Sunday, 17 December 2017

Mud, rain and Chester

After days of fighting the elements and days of struggling to find the motivation to fight the elements, we have arrived in Chester, with the bow right outside The Harkers Arms, where we are booked in tonight.

The stern is right outside Barton Rouge (Indian) so we may need to go off that way another night.

We are to weary to write any more.

Friday, 15 December 2017

Winter Sunshine over Hurleston

In spite of our pessimism about making any progress towards Chester today, we have cruised for 4 hours and done 6 locks in winter sunshine. it was still freezing but the sun lifted our spirits and cheered us on.

The Hurleston contractors had cleared up and cleared off by lunch (Friday pub time?) and we were through the 4 locks by 2.30. This might be naive but we expected everything to be ship shape in the lock chambers. Not so. After 3 weeks of repairs, the Hurleston locks are leaking badly, one of the gates was dragging along the ground, there was a tyre behind a gate, and a ground paddle out of action.
Then we were the first boat through the similarly repaired Bunbury double lock flight, and we nearly sank the boat. At the bottom of the lock the boat became stuck on something significant enough to tip us up. With First Mate, Jones and the boat all in peril, Captain sprang to the paddles thinking he could drop them quickly. Again, not so. They are the only paddles in the system that wind down just as slowly as they wind up. The boat tipped sideways so far that it eventually slid off the thing and launched itself into the middle of the broad lock.
We are seriously unimpressed with stoppages that seem to have made things worse and more dangerous than before. We survived but it was a scary moment.
Tonight we are safely moored just under Tilstone Lock and have just had a home made curry for dinner. All is well but we will have to see what traps have been laid in the newly maintained Beeston Locks.

 

 

 

Delays


The plan always was (and still is) to cruise to Chester and stay there for a few days around Captain’s birthday (the 19th).

Unfortunately for us, Canal and River Trust decided to move the repairs of Hurleston locks from January to December ‘following customer feedback’. Clearly I should have left feedback saying that the January date was just fine.

The new dates mean the locks are not planned to be finished until the 15th (today) and we could really do with being through them today. We visited the site yesterday and whereas the workmen were confident of being done in the afternoon, I am less so. There was still scaffolding in 2 locks and with 3 pounds to fill, and 4 boats in the queue already, I imagine we will be there for the night.
If it is open for Saturday, this will leave a heavy (heavy by our standards) couple of days to Chester. Oh well!

Friday, 17 November 2017

For Completeness

So did we cruise the 3 hours or so we planned last weekend, or did laziness win the battle? As I am not a fan of the 'time-wasting' jokes or ridiculously long gaps before the winner is announced I will come straight to the point .... and the winner was ..... Laziness.

We had booked a table at the Cotton Arms in Wrenbury, but we didn't cancel it. Instead we tackled the 9 minute drive in the car which was much simpler than all those locks and lift bridges. The boat stayed in the marina and had a lovely lazy weekend and the fire never went out.

We are saving our energies for the Christmas Chester trip where we have little room for flexibility, and will be cruising on our planned dates - whatever the weather. We also need CRT to put the Hurleston locks back together - preferably a day early! If not we will be doing a couple of very long (long for us that is) days to get to Chester.





Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Autumn Jobs

It is a couple of months since our last post and a couple of months since our last trip anywhere. However, we have not been idle and Captain has been working is way down the endless job list.

The most significant tick on the list is the new sexy radiators. One (of the four) is shown here. They are spaced from the wall a little to allow those wet coats to fit over nicely. They are also much heavier than the previous ones, which has allowed much of the messy ballast in the engine bay to be removed.

If the weather is kind, we are planning a a few days out on the boat this coming weekend. West along the Llangollen I think.

Of course the easy option would be stoke up the fire and stay in the marina, but we are fighting that idea.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Swans at Swanley Bridge Marina

On Wednesday (6th September) we turned the corner straight into the first of four locks which begin the Llangollen branch of the Shropshire Union Canal. We pootled into our new marina at Swanley Bridge wondering if it was it named after the numerous swans and signets that greeted us.  Despite a reasonable breeze Captain managed to reverse with first mate doing her well worn impression of a towing shire horse hauling all fifteen tons onto its new mooring by a combination of skill and brute force. After oiling the squeeky jetty shackles (with spray olive oil) we were all tied up nice and quiet.

And quiet it is after Kings Orchard. It seems so much more open. We attribute this feeling to there being just one point of security in the shape of an electronically activated vehicle barrier into the marina and other than that we are free to roam. There are no locked jetties or locked toilet blocks and our boat (3rd in from the left of the row) is along side and tucked behind a hedge so it feels private. It's all very well kempt. There were a few people about but there was none of the Brummie yauping we have become accustomed to mooring up to. Perhaps we will miss it. Come to think of it, there was usually someone around to catch a rope or hurl an insult about the Captain's steering. Not so at Swanley.

Captain then decided to fetch the car from Kings Orchard Marina. So a delayed taxi got him to Nantwich railway station for a delayed train and after a change at Crewe he arrived at Lichfield, where with no waiting taxis, he legged at across fields for half an hour to the marina and the car. The dark, busy and fast M6 was a bit of a shock after a fortnight of canal speeds, but he survived and arrived back in time for a late and slightly singed dinner at 9.15pm. It had been a long day and the giant couscous turned out to be a mistake. Any foodstuff with 'giant' in the title is probably a mistake.

We spent the next couple of days getting to know the immediate area. This was especially important for Jonesy who needed to check out the sniffs and walks, and for First Mate who needed to check out the shops in Nantwich. This historic town is full of lovely shops, cafes and timbered buildings. It has something of the feel of Chester.

Our next serious jaunt will be to Chester on the run up to Christmas with maybe a cheeky couple of nights up the Llangollen before that.


Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Tidy Toy Town

Our boat outside The Shroppie Fly
We spent yesterday afternoon and evening in the picturesque town of Audlem. We had heard about the famous Shroppie Fly pub from Chertsey's crew as this used to be very much their neck of the cut. We were keen to check it out and arrived by early afternoon in bright sunshine. It is such a pretty town and very very tidy. Much more affluent than Market Drayton and Penkridge, it seems to nestle around the lock flight which adds to its charm. It was busy with boats which, unusally, are allowed to moor both sides of the canal.

We had the choice of three pubs that would allow us to take Jonesy and took advice on which to favour. This was, of course, a matter of taste and all three got recommendations from passing boaters. In the end, we had an afternoon walk and a lovely run round the playing field for Mr Jones and popped into the The Lord Combermere on the way. We decided to go back there for dinner and it was a good choice. The staff are attentive, the menu is imaginative and there is a nice atmosphere about the place. Some of you may remember the gammon and egg vs pineapple trauma of our  recent Stratford trip, No such issue here. Captain was served a wopping thick gammon steak with runny egg, just as he likes them, and fresh, yes fresh, pineapple and monster chips.

Audlem seems to have everything a passing boater could want for - a chip shop, pizza takeaway, pubs and a fully stocked Co-op. We liked it a lot. This morning we left, completing its pretty lock flight and made for Nantwich. But we only just managed to get tied up here. It is a very busy place for boats - where do they all come from? Tonight, we will venture into town for a mooch about and find some dinner.

Tomorrow is an auspicious day as we leave the Shropshire Union for the Llangollen canal and cruise into our new marina.


Sunday, 3 September 2017

Pot Noodles

It's a mellow Sunday morning aboard PL 2. A bit rainy, but with the heating on and Cerys on Radio 6, a late breakfast of yoghurt and fruit, it's cosy. I am making up for the fact that I have so far failed to write a single blog this trip. Captain is elsewhere and I have stolen his laptop. Here is my chance to beat the early bird who has usually posted before I wake. So nothing here about flanges or smashed dollys or replacing the batteries or the fact that he nearly cried when, naked as the day he was born, and about to step into the shower, the whale gulper failed. I sprang into action and found a chandler's just up the cut, but moments later, he discovered it was just a wire that had come loose and was easily fixable. So for the moment, everything seems to be working as it should.

I have come over a bit Gerard Manly Hopkins over the last few days especially as I watched a massive bird of prey circling the canal. It made me think of his poem celebrating the power of 'The Windhover' written in May 1877.

       'As a skate's heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
           Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
       Stirred for a bird, – the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!'

The cut has been dramatically beautiful: we have never been on the Shropshire Union before. It's wide, lush and feels laid back. Chugging along, you feel as if you are miles from anywhere. It's what makes boating occasionally mystical. I am glad that this feeling has been restored because we had a few days on the Staffie when it began to feel a bit stressful, like being stuck in umoving traffic on the M25 (well not really but the analogy will have to do). I guess we have been spoilt in mostly having the canal and locks to ourselves. On this end-of-summer trip to our new marina, we have been at the end of a long queue for locks, failed to find moorings for the first time in our five years of boating. Boaters are usually lovely but people seemed grumpy by canal standards.

We completely missed our stop at Goldstone because there was just nowhere to moor for miles. As it happened I have fresh food on board and a middle-of-nowhere mooring is fine because there is always the fall back of a reasonable dinner if the pub fails to materialise. Unlike the two youngish men who also failed to moor up for The Wharf Tavern for food. They told me the day after that they had feasted on some delicious Pot Noodles. Nothing wrong with Pot Noodles, of course. I've lived on them at a certain time of my life before I had heard of muesli or mange tout.

Last night was much more normal. We tied up nicely on the aqueduct above the river which runs under the canal. We are high over the pretty Georgian town of Market Drayton. For his early evening walk, we took Mr Jones and ambled in for dinner at the comfortable and very dog friendly Joules brewery pub - The Red Lion. We ate excellent burgers, pies and Jones had the pickings of a tin of various dog treats. It was a sunny all day yesterday and the evening was gorgeous. It is noticable that almost exactly on September first, we felt the air cool and the earth slowly tilting away from the sun.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Post Bank Holiday Calm

We have been a rather poor in blogging, but the Bank Holiday Monday plan worked a treat. We stayed put and had an easy morning, a mid afternoon barbeque. This gave us a good vanatge point to quiz the boaters coming down as to the length of the lock queues. We eventually set of a bit after half four.

The queues had gone and we had a very pleasant evening cruise to somewhere near Acton Trussel. (No I had never heard of it either.)

We assumed that at the end of the Bank Holiday all this nonsense would disappear, but the Tuesday morning proved our assumptions wrong and we queued too much, eventually arriving at the somewhat uninspiring Penkridge and the seriously underwhelming Boat Inn.

Yesterday (Wednesday) seemed calmer, and we are now tied up at Coven Heath. Where that is we do not know, and where we are in relation to the real world is a slight mystery. We keep getting a bit (too) close to the M6, the M54 and electrified railway lines.

Today we will leave the Staffs and Worcester Canal and start heading North on the Shropshire Union. Well that's what the spreadsheet says.

Perhaps like the Spall's I should carry a decent road atlas too.


Monday, 28 August 2017

Bank Holiday Congestion

Colwich Lock Bank Holiday Monday
Sunday and bank holiday Monday have been the busiest days we have ever seen on the canals. Busy with boats that is. On Sunday there were rumours of 11, 13, 18 and even 30 boats queuing to go North at Colwich lock. Whatever the number we avoided counting them by slipping through after they had gone - under cover of dusk, and tied up above it just before dark.

On the Monday Captain explained his theory that queues should be a function of the distance between the locks. He argued that in a flight, after the first lock there can be no queue, and the same argument applies when the locks are fairly close together. On Monday we needed to go just 25 minutes between Colwich lock and Great Haywood lock, and so apart from the odd boat setting off from overnight moorings between the locks, he said his theory should apply reasonably well and there would be no queues.

Not so. On Monday morning boats coming down reported boats queuing to go north at Great Haywood. The numbers we heard were 8, 12, 14. Ah well: it was only a theory.

The latest theory is that most boats will be tied up by late afternoon. So we are aiming to leave about 4pm. We need to do 3 hours today, so that might work. Maybe.