Canal Cruising 2021
An e-Book and website by Cyril J Wood
The title photograph shows nb Squirrel moored at Billinge Green Flash on the Trent and Mersey Canal
Click here for the latest entries or on the required section below to follow links
|Chapter 5 - Canalmanac 2021 Part 3|
Chapter 1 - Canalmanac 2021 Part 1
2021 started off with the country being plunged into Lockdown 3·0 along as well as being deluged with torrential rain courtesy of Hurricane Christoph. Agden... where our boat's mooring is located featured on the Granada TV News and other networks due to flooding of nearby property and the surrounding area. The boat was unaffected due to the canal being on an embankment and well above the surrounding area. I was working from home due to the college I work for being closed except for vulnerable students. Lymm Cruising Club is still hibernating during lockdown and the Committee have decided to carry-over our 2020 positions and proposed cruising programme to 2021. We live in hopes that the COVID-19 pandemic subsides soon and some sort of normality can resume.
Flooded Agden Lane adjacent to our boat's mooring
(Photograph - Sky News)
I was pleasantly surprised when one of my photographs was used in the Waterways World Readers' Favourite Views Gallery. The photograph was of our canal cruising friends from across the pond... Bonnie and Mike Goldberg, steering their narrowboat Californian beneath Bridge 212 on the Trent and Mersey canal at Dutton and a screenshot is included below along with the original photograph. The photograph also featured in the April 2021 edition of Waterways World but they made a mistake in the caption. They said that it was Bridge 22 on the T&M when it is actually Bridge 212... naughty Waterways World!
A screenshot of the Waterways World Favourite Views website showing my Bridge 212 photograph...
... a scan of the My Favourite View from the April 2021 edition of Waterways World...
...and the original photograph
I seem to be receiving enquiries about the history of canals throughout the world... what was the first canal, where was the first lock, etc. so with staying at home I decided to write a short piece for the website about it. It is still in development and I have not even decided on a title as yet (all suggestions gratefully received - email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any). Watch this space for developments on this subject.
Last year I had been asked to put on another film/slide show for Lymm CC including my History of Lymm CC presentation. During the lockdown 3·0 I had the opportunity to up-date some of my audio/visual presentations. Canalscape was given a complete make-over including new titles, adding a prologue complete with a commentary and an extra piece of music in the middle to accommodate extra photographs that were added. The last track... Orinoco Flow by Enya was previously taken off the Watermark CD but the new version has the extended twelve inch vinyl version... retro or what!
Soundtrack and photograph preparation for Lymm Odeon - Take Two
Two of my other presentations... This is Diarama and Carscape were also up-dated with new titles and extra photographs added. All that we now need is for the COVID-19 restrictions on social events to be lifted (and for members/guests to turn up), the date finalised and we are ready for "Lymm Odeon - Take Two".
The previous Lymm Odeon - Take One presentation
During February we were in the grip of not only lockdown 3·0 but a cold snap as well. We were definitely suffering from withdrawal symptoms from our boat but the enforced staying at home encouraged me to complete some jobs in the house. But my photographic exploits were still taking place and my photograph of sunrise over the Liverpool skyline was used as a weather photograph in the Granada television Weather Forecast.
Granada Weather Forecast screenshot showing my Sunrise over Liverpool photograph...
...and the original, un-cropped photograph
A couple of days later, on Saturday the 27th February, as it was a beautiful day, we drove up to Lymm to drop-off some things that we had promised in the Landrover Discovery courtesy car loaned to us whilst our Kia Soul was having RTC damage repaired. When we reached the Lymm CC Clubhouse work was being undertaken on the new Harbourmaster's Shed as well as a few members doing work on their boats after the winter.
Lymm on a beautiful February afternoon
It was good to catch-up with some of our friends and whilst we were there we were saddened to hear of the death of Margaret Hamilton from Thorn Marine at Stockton Heath. This was the third death we had heard of in the last few weeks. Margaret had been unwell for a while and we shall miss this lovely lady and her dry sense of humour. A couple of weeks later we read that Margaret's coffin was being transported from Thorn Marine to BMBC's moorings at Walton by narrowboat then by hearse to Walton Crematorium a short distance up the road. As luck would have it we had to travel to Warrington that day anyway to collect our car after having the RTC damage repaired and so we could pay our respects to Margaret on her way to Walton before carrying on to the other side of Warrington to collect our car.
Margaret Hamilton's coffin being transported to Walton on board Rambling Thorn
There were a few of us waiting to pay our respects... all socially distanced, and at the allotted time we saw Rambling Thorn rounding the bend on its way to Walton. The boat was steered by Margaret's son Nigel with husband Brian standing sentinel over the beautiful wicker-work coffin. As the boat passed we all clapped to show respect for a lovely lady that we shall miss and remember with fondness... rest in peace Margaret.
With the end of the COVID-19 restrictions due to take place in the summer, our thoughts are now turning to our 2021 Summer Cruise. We were initially thinking about a re-run of our 2020 plans to cruise to Stourport but a landslip at Anderton has effectively closed the Cheshire Ring and access to the Northern, Welsh and Midland waterways without a detour up the Rochdale or Huddersfield Narrow canals. We were playing with the idea of heading up the Wigan flight of locks and seeing how far we could manage to cruise but we shall have to see how quickly the landslip problem is solved.
Landslip at Anderton
(Photograph - Canalworld.net)
We decided to change our car after the RTC when a car went into the back of ours whilst Ange was driving, even though the repairs had been completed to a high standard. In our experience, when a car is involved in an RTC it is never quite the same again. Accordingly, we reluctantly decided to part company with our Kia Soul that had served us well over the last eight years. Another Kia Soul, albeit a much later model possessing most the the technological advances that we had admired in the Landrover Discovery courtesy car we had been loaned, was found via the Internet at Stoneacre in Wakefield. We arranged to have it transported to our local branch of Stoneacre and subsequently purchased it,
Our new Kia Soul at Stoneacre in Wallasey...
... and Ange ready to drive it away
Our first cruise of 2021 took place over Easter. Due to the Government restrictions we could not stay overnight yet, so we went up on the Saturday after Good Friday. I had driven up a couple of days earlier to make sure that everything was okay, run the engine and polish the interior woodwork making sure that there were no naughty spiders lurking to jump out at Ange! As soon as we arrived I brought the boat up to the water point and filled the fresh water tank. Not long after we arrived, Paul and Wendy arrived followed by their daughter, her fiancé and grandaughter. We planned to cruise up to Dunham Massey, have lunch on the towpath and catch-up on the latest news and happenings. Paul and Wendy set off whilst I finished filling the fresh water tank. When I was satisfied that there were no water leaks, we followed in their wake shortly afterwards. Initially, it was cool but as the day went on it warmed up considerably and we cruised through Dunham Village in warm sunshine.
Yours truly steering Squirrel through Dunham Village
Bollin Aqueduct Narrows
After turning around we retraced our path to the other side of the River Bollin Aqueduct Narrows and moored next to Paul and Wendy's boat. We all sat out on the towpath, socially distanced naturally, in the warm sunshine. After lunch I fell asleep in my chair and did not realise until a couple of days later that I had a little bit of sunburn! After chatting with our friends and a couple of cups of coffee later we started the engine and made our way back to our mooring after an enjoyable and surprisingly warm day out... hopefully, the first of many in the months to follow.
Moored at Dunham Massey
Socially distanced lunch on the towpath
The next weekend we went up to Agden and as the Government COVID-19 regulations had been relaxed we stayed overnight for the first time this year. An interesting boat passing through Agden was a 23 foot Mallard GRP cruiser called Popalong. We had seen this boat abandoned on the Trent and Mersey Canal a few years ago, then being refurbished at Stretford Marina before being sold to its new owners. It was good to see the boat in good condition and being used. That evening we were treated to a beautiful sunset. Our visit was short due to my having my second COVID-19 vaccination that lunchtime necessitating we left earlier than normal.
Mallard GRP cruiser... Popalong at Agden
Agden at Dusk from our mooring
A couple of weeks later I spent a couple of days on the boat doing some jobs. On the second day I noticed that the engine battery was not holding its charge even though the boat had been plugged into the landline which charges both sets of batteries. The battery had been on the boat since we bought it eight years ago so doesn't owe us anything. Whilst having a chat with Alan Savage he gave me a flier for Alpha Batteries in Rochdale. As I looked at the flier I noticed a photograph of a narrowboat on it. The narrowboat was none other than our previous narrowboat... Total Eclipse and was taken at Ellesmere on our 2005 Summer Cruise.
The Alpha Batteries flier featuring a photograph of Total Eclipse...
... and the original photograph that they used
I rang them and after being quoted £90 over the phone I decided to buy a battery from them. They could have delivered it the following day but I didn't want to risk my not being in when they delivered and Ange having to lift it into the house so I decided to drive up to Rochdale in person. Once at their premises I spoke to the sales staff (who sounded like Paddy McGuinness) who confirmed the amount quoted on the phone. I showed him the flier and told him that the narrowboat used to be mine and that the photograph was taken by me. I also said that I should receive extra discount in lieu of the royalties I didn't receive. He told me that the flier was produced by an outside company for a trade show about ten years ago. Accordingly, he did give me an extra discount and paid £80 for the battery. The battery was loaded into the car, went home and would be fitting it when I was next up at Agden that weekend.
That Saturday, with the new battery fitted and working well I discovered that the Eberpächer central heating unit was not operating. After checking all the connections and making sure that I had not disturbed any electrical cables or connections, I did a bit of research and discovered that after five unsuccessful starts the unit locks until its memory is cleared by an engineer with the correct equipment. It was May Bank Holiday weekend and we had planned to go for a cruise so this problem would have to be sorted at a later date. The next day we set-off for Stockton Heath in warmish sunshine and after stopping at Lymm CC to empty the loo we cruised for a couple of hours until we reached our destination.
An ex-working narrowboat that we met at Agden
Lymm on a pleasant May Day afternoon
Unfortunately, the weather turned cold and we had tea in Paul and Wendy's boat before turning in for the night. The next morning we were greeted with rain which accompanied us all the way back to our Agden mooring. I was soaked to the skin and after mooring the boat Ange peeled my wet clothes off me and made sure that I was warm with dry clothes. After a hot cup of coffee and a quick lunch we left for home. Needless to say, when we arrived home the central heating was turned up! We made plans to remove the Eberpächer and take it to our nearest service agent who I discovered was Anderton Marina. I had a chat with Gavin... their service engineer and arranged to take the unit there a couple of days later. Unfortunately, the weather thwarted our plans continually and I was becoming increasingly frustrated at not being able to sort this out and tackle the other jobs on the boat that were mounting up. hopefully, when the rainy period is over we will have some dry, warm weather that will allow me to crack-on with my plans.
The weather forecast promised wall to wall sunshine for the Bank Holiday Weekend at the end of May. The Saturday started off a little on the dull side but at least it was dry. After breakfast we loaded up the car and headed for Anderton Marina with the Eberpächer that Gavin could do the business. We had put the marina's post code into the car's sat nav in case it knew a more direct route that the one we usually take (M56/A559/Gibb Hill). It took us past the normal turn off at Gibb Hill and through Northwich Town Centre. After such a detour we put in the Anderton Boat Lift's post code and we were directed there without any problems. When we arrived at the marina we explained to Sue... the receptionist our problems and she told us that they were in a "sat nav black hole" and visitors usually get lost Whilst he had a look at it we visited the marina's café where Ange had a toasted teacake, I had a strawberry and cream scone, all washed down by latte coffees.
Anderton Marina viewed from their café
Just as we were finishing, Gavin came up to us and said that he had cleared the unit's memory but it was showing up a glow plug fault which required replacement. He explained that it would take a couple of hours and he might not get around to it today but would telephone us when it was ready. Consequently, we left it with him and headed for Agden. By the time we arrived at our mooring the sun had heated up everywhere and it was turning into a hot, sunny day. Once at the mooring we were greeted by a pair of swans and their nine cygnets.
The swans and their nine cygnets at Agden
We then had a catch-up with our friends Paul and Wendy and Ange's son... Michael turned-up for a chill-out. He stayed the afternoon and we had tea from "Lymm Chippy" which was very nice too. After a bit of a lie-in the next morning we cleaned the boat inside as we were having more visitors in the shape of Ange's sister Tracey, her daughter Danielle and her friend Nicky.
Tracey, Nicky and Danielle soaking up the sun on Squirrel's aft deck
They brought food with them and we had a very nice lunch alfresco in the brilliant sunshine. We would have liked to have taken them for a trip along the canal but with the Eberpächer missing there were pipes and cables hanging loose which would foul the fan belts if the engine was turning and because of their location could not be strapped-up out of the way. Just after lunch I received a telephone call from Gavin at Anderton Marina informing me that the Eberpächer was fixed and awaiting collection. I arranged to pick it up the next morning. Our visitors left and we chilled-out for the afternoon then watched the sun go down which was a beautiful display of colour. My daughter Lisa was aboard her boat Adeline on her summer cruise and had headed for the Shroppie. She sent me a message to tell me that she had reached Beeston... a place that we all hold in our hearts, and had sent me a photograph of her boat Adeline moored above Beeston Iron Lock. She went on to say that four generations of the Wood family had operated Beeston Iron Lock and three generations had cruised there in their own boats... observations that were very true and brought a tear to my eye. That evening they had moored at Brockholes Aqueduct where the River Gowy passes beneath the canal just past Beeston Castle. She relived an episode from her youth by jumping into the pond formed by the River Gowy just before the aqueduct with her daughter Grace.
Adeline moored opposite Phial's mooring above Beeston Iron Lock
Paul, Wendy and Ange watching...
... a beautiful Agden sunset
Fortunately, we did not miss the central heating not being available as the boat retained the heat from the daytime but we could not run the engine to heat up the water on the boat. After breakfast Paul and I went to collect the Eberpächer. Needless to say, we did not use the sat nav but went by the usual route. £180 lighter we returned to Agden and I refitted the unit. It was a bit fiddly but eventually, everything was reconnected, the water system bled and I started the unit up. After a bit of smoke the unit settled down and appeared to be working normally. It seemed quieter than previously and I noticed a little bit of exhaust smoke escaping from the joint but couldn't do anything about it due to everything being hot. A job for next time I think. After this we stated the engine and followed Paul and Wendy down to Lymm to empty the toilet at the Lymm CC Clubhouse. It was a lovely cruise down in the brilliant sunshine and we received quite a few comments about Ange's solar powered wind spinner which was happily spinning on the boat's roof in the light breeze.
Ange's solar powered wind spinner
Once at Lymm we moored, emptied our toilets and had a chat with some of our fellow Club members in the yard before returning to our moorings for a late alfresco lunch courtesy of Wendy. After lunch we chilled out then started to pack our stuff up, put the boat to bed and head for home after the best weekend we have had for a long while. Let's hope that the weather stays hot and sunny for a while so that I can continue with my jobs in preparation for our up-coming summer cruise.
A gathering of boats at Spud Wood just past Oughtrington
The next day both Ange and I were off work. It was another nice day so we decided to go out for lunch. Lisa had already invited us to meet her on the Shroppie so we arranged to meet her at The Shady Oak in the shade of Beeston Castle. We were on our way when we received a telephone call from her saying that she had broken down just after Bridge 110... the bridge before The Shady Oak. It was a problem with the boat's steering and I said that I would walk down the towpath to find them when we arrived. After parking the car I left Ange ordering something to eat and drink whilst I went to find Lisa, her daughter Grace and boyfriend Drew. They weren't too far down the canal and when I met up with them Lisa showed me the offending part which was the quick-release coupling for the Teleflex cable to rudder linkage. It had seized solid and the socket aperture had worn allowing the ball on the rudder assembly to become detached from the cable linkage. I freed the seized linkage and Lisa put it back in place. It worked satisfactorily and so we continued to The Shady Oak. With the boat safely moored outside the pub we joined Ange and ordered food and drinks.
Adeline moored at The Shady Oak
Drew, Lisa, Grace and Ange at The Shady Oak
After we were all suitably refreshed, Lisa set off and we left for home. We had just driven over the hump-backed bridge at Golden Nook when we received another telephone call from Lisa who told us that the part had failed completely. We turned around and picked-up Lisa back at The Shady Oak and went hunting for a replacement part. My first suggestion was Midway Boats at Barbridge Junction Marina which is where we made for. On arrival we met Adam the proprietor who found a replacement part that was not quite identical but would do the trick. Whilst chatting to Adam I asked if Steve Batty was still around. I explained that we had bought our narrowboat from Steve and Adam told me that he had retired but calls in occasionally. Adam had worked for Steve for over twenty years and had actually done some of the refitting on our boat about ten years ago. With the replacement part paid for we returned to The Shady Oak and dropped off Lisa and continued on our way home. Lisa later telephoned us to say that the part worked well and that they were under way again. Mission accomplished!
Fuel boat Bargus at The Shady Oak
For various reasons we were not able to go up to Agden for a couple of weekends. although we wished that we had... but that is another story! Changing the subject, every so often a picture or photograph catches my eye and I consider it worthy of inclusion in Canalscape. One such picture was a painting of a couple of children watching a horse-drawn narrowboat passing beneath a lift bridge on the Llangollen Canal most probably set over a hundred years ago. On inspection, I think that the bridge is probably Bridge 19 - Wrenbury Church Bridge. The painting is included below along with a photograph of the same location in more recent times for your appreciation.
A painting of a horse-drawn narrowboat probably passing beneath Bridge 19 - Wrenbury Church Bridge...
...and a photograph of the same location
I received an email from Lymm CC Chairman Keith Moore who was in the right place at the right time to witness the reopening of the restored footbridge below Big Lock at Middlewich. The footbridge had been out of action for over twelve months whilst it was removed and restored. The cutting of the ribbon at the reopening ceremony was performed by Middlewich Town Council Chairman Mike Hunter and Canal & River Trust Project Manager Tania Snelgrove on Friday the 11th June 2021. Attached to the email were a few photographs of the reopening ceremony which are shown below.
The reopening of the restored Big Lock Footbridge by Middlewich Council Chairman Mike Hunter...
(Photograph - Keith Moore)
...and the dignitaries posing on the restored footbridge after the reopening ceremony
(Photograph - Keith Moore)
That weekend I planned the next job on my "to-do" list was to polish the cabin sides paintwork in preparation for our Summer Cruise. We drove up to Agden and after catching-up with Mooring Officer Alan Savage and lunch I made a start on the port side of the boat. This side of the boat is exposed to the most sunshine and requires the most attention. First off... the oxidised paint was removed with T-Cut before the first application of polish. I was coming up later on in the week to complete the polishing and do a couple more jobs but for now I was satisfied with my efforts.
The difference that T-Cutting makes can be seen in this before and after photograph...
...and after completion, restored to its usual shiny finish...
...and from the other direction
A couple of days later Ange had arranged to go on a pamper day with her sister Tracey and was staying at the spa overnight. Accordingly, I booked a day off work and after dropping Ange off at her sister's Ruby and I made our way up to Agden to do a few jobs. I had noticed a leak on one of the windows so ordered the appropriate seals from Caldwell's Windows and a tube of Sikaflex 512 window sealant from Amazon in preparation for removing the window to seal the leak.
The location of the leak on one of the windows
Incidentally, if you follow the link to Caldwell's Windows website, the background photograph is of our Agden moorings. Caldwell's were most helpful with identifying the correct seals for our windows and are to be commended on their customer service. When I arrived at Agden, our Mooring Officer... Alan Savage had already made a start on removing the window but there was one particular screw (there's always one) that was being troublesome. A quick attack with a hacksaw blade saw the problem screw removed and the window frame was gently eased out, making sure that it didn't kink or bend.
The window removed...
...and the window aperture prior to cleaning it up (Dobby's watching)
With the frame removed, the old sealant and sealing strip was removed with petrol and the window aperture cleaned up in the same way. The new neoprene sealing strip was then stuck to the perimeter of the cleaned frame and Sikaflex applied on top of the seal, prior to refitting. With the window back in place and all the screws tightened I replaced the top hopper neoprene seal which caused the top hopper to stick, preventing it from opening and the bottom seal as well. I had sufficient sealing strip left to renew the hopper seals on the other windows and port holes at a later date. With the job completed it was time for tea and a well-earned rest.
The offending window back in place, mission completed
The following morning Ruby and I had a lie-in and after breakfast I gave the Eberpächer exhaust pipe coupling some attention as exhaust gases were seeping past it. After a bit of "jiggling" the pipe was restored to its proper position and the Eberpächer was started up. There was still a little bit of seepage that will be cured when a little bit of exhaust sealant is applied to the joint. After a cup of coffee I refitted the co2 alarm with screws as the self-adhesive Velcro buttons it was previously attached with did not like the heat from the gas hob below and fitted a new shelf over the microwave oven in the kitchen. Next on my list was to clean the window after being resealed then I continued with my T-Cutting the paintwork. Before long it started to cloud over and the temperature dropped considerably. I had previously spoken to Ange who was now back at home (complete with a suspected broken toe... but that is another story!) and told me that it was raining in Wallasey. Bearing this in mind, I thought it best to pack-up, tidy up and head for home. As I was walking down the moorings to the car park I noticed spots of rain starting to fall... I packed up at exactly the right time and headed for home, satisfied that I had accomplished all that I set out to do.
With the window leak and Eberpächer sorted, the next item was to touch-up the paintwork on the roof. I suspected that it had started to peel because of a combination of bird droppings and being baked by the sun. My daughter Lisa is an accomplished canal art painter and sign writer and had promised to come up to Agden on her boat to remedy the peeling paintwork. I had arranged with Alan Savage... our Mooring Officer, for her to moor her boat Adeline next to ours and when we arrived on the moorings she was already there. The weather was not looking too good but as the morning progressed it brightened up allowing me to apply exhaust sealant to cure the seepage the Eberpächer exhaust and for Lisa to get her painting kit out.
Lisa touching-up Squirrel's paintwork
It did not take her long to finish the touching-up and after she had finished she painted the camera lens that the squirrel on our sign-writing is holding blue and also painted her trademark... a dragonfly just below the boat's index number. After a well earned glass of wine and cake she made her way back to her mooring at Walton promising to return after our summer holidays to repaint the roof. With jobs completed for the day we chilled out and as we went to bed it started to rain. There is something magical about lying in bed listening to the rain pitter-pattering on the boat's roof and it was not long before it lulled us to sleep. The next morning it dawned bright and dry but there were rain clouds on the horizon. After breakfast we came to the conclusion that we would not be able to complete any more jobs today so we packed-up our things and headed home. As we were walking down the moorings it started to rain torrentially. We took shelter under the covered area adjacent to the shed and waited for the rain to abate. After ten minutes it eased off and we made a dash for the car before the rain started pelting down again.
Agden moorings in torrential rain
I just need a couple more dry, grey days to turn the boat around and give the starboard side some attention. The next weekend we turned the boat around and I started to T-cut and polish the starboard side cabin paintwork. Whilst the boat was facing the opposite direction I checked the window/pothole seals and lubricated them with olive oil to prevent them from sticking during hot weather.
Starboard side paintwork partially T-Cutted and polished
The week before we were due to go on our summer cruise I took a day off mid-week to finish the starboard side T-Cutting and polishing. I was blessed with perfect weather... dry, and not too hot. We were worried about Ruby burning her pads on the aft deck boards when the sun had been shining on them. Accordingly, we bought some inexpensive artificial grass to cover the aft deck with. This was fitted on the Saturday evening, after we had tea with Paul and Wendy, when the day started to cool-down. Even so, the sweat was running down face, into my eyes and stinging them. The rear doors had insufficient clearance between them and the deck boards but I had already thought about this and cut a diagonal slit where the doors would be when they were open which did the trick. The end result was exactly what we had wanted even though the strands of the grass were a little longer than we would have liked. Another benefit would be that the engine would be a bit quieter as well. The artificial grass could be tolled-up from either end it the engine compartment or weed hatch was to be accessed.
Artificial grass fitted to the aft deck to prevent Ruby's pads from being burnt on the hot deck boards
I still had a couple of days holiday to use up and tagged them onto the beginning of my summer holidays so that I can take up our clothes, non-perishable items and do a couple of last minute jobs mid-week. I drove up to Agden on the Thursday before we were due to leave, loaded the items I had brought up with me, topped-up the fuel tank, tidied-up, etc. It was a really hot day and the best I could do was ten minutes work than a ten minute rest before repeating the process until my jobs were completed. Once satisfied that I could not do any more I headed for home and left the boat plugged into the mains electricity land-line so that the refrigerator will be cold when we arrive the next day.
To be continued in Chapter 3 - Canalmanac 2021 Part 2
Click to return to Contents
Chapter 2 - Summer Cruise 2021
We were really looking forward to our 2021 Summer Cruise. Last year's cruise to Stourport had been cancelled because of COVID-19 and this year Paul and Wendy were not able to accompany us due to family commitments. Ange had been offered voluntary redundancy from her job with Royal Bank of Scotland and decided to take it. With her not being bound by definitive holiday dates and my having quite a few weeks holiday left, we decided to have an extended three week cruise. As Ange has not been to Birmingham by canal this was to be our first choice of a destination. At the beginning of July, Lymm CC's 2020/21 Commodore... Brian Burns, announced that he was having an unofficial summer cruise to Stourport so we said that we might change our plans and join him and a few other Lymm CC members. We might even have time to complete our original plan to Birmingham. We shall just have to see what the weather is like and how long we spend dawdling up the Shroppie and the down the Staffs and Worcs.
Friday 23rd July 2021... We left home early and Ange dropped Ruby and I off at our Agden mooring to take the boat down to the Lymm CC Clubhouse whilst she visited the local Sainsbury's for our last minute fresh items of food. As we arrived at Lymm Ange was coming through the Clubhouse gate and parked next to the boat to facilitate loading our things onto the boat. Whilst we were doing this I topped-up the water tank and emptied the toilet so we should not have to attend to them until Anderton Services. The other Lymm CC members who were going on the Summer Cruise... Commodore Brian and Alison Burns, Rear Commodore Steve and Christine Southall, Bar Manager Phil Warburton and last but not least Jenny Budworth... the latter two being single-handed boaters. Another member Stephen Fahey (also a single-handed boater) might also join us at some point on the cruise. With the boat loaded and the car parked we set off on our next canal cruising adventure in brilliant sunshine.
The "toast rack" bridge at Walton
We cruised along the Bridgewater Canal without drama and reached Preston Brook Tunnel at teatime. We planned to pass through the tunnel and moor for the night at Anderton. We were the last boat of an eight boat procession passing through the tunnel. We were slower than usual and just after half-way through everyone came to a halt. it appeared that the boat at the head of the procession had quite a lot of items on the roof and became jammed in the restricted headroom section just past the Cathedral section. Whilst we were at a complete stop I used the opportunity to take some photographs of the inside of the tunnel but due to the amount of exhaust fumes the light from the camera's flash unit bounced back giving unsatisfactory results, as can be seen in the photograph below.
Exhaust smoke inside Preston Brook Tunnel
After trying to free the stuck boat in vain, the next boat in line... Betty, steered by Jenny Budworth pushed the stricken boat through the tunnel whilst the owner tried to keep the boat in the centre of the channel. We eventually emerged over an hour after entering and it must be the second worst passage through the tunnel (the worst being when we broke down in the tunnel - May 2003). With being an hour behind schedule we decided to moor at the Dutton Breach Moorings for the night.
Dutton Breach Moorings
Saturday 24th July 2021... The next morning we set off at 08:00 and cruised along the Vale Royal section of the canal in brilliant sunshine. We negotiated the two Saltersford and Barnton Tunnels without drama, passed the landslip just before Anderton and stopped at Anderton Services to empty the toilet and rubbish bin.
Site of the landslide near Anderton
Ange and Ruby approaching Big Lock at Middlewich
Our next stop was above Big Lock for lunch then continued up the locks, onto the Middlewich Branch of the Shroppie and moored for the night at the Middlewich Breach Site moorings where we had problems hammering in mooring stakes. We eventually managed to hammer them in but maybe C&RT should have fitted mooring rings all along that section. Ange always says that she doesn't feel as though our holiday cruises have started until, when going south, we have passed Middlewich. So this mooring saw the start of our holiday cruise properly!
Sunday 25th July 2021... We had planned to have breakfast at the café at Venetian Marina and made an early start to try and beat the queues. It seemed that everyone had the same idea, at Cholmondeston Lock we were ninth in the queue and were on the Middlewich side of the railway bridge when we joined the queue. At least the sun was shining and we were enjoying the heat. and being in queue for the lock meant that instead of visiting the excellent Venetian Marine Café that we had been looking forward to we had breakfast on the move... well, not actually on the move but whilst we were in the queues for the locks. Maybe we should have done what the boat in front of us did... visit the café for a take-away breakfast of bacon, sausage, egg and black pudding rolls.
The queue for Cholmondeston Lock... at this point we were eighth in line
We were relieved when it was our turn and at least there were C&RT volunteers to help us through the lock and keep things moving. It wasn't long before I was blowing the horn as we made the ninety degree left turn onto the Shroppie's Main Line at Barbridge Junction. I always enjoy the broad section of the canal heading into Nantwich and the good weather added to that enjoyment. Me met Jenny Budworth moored on the embankment at Nantwich who decided that she would not be travelling any further up the Shroppie and was waiting for a friend to join her. On the way out of Nantwich we met the smokiest narrowboat we had ever seen. We think that they were trying out the engine but I suspect that it still had fuel injector problems to sort out.
The smokiest narrowboat engine exhaust we had ever seen
Before long we arrived at Hack Green Locks. I have many happy memories of these lock from my childhood in the early 1960's (almost half a century ago), including being allowed to steer a full-length narrowboat loaded with aluminium ingots in return for helping it and its butty through the first lock. Today the lock keeper's cottage may have been demolished but the stables are still there but used as maintenance storage.
We passed Stephen Fahey a little further on who said that he might join us further up the Shroppie but made no promises. We carried on for a bit before mooring at the bottom of the Audlem Flight adjacent to the River Weaver Aqueduct. After tea we went for a walk to the village Co-op for a few items and needless to say the Leica accompanied us. On the way back I took a photograph below of the old stables at the bottom of the flight and thought that it might look more atmospheric in monochrome... what do you think?
The old stables at the bottom of the Audlem flight of locks
Monday 26th July 2021... We decided to set off early the next morning and get through the Audlem flight before breakfast. This ploy was successful as it turned out to be another hot day and we took turns operating the locks and steering the boat. Since I was a child I have always strode across the three foot six inch gap between an open and a closed bottom gate. When Ange sees me doing this she cringes and told me categorically not to do it as, at the age of nearly seventy I am not as agile as I was sixty years ago. However, I did get caught doing it when I thought Ange wasn't looking! Needless to say, I was in trouble for doing it. Even so, we whizzed through the flight and managed to complete the locks by 10:00. At the top we rewarded ourselves with a visit to Panda's Pantry... the little farm shop kiosk at the top of the flight. On sale were many home-made items such as pies, butter, cakes, ice cream, doggy ice cream, etc. and after choosing our purchases the honesty box was topped-up.
Ruby watching Mummy at Audlem Locks
Panda's Pantry farm shop kiosk at the top of the Audlem flight of locks
We continued on our way and had breakfast on the go. Before long we reached Adderley Locks which we made short work of in the brilliant, hot sunshine before carrying on to Market Drayton. Whilst passing through Betton Wooded Cutting (no sign of the shrieking ghost) we were over-flown by a large brown bird that I think was a common buzzard. Unfortunately, I was unable to photograph it as I was manoeuvring the boat past the trunk of a fallen tree at that time.
Adderley Wharf just past the top of Adderley Locks
We were disappointed to discover that most of the towpath moorings were closed due to the footpath being up-graded. Whilst we applaud what C&RT are doing, we question their timing at the height of the boating season when the shops would be looking forward to the extra business brought to the town by canal boaters. We also question the choice of the surface they were laying. It appeared to be the type of white stone that treads into the boat and takes days to remove after the moorings have been left. I later saw a couple of C&RT contractors and asked them about the timing of the project. They told me that it would be partially open the following week. Due to the lack of mooring space the others in our group had carried on but we decided to stay at Market Drayton. Time for a chill-out (nap) before tea!
Tuesday 27th July 2021... another early start allowed us to negotiate the Tyrely flight of locks... my favourite locks, without any queuing. We were impressed by the way that the wharf and its buildings had been tastefully restored and is definitely a credit to those responsible.
It was one of those changeable days where one minute it was overcast and the next the sun was shining. We were now deep into "Shroppie Country" with deep cuttings punctuated by high bridges and lofty embankments... classic Thomas Telford. Needless to say, we met a couple of boats in Cheswardine and Woodseaves Cuttings but fortunately, they did not intrude in the photographs that I took.
Bridge 57 - Cheswardine Cutting
After Woodseaves and Grub Street Cuttings, the latter being home to the famous High Bridge... number 39 featuring the centre buttress supporting a (dummy) telegraph pole, we stopped briefly at Norbury Junction to visit the chandlery but they did not have what I required so we carried on, over the Meese Embankment and we were soon at Gnosall (pronounced "Nawzall"). We carried on through the village without stopping, Cowley Tunnel, more cuttings and embankments until we reached Wheaton Aston. Our fellow Lymm CC members had already moored so we passed through the lock and moored just before the winding hole after a great day's cruising. After our tea we went to the Coach and Horses and joined the others for a drink and a catch-up.
Bridge 39 - High Bridge near Norbury Junction
Wednesday 28th July 2021... The day started off dry but overcast and we set off for Brewood (pronounced "Brood") after visiting the sanitary station. We were soon plunged into another wooded cutting followed by Stretton Aqueduct where Telford's Birmingham and Liverpool Canal crosses Telford's A5 trunk road (absorbing part of the Roman Watling Street). Soon after we stopped at Brewood where we planned to pick-up a few essentials from the supermarket there. When I was a child the village contained more shops than it it does today. Gone are the small local shops that my parents used to enjoy visiting. After a quick cuppa we were on our way again through the wooded cutting featuring the last of the notable bridges on the Shroppie... the ornamental Avenue Bridge 10 which leads to Chillington Hall and on emerging from the cutting were given a stark (not Iron Man) reminder of modern-day life as we ducked beneath the noisy M54 motorway.
By this time it had become overcast and started to rain. By the time we reached Autherley Junction and its six inch rise stop lock the rain had become quite heavy. Undeterred we passed through the lock and turned right onto the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal... one of James Brindley's first canals after the Bridgewater Canal. This canal is a stark contrast to the much later and straighter "Shroppie". The rain stopped by the time we reached Compton Lock... reported to be Brindley's first narrow lock that was the blueprint for later narrow locks.
Descending Compton Lock in brilliant sunshine
We continued on our way passing through the beautiful countryside punctuated by the occasional lock and eventually arrived at Bratch Locks. These locks were originally a three-step staircase but altered to three individual locks not long after the canal was completed... most probably due the amount of water used by a staircase lock. Between the first and second chambers is a side pond which stores the water from emptying the first chamber and uses it to fill the second and third chambers. A knowledgeable C&RT volunteer was on hand to help us through.
Exiting Bratch Locks
I would have liked to have stopped for a while to take photographs of the locks and possibly photograph the "Bratch Whirlpool" caused when water empties into the side pond but the locks were quite busy and we had to move away to allow other boats to come through. Maybe on the way back... weather and time permitting! After Bratch came the unusually named Bumblehole Lock which we descended and shortly after, moored for the night at Wombourne where we had an excellent meal in the Round Oak pub.
Thursday 29th July 2021... We set off early and took turns steering the boat and operating the locks along this beautiful canal as it wound its way through rural Staffordshire. Ange made the observation that it would be better if the locks were grouped together as on later canals as the relatively short distances between them played havoc with her kettle and food timing!
Whittington Horse Bridge near Kinver
The area approaching Kinver was especially beautiful, particularly just before Hyde Lock and the sandstone outcrop at Austcliff. At Debdale Lock there is a cavern cut into the sandstone apparently an overnight stable for the horses pulling boats along the canal, although I do not know how the horses crossed the canal from the towpath.
Cavern entrance and interior at Debdale Lock
After we moored for the night in brilliant sunshine adjacent to the River Stour flood plane below Wolverley Court Lock on the outskirts of Kidderminster we helped our fellow Lymm CC members to moor in what turned out to be a very pleasant location on the outskirts of Kidderminster.
Our mooring below Wolveley Court Lock
Friday 30th July 2021... We planned to stop in Kidderminster and visit the Tesco Superstore located next to the canal so after breakfast we made our way leisurely through the town centre and after dodging the goose droppings found a suitable place to stop adjacent to the walkway ramp from the towpath to the store.
One of the iconic canal views... St. Mary and All Saints Church, Kidderminster
On Ange's return she had a farewell "Zoom" call with the RBS team then we had lunch. With the cupboards and refrigerator replenished we set off again in intermittent rain. Before long we arrived at Falling Sands Lock. This lock has an emotive connection to me as Falling Sands was the name of Sid Dean's (from Deans Pleasure Boats... see Canalscape Book 1 - Chapter 4 - Canalmanac 1962 to 1966) beautiful cabin cruiser. Next we passed Pratt's Wharf Bridge where there was once a lock that connected to the River Stour.
Pratt's Wharf Bridge and lock once connected to the adjacent River Stour
We were now approaching the outskirts of Stourport and when we reached the visitor moorings above Lower Mitton Bridge our fellow Lymm CC members had saved us a forty five foot mooring space. We were disappointed with the moorings... not only were they punctuated by dog poo there were ants everywhere and opposite the towpath were what looked like the back of slum housing. Not very welcoming. There were moorings in the basins at one time but the only moorings visitors can use are those reserved for waiting to use the locks into the River Severn. After mooring we visited the shops then joined our Lymm CC friends in the Swan Inn. This pub featured an unusual interior decor in the shape of vinyl LPs attached to the wall. We arranged to have a Chinese meal that evening in the Golden Country restaurant. The meal was excellent and afterwards, with satisfyingly full stomachs, we retired to the Black Star pub for a nightcap before returning to our respective boats.
Disappointing moorings above Lower Mitton Bridge in Stourport
Unusual decor inside The Swan at Stourport
Saturday 31st July 2021... Our Lymm CC friends left early to lock-down onto the River Severn. We decided that we would rather have a leisurely cruise back so did not join them. After breakfast we turned around above York Street Lock and retraced our steps. Approaching Falling Sands Lock we saw a mink running across the towpath, stopped at Kidderminster for a few bits from Tesco and continued on our way. We carried on and at Wolveley Lock, whilst the boat was rising in the lock Ruby and I visited the towpath window of the Old Smithy Tea Rooms (part of The Lock at Wolveley leisure complex) for ice cream. Ruby chose her ice cream (chock-chip of course) from the menu which she thoroughly enjoyed as did Ange and I.
Ruby choosing her ice cream flavour at the Old Smithy tea room
We carried in in the brilliant, hot sunshine, passed through picturesque Kinver and moored for the night above Hyde Lock opposite a secluded woodland. Later, we went to sleep listening to owls shrieking and the cry of foxes... such an idyllic location.
Our beautiful overnight mooring above Hyde Lock...
...and from the other direction
Sunday 1st August 2021... Next morning after a lie in we reluctantly set-off and left Hyde behind and headed towards Swindon, through the Dunsley Tunnel hewn from the solid sandstone prevalent in this area past the remains of Gothersley Round House. Before long we were at Botterham Staircase locks followed by Bratch Locks.
The remains of Gothersley Roundhouse
Botterham Staircase Locks
We stopped at the sanitary station and carried on negotiating the locks when they presented themselves. Mid-afternoon we arrived at Bratch Locks. With Bratch not being as busy as the outward journey I had the opportunity to take photographs, including the previously mentioned Bratch Whirlpool. We decided to moor a little way around the corner from Bratch Locks and later on in the evening we were presented with a beautiful sunset crying out to be captured by the Leica.
The Bratch Whirlpool
Sunset above Bratch Locks from our overnight mooring
Monday 2nd August 2021... We set off at 10:00 and reluctantly left the idyllic Hyde mooring behind. We took turns working the locks and it was not long before we were waiting for our turn to go through Autherley Stop Lock. I remembered the time spent here with my dad listening to the tales Sam Lomas... the legendary Shropshire Union Canal toll clerk at the office adjacent to the stop lock.
Yours truly outside Sam Lomas's Toll Office at Autherley
Back on the Shroppie we passed the moorings of Wolverhampton Boat Club, the beautiful wooded cutting containing Avenue Bridge, through Brewood and moored for the night just before Stretton Aqueduct, opposite the feeder from the nearby Belvide Reservoir that provides this section of the canal with its water supply.
Avenue Bridge - 10 near Brewood
(Photograph - Canal & River Trust)
Tuesday 3rd August 2021... After another 10:00 start we were soon at Wheaton Aston Lock and after a quick visit to the sanitary station we visited the canalside Turner's Garage renowned for selling the cheapest red diesel fuel on the Shroppie. The fuel tank was topped-up and a quick calculation indicated that we were using just over a gallon of fuel a day... how economical is that?
Squirrel at Wheaton Aston
The cheapest red diesel on the Shroppie
We pootled through the wooded cuttings in the warm sunshine and were soon tying up at Gnosall. After a light lunch and chilling out in the afternoon sunshine we later visited the Navigation Inn for tea. Here we were presented with two of the best tasting steaks we had ever eaten and plan to return here at a later date... even if it is by car.
Gnosall Village mooring adjacent to the Navigation Inn
Wednesday 4th August 2021... The next morning was another bright, sunny morning and we set off planning to stop at Norbury Junction to visit the sanitary station and fill up the water tank. The junction was quite busy and we only just managed to secure a place for water.
A busy Norbury Junction
Whilst I was seeing to the obligatory tasks, Ange and Ruby went over the bridge to the shop for a few items, one of which was a pot of doggy ice cream. On her return we carried on in the hot summer sunshine passing through the deep, wooded, rock cuttings. We were fortunate not to meet any craft in the narrow part of the cuttings cuttings but we did pass a recent landslip in Woodseaves Cutting, not present on our outward journey, that engulfed the towpath and fortunately not the canal as well. It was after the narrow section that we passed a boat where there was sufficient width for the two of us to pass without running aground.
Landslip in Woodseaves Cutting
We soon reached Tyrely Locks where we joined a queue of four boats waiting to descend the locks. We made mincemeat of the locks and afterwards had a well-earned ice cream that Ange had bought from Norbury and put in the freeze for later on. It was not long before we reached Market Drayton. Our preferred moorings next to Newcastle Road Bridge were still fenced off due to the towpath upgrading but we found a suitable one just past Betton Bridge. We were moored next to a motorboat and butty belonging to Nick Sanders... the motorcycle and narrowboat adventurer who had sailed his boats in the Black Sea. We had previously met Nick and his family at Bosley Locks on the Macclesfield Canal a few years ago and also when he visited Wirral Met College to give a lecture to the motor cycle engineering students.
Betton Bridge Market Drayton
Not long after we moored there was a rain shower and our Lymm CC friends caught up with us, mooring by the River Tern Aqueduct. After tea, when it had stopped raining, we walked into the town to meet-up with them for a drink and a catch-up before they overtook us to return to Lymm for the weekend.
Thursday 5th August 2021... We waved to our Lymm CC friends as they passed early the next morning and when we had finished our breakfast we walked into the town to visit the Asda supermarket. We then set off and planned to reach the top of the Audlem flight that afternoon. It was a bit of a grey day but at least it wasn't raining. I was amused to see a solitary boat moored in Betton Woods... rather him than me! The large bird I thought was a common buzzard that flew over us on our outward journey paid us another visit but again I wasn't quick enough with the camera. By the time I had switched it on the bird had disappeared into the woods. After a leisurely cruise we arrived at Adderley Locks. This flight of five locks was easy and it wasn't long before we had exited the flight and were looking for a suitable mooring spot to spend the night.
Friday 6th August 2021... With the Audlem flight not too far away we thought it best to have an early start but it started to rain so we waited for it to stop before setting off at 09:00. We arrived at the top flight in time for Brian and Kevin... the C&RT volunteers to escort us down the locks. By the time we had negotiated lock 11 it was 11:30 and time for a well earned cuppa.
C&RT volunteer Brian who helped us down the Audlem flight
Descending Audlem Locks
There were quite a few spaces in the pound so we decided to moor. After lunch we walked into the village and visited the local Co-op for essentials. Instead of going straight back to the boat we walked down the locks with an excursion into Audlem Mill which, in my opinion, is now one of the best canal bookshops on the system. I was pleased to see that they had copies of both my books. A very nice little book about the locks caught my eye and needless to say will make a good addition to my canal bookshelf.
Me holding my books on sale at Audlem Mill
Saturday 7th August 2021...We planned to stay at Audlem for a couple of days and as we were having visitors in the shape of Ange's son Michael and his girlfriend Amy we booked a table at the Lord Combermere for a meal. The meal was excellent... so good in fact that we booked the same table for Sunday lunch the next day.
Above Lock 14 at Audlem
Sunday 8th August 2021... It was a good plan to stay at Audlem as it rained for most of Sunday. Our Sunday lunch was as good as the previous meal and I have to say that the pork crackling was the best I have tasted. As it had stopped raining we had a walk down the locks and said hello to fellow Lymm CC members Lynne and Roger Mellors who were moored below lock 15.
Monday 9th August 2021... It was now time to leave Audlem. It promised to be a nice sunny day and we set off down the four remaining locks early before the queues formed. It's only a few miles to Hack Green but by the time we reached them there was a queue of four boats waiting to pass through the locks. It seemed to be taking a long time to move up the queue so I left Ange with the boat and walked down to the locks to see if I could get things moving a bit quicker. Boaters were standing by their boats and making no effort to help operate the locks. I passed a few comments as I passed them and it was not long before there was many boaters helping.
Above Hack Green Locks
It was not long before it was our turn. twenty minutes later we had passed through both locks and on our way towards Nantwich. We didn't plan to stop at Nantwich but did make a visit to the sanitary station. There was a muddy patch on the quayside at the sanitary station and whilst I was taking a photograph of our visit I slipped on the slippery surface. After picking myself up and looking around to see if there were any witnesses to my fall I managed to take the photograph below without any further incidents.
Filling Squirrel's water tank at Nantwich Sanitary Station
We continued past the NBCYC - Nantwich and Border Counties Yacht Club moorings, had a quick chat to the fibreglass cruiser Cambrian's owner (see the Don't Call It A Barge section of this website) we carried on towards Barbridge Junction where we made a right hand turn onto the Shroppie's Middlewich Branch. The weather took a turn for the worse and it started to cloud over. Accordingly, we looked for a suitable mooring and found on just after Bridge 8 above Cholmondeston Lock.
Tuesday 10th August 2021...We awoke to brilliant sunshine breaking through a chink in the curtains so we set off at 09:00. There wasn't a queue at the lock and we were helped through by more C&RT volunteers. Breakfast was eaten on the go and we had a leisurely cruise to Middlewich with only the odd queue at the locks on the way down. That is until we reached Stanthorne lock on the outskirts of Middlewich. Again, waiting boaters were loath to help on the lock and the queue of four boats wasn't helped by the paddles emptying the lock having a restricted opening that took ages to empty the lock. An hour and a half later we left Stanthorne Lock, passed through Wardle Lock (without loosing the propeller) and moored temporarily at Kings Lock Chandlery where I wanted to purchase a telescopic boat pole. With the purchase made carried on and moored for the night just before the winding hole in the town moorings.
Wednesday 11th August 2021...We made a quick trip to the Tesco Express shop and went next door to the hardware store for a quick browse. The shop is impressive for the range of items on sale... especially the tool and hardware sections. On our return to the boat we set off through Big Lock and we were now on our home waters. The sun was shining and we cruised through one of my favourite sections of the T&M. The air horn was given good use announcing our presence at the many blind bends along this section. I was impressed by a hire boat's crew who heard the air horn and hung back well before a blind bend with a bridge along the apex. Our next stop was at Anderton where we made a quick visit to the shop for ice creams. Ruby was especially pleased as they sold her favourite doggy ice cream as well. After Anderton it started to cloud over and rain was threatened. Barnton and Saltersford Tunnels gave a little bit of shelter from the drizzle that was steadily becoming heavier and we were relieved when we managed to squeeze in at the Dutton Breach Moorings for the night.
Thursday 12th August 2021... With Preston Brook Tunnel not too far away we set off early in the hope that there wouldn't be too many boats in front of us. We reached the tunnel with time to spare and passed through it in twelve minutes... an hour less than our last passage three weeks earlier. There were a few boats in front of us and there was no rush so we just pootled along in the brilliant sunshine. A few hours later we reached Lymm and moored in the arm outside Lymm CC's Clubhouse. We planned to load our clothes, food, etc. into the car, take the boat back to its mooring at Agden and head for home but we decided to stay at Lymm until the next day. In the meantime I brought the car next to the boat, loaded some of our things into it then we caught up with our fellow Club members and had a chippy tea.
Loading up the car at Lymm CC
Friday 13th August 2021...We finished loading the car after a lie-in and breakfast then I took the boat back to Agden with Ange following in the car. I put the boat to bed, thanked it for giving us such a good holiday and headed for home. It seemed strange driving down the motorway at 70 mph when we had been used to four mph. But it was back to reality (and work) as all good things come to an end.
Timetable for our 2021 Summer Cruise
|Friday 23rd July 2021||-||Agden to Dutton Breach Moorings|
|Saturday 24th July 2021||-||Dutton Breach Moorings to Middlewich Breach Moorings|
Sunday 25th July 2021
Middlewich Breach Moorings to Below Audlem Locks
Monday 26th July 2021
Audlem Locks to Market Drayton
Tuesday 27th July 2021
Market Drayton to Wheaton Aston
Wednesday 28th July 2021
Wheaton Aston to Wombourne
Thursday 29th July 2021
Wombourne to Below Wolveley Court Lock, Kidderminster
Friday 30th July 2021
Wolveley Court Lock to Lower Mitton Street Visitor Moorings, Stourport
|Saturday 31st July 2021||-||Stourport to Above Hyde Lock|
|Sunday 1st August 2021||-||Hyde Lock to Above Bratch Locks|
|Monday 2nd August 2021||-||Bratch Locks to Stretton Aqueduct|
|Tuesday 3rd August 2021||-||Stretton Aqueduct to Gnosall|
|Wednesday 4th August 2021||-||Gnosall to Market Drayton|
|Thursday 5th August 2021||-||Market Drayton to above Audlem Locks|
|Friday 6th August 2021||-||Above Audlem Locks to above Audlem Lock 12|
|Saturday 7th August 2021||-||Above Audlem Lock 12|
|Sunday 8th August 2021||-||Above Audlem Lock 12|
|Monday 9th August 2021||-||Above Audlem Lock 12 to Below Bridge 4 - Shropshire Union Canal, Middlewich Branch|
|Tuesday 10th August 2021||-||Below Bridge 4 - Shropshire Union Canal, Middlewich Branch to Middlewich|
|Wednesday 11th August 2021||-||Middlewich to Dutton Breach Moorings|
|Thursday 12th August 2021||-||Dutton Breach Moorings to Lymm CC Clubhouse @ Lymm|
|Friday 13th August 2021||-||Lymm CC Clubhouse to Agden Mooring|
Lymm CC Members Participating in the 2021 Summer Cruise
|Brian & Alison Burns||-||nb TomCarol|
|Steve & Christine Southall||-||nb Mathilda|
|Jenny Budworth||-||nb Betty (partial)|
|Phil Warburton||-||nb Just Bin' Thinkin'|
|Stephen Fahey||-||nb Coccium (partial)|
|Angela & Cyril Wood||-||nb Squirrel|
Epilogue to Summer Cruise 2021
We thoroughly enjoyed our three week 2021 holiday cruise. With the trials and tribulations of the preceding year we were looking forward to escaping from the day-to-day challenges. It was nice to revisit some of my childhood haunts even though they had inevitably changed over the last sixty years.… and not necessarily for the better. In contrast to the “cut and fill” Shroppie, the Staffs and Worcs Canal is an absolute master-class in contour canal construction. As one of the first canals James Brindley constructed after the Bridgewater Canal, it includes many firsts including the first narrow lock, the first staircase lock and the first inland canal port in England. It is just a shame that, regarding the latter, Stourport has turned its back on the canal that it owes its existence to. Whilst the canal basins connecting the canal to the River Severn are very nice and well maintained, there is no overnight mooring in them. Subsequently, boaters have to moor in the town adjacent to Lower Mitton Bridge adjacent to the Black Star pub which frequently has live music. the towpath is a linear dog toilet where many dog owners do not pick-up after their dogs, is full of ant nests which find their way onto the boats (we spent three days after leaving Stourport removing ants) and the houses opposite resemble the back of a slum! I do not think that we shall be returning there in a hurry unless it is for access to the River Severn.
The return journey was more leisurely than the outgoing journey and we had the opportunity to explore places at our own pace and moor in the “middle of nowhere” when we wished to. Even so we had a few nice meals along the way. One of these was in Stourport where we had a Chinese meal in the Golden Country Chinese restaurant which was one of the few good things we experienced in the town. Of special note is the Navigation Inn at Gnosall where we had what must be amongst the best steaks we have ever tasted and the Lord Combermere at Audlem which we visited twice… once for tea and the second for Sunday lunch (best pork crackling ever!). Unfortunately, we were not able to have our regular all-day breakfast at the Venetian Marine Café at Cholmondeston due to either being in a queue for the lock or it not being open when we passed early in the morning.
Our boat… Squirrel performed faultlessly and we were impressed when we visited at the Wheaton Aston fuel stop to top-up the fuel tank. When we left Agden I topped-up the fuel tank to the brim and when filling-up at Wheaton Aston, also to the brim, it turned out that we had used slightly more than a gallon of fuel a day… that’s in excess of five hours to the gallon, and we could not complain about that! Not once did I have to open the weed hatch although I did have to refill the stern gland greaser which I expected as it was approaching empty when we set off.
The weather was kind to us as well… we only had two and a bit days of rain and the remaining days were either hot and sunny or dry and overcast with sunny intervals. Either way, it was a treat to go on holiday in this country and enjoy the weather as well as the countryside and various places that we cruise through. It is just a shame that our friends Wendy and Paul could not share what was one of the best canal holidays we have had… roll on next year!
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Chapter 3 - Canalmanac 2021 Part 2
The weekend after we returned from our Summer Holiday Cruise was August Bank Holiday Weekend. Lymm CC's Commodore had arranged for a barbeque in the Club Yard on the Saturday. We arrived at Agden on the Friday morning and I brought the boat up to the water point to load the food and clothes onto it. Whilst there I filled the water tank and soon afterwards Paul and Wendy arrived and brought their boat alongside ours to load-up. After a quick catch-up we set off in the bright sunshine and cruised up to Little Bollington, next to the underbridge that gives access to the Swan With Two Nicks pub. We sat out on our chairs chatting until tea time when we retired to our respective boats.
After breakfast the next morning we cruised down to Lymm where we moored alongside each other in the arm ready for the barbeque. The barbeque started at 2:00 pm and members started to arrive by boat and by car well before that time. It was a great success and we all hope that, along with the monthly Club meeting in just over a week heralds the return to normality.
The Lymm CC barbeque was well attended
When the barbeque was over we returned to the boat and stayed in the arm overnight. Next morning we set off at 10:00 am and planned to go to the Trafford Centre. The housing development on the old Linotype factory site was nearly complete and a storage container that had a face painted on it made me smile.
Seamon's Moss adjacent to the Bay Malton Hotel near Altrincham
The painted storage container at Altrincham that made me smile
In the Sale area there were quite a lot of canoeists on the canal.... both leisure canoeists and members of Trafford Rowing Club. It is bad enough having the rowing club members approaching and not being aware of oncoming craft but the leisure canoeists have little or no idea of the navigation rules, frequently passing on the wrong side where boat steerers cannot see them. Whilst passing through Trafford Park I captured the boat's reflection in the window of an office building next to the canal
Squirrel's reflection in an office window
Trafford Centre mooring
When we arrived at the Trafford Centre we moored adjacent to the gates into the complex and were soon walking into Barton Square. I was pleased to see that the new Metrolink station at the Trafford Centre is now open. After walking around looking in the shops we all had a coffee before returning to our boats for our evening meal. Wendy and Ange returned to the shops the next morning and on their return we set off for our moorings. All was going well until we were approaching the M60 Manchester Ring Road bridge across the canal the engine not changed and the tiller began to vibrate. Something had wrapped itself around the boat's propeller. I immediately put the boat in reverse but the item could not be thrown off. We drifted under the bridge and Ange held the boat's rope whilst I lifted the aft deck board giving access to the weed hatch. I opened the weed hatch, put my arm in the water and immediately could feel material wrapped around the propeller.
The material that had wrapped itself around the propeller
Passing through Dunham Massey
I threw the offending item onto the towpath whilst the weed hatch was closed and the deck board replaced. The material was then put in a carrier bag for disposal when we returned to our mooring. Back under way we once again ran the gauntlet of canoeists at Sale, didn't meet any on-coming craft at the Dunham Massey breach narrows and reached our moorings soon afterwards. It was not long before our things were loaded into the car, the boat was put to bed and we were zooming down the M56 on our way home after a great weekend that heralded the return to normality... we hope!
A couple of weeks after our trip to the Trafford Centre we drove up to Agden to prepare the boat for our Autumn Cruise. I fitted new cushion floor to the toilet to replace the original floor covering which was starting to show its age. After removing the old covering I used it as a template for the new covering and I have to admit that it was a lot easier than anticipated. After completion there were a couple of areas that need smoothing out but they will have to wait until it has settled. Whilst eating our lunch we were treated to the sight of ex-Thos Clayton narrowboat Spey cruising down the canal towards Preston Brook. That evening it was a relatively clear sky and I photographed a nearly full moon rising over the moorings.
New bathroom floor covering
Ex-Thomas Clayton narrowboat Spey passing our mooring
A nearly full moon rising over Agden
Ange cleaned the boat from one end to the other, cleaned the windows with the Kärcher Window Vac and on the Sunday morning we took the bedding home to be washed, we made a list of items required for our cruise, I trimmed the grass around our mooring posts and the brambles poking through the boundary fence. At lunchtime we were going back to the car to go home and Ange noticed a cygnet trapped between narrowboat In Dispute and the bank. As well as being trapped, its head was caught in one of the boat's fender ropes. I don't like to be close to swans so I slacked off the boat's mooring ropes whilst Ange removed the fender rope from the traumatised bird's neck and shooed it out to freedom. As it swam free it looked at Ange, wagged its tail and made a little grunting noise as a thank you for being saved. Well done Ange!
The cygnet trapped between the bank and narrowboat In Dispute
To be continued in Chapter 5 - Canalmanac 2021 Part 3
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Chapter 4 - Autumn Cruise 2021
We had planned with Wendy and Paul Savage to cruise to Burscough for our 2021 Autumn Cruise and maybe even have an excursion down the Rufford Arm to the River Douglas and Tarleton. We were looking forward to the cruise as it was just after the busiest part of the college year... the enrolment period plus we had lots of other things going on at home such as the paving and other work in our back garden and Ange's eighty year old mother moving to a bungalow, etc. that we needed respite from.
One thing that we were definitely looking forward to was a meal at The Ship Inn at Latham adjacent to the junction with the Rufford Branch near Burscough. The Ship is one of our favourite eating establishments on the whole of the canal system. A fortnight before we were due to go on our Autumn Cruise Ange cleaned the boat from one end to the other, including the windows inside and out. I laid new floor covering in the toilet using the original floor covering as a template and generally prepared the boat for the cruise. We took the bedding home to wash and made a list of items that we had run out of or required replenishment.
Friday 1st October 2021 We arrived at Agden after making a quick stop at M & S, Bidston Moss for fresh food and brought the boat to the water point to load it with our clothes, food, etc whilst we waited for Wendy and Paul to arrive. Once they came they moored on the side of our boat to load-up and after a quick catch-up we set off on out Autumn Cruise at 2:30pm in the bright autumn sunshine. It was a bit on the chilly side but pleasant and we were moored for the night at the Trafford Centre by 5:30pm.
Sale Straight on a sunny autumn afternoon
Saturday 2nd October 2021 Next morning was damp and drizzly and we set off after our breakfast. We planned to stop at the sanitary station at Worsley but, as it was locked-up and not in use we carried on. Whilst leaving Worsley, the off-side of the canal had been tidied up and a new path, similar in appearance to the Bridgewater Way had been laid leading to the new Royal Horticultural Society Gardens adjacent to Bridgewater Hall. It was so different from before that it didn't look like the Bridgewater Canal at all! We carried on to Leigh, stopped at the sanitary station (which was clean and pleasant) then moored in the town centre for lunch. We had a visit from Mike who was out for a drive and decided to surprise us. When he left Ange and Wendy made a quick visit to the canalside Aldi supermarket and on their return we set off for Plank Lane Lift Bridge. There is a timetable in operation preventing use of the bridge in rush hours but Paul misread the sign as the timetable only applies Monday to Friday. The bridge would not lift and required resetting but we were soon through it and moored for the night shortly after just past Bridge 9.
Bridgewater Canal by the RHS Bridgewater Gardens at Worsley
Sunday 3rd October 2021 Not long after we set off in bright, warm sunshine, we passed the sad sight of the Dover Lock Pub all boarded-up and forlorn. I don't think it will be too long before the demolition crews flatten the building which will be a shame as, over the years, we have spent many happy times there and had quite a few nice meals as well. We were soon in the outskirts of Wigan and on approaching Poolstock Locks we saw a magnet fishing club dredging the canal. We hoped that they take their finds with them and don't just leave them lying around. The pound between the two Poolstock Locks was quite low but Ange and Paul managed to navigate it without running aground. After passing through locks twenty two and twenty three we moored for lunch on the floating pontoons adjacent to Trenchfield Mill and sat out on our chairs in the bright, warm sunshine to eat it. However, when we set-off again, as we rounded the bend before Wigan Pier the wing sprang up from nowhere and by the time we reached Ell Meadow Lock it was raining quite heavily so waterproofs were donned. After putting on our waterproofs we carried on and at one point we were subjected to horizontal rain! The rain eased off by the time we reached Dean Locks. After the locks we started to look for a suitable mooring place for the night and found one overlooking a meadow about half a mile further on. Once we moored the sun came out again and we all commented that we had seen every type of weather (except of snow and hail) after Wigan.
Leeds & Liverpool Canal at Wigan
Monday 4th October 2021 Shortly after setting off the next morning in bright sunshine we came to Appley Bridge Swing Bridge. Ange operated the bridge and had trouble removing the Watermate Key after she had swung it back into position. The key was eventually removed and we carried on through the village and its extremely deep lock flanked by one of the few dual carriageway stretches of canal in the country. The weather was very pleasant and we were soon turning right onto the Rufford Branch on the outskirts of Burscough. After passing through three locks we stopped for lunch and I took some photographs in the lovely sunshine. We carried on and after lock six Paul noticed water leaking from the canal and bubbling up onto the towpath which was at a lower level to the canal. After Paul notified Canal and River Trust of the possible breach we thought it prudent to turn around by the swing bridge and retrace our steps just in case they closed the canal. We made it back to the main line of the canal and moored for the night at above lock seven.
A monochrome study of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, Rufford Branch
Tuesday 5th October 2021 The day dawned bright but the bright spells were punctuated by showers so we made our way back to the main line of the canal and turned right heading for Burscough Wharf. After emptying the toilet we carried on for half a mile or so and turned around ready for our journey home. We had planned to carry on a little further and moor close to the Ship Inn at Lathom but the rain started again and became heavier so we decided to stay where we where for the night and order a taxi to take us to the Ship Inn later on. We had a lovely meal there and another taxi returned us to Burscough Wharf ready to set-off the next morning.
Wednesday 6th October 2021 We awoke to brilliant sunshine and after our breakfast set off. We made good time but when we reached Dean Locks there was a queue. One of the gates wouldn't close and C&RT were fixing the problem. Before long the gate was fixed and we were soon locking up under the watchful eyes of the C&RT workmen. When the lock was full we discussed the possible breach on the Rufford Arm and they told us that they were aware of it. Water was passing beneath the piling but they could not repair it until the water levels dropped at the end of the boating season. Ange gave them a couple of cans to refresh themselves with to which they were most grateful. We were on our way again, passed through the Wigan Locks and were disgusted to see that the previously mentioned magnet fishing club had left most of their dredgings on the towpath. After Poolstock Locks we decided to find a mooring for the night and I suggested adjacent to Scotsman Flash. When we reached the proposed mooring I went in to moor and ran aground. After poling the boat off we eventually found a spot deep enough (but only just) and we moored for the night in this lovely location accompanied by a screeching owl soundtrack.
Thursday 7th October 2021 When we set off the next morning Paul picked something up on his propeller. I was ahead at this point and reversed back (in a straight line I hasten to add) the quarter of a mile to see if he required any assistance. As we drew level he emerged from the weed hatch holding a discarded sweatshirt that had managed to wrap itself around the propeller. We were soon under way again, passed through Plank Lane Lift Bridge (out of rush hour) and we were soon at Leigh. We didn't stop for shopping this time and carried on to the sanitary station where we made a brief stop before passing through Worsley. Here a hire boat pulled out just as I was approaching which necessitated an emergency stop and a few choice words from me. We carried on to the Trafford Centre where we moored for the night. Mike visited us again and stayed for tea. After he left Ange, Wendy and Paul went into the Trafford Centre to do a bit of shopping before we retired for the night.
The Trafford Centre at night
Friday 8th October 2021 The last day of our holiday dawned bright and sunny and we were soon making our way back to our mooring. Ange sat on a folding chair on the aft deck as we cruised through the beautiful Cheshire countryside and I made the observation that this was most probably the last time this year that we would be feeling the heat from the sun. Back at Agden, we stopped on the water point as we loaded the car before putting the boat to bed on its mooring after another brilliant cruise. Now it was time to return home to work and normality.
Timetable for our 2021 Autumn Cruise
|Friday 1st October 2021||-||Agden Mooring to Trafford Centre|
|Saturday 2nd October 2021||-||Trafford Centre to Bridge 6 above Plank Lane, Leeds & Liverpool Canal, Leigh Branch|
|Sunday 3rd October 2021||-||Bridge 6 to below Dean Locks, Leeds and Liverpool Canal, Main Line|
|Monday 4th October 2021||-||Below Dean Locks to above Lock 5, Leeds and Liverpool Canal, Rufford Branch|
|Tuesday 5th October 2021||-||Above Lock 6 to Burscough Wharf, Leeds and Liverpool Canal, Main Line|
|Wednesday 6th October 2021||-||Burscough Wharf to Scotsman Flash, Wigan, Leeds & Liverpool Canal, Leigh Branch|
|Thursday 7th October 2021||-||Scotsman Flash to Trafford Centre|
Friday 8th October 2021
Trafford Centre to Agden Mooring
Epilogue to Autumn Cruise 2021
Once again, our beautiful boat had performed faultlessly. We had a great time with great friends, passed through some beautiful locations, only really had one wet day and the rest of the time the sun shone... what more can you ask for?
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Chapter 5 - Canalmanac 2021 Part 3
I had dragged my feet up-loading photographs of our 2021 Autumn Cruise as shortly after returning from our it I was contacted by Russell Brown from Storyvault Films who are in the process of making a programme documenting the complete restoration of the Rochdale Canal in 2002 for the Sky Arts TV channel. The researchers had come across photographs of Castlefield prior to restoration taken between 1986 and 1988 as well as during and after completion on the Castlefield Canal Heritage Walk section of the Canalscape website. I spent quite a lot of time retrieving and rescanning some of the photographs so that they would be of the best possible quality when included in the programme. They also requested photographs of the construction of Salford Quays taken during the IWA National Rally of Boats during August 1988. I have included a couple of the photographs below for your appreciation.
Castlefield Junction in 1986 before regeneration of the surrounding area
Salford Quays under construction in 1988
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Our Canal Cruising Experiences and Milestones During 2021
|23rd July 2021||-||Three week Summer Cruise to Stourport|
|1st October 2021||-||Autumn Cruise to Rufford Branch, Leeds & Liverpool Canal|
|Date TBC 2021||-||Text|
|Lymm CC Cruises Attended During 2021|
|Date TBC 2021||-||Text|
|Date TBC 2021||-||Text|
|Date TBC 2021||-||Text|
|Date TBC 2021||-||Text|
|Date TBC 2021||-||Text|
|Date TBC 2021||-||Text|
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Canal Cruising 2022
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