Sunday, 5 August 2018

August 4 onwards: around the Birmingham Canal Navigtions (BCN)

Saturday 4 August Wolverhampton to the Black Country Museum, Dudley
Today we had a rest day, eating in town and then travelling gently the four miles to the Black Country Museum. On the way, we emptied loo holding tanks at the CRT basin near Broad Street. Once at the museum, we winded in the entrance to their arm and backed into the 24 hour mooring behind the museum pub! Liana's sister Alison arrived with son Scott, to begin her holiday with us. Liana won at Settlers of Catan!
Sunday 5 August  through tunnels to Hawne Basin
Blue skies augured well for the day: We had pain au chocolat with coffee for breakfast (tres delicieux!) and set off through Brindley's Old Line Canal, avoiding the yellow water lilies filling the margins, as we moved towards Brades Locks, to drop three locks onto Telford's Main Line, and the Netherton Tunnel (you have to do four sides of a square!). Liana persuaded John not to enter the basin before Tiverly Aqueduct, as it was choked with lilies. Joggers and cyclists were enjoying the Sunday morning sunshine. We passed a fast moving modern working boat with a digger on board, before pausing to view Netherton Tunnel, looking down from the aqueduct. Alison and Liana worked the double staircase at Brades Locks, the only ones on the BCN, before crossing over with a boat coming up the single lock.
The sun is very hot! Soon we passed into the 3200 yard long coolness of Netherton Tunnel, wide but dripping and now unlit. We moored for lunch in the park just after the tunnel, enjoying our bagels with salmon, cream spread and lemon juice..... and beer.
The four miles to Hawne Basin had changed radically in the last fifteen years! Lots of house building had made it much less isolated and more suburban. Twisty turns and clear water kept up interest! We had lowered the planters ready for Gosty Hill Tunnel, which has two low sections and is about eight feet wide, but John managed the 500 metres without incident, emerging into what once was a brick canyon at Stewart and Lloyd's pipe works. Now, buddleia and birch are rampant, and new warehouses peek over the high parapets. There is a much larger resident community of boaters using the canalside as you approach Hawne Basin now: It was just weeds years ago. Funnily enough, we were welcomed with the same advice as then: " moor alongside the diesel point, you'll be fine there!" - so we did. The basin had plenty of spare spaces, as many owners were on their travels. The AWCC flag flew, and the newish community room has wifi, and closes at 6pm. All the services are available for boaters, too. It has a ramp and undercover bay for boat blacking, a feature we envy!
Liana and I had a walk around the basin / marina, which has members of the Coomberswood Canal Trust, adopter of this part of the Dudley No 2 Canal. Just past the basin, the navigable canal ends.

Monday 6 August: Hawne Basin to near Castle Bridge on the Wyrley & Essington Canal
Hawne Basin is, like many places on the BCN, looking better than years ago. The residents have a good community room with all the facilities, they are building and fitting out boats, plus the slipway is being used for diy hull lacking, etc. It is now at the end of a modern commercial development, with plenty of new houses nearby. The large forge behind is still working: We were told it was where the Iraq Big Gun was made. It also sells the cheapest fuel in the BCN.
Poor Alison tripped on kerbs as she went for a shower and scraped herself badly.
Using a rear rope and reverse gear, John sprung Annie around, with help from the wind. We passed through the tight arch, turned and set off for Gosty Hill. Knowing there was enough head room, we passed through a little more quickly. Liana and Ali regaled us with songs. Oddly, the two low bits are not in the middle, which is maybe ten feet high: The lowest bit is nearer to the North portal. The old tunnel tug berth by the tunnel mouth is silted and weeded up. Again, that isolated feeling on this waterway has been lost, as new houses look down on the old canal. Here and there, old brick warehouses still prevail, for the moment. Past old mine basin and pumping engine house, we reached Windmill End and turned into the 3027 yard Netherton Tunnel, behind another boat. Half way through, two workmen lifted a wire above Annie as we passed: They said they were measuring the tunnel.Turning left at Dudley Port Junction, we headed NW towards Wolverhampton. The west towpath was being improved for cycling, we guessed. Past Caggy's boatyard, Liana and Ali helped others up the locks while John tied up a loose CRT dumb barge. The first lock was quite violent, but the others were fine, if slow. We were ready for the ham and cheese sandwiches when we moored before Coseley Tunnel! We enjoyed the sun and tolerated the cool air during the five mile trip to shops by the Wyrley & Essington Canal in Wednesfield, a mile from Horseley Fields Junction. Turning up Horseley Fields, we passed between housing estates all the way to the large Sainsbury's commercial centre by the stub of the Bentley Canal. The water lilies filled both sides, leaving a boat sized gap in the middle. We didn't hurry, as it felt a bit shallow. We had a look round this excellent shopping mall, which has bollarded moorings on line (worth considering for overnight mooring) and in the basin/stub. After shopping and getting Liana a third Birthday card (the others left at home!), we took the trolley back to the boat to unload. As we left, NB Enigmatic passed, saying we were the first boat he had seen today, and that the canal was difficult in places. We passed under a shiny reflective curved arch sculpture, and saw the modern pedestrian bridge which makes the canal narrower, now completed. The few hundred yards before the Devils Elbow Bridge and just after were shallow, as was the canal after Olinthus Bridge.
After Castle Bridge, we decided to stop, as it seemed quiet and woody, despite hidden estates on both sides. We had a pleasant evening and undisturbed night.

Tuesday 7 August along the Wyrley & Essington to Chasewater
Our sunny morning saw John clearing weed from the propeller shaft – there was some, so it was worth doing. Depth was deeper around Lane Head: John just had to go into reverse to clear the prop, every so often. Lots of back gardens were kept quite well, the water was very clear and we saw loads of fish, including a pike and large dark grey carp, plus perch, orange finned chubb and char (we're not fishermen!). Rough Wood Chase was rough parkland. We passed under the M6 to stop at Sneyd Wharf to use the services. Here, Ali and Liana spotted a shoal of huge dark carp, some over a foot long! We discussed whether to head past Walsall to Gas Street Basin to celebrate Liana's birthday on Thursday, but she decided it was too much of a rush, and we would miss seeing Chasewater Reservoir, which we have never visited.
The canal is relatively deep and free from lilies between Sneyd Wharf and Birchills Junctions, probably due to boats moving between Sneyd and Walsall, but there is a lot of floating rubbish. John had to clear plastic from the propeller every so often. We were surprised to find the canal to be so urbanised, as our memories recollected waste ground and isolation. Through Harden, there was another shallow, weedy patch around Hildick's Bridge. Little Bloxwich was pleasant, and after Teece's Bridge we saw open farmed countryside on the left side for the first time: Hoorah! We passed the overgrown Hays Branch, due to become reused if the Hatherton Canal restoration ever proceeds. Pelsall Junction is a pleasant place to moor, with the option of investigating the two mile long Cannock Extension Canal.

Wednesday 8 August
Another beautiful day, if cool. We walked up to the dam and around the resevoir towards the Chasewater Steam Railway Station, past a shopping barn complex and leisure park. There were mini golf, pedal carts, zip wakeboarding, water skiing, speed boats etc. There were no trains until 1100 Thursday, but we had a good look around the excellently kept station area. Elderly enthusiasts showed us around the modern engine shed, bought with money from the M6 Toll developers, who bought land from them. They had plenty of rolling stock, including shunters from the old Burton on Trent breweries. The tearoom had no scones, so we repaired to the shopping barns for coffees, then spent a pleasant day reading, doing puzzles and playing Settlers of Catan. Jo rang from Australia to wish Liana happy birthday (Perth is 7 hours ahead!). She told us that a consultant had emailed pointing out, in a rather arrogant manner, an error he had found in her book: When she explained why it was not wrong (very politely), he pleaded overwork. “Sorry” would have done. We all make mistakes!

Thursday 9 August
Liana's Birthday! After breakfast and card opening, we repeated our walk around the scenic reservoir to the steam railway station, before setting off for Brownhills. Mooring by the bridge at Ogley Junction, we left Ali and walked past the neglected top lock basin, which had a couple of liveaboard boats moored amidst the detritus. John had been advised to join the canal down the hill at the third lock, but we could not do so at the garden centre and the main road was too busy to walk down without a footpath, so we carried on to Catshill Junction. We decided to use the good services at Brownhills (at the canoe club) and moor nearby. The arm beside it had two liveaboard boats moored, and we got a wave: They don't see too many visitors. There were two boats moored, surprisingly! Tesco is close by the excellent wharf frontage, which is a great credit to the town. Fishermen told us big Tench abound here! We visited the town main street, which has seen better days, had a Costa coffee, shopped at Tesco and pushed the trolley the short distance to Annie. While awaiting daughter Sarah's flying visit, we sorted the boat. Pug Nomi was in tow, a rather sweet dog, so we drove to a dog friendly pub at Chasewater and had good steak meals and drinks for only £45 for the four of us! We ate Sarah's tasty cakes back on the boat as dessert, before we waved a fond goodbye to our eldest baby.

Friday 10 August Brownhills to below Rushall Locks by Shustock Bridge
Cloudy and much cooler, we had to get the jumpers out after a while. Rain crept up on us gradually as we moved south along the Rushall Canal, raised high above the surrounded subsided land as claypits and coalmines did their worst. It must be more stable now, one hopes, as new housing has filled quite a bit of the rough, derelict wasteland which once characterised this area. John needed his yellow fluorescent waterproof jacket plus umbrella, at times. Reaching Rushall Locks, John cleared the prop shaft once again while Ali and Liana set the top lock. Longwood Boat Club have their base here. A young man driving a push tug dashed past to see his boss: His rudder was caught in the bottom lock bottom gates!They lowered the lock, released the rudder and came up while we waited and helped. Apparently CRT are renewing some Rushall lock gates next week, so it is good we will be through! A lady and her daughters watched us operate a few locks, warning us of an empty pound near the bottom. All the top pounds were low, so Liana was kept busy letting water down, while John set a few locks. Liana had to flush Annie out of lock 4 by opening a top paddle, leaving it a while to raise the level in that pound. Liana found the last pound WAS empty, so we let water down from several locks above, much to the interest of two teenage boy cyclists. The rain started in earnest as we operated the bottom lock, so we moored up for the night just beyond, playing Settlers before AND after tea!
Saturday 11 August: Tame Valley Canal, up Ryders Green Locks to Gas Street Basin
Cool but dry weather saw us turning right at Rushall Junction and cruising more easily along the wide, fairly weed-free and deep Tame Valley Canal. With the M6 (by junction 8) on our right, we soon travelled high over the M5 on one of several impressive aqueducts. Workers were laying a new asphalt cyclepath on the right hand side. John emptied loo tanks while Liana got rid of rubbish at the neglected but secure and operational CRT services at Tame Valley Junction (ignore the rampant Buddleia!). This has an large CRT office building, unused after a grand opening some years ago!

Reaching Ryders Green Locks past fishermen involved in a competition, we saw a number of shopping trolleys in the canal. The bottom lock went well. The next pound was low, and John had to reverse, tie up and get his boat hook out to clear the entrance to the next lock 8, under a bridge. With the help of a strong chap from a friendly group supping cans of beer and proffering advice (!), he extracted a shopping trolley plus another type of trolley, allowing him to scrape over the silt and debris into the lock. We were told various things, including that the pounds were all low (true); “the CRT guys come each day to sort out the levels” (not today!); “must be stupid bringing a boat here!”; and that only one boat a month used the locks (I hope not!). Liana was busy letting down water from higher pounds and lockwheeling, opening lock bottom gates, to deepen each pound and allow Annie to progress. Alison was operating each lock for Annie, helped by John when possible. John idled the engine up the middle of each pound to avoid picking up rubbish, but still needed to open the weed hatch a couple of times to cleat plastic, wire, etc. It was slow work, but we got there! Liana and Ali were able to rest while John took Annie the last six or seven miles to Gas Street Basin. Liana steered while John ate a tasty late lunch of bacon and eggs: Yum! After the quiet, long straight of Telford's New Line Canal, the sudden arrival at the Old Turn, the modern towers, flower bedecked bridges and restaurants of Brindley Place and Gas Street Basin is a real shock to the senses! Suddenly, Annie was surrounded by hundreds of people, families, office workers, tourists, pointing, waving and taking photographs. Passing through the tunnel under Broad Street, John turned and backed Annie into Gas Street Basin, breasting her up against NB Saoirse (thank you!). This was great, as the kind gentleman was staying until Monday and was happy to let us leave Annie alongside his boat. We were taken to Nottingham with Ali by her son Scott (many thanks), where we popped in on Flo and drove home for a brief visit.

Monday 13 and Tuesday 14 August: Gas Street Basin
It was good to see neighbours Carolyn and Scott at their teatime BBQ on Saturday; John rang bells and saw friends at church on Sunday; Liana attacked the vast pile of washing we brought home using bags and our fold-up trolley; and John weeded. Leaving the car with Flo again, we took the train to New Street Station, Birmingham. Once unpacked, we visited Zizzi's at the nearby Mailbox complex for pizzas – tasty. TV and reading completed our day.

Wednesday 15 August: Touring the loops
After tea, toast and marmalade, we decided to move Annie, as we had overstayed. John idled Annie through Brindley Place to the Oozells Loop, now surrounded by blocks of luxury apartments but still with Sherborne Wharf trip boats and copious moorings. We continued to the Icknield Port Loop, flattened in the middle with redevopment just starting, finally. We idled past a dammed section of canal side being repiled, to see the busy CRT yard below the Edgebaston Reservoir dam, where working boats were being cleaned.
Continuing, we crossed over the Main Line at a rare canal crossroads, with Liana at the front to check for traffic. The Soho Loop takes you past some remaining warehousing, with old brick side bridges which once spanned arms, and artistic graffitti. Past the Soho Arm (Hockley Port), where there are visitor moorings and services, NHS hosppitals occupy the left bank, followed by the site of the old asylum. A sadly neglected 1980s bollarded mooring needs dredging: we could not get withing four feet due to silt, etc. Winson Green Prison looms on the right as you complete this loop and return o the main line. We turned left and covered the two miles back to Gas Street, where we moored just beyond the Worcester Bar, before the Mailbox. After bacon and eggs, John caught up with this blog: He still has lots of photos to add, though …..

Thursday 16 August: Birmingham Rag and St Martins Markets plus a brief visit
We both had a leisurely breakfast and walked across town beyond New Street Station to the indoor markets, to look at bolts of material for boat curtains and clothes. £1 or £2 a metre but not always great quality, we did see some decent tartan curtain material, but not quite the colour we want. Our daughters Sarah and Rachel popped over with dog Honeypie, a lovely Golden Doodle (Golden Retriever - big Poodle cross (sweet temperament, intelligent, will do lots of tricks for food, good with children, does not moult). They left all too soon, leaving us to watch TV (Vera is quite compelling) and read (Angie Sage's "Septimus Heap" magyk series, like Harry Potter, has got John's interest!).

Friday 17 August:

Saturday, 4 August 2018

30 July - 3 August: Down the Shropshire Union Canal from Nantwich to Wolverhampton with Carson, George and Josh

Monday 30 July: Nantwich to Audlem with Carson, George and Josh (5 ½ miles, 2 locks)
We have been blessed by various family members wanting to visit us on the boat in the summer holidays, for we love to see them. We haven't managed to fit everyone in, sadly, but we do try! Our nephew Carson and sons George and Josh came by train to Nantwich from Scotland via John's sister Liz. Meeting them at Morrisons, we were shocked to see George lying on the floor, supported by Carson, with solicitous Morrisons staff helping. A Paramedic soon arrived and George was taken to hospital with Carson for a check up, while Josh came with us to choose suitable food for the next few days. Taxis charge a premium to come from Crewe to Nantwich, as local taxi firms seem to stick to weddings, etc.. Local elderly shoppers are not well served! Happily, George received a clear bill of health, so mum and dad decided that he would cope with a quiet few days on the boat.
In gentle breeze, with sun peeking through clouds, we travelled gently through quiet countryside to the two Hack Green Locks, by the Cold War Nuclear Bunker, now a tourist attraction. Once through, we passed the modern, large OverWater Marina to moor at one of John's favourite places, looking over the lovely lake in the Weaver valley a few hundred yards before Audlem bottom lock.
Mist and wildfowl in morning or evening make this place idyllic. Chairs out, red wine, tea and a game of Settlers of Catan later, ended the day more happily than it started. Josh is determined to win, although John did tonight!
George and Josh relaxing on Annie at our Audlem mooring

the view from our mooring below Audlem Locks

Tuesday 31 July up Audlem and Adderley locks to Market Drayton (6 ½ miles, 20 locks)
We moved up three locks in the sunshine to moor near the Shroppie Fly, to get rid of rubbish and empty loo holding tanks.
Shropshire Union Flyboat Saturn at Audlem

Carson at lock 15 bottom lock Audlem

Annie moored near services, Shroppie Fly, and Audlem Mill shop
The Dometic Vacuflush loo decided to be difficult, so John took a screwdriver to it and threatened it with a “damned good thrashing” (as any Fawlty Towers fan would!) , while Liana, Josh and Carson had a walk round the lovely village of Audlem and visited the butchers shop (a must!). Audlem Mill Shop has lots on sale, including a really excellent selection of new and used canal books. John had to resist, limiting himself to just three!
With loo working, Liana and Carson worked efficiently as we ascended the “thick” of Audlem locks. The huge, tasty Audlem sausage rolls are superb, and made a brilliant lunch! Daughter Jo rang with latest news about her flight to Australia tomorrow, for a year's Fellowship working in Perth hospitals after qualifying to be a consultant. Like all parents, we are thrilled, proud, but nervous!
Carson and Liana lockwheeling

replacing ladder tops at AdderleyFlight

Carson coping admirably with steering and looking cool!

Carson negotiating a bridge
Carson made a decent fist of taking Annie through some of the locks as we passed up the Adderley flight, improving as he learned to watch for water currents from bywashes and allow for the time Annie takes to respond to the tiller. After twenty locks, the final three miles to Market Drayton gave time for recovery! Carson and the boys had a walk to explore the town and get fizzy drinks. After a pasta bolognese meal, Liana suggested Settlers of Catan, so we played until after the evening sun set. The red wine went down well, too.
Market Drayton mooring

Wednesday 1 August Market Drayton to Tyrley Locks, Norbury and through Gnosall Heath (16 ½ miles, 5 locks)

leaving Market Drayton
A lovely, sunny morning saw us leave Market Drayton moorings and motor the short distance through the short but atmospheric Tyrley Cutting to the five scenic Tyrley locks. Woodseaves Cutting is long, deep, with ferns and widows tongue, plus rocky sections towering overhead. We passed the Wharf Tavern, Goldstone Wharf and Little Soudley, with its lines of moored boats. We could see The Wrekin on the horizon to the West.
Tyrley Cutting

Tyrley Cutting

Tyrley Locks in the sun

Carson and Liana at Tyrley Locks

Woodseaves Cutting is very deep

Woodseaves Cutting rocky part

Warehouse at Knighton

At Knighton, the overhanging loading bay was empty of boats. After the high Shebden Embankment, we paused for a beer at the isolated Anchor pub, with its tiny bar. The Wadworth 6X is still from the jug / handpump, as Pearson's Canal Guide states. Daughter Jo flies from Cardiff to Perth, Australia, today, and the weight limit has tested her packing skills. Bon voyage!
the famous Grub Street double arched bridge

Through the long deep, bosky Grub Street Cutting, with its double arched bridges and telegraph pole on one bridge, we eventually emerged at Norbury Junction, busy with day boats, diesel and water points. Carson and the boys visited the cafe and shop while we sorted water and loo holding tanks.
It has been gratifying to hear that Carson reads this blog as an antidote to the stresses of everyday life, enjoying the details of our boating journeys. They all seem to like the relaxing pace of life, while George and Josh seem to enjoy games of Settlers of Catan each evening.
Carson steered across Shelmore Embankment while we chatted, to Gnosall Heath and the short Cowley Tunnel.
Norbury Junction wharf and shop left, services right

Gnosall Heath bridge 34

Cowley Tunnel
We decided to moor in the country and eat our lovely Audlem sausages (from the excellent Audlem butchers) and mash, drink red wine, play Settlers of Catan again and enjoy the evening sun over the ripening wheat fields. We slept well!

Thursday 2 August through Lord Talbot's Wharf, Wheaton Aston and Brewood and up the Wolverhampton 21 locks (13 miles, 23 locks)
Leaving our country mooring by the wheat fields behind, we passed through Lord Talbot's Wharf, still with its warehouse and wharfinger's cottage, through the shady Rye Hill Cutting to Wheaton Aston.

Lord Talbot's Wharf through the bridge hole

garden boat in Rye Hill Cutting

with Elaine & Chris Turner plus Ollie at wheaton Aston

Chris dashing for the lock with Jophina II
John was astonished to see Liana embrace enthusiastically a strange blonde lady at the lock! On closer inspection, he realised we had met NB Jophina II and our good friends and fellow Retford & Worksop Boat Club members, Elaine and Chris Turner, plus superdog spaniel Ollie! Mooring above the lock and getting the chairs out, we all had a lovely tea and biscuit fuelled chat together, while Ollie enjoyed bits of biscuit from John. It was great to exchange news and catch up :)
Lapley Wood Cutting soon led on past Countrywide Cruisers base at Brewood (pronounced “Brood”). Liana made sandwiches for lunch on the move.
there are four narrows South of Gnosall Heath

Hampstead and Lincoln at Stretton

a weedy Stretton Aqueduct over the A5

Carson steering through the narrows

Carson and John enjoying the sun together
We were delighted to hear that Jo has arrived safely in Perth and has finally received a valid visa!!
The last four miles to Autherley Junction have four narrow sections through harder rock, some requiring one way working. We needed to wait at one or two of these, plus at two bridge holes, for oncoming boats. A couple of boats had to reverse hurriedly when they realised we were already passing through narrows near the M54 motorway bridge. Chris and Elaine had left their boat at Wolverhampton Boat Club while having a few weeks at home. Carson, Josh and operated the stop lock as Annie rose six inches onto the Staffs & Worcester Canal. Carson walked to Aldersley Junction, where we turned onto the Wolverhampton 21, where you climb 132 feet onto the Birmingham plateau.
Carson soon walked ahead to lockwheel, readying each lock for John to drive straight in. Liana and Josh did a sterling job operating the lock. We passed a boat comin down, so several locks were set for us. Reaching a singlehander, Carson agreed to pass him but leave a bottom gate paddle up at future locks as we left, to help him (unless we met more boats descending).
Liana got icecreams from Macdonalds on the A449 near lock 15, very welcome! Josh rested, while we got into a routine for the last fifteen locks, close together in a “thick”, as the old boatmen called them. John helped two young lads who had got lost on a bike ride, while Liana and Carson had several chats with the friendly locals.
Aldersley Junction

Wolverhampton 21 Bottom Lock

Carson and Josh working the lock

Wolverhampton Top Lock - hoorah!
It is always a revelation, coming up the Top Lock and finding yourself in the small haven of calm above. The basin by Broad Street is surprisingly pleasant, with benches, grass and weeping willows by the top lock wharf, with enough visitor moorings for five boats, making a place of rest and tranquility for locals and boaters.

Friday 3 August Farewell to Carson and the boys by Wolverhampton Top Lock
We all had time to relax and write up blog and log while waiting for the quick train to Edinburgh for Carson and the boys, leaving from Wolverhampton Station, a short walk away. The geese disturbed the boys this morning, while the trains close by didn't! Later we had a walk around the lively town centre, which is being redeveloped, linking rail and bus stations close to shopping centres and pedestianised areas. Our quiet day continued with lunch, then washing clothes, tv and writing blog, before reading. Liana's sister Alison is arriving tomorrow, after which we will decide on our itinerary for the next few days.
Liana, Josh, Carson and George

moorings above Wolverhampton Top Lock, near railway station

Sunday, 29 July 2018

July 25-29: Ellesmere Port back to Nantwich

Wednesday 25 July Back to Annie at Ellesmere Port
Today was spent travelling by car to see Flo in Nottingham, where we left our car. Using our Two Travel Together Railcard, we travelled via five trains to Stockport, Crewe, Chester, Hooton and Ellesmere Port! It was ok, and we enjoyed the varied scenery, with waits being short in between trains. Walking half a mile to the Boat Museum, we had a snack in the cafe. The fridge had been switched off as the inverter indicated “low batt”, probably because the solar panels had not kept the batteries charged enough. Once this had happened, we guess the batteries did charge up, as they were at 100%! …. at least, that's our theory! A friendly Holiday Inn employee told us it was a quiet night there, so we stayed put.

Thursday 26 July Ellesmere Port Boat Museum to Chester (9 m iles, 5 locks)
We like to support the National Waterways Museum/Boat Museum: The tickets can be reused for a year, here and in Gloucester, too. Passing up the two narrow locks, which had rather stiff paddle gear, surprisingly, John squeezed Annie past the trip boat moored outside the cafe and we set off, passing only one moving boat all the way to Chester.
leaving our mooring - Holiday inn on left

approaching the lock

looking back at concrete Mersey flat and our mooring in the lower basin

Boat Museum top lock

Liana operating the top lock

avoiding the trip boat as we left the lock

Past oil storage depots and large sewerage works, under both M56 and M53 motorways, Chester Zoo is hidden from view as you pass bridge 134. After bridge 133 and before the impressive ston railway aqueduct, we spotted a cow in the canal, unable to get out because of black rubber and wooden post type piling, Liana phoned police (not interested) and RSPCA, who took details. We did what we could. Reaching Chester, we passed Taylor's Boatyard, with three old wooden cruisers on the slips, and moored beyond the dry dock, within which two narrowboats were being welded and blacked. John emptied all the loo holding tanks at the nearby Elsan point, and we watered up at the water point by the dry dock.
As Liana wanted to shop at Tescos, we continued past Telford's Warehouse and up the triple staircase, watched by helpful tourists. Liana found the paddle gear hard work, though. Water rushed over the bottom chamber's leaky top gates like Niagara Falls, so John kept Annie well back.
triple staircase at Chester

Conversely, once in the middle chamber, when full it seemed about 50cm low to John. He still managed to get Annie into the top chamber, but deep draughted boats may need to let some water down through the top chamber top paddle, maybe, to raise the water level.
Mooring near Tesco, we were glad to get inside Tescos to cool, as Liana was overheating!
We finished the day with salad and red wine for tea, relaxing in the cratch and watching the world go by.

Friday 27 July at Chester near Tesco and to Christleton (2 miles, 5 locks)
The beautifully sunny morning saw us brealfasting, watching loads of people walking past, going to work or language school, tourists and dog walking. We spent a leisurely morning in Chester, shopping, buying a new gas kettle (to take pressure off the batteries) and enjoying a Costa coffee.

Chester is lovely to walk round
After lunch, we set off to Hoole Lane Lock, to find the top gates wide open. Liana closed them so we could go up, guessing the wide Mill Hotel restaurant boat had left them open. Sure enough, they returned as we were leaving the lock. The man said they had “left the bottom gates of the next lock open for us”. Arriving at Chemistry Lock, we found that a boat coming down had had to close the bottom gates to do so. We waited and helped. The restaurant boat had caused extra work to both ourselves and the other boat, which some might consider a little selfish, in an age where the norm is to close both sets of gates before leaving a lock behind. They are big, heavy gates and slow filling locks, too. An approaching boat meant we could leave the top gates open as we left Greenfield lock. The canal hereabouts is rural, with large overhanging ash and willow trees. Three hours later we moored at the Cheshire Cat (Vintage Inns) moorings, Christleton, again. It was still hot, so we had a belated Wedding Anniversary meal there, outside. When John reminded staff after a long wait for sweets, Liana got a ginormous Eton Mess!
John's sharer cheeseboard was uninspiring, with six tiny but nice crackers and “three cheeses” all being pale or red cheddar in plastic wrappers! He was glad he wasn't sharing the crackers! We relaxed watching tv.

Saturday 28 July Christleton south to Calveley (11 miles, 6 locks)
Up late, but refreshed, we set off about 0900, past the Wirral Trust Community boat and a day boat, which were just setting off – cheery waves all round!
leaving the Cheshire Cat

waterside gardens
We wore jumpers for the first time in weeks. The strong breeze whipped dark clouds across the sky quickly, obscuring the sun, with occasional brief splashes of warm sunshine as blue sky allowed the sun to appear.

the hill is a WW2 fuel store
The first eight miles were lock free, so Liana did some boat work and puzzles until Wharton's Lock, which we shared with NB Pyxis, an Aintree beetle boat bought recently to enjoy before and during retirement by her pleasant owners. It took forever, after which we had a deli/salad lunch and filled up with 204 litres of diesel (70p @0%, £1.20 @ 100%) at Chas Harden's boatyard below Beeston Iron Lock.
fuelling at Chas Harden's Boatyard

Beeston Iron Lock

This time, we went up it alone, got soaked by a sudden storm, and moored. The rain stopped, Pyxis came past, so we dashed to join them in the Beeston Stone lock and Tilstone Bank lock. A hireboat entered Bunbury staircase ahead of us, with boater having first lock lesson. All went well, and we had a nice chat with boater and her tutor. Annie was caught by a strong gust of wind as she left the lock, so Liana “missed the boat” and had to join after the moorings. Mooring at Calveley, before the bridge, we watched Lewis Hamilton gain pole position in the Hungarian GP qualification.

Sunday 29 July A rainy day in Cheshire: South to Nantwich (5 ½ miles, 0 locks)
Mum/mum-in-law Flo's 88th birthday today, God Bless her! Sarah, Sister Ali and brother David and family are visiting, so Liana will try to phone her mum later.
We woke up to the sound of wind and rain, for a change! John made tea and got out the fruit loaf, after which we settled in to write up ship's log (Liana) and blog (John). The forecast was not good for today, but we only have 5 ½ miles to travel to Nantwich past Barbridge and Hurleston Junctions, ready to pick up Carson and sons George and Josh tomorrow :)
Dodging most of the rain, we took our time and enjoyed the lockless journey, passing loads of other boaters who had also set off in the sunny intervals, travelling North.
jumper and gilet again

Barbridge Junction: You can wind by bridge 16 before the breach

Liana roof cleaning at Hurleston Junction

Liana finishing off the roof as we pass Nantwich Marina

moored at Nantwich