Book 11

Canal Cruising 2015

An eBook and website by Cyril J Wood

The title photograph shows Squirrel moored above Baddiley Locks on the Llangollen Canal


Chapter 1 - Canalmanac 2015


Chapter 2 - Summer Cruise 2015 - Shroppie Saunter

Canalography 2015


Return to Introduction


Chapter 1 - Canalmanac 2015

With our return from our icebound visit to Wigan, the Christmas, my birthday and New Year celebrations now out of the way it was time to start making preparations for the 2015 boating season. There are not too many jobs to be done on the boat but the biggest one is going to be the repainting of the boat in the Spring when the weather is a bit warmer and more conducive for paint drying. I have spoken to Mark... one of the boat painters who told me that his mate Paul has now got over his health issues from last year and is back at work. They have our paint ready and are now just waiting for the warmer weather. Regarding the canopy fittings that were refitted temporarily after the painting was postponed until the Spring, I now have sufficient new stainless steel ones and after the repaint rather fit them with self-tapping screws I have decided to fit them with stainless steel "blind" pop rivets... the type that do not have a hole in the centre that would possibly allow water to ingress. I have a couple of sources in mind for the rivets and will be exploring the possibilities for the best source a little nearer the time. I have purchased a new headlamp. It is a compact model utilising LEDs but once fitted a trip to Preston Brook Tunnel will be required to check if it is powerful enough. Other immediate projects include new curtains for the lounge windows and a roller blind for the kitchen window to replace the Venetian blind currently fitted.

Whilst surfing the Internet I came across a photograph of our previous narrowboat... "Total Eclipse" moored in Camden Town on the Regents Canal. It was nice to see that it was clean with polished brasses (or at least some polished brasses) and sporting a solar panel which I knew about as Gary the current owner told me that he had fitted one. I'd have thought that he would have changed the sign writing by now though!

Total Eclipse moored in Camden Basin on the Regents Canal

(Photograph - Hamish Stewart)

One of the last duties that the Lymm CC Committee performs before the Annual General Meeting in February is the Committee Dinner. This year it was held at the Walton Arms... one of our favourite eating places. In fact we have even driven from the Wirral just to have Sunday lunch there. We enjoyed good company and good food in pleasant surroundings. I was still full the following morning!

Lymm CC Committee Members and their partners at the Committee Dinner...

...including a rare shot of yours truly in the centre of the photograph

(Photograph - Tina Durbridge)

The following weekend was quite a poignant one for our family as we placed my brother's ashes in a plot at Brynford Pet Cemetery near Holywell in North Wales. This was a special place for Jim as he spent many happy hours there and he had requested his ashes to be placed there so he could "watch" the dogs running around and enjoying themselves. Jim's widow Norma and son Andrew bought a plot there and his ashes were placed in the ground beneath a sapling in a place close to his heart. The ceremony was attended by the family, members of Wallasey Photographic Society, Swan Ciné Club as well as friends from Pantymwyn near Mold  where he kept his caravan. Little did I know that Andrew had previously sent some of the ashes away to be incorporated into rings for Andrew and myself and a pendant for Norma which he presented to us a couple of days later. For details of this unique service visit the Ashes into Glass website.

Jim's memorial at Brynford Pet Cemetery near Holywell in North Wales

But the weekend wasn't all an emotion roller coaster. One of my photographs... Sunrise Over Wallasey and Birkenhead Docks was used as a backdrop to the Granada Television Weather Forecast. I took this photograph early one morning on my way to work when the colourful sunrise just begged to be photographed. Jim would have been proud of me.

A screenshot of the Granada Weather Forecast featuring my photograph of Wallasey Pool at sunrise...

...and the original photograph

Last year we participated in Jive dance Classes at Lymm CC and this year we had put our names down to continue the lessons. The lessons were due to start on Friday the 30th January and we took the Friday afternoon off work to bring the boat down to the Clubhouse. We chilled out after bringing the boat down then we had our tea in the Golden Fleece. With suitably full stomachs we returned to the boat and got ready for the dance class.

The Jive Dance Class literally in full swing!

We enjoyed the class and laughed most of the way through it. We remembered most of the steps that we learnt last year and are looking forward to the coming weeks when we are reminded of the steps we had forgotten. Our thanks go to Due Burden for organising the lessons. After a lie-in the following morning we did a few jobs on the boat and then put the boat back on its moorings. We were back at Lymm on Tuesday for Lymm CC's Annual General Meeting. We had taken the afternoon off work and planned to bring the boat back down to the Clubhouse and leave it there until the weekend after the Jive Class. However, when Ange dropped me off at Oughtrington to collect the boat, unfortunately, the canal was frozen and we felt that we had broken enough ice so far this year so left the boat where it was on its moorings. After tea in the Golden Fleece accompanied by Phil "Big Boy" Anderton we returned to the Clubhouse and made sure that we got good seats as the Club was filling up quickly.

An almost full Clubhouse before the AGM started

I had nominated Ange for the Committee as she has some really good ideas that would be beneficial to the Club but unfortunately she was not voted on. However, I retained my position as Magazine and Website Editor and I am looking forward with interest to see what the coming year has to offer.

Outgoing Commodore - Paul Durbridge and retiring Secretary Jo Clarke flanking Chairman Jack Kershaw

A couple of weeks later another of my photographs was used as a ITV Granada Weather Photograph. This time it was of the sunrise over the River Mersey taken at Woodside Ferry a few hundred metres from where I work at Twelve Quays in Birkenhead.

A screenshot of the Granada Weather Forecast featuring my photograph of sunrise at Woodside Ferry...

...and the original photograph

The last weekend in February was to be a busy one. There was a FBCC Rally Meeting on the Friday evening and after we finished work we drove up to Oughtrington when Ange dropped me off and I took the boat down to the Clubhouse. After turning the boat around I headed for Lymm and around the corner from the moorings an alarm started to sound. It was the over temperature alarm. I pulled into the side of the canal and on inspection the cooling water level had dropped due to a leaking joint on the engine caused by a missing Jubilee clip. I put a couple of litres of hot water in the system and restarted the engine. The alarm sounded briefly but then stopped and I continued to the Clubhouse. Ange had been invited on board "Hyland" for a drink and a warm whilst she waited my arrival. When I did arrive I moored in the slipway and after unloading the car went to Lymm Chippy for our tea. There was quite a queue in the chippy but I was eventually on my way back to the boat with our tea which was hastily consumed and we then went to the meeting.

The FBCC Rally Meeting was well attended

The meeting was very well attended and went well. Afterwards we retired to the boat and we were soon in bed. The next morning there was to be a work party organised by Harbourmaster John Moult for painting the boat trolleys and some of the sheds in the yard. Ange was loaned one of John's yard coats and looked the part... especially with the pencil behind her ear!

Ange wearing one of John Moult's yard coats complete with pencil behind her ear

After the work party we had visitors in the shape on my sister in law Norma, nephew Andrew and Maxi the dog. They were impressed with the boat, the boat club and Lymm village. We had been invited for a meal in the evening by fellow members but as we had a late lunch and our visitors stayed until late we had to decline their invitation. We chilled out for the rest of the evening and had a late tea before watching TV in bed. We had a few jobs planned for the next day and after breakfast we got started on them. First was to remove the Venetian blind on the kitchen window and replace it with a new roller blind to match the one on the front doors. It needed trimming to size and we went into the clubhouse to do this on one of the large tables. We fitted a blind like this on "Total Eclipse" and had a problem with the bottom of the blind not sitting flush with the cabin lining due to the tumblehome on the cabin lining. We planned to overcome this on Squirrel with Velcro buttons to hold the blind against the lining when pulled down... a solution that works well.

The new kitchen blind

The next job was to line the underside of the rear sliding hatch with thin carpet to prevent condensation forming. We had seen the thin carpet the previous week and bought it in the hopes that it was thin enough to fit over the baffle at the front of the hatch aperture. The carpet was just the right thickness but once the hatch was refitted I had to remove it to trim the side of the carpet adjacent to the slider track. When refitted it was perfect and I hope that it presents a sufficient thermal barrier to prevent the formation of condensation.

The underside of the removed rear hatch carpeted

The last job I would have liked to complete was the upholstering of the lid off the stool in the front cabin that is one of the supports for the table when used as the double bed extension. We already had been using the material but had not attached it permanently. Seeing as I had used the spray Evo Stick impact adhesive on the sliding hatch carpet it seemed logical to use it as much as possible before the spray nozzle became dried-up. The only problem was that I had forgotten the staple gun so we took the lid, material, padding and adhesive home and completed the job later on whilst our tea was cooking. All in all we had a great weekend that was both relaxing, productive and rewarding. It is a shame that we don't have more weekends like this. Even the death of one of my heroes... Leonard Nimoy (aka Mr Spock from "Star Trek") could not ruin it for us, sad though it was!

We had not planned on going to the boat the following weekend but our plans changed and after collecting Shannon we ended up making our way to Lymm where we arriving Saturday lunchtime. After eating Sexton's best we headed down the canal in bright spring sunshine towards Walton. The canal banks were showing signs of life as daffodils and other spring flowers were pushing their shoots through the soil into the sunshine.

Just past Pickering's Bridge at Thelwall in spring

We moored just before the cutting and made our way to the park. Shannon had not been to Walton Park for a couple of years but the memories of a peacock frightening her were still fresh in her memory. As we walked around the small zoo Shannon kept a wary eye out for the peacocks and I got the opportunity to take some photographs on my new Leica V-Lux camera. After an ice cream we had a round of crazy golf and needless to say Ange won! This is the price she has to pay for growing up with two brothers that spent most of their time playing sport orientated pursuits. Before we left Shannon had a go on the bungee trampoline and we then headed back to the boat.

Ange and Shannon watching the goats

One of the peacocks posing for the Leica at Walton Gardens

Walton Cutting in the spring sunshine

Once back on board we turned the boat around, retraced our steps to Stockton Heath and moored where we were handy for Panny's chippy. Later on, with suitably full stomachs we watched TV then went to bed. On Sunday morning we were woken up by rain tapping on the roof. After breakfast we started the boat's engine and paid a visit to Thorn Marine where we had a chat to Margaret and Brian Hamilton then headed back to Lymm in the rain. It rained for most of the day but late afternoon when we were back at home the sun came out. It was a bit too late for us but it didn't dampen our mood after an unplanned but enjoyable weekend.

Squirrel moored at Walton Park

For our last wedding anniversary Ange bought me a rechargeable Beats Pill Bluetooth loudspeaker unit to use with my iPod and smart phone on the back of the boat when cruising. Due to the cylindrical shape of it I was afraid that it might roll off the sliding hatch when in use so I decided to make a cradle for it. The cradle was made from oak that was suitably shaped by Neil Campbell... one of the Carpentry and Joinery lecturers at work. Once assembled and rubbed-down with fine sand paper I gave it eight coats of varnish. When this was dry I fitted self-adhesive feet to the underside and stuck felt onto the inside of the cradles to prevent scratching. The Beats Pill unit itself is beautifully neat, has a Bluetooth range of ten metres and is recharged using the same charger and Micro USB lead as my phone. It will, no doubt, be put to good use when the boating season starts. I just need to fit a shelf in the rear cabin to keep it on when not in use (on my "to do" list). It is a far cry from the loudspeaker system that we used to have for the rear deck of "Total Eclipse" that had cables everywhere just waiting to be tripped over and took ages to set-up as well!

Wooden cradle with the Beats Pill Bluetooth Loudspeaker unit

Readers may be interested in a new section of the "Canalscape" website entitled "Canals on Screen". It documents some of my favourite  television programmes and films that feature canals and inland waterways. A lot of the information was previously in the "Footnote" section of the website but after the interest that "Waterways World" generated recently with their article on the same subject I have decided to give it a dedicated section. It is an on-going addition and not yet completed but I am sure that you will enjoy it. If you have any suggestions for additions please email me at

The partial eclipse on the 20th March 2015

Friday the 20th March was the day of the partial eclipse in England. I was in work but managed to leave my desk for five minutes to go outside and take a few photographs of the solar event through the clouds that acted as a natural neutral density filter allowing me to point the camera directly at the Sun. That Friday was also the day of the last jive class at Lymm CC. We left home straight after work and headed up the M53. At least until we reached Ellesmere Port where there was nose to tail traffic due to road works closing one of the lanes. We left the motorway and detoured through the town centre. Unfortunately everyone else had the same idea. We eventually joined the M56 half an hour later. As usual Ange dropped me off at Oughtrington and I brought the boat down to the Clubhouse. After tea we went to the jive class which was really enjoyable and we wished that they were on for longer. Anyway we have a 1950's dance next month at the John Alker Club in Flixton to look forward to. Ange has already bought a new frock for it!

Members of the Jive Class and our dance teachers

(Photograph - Arthur Malcolm)

We had a lie-in on Saturday morning and after breakfast I brought out the Kärcher K4 Compact Pressure Washer that I had received as a combined Christmas and birthday present from my stepson Michael. I had been itching to try it out and had bought a water scavenge pipe off eBay at half the retail price. The water scavenge pipe allows the unit to draw water from alternative sources such as water butts, lakes or the canal. This would allow me to use the pressure washer anywhere, regardless of whether there is a water tap close by or not. One problem that I encountered with the pipe was that it needed weighing down in the water so that it did not float to the surface and start to suck air. This was overcome by attaching a weight to the strainer/non-return valve end of the pipe with cable ties to weigh it down in the water. I had previously had problems cleaning the non-slip surface on the boat's roof and gunwales but the K4 took it in its stride, cleaning them without having to resort to chemicals such as "151 Elbow Grease" accompanied by a scrubbing brush. I then turned down the delivery pressure at the lance and cleaned the rest of the cabin sides and hull paintwork with similarly excellent  results.

Kärcher K4 pressure washer and water scavenge pipe

Yours truly using the Kärcher K4 pressure washer on Squirrel

(Photograph - Angela Wood... nice rainbow Ange!)

After I had finished cleaning the boat's cabin roof and sides we had a visit from Alan Savage. Alan had recently lost his two dogs Ozzie and Jake (see the Canis Canalus section of this website) and now has two new dogs... "Bailey" and "Elwood". Alan said that he would feel a bit of a "pratt" shouting "Elwood" in the park or on the moorings when calling the dog so they had decided to change the his name. He had telephoned me in the week to ask if I had any objection to his calling the latest dog... a Yorkshire Terrier, "Woodsey". This is also the nickname he has for me (amongst other names that cannot be repeated here) but I am not sure if he is naming the dog after me or my late brother... Jim who he also called Woodsey. Either way I said that I didn't have any objection to the dog being named after Jim or myself. In fact, I was quite flattered by Alan asking if I had any objections.

"Woodsey" the dog and the human Woodsey (me)

(Photograph - Oliver Savage)

When our visitors had gone I did a couple of other odd jobs including checking the self-adhesive strip of LEDs that I intend to install beneath the gunwales for illuminating the passage between the lounge and rear cabin and measuring up for a new shelf that I plan to fit above the television in the rear cabin to accommodate the Beats Pill mentioned previously when not in use. We chilled out for an hour or so then packed the car and tidied the boat in preparation for Lymm CC's Opening Cruise the following weekend before putting it back on its mooring and heading for home.

The weekend of the Opening Cruise started off with an FBCC Rally meeting in the Clubhouse. We had driven to Lymm straight from work and for a change the M53 and 56 motorways were reasonably clear. On arrival at oughtrington I brought the boat down from the moorings as usual. We had to moor on the water/pump-out point outside the Clubhouse but as it was going dark we did not envisage anyone wanting to use the point. After a quick tea we went to the meeting which was well attended and I left when it was finished. I was quite tired and set the bed up on the boat whilst Ange was talking to some of our friends. As soon as she returned to the boat we went to bed and planned to be up early the next morning and make our way down to Stockton Heath. The best laid plans of mice and men... I awoke at 9.40 am! We had our breakfast, I filled the water tank up and off we set. The weather was quite pleasant... not warm but dry. We arrived at Stockton Heath and after mooring the boat we walked into the town for lunch, a look around the shops and a visit to Aldi for milk, bread and to top-up the cupboards. I like looking at the tools and other men's' hardware accessories in this shop. I saw a useful box that contained an assortment of seals, "O" rings and jubilee clips that "had my name on it". On our return to the boat nb "Adreva" had moored behind us and we were invited on board for a coffee. Later, as usual when we moor at Stockton Heath we visited Panny's chippy for tea and after filling our stomachs had a nice, relaxing evening. The weather was not really conducive to taking photographs and the weather forecast had said that it was going to rain on Sunday as well. For once it was correct.

Lymm CC's Chairman Jack Kershaw and Manchester Ship Canal General Manager Peter Parkinson

We left Stockton Heath early in order to reach Lymm in good time for the Opening Cruise. We cruised in the rain and reached Lymm at 09.30. Ange was assisting Rear Commodore Eleanor Muirhead taking the boat names in the procession and I was on photographic duties. When we arrived we went to the Clubhouse and I started my photographic duties. I was introduced to Peter Parkinson... the new General Manager of the Bridgewater Canal Company by Chairman Jack Kershaw. I had previously conversed with Peter by email whilst sending him, like his predecessor Mike Webb, his electronic copy of Lymm CC's monthly magazine... "Slipway". Peter had related to me that when he found out that he had been appointed General Manager of the Bridgewater Canal he thought that he had better learn a bit more about it. Accordingly, he purchased a copy of "The Duke's Cut" to familiarise himself with the canal's history and geography which he found extremely useful. High praise indeed! Peter offered his help when I wanted to gain access to various locations to take photographs for "Mersey Connections" (see below)... an offer that I will most certainly be taking him up on.

Veteran Lymm CC life members Beryl and Graham Hefford with Beryl Moult (centre)

Lymm CC Committee members with Warrington's mayor... Cllr Ted Finnegan

As well as Peter Parkinson and his wife Claire, I photographed the other dignitaries  who included the Mayor of Warrington... Cllr Ted Finnegan and two of the veteran members... Beryl and Graham Hefford. After the usual speeches and toasts it was time to go outside, unfurl the flag and start the procession of boats lead by Commodore Anthony Layng. It was absolutely pouring with rain and not wanting to risk getting the Leica wet I swapped to the Panasonic Lumix DMC TZ-6 which also has a Leica lens so image quality would not be compromised.

Commodore Anthony Layng braving the torrential rain leading the Opening Cruise procession

I started taking photographs outside using a fellow member's umbrella as a shelter but even so the camera was dripped on. Fortunately no damage was done. We acted as hosts to a couple of new members... Jean and Ken Powell. They are novice boaters but have a sixty two foot semi-trad narrowboat called "Laplander" that is currently moored at Tattenhall Marina on the Shroppie. We invited them aboard Squirrel and set off for Dunham Massey when most of the boats in the procession had passed we set off behind them. Our guests had been to a couple of social events at the Club including the Opening Cruise Evening and the Jive classes but were keen to experience more of Club life and discover what goes on during our cruises.

Ange with our guests... new Lymm CC members Ken and Jean Powell on board nb Squirrel

It is a shame that the weather was as bad as it was for them. Once we reached Dunham Massey we turned around and headed back to Lymm as our guests had a prior engagement later on in the afternoon. They seemed impressed with the Club and the welcome that had received since joining. They are now looking forward to when a mooring becomes available and bringing "Laplander" to Lymm so that they can take part in our activities on their own boat. When our guests had left we had our lunch and chilled out for an hour or so before getting our act together and heading for home.

A few friends and colleagues that are regular "Canalscape" readers have been asking me about "Mersey Connections"... my latest manuscript for publication by The History Press. I have been asked where I am up to with this project and when will it be completed and on the bookshelves. Well... I am now over three quarters of the way through writing the text and even though I have already got quite a few photographs for the publication I don't think that I will have the time to finish the photography until I retire from work at the end of next year. By this time Peel Ports' new Deepwater Container Berth at Seaforth will be completed and construction of the Mersey Gateway (new Runcorn Bridge) will be well under way. The future of Runcorn Locks which once connected the Bridgewater Canal with the Manchester Ship Canal will be assured by this time as well. Hopefully, images of these and any other relevant developments will be included. I have now updated the "Mersey Connections" section of the "Canalscape" website and put some photographs of the waterways and docks to be covered as a "taster". I hope that everyone approves!

The proposed front cover for "Mersey Connections" showing the now demolished New Line of Locks on the Bridgewater Canal at Runcorn

Due to family commitments and time constraints we were not able to go on the Easter Cruise but on the Saturday after Good Friday I went up to Oughtrington on my own to do a few jobs. Previously I had identified a voltage drop when the water pump operates that affected the TV aerial signal booster and telephone chargers that are on the same circuit. I had already laid a heavier gauge cable in the central heating pipe trunking but needed to run it inside the starboard rear bunk, beneath the steps, into the calorifier cupboard and then to the fuse compartment. This was also an ideal opportunity to sort out the contents of the bunk and take home any items not required. After connecting the cable to a spare auxiliary connection on the fuse unit I checked the cable for continuity and voltage. It was as it should be so moved onto my next job which was fitting a couple of new shelves in the rear cabin... port side above the TV and starboard side adjacent to the fire extinguisher.

The new shelf in the rear cabin, port side

The new shelf in the rear cabin, starboard side

The brass keepers for the rear sliding hatch bolts required some attention as they were catching. I chiselled out recesses for both keepers, refitted the keepers and was pleased to note that the bolts were not catching when the hatch was slid open or closed. It was a pleasant day with intermittent sunshine. At lunch time I sat on the rear deck eating my lunch, drinking my coffee and listening to the woodpeckers hammering on trees in the nearby wood. Most enjoyable. After completing my jobs it was time to clear up and tidy away the tools. When this was done I loaded the car and headed for home to watch the new CGI (Hypermarionation) version of "Thunderbirds are Go" fifty years after the original series was screened. I made it home just in time (even though it was being recorded on the Tivo box). Needless to say I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Oughtrington Woods as seen from our moorings on a fine, spring lunchtime

The week following Easter week we were off work on holiday. The week started with a jive evening at the John Alker Centre in Flixton near Manchester, We had spent a lot of time during the week brushing up on our jiving steps and were looking forward to putting our theory into practice. We were with fellow members of our jive class from Lymm CC and had a most enjoyable evening. Even though we are not regulars there we were all made welcome and when we took to the floor we didn't feel as though we were being judged by dancers much more experienced and competent than we were. We returned home after the dance but planned to return to Lymm on the following Monday for the Committee Meeting and spend a few days on the boat as well. Can't wait!

Ange in mid-twirl jiving with a teddy boy partner (check out the "brothel creepers")

We had planned to spend a few days on the boat then go to Castlefield in Manchester with Lymm CC at the weekend but we changed our plans after we had a telephone call from Mark Leatherbarrow the boat painter. He said that if the weather kept fine he would like to start painting our boat at the weekend. I asked Harbourmaster John Moult if I could leave the boat on the canal frontage whilst we prepared it and for a couple of weeks after that whilst the boat painters did their work. He said yes and as our permanent mooring is near the bottom of the Oughtrington moorings and does not possess an electricity supply this would help the painters immensely. We had to prepare the boat for the painters (again) which meant removing the hardware for the front and rear deck canopies, blocking up the vents on the doors and ceiling to prevent dust entering the boat (hopefully) and remove anything else that was not immediately required... life belt, boarding plank, long boat pole, etc. Once this was completed we were ready for the painters to start sanding down and, if the weather held out maybe even apply undercoat. The painters arrived at 7.30 on Saturday morning and once we had sorted ourselves out we left them to their own devices and drove to Altrincham Metro Station where we left the car and caught the tram to Manchester. Once there we headed for Castlefield and had a cup of coffee on board "Philbarmar" with Phyllis and Barry Greenough and Linda Whalley.

Boats from Lymm CC moored in the Staffordshire Arm at Castlefield

We then planned to catch the tram to Bury and visit the wonderful market there. As Wendy and Paul Savage had never been there they accompanied us. Needless to say they were suitably impressed and we returned to Castlefield with numerous purchases. We had a meal in the Wharf surrounded by some of my photographs decorating the walls. It was Paul's birthday and he couldn't wait to try one of his presents!

Paul Savage wearing one of his birthday presents

With our stomachs suitably filled with the beautiful food we made our way back to the tram stop only to be informed that all the trams to Altrincham had been cancelled due to an electrical fault on the overhead electricity supply lines. We were informed by the electronic signs that the forty one bus would return us to where we left the car. What the sign didn't tell us was that the bus went all around the area and it was after eleven o'clock before we reached Altrincham, collected the car and were driving back along the A56 to Lymm. We had to wait until morning to see what the painters had done and when we did see the fruits of their labours we were amazed at how much they had done. After sanding down the cabin sides and roof they applied undercoat which was awaiting the first gloss coat. When the boys arrived it didn't take long for them to start glossing. The transformation was immediate and the quality of the finish had to be seen to be believed. By early afternoon they had completed the sides and the part of the roof that was not going to be cream. Everyone who saw the finish commented on how good it looked... and this was just the first coat!

Mark and Paul sanding down the paintwork prior to undercoating

At the end of the first day with the undercoat applied

Half-way through applying the first gloss coat the difference was amazing and...

...even after one coat the finish looked stunning

Throughout the following week I was ill with an unidentified allergic reaction but by the Saturday I was feeling (and looking) a little better. Ange and I are involved in the organisation of the FBCC Rally and on our way to Lymm we had arranged to collect some of the raffle prizes donated to us. Our first port of call was to Midland Chandlers to purchase one hundred pounds worth of vouchers with money donated by Gary White who owns All Seasons Boat Covers. Next we went to Uplands Marina at Anderton. I had never been here before although I had passed its entrance many times. We had arranged to meet the owner... Bill Saner who also owns Nantwich Canal Centre who presented us with fifty pounds worth of mooring pins and ropes. As the sun was shining and I just happened to have the Leica with me I took the opportunity to take some photographs of this secluded marina that is also home to the Paint Shed. Our final port of call was to Thorn Marine who had also promised to donate a prize voucher. We were grateful for the generosity of the donations we received and the companies concerned will receive a mention in the rally magazine.

The secluded Uplands Marina at Anderton hidden behind the trees

Ange and Uplands Marina owner Bill Saner

With our errands completed we went to Lymm to see how the boat painters had got on. They had started to sand down the gunwales, bow and front bulkhead but unfortunately rain had stopped play. They would be returning tomorrow and hopefully would have a better day.

Rain stopped play during the front deck and bulkhead painting preparations

There was quite a lot of activity at Lymm Cruising Club and whilst talking to one of the members I heard my name... "Woodsey" being called from the other side of the yard. I hurried across the yard to discover why I was being summoned and by whom. It turned out to be Alan savage calling his new dog and not me! After doing a couple of jobs on the boat we walked to the Butty & Sweet boat in Lymm for our lunch (excellent all day breakfast... superb black puddings) before heading home down the M56 in, dare I say it... brilliant sunshine! The following day the boat painters returned and managed to undercoat the front bulkhead, foredeck and starboard gunwale.

The boat painters were not working over the May Bank Holiday weekend and that gave us the opportunity to go on the Lymm CC cruise to between the tunnels and George Gleave's Bridge. We were accompanied by Shannon and arrived at Lymm Friday evening. The following morning we set off for Preston Brook Tunnel. The weather wasn't very good with intermittent showers following us. When we reached the tunnel I refitted the headlight and we set off through the tunnel. It took us ten minutes to pass through... the quickest time we have ever been through on a narrowboat but not as fast as my all time record. This is seven and three quarter minutes which I set in 1987 on "Misty Waters 2" when it was temporarily fitted with my parents' Crescent Marin 18 outboard motor.

Ange at the tiller in Dutton Stop Lock

The showers continued and it was not until we had reached the wide between Saltersford and Barnton Tunnels that they eased off. We moored alongside nb "Adreva" and joined our fellow members. Members from Broken Cross Cruising Club had been invited and their boats swelled the number of boats moored in the wide. Historically, broken Cross CC has had a good relationship with Lymm CC and, in Lymm CC's sixtieth year, our Commodore wanted to continue this relationship, hence their being invited to join us.

Flags and pennants in abundance

Rear Commodore Eleanor Muirhead lighting her first bonfire between the tunnels

Members of Lymm CC and Broken Cross CC around the Maypole

The pattern on the Maypole created by the dancers

After the ceremonial lighting of the bonfire by Rear Commodore Eleanor Muirhead Commodore, Anthony Layng had planned a Maypole dance and many members dressed up in period costume. The Maypole dance was a success and prizes were given to the winners of the period costume competition. The weather was drier the next morning with the sun trying to break through. We caught the ten o'clock tunnel and soon we were cruising through the woods that lined the canal. A carpet of bluebells punctuated by the occasional patch of late daffodils lined the floor of the wooded cutting added a splash of colour to the surroundings.

The carpet of bluebells after Saltersford Tunnel

The River Weaver Valley with rape plant fields in abundance

Once out of the wooded cuttings fields filled with rape seed plants were in abundance. There was a queue at Dutton Stop Lock and Shannon and I helped fellow boaters through the lock whilst Ange steered Squirrel through, waiting for us at the tunnel approach. The passage through Preston Brook Tunnel took longer than when we came through the previous day due to the many boats waiting to pass through.

Inside Preston Brook Tunnel

As we reached the northern portal of the tunnel we could see that the sun was shining and it stayed shining for the rest of the day. We moored just past George Gleave's Bridge and after taking photographs we went for a walk in the forest adjacent to Daresbury laboratories. We had never walked through the forest before and it was most enjoyable.

Lymm CC boats moored alongside the rape plant field at George Gleave's Bridge

A partially repainted Squirrel at George Gleave's Bridge

The Bridgewater Canal at Daresbury

Full moon over Daresbury

It was a full moon and Shannon had an enjoyable evening playing with the other children (sorry... young adults) around the bonfire before having to be persuaded to return to the boat and going to bed. The sunlight shining through the curtains woke us the following morning which was "Star Wars Day" (May the 4th be with you) and after our breakfast we set off for Lymm. As we were not governed by having to be home at a particular time we cruised back slowly.

Grappenhall Turn in Spring

I don't think that the engine went above 1000 RPM and this gave me the opportunity to take photographs as we cruised back to Lymm in the brilliant sunshine. I had arranged with Harbourmaster John Moult to leave the boat at the Clubhouse for another week in readiness for the boat painters to carry on with their work the following weekend. Once back at the Clubhouse, we loaded the car, I emptied the loo and it was not long before we were heading for home after an excellent long weekend. The weather mightn't have been brilliant all the time but at least we did have some sunshine.

We  attended the FBCC Rally Meeting at Lymm the following Friday. This was the last meeting before the Rally and was well attended. We stayed in the Clubhouse well after the meeting had finished, chatting with friends accompanied by alcohol, peanuts and crisps. Consequently, we were late going to bed and were woken up the following morning by the arrival of Mark and Paul preparing to start painting. After breakfast we went to Midland Chandlers with Keith Moore and Mike Goldberg.

Attendees at the FBCC Rally Meeting

Dave from Midland Chandlers presenting FBCC Rally Chairman Keith Moore with £50 worth of Midland Chandlers Vouchers

Keith was presented with £50 worth of Midland Chandlers Vouchers for Rally raffle prizes whilst Mike needed to replace an empty Calor Gas bottle. On our return to Lymm we had lunch on board "Butty and Sweet"... the floating café moored in Lymm Village. Whilst walking to the floating café we noticed Ian and Michelle Gilbody's old boat... Eclipse No 2 moored in the Village. It was two years since we had last seen the boat and was still shiny and looked as good now as it did then.

Still shiny... Eclipse Number 2 moored in Lymm Village

Butty and Sweet... the floating café in Lymm Village

When we reached the café boat we ordered our lunch and whilst we waited for our food Ange asked the owner if they would like to donate a prize to the FBCC Rally raffle. They agreed to and gave us a £15 meal voucher for which we were most grateful. After an excellent lunch we returned to the boat and discovered that the painters had finished for the day having sanded down the rear deck and starboard gunwale then undercoated them ready for the gloss paint when the weather allows. The boat is looking better after every time they visit and we cannot wait to see the finished article. I took some photographs of preparations for the Rally under way and we headed for home. Mark and Paul continued in our absence on Sunday and as it was a perfect painting day they managed to apply a second coat to the cabin sides and nearly finished glossing the gunwales, front and rear decks.

The rear deck sanded down ready for undercoating...

...a few hours later with the undercoat applied...

...and the following day fully glossed

The gunwales and front deck with the undercoat applied...

...and also the following day fully glossed

We returned on Monday for the Lymm CC Committee Meeting and moved the boat from the canal frontage to a temporary borrowed mooring as our time there is now up. In the afternoon we visited Hesford Marine canvassing for FBCC Rally raffle prizes and the owners Darren and Aileen Minjoot showed us the new twin painting sheds erected on the site. They are most impressive and will be a great addition to the boating facilities in the area.

Hesford Marine's Boatyard

Hesford Marine's new paint shed

Inside the new paint shed

Next it was to Oughtrington to cut the grass on our moorings whilst the boat wasn't there. Once this was completed it was back to Lymm and the Committee Meeting after tea. We had a lie-in on Tuesday morning and before heading for home we helped with the preparations for the FBCC Rally. Ange was finding the chairs and tables for the Rally HQ that she will be looking after during the rally and proved that she can use a Kärcher pressure washer. No doubt her new skills will be put to good use with our own Kärcher pressure washer in the future!

Ange using the pressure washer

We didn't go up to Lymm the following weekend as I was unwell but I did manage to go up on my own the following Monday. I planned to move the boat from the temporary mooring we had borrowed back to our own mooring at Oughtrington. The weather wasn't very good and I parked the car at Oughtrington then walked down the bridle path to Lymm, collected the boat and cruised up to the mooring. The painters had a good weekend. They managed to paint the roof, gunwales and completed glossing the front and rear decks. The coach-lines, cream oval for the signwriting on the cabin sides and bow detailing had also been painted. I was most impressed with the quality of finish and it looked wonderful... even in the rain!

Squirrel back on its mooring at Oughtrington

Bow detailing

A few months ago I was contacted by Georgia Plimbley... a researcher for the BBC. They were planning a TV series entitled "What Canals Did For Us" and I was asked if I would like to be involved in the programme. I was flattered and needless to say I agreed. I was next asked if I would mind being interviewed on camera to talk about James Brindley and the Bridgewater Canal. We made arrangements for a time and place for filming. Even though I was unwell I didn't think that it would be too taxing and we arranged to meet at Walton Park where the interview was to take place. Georgia was unable to attend but I was met by Paul Craven (no relation to John) who was the series director, cameraman and sound recordist rolled into one. After introductions, having the microphone pack fitted and a quick rundown of what I was to be asked the camera was set-up on the towpath and the interview took place.

TV director, cameraman and sound recordist Paul Craven at Walton

Paul was impressed by my relaxed manner and professionalism which allowed the interview to be accomplished in one take. He was also impressed by the way that I spoke about James Brindley and the way he built the foundations of our canal network. When the interview was over Paul asked me if I would like to take a few shots with the HD video camera. Needless to say I didn't have to be asked twice! Paul also told me that when seeing the finished series of programmes not to be surprised to hear my words from "The Duke's Cut" and "The Big Ditch" being used as both books were used extensively in preparation of the scripts. After an hour I was on my way home feeling pleased with being held in such high esteem by a national institution such as the BBC and the way the interview went. It was a nice day and under normal circumstances I would have taken advantage of the weather and taken some photographs on the way home but I was feeling quite exhausted and went straight home.

Somebody else had to have a go with the HD video camera!

(Photograph - Paul Craven)

Later on in the week I was taking a constitutional walk along the promenade by Fort perch Rock in New Brighton at high tide on a windy day. I just happened to have the Leica with me and took a photograph of the lighthouse being battered by the wind driven waves. I sent one of the resulting photographs to Granada Weather who used it as a weather photograph. The results are included below for your perusal.

A screenshot of the weather forecast featuring the photograph that I took...

...and the original photograph of New Brighton Lighthouse being battered by waves


On Friday morning of that week we drove to Oughtrington and took the boat to Lymm where we were attending the FBCC Annual Rally being hosted by Lymm CC. After putting the boat on our allotted mooring Ange set-up the Rally HQ whilst I started to take photographs. Boats were arriving from the various boat clubs along the length of the Bridgewater Canal as well as from other boat clubs such as Broken Cross Cruising Club on the Trent and Mersey Canal. It was a busy weekend and whilst Ange was in Rally HQ I caught up with many of my old boating friends from the various boat clubs attending the rally and took my turns on toilet cleaning and floating bridge duty as well as taking photographs (see the 2015 FBCC Rally Gallery section on Lymm CC's website). I was still suffering from high blood pressure and these activities did not appear to put any strain on me but Ange was keeping a watchful eye on me to make sure that I didn't do anything silly.

Ange in Rally HQ

We were visited by my daughter Lisa and two of my grandchildren Grace and Nathan. Lisa was staying with her mother on board nb Jusroamin... the narrowboat belonging to her partner Paul Gordji whom I had known since meeting him and his family on the Llangollen Canal in 1984. Later Phil Savage took me for a spin in the dinghy to take photographs of the boats attending the rally. Being so close to the water in the dinghy gave a totally different perspective to the photographs as illustrated below. Needless to say I didn't risk taking the Leica just in case it got wet.

Phil Savage and me in the dinghy

(Photograph - Stephen Fahey)

Rally moorings from Phil Savage's dinghy by Lymm Bridge...

...and by the winding hole on the way to Oughtrington

The weather was kind to us and whilst overcast on occasions we did not have any rain to speak of which contributed to this being the best FBCC Rally we had attended... not that I am biased (being a member of Lymm CC) but this was also the opinion held by many of the boaters who attended the rally.

The view from the floating bridge at the FBCC Rally

Traditionally, there is an auction on the last day of the rally. We had previously bought items from these auctions including the Carabo solid fuel stove that was fitted on our previous boat... Total Eclipse. This time Ange successfully bid on an electric meat slicer identical to one we have at home (she planned to give it to her mother) and I bid on a folding bicycle that I had seen. Like Ange I was successful in my bid and I hope to use it at home as well as on the boat when I am feeling better. Whilst we were at the rally many fellow boaters commented on the paint job on Squirrel and we were looking forward to when it was completed.

Yours truly steering nb Squirrel backwards after the FBCC Rally

(Photograph - Stephen Fahey)

When the rally was over we returned the boat to its Oughtrington mooring and headed for home to make last minute preparations for our holiday to Tenerife a couple of days later accompanied by Shannon and Michael... her father. There are no canals on Tenerife but there were a couple of happenings whilst we were away that may interest fellow boaters and photographers. Whilst walking around the shops in Los Christianos I noticed a Leica D-Lux 30 camera on display in a shop window. One does not normally see cameras of this ilk in Tenerife so we went inside the store to investigate. I was gob-smacked to see a display case full of Leicas and another that contained a digital Hasselblad, a couple of Bronica medium format cameras and a 35mm Leica R8. They even had a couple of Leica Pradovit slide projectors  on display as well. Needless to say the Leica display was photographed to prove to doubters that there is good taste on Tenerife!

The display of Leica cameras seen in a shop in Tenerife

There was a marina at Puerto Colon a few miles away from our hotel in Costa Adeji and we made a couple of visits to it to take in the atmosphere, admire the diversity of craft moored in it and to take photographs as well. There was one item we came across at the marina that was not only familiar to us but to most canal boaters as well.

A few of the boats moored in Puerto Colon Marina

Familiar items - shoreline electrical connections at Puerto Colon Marina

Puerto Colon Marina at sunset

I took quite a few photographs whilst we were on holiday all of which are not canal orientated. My favourites are shown at the end of the Diarama Website Photography Gallery. but I have included a couple below. We paid a visit to Loro Parque. Originally a bird sanctuary but now quite a sizeable zoo containing many exotic species of animals. We also visited the volcano at Teide where I could quite happily have spent a few days taking photographs of the landscape which is like photographs that I have seen of an alien planet... only with a different coloured sky.

Alien landscape with Mount Teide in the background

Reservoir in Costa Adeji

Our holiday was over all too soon and whilst we were away the painters had been busy completing the repainting of Squirrel and painting the signwriting as well. Mark Leatherbarrow fell into the canal whilst painting the rear deck but this did not affect the quality of finish that the boys had achieved. At the earliest opportunity we drove to Oughtrington to inspect their work. Needless to say we were not disappointed. They had even painted a red dot on the camera the squirrel in the signwriting is holding to represent the Leica name badge! We took the boat down to Lymm as the toilet needed emptying after the rally and it would not do any harm to put a bit of charge in the batteries as well.

Squirrel with the painting and signwriting completed

The signwriting on the cabin side of the boat...

...and a close-up of the squirrel - note the red dot on the camera

When we reached Lymm we moored in the slipway making sure that the side wind did not push us into the floating bridge still in the arm off the canal after the rally and scratch our new paintwork. We met the painters there who were starting on their next project... John Moult's boat's gunwales. We complimented them on their work as they finished painting our boat pole and gang plank which they did not complete the previous weekend. We then visited the café boat for lunch and then back to the boat club for a very enjoyable evening.

One of the boats from Lymm CC cruising along the Liverpool Link

(Photograph - Angela Wood)

Ange helping to moor nb Camarilla in the Mann Island Basin

Boats from Lymm CC in Mann Island Basin

I  photographed some of the boats cruising along the Liverpool Link in front of the Three Graces on the Liverpool waterfront (the Pier Head).  Even though I have written about the Leeds and Liverpool Canal Liverpool Link and given it a dedicated section on the "Canalscape" website I have never cruised it and this allowed me to take photographs on a great part of the new canal from a boat.

Entering Mann Island Lock

Once everyone was safely moored on the jetties the folding chairs came out and we enjoyed a glass of wine surrounded by some of our dearest friends from Lymm CC. The owner of one of the neighbouring boats came up to me and asked me if I was Cyril. I told him that I was and he said that his name was Graham Dovey and that he and his wife Helen are dedicated "Canalscape" readers and have both of my books as well.

Our Gang on the Salthouse Dock moorings

(Photograph - Graham Dovey)

Graham and Helen Dovey on board nb Raymond in Salthouse Dock

We had an enjoyable conversation discussing Audlem (where their boat is moored), friends we have in common, canals in general and as well as joining us in a glass of wine Graham took a group photograph of our gang on the jetty. A little later on we retired to the Pump House restaurant for a meal and to reflect on the day's happenings. A few days later we spent the afternoon at New Brighton visiting Fort Perch Rock, the Floral Pavilion and the shops. Keith Moore especially liked the model shop on Victoria Road that had a good selection of model railway stuff in both 00 gauge and N gauge.


Fellow Lymm CC members at Fort Perch Rock in New Brighton

That evening the sky was clear and promised to be a beautiful sunset. So I returned to Fort Perch Rock to photograph the lighthouse at sunset but when when I arrived I discovered that quite a few other photographers had the same idea. It turned out that a Welsh Photographic Academy - Welshot had come to New Brighton with the sole purpose of taking the same shot as me. I took quite a few photographs but there was one that stood out from the others and I couldn't wait to download it and see the it on the computer. As usual, when I take a photograph that warrants it, I sent the photograph to Granada Reports for them to use as a weather photograph. It wasn't used initially but whilst watching the weather forecast on Saturday evening I was taken by surprise to see my photograph on the screen as shown below.

A screenshot of the New Brighton Lighthouse Sunset weather photograph...

...and the original, un-cropped photograph

The weekend of Lymm Transport Festival we arrived at Oughtrington, loaded our things onto the boat and noticed that there was a large amount of bird droppings on our new paintwork. I was afraid that the acid in the droppings would damage the finish. We had been advised by the painters not to polish for a couple of months when the paint had hardened but decided to apply Mer wax polish to help protect from this unwanted adornment as this would have been the lesser of the two evils. We planned to cruise to Stockton Heath to have a chill-out weekend. We set off in the brilliant sunshine and when we reached Lymm Village we were confronted with a large number of historic narrowboats and even a couple of barges taking part in the annual Lymm Transport Festival.

Some of the historic craft taking part in Lymm Transport Festival

We were having a leisurely cruise when an unusual aircraft in the shape of an autogyro passed over the canal at low level. The sight of this unusual machine took me back to my childhood when I remember seeing them illustrated in my copy of the "Wonder Book of Engineering Wonders". I often wonder why these unusual aircraft with their short take off and landing properties are not more popular than they are. Maybe modern technology and design techniques will rectify this situation. Unfortunately I was not quick enough with the camera to take a photograph of it so a stock photograph to illustrate what they are like will have to suffice.

The front cover of "Engineering Wonders"... essential reading for a budding anorak!

An autogyro similar to the one that flew over us

(Photograph - Frank Schwichtenberg)

When we reached Stockton Heath we moored not far from the "Grand Designs" house. After lunch I washed the new paintwork and refitted the centre rope fairleads, rear door ventilators and cabin hooks. Our folding table and chairs came out and we had our tea outdoors on the towpath in the beautiful evening sunshine. The next morning we awoke to rain pit-pattering on the roof but by the time we had finished our breakfast crumpets the rain had ceased and the sun came out. After the sun had dried the rain from the paintwork I applied the first coat of polish to the paintwork. The polish added to the already shiny finish and I was pleased with my efforts. We cruised back to Lymm in the afternoon and as we approached the Village  found ourselves following a wide-beam trip boat and with nowhere to pull over we were caught up in the cavalcade of boats from the Transport Festival. Whilst we crawled through the village we saw Mark Leatherbarrow... one of the boat painters. He was with friends who admired the finish and signwriting on our boat. I told Mark that I had to polish the paintwork and he told me that it was alright as the good weather would have hardened the paintwork sufficiently for it to be polished and that I had done the right thing to protect it from bird droppings.

The imposing bows of an ex-working narrowboat following us through Lymm

As we reached the end of Lymm CC's Lymm moorings we had to wait whilst some of the historic narrowboats turned in the winding hole. We eventually reached our mooring and had a nap before packing up to go home. Just before we left we were treated to the sight of two full-sized barges passing our mooring. The first boat was Leeds and Liverpool Short Boat Severn once used for carrying grain from Salford Docks to the Kellogg's factory in Trafford park on the Bridgewater Canal. She was towing the "Duker" tug/barge Parbella that was also used for carrying grain for Kellogg's. We had had a nice chilled-out weekend with superb sunshine and with the promise of a heat-wave looked forward to more of the same.

Historic boats Severn and Parbella at Oughtrington

Although not related to canal cruising, readers may like to see a photograph that I took on Saturday the 4th July of the Queen Mary 2 leaving Liverpool's Pier Head on her way to  Boston, Massachusetts. The ship's visit to Liverpool was to commemorate the 175th anniversary of the Cunard company's inaugural Atlantic crossing to Boston. The casting off from the Pier Head was accompanied by a firework display and the sounding of the ship's horn, the volume of which has to be heard to be believed. The photograph was taken from Egremont Promenade at the bottom of Maddock Road in Wallasey where there were quite a few people gathered to watch this enormous ship as it passed.

Queen Mary 2 leaving Liverpool for Boston Massachusetts

The next day a new addition to our family arrived in the shape of Ruby... a ten month old liver or ruby (hence the name) coloured Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Ruby is Shannon's dog really but their household is not really conducive to pets plus she doesn't get any peace there. So, much to Shannon's dismay, she has come to stay with us, initially on a temporary basis to start with. She may take up permanent residence in the future but we shall have to see how things pan out first. She hasn't been introduced to the boat yet but she seems to be a good traveller in the car for the relatively short trips she has had up to now. We will have to wait until later on in the week when we plan to take her up to the boat and see how she reacts... watch this space! It is over thirteen years since we last had a dog but I am sure that she will be a welcome addition to our family.

Ruby... the latest addition to our family

At the weekend we planned to cruise to Castlefield. The trip to Lymm would be Ruby's first long journey in the car. Once we were on the motorway she curled up, went to sleep in her car bed and didn't lift her head until we were turning into the lane that lead to our moorings. When we had parked the car we walked down to the boat's moorings with Ruby off the lead. She was well behaved and made no effort to jump into the canal (unlike our Springer Spaniel Maxi who would have jumped into the canal without a moment's hesitation). She must have smelt our scent as when she reached Squirrel she jumped onto the rear deck and waited for me to unlock the doors as if she had been here many times before. Once inside she did a tour of inspection then joined us on the rear deck as I started the engine. She was not phased by the engine's noise and as we took the boat up the moorings to the gate to load-up she made no attempt to jump off into the canal... she just stood on the rear deck taking it all in. She even helped with loading our things onto the boat... she took her tennis ball from her bed in the car and dropped it in the rear cabin before watching us bring the rest of the stuff. As it was now getting dark we decided to stay on the moorings until the morning when we would set off for Castlefield early. Later, when we had put all the things away we sat on the rear deck with a drink and Ruby was fascinated by the bats that were flying past us, skimming across the canal. We had brought Ruby's basket with us and when we went inside, after she had been fed she curled up in it, falling asleep almost immediately after a busy day.

 Next morning we set off for Castlefield. We had planned to meet our friends Paul, Wendy and Oliver Savage who were cruising to Manchester with us. We met them at Agden and after a catch-up and a cuppa we were on our way again. It was a beautiful morning and as we cruised along Ange sat on the rear deck reading her Kindle whilst Ruby alternated sides on the rear deck taking in the new sights, sounds and smells. She is just the right height to walk beneath the seating on the rear deck... when the sun is shining she can sit down beneath it being shaded from the sun and when it is raining she can also shelter from the rain. At Sale Ange and Ruby jumped off for a walk just in case she needed a pee. When back on board Ange made lunch and soon we were cruising through the outskirts of Manchester. We had not been here since last year and we noticed a few changes. At Trafford Park the container storage area we knew as "container city" had disappeared and had been converted into a lorry park. The new Manchester City Hotel opposite Manchester United Football Ground is now completed and open for business. It is rumoured that there is a football practice pitch on the roof of this latest addition to Manchester's skyline.

The new Manchester City Hotel

Entrance to the Staffordshire Arms cordoned off

nb Squirrel moored at Castlefield

At Castlefield we had planned to moor in the Staffordshire Arm but the area was cordoned off so we went up the Castle Wharf Arm and found a mooring not far from Grocer's Warehouse where we moored next to nb Adreva. We left Ruby on her own whilst we went to The Wharf for tea with our friends then returned to the boat. We crept up to the boat to  hear if she was barking but all was quiet... she had been very good in our absence and I took her for a walk before we watched TV then went to bed. The next morning it was a contrast to the previous day with heavy clouds and drizzle. We put Ruby's waterproof coat on her and cast off. As we passed through the outskirts of the City Centre I remembered when I first visited the area thirty years ago. Then it was a dumping ground for just about everything that was unwanted. Now regeneration has transformed the area into an up-market housing village. It will be even better when the Pomona area is regenerated.

Up-market housing at Hulme Island.

At Sale Trafford Rowing Club were out in force. As well as the more experienced rowers there were some novices on the water as well. They accompanied us as far as Dunham Village before they turned around  and were a bit of a challenge at times as their movements were unpredictable. At one point they went into the bushes at the side of the canal and even hit our boat with their oars. Thankfully we were in neutral and it was the hull they hit, not the new paintwork. The drizzle stopped and with the sun threatening to come out we were soon back at our moorings after a successful introduction to canal cruising for the latest addition to our crew. We now look forward to many more canal cruising adventures with Ruby... maybe we can train her to help with the locks!

Novice rowers from Trafford Rowing Club near Dunham Village

Our summer cruise is now drawing near and the good news is that Ruby is to stay with us. When registering her with the vet and having her microchip details changed the vet informed me that we were already registered with them and that, according to their records, we had a twenty four year old Springer Spaniel called Maxi. This statement from the receptionist tugged at my heart strings and brought a tear to my eyes as I remembered our beautiful Maxi who fell asleep for the last time in May 2002. We still have a few items that we need to buy before the summer cruise and one of them is a dog buoyancy aid. Even though Ruby has been in the sea at Harrison Drive (just after New Brighton on the Wirral's coastline) we would feel happier if she had a buoyancy aid in case she fell into a lock or somewhere that had high banks and it was difficult for her to climb out of the canal.

In the following week Ruby and I went up to Oughtrington to vacuum the inside of the boat, take non-perishable food and some of our clothes up in preparation for our Summer Cruise along the Shropshire Union Canal. On the way stopped off at Thorn Marine o purchase a dog buoyancy aid. Ruby didn't seem to mind Nigel Hamilton fitting her with the buoyancy aid and kept it on although we now know that she dislikes the sound of Velcro opening! We were soon on our way to the moorings and when we arrived whilst walking down the path to the boat Ruby was watching some dogs on the towpath opposite and was not looking where she was going. Consequently, she fell into the canal christening the buoyancy aid. I was glad that we kept the buoyancy aid on and at least we know that it works!

Ruby wearing her new buoyancy aid

The week preceding the August Bank Holiday weekend I received an email from the BBC informing me that "Canals - The Making of a Nation"... the TV series I was interviewed for in May was due to be transmitted on BBC 1 that Friday evening. We would be cruising up to Manchester then so needless to say our Tivo box had been set to record the complete series.

Screenshot from the Canals - The Making of a Nation page on the BBC Website

The BBC in their infinite wisdom transmitted part three of the series on BBC 1 as a "taster" with the complete series being screened on BBC4. I was in the Engineering episode and everyone who has seen the complete series (available on iPlayer) has commented positively on the content. The photography is a joy to behold and whilst Liz McIvor is not to everyone's taste I enjoyed her honest, informative, down to earth presentation style.

A screenshot of yours truly in Canals: The Making of a Nation.

After our Summer Cruise the next outing was to Salford Quays via the River Irwell. After I finished work at lunchtime on the Friday before the Bank Holiday Weekend Ruby and I loaded up the car and drove to Oughtrington. We were planning to make it to Castlefield where Ange was being dropped off after tea by her son Michael. We set off before three pm and had a leisurely cruise towards Manchester. At Altrincham the towpath was closed due to the Bridgewater Canal Company working on the latest section of the Bridgewater Way where I stopped briefly for Ruby to stretch her legs and we were soon under way again.

Construction work on the latest section of the Bridgewater Way near Altrincham

The Bridgewater Canal had been closed on the approach to Castlefield between Cornbrook Bridge and the Hulme Lock Branch because of a warehouse collapsing into the towpath and into canal. I had received an e-mail that morning from the Bridgewater Canal Company informing me that the canal was open for navigation but the towpath would remain closed. We passed the location cautiously just in case there were any underwater obstructions that had been overlooked and, needless to say, take photographs as well!

Location of the partially demolished warehouse that closed the canal

When we arrived at Castlefield there was a space at the entrance to the Staffordshire Arms next to the YMCA restaurant and after mooring just after 7.00 pm I took Ruby "around the block" before having tea and watching "Canals - The Making of a Nation". Afterwards, whilst waiting for Ange to arrive we went for a walk along Castle Quay where we bumped into some fellow Lymm CC members and took a nocturnal photograph of the Duke's 92 adjacent to the first lock on the Rochdale Nine before returning to the boat ready for Ange to arrive. When she did arrive we had a cuppa before watching TV for a while and went to bed.

Duke's 92 at the start of the Rochdale Canal at dusk

Potato Wharf with the remains of Brindley's Cloverleaf Weir on the left

A closer view of the Cloverleaf Weir

We were up early the next morning and my early morning walk with Ruby gave me the chance to take some up-dated photographs of the area. We then cruised to Pomona Lock having breakfast on the way. Once there we were in a queue for the lock which gave Ruby the opportunity to introduce herself to some of the LCC members that had not yet met her. It was soon our turn to lock down onto the River Irwell and instead of heading upstream to the Mark Addy as we usually do we went straight to Salford Quays to make sure that we had a mooring that was not too difficult for dog access.

Waiting for Pomona Lock

Boats from Lymm Cruising Club moored at Salford Quays

Lymm Cruising Club members catching up on the latest news

Ange in "shoe heaven"!

After catching up with our friends that were already moored we went into the Salford Quays Outlet for a little retail therapy. When this was accomplished we had a relaxing afternoon then went to the Quay House Beefeater for a meal and returned to the boat. Needless to say we got a nice welcome from Ruby who had been very well behaved in our absence. Sunday promised to be another fine day and we were not disappointed. I even managed to get a few jobs done like fitting clips for the Desmo table legs, swapping the original headlight for a new LED unit and even managed some polishing as well, The Mersey Ferry "Snowdrop" dazzled us with her new paint scheme when she arrived mid-afternoon.

Caught in the act - me polishing Squirrel

(Photograph - Stephen Fahey)

The "dazzling" Mersey Ferry "Snowdrop" passing beneath the Lowry Lift Bridge

We had visitors in the shape of Michael, Shannon and Germaine followed Phil Sudron... Michael's old music teacher from when he was at school. It was the first time that Phillip had visited the boat and he seemed most impressed. He shares my interest in photography and managed to take a few photographs whilst he was with us.

Salford Quays at dusk

Monday morning dawned a bit on the grey side and we were soon leaving the Salford Quays moorings to head for Pomona Lock and back up to the Bridgewater Canal. After locking up we cruised back to Lymm with the sun threatening to come out but didn't quite make it. Just after Watch House Cruising Club we pulled in so that I could give Ruby a walk. It gave me the chance to take some up to date photographs of Barfoot Aqueduct over the infant River Mersey... a feature of the canal that is often overlooked (literally).

Barfoot Aqueduct spans the infant River Mersey

The rest of the trip back to our moorings was uneventful but as we neared Lymm it started to drizzle but it didn't dampen the fact that we had a great weekend at one of our favourite urban moorings.

Readers might be interested in a photograph that I took later that week on my way to work. It shows the historic paddle steamer "Waverley" on a rare visit to the River Mersey seen here passing Seacombe Ferry Terminal.

Historic paddle steamer "Waverley" making a rare visit to the River Mersey

2015 is Lymm Cruising Club's 60th anniversary and the weekend after Salford Quays, as a nod to the Club's past Commodore Anthony Layng organised a garden party at his house on the banks of the Bridgewater Canal at Preston Brook. We took the boat down on the Saturday morning stopping off at Lymm to try the boat on what might be our new mooring on the jetty moorings then carried on to Thorn Marine for some supplies. As we cruised in the autumn sunshine I took the opportunity to take a few photographs along the way.

Ange steering Squirrel and trying our new mooring for size

View from the tiller at Grappenhall

Trees starting to turn at Stockton Heath

Harvested field at Moore

We arrived at Preston Brook mid-afternoon, turned around opposite the location of Preston Brook Railway Station and moored along with our fellow Club members. Paul and Agnes Bidston entertained us with songs lubricated by the drinks laid on by Anthony and his wife Marie. Later, the barbeque was lit and we enjoyed burgers and hot dogs cooked by Derek Ridpath ably assisted by Phyllis Greenough and Linda Whalley. Needless to say we returned for "seconds"! The remainder of the evening was spent chatting with friends around a brazier that warmed up the September evening chill.

Boats from Lymm CC at Preston Brook...

...and the view of the moored boats from the A56 road bridge

Our mooring was opposite the Old Number One

Agnes and Paul Bidston entertaining...

...and the appreciative audience

Friends old and new on the towpath

Later the brazier was lit to warm-up a cool September evening

Next morning we set off early as we had to be home early for Ange to take Shannon to horse riding. At Thelwall a couple of mature walkers thumbed a lift from us. Their names are Margaret and Ron Powell and it turned out that they were friends of Lymm CC and had attended many functions at the Club. Along the way we had a cuppa, a piece of cake and a chat. We enjoyed their company and look forward to meeting them again soon.

Ange giving our guests Margaret and Ron Powell a lift to Oughtrington...

...and enjoyed a cuppa, cake and a chat along the way

The following day was Lymm CC's Committee Meeting and I drove up to Lymm after lunch. I left the car in the Clubhouse carpark and walked up to Oughtrington in the afternoon sunshine to bring the boat down to its new mooring at Lymm. Once there I turned the boat around and reversed it onto the jetty mooring which it fitted perfectly. I did a couple of odd jobs then chilled-out before having my tea and headed for the Clubhouse and the Committee meeting.

Squirrel on its new jetty mooring

We didn't go up the following weekend as Ruby had been spayed a couple of days earlier and the vet advised for her to take it easy for a week or so. This meant short walks on the lead only, no running or jumping. Try telling that to an eleven month old pup with boundless energy! The following Friday she had been given a clean bill of health by the vet and could resume her normal energetic activities. This was the weekend of the President's Cheese and Wine Cruise to Dunham Massey. We headed to Dunham Massey in the warm autumn sunshine and were pleased to see that the Ye Olde Number Three public house had reopened after being closed since January. When we reached Dunham Massey we joined over forty boats from Lymm CC and moored close to Dunham Town Bridge.

Stork blowing smoke rings as it passes boats from Lymm CC at Dunham Massey

Ruby and Woodsey playing "chase me"

Lymm CC members around the brazier at Dunham Massey

On arrival we got our chairs out and chatted to Alan savage, Linda and Brian Stone. Ruby made some new friends playing with some of the other dogs belonging to Club members. She also made a good impression by not barking at other dogs... even when a passing Rottweiler stole her ball. After tea we joined our fellow members around the brazier, drank a little wine and ate a little cheese and then returned to the boat after an hour or so. The next morning when I took Ruby for her early morning walk I saw many spider webs holding dew lining the hedgerows and canal banks.

Dewey spider web

(Used by Granada TV as a weather photograph)

Those who know me will not be surprised to learn that I took photographs of them! I later sent one of the photographs to Granada TV as a weather photograph which, apparently, was used although I did not see it but I have been told by two people who did see it that it was shown. We had our breakfast and made our way back to Lymm then headed for home after putting the boat back on its mooring after yet another enjoyable weekend. Ruby now has her own web-page on Canalscape which dog lovers can visit by clicking on this link... Ruby.

Lymm Cruising Club was formed in October 1955 and to celebrate its sixtieth anniversary there was a cruise on the 3rd October 2015 to the Old Number Three public house in Little Bollington where the first meeting of the Club took place all those years ago. The day of the cruise was misty and as the day progressed it didn't get any better remaining misty and overcast.

A misty Agden on the way to Little Bollington

We cruised to Little Bollington and had lunch after we moored. I had produced a DVD documenting Lymm CC's history to commemorate the Club's sixtieth anniversary and arranged to have two hundred copies made. Some of the DVDs were distributed on the Cruise with the remainder being given out at the social event that evening (which we were unable to attend) and the monthly club meeting the following Tuesday.

The History of Lymm Cruising Club DVD Sleeve

Boats from Lymm CC at Little Bollington

After lunch we cruised back to Lymm, put the boat back on its mooring and went into the Clubhouse for a drink and a chat before heading for home. Needless to say the sun started to break through the clouds on the way home... Sod's Law strikes again!

Relaxing in the Clubhouse after the cruise

The following day we visited the Transport Festival at Birkenhead Transport Museum. On display were trams, buses and classic cars including examples of the car I passed my driving test in (an Austin A40 Farina) and my first car (a 1959 Hillman Minx). Not much to do with canals there I hear you say but actually there was. The model railway on display featured a short section of canal complete with two narrowboats, a tunnel and a lock. As I have said before... I cannot go anywhere without canals featuring somewhere.

The model railway at Birkenhead Transport Festival...

...and the short stretch of canal it contained

The Monday evening of the second week of October was scheduled for a Lymm CC Committee Meeting. I decided to take the Monday and Tuesday off work as holidays so that I could do a few essential jobs on the boat and attend the meeting without having to make a late journey home afterwards. Accordingly, Ruby and I made our way to Lymm after breakfast on Monday morning... a journey that took over two hours due to road works and heavy traffic on the M56. On our arrival at the boat I had a cup of coffee and croissants then started work rubbing down the wooden surround on the inside of the rear sliding hatch.

Re-varnished wooden sliding hatch surround

Three coats of varnish were applied over the course of the afternoon and after tea I left Ruby on her own whilst I attended the Committee Meeting. After the meeting we went to bed and watched TV for a bit before going to sleep. We had a lie-in the following morning and soon made a start on the jobs. The inside of the side doors and surround, starboard/front window frame surround were sanded down and varnished as was the front door frame.

Re-varnished side doors and surround

Re-varnished window frame surround

I had an able assistant in the shape of Ruby. She seemed curious about the contents of the tool box, just like our old Springer Spaniel Maxi did, and had her head in it on numerous occasions... pass me that Phillips screwdriver Rube! Before leaving for home I fitted new mooring ropes, replacing the old, stiff, worn ropes which came with the boat when we bought it over two years ago (can it really be that long ago?). On the way home I reflected on how I had achieved more in the two days that I was on the boat than I would have been able to had I come up on two separate days... I will have to do it again!

With living in Wallasey all my life it is not surprising that the River Mersey plays an important part in my life. I was born one hundred and fifty metres away from it and I have seen it virtually every day of my life. Regular readers might be interested in the following... whilst walking Ruby along the promenade on the afternoon of Tuesday the 4th November I noticed five new cranes in the distance towards Seaforth on the opposite bank of the river. A quick visit home to collect the Leica and then up to Perch Rock to take photographs. The cranes were on board the 244 mtr long Zhenhua 23 heavy lift ship which was converted from a redundant oil tanker. The ship was delivering the five cranes to the Liverpool 2 Deepwater Container Terminal 30000+ km (18000+ miles) from the Zhenhua Heavy Industries Company (ZPMC) manufacturing facility in Shanghai.

The five container cranes delivered to Liverpool Two Deepwater Container Terminal

Each crane is 132 metres high when the boom is raised and weigh around 1600 tonnes. The terminal is due to open at the end of the year and will have the capacity to accommodate two Post-Panamax container vessels at a time.

But meanwhile... back to canal boating. We missed the Lymm CC Closing Cruise due to family commitments and after the end of the cruising season our last cruise for 2015 was to be the Bonfire Night Barbeque at the Agden moorings on Saturday the 7th November. The previous Wednesday, after finishing work I went home, got changed then Ruby and I went up to Lymm to take the boat up to Agden ready for the weekend. Once at Agden I moored the boat alongside Paul Savage's boat "Adreva".

Cruising through Oughtrington Woods on a pleasant autumn afternoon

It was a pleasant afternoon and we planned to walk back to Lymm to collect the car but as I was leaving Agden Ruby and I were offered a lift back to the Clubhouse by Social Secretary Derek Ridpath. I was most grateful to Derek as getting a lift saved me the forty minute walk back to the car which meant that we would miss the rush hour traffic on the M56 and M53 motorways.

Saturday afternoon we returned to Agden by car for the Bonfire barbeque. It had been raining all day but thankfully the rain stopped before the bonfire was due to be lit. A few members attended the Bonfire Barbeque by boat and some came by car. The bonfire gave us the opportunity to get rid of some old pallets left over from the FBCC Rally earlier in the year.

Old pallets and even an old canoe fuelled the bonfire

Ange and Shannon at the barbeque

It wasn't particularly cold but we were warmed by the bonfire just the same. The food from the barbeque and hot-pot provided inner warmth and there was a good atmosphere giving us the opportunity to catch-up with our friends. We had left Ruby on the boat with the radio turned up just in case the noise from the fireworks set off at the cottages behind the moorings frightened her. We returned to the boat later and were soon in bed after an enjoyable evening. We left the boat at Agden as I was returning the next day for the Lymm CC Committee Meeting before which I would return the boat to its mooring.

The bonfire and barbeque in full swing

When I returned to Agden the following day it was raining quite heavily but I had to put the boat back on its mooring so started the engine and set off back to Lymm. I had only gone down the canal a couple of hundred metres when the rain stopped and the sun came out albeit briefly. I took another photograph of the canal at Oughtrington Woods but from the opposite direction as the previous photograph. Even though they are both similar I make no apologies for inserting it below.

Oughtrington Woods from the opposite direction as the previous photograph of this lovely location

With the boat back on its mooring I did a couple of jobs before having tea and attending the Committee Meeting. When the meeting was over I collected Ruby from the boat and made my way home. The following morning, for reasons that would be inappropriate and unprofessional to mention here I resigned from Lymm CC's Committee as Magazine/Website Editor. This was not an easy decision to come to but unfortunately it was one that had to be made and I feel better for not being associated with certain of the members on the Committee... not to mention the fact that I can concentrate more on my personal projects.

The 2016 Canalscape Trophy winner was announced at the Lymm CC Annual Dinner Dance. The winner was Bob McCulloch who captured the beautiful sunset below near Braunston on the Northern Oxford Canal. It is one of those photographs that one wishes that they had taken themselves and was yet another worthy winner for Bob proving yet again that you don't need a sophisticated camera to take decent photographs.

The 2015 winner of the Canalscape Trophy... "Oxford Canal Sunset" was taken by Bob McCulloch

(Photograph - Bob McCulloch)

The following week one of my photographs was used as a back-drop to the Granada Weather Forecast. Unfortunately I was not at home when it was transmitted and did not see it but I was informed by a colleague who saw it that it was shown. Regular readers might be interested in a new section to the Canalscape and Diarama Websites. The new section is entitled Photography in One and covers the history of photography as well as examples of classic photographs, basic photographic theory, practices and techniques.

The photograph of Leasowe Common that was used as a back-drop to the Granada Weather Forecast

The week before the Lymm CC  Children's Christmas Party we were saddened to learn of the death of Lymm CC member and past President John Hughes. We had shared many adventures and spent many happy hours in his and his wife Elsie's presence over the years. The first time I met John and Elsie was at the 1988 IWA National Rally at Castlefield. Due to our boat being moored on the inside of two other boats attending the rally we were not able to lock down onto the River Irwell but Alec Levac knew John and Elsie and asked if we could accompany them in their boat... a Nauticus called Miss Ellie. My youngest son Glyn was allowed to steer John and Elsie's boat whilst I took photographs... some of which were used in "The Duke's Cut - The Bridgewater Canal" as well as "The Big Ditch - Manchester's Ship Canal". On another occasion we were in Venice when Ange bought a replica Prada handbag which John liked very much and put some coins in it for good luck. There is now one less gentleman amongst us and his death is a great loss for everyone who knew him. We attended his funeral at Atherton Crematorium near Leigh the Monday after the Lymm CC Children's Christmas Party as did many fellow Lymm CC members wishing to pay their last respects. Ange also took the handbag mentioned previously much to Elsie's delight.

John Hughes and family aboard Miss Ellie

John and Elsie Hughes in Italy - 2008

Our last visit to Lymm for 2015 was for the Children's Christmas Party. Whilst Ange and Shannon helped out at the party Ruby and I checked on the boat, emptied the fresh water tank and fitted the front and rear deck canopies. After it had gone dark Father Christmas was due to arrive by illuminated narrowboat. It was still raining a bit but this did not dampen the party atmosphere and all the children waited for the visitor with pent-up excitement. Before he arrived eight illuminated narrowboats cruised from Lymm Village past the Clubhouse. One boat (nb Harmony) even had a video projector on it showing a video of "The Snowman"!

nb Harmony complete with video screen at the stern showing "The Snowman"

The last boat in the procession was nb Miss B'Havin' which was carrying Father Christmas (and Mother Christmas). On his arrival at the Club there were many excited faces pressed against the Clubhouse windows eagerly anticipating the treasures that were contained in his sack. He didn't disappoint and was soon on his way to Sale Cruising Club which, according to mc Danny Abbot, was his next port of call.

Father Christmas (and Mother Christmas) arriving at Lymm CC aboard nb Miss B'Havin'

We had been invited to lunch at Paul and Wendy Savage's house in Great Sankey over the Christmas period and we made our way there on the 30th December. After lunch Paul and Oliver took Ruby and me for a walk along the banks of the Saint Helens (or Sankey) Canal. Even though it is not technically a canal (it is a "collateral" as it was not constructed, unlike the Bridgewater Canal, independent of a watercourse) I have retained the word "canal" in its name as this is the title by which most people know it. This was to be our last canal-oriented outing in 2015 and even though the weather wasn't brilliant I managed to take some photographs for my latest book... "Mersey Connections", a few of which are included below. This brief walk highlighted some of the obstacles that would be encountered by restorers if they ever get around to restoring this waterway... which unfortunately, I very much doubt will happen. If the waterway was connected to the national waterways network it might be a different kettle of fish as there would be a greater amount of interest in it but the only access is via the tidal River Mersey at Fiddler's Ferry and Spike Island at Widnes both of which are not recommended for narrowboats.

The Saint Helens Canal looking towards the Sankey Viaduct from Sankey Bridges

This bridge in Sankey Bridges was once a swing bridge and is now a major obstacle for restorers

By comparison the next bridge, also a swing bridge would need very little work to ensure navigation

Between Sankey Bridges and Fiddler's Ferry all that appears to be required... dredging, edge clearing and tidying up... is illustrated by the proliferation of reeds lining the canal

The 2015 cruising year has now come to an end and we are looking forward to 2016 which will hopefully be a better year for us as in some ways 2015 has been challenging to say the least... I had to come to terms with my brother Jim's death, I had health issues that caused me to take "flexible retirement" (in other words working mornings only) and not to mention the political situation that caused my resignation from the Committee of Lymm CC as Magazine and Website Editor.

But 2015 has not been all bad... I was interviewed by the BBC for "Canals: The Making of a Nation", the FBCC Annual Rally hosted by Lymm CC was brilliant, the boat has been beautifully repainted, we have a wonderful new crew member in the shape of Ruby and we had a fantastic, relaxing holiday on our old favourite... the "Shroppie" not to mention the many photographs that I have added to my portfolio. So on balance, the good points outweigh the bad points.

We have already made plans for 2016 including the destination of our summer cruise. We are really looking forward to it and the other delights that, no doubt, the New Year holds in store for us. Roll on 2016 and to quote Winston Churchill... "Onwards and upwards!"


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Chapter 2 - Summer Cruise 2015 - Shroppie Saunter

We had planned to start our 2015 Summer Cruise on Saturday the 25th July but for one reason and another (mainly the fresh food shopping taking longer than anticipated) we didn't start our holiday until the following day. We arrived at Oughtrington on the Sunday morning and Ange dropped me off at the moorings whilst she took the car (and Ruby) to the Lymm CC Clubhouse where, when I arrived with the boat, we loaded the rest of our clothes, food, etc., topped-up the water tank, emptied the loo and we were on our way. Initially, we were worried that Ruby might jump off the boat whilst it was going but we decided to try and trust her and let her do what she wanted to... within reason of course. Our worries were unfounded and she just stands with her front paws on the rear deck gunwales and looks at what the boat is passing. On our first day we cruised in bright sunlight and moored just past Daresbury... a place that we have moored previously on the first day of our holiday cruise.

The next day we continued in bright sunlight, passing through Preston Brook Tunnel without incident. Dutton Stop Lock was a test for Ruby. She jumped off with me and behaved well, not having any problems walking across the lock gates and making no effort to jump back on the boat whilst it was in the lock. We carried on along the River Weaver Valley, through Saltersford Tunnel after which we noticed CRT operatives installing new piling along the collapsed banking where we normally moor with Lymm CC.

Canal and River Trust operatives piling at Saltersford

Other features of note were the new marina under construction at Northwich close to Orchard Marina and the second new proposed marina at Billinge Green Flash that does not seem to have progressed much in the last twelve month and, by direct contrast, the newly reopened Lion Salt Works visitor centre tempted us to stop but this is a visit for another day when we have Shannon with us. As we carried on it started to drizzle and we moored for the night at Billing Green Flash. This is one of our favourite moorings and in addition to being quiet and secluded it has a nice wide towpath for Ruby to play with her tennis ball.

Quiet mooring at Billinge Green Flash

The weather had cleared up a bit by the next morning and after breakfast we set off along one of my favourite stretches of canal that leads to Middlewich. We moored above Big Lock and walked into the town with Ruby for some shopping, having lunch al-fresco outside at Chatwins in Wheelock Street. The drizzle started again as we returned to the boat but it soon stopped and as we ascended the locks the sun started to shine and remained so for the rest of the afternoon. At Wardle Lock we were pleased to see some progress on Maureen's Cottage. Hard wood window frames had been fitted and the roof had received some attention as well. Maureen would have been pleased. We moored for the night at Church Minshull... just after the main line railway bridge. The towpath was nice and wide here and we spent a most enjoyable evening at this quiet location that was to become another of our favourite moorings.

Our latest favourite mooring at Church Minshull

Our next port of call was Barbridge where we planned to cruise to the following day. The weather was good and we experienced no queues at the locks... quite unusual for this time of the year. At Barbridge we filled the water tank at the water point just past the junction then moored outside the Olde Barbridge Inn. When I took Ruby for her afternoon walk we went as far as Bridge 99 - Stoke Hall Bridge. There is a style at the side of the bridge that leads to a wheat field and I planned to return on the way back with the Leica to take photographs of the field before it is harvested.

Bridge 99 - Stoke Hall Bridge

After tea we planned to visit the Jolly Tar public house and as it was dog friendly we put Ruby on the lead and walked down to it. On the way there was a field full of cows that came over to the field gate to say hello. This was Ruby's first encounter with cows at close quarters and we were interested to see how she reacted. We think that she looks upon them as big dogs as she was fine until we came to leave and she barked at them... much the same as she does with dogs larger than herself. No doubt she will come to accept them as time goes on and this is something that we will have to work on. Continuing on to the Jolly Tar, when we arrived it looked closed and this was confirmed when we knocked on the door and had a word with the licensee. We were told that the brewery had sold the pub and land for redevelopment and it was proposed to build houses here. This is very sad as we have spent many happy hours here and it is Shannon's favourite pub... mainly because of the inflatable bouncy castles and other children's amusements that they had. It has also been a canal landmark since it was built in the early 1960's when the current building replaced an earlier one bearing the same name. In fact I remember seeing it being built on one of our early canal holidays when we hired a boat from Dean's Pleasure Boats who were based at Barbridge for a while. Today this is where Midway Boats is now located who we bought orr current boat from. We returned to the boat disappointed and wished the licensee well in what ever project he undertakes next.

The Jolly Tar - now closed for good

We were up early the next morning and after breakfast caught the bus to Nantwich for some shopping. It was Ruby's first experience on a bus and needless to say her behaviour was exemplary. We had our lunch alfresco at a cafe that allowed dogs at their outside tables. With our shopping completed we returned to the boat, put the shopping away, set off, turned around in the winding hole and headed for the services at Calveley. The water tank was again topped up and the toilet emptied before we set off again to moor on the visitor moorings about half a mile away on the straight stretch leading to Bunbury Locks.

Ruby on the bus to Nantwich

(Photograph - Angela Wood)

A shiny Squirrel at Calveley

We stayed here for a day and I polished the boat before we relaxed on our folding chairs on the towpath in the lovely sunshine at this idyllic mooring... one of our favourites from the trip. It was full moon that night and it was accompanied by a lovely sunset that was just crying out to be photographed. Needless to say the Leica came out to play!

Calveley sunset reflected in Squirrel's mirror-like paintwork...

...and a little later the full moon rising over the trees

We were now entering one of my favourite sections of canal... the River Gowy Valley. Not only is it a beautiful section of canal, it is where I spent most of the summers of my youth. At Bunbury Ruby stayed on the boat whilst Ange did the "Bunbury Shuffle" and I operated the paddles and gates. We were accompanied by one narrowboat going down hill and two coming up. It never ceases to amuse me when trying to explain how the "shuffle" works to inexperienced boaters or boaters not familiar with the locks but once they see it in action they grasp the logic of the manoeuvre.

Ange at the tiller having just completed the "Bunbury Shuffle"

Once safely through Bunbury we headed down the valley to Tilston. We felt that Ruby could come off the boat here as even though there is a road adjacent to the lock there is very little traffic on it and that she would be perfectly safe here. Whilst walking from Tilston Lock Ruby found a nice smell on the towpath and decided to roll in it. So interested in the rolling she didn't realise how close she was to the edge of the towpath and rolled into the canal. Bath coming up when we moor for the night I think! Next came Beeston Stone Lock. It is a shame that the current owner of the lock keeper's cottage has let the building fall into disrepair. I think back to the previous owners Ken and Margaret Doherty and how they were so proud of their lovely garden and the pristine paintwork that adorned the buildings... not to mention the wonderful pies that they used to bake and sell. We have even travelled from home to Beeston just for their pies! Beeston Iron Lock is the most emotive of the lot. As well as being a unique engineering structure this is where my parents kept their canal cruiser... Phial (and more latterly where I moored Misty Waters). I could write a book about my experiences here and those who know me will not be surprised to learn that I shed a little tear whilst thinking about my mother and father and the happy times spent at this lovely location.

Squirrel opposite what was my parents' mooring above Beeston Iron Lock

Leaving the unique Beeston Iron Lock

We passed Chas Harden's boat yard and after negotiating Wharton Lock we moored for the night just past the Shady Oak. Once we were tied up the first job was to give Ruby a shower. She didn't look as though she was enjoying it much but needs must! Two Gnat fighter aircraft were flying around the castle and surrounding area and later we were astonished to hear on the news that one of them crashed whilst flying over the Carfest at Oulton Park. Mine must have been one of the last photographs taken of them flying together in formation. We had a lovely meal in the Shady Oak and were surprised when the pub was invaded by people dressed in period costume. Apparently there was a English Civil War re-enactment at Beeston Castle and the participants descended on the pub after a bust day re-enacting whatever it is they re-enact. Also in the pub was a group of people one of which looked like someone that I see every morning whilst walking Ruby in the park close to where we live. I thought no more of it until I next saw him in the park when I told him that I saw his twin. He then told me that it was him and that he has a narrowboat that he keeps at Golden Nook near Tattenhall. Small world isn't it?

Ruby in the shower...

...and being dried by yours truly afterwards

(Photograph - Angela Wood)

The two Gnat aircraft taking part in the Carfest display passing overhead at Beeston Castle

The following morning dawned dry and bright. After breakfast we cruised as far as Brockholes Bend where the canal us wide enough to turn the boat around then started retracing our steps. At Bunbury Staircase Lock we were doing the Bunbury Shuffle again and as I jumped up two steps I felt a tearing sensation in my right calf muscle. I had pulled a muscle and limped around the lock in pain.

Entering Wharton Lock after turning around

After a quick stop at Calveley Services for bread and milk we carried on to Barbridge where we moored just around the bend from Bridge 100. We were expecting visitors the following day and Ange caught the bus to Nantwich to top-up the food cupboards. She also bought Ibuprofen tablets and Tiger Balm ointment for my leg. On her return I took the painkillers and the Tiger Balm was applied to my leg. Later on my leg was well enough for me to hobble up to the wheat field with Ruby to take the photographs with the Leica that I had planned to take a few days earlier. The words "suffering for one's art" come to mind!

Ruby exploring the wheat field at Barbridge...

....and the field itself

Later that afternoon Angie's son Michael and his girlfriend visited us and we took them for a cruise along the canal to Hurleston Junction and back. Whilst turning around at the junction I don't know how I resisted the temptation to not go into the bottom lock ready to cruise up to Llangollen. It was a pleasant evening and I took a photograph of the Olde Barbridge Inn in the beautiful dusk light.

The Olde Barbridge Inn at dusk

Our visitors left and we settled down for a quiet evening before turning back down the Shroppie's Middlewich Branch the following morning. The weather was a bit on the drizzly side and we stopped at Venetian Marine's café for breakfast before descending Cholmondeston Lock. Soon afterwards the sun came out and we cruised gently down the canal until we moored just above Stanthorne Lock on the outskirts of Middlewich.

View from the side doors above Stanthorne Lock

This was a pleasant mooring where we had moored on previous occasions and as the evening descended the owls in the adjacent wood made their presence known much to the annoyance of Ruby. We awoke to brilliant sunshine the next morning and after breakfast we made our way to Middlewich passing through the locks without incident. After Big Lock Ruby and I walked along the towpath for a bit and as I walked I could hear flute music. Coming towards us was a man flaying a flute. He told me that he is known as "Busker Tom" and can be quite often be seen (and heard) on the towpath in this area.

"Busker Tom" on the towpath at Middlewich

Ange had pulled in for us and once on board I made a cup of coffee for us as Ange steered across Croxton Aqueduct which gave me the opportunity to take a photograph as we crossed this originally broad aqueduct. It was rebuilt to narrow dimensions after the original James Brindley structure was swept away by floods in the 1930's.

Crossing Croxton Aqueduct

Bramble Cuttings

We carried on in the sunshine having lunch on the move as we planned to moor at the Dutton Breach Site where my daughter Lisa and her family were moored waiting for us. We missed the time for passing through Saltersford Tunnel and as there were other boats waiting to go through we moored temporarily on the side of one of the CRT work boats. Once in the tunnel we could see  a couple of bats flying around at the far end. When we reached the other end we were "buzzed" by them. Soon we were mooring at the Dutton Breach Site and had a nice evening catching up with the family news. We set off quite early the following morning in order to miss the queues at Preston Brook Tunnel. We were following a boat that had a traditional Kelvin engine installed. I chatted with the owner before we entered the tunnel and she told me that the engine is started using petrol before changing over to diesel after a couple of minutes. Even though we were behind her boat which was quite big and possessed this classic engine we made quite respectable time through the tunnel. At Preston Brook we paid a visit to Midland Chandlers before heading to Walton where we caught up with Lisa and co and moored opposite the BMBC moorings.

Walton Bridge

Family group photograph at Walton

Angie's son was in the area, paid us a visit and accompanied us all to Walton Park where we had promised the children (and Ruby) that we would go for an ice cream (we saved the last bit of our ice cream cones for her). We all had tea in the Walton Arms and when we returned to the boat we moved it through the Walton Cutting to moor up just past Hough's Bridge for the night. We were now on the last day of our holidays and cruised to Thorn Marine at Stockton Heath.

Brian Hamilton of Thorn Marine shepherding a pair of swans back to the canal

Whilst we were having a chat with Margaret and Brian two swans came out of the canal and were heading down the alleyway towards the road at the back of the shop. Brian shepherded them back to the canal much to the amusement of the people and children walking down the towpath. With Panni's Chippy being closed for holidays we carried on for a bit and moored for the night just past the "Grand Designs" house. After tea the sky exploded into a sea of red and orange as the sun set over Warrington... a fitting end to our holiday as we would be returning to our home mooring next morning

Sunset over Warrington



We had not made any concrete plans as to where we were going on this holiday. With the trials and tribulations of the last few months we both needed a good chill-out so we just cruised (to quote Captain James T Kirk) "that-a-way". We cruised for a few hours in the morning to top-up the batteries and keep the water nice and hot. And it worked. We didn't have an itinery to keep to and moored when and where we felt like. Ruby... our new crew member enjoyed herself and dispelled any initial worries we may have had about her falling in the canal or not liking the boat. At first she barked at ducks but by the end of the holiday she just looked at them without passing comment. What was needed was for us to trust her... something that is quite difficult with a new dog but it paid off. With her being so well behaved she was off the lead for most of the time and enjoyed the freedom of the countryside not afforded to her with living in a town. We now look forward to many more canal cruising adventures with her in the future.

Ruby and me at Beeston Iron Lock

(Photograph - Angela Wood)

All in all it was a most enjoyable holiday and we returned home suitably refreshed. We were surprised at the lack of queues at locks... most unusual for this time of the year. The Shroppie is one of our favourite canals and the trip proved that you don't have to travel too far for it to be enjoyable. The weather was quite kind to us as well, even if we did not have a great amount of sunshine we only had a few days when it was wet. I wonder where we will go to next year?


Timetable for our 2015 Summer Cruise

Sunday 26-07-2015


Lymm to Daresbury (Bridgewater Canal)

Monday 27-07-2015


Daresbury to Billinge Green Flash (T & M)

Tuesday 28-07-2015


Billinge Green Flash to Church Minshull (SUC)

Wednesday 29-07-2015


Church Minshull to Barbridge (SUC)

Thursday 30-07-2015


Barbridge to Calveley (SUC)

Friday 31-07-2015


Calveley all day (SUC)

Saturday 01-08-2015 - Calveley to Bridge 109 @ Beeston (SUC)
Sunday 02-08-2015 - Beeston to Barbridge via Brockholes Bend (SUC)
Monday 03-08-2015 - Barbridge to Barbridge via Hurleston Junction (SUC)
Tuesday 04-08-2015 - Barbridge to Stanthorne Lock (SUC)
Wednesday 05-08-2015 - Stanthorne Lock to Dutton Breach Site (T & M)
Thursday 06-08-2015 - Dutton Breach Site to Walton Park (Bridgewater Canal)
Friday 07-08-2015 - Walton Park to Stockton Heath (Bridgewater Canal)
Saturday 08-08-2015 - Stockton Heath to Lymm (Bridgewater Canal)


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Canalography 2015

Our canal cruising experiences and milestones during 2015

1st January 2015 Returned from our Christmas Cruise to Wigan
3rd February 2015 Retained my position as Lymm CC's Magazine and Website Editor
18th April 2015 Boat painters commenced repainting nb Squirrel
18th May 2015 Interviewed by the BBC for "Canals: The Making of a Nation" TV series
22nd May 2015 Attended FBCC Rally at Lymm CC
6th June 2015 Boat painters completed repainting nb Squirrel
11th July 2015 Ruby joined our crew and accompanied us to Castlefield on her first cruise
26th July 2015 Summer Cruise along the Shropshire Union Canal to Brockholes Bend and back
28th August 2015 "Canals: The Making of a Nation" transmitted on BBC 1 and BBC 4. Also, cruise to Salford Quays on the Manchester Ship Canal
4th October 2015 Lymm Cruising Club's Sixtieth (Diamond) Anniversary
11th November 2015 I Resigned my post on Lymm CC's Committee as Magazine/Website Editor

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The story most probably continues in

Book 12

Canal Cruising 2016

Finances, time and health allowing!


Click to return to Contents

or select another book below...




Book 1 - 1959 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 10 - 2014

Book 12 - 2016 (Coming Soon)
nb Squirrel
Canals on Screen
Canalscape Photography
Photography in One (New)
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

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



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Updated 17-01-2016