

We had made such good time, we all set off for a walk along the tow path. We came across this canal passing over another. Amazing !!

Trent and Mersey Canal passing under Macclesfield Canal

We found a few geocaches before it started r#*ning (unbelievable) . We scurried back to The Red Lion, our planned dining venue. No such luck! It was closed for renovations! So much for planning. We trudged back to Ellie-Mcboat-Face for a light dinner instead and a relatively early night.

Dinner on board.

What a day! We passed through 26 locks from Wheelock to Harding’s Wood (Kidsgrove) , a total distance of about 4 miles. It took us approximately 6 hours!! Should sleep well tonight!

Sequence : Original Partlands v others. Others win.

  • Judi 7
  • Grahame 6
  • John 5
  • Jenny 4 ☹️☹️

Anderton to Wheelock

Wednesday 16 October 2019

Fickle fickle weather!!!!

When we woke it was r#*ning! When we had breakfast it was r#*ning, when we weighed anchor it was r#*ning.

Grahame and I were driving this morning, so we donned our wet weather gear and took the tiller. Lucky we bought it!!

Set up pic. I am never let loose with the tiller on my own.

Our first stop was just down the road and is a little delicate to discuss. We had what is called a “pump out”. I’ll leave that to your imagination.

But here’s some pictures anyway

The r#*n eased almost immediately and soon the sun was almost shining.

We headed back down the canal we had come in on yesterday afternoon.

Except for the industrial bit, it was really quite pretty.

The weather took a dramatic turn for the best which shocked the British we met along the way, more than us. We went from six layers down to three. Positively balmy! In fact by the end of the day we might have even been a little bit sunburnt.

Note: cap not beanie!

Grahame was on tiller duty and the rest of us took it pretty easy. Only a couple of locks just as we were coming back into Middlewich . There was the “Big Lock” (aptly named), followed by three on a sharp bend, in quick succession.

The “Big Lock” which took ages to empty and fill

The poor lock volunteer (they have them on some tricky locks) was running back and forth between all three making sure everyone got where they were going without mishap. We had another passing manoeuvre but this time it was in the pond between locks. The wind played a bit of havoc on the turn and it took a fair bit of skill to bring Ellie around. Well done Grahame.

I even took the opportunity to do a bit of bush bashing to find a Geocache. Only problem is that all bush here seems to have spikes attached. Ouch!

Fisherman here take their pastime very seriously. So much so they even compete for cash prizes. They set up along side the canal and curse quietly under their breaths as we boatie folk pass by. They have to pull in their lines or lower their rods losing vital seconds of fish catching opportunities. We always go out of our to say hello, engage them in conversation as we drift past. Must drive them crazy!!

Gone fishin’

By midday we were back at the turnoff and heading south east into new territory.

Grahame and I have been trying to photograph ducks taking off or landing on the canal for a few days now. I thought I had jagged it with this series of slightly blurred pics.

Blurry ducks in flight

Then Grahame gets this one.

We moored at Wheelock and immediately set off for a 2 km walk to the next village of Sandbach where we had read good things. And the good things were indeed good.

The cobbled town square, surrounded by Tudor style shops and houses, was the home to two sandstone “crosses” dating back to the early 9th century.

We explored the churchyard and it’s cemetery which was just down the road.

And then there was the “piece de resistance”: The Old Hall.

The Old Hall: what a beauty

From outside to inside, it was a stunner!!

Outside
Inside
The women’s bathroom/ powder room. Jude’s pics.

We loved so much we stayed for dinner and walked home in the dark a few hours later.

By the time we returned to Ellie-McBoat-Face and played our night Sequence game, the temperature had dropped to a cool 7 degrees. Brrrrr.

Fact check!

Fickle fickle fickle!!

Sequence score: Girls v Boys : Girls Win

  • Judi 6
  • John 5
  • Grahame 5
  • Jenny 4 ☹️

The Anderton Boat Lift

Tuesday 15 October 2019

We woke to a misty morning, not sure what the day had in store weather wise. We now know to plan for all kinds. The wet (new) weather gear, beanies, scarves and gloves, along with sunglasses, hats and extra jackets are laid out on the bed each day for ready access.

The plan was to get to the Middlewich Junction, take a sharp left and go see the Anderton Boat Lift, a structure that drops canal boats from the Trent and Mersey Canal fifteen metres to the River Weaver (or vice versa).

Thanks Google

We sailed throughout the morning passing sodden countryside, cow-smelly farms and nice houses.

We arrived at Middlewich and turned sharp left for the run to Alderton.

Fact check!

This canal was vastly different to those we had traveled so far this trip. It was less frequented, more overgrown in places, making the route very narrow.

A bit overgrown but still navigable
Squirrels and Swans a plenty
Idyllic

It weaved its way through beautiful forests and heavy industrial areas, before opening out onto vast expanses of water.

Not our usual narrow canal

The chemical factory and the salt works weren’t the prettiest but we’ve been very spoilt this trip, so we can forgive a half day of not so pretty.

Such a shame it’s now October
And then this!

The visitors centre at Anderton Lift was closed by the time we arrived. So we went for a walk to see what we could see instead.

From the river down below
From the canal up above
Ellie-McBoat-Face and Friends

We were pleased the Stanley Arms was nearby. We were tired, hungry and thirsty after a big day.

Hello

John and Grahame even found a Geocache on the way home. Success!

Geocache success

Sequence score: Partlands v Marjoribanks : Partlands Win

  • Grahame 5
  • John 5
  • Judi 5
  • Jenny 3 ☹️

Murphy Furphy

Monday 14 October 2019

So, I failed to invoke Murphy’s Law. The one about “buy something because you might have need of it, so inevitably you’ll never need it”.

But the upside is that when Grahame and I took over the helm, later in the day, we had nice shiny new, and very effective wet weather gear to keep us warm and dry.

The day actually started under sunny skies and I thought I was on a winner.

Long John pulled off a mighty U- turn under the bridge at Chester and did not wet a single pedestrian as he revved the engine. Came close though!!

Tight turn

We passed by a narrowboat while exiting Chester which made us all feel a little nostalgic. If only we had a sprig of wattle!

No wattle, but plenty of other flora to enjoy.

Slow boat from Chester

We had a few locks to negotiate before reaching the peace and quiet of the countryside once again.

Whoosh

The remnants of Beeston Castle, perched up on a rocky outcrop, provided a nice background as we continued our way east back to Barbridge Junction. We thought the windmill was a nice touch.

Beeston Castle ruins

The Staircase lock we encountered two days earlier created a mathematical conundrum. There was a boat coming the other way. Could we use the locks at the same time to go in different directions? Yes we can!

It went something like this but not quite because the front boat in the lower picture is going the same way

Step 1: They filled and entered the top lock, we emptied and entered the bottom lock. We both closed gates behind us.

Step 2: They emptied the water from the top lock into the middle lock and then drove into the middle lock, closing the gate behind them. The top lock was now empty, the middle lock full. We stayed put because the bottom lock was still empty.

Step 3: They emptied the water from the middle lock to fill our bottom lock. We entered middle lock, they exited the middle lock. Crossover!!! The middle lock was now empty but the bottom lock was full. Gates were closed.

The crossover

Step 4: They emptied the bottom lock and exited to proceed on their merry way closing the gate behind them.

Step 5: We filled the top lock to get water back into the system. Top lock full. Middle lock empty. We are still in middle lock.

Step 6: We then let the water from the top lock drain to the middle lock. The top lock now empty, the middle lock now full.

Step 7: We enter the top lock and closed the gates behind us.

Step 6: We filled top lock again and exited to go on our merry way closing the gates behind us.

Got it???!!! At least I think that’s how it worked.

Today was the coldest day so far. Temperature wise, it didn’t seem so bad, but a slight breeze created that little extra coolness. I lost count of how many layers, but I know the last three include a light jumper, a puffer vest, a Mountain Designs wind and waterproof jacket. And of course there was the beanie, scarf and gloves!!

Snug as a bug ( 5 layers)

This was before the r#*n started. Then I added my new waterproof trousers and a Kathmandu waterproof and wind proof jacket.

Six layers

We finally moored near the village of Church Minshull. We grabbed umbrellas and donned every piece of clothing we owned to walk into the village for dinner. The Badger Inn was our destination and despite a scary walk on a very busy narrow road we made it safely.

The pub was warm (and dry), the food was lovely. We enjoyed it so much , we stayed on for the trivia night.

Our team “Ellie-McBoat-Face came last but we were the best all Australian team and cheered proudly when our name was announced. There was only one Australian question and of course it was regarding Neighbours, a show none of us have ever watched. We walked back via our country lane with the weight of defeat on our shoulders. No wonder it was r#*ning.

Walking home in the r#*n.
Jude’s Arty pic.

It had been a big day. A distance of 20 miles (32 kms) and a 42 minute drive by car. But preferred our route!!

Sequence score: Original Partlands v Others: Others Win

  • Grahame 5
  • John 4
  • Judi 4
  • Jenny 3

Chester, you Champion!

Sunday 14 October 2019

Ellie-McBoat-Face loved having extra crew on board and coped magnificently. Her table easily converted into a bed, giving everyone somewhere to sleep. With two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a kitchen table, we really are living it up in our mobile home.

We also had a couple of extra passengers, hitching a ride when we first set off this morning. They didn’t contribute much.

The weather wasn’t fantastic but it wasn’t miserable either, so we’re still not complaining.

Look more like rapids.

Cabin Boy Chris took us down the locks under Maddog Marjoribanks and Long John’s tutelage. He has achieved in two days something I still haven’t achieved in three Canal trips.

The rest of us kept busy opening and closing the remaining locks (and feeding the ducks) into Chester.

The waterway into Chester was interesting and despite a lot of new building/ renovations occurring, there was still plenty to see.

But it was the town centre that blew us away !! Stunning.

We couldn’t resist a group pic on top of the old wall under the clock shown above.

The High Street has be seen to be believed.

Despite renovations and scaffolding it was still amazing!!

Chester is a walled city with a history dating back to Pre- Roman times. It has evidence of an amphitheatre, baths and gardens which can still be visited.

Some internet pics , some not

We walked the entire wall in about an hour stopping to take photos and read the information boards. Our walk took us past the river, the racecourse, several watch towers (including one where King Charles stood to watch his army defeated, before doing a runner, in 1645), a pidgeon feeding station, the Chester Cathedral Falconry Park and the Cathedral itself , before returning us to that amazing clock gate.

The river Dee
Free view from the city wall
Watch towers
Pidgeon Feeding Station
Keeps birds there and not on the adjacent Cathedral
Cathedral

All this walking had made us thirsty. We wandered further down the Eastgate Street, ogling at the Tudor facades, until we found a suitable watering hole.

Bar at the Victoria Hotel

Grahame and I found an Outdoor Shop selling wet weather gear. We thought we had pushed our luck far too many times this week. I also had an idea that purchasing such apparel would invoke Murphy’s Law. The skies would clear for the remainder of our cruise! That was certainly worth the price of our investment!

Yes, Chester has a cathedral and yes, I didn’t step inside earlier. But the stain glass drawcard was too much for me to ignore any longer.

My fave

This cathedral even had its own LEGO version and for a £1 you could contribute to its construction. I chose to give my £1 to the homeless person outside instead.

LEGO Chester

We managed to jag another organ rehearsal while we explored the rest of the place.

But it was a bit of a dirge

Certainly a contender for top 5!

Sadly it was time to say goodbye to Katie and Chris. They had served their apprenticeship well but London and work were calling.

A final group photo was taken to record the end of a great weekend.

Can you spot the problem ?
Thanks for the photoshopping Katie!
Water??

The evening was “balmy” enough for a quiet tipple on the front deck. But we didn’t stay there long as we had a tricksy geocache to hunt and we thought we’d search under the cover of darkness.

Bingo. Spoiler alert!
Up on the wall near that lovely clock!
Grahame’s pic
Full moon in Chester

Chester, you are indeed a Champion!!!

Sequence score: boys v girls. Boys win

  • John 4
  • Grahame 4
  • Judy 3
  • Jenny 3

Recruitment Drive

Saturday 12 October 2019

Our day started earlier than normal as there was a special rendezvous planned, an hour up the canal.

The sky was blue , the sun was shining and the birds were twittering in the hedgerows. Must be a good omen.

We crossed the aqueduct and were on our way. (It feels a bit weird crossing over a road whilst sitting in a boat)

Look to the right, look to the left.

The countryside looked gorgeous in the sunlight and we actually managed a few hours with only 3 layers of clothing.

Incoming!!
Ahhhhhhh!

Long John and Long Judi Silver had recruited two more crew for the weekend plundering of Chester.

Junior Deckhands, Katie and Chris were piped aboard at Barbridge and immediately set to work in the galley!

Fam Reunion
Pic stolen from Katie’s FB feed

We arrived at our first lock/s not long after and the two newbies were put to work on our first “Staircase”. Talk about thrown to the wolves.

Example only. We were going downhill so not really relevant : except you have to think!!!
Tricksy
Katie Partland not Katie Middleton!!
More pretty stuff

By the time we made it to The Shady Oak for lunch, both Katie and Chris has passed their apprenticeship lock working course and were ready to take on boat navigation. Quick learners!!

Today was the first time the weather was kind enough for us to sit outside to have lunch.

Ten minutes later, it was r#*ning! We ate our meals inside.

Perfect growing conditions.

Ten minutes later, it wasn’t r#*ning!

The afternoon was spent cruising, teaching the newbies the finer details of canal life!

Pic stolen from KT

Dinner at the Cheshire Cat in Christleton was followed by a a 3 way Sequence Game. ( ongoing score count suspended for the evening. )

Ended in a draw

The new recruits passed their initiations with flying colours.

The day we visited a secret nuclear bunker! Shhhh!!!

Friday October 11 2019

We left the Shroppie Fly mooring under overcast skies and the expectation of r#*n.

Watering Hole (Literally)

John and Jude, being much better prepared than us, donned their wet weather gear and took the helm while the forecasted r#*n fell. I have no photographic evidence of this, as I was inside the boat, keeping dry. Not silly!!

We cruised along a flat narrow canal for an hour or so before mooring beside Bridge 85. (But don’t tell anyone!! It’s secret!! )

Just in case the sign posts don’t give it away!

We followed the well signposted country road to Hack Green’s Secret Nuclear Bunker.

Built during the Cold War, and with the threat of a Nuclear bomb dropping imminently, this facility acted as one of the early warning detection posts covering the UK.

Damn rules!!!

When fully armed, it housed 130 men and women specifically trained in all things nuclear should the bomb actually drop. It even had broadcast rooms for the BBC to issue emergency warnings and updates. It was quite spooky wandering the rabbit warren that made up the facility.

Yes that is a toy rat with a gas mask!

The cows in the nearby were totally oblivious to the potential danger and just went about their business without a care in the world. Lucky them!

Not sure if they had been briefed!

The walk back was under heavy clouds of a non-nuclear type. Thank goodness! It certainly was a sobering experience.

The r#*n had eased making the afternoon much more enjoyable. We had planned a short day on the water today as we had important cargo to pick up about an hour down the canal tomorrow morning. So it wasn’t long before we found a mooring just before the aqueduct at Nantwich.

View from our mooring.

After a little bit of housework, we headed into the beautiful little township to “ooh and aah” at the wonderful old buildings.

House keeping.
Nantwich
Closed
Rather grand and quite a contrast.
Google photo. ( We couldn’t get one without a truck parked in front!! )

Dinner was at The Black Lion, a pub built in 1664. We sat upstairs in the dining room where the very wonky wooden floor made walking difficult. Our 6 ft. 7 in. barman/waiter had a hard time negotiating the narrow stairs and the tiny doorway on the upstairs landing. He wasn’t the only one to clunk his head during the evening.

Aqueduct

We headed back to the canal, climbed the stairs to the aqueduct where Ellie-McBoat -Face was patiently waiting.

Sequence Score: Original Partlands v. The others

Sadly (for me) the “Others” were victorious tonight.

  • John 3
  • Judi 3
  • Jenny 3
  • Grahame 3

Market Drayton to Audlem (And the Shroppie Fly)

Thursday 10 October 2019

The weather gods smiled on us today. Mostly! The UK has very fickle weather and today was no different, but mostly it was fine and we mostly stayed dry.

No complaints

Everything looked so pretty in the sunlight.

We had long stretches through the countryside which provided lots of photographic opportunities.

Ellie-McBoat-Face and Long John Silver

After very few locks yesterday, we were kept busy today with two flights.

The Adderley Flight consisted of five locks dropping us 31 feet ( 9 1/2 metres). Long John Silver was at the helm and negotiated the locks in style.

Total Control

The second flight, the Audlem locks, consisted of fifteen locks, dropping us 93 feet (28 metres) in a distance of 1 1/2 miles (2.4 kms).

Needless to say we were kept very busy.

Acting Admiral Judi was now at the helm. She has well and truely earned her stripes and should the plan to mutiny ever proceed, Judi is ready to step into the role of Long Judi Silver at a moments notice.

After descending 12 of the 15 locks, we moored nearby to our destination for tonight. The infamous “Shroppie Fly”.

Note the unique bar

We had arrived in Audlem early enough to go for a bit of an explore, top up our pantry, and visit the local church.

Shame about the scaffolding

Audlem was all dressed up, flags a-flying and was looking mighty fine.

We checked out the pub menus at The Boat Inn and The Lord Combermere before settling on the fare at The Shroppie Fly . Not only did we like the menu, we loved the name!! (Did I mention we are in Shropshire? )

Visiting three watering holes in the space of a few hours provided three opportunities for me to lose something! Imagine my chagrin once we arrived home, and I was nice and snug in bed to realise I was now without beanie!!!

GRAHAME!!!!!!!!!

Bless him!

Reunited:
I think he just needed an excuse to go buy Pringles

Goodnight Shroppie Fly!

Goodnight Ellie McBoat Face!

Sequence. Marjoribanks v Partlands. M’banks win.

  • John 3
  • Jenny 3
  • Judi 2
  • Grahame 2

Omg!! Stunning! Love My Life!!

Wednesday 9 October 2019

Today was amazing.

Started the day here
Norbury Junction

A clandestine meeting of executive crew was convened to discuss our progress and plan for the day ahead. They decided we should continue to follow the canal in a forward direction, find a pub for lunch and another for dinner. Fortunately for them, the rest of the crew thought this was a great idea and there would be no mutiny today.!!

Sprung!

However, they will need to watch their backs!

Sitting Ducks.

We set sail from Norbury Junction and all was shipshape both above and below decks.

It wasn’t long before we were cruising through the stunning countryside, working the locks and living the dream.

The canal passed through narrow cuttings and forests for a lot of the day. I got put my newly honed steering skills to the test and even got to use the throttle on the straight stretches. Panic would set in if another boat was coming in the opposite direction and I’d quickly pass the tiller over to those more highly qualified. Skills required are currently above my pay grade!!

Tight squeeze

Standout moments for the day would have to navigating under these beautiful high bridges,

This one with its own electricity pole.
Appropriately named High Bridge

And negotiating the narrow canal and locks. It was so, so pretty and so, so peaceful.

Everyday we come across a wide variety of dogs: either living on board a canal boat, or living beside the canal. We’ve made friends with quite a few but this one may well be our favourite so far.

We arrived in Market Drayton with enough time to go for an explore of the village and find a suitable pub for dinner.

Market Drayton

Joules Brewery was our choice for the evening. Another brewery! Didn’t do the tour this time. But the Joule name does have a connection with Joule, the measure of energy. ! Brothers!

Sequence card game: Round 4: Boys v Girls. Boys win!

  • John 3
  • Judi 2
  • Jenny 2
  • Grahame 1

Slow trip to Norbury Junction (aka the day they made me drive!)

Tuesday 8th October 2019

The weather is slowly improving. We even saw a little bit of sun today.

It was a day of not so many locks, but lots of beautiful countryside and stunning scenery.

Long John Silver thought it was time I learnt how to drive the ship. After crashing into a tree three years ago, I hoped to be permanently classified as chambermaid, kitchen-wench, rope-holder and lock-winder. A role I felt very comfortable in. The rest of the crew had other ideas!

I am happy to report that we didn’t end up in any trees or bushes or stuck on any impediments during my traineeship. But stage one of the sailing course is “steering only”. And mostly in a straight line. Apparently, I get to use the throttle tomorrow.

Canal folk are a creative lot. From figureheads to mooring sites, there is always something to see.

Too much spare time.
Quirky stuff

Some are obviously a little more permanent than others,

Who needs a plot of land to grow your own?

And some have not been used for a while.

Please love me.
Lunch Stop

Lunch was at Wheaton Aston, wherever the heck that is. It was a chance to network and rekindle family ties. Just not with each other.

Checking emails, updating apps, communicating

We passed through narrow cuttings, narrow canals and over narrow embankments for the entire day. Amazing engineering and hard, hard work for those involved.

Ahhh the serenity.
Another church!
Passing over a roadway. Aquaduct? Viaduct???

We arrived at our mooring for the night : Norbury Junction and it was pretty pretty.

The local pub, “The Junction” was our meal destination. Every man and his owl was there.

Meet Tippy the Barn Owl , known to frequent the Junction Hotel !

Sequence card game: Round 3: Original Partlands v Others. Original Partlands win

  • Judi 2
  • Jenny 2
  • John 2
  • Grahame 0