Book 10

Canal Cruising 2014

An eBook and website by Cyril J Wood

 

The title photograph shows pleasant moorings near Hurleston on the Chester Canal section of the "Shroppie"

Contents

Chapter 1 - Canalmanac 2014

  Chapter 2 - Summer Cruise 2014

Canalography 2014

Tailpiece

Return to Introduction

 

Chapter 1 - Canalmanac 2014 (in preparation)

And so another year commences. As well as celebrating Christmas and New Year it is also my birthday over the Christmas holiday period. As well as presents I look forward to receiving birthday cards that feature canal scenes and always try to identify the locations. I received two this year which are reproduced below. See if you can identify the locations and email your suggestions to me at cyril.wood@virgin.net and see if they correspond with mine. I will post the most popular suggestions on the website at a later date along with my own.

Birthday card scene number one... a narrow lock and an unusual cast iron footbridge

Birthday card scene number two... the bridge is wide and looks very "Brindleyesque"

On the Saturday of the first weekend in January Ange, Shannon and I travelled up to Lymm and planned to cruise to the Old Number Three at Dunham Massey with our friends Michelle, Ian and Popsy. The weather forecast was for wind and rain but this was not in evidence. The sun was shining (weakly) and it was dry. Our friends had now put their new Hudson narrowboat "Ted" on its Oughtrington moorings and were waiting for us when we arrived. Whilst the central heating warmed up "Squirrel" we had a guided tour of their new boat, a cup of coffee and a catch-up before we set off for Dunham Massey.

nb "Ted" at Oughtrington

It was good to be cruising again as it was well before Christmas since we had been any distance on the boat. We had planned to participate in Lymm CC's Brass Monkey Cruise on Boxing Day but unfortunately Ange was unwell with bronchitis and I thought it selfish to leave her on her own. Whilst approaching Agden I had a telephone call from Gary... the new owner of our old boat "Total Eclipse". He told me that the boat was currently in Little Venice and we chatted about where he was up to with his plans for improvements to the boat. He asked me what I was up to and when I told him we were cruising along the Bridgewater Canal he enquired about the weather. He didn't believe that we were cruising in bright sunshine ("You're havin' a larf aren't you!") and that I was only wearing jeans, a t-shirt and a fleece as they were in the middle of a winter storm down south. Gary... the next photograph is just for you. I took it shortly after we had finished on the phone! Note the clear sky and absence of precipitation.

Agden on the Bridgewater Canal at sunset

We continued on to the Old Number Three. When we reached it, as I got off the boat to moor it up I noticed that the pub was in darkness and there were no cars in the car park. Not a good sign. Ian then rang to tell me that it had closed down so we turned around and met them at the Barn Owl at Agden where they had already moored up. When we reached the Barn Owl it was just going dark so we tied alongside them (plenty of fenders down) and after getting washed and changed we all went into the pub for our tea. The meal was beautiful (as always in the Barn Owl) and later we returned to our boats with full stomachs after an enjoyable evening with good company, good conversation and good food.

"Ted" and "Squirrel" moored alongside each other outside the Barn Owl at Agden

The following morning dawned dry and bright but a little windy and a bit on the cool side. But we suspected that it would not stay that way. I was surprised to find a large amount of condensation on the underside of the rear hatch which was dripping inside the boat. After chatting to Ian about it he formulated a plan to reduce the level of condensation by lining the inside of the hatch with an insulating material and would look at various materials that would be suitable as he was experiencing a similar problem in his "shed" (the tool/bow thruster locker) on "Ted". Mid-morning we started our engines and returned to the moorings in the weak, watery, winter sunshine. By the time we reached Oughtrington the weather was starting to deteriorate and it was just starting to rain. It was of the really cold variety so we lost no time mooring up the boat and loading the car before heading for home after a rewarding weekend formulating plans for our respective boats. It looks like it is going to be a busy year as well as an exciting one!

A wintry morning at Agden looking towards Oughtrington

In 2015 Lymm CC is hosting the Federation of Bridgewater Cruising Clubs Boat Rally. This will be the fiftieth FBCC Rally and coincides with Lymm CC's sixtieth anniversary. The first meeting had been arranged by the organising committee for Friday the 19th January. We planned to attend the meeting but it meant my taking an afternoon off work in order to attend without rushing tea and battling the M56 which is always busy on a Friday afternoon. On the way to Oughtrington we stopped off at Preston Brook to visit Midland Chandlers for a couple of LED bulbs to replace the tungsten ones on the boat. We then carried on and Ange dropped me off at the moorings to collect the boat, cruise down to the clubhouse, go to the pub for our tea and then attend the meeting. At the meeting Ange and Michelle volunteered for the Rally Headquarters and bar duty, Ian was roped into building the bar whilst I am the official photographer and also giving Barry Greenough a hand on bridge duty. The meeting was lively and well attended and when it was over we retired to a warm and cosy boat.

The inaugural FBCC 2015 Rally Meeting was well attended

After breakfast next morning I started on my list of jobs starting off with emptying the storage cupboard under the rear step, cleaning it out and fitting the sensor for the "Water DeTek" water detector. This was placed in the space below the floor which is the lowest point of the forward bilge where any water leakage would drain to and set off the alarm. Next I laid a tv aerial cable from the tv cabinet at the front of the boat, through the central heating pipe ducting to the rear of the boat where it was threaded through the storage area beneath the rear steps and into the calorifier/electrical cupboard in preparation for the tv from the front of the boat to be fitted in the rear cabin. After I had put everything back under the steps and refitted the trunking it was time for lunch. Phil ("Big Boy") Anderton joined us for lunch (Sexton's best) and afterwards Paul Savage moored "Adreva" next to us. Whilst outside talking to Paul and Oliver a kingfisher flew onto the front of the "Annie May 4" - Commodore Alan Dutton's boat and before I could get my camera it had flown onto the tiller of "Camarilla" that was moored in the arm about twenty metres away. I managed to take a photograph before it flew off but I couldn't get too close in case I frightened it away. My Panasonic's Leica lens and image quality is such that it allows significant cropping of the photograph without too much loss of quality and the resulting photograph is shown below. When looking at the image afterwards I didn't realise that "Camarilla" had a kingfisher tiller pin and much to everyone's amusement that at first I was looking at the dummy. Paul managed to put me right though! When Jack Kershaw ("Camarilla's" owner) saw the photograph he thought that I had been "playing around" with it... not so Jack!

The kingfisher on "Camarilla's" tiller

Maybe it was attracted by the tiller pin!

Ian reversing "Ted" to Lymm

I had dropped Ian off at Oughtrington and he reversed "Ted" all the way to Lymm to save him going to the winding hole as he would have had to turn around again on Sunday when returning the boat to its mooring. When he was safely moored next to "Squirrel" we drove to Midland Chandlers to exchange one of the bulbs purchased the previous day which was the wrong fitting and buy a few more to complete the LED lighting conversion on the boat with the exception of the headlight. Ian bought a few things as well before we returned to Lymm and when the girls returned from their shopping trip we all went to the "Golden Fleece" for tea. To our annoyance there was a football match on all the TVs in the pub and it was full. Fortunately the match was over before too long and peace returned to the pub. After tea we retired to "Ted" for a cup of coffee then returned to "Squirrel" and then to bed. Sunday saw us continuing our jobs. I moved the tv to the rear cabin where it was mounted on a wall bracket for when Shannon visits. The side doors were still showing signs of leaking so close inspection pointed to the sealant around the woodwork leaking so it was scraped out and good old Sikaflex applied. Let's hope that this does the trick! We had completed our jobs by mid-afternoon when we returned our boats to their respective moorings and headed for home after another busy but satisfying weekend.

A couple of weekends later we were back at Lymm to continue completing some of the jobs on our "to do" list. Threading the cables behind the cabin lining to extend the ring main proved problematic and we could have really used a pair of pointed nose pliers during the process. I have a pair at home but they're no good there and have since bought a pair specifically to keep on the boat. We also extended the ring main at the opposite end of the boat but this was easier due to the shorter distance and more clearance behind the lining. One of the jobs was installing a microwave oven. It was initially placed on the cupboard unit opposite the sink and we soon discovered that it took up too much space so we decided to fit it on a wall bracket adjacent to the cooker hob next to the wall cupboard. As there is no mains power in the kitchen at this point the ring main will have to be extended again. Once the jobs were completed we retired to the Golden Fleece for tea. On Sunday, as the planned internal jobs were completed and the rain prevented any exterior jobs we returned home after another busy weekend. During the following week a microwave oven bracket was sourced from eBay for a very reasonable price and the necessary mains socket and cable obtained ready for the installation to be completed next time we were on the boat.

Lymm CC's Annual General Meeting was looming on the horizon and I had received an enquiry from the in-coming Chairman... Jack Kershaw asking if I would be interested in being the Club's Magazine Editor. I had been on the Club's Committee before and found it challenging living so far away from Lymm. The local demands on the Magazine Editor are not as great as in my previous position (Clubhouse Officer) and might be able to juggle work hours around a bit so that I could attend the Committee Meetings. With this in mind I promised to think about it and after discussing the matter with Ange and Norma Probin... the current Magazine Editor I decided to accept the nomination for the post. At the AGM my nomination was passed and I am now the Editor of "Slipway". I just hope that I can carry on the good work of past editors such as Tony Whalley, Lisa Foster and Norma Probin and produce a magazine to the high standard that Lymm CC members have come to expect. Unexpectedly, I was also asked to be the Lymm CC website editor as well due to Mel Blakey... the current website editor not returning to the Committee. There were quite a few other changes to the Committee... as previously mentioned Jack Kershaw has replaced John Melling as Chairman, Phil "Big Boy" Anderton has stood down as Treasurer due to work pressures and replaced by Dave King, Joanne Clarke has taken Michelle Gilbody's place as Secretary and after twenty five years of being Mooring Officer Alan Savage has stood down with his place being taken by my old friend and fellow photographer Arthur Malcolm. There were many other new members of the Committee as well but their posts will not be announced until after the first Committee Meeting next week.

2014 Commodore Paul Durbridge, new Chairman Jack Kershaw and retiring Secretary Michelle Gilbody at the AGM

Just prior to the meeting I received news from fellow Lymm CC member Angela Norton of a 񌇥 million investment scheme for the Bridgewater Canal in Salford. The Heritage Lottery Fund has made a grant of 񋠌 million with the remainder being funded by local councils, Peel Holdings and private developers. The plan is to spruce up the canal corridor from Boothstown, through Worsley to Barton. It will include towpath improvements, dredging and new moorings in the Delph Basin adjacent to the mine entrances at Worsley and installing a viewing platform from which to view an illuminated Barton Swing Aqueduct. Work is due to commence early next year and should be completed by 2016. I can't wait!

A silted and shallow Worsley Delph Basin as it is currently...

...and an artist's impression of how a dredged Worsley Delph Basin might look in 2016

(CGI - Manchester Evening News)

New for 2014 in the Lymm CC calendar was dancing lessons on a Friday night. There were dancing lessons a few years ago which we attended and thoroughly enjoyed even though it was a rush straight from work but this was outweighed by the enjoyment. I managed to finish work early and Ange dropped me off at Oughtrington to take the boat down to Lymm whilst she drove the car down and met me there. Ian just beat me to it and we moored next to each other on the canal frontage. After a quick tea we went into the clubhouse for the aforementioned dance lessons and by the end of the evening we could all dance a simple jive as well as learning the steps to the Charleston Swing.

The Lymm CC Dance Class in full swing (literally)

I don't normally endorse products but we recently bought a K鋜cher Window Vac. This is a portable, rechargeable window cleaner that is basically an electric suction device fitted with a double squeegee blade to collect excess moisture from the window as it cleans the glass. After seeing it in action at home it struck me that it might be a useful tool in the boater's armoury against condensation on boat windows. Accordingly we couldn't wait to try it at the first opportunity. On the Saturday morning after the dance class we tried it out before breakfast and what a revelation it turned out to be. Below are photographs of the unit in action so judge for yourselves. As the man says... "A picture says a thousand words!"

The K鋜cher Window Vac

The window full of condensation prior to using the K鋜cher Window Vac

The effectiveness can be seen from the first stroke...

...and after a minute or so the difference had to be seen to be believed...

...as did the amount of water collected in the unit's reservoir

Not only did the unit remove condensation from the glass but it also managed to suck the water from the aluminium frames as well. It is available in three versions the WV50, the WV60 and the WV70. The different versions all feature the same basic units but with different levels of accessories added. The normal prices range from 50 to 70 but we managed to find a WV60 on eBay for less than 50. I was so impressed with the results from the Window Vac that I submitted the photographs and a review of the unit to "Waterways World" for publication which was included in the April edition.

Michelle and Ian had bought me a set of self adhesive name transfers for the boat as a birthday present and we had been waiting for a dry day to fit them onto the bow of the boat... no mean feat given the recent rain and storms that had made January (and possibly February) 2014 the wettest since records began. The locations where the transfers were to be applied were cleaned with methylated spirit to remove all traces of the previous transfers, dead paint, etc and provide a clean base to ensure good adhesion, the cream paint was marked with a pencil and then the transfers applied. Everyone who saw them commented how good they looked.

The new name transfers applied to the boat's bow

Seeing as the weather had been mild (if not wet) I decided to partially refill the fresh water tank and when I leave the boat turn off the isolation valve as well as turning off the water pump and opening all the taps. I hope that I am not tempting providence as we have had snow and ice at Easter before now. Ian and I did a few other jobs after lunch including extending the 240 volt ring main and fitting an additional socket for the newly re-sited microwave oven in the kitchen. This completed the major jobs to the interior of "Squirrel" for the moment and only minor finishing and varnishing tasks remain.

The kitchen complete with microwave oven installed

Amazon the online retailers... you just have to love them don't you? They sell everything from screws to washing machines plus everything in-between. I received an email from them in the week suggesting some books that I might be interested in based on my purchasing history that really made me smile. A screenshot of the message is shown below for your appreciation.

A humorous Amazon email screenshot

(Well I think so anyway!)

Fellow Lymm CC member Sue Burden was raising funds for the charity Age UK in collaboration with the drinks company Innocent Smoothies. The company pledged to donate 25p for every bottle of their Smoothies sold "wearing" a knitted hat that can be later used as an egg cosy. Consequently, Sue asked for knitters to make hats for the appeal. Ange rose to the challenge and knitted non-stop. As a not so frequent knitter she was really proud of her efforts and one of the fruits of her labours (complete with a Valentine's Day kiss) is shown below.

One of Ange's Smoothie hats... complete with a Valentine's Day kiss!

(Photograph - Angela Wood)

On Valentine's Night there was a romantic dinner at Lymm CC. Michelle very kindly brought our boat down to Lymm for us as I didn't finish work until 4.30 pm and after collecting Ange's grandaughter...  Shannon we didn't reach Lymm until nearly 7.00 pm. After a quick wash and change of clothes we headed into the Clubhouse where Derek Ridpath, Phyllis Greenough and Linda Whalley produced a beautiful meal that was delivered to the tables by Emily Anderton, Popsy Gilbody and Shannon. Everyone commented on how well the waitresses did and how pleasant and polite they were! I even managed to have a night off from taking photographs with Commodore Paul Durbridge filling in for me with his Canon Eos 20D. The weather was wet and windy so we stayed on the boat until Sunday having a nice relaxing weekend chilling out and watching films on TV. As usual, the weather changed to being warm and sunny when we came to go home. At least I got to cruise the boat back to its moorings in the sunshine!

Emily, Shannon and Popsy... waitresses for a night

(Photograph - Angela Wood)

Ange and Me enjoying the Valentine's Night Dinner at Lymm CC

(Photograph - Paul Durbridge)

The following weekend the Friday night Jive Class continued and most enjoyable it was too. Saturday morning dawned dry and bright so I took the opportunity to clean the boat's roof with the scrubbing brush Ange had bought for me especially to complete this tack. The roof is due to be painted soon (when the weather warms up a bit) so I want to paint the non-slip part beige and bring the green of the cabin sides up to it. But in the meantime the non-slip part badly needed cleaning. With it having a non-slip surface this proved to be quite difficult but patience is a virtue and after a few hours of bending over (plus a couple of "skinned" knuckles) it was finally completed and now looks clean and ready for painting.

Your truly cleaning the boat's roof

(Photograph - Angela Wood)

I had been working on the Club's magazine all week and just had the finishing touches to make before emailing it to the printers. I had made a mock-up of it and I was very pleased with the end result as was everyone else who saw it. I have also created and up-loaded the new look Lymm CC Website which can be found at www.lymmcc.co.uk. It is of similar format to the "Canalscape" website for which I make no excuses as this is a well proven format that most visitors find appealing. I hope that everybody who visits it shares the view that if it's not broken you don't fix it!

The town houses opposite Lymm CC reflected on a perfectly still, mirror-like canal

Ian complete with Gardner mug and overalls

The Friday night Jive Class continued and on Saturday... the first day of March, the weather was warm and sunny. So much so that both Ian and I got on with jobs outside. Ian christened his new Gardner overalls and was polishing "Ted" with his usual Carnauba wax. I didn't do any paintwork polishing due to hopefully having "Squirrel" repainted in the near future so I didn't want to put a layer of wax on the paintwork that might cause problems with paint adhesion. But I did get out the Brasso and polished the mushroom vents and the everyday (as against the Sunday best) tiller arm after filling the fresh water tank.

There were a few Lymm CC boaters making the most of the mild temperatures and sunshine

Detail of a newly polished "Ted"

Brolleymate and polished, everyday (as against the Sunday best) tiller pin and bar glistening in the sunshine

There were quite a few boats moored at Lymm CC's clubhouse as well as many boats going up and down the canal. I am pleased to report that they were all using their throttles respectfully whilst passing moored boats. Ian has come up with an idea for protecting the brass mushroom vents without resorting to lacquering them which can cause problems when it comes to re-lacquering. Ian's idea takes the form of a plastic food bowl held in place by elastic wrapped around the vent. The vents will still need to be polished with Brasso but the tarnishing will not be as severe as if there is no protection at all. It is only in the prototype stage at the moment but initial trials look promising. With our jobs done I put the boat back on its mooring and we headed for home just as it started to rain.

Ian's experimental mushroom vent cover

Lymm moorings in the spring sunshine

Not long after we arrived home the "Slipway" magazines were delivered to our house and on Sunday morning Shannon earned some extra pocket money putting the magazines in the envelopes whilst I checked the mailing list before printing out the address labels. Below is a photograph of the "Slipway" editorial office (our dining room) with production in full swing!

The "Slipway" editorial team hard at work!

(Photograph - Angela Wood)

The following weekend was the opposite of the previous one weather-wise. I brought the boat to Lymm in perfect evening sunshine. Ange was going on an overnight pamper session on Monday and Tuesday and I had taken a couple of days off work as I planned to stay up at Lymm until Tuesday afternoon completing some of the jobs on my "to do" list. Saturday morning dawned bright and sunny and after Ange cleaned the windows and I cleaned the outside of the boat then cut the angle beading for the trunking that contains electrical cables and the central heating pipes along the starboard side of the boat interior.

Ange cleaning "Squirrel's" windows

We later had tea in the Golden Fleece accompanied by Dave and Eleanor Ross before retiring to our respective boats. Sunday morning was as pleasant as the previous day and we took advantage of the good weather to cruise down to Stockton Heath. After calling in to Thorn Marine we had an alfresco lunch on the back deck of "Squirrel" which was moored alongside "Ted". Ange and I even showed off our jiving skills to Pat... Michelle's mum who was well impressed as was Ian!

Stockton Heath boat moorings

Jiving on the rear deck

(Photograph - Michelle Gilbody)

Alfresco at Stockton Heath

After lunch we had a leisurely cruise back to Lymm in time for Ange to be collected by her son Michael who was taking her home whilst I stayed on the boat alone. I had taken a couple of days off work to do a few jobs on the boat such as repainting the gang plank and boat pole as well as other jobs on my to do list like fitting new loudspeakers for the stereo, sanding down and varnishing the inside of the side doors, etc. On Monday Ange was going on a pamper day and wouldn't be home until the following day plus there was a Lymm CC Committee Meeting I had to attend so it seemed logical to stay on the boat to save going home and coming back again. The weather forecast looked good for the next couple of days and for once it was accurate with blue skies and warm sunshine into the bargain! I couldn't have planned it better.

The partially re-clad Lymm CC Clubhouse

Ian was replacing the wooden cladding on the front of the Clubhouse and we all made the most of the wonderful weather. Monday flew by and on Tuesday I overslept... being woken at 09.45 am by a phone call from Ange. I had lost a few hours of daylight and tried to make it up. I managed to apply another coat of varnish to the side doors and paint the underside of the gang plank but all too soon it was time to take the boat back to its moorings and reluctantly head for home having accomplished most of what I wanted to do. With having the car at Lymm I walked back from Oughtrington on the canal towpath in the warm spring sunshine taking the opportunity to take a few photographs along the way. I definitely had the best weather of the week at the boat as for the rest of the week it was cold and misty. At least I was back in work and it didn't seem as though good weather had been wasted.

Oughtrington Woods in the spring sunshine

Saturday was a different kettle of fish. The weather was warm and sunny and as we were not going up to the boat and had Shannon staying with us we decided to make the most of the weather and drove to Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. This was Shannon's first time at this iconic structure. She is nearly nine... the same age I was when I went over it for the first time. We didn't tell her where we were going or what to expect and the look on her face when she first saw the height of the aqueduct was priceless.

Shannon and Ange half-way across "Ponty"

Looking up the piers gives an impression of the aqueduct's height

Looking across the aqueduct from the picnic place

Time for a coffee and an ice cream before heading for home

Whilst we were walking back over the aqueduct a quadcopter was flying up to the trough before dropping down and flying through the arch before coming up the other side. The photographs and videos from one of these revolutionary camera platforms must be stunning. When we returned to the Ruabon side we had a cup of coffee and an ice cream in Anglo Welsh's shop as the Pontcysyllte Visitor Centre wasn't open yet. I noticed that the Flexsys Rubber Plant has now been dismantled and the site is now ready for redevelopment and the possible reinstatement of the Ffrwd Canal (also known as Pickering's Canal) that used to run through the factory as well as the Monsanto Chemical Works and the Plas Kynaston Iron Works before it. For more information on the Ffrwd Canal go to "The Canal That Never Was" chapter in the "Shroppie" section of this website. We then returned to the car and headed for home after an enjoyable Saturday afternoon out. One amusing happening on the way home was when Ange gave Shannon a pear drop sweet that we bought from the Anglo-Welsh shop. Shannon said that it tasted like nail varnish remover... not that she knows what nail varnish remover tastes like!

The repainted boat pole and gang plank

The replacement welded fender loop

The next weekend saw us moored in the arm again. I gave the boat pole and gang plank another coat of paint and Paul Durbridge welded on a fender loop to replace the original which was missing when we bought the boat. It was cleaned and painted once cooled down. Ian had made two keepers for holding the table onto the cable/central heating pipe trunking and a capping for the electrical cable beneath the microwave oven in the kitchen. Once they had been attached I gave them both a couple of coats of varnish to help them blend in with the lining. I also made a start on stripping the old varnish from the inside lining of the back doors using paint/varnish stripper, a scraper and wire wool. Initial results look promising but I think it will take a few applications before I can start rubbing down and revarnishing. Alternatively we could always paint the timber either with dark green paint the same colour as the outside of the boat or even scumble them. Ideally the wood (veneered MDF actually) should be replaced but that is a job for the future.

Earlier in the year we were disappointed to learn that one of our favourite pubs on the Bridgewater Canal... Ye Old Number Three at Little Bollington, just outside Lymm had closed down. This weekend we noticed that it had been reopened under new management. Accordingly we paid it a visit by car for our Sunday dinner and were treated to a very nice meal indeed. Crispy roast potatoes, Yorkshire Pudding, not to mention tasty vegetables and thick slices of meat as well! It is good to see the pub reopened as it has a special place in the history of Lymm Cruising Club. It was here that the inaugural meeting of the Club took place nearly sixty years ago in October 1955. We have spent many happy hours there and look forward to spending many more there. We wish the new owners every success in running it.

The Old Number Three public house at Little Bollington

One small annoyance that had cropped up on the boat was the kitchen window. The top glass hopper had become stuck and whilst opening it the locking handle broke. Closer inspection indicated that the cause of the problem appeared to be the draught strip beneath the hopper glass which had become unstuck and had moved causing the window to jam. The windows were made by Caldwell's of Wigan so I emailed them requesting a replacement screw assembly for the locking unit and a new length of sealing strip. A couple of days later a packet dropped through the letter box containing a couple of replacement screw assemblies and a length of sealing strip. No invoice was included so I contacted them to compliment them on their customer service and ask about payment to which they replied that the items were sent no charge. What more can you ask... excellent service and no charge into the bargain? What a shame there aren't more companies that take a pride in their customer service in this way!

The broken window latch assemble...

...and the cause of the problem, an un-stuck draught sealing strip

We didn't stay at Lymm for very long the following weekend due to Ange having Mother's Day duties but I did manage to screw cabin hooks to the boat's lining and the hooks' eyes into the underside of the table so that the table could be placed securely in its new home on top of the central heating/electrical cable trunking in the front cabin. It's always the way... the previous weekend when we wanted good weather it rained and this weekend when we weren't there the weather was good!

The table in its new home on top of the trunking in the front cabin

We had a quick visit to Oughtrington on the Tuesday afternoon of Lymm CC's monthly meeting when we had tea on the boat. It was then that a photographic opportunity presented itself unexpectedly. Whilst looking down the canal towards Lymm the scene shown below was captured.

Oughtrington at sunset

Unusually, the Lymm CC opening Cruise and Dance was to take place before Easter rather than after it. The dance was to have a nautical "sailing" theme with fancy dress optional. We had previously arranged to leave the boat at Lymm in preparation for the Opening Cruise weekend and arrived on the Saturday morning with Ange's grandaughter Shannon accompanying us. As well as the Opening Cruise the next day was also Shannon's ninth birthday and she was looking forward the spending it on the boat. On our arrival at Lymm we loaded our things onto the boat and after lunch I fitted the new brass fairleads bought at Midland Chandlers "Freaky Friday" discount event to the bow adjacent to the T-stud and cabin roof in line with the centre rope loop. Next I removed the top hopper window glass, removed and replaced the old sealing strip from the frame and also replaced the broken locking latch assembly that Caldwell's Windows had very kindly supplied free of charge.

The brass fairleads fitted to "Squirrel"

After tea we dressed-up for the Opening Cruise Dance. Ange went as a sailor and I went as a Venetian Gondolier complete with boat pole. Ian dressed up as a pirate complete with wooden leg, eye patch and parrot... most impressive. The evening was a great success and we even had the opportunity to show-off our newly gained jiving skills as well! Ian won a prize for his fancy dress and it was Shannon's birthday along with Membership Secretary Phyllis Greenough so both of them received an extra present. Guess who fell over his peg leg when he returned to the boat though!

Yours truly as a Gondolier

(Photograph - Phil Anderton)

Peg Leg Gilbody the Pirate

The Opening Cruise Dance in full swing

Birthday girls - Shannon and Phyllis Greenough

Sunday morning dawned bright and dry if not a bit windy. There was the usual Opening Cruise Ceremony in the Club House with greeting the dignitaries and visitors before the Opening Cruise itself to Grappenhall. Shannon, Popsy and Emily Anderton along with Glenys Kershaw's grandsons presented the bouquets of flowers to the dignitaries' wives, Vice President and cruising officers' wives. With the ceremony over it was like a waterborne Le Mans start in narrowboats. We cruised down to Grappenhall  and even though it was bright and sunny it was also quite cold.

Unfurling the Lymm CC flag at the Opening Cruise Ceremony

Setting off on the Opening Cruise is a bit like a waterborne Le Mans start

The procession of boats passing beneath Pickering's Bridge at Thelwall

Fifty five boats cruised to Grappenhall and moored between the A50 Bridge and Grappenhall Bridge

"Squirrel" decorated for Shannon's birthday

Singing "Happy Birthday" at Shannon's birthday party on board "Squirrel"

Shannon and Popsy's tongues after eating the creative cupcakes

Angie's son Michael and his girlfriend Germaine (alias "Lofty"... can't think why she is called that!) made a surprise visit to give Shannon her birthday presents and spend the day with her. Shannon travelled to Grappenhall on board "Ted" giving Ange the chance to decorate the boat and prepare the for Shannon's birthday party when we moored. We moored close to the A50 Road Bridge and Shannon had her party complete with "creative" cup cakes instead of a birthday cake. We then returned to Lymm where we waved off our visitors, loaded our things into the car and readied the boat for the Easter Cruise to Boothstown and Castlefield in Manchester due to take place the following weekend.

As Ange and I were both off work we were able to leave Lymm on the Easter Cruise on the Thursday before Good Friday. We were loading our clothes and food onto the boat when our friends Ian, Michelle and Popsy arrived. After a quick catch-up we set off in the bright sunlight and later moored at the Trafford Centre. After tea we went for a walk in the Trafford Centre and I was duty bound to purchase the "Thunderbirds" boxed set that I saw in one of the shops. 13 for nine DVDs featuring all thirty two episodes... it just had to be done! When I reached the till with my purchase I was further surprised when there was an extra 20% off that price as well. No expense has been spared on the decoration of the Trafford Centre which is graced with numerous paintings on ceilings and in alcoves. One of my favourites I just had to photograph and reproduce here. It is a representation of Barton Swing Aqueduct and exhibits quite a bit of artistic licence in its stylisation. Whilst visiting W H Smith I was surprised to see a copy of "The Big Ditch" on their bookshelves. After a cup of coffee we returned to our boats and enjoyed a peaceful and quiet night.

A painting of Barton Swing Aqueduct inside the Trafford Centre

The Author and a copy of "The Big Ditch" on sale in W H Smith at the Trafford Centre

(Photograph - Ian Gilbody)

Our Gang in the Trafford Centre

The creatively illuminated ceiling of the Trafford Centre Bridge

"Squirrel" and "Ted" moored at the Trafford Centre

The next morning Ian and I did a bit of exterior housekeeping on our respective boats before setting off in brilliant sunshine for Boothstown. We were held up at Barton Aqueduct which had been swung to allow passage of one of the Mersey Ferryboats on the Manchester Ship Canal Cruise. As it was a bust Good Friday morning quite a few boats were soon waiting on both sides of the Aqueduct. When it eventually swung back boats from both directions crossed the Aqueduct which is more than wide enough to allow narrowboats to pass in both directions.

Waiting at Barton Swing Aqueduct

Passing boats on Barton Swing Aqueduct

Leafy Barton, opposite Worsley Cruising Club's moorings

The Boothstown side of Worsley Bridge

A very busy Moorings pub at Boothstown on a sunny Good Friday

We cruised through Eccles and Worsley without incident and before long we were tying-up opposite the Moorings pub at Boothstown Basin. Over the course of the afternoon many other boats from Lymm CC arrived and before long boats were mooring two deep. We went into the Moorings pub for our evening meal but it was extremely busy with visitors out for the day and members of Lymm CC as well. After a bit of a lie-in the following morning we set off for our next Easter destination... Castlefield in Manchester.

The new hotel under construction opposite Manchester United's football stadium

The weather as not as warm as the previous day but it was dry and sunny. We passed a new hotel under construction opposite Manchester United's football ground rumoured to eventually have a football pitch on the roof! No doubt it will be fully booked on match days. We wound our way through the tall buildings that line the canal on the approach to Castlefield. We found a mooring alongside one of the live-aboard boats in the Staffordshire Arm and after tying up we chatted to our fellow Lymm CC members moored in the vicinity whilst we waited for Shannon to join us.

Looking from the Staffordshire Arms towards the main line of the Bridgewater Canal

The Staffordshire Arms as seen from the steps up to the Castlefield Hotel

That evening we were all booked in for a meal in the Castlefield Hotel. We had eaten here before and knew that the food was excellent. We had a window seat and were joined by Phil (Big Boy) and Michelle Anderton. Needless to say the meal didn't disappoint. What did disappoint was when an adjacent boat started its engine at 5.45 am the next morning. Michelle and Ian were moored in front of us and Michelle got out of bed and knocked on the boat. After listening to her complaint the owner informed her that he had been moored here for ten years. Michelle replied that she thought that it was time that he moved on... but we won't be holding our breaths!

Enjoying our meal at the Castlefield Hotel

There was the Easter Bonnet Parade Competition on the Sunday morning and many members had spent time on their unique creations. Ange had made a hat for herself and Shannon. Ange didn't win with hers but Shannon did! After lunch we made a visit to the Museum of Science and Industry after looking at the remaining lock on the Manchester and Salford Junction Canal. Shannon and Popsy didn't seem very enamoured with the sexy stuff in the Museum like the engines and railway locomotives but seemed more excited by the interactive displays upstairs. It just illustrates the difference between male and female interests.

Easter bonnets on parade

The lock connecting the Manchester and Salford Junction Canal to the River Irwell

Next was a visit to Coronation Street for Lymm CC members organised by Social Secretary Derek Ridpath. We had been really looking forward to this visit. About twenty years ago we went on the original Coronation Street Tour which was limited to the outside sets. This time we got to see the studio sets as well. One disappointment was the mock-up of the narrowboat that was home to Ken Barlow's lover...  Martha Fraser... a lady played by Stephanie Beecham. The disappointment wasn't in the boat itself but when the guide referred to it as "Martha's Barge" there was a sharp intake of breath from all of the members of Lymm CC.

Ange and Shannon on Coronation Street

That evening we were treated to a chorus of electricity generators running on adjacent boats. At one point we were bombarded by noise pollution in stereo... it was as if the owners were taking it in turn to annoy us and deter us from mooring here in the future. A visiting narrowboat that had just come down the Rochdale Canal moored next to one of the boats whose generator was running. When asked the owner to turn it off he refused so the visiting boat cast off and left. What kind of impression are these inconsiderate live-aboard boat owners giving with their selfish behaviour, bad manners and scruffy eyesore boats? Some of the visitors, both waterborne and on foot come from all over the world. Needless to say a complaining email was sent to Mike Webb on our return home. Easter Monday dawned bright and sunny if not a bit on the cool side. We left Castlefield early, visited the sanitary station and headed for Lymm. We stopped briefly at Sale whilst Ange nipped to the shop for milk. Moored opposite us at the King's Ransom pub was an unusual boat based on a Dutch Tjalk that we had seen a few years ago at Burscough on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

We moored briefly at Sale... note the unusual Dutch Tjalk inspired boat on the right (see "Don't Cal It A Barge")

Ian and Michelle had left the previous day in order to visit the hall at Dunham Massey which is where we caught up with them. We moored next to them and had lunch before heading for our moorings, loaded up the car and headed for home after a most enjoyable Easter Cruise on which we even received a bit of a tan... the first of the year!

Our gang plus Michelle's Mum and Dad at Dunham Massey

"Squirrel" and "Ted" moored at Dunham Massey

Two weeks later it was our annual May Day Bank Holiday pilgrimage to the wide between Saltersford and Barnton Tunnels. After collecting Shannon from school on the Friday afternoon we made our way to Oughtrington where Ange dropped me off to take the boat to Lymm CC's Clubhouse to load our clothes and food onto the boat. We admired the new sign that Ian had fitted to the Clubhouse before I topped-up the water tank. Ian and Michelle caught us up at Lymm and we made our way to Thelwall where we moored for the night.

The new sign Ian fitted to the side of Lymm CC's Clubhouse

Thelwall Viaduct from our overnight mooring

The next morning dawned bright and sunny if not a little on the cool side and we cruised to Stockton Heath. Shannon asked if she could sit on the boat's roof and we told her that she could provided that she kept still. We passed one of Thorn Marine's day boats at Grappenhall and were surprised to see it being steered by a pregnant nun! Before very long we arrived at Stockton Heath and moored opposite the London Bridge Pub whilst we visited Thorn Marine for ice creams, etc.

Shannon sitting on the boat's roof whilst cruising

The London Bridge Pub on a sunny spring morning

We were soon under way again and our next stop was at Preston Brook where we waited for the southbound passage times. After checking the headlamp (spot of trouble with the "wetwicks" - aka poor contact on the bulb) we entered the tunnel at the appropriate time and had an uneventful passage through although I found myself smiling at "Ted's" engine exhaust note when Ian opened the throttle in the tunnel. We thought that we might stop at the Dutton Breach site for lunch bit when we arrived boats from Runcorn BMBC had beaten us to it so we carried on a little way and found a pleasant mooring overlooking the River Weaver. We were in no rush and after an extended lunch we set off for Saltersford Tunnel where we had to wait yet again for the southbound passage times.

"Squirrel" and "Ted" waiting for the southbound passage times at Saltersford Tunnel

Soon we were passing through the tunnel and entering the wide where our fellow Lymm CC members were moored. We were not the last to arrive but found a mooring at the exit of the wide leading to Barnton Tunnel. After mooring we chatted to our fellow club members before tea. The bar had been set-up as had the barbeque and later on we sampled both whilst sitting around the bonfire chatting to our friends. Sunday was as dry as the previous day so whilst Ange and Michelle took the girls on the organised bowling activity Ian polished and I cleaned the brasses and front deck. On their return the girls played on the hill behind the bar and barbequeue. Shannon came back filthy and had to strip off on the rear deck (suitably hidden from view) before getting straight into the shower!

Shannon on her return from playing... filthy or what?

A panoramic photograph of "Wellies and Onsies" around the bonfire

After tea it was the "Wellies and Onsies" evening around the bonfire. Most members were dressed for the part. I don't possess a onsie so I put my "Squirrel from the Wirral" overalls on! Everyone had a good time and the evening flew past and all too soon we were returning to the boat and looking forward to the breakfast cooked by Derek and Phyllis the following morning. Before long it was time to leave and make our way back to Lymm. We caught the ten-o-clock tunnel and cruised slowly in a procession of boats all going in the same direction. When we reached the site of the Dutton Breach we were pleased to see that the moorings were vacant so we moored for a couple of hours whilst we had lunch and admired the view across the Cheshire dairy-land, across the River Weaver with Dutton Viaduct in the distance.

"Squirrel" moored at the site of the Dutton Breach

Looking from the breach site across the Cheshire dairy-land towards Dutton Viaduct

Quite a few boats passed us whilst we were moored and we hoped that when we reached Dutton Stop Lock and Preston Brook Tunnel just after it that there wouldn't be much of a queue. We were wrong and only just made it into the lagoon between the lock and the tunnel. Once through the tunnel we cruised past Claymoore Navigation Boat Hire Base when a fibre glass cruiser turned across the canal right in our path. We went into reverse and only just stopped with a couple of feet to spare. A few hours later we were mooring outside the Clubhouse, loading the car and after I had put the boat on its mooring headed for home after a busy and enjoyable weekend.

A few weeks ago we took Shannon to visit Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. When her father (Angie's son - Michael) heard about it he said that it was quite a few years since he had been to the aqueduct so I promised to take him when he had the time. That turned out to be this week and we had an enjoyable drive there over the Llandegla Moors and down the Horseshoe Pass. Unfortunately the weather was cloudy and we were not able to see the dramatic mountain views. Once at the aqueduct we walked across it, stopping for the obligatory photograph of pretending to pull the plug out.

Michael pretending to pull the plug out of Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

The weather was still cloudy and drizzly but there were quite a few people (mainly foreign visitors) about. I did take some photographs a couple of which are included below but nothing that you haven't seen before. We enjoyed the walk and went into the Visitor Centre on the way back to the car park. I commented to the guides that there was no mention of Longdon-on-Tern anywhere in the display documenting the aqueduct's history to which one of the guides asked "What's that?" I couldn't believe that guides could be lacking in such basic knowledge about the aqueduct's history. I enlightened them that Thomas Telford's prototype for Pontcysyllte was at Longdon-on-Tern on the Shrewsbury Canal to which they said that they would have to look it up. I was definitely not amused. We next went to Llangollen for lunch before making our way home across the road from by the marina that winds though the valleys and moor land to come out behind Wrexham... a drive that I would recommend to anyone.

Looking down with the River Dee 126 feet below

A timeless monochrome photograph of Pontcysyllte Aqueduct seen from Fron Village Football Field

The boat was due to come out of the water the following weekend so we could clean and repaint the hull so we spent the week collecting our bitumen, paint rollers, the green dark paint samples sent by Rylard Paints and other stuff needed for the exercise (as well as going to Pontcysyllte Aqueduct). Whilst the boat is out of the water I planned to clean and bitumen the gas lockers, paint the engine compartment with bilge paint plus paint a few other places as well so we expect it to be a busy week (weather permitting). On the day that the boat was due to come out of the water Michelle and Ian had organised a trip through Standedge Tunnel on the Huddersfield Narrow canal. A couple of telephone calls rescheduled the boat coming out to Friday teatime and this would leave the boat's hull to dry and we could start painting on Sunday... weather permitting.

We arrived at Lymm on Friday afternoon, brought the boat down to the Clubhouse and prepared it for coming out of the water. It wasn't long before the Club's tractor was started by Rob Hoyle and the boat that was occupying the slipway relaunched. I manoeuvred "Squirrel" over the trolley and before long we were on dry land with the trolley securely chained to prevent any premature launching.

"Squirrel" being slipped out of the water

(Photograph - Angela Wood)

Yours truly jet-washing the boat's hull

(Photograph - Angela Wood)

"Squirrel" jet-washed and ready for re-painting

Below "Squirrel's" waterline showing red oxide primer with bitumen distinctly lacking

I started to jet-wash the hull to remove any moss and soon discovered that the bitumen on the hull only extended to just below the waterline. The rest of the hull was painted in red oxide with little or no bitumen in evidence! Michelle and Ian arrived and Ian gave me a hand jet-washing which he enjoys. Before long the hull was cleaned and we could leave it to dry ready to commence painting on Sunday as on Saturday we were travelling to Marsden on the Huddersfield narrow Canal for a trip through Standedge Tunnel.

The Marsden entrance to Standedge Tunnel

The Standedge Tunnel Visitor centre at Marsden

Inside the Visitor Centre

As is to be expected the weather the next morning was wet and drizzly but if you are inside a canal tunnel beneath the Pennines that wouldn't really matter would it? We arrived at Marsden and spent some time in the Visitor Centre which was showing a video all about the tunnel's history... most interesting. The coffee shop adjacent to the tunnel entrance was next on the list before the taxi arrived to transport us to the Diggle end of the tunnel where our trip was leaving from. The taxi journey took us over the hills through which the tunnel passes and it is a shame that it is far beneath the ground as the scenery above it is absolutely stunning... even on a day such as this. The boat that was to take us through the tunnel was waiting for us when we arrived.

The Canal and River Trust trip boat that was to carry us through Standedge Tunnel

The Diggle entrance to the tunnel

Entering the tunnel

Fred - our tunnel guide

It was an electric tug towing a passenger pod that had outside areas at the bow and stern. When we climbed on board we were given hard hats which we had to wear if we left the cabin area of the boat. Needless to say mine was on all the time! The two hour journey started and we entered the first section of the tunnel. A commentary was given by Fred... one of the tunnel guides which was most informative, telling us about the way the tunnel was constructed and pointing out various features when we came to them. The tunnel has various linings ... solid rock, concrete sprayed rock, Yorkshire Stone blocks, engineering bricks and red pressed bricks. The lining varies as the tunnel passes through various types of geology. I had brought my powerful Metz electronic flash unit and used it to provide the light source whilst taking photographs of the tunnel's interior and it illuminated up to one hundred metres of the tunnel on some of the photographs.

One of the engineering brick lined gallery sections of the tunnel

Beautiful colours in the bare rock sections

Sprayed concrete secures loose rock

Yorkshire stone blocks line many lengths of the tunnel

At first I could see Ian thinking that he could bring "Ted" through this tunnel but after passing through the first extremely narrow bare rock sections he had changed his mind. There are three tunnels through the hill at Standedge... the original canal tunnel, a single track railway tunnel (now converted into a roadway) and a twin track railway tunnel that is still in use. The boat we were on stopped at intervals throughout our two hour journey to check-in with Canal and River Trust personnel who were following our progress from their vehicle in the converted single track railway tunnel. About half-way through the tunnel widens out into what appears to be a passing place which may have allowed craft to pass each other. The tunnel also has an "S" bend in it where the bores being cut from the Marsden and Diggle ends didn't quite line up when they met during construction.

Canal and River Trust personnel checking on our subterranean progress from a side gallery

"S" bend in the middle of the tunnel

One of the wide sections which allowed boats to pass in the tunnel

Michelle and Ange with the Canal and River Trust trip boat steerers at Marsden

After two hours we reached the Marsden portal and emerged into the daylight and it had even stopped raining for a few minutes as well! For further information have a look at  the Canal and River Trust Standedge Tunnel Web Page as well as the section of Canalscape that deals with the Wonders of the Waterways and the chapter that deals with Standedge Tunnel in particular. If you don't mind being in a tunnel for a couple of hours the experience is thoroughly recommended. With another location ticked off my "must visit" list we visited the coffee shop again before the rain stopped and Ian and I took a walk along the towpath to be picked-up by Michelle and Ange a little way down the road. This walk gave us a taste of what the canal was like and although heavily locked passes through absolutely stunning (even if a little wet) scenery. We were unanimous in the decision that one day we would like to cruise this canal. The question is... would we be brave enough to go through the tunnel in our own boats?

Stunning countryside near Marsden

Railway Lock 42E at the Huddersfield Narrow Canal's summit level at Marsden

A Hudson narrowboat on a pleasant mooring at Diggle (I bet that's not been through the tunnel!)

Lock 31W near Diggle with Grandpa Green's Caf in the background

Placing our food and drink orders at Grandpa Green's Caf

Once we were back in the car we retraced the route that the taxi had taken to Diggle to have a look at the canal on the other side of the tunnel. The scenery was just a beautiful as at the other side and after a walk along a particularly picturesque section it started to rain yet again so we took shelter in the conveniently located Grandpa Green's lockside caf and ice cream shop. With our stomachs topped-up with a very tasty bacon barm we returned to the car and headed for Lymm. We returned to the boat safe in the knowledge that we wouldn't have been able to start painting the boat as the weather was just as wet at Lymm as it had been at Standedge Tunnel. The following day Sunday wasn't much better weather-wise either and we didn't start painting until Monday afternoon after a few false starts when I had started to prepare the rollers and bitumen only to be showered on again. Tuesday and Wednesday were better days and we managed to eventually complete three coats of bitumen on the boat's hull leaving a couple of days for it to cure. The weather had put us a couple of days behind and consequently we didn't manage all the painting we had planned to do.

The hull blacking on "Squirrel" completed and the boat awaiting relaunching...

...from the front...

...and from the other side

Whilst the bitumen cured we painted the inside of the gas lockers and the lids of the other lockers as well as a few other odd jobs. As the week progressed the weather steadily got better and Friday was hot and sunny. After completing all the painting jobs (except for painting the engine compartment) I helped John Moult to cure a water leak on his boat with some invaluable assistance from Colin Jones (nb "Longford"). Once this was done John said that he'd better put our boat back into the water before Ange returned from shopping with Michelle as she didn't want to spend another night on an angle. Once he returned the boat to the water I moored it on the canal frontage careful not to scratch the newly applied hull blacking. When Ange returned we set off in the beautiful late afternoon sunshine for Stockton Heath where we planned to moor and visit Panni's Chippy for our tea. The trip to Stockton Heath was absolutely idyllic... sunshine, heat, Ange sitting next to me on the rear deck and the engine running at just over idling speed humming in the background as we passed through the outskirts of Lymm, through Thelwall and Grappenhall Villages before finding a nice quiet mooring. We enjoyed our tea and watched some TV before going to bed after an absolutely beautiful day.

A quiet mooring at Stockton Heath

The next morning dawned equally sunny and promised to be another hot day. Half-way through our breakfast the gas bottle ran out and was swapped with the full one. I noticed that there was water in the gas bottle locker on the port side of the boat. Initially I thought that it was caused by the ventilation hole being close to the water line but the calorifier safety valve run-off pipe also vents into this locker. The water pump had started running for no reason for a split second and on investigation the two were connected. The water being caused by a leaky safety valve. Accordingly a replacement was obtained from Thorn Marine along with a replacement gas bottle which I brought along the towpath on their trolley. We weren't disappointed by the weather and set off after breakfast for Moorefield Bridge where Lymm CC was due to have a bonfire that evening. It was a few years since I had last explored this area and took the opportunity to give the Leica an airing and take some new photographs as well as re-take photographs that I had previously taken this location nearly thirty years ago. I even came across an old WW2 Anderson air raid shelter that my children used to play in when they were little which I had not previously photographed. If I didn't I don't suppose anyone else will!

Looking towards Moore...

...and in the other direction towards Moore Field Bridge

Fruit of the Leica - rolling fields at Moore

With the hull freshly re-blacked... "Squirrel" basking in the sunshine at Moore

The old WW2 Anderson air raid shelter that my children used to play in when they were young

Ian had been with his van and dropped off some wood to be burned on the bonfire later on. In the meantime Ange and I had lunch, chilled-out and read our books in the beautifully hot sunshine. When the sun started to go down a few hours later the bonfire was lit and we all took our chairs and drinks with us and sat around the fire chatting. Ian and Michelle came by car along with Phyllis, Barry and Derek who were not coming by boat due to preparing for the Invitation Cruise the following day. We stayed until after ten-o-clock then retired to our boat for a good night's sleep at a beautifully quiet location.

As the sun went down the bonfire was lit

The next morning we set off from Moore in brilliant sunshine (again) and made our way back to Lymm for the Invitation Cruise. Old and existing members not able to boat any more were invited on board members' boats for a short cruise along the canal and back again when a meal had been laid on for them. We were allocated two guests... Joan Waites (whose husband managed the bar until his death a few years ago) and Elsie Hughes (whose husband is a past Commodore and is now in a nursing home).

Lymm CC members past and present at the Invitation Cruise

Our guests - Elsie Hughes and Joan Waites on board "Squirrel"

After the initial introductions we boarded our respective boats and headed towards Dunham Massey. Our guests chatted and reminisced about their time with the Club over tea and biscuits then we turned around and retraced our steps to Lymm. We moored on the canal frontage and made our way into the Clubhouse where we were served a beautiful Lasagne prepared by Derek and Phyllis. All too soon it was time to say farewell to our guests, load up the car, take the boat back to its mooring and head for home after one of the best weekends we had experienced weather-wise for a long time. Unusually, the weather changed the following day with heavy rain and thunder... it's usually the other way around and the sun comes out when when we go home!

In the Clubhouse for a meal after the Invitation Cruise

Over the Whit weekend there was the FBCC Gathering of Boats hosted by Sale Cruising Club but we were unable to attend due to family commitments and having to catch-up with jobs at home as well. After a busy weekend at home on the following Tuesday I went up to Oughtrington whilst Ange was at work with a list of jobs. I had modified a hand-held water pump to reach the engine compartment sump and my first job was to empty the small amount of water that had collected there and then mop-up the engine drip tray. Once empty I dried the two areas and proceeded to my second job... cutting the grass on our mooring with an electric strimmer. I started the boat's engine so that the inverter did not drain the batteries un-necessarily. With these jobs completed I washed my hands and had lunch.

Cruising through Oughtrington Wood as seen from our mooring

Plastic gloves were required for the next job... checking the stern gland then tightening it up by half a turn on each nut whilst ensuring that the propeller shaft was easy to turn. The stern gland greaser was also filled up. This is a really messy job (I can't believe that an enterprising manufacturer hasn't come up with a less messy solution to this task) but once completed shouldn't need attention for quite a few months. The last job was to replace the pressure relief valve on the calorifier that was as previously mentioned passing a small amount of water through the overflow pipe in one of the gas lockers. With the water pump switched off and the taps opened to relieve the pressure I removed the old valve but when I came to fit the new one there was a " BSP to " BSP male coupling on the original valve that could not be removed.

Calorifier Pressure Relief Valve and Hep2o to inch BSP coupling

An old isolation valve that was lurking in the bottom of the toolbox (previously used on "Total Eclipse" when a calorifier fitting corroded and broke emptying the contents of the water tank in the engine compartment) was fitted temporarily whilst I found a replacement. It wasn't a particularly hot day but it was dry and bright with quite a lot of traffic on the canal most of which passed the moorings at a reasonable speed. With everything on my job list ticked-off it was time to tidy up and make my way home before the rush hour traffic built-up on the M56. I stopped at Thorn Marine on the way to see if they had a fitting for the pressure relief valve. Whilst they didn't have the fitting required they did have a solution in the shape of a " BSP to Hep2o coupling but this would have to wait until we are next up at the boat to be fitted. In the meantime I visited Embee's... our local plumber's merchant in Wallasey and bought the same coupling as on the original pressure relief valve. So now I had two solutions to the problem. I planned to try the BSP to Hep2o coupling first and if this proved to be unsuccessful the other fitting should fit perfectly.

The temporary isolation valve and the new pressure relief valve fitted to the calorifier

Cruising through the outskirts of Lymm in brilliant sunshine

The next visit to Lymm was on the Friday after the Whit weekend. We arrived at Oughtrington and Ange dropped me off as usual so that I could take the boat down to the clubhouse. After tying up in the arm we had tea followed by a relaxing evening. The next morning I fitted the new pressure relief valve to the calorifier. The coupling purchased from Thorn Marine fitted perfectly and the alternative coupling was not required so was relegated to the tool box along with the old isolation valve. We cruised down to Stockton Heath in the brilliant sunshine and on the way Ange took the tiller whilst I removed the fittings from the rear doors. During the week I had experimented with scumbling a piece of scrap timber at home. The experiment proved successful and we decided to try our scumbling skills on the rear doors of the boat instead of revarnishing them. After rubbing them down with sandpaper I applied the first coat of scumble base coat. By that time we had reached Stockton Heath so we moored up just past the winding hole and after another coat on the doors we walked into Stockton Heath. On our return a replica of Tracy Island had made its way down the canal and was in the process of locating itself behind "Squirrel".

Tracy Island replica at Stockton Heath

I completed a couple more coats of scumble basecoat on the doors then it was time to visit Panni's Chippy for our tea. With our stomachs full of their beautiful fish, chips and sweet curry sauce we had another relaxing evening reading and watching TV. Sunday morning dawned warm and sunny and we set off for Lymm at 09.00 am. The rhododendrons were in bloom in Thelwall Cutting adding a splash of colour to the predominantly green treescape. A little way along the canal more colour was in evidence in the shape of a brightly painted narrowboat where even the satellite dish was colourfully painted with traditional canal-style castles instead of the more usual white.

Rhododendrons in bloom at Thelwall Cutting

Brightly painted satellite dish on a narrowboat's roof

When we reached Lymm we wasted no time loading the car and returning the boat to its mooring at Oughtrington due to after lunch having to visit Jim... my brother who had been admitted to hospital. I know that I am not alone in hating hospitals and I really felt sorry for my brother knowing that he feels the same about them as I do. He was diagnosed with heart failure (not cardiac arrest but failure of the heart to pump correctly) and to our relief came home later on in the week.

That weekend it was the IWA National Campaign Festival Rally at Tower Wharf in Chester. Instead of cruising to George Gleave's Bridge with Lymm CC we decided to attend the festival instead. The aim of the festival was to highlight the condition of the River Dee Branch which has fallen into disuse over the last few years as well as promote the future vision of a new lock to bypass the tidal weir a little way upstream. I photographed the River Dee Branch in 2011 when we cruised to Chester as part of our summer cruise and was disappointed in its condition. The connection channel was silted up and the tidal gates were disused. They looked as though they were hanging off and did not have their balance beams fitted. Since then the navigable section as far as the final lock has been cleaned up but the lower section and tidal gates below the lock have deteriorated further.

The River Dee Branch next to Whipcord Lane

The last lock on the River Dee Branch

The channel leading to the stop planks and disused tidal gates

The silted up channel that connects the canal to the tidal River Dee

Looking upstream on the River Dee from Crane Wharf towards the Roodee and Chester Weir

If craft were able to lock down into the River Dee and wished to reach the non-tidal section of the river they would have to either cross the tidal  weir on a spring tide when there is sufficient depth of water over the weir or alternatively use the water gate on the left hand side of the weir also on a spring tide. The IWA are promoting the construction of a new lock on the Handbridge (Welsh) side of the river. It would utilise the channel once used for the now disused hydro-electric generating station adjacent to the fish ladder. The photographs below show the weir and the location of the proposed new lock on the left hand side of the second photograph directly beneath the modern brick-built apartment building.

A panoramic photograph of Chester Weir which separates the tidal and non-tidal sections of the River Dee

The location of the proposed new lock channel is on the right of the photograph

On the Saturday of the rally Ange, Shannon and myself had arranged to meet Ian, Michelle and Popsy at the Old Trooper Inn at Christleton, leave the cars there and travel to the rally site by bus. Ian and Michelle had beaten us to the Trooper and were waiting for us inside. After breakfast and a coffee we caught the bus to the centre of Chester and walked along the walls to Tower Wharf where the rally was being held. It was raining when we arrived and took shelter in the stalls in the marquees that lined the canal basin. We were greeted by many Lymm CC members (including the Vice Commodore) who had also "ducked out" of the cruise to George Gleave's Bridge. The historic dry dock now part of Taylor's Boatyard had been opened to the public who could descend to the floor of the dock and inspect the work being undertaken on a composite (wrought iron sides and an elm bottom) narrowboat.

It was raining when we arrived at the Tower Wharf rally site

Just a few of the Lymm CC members we met at the rally

The historic dry dock was opened up for the public to visit

Inside the dock we were given a demonstration of caulking on a composite narrowboat

We then crossed over the canal on the roving bridge to have a look at the trade stalls on the opposite side of the canal. The housing development lining the square basin is nearly completed and offers a secret world for boats moored there. One of the trade stands was occupied by Miracle Leisure from whom we recently purchased a "Brolleymate" via their website. They also sell a range of brass care products and demonstrated their "Miracle Brass Brite" liquid which removes tarnishing from brass mushroom ventilators, etc without having to be bent double for hours with the Brasso. As I am currently cleaning the brass ventilators on "Squirrel" so a purchase was made. I plan to lacquer them once cleaned and polished and I shall report back on how well it works when I have used it. By now the rain had eased off and the sun was threatening to break through the clouds so after a cup of tea and coffee we carried on looking around at the many and varied stands and exhibits.

Trade stands and exhibits at the rally

The Miracle Leisure stand proved to be informative and useful

A composite panoramic photograph of the canal adjacent to the Dry Dock and Taylor's Boatyard

One of the exhibits that took my eye was Box Boat 337. This is a restored Bridgewater Canal Box Boat once used to transport coal from mines adjacent to the Bridgewater and Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canals. The box system was devised by James Brindley where coal was loaded into wooden boxes, loaded onto the boats and when they reached their destination the box was lifted out of the boat by a crane, doors in the bottom of the box opened to allow the coal to fall out and the empty box reloaded onto the boat to be returned to the coal mine for refilling. It is reputedly the first venture into containerisation and ensured a more efficient method of loading and unloading cargoes of this type. The restored boat is now part of the collection of historic craft at the National Waterways Museum, Ellesmere Port (formally known as the Boat Museum).

Restored Bridgewater Box Boat 337 complete with a loaded and empty container

The empty container showing the doors in the bottom for emptying coal out

We retraced our steps and walked down the River Dee Branch to the Cake Fairy Caf where we sat in the brilliant sunshine for refreshments. We had visited this caf previously when we were on the 2011 Summer Cruise and the food today is just as good as it was then. There was a flypast over the rally site by a World War II Hurricane fighter airplane and after a quick look at the connection channel, tidal gates and Crane Wharf we returned to the rally just in time to see it. We sampled the ice creams on sale before having a last look around then we walked along the towpath to the city centre and caught the bus back to The Trooper at Christleton for tea before heading for home. The weather could have been kinder to the rally organisers but it turned out well in the end. Let's hope that the rally brings a greater focus to the River Dee Branch and that the new lock at Chester Weir goes ahead. Even though we have been on the River Dee on trip boats it would be nice to spend some time exploring the navigable upper reaches in our own boats. We look forward to the opportunity to do this in the not too distant future.

A couple of photographs illustrating the many narrowboats in attendance at the rally

The weekend after the IWA National Campaign Rally it was Lymm May Queen Festival (even though it was June!) and this year there was a First World War theme. Ange and Shannon were asked if they would like to dress-up in period clothing and participate in the Festival procession by Sue Burden.. Ange said that she would dress up as Mrs Mop and walk alongside  Lymm CC's float whereas Shannon would go on float. Ange We picked Shannon up after school on the Friday and headed for Lymm. Barry Greenough very kindly gave us permission to moor on his mooring at Lymm as "Philbarmar" was having some work done at Agden. Ange dropped me off at Oughtrington as usual and headed for the clubhouse whilst I followed in the boat. The weather was hot and sunny but would it stay the same for the next day?

Boats collecting at Lymm for the May Queen Festival and Procession

Ange walking alongside Lymm CC's May Queen Procession float

Amber Lawless and Shannon on Lymm CC's float

The day started off warm and dry and after breakfast we helped with the final preparations for the May Queen Procession float. After lunchtime the completed float left the club's yard and headed for the assembly point behind the Library. After the usual wait the procession started in brilliant sunshine and after descending Eagle Brow we could see rain clouds in the distance. By the time we reached the May Queen Field the rain had started but it wasn't long lived. The winner of the procession was announced and unfortunately it wasn't Lymm CC... better luck next year. After a go on the waltzers and the obligatory donuts (mmmmmm!) we returned to the boat and had a rest after the day's exertions. Historically, members of other Bridgewater Canal boat clubs have an open invitation when it is Lymm May Queen Festival and that evening the clubhouse was filled with visitors enjoying the excellent food and hospitality. For more Lymm May Queen Festival photographs go to the Gallery on Lymm CC's website.

The Friday prior to the Summer Solstice Ange picked me up from work and we drove straight to Oughtrington where I got out of the car to take the boat to the Clubhouse in preparation for the Navigation Trial Weekend. Ange met me there and we moored in the arm on the side of nb "Kingfisher". We were up early the following morning and I went up to Hesford Marine at Agden on board nb "Longford" whilst Ange took Ian and Michelle in the car for the first part of the Navigation Trials which was to drive "Doug the Tug" complete with articulated trailer on a route to the slipway.

Ange driving "Doug the Tug" at Hesford Marine

The trailer and the route to the slipway

This was the first time we had been to Hesford's Boatyard since it had been renovated and the shop was most impressive stocking everything from a fender to a screw! We watched other members driving the tractor and trailer before tackling the task ourselves. I think that Ange and Michelle managed better than Ian and me. We returned to Lymm for lunch then I did a few jobs whilst Ange helped in the Clubhouse. Sunday saw the Navigation Trial proper. Entrants had to leave Lymm adjacent to the Commodore's mooring, cruise to the winding hole just past the end of the Lymm CC moorings, go around the winding hole twice and then return to the Clubhouse. The member whose time was closest to Paul Durbridge's was the winner.

Yours truly at the start of the Navigation Trial

(Photograph - Angela Wood)

I knew that it would not be me as I was held up by a boat reversing onto its mooring, a boat coming past the jetties and not leaving me space to pass then I had to wait at the winding hole for the boat preceding me. When I did reach the winding hole I got it just right and didn't have to use reverse or even slow down whilst negotiating my pirouettes. The winner turned out to be Ken Leigh and nb "Merlin". This would most probably be "Merlin's" last navigation trial as ken has a new boat being built by Cheshire Narrowboats.

When I returned from the Navigation Trials Ian's boat painter friends were waiting for me. They had come to have a look at the boat, match the paint colour and give a quote for repainting the boat. They  were the same painters that did the artwork on "Total Eclipse" and we have since seen their work on other boats which is most impressive. They would not be able to undertake the job until August, after the Summer Cruise which is most probably just as well as I would be afraid of scratching it on tree branches, etc. After discovering that the boat's colour is actually Black Green (RAL Code 6012) they promised to be in touch. At the end of the day we were treated to the sight of a laden narrowboat mooring opposite the Clubhouse. It was nb "Tench"... an ex FMC "Fish" Class narrowboat built in 1936. Its cargo was nineteen tons of stone from Stone and was visiting Lymm for the Transport Festival the next weekend.

A laden nb "Tench" moored opposite Lymm CC's Clubhouse

We arrived at Oughtrington on Friday teatime and as there was a work party the following morning we stayed on our mooring which was beautifully quiet and secluded. The next morning Arthur Malcolm the mooring officer who had called the work party to tidy up the Oughtrington moorings arrived around 9.00am. He had arranged via Ian to have a few tons of hard core poured down the lane leading to the car park to till-in the pot holes. The foliage in the lane was cut back and strimmed as well as in the car park and on the moorings. Michelle and Ange kept us all going throughout the morning with tea, coffee and "dunkers" and by lunchtime all the jobs were completed so I took the boat down to Lymm and moored in the slipway.

The lane leading to Oughtrington Moorings with trimmed foliage and hard core for the potholes

Derek and other members cutting back the hedge on the moorings

The newly manicured car park now with extra spaces

Arthur and Walter pausing for the camera

There were quite a few boats moored in the Village in preparation for the Lymm Transport Festival the next day and after tea we had a drink in the Bull's Head before going for a walk to have a look at them. There were ex-working narrowboats ranging from horse boats, butties and diesel powered motors...far too many to list.

Yours truly and John (Rosie) Melling in the Bull's Head

(Photograph - John's mate)

Lymm Village moorings full of ex-working narrowboats

There was a procession of classic vehicles passing through the Village on Sunday making their way to the May Queen Field. We had a good vantage point on the Cross until a few cars that came down the closed Rectory Lane stopped right in front of us. The light was good and I took many photographs including a timeless study of Lymm Lower Dam. One of the most interesting participants was a Foden steam roller complete with living van parked outside the Spread Eagle pub. You'd have thought that the owner... Rod Swaine from Dunham Massey would have tidied the living (loving) van though! Lymm CC's very own John Moult was showing his grey Fergie complete with a Dennis fire pump on the back.

Harbourmaster John Moult and his grey "Fergie"

A timeless photograph of Lymm Lower Dam

The Foden Steam Roller and Living Van

Inside the (untidy) Living Van

Sign on the back of the Living Van

It was unable to take part in the procession in case its rollers damaged the blocks that the roads in Lymm are paved with. We then made our way to the field via the canal and looked at the various stalls before feasting our eyes on the magnificent array of cars ranging from vintage models to an AC Cobra replica.

This exhibit needs no introduction!

Ange and I both had a couple of days holiday to take and we planned to return to Lymm for the regular monthly meeting on Tuesday so we arranged to leave the boat where it was in the Club yard on Sunday evening until we returned Tuesday afternoon. We then put it onto Barry and Phyllis's mooring at Lymm for a few weeks whilst they were away cruising. It was just like old times as the mooring was two boat lengths away from where we used to moor. Brian Warburton the retired boat painter asked Ange to come and chose the scumbling pattern that he was going to apply to our rear doors. Brian had a go with the grain coat that I had but it was too light and he promised to bring some darker grain coat from home.

Brian "Warbie" scumbling the back doors on "Squirrel"

We did a few odd jobs such as removing the top hoppers from the windows, cleaning them and  putting polish on the neoprene seals to stop them from sticking to the glass. Even though we have a small hand-held rechargeable Dyson vacuum cleaner on the boat we brought our big Dyson from home to give the boat a good cleaning. We also planned to bring our steam floor cleaner from home to freshen-up the cushion floor as well. We had to go home on Wednesday evening but planned to return on Friday afternoon to finish our jobs.

Lymm moorings at sunset

We returned on Friday afternoon after collecting Shannon who was spending the weekend with us. After tea we had a chill-out evening and next morning we set off early to catch up Ian and Michelle who had already made their way to Thelwall. We cruised in the brilliant summer sunshine and before long we were mooring next to them. After a cup of coffee and a catch up we set off for Stockton Heath. I went first as I wanted to visit Thorn Marine. Ange stayed on "Ted" illustrating the benefits of the tug deck. They moored on the Grappenhall side of Stockton Heath and after my visit to Thorn Marine I turned the boat around and moored on the side of "Ted".

Stockton Heath looking towards London Bridge

We had a visit from Michelle's mum and dad. It was Popsy's birthday on Sunday and she went out with her school friends whilst we did a few jobs. Panni's chippy was visited for tea and we sat outside chatting in the warm evening sunshine until it was time to go to bed. Sunday morning we retraced our steps to Lymm after breakfast. I planned to cut the grass on Barry and Phyllis's mooring whilst the water tank was being filled then cruise up to Oughtrington to cut the grass on our own mooring. When these tasks were completed we returned to Lymm, loaded our things into the car and headed for home after another hot and sunny week.

Grappenhall Village

It was Ange's birthday the following week and as a treat, her son Michael took us out for a meal at the Panoramic 34 Restaurant in the Beetham West Tower in Liverpool overlooking the pier Head and the River Mersey. We had previously been up the Beetham Tower in Manchester overlooking Castlefield but only as far as the twenty third floor and the level we were going to in the Panoramic 24 was nearly as high as the top floor as the Beetham Tower in Manchester which has forty seven floors. With forty floors over 140 metres the Beetham West Tower is the tallest building in Liverpool. The restaurant is on the thirty fourth floor and is one of the highest restaurants in the UK. Accordingly the views were absolutely stunning and I was so glad that I decided to take the Leica with me.

Liverpool's Pier Head showing the location of West Tower

The view of the River Mersey from the Panoramic 34 Restaurant looking upstream towards Ellesmere Port

Of particular interest was the views of the docks and the Liverpool Link. The food wasn't half bad either (actually it was very good). Usually when having an la carte meal the portion sizes are minimalist but on this occasion it was not the case. I found it difficult to take my eyes off the views whilst eating but the high quality of the absolutely beautiful food managed to divert my attention. Fortunately we had finished eating by the time the sun started to set. I took photographs of the sun setting but the flare caused by the sunlight striking the glass of the windows caused problems with the camera's autofocus system. Switching the Leica's Vario Elmarit lens focus to manual and focussing on infinity cured the problem. Nothing prepared me for the way that the skyscape exploded into a sea of rich red. One of the photographs showed the wind farm off the Hoyle Bank in Liverpool Bay and I sent the resulting photograph to Granada TV to be used as a backdrop to their Weather Forecast. It was used and after it was transmitted I received phone calls and texts from friends and family members who had seen it.

The lock adjacent to the St Nicholas Tunnel on the Liverpool Link

Looking north-west with the sun setting over Wallasey - the Link Canal can be seen weaving through the docks

A few minutes later the sunset exploded over the Wirral and Liverpool Bay into a rich red skyscape...

...and the same image as used as a Granada TV weather photograph

 After an absolutely superb meal we came away with full stomachs with the food as well as the location making a lasting impression on us. Accordingly we gave the experience a good write-up on the  Tripadvisor website and if you follow the link you might recognise a couple of the photographs shown there. One thing is sure... we shall remember this experience for a long time to come.

The following weekend we didn't plan on going up to Lymm due to spending the time shopping for holiday necessities and we also had jobs to do at home before the holidays. We had Shannon with us and one of the places we went to was the Marks and Spencer Eco Store at Cheshire Oaks. On the way back home we called in at the Ellesmere Port Boat Museum (now known as the National Waterways Museum - Ellesmere Port) a little way down the M53 from Cheshire Oaks... the next junction in fact.

The National Waterways Museum - Ellesmere Port on a less than perfect day

As we walked from the car park we saw a very nice narrowboat moored just outside the museum and Shannon asked if it was a Hudson like Ian and Michelle's. I was quite taken aback as I didn't think that she took as much notice as she obviously does of different makes of narrowboat. All I can say is we must be doing something right!

The S M Hudson narrowboat we saw visiting Ellesmere Port

I only took a couple of photographs there as the weather was less than perfect for photography. After an ice cream and a trip to the loos we returned to the car and were treated to the sight of a large gas tanker called "King Arthur" travelling along the Ship Canal on its way to Stanlow nearby. So you see... even what might appear to be a simple shopping trip turns out to have canal and inland waterway connections!

Gas tanker "King Arthur" on its way to Stanlow

The next weekend was the last one before our summer cruise and after doing some shopping we drove up to Lymm to take some clothes up and do a few last minute jobs such as  sort out thing that we won't need on holiday such as winter bedding, empty old paint tins from the bow locker, change the engine oil and filter and clean the floors with our steam mop, etc. The canal was quite busy on the Sunday morning and one boat in particular passed the moorings without slowing down. I politely asked the steerer if they slowed down passing moored craft where he came from (the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal) to which he replied "I've been out for three weeks and this is the first time someone has moaned at me to slow down!" I was not impressed at being labelled a "moaner"... after all, I wasn't the one who pulled out the mooring pins on the boat moored opposite! Ange reckons that I should be more subtle when speaking to speeding boaters and make more of a joke of the situation. Consequently I have a new opening gambit... "Donald Campbell would be proud of you!"

I still had a few days holiday to take in work. Ideally I would like to have tagged them onto the end of our holiday but this would not be possible due to other staff taking holidays and August was fully booked. This left the week before we went on holiday. This would enable me to complete a few last minute jobs before we go away so on Wednesday I loaded the car and made my to Lymm. One worry with the boat was the fact that the sliding hatch by the rear doors could not be locked from the inside. I planned to attach a piece of three by two timber to the underside of the hatch and screwed a couple of bolts to it. I had a piece of timber cut to size at work which fitted perfectly, screwed the bolts to it and it was mission accomplished. All that is needed is painting which Ange has promised to do whilst we are away.

The bolts fitted to the timber beam on the underside of the rear hatch

 Last week one of the sliding bolts on the Perspex side door draught screen broke off. I had taken it home and fitted small nuts and bolts to them to prevent a recurrence. The modified screen was tried in its aperture and it fitted perfectly. The front and rear decks on "Total Eclipse" were covered with carpet tiles and the other week when the sun was shining on "Squirrel's" rear deck it was hot underfoot. One of the teaching rooms at work was being re-carpeted and I managed to scrounge some of the carpet tiles which were being thrown out. They were in really good condition but the only problem was that they are blue in colour. Consequently I fitted the tiles to the front and rear decks except for the area by the rear doors as there is insufficient clearance below the doors for the tiles. A passing club member saw them just after completion and commented on how good they looked. My work here is done! That was my last job and it was time to load my tools into the car and head down the motorway home safe in the knowledge that the boat was ready for our first summer holiday cruise aboard it.

After the Summer Cruise we had returned "Squirrel" to its mooring at Oughtrington. Previously Barry Greenough had let us use his Lymm mooring whilst he was away extended cruising on "Philbarmar". Barry had rung me a couple of days later to tell me that I could use his mooring until after the Salford Quays cruise on the August Bank Holiday weekend. This suited us just fine as we still had a lot of things including Shannon's bicycle to take off the boat after our summer cruise to take home and clean the boat as well. We couldn't do it on our return from the summer cruise due to the car being full and it would not be as far to transport the items from the boat to the car if it was at Lymm as it would be at Oughtrington. Consequently, after tea on the following Friday we drove up to Lymm and Ange dropped me off at Oughtrington to take the boat down to Lymm. It was getting dark when I reached Lymm but we had plans on the Saturday afternoon and Sunday so we had to make the best use of our available time and if that meant taking the boat down to Lymm in the dark then so be it! It was windy and we had a bit of difficulty mooring the boat on the canal frontage at the Clubhouse mainly due to me not clipping on the centre rope before leaving Oughtrington. But once moored we chilled out for the rest of the evening. After breakfast the next day we loaded the rest of our things into the car and I cut Barry's grass for him whilst Ange cleaned the inside of the boat. With these tasks completed we put the boat onto Barry's mooring until the next Friday when, after the cruise to Salford Quays it would have to go back onto our mooring at Oughtrington.

Over the last few months we had seen a boat being refitted and repainted on the outskirts of Lymm. On one occasion I joked with the lady painting it... "Haven't you finished that bit of painting yet?" When we were returning from our summer cruise we saw the same boat moored in Lymm with a Caf Boat sign on it. We thought no more about it until after completing our jobs and loading the car we went to go home but were told about the Caf Boat moored on the opposite side of the canal near to Lymm Bridge and how good the bacon barms were.

The Caf Boat named "Butty and Sweet" moored in Lymm

We thought that we might give the boat a visit and Ange promised to buy me a cup of latt and something to eat. The floating caf was called "Butty and Sweet" and has menus adjacent to a serving hatch in the cabin side. We were spoilt for choice as far as food is concerned but I decided on a sausage barm whilst Ange went for a bacon and egg barm.

Mandy at the serving hatch

The interior of "Butty and Sweet" looking forward towards the kitchen...

...and in the opposite direction towards the stern

Once the food was ordered from the side doors cum serving hatch we were invited on board to sit at the tables and chairs set out along the interior of the boat. At the bow was the kitchen which looked absolutely spotless as did the rest of the boat. We have seen caf boats in Birmingham and other places but this was the first time we had seen one so close to home. The enterprise is the brainchild of Mandy and Dave with "Mummy" acting as waitress. When the food arrived a couple of minutes later it was excellent, tasty, well cooked and presented The prices are reasonable too, offering good value. We admire Mandy and Dave's idea and wish them every success with it.

"Mummy" serving customers with their food

As previously mentioned, for the August Bank Holiday weekend Lymm CC had organised a cruise to Salford Quays. This entailed descending Pomona Lock into Pomona Dock, cruising down the River Irwell and into our usual mooring place at Salford Quays. On the Monday prior to the weekend I received a call from Mike Webb... the manager of the Bridgewater Canal, informing me that I could not go down Pomona Lock as our Boat Safety Certificate was due to expire on Wednesday... in two days time. I knew that the BSS Examination was due soon but I thought that it was in a couple of weeks time. I was wrong! What followed was frantic series of telephone calls arranging the examination and booking the boat in with Thorn Marine. Michelle offered to take the boat to Stockton Heath (as it transpired in the rain) for Nigel Hamilton to do the business the following day (Tuesday). We were most grateful to Michelle and Ian for taking the boat there and being on hand in case of any problems. After the boat passed its examination Michelle even brought it back to Lymm for us and then walked home to Thelwall. We were also grateful to Nigel Hamilton for squeezing us in (I promise to give you more notice next time Nigel) and for his excellent customer service. We cannot praise him too highly and what's more Nigel even managed to put some fuel in the tank for us. Without the help of our friends we would not be able to go the Salford Quays... one of Ange's favourite destination in the Lymm CC cruising calendar. What would we do without them?

On the Friday of the August Bank Holiday, Ange had the day off work and picked me up from work after an "early dart". We then made our way up to Lymm and after visiting Lymm Chippy for tea we set off, planning to moor at Dunham Massey for the night. On the way the weather was alternating from brilliant sunshine to rain. This alternating weather created rainbows one of which we appeared to pass through (impossible of course but that's what it seemed like).

Just before we passed through the rainbow at Little Bollington

The weather wasn't much better the following morning but as the morning went on it got better. By the time we reached Pomona Lock a couple of hours later we were bathed in brilliant sunshine. We met Ian and Michelle (who had moored at Castlefield overnight) at Pomona and after locking down together we headed up the River Irwell to the moorings adjacent to the Mark Addy public house.

Narrowboats "Ted" and "Squirrel" sharing Pomona Lock

Our boats moored at the Mark Addy on the River Irwell

After mooring we made our way into Manchester city centre along Bridge Street to the junction with Deansgate for the Gay Pride Parade. We stopped at our usual vantage point and waited for the parade. It didn't disappoint either. There were too many highlights to show here but the Coronation Street float was one of the best with many of the programme's stars joining in the spirit of the festivities.

Ange and Michelle enjoying the Gay Pride Parade

Just a few of the photographs that I took of the Gay Pride Parade

The Lawn at Spinningfields

The procession seemed longer and the floats seemed to be more commercial than on previous years but maybe that is the price to be paid for success. After a couple of hours we headed into Spinningfields for a well deserved drink on the lawn (plastic tumblers only!). After marvelling at the architecture in Spinningfields we returned to the boats, started the engines and headed downstream to Salford Quays where we moored alongside other Lymm CC members in the bright sunshine.

Boats from Lymm CC moored at Salford Quays

That evening we went for a meal in the Quay House Beefeater located on Ontario Basin (the barbequed rack of ribs were to die for) and later returned to the boats with nicely full stomachs. On Sunday we had breakfast and left Ian polishing whilst Ange, Michelle and I went into the Lowry Centre shopping. Before we left on our shopping expedition Ian started "Ted's" engine to heat the water and top up his batteries. We were amused by a wagtail which had landed on one of Ian's mooring ropes and was flicking its tail in time with the Gardner's beat.

The wagtail that was flicking its tail in time with Ian's Gardner

We watched it for quite a few minutes before it flew off. As well as carrying the shopping bags I even managed to buy a couple of "boatie" items for myself... a new toolbox from the Black and Decker store for 5 to replace one on the boat with a broken catch and a pair of waterproof trousers for when steering the boat in the rain for 6. Bargains both of them! Some of our fellow Lymm CC members planned to eat in the Quay House that evening but as we ate there the previous evening we went to The Real China Chinese restaurant opposite the Lowry Theatre instead. Again... really nice food at an affordable price too. I always enjoy walking around locations such as Salford Quays at night. Provided that they have decent lighting they can be superb subjects for nocturnal photography. Consequently, I took advantage of the lighting in the Lowry/Salford Quays area and took a few photographs on the way back to the boat.

The Manchester Ship Canal, Media City and the Imperial War Museum North at dusk

The following morning Pomona lock was going to be staffed between 9.00 am to 1.00 pm. Members started to leave for the lock at 8.00 am but we waited until everyone had left and we were actually the last boats to lock back up to the Bridgewater Canal. We cruised back to Lymm in the overcast weather and were accompanied by a kingfisher whilst passing "Container City" in Trafford Park. It was mid-afternoon when we reached the Clubhouse. After loading the car I took the boat up to Oughtrington and put it back onto its mooring. Ange then collected me from Oughtrington just as it started to rain. We had enjoyed our trip to Gay Pride and Salford Quays even though the weather could have been better... or is it that we have just been spoilt by the weather on our Summer Cruise?

Whilst we were on the Summer Cruise the television in the front cabin refused to play DVDs. Consequently it was removed from its bracket and taken home to be returned to the store it was purchased from. It was still under warranty and the shop sent it away to be repaired. When it was returned from being repaired we went to the store to collect it. Once we had taken it home we plugged it in and tried it. The fault had been repaired and whilst it now played DVDs unfortunately it did not eject them. We returned it to the store and were not at all happy. When the shop staff checked it low and behold it now ejected the discs. We were embarrassed by this but were told that this happens all the time and if the fault reoccurred we could return it for repair even if the warranty had expired. All that we needed was the time to refit it on the boat. September is the busiest part of the year at the college where I work due to it being enrolment time so it might have to wait a couple of weeks when things have quietened down.

Oughtrington Woods on a quiet Saturday evening

That time came a couple of weeks later. It was Lymm CC's President's Cruise to Dunham Massey and we had the choice of going on the cruise or doing some jobs. Doing the jobs won! We drove up to Oughtrington at lunchtime on the Saturday, parked the car in the car park then carried our things down to the boat. The first job was to refit the TV on its bracket and make sure that it worked alright, which it did. Next was to hang the painting of Worsley packet House that we had bought at Whitchurch on the Summer Cruise, now suitably reframed. I didn't really want to drill holes in the cabin lining for the frame but there was no alternative. We usually use heavy duty Velcro pads for jobs such as this but I didn't think that they would hold the weight of such a large frame so there was no alternative but to screw the brackets to the wall.

The painting of Worsley Packet House in its new home

Once this was completed out came the strimmer and I cut the grass and brambles on the mooring. This brought me nicely to tea time and all that remained was to tidy away the tools, strimmer, etc. and have tea before chilling out. We could have cruised up to Dunham Massey but Ange had family commitments the following day and we would have to leave early. Rather than rush back to the moorings we decided to stay at Oughtrington overnight and head for home after breakfast the following morning.

During the following week we received a phone call informing us that the boat painters would be visiting our moorings at Oughtrington on Sunday morning to start work on repainting "Squirrel". They would require electricity for their power sanders so, as there is no mains electricity on the moorings, we loaded the generator into the car ready to be taken to Oughtrington by boat. We wanted to attend the FBCC Rally Meeting so we travelled up to Lymm on the Friday afternoon for the meeting (which was well supported) and the work party the following morning. We brought the boat from Oughtrington but with the painters coming we would have to prepare it by removing the canopy hooks. "Lift Dot" posts, door hooks, headlight, etc. which meant that we would reluctantly have to forego the work party. I felt really guilty about this and made our apologies to Glenys Kershaw the Clubhouse Officer, who had arranged the work party.

nb "Squirrel" at Lymm, prepared for the boat painters

I had difficulty with removing some of the canopy hooks which had at some point in time been damaged and the headlamp nut had rusted solid which meant that it would have to be chiselled off. It was eventually removed and taken home to obtain a replacement securing nut of the same size and thread. After a good few hours' work the preparations were complete and we left the boat on the canal frontage whilst we went to Michelle and Ian's for tea. The painters would be arriving at our mooring early the next morning so we would have to be up early to take the boat (and generator) there in readiness. The painters... Mark and Paul, arrived on cue but for various reasons were unable to start work as planned. However, we explained exactly what we wanted and they seemed pleased with the preparation work we had done. Plans were made to start work the following weekend and after they had departed we left the moorings safe with the knowledge that our plans were at least a little further on than they were (or were they?).

Ange with the boat painters Mark and Paul at Oughtrington

When we had our meeting with the boat painters Mark and Paul we noticed that one of them... Paul was looking unwell and we learnt later on in the following week that he had been taken into hospital and was awaiting major surgery. Understandably, the painting plans were put on hold but I went up to Oughtrington the next weekend as I thought (incorrectly as it turned out) that there was a work party moving boats up the mooring. Well... (to quote "Big Boy") if you want to know anything then just ask a Committee member (especially the Magazine/Website Editor). They know everything that's going on. As it turned out I had the dates wrong and it was actually the cruise to the steam fair at Acton Bridge that weekend. I had also managed to obtain a replacement nut and washers for the headlamp bracket. As it was at home I took the opportunity to clean and overhaul it (we had experienced problems with the bulb holder) and even treated it to a few coats of paint as well!

My trip wasn't in vain. As a temporary measure I covered the holes left by removing the cover hooks and "Lift-Dot" posts with insulation tape which would hopefully prevent any ingress of water. The weather was a little wet and I spent quite some time drying off where I was applying the tape. Needless to say... on my way home the sun came out which would have made the exercise much easier and more successful if it had come out earlier. I planned to change the fittings for the canopies from plastic to stainless steel after the paintwork was completed, but for now I will refit the original fittings (I didn't lose too many) until the spring of next year when hopefully the boat painting will take place. In the long run this is most probably just as well as the paint will have a better finish when applied then than if it was applied now.

A couple of weekends after we went up to Oughtrington on the Saturday lunchtime with a view to refitting the canopy fittings that I had removed in preparation for the boat painters. As some of the plastic hooks had either broken on removal or flown into the cut a few replacements had to be purchased. I wasn't very impressed with the plastic ones so searched the Internet for metal ones. A source was found on eBay at a reasonable price (with free delivery) so I initially only ordered ten to make sure that they were suitable. They were made from stainless steel and when they arrived seemed to be just what I wanted. I planned to fit them after the boat had been painted with stainless steel pop rivets but for now they were attached using self-tapping screws as were the originals. Whilst I was doing this Ange cleared the mountain of leaves that had dropped onto the boat from the trees nearby that were blocking the drain holes on the roof and cluttering up the front and rear decks. We can't put the canopies back soon enough the prevent this Autumn onslaught!

One of the boats passing our mooring taking advantage of the autumn sunshine

Even though the pitch of the holes in the new hooks was slightly smaller as they were screwed into position they fitted perfectly. There were quite a few boats passing along the canal taking advantage of the autumn sunshine keeping the chill off. I was working in a t-shirt and didn't feel at all cold.  When I had completed the fitting of the hooks and lift-dot posts I checked the canopies to ensure that they fitted correctly. I had preciously taken them home to clean with the jet-wash and they looked much better although they will need to be re-proofed before long. I also removed the carpet tiles from the front and rear decks as they had become sodden with the absence of the canopies. They had served their purpose on our summer cruise but decided to bin them before they started to hold water and start to smell. With our jobs completed we decided to stay for the night and return home the following morning as Ange was taking Shannon horse riding. Consequently we had our tea and had a pleasant evening in the peace and quiet of the Oughtrington moorings. It is unusual to complete all the tasks that we had planned to accomplish but this was exactly what had happened so we didn't feel too guilty returning home in brilliant sunshine the next day.

Sunrise over the River Mersey as used for the Granada Reports Weather Forecast...

... and the original photograph

During the following week another of my photographs was used as a weather photograph on the Granada Reports Weather Forecast. The photograph was of the sunrise over the River Mersey taken at Eastham close to the Manchester Ship Canal Entrance Locks. The technical quality of the image cannot be appreciated on the TV or when resized for the website. Even so it is one of my favourite photographs. Also during the week Ange had to go into hospital for an operation so we won't be going up to the boat for a couple of weeks whilst she recuperates. Unfortunately, this means we will miss the Closing Cruise and end of the cruising season festivities. Never mind... it will soon be Christmas, then Spring and the start of the boating season when hopefully we will have a shiny, repainted boat.

On the 5th November I lost my brother (and best friend) Jim after he suffered a heart attack at home and died suddenly. Jim has been an inspiration to me throughout my life and helped to make me into the person that I am today. He has always been there throughout the whole of my life and was the person that I have known for the longest. Jim introduced me to photography so it seems only fitting to dedicate the Photography section of the website to his memory. I will miss him dearly. Rest in peace Jim... the "tabs" (cinema terminology for the screen curtains) have now closed for the last time!

Jim at Pontcysyllte Aqueduct holding one of his Leica cameras

A work party was scheduled for the following Saturday at the Oughtrington Moorings to lay topsoil and turf on a section of the footpath that was prone to being muddy. We drove up to the moorings on the Saturday morning in the hopes that attending it would take my mind off the happenings earlier in the week... which it did. The turf was so well laid that you could play bowls on it! When this was completed we were treated to tea/coffee and "dunkers" courtesy of Michelle before moving some of the boats up (including "Squirrel") at the far end of the moorings. When the work party was completed Ian started to clear the leaves off "Ted" using a submersible pump fitted with a hose pipe to suck up canal water and flush the leaves into the cut. We had lunch with Ian and Michelle and as we were planning to stay on board overnight, leave the boat there and return on Monday so we then took the boat down to Lymm and moored in the Arm.

The completed turf after the work party at Oughtrington

Once moored I started to clean the boat's roof and  cabin side but only managed to clean one side. One drawback of being moored beneath trees is the amount of leaves that collect on the boat and the green deposits that accumulate for the same reason. As the roof has an anti-slip coating it cannot be just washed with detergent and a cloth. A universal cleaning agent called "151 Elbow Grease" was applied to the roof's paint work, cleaned with a scrubbing brush then rinsed off with canal water from a bucket. John Moult... Lymm CC's Harbourmaster saw what I was up against and lent me a small water pump to help with swilling off the detergent and residue after cleaning. Ian using an electric pump and the small pump that John had leant me highlighted the need for a more practical means of cleaning the anti-slip roof and the rest of the boat's paintwork. I have a small jet washer at home but cannot use it on the boat due to restrictions using water from the Club's taps as the water supply is metered. I remember seeing someone using a K鋜cher jet washer that pumped water from the canal. A quick visit to the K鋜cher website informed me that the K鋜cher K4 Compact Pressure Washer (around 140) has this facility. All that would be required is an additional Suction Hose costing around 30 that includes a strainer and non-return valve. Needless to say I have added one to my Christmas list! My parent's canal cruiser "Phial" had a fitted canvas cover that protected the boat's superstructure during the winter. We have seen caravans with fitted lightweight covers and this could be another option to consider when the boat is being prepared for the winter to protect the (hopefully) new paintwork from the onslaught of leaves, sap and other "nasties" that drip off trees.

The half-cleaned boat roof

We stayed on board Saturday night chilling out and after breakfast I emptied the loo. We asked John Moult for permission to leave the boat at Lymm on Sunday whilst we went home as we planned to return Monday lunchtime. I had to go into work for a couple of hours on Monday morning but after this I had booked the rest of the day and all day Tuesday off work so that we could continue with the cleaning, judge the entries for the Canalscape Trophy, attend the Committee Meeting that evening and return home Tuesday afternoon.

When we returned on Monday afternoon, as soon as we arrived we carried on scrubbing the roof. With the aid of John Moult's little water pump to rinse off the muck and detergent it didn't take long to complete. After tea in the Golden Fleece I judged the photographs for the Canalscape Trophy... the winner of which will be announced at the Annual Dinner Dance the following weekend and shown on the website soon after. Due to family commitments we would not be able to attend so I asked Chairman Jack Kershaw to present the trophy to the winner in my absence, to which he kindly agreed to do. The next morning we had a lie in and after breakfast we started on our jobs inside the boat. The rear steel sliding hatch suffers from condensation forming when it is cold so I had brought some carpet off-cuts to glue to the underside of the hatch to prevent the condensation from forming. The best laid plans of mice and men came into force... there was not a sufficient gap between the underside of the hatch and the bulkhead that it slides over when opened for the carpet or any other suitable thermal barrier material to be fitted so back to the drawing board on this one! We then emptied most of the water out of the fresh water tank, tidied and cleaned the inside of the boat from one end to the other then put anything not likely to be needed over the winter in the car before putting the boat on its mooring and heading for home. We'd had a productive couple of days and the boat was clean and nearly winterised with only a couple of jobs left before the onset of the cold weather that was almost certainly to follow in the next few weeks. During Remembrance Week I was pleased to see the "Idle Women" (World War Two canal boat women) remembered and mentioned on the television news. Ironically, Sonia Rolt's death was announced around the same time. Her claim to fame was being married to L T C Rolt but before that she was one of the "Idle Woman" as well!

At Lymm CC's Annual Dinner Dance many trophies were awarded including the Canalscape Trophy. The 2014  winner was Bob McCulloch with his photograph of a Springer Spaniel (whose name is "Ted") "springing" through the surf on a Welsh beach. Bob managed to capture the "decisive moment" precisely ( la Henri Cartier-Bresson the renowned French photographer) and the photograph captures the moment well. The photograph was taken on a 12 megapixel Canon PowerShot SX240 HS compact camera so who says that you need a sophisticated SLR or bridge camera to take decent photographs?

"Springing Through the Surf"... the 2014 Canalscape Trophy winner photographed by Bob McCulloch

Bob wasn't the only person to win an award as one of my photographs won the Humorous Category in the Chairman's Photographic Competition. My winning photograph was of Shannon emptying the loo at Hurleston and is entitled... "Pooo!"

My winning entry in the Lymm CC Chairman's Photographic Competition - Humorous Section of Shannon emptying the loo entitled "Pooo!"

It was Jim's cremation on the Monday and we were pleasantly surprised when the Crematorium Chapel was full to bursting, the Annexe at the side of it was full and there were about twenty people outside. Altogether over two hundred people attended. It was family flowers only with donations to the Dogs' Trust of which 200 was donated. Our flowers were in the shape of a Leica camera which I know he would have liked especially as they were later donated to Wallasey Photographic Society of which he was a member.

Our floral tribute to Jim in the shape of a Leica camera

The photographic theme continued later on in the week when another of my photographs was used as a Granada TV weather photograph. The photograph was taken on the previous Saturday morning when I was shopping in the Croft Retail Estate at Eastham. Whilst waiting for a particular shop to open I drove down to the car park on the banks of the River Mersey where I had previously taken photographs. The sunlight was shining through the clouds spreading sunrays on to the river and Eastham Locks so I took a few photographs one of which I sent to Granada TV to be used as a weather photograph. The resulting photograph is almost monochrome although I must say that I prefer the portrait version (who says that a landscape has to be in "landscape" format!) of the image which is not suitable for transmission on TV due to the 16 x 9 format being required. In the portrait version the sunrays are not as prominent though. I have included both versions below for the reader to draw their own conclusions!

A screenshot of the Granada TV Weather Forecast...

... the original photograph used...

... and the "portrait" format image that I personally prefer

That weekend we received news from Michelle that the Trent and Mersey Canal was closed at Dutton due to a breach in the same area as the previous one a couple of years ago. I had previously received an email from C&RT reporting that the canal was closed for an inspection but I didn't realise that the situation was this serious. The affected area is between Dutton Stop Lock and Bridge 211. We plan to spend a few days on the boat over Christmas and cruise in that direction. It now looks as though we will have to change our plans and maybe head in the opposite direction. I will go and have a look in the next few days and hopefully will be able to report back with photographs.

Steve Hudson

The fine lines of Steve Hudson's boats are well illustrated in this photograph of "Ted"

During the first week of December I received a text from Ian and Michelle informing me that Steve Hudson (boat builder extraordinaire) had died. I only met Steve a couple of times but I admired him, had a great deal of respect for him as a person and also the wonderful, high quality boats that he produced. The canal boating community has lost yet another of its great personalities. Recently, we seem to be losing too many of the people that we know, love and respect. It is a reminder of our own mortality and a sign that we are growing older ourselves!

A screenshot of the Evans Halshaw TV advertisement...

...and my photograph of the same location at Sale

Whilst watching TV Ange noticed a canal featuring in an Evans Halshaw Motor Dealer's TV advertisement. She recognised the location immediately and drew my attention to it. The location is the Bridgewater Canal at Sale, opposite the King's Ransom public house. Well spotted Ange! The following Monday evening there was a Lymm CC Committee Meeting so we decided to take the Monday afternoon and Tuesday off work. Ange dropped me off at Oughtrington and I brought the boat down to Lymm, mooring it on the canal frontage to the yard. On starting the boat I immediately switched on the central heating and by the time I was mooring at Lymm the radiators were becoming hot. We had our tea in the Golden Fleece and Ange returned to the boat whilst I went to the Committee Meeting. As predicted, the meeting went on until after 10.00pm and I returned to a lovely warm boat.

Thelwall Cutting gave shelter from the wind

The burnt out boat just after Pickering's Bridge

The next morning we decided to cruise down to Stockton Heath for some shopping and to wish Margaret and Brian Hamilton at Thorn Marine a Merry Christmas. At Thelwall passed through the cutting which gave some shelter from the icey wind that had cropped up. We also we saw the remains of a burnt out boat that was once someone's pride and joy just after Pickering's Bridge. The badly scorched gas container on the bank next to it was a bit of a give away as to the cause of the fire. A stark reminder to treat gas with respect, not to take any chances with it and to isolate the gas supply when the boat is unattended. The boat was removed by the Bridgewater Canal Company the following week.

Not many signs of life at Stockton Heath

We only saw two other boats on the move and one of those was Thorn Marine's day hire boat! There were a few moored boats with smoke rising from the chimneys though. After saying farewell to Margaret and Brian we returned to Lymm. It was bitterly cold and what felt like snow was being blown by the wind. We hadn't brought much stuff with us and once back at Lymm we put it in the car, emptied the toilet (where's Shannon when you need her?) and returned the boat to its mooring before heading back down the M56 and M53 to home after a pleasant break from the reality of work and Christmas preparations.

A windswept and cold Grappenhall

That weekend saw the Lymm Cruising Club's Children's Christmas Party. We collected Shannon and headed up the M53. We stopped at the Boat Museum... sorry National Waterways Museum for lunch and to check out the bookshelves which most certainly didn't disappoint. The Museum were having Santa Cruises along the canal. We did actually see Santa but he disappeared before I could photograph him. I think that he must have been hiding from me in case I saw that he was different Santa to the one that was later to visit Lymm Cruising Club.

The National Waterways Museum in December

There were some good books for sale at the Boat Museum

After the Boat Museum interlude we carried on to Lymm where it was the Dickensian Weekend in the Village. Most of the roads through the Village were cordoned off but we normally go in the back way down Dane Bank Road. When we arrived at the Boat Club we only just got a parking space in the Club Yard. I was on photographic duty and took quite a few photographs of the party, the Illuminated Boats Parade and also Santa's arrival. There are a few photographs below but even more in the 2014 Gallery on Lymm CC's website.

Just one of the Illuminated Boats in the Parade

Santa arriving at Lymm CC aboard "Ted"

Hope the reindeer's hooves are well padded!

Santa and his Little Helper on terra firma

Shannon receiving her present from Santa

With the breach on the Trent and Mersey Canal cramping our style we also have to spare a thought for canal cruisers in the South of France. A colleague was recently visiting Homps  near Carcassonne and took the photograph below of the drained Canal du Midi. Maybe they have out of season stoppages or, as they call them... ch鬽ages as well!

The drained Canal du Midi at Homps near Carcassonne in the South of France

(Photograph Barbara and Gary Sculthorpe)

Christmas Eve we took some time out from our Christmas Day preparations and drove up to Oughtrington when Ange dropped me off at the moorings as usual and drove to Lymm whilst I started the boat's engine and made my way to Lymm as well. We planned to fill the water tank and prepare the boat for the Brass Monkey Cruise on Boxing Day. We had hoped to cruise on the boat for a couple of days over the Christmas, my birthday and the New Year holiday. Initially we wanted to cruise to Acton Bridge near Northwich but the breach on the Trent and Mersey Canal meant that we would have to make other plans. Consequently we would have to cruise in the opposite direction. Appley Bridge between Wigan and Burscough on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal seemed a good location to aim for. We also learnt of the passing away of Lymm CC Vice-President Graham Morton and Mike Johnson from the Gardner Engine Society. I can only echo what I said previously... Recently, we seem to be losing too many of the people that we know, love and respect. It is a reminder of our own mortality and a sign that we are growing older ourselves!

Mike Johnson - Gardner Engine Society

Graham Morton - Lymm CC Vice-President

I must have been a good boy all year as Santa had brought me quite a few canal-related presents including the previously mentioned K鋜cher K4 Compact Pressure Washer that I had been dropping hints for. This was actually a combined Christmas and birthday present from my stepson Michael. On Boxing day we drove to Lymm, loaded our things onto the boat and headed for the Old Number Three at Little Bollington. Historically, the Brass Monkey Cruise is usually to this location to commemorate the inaugural meeting of Lymm CC but this year the Commodore decided to have the Axe and Cleaver at Dunham Village as his venue for the Brass Monkey Cruise. This pub was booked up months in advance so we decided to go to the Old Number Three as usual, look at the classic cars, traction engines and tractors that usually arrive as well then head on to Dunham to join the others.

Classic tractors at the Old Number Three

The beautifully sculpted rear end of a Chevrolet Impala

Some of the boats from Lymm CC participating in the Brass Monkey Cruise

We moored up at the Old Number Three and went into the pub to wait for the classic vehicles. They arrived soon after and we were treated to the appearance of a Chevrolet Impala, Ford Mustang, Wolseley 1500 and many others in addition to the traction engines, tractors (including a beautiful grey Fergie belonging to ex-Lymm CC member Peter "Oh-yey" Powell)  and Harley Davidson motor cycles. After the classic vehicles had arrived and been photographed we set off for Dunham Massey where we met our friends then after a catch-up went to bed. Ange had brought a two million tog duvet from home which, as it turned out was to be a good move.

A frosty Dunham Village mooring on the day after Boxing Day

Squirrel in the snow

Misty Sale Straight

The next morning dawned white and frosty. We thought that we would make an early start and stop at Sale where we would have a quick walk around the shops before enjoying breakfast in the King's Ransom before heading on. We passed a few boats moored at the Trafford Centre where the owners were taking advantage of the sales, through Worsley and Leigh where we were overtaken by a kingfisher (I kid you not). A lot of money has been spent in Leigh with a new canalside retail development including a large Tesco and a Frankie and Benny's restaurant. Before long we were stopping for the now boater operated Plank Lane Lift Bridge. Ange jumped off to operate the bridge ("she'll stop traffic") and we were soon under way again. After about a quarter of an hour of cruising in the dusk we were mooring at Dover Lock for the night.

Plank Lane Lift Bridge at dusk

The following day was the 28th December and my birthday. As it turned out it was to be a memorable one. When we opened the curtains we discovered that the canal was just like the Disney film and song of the moment... Frozen! This did not bode well for our reaching our planned destination of Appley Bridge which we had resigned to the fact that we would not reach. Consequently we had a chill-out day (literally) watching films on the TV and went into the Dover Lock for tea. When we left the pub a couple of hours later freezing fog had descended but when we awoke the following morning the ice seemed to be a little thinner. The weather forecast promised warmer weather later on in the week and we just hope that they are correct for once! As well as Facebook messages of "Happy Birthday" we did receive one message from a non-canal cruising friend Phil Sudron who had Googled our location and offered to drive out with supplies if required. We thanked Phil for his offer and told him that we had plenty of food etc on board but we will bear in mind his offer if things don't turn out as we anticipate.

Icey sunrise at Dover Lock

Misty view from the side doors at Dover Lock

Ice-bound at Dover Lock

After breakfast we all caught the number 360 bus to Wigan. We hadn't been there for a while but not much had changed except that, as with many town centres, there were more empty shops and retail units than we remembered. With our shopping complete we walked to the bus station and caught the 360 back to Abram and the Dover Lock. The next day was just the same as the previous one except for some sunshine but the ice was still the same thickness and we resigned ourselves to another day watching TV with tea in the pub. At least there is a decent 3/4G network connection at this location which allowed me to upload the latest photographs and updates to the Canalscape and Lymm CC websites!

"Squirrel" icebound at Dover Lock

On New Year's Eve we decided to brave the ice and head for home. Ian didn't want to risk damaging his hull blacking so they stayed at Dover Lock whilst we set off. Initially we had a bit of difficulty turning around but once we had broken enough of the ice around we went. At first the ice was quite thick but as we got nearer to Plank Lane Lift Bridge the ice thinned. Before Ange lifted the bridge we emptied the toilet cassette in the septic tank behind the Canal & River Trust hut and then another boat arrived from the Leigh direction. Ange lifted the bridge and I took the boat through. Once clear the other boat passed through the bridge and I pulled in to pick-up Ange. We set off again and and steered a course in the channel broken up by the other boat. Before long the ice dissipated all together and Leigh was ice free. We made good time and just before Worsley it started to rain. One of my Christmas presents was a large golfing umbrella for the Brolleymate. was going dark as we moored at Dunham Village in virtually the same spot we were in on Boxing Day. Once moored up we had our tea and snuggled up watching TV. At least we were not subjected to what I consider to be the aural torture of "Auld Lang Syne" or "New York, New York". After a lie in and a late breakfast we set off for Lymm. Once there we loaded the car and took the boat back to its moorings before heading for home after what was most certainly a Christmas, birthday and New Year to remember.

Sunset beneath White's bridge at Stretford

It has been a year to remember as well. One of the highlights was cruising through Standedge Tunnel and the low had to be losing my brother Jim. As previously mentioned the Christmas/Birthday/New Year Cruise wasn't bad either. We are now looking forward to discovering what 2015 has to offer... we will just have to wait and see!

 

Continued in Canalscape Book 11

 

Click to return to Contents

 

Chapter 2 - Summer Cruise 2014

Our 2014 Summer Holiday Cruise was the first aboard "Squirrel". For this cruise we planned to revisit the Llangollen Canal along with other members of Lymm Cruising Club and after a difficult year so far we were really looking forward to it. During the weeks leading up to our summer holiday cruise the country had been basking in a heat-wave with temperatures regularly reaching thirty degrees centigrade. Whether the beautiful weather (sic) continues whilst we are away remains to be seen! One thing that always impresses me about the Llangollen Canal is that it hasn't changed much since I first visited it in 1960. One of the changes that I wasn't looking forward to though was the queues at locks that we were bound to get caught in. After all... we were cruising the canal at the height of the summer holiday season.

We arrived at Lymm on Friday the 27th of July for the start of our summer cruise. I brought the boat into the arm outside the clubhouse to fill the fresh water tank, empty the toilet and load the remainder of our clothes, fresh food and other miscellaneous items onto the boat. With these tasks completed we set off in the hot afternoon sunshine. We initially planned to stop briefly at Stockton Heath for a flying visit to Panni's Chippy but by the time we reached Stockton Heath we weren't hungry so we decided to press on to Red Brow between Daresbury and Preston Brook. Not long after mooring we were treated to the sight of a mahogany Windermere launch cruising along the canal. Craft such as these are strangers to the Bridgewater Canal, especially specimens such as beautiful as "Daphne".

Windermere launch "Daphne" passing our mooring near Daresbury

We had an early start the next morning and caught the 08.30 Preston Brook Tunnel passage. Twelve minutes after entering we exited the stygian gloom of the tunnel into the brilliant sunshine. that stayed all day. We moored for brunch at the Dutton Breach site and were soon on the way again stopping briefly at Anderton Lift Visitor Centre for an ice cream. There was an outing of the Association of Singer Car Owners at the lift with models ranging from classic 1920's and 30's models to the Hillman Imp based Chamois. After a quick look around the cars we continued on our way. On the straight leading to Billinge Green Flash we passed the building site that is to be a new marina virtually opposite Orchard Marina (who are rumoured to be operating the new marina). The size of this new marina is immense and we wondered where all the boats were coming from to fill it.

The towpath bridge spanning the entrance to the new marina near Winsford

Construction work at the new marina site

When we reached Billinge Green Flash we moored and  whilst we waited for our friends Michelle and Ian to catch us up Ange did some tidying whilst I washed one side of the boat. Before long the sound of a Gardner 2LW could be heard in the distance that announced the imminent arrival of our friends. One historical feature of note at this location was the sunken work boat marking the edge of the navigation channel. A photograph I had long wanted to take was a heron perched on this boat which I managed to capture last year. I am so glad that I managed to take that photograph as the flash has now been dredged and the sunken boat removed in preparation for yet another new marina... Oakwood Marina that is planned to be located here. Sunday morning was bright and sunny but not as warm as the previous day and we set off for Middlewich.

A busy Sunday morning at Middlewich

We arrived there without incident although we did have to wait in a queue for the narrow locks and Wardle Lock was especially busy with the additional traffic from the Potteries coming down heartbreak Hill. One of these boats tried to jump the queue in front of me but I managed to keep them in their place. Once through the locks we moored and went into the town, visiting the Narrowboat Hotel for Sunday lunch... and very nice it was too! We had been to the Narrowboat before and were made just as welcome on this occasion as we were then. The food was just as good too. A cabin cruiser squeezed in between Ian and myself that was well known to me. It was the "Cambrian" built by Sam Weaver and used as a hire boat along with his other boats "Waverton" and "Rowton Moor" during the 1960's and 70's. The boats were based at Waverton on the Shroppie and the base was later operated by Eggbridge Hire Cruisers from which I bought "Misty Waters 2" in 1985. "Cambrian" was looking as good now as it did then and still had the original Volvo-Penta diesel engine in it.

"Cambrian" cabin cruiser built by Sam Weaver in the 1960's

The next morning (Monday) we went into town for shopping before setting off for Barbridge. The trip up the Middlewich Arm was relatively quiet and no sign of the queues that we expected. We moored adjacent to the Old Barbridge Inn and were due to have visitors on Tuesday in the shape of Angie's son Michael who was bringing Shannon to stay with us and Angie's mum who had not seen our new boat yet. Angie's mum seemed well impressed and dropped subtle (for her) hints about seeing herself sitting on the front deck as we cruised along in the sunshine. After our visitors left we went to the "Jolly Tar"... Shannon's favourite pub. This is due mainly to the fact that the owner has installed an inflatable "Moonwalk"... (a king-sized bouncy castle with an interior playing area) in the grounds as well as many large toys for children to occupy themselves with. Wednesday morning we caught the bus to Nantwich to visit the Nantwich Show. This is a smaller version of the Cheshire Show and concentrates on cheese and livestock although there were many stalls, trade stands, craft stalls and displays as well as classic cars and commercial vehicles. Shannon had her face painted and we all sampled our fill of cheese as well as purchasing some for later consumption.

Inside the cheese marquee at the Nantwich Show

The classic commercial vehicles display was interesting and one exhibit in particular stood out for me. This was a Morris Commercial belonging to my old friend Tom Merrall. My father moored "Phial" with Tom's father... Sid Merral and in later years I moored "Misty Waters" with him as well. Tom now lives at the top of Grindley Brook Locks and I promised to look in when we were passing in a couple of days time. There were quite a few of my favourite tractors on display as well. Namely the Ferguson 35 and there was even a 35X - the diesel powered version. After spending most of the day there we caught the bus back to Barbridge and then we cast off and headed for Hurleston Junction and the Llangollen Canal. Before entering the bottom lock the fenders were lifted as even though Canal and River Trust had made some alterations to the lock there were still reports of boats getting stuck in the notorious bottom lock. We successfully negotiated the locks and visited the sanitary station and water point at the top of the locks. Shannon had promised to help with emptying the toilet as the water tank was filling but I don't think that she was too impressed with the smell inside the sluice room!

Shannon inside the Sanitary Station at Hurleston

With the housekeeping completed we set off and soon passed through Baddiley Locks before finding a mooring for the night. We found a lovely quiet mooring just above the locks but there was not enough water for Ian and Michelle who moored around the corner.

Our quiet mooring above Baddiley Locks

Wednesday morning dawned bright and sunny and after breakfast we set off for Wrenbury. We shared Swanley Locks with a Water Rat Beaver GRP cruiser. The owners were quite surprised at being invited to share a lock with a narrowboat as I think that it is a situation that doesn't occur very often. A boater coming in the opposite direction commended us for our bravery in sharing the locks with a GRP boat.

Sharing Swanley Locks with a Water Rat Beaver GRP cruiser

When we reached Wrenbury we moored alongside the Cotton Arms Camping Site. We had lunch in the pub where we met Mike Johnson and Yvonne Crane from the Gardner Engine Society who both live in Wrenbury. After a beautiful lunch we bade farewell to Mike and his wife then set off for Whitchurch in the brilliant sunshine. We had a bit of a wait at Grindley Brook Locks as there was quite a queue waiting to ascend them.

Mike Johnson and Yvonne Crane from the Gardner Engine Society who met us at the Cotton Arms

When we eventually made it to the staircase locks Tom Merrall met us and chatted as the Canal and River Trust team helped us through the locks. After ascending the locks we carried on to Whitchurch where we planned to moor in the arm if there were spaces available. There was just enough space for the two of us at the Chemistry Bridge end of the arm so we moored there for the night and planned to go into the town the following morning shopping and the girls wanted to go swimming. We went into Whitchurch the next morning and after walking around the shops (for a towel and swimming costume for Shannon who decided that she wanted to accompany Popsy to the swimming baths) we found a coffee shop called Big Red's House down a "jigger". As well as coffee  (free cake on Thursdays) the shop sold all manner of articles including paintings. One painting that surprised me and caught my eye was one of The Packet House at Worsley on the Bridgewater Canal painted by an artist by the name of D Rencott... it had my name on it.

D Rencott's painting of Worsley Packet House that I bought from Big Red's House

I asked Ian to negotiate a price and eventually bought it for 15. The frame needed a bit of tlc (eventually replaced) but we had already earmarked a space in the front cabin on the boat for it. Ange and Michelle went to collect Shannon, Popsy and her friend from the baths whilst Ian and I returned to the boat. Ian managed to get us lost and we ended up walking two miles further than necessary. When we did eventually reach the boats I was horrified to discover that someone had untied our boat, moved it up against Ian's and squeezed their hire boat in the space between "Squirrel" and the silted-up end of the arm. Needless to say a scathing email was sent to the hire boat company. When the girls returned we set off for Ellesmere. Not long after we left Whitchurch the sun went in and it started to rain. By the time we reached Whixhall it was absolutely pouring down. I changed tillers and put the one with the Brolleymate on it. This was the first time I had used it and it highlighted the fact that my umbrella was too small. Something else to add to the boat's shopping list. We eventually moored adjacent to Blakemere as dusk was falling and the rain stopped for a short period of time. Just as I finished mooring up a hot mug of coffee was thrust into my hands to accompany the dinner was nearly ready.

The view of Blakemere from the side doors during a lull in the rain

It is a shame that the wonderful view of Blakemere from the side doors was marred by the rain but by the next morning the weather returned back to being hot and sunny. After breakfast we moved the boats into the Ellesmere Arm and went into the town for essentials and a look around the shops. In the pet shop there was a dog rescue centre poster for Primchurch Rescue Kennels showing dogs that required new homes. The photographs and words accompanying them really tugged at our heart strings. Michelle was especially moved by the two toy poodles (brothers just like Lucky and Louie) that were free to a good home. Before returning to the boats we had lunch in a coffee shop at the top of the High Street and we were impressed by the service and food served. That evening we had our tea al fresco on the picnic tables adjacent to our moorings. We were fascinated by the appliance the Canadians on a boat behind us were using. It appeared to be some kind of barbeque but they were roasting a large joint of beef in it. I went to investigate and it turned out to be a Cobb Premier barbeque. In essence it is a sealed barbeque where the heat comes from half a dozen charcoal briquettes and a drip tray for cooking juices can be used to roast potatoes and other vegetables. The oven was sitting on the rear sliding hatch of their narrowboat and when I felt beneath it was cool and could not damage the paintwork beneath it. It is not cheap but more affordable examples can be found on eBay.

The revolutionary Cobb Premier barbeque

Next morning, after visiting the water point and sanitary station we cruised to New Marton Locks in brilliant sunshine (don't light the grill Ange). There was the inevitable queue at the bottom lock but we made friends with the Japanese family that were ahead of us in the queue and even though their English wasn't brilliant we gave them advice on tying knots, lock etiquette, etc. Before too long it was our turn to go through the locks and once through we headed for the Poacher's Pocket (now known as the "Poachers") at Chirk where we planned to moor for the night.

Ian guiding nb "Ted" into New Marton Top Lock (Mind that blacking Ian)

New Marton Top Lock on a beautiful, sunny afternoon

We arrived at the Poacher's Pocket mid-afternoon and after a chill-out we showered and got changed for dinner in the pub. It was a hot evening and the pub was quite busy but after a bit of a wait we were shown to our table and enjoyed a really beautiful meal in pleasant surroundings with good company as well. Quite a few fellow Lymm CC members had moored here after returning from Llangollen. This was to be our turn around point as it was Sunday and we would need to retrace our steps if we were to be back at Lymm by the following Saturday. Ian and Michelle had an extra three days holiday and planned to go to Chester before going home. Alright for some!

The moorings at the Poachers - Chirk

We had previously told Shannon that we would be taking the boat across the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct but because we didn't have the time to go much further when we set off the next morning we decided to cruise to Chirk Aqueduct. Popsy decided to come with us so she and Shannon sat on the rear deck in the brilliant sunshine whilst Ian and Michelle walked into Chirk. Once across the aqueduct we turned around in the basin before the tunnel and retraced our tracks.

Ange steering "Squirrel" across Chirk Aqueduct with Ian, Michelle and the boys following on foot

The view back across the aqueduct after we had turned around

Before we reached the small hamlet of Chirk Bank a piece of concrete jutting out from the bank took me by surprise. It could not be seen from the tiller as it was in the blind spot created by the port side of the cabin. The boat shuddered as we collided with the concrete but after inspection it had only scratched the blacking on the bow.

Chirk Bank - a small hamlet off the beaten track

When we reached New Marton Locks there was quite a queue of boats in front of us and before long more boats came up behind us. There is a water point before the lock and whilst we were in the queue we topped up the water tank without holding up the queue. After about an hour we reached the lock and descended it into the pound below. Unusually there wasn't a queue for the second lock either and we whizzed through it without any delay. Between bridges eight and nine we watched the sheep being herded by a shepherd on a quad-bike, blowing the vehicle's horn instead of using the more traditional whistle. Unusually, most of the sheep had a limp.

Limping sheep just before being herded by the shepherd on a quad-bike

There were also sheep in the field on the towpath side of the canal behind the hedge. They started to run (hobble) as well when they heard the quad-bike's horn! When we approached we started to look for a mooring and found one just before bridge one. I had a quick walk down to the junction and chatted to the lock keeper about the restoration of the Montgomery Canal and the latest section of the canal that was opened a couple of weeks earlier before I returned to the boat. Ian and Michelle caught up with us a little later and after tea we saw a dragon fly Ted's roof that was still enough to photograph. We were also treated to a beautiful sunset that just had to be captured by the Leica.

A dragon fly posing for the camera on Ted's handrail

Sunset at Welsh Frankton

The following day promised to be another stunner as far as weather was concerned. After breakfast we set off leaving our friends behind who said that they would catch us up later on. Approaching Ellesmere I dropped Ange off on the towpath to walk down the arm to Tesco whilst I filled the water tank, emptied the toilet and got rid of our rubbish at the Canal and River Trust yard opposite. By the time I had finished my jobs I could see Ange walking back and I collected her at the end of the arm.

Beech House, Ellesmere. Typical Thomas Telford Architecture

Once she was back on board we carried on and aimed to clear Grindley Brook Locks before looking for a mooring for the night. The sun disappeared after Ellesmere and didn't reappear until Whitchurch. There was, as expected, a queue at Grindley Brook but it wasn't as bad as we expected with only three boats in front of us. IWA volunteers were in evidence counting the number of boats in queues as evidence for a protest against the proposal to construct a new marina at Wrenbury. We cleared the locks and Ange put our tea in the oven which should be ready by the time we had passed through Quoisley Lock after which there are decent moorings. At Povey's Lock we had problems opening one of the bottom gates. It looked as though there was something jammed behind the gate. We had help from the boat following us and after fruitless efforts to open the gate we filled the lock again and eventually after emptying the lock again we managed to open the gate successfully. This had put us behind schedule and our tea was ready so I we needed to find a mooring as soon as possible. There were weeds below the lock but we found a clearing in them that was just big enough and deep enough for the boat and moored in it. After eating our tea we decided to stay here for the night as it was a nice quiet location. A little while later Ian and Michelle went past and were making for Wrenbury. At Quoisley Lock the next morning we bought some eggs and vegetables from the man selling them at the lock side. When we reached Wrenbury a couple of hours later our friends had already left so we carried on passing through Swanley and Baddiley without incident.

Shannon winding up Bridge 19 at Wrenbury

Filling the water tank whilst queuing at Hurleston

At Hurleston we were in a queue once again but this time the queue was entirely members of Lymm Cruising Club. We took advantage of the delay and filled the water tank as we edged up the queue. Shannon decided not to accompany me to the sanitary station and we were soon in the top lock under the watchful eyes of the Canal and River Trust staff. Another boat had recently been stuck in the notorious bottom lock and we were advised to raise our fenders before entering the two bottom locks... not that we needed reminding! Once through the locks we cruised to Barbridge and moored outside the Barbridge Inn amongst our friends from Lymm CC. We had a drink outside the pub but didn't linger due to the proliferation of wasps which caused us to change tables four times. At tea time Ian, Michelle and Popsy along with Adam from "Gemma Eve" and his daughter accompanied us to the Jolly Tar where we ordered food whilst the children played on (in) the Moonwalk and the other inflatable amusements there.

Inside the "Moonwalk" at the Jolly Tar

The amusements cater for kids of all shapes and sizes

The inflatable rolling wheels were sometimes challenging

Meanwhile, the grown-ups are accommodated inside

It was late when we returned to our boats and after a lie-in the next morning we said farewell to Ian, Michelle and Popsy who were heading towards Chester and set off down the Middlewich Branch. As anticipated there were queues at the locks but they weren't as bad as anticipated. It was a hot, summer's day and we stopped at the Yankee Candle Farm near Church Minshull for an ice cream and to have a look at what else they had in their shop. On the way to the shop we had to go through the garden and there were a lot of wasps clustered around the fruit that had fallen onto the path from the adjacent trees. We told her that they were more interested in the fruit than in her but she still didn't like going near them. When we returned to the boat we set off and planned to reach Middlewich for the night. Along the way we were treated to a visit from a kingfisher that accompanied us for quite a distance before disappearing into the trees.

The kingfisher that accompanied us for a while near Church Minshull

"Squirrel" moored at the Yankee Candle Farm near Church Minshull

At Stanhope Lock the queue was quite long and I made a start on polishing the brasses as we edged forward. We must have been in the queue for at least an hour but by the time we reached Wardle Lock at Middlewich there was only one boat in front of us.  We passed through the lock and made the left hand turn onto the Trent and Mersey Canal without managing to lose the propeller (which is what happened nearly twelve months earlier when we had just collected "Squirrel" from Midway Boats after buying her). We negotiated the three locks and moored for the night opposite the children's playground. Ange walked to the shops for bread and milk. Shannon played on the swings and I watched her whilst finishing off polishing the mushroom vents on the roof. We had our tea when Ange returned and after watching TV for a bit we went to bed. The next day was Friday and I suggested that we headed for the Dutton breach site and moored there for the night. This is a location that we had moored for lunch but not for the night and Ange was eager to see what the moorings were like overnight. In the meantime we cruised along one of my favourite lengths of canal. The weather was a little cooler than what we had been used to but at least it was dry although we did have a couple of showers. Just after Whatcroft Hall we were told by a passer-by on the bridge that the adjacent house belongs to Scouse comedian John Bishop.

The house near Whatcroft Hall that we were told belongs to comedian John Bishop

We knew that he lived somewhere near Northwich but we were surprised that the house adjacent to the canal was his. Maybe the passer-by got it wrong. By the time we reached Anderton the sun was shining and we stopped at the lift to have a look around the shop and to buy ice creams. Also at Anderton was the Fudge Boat. We had a sample of our favourite flavours before buying a few bags. Needless to say it was beautiful... provided that you have a sweet tooth that is!

A near perfect reflection in the canal at Anderton

We just had to sample the produce from the Fudge Boat

We then set off again and moored at Dutton. There was only one other boat moored there so we were able to moor exactly where we wanted to with beautiful views over the River Weaver Valley. Later on in the evening we were treated to a wonderful sunset... a fitting end to the last full day of our summer holiday cruise.

Sunset at Dutton on the last night of our summer holiday cruise

We were now well and truly on home waters and we were soon negotiating Dutton Stop Lock after which the windlasses could be put away. We only just made the tunnel and we passed through in eleven minutes but at the other end it was slow going due to there being quite a few boats in front of us. At Moore we stopped at the shop for a few bits and some bubble gum. Ange and Shannon had a contest to see who could blow the biggest bubble. Guess who won!

Ange blowing a rather large bubble

before carrying on to Lymm which we reached mid-afternoon. We moored on the canal frontage outside the clubhouse and loaded our clothes into the car before putting the boat on its mooring at Oughtrington. We planned to come up either later on in the week or the next weekend for the rest of our stuff. This was the end of our summer holiday cruise and we were sad that it had come to an end. We didn't want to go home (and ultimately... work) but reality was beckoning and that just cannot be ignored.

Timetable for our 2014 Summer Cruise

Friday 25-07-2014 - Lymm to Red Brow near Daresbury
Saturday 26-07-2014 - Red Brow near Daresbury to Billinge Green Flash

Sunday 27-07-2014

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Billinge Green Flash to above Wardle Lock, Middlewich

Monday 28-07-2014

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Wardle Lock, Middlewich to Barbridge

Tuesday 29-07-2014

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Stayed at Barbridge (Visitors)

Wednesday 30-07-2014

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Barbridge to above Baddiley Locks

Thursday 31-07-2014

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Baddiley Locks to Whitchurch

Friday 01-08-2014

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Whitchurch to Ellesmere (Blake Mere)

Saturday 02-08-2014 - Ellesmere (Blake Mere) to Ellesmere Basin
Sunday 03-08-2014 - Ellesmere Basin to Chirk (Poacher's Pocket)
Monday 04-08-2014 - Chirk to Welsh Frankton
Tuesday 05-08-2014 - Welsh Frankton to Quoisley Lock
Wednesday 06-08-2014 - Quoisley Lock to Barbridge Junction
Thursday 07-08-2014 - Barbridge Junction to Middlewich
Friday 08-08-2015 - Middlewich to Dutton Breach Site
Saturday 09-08-2014 - Dutton Breach Site to Lymm

Conclusion

As previously mentioned this was our first holiday on board our new narrowboat "Squirrel". After the disastrous holiday we experienced last year on "Total Eclipse" I was waiting for something to go wrong with our new boat all throughout he cruise. As it happened the only things that went wrong was a self-tapping screw coming undone that secured a hook that held one of the front doors open, the sliding cover on the Thetford C200 toilet cassette slipped off and fell down the sluice in the sanitary station at Ellesmere and the tv decided not to play DVDs. At the end of the cruise the fuel tank was just under half full so the boat had proved to be very economical as well as reliable. We did not suffer from flat batteries at any time even though the fridge is twelve volt, the inverter was on for about six hours every day and we had a couple of days when we didn't move at all. We had reports from the previous owners that they suffered from flat batteries regularly. Maybe they weren't as conscientious regarding the power consumption as we are.

Ange steering "Squirrel" into Church Minshull Lock

As previously mentioned the Llangollen Canal has a timeless quality and has changed little since I first cruised it with my parents in 1960. One place that has changed is the village of St Martin's just above New Marton Locks. I can remember as a child stopping here for the beautiful bread that they used to bake and ice creams as well. As a treat we would have American Cream Soda poured over ice cream (purchased from Usher's) in a glass. I can still taste it now and whenever we have this concoction it always reminds me of my childhood and Usher's Stores.

The houses at St Martin's Moor that used to be Usher's Bakery and general store in days gone by

We experienced a few queues but they weren't as bad as I anticipated and we could usually find a mooring where we wanted to as well. You might question the wisdom of cruising one of the most popular canals in the country at the height of the holiday season but I can honestly say that we have seen the canal busier at other times of the year. We met and talked to visitors from many foreign countries... Canada, Japan, Germany and Norway to name but a few. It was nice to be able to communicate with visitors who could speak our language fluently. One family that we met were the Kobiashi family from Japan. It was their first time on a narrowboat and we gave them a few tips on locking and boat handling. I sent some photographs to Masahide Kobiashi who gave me his email address and he thanked me for taking the time to talk to them and the help we gave them on holiday. The language barrier does not appear as much of a problem for our foreign guests as it is for us when we go abroad. Maybe they take the trouble to learn English when visiting us whereas we don't make any effort to learn the language of countries we visit!

Members of the Kobiashi family from Japan that we met at New Marton Locks

One thing that is necessary for a good holiday is good weather and we certainly were blessed in that area. We only had one and a half days of rain with sunshine virtually every day. If weather such as this could be guaranteed then we would have no need to travel to foreign countries to experience heat and top-up the tan!

 

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Canalography 2014

Our canal cruising experiences and milestones during 2014

 

4th February 2014 Became Lymm CC's "Slipway" magazine and website editor
12th March 2014 K鋜cher Window Vac review published in the April 2014 edition of "Waterways World"
15th March 2014 Saturday afternoon visit to Pontcysyllte Aqueduct
14th April 2014 Lymm CC Opening Cruise to Grappenhall
18th April 2014 Easter cruise to Boothstown and Castlefield
3rd May 2014 Cruise to between Saltersford and Barnton Tunnels
9th May 2014 "Squirrel" slipped out of the water for hull cleaning  and re-blacking
10th May 2014 Cruise through Standedge Tunnel (not in nb "Squirrel")
17th May 2014 Cruise to Moorefield Bridge
18th May 2014 Invitation Cruise to Dunham Massey
8th June 2014 Attended IWA National Campaign Festival Rally at Chester (not by boat)
14th June 2014 Lymm May Queen Festival
22nd June 2014 Navigation Trial weekend
25th July 2014 2014 Summer Cruise - Llangollen Canal as far as Chirk Tunnel and back
19th August 2014 "Squirrel" passed the Boat Safety Certificate Examination at Thorn Marine, Stockton Heath
22nd August 2014 Cruise to Salford Quays and our first anniversary owning "Squirrel"
26th December 2014 Christmas Cruise to Dover Lock and back

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Tailpiece

The story most probably continues in

Book 11

Canal Cruising 2015

Finances, health and time allowing!

 

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or select another book below...

 

 

 Introduction

Book 1 - 1960 to 1982

 

Book 2 - 1983 to 1999

Book 3 - 2000 to 2005

  Book 4 - 2006 to 2007
  Book 5 - 2008 to 2010
  Book 6 - 2010
  Book 7 - 2011
 

Book 8 - 2012
 

Book 9 - 2013
 

Book 11 - 2015
nb Squirrel
Canals on Screen
Canalscape Photography
The History of Lymm Cruising Club
The Duke's Cut - The Bridgewater Canal
The Big Ditch - Manchester's Ship Canal
Shroppie - The Shropshire Union Canal System
The Manchester and Salford Junction Canal
 Mersey Connections
Wonders of the Waterways
2011 Gardner Engine Rally Report
Foreign Forays - Canals of the World
Worsley Canal Heritage Walk
Castlefield Canal Heritage Walk
The Liverpool Docks Link

nb Total Eclipse

Don't Call it a Barge

Canis Canalus

Shannon
Lymm Cruising Club Website
Footnote and Acknowledgements
Site Map
Go to the
Website

 

 

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Updated 23-03-2015