Book 9

Canal Cruising 2013

An eBook and website by Cyril J Wood


The title photograph shows Marple Bottom Lock on a sunny August morning


Click on the required section below to follow links

Chapter 1 - Canalmanac 2013


Chapter 2 - Easter Excursion

  Chapter 3 - Summer Cruise 2013

Canalography 2013


Return to Introduction


Chapter 1 - Canalmanac 2013 (in preparation)

We started the New year off with a work party at the Lymm moorings. A few boats (including ours) were moved up to fill a gap left by Lisa and Nigel Foster's boat. We also undertook some maintenance on "Total Eclipse". With all the rain that we have experience lately we had noticed that the windows were starting to leak and so decided to take them out one at a time and reseal them. The first one to be removed was the kitchen window. After running a Stanley knife around the seal I removed the self-tapping screws holding the frame in place. It was then gently eased outwards and out it came. After removing all the old sealant and cleaning up the steelwork the frame was cleaned and both were allowed to dry out. The front/port window was then removed in the same way.

The front/port window aperture with the frame removed prior to re-sealing and refitting

I did not know what to expect when I removed them but the steelwork was in excellent condition and didn't require any additional work other than cleaning. Once the steelwork and the window frames were clean and dry mastic sealant was applied to the frames and then they were refitted with help from Ian who had arrived to do some work in the Clubhouse where the bar was being replaced. Some of the self-tapping screws holding the frames in place needed replacement and some of the paintwork was peeling adjacent to where the frames where. This was rubbed down, undercoat applied and will be painted with gloss paint when the weather is a little warmer. We now plan to complete the sealing re-exercise on the other windows in the coming weeks.

Bernard Hesford

One of the draw-backs of being involved in canal cruising from an early age is that as time goes by people that you like, love, respect or have influenced your life pass away. Accordingly, in recent years we seem to be going to more and more funerals. Just before Christmas we had lost Norrie (the Mad Irishman) Kelly and Terry Biltcliffe. The latest was the loss of Bernard Hesford whom I had known since 1985 when I first came onto the Bridgewater Canal. Bernard was well known on the Bridgewater Canal and had been a past Lymm CC Committee Member, Commodore, Chairman and President. This imposing figure's flair for problem solving and dry sense of humour will be missed by everyone who came in contact with him. Ange and I went to pay our respects at Altrincham Crematorium and when the hearse arrived I was deeply moved when the Lymm CC flag was draped on the coffin.  After the funeral we retired to Lymm CC's Clubhouse and admired the recently completed bar which was having its christening at Bernard's wake. The new bar was named "The Merlin's Bar" in Bernard's memory.

The new bar in Lymm Cruising Club's clubhouse

As January drew to a close the Government announced the route for Phase Two of the proposed HS2 high-speed railway line from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds. I had followed the developments of Phase One... the southern section with interest as it crossed many canals and inland waterways along its route. Whilst inspecting the maps of the Northern Section's Proposed Route I was horrified to discover that it crossed the Bridgewater Canal at Agden... exactly on Lymm Cruising Club's moorings. Not only does the railway line cross the Bridgewater Canal here but there is a junction at this location as well before crossing the Manchester Ship Canal at high level. The line also crosses the Trent and Mersey Canal at Bramble Cuttings near Middlewich... one of our (and many other canal boaters') favourite moorings. Even though it will be many years before the construction work is due to commence it will be interesting to see how the situation develops. I know that at least one Lymm CC member has applied to Alan Savage... Lymm CC's Mooring Officer for a mooring beneath the railway bridge when its built! I wonder who that might be? Could it be Dezza?

Lymm CC's Agden Moorings where the HS2 railway track will cross the Bridgewater Canal

Also at the end of January Granada TV showed my first weather photograph of 2013. It came as a complete surprise as it was one that had previously been used by them last year (they must keep them on file) but I have included it here as it is one of my favourite photographs.

A screen shot of the Granada Weather Forecast showing one of my photographs as a back-drop...

... and a full sized version of the photograph used entitled Leasowe Sunset

Not long after Lymm CC's AGM was the Valentine's Dance. There was entertainment in the shape of a singer... Linney Lane (not forgetting Ian's "clothesline") and an excellent buffet laid on by Derek Ridpath. A couple of us were the focus of the singer's attention which culminated in Paul Durbridge (Vice-Commodore) and yours truly performing the (not quite so) Full Monty at the end of the evening!

Valentine's Dance

Ange, Shannon, Emily and Popsy enjoying the entertainment

The following week saw a connection with canals and inland waterways at Wirral Metropolitan College's Twelve Quays place of work. At the College we have a Motor Cycle Technology Centre where students are taught all about motor cycle engineering. The facilities had been refurbished and to celebrate this motor cycle adventurer, author and documentary film maker Nick Sanders was invited to open the new facilities. Nick holds the world record for circumnavigation of the world on a motor cycle in thirty one days and twenty hours and has written books and made films of this and many of his other exploits.

Nick Sanders at Wirral Metropolitan College

Wirral Metropolitan College's Motor Cycle Technology Centre

What, you might ask, has this to do with canals and inland waterways? Well, whilst on our summer cruise last year we actually met Nick Sanders. He is a canal boater with a difference having taken his narrowboat and butty across the English Channel and cruised the Continental waterways, down the River Danube to the Black Sea. It was one of those rare hot, sunny summer days when we approached Bosley Locks on the Macclesfield Canal and met a narrowboat (fitted with a beautiful Gardner 2LW) pulling a butty. As the motor rose in the lock the steerer was playing Mah-jong with his son on the top lock gate. This was Nick and his son. We chatted and I took photographs of Nick, his family and their beautiful narrowboats. I presented him with copies of these photographs when I met him at Wirral Metropolitan College. He remembered me from Bosley Locks and told me that he was pleasantly surprised to come across someone with canal connections on his visit.

Nick Sanders at Bosley Locks last year

That weekend Ange had ordered tickets to visit the site of last September's breach on the Trent and Mersey Canal at Dutton. We had arranged to go with Ian, Michelle and Popsy and Phil (Big Boy) Anderton had booked for the same time. Access to the breach site is off the A49 where a new road has been made leading to the car park and site facilities. On arrival we reported to the Canal and River Trust personnel and were directed to the lower viewing platform.

Information poster for the Dutton Breach

Looking towards Bridge 212 from the northern section bund

Part of the embankment that has been relined with concrete

Here we could see the clay bund separating the drained canal from the section of the embankment that was being reconstructed and relined. We could see Bridge 212 in the distance and the de-watered section extended to Bridge 213. We next went to the upper viewing platform opposite the place where the breach took place. Across the canal was the location of the section of the embankment that was washed away when the breach took place. Through the partially repaired embankment the fields beyond still contained mud, soil and rubble that was washed down when the breach took place. A couple of days earlier an original cast iron Trent and Mersey Canal milepost was recovered from the materials washed down when the breach took place. The post is to be refurbished and repainted in the near future. The fibre optic cable that is buried beneath the towpath is temporarily suspended in the air to prevent damage from the heavy plant but will be reburied once the work is completed. The mile post was later photographed fully refurbished and in position whilst on our summer cruise. Another bund separated the southern section of the canal that was also partially drained from the breach site.

Looking north from the upper viewing platform

The location of the breach with the soil spread over the fields below

The Trent and Mersey Canal milepost recovered a few days earlier - see Summer Cruise 2013

Paul Brown discussing the breach with members of our group

A sample of "Enkamat"... the hi-tech, waterproof membrane used to stabilise and seal the works

Paul Brown, the project manager of the works explained to us the challenges that they had faced during the reconstruction of the embankment, how they were rebuilding it, the materials being used and what comes next. We were shown a sample of "Enkamat"... a hi-tech, flexible multi-layer membrane that is being used to waterproof and stabilise the channel. Paul explained that they were ahead of schedule and hoped that the canal would be open by the end of May 2013. The visit was most informative and was an insight to how the Canal and River Trust were handling their first major trauma since taking over the running of our inland waterways system last year. We were invited to become Friends of the Canal and River Trust for a few pounds a month... an offer that we took-up and I would encourage every canal enthusiast to join as well. After our visit to the breach site we drove to the Salt Barge pub at Marston for lunch. Inside the pub are many interesting photographs of the area including the adjacent Lion Salt Works, the breach that lead to the construction of Marston New Cut, the nearby meres, etc. The mere is reported to be in excess of 100 metres deep.

Looking north from Marston Bridge number 193

The Lion Salt Works under restoration

This is due to the subsidence that this area is greatly affected by. If one looks at Marston Bridge (no 193) the original road bed supports can be seen just above the water level with the existing supports about two metres higher. This illustrates just how much the ground has subsided.  Afterwards we walked down to the canal to inspect how restoration of the Lion Salt Works was progressing. I also took photographs of the mere adjacent to the canal before heading for home after a most enjoyable afternoon with our friends.

Stone road supports on Marston Bridge (193)  illustrating how much the area is affected by subsidence

The mere at Marston adjacent to the canal

Earlier in the year we removed a couple of the windows on "Total Eclipse" to re-seal them and prevent the rainwater leaks that we were being plagued with. On removal the frame appeared to be perfectly sealed and resealing later proved not eliminate the leaks. On inspection we subsequently discovered that there are small gaps at both ends of the aluminium on the window frames beneath the opening top hoppers. These small gaps allowed rainwater to run down the inside of the frame and cause damage to the timber cabin lining. I was waiting for a dry spell lasting into the weekend so that I could seal these gaps and (hopefully) solve the problem. Ian suggested that I sealed the gaps with a substance similar to silicone that is used for sealing lead flashing on roofs as it is waterproof and the same colour as the window frames so would not be seen.

The first Saturday in March proved to be such a day and I made my way up to Lymm. As it was a beautiful Spring morning with not a cloud in the sky and the sun shining (and the fact that I had my Leica with me!) I could not resist the temptation to stop and take a couple of photographs. The location that I stopped at was the Boat Museum at Ellesmere Port and the Ship Canal was a lot calmer than my previous visit a couple of months earlier when we were taking "Eclipse" from Salford Quays to Ellesmere Port with its new owner.

The Manchester Ship Canal at Ellesmere Port on a sunny Spring morning

On arrival at Lymm I lit the fire and moved the boat onto the canal frontage at the club yard where it would be in the sun. After cleaning the windows and allowing the window frames to heat up and dry-out completely I applied the sealant to each of the offending gaps in the frames. I had lunch in the warm spring sunshine with Phil Big Boy (nice pies... thanks Phil) and we caught-up with each other's news. After lunch I turned the boat around to warm up the frames on the starboard side of the boat. I also had to wash this side of the boat (avoiding the window frames) as it was covered with bird droppings. Once this was done I continued sealing and it wasn't long before the task was completed.


I was packing up and preparing to put the boat back on its moorings when Peter Tomlinson... the owner of "Superbo" drove into the yard followed by another car containing people I didn't recognise. In January I received an email from a Robert Veck from Winchester who had "Googled" "Superbo" and was directed to the "Don't Call It A Barge" section of "Canalscape". Rob's father was the first owner of "Superbo" and wanted to know if she was still afloat and I knew where she was moored. I emailed him back telling him that the boat was moored next to our at Lymm. He enquired if I could let him have the owner's contact details and after telephoning Peter for permission to do so I passed on the details to Robert who informed me that he was arranging with Peter to come and see the boat and visit some friends of his wife's at the same time. I suspected that the people with Peter were Rob Veck, his wife and their friends. As I passed "Superbo" Rob's wife pointed at the boat and said something to her husband. I waved and said that I would be back after I had turned around. I was soon mooring the boat and Rob's friend very kindly took one of the mooring ropes and assisted in tying-up. Rob thanked me for helping with his finding "Superbo" and we had a chat. I asked him if he shed a tear to which he told me that he came close... I would have been flooded with tears as I am very sentimental. Before long it was time for us to go our separate ways. Rob thanked me for my website for without it he would not have been able to find his father's boat. Peter then escorted his visitors to the car park and I finished putting the boat to bed before heading for home after what I hoped was a most productive day... let's hope that the sealant works!

Lumbrook Underbridge between Grappenhall and Stockton Heath

As the day was still sunny I couldn't resist the temptation of stopping on the way home to take photographs. One location that I do not have photographs of is Lumbrook Underbridge between Stockton Heath and Grappenhall. This structure still has much of the original stonework laid down by James Brindley over two hundred and fifty years ago and needs to be photographed just in case it requires remedial work in the future which would destroy its appearance. As I didn't have any photographs of the aqueduct from below I decided to park the car in Stockton Lane which runs alongside the canal and remedy the situation before continuing my journey home. The meting with Rob illustrated the immense power of the Internet... it provides us with information from all over the planet, allows us to communicate with people far away via email and Skype and even gives us the opportunity to purchase items that may be unavailable locally with considerable savings into the bargain. I love it!

A screen shot of the Granada TV Weather Forecast...

... and a full-size version of the West Float photograph used

The following week one of my photographs was used as a back-drop to the Granada Weather Forecast. The photograph is of sunset over the West Float... part of the Wallasey and Birkenhead Docks complex, taken whilst on my way home from work and is one of my favourites. It was one of those times when one sees something worth photographing, stops the car and captures the image for prosperity.

Yet another screen shot of the Granada TV Weather Forecast...

... and a full-size version of the Gayton Sunset photograph used

Yet another of my photographs was used during the next week. This time it was a photograph of the sun setting over the River Dee Estuary at Gayton on the Wirral. The same day I received an email from a lady called Clare Parody... a researcher at ITV. She told me that they were planning to produce a series of prime-time programmes starring Ade Edmondson similar in concept to the very successful "The Dales" and "Ade in Britain" series, only this time Ade will be visiting rivers and docks of Great Britain and would be called "Ade at Sea". One of the programmes will centre around the River Mersey and the Manchester Ship Canal and whilst looking for background material on the Internet she came across "Canalscape" and found it to be a mine of useful information. Clare shared her find with the rest of the production team and they were especially impressed with "The Big Ditch" section which concentrates on the Manchester Ship Canal.  In the email I was asked if I could contact her, which I did the following day. I told her a little about myself, discussed various aspects of the Manchester Ship Canal and the River Mersey. After the discussion Clare asked if I would have any objections to taking part in the programme as I was just the kind of person that they were looking for. Needless to say I agreed. Filming is planned for June so I had better keep a couple of days holiday for then just in case I am asked to be interviewed.

Egerton Bridge at Twelve Quays on the Birkenhead Docks Estate in the snow

The rest of the week was spent making preparations for our Easter Cruise along the Kennet and Avon Canal (see Easter Excursion). We made our travel plans, programmed Post Codes into the Sat Nav, complied lists of items to be taken with us, printed out a guide to the canal (as well as a pub guide) and liaised with Michelle and Ian with whom we were going. However, at the end of the week the weather took a turn for the worst and we were bombarded with high winds and snow which continued well into the next week. Unusually for the Wirral Peninsula, the snow stuck as is illustrated in the photograph above of Egerton Bridge on the Birkenhead Docks Estate, adjacent to Wirral Metropolitan College's Twelve Quays Campus where I work. The snow makes it looks almost monochrome but it is in fact a colour photograph. We hoped that the snow would clear in time for our Easter holiday the following weekend and that the weather made a change for the better... but I have packed my long Johns and bought a new pair of boots just in case!

In the weeks following our adventure along the Kennet and Avon Canal we didn't go up to the boat much due to an on-going problem with the car that didn't show up on the diagnostic computer which was eventually traced to a faulty temperature sensor. This sensor gave the car's computer the impression that the engine was at normal temperature and didn't turn on the electric cooling fan when the temperature was actually much higher than indicated. A faulty sensor was indicated and replaced but it didn't solve the problem. It was actually the car's ECU (computer) that was at fault and we decided that it was now time to change our car. We sat down and drew up a shortlist of the following... Kia Soul Echo, Suzuki SX4, Toyota urban Cruiser and the Skoda Yeti. Accordingly we started to trawl the Internet for suitable cars and arrange test drives.

All of the photographs of mine that have been shown on Granada Television's Weather Forecast were taken on the Wirral and I thought that it was time for something canal orientated. I sent them a photograph that I took last year of the sun setting over the Bridgewater Canal at Agden. I am pleased to report that the photograph was shown and is reproduced below.

A screen shot the latest photograph used for the Granada TV Weather Forecast...

... and a full-size version of Sunset at Agden on the Bridgewater Canal

Thursday the 2nd May 2013 was notable insomuch that it was the date that the Trent and Mersey Canal was officially reopened after the dramatic breach at Dutton last September. The reopening was televised live on the BBC's "One Show" and we would have liked to have attended but we would not have been able to get there due to work commitments and an unreliable car. The fact that remedial work at the location of the breach was completed in such a short space of time and nearly one month ahead of schedule is a testament to the Canal and River Trust and their contractors... May Gurney.

The flotilla of narrowboats heading for the breach location during the opening

(Photograph - BBC TV)

Canal enthusiasts lining the towpath in readiness for the reopening of the canal

(Photograph - BBC TV)

The reopening of the canal was performed by former athlete turned "One Show" presenter Iwan Thomas aboard the narrowboat "Potential" leading a flotilla of narrowboats in front of many canal enthusiasts who were lining the towpath for this special occasion. We are now looking forward to cruising the reopened section in the very near future.

The moment of truth as the narrowboat "Potential" passes over the opening ribbon

(Photograph - BBC TV)

The May Bank Holiday Weekend was looming and we had a few test drives of cars in the week. Originally, Ange originally had set her heart on a Kia Soul Echo limited edition in white with a black stripe and black alloy wheels (I still say they look like a hearse at the back) and we visited our local Kia garage for a test drive. They didn't have the exact model in stock but we drove a couple of other models to get a feel for them. After the test drives we narrowed our shortlist down to either the Kia Soul Echo petrol/manual or a diesel/automatic Kia Soul Tempest. Our local Kia dealership didn't have the exact models we wanted but as luck would have it one was found via the Internet not too far away at Lookers in Liverpool. We went to have a look at it and when we saw the car in the flesh it was love at first sight so after a test drive we went for it. They gave us a good deal on the car and gave us a good trade-in price for our old Suzuki Ignis which isn't worth very much really. Unfortunately we won't be able to collect it until the Wednesday after the Bank Holiday but we will try and drive to Lymm via the A56 instead of the motorway... just in case we have any problems. Seeing as we spent the Saturday looking at cars our belated start to the boating season will have to wait just a little bit longer. But even when buying the car there was a canal connection. Right behind Lookers where we bought the car from was the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. We cruised this section a few years ago when we went to Liverpool on Lymm CC's Summer Cruise. But the canal connection didn't end there... our new car was first registered in 2011 by Chapel House Motors in St Helens who are located in guess where... Canal Street where else!

Ange and our new Kia Soul at Lookers in Liverpool

The next day we drove to Lymm and had to stop half-way there when the Ignis started to overheat but we got there in one piece eventually. We planned to fill the boat's water tank, put the batteries on charge, clean the interior and cut the grass on or mooring in addition to a few other jobs that we wanted to complete. Our fellow Lymm CC members had cruised to Runcorn and George Gleave's Bridge for the weekend and the moorings were quite empty. We wouldn't have had the time to join them so we stayed on the moorings completing most of our jobs. The Bank Holiday Monday turned out to be the best day of the year up to now and after I cut the grass we completed our jobs and. We spoke to some of the early returners from the cruise who arrived at the clubhouse just before we headed for home. The best day of the year up to now (weather-wise) and I didn't take a single photograph! On our way home we avoided the M56 but even so we stopped half-way to let the car's engine cool down then continued on our way. Roll on Wednesday when we are due to collect our new car!

Having collected our new car during the week we were eager to have our first long drive in it and after shopping for essentials we headed up to Lymm the following Saturday. We planned to finish a few other jobs left over from our previous visit and also to  (with help from Ian) fit a new roller blind to the boat's kitchen window. Gary from Coverit was coming to Lymm the following Saturday and we hoped that he would fit the adjustable canopy frame anchorages. The next day (Sunday) Derek Ridpath had arranged a visit to Stafford Boat Club. We had a few friends who moored their boats at Stafford so we were looking forward to renewing old acquaintances and seeing the facilities that their club offered its members. We were to travel by coach which was leaving Lymm at 09.00 and it didn't take long to reach our destination. Needless to say, Michelle had packed Ian copious quantities of food to see him down the M6! A couple of days earlier I had a look at Stafford Boat Club's website and even viewed it on Google Earth just to see what we were letting ourselves in for. On arrival we were greeted by a committee member who showed us to their clubhouse after the customary photographs had been taken. We were pleased to see that some Lymm CC members (nb "Don Ross", "Camarilla" and "Rannoch") who were out long distance cruising had moored at the club and joined us as well. Once inside the club house we were given tea and coffee with scones, cake and biscuits before I went for a walk around the location to have a look at the facilities that this impressive club offers its members and to take photographs (now there's a surprise).

Lymm CC members at Stafford Boat Club

Lymm CC's Harbourmaster John Moult getting ideas for Lymm

The first thing that caught my eye was the slipway where two boats can be out of the water on trolleys at the same time. Once out of the water a mobile poly-tunnel is wheeled into place to protect the workers and the boat from the elements. This is a really good idea and I took quite a few photographs of this facility in the hopes that the Committee of Lymm CC could be encouraged to invest in such a facility for our slipway. Indeed... many of the members who saw this facility commented on how much of a useful asset this would be at Lymm as I don't think that there can be many Lymm CC members who have not been rained on when trying to paint their boat or clean and re-black their hull whilst out of the water. Next to the slipway was a long building featuring many large windows that was the wet dock. Looking through the windows I saw what looked suspiciously like a Hudson boat. On going inside to investigate my observations were proved correct... it was a Hudson. In fact, we had seen and even been on this boat last year when we were moored below Bosley Locks on the Macclesfield Canal.

Landscaped lock gates in the grounds of Stafford Boat Club

The club house from over the lawn

Moorings from the new footbridge

Slipway to accommodate two boats and poly movable tunnels

Stafford Boat Club's Wet Dock beside the slipway

Inside the wet dock complete with an S M Hudson narrowboat being repainted

Stafford Boat Club's latest addition - a steel footbridge across the moorings entrance

After chatting for a few minutes we walked to the boats nominated to take us for a cruise along the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal.  We were going on nb "India"... a traditional style tug that had a Gardner 2LW in the engine room. The boat belonging to and was built by our old friend Adrian Scriven and his wife who we first met a couple of years ago at Llangollen. When we left Lymm the sun was shining but that didn't last long. It became overcast and threatened rain. But this didn't dampen our ardour and after chatting to Adrian and his wife we introduced the other members from Lymm that were joining us. They were John "Rosie" Melling - Chairman, Guy and Sue Burden - Guy was last year's Commodore. Introductions over Adrien started the engine and reversed out of the mooring, beneath the new footbridge and onto the Staffs and Worcs Canal.

Hazelstrine Bridge

After cruising for about a mile we found ourselves in the queue for Deptmore Lock. Stafford Boat Club members were operating the lock to ensure that not too much time was spent waiting and we were soon on our way again. The canal wound around in typical Brindley fashion and we eventually reached a winding hole were we turned around and retraced our steps just as it started to rain. Before too long we were back at Stafford Boat Club and after some liquid refreshment we were treated to a beautiful shepherd's pie lunch. When we had finished eating we were shown a video documenting the boat club's history and their accomplishments. There was a raffle followed by speeches and presentations from the club Commodores after which it was time to say our farewells, return to the coach and make our way back to Lymm. We were made most welcome by Stafford Boat Club and admired the facilities that their members enjoy...especially the engineering and metal work workshops, wet dock and poly tunnels over the slipway The video that we were shown made me think that maybe I should do something similar about Lymm CC's history... but that is a project for the future.

In the queue for Deptmore Lock

Retracing our steps in the rain to Stafford Boat Club

Over Whit Bank Holiday weekend we could have done with splitting ourselves in three. Lymm CC had a cruise to the Federation of Bridgewater Cruising Clubs Annual Rally at Astley near Leigh... it was the Crick Boat Show weekend and we had been asked to go with Ian and Michelle... and we had work to do at home with Ange having family commitments as well. In the end we spent the weekend at home doing our jobs, "chucking out the chintz", going to the tip and Ange fulfilling her family obligations. Even though we didn't attend the FBCC Rally we were there in spirit. The display board that I raised funds for last year was presented and my fundraising efforts were mentioned by FBCC Chairman - Dave Stewart. During the week I was up-dating the "Big Ditch" and "Duke's Cut" sections of the website. Whilst going through some old photographs I had amassed I came across an old photograph of the Bridgewater Canal at Lymm drained after a breach. The photograph was taken opposite what is now Lymm CC and shows what appears to be Lymm Tunnel (or is it a coal cart?) which is adjacent to where the Lymm CC Clubhouse is now located.

In this early 20th Century photograph of the canal drained after a breach and what appears to be Lymm Tunnel can be seen on the far right

We had arranged to have a cratch and front cover fitted so we thought that it would be best to paint the area surrounding the front deck before "Coverit" came to complete the fitting. The weather was warm and sunny... perfect, so we went up to Lymm and moored the boat in front of the clubhouse whilst Ange painted and I did some jobs inside the boat. Arthur and Brenda were preparing their narrowboat "Hyland" for their three month summer cruise. Arthur told me that they planned to cruise along the River Trent, the Lincolnshire waterways, River Ouse to York ending up on the River Aire to Leeds and along the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, through Skipton and to Wigan then back to Lymm. We were very envious but we would have to wait until we retired until we could even contemplate such a trip... lucky ducks! Our labours were interrupted by a visitor... Nigel Foster. This was quite uncanny as we had only been talking at home about his dear departed wife... Lisa, after watching the Smurfs on a re-run of an old "Top of the Pops" on television ("Smurf" was Lisa's nickname). We talked about old times, shared the wonderful memories that we had and how much we missed Lisa before Nigel left us to complete our jobs before the paint brushes went hard!

Ange painting the area around the front deck cream in preparation for the cratch being fitted

The weather had been beautiful all the following week and I arranged to take the Friday day off work in order to finish off the painting. After marking out the curves they were masked off with masking tape and two coats of red applied to each side. Before turning the boat around and whilst I had the red paint out I patched-up the cabin sides where the paintwork had been damaged when the windows had been removed earlier in the year. I also painted the top rubbing strake with gloss black with a very small brush for accuracy. It took all day to complete the painting but it was well worth it and the results below speak for themselves.

The bow paintwork completed

I received an email during the following week from a "Canalscape" reader called Nick Holt. He was trying to trace the history of his narrowboat "Eileen" and came across my entries about a boat that may the same boat in "Canalscape Book One". The boat in question is a BCN Day Boat that had been cut down to 62ft and the hull was originally purchased prior to conversion in the late 1960's from Sid Merral at Beeston Castle Wharf where Chas Harden's Beeston Castle Cruisers is located today. This is where my parents first moored "Phial" and below is a 1966 photograph of me fishing from the hull that was to eventually become "Eileen".

A 1966 photograph of yours truly fishing off the BCN day boat that was to eventually become nb "Eileen"

(Photograph - Jim Wood)

Nick wanted to know more about the boat's time at Beeston and I told him that I remember Sid Merral telling me that they had brought the hull back from Skipton on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal using their boat "Starling" to tow it. Sid had planned to fit a counter stern to the hull as well as a cabin, use a Fowler engine that he had in his warehouse to propel it and add the completed boat to his fleet of hire cruisers. The conversion never took place and the hull was eventually sold to a private buyer. The subsequent (and earlier) history of this boat can be found on Nick's website at Nick was extremely pleased with the photograph that I sent him and, like me... is impressed with the power of the Internet. Thank you so much Sir Tim Berners-Lee... we are eternally grateful to you!

nb "Eileen" in more recent times

(Photograph - The Historic Narrowboat Club)

We had planned to go on the Lymm CC cruise to "Spike Bridge" between Walton and Moore but could not do so due to a leaking raw cooling water pump. The leak had manifested itself after the winter most probably caused by frost but unfortunately the antifreeze only protects the sealed part of the cooling system. Even though the pump is only held in position by two bolts, with a drive belt and two water pipes connected to it, it is extremely awkward to reach being right at the front of the engine at its lowest point and up against the engine compartment bulkhead. Once removed we took the pump to Thorn Marine who would have to dismantle the pump to match the seals and impeller due to it not having a reference number on it. Once the parts are matched Ian was going to collect the pump and fit the parts ready for me to reinstall it along with a new length of hose that was beginning to show signs of distress. Hopefully I will do this later on in the week when I take a day off work when Gary from Coverit comes to fit the cratch. When this is completed all that the boat needs is for the roof to be repainted due to it starting to peel and the hull re-blacked above the waterline and we are ready for our summer cruise. I might even find time to construct the TV surround that I have had planned to build for a while now... but I'm not holding my breath on that one!

The Friday of the Summer Solstice promised to be one of those rare hot sunny summer days that we have so few of in this country. I had arranged to meet Gary from Coverit at Lymm. He had brought the cratch board to fit temporarily whilst he measured for the cover that was going to be attached to it. And very good it was looking too! When this was completed (without his managing to fall in) he turned his attention to the rear canopy. We were having problems taking the canopy down due to it not fitting over the swan neck of the tiller. This problem was solved by fitting a sliding support for the framework which would allow the whole framework and canopy to be moved rearward in order to clear the tiller and not risk the assembly falling into the canal.

Gary from Coverit fitting the cratch...

...and the template for the catch cover held in place by magnets

The movable slider for the rear canopy and framework

When this was completed I bade farewell to Gary and walked into the village to visit Sexton's bakery (friends and regular readers will know what for). It was the weekend of Lymm Historic Transport Festival and quite a few classic narrowboats had arrived including the tug "Kennett" which we had seen at Dutton Dry Dock and the butty "Gifford" towed by "Mendip". The steam powered narrowboat "President" was also expected along with a few other boats which had not arrived as yet. In addition to the boats there was to be a cavalcade of classic cars and other vehicles plus a model railway exhibition and other exhibits of interest on Sunday but we would not be able to see it due to family commitments. I had received a telephone call from Ian telling me that Thorn Marine had managed to find a repair kit for my water pump and it was ready for me to collect. After packing everything up I drove to Thorn Marine and collected the pump and repair kit then headed for home after a most productive day.

Narrowboats assembling for the Lymm Historic Transport Festival...

...including the butty "Gifford"

For her fiftieth birthday Ange wanted to go somewhere hot so her son Michael took her (and me as well) to Lanzerote for a week's holiday early in July. When one goes abroad to somewhere hot the weather is normally a lot better than at home. But on this occasion we felt as though we were duped as it co-incided with a heat wave in the UK and the temperatures in Lanzerote were not too dissimilar to those at home. Normally when we go on a non-canal oriented holiday we normally come across something connected with our beloved canals and inland waterways. In the case of Lanzerote I wasn't holding my breath as this volcanic rock of an island has no canals but it does have a few marinas and on one of our sight-seeing excursions we visited one at Puerto Calero. As to be expected there wasn't a narrowboat in sight but there were many large craft most of which were of the sailing variety and looked extremely expensive. Whilst looking around taking photographs one item that caught my eye was a mooring bollard. No ordinary mooring bollard though as it looked as though it was made from cast solid brass but was really gold plated! My friend Ian Gilbody would love one of these. As he is an avid polisher it would keep him busy for hours, but I think that he would have to buy bigger cans of Brasso. I wonder if they sell it in a five litre size?

Puerto Calero Marina - Lanzerote

A gold plated mooring bollard at Puerto Calero Marina in Lanzerote

The day after we returned home from Lanzerote I went up to the boat to cut the grass, overhaul the raw water cooling system, check the weed hatch and do a few other odd jobs. On the way I called in to Thorn Marine who had left me a message about the replacement cooling water hose that needed replacing. They required a few measurements which I telephoned them with as soon as I reached the boat. Next was cutting the grass which took about thirty minutes then the weed hatch was opened and I discovered some thin rope similar to the type used on fenders was wrapped around the propeller with some fishing line thrown in for good measure. It could not be removed by bare hands alone so an old Stanley knife kept to hand specifically for this job was brought into action. Once the weed hatch was done and replaced I opened the mud box. This is a rectangular heavy steel tube welded to the port side aft swim fitted with a removable lid where water is sucked from the canal and any small debris particles fall below the level of the water intake. Any smaller particles are filtered out by a washable Vetus filter before the water is piped to the Jabsco raw water pump and then to the Bowman heat exchanger (which acts like a car radiator) before being fed into the exhaust where the water not only cools the exhaust gasses but quietens the exhaust as well. Once the debris in the mud box was loosened fresh water was poured into the top to flush the dirty water back into the canal through the inlet grill. Next was the raw cooling water filter. The unit was opened, the filter rinsed and cleaned then the units re-assembled ready for the reconditioned pump (this was to prove my undoing) and new pipe to be fitted.

The mud box on the right and water strainer on the left

The following day we went to Cheshire Steam Fair at Daresbury. Here we were treated to displays of steam engines, steam driven vehicles of all shapes and sizes, tractors, commercial vehicles, motor cycles and classic cars plus many static displays and amusements. We also chatted to many old friends including Fred Dibnah's son... Roger who was driving a traction engine restored by his father. The weather was one of those rare classic English summer's days... hot and sunny... just what we wanted. Hog roast, ice creams and cold drinks abound, all accompanied by the smell of coal smoke mixed with hot engine oil!

Line-up of traction engines at Cheshire Steam Fair

Roger Dibnah steering an engine his father... Fred Dibnah restored

Before we went home on Sunday morning Ian refitted the water pump but we couldn't try it due to the drive belt stretching and causing the pump to slip. I took the belt home to visit our local car parts centre - Senar's of Birkenhead who I hoped would measure the belt's circumference and provide me with one that is shorter by about 25mm. Unfortunately they didn't have a drive belt measure so because the belt was 825mm circumference which had been stretched in use then 800mm should be about right. They didn't have one of that size so I had to make do with a 775mm which I hope will fit. I planned to  drive up to Lymm on Thursday evening after work with the belt, take some things up in preparation for our holiday cruise and Gary from Coverit had also arranged to meet me there to complete fitting the cratch and cratch cover. Everything was coming together nicely but the words plan, mice and men come to mind!

As planned we met Gary after work who was waiting for us when we arrived at Lymm. He started assembly of the cratch board which was now varnished and was coming together nicely. Soon after Ian and Michelle arrived. Ian fitted the fan belt that I had brought but it was too short so we went to Halfords in Altrincham to see if they had one nearer the correct size. They didn't have the size we wanted on display and ended up routing through a box of old stack the assistant brought from the stockroom. On our return Gary had finished putting the cratch cover on and very nice it looked too.

The cratch board before fitting the canopy

The cratch cover open and closed

After inspecting it and being paid Gary left leaving Ian and I to fit the new fan belt. This didn't take long and when we started the engine there was no cooling water coming out of the exhaust. The pump was removed for inspection but we couldn't find anything wrong with it. I suspected that it might be something to do with the water strainer as it was the only other thing that had been disturbed. It was starting to  go dark so we abandoned everything until Saturday. When I got home I looked on the Vetus website and saw in an exploded view of the water strainer that there should be a neoprene seal around the lid. The next day I rang Thorn Marine who said that they didn't keep them in stock and advised me to try Mick Sivewright at King's Lock Boatyard at Middlewich.

King's Lock Boat Yard in Middlewich

They had the seal (and the centre seal for the wing nut) for the princely sum of £5 so I left work at lunchtime and drove to Middlewich. It was in the middle of the heat wave and I was grateful for the air conditioning in the Kia. I soon arrived at King's Lock where I was greeted by extremely friendly and helpful staff and was on my way home after about ten minutes. As it was a nice hot sunny day I made a little diversion down the road that lead to Whatcroft Hall. Here the Trent and Mersey Canal runs next to the road and I stopped the car next to where the canal bank was made of concrete. Next I took off my shoes and socks, rolled up my trousers and sat on the edge of the bank bathing my feet in the beautifully cool and refreshing canal water. A few minutes later a boat went past and the occupants looked surprised to see a man wearing a purple shirt and tie with his trousers rolled up dangling his feet in the canal!

The Trent and Mersey Canal at Whatcroft Hall

A couple of unusual things happened on my journey home. Where the M56 and M53 motorways meet at Cheshire Oaks the overhead gantry lights were flashing with a speed limit of 20 mph. Traffic was coming to a crawl and I was in the inside lane. Next thing... I couldn't believe my eyes as to what was galloping towards me in the outside lane... a deer no less! I could even here its hooves clip-clopping on the road surface. I have no idea where it had come from as there are not many places around Ellesmere Port that would be a natural habitat for a deer. Maybe it escaped from Chester Zoo a few miles away towards Chester. I had brought the old front deck cover home and went to Bidston Tip to get rid of it before I went home. As I was driving down Poulton Bridge Road in Birkenhead the second unusual happening occurred. I saw a Kia Soul Echo identical to ours coming towards me. The headlamps flashed and the driver waved. I waved back and I thought it nice that other owners of these quirky looking cars share their car's appeal.

I went to Lymm the following day - Saturday on my own as Ange had her grandaughter Shannon and had to do some shopping in preparation for our Summer Cruise. Once at Lymm I fitted the new seals to the water strainer. I was disappointed when I started the engine... still no cooling water coming out of the exhaust. Whilst I waited for Ian to arrive I cleared and cleaned the front deck putting to one side items not required on holiday to go home.

A clean and tidy front deck under the new cratch and cover

When Ian arrived he removed the water pump (for about the fifth time), checked everything and put it back again. We spent hours clutching at straws, looking for something that we had overlooked... cleaning the heat exchanger, bleeding air out of the system, running the engine with an alternative water supply (which did work after a fashion). A new filler cap for the sealed part of the system was bought from Thorn Marine... we knew that it wouldn't make any difference to the problem in hand but it was needed. The pump was removed for the sixth time, the original impeller fitted, and the water strainer seal greased and tightened as much as we dared as it is made of crystalline plastic and we didn't want to crack it. Low and behold we could see water trying to be pumped up through the clear plastic cover of the water strainer. We tightened the cover more a little bit at a time and eventually water was circulating properly. I breathed a sigh of relief as. I had thoughts of having to buy a new water pump which at £250 would have put a serious dent in the spending money for our Summer Cruise. It just goes to show that sometimes a bit of preventative maintenance is not always a good thing... if it is not broken then don't fix it! If I had not cleaned the water strainer maybe I wouldn't have had this problem.

With the water cooling problem (hopefully) now solved Ian modified the headlamp bracket ready for me to bring home and paint. After he left I continued putting things to take home to one side and after an hour or so I could do no more and it was time to load up the car and head for home after an exhausting day... I couldn't have done it without Ian's help. Just as I was walking down the moorings to the car I saw a boat coming along the canal. It had a very distinctive engine exhaust not and was none other than "Pavo". A former Grand Union "Star" Class Small Woolwich butty, shortened to sixty feet and converted to a motor. This boat was one of the first to pass through the reopened Dutton Breach section in May.

NB "Pavo" passing our mooring at Lymm

I started my holidays from work on the Thursday which I planned to spend on the boat doing a few odd jobs, I also planned to take up some of the non-perishable food and clothing ready for our holiday. Whilst there the new headlamp bracket (now sporting three coats of black "Hammerite") and headlamp was fitted and connected and the TV aerial socket was moved to the rear of the cratch plank. I had taken back the water pump drive belt bought from Senar's that didn't fit and put the cash towards engine oil and STP which was duly changed. All that we now had to bring up was the remainder of our clothes and fresh food and we could go on our way. "Shroppie" here we come!

The cratch with the headlamp fitted

Since our Summer Cruise a lot has happened. The circumstances surrounding how we came to change our boat is documented in Chapter Three - Summer Cruise 2013 and I must say that the period since our return from the summer cruise has been one of the most stressful periods relating to canal cruising that I have experienced. I have had less stressful house conveyancing! It all started off when Ian and I went to view a GRP Norman cruiser for his brother at Midway Boats at Barbridge Junction. The lady in the boat brokerage gave us two sets of keys... one set for the Norman and the other set for the narrowboat moored next to it. We had a look at the GRP cruiser and as we had the keys for the narrowboat we had a look on it as well. The boat didn't look as pretty as "Total Eclipse" on the outside but was better on the inside... more spacious, better layout, brighter and better equipped. The deciding factor was a framed photograph of a squirrel on one of the cupboards and Ian said that after seeing that we were destined to have this boat. A little note of explanation is required here... my nickname used by everyone who knows me is "Squirrel" (and has been since I was at school)!

nb "Gill" at Barbridge before we bought her

The cause of all the trouble... a photograph of a squirrel in the snow!

When we returned to our boats which were moored around the corner on the main line of the "Shroppie" we told Ange and Michelle that we had a look on a narrowboat as well. Ange asked what the narrowboat was like and I told her that she didn't want to know as she would most certainly fall in love with it. Next thing Ange and Michelle were marching to the brokerage to see for themselves. They were gone for quite a while and when they returned Ange informed me that she wanted that boat which was named "Gill" (as in fish). The first few days of the holiday cruise were dominated by thoughts of "Gill" and whether or not we should buy it. We had spent quite a lot of money on "Total Eclipse" recently. The new canopy, kitchen and cratch, not to mention the water pump rebuild. Steve Batty at Midway Boats said that they accepted boats in part exchange subject to a hull survey and that is the route we eventually decided to go down. We knew that if we sold the boat privately we would get more for her but the timing would mean that in the meantime "Gill" might be sold to someone else so our minds were made up. "Total Eclipse" was repainted on the inside and generally tidied up. The boat must have known that it was going to be sold... the alternator belt started to slip and was tightened half-way through Grub Street Cutting in the pouring rain (this necessitates the steps on the rear deck to be removed), the water pump started to leak again and on the day before the valuation of the boat was to take place and it unexpectedly ran out of fuel just before the valuation! On our return to Barbridge Steve Batty came and valued the boat and a figure was agreed subject to a hull survey. We then had another look at "Gill" and then headed for home down the Middlewich Branch. The following few days were occupied by ordering a replacement water pump from Thorn Marine, trying to arrange dates and locations for the survey. Eventually Aqueduct Marina and Church Minshull was agreed and the following weekend after the new water pump had been fitted by Ian (who could now remove and refit it with his eyes closed) we cruised the boat up there again. We moored for the night not far from the Salt Barge at Lostock Gralam and set off early the next morning in the hopes that we would dodge the queues at the Middlewich locks and along the Middlewich branch of the "Shroppie".

A panoramic photograph of Aqueduct marina

When we arrived at Aqueduct Marina we reported to the reception and was told to moor the boat on the canal frontage of the marina until the following Thursday which was when the hull survey was arranged for. The next day I received an email from Mike Webb - manager of the Bridgewater Canal Company telling me that Aqueduct Marina had been on to him requesting my contact details and that I had moored my boat there without prior arrangement. When I rang them and explained who I was and why the boat was there they apologised for the misunderstanding and told me that I didn't have to move the boat. Just as well as I was an hour's drive away and could not get out of work to move it! Thursday came and I was at the marina early in order to do a couple of jobs and remove some of our possessions off the boat. When the time came to move the boat for the survey the engine wouldn't start and the battery was flattened in my efforts to start it. Was the boat trying to tell me something again? A member of the marina staff came with a spare battery and jump leads and the engine started reluctantly. When it did spring into life there was white smoke coming from the exhaust indicating that there was water in the fuel but it soon cleared up and the engine settled down to its normal smooth tick-over.

"Total Eclipse" being slipped at Aqueduct Marina

The marina staff then took control of the boat and took it to their slipway where the trailer and tractor was waiting. The boat was manoeuvred into position and the trailer lifted it hydraulically on the trailer before pulling it out of the water all the way. The keel was catching on one of the supports so the boat went back in, was repositioned and came out cleanly. Once out of the water I chatted to the surveyor... Mike Chadwick, who asked me if I was staying. I said that I would and he asked me to give him a hand jotting down the readings when he called them out to me. At first Mike thought that there was a fault with his machine... a thirty year old boat made from 6mm steel should not be giving reading of 5·9mm/5·8mm/etc. He put the thickness down to the protection that the hull had... red oxide/zinc chromate/bitumen. There was only two small areas where the readings were lower and that was most probably due to cruising in ice a few years ago.

"Total Eclipse" being surveyed by Mike Chadwick

When the survey was completed the boat went back into the water and I had arranged to cruise it up to Midway Boats at Barbridge Junction. After saying farewell to Mike I paid the bill for the slipway and headed up the canal. At the first lock... Minshull lock I was in a queue of five boats and as I was on my own I envisaged doing the locks single handed. Seeing as there were boats waiting to go up and down I ended up staying on the boat and the lock was worked for me. I eventually locked through it and made my way to Cholmondeston where the Shropshire Union Canal Society were doing a sponsored "paddle wind" which I took advantage of and was soon on the way to Barbridge.

At Cholmondeston Lock the Shropshire Union Canal Society were doing a sponsored "paddle wind"

This was to be my last cruise on "Total Eclipse" and I have to admit to having a tear on my eye as I moored the boat outside Midway Boats. Steve Batty would not be available that Saturday so we decided to complete the financial arrangements then and Ange made the balance payment by credit transfer at 5.30pm and "Gill" was finally ours. Steve drove me down to Aqueduct Marina to collect the car and on my return I spent a couple of hours transferring most of our belongings onto the new boat from "Total Eclipse". We will be sorry to see the boat go as we have spent many happy hours on board her and she has taken us to many destinations safely, reliably and economically during the twelve years that we have owned her.

"Total Eclipse" moored next to "Gill" at Barbridge Junction

On Saturday morning we met Ian, Michelle and Popsy at Big Lock where they left their car and we all drove up to Barbridge in our car. They were accompanying us down the canal on the boat and when we reached Middlewich they were driving up to Barbridge in their car then Michelle was driving our car to Lymm ready for when we arrived a couple of days later. We said goodbye to "Total Eclipse" and set off from Barbridge on board our new boat, which we had decided to christen "Squirrel", at lunchtime and headed down the Middlewich branch in the brilliant sunshine. As we left the mooring I looked behind at "Total Eclipse" and said goodbye to her. I have to admit to having tears in my eyes. She had been a good boat and I will be sorry in some ways to see her go.

There are quite a few reminders of our previous boat "Total Eclipse" and many pieces of equipment that we brought with us. One of these items is the brass tiller pin. This pin is in the shape of a squirrel and given the name of the new boat is even more in keeping than it was on the old one!

The brass squirrel tiller pin

Whilst in the area of the tiller there was a "cranked" extension to the tiller bar fitted when we bought the boat but this made steering arduous due to the high angle and was one of the first things we removed This extension bar was to make steering easy from elevated seats that slotted into tubes fitted to the rear deck but were missing when we took delivery and we didn't envisage replicating them.

The cranked tiller arm was the first thing that was removed when we took delivery of the boat

Along the way Ange and Michelle brought some semblance of order to the inside of the boat finding homes for the things that we had brought off "Total Eclipse" whilst Ian busied himself doing a few odd jobs whilst I accustomed myself to our new boat's handling. Ian even got the Brasso out (no surprises there) and was even polishing the tiller bar whilst we were under way! The new boat handled well and was a lot quieter than "Total Eclipse" although I will miss the deep, throaty exhaust note of the old BMC 1500.

"Squirrel" below Cholmondeston Lock on the "Shroppie" when bringing her back to Lymm

Ian polishing the tiller whilst under way

Ange steering after passing through Minshull Lock

We reached Middlewich at teatime and drew out of "Maureen's Lock" onto the Trent and Mersey Canal. I went into reverse to manoeuvre around the sharp bend and there was a loud clunk. There was no forward or reverse drive and we drifted into the side. A quick look under the engine boards showed that the propeller shaft was turning but wasn't providing any thrust. Once moored up I opened the weed hatch and was horrified to discover that there was no propeller! Well... you couldn't write this stuff could you? I was about to strip off and wade into the middle of the canal but Ange wouldn't let me due to not knowing what lay beneath the water and the traffic at this busy junction as well. I telephoned Steve at Midway Boats and explained our predicament to him. There was nothing we could do that evening so he suggested that we waited until the following morning and had a word with another Steve... this time the one from Kings Lock Chandlery to see if he could help. With that in mind we decided to stay where we were even though it was on a water point. We bade farewell to Ian, Michelle and Popsy and promised to let them know what was happening the next day. We settled down for the night and it was then we discovered that the batteries were not holding their charge. We had suspected that there would be a problem as when we went on the boat previously the domestic batteries were flat. Not to worry... we knew that it was not an alternator problem as the voltage meter was showing a healthy level of charge... the batteries just weren't holding it. We had our tea and after a read of our books we decided to have an early night. Next morning we were up early waiting for signs of life at Kings Lock Chandlery. When they did open I explained the situation to Steve and after discussing the problem the other Steve from Midway Boats told us that he had found a propeller but was not sure if it was the correct size.

Steve at Kings Lock Chandlery trimming the new propeller

The new prop being fitted through the weed hatch

Obviously we didn't know what size the propeller on the boat was originally but this one was an 18 x 12. I accompanied Alan... the Kings Lock van driver to Barbridge and collected the new propeller. Once back at Middlewich Steve ground down the leading edges of the blades to prevent them from "singing" and then fitted it through the weed hatch successfully. A split pin could not be fitted but the locking nut was tightened as much as could be. After a quick try all seemed to be ok and we could go on our way. I couldn't thank Steve and Alan at Kings Lock enough... they definitely went the extra mile for us. Well done boys! Thanks also to Mike Batty at Midway Boats for the replacement propeller. We were soon under way, passing through Big Lock and heading for Preston Brook. We cruised in the beautiful sunshine taking turns steering our new boat. The new prop didn't seem to be having any adverse effects and canal cruising speed was achieved at 1500 rpm which was to be expected. We stopped for tea at Anderton before carrying on through Barnton and Saltersford Tunnels and moored for the night close to Acton Bridge. It was the weekend of the "Creamfields" music festival and we could hear the music even at this distance but could not drown out the sound by turning the TV or stereo up as the domestic batteries were low and it was either that or the fridge. The fridge won!.

"Squirrel" moored at Acton Bridge

We were up early again and caught the ten o'clock passage through Preston Brook Tunnel. We made a quick stop at Midland Chandlers to see if they had any information on propeller sizes (which they didn't - ring up the Penkridge Shop with engine/gearbox/hull details) then carried on towards Stockton Heath where Ange's son Michael, his girlfriend Germaine and daughter Shannon were due to meet us. It had turned out to be one of those hot, sunny days and we cruised along in the brilliant sunshine. Soon we were mooring outside Thorn Marine and showing Margaret and Brian Hamilton the owners our new boat. We told them of our trials and tribulations and they said that when we remove the batteries to bring them down and they would identify the problems with them. After filling the water tank we moved to beneath the bridge awaiting our visitors. When they arrived we cast off and headed for Lymm on what had turned out to be a classic English summer's day.

Germaine, Michael and Shannon on board "Squirrel"

Our guests loved the new boat and enjoyed the cruise and lunch along the way but all too soon we were at Lymm and tying up outside the Lymm CC clubhouse. A few of our fellow members could not believe their eyes when we arrived with a new boat. We showed them over the boat then I took Michael to Stockton Heath to collect his car and returned to Lymm. Our guests left and after loading our stuff into the car I took the boat to Oughtrington where I had arranged to put it on Ian's mooring temporarily. We then made our way home via Ian and Michelle's house to collect Ange's car keys and relate the day's happenings over a cuppa. We then made our way home after a fabulous weekend on board our new boat... "Squirrel". The next day I telephoned Crowther propellers and told them the story of the propeller. After a quick calculation they asked what the engine rpm was at canal cruising speed. I told them that it was 1500 rpm and they said that it was slightly larger than what they would have recommended but it wouldn't do any damage to the engine or gearbox and should be fine... quite a relief!

The first weekend since "Squirrel" arrived at Lymm was spent performing essential maintenance and doing some of the jobs on our "to do" list. After bringing the boat to the clubhouse from Oughtrington the first job had to be the batteries. When bringing the boat back from Barbridge we noticed that they were not holding their charge but were being charged as the voltage indicator was giving a high reading when the engine was running but dropped dramatically (almost to zero) when the engine was switched off. Dave King off nb "Kingfisher" just happened to have a battery drop tester with him that we could borrow and this confirmed that the batteries were at fault. After a few telephone calls we found that the cheapest place for batteries in the long run (complete with a two year warranty) was Midland Chandlers. Jack (nb "Camarilla") came with us as he wanted something from them as well so we all piled into Ian's van and drove to Preston Brook. On our return the batteries were installed, the boat plugged into the land line and the Mastervolt automatic battery charger did the rest. We changed the gearbox oil sucking the old dirty oil out with a handy pump that I bought whilst we were at Midland Chandlers. Ian cleaned the engine and engine compartment with Jizer whilst I replaced the stereo and tidied up some of the electrical wiring at the same time.

Nice clean engine and engine compartment

Ange and Michelle went to Ikea looking at storage solutions for beneath the shelves by the front door. I had also tried the front and rear deck covers which needed some new rubber toggles but on the whole were in excellent condition and fitted well. By the time Ange and Michelle returned it was time for tea and Shannon and Popsy paid a visit to Lymm Chippie. On their return we all sat around the table and ate our tea on "Squirrel"... something that we couldn't have done in comfort on "Total Eclipse"! It was then time to return "Squirrel" to Oughtrington safe in the knowledge that we now had fully operational batteries and some of the jobs had been ticked off the "to do" list. The boat was now more like we wanted it inside and at least some of the problems had been attended to. During the week I downloaded instruction manuals for the various pieces of equipment fitted to the boat such as engine, charger, central heating, etc and printed them out to add to the boat's information file. We were now looking forward to the next weekend and the Lymm CC cruise to the Trafford Centre followed by Worsley Cruising Club just over Barton Swing Aqueduct.

The front deck canopy

We arrived at Lymm the following Saturday. loaded our stuff onto the boat and set off for the Trafford Centre, The weather was bright and sunny and we were enjoying cruising on our new boat. We were briefly held at Agden whilst a brand new narrowboat was launched at Cheshire Narrowboats whilst the proud new owner looked on. I had a couple of jobs to do so when we were under way again  Ange took the tiller whilst I removed the original name from the bows. Anybody seeing what I was doing must have thought that I had a couple of screws loose as I was hanging over the boat's bow playing a hairdryer over the name to soften the adhesive which would make it easier to remove with a scraper. It didn't take as long as anticipated and then fitted a new roller blind to the front door. By this time we had reached Altrincham and were confronted by a troop (is that the correct collective noun?) of Sea Cadets milling around in a collection of rowing boats and showing no respect for the rules of the canal. One rowing boat in particular containing half a dozen Cadets was being problematic. As we approached they swung out into our path and made for the opposite bank of the canal. Ange sounded the horn and when we drew level she politely gave them some advice only to be told to f**k off by one cheeky cadet! Ange took this abusive expletive in her stride and smiled sweetly at the abuser before leaving him behind. After safely navigating through this obstacle we were next confronted with rowers from Trafford Rowing Club. At least they know which side of the canal to pass on and don't give abuse. At Stretford we were pleased to see that the Stretford Boat Yard had been tidied up a bit. The sunken boats had been removed as had most of the attendant rubbish. There was no sign of the ex-tanker "Shell Fen" though. It was not long before we reached the Trafford Centre moorings and after tying-up joined our fellow Lymm CC members and enjoyed tea and cakes on the towpath. We would have liked to have gone into the Trafford Centre to do some shopping but unfortunately we did not have enough time to do so.

A composite panoramic photograph of the Bridgewater Canal and moorings at the Trafford Centre's rear entrance

After socialising for half an hour I returned to the boat and tried T-Cut on a small section of the rear deck to see if it made any difference to the paint finish. It did so I treated the whole of the rear bulkhead and doors in this way and couldn't believe just how much of a difference it made to the paintwork. It was soon time for us to move on to Worsley CC and we found a mooring opposite the main road but this didn't turn out to be a problem.

Worsley CC's Patricroft moorings

Once safely moored I got the T-Cut out again and treated the port side of the cabin and again we couldn't believe just how much of a difference it made to the boat's appearance. The only problem was that as this side of the boat was in the shade I couldn't tell if it was patchy or not. After tea we went into Worsley CC's club house and were made most welcome by the members. We were joined by Michelle, Ian, Popsy and her school friend who came by car. After a quiz and raffle we were fed and the evening was a great success with some members staying until after 2.00 am (the dirty stop-outs know who you are).

Lymm CC members enjoying the hospitality of Worsley CC

Floodlit moorings outside Worsley CC's club house

Waters Meeting at Stretford in brilliant morning sunshine

The next morning we left early and cruised past anonymous factories in Trafford Park in the brilliant early morning sunshine. All was going well until after passing Sale CC's moorings when an alarm started beeping on the engine control panel. Inspection of the gauges showed that the engine was over heating. We pulled into the side and I lifted the boards and could see that a cooling water hose feeding the calorifier had split and cooling water had sprayed all over the alternators. I cut back the affected piece of hose, reconnected it and after refilling the cooling system with water Ange started the engine and revved it a bit to remove any air locks in the system. This done the water level was topped-up, the rear deck boards put back into place and we were under way again. We had previously noticed that the bilge pump output hose was perishing and we already had a metre and a half on our shopping list. The calorifier hose that burst was of the same type and diameter so the length required was increased accordingly. At the first opportunity the other hoses will be examined and replaced if necessary.

Sea Cadets at Altrincham

When we reached Altrincham the Sea Cadets were out in force again but we didn't experience the problems or verbal abuse of the previous day. At Hesford's Boatyard I could see the narrowboat "Rose of Sharon" out of the water and receiving a new steel superstructure to replace the wooden one. It was good to see this early pioneering David Piper steel narrowboat cruiser with a "Cutlass" hull being rebuilt after years of neglect. This boat was built for Dr David E Owen... the canal book author and one time curator of the Boat Museum at Ellesmere Port and has featured in some of his books. I remember visiting the Boat Museum on "Misty Waters" in 1989 and saw the "Rose of Sharon" moored there.


nb "Rose of Sharon" undergoing a much needed overhaul

As we got closer to our moorings the weather took a turn for the worst and it started to rain. Fortunately it was only a short shower and by the time we reached Oughtrington the sun was shining again. We stopped briefly at Oughtrington Wharf to empty the toilet and then onto our temporary moorings at Lymm CC's Oughtrington moorings. Once the boat was moored it did not take long to load the car, put the boat to bed and fit the front and rear deck covers. We were soon on our way home and as usual half-way along the M56 the sun came out again! Never mind... we'd had a good weekend and really enjoyed our first cruise on our new boat.

The following weekend we didn't go up to the boat even though there were lots of jobs to be done. It was spent catching up with the housework, shopping as well as family duties all of which had been neglected since our holidays. As far as shopping is concerned we bought some boat-related items... Ange had bought cushions to match the new blind, Dave Tinsley... a colleague in the Electrical Department at work arranged for a delivery of LED lamps at cost price to replace the tungsten halogen ceiling lights, I had found a source of rubber toggles for the covers on eBay and a sample order had been received plus we had a few other odds and ends to take up as well. The boat had now been registered with the Bridgewater Canal Company who had sent new licences and registration plates which also required fitting.

The weekend after was a cruise to Dunham Massey and Chairman's Cheese and Wine around the bonfire. We arranged with Ian to meet us at Lymm CC and he was going to use his rotary buffer (which looks more like an angle grinder than a buffer) on the boat's paintwork. We brought the boat down from Oughtrington and moored it in the slipway which would allow us to work on both sides of the boat without turning it around. We had lots of visits from fellow Lymm CC members who wanted to see our new boat and when they had gone we set to applying Mer polish to the paintwork by hand before going over it with the buffer pad loaded with diluted Mer then polishing it off with stockinet. The amount of dead paint that was being removed had to be seen to be believed.

The difference before and after polishing had to be seen to be believed and... lunchtime one side was polished

Even though I went over the paintwork previously with T-Cut the combination of Mer and Ian's rotary buffer was bringing off more "dead" paint than could be achieved by hand. By lunchtime one side was completed and after sustenance courtesy of Sexton's (the bakery in Lymm Village renowned for their steak and kidney pies) best we started on the other side. Ange and Michelle went shopping leaving Ian and I to complete the job. The job was completed by teatime by which time Ange and Michelle had returned. We thanked Ian for his help then started the engine and headed for Dunham Massey.

Ian and me on the last stages of polishing

(Photograph - Michelle Gilbody)

The finished article seen here at Dunham Massey

The view from our Dunham Massey mooring

Ange took the tiller for most of the way which allowed me to replace the tungsten halogen bulbs with LED bulbs. The four watt LEDs were actually brighter than the originals and use a lot less electricity into the bargain. Once we reached Dunham Massey we passed many of our friends who commented on our new shiny boat. One member jokingly asked if the boat was named after a stove! We turned around after we had passed the moored boats and retraced our steps before mooring close to the narrows on the embankment. We both had stinking colds (courtesy of Shannon) and I was exhausted so we decided to have our tea and stay on board. Quite a few followers of "Canalscape" had requested up to date photographs of the interior now that we had put our stamp on it. Accordingly, the next morning I took some new photographs of the interior before we headed back to our mooring in the brilliant sunshine. Cruising down the canal we could actually feel the heat from the sun on our backs!

The lounge

Storage solution in the shelving unit adjacent to the front doors

Cupboard opposite the kitchen

Passing through Bollington in bright sunshine whilst returning from Dunham Massey

Once at the moorings we loaded our things into the car before fitting some new rubber toggles to the front cover which made it fit better and not sag as much. We will now order more of them from the seller on eBay for the rear cover for fitting the next time we are up. On the way home we called into Thorn Marine for the flexible hose to replace the perished bilge pump pipe and the calorifier hose that split on the way back from Worsley CC and some other boat bits for when we are next up at Lymm.

The front cover with the new rubber toggles fitted and no sagging!

Having been off work for most of the week with a viral infection I was looking for an excuse to get out of the house and sneak up to Oughtrington for some fresh air. Whilst I was there I did a couple of not too strenuous jobs like installing an iPod dock; fitting the remainder of the new toggles to the rear deck cover and cutting the grass with a borrowed strimmer (the two-stroke petrol McCulloch had a fault on the line dispenser). The borrowed strimmer was an electric one so I turned on the boat's inverter and started the engine to ensure that the batteries were not drained unnecessarily. It was a beautiful day and couldn't resist taking the photograph below of Lloyd Bridge.

Lloyd Bridge at Oughtrington viewed from Lymm CC's moorings

I have really missed being at Oughtrington... it is really Lymm CC's best kept secret. Being out in the country it possesses the peace and quiet not experienced at Lymm. It may not have the amenities of Lymm or Agden but it makes up for that in other ways. I enjoyed being there for the day. I might not have finished all the jobs that I wanted to but it was a good chill out when I wasn't feeling on top form.

"Squirrel" basking in the sunlight at Oughtrington

On the way home I visited Thorn Marine to exchange the flexible hose that I had purchased the previous week... it was too small in bore. As it was a nice afternoon when I arrived at Daresbury I drove down the road that leads to Keckwick Hill Bridge to take a few photographs of this beautiful location whilst the sun was shining before making my way home down the M56.

The Bridgewater Canal at Keckwick Hill near Daresbury

During the following week I learnt that "Total Eclipse" had been sold and that the new owner... a gentleman called Gary who was in the process of cruising it down to London. Since then I have spoken to Gary and given him information about the boat's history and answered his questions about various aspects of the boat's design. He promised to keep in touch and send photographs of the boat on its new mooring. We wish him well.

That weekend we went up the Oughtrington on the Saturday morning to complete a few more jobs. On the way we called in at Midland Chandlers for bilge paint, look at LED bulbs for the remaining tungsten lights and enquire about the beading for beneath the cooker hob. We came away with the bilge paint but would have to order the beading on-line and could only see bulbs for some of the lights. The LEDs for the other lights are not stocked by Midland Chandlers so I would have to trawl the Internet for them. We continued to Oughtrington and after opening the boat up I first replaced the bilge pump pipe and re-routed it to give it a more direct route. Ian and Michelle arrived just as I was completing this task and Michelle chatted to Ange whilst Ian and I carried on with the jobs.

The replaced and re-routed bilge pump pipe

The new and shortened calorifier feed pipe

Next came the calorifier pipe which was replaced and shortened to minimise the chance of kinking around a tight ninety degree bend. The other hoses were checked to see if any others were showing signs of cracking or perishing... none were found. Whilst the engine cooling water level was low we put antifreeze in the cooling system and then in the central heating system as well. Next I mopped up the water that had spilled into the bilge and we tested the central heating system and started the engine to remove any air locks and tightened up one of the engine mounts that was causing an annoying rattle. The other mounts were also checked at the same time. then Ian fitted a piece of hardwood skirting board to the rear cabin/bathroom bulkhead to hide a stain on the timber. He also removed the wash basin in the bathroom and the top of the vanity unit and took it away to sand down in his workshop at home.

The hardwood skirting board in the back cabin

After lunch Ian left and we took the boat down to Lymm where Michelle met us. The fresh water tank had not been filled since we bought the boat in August and the boat was looking a little high in the water at the bow.  Consequently, the boat was moored in the arm and I filled the water tank. After a cuppa Michelle left leaving us to finish off our jobs. Whilst I was filling the fresh water tank Ange attached the temporary name plated to the inside of the windows with white tack. I reversed the boat out of the arm and moored it on the canal frontage. With the side doors bank-side I could now fit two small self adhesive bump pads which would prevent the doors banging against the cabin superstructure. With our jobs now completed all that remained was to check the fuel level and we made our way back to Oughtrington, put the boat to bed and came home. I usually make a list of what I want to do when I go up to the boat. It is not often that I can actually tick everything off on the list and even more unusual to do more than is actually on the list! This is what happened today and we were only there for six hours... a most productive day.

Our next visit was the weekend of the Illuminated Cruise to the Barn Owl at Agden. We had Shannon with us and before the cruise we took the boat down to Lymm where we met Ian and Michelle. Ian had taken the worktop from the bathroom wash basin home to sand down and varnish but it turned out not to be wood but veneered MDF and would not stand being sanded. He cut a replacement out of a waterproof material and brought sufficient to fit on the bulkhead above the worktop to cover the staining caused by poor sealing of the wash basin. The finished article looks cleaner and better, is more easily cleaned and is more serviceable than the original.

The new wash basin worktop not only looks better and cleaner but is also more serviceable

Whilst Ian was doing this I finished topping up the cooling system with antifreeze and checking the flexible hoses for perishing, cuts, etc. Next cabin hooks were fitted to hold open the front and rear doors. After these were completed we arranged to cruise up to the Barn Owl and have a meal with our friends before the illuminations were switched on. Once moored we had a problem... as we were moored on the towpath side of the canal and the Barn owl was on the off-side of the canal, how do we get across without walking down to the underbridge by the Canal Horse Hospital? At one time there was a ferry operated by the pub which was summoned by ringing a bell to summon the boat but this is no longer in operation. The answer came in the shape of Lymm CC's Vice Commodore Paul Durbridge who offered to ferry us across at 07.00 pm on board his narrowboat "Dominion". He would also bring us back across afterwards... problem solved. So at the allotted time we boarded "Dominion" along with a few other members and took the short trip over the canal. Michelle and Ian soon arrived with Popsy and Shannon who had been to see their new budgies and we all enjoyed a lovely meal before saying goodbye to our friends and caught the ferry back to the towpath in time for the illuminations.

Boarding "Dominion"

There were more boats present than we had anticipated and the displays were most impressive. We had only put Christmas tree lights on our boat but other members had gone the extra mile and put on a truly impressive display. With the illuminations over we went to bed and were woken up in the night by rain but we were warm and cosy in bed and soon fell asleep again. We were up early the next morning to return to our moorings before the rain set in again. We just made it in time and we were soon loading up the car to return home after another productive and enjoyable weekend.

Illuminated "Squirrel"

Illuminated "Dominion"

Illuminated "Wee Misty"

Illuminated "Harmony"

As I type this I am booking a couple of days off work during half-term week. I plan to spend at least one of those days on the boat and, if the weather allows, will paint the engine compartment bilge, polish the boat's paintwork and do a couple of other odd jobs as well. I sent a photograph to Granada Weather for them to use in their weather forecast which they did on the Tuesday of this week. The photograph was of a bridge over the Bridgewater Canal at Oughtrington on a misty morning and is shown below.

A screen shot of the Granada TV Weather Forecast...

...and the original photograph

That weekend we had arranged for "Squirrel" to come out of the water briefly in order to fit the missing split pin through the nut that holds the propeller on its shaft. I drove to Oughtrington early in order to take the boat down to Lymm and ensure that everything was ready for slipping. Once there I moored the boat in the slipway and at ten o'clock John Moult... Lymm CC's Harbourmaster arrived. John started the tractor that moves the trolley up and down the slipway and was hooked up to the trolley. Meanwhile I reversed the boat down the arm so that the trolley could be pushed down the slipway and submerged. I then manoeuvred the boat above the trolley and tied it securely so that as the trolley moved up the slipway and the boat moved with it and eventually was drawn up and out of the water.

"Squirrel" out of the water on Lymm CC's slipway

The offending article... the propeller with an ill-fitting nut and no washer or split pin

Once the top of the slipway was reached the trolley was secured and I went under the counter to inspect the prop and immediately got water right down my left ear into the bargain... a direct hit!. I went to slacken off the nut holding the prop in place with the "Stillies" (Stillson wrench to the uninitiated) and was horrified to discover that it wasn't very tight. In fact it was just over finger tight! On removal I further discovered that it was not the right thread for the shaft. John said that he had a nut with the correct thread and the accompanying brass washer in his workshop and went to collect it. In the meantime Ian arrived to give moral support and we were both surprised by the fact that the propeller hadn't fallen off again and at the number of fresh water mussels clinging to the hull!

Two more photographs of the boat out of the water

Whilst John was away I marked the position of the split pin hole on the end of the shaft with a junior hack saw. I also had the opportunity to inspect the boat's hull and the condition of the sacrificial anodes, measure the fore and aft draft (18 inches and 28 inches respectively) and take some detailed photographs. One possible cause for concern was as the boat had been moored on the "Shroppie", which has sloping concrete sides, there was the possibility that the base plate had been worn away by constantly rubbing against the concrete. I needn't have worried though as there was a good lip between the base plate and the hull sides but I might have extra rubbing strakes welded on next year like I did on "Total Eclipse". On John's return the correct nut and washer was fitted and then secured in place by the stainless steel split pin. The tractor was then started and the boat was returned to the water.

Mission accomplished... the new nut, washer and split pin fitted

After removing dead leaves from the roof and washing some washing some bird droppings off the roof I started the engine and returned to Oughtrington. After doing a couple of jobs I put the boat to bed and made my way home. I still can't believe how the propeller stayed on. I know that Mike from King's lock Chandlery said that the nut he fitted was only temporary but I assumed that it was the correct thread. But in his defence it must be very difficult to tell if the nut is the right one especially when fitting it under water through the confined space of the weed hatch. Anyway... the job is done now and I have no need to worry about it any more. The visual inspection of the hull did not hold any surprises except for the aforementioned freshwater mussels. The sacrificial anodes have plenty of life left in them and should last until 2016. The boat is due to come out of the water again next May when I will plan to pressure wash (and clean off the freshwater mussels) and re-black the hull, have the missing fender loop welded in place on the port side, weld on extra rubbing strakes and tighten or possibly repack the stern gland.

Plenty of life left in the sacrificial anodes and note the freshwater mussels clinging to the base plate

The following week was half-term week at college where I work and I planned to take a couple of day's holiday whilst there were are no students around. On at least one of those days I planned to spend on the boat when, weather permitting, I hoped to make a start on painting the engine compartment and get a coat of polish on the cabin sides paintwork before the bad weather sets in. The sealing strip between the cooker hob and worktop needed to be replaced. The manufacturers could not supply a replacement strip but my old friends at Seals Direct came to the rescue after I sent them a photograph of a sample of the strip. The replacement strip arrived the day after it was ordered... excellent customer service and I can thorougherly recommended this company. On the Thursday morning the sky was clear and it promised to be a nice day so I set off for Lymm. Whilst approaching Ellesmere Port the sun was just starting to rise so I left the M53 motorway at the Boat Museum, parked the car in the Boat Museum's car park and walked down to the Manchester Ship Canal. I had a mental image of the sun rising behind the Stanlow Cooling Tower which would make a good photograph. I wasn't disappointed either After taking a couple of photographs from different angles I returned to the car and continued on my way to Oughtrington.

Sunrise over Stanlow as seen from the Boat Museum

The M56 motorway was pretty clear and it wasn't very long before I was parking the car at Lymm CC's Oughtrington moorings and opening up the boat. I started the boat's engine and made my way down to Lymm. As soon as I left the mooring the sun was illuminating the autumn leaves on the trees in the wood next to the moorings. Another photo opportunity arose so I stopped the boat in the middle of the canal and took the photograph below. Unfortunately the photograph did not capture the essence of the moment and I was a little disappointed with the result but it is a pleasant photograph anyway.

Oughtrington in autumn

Once at Lymm I put the boat in the slipway and got my overalls. paint and brushes out ready to paint the bilge. Brian the boat painter came over to chat and when I told him what I planned to do he advised me against it due to condensation continually forming on the cold steelwork at this time of the year. No matter how clean and dry the steelwork is condensation will form again and prevent the paint from adhering. Plan B then! I fitted the new sealing strip to the cooker hob, had a cup of coffee then started to polish the boat. I had put the boat in the slipway so that when I had done one side I could push the boat over the narrow arm and polish the other side. But in the end I had to reverse the boat out of the slip and turn it around in order for the sun to dry the opposite side of the boat before I could polish it. This would most probably be the last time the boat was polished this year so I made sure that I did a good job of it. When I had completed the polishing I took the boat back to Oughtrington and polished the mushroom vents. I am sure that Ian doesn't think that I polish the boat's brasses so I set the camera's self timer to take a photograph of me polishing them just to prove that I do it.

Yours truly polishing the mushroom vents

The time seemed to run away and before I knew it was time to put my stuff away, tidy up and head for home. I hadn't got all the jobs that I had planned to do but at least the boat was nice and shiny for the Lymm CC Closing Cruise due to take place at the weekend. The next day my photograph of the sunrise at Stanlow was used as a backdrop to the Granada TV Weather Forecast.

A screenshot of the Granada TV Weather Forecast featuring my Stanlow Sunrise photograph

Unexpectedly, we were asked to have Shannon over the weekend. Her mother dropped her off at our house and as soon as she arrived we did our shopping and headed up the motorway to Lymm. Ange dropped me off at the moorings whilst she drove the car down to Lymm CC's clubhouse and waited for me to arrive with the boat. We managed to get a mooring outside the clubhouse ready for the Closing Cruise Social and the Closing Cruise itself the next day. The weather wasn't brilliant with intermittent rain showers and Sunday promised to be even worse with gales forecast. That evening we went to the Closing Cruise Social which was Hawaiian fancy dress and the clubhouse had been decorated accordingly.

Shannon in her Hawaiian fancy dress

As  usual Dezza laid on food to his usual high standard and entertainment was laid on which was most enjoyable. We all had a good time and the evening flew past... usually a sign that it was enjoyable! It was good to catch-up with our friends, some of which we hadn't seen for a while and Shannon made an impression with everyone due to her good behaviour and even collected rubbish that had accumulated on the tables, putting it in a black bin bag. When we returned to the boat afterwards it wasn't long before we were settling down in our bunks listening to the rain falling on the boat's roof. We had put the central heating on for a while earlier in the evening and the boat was warm and cosy as we snuggled down to go to sleep. The rain had stopped the next morning and after breakfast we prepared for the Closing Cruise itself. We set off for Grappenhall where we had been asked to moor and there were to be snacks and drinks on the towpath.

A composite panoramic photograph of boats moored in readiness for the Lymm CC Closing Cruise

The rain held off and I took a few photographs along the way. Once at Grappenhall I turned the boat around, moored and we had our lunch. After walking along the towpath and talking to our friends we set off and returned to Lymm. The new boat has side doors and Ange enjoys looking through them when we are cruising as well as when we are moored, even when the weather is not ideal. Below is a photograph that she took on her iPhone 5 and put on her facebook page. Looks like I might have a bit of competition here in the photography stakes!

Ange at the side doors

View from the side doors

(Photograph - Angela Wood)

Autumn shades in Thelwall Cutting

Boats attending the Closing Cruise at Grappenhall

Snacks and drinks on the towpath

Whilst passing through some of the wooded sections such as Thelwall Cutting we were cutting a swathe through the leaves floating on the water. Even so we had to stop a few times and reverse the propeller to clear the accumulated leaves from the propeller and rear swim area. It wasn't long before we reached Lymm, were loading our things into the car and putting the boat back on its mooring before heading home just as the rain started. The Closing Cruise signals the end of the boating season and another eventful cruising year drawing to a close.

Cutting a swathe through the floating leaves on the Closing Cruise

It is not every day that Lymm CC is shown on the National News but that is exactly what has happened. In a feature about the proposed HS2 railway line a lady by the name of Rebecca Bennett... a representative for the Stop HS2 Campaign was being interviewed on the ITV National News and in the background was Lymm CC's Agden moorings where the proposed line is planned to cross the Bridgewater Canal. There was another shot without the person being interviewed in it showing the moorings and the car park as well but due to failing light it wasn't as good as the first!

A screen shot of Stop HS2 campaigner Rebecca Bennett being interviewed by ITV News at Agden

Also in the news this week is the Montgomery Canal. The restorers have won a Heritage Lottery Fund grant to help with the restoration of the canal. This is a Development Grant for £160,000 and its success is a key step to securing the full grant of £3.7m which will be a major step forward for the plans to fully restore the canal. We plan to revisit the Montgomery Canal next year on our summer cruise when we hope to be able to do the "Quarter Monty"... well it would be nice to be able to do the Full Monty but we won't be able to do that for quite a few years yet.

Restoration work on the Montgomery Canal

(Photograph - Canal & River Trust)

Our friends Michelle and Ian Gilbody finally took delivery of their new Steve Hudson narrowboat this weekend. After fifteen months "Ted" is now finally completed, although they will not be bringing it back to Lymm immediately due to wanting to familiarise themselves with the boat and to make sure that everything is as it should be. After all... Tamworth is a long way by canal to take it back if need be! Ian and Michelle hope to bring the boat to Lymm over the Christmas holidays provided that there is no ice on the canals and stoppages permitting (I might have to get the polish out again on my boat before then).

nb "Ted" on its first outing on the Coventry Canal in Glascote Top Lock - mind that blacking Ian!

(Photograph - Michelle Gilbody)

The annual Lymm CC Dinner Dance was looming and the entries for the photographic competition had been handed in and judged by club Chairman John "Rosie" Melling. One trophy that had not been judged was the Canalscape Trophy. This trophy is awarded to the best overall photograph from the other categories. I had arranged a time and date with Phyllis Greenough to do the judging and I travelled to her house in Lymm on Saturday morning to judge the entries. From the outset one photograph stood out from the rest of the entries and the well deserved winning photograph was announced at the Dinner Dance. We would not be attending the Dinner Dance so I delegated the job of presenting the Canalscape Trophy to Chairman John Melling and Commodore Alan Dutton. The winning entry was titled "Reflections of Leeds" taken by Arthur Malcolm and features a piece of modern art located in Clarence Dock, Leeds. Arthur took the photograph on his Canon Eos 450 DSLR and I think that you will agree that it is a most worthy winner demonstrating good composition and technical quality. I have looked closely at the photograph and I cannot see the reflection of Arthur or his camera in the globe!

The 2013 winner of the Canalscape Trophy... "Reflections of Leeds" by Arthur Malcolm

(Photograph - Arthur Malcolm)

Apparently I won an award as well... for the Humorous category in the Chairman's Photographic Competition with a photograph of a tree-man that we saw on the Shropshire Union Canal near Market Drayton whilst on our summer cruise.

The tree man near Market Drayton

After choosing the winner and saying goodbye to Phyllis, Barry and Dezza I carried on to the boat's mooring just up the road. On arrival I swept off the large amount of leaves that had fallen onto the boat's roof and gunwales (one of the draw-backs of mooring at Oughtrington) and then chatted to some of the Lymm CC members that were at the moorings. Next I started to empty the fresh water tank in preparation for the winter. The tank must have been nearly full as it took over two of hours to empty and afterwards the boat's bow had risen three inches out of the water. I didn't leave the tap running continually for this period of time as this might have caused damage the water pump due to overheating.

Hail falling into the canal during the thunderstorm

When I arrived at Oughtrington the sun was shining but this was soon replaced with a rain storm which turned into thunder accompanied by hail. The lightning and thunder claps were one second apart at one time which indicates that the strike was one fifth of a mile away. The atmospheric subwoofers were definitely working well as this was the loudest thunder I have ever experienced! When the storm had passed I finished my jobs, put the boat to bed and left for home. On the way I stopped at Lymm Dam to take a photograph of the autumn leaves fluorescing in the sunlight. I couldn't believe that less than half an hour previously we were in the midst of a thunder storm.

Autumn leaves at Lymm Dam after the thunder storm

I have been reading "Waterways World" magazine since it was first published in 1972. Every year for my birthday Ange gives me a yearly subscription to this superb magazine and I really look forward to it dropping through the letterbox around the tenth of every month. Over the years I have had many articles and photographs published in it and the December 2013 issue included a photograph that I took. It was taken on our summer cruise of what I thought was either a mink or an otter pulling a large, dead fish (a bream I think) adjacent to the Preston Brook end of the SERC Laboratories at Daresbury on the Bridgewater Canal. I had seen one of these creatures close to here before at Keckwick Hill Bridge in 1987 but it was too far away to photograph. But this time I slowed the boat down and was able to photograph it at close quarters. It swam along the canal for about a hundred metres or so before it disappeared into the reeds on the off-side of the canal with its prey. When I later looked the creature up on the Internet all the characteristics, size, shape of nose, etc. pointed to it being an otter. Who said that canal water was dirty? If it was, wildlife like this wouldn't swim or live in or near it.

An otter pulling a dead fish along the Bridgewater Canal at Daresbury as published in "Waterways World"

I had written to Hilary and Alan Wiffin... the previous owners of "Squirrel" who live in Australia. I hoped that they would be able to send me some photographs of the boat whilst they owned it as well as confirming some details and dates for the boat's history. I was delighted to receive an email from them confirming the details and dates I requested complete with photographs attached which have now been added to the boat's section of the website. They were pleased that the boat was in good hands, being well looked after and were looking forward to reading about our adventures aboard her on "Canalscape".

Early in December Alan Savage the LCC Mooring Officer called for a work party at Oughtrington to move up the boats on the moorings. It rained on and off during the boat moving session and by the end of the work party "Squirrel" finally had its own mooring with no over-hanging trees for leaves to drop onto it!

"Squirrel's" new Oughtrington mooring

The last social event before Christmas was the Children's Christmas Party. We had to be at Lymm early due to road closures with it being the Dickensian Weekend. Also, I had been asked to take photographs of the children as they arrived and the resulting photographs sent to the respective families by email. After the usual food, games and festivities Father Christmas arrived aboard a narrowboat and distributed the presents to the children who were eagerly anticipating his arrival. When the festivities were concluded it was time for the remaining adults to relax and catch-up with the latest news before going home. We didn't go straight home but went for a meal with Ian, Michelle and Popsy and caught up on their latest news before braving the M56. This only left the Brass Monkey Cruise on Boxing Day which we were hoping to attend by boat... weather permitting.

The seat was meant for the children to sit on Alan!

The Children's Christmas Party in full swing

Santa's arrival by narrowboat

Santa, the naughty snowman and a helper ready to distribute early Christmas presents

Shannon receiving her present from Santa

As it turned out we were not able to attend the Brass Monkey Cruise due to Ange not being well and also hearing about the death of a family member. We made our apologies by telephone and wished those going on the cruise all the best for the new year. Our friends Michelle and Ian were bringing their new boat "Ted" back to Lymm over the Christmas holidays. We followed their progress on Facebook and rang them periodically... mobile phone coverage allowing. We were concerned to hear that Michelle had fallen over at Audlem and broke a bone in her thumb in the process. After a visit to the hospital they carried on to Lymm and arrived at their Oughtrington mooring on the 30th December.

And so another boating year comes to an end. It has been an eventful year with not only cruising the the Kennet and Avon Canal but  revisiting the "Shroppie" as well. The climax had to be buying our new boat... "Squirrel" which was stressful but well worth it in the end. We are now looking forward to 2014, cruising in our new boat and the adventures (and challenges) that the year will present us with. Our canal cruising adventures continue in "Canalscape Book 10"... see you there!

Lambart's Bridge (41) on the "Shroppie" near Grub Street Cutting


Regular readers and fellow anoraks may be interested in a few new additions and up-dates to the website...

Wonders of the Waterways documents how canal engineers overcame some of the challenges they faced in spectacular fashion...

 Wheels and Props  section of Canalscape's sister website...  

"Squirrel"... our new narrowboat

Shannon... Ange's nine year old grandaughter's school project on her namesake river

Also... the Big Ditch and Duke's Cut sections of the website have been re-formatted and updated

Click to return to Contents


Chapter 2 - Easter Excursion

A customer of Ian's had won a weeks holiday on the Kennet and Avon Canal. He couldn't take advantage of the holiday so offered it to Ian and Michelle who accepted it and asked Ange and I to accompany them on the cruise scheduled for the 2013 Easter holiday. On the Thursday before Good Friday we drove in convoy on the first leg of our journey deep into the depths of Hampshire. Our first stop was Glascote Basin at Tamworth on the Coventry Canal... home of S M Hudson to see the progress of "Ted"... Ian and Michelle's new boat that was being built by Hudson's for them.

"Ted" ready for the Paint Shed

"Ted's" Gardner 2LW engine nearly in position

We were last at Glascote Basin during the summer of last year when it was the S M Hudson Open Day when the weather was considerably warmer than it was now. We soon found "Ted" moored on the fitting-out berth and were shown progress on the boat by the team working on it. The beautifully restored Gardner 2LW was in the engine room but not yet in its final position and the joinery in the kitchen was well advanced with the lovely onyx coloured worktops just fitted. It would not be long before the boat was moved into the paint shed. Things were moving along and we were all very impressed with the job that Steve Hudson and his team were doing on the boat.

Days Inn at Membury Services on the M4 in Berkshire

After Tamworth we headed down the M6 and M4 motorways to Membury in Berkshire where we had booked into the Days Inn hotel for the night. The next morning we had breakfast in the motorway services then headed for Newbury and the marina where our home for the next week... "Kathleen" was moored. It is quite coincidental that the boat should have the name of the first canal boat that I ever went on in 1959 when my parents were looking for a boat to hire (see Canalscape Book One - 1960 to 1982). Initially the sat nav took us to the wrong marina in Newbury due to being given an incorrect Postal Code but we found the correct one in the end. It was located off the main line of the canal up a fast-flowing section of the River Kennet with which the canal shares quite a lot of its route.

Now might be a good time to give the reader a little background information about the Kennet and Avon Canal. Both the Rivers Kennet and Avon had been navigable since the 1700s and the benefits of a link between the two rivers were appreciated since Elizabethan times. An initial survey of the route was made but the shareholders' confidence in the proposed route was not high and a second survey was made by the renowned engineer John Rennie who was also responsible for the Lancaster Canal. Construction of the canal was started in 1794 using Rennie's survey. The route was to join the River Avon at Bath with the River Thames at Reading and in doing so would create a direct route from Bristol to London. The canal has three distinct sections... the River Kennet section from Reading to Newbury in which the already navigable River Kennet was canalised with the construction of cuts across meanders to straighten out the route and the original flash locks replaced by pound locks, many of which were unusually turf-sided.

An original Kennet and Avon Canal turf-sided lock - this one is at Monkey Marsh Lock at Thatcham

(Photograph - Kennet and Avon Canal Trust)

Greenham Lock in Newbury was originally a turf sided lock but modernised during restoration

The middle section from Newbury to Bath was made up of 57 miles of pure canal with a few river sections. And lastly, the River Avon section from Bath to Bristol which was, as with the River Kennet section the canalised River Avon. There are a few features of note along the length of the canal... the Avoncliff and Dundas Aqueducts across the River Avon, Claverton Pumping Station which uses a water wheel driven pump powered by the River Avon to supply water, the impressive flight of locks at Caen Hill which was the last part of the canal to be completed and the Crofton Pumping Station which used steam beam engines to pump water from the River Dun to the canal's summit level. There are many swing bridges along the route of the canal all of which utilise ball race bearings (a John Rennie invention) to support the bridge platform and are similar to those on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. The complete route was given the name Kennet and Avon Canal and opened in its entirety in 1810. Over the years the canal carried mainly coal, stone and finished goods until it started to decline, as did many other canals, with the introduction of the railways. In 1852 it came under the ownership of the Great Western Railway and the inevitable decline continued.

WW II machine gun post or "pill box" watching over a lonely stretch of the Kennet and Avon Canal

Machine gun post or "pill box" interior

Just over one hundred years later the canal was mainly derelict and un-navigable. There was a brief spurt of traffic during the Second World War when the canal was used to transport materials for the GHQ Line of defence in case of a German Invasion. The materials were used to construct a line of machine gun posts or "Pill Boxes" as well as anti-tank barricades at bridges known as "Dragon's Teeth". These structures are all listed and can be seen along the whole length of the canal. Some non-essential bridges were also removed at this time.

Anti-tank defences known as "Dragon's Teeth"

In 1962 the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust was formed to restore the canal to its former glory and allow through navigation... a gigantic task that culminated in the canal being completely reopened in 1990 by Queen Elizabeth the Second with the restoration work finally completed in 2003. Today the canal is a tribute to the tireless work of the K & A Canal Trust and the hundreds of volunteers who helped to make the canal what it is today.

Restoration work in progress on the Kennet and Avon Canal

(Photograph - Kennet and Avon Canal Trust)

I was looking forward to our cruise along the K & A and there were a quite few features that I really wanted to photograph such as Crofton and Claverton Pumping Stations, Caen Hill Flight of Locks, Avoncliff and Dundas Aqueducts. I remember seeing photographs of these locations in my father's canal books when I was a child and couldn't wait to see at least some of them in the flesh.

But back to our cruise... our home for the next week was "Kathleen"... a sixty foot, seven berth, G & J Reeves hull with a Weltonfield Narrowboats fit-out. She originally came off the Lancaster Canal and had "Barton Grange"... where her original home mooring was, painted beneath her name. We were asked a few times during the week where Barton Grange was! The boat featured all mod cons including central heating. This was to be a feature of the boat that was greatly appreciated as the weather, although bright and sunny, was not exactly what you could call warm for the time of year. After loading "Kathleen" with our food, clothes, etc we left the marina mooring and Ian reversed the boat into the fast flowing River Kennet, past the dry dock and into the main line of the canal.

Ian reversing "Kathleen" out of the marina down a fast running River Kennet

Our first lock was Greenham Lock, originally one of the original turf sided locks that was rebuilt with concrete and steel piled sides when the canal was restored. We shared this lock with another narrowboat then passed Newbury Marina where we had originally driven to and entered another river section through the town of Newbury that was extremely fast flowing. This section is quite narrow in parts and quite a lot of throttle was required to reach the next lock... Newbury Lock which we also shared with another narrowboat. Before leaving Newbury there was one last obstacle... a motorised swing bridge. As is usual in the middle of a town there were plenty on gongoozlers waiting to see the unwary boater make a mistake. I played it safe and had a quick tutorial from the boater we shared the previous lock with. Not that it was too dissimilar from the type that we are familiar with but it is best  to get the procedures right. With the swing bridge successfully negotiated without incident we were now heading out of the town into open countryside and we were impressed with how quickly Newbury was being left behind.

Newbury Swing Bridge - complete with gongoozlers

The picturesque Hamstead Lock

There seemed to be quite a lot of canoeists sharing the canal and we wondered about the way they ignored basic navigation rules as well as safety concerns when they cut across our bow on numerous occasions to reach the towpath for portage around locks. After asking on-lookers at one of the locks we learnt that they were taking part in the annual Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race and the participants regarded the race to be more important that canal boating. Later on as dusk fell we even saw canoes with navigation lights on them! The surroundings became increasingly rural and once we had got the M4 Motorway crossing out of the way it was as if we were in the middle of nowhere. We eventually moored below Kintbury Lock for the night after another fast flowing river section.

Dusk on the Kennet and Avon Canal near Kintbury

The canoeists continued passing our mooring throughout the night and by morning there were only the stragglers passing us. When we set off the next morning we cruised in bright sunshine but the sharp wind ensured the use of scarves, gloves and hats. The countryside we were passing through was beautiful punctuated by pill boxes and the occasional village or hamlet. There were quite a few locks lifting the canal through the rolling hills and the railway line kept us company along with the Rivers Kennet and Don. At one lock there was a derelict lock-side cottage just crying out to be renovated. It might be a challenge for someone but the lock-side location and idyllic surroundings would ensure that it was money well spent.

Lock-side cottage crying out for renovation

The railway running alongside the canal at Little Bedwyn

The iconic painting featuring a pair of 4-6-0 GWR "Halls" and a K & A barge in the lock at Little Bedwyn

Little Bedwyn is the location of one of the iconic paintings of the Kennet and Avon Canal where a steam train was running alongside the canal with a barge in the lock (we also have a plate with the scene printed on it). It would have been nice to have re-enacted the scene but I could not climb onto the adjacent bridge to take a photograph from an elevated position plus there weren't any steam trains running at this time of the year. Not far from here is Great Bedwyn where we moored for the night. This village appears to have more cottages with thatched roofs that conventional tiled or slate roofs.

"Kathleen" moored at Great Bedwyn

When we set off the next morning we were approaching one of the iconic locations on the canal and L T C Rolt put it in his Seven Wonders of the Waterways... it is Crofton Pumping Station. Complete books have been written about these beautifully maintained steam beam engines dating from 1812 for the Boulton and Watt engine and 1846 for the Harvey engine. This makes them the oldest working steam engines in the World that are in their original location and performing the task that they were constructed to fulfil.

Crofton Lock and Pumping Station

After mooring up we were delighted to see smoke coming out of the chimney indicating that the engines were in steam. Before we walked over the lock to the Pumping Station we saw that Brian Greaves the floating artist blacksmith's floating forge/workshop/tug "Bronte" and narrowboat home "Emily" were moored below the lock. We had a chat to Brian and Ian ordered a couple of tiller hooks for the boatman's cabin on "Ted" before we climbed the hill to the pumping station. Brian told Ian to collect them later on when on our way back to the boat. We decided to visit the café before looking around the engine house and exhibitions. A visit to this café is a must if in the vicinity... the coffee was excellent and the pasties were to die for.

Michelle chatting to Brian Greaves

After the visit to the café and the bookstall Ian and I went into the Engine House to look at the exhibition. The first thing that greets you is the enormous Lancashire Boiler that provides steam for the engines. Before seeing the pumping engines themselves there is an exhibition of smaller steam engines all in steam and operating. These range from a small, high-speed generator to larger, slower revving engines. We then climbed the stairs to view the main engines. The 1812 Boulton and Watt engine was in operation, lifting a ton of water from the River Dun, which has been dammed to create the Wilton Water artificial lake on the south bank of the canal, forty feet (12 mtrs) the summit level of the canal with every stroke. We were very impressed with Crofton Pumping Station. It is the kind of place that you can return to time and time again and see something new on every visit. All too soon it was time to return to the boat and continue on our journey.

Part of the small engine exhibition inside Crofton Pumping Station

The enormous Lancashire boiler that provides steam for the engines

Cylinder head of the Boulton and Watt engine seen from above

Part of the beam in the Boulton and Watt Engine

Top of the pump in the well fed by the River Dun

The end result... a ton of water at a time pumped into the leat leading to the Summit Level

Whilst negotiating Crofton Lock a party of Chinese tourists descended upon the lock, taking photographs of the boat, lock and us operating it. Michelle let them take turns pretending to wind the paddles whilst their friends took photographs. One lady had a most infectious laugh which could be heard from the back of the group every time someone had a go with the windlass and we had absolutely no idea what they were saying. Needless to say we all ended up laughing with them and got stomach ache caused by laughter. Never let it be said that we don't do our bit to foster overseas relations. Number 47 anyone?

Beautiful isolated countryside on the K & A's summit level

After leaving Crofton behind we climbed the flight of locks to reach the summit level of the canal. Shortly after the last lock we passed the outfall leat that fed water from the pumping station. We cruised through the beautiful countryside punctuated by the ever-present Pill Boxes until we reached the next landmark on the canal... Bruce Tunnel. This wide tunnel is not particularly long at 502 yards (459 metres) long. With not possessing a towpath the original horse drawn boats were pulled through by hand using the chain than runs the whole length of the tunnel for hand holds.

The Eastern Portal of the 502 yard Bruce Tunnel

"Kathleen" passing through Bruce Tunnel

Part of the original chain used to hand haul boats through the tunnel

After Bruce Tunnel the canal is in a long, deep cutting that was originally going to be part of the tunnel. At the end of it is Burbage Wharf. Here the last remaining example of a K & A wooden wharf crane dating from 1831. The crane was rebuilt and re-erected to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the canal's opening in 1810.

A rebuilt K & A wooden wharf crane at Burbridge Wharf dating from 1831

We had noticed a considerable amount of work going on at locks along the canal. Originally there were no bypass weirs around the locks with excess water being drained from one pound to another by water overflowing over the top of the gates. There were notices on the bottom gates requesting that the bottom paddles were drawn when the locking was completed to either empty the lock or ensure that it remained empty. When the works are completed this practice would not be required and in doing so ensured a (hopefully) plentiful water supply. This is not a problem on the river sections of the canal where water supply is not as much of a problem. One humorous happening in a lock was when Ange was steering the boat in a lock. As the water level dropped she didn't notice that water was leaking from a cavity in the wall. She soon put the boat into gear and moved it forwards. But not before there were two wet poodles and a wet Ange. It was funny though (I'll most probably get into trouble for saying that)!

Ange after getting wet in a leaky lock

The canal now enters what is known as the Long Pound. On this stretch of canal the route wanders through the Vale of Pewsey, famous for the white horse that dominates the landscape to the north. We moored for the night at Pewsey Wharf and the following morning we had to break ice as we cruised towards Devizes and "Kathleen" left a straight trail through it. Once out in the open the ice had melted and we had no more problems in that direction.

Trail through the ice left by "Kathleen"

The Vale of Pewsey Horse as seen from the canal

Lucky and Louie well wrapped up in the sunshine

The countryside still amazed us and we wondered what it would be like in the summer with descent light and leaves on the trees. As the day went on the sun became stronger and there was even a little bit of heat coming from it. We were now getting close to Devizes. Some of the houses backing onto the canal were superb with moorings to match. The only thing missing were boats. We reached Devizes Wharf and found a good mooring next to a very nice tug-style narrowboat. We went to the Kennet and Avon Canal Museum at the Wharf, had a good look around their bookshop then into the adjacent café before having a look around the town.

The Kennet and Avon Canal Museum and Café at Devizes Wharf

Then it was time for the big one... Caen Hill Locks. One of the most iconic photographs of this flight of twenty nine locks shows the flight prior to restoration and the first photograph of the flight that I took was from the same viewpoint only my photograph shows the flight as it is today... fully restored. The towpath down the locks is unusually wide due to accommodating a narrow gauge railway during construction of the flight in the early 1800's. Today the Canal and River Trust's Lock Keepers use quad bikes to transport themselves and maintenance materials up and down the flight.

The bridges along the flight have twin arches to accommodate the canal and the narrow gauge railway

Looking down the Caen Hill flight of locks...

... and from not quite the bottom of the flight looking uphill

A little further down and there are boats moored ready to ascent the flight the next day

The bridges on the flight have two spans... one for the canal and one for the narrow gauge railway long since dismantled. I make no excuses for my taking lots of photographs of this location as it has long been a place that I wanted to visit. After walking the complete length of the lock flight we retraced our steps and went into the town for a meal in one of the pubs. The time had come for us to turn around and retrace our steps back to Newbury.

An isolated mooring in the Vale of Pewsey

The bridges on the Kennet and Avon Canal are a mixture of the familiar hump backed bridges and swing bridges similar to those on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. But there are a couple of unusual bridges worthy of note. Ladies Bridge near Pewsey is very ornate and similar in appearance and function to Avenue Bridge (Bridge 10) on the Shropshire Union Canal. Ladies Bridge was built in an ornate fashion to placate Lady Susannah Wroughton of nearby Wilcot Manor for the canal passing through her land. The canal was also given the appearance of a lake to further enhance its appearance. Further along the canal at Stowell Park is a suspension bridge across the canal. It is constructed from an elegant web of iron that is unseen in the surrounding trees. The design has a "taper principle" in the arrangement of the wrought iron suspension bars. At the join of each link in the suspension chain the long inclined links resist twisting; the number of links reduces towards the centre. Designed by Devizes engineer James Dredge, the bridge was made in Bath. All except one other of the fifty bridges built to his design have all gone. The other remaining example is the Victoria Suspension Bridge in Bath, a larger version of the  Stowell Park design.

The ornate Lady Bridge near Honeystreet

An unusual suspension Bridge near Pewsey Wharf

Humorous figurehead

Emerging from Bruce Tunnel - eastward bound

The canal descending towards Crofton

The weather had changed from the brilliant sunshine of the previous day and the temperature had dropped considerably helped by the easterly wind. In fact it was trying to snow whilst we were negotiating some of the locks. The boat's central heating had been put to good use but unfortunately the gas ran out and we had to change bottles. Unbeknown to us the second bottle had not been refilled and this too ran out. There were no more places where a refill could be purchased until Hungerford so we kept warm by walking and doing the locks. The nearest place turned out to be Hungerford. We made good time and moored for the night in Hungerford and after a warming bowl of soup in a pub and a quick look around the shops Ian and I went on a hunt for somewhere to purchase Calor Gas which turned out to be a garden centre about a mile and a half from the wharf where we were moored. We didn't fancy carrying two full gas bottles and returning with the empty ones so Ian negotiated the loan of one of the garden centre's trolleys returning it with the empty bottles a little later.

Full Calor Gas bottles beside "Kathleen"

We really appreciated the warmth from the central heating but the moral of the story is to have a solid fuel fire as a back-up... just in case! The following day saw us descending into the River Kennet Valley and we made for Newbury where we had to run the gauntlet of the fast flowing, narrow river section to the wharf were we moored for the night. After a look around the shops we returned to the boat, got washed and changed and went for a meal in the Chenz Chinese restaurant that looked quite promising. Looks did not deceive and we later returned to the boat with full stomachs and ready for bed after quite a busy day.

The fast flowing River Kennet section in Newbury

We were less that a mile from the marina where we collected the boat from and after a full English breakfast in the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust's café we cast off, stopped at Newbury Marina to top-up the fuel tank, descended Greenham Lock and left the main line of the canal along the last fast-flowing River Kennet to our marina. It did not take long to moor the boat, load our things into the cars and take our leave of Newbury.

Our last mooring - Newbury Wharf

We decided not to come home via the motorways due to the cooling fan on our Suzuki Ignis packing up so we took the scenic route and I have to say that the journey home was more enjoyable if not longer, passing through many picturesque towns and villages along the way. Our adventure on the Kennet and Avon Canal was most enjoyable and we would like to return one day on our own boats but it would most probably take us about three weeks to reach the canal, a fortnight to explore the whole length of the canal it and another three weeks to return to our home moorings. This would most probably have to wait until we retire when we have a couple of months to spare. In the meantime we have some good memories of our trip aboard "Kathleen", cruised a really beautiful canal, visited and photographed some memorable places. Ange and I were most grateful to Ian, Michelle and Popsy for inviting us to accompany them.

Sunset at Devizes Wharf

As is the way with these things, the week following our return home saw a change in the weather. It seemed that Spring had finally sprung and on occasions I could actually feel some heat from the sun. We could not believe the difference that a week had made... Sod's Law strikes again!

Timetable for our 2013 Easter Cruise

Saturday 30-3-2013 - Newbury to Kintbury

Sunday 31-4-2013


Kintbury to Great Bedwyn

Monday 1-4-2013


Great Bedwyn to Crofton

Tuesday 2-4-2013


Crofton to Pewsey Wharf

Wednesday 3-4-2013


Pewsey Wharf to Devizes

Thursday 4-4-2013


Devizes to Hungerford

Friday 5-4-2013


Hungerford to Newbury

Saturday 6-4-2013


Newbury to Marina

Click to return to Contents


Chapter 3 - Summer Cruise 2013

For our Summer Cruise we had planned to meet Ian and Michelle bringing their new boat "Ted" back from Hudson's the boat builders on the Coventry Canal. We thought that a good place to meet would be the Swan at Fradley Junction. Unfortunately, their new boat would not be ready and the new owner of their previous boat... "Eclipse No 2" offered to lend it to them for the two weeks of the holidays. "Eclipse No 2" is now moored at Tattenhall Marina on the Chester Section of the Shropshire Union Canal not far from Beeston Castle where Ian and Michelle would be leaving from. We arranged to meet them at Barbridge Junction on the first Monday of the holiday and cruise up the "Shroppie" as far as Brewood where Ange's grandaughter Shannon was due to be dropped off to join us. We would then retrace our steps back home whilst Ian, Michelle and Popsy took "Eclipse No 2" back to its mooring at Tattenhall Marina. I was looking forward to seeing how the various places had changed as it was nearly thirty years since I had cruised the section of the Shroppie above Hack Green and over fifty years since I had first cruised it.

After loading the remainder of our clothes and fresh food on board we left Lymm in brilliant sunlight and cruised to Stockton Heath where we bought fuel at Thorn Marine before continuing to Daresbury where we planned to moor for the night. At BMBC's Walton Moorings we stopped to chat with Sue and Mark Barratt... the owners of nb "Cosy Toes" who were preparing for their summer cruise. Sue and Mark live near us in Wallasey and we quite often bump into them unexpectedly whilst shopping. We also passed an old canal cruising friend from the 1980's... Don Whittle on board his Nauticus cruiser moored between Moore and Daresbury. As we were passing the SERC Laboratories we saw what appeared to be a large fish splashing on the surface of the water. As we drew closer we saw that it was indeed a large fish but it was dead and was being pulled along the canal by what I thought was an otter. I cut the boat's engine and drifted close to it whilst I took photographs. After a few minutes the creature disappeared with its prey into the reeds close to Keckwick Hill Bridge.

An otter with a fish it had caught at Daresbury

I had seen one of these elusive creatures at this location before many years ago but it was just swimming across the canal and I did not have the opportunity to photograph it. I also had another sighting of these creatures at Skipton on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal a few years ago when we saw a pair of them playing in the reeds on the opposite bank from where we were moored. After this little diversion we carried on for a mile or so until we stopped for the night at a place we had moored previously at the start of the straight that leads to Preston Brook ready for an early start the next morning.

Ange enjoying breakfast in the cratch whilst moored near Daresbury

Sunday morning dawned warm and sunny and after breakfast we headed off for Preston Brook Tunnel and the Trent and Mersey Canal. We were first in the queue for the tunnel which is always a bonus as we were then able to set the pace through it. There is nothing more frustrating than being behind a boat that is going too slowly through a tunnel as a boat is easier to steer when going faster through a tunnel due to the "canal effect"... one of the hydraulic principles discovered by Archimedes in ancient Greece.

Site of the Dutton Breach and the rescued refurbished milepost

We cruised along the Weaver Valley through the re-opened section of the canal that was subject to the breach last year and opened earlier this year. We passed the T & M milestone that we had previously seen on the breach open day in February when it had been rescued and was lying on the ground but now it had been refurbished and took pride of place on the repaired section of canal. Whilst passing through Marbury Park we saw the J H Taylor mahogany cruiser "Beyond" coming towards us. The craft was looking resplendent with its freshly varnished woodwork and unscratched hull. This was the second time I had seen one of these beautiful craft in the last two weeks, the first time being on BBC TV's "Top Gear" programme when the team were breaking the speed limit on the River Avon in a Ford Transit van which the team had converted into a hovercraft. There are not many of these beautiful craft left and needless to say I photographed it as it passed us.

The J H Taylor cruiser "Beyond" passing us at Marbury Park

One photograph that I have always wanted to take was a heron perched on the derelict working boat in Billinge Green Flash but have never seen one there when the light was conducive to taking photographs... that is until today. The only problem was that over the years the boat has deteriorated and the photograph as I wanted to take it was now impossible but it is at least still recognisable.

A heron perched on the derelict boat in Billinge Green Flash

Later that afternoon we were approaching Middlewich and when approaching Croxton Flash we passed the site of the second Trent and Mersey Canal breach that occurred last year. This work was overshadowed by the much larger scale of the breach at Dutton. It is now possible to see just how close the canal is to the River Dane. In fact the overflow from the canal runs straight into the river vertically should there be a repeat of the high water levels which were partially the cause of the breach. Just around the corner we could not see Peter the Whittler's boats which were usually moored in the reeds adjacent to Croxton Flash. I asked one of the long-term moorers after Croxton Aqueduct where he was only to be told that he had died and his funeral was a fortnight ago. Very sad... we shall miss Peter, his friendly waves and sense of humour.

The location of the second T & M breach approaching Croxton Flash

The only photograph I have of Peter the Whittler

Once we arrived at Middlewich and once we were moored I lit the oven to cook our tea. It was the first time we had used the oven since the cooker was installed and I expected there to be a little smoke but after a minute or so black smoke was coming from beneath the cooker. I turned the gas off immediately and grabbed the fire extinguisher but the smoke subsided and the extinguisher was not required. With a fridge full of fresh food and no means to cook our tea we had a problem. Ange had previously had a problem with the grill on the old cooker and made light of the incident, even posting a comment of facebook about it. Lymm CC member Angela Norton replied to the comment and offered to bring a camping stove to us which she did. Angela drove from her home in Poynton to Middlewich with the stove and even brought a Thermos flask full of hot water for us to have a cup of tea and coffee with. What a wonderfully thoughtful thing to do on a Sunday evening. After dropping of the promised items she couldn't stay and left us to enjoy our hot drinks in peace. The next morning we ascended the locks and left Middlewich behind but not before paying homage to Maureen Smith... the unofficial lock keeper at Wardle Lock who sadly passed away in 2012. A commemorative plaque has since been erected in her memory at the side of "her lock".

Maureen Shaw's commemorative plaque beside "Maureen's Lock" at Wardle

We made our way up the Shroppie's Middlewich Branch towards Barbridge where we had arranged to meet Michelle, Ian and Popsy. We noticed quite a lot of ex-working boats on the way, most probably making their way back from the Working Boats Festival at Audlem. We had to queue at a couple of locks and arrived at Barbridge late afternoon.

Cruising down the Shroppie's Middlewich Branch below Cholmondeston

When we arrived Ian and I took the cooker out and discovered a connection on the gas pipe that needed tightening. Once this was done and all the joints checked with Fairy Liquid the gas was turned back on and everything appeared to be ok. Barbridge has changed little over the years. Below are two photographs taken from virtually the same viewpoint on the junction bridge. The first was taken in 1962 when Deans Pleasure Cruisers had their base there. In the second photograph Midway Narrowboats occupy the location. After Deans vacated the location in about 1964 it became Ladyline Cruisers chandlery and hire cruiser base, then Mick Siveright's and now Midway Boats.

Two photographs of the Middlewich Branch at Barbridge - 1962 and 2013

That evening we had a lovely meal in the Barbridge Inn with Ian, Michelle and Popsy and we caught up on all their news over our food. Ian told me that his brother was on the look out for an inexpensive GRP cruiser. Midway Boats at Barbridge Junction had a centre cockpit Norman 27 for sale and the next morning we went to have a look at it and take some photographs for him. For some reason the lady in the office gave us two sets of keys. The second set was for a 45ft narrowboat called "Gill" that was built by Liverpool Boats in 2002. When we had finished looking at the Norman we had a look at it. Cosmetically the narrowboat didn't look as pretty as "Total Eclipse" on the outside but was in better condition and the inside was more spacious with a better layout, brighter and better equipped with many features that we could only dream about.

nb "Gill" exterior and interior

"Gill" had a nice bright and airy interior with a good sized lounge with a dinette that converted into a double berth not unlike the one on "Total Eclipse" and a rear bedroom fitted with two single berths.  Central heating was fitted as was a high power battery charger and an 1800 watt inverter. In addition to the boat's many features was one that took me completely by surprise... a framed photograph of a squirrel in the snow. After seeing the squirrel Ian said that this was an omen and that we were destined to have this boat. A little note of explanation is required here... my nickname used by everyone who knows me is "Squirrel" (and has been since I was at school)!

Squirrel in the snow... one of the deciding factors

On our return to our boats Ange and Michelle said that we had been a long time and we told them that we had a look at another boat that was for sale. Ange asked me what it was like and I said that it was "her kind of boat" and virtually identical to one we had seen a few years ago at the IWA National Rally when it was held at Preston Brook. What can I say... almost immediately Ange and Michelle marched up to the Midway Boats office and asked for the keys to the boat to have a look for themselves. On their return Ange announced the "I want that boat" as she had immediately fallen in love with it. Seeing as her grandaughter was spending more and more time with us the extra space and privacy offered by the boat's layout would be exactly what was needed. We had not made any plans to change "Total Eclipse" as we loved her dearly but the layout and extra space would most certainly come in handy given our visitor spending more time on board not to mention the higher level of equipment. This plus the fact that things were starting to go wrong on a more frequent basis. I just had to "get my head around" the possibility of parting with our beloved "Total Eclipse" which is what I spent most of my time doing over the next couple of days.

A pleasant location for moorings close to Hurleston Junction

After our visit to Midway Boats we continued our journey southwards the following morning. It was such a refreshing change to have warm sunshine accompanying us whilst cruising. Over the last few years it is a feature of out summer cruises that has been lacking. Accordingly, I have taken advantage of the good light to take as many photographs as possible in many locations that I have not captured before. Ian and Michelle had bought a sun shelter for Lucky and Louie which brought many smiles from passing boaters. We passed through Nantwich but Ian and Michelle stopped at the water point and to have a quick look around Nantwich Canal Centre.

Lucky and Louie in their new sun shelter

Michelle and Ange at Hack Green

We had arranged to stop for the night at the Pilates Picnic Area above Hack Green Locks... one of my favourite locations on the canal. As a child I had spent many happy hours here fishing with my father and playing with my model boat when the lock was full. The bridge below the top lock was undergoing refurbishment and Ange, who was steering at the time, had to dismantle the TV aerial whilst drifting in mid-stream in order for the boat to pass through due to the limited air draft. Once through the lock Ian and Michelle had caught us up so we moored up, had tea and talked about "Gill" whilst Ian got on with his polishing. Even though "Eclipse No 2" is no longer his boat he polished it as if it was still his...he just likes polishing!.

The old stables at Hack Green Locks

Ian polishing "Eclipse No 2"

The next day the weather did not look as promising as the previous days. We hoped that this was a one-off and that the heat wave we had been experiencing for the last couple of weeks wasn't coming to an end. We set off and it wasn't long before we passed the new 230 berth Overwater Marina. This was the first time that we had seen this new development and it seemed to go on for ever. The coffee shop and chandlery looked enticing but we pressed on and moored just below the Weaver Aqueduct.

The entrance to Overwater Marina near Audlem

By the time we reached the bottom of the Audlem flight it had started to drizzle and once moored we walked into the village to see if there were any moorings further up... which there were. Consequently, on our return the drizzle had turned to rain and we set off up the first three locks in the rain and moored outside the Bridge Inn where we later had a beautiful meal at the bargain price of two for a tenner! I had by now come to terms with parting with "Total Eclipse"... the squirrel photograph was the deciding factor! Over our meal we discussed painting the interior of "Total Eclipse" and tidying the boat up with the possibility of part-exchanging it for "Gill".

Looking up the Audlem flight of locks

The rain stopped overnight and we ascended the flight the next morning in bright sunlight reaching the top in little over two hours. Time for a quick bacon butty before the Adderley flight of five locks. We paused at the top lock where there was a stall selling farm produce. Bacon, sausages and home produced marmalade were purchased as we chatted to Allison...the lady from the adjacent farm who ran the stall. She was accompanied by a delightful Springer Spaniel puppy called Billy who liked chasing flies and biting the heads off flowers. The next feature of note was Betton Wood. There was neither sight nor sound of the shrieking ghost said to haunt the woods so we carried on to Market Drayton.

Once the location of Ladyline's Market Drayton Marina... a housing development now occupies the site

Talbot Wharf... once the home of Holidays Afloat Ltd is still a boat yard

The moorings by Newcastle Road Bridge were once surrounded by open fields

On the approach to Market Drayton the relatively new bypass bridge bordered the wide section containing moorings that was once Ladyline's marina now long gone and replaced by a canalside housing development. We moored just past Newcastle Road Bridge (62). Once bordered by open fields but now there is a housing development on the off-side of the canal. We walked into the town and as well as buying food we purchased paint for the walls of the boat and a few other items to brighten up the interior. After Market Drayton the canal enters "real" Shroppie country. Immediately after the moorings a lofty embankment is pierced by a couple of tunnels conveying the River Tern (winding its way to the Pontcysyllte prototype at Longdon on Tern) and a minor road from one side of the canal to the other.

The lofty Market Drayton Embankment is pierced by road...

 ...and river tunnels

From one extreme to the other... Tyrley Cutting is hewn out of solid rock with trees overhanging the narrow gorge and leads to what is in my opinion one of the most picturesque flights of locks in the country. Unfortunately, due to the rain the previous day and sunlight not able to penetrate the overhead tree canopy the towpath is quite muddy but this does not detract from the overall beauty of the flight. With most of the locks now out of the way the canal concentrates on its cut and fill nature.

Tyrley Cutting

Tyrley Locks... one of the most beautiful lock flights in the country

The locks are followed by Woodseaves Cutting with its virtually sheer sides and spindly bridges spanning the narrow waterway. The spoil from excavating this cutting was not moved very far... to the embankment just outside Market Drayton. One does not gain a true idea of just how high this embankment actually is due to the trees planted on the sides to stabilise the earthworks. Even so, every so often you get tantalising glimpses through the trees to the landscape beyond. We moored for the night just past the Wharf Tavern at Goldstone Wharf.

Where the sun doesn't penetrate through the trees... Woodseaves Cutting

Boats at Sunset - Goldstone Wharf

The sun was shining again the next morning and not long after we set off we passed the old Cadbury's Wharf at Knighton. Here was moored the ex-Cowburn and Cowper boat "Starling". I first came across Starling many years ago at Beeston Castle Wharf where my parents moored their cruiser "Phial". Then it was part of the Beeston Castle Cruisers fleet owned by Sid Merral, had been shortened to 35ft long and had a full length cabin. The centre section was another boat in the fleet and was called "Swan". In fact "Starling" was the first narrowboat that I ever steered! In more recent years it has been reinstated back to its original 70ft and looks like the ex-working boat that it is. Next was the mighty Shebden Embankment. Again lined with trees to stabilise the earthworks with gaps that offered glimpses of the Wrekin in the distance. After the Wharf Tavern came Grub Street Cutting with its steep sides, sultry foliage and one of the icons of the Shroppie... High Bridge complete with the replica telegraph pole on the centre abutment.

High Bridge (39) in Grub Street Cutting near Norbury Junction

Hidden away deep inside Grub Street Cutting are moored a couple of residential narrowboats. Adjacent to the mooring was an old Series E Morris Eight and a couple of other old cars including a Series 1 Landrover. It was one of those locations that I would love to stop, have a look around and take photographs... maybe one day! Whilst we were going along Ange and Michelle had been rubbing down the cabin lining in preparation for painting and planning how to present the boat when we returned to Barbridge. Grub Street Cutting gave way to more open countryside and moored boats lining both banks of the canal that heralded the approach to Norbury Junction. We found two spaces just past the junction and after mooring we walked to the canalside gift shop, chandlery and café where Ian and I were banned from looking around until we had something to eat and drink.

Norbury Wharf

Inside the gift shop and chandlery

The bacon buttiess didn't disappoint and neither did the shop. We spent quite a while looking at the books (I bought an excellent book about the history of Norbury Junction), canalia and boat bits on sale. They had a few boats for sale and we had a quick look at one of them that might have met our needs but it looked a little "tired" both inside and out and we didn't think that it was worth the asking price... definitely not as good as "Gill"! Norbury Junction is one of those locations on the canal that has changed a bit since we started canal cruising in 1960. The maintenance depot is still there but the wharf itself has gone from a BW wharf to a hire cruiser base to a boat yard but still has the same atmosphere as it did all those years ago. We looked at the old line of the Newport Branch of the canal that used to lead to Wappenshall Junction and the Shropshire Tub Boat Canal System. There are plans to reopen the canal to Wappenshall Junction and replace some of the locks with an inclined plane but even if the plans go ahead I do not think that it will be completed in my lifetime.

Looking towards the junction at Norbury

The Junction Inn at Norbury

After a few hours at Norbury we set off again towards Gnosall. Like Norbury this village has changed little over the years with the exception of a few new houses and the willow trees overtaking what was the mooring area adjacent to the Boat Inn. We didn't stop at Gnosall but pressed on through Cowley Tunnel and cutting which was when it started to rain.

The Boat at Gnosall

Inside Cowley Tunnel

Cowley Tunnel and Cutting

And when I say rain I mean rain with a capital "R"!  At one point I even stopped the boat beneath a bridge to shelter from this aquatic onslaught from the skies. When it eased off a bit we left the shelter of the bridge and moored the boat around the corner near Church Eaton. I erected the canopy even though the rear deck was saturated. We had planned to have bacon and eggs for tea on the towpath but with the weather the way it was we had it inside the boat instead. Just as we had finished eating there were flashes in the sky that heralded the thunder clashes that followed. The storm lasted for well over an hour but when it did eventually finish the sky had a pinky-grey colour to it and as the sun came out we were treated to a triple rainbow. Unfortunately the secondary rainbows could be seen with the eye but were too weak to register on the camera's sensor in the failing light.

The rainbow at dusk - Church Eaton after the thunderstorm

It rained again in the night but we awoke to bright sunlight and after breakfast we carried on towards Wheaton Aston. It was Saturday morning and we had arranged to meet Ange's grandaughter Shannon who was being dropped-off at Stretton Aqueduct a little way above the lock. Ian and Michelle moored at Wheaton Aston and we carried on through the lock to Stretton Aqueduct where we turned around ready for our return cruise. Even though we had given Shannon's mother directions  avoiding the notorious stretch of the M6 along the A41 and A5 to Stretton Wharf they decided to go along the motorway and as anticipated were held up in traffic for over an hour. Then they couldn't for some reason find the aqueduct (there's not that many bridges over the A5) and we waited on top of the aqueduct for over an hour until they eventually arrived. The aqueduct is virtually identical to the examples at Nantwich further down the "Shroppie" and Dog Lane in Congleton on the Macclesfield Canal. All of them possess five identical cast iron panels for the span and are of similar dimensions with only slight differences in the vertical piers either side of the roadway.

Stretton Aqueduct over the A5 Watling Street...

...Nantwich Aqueduct...

...and Dog Lane Aqueduct, Congleton on the Macclesfield Canal all share the same castings

With Shannon safely on board we retraced our steps to Wheaton Aston and made a visit to the sanitary station and water point where I introduced Shannon to the delights of emptying the toilet. The expression on her face whilst I emptied the contents was as wonderful as the smell! We moored a little way further along the towpath not far from where Michelle, Ian and Popsy were moored. That night we went into the Hartley Arms for tea. The food couldn't be faulted but the pub was extremely hot and plagued with flies. We spent more time shooing the flies away than we did eating! When we complained to the staff they told us that it was because the pub was sandwiched between a farm and the canal. Michelle informed them that there were no flies on our boats or outside on the patio that backed onto the farm land so the problem lay elsewhere. I personally think that if they installed electric fly "zappers" and air conditioning to lower the temperature the problem would most probably be alleviated. The next morning we set off back through the deep cuttings, through Gnosall and returned to Norbury. The weather was a little overcast but it was still warm and not unpleasant. Every Sunday a convoy of tractors descend upon the Junction Inn. They range from modern John Deers and JCBs to classic Fergies and David Browns (whose initials are the "DB" in Aston Martins). It had started to rain as the tractors were departing but I managed a couple of photographs just the same. That evening we dined in the Junction Hotel on our way in I noticed a canal painting on the side of the building that looks like Lapwoth Locks on the Stratford upon Avon Canal. I have to say that it was a much more pleasant experience than dining at Wheaton Aston... so top marks to the Junction Inn! After we had eaten the girls bought bags of duck food and went outside feeding the ducks.

The convoy of tractors leaving the Junction Inn at Norbury

The painting on the side of the Junction Inn... possibly Lapworth Locks on the Stratford upon Avon Canal

Our next port of call was Market Drayton which we planned to reach the next day. As we entered Grub Street Cutting it started to rain and half-way through the alternator drive belt started to scream. I pulled over, moored the boat with the centre rope. This is one of the nightmare jobs on "Total Eclipse" as to gain access to the bolts securing the alternator the steel steps from the rear deck have to be removed and then one needs to be a contortionist in order to reach the alternator. The belt was eventually adjusted and everything put back then we were on our way again. We negotiated Tyrely Locks in the pouring rain and it wasn't until after the locks that the rain stopped. In the wooded cutting after the locks was a piece of tree sculpture that made me smile. It was the face of a man wearing a hat. This is the second piece of tree art that I have seen in recent months but I can't decide which is the best.

The "Tree Man" approaching Market Drayton

Just before we reached the Market Drayton moorings we passed a small wharf made from engineering bricks. This is one of the landing stages where farmers left churns full of milk to be collected by narrowboat and taken to the Cadbury factory at Knighton. But it has a greater significance to me as it was here that we moored the "Kathleen" in 1960 and I played in the field with the rocket launcher that was bought for me in Market Drayton's toyshop. I can remember it as if it was yesterday but I don't recall a tree being there.

The milk churn landing stage where we moored in 1960

Early next morning we headed into Market Drayton for shopping. the weather had taken a turn for the better with the sun shining. We went down the steps at the aqueduct which we discovered is known locally as the "Forty Steps" and walked into town via the scenic route alongside the River Tern for part of the way before passing some delightful cottages when entering the town from the other end... a route I had not taken before but can thoroughly recommend. Market Drayton is a beautiful town... one of those places that you come away from thinking "I'd like to live there" but I suspect that a 4x4 would be mandatory in the winter!

The junction of Shropshire and Cheshire Streets in the beautiful town of Market Drayton

Cruising through Betton Wood... all quiet and no shrieking ghosts!

Fallen tree  across the canal in Betton Wood

After shopping we returned to the boats and set off. In Betton Wood we had to negotiate around a tree that had fallen into the canal. Again there was no sign of the shrieking ghost but we were treated to the sight of a kingfisher swooping low across the canal, landing in tree branches and swooping across the canal again. Even though I had my camera to hand these elusive birds are too quick to photograph from a moving boat... even if it was doing much less that 4 mph! Next stop was Adderley Locks. As Shannon was a bit older and we allowed her to help on the locks. In fact she can actually wind a ground paddle up provided that it isn't too stiff. She was doing well with the ground paddles and opening the gates but the gate paddles are too high for her to manage. Audlem Locks followed soon after and adjacent to the top lock were cows and a bull in the field.

Shannon winding a ground paddle and befriending a cow

We called to the cows and they came over to us, licking our hands with their rough tongues. Even the bull came over and allowed us to stroke his nose. We made short work of the locks and half-way down the flight I was stung on the head by a wasp. Ange and Shannon thought that it was hilarious to see me jumping around clutching the top of my head... I'll remember that for future reference! We moored in the pound between locks twelve and thirteen and after a shower and change of clothing we returned to the dog friendly Bridge Inn for our tea. The food was again excellent as was the surroundings and the company. As Lucky and Louie were on their best behavioure we stayed in the pub until closing time when we were kicked out. We will return to this pub again as it is surely one of the best on the "Shroppie".

The Bridge Inn at Audlem

The next morning we completed the locks after a visit to the water point and sanitary station. Whilst we were waiting for the water tank to fill we witnessed a classic case of "canal rage"  where a large woman off the narrowboat waiting to descent the lock was shouting abuse to a family about to enter the lock below. The woman closed the bottom gates just as the ascending boat was about to enter and proceeded to fill the empty lock for her boat to go in and shouting abuse to the ascending boat who had done nothing wrong, telling them that there was nowhere for them to go... a blatant lie as there was plenty of space. After giving the abusers a good head start we continued down the locks and headed for Nantwich. On the way we again marvelled at the sheer size of Overwater Marina and soon we were descending Hack Green Locks. I had noticed that there was a distinct lack of herons or, as I called them when I was a child... "wierdies"! We did see one approaching Nantwich which was very obliging in posing for photographs before it flew away.

The heron (aka "weirdie") taking to the air

We moored on the embankment at Nantwich. When I went into the engine compartment to get something I was horrified to discover that there was water all over everything. I lifted the rear deck boards and started the engine to see where the water was coming from. In turned out to be the water pump again. By the time I had donned my overalls and emptied some of the water out of the engine compartment Ian and Michelle had caught up with us. To say that I was totally fed up would be an understatement and I had just about had enough... was there anything else that could go wrong this trip?

Nantwich Embankment moorings

Nantwich Canal Centre might have a pump but they would not be open until the following morning. In the meantime Ian telephoned Mike from the Gardner Engine Society who lives nearby in Wrenbury to ask him if he had any suggestions. He said that he would contact a friend of his who lived at Hurleston but he couldn't make any suggestions either. In the meantime we had tea and had an early night. First thing the next morning Ian and I pushed "Total Eclipse" over to the other side of the canal to touch-up the hull blacking. When Nantwich Canal Centre opened we gave them a visit and they had a pump that could be modified to fit but after Ian spent most of the afternoon modifying it to fit it refused to work. Ian and Michelle towed "Total Eclipse" to the wharf belonging to the Canal Centre and the engineer who sold me the pump had a look to see why the pump wasn't working. After an hour he came to the same conclusion that we did... the pump was faulty. It was suggested that we strip down the original pump, pack it with silicon grease, turn the face plate around and refit it. This would last us until we got back to Lymm and could source a replacement pump locally and fit it at our leisure. This we did and when the engine was started I was delighted when the pump was running without any sign of a leak. We left Nantwich and made for Barbridge Junction where, after checking that "Gill" was still for sale, we tidied and cleaned the boat up for the valuation scheduled for the next morning. We planned to have tea in the Jolly Tar. We had been in here before, a couple of years ago but since then it has changed hands and we hoped the change of management would be for the better (which it was).

The Jolly Tar public house

The pub had what looked like a large bouncy castle in the grounds and both Shannon and Popsy were eager to sample it. We were made most welcome in the pub and even though the choice of food was limited it was of good quality and can be recommended. After eating the girls couldn't wait to visit the "Moonwalk"... a large inflatable chamber similar to a bouncy castle that gives one the impression of walking in low-gravity. They also had an obstacle course that was inflatable as well. Various other amusements were also available to use such as scooters, a large paddling pool, motorcycle video games, pool table, etc. The girls' opinion was that the pub was the best we had been to and according to Shannon deserved a hundred stars!

Inside the "Moonwalk"...

... even the "adults" had a go

(Photograph - Michelle Gilbody)

The obstacle course at the Jolly Tar

The next morning was quite traumatic. First thing I reversed the boat to the junction, turned it around and returned to the place where we were moored for the night. During this manoeuvre the engine mysteriously stopped and it turned out that we had run out of Diesel. Ian called Mike from Wrenbury who came with a container full of fuel and after the injectors were bled the engine thankfully sprang into life. We then off-loaded stuff that was cluttering the inside of the boat and stored it temporarily on the front deck of "Eclipse" as well as behind a sign on the towpath. Once empty we cleaned it from one end to the other again before visiting Midway Boats for Steve Batty to come and value the boat. Steve followed Ian and me back to the boat and went over it with a fine toothed comb. After listening to the engine he called his boat fitter to come and inspect the boat for a second opinion. Ange was totally traumatised and had taken refuge on board "Eclipse" whilst Michelle gave her a running commentary. "He's looking at the engine Now he's in the cratch They're all on the towpath now. Another guy's come to have a look. They've gone now". Ian and I accompanied Steve and his employee to the office where they made an offer on "Total Eclipse" subject to a hull survey. This we accepted and after another look on board "Gill" returned to our boats where the girls had put all the stuff back on board. Ange looked white with the whole experience but when I told her that "Gill" was ours subject to a hull survey on "Total Eclipse" the colour returned to her face. With the business out of the way it was time to start the engines and head for home.

We left our friends at Barbridge who were heading north towards Tattenhall Marina where they were returning "Eclipse No 2" to. We also left Barbridge behind heading east and soon we were in the queue for Cholmondeston Lock. After descending the lock we tied-up briefly at Venetian Marina for an ice cream. The marina has recently changed hands and the new owners are revamping the chandlery. There wasn't much stock in the shop as yet but it looks promising and we are looking forward to seeing how the business develops. We cruised down the Middlewich Branch in brilliant sunshine and we stopped for tea in Middlewich before carrying on for a couple of hours afterwards. We moored for the night near to Whatcroft Hall and it was beautifully quiet allowing us have a good night's sleep in preparation for a full day's cruising as we planned to reach Lymm mid-afternoon the following day. Accordingly, next morning we set off early having our breakfast on the move. When we reached Billinge Green Flash we came across a hire boat stuck in the mud in the shallows that border the off-side of the flash. A tug style narrowboat was attempting to pull the boat free and reunite it with the crew who were watching from the towpath. How they got there must rate as one of the great mysteries of life.

The narrowboat that was stuck on the mud at Billinge Green Flash

We made good time and it wasn't long before we were passing through Dutton Stop Lock and in the queue for Preston Brook Tunnel. We stopped at Thorn Marine and related our adventures, ordering a new water pump from them at the same time. A couple of hours later we were at Lymm, loading our stuff into the car and heading for home in brilliant sunshine.


Timetable for our 2013 Summer Cruise

Saturday 27-7-2013 - Lymm to Red Brow near Daresbury

Sunday 28-7-2013


Red Brow to Middlewich

Monday 29-7-2013


Middlewich to Barbridge

Tuesday 30-7-2013


Barbridge to Pilates Picnic @ Hack Green

Wednesday 31-7-2013


Hack Green to Audlem Lock 13

Thursday 1-8-2013


Audlem to Shebden Wharf

Friday 2-8-2013


Shebden Wharf to Bridge 27 -  Church Eaton

Saturday 3-8-2013 - Church Eaton to Wheaton Aston via Stretton
Sunday 4-8-2013 - Wheaton Aston to Norbury
Monday 5-8-2013 - Norbury to Market Drayton
Tuesday 6-8-2013 - Market Drayton to Audlem
Wednesday 7-8-2013 - Audlem to Nantwich
Thursday 8-8-2013 - Nantwich to Barbridge
Friday 9-8-2013 - Barbridge to Whatcroft Hall

Saturday 10-8-2013


Whatcroft Hall to Lymm


So there we have it. I was looking forward to seeing how various places along the length of the "Shroppie" had changed over the years. We had recently cruised from Barbridge to Ellesmere Port and knew that stretch hadn't changed much. Neither had Nantwich and Audlem... places that we had frequently visited by car. I suspected that the same could not be said about Market Drayton and Gnosall as I had seen photographs of them in canal magazines and books. On the whole the canal was just as I remembered it... beautiful wooded cuttings, lofty embankments and secluded moorings. There were not as many boats using the canal as I had anticipated and we didn't have to wait at many locks but some of the more popular moorings were quite busy. I have already mentioned how we didn't see many herons (aka "wierdies") but we did see a kingfisher in Betton Wood which made up for it. I feel as though the boat let us down a bit with the gas leak and resulting small fire, water pump and alternator drive belt problems, not to mention the interior painting, running out of diesel and the decoration work in preparation for the valuation. It was at times a very stressful holiday. But when it was good it was good but when it was bad it was horrendous. But our friends helped us through these times. Thank you Michelle and Ian... we don't know what we would have done without you. We all now need another holiday to get over it... Four Counties Ring anyone?


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Canalography 2013

Our canal cruising experiences and milestones during 2013


5th January 2013 "Total Eclipse" moved up on the Lymm moorings and commenced removing and resealing the leaking window frames
22nd March 2013 Contacted by ITV regarding a series of TV programmes featuring Ade Edmondson about British rivers and ports
30th March 2013 Easter week holiday aboard nb "Kathleen" on the Kennet and Avon Canal from Newbury to Devizes and back
12th May 2013 Visit to Stafford Boat Club and cruise along the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal aboard nb "India"
27th July 2013 Summer cruise along the Shropshire Union Canal as far as Stretton Aqueduct near Brewood and back to Lymm
29th July 2013 Viewed nb "Gill" at Midway Boats, Barbridge Junction and later decided to part-exchange "Total Eclipse" for it
17th August 2013 Cruised from Lymm to Aqueduct Marina, Church Minshull and left "Total Eclipse" there on the visitor moorings
22nd August 2013 "Total Eclipse" slipped for hull survey at Aqueduct Marina then cruised to Midway Boats, Barbridge and part-exchanged for "Gill"
24th August 2013 Brought "Gill" from Barbridge to Lymm and moored at Oughtrington on Ian and Michelle Gilnody's mooring
5th September 2013 Officially changed the name of nb "Gill" to "Squirrel when registered with the Bridgewater Canal Company and informed Canal & River Trust
8th September 2013 Attended Lymm CC's cruise to the Trafford Centre and Worsley Cruising Club
21st September 2013 Attended Lymm CC's cruise to Dunham Massey
12th October 2013 Attended Lymm CC's illuminated cruise to the Barn Owl at Agden
10th October 2013 "Squirrel" slipped at Lymm CC to fit correct nut, washer and split pin fitted to the propeller shaft
29th October 2013 Attended Lymm CC's Closing Cruise to Grappenhall 
10th November 2013 My photograph of an Otter at Daresbury published in the December 2013 edition of "Waterways World"
7th December 2013 Oughtrington work party and nb "Squirrel" moved to a new mooring
14th December 2013 Lymm CC's Children's Christmas Party

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The story most probably continues in...

Book 10

Canal Cruising 2014

Finances, health and time allowing!


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or select another book below...




Book 1 - 1960 to 1982


Book 2 - 1983 to 1999

Book 3 - 2000 to 2005

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

Book 8 - 2012

Book 10 - 2014
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 (Coming Soon)
The Wonders of the Waterways
2011 Gardner Engine Rally Report
Foreign Forays - Canals of the World (On-going)
Worsley Canal Heritage Walk
Castlefield Canal Heritage Walk
The Liverpool Docks Link
NB Squirrel (On-going)

NB Total Eclipse

Don't Call it a Barge

Canis Canalus

Canalscape Photography (On-going)
Lymm Cruising Club Website
Footnote and Acknowledgements
Site Map
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Updated 05-01-2014