Book 13

Canal Cruising 2017

An eBook and website by Cyril J Wood

The title photograph shows a modified nocturnal photograph of the Bridgewater Canal at Castle Quay, Castlefield, Manchester


Click on the required section below to follow links

Chapter 1 - Canalmanac 2017 Part 1

  Chapter 2 - Easter Escape Cruise 2017
  Chapter 3 - Canalmanac 2017 Part 2
  Chapter 4 - Summer Cruise 2017


Chapter 5 - Canalmanac 2017 Part 3

Canalography 2017


Return to Introduction


Chapter 1 - Canalmanac 2017 Part 1

First of all I hope that readers had an enjoyable and restful Christmas and New Year. We saw the new year in on Squirrel after the Lymm Cruising Club New Year Party which was most enjoyable. We took the opportunity to catch up with old friends and made a few new ones as well! The canal wasn't frozen over the New Year and the winter has been reasonably mild up to now but I suspect that this might change over the next couple of months.

2017 commenced with a shock announcement from the Bridgewater Canal Company that due to replacing Vicars Hall Bridge 1·5 kilometres above Boothstown Marina on the Leigh Branch, the canal would be closed from the 13th February to the 16th June 2017. Whilst I do not normally comment on canal management matters, I, along with many boaters that I have spoken to, consider this time scale for bridge replacement to be outrageous. Obviously, the Bridgewater Canal Company under-estimate the value of through traffic to the canal. I feel sorry for canal users (not just those based on the Bridgewater Canal) planning to access the Leeds and Liverpool and Lancaster Canals via the Bridgewater Canal as well as boaters wishing to access the canals in the opposite direction during the closure period. The Canal and River Trust would not have closed a waterway for this period of time for a bridge replacement and at this rate the new Mersey Gateway Bridge (the second Runcorn Bridge) will be completed well before this one. Maybe, with this and the on-going problems surrounding the reciprocal arrangement between the Bridgewater Canal Company and C&RT, it is now time for Bridgewater Canal boaters to bite the financial bullet and lobby for the canal to be taken over by the C&RT.

The closure notice issued by the Bridgewater Canal Company

The Inland Waterways Association as well as other interested groups brought pressure on the Bridgewater Canal Company who rescheduled the closure period so that it ends in May. Not a perfect solution but at least it misses part of the boating season. Maybe they will think twice before issuing a closure notice in future without accessing in greater detail the ramifications of a closure.

On a more cheerful note, every year I usually reproduce a couple of canal images from Christmas and Birthday cards that I have received. This year one Christmas card of note was an IWA card showing "Heading for Home"... a beautiful illustration by the renowned canal artist Alan Firth (deceased). The location could be one of the pounds between Tyrley Locks near Market Drayton on the Shroppie or the bend approaching Bramble Cuttings on the Trent and Mersey Canal. I think it is the latter but I will leave it up to you which it is or if you think that it is an alternative location please let me know.

Possibly either Tyrley Locks Pound or the bend approaching Bramble Cuttings

(Illustration - Alan Firth)

I also received a birthday card from my daughter and son-in-law that featured a photograph of the Llangollen Canal near Wrenbury (bridge 18 I think). The photograph on the card was taken by Mandy Jervis and is a worthy candidate to be included here.

Bridge 18 on the Llangollen Canal near Wrenbury

(Photograph - Mandy Jervis)

At the beginning of February I had my first weather photograph of 2017 televised on the Granada Weather Report. It was of Bidston Moss Nature Reserve and at first it may not appear to have any canal-related connections. Bidston Moss was once a tidal marsh that connected to Wallasey Pool and isolated Wallasey at high tide. In fact the name Wallasey translated from Gaelic means Welshmen's' or Strangers' Island. Two ship canals have been proposed to connect with Wallasey Pool.

Wallasey Pool - part of the Wallasey and Birkenhead Docks System

The first was an extension to the Bridgewater Canal from Sale to West Kirby at the entrance to the River Dee utilising Wallasey Pool as part of its route. The second proposed canal was an extension to the Pool of ship canal dimensions, cutting across Bidston Moss to Leasowe where it would have connected with Liverpool Bay allowing ships to avoid the treacherous sandbanks in the River Mersey. Thomas Telford, the renowned canal builder and civil engineer was consulted for both schemes and when inspecting the location of Wallasey Pool he is reported to have said… “Look... they’ve built Liverpool on the wrong side of the river!” His inference was that the natural harbour of Wallasey Pool should have been taken advantage of instead of reclaiming land from the Mersey to construct the Liverpool dock system. Neither of the ship canal schemes came to fruition but the one that was to have connected to the Bridgewater Canal did pre-date the Manchester Ship Canal by seventy years. If either of Thomas Telford's schemes had been constructed the area depicted in the photograph below would have been in the centre of the waterway. For more details about Wallasey and Birkenhead Docks go to the Wallasey Pool chapter of the Wyre Heal local history section of the Diarama Website.

A screenshot of the Bidston Moss weather photograph...

...and the original photograph

It is no wonder that the British are a nation of weather watchers as we have had some really bizarre weather recently. I travelled up to Lymm on the Monday afternoon following hurricane Doris to make sure that the boat was okay and not affected by the gale force winds that we had experienced. I had been keeping an eye on the weather all morning whilst in work and, after some initial showers it cleared up. When I finished work at lunchtime I went home, got changed, collected Ruby and headed up the M53 and M56 motorways. Half-way to Lymm the rain started again. By the time we reached Lymm it had stopped. The boat was alright and I started up the engine, which fired first time. I turned on the central heating to make sure that it was okay as well. Satisfied that all was well I checked the mooring ropes and tightened them up. I am not convinced of the integrity of the centre rope and, because the front end of the boat protrudes past the end of the jetty, a bow mooring rope cannot be used. We then made our way back to the car as it started to rain again. Instead of going straight home I went to Midland Chandlers to find out if they sold replacement deck boards (I couldn't see them on their website). On the way the rain turned to hail, sleet and then snow. By the time I reached Preston Brook the rain/hail/sleet/snow had stopped. They didn't stock deck boards, just the sound deadening pads that fit beneath them. Disappointed, I left the shop and got Ruby out of the car. We walked past the shop to the motorway viaduct and looked at the junction bridge at Waters Meeting to see the work that had been done there.

New pipe work on the Junction Bridge at Waters Meeting, Preston Brook

 After taking a couple of photographs we returned to the car and headed back down the M56. The the sun came out so we stopped at the Boat Museum and took more photographs... this time of the sun shining on the Ship Canal. It was difficult to believe that less than an hour earlier we were driving through a heavy snowfall... mind you, we were now on the Wirral Peninsula (geographically speaking) which possess its own microclimate. This microclimate, created by the warming effect of the River Dee, River Mersey and Liverpool Bay plus the multiple rain shadows of the Cambrian, Bickerton and West Lancashire Hills, ensures that we do not receive the severe weather experienced by the rest of the country. With the photographs taken, we headed home down the M53 in brilliant sunshine after a busy and unpredictable (weather-wise) afternoon.

A sunlit Manchester Ship Canal at Ellesmere Port

A couple of days later another of my photographs was used as a backdrop to the Granada Weather Forecast on ITV. The photograph in question is of the River Mersey and Liverpool's skyline at sunrise which I recently took on my way to work.

A screenshot of my latest Granada Weather Forecast photograph - Sunrise Over the River Mersey and Liverpool Skyline...

... and the original photograph

On the Saturday that the clocks went forward Ange and I escaped to Liverpool for the morning. It was a beautiful day with good light and warm sunshine so needless to say the Leicas got an airing! We had a drink in the Matou Pen Asian restaurant/pub on the second floor and roof garden the Mersey Ferry Terminal at the Pier Head. When I was writing the Liverpool Link section of the Canalscape website the Canal and River Trust gave me permission to use a CGI artist's impression of how the Link will look as it runs towards the Museum of Liverpool. I promised myself that I would take a "real" photograph of this view from the roof terrace of the ferry terminal when I could. Well the day had arrived for me to keep that promise and the photograph, as well as the original CGI, are reproduced below.

The original artist's impression CGI of the Liverpool Link...

(CGI courtesy of Canal and River Trust)

 ... and my "real" photograph of the same location

As Easter approached, our thoughts turned to our Easter Escape Cruise. As we had the week before Easter off work, we planned to cruise along the Trent and Mersey Canal and Shroppie Middlewich Branch then retrace our steps. We had missed Lymm CC's Opening Cruise due to family commitments but the Club had organised an Easter Cruise to the Lion Salt Works at Lostock Gralam and we hoped to catch up with them at this location on our way back. We don't know if the weather will be kind to us without getting soaked or frozen in the process (I can remember one Easter Cruise when we were pelted with hailstones whilst passing through Billing Green Flash) but we will just have to see how the weather is and take it from there. Hopefully the weather will be good and allow us to enjoy a cruise in reasonable if not beautiful conditions.


To be continued in... Canalmanac 2017 Part 2


Click to return to Contents


Chapter 2 - Easter Escape Cruise 2017

On our Easter Cruise we were to be accompanied by Paul and Wendy Savage on their narrowboat Adreva but due to a mix-up over the dates we had both booked different weeks off work. Nevertheless, we arrived at Lymm on the Friday evening ready for our Jive Class in Lymm CC's Clubhouse. The Jive Class was a refreshing start to our holiday. After the class we were treated to a beautiful sunset when returned to the boat exhausted. We had already loaded our clothes, food, etc. onto the boat ready to set off the following morning so it was straight to bed.

Jive class in "full swing"

Sunset at Lymm CC's moorings

The Saturday morning dawned bright and sunny and promised to be a beautiful day. After a few last minute jobs we set off in the morning sunshine and I don't think that the engine revs went above one thousand RPM as we "pootled" along. We planned to stop at Stockton Heath to do our food shopping and also paid Thorn marine a visit for a few bits and pieces as well as the obligatory ice creams.

View from the tiller whilst cruising through Thelwall wooded cutting in the spring sunshine

Ruby waiting to "lick the stick" at Thorn Marine

With our shopping completed and lunch consumed we set off again and had arranged to meet my daughter Lisa and family who were working on their boat Adeline on the Bridgewater Motor Boat Club's moorings at Walton. Nathan... Lisa's husband was doing a good job refitting the windows to their boat and we can't wait for their boat to be completed so that we can cruise together when possible. We had only planned to stay a couple of hours there before setting off again but there was a barbeque planned for the evening and we were invited.

BMBC moorings at Walton

Son-in-Law Nathan working on Adeline's windows

A mooring was temporarily vacant that we were told we could use for the night so we stayed. The barbeque was excellent and enjoyed by everyone... especially Ruby who, I am sure, ate more tit bits than she is allowed. Before we retired to the boat for the night we were treated to yet another beautiful sunset which heralded yet another hot, sunny day to follow.

The barbeque at Walton

Sunset at Walton

The following morning, after saying our goodbyes we set off in the warm spring sunshine, made a leisurely (fifteen minutes) passage through Preston Brook Tunnel and decided to moor for the night at the Dutton Breach moorings. This gave me the opportunity to catch-up on the cleaning of the outside of the boat ready to give the starboard side its first coat of wax. After this we relaxed in the warm sunshine and enjoyed the peace and tranquillity of this beautiful location.

Waiting for the tunnel passage time at Preston Brook

Ange steering Squirrel into Dutton Stop Lock

A half-cleaned Squirrel at Dutton Breach Moorings

After a lie-in the following morning we set off for Middlewich. The weather wasn't as sunny or warm as the previous two days but at least it wasn't raining. We noticed that Canal and River Trust had been busy replacing the sunken towpath edging at Acton Bridge... well done. Crack on with the rest now please!

New canal edging near Acton Bridge

We were cruising along around lunchtime and Ange decided to make us bacon and egg barms. I could smell the bacon cooking and Ruby came out to the back deck. She looked at me with her tail wagging and a doggy smile as if to say "Mummy's cooking bacon and eggs" then turned around and returned to the kitchen just in case anything got dropped onto the floor. Our canine companion never ceases to amaze me!

Whilst passing through Billinge Green Upper Flash I saw a sign on the towpath announcing that the proposed HS2 railway line would cross the canal at that point. There goes one of our favourite mooring places! A little way around the corner there was another sign followed by yet another just before Bramble Cuttings. There goes two more of our favourite moorings. Sentiments that are shared by many boaters that I have spoken to on the subject.

Notice of proposed HS2 Canal Crossing at Billinge Green

At Middlewich we moored adjacent to the playground above Big Lock and walked into town for shopping. Ruby came with us and gained many admiring looks from shoppers whilst we waited for Ange outside Tesco. We stayed there for the night and planned to visit Kings Lock Boat Chandlery the next day after we had negotiated the locks to see if they sold phenolic plywood deck boards.

Another bright day dawned and we made mincemeat of the locks, mooring above Wardle Lock mid-morning. We went to Kings Lock Boat Chandlery and it turned out that they did sell the deck boards and what's more, they would cut the board to size for a reasonable fee. We came to the conclusion that it would be well worth the money to have then fitted by professionals rather than me risking making a mess of cutting them as I don't possess the best woodworking skills! They had a slot on Thursday so we arranged to be there at 10.00 am to have the boards fitted. Next, we went to the Kings Lock Public House and had a drink outside adjacent to the lock in the sunshine. Ange put her drink down for a second and Ruby was quick off the mark to sample the lager and blackcurrant in her glass. We returned to the boat for lunch and saw a Creighton Inlander 32 similar to Lisa and Nathan's boat Adeline. This one was called Summer Breeze and it moored just in front of us. I had a chat with owner Nick Drayson who informed me that he was on his way to the Jazz Festival at Nantwich. Nick's Creighton is unusual in that it has a longer centre cockpit and a shorter rear deck. I later received an e-mail from Nick complimenting me on the Canalscape website.

Creighton Inlander 32 - Summer Breeze

Not long afterwards I heard the thump, thump, thump of a classic narrowboat engine. I grabbed the camera and jumped off the boat just in time to see ex-working boat Lindsay towing its butty Keppel coming towards us. I ran to the bridge and managed to take a few photographs of this classic pair of Admiral Class narrowboats constructed at Northwich by Yarwoods in 1959. No doubt they were making their way to the annual Easter Gathering of Boats at Ellesmere Port,

Ex-working narrowboats Lindsay and Keppel at Middlewich

Not long after this we set off again and moored for the night just below Bridge 22 near Church Minshull. This is one of our favourite moorings. It has a nice, wide towpath for Ruby to play ball on, is virtually, in the middle of nowhere and is accordingly nice and quiet except for the occasional Virgin Pendolino whooshing along the West Coast Main Line railway track nearby. Once moored the polish came out and the starboard side of the boat was polished. Before long that side of the boat was back to its usual shiny self. Yet another pair of narrowboats passed us on their way to Ellesmere Port. This time it was the 1912 Fellows, Morton and Clayton butty Ilford being towed by a converted motor boat. Needless to say... the Leica came out to play again!

More narrowboats on their way to Ellesmere Port

Butty Ilford's steerer

We were due back in Middlewich on Thursday so the next day (Wednesday) we cruised up to the winding hole. On the way we passed yet another HS2 Proposed Crossing notice a few hundred metres from yet another of our favourite moorings. This was the fourth crossing we had encountered. Do you think this is a conspiracy to rob us of our favourite mooring places? Back at Middlewich we moored above Wardle Lock ready to go to Kings Lock Chandlery the next morning.

Threatening skies over Bridge 31 at Middlewich

After breakfast the next day the skies looked threatening and heralded unsettled weather but for now it was dry and sunny. We were beaten to the lock by a procession of hire boats and made the chandlery for 10.30... a little later than planned. After double mooring, Pete the carpenter made a start on our boards.

The Buffalo board prior to cutting...

... and being cut to size...

... and the finished article - very professional

The care he took was to be admired even down to sealing the bare edges of the cut boards to prevent any ingress of moisture. The job was completed by mid afternoon and after paying we set off down the locks. At the first and second locks Ruby stayed with me on the locks but got on the boat at the third lock to keep Ange company. We moored in our usual spot adjacent to the playground above Big Lock and then went into town for some shopping. We had a nice tea on board and watched TV with nicely full stomachs.

Ruby keeping Ange company through some of the locks

The weather looked threatening when we set off the following morning and took a turn for the worse by the time we had passed through Big Lock. It was raining heavily necessitating waterproofs, the Brolleymate and large umbrella coming out.

Big Lock in the rain

Brolleymate complete with brolly erected

We planned to meet our friends Wendy and Paul along with other members of Lymm CC at the Salt Museum, Lostock Gralam so we were not to be deterred by a bit of rain and pressed on. Just after Croxton Aqueduct I saw a mink running across the towpath but, as it was raining, I did not have the camera to hand and missed the opportunity of photographing it. The rain was intermittent and by mid-afternoon reached the Salt Museum. We moored at the end of a line of boats quite a distance from the museum as we had not planned to visit it and there was a better chance of having our friends mooring close to us. When we stopped I was cold and wet so stripped off and got straight into the shower to warm up. Later, a disappointment was that one of the new deck boards had swelled in the rain and was catching on the bottom of the rear doors. Pete had done too neat a job and not accounted for the boards swelling with the heat of the engine and the rain. Our friends had stopped at Dutton for the night due to the rain so they would not be joining us until the following day

Boats from Lymm CC moored near to the Salt Museum

The rain stopped during the night and in the morning I took the opportunity to finish giving the boat its first coat of wax. When time allows a second coat will be applied. I also took a few photographs of the canal here as I had not had the opportunity to capture it previously. Ruby had a good time playing with one of her friends... Fudge whose owners were Beryl and Colin off nb Miss B'Havin. Our friends arrived mid-afternoon and managed to moor next to us. That evening we had a roast dinner courtesy of Wendy who had cooked a leg of lamb complete with roast potatoes and all the trimmings. Beautiful!

Shiny Squirrel with the port side now waxed

The Trent and Mersey Canal at Lostock Gralam

Ruby and Fudge playing chase me

Roast dinner on board Squirrel

The next day was Easter Sunday and after breakfast we said goodbye to our friends who were out for the rest of the week and planned to cruise to Audlem on the Shroppie. We reluctantly set off in the opposite direction and wound our way along the River Weaver Valley until we reached Anderton. Here was the first sanitary station we had come to since out outward journey. We were on our spare toilet cassette so took the opportunity to empty them both whilst we could. After setting off again we noticed that the Fudge Boat was moored close to the boat lift so pulled in and purchased some fudge to take home (four bags for £5). Ruby was first in the queue at the side doors but unfortunately is not allowed any fudge due to the large amount of sugar in it. We first met Heather and Tony Gregory, owners of the Fudge Boat a few years ago and last year they were moored in the same spot when we bought fudge from them.

The Fudge Boat moored at Anderton Boat Lift...

... where Ruby was first in the queue at the side doors

Heather Gregory - fudge cook

It was quite windy on our trip back towards Preston Brook but at least the rain kept off. After passing through Dutton Stop Lock we were first in the queue for the tunnel. The sun was shining by this time and I couldn't resist taking photographs of the flowers and the tunnel approach. I also took a couple of photographs inside the tunnel at the wide section nicknamed the "Cathedral".

Blue Forget-Me-Nots at the side of the canal at Dutton

Bluebells lining the tunnel approach at Preston Brook

The wide "Cathedral" inside Preston Brook Tunnel

Once through the tunnel we had lunch on the move and made good time reaching Stockton Heath about 5.00 pm. We moored in front of Miss B-Havin and it was not long before Ruby was calling for Fudge to play chase with her. We chatted with our friends and after tea watched TV in bed on the last night of our Easter cruise.

Narrowboats moored at Stockton Heath

Next morning we made a quick visit to Thorn Marine to replace an empty gas cylinder then continued on to Lymm. We pulled into the arm in front of the Clubhouse and loaded the car with our clothes, food, etc. After a quick chat with some of our fellow Lymm CC members I put the boat back on its moorings and we braved the M56 and M53 motorways filled with Bank Holiday traffic to home,


Timetable for our 2017 Easter Cruise

Saturday 8th April 2017 -

 Lymm to Walton

Sunday 9th April 2017


 Walton to Dutton Breach Moorings

Monday 10th April 2017


 Dutton Breach Moorings to Middlewich (above Big Lock)

Tuesday 11th April 2017


 Middlewich to Bridge 22 S. U. C. Middlewich Branch

Wednesday 12th April 2017


 Bridge 22 S. U. C. Middlewich Branch to above Wardle Lock

Thursday 13th April 2017


 Above Wardle Lock to above Big Lock

Friday 14th April 2017


 Above Big Lock to Lostock Gralam (Salt Museum Moorings)

Saturday 15th April 2017 -  Lostock Gralam
Sunday 16th April 2017 -  Lostock Gralam to Stockton Heath
Monday 17th April 2017 -  Stockton Heath to Lymm

Easter Escape Cruise Epilogue

We always enjoy our Easter Escape cruise as the countryside is slowly awakening from its winter slumber. The weather might not always be great but being away on the boat gives us a chance to charge our bodies' batteries after the post-Christmas period and the associated stresses that work and winter brings.

On this trip, the impact that HS2 will have on our local canals was highlighted. We knew that there was to be one crossing of the Bridgewater Canal at Agden and another on the Trent and Mersey Canal somewhere near Bramble Cuttings but were not expecting there to be four crossings between Church Minshull and Billinge Green. With Virgin Trains offering a journey time of just over two hours from Liverpool to London one questions the need for an even faster service and the associated impact and devastation to our countryside.

Nevertheless, it was a nice, relaxing cruise and a brilliant start to our cruising year. We are now looking forward to the cruises that we have planned for the coming year. Let's hope that the weather is not too unkind to us!

Sunset over Winsford Top Flash taken from Church Minshull close to an HS2 proposed crossing


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Chapter 3 - Canalmanac 2017 Part 2

On the last few days of our Easter Escape cruise we noticed that one of our new deck boards had bowed and we had arranged to return it to King's Lock Chandlery at Middlewich on the Saturday after our return for inspection. We were at Lymm for our Jive Class the night before so after breakfast we removed the offending board, put it in the car and headed for Middlewich. When we arrived, even though we had made arrangements earlier in the week, Pete the carpenter was not available but a phone call from the office summoned him. Whilst we waited for him to arrive we drove to the canal moorings adjacent to the children's playground where Paul and Wendy were waiting for us on the return from their Easter cruise. We had a cup of coffee and Ruby played with their cat Rosa before we returned to Middlewich Chandlery to see how Pete was getting on with our board. He had decided to replace the complete board only cut it a quarter of an inch narrower on each side where it was adjacent to the gas cylinder lockers.

Enjoying a drink at the King's Lock in Middlewich

The Trent and Mersey Canal at King's Lock...

... and around the corner at Middlewich Narrowboats

Whilst he finished it off we retired to the pub for a drink and watch boats descending the adjacent King's Lock. With the board completed we walked back to Paul and Wendy's boat in the bright sunshine taking turns carrying the board. After lunch we bade farewell to our friends and returned to Lymm with our new deck board. The board fitted perfectly and we will have to wait and see if the bowing problem has been prevented with the board being slightly narrower. Satisfied with the board we loaded our things into the car at a busy Lymm CC moorings and returned home.

The next weekend was May Bank Holiday Weekend and there was a Lymm CC cruise to the wide lagoon between Saltersford and Barnton Tunnels. Ange and I both had the Friday off work and after shopping for essentials we loaded the car and headed up the motorways for Lymm. We were early enough to miss the Friday congestion and we had soon loaded our stuff on the boat and were under way. We moored for the night at Moore and after tea met Wendy and Paul in the pub who were not able to come on the cruise due to domestic responsibilities. Next morning we made an early start and arrived at Preston Brook Tunnel in time for the 9.30 am passage. The weather was sunny if not exactly hot and we were soon cruising along the Weaver Valley.

The Trent and Mersey Canal at Dutton looking towards the stop lock

The flowering wild garlic gave the wooded cuttings a heady aroma that is usual for this time of the year. When we reached Saltersford Tunnel we were in a queue with other Lymm CC members on the cruise. Once through the tunnel we moored parallel to the bank and not stern first like the other boats that possessed traditional sterns. once moored we caught up with other Club members some of which we hadn't seen for a while.

Flowering wild garlic which gave the cuttings a distinctive aroma

Boats from Lymm CC moored in the lagoon between Saltersford and Barnton Tunnels

Catching up with Lymm CC members in the sunshine

Angie's son Michael brought Shannon to the lagoon who was joining us for the rest of the bank Holiday Weekend whereas Michael just stayed for the day. After tea Ruby and I went for a walk along the old horse path that runs over the tunnel. I had not been along this path before and, needless to say, took photographs of it. We were woken up at 5.00 am the next morning by the owner of the boat moored alongside us. Our aft mooring pin had come out during the night and our stern had drifted across the lagoon. I walked down our gunwale with the centre rope (that was just long enough), jumped onto the towpath and pulled both boats to the side of the canal. After relocating the mooring pin I added a centre pin to give a bit more security in the muddy bank, After breakfast Shannon took me into the field behind the lagoon that overlooks the River Weaver to show me the view. After taking a photograph of it we returned to the boat via the old horse path over the tunnel.

The old horse path over Saltersford Tunnel

Unusually shaped Saltersford Tunnel air ventilator shaft

The River Weaver seen from the hill  behind the lagoon

We dodged the muddy puddles on the path and were amused at the way Ruby did the same! We set off to go back through the tunnel and the Black Prince day boat before us in the queue ran into the trees that swept the life belt off the roof. After the boat entered the tunnel we collected the life belt and when we caught up with the day boat at the other end of the tunnel we pulled alongside them and returned the life belt. They were not aware that they sad lost it and were grateful that we had returned it, ensuring that they did not lose their equipment deposit.  The sun was shining as we travelled through the wooded cuttings and dappled the water with patches of sunlight. Shannon was sitting on the foredeck and took a photograph that is reproduced below.

Saltersford Wooded Cutting

(Photograph - Shannon Armour)

Cul-de-Sac Bridge 204 - Trent and Mersey Canal

We passed through Preston Brook Tunnel and moored for the night at Stockton Heath. Panny's Chippy was visited a little later to provide our tea that was up to the usual standard. We all had a lie-in the following morning and we set off for Lymm after breakfast. It was the Bridgewater Motor Boat Club's Opening Cruise and we passed many of the Club's members making their way back to Walton and Runcorn. We were surprised to see my son-in-law Nathan accompanied by my grandson Nathan Jnr steering Adeline coming towards us. The boat looked great and Nathan shouted over that my daughter Lisa was following in Jus' Roamin'... her mother and partner's boat. Lisa was accompanied by Grace who, no doubt, would have provided her mother with a continuous commentary all the way from the Watch House Cruising Club at Stretford.

Lisa and Grace on nb Jus' Roamin'

We reached Lymm at lunchtime and moored temporarily in the arm outside the Clubhouse. The car was loaded up whilst I emptied the loo and we set off for home after putting the boat back on its mooring after an enjoyable, unusually dry, if not sunny, Bank Holiday weekend.

The day after we returned from the may Bank Holiday Cruise the post man brought my monthly copy of Waterways World. I was surprised to see one of my photographs in the Favourite Mooring spot. The photograph in question was of a favourite mooring spot in Spud Wood near Oughtrington on the Bridgewater Canal a few hundred metres from Lymm CC's moorings and is reproduced below for your appreciation. It was taken last July on a really hot summer's day just before we went on our Summer Cruise to Liverpool.

The photograph of Spud Wood as featured in Waterways World...

...and the actual photograph as taken

Liverpool was also to feature later on in the week. We spent Friday evening at Lymm CC for the last of our Jive Classes, slept on the boat and after breakfast the next morning we left for home. We dropped Ruby off and emptied the car then caught the bus to Liverpool and headed to the Steam on the Dock steam fair at Albert Dock. We met Wendy, Oliver and Paul for lunch at a café in Williamson Square then headed to the Albert Dock. We visited the same Steam Fair last year and it offered many photographic opportunities. Unfortunately, the light was not as good on this occasion as it was overcast and the light lacked warmth plus the ability to add depth and contrast to subjects. After admiring the miniature traction engines, steam wagons and narrow gauge Ffestiniog Railway locomotive we set our sights on the steam tugs Daniel Adamson and the smaller Kerne that were moored alongside each other adjacent to the Maritime Museum entrance.

Steam tugs Daniel Adamson and Kerne moored alongside each other at Steam on the Dock

Paul and I went on board the steam tug Daniel Adamson and I was surprised to be greeted by a guide called Jimmy Lawson. Jimmy and I worked together at Bidston Steel Mill and it has been a few years since we had met. Next we went on board Kerne. I subscribe to the Steam Tug Kerne Preservation Society's Facebook Page was aware that one of my old school mates... Paul Kirkbride (aka "Barrel") was involved in the restoration of this beautiful steam powered tug and was half expecting to bump into him. We were walking around the deck when a voice shouted... "Cyril Wood... well I never!" It was Paul Kirkbride. We had not met for fifty years and after shaking hands and a hug I introduced him to the other Paul. We chatted for a while and Ange saw us talking and shouted "Hello Barrel." This was Paul K's nickname at school to which he replied laughingly "I see my reputation precedes me!" Paul K told me that Chris Hayes... another of my schoolmates, who was Kerne's engineer, was in the engine room. We walked around to the other side of the boat to where the engine room ventilator flaps were open. I could see a familiar face in the engine room and I shouted "Is that Chris Hayes down there?" The reply came back... "Is that Cyril Wood up there?" I was amazed that Chris also recognised me after fifty years.

Yours truly and ex-colleague Jimmy Lawson

(Photograph - Angela Wood)

Paul Kirkbride... one of my old schoolmates - see below

Chris Hayes... another of my old schoolmates - see below

A photograph I took at Withensfield School in 1966 showing Paul Kirkbride - bottom left and Chris Hayes - top right

It was turning out to be quite an emotional day but I managed to keep my feelings in check! Reunions over, we made our way back to the dock side and continued our perambulations around the steam fair. Paul bumped into one of his colleagues and after introductions we continued our walk. As we reached the swing bridge over the Albert Dock entrance we were treated to the sight of two steam-powered narrowboats crossing the Albert Dock. The first one was Emily Anne... a replica, narrow-beam Dutch barge fitted with a tall chimney to keep smoke and steam exhausts from the steam engine away from the steerer's face. I had previously seen this boat on the Llangollen Canal and at Agden on the Bridgewater Canal although it had a shorter funnel fitted then!. As the boat approached the swing bridge the tall funnel was lowered to allow it to pass beneath the bridge. Next came Whistle Down the Wind (aka Steam Pig) which also lowered its chimney for the same reason.

Emily Anne - a narrow beam Dutch barge replica propelled by a steam engine

Emily Anne previously seen passing through Agden on the Bridgewater Canal

Whistle Down the Wind (aka Steam Pig) - a steam powered narrowboat

Whistle Down the Wind later moored adjacent to the Tate Gallery and I couldn't resist a closer look. The steerer was having trouble manoeuvring the boat onto the quayside and I joked "You could do with a bow thruster!" The comment fell on stony ground and whilst I was photographing the engine the steam exhaust valve was opened making me jump.

Whistle Down the Wind's twin cylinder Leak compound engine

No doubt this was the owner getting his revenge for my comment! The boat was built by Liverpool Boat Company just like our own boat Squirrel and there was a most informative poster telling all about the boat and how it worked. This boat has a connection with my childhood as the film "Whistle Down the Wind" was my favourite film when it came out in 1961 and Geoff... the boat's owner was in the film as well. No doubt the fact that Hayley Mills who starred in the film had something to do with my liking it. We had now seen most of the exhibits and retired to Costa for a well earned cup of coffee. Paul and Wendy had a surprise meeting of some friends and after greeting them it was time for us to make our way back home after a great day packed with re-unions and surprises.

Later that week we had to go to a neighbour's funeral. Both Ange and I took time off work for the funeral but where Ange had to go to work afterwards I had the rest of the day at my disposal. It was a beautiful day so carpe diem... I seized the day, After dropping Ange off at the bus stop for Liverpool I went home, collected Ruby, got changed and we went to Lymm to cut the grass on our moorings. On the way we stopped at the Boat Museum... aka National Waterways Museum, Ellesmere Port to let Ruby have a wee. When we walked along the Manchester Ship Canal we saw the MSC work boat Burscough moored on the opposite bank of the canal adjacent to the point where water was let into the canal for the first time. A few minutes later an immense chemical/oil tanker... Defne-S slid past without making a ripple on the water on its way to discharge at Runcorn. Whilst at the Boat Museum I took the opportunity to enquire about mooring in the Lower Basin when we visit during our Summer Cruise. I was quoted £4 per boat per night mooring fee plus a one-off payment of the standard entrance fee to the Museum for each adult which is currently £9.75 per adult and £6.00 per child (between 6 and 15 years of age) but I will be able to get away with paying the £8.50 concessionary rate for over 65s (makes me sound old doesn't it?) and Ruby won't have to pay at all! Also, we don't have to book places in advance as there are usually plenty of moorings in the Lower Basin.

Manchester Ship Canal work boat Burscough at Ellesmere port

Chemical/oil tanker Defne-S making its way to Runcorn

We arrived at Lymm about 2.00 pm and after chatting to a few members who were about I started strimming the grass ... supervised by Ruby of course!. It was a lovely, hot day and and I was regretting not wearing shorts. After my jobs were completed I was sorry to have to come home but needs must and so we made our way back to Wallasey. The next time we are at Lymm is the weekend that the boat comes out of the water for hull cleaning, hull blacking and sacrificial anode replacement.

Bitumen, sacrificial anodes and other bits ready for use

I had already purchased the necessary bitumen and sacrificial anodes that are waiting patiently in the hall along with fresh oil, filter and antifreeze, etc. Whilst waiting in-between coats for the bitumen to dry I plan to service the engine as well as a few other jobs to be ticked off the "To Do List". Lets hope that the weather is as good then as it has been for the last few days.

The weekend before the boat came out of the water we didn't go up to Lymm due to shopping and family commitments but Ruby and I did escape for a few hours on the Saturday afternoon. We drove to Golden Nook near Tattenhall, parked the car and walked along the towpath towards Tattenhall. We had our lunch on a bench kindly donated by the Shropshire Union Canal Society and wandered up a farm track towards an enormous rape plant field. The light was good so the Leica D-Lux 3 came out to play.

The Shroppie looking North towards Golden Nook

Farm track at Golden Nook

Rape field with Beeston Castle in the distance

Ruby enjoying exploring in the rape field

In one of the fields adjacent to the canal are a couple of unusual concrete structures. I first saw them when I was a child and my Father told me that they were World War Two air raid shelters for the farmers and their livestock but I am not sure that he was correct. Maybe they are something to de with Pluto (Pipe Line Under the Ocean) as it makes its way from Stanlow Oil Refinery at Ellesmere Port to the underground storage tanks at Beeston that can bee seen opposite Chas Harden's boatyard. Can any readers suggest an alternative purpose? If so e-mail be at

Strange concrete structure in a field at Golden Nook

A little epilogue to our walk along the Shroppie at Golden Nook happened a little later on in the week whilst I was walking Ruby in Central Park, Wallasey. I bumped into an acquaintance that I see quite often whilst he is walking his Springer Spaniel. He told me that he saw me at Golden Nook walking along the canal. The person in question also has a narrowboat and I was spotted by him unbeknown to me. Just goes to show... you never know who is watching you!

As expected the dry weather broke the next day and I during the next few days I kept my eye on the weather forecast for the end of the week. I am hoping that it is at least dry from Saturday when the boat comes out of the water for the previously mentioned hull cleaning, blacking and sacrificial anode replacement... but I am not holding my breath!

I travelled up to Lymm early on the Saturday morning with Ruby in brilliant sunshine (breath a sigh of relief) to prepare the boat for coming out of the water. Ange did not accompany me as she had a wedding to attend along with her sister so I planned to collect her on Monday after I had applied a coat of bitumen to the boat's hull. Once I had brought the boat from its mooring to the slipway the boat that was out before me was re-launched by Rob Hoyle... Lymm CC's Harbourmaster. Then it was our turn. Once the boat was manoeuvred above the trolley the tractor pulled the trolley and boat out of the water. Once the boat was secured I inspected the hull, sacrificial anode condition and especially checked the propeller split pin and securing nut as we had a problem with this when we first bought the boat a few years ago. Paul Savage and his son Oliver had promised to come and give me a hand and they soon arrived to help. Next, the power washer was connected and it was time for me to don my overalls. I had brought a clean pair from home and at first I thought that they had shrunk in the wash as they did not fasten around my waist... much to everybody's amusement. I later removed them and put on a pair from the boat that did fit and we commenced cleaning off the hull. Once started we made good time with the cleaning.

View from the rear deck whilst being slipped

Yours truly wearing ill-fitting overalls

(Photograph - Paul Savage)

Paul power-washing whilst Oliver supervised

Once completed, the boat was then left to dry whilst we had lunch and afterwards, we gave the hull a rub-down with production paper to give the bitumen a good "key" to adhere to. Next, I disconnected the batteries' electrical connections to protect the sensitive electronic circuits in the alternators, inverter, charger, panel regulator and auxiliary equipment. Before long Alan and Phil Savage arrived to weld on the new sacrificial anodes. Once the anodes were fitted I took advantage of Phil and asked him to loosen off the engine's oil filter which was too stiff for me to remove and he also put a tack weld on the rudder where it is attached to the tiller tube to take up some play. I plan to replace the top bearing when I can and Phil also opened up the kitchen sink drain on the hull which had been damaged at some time in the past.

Phil Savage welding on new sacrificial anodes

New sacrificial anode alongside an old one

Jet-washed, sanded down, new sacrificial anodes fitted and drying off ready for the first coat of bitumen

With these jobs completed the electrical connections previously disconnected were replaced and as the hull was dry and we applied the first coat of bitumen (don't forget the weed hatch and uxter plate). The three of us had finished the first coat by tea time and Paul and Oliver left, promising to return the next morning for "round two". Sunday morning dawned sunny with clear skies so after giving Ruby her walk and having breakfast I made a start on the second coat supervised by Ruby from the rear deck.

Lymm moorings on a beautiful, sunny Sunday morning

Ruby "supervising" from the rear deck... "Dad, you've missed a bit!"

Paul arrived before too ling and between us we had the second coat completed by 10 o' clock. There was nothing else we could do until the next day when this coat will have cured so we had an ealy lunch and relaxed in the brilliant sunshine. We chatted to other Lymm CC members and all too soon it was time for Paul to head for home. I was grateful for his and Oliver's help without which I would not be as far advanced as I was. Before tea Ruby and I went for a walk around Lymm and strolled along the gorge that was the site of a nail slitting mill in time gone by. The mill was powered by the Slitten Brook that threads its way through the village from Lymm Dam in a gorge before passing beneath the Bridgewater Canal at Barsbank Aqueduct. There are actually two aqueducts here,,, the one carrying the canal over Barsbank Road and adjacent to it another carrying the canal over the Slitten Brook. The latter is not normally seen as it is quite difficult to reach but this did not deter Ruby and I.

Barsbank Aqueduct carrying the Bridgewater Canal over Barsbank Road in Lymm

The second Barsbank Aqueduct (just visible in the bottom of the photograph) carrying the canal over the Slitten Brook and gorge

The next morning was yet another hot sunny morning that saw the third coat completed before ten o'clock. After tidying up we headed for home to collect Ange. We returned mid-afternoon after doing a bit of shopping on the way. I couldn't believe my luck... Tuesday was yet another hot sunny morning. I had "saved" Ange a coat to paint and true to form got stuck in with the roller. My only issue here was that she didn't wear the overalls offered to her. If I was to paint dressed in normal clothes I would be in serious trouble!

Ange applying the fourth and final coat... without overalls!

With the fourth and final coat applied we went into Lymm. I managed to find the time to have a much needed haircut at the barbers in Lymm Village and we then had lunch sitting on the tables outside Sextons. The waitress even brought Ruby a fresh bowl of water to drink from! We sat in the hot sunshine with not a care in the world, watching everyone bustling past us. On our return I busied myself jet-washing the boat's roof, bow and button (stern) fenders with my Kärcher ready to be re-attached when the final coat had cured.

Ange enjoying lunch at Sextons in Lymm

Mission accomplished and waiting to be relaunched

We had planned to go back into the water on Saturday but, to accommodate a fellow member who had some emergency repairs to be made to his boat's rudder our re-launching was brought forward to Thursday teatime. On Thursday morning we had some unexpected visitors in the shape of a family of swans who were preening their feathers on the slipway immediately behind the boat. They soon disappeared when they saw Ruby who wouldn't have hurt them anyway.

Our visitors on the slipway...

...and them leaving in convoy a little later on

Another member had a visit from The Cover Company who were fitting new cratch and cockpit covers to his boat. When this was completed we took advantage of their visit and asked for quotes for a "dodger" around our rear deck hand rail as well as a cratch board and cover for the foredeck. We originally planned to have this undertaken by All Seasons Boat Covers who did such a good job on our previous boat "Total Eclipse" but they were extremely busy with other work. Consequently, as their prices were reasonable we decided to book the Cover Company for the dodger and for the cratch and cover in the future. Thursday was the hottest day yet and we drove to Stockton Heath for some shopping. One of the shops that we visited was the Pets Pantry and whilst there we saw tubs of doggy ice cream. As it was a really hot day we treated Ruby to a tub. We hadn't seen this product before and needless to say Ruby really liked it. It was called Billy and Margot Iced Treats and she really enjoyed it. Shopping completed we return to Lymm ready for the boat to be re-launched. This went without a hitch and we moored the boat on the canal frontage ready for me to do the engine service the following day. Once the engine service was completed I polished the port side of the cabin paintwork and with the last minute jobs completed we set off and cruised towards Preston Brook in the hot sunshine.

Back in the water looking nice and shiny

As we were passing through Lymm Village we saw a day hire boat belonging to Claymoore Navigation Company trying to make the turn by the Icebreaker Tunnel at full throttle. It banged into one of the moored boats then bounced off a couple of others. I stayed well back and they passed us with about a metre to spare, still going a full throttle despite the shouts from other boaters. I was glad that they were behind us and we carried on at a more leisurely speed than they had been going at! It was a beautiful afternoon and we ambled along relishing the sunshine with cold, refreshing drinks and snacks to hand. The canal was populated by ducks with their cotton wool off-springs in tow and swarms of midges murmurating in the hot sunshine at the edge of the waterway.

Leaving Lymm behind on a hot, sunny afternoon

Just after Grappenhall the bilge pump turned itself on for a few seconds and ejected some brown coloured water into the canal. I didn't think anything of it and put it down to some water that had entered the engine compartment when we were launched. A couple of minutes later the engine temperature alarm sounded. We pulled in at Stockton Heath and on inspection a cooling water hose connecting the engine to the skin tank had burst. It was only at the end where it connected to the engine so I trimmed it back to remove the offending section, connected everything back and filled the cooling system with water and fresh anti-freeze. The problem was solved but we decided to stay at Stockton Heath. The day hire boat we had previously seen at Lymm came speeding along the canal. Various boat owners shouted at them to slow down and next minute they were right across the canal going in full reverse then full forward. They bounced off the two boats moored behind us and then the inevitable happened... they bashed into our freshly painted hull! I shouted at them to no avail and took photographs of their collision before they sped off towards Preston Brook. I telephoned Claymoore to tell them about the incident and they informed me that we were the twelfth complaint that they had received. As you can imagine I was not best pleased (to put it mildly) and promised to e-mail them the photographs that I had taken and call into their base on the way past.

One of the Gryphon collision photographs taken just before they made contact with our freshly blacked hull

Not long afterwards my daughter and her family passed us on their Creighton Inlander 32 - Adeline, as they made their way to the annual FBCC Rally hosted this year by Worsley Cruising Club at their Patricroft moorings not far from Barton Swing Aqueduct. When we related the incident to them they told us that there had been trouble at their Walton moorings as well!. With the boat securely moored we went into Stockton Heath for shopping including more of the Billy and Margot Iced Treats that Ruby enjoyed so much.  Not long after we returned from shopping our friends Paul and Wendy Savage arrived. We planned to have a leisurely cruise to Marbury Country Park a mile or so south of the Anderton Boat Lift and, after Shannon being dropped off by Michael the next morning, we eventually set off after lunch. We made a stop at Claymoore Navigation Company's Preston Brook hire base where we spoke to a lady called Norma. After introducing ourselves as "complaint number twelve" she was most apologetic. I showed her the photographs and the marks on our newly painted hull after which she offered to let us use Dutton Dry Dock (which they now control) to touch-up the scratches.

Dutton Dry Dock now operated by Claymoore Navigation Company

This was a nice gesture and we plan to take her up on the offer in the not too distant future. Norma told us that they received twenty complaints and that the hirers of the boat abandoned Gryphon at Midland Chandlers and tried to make a clean getaway. But, thanks to the diligence of one of their members of staff, they managed to apprehend them before they "escaped". They did not want to admit to the trouble they had caused plus the fact that they had severely damaged the hire boat necessitating it to spend a couple of days in the dry-dock to repair the stern tube, rudder and tiller. Needless to say, they didn't have their deposit returned! A little later, whilst in the queue for Preston Brook Tunnel we actually met Gryphon being returned from the dry dock. Preston Brook Tunnel was passed through in a leisurely twelve minutes and we moored between Eaton's Bridge (number 212) and the Dutton Breach Mooring Site. The view may be better from the Breach Mooring Site but nevertheless, this proved to be a nice, quiet mooring (although no television or 4G signal) and we look forward to mooring here again in the future. Ironically, the Breach Mooring Site was full of boats from Lymm CC that had not gone to the FBCC Rally! But that didn't worry us... Ange had brought a couple of latch hook knit and stitch kits to keep everyone busy.

Latch hook knit and stitch and a cuppa on the towpath

Eaton's Bridge (number 212)

After a lie-in and late breakfast the next morning we set off for Marbury Country Park. Ruby did not seem to be herself and was having difficulty urinating but we kept her well hydrated and planned to take her to the vet when we return home. In the meantime we passed the Anderton Boat Lift and called at the sanitary station there. Marbury Country Park was just around the corner and we found a nice mooring close to the footbridge across the canal.

Adreva and Squirrel moored at Marbury Country Park

Once safely moored we went for a walk in the Country Park and planned to have an ice cream from the ice cream van usually parked in the car park. Along the way we played one of Paul's Woodland Games... "tree statues" and took photographs of items of interest including the inside of a rabbit warren that had fresh tracks and droppings in it.

Cornflower at Marbury Country Park

Inside a rabbit warren we came across - no sign of Alice though!

Unfortunately, we arrived at the car park too late and the ice cream van was closed so we made our way back to the boats via a different route. We came across a field with cattle in it. They were friendly and seemed very interested in us especially Ruby who approached them cautiously... not barking or behaving in a threatening manner and even managed to sniff one of them close-up. Paul, however, managed to get a kiss off one of them and Shannon cautiously stroked a couple of them!

Ruby saying "Hello" to the cattle at Marbury Park

Paul receiving a kiss from one of the cows

Shannon being brave... mind those false nails now!

Back at the boats we had tea on the towpath then turned around and set off back towards Anderton. There were no moorings available so we carried on, eventually mooring in the wooded cutting on the other side of Saltersford Tunnel. The next morning dawned damp and miserable... a complete contrast to the weather we had enjoyed over the previous week (well... it was Bank Holiday Monday after all!) We set off early having breakfast on the move, made the 11.00 am passage through Preston Brook Tunnel (just) and were soon back on the Bridgewater Canal. Midland Chandlers was open and there were empty moorings outside so we stopped there for a few items. Whilst we were there I saw the smallest narrowboat I have ever seen. It was an aluminium Sea Otter that the owners told us was twenty one feet in length and deemed it worthy of a photograph.

One of the smallest narrowboats I have ever seen... a twenty one foot Sea Otter

After a quick cup of coffee we then carried on to Lymm. Lisa and co were moored at Stockton Heath returning from the FBCC Rally which, apparently, they all enjoyed. The weather had brightened up quite a lot and all too soon we were back at Lymm. We moored temporarily on the canal frontage whilst we loaded our things into the car and said our goodbyes to Paul and Wendy. I then put the boat back on its mooring and we made our way home having accomplished everything we planned to do whilst the boat was out of the water and had a most enjoyable cruise to Marbury Country Park as well (even if some inconsiderate day-boat hirers tried to ruin it). Just in case you were wondering... the vet diagnosed Ruby as having a urine infection and since taking her tablets and medicine like a good girl has made a full recovery.

Regular readers and fellow anoraks may be interested in a new addition to the Diarama (Canalscape's sister) website. It is entitled Two-Way Radio Protocol and covers many aspects of two-way radio communication including walkie-talkies and CB Radio.

A couple of weeks after the trip to Marbury Park I received a telephone call from Steve at The Cover Company telling me that he wanted to come and measure-up for our rear deck dodger. I hastily arranged a day off work and the Tuesday before the Summer Solstice Ruby and I drove up to Lymm early in the morning of what promised to be a beautiful summer's day. Not long after we arrived at Lymm Steve telephoned me to tell me that he was waiting at Lymm Cruising Club's main gate so we walked down the mooring and let him in. We chatted whilst he fitted the fastenings to the handrail then made the template from which the dodger would be made from. Two hours later the template was completed and Steve left promising that the dodger would be completed before the end of the month... in good time for our summer holiday cruise.

Steve from The Cover Company marking out the dodger template...

...fitting the template to the new fixings...

...and the finished template from which the dodger will be made

Just before lunch I saw a GRP, centre-cockpit cruiser coming past the moorings. It was the Cambrian which was made by Sam Weaver of Waverton in the mid-1960's. This boat went past my parents' mooring at Beeston every week whilst it carried novice canal cruisers to Llangollen. It was one of the first GRP cruisers and had many unique features such as a sink made from the same material as the rest of the boat that was tilted to be emptied and the water ran into a trough and then into the canal.

The Cambrian made by Sam Weaver in the mid-1960's

Sam Weaver went on to make other boats of a similar design one of which was called Waverton and was Cambrian's stable-mate in the hire cruiser fleet. We had seen Cambrian at its mooring above Kings Lock Middlewich but this was the first time we had seen it on the Bridgewater Canal. After lunch I cut the grass on the moorings then chilled out for an hour or so. With the front back and side doors open Ruby found a nice cool place inside the boat wafted by the breeze passing through the boat. Suitably chilled out I tidied up packed everything away and returned home with the air-con turned up in the car after an unplanned but productive visit to Lymm.

Nice, tidy moorings with newly cut grass

The following weekend was a triple whammy... it was the River Mersey Festival in Liverpool, Lymm Transport Festival and Lymm CC's President's Cheese and Wine Cruise to "Spike Bridge" which is located between Walton and Moore. We had had a busy week at home and work and really needed to chill-out so the President's Cruise won! We arrived at the boat early Friday evening. After loading the boat we decided to stay on our moorings for the night and were soon joined by Paul and Wendy with Adreva who moored alongside on Sapphire's vacant mooring (with the Mooring Officer's permission).

After a catch-up we had an early night ready to cruise to "Spike Bridge" the following morning. After breakfast we headed up to the winding hole just past the moorings and made our usual one hundred and eighty degree turn in one go (unlike some boaters I could mention). Lymm Village was crammed with historic narrow and wide boats and at one point there was just enough room for us to squeeze through the moored boats which stretched right around the corner past Brookfield Bridge. I don't know what would have happened if a wide-beam boat wanted to pass through!

A busy Lymm Village due to the Historic Transport Festival

As we were passing the boats I heard my name shouted and as I turned I saw my old school friend Paul Kirkbride that regular readers may remember I bumped into at Steam on the Dock who had come to the festival on the converted ex-Fellows Morton and Clayton narrowboat Alder. We had a quick discussion about engine lubricants... Morris Lubricants in particular, as used on the steam Steam Tug Kerne before bidding him farewell and carrying on. Moored next to Paul was another converted ex-working narrowboat called Beattie and the owner Nick Grundy shouted across the canal... "Are you the Cyril Wood from the Canalscape website?" To which I confirmed that I was and we had a quick conversation during which he told me how much he enjoyed visiting the website which he thought was a credit to me. Fame indeed! Further details about Beattie can be found at the boat's website...

My old school friend Paul Kirkbride on his narrowboat Alder

Passing through Thelwall Cutting

We carried on to Stockton Heath where we stopped for a quick visit to the shops then carried on to Spike Bridge. At Walton the Bridgewater Motor Boat Club's moorings were full of boats on their Summer Cruise and my daughter and grandaughter (whose boat Adeline is currently moored there) gave us a wave as we went past. We passed the other boats from Lymm CC at "Spike Bridge", turned around and double moored on the side of Adreva.

Boats from Lymm CC moored at "Spike Bridge"

Reflections at "Spike Bridge"

"Spike Bridge" isn't really a bridge but a collection of gas pipes that span the canal at this point and the spikes refer to the railings that deter vandals from climbing on the pipes. Once safely moored we brought our folding chairs out and joined the other members assembled in the clearing ready for the cheese and wine to be brought out. In the meantime we chatted and caught up with all the latest gossip.

Lymm CC members chatting at the President's Cheese and Wine Cruise

There was a good atmosphere at the gathering even though there weren't all that many boats attending... quality not quantity! After consuming some cheese and partaking of wine we returned to our boats just as it started to rain. Next morning was one of those drizzly mornings when it is too dry for a coat and too damp for a fleece. We set off for Lymm about eight thirty and joined the procession of boats cruising in the same direction as we were. Ruby had had a busy weekend watching the world go by from the rear deck and socialising with other Lymm CC members' dogs so felt the need to recuperate on her bed in the aft cabin.

Ruby sleeping on her bed on the way back to Lymm after a busy weekend

We made a brief stop at Thorn marine then continued on our way. We waved to Paul Kirkbride just before we squeezed through the moored boats in Lymm Village, put the boat on its moorings and made our way home after a wonderfully relaxing weekend.

The following week I received a telephone call from Steve at The Cover Company telling me that he had finished our dodger and would like to fit it on Tuesday the 4th July at 2.00 pm. On that day I arranged to leave work early, collected Ruby from home and went straight up to Lymm. Steve wasn't far behind us and by 3.00pm the dodger was fitted.

Steve from The Cover Company fitting the dodger

The dodger fitted...

...and from a different angle. The creases should fall out in time

The end result is excellent. There are a few creases in it but they will fall out when we get some warm weather. The dodger was just finished in time as when Steve was packing his tools away it started to drizzle. Once I had seen Steve on his way I did a couple of jobs and we were on our way home as well after a quick but productive visit.

Squirrel and new dodger fitted on its mooring at Lymm

That weekend it was Angie's birthday and we travelled up to Lymm on the Friday evening. I had promised to help Paul with his kitchen refit on Adreva and he arrived at the Clubhouse early Saturday morning. After lunch Paul and I went to the Tool Station to pick-up some gas fittings. By this time we had made a dent in the refit of the kitchen but Paul wanted to get rid of the old cooker and fridge as the space they were taking up was exactly where he wanted to be.

Adreva arriving at Lymm

Adreva's old cooker destined for Lisa and Nathan's boat Adeline

I suggested that my daughter Lisa and her husband Nathan might be able to find a home for them on their boat Adeline which they were refitting. After a quick telephone call they came to collect them and were most grateful that I had thought about them. After they had gone we chatted to Ken Powell who was painting Laplander's hull after having new sacrificial anodes fitted by his son. Ken used to be a professional painter and he told us that one of the secrets to a good finish was to use the "tongue technique". This is when you put your tongue out on the right hand side of your mouth whilst applying the paint or, in this case... bitumen! Ange uses this technique and it appears to work. We were treated to seeing a classic cruiser passing the moorings. The boat was called Plover B and the owner told us that it was built on the Oxford Canal in the late 1950's. A little later we heard the unmistakeable sound of narrowboat Stork's classic Gardner engine starting up and soon if left its moorings making smoke rings in copious quantities.

 Ken Powell painting Laplander's hull using the "tongue technique" to ensure a good finish

The classic cruiser Plover B passing through Lymm

Stork leaving its moorings

We planned to go for a birthday meal with Wendy, Oliver and Paul and after we were suitably washed and changed we all went to The Swan at Bucklow Hill near Tatton Park where we enjoyed a lovely meal in beautiful surroundings with good company. With our stomachs suitably filled we returned to Lymm via Agden where we were treated to a beautiful sunset that was crying out to be photographed.

Our gang waiting for our meals at The Swan Bucklow Hill

Sunset at Agden

Back at Lymm we said our goodbyes to Wendy, Oliver and Paul before retiring to our boat after a busy but great day. The Sunday was Angie's birthday and after a lie-in we had breakfast then headed for home to continue the birthday celebrations we had planned.

Later that week Liverpool was treated to a visit from the Queen Elizabeth cruise liner. When she was due to sail we drove down to Seacombe Ferry on the opposite bank of the Mersey to Liverpool's Pier Head to see her leave. We also watched the firework display that usually accompanies the departure of distinguished guests to the river. Readers may be interested to see one of the photographs that I took of her departure.

 The Queen Elizabeth and the firework display for her departure from Liverpool

The preparations for our 2017 Summer Cruise were continuing. That weekend we were up at Lymm again helping Paul with his galley refit and taking stock of what we had in the cupboards and making a list of what was needed. As well as the more usual requirements, I wanted to fit lights beneath the seating on the aft deck as the newly fitted dodger now makes it a bit on the dark side at night. Consequently, weatherproof LED lights were purchased along with a weatherproof switch to control them. I had mounted the lights on lengths of plastic moulding which I plan to attach beneath the steel seating with heavy duty adhesive. The switch will be screwed onto a convenient location adjacent to the engine control lever but beneath the seating with the electrical cabling being fed through the gear change/throttle cable conduit, through the engine compartment to the electrical cupboard.

LED lighting and switch prior to fitting on the aft deck

Ruby likes to lie on the foredeck floor but we are aware that the steel decking becomes very hot in direct sunlight and we didn't want her to damage her pads on it. There was previously plastic matting on the deck but it was not comfortable either for her to lie on or for us when walking on it. Ange suggested some form of covering similar to artificial grass that had drain holes to allow rain water to drain away might be a solution. I had seen something like it in Aldi a while ago but they had since sold out. On a quick visit to B & Q (dogs allowed in the store) a similar product in the shape of a thin, exterior carpet similar to artificial grass but without the strands was in stock. After inspection, a four foot by six foot six inch length was purchased from them (£20) and it will be taken up to the boat and fitted on our next visit.

Exterior carpet for the fore deck

I had also telephoned the Canal and River Trust to order our temporary licence. Bridgewater Canal licence holders can obtain a discount under the Reciprocal Arrangement between the C&RT and Bridgewater Canal Company provided that you are registered with C&RT. A three month licence was decided upon which, for a forty five foot narrowboat, currently costs £68.68. I will be spending a week on the boat during October so a three month licence would cover me for that period as well. After paying for the licence it was sent to us as a PDF e-mail attachment that only required printing out and cutting. Once printed out I laminated it in the same way that I laminate our Bridgewater Canal licence so that it is not damaged by condensation. We didn't go up to Lymm the weekend before our holiday cruise was due to commence as Ange had holiday shopping that she wanted to do. I was off work from the Wednesday prior to the holiday cruise so I packed the clothes I was taking, did some shopping, took Ruby for her holiday coat trim, etc. I would be making a couple of trips up to Lymm with food, clothes, etc. and doing a few last minute jobs as well.

On a totally unrelated subject, my daughter Lisa has been experimenting painting canal roses on various items. She started off experimenting on small items such as plates, egg cups and containers. Judging by the results I think that she has definitely got a talent for this kind of thing and she hopes to become proficient enough to sell items on eBay and might even take commissions in the future.

Some examples of my daughter Lisa's canal roses painting

(Photograph - Lisa Hitchcock)

She has also been experimenting painting canal castles as well. Her first attempt was of the castles in narrowboat Tamar's boatman's cabin adorning the lid of her paint box. The painting was done from memory as she has not seen Tamar for over thirty years since our dear departed friend Alec Levac sold the boat in the 1990's. The similarity is uncanny and if this is her first attempt I wonder what kind of canal artist she will turn into? Watch this space!

The original image of the canal castles painted in Tamar's boatman's cabin...

...and Lisa's interpretation of the same scene, painted by memory on the lid of a storage box

(Photograph - Lisa Hitchcock)

As planned, on the Thursday before our 2017 Summer Cruise Ruby and I drove up to Lymm with a car full of stuff for our hols. When we left Wallasey it was sunny and dry but as we neared Lymm on the M56 it started to cloud over. On our arrival at the boat club John Moult's boat was being relaunched after having some work done. The tractor was playing up... the power steering was not operating and it took two people to turn the steering wheel. I looked after the hooking up of the trailer whilst John and Alan off nb Ches wrestled with the steering. Half way through the operation the heavens opened and we all were soaked by the rain.

Rain on the cut... the size of the the raindrops cannot be gauged in this photograph

With John's boat safely back in the water I returned to the car and waited for the rain to stop. After nearly an hour it eased off sufficiently for Ruby and I to load up the trolley and go down to our mooring. I put some of the stuff I had brought away and fitted a replacement TV in the back cabin as the original one was faulty. By the time I had finished the sun had come out so I dried off the front deck and fitted the covering as previously mentioned. When it was completed Ruby gave it the "paws up".

The new fore deck covering fitted

Ruby trying out the foredeck covering... she gave it the "paws up"

No sooner had I finished but it started to rain again. This time it was really heavy and accompanied by a couple of thunder claps. I put my tools away, tidied up the boat and when the rain eased off again we locked the boat and made a dash for the car. A quick visit was made to Midland Chandlers on the way home to purchase a couple of replacement LED lights then made our way home. I hadn't completed all the jobs I planned to do but at least some of them were done and I might find time whilst we were away.


To be continued in... Canalmanac 2017 Part 3


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Chapter 4 - Summer Cruise 2017

We had been looking forward to our 2017 Summer Holiday Cruise for quite a few months. It had been a busy year and the promise of relaxing on the boat and cruising to Ellesmere Port, revisiting some of our old haunts that we had not been to for a few years was exciting. A couple of years ago we had cruised down the Northern Shroppie as far as Brockholes Aqueduct just past Beeston Castle but, this year we hoped to be able to stop at some of the places we did not have time to visit including spending some time in Chester before heading across the bottom of the Wirral Peninsula to the National Waterways Museum Ellesmere Port aka The Boat Museum where we planned to moor in the Lower Basin. Short of cruising down the Ship Canal and out into the River Mersey this is the second closest we can get the boat to our home in Wallasey ten miles away. Last year, on our Summer Holiday Cruise to Liverpool when we were passing Jesse Harley's Octagonal Clock Tower after exiting Stanley Dock we were less than two miles from home in a straight line which is the closest we can get to home. The last time we moored at the Boat Museum was in 2011 before we headed out onto the Manchester Ship Canal. However, on our 2017 cruise after Ellesmere Port we would be retracing our steps the way we came without the excitement of the Ship Canal and the subsequent voyage up the River Weaver.

The Saturday that our holidays started dawned bright and sunny. After loading the car we headed to Lymm and on arrival I brought the boat to the Clubhouse from its moorings, transferred the things from the car and waited for our friends Paul and Wendy to arrive in their boat. Paul had a problem with his engine and called out River Canal Rescue who diagnosed a faulty started battery. Whilst we waited I filled the water tank and we packed away the rest of the clothes and the food we had brought with us. After a replacement battery was fitted Paul and Wendy arrived at Lymm and we were soon  on our way. We moored at Thelwall Underbridge for the night and caught up on each others' news over tea and a glass of wine before having an early night ready to head to Stockton Heath for fresh food shopping the following morning.

A sunlit Thelwall Cutting from our first overnight mooring

We were greeted with sunlight streaming through a chink in the curtains and after breakfast we headed for Stockton Heath. Even though it was Sunday we managed to buy all the food required, returned to the boat and were under way again. We made a brief stop at Walton to speak to my daughter Lisa and her family before heading for Preston Brook Tunnel in hot, brilliant sunshine. There were no boats before us waiting to pass through the tunnel and we made good time through. After Dutton Stop Lock it wasn't far to where we planned to moor for the night which was just as well as our stomachs were telling us that it was tea time.

Ange steering Squirrel into Dutton Stop Lock

Another fine day followed and we cruised through one of my favourite stretches of the Trent and Mersey Canal towards Middlewich. Near to Bramble Cuttings we passed C&RT volunteers cleaning and painting the mileposts. A job well done!

C&RT Volunteer repainting a milepost

Once at Middlewich we moored adjacent to the playground and paid the local Tesco a visit for some fresh provisions. Whilst Ruby and I waited outside a couple of young lads were tipping water over one of their friends who had picked up a cap that had chewing gum inside. It managed to adhere to the unsuspecting lad's hair... "Middlewich in a nutshell" according to one of them! On our return to the boat we had Paul's speciality for tea... "Chicken a la Paul": roast chicken in a rich herb sauce accompanied by roast potatoes and vegetables. Very tasty it was too. Now we're waiting for him to cook it again! After tea we were treated to a beautiful sunset that I photographed whilst taking Ruby for her evening walk.

Local lads removing chewing gum from a friend's hair

Angela next to Angela

Sunset at Middlewich

Ange always says that our holiday cruise doesn't really start until we have passed through Middlewich and I agree with her. Accordingly, we made an early start the next morning to negotiate the locks before the queues built up. Once through the locks we cruised along the beautiful, if shallow, Middlewich Branch in brilliant sunshine until we reached Minshull Farm. here we stopped to visit the farm shop for lunch followed by an ice cream. On the horizon we could see storm clouds with rain falling from them looming and our visit was cut short by the rain from which we sheltered in a barn much to the consternation of the cattle in there who were most curious about Ruby who had accompanied us.

Brief encounter at Middlewich Locks

Rain clouds looming over Minshull Farm

Curious cattle in the barn we sheltered in

Once the rain stopped we were under way again and the rest of the day was punctuated by showers but nothing too heavy and the sun came out again soon. The familiar shape of nb Alder steered by my old school friend Paul Kirkbride came into view. I don't see Paul for over fifty years than I see him three times in the space of a couple of months! Before long we were at Barbridge Junction. As expected the Jolly Tar pub had been demolished and all that remains is the sign and waste ground. No doubt houses will sprout from the ground before too long!

Jolly Tar no more!

We then made our way to the sanitary station at Calveley where we emptied the loos, deposited our rubbish in the skip and topped up the water tanks then cruised around the corner to moor up for the night at the moorings a little way down the straight stretch after the bridge. After tea we sat out on the towpath chatting and drinking Kopparberg then walked back to the bridge and I photographed the beautiful sunset. We returned to the boats and sat out some more before going to bed after a most enjoyable and beautiful day.

A beautiful sunset at Calveley

We woke up next morning to wet grass and grey clouds and they stayed with us for most of the morning. Just around the corner were Bunbury Staircase Locks. Alongside the locks are the old stables that once were home to the horses that pulled the working narrowboats along the canal. In later years they were used by the Bunbury Boat Company in which they built some of their iconic hire boats such as the Walton hulled Marco Polo, Vasco de Gama, Amerigo Vespucci, etc. Today the stables are still used as a boat building workshop but on a smaller scale as can be seen by the photograph that I took inside them.

The outside of Bunbury Stables...

...and the interior

But back to business... there was a boat about to come up the locks and we relished the chance to perform the "Bunbury Shuffle" much to the delight of Paul. The C&RT Volunteer was most impressed with our expertise at performing this operation and the memory that I shared when my father used the top chamber as an impromptu dry dock to remove rope wrapped around the hire boat Kathleen's propeller in 1960. The inexperienced boaters coming up the locks were bemused by our actions but as the shuffle was being performed they had a "light bulb moment" and appreciated the unusual manoeuvre.

Performing the "Bunbury Shuffle"

With Bunbury behind us we made our way along the beautiful River Gowy Valley, through Tilston Lock, Beeston Stone Lock to Beeston Iron Lock. This location holds a special place in my heart as it is where my parents moored their boat Phial and I spent a lot of time during my childhood. It is also the place where my parents' ashes were scattered so it is not surprising that a shed a tear as I remembered them and the happy times I spent there. C&RT advise boats to pass through the Iron Lock one at a time due to the bowing of the cast iron chamber.

The mooring at Beeston where my parents' boat Phial was once moored

Squirrel and Adreva sharing Beeston Iron Lock

But, as both Paul and I are experienced boaters and know exactly where the pinch-points are we negotiated the lock together. Even though, we were vigilant with the paddles and kept an eye on the space between the two boats just in case the bowing of the chamber had increased. Once through the lock we moored for lunch and afterwards, no visit to Beeston would be complete without visiting Chas Harden's Canal Shop. Needless to say I purchased an addition to my canal book library and after a quick chat with Chas we were under way again.

Wharton Lock... the first lock I saw as a child in 1960

We continued along the Gowy Valley which was part of my playground when I was growing up, passed the winding hole where I first steered a narrowboat to and on to Wharton Lock. Wharton Lock was the first canal lock that I ever saw and we negotiated it in brilliant sunshine before mooring up opposite the Shady Oak pub where we planned to have our evening meal. Once moored, as the sun was shining the polish came out and I polished one side of the boat... a job that I had wanted to do but hadn't had the opportunity until then. When that was done and we had some time before tea we walked down to the mill pond that is fed by the River Gowy. As I (unsurprisingly) had the Leica with me I took a few photographs of the pond and the waterwheel beneath the old mill that has been converted to generate electricity. This took us nicely to tea time and we made our way to the pub for our evening meal.

The millpond close to the Shady Oak at Beeston

The waterwheel driven by the River Gowy

The Shady Oak is one of the best known pubs on the Shroppie and we had been looking forward to our meal. I don't know if it has changed hands since our last visit but when we went inside the person behind the bar didn't acknowledge our presence. Eventually, he came up to us and instead of speaking he gave an upward, questioning nod which was his way of saying "Good evening... what would you like to eat and drink?" I had been looking forward to one of the beautiful steaks I had previously eaten there but there was only a limited menu on offer... no starters or deserts and only burgers, lasagne and other choices that were easily microwaved... at least that was the impression that we got whether it be right or wrong. Also, during the week food was only being served between 6.00pm and 8.00pm. I went for the burger and I have to admit that even though the customer service was lacking and choice of food was limited I did enjoy it. When we complained about the limited choice on the menu we were told that they only do basic food during the week. Not very good for a pub with such a previously excellent and widespread good reputation. And this was at the height of the holiday season in July!

Ange and I with Paul and Wendy Savage in the Shady Oak after our meal

On our return to the boats we threw the tennis ball for Ruby as Paul and Wendy's cat Rosa did her best to ambush her. We got talking to the people on the boat moored behind us. They had a young son with them called Alex who liked cats but was afraid of dogs. After watching Ruby for a while he asked if he could throw the ball for her, which he did. Ruby brought the ball back to him and "threw" it at his feet. The game went on for a while and he eventually plucked up the courage to stroke Ruby which really surprised Alex's parents as he had never done this before. A testament indeed to our lovely little dog... she must have sensed that the boy was afraid of her and treated him with what we think is the canine equivalent of empathy. Ruby... your work here is done! Later that evening we were treated to seeing the International Space Station passing overhead in the clear skies.

Leaving Beeston Castle behind as we cross the Cheshire Plain

The following morning we left Beeston and the River Gowy Valley behind to head across the Cheshire Plain towards Chester. It was a bit of a grey day but that didn't detract from the enjoyment of cruising. At Christleton we passed the old Dean's Pleasure Boat base where my parents hired boats from in the early 1960's. The building, wharf and slipway are still there but the site is earmarked for redevelopment into residential housing. Our next stop was just after the Trooper Inn for water and lunch before we started to descend into Chester.

The location of Dean's Pleasure Boats at Christleton

Alongside Christleton Lock there are new houses that have just been completed sandwiched between the canal, railway and A41 trunk road in the shadow of the M53 motorway. It would be a great location to live if it wasn't for the close proximity to the railway line that passes beneath the canal and the M53 motorway a couple of hundred metres away.

New houses adjacent to Christleton Lock

We continued our descent into Chester accompanied by alternating sunshine and drizzle and soon we were mooring at the city's visitor moorings. As space was at a premium we double moored. After we were safely moored we visited the shops for supplies. Ruby enjoys "people watching" and on our return stood guard on the aft deck watching people (and dogs) going past with an occasional vocal comment.

Double moored at Chester

Ruby people watching

The next day dawned bright, dry and sunny which gave me the opportunity to carry on with my polishing whilst Paul continued with fitting new doors and drawer fronts to the new kitchen that he has fitted on Adreva. That afternoon we were due to have lunch in the Canaletto Restaurant at The Mill Hotel on the opposite side of the canal with Wendy's Parents who live not far away in Chester. I sat next to Wendy's Father and during conversation he happened to mention that he was once in the RAF and was stationed at West Kirby Air Base on the Wirral. My Mother's family ran a taxi firm in West Kirby called Cross' Taxis and they had a taxi rank on Frankby Road, adjacent to the air base. Wendy's Father said that he remembered the taxi rank and regularly took a taxi from there to the station when going home. I think that it is co-incidental that he will have been driven by my Uncle Len or Uncle Frank!

With Wendy's parents in The Mill

The meal was absolutely gorgeous and the customer service superb... a far cry from that experienced at The Shady Oak. We were so impressed that we booked  to have Christmas dinner there. They also operate a restaurant boat that cruises from Hoole Road Lock to Northgate Locks. The boat is unusual inasmuch that it is double-ended with a propeller and rudder at each end alleviating the need to turn around. We have since booked a lunch time cruise on the restaurant boat as well.

The Mill and their wide beam restaurant boat

After such a satisfying meal we didn't need much to eat for the rest of the day and so chilled out, waited for Paul and Wendy's niece Libby, who was joining us for the rest of the holiday, to arrive and prepared for the next leg of our trip... Northgate Staircase and across the bottom of the Wirral peninsular. We set off after breakfast next morning and after cruising along the section of the canal that utilises the original city walls moat arrived at Northgate Staircase Locks. For those not acquainted with the locks this was originally a five step staircase like Bingley Five Rise but when the Wirral Line of the canal was constructed the locks were altered to a three step staircase. Even so it is an impressive structure and I would have like to have seen it in its original form.

The impressively deep and steep Northgate Staircase Locks

There were no boats waiting to enter from the bottom so Wendy and I emptied the bottom and middle chambers whilst filling the top one. Once ready both boats entered the lock and we emptied the chamber. It seemed to take a long time to empty and on inspection I discovered that the upper paddle was leaking, preventing the water to make a level. After half an hour we recruited passers by to help open one of the gates and Paul climbed out with a rope to act as a pulley to provide additional leverage. Our persistence prevailed and the gate finally opened.

Descending in the lower chamber of Northgate Staircase Locks

It had taken such a long time to empty the upper chamber into the middle one that the lower chamber had filled again and required emptying before we proceeded. After an hour we were finally out of the lock and went around the corner adjacent to the dry dock to top up the water tanks and empty the toilets at the sanitary station. Next to the dry dock are the old stables that were once Marlin Craft Boat Builders where my parent's boat Phial was built. Next door is Taylor's Boatyard... the home of varnished mahogany. This is where the beautiful Taylor Canal Cruisers were built. I was surprised to see a few boats under the canopy awaiting attention. Juliana was the first boat seen. Even though it possesses a Taylor clinker-built hull the superstructure was fitted at Deans of Christleton. I remember seeing it during construction in the spring of 1966 when my parents were looking for a boat. Next was an unidentified aft cockpit cruiser and then what looked like Teal. They were all looking a little the worse for wear and I hope that someone finds the funds to pay for their restoration as there are not many of these beautiful boats left in existence.

The Taylor hulled Juliana's superstructure was fitted at Dean's of Christleton

Avon awaiting restoration

Leaving Chester behind we headed across the bottom the the Wirral to Ellesmere Port in brilliant sunshine. Before long we were plunged into the beautiful rural countryside and passed beneath George Stevenson's eleven arched Mollington Viaduct with its unusual skewed arch crossing the canal.

Passing beneath the eleven arch Mollington Viaduct

Cruising along the Wirral Line near Backford

We passed close to Chester Zoo and the outskirts of Ellesmere Port were soon in sight. After passing beneath the M53 motorway and its approach roads the moorings for the Cheshire Oaks retail park could be seen and even though we had planned to stop there we carried on until a narrowboat pulled out right in front of us. At The Boat Museum we were to have visitors in the shape of Ange's mother, sister, nieces and grandaughter Shannon. Shannon was to spend the rest of the holiday with us and after booking in and paying for our moorings in the Lower Basin we descended the narrow locks to the basin complex. After negotiating through the basins we found our moorings adjacent to the next to the Holiday Inn Hotel.

Our moorings in the Lower Basin at the Boat Museum, Ellesmere Port

Paul and I took the children around the Boat Museum and they all seemed to enjoy the experience... especially "The Way We Were" exhibits in the cottages, the dressing up in old clothes and the Interactive Ice Breaking Game. After this excursion we returned to our boats for a buffet that the ladies had put on for us.

Playing children's games in the old cottages

Dressing up in old clothes

Playing the Interactive Ice Breaking Game

Paul entertaining everyone with the story of Snowy the Canal Horse

Paul entertained our visitors by reading the story of Snowy the Canal Horse (available from Amazon Books). This is a children's story by Berlie Doherty about a canal horse whose stables were previously Marlin Craft Boat Builders next to the aforementioned Taylor's Boatyard in Chester. Our visitors' departure was delayed due to Angie's sister's car being locked in the Boat Museum car park (which closed at 5.30pm) but was eventually retrieved and we were then left to witness the guests arriving at the hotel for a wedding function although I thought that it was actually a ladies' silly shoes competition!

The front and rear cover of the Snowy book

(Illustration - Keith Bowen)

Illustration of Snowy's stable... formerly Marlin Craft Boat Builders...

(Illustration - Keith Bowen)

...the real Snowy outside his stable in the late 1970's...

(Photograph - P J G Ransom)

...and yours truly outside the same building in March 1966...

(Photograph - James M Wood)

Part of the basin complex at the Boat Museum...

...and the same location from the opposite direction

We left the Boat Museum early the next morning and shared the broad locks leading up out of the basin complex. It was a bright, sunny morning and we retraced our steps along the bottom of the Wirral peninsular. This is a mostly pretty, if not weedy stretch of canal that deserves to be used more than it is. At Backford an Airbus Beluga wide-bodied cargo plane flew over us at low level as it descended to the Airbus factory at Broughton on the other side of Chester. It would have been landing to collect more wings for the smaller Airbus models. The giant A380's wings are also manufactured here but are transported by barge down the River Dee to Mostyn Docks where they are loaded onto a ship to be taken to Toulouse in France where final assembly takes place. Broughton has a long history of aircraft production including the World War Two Mosquito bomber and the groundbreaking Comet 4 passenger jet.

Sharing the broad locks whilst leaving the Boat Museum

The pretty but weedy Wirral Line at Stoak Picton

The giant Beluga flying over us at Backford

It was not long before we were filling our water tanks and emptying the toilets at the Chester Sanitary Station before ascending the Northgate Three-step Staircase Locks. We were fortunate enough to have a C&RT volunteer help us through the staircase lock this time. We told him of our problems the previous day and he told us that one of the paddles was leaking... hence our problem. There was a boat coming down so we did the Northgate Shuffle much to the consternation of the down-coming narrowboat. Like at Bunbury, they hadn't shuffled in broad staircase locks before but once the manoeuvre was in progress they lightened up to the situation. No doubt the presence of the C&RT volunteer helped matters.

The depth of Northgate Staircase Locks can be appreciated in this photograph

Performing the Northgate Shuffle

Once through the locks we passed along the moat section of the canal and moored adjacent to King Charles' Tower and Gardens. This was a more pleasant mooring than the ones around the corner as there was grass for Ruby to play on and no road to worry about. She still did her people watching though as well as playing with Paul and Wendy's cat Rosa.

Passing beneath Northgate Street and the Bridge of Sighs on the original Chester City Walls moat section

Our mooring in the shadow of King Charles' Tower

Even though it was Sunday afternoon we could still visit the local Tesco for shopping. It was a pity that there weren't more shops open and if the amount of people walking around the city was anything to go by it would most certainly have been worth their while opening. We considered carrying on for a bit after completing our shopping but decided to stay the night where we were as there were not many visitor moorings until Christleton and we did not envisage reaching there until after dark. After tea we had a visit from Ange's son Michael. We fed him and he had a nap before going home suitably refreshed.

The Shot Tower Development promises to be very nice when completed

The next morning was cloudy with blue patches in the sky and after breakfast we set off. We passed through the Shot Tower development which promises to be very nice when completed and on through the outskirts of Chester. I saw a fishing tackle shop that was open and pulled in to but some maggots, decent floats and hooks to go with the children's fishing rods I had bought for Shannon and Libby to have a go at fishing with later on when we were out in the countryside.

Chester Water Tower between Hoole Lane and Chemistry Locks

Picturesque Tarvin Lock with its circular lock lobby

In the meantime it started to drizzle as we negotiated the locks but they were only showers as there was still blue sky showing with the occasional bursts of sunshine. After Christleton Lock we had reached the lock-free pound that stretches all the way to Wharton Lock near Beeston. We planned to moor at Brockholes Aqueduct for the night which brought some peace after spending the last few nights moored in either Chester or Ellesmere Port. It would give the children a chance to try our their fishing rods and learn new skills in using them.

Shannon and Libby fishing

Also, it gave Rosa and Ruby the chance to play chase me and me the opportunity to photograph the unusual aqueduct where the River Gowy passes beneath the canal with a footpath on top of it... a double aqueduct really. I remember years ago my children playing on a swing over a pool formed by a dam in the river but the pool has now gone and the location overgrown along with the moorings on the opposite bank to where we were moored.

The unusual Brockholes Double Aqueduct

Rosa and Ruby playing chase me on the towpath

The fishing rods were a revelation. Shannon and Libby soon learnt how to cast and even thread a maggot onto the hook! They managed to catch quite a few fish between them and by tea time they were both quite skilful. Money well spent then!

Beeston Castle at sunset

There was a beautiful sunset that evening but, due to the proximity of trees we were not able to see it properly. However, we did see Beeston Castle bathed in the warm, evening sunlight through a gap in the trees. The following morning we reluctantly left Brockholes behind and were soon negotiating Wharton Lock followed by Beeston Iron and Stone Locks. We doubled up again in Beeston iron Lock with no problems. By the time we reached Tilston Lock it started to rain so we stopped above the lock for lunch and waited for the rain to stop. After an hour we were on our way again. Bunbury Staircase Lock was not far and we performed the Bunbury Shuffle much to the amazement of the novice boaters descending the locks whilst we were ascending.

Bunbury Shuffle take two

Our next port of call after Bunbury was the sanitary station at Calveley where we emptied the toilets, filled the water tanks and had showers. After this stop we carried on past Barbridge towards Nantwich. As we approached Acton just past Hurleston there were storm clouds looming on the horizon.

Cloudy skies approaching Acton Village near Nantwich

The most rubbish on a narrowboat we have ever seen

Shortly afterwards we passed a narrowboat that had the most rubbish on its roof and aft deck that we had ever seen. I don't know how the owner see to steer it but they would have needed a periscope to see where they were going. The weather caught up with us as we were mooring just before Nantwich Basin so no fishing I'm afraid! We needed to replenish our fresh food stocks so we walked into Nantwich the following morning. With most of our shopping done we visited The Vine Inn located in Hospital Street. This is a dog friendly pub that serves food and as we had Ruby with us and visited it previously we decided to have our lunch here.

A well behaved Ruby in The Vine Inn at Nantwich

Mill Street - one of the picturesque streets in Nantwich

I can honestly say that they serve one of the best steak and kidney pies that I have ever tasted and, even with my "cultivated appetite" struggled to finish the generous portion! With stomachs pleasantly full we completed our shopping and made our way back to the boats through the picturesque streets in what is one of our favourite towns, winded in the basin entrance (or at least one of us did) and headed back towards Barbridge. In the meantime, as we passed Hurleston Junction I had to fight the tiller to stop the urge to head up the Llangollen Canal as none of us wanted to go back home... another couple of weeks should suffice!

I had to fight the tiller to not go up the Llangollen Canal at Hurleston Junction

Before long we reached Barbridge Junction and turned right towards Middlewich. Paul was still having problems with flat batteries so he called out River Canal Rescue again who arranged to meet us below the lock at Cholmondeston. Above the lock he noticed an apple tree that had the biggest apples I have ever seen. Needless to say Paul went apple gorging and picked some to put in an apple pie that Wendy promised to bake. The C&RT Volunteer Lock Keeper was on duty and he helped us all through this extremely deep lock in double-quick time.

Information sign at Cholmondeston Lock

The ultra-deep Cholmondeston Lock

Paul apple gorging...

...and the resulting monster apples

In the meantime, we descended the lock and had tea after which Shannon and Libby got the fishing rods out whilst we waited for the boys from Canal River Rescue to arrive. They appeared before too long and after putting a voltmeter on the charging circuits a faulty ampere meter was diagnosed. The meter was bypassed and when the engine was started it was charging correctly.

Libby and Shannon fishing at Cholmondeston

The engineer from River Canal Rescue diagnosing Paul's electrical problem

By this time it was too late to carry on to the Sykes Hollow visitor moorings a kilometre along the canal so we stayed opposite the marina for the night, mush to the delight of the girls who were enjoying their fishing and catching quite a few fish to boot. Ange had received a telephone call from Michael who had been to Crewe and wanted to visit us... no doubt his stomach was feeling in need of sustenance! Shannon didn't know that her dad was coming and got quite a surprise when he crept up on her whilst she was concentrating on her float! Our visitor stayed for a couple of hours before leaving us and it wasn't long before we were getting ready for bed but in the meantime we were treated to yet another beautiful sunset but could not photograph it as with the previous sunset due to the proximity of trees... maybe I should invest in a drone!

Venetian Marina at Sunset

I had promised Paul breakfast in Venetian Marine's excellent café and it didn't disappoint either. In fact, I couldn't manage it all... most unusual for me! With breakfast out of the way we returned to the boats and we set off for Sykes Hollow visitor moorings where we had planned to occupy the kids with tie and dye.

Adreva and Squirrel moored at Sykes' Hollow

Libby and Shannon tie dyeing their t-shirts

The resulting tie dyed t-shirts drying

Ruby basking in the sunshine at Sykes' Hollow

It was a beautiful, hot, summer's day and this was just the right thing to occupy Libby and Shannon with. We noticed a lot of fresh mole hills. Thinking about them took me back to Beeston when I was a bot and Mr Merral calling the mole catcher. He caught about twenty moles and he hung the bodies on the barbed wire fence. With the tie dyeing completed we had lunch then set off for Middlewich. At Church Minshull Lock we experienced our first queue for locks. There were about five boats before us and a couple of boats pulled in behind us. As we got closer to the lock Wendy and I helped to lock boats through.

In the queue for Church Minshull Lock

There was a hire boat before us in the queue and the lads on it seemed quite happy to let everyone else do the work whilst they sat there drinking. I went up to them and asked in a loud voice so everyone else in the queue could hear if they were going to leave all the work to us pensioners or were they going to do a bit? Needless to say a crew member was nominated to come and help! Once they were out of earshot I was thanked by other boaters in the queue for suggesting that they helped.

Ange steering Squirrel on the Middlewich Branch near Church Minshull

Libby and Shannon at Stanthorne Lock

It was a beautiful afternoon and we enjoyed cruising down one of our favourite stretches of canal. Shame it wasn't in the opposite direction though! When we eventually reached Middlewich there was a queue for the locks so we decided to moor above them for the night and make an early start to beat the queue in the morning. A chippy tea was decided upon so Paul and I walked to the fish and chip shop opposite King's Lock whilst the kids fished. They didn't catch as many as previously but at least it kept them occupied. The fish and chips from the King's Lock Chippy is definitely recommended. For desert we were treated to Wendy's apple pie made from the apples at Cholmondeston Lock... yummy!

Wendy's beautiful apple pie made from gorged apples

Bridge arch illuminated by the setting sun at Middlewich

Next morning we set off through the locks without queuing. Once through the narrow locks we moored adjacent to the playground whilst Wendy and Ange accompanied by Shannon and Libby went to visit the local Tesco for fresh food, etc. Whilst they were at the shops I did a couple of odd jobs and Paul hung some more of his new kitchen cupboard doors. When the girls returned from shopping we set off and passed through Big Lock. We were now on what we class as our home waters so we were feeling a little deflated that our holiday was coming to an end. After an uneventful cruise from Middlewich we moored at the Dutton Breach visitor moorings for the night.

A panoramic photograph of the view from our mooring at the Dutton Breach site

The next day dawned damp and drizzly. It was the day that we decided to wear our tie dye t-shirts and some of us even managed to wear them all day. Guess who didn't!

Tie Dye T-Shirt Day

After breakfast we made our way to Dutton Stop Lock then, as we had missed the passage time for Preston Brook Tunnel had a cuppa whilst we waited. Paul and I mused about the Tunnel Toll Keeper's Cottage that we noticed was up for sale. Once through the tunnel we stopped at Midland Chandlers then carried on to Walton Park where we had a walk around the small menagerie that is located within the park. After our excursion to Walton Park we washed and changed before going to the Walton Arms for our end of holiday meal, and very enjoyable it was too. During the meal we discussed our holiday. Each of us in turn told of our favourite bits and we discussed where we planned to go next year. After the meal we returned to our boats, set off again and past through Stockton Heath to Grappenhall where we moored for the night and started to do some packing before going to bed.

Our last overnight holiday cruise mooring at Grappenhall

The last day of our holiday dawned bright if not a little damp. After breakfast we said farewell to our friends who were staying at Grappenhall for a while longer whereas we set off back to our moorings at Lymm. We moored in the arm in front of Lymm CC's Clubhouse and loaded our clothes, etc. into the car, had a quick lunch then I put the boat back on its mooring. When I walked back to the car Paul and Wendy had arrived and we said a second farewell before setting off for home and back to reality.

Loading the car at Lymm at the end of our 2017 Summer Holiday Cruise


Timetable for our 2017 Summer Cruise

Saturday 29th July 2017 - Lymm to Thelwall Underbridge

Sunday 30th July 2017


Thelwall Underbridge to Dutton Breach Moorings

Monday 31st July 2017


Dutton Breach Moorings to Middlewich

Tuesday 1st August 2017


Middlewich to Calveley

Wednesday 2nd August 2017


Calveley to Shady Oak, Beeston

Thursday 3rd August 2017


Shady Oak, Beeston to Chester Visitor Moorings

Friday 4th August 2017


Chester all day

Saturday 5th August 2017 - Chester Visitor Moorings to Boat Museum, Ellesmere Port
Sunday 6th August 2017 - Boat Museum, Ellesmere Port to King Charles' Tower Moorings, Chester
Monday 7th August 2017 - King Charles' Tower Moorings, Chester to Brockholes Aqueduct
Tuesday 8th August 2017 - Brockholes Aqueduct to Nantwich Basin
Wednesday 9th August 2017 - Nantwich Basin to Cholmondeston
Thursday 10th August 2017 - Cholmondeston to Middlewich
Friday 11th August 2017 - Middlewich to Dutton Breach Moorings
Saturday 12th August 2017 - Dutton Breach Moorings to Grappenhall
Sunday 13th August 2017 - Grappenhall to Lymm


Epilogue to Summer Cruise 2017

We thoroughly enjoyed our 2017 Summer Holiday Cruise. The first week was child-free and we have to say that it was more relaxing as keeping an adolescent girl occupied when there is sometimes no mobile telephone or Internet access network coverage  can be challenging (Shannon doesn't have the password to our Mifi and is not on the Three Network as we are so does not have the luxury of coverage in rural areas). I think that buying cheap, collapsible fishing rods was a good move and definitely money well spent.

Our best bits... mine was cruising along the Middlewich Branch of the Shroppie and down the River Gowy Valley revisiting the haunts from my childhood, Nantwich (including the beautiful steak and ale pie in The Vine Inn) and the meal at The Mill Hotel in Chester. Ange's was chilling out as we cruised along the Middlewich Branch in the sunshine with an ice cream from Minshull Farm, "mooing" at the cows in the fields and the meal at The Mill Hotel in Chester. Paul's was doing the Bunbury Shuffle (twice), the Northgate Shuffle and the meal at The Mill Hotel. Wendy's was shoe shopping with Ange in Chester (where she was born) and the meal at The Mill Hotel with her parents. Shannon's was The Boat Museum and learning how to fish. And finally, Libby's was identical to Shannon's... The Boat Museum, learning how to fish and tie dyeing. All in all there was something for everyone.

Squirrel performed admirably, economically and reliably once more. What have we done to deserve a beautiful boat such as this? It was good to visit some of my old childhood haunts and I had an emotional moment at Beeston where my parents' ashes were scattered on the canal above the Iron Lock. Chester and the trip across the bottom of the Wirral was beautiful if not a little weedy on the way to Ellesmere Port and this stretch of waterway deserves to be used more than it is currently. The Boat Museum never ceases to impress and it richly deserves its reputation as one of the premier museums in the country.

Last year we were the closest we can get the boat to home without braving the River Mersey... approximately 2.5 kilometres (1.5 miles) in a straight line from Jesse Hartley's Octagonal Clock Tower when we exited from Stanley Dock, across the River Mersey and half a kilometre inland. This year we were the second closest we can get to home without going down the Manchester Ship Canal and into the River Mersey... 20 kilometres (12.5 miles) in a straight line from Ellesmere Port to Wallasey.

Back to reality at Lymm

We have already made plans for our 2018 Summer Cruise but this time we have all booked holidays outside the school holidays, and that means... no children. I have already mentioned that the first week was child-free but we now need another holiday to recuperate from the second week when we had Shannon and Libby accompanying us! Caldon Canal anyone?


Click to return to Contents


Chapter 5 - Canalmanac 2017 Part 3

During the week after we returned from our Summer Cruise we decided that we would contact  All Seasons Boat Covers to arrange for a cratch and cover to be fitted to the foredeck. We were more than happy with the job they did on our previous boat... Total Eclipse and had wanted them to fit our dodger but, as they were busy with contracts for a boat builder, they couldn't accommodate us. Now, as they were not as busy, they agreed to come and measure the boat for the cratch and also for a removable cover for the side doors.

The cratch and cover All Seasons Boat Covers fitted to our previous boat... Total Eclipse

Two years ago we put in a request to Lymm CC's Mooring Officer for a move to the Agden moorings a couple of kilometres up the Bridgewater Canal towards Manchester. The weekend after we returned from our holiday cruise we were informed by the Mooring Officer that there was now a space at Agden for us. Accordingly, on Saturday morning we drove up to Lymm and I got the boat ready whilst Ange went to the shops for milk and something for lunch. When she returned we set off and had lunch... Sexton's finest... on the way. As we were leaving our old mooring the new occupant... nb Ches was coming past the mooring and after a brief chat we were on our way to our new mooring.

Leaving our Lymm mooring for the last time

It wasn't a brilliant day weather-wise; with a brisk wind and showers threatening to leak from the clouds, but it wasn't long before we arrived at Agden, turned around and tied-up at our new mooring. The mooring is a couple of boats away from Paul and Wendy's boat Adreva and Paul, who was working on his new kitchen, came to greet us and took the centre rope off me. We had a quick catch-up and Ange had brought him some lunch. After he had eaten and finished his cup of tea he ran me to Lymm for our car. We took the opportunity to load the remainder of the clothes from our Summer Cruise that we didn't have space to take home the previous weekend. With the boat put to bed and the car loaded up we said our goodbyes and headed for home.

Squirrel on its new mooring at Agden

For the August Bank Holiday weekend we had planned to take the boat out for a long weekend cruise but due to being invited to and asked to photograph Angie's Great Nephew's Christening our plans were cancelled. It was a real family affair with relatives coming from as far away as the Isle of Wight and Burnley so family responsibilities come first. Still... we can't have everything can we? Anyone who knows me will know how much I like taking formal photographs (not) but I should be flattered that my photographic skills are held in such high regard to be asked to capture such a special day. And, just in case you were wondering... they loved the photographs!

Stanley Dock and the Titanic Hotel on the right

(Photograph - Titanic Hotel)

The following weekend saw the start of the X Factor on ITV and I was surprised to see that the Liverpool auditions were taking place in the Titanic Hotel on the north side of Stanley Dock which we passed last year on our 2016 Summer Cruise. Stanley Dock and the Liverpool Link featured in many shots during the Liverpool auditions section of the programme.

Later the same week I received a telephone call from Garry at All Seasons Boat Covers who wanted to measure up for our new cratch and fore deck cover. After finishing work at 12 15 I collected Ruby from home and drove up to Agden where Garry had arranged to meet me. He made all the measurements and then chatted about how we wanted the canopy. Gary then left and we made our way home. Hopefully, it won't be too long before the cratch is made and ready to be fitted.

That weekend it was the Lymm CC cruise to George Gleave's Bridge near Daresbury. We arrived at Agden after tea on Friday evening ready for an early start Saturday morning. During the night it rained solidly and the weather wasn't looking too promising for the weekend although by morning the rain had stopped. After breakfast we set off and stopped at the Lymm CC Clubhouse to pick-up some timber for the bonfire that evening. With the timber stowed on the foredeck we cruised a few hundred metres to Lymm Village where Ange jumped off to visit Sexton's Bakery for our lunch. Once back on board we set off again just as it started to rain. Time to put the waterproofs on. It was one of those days when the rain was punctuated by sunny spells some of which lasted a few hours.

Lymm Bridge in the rain... Sooty's garden always looks nice though!

An hour after the previous photograph saw us cruising through Walton Cutting in brilliant sunshine

We had a stop just after Spike Bridge for lunch. It had stopped raining by this time and when we had washed down the Sexton's pies and pastries with coffee we were under way again. The rain stayed away for the rest of the cruise and before long we were unloading the bonfire timber next to George Gleave's Bridge and mooring a little way along the canal. Here the canal skirts Daresbury Forest Conservation Area and Paul was asked to lead a nature walk through the forest a little later on in the afternoon. At the allotted time we all congregated at the bridge ready for the walk. The first activity was called "Colours of the Forest". We had to collect naturally occurring items of a particular colour and stick them onto specially prepared sheets of paper.

Some of the naturally occurring colours within the forest

Paul leading the nature walk in Daresbury Forest Nature Reserve

Next we were to "Hug a Tree". For this activity we were blindfolded, turned around so we didn't know which direction we were being lead in and then lead to a tree which we felt, smelled and remembered before being returned to the start point. With the blindfolds removed we then had to find the tree we had previously been to, identifying by any of its features that we remembered.

Paul instructing the group in the "Hug a Tree" activity

Ange blindfolded... note the glasses!

Ruby enjoyed herself as well!

The last activity was "Silent Statues" where we had to find a spot in the forest out of sight of each other and stand for two minutes taking in the sights, sounds and smells of the forest. At the end of two minutes we returned to the group and related our findings. All these activities were accompanied by a running commentary from Paul telling us about when he was involved in the creation of this beautiful conservation area and was most informative. On the way back to the boats it started to rain again. Whilst in the forest we were protected from the precipitation by the trees but once out in the open we were at the mercy of the elements. Fortunately, the rain stopped as we emerged from the shelter of the trees and we made our way back to the boats for a well deserved coffee and a rest before dinner. That evening we were treated to a beautiful sunset... quite a surprise considering the weather we had experienced during the day.

Boats from Lymm CC moored at George Gleave's Bridge...

...and in the opposite direction as viewed from the side doors

A close-up of George Gleave's Bridge bathed in the warm, sunset sunlight

Sunday morning dawned dry and bright and we made an early start retracing our steps to Agden as Ange had family commitments to fulfil in the afternoon. There is a magical quality to cruising early in the morning. The herons are on duty surveying the surface of the canal for their breakfast. The rabbits in the adjacent fields scurrying around on a similar mission and even the occasional kingfisher swooping from branch to branch. At Grappenhall there was a navigational hazard in the shape of two Bridgewater Canal Company work boats breasted up whilst attending to bank-side repairs.

Bank-side repairs at Grappenhall

We made good time, having breakfast on the move and the rain was nowhere in evidence. Before long we were mooring in the arm off the canal in front of Lymm CC's Clubhouse. I emptied the toilet, had a quick chat to Bobby ("Me... I don't give a f**k!") Douglas and reversed the boat out of the arm heading for Agden. By the time we arrived at Agden, Ange had everything packed up and fetched a trolley whilst I changed the ropes to the mooring ropes, turned everything off ready to leave. Once the stuff was loaded into the trolley I locked up the boat and it was not long before we were heading down the motorway for home after a good, chill-out weekend.

Our next outing on the boat was the Lymm CC Invitation Cruise. We had invited my boss and her husband; Barbara and Garry Sculthorpe as well as two of our neighbours; Elaine and Malcolm Munroe. We arranged to meet them at the Lymm CC Clubhouse at lunchtime on Saturday the 23rd September. We arrived at our Agden mooring on the Friday evening when we had a catch-up with our friends Wendy and Paul Savage who were accompanied by their son Oliver and cat... Rosa much to the delight of Ruby who enjoys playing with Rosa. The following morning dawned dry and sunny and after breakfast, we made sure that the boat was clean and tidy as well as filling the stern gland greaser and checking over the engine, etc. Paul and Wendy's guest... a colleague of Paul's named Maqhawe Nkala (first name pronounced Magawee) joined them at Agden and once he was safely on board Adreva we all cast off and made our way to Lymm to greet our other guests. We found the last two moorings in front of the Clubhouse and not long after we were safely moored our guests arrived virtually together. After introductions and showing them around our boat we showed them into the Clubhouse for soup and a roll before returning to the boats for the cruise. Paul left first and we reversed out of the Arm then set off towards Dunham Massey. It was a beautiful afternoon with Ange entertaining the ladies on the foredeck whilst the gentlemen joined me on the aft deck.

Mally Munroe and Garry Sculthorpe on the aft deck of Squirrel

Barb Sculthorpe and Elaine Munroe on the foredeck of Squirrel

Maqhawe Nkala

I pointed out various features of the canal as we cruised in the warm, afternoon sunshine through the beautiful countryside that the canal passed through and I couldn't resist doing Squirrel's party piece... navigating a complete circuit around the winding hole in one go! At Dunham Massey we moored then brought out the table and chairs for our guests whilst they enjoyed the food, wine and brandy (for Garry). Ruby and Rosa delighted everyone with their playing but when the food arrived on the table Ruby "slapped-off" Rosa just in case any tasty morsels were dropped!

Moored at Dunham Massey for refreshments and drinks on the towpath

Group shot of our friends and guests at Dunham Massey

After an hour or so we set off again, passing through the beautiful Dunham Village to a conveniently wide section of the canal which allowed us to turn around in and retrace our steps back to Lymm. As Paul and Wendy's guest joined them at Agden they stopped at their mooring whilst we carried on to Lymm where our guests' cars were parked. Along the way Ange and I swapped places until we reached Lymm and reversed into the last available space to let our guests alight. They all said how much they had enjoyed the cruise and our company, and after they thanked us for inviting them we bade them farewell before making our way back to Agden.

Leaving Lymm at Sunset after saying farewell to our guests

It was a beautiful afternoon and it was made especially enjoyable by having our friends and colleagues joining us and sharing, albeit briefly, the pleasures of canal cruising. Once back at Agden, Paul had dropped their son off at home and visited the chippy on the way back to the moorings. We all had tea on board Squirrel washed down with the wine left over from our guests and afterwards digested, not only the food we had just eaten but the lovely afternoon we had enjoyed with our guests made even more enjoyable by the fact that it didn't rain and the sun shone throughout the day. Ruby had behaved well and was exhausted, taking herself off to her bunk at 9.00. We had a lie-in the next morning and after spending time and a cuppa with Paul and Wendy who were joined by Paul's uncle... Alan, packed up our things and made our way home after a most successful and enjoyable weekend.

The next morning I received a text from Garry at All Seasons Boat Covers whilst at work. He told me in the text that our cratch board was ready and that he would like to try it the following day before contouring and varnishing it. Accordingly, I hastily arranged the day off work and let Garry know that I would be there to let him onto the moorings. Thankfully it was a dry morning and I drove up to Agden with Ruby early in order to remove the headlight and the fittings from the old fore-deck tonneau cover. I plan to fill the holes with countersunk self-tapping screws and paint over them to remove the evidence another time and taped over the holes that were left to prevent water ingress.

Garry from All Seasons Boat Covers making an initial fitting of the cratch

After marking the cratch with the roof and foredeck's contour he was returning with the completed, unit on Thursday to fit it and make a template for it and the side doors cover. I will not be available to let him onto the moorings but I arranged for Alan Savage to be there to let him through the security gates. With any luck the canopy will be completed and fitted in time for my week on the boat with Ruby in a fortnight's time when Ange has a well deserved holiday in the sun at Tenerife with her friend Karen. I plan to use the time completing some of the jobs on my "to do" list as well as cruising up the Trent and Mersey Canal towards Middlewich... can't wait! In preparation, after Garry left I fitted the waterproof switch that will control the aft deck lighting and turned the boat around for when he returns on Thursday.

The waterproof switch for the aft deck lighting in position beneath the aft deck seating

The same day, one of my photographs was used as a weather photograph on the Granada Reports Weather Forecast and I have included it and the original photograph below. It is not a recent photograph but it reflects the time of the year and is fitting for the Autumn Equinox. I shared the photograph on Facebook and received many complimentary comments about the photograph including a couple observing that they had never seen a blonde lady hovering above the canal at that location!

A screenshot of the Granada Weather Forecast featuring one of my photographs...

...and the original photograph of Grantham's Bridge at Oughtrington

The week before my solo week on the boat was spent getting together items that I might need whilst away. As well as food, clothes (boring) and other necessities I packed my small electric sander, purchased an identical switch to the one used for the aft deck lighting circuit plus I ordered some unusual wood-effect trunking from our local electrical suppliers (Moreton Alarm Supplies) to conceal the electrical wiring on the cratch beam and on which I plan to mount the LED lighting modules without any exposed cables such as the headlamp feed on display. There was a delay on the trunking order and I didn't think that it would arrive in time but I received a phone call from the suppliers telling me that it had unexpectedly arrived and was waiting for me to collect, which I did. In addition  to this I packed a few other odds and ends that might come in useful whilst completing my proposed jobs. I also made sure that the camera batteries were fully charged just in case I see anything worthy of photographing... which I am sure that I will! As well as preparing for the holiday the week also saw an OFFSTED inspection at work, I had a Health and Safety report to write plus my usual administration tasks so I was one hundred percent ready for a week off. On the Saturday afternoon, with Ange on her way to Tenerife with her friend Karen, the car was packed and Ruby and I were off on our way as well.

We did not arrive at our mooring until teatime on the Saturday afternoon and as it was pouring with rain I packed our food, clothes and other stuff brought with us  away and had tea. The Sunday morning was a bit better... it was damp but at least it wasn't raining. After breakfast I connected an un-isolated electrical feed to the aft deck lighting switch then fitted the plastic strips that the LED units were attached to the underside of the aft deck seating with epoxy resin, did a bit of polishing which brought me nicely up to tea time. Monday dawned bright and dry so I planned to replace the discoloured aft deck board lifters. When I removed them I was horrified to discover that the steel screws were corroded and the wood beneath the lifters was starting to rot. As the replacement lifters were slightly larger than the originals, I dug out the affected wood and treated the area including the screw holes with paint before fitting the new lifters. With this job completed and as I had the drill out I fitted the brass plaques for the location of the electrical and fuel cut-offs and stern gland greaser. It is when doing jobs such as this that one realises that the twist drill bits in the tool box are not as sharp as they once were. On more than one occasion I had to drill a small pilot hole and open it up with the larger (blunt) drill. Note to self: invest in some new twist drills, preferably of the Presto brand and not the compendium of different sizes found in DIY stores. After tidying up and putting the tools away I replaced a faulty kitchen cupboard latch then relaxed for the rest of the afternoon reading and listening to "Return to Omadawn" by Mike Oldfield.

New LED lighting illuminating the aft deck

Tuesday was another bright day and I spent the morning dropping the ceiling trunking in the lounge in order to access the lighting electrical circuit to make electrical connections for the foredeck lighting I plan to install when the cratch is completed. in the afternoon I gave the port side paintwork a clean and two coats of Autoglym wax. I previously used Mer but this does not appear to have very good U/V light filtering properties which leads to fading paintwork. Hopefully, Autoglym will fare better. Wednesday morning started well allowing me to make a start on cleaning and polishing the starboard paintwork. But as the day wore on the weather deteriorated and I abandoned that job, spending the afternoon chatting to Alan Savage. In contrast, Thursday was a much better day. After breakfast I completed the polishing job that I abandoned the previous day then headed down the canal to Lymm to empty the toilet and top-up the water tank. Then I cruised in the warm, autumn sunshine to Thorn Marine at Stockton Heath where I bought a few items... a pair of replacement centre fairleads and blue toilet fluid. I had a chat with Nigel Hamilton before returning back to our moorings in time for tea. The good light allowed me to take a few photographs along the way, a couple of which are shown below including the sunset that evening. How does the rhyme go... "Red sky at night, shepherd's delight". I hope that it referred to cratch/cover fitters as well... but I am not holding my breath!

Grappenhall in Autumn

Agden Bridge as seen from our mooring

Agden skyline Sunset

All Seasons Boat Covers were coming to fit the cratch and cover on Friday morning. Sod's Law dictates that when anything like this is being arranged that it will rain on the day in question, regardless of what the sunset was like the previous day. This day was to be no different. Early on when I was walking Ruby it was very pleasant but as 10 o'clock approached showers abounded.  I took the boat up to the water point where it would be easier for the cover fitters to complete the jobs. But the weather did not deter Ray and John... the intrepid cratch and cover fitters, even if it was Friday the 13th! First job was to fit the side doors cover and whilst they did that I dried off the leading edge of the cabin roof and forward gunwale ready for the cratch to be fitted.

Ray fitting the side doors cover...

...and the finished article

Whilst fitting the press-studs for the side doors cover Gary dropped the pop-rivet gun into the canal. Fortunately they had a spare one. With this job completed the cratch frame was then fitted. Once the boys were happy with it they placed the cover over it and attached the press-studs and fine-tuned everything until it was to theirs and my satisfaction.

Ray fitting the cratch frame in-between showers

John spreading the cover over the cratch frame

John and Ray fitting the press-studs that hold the cover in place

The finished article

The final job was to refit the dodger, which I hasten to add was not made by them but by The Cover Company. We had not been happy with the dodger as it had creases in it and in certain areas it had lifted due to the lack of press-stud fasteners to keep it in place. Some of the press-studs were relocated and a few new ones added to remove the creases and it now looks better than it did when it was new. Well done boys!

The re-fitted dodger

With the jobs completed the boys packed their tools away and I bade them farewell after a job (or three) well done. After they had left I asked Alan Savage if I could borrow his Sea Searcher magnet. He dug it out and I went fishing and guess what? I now have a pop-rivet gun! Just what I need to refit the aft deck tonneau cover fixings ready for the winter. The water point was a bit muddy and when I returned to our mooring the cleaning cloths came out again. Saturday was to be my last full day and the weather was the best of the week so far... dry, warm and sunny. After breakfast I started to rub down the varnish on the two port side lounge window frames. When I was satisfied with the finish they both got two coats of varnish with a light sanding in-between coats. Alan Savage had invited Ruby and I for tea and after Alan had finished his jobs we followed him home. After a very nice roast dinner we headed back to the boat. In the past I have always got lost when leaving Alan's house but this time I didn't... this was a first!

Re-varnished port-side lounge window frame

Squirrel on its mooring at Agden looking resplendent with the new cratch fitted

Our week on the boat had now come to an end and it was time to clean inside of the boat, not that it was dirty but I like to leave it as I would like to find it. I still have a couple of jobs to do, like fitting the cratch lighting, refitting the headlamp, relocating the horn and associated wiring but they will have to wait until the headlamp/horn bracket has been modified by my colleagues in the Engineering Department at work and painted. As I had some time to spare I sorted out the bunk in the aft cabin that contains tools, spares, etc. and took some of the unwanted items home. Ruby and I have had a productive week on the boat and we really can't complain about the weather, although it promises to be warm and sunny for a few days following our return home... sod's law strikes again. Mind you, it wasn't as hot as where Ange was... 34°! She was ill whilst she was away in Tenerife and was glad to be home. I was also glad she was back home as I (and Ruby) had missed her.

Regarding the previously mentioned headlamp and horn bracket, I had taken it home along with the headlamp and horn but on inspection the horn looked as though it was coming to the end of its life. A while ago I bought an "oooghaa" klaxon type horn to fit to Total Eclipse but had never got around to fitting it. Now seemed the ideal time to dig it out and replace the original horn with it so the headlamp/horn bracket could be modified and painted before fitting to the cratch where there is a cut-out especially to accommodate the bracket.

Klaxon horn to replace the ageing original horn

Later that week it was our wedding anniversary and to celebrate it we went for a meal on The Mill - Chester's Restaurant Boat that we had seen on our Summer Holiday Cruise to Ellesmere Port. In fact, we had set a lock for the boat when we were on our way into Chester. Paul and Wendy had booked the meal months earlier and, as we had enjoyed the meal we had previously eaten in the Canaletto Restaurant at The Mill, we were really looking forward to it.

The Mill and their wide beam restaurant boat as seen on our Summer Holiday Cruise

When we arrived at The Mill we were given menus and asked what we would like to drink. We made our choices and were shown to our table on board the boat with our drinks following shortly afterwards. After a safety briefing by Jim the steerer of the boat we were served our starters and the boat was cast-off and we made our way towards Northgate Staircase Locks in the rain. It is an unusual experience for a boater to be eating whilst the canal banks slide past. You get the feeling that you should be at the tiller and not sitting inside whilst someone else does all the work.

Inside the restaurant boat

Wendy, Paul, me and Ange at our table

Close to Northgate Street the boat stopped and retraced its steps back to The Mill. As the boat is double-ended and has a propeller at each end it does not need to turn around. Once back at The Mill we were served our main course and soon under way again towards Hoole Lane Lock. This lock was set in our favour and once it had been negotiated we were soon making our way to the next lock Chemistry Lock.

Approaching Hoole Lane Lock

We had finished our main course by this time and when the boat had risen in Chemistry Lock we were asked if we would like to stretch our legs. It was not raining so Paul and I went onto the lock side and chatted to Jim the steerer of the boat before returning to our seats for desert. When the boat was lowered in the lock, it changed direction again and returned to The Mill.

The Restaurant Boat in Chemistry Lock

Along the way coffee followed the desert and all too soon we were mooring outside The Mill again. We can thoroughly recommend this unusual dining experience. The food was superb, the surroundings, brilliant and the boat was well managed. All in all it was a very enjoyable experience and the wet weather did not dampen the proceedings. We had already asked about Christmas dinner at the hotel when we were there during out Summer Cruise but, such is the interest, we were placed on the reserve list. Apparently, they start taking bookings for Christmas in January so we may be disappointed but, there is always next year!

Our last cruise of the year was a long weekend cruise to Manchester. We arrived at our Agden mooring on the Wednesday evening and a little later our friends Paul and Wendy arrived as well. The next morning, after a catch-up we set off towards Manchester in dry but overcast weather. We didn't notice many changes along the way. The development at the old Linotype Works was still on-going but some of the houses on the site had been completed. We wondered what was going to happen to the side of the works which was shrouded in scaffolding. A quick stop was made a Stretford Marine to empty the toilets, top-up the water tanks and have a quick look in their shop.

A quick stop at Stretford Marine

One thing that I did notice at Stretford Marine was that they were selling Elsan Blue toilet fluid for £3 per litre decanted into your own container. At Waters Meeting we turned right and headed on towards Castlefield. We soon passed the Bridgewater Canal Water Taxi or "Waxi" as it is more commonly known. It was the first time we had seen it under way and I have to say that I am glad the service does not extend past our mooring as the boat was making quite a wash. One wonders as to why a boat of this size requires such a large eighty horsepower outboard motor!

"Waxi" on the Bridgewater Canal near Castlefield

The Victoria Warehouse, just past Manchester United's football ground, once had a giant mural painted on one end of it. It was painted by artist Walter Kershaw in 1978 and depicted scenes of the Manchester Docks and Trafford Park and believed to be the largest example of "industrial art" in Europe. Sadly, the mural was dismantled a few years ago but, as we passed, I noticed scaffolding had been erected at the end of the building where the mural was. I asked one of the workmen if the mural was returning to which he replied yes. I look forward to seeing the updated work in the not too distant future.

The original Trafford Park Mural that was dismantled a few years ago

Before long we were cruising through Trafford Park and made a right turn onto Castle Quay where we found moorings adjacent to the Grocer's Warehouse. It was a fine evening and as the sun set I could not resist taking a few nocturnal photographs, my favourite of which is shown below.

Castlefield at dusk

We planned to visit Bury Market the next day and I was up early to take Ruby for her morning walk. It was quite misty so I couldn't resist taking my camera with me to capture some moody photographs of the canal bathed in the early morning mist. The photograph below shows the Rochdale Canal with Beetham Tower shrouded in mist with only the lower floors visible. As I walked around towards Castle Quay I took a few other photographs, my favourites of which are shown below.

Rochdale Canal from Castlefield Junction Bridge

Merchants Warehouse in the mist

After breakfast we made our way to the bus stops at Piccadilly Plaza to catch the bus to Bury. Ruby came with us and, needless to say, was very well behaved on the bus and equally so whilst we walked around the market. She was especially interested in the pet stalls though and spent her pocket money by choosing dog treats from the conveniently low baskets. Whilst walking around the market we saw Romanesco Broccoli on a vegetable stall. We had not seen these striking looking vegetables before so Wendy bought  one and we later had it with our dinner. They are a cross between a cauliflower and broccoli, very tasty and well worth trying.

Ruby spending her pocket money at Bury Market

Unusually featured Romanesco Broccoli... well worth trying

We had lunch at one of the cafés around the market and before we left there were a couple of things that we had to go back to the stalls to purchase. We had all purchased something and it was definitely a productive trip. Ruby had been on the go all day, missing her lunchtime nap so, on the way back to Manchester, she fell asleep on the bus on Ange's knee.

Ruby asleep on the bus returning to Castlefield

Once back at the boats we decided to leave our moorings and make our way to the Trafford Centre. The canal was quiet and it was a nice experience cruising at dusk. It was nearly dark by the time we reached the Trafford Centre and we had difficulty finding the mooring rings in the dark which were obscured by fallen leaves.

Cruising through Trafford Park at dusk

The next day dawned wet and miserable so we decided to spend most of it at the Trafford Centre. I am always impressed by the artwork painted on the ceilings of the shopping centre and saw one painting that I hadn't seen before. As it had canal connections I couldn't resist taking a photograph of it and I have included it below. We all had a most productive visit to the Trafford Centre with all of us achieving something and on our return to the boats, as it was still raining, we decided to stay there again overnight.

Manchester Ship Canal painting in the Trafford Centre

The weather was much better the following day so after breakfast we set off again towards Worsley. There were quite a few leaves floating on the surface of the canal which necessitated stopping periodically and putting the propeller in reverse to "clear the baffles".

A beautiful morning on the Trafford Park Straight

We stopped at Worsley to empty the toilets and, as it was a nice day, I gave Wendy and Paul an impromptu tour of the historic canal features of the area as documented in the Worsley Heritage Walk section of the Canalscape Website. I gave this tour a few years ago to members of Lymm Cruising Club but Wendy and Paul missed it... hence the re-run. We were disappointed to see that no work had been started on the proposed clean-up of the historic mines basin but we live in hopes that work will commence in the not to distant future. I never tire of photographing the Packet House at Worsley and make no excuses for including a photograph taken whilst we were at the sanitary station.

The Packet House at Worsley

The silted-up Worsley Mines Basin

On our return to the boats Ange prepared lunch and afterwards we started off again. We planned to cruise as far as Boothstown but went on a bit further to see the new bridge across the canal, plus there was nowhere to turn around until after it.

The original bridge above Boothstown being demolished...

...and the new bridge completed

After we had turned around we retraced our steps to Boothstown where we moored just before the Moorings public house. We had moored here a few times previously and know that it was a five hour cruise back to our moorings when we set off the next morning. That evening we were treated to a beautiful sunset which was a fitting end to the last full day of our Autumn Cruise.

Beautiful sunset on the last full day of Autumn Cruise

We were surprised to see a carpet of frost on the ground when we awoke the following morning. We made an early start and cruised through the mist on what promised to be another beautiful, if not frosty at first day. Needless to say we were wrapped-up well with thick coat and gloves.

Misty frosty morning at Boothstown

Paul cruising in the mist

The trip back to our moorings was uneventful and it gave me the chance to reflect on our few days away which will most probably be the last cruise of the 2017 boating season. We had a fabulous time... good company, good food (Wendy had kept us all going with her wonderful cakes... especially the Almond Slices and the Coffee and Walnut cake) and what's more we enjoyed every minute of it. We think that Ruby enjoyed her trip to Bury Market and playing with Wendy and Paul's cat Rosa. Let's hope that 2018 has more of the same!

A couple of weeks later I had another of my photographs shown by Granada Reports as a backdrop to their Weather Forecast. It was of Leasowe Common on the Wirral and I have included it below along with a monochrome version that I personally prefer.

A screenshot of my Leasowe Common weather photograph...

...but I prefer the monochrome version

Later that week I had a second weather photograph shown on the Granada Reports Weather Forecast. This time it was of the sunrise over the River Mersey taken from Woodside Ferry in Birkenhead.

A screenshot of my sunrise at Woodside Ferry weather photograph...

...and the original photograph with far more subtle colour saturation

A couple of days later I had yet another photograph transmitted on the Granada Reports Weather Forecast. This one was of the sunset at Leasowe Shore not far from Leasowe Lighthouse near to Moreton on the Wirral.

A screenshot of my Sunset at Leasowe Shore weather photograph...

...and the original photograph without the colour cast caused by being transmitted on television

The first weekend in December we had planned to go to Manchester to see two of the locks on the Rochdale Canal drained. This would not have been the first time I had seen the Rochdale Canal drained... I photographed it in 1986. When my first book... "The Duke's Cut" was being published, Tempus Publishing wanted to use one of the photographs that I took of the drained Rochdale Canal for the front cover. That is, until I pointed out to them that they couldn't use it as it was not of the Bridgewater Canal as it wouldn't have been appropriate. The publishers then reverted to the original photographs that I had chosen which were ultimately used on the front cover.

The Rochdale Canal drained in 1986...

...and then filled a few months later from the same viewpoint

Unfortunately, it co-incided with furniture being delivered at home so we were not able to attend. The draining of the canal was featured on the BBC TV News and a surprise  announcement was that a musical concert took place in one of the lock chambers.

The following Friday I took a day off work to go up to Agden with Ange and Ruby to fit the aft deck tonneau cover, check the antifreeze levels and empty the last remaining water out of the tank. This would most probably be the last time we visited the boat this year so we made sure that the boat was winterized and ready for the snow, frost, etc that was bound to come. In fact, when we left home it was snowing but fortunately it didn't stick. On arrival at Agden we noticed that Agden Lane... the road that runs alongside the moorings leading down to the Barn Owl pub was flooded but this did not prevent tractors and Range Rovers from "getting their feet wet". After completing our jobs on the boat we had a quick cup of coffee with Alan Savage then left for home. On the way we made a quick detour to Phyllis and Barry Greenough's house in Oughtrington to deliver Christmas cards and collect the individual Christmas cake that Phyllis always bakes for Ange (I dislike Christmas cake hence the individual size).

A flooded Agden Lane

Squirrel winterized and with the aft deck tonneau cover in place

I had previously written that when we were at The Mill at Chester we had enquired about going there for Christmas dinner. As they were fully booked they put our names down on their cancellation list. The week before Christmas we received a telephone call from The Mill informing us that there had been a cancellation and that there were three places available. Needless to say we told them that we would love to come to The Mill for our Christmas dinner and our names were added to the booking list.

We had been invited to Lymm CC member Elsie Hughes' ninetieth birthday. Elsie is a long standing member and her now sadly departed husband John was a past President. Both of them had greatly contributed to Lymm CC and cruised extensively on their Nauticus cruiser... Miss Ellie. When we arrived at Elsie's party it was like a meeting of Lymm CC with virtually everyone present being members. We spent a few pleasant hours in good company reminiscing and talking about times gone by. It was a great party that was enjoyed by everyone who attended and especially by the birthday girl... Elsie.

Birthday girl Elsie Hughes

A few photographs of Elsie's ninetieth birthday party

We first met John and Elsie in 1988 at the IWA National Rally that was held on the Bridgewater Canal at Manchester. They very kindly took myself and my children around Manchester Docks on board Miss Ellie as our boat was hemmed in by other boats attending the rally. Below is a photograph of my youngest son Glyn steering Miss Ellie around the docks wearing John's captain's hat,

My youngest son Glyn steering Miss Ellie around Manchester Docks in 1988

There is one more canal-related addition to 2017 Canalmanac and that is to do with our Christmas tree. I have previously mentioned that my daughter Lisa has become very proficient in painting canal roses and castles and a little bit of lateral thinking is canal themed Christmas tree baubles that she decorated with canal roses. Is there no end to her talents?

Lisa's canal-themed Christmas tree baubles

In addition to the many lovely Christmas presents that I received were two canal related presents. The first was from my daughter Lisa in the shape of a wonderful half-size Buckby Can that she had painted. The canal art on it is to a really high standard and the photograph does not do justice to it. In the near future she has booked a stall at the 2018 Federation of Bridgewater Cruising Clubs Annual Boat Rally, is going to take commissions and can be contacted via e-mail at Lisa at

The beautifully painted Buckby can

My second canal related present was a cast iron tractor seat from my step-son Michael. When we bought Squirrel there was provision for elevated seating on on the aft deck and even though the fixings were present the seats weren't. The tractor seat will be mounted on these fixings to give a better view ahead when steering. And before anyone asks... no, the cranked tiller is not making a comeback!

Cast iron tractor seat

After opening our presents we made our way down the M53 to The Mill at Chester for our previously mentioned Christmas dinner. As expected the food was second to none even though Michael said that the roasties were not up to my standard! It was a nice change not to have the stress and hassle of cooking the dinner and the resulting washing-up. After we had finished eating our dinner we were asked if we would like to have our coffee and mince pies on board the restaurant boat... no brainer. The boat only went to just past King Charles' Tower but it was a lovely end to out meal. One of Chas Harden's boats... Thorin, was moored where we were moored in the summer. A nice way to spend the Christmas break.

Ange, me and Michael at The Mill in Chester

A festively decorated restaurant boat at Chester

View through the window of Chas Harden's Thorin moored where we were moored in the summer

So there we have it... 2017 has been and gone! It has been a great year. We have had some really enjoyable cruises such as our Easter Cruise to Barbridge, our Summer Cruise to Ellesmere Port and our Autumn Cruise to Manchester to name but a few. We have made a few major additions to the boat such as the dodger and cratch and changed our moorings from Lymm Village to Agden. Let's hope that 2018 brings more of the same. Merry Christmas everybody and a Happy New Year from Ange, Ruby and myself.


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Canalography 2017

Our canal cruising experiences and milestones during 2017

8th-17th April 2017 - Easter Cruise to Barbridge Junction along Bridgewater, Trent and Mersey and Shropshire Union Canals
4th July 2017 - Dodger fitted to aft deck handrail by The Cover Company
29th July-13th August 2017 - Summer Cruise to Ellesmere Port along the Bridgewater, Trent & Mersey & Shropshire Union Canals
20th August 2017 - Moved moorings from Lymm to Agden
7th-15th October 2017 - Autumn Job Week (solo accompanied by Ruby) along the Bridgewater Canal
13th October 2017 - Cratch & side doors cover fitted & dodger re-fitted by All Seasons Boat Covers
21st October 2017 - Meal on The Mill - Chester's Restaurant Boat
27th October 2017   Autumn Cruise to Manchester
8th December 2017 - "Put the boat to bed" for the winter

Lymm CC Cruises Attended During 2017

15th April 2017 - Cruise to the Salt Museum
29th April-1st May 2017 - Cruise to between Saltersford & Barnton Tunnels
24th June 2017 - President's Cheese & Wine at Spike Bridge
9th-10th September 2017 - Cruise to George Gleave's Bridge
23rd September 2017 - Invitation Cruise to Dunham Massey


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The story most probably continues in

Book 14

Canal Cruising 2018

Finances, time and health allowing!


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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 11 - 2015
   Book 12 - 2016
 Book 14 - 2018
So You Want To Go Canal Cruising?
nb Squirrel
Canals on Screen
Canalscape Photography
Photography in One
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

Footnote and Acknowledgements
Site Map
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Updated 21/05/2018