Tuesday 27 September 2016

From the Weaver up Heartbreak Hill and Harecastle Tunnel to the Caldon Canal

Tuesday 27 September Leek

Monday 26 September through Cheddleton and Hazlehurst Junction to Leek
Showers greeted us, so we wrote diary and blog before setting out in cool, damp, overcast weather.
Full locks forewarned us, as we passed through Wood's lock and Cheddleton Flint Mill and two locks, to find three boats ascending Hazlehurst Locks ahead of us. A three point turn saw Annie on the Leek Arm from the top lock, after which, apart from a few narrows, the feeder arm from Rudyard Lake followed a reasonably wide wooded terrace above a scenic valley to the outskirts of Leek, where we stopped at the pretty, quiet wide before the tunnel for lunch. After the narrow tunnel, shaped like a Victorian sewer, John turned Annie at the last winding hole, reversed up the arm in the drizzle until met by vegetation and mud, then returned to moor at the visitor moorings. After the long day yesterday, we sheltered from the increasing rain, read, did puzzles and watched TV in the dry: Leek tomorrow, hopefully!

Sunday 25 September Consall Forge and Froghall, returning to near Cheddleton
Heavy rain woke us up several times, and we awoke to the sound of a roaring weir. Steam Engine Hotspur pulled the first train of the day past us. With a risen river, we could not pass under the low bridge by the pub, so we sat in the sun, videoed the foamimg weir and did the blog. 457
To impress our babies, we exercised and walked briskly two and a half miles to Froghall, past overhanging Consall Station, winding hole and lock by the Flint Mill, being converted to flats, parallel to the railway to Froghall, where we passed the large military storage depot and had a decent, filling Sunday lunch at the Railway Inn. To help digest our meal, we walked over to the canal basin and inspected the Uttoxeter Canal lock and basin resurrected by enthusiasts including the WRGies. We strode back to Consall Forge, where Liana recovered while John took Annie back to Froghall through several narrow lengths a la Llangollen to the tunnel. John put the bow into the tunnel mouth and we ascertained that the front pigeon box would foul the tunnel even if we dismantled the cratch. Backing to the winding hole, we returned to Consall Forge, having travelled both ways by rail, on foot and canal!
John towed a seventy foot narrowboat off the Consall bridge above the weir, to safety at moorings above, and advised the steerer to wait for the river to calm. John decided to continue up the river, still highish, through the river lock a mile above onto the canal, where we moored in the dusk, surrounded by hundreds of pheasants making ready for nightfall. John saw Liverpool's goals on late night TV – hoorah!

Saturday 24 September Cheddleton, Churnet Valley Railway and the Black Lion, Consall Forge
We had a lovely day today (again!): First, we walked the few yards to the Flint Mill museum (well worth a visit) and talked to the friendly man repairing the wood fittings. He started one of the two working mill wheels for us. The flint was heated (calcined) first to make a softer white chalky rock, which was then ground in the mill and used to make white china-like pottery, which was popular at the time. We saw that bone china is quite different, having 44% cattle bones.
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Passing down two locks, we stopped at the visitor moorings by Cheddleton station, nudging the unclearly signed “underwater obstruction” (Where? You don't know until you hit it!!).

Cheddleton Station is a joy, like Goathland on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.
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Diesel Sophie passing Annie moored at Consall Forge by Black Lion

While we waited for the 1305 diesel Sophie, John managed to get a guided tour of the engine shed and goods yard, where engines from Poland and the USA were being renovated, and green tank engine Hotspur was being prepared for Sunday.
We were lucky to pick a day when the train travelled up a steep incline to Ipstone, near Cauldon Lowe, a quarry, before returning and going the other way, through Consall Forge ( where Liana bought tea from a charming, if slow, old gentleman) to Froghall, paralleling river and canal at times.
John bought Hadfield's British Canals from the bookshop there, before we returned.

Passing through Wood's lock, we navigated the narrow, shallow canal, seeing the railway track and lots of pheasants. Oakmeadow Forge Lock took us onto the river for a mile, relatively wide and deep, shaded by trees in this valley. We moored between close to the railway bridge and Black Lion pub at Consall Forge, so John could get a picture of Annie, Black Lion and train, one of those famous canal shots: Shame it wasn't a steam train!
Liana heated up a superb steak pie we had bought in Milton butchers, plus take-out chips from the pub. As phone and TV reception were bad, we enjoyed a DVD, Freaky Friday, daft but fun.

Friday 23 September Milton to Cheddleton on the Caldon canal (9 locks, 7 miles)
Groups of volunteers were cutting back hedges and verges, while another cleared vegetation from Engine lock. The five Stockton Brook locks are deep in cool, damp shade. John avoided the old swing bridge obstruction just before the well kept Stoke on Trent Boat Club at Endon Basin.
We passed Park Lane Wharf services at Endon, our furthest point reached in the past, and chatted to walkers and boaters as we descended Hazelhurst Locks.
All this part of the canal is shallow and narrow, just wide enough for boats to pass, but bends can be tricky if you meet someone, as we did! We moored in the sun just before the Flint Mill. A boat zoomed past us in the dark, later, but the canal is so shallow, we barely moved.

Thursday 22 September Pierpoint Locks to Milton on the Caldon Canal (19 locks 14 miles)

330 Passing Junction at Kings Lock Middlewich, got diesel
335,6 fitting new gates
359 John at Hardings Wood Junction above Heartbreak Hill Top Lock

369 372 leaving Harecastle tunnel

Wednesday 21 September Southwards along the Trent & Mersey Canal through Middlewich to Hassall Green (19 locks, 11 miles)

322 moored at flash
Tuesday 20 September Leaving Northwich and the Weaver, south to the Lion Salt Works and flashes
Brian and Jane Greaves on Emily (butty) Bronte (push tug / smithy) have been great neighbours, so it will be a shame to leave them as we ascend the Boat Lift and head south on the Trent & Mersey canal today at 1000, hopefully.
Approaching Anderton

About to enter the Boat Lift

leaving the Boat Lift
We went up the boat lift with a couple who had been held up before by boat lift breakdown, and received their booking money back, so John did the same while Liana popped dirty laundry to the car, parked close by. Our £5 paid for tea and scones in the cafe! In the cool but pleasant weather, we passed southward, past our old boat Osprey's mooring at Anderton Marina and a queue for the services opposite, into the country a few miles to the Lion Salt Museum at Marston, where we paused to visit it. The site has been rescued from dereliction, with new roofs, walls and floors, good displays, plus a decent cafe and shop. Apart from weeds that could have been tidied, it was a good informative visit. The sun encouraged us south, past the rusty, steaming Tata Salt Works before Rudheath and Broken Cross to moor with others at the popular scenic flash just beyond, where sunken narrowboats once abounded before their resurrection. The flashes are lakes caused by subsidence of land above salt workings.
Annie and John at the Lion Salt Works Museum, Marston

Tata Chemical Works, ex-Brunner Mond

Annie moored on Flash
Monday 19 September Pontoons and Blacksmiths
A rainy night dried up for us as we awoke and tied extra ropes to the pontoon. John had agreed to tow it back to above Vale Royal Lock, nearly four miles down river, so thought breasting up (side by side) was a good idea, so the propeller wash wasn't hitting the pontoon.
Blacksmith Brian Greaves and John

Gershwin, a dog of interesting parentage

about to unmoor the pontoon, not the boat!

moored in Vale Royal on the Weaver for welding repairs

Liana and Jane Greaves look on

forge boat Bronte

approaching Vale Royal Locks with pontoon breasted up

The initial 180 degree turn to exit Winsford Flash took a bit of toing and froing, with a contrary wind, but we negotiated the turns and motored gently past the salt union works and on to beautiful Vale Royal. There we paused, mooring our pontoon against Emily Bronte's pontoon, while blacksmith Brian cut out a rusty gutter beneath the counter (back deck) floor and welded on a new piece of thick metal with his arc welder, so rain will not drip into the engine bilge. Walkers and boaters alike found the scene interesting! Once sorted, we both continued and left our pontoons in the care of the lock keepers at Vale Royal lock, after a bit of manouevring. Passing Hunts Lock, unencumbered, we both moored overnight opposite the new Northwich Marina. Anderton Boat Lift called to say one side had broken down, so we would have to wait until tomorrow morning to ascend. Liana shopped while John wore out another fibre disk derusting near the new welded deck and repainting with iron oxide paint. John and Jane heard cries for help, and spotted a lady in the water opposite. She had fallen off a boat, so we directed her neighbours to her and they hauled her out, wet but in one piece, thankfully.

Sunday 18 September Winsford Salt Festival
What a gorgeous day, again, great for the Winsford Salt Festival organisers. John showed blacksmith Brian a welding job, which he agreed to do. Brian also made us a metal scraper to clean out an inaccessible, partly blocked gutter on Annie. It worked excellently! We had a walk around the various tents. Crafts and artwork were interesting, particularly glasswork. Later, we had a good home made Sunday lunch in the welcoming Red Lion pub over the road, then chilled out reading in the sunshine, waving back at the children who passed us in the free trip boat frequently! Displays and performances by magician, dancers and drum bands kept us amused, also. Winsford Town council are making an effort: There is no doubt that the town is much improved since our visit years ago: If they ever build the planned inclined plane at the top of the flash to link with canals, boats will throng there. It will be similar at Runcorn, at Weaver mouth, if they rebuild their lock to link Runcorn canal arm with the Weaver.

Later, some boats removed their bunting and left. Both Brian and John agreed to tow our pontoons back down river tomorrow. John let hire boat late arrivals use ours overnight to moor at, as the shallow marina had little space.

Saturday 17 September
The lovely morning had us taking a free boat trip on the trip boat in the sunshine, followed by walking over the bridge and up hill through a pleasant park into town to shop and buy a paper. We bought some Union Flag bunting to decorate the boat, too, as many of the boats were getting dressed up by their owners, who were clearly into this! A short walk, looking around the stalls and displays at the marina, chatting with stall holders and boaters and just chilling filled our day, looking out at the lovely Winsford Flash lake, caused by subsidence after salt mining.

Friday 16 September 2016 up the Weaver from Saltisford to Northwich
A rainy night and cloudy morning saw us leaving the scenic visitor moorings (room for half a dozen boats, if you count the lock landing). We had said at Dutton lock that we would pass through Saltisford when they open at 0900, so we dressed for wind and showers for the three mile trip past Anderton to Northwich, to view and maybe try the new town marina between the bridges. This looked to have no visitor moorings, so we moored opposite, as usual. Northwich is quite good for shops, so we stocked up. Later, we passed through Hunts lock and Vale Royal lock. Vale Royal has popular scenic visitor moorings. We removed the chimney to pass under New Bridge, which was only a foot above the boat. At the end of Vale Royal you see the tall tower of the winding gear for the remaining Winsford salt works. Huge spoil heaps border the canal as you approach the town. The Red Lion pub is open now, and thriving: We have now enjoyed beer, food and soccer there (at least, John has!). The small new marina seemed full of boats, so we moored on temporary pontoons just outside, breasted up against friendly blacksmith Brian Greaves and wife Jane's butty Emily and push tug Bronte. A walk into the town found new shopping areas, a Wetherspoons to eat at, plus the noise of the fair attracted us to enjoy watching everyone having fun.

Thursday 15 September Frodsham market and from Sutton Weaver Bridge to Saltisford
Pearsons Guide shows visitor moorings with the services north of Sutton weaver Bridge, on the west side. Actually, the marked decent visitor moorings are south of the bridge, on the east side, and you need pins. We walked the mile into the pleasant town of Frodsham to visit the Thursday market, where we found plenty of stalls, including good cheese and olives, bread, etc. After a bankside lunch in the sun, we set off upstream, enjoying the lovely views as we passed Devil's Garden moorings (hmm...) to Dutton Lock. Lots of scullers met us between here and Acton Bridge, where there is a rowing club above the bridge.

Friday 16 September 2016

River Weaver Wanderings pictures to come

Friday 16 September 2016 up the Weaver from Saltersford to Northwich
A rainy night and cloudy morning saw us leaving the scenic visitor moorings (room for half a dozen boats, if you count the lock landing) below Saltersford Lock. We had said at Dutton lock that we would pass through Saltersford when they open at 0900, so we dressed for wind and showers for the three mile trip to Northwich, to view and maybe try the new town marina between the bridges. The huge salt works had been nibbled away even more by the demolishers: Only the working "Air Liquide" works opposite the Boat Lift will be left. Reaching Northwich on market day, we quickly used the services to empty loo holding tanks and get rid of rubbish before squeezing in on the visitor moorings opposite the pretty full new marina. The whole town side has been redeveloped since we were here last, although there is no chandlers nearer than Midland Chandlers at Preston Brook.

Thursday 15 September  Frodsham market and from Sutton Weaver Bridge to Saltersford

We both needed a rest after walking a long mile back from Frodsham, so got the chairs and table out on the bank. Later on, we set off up river to Acton Bridge, meeting at least half a dozen scullers on the way, from the rowing club just above Acton Bridge. We were following a small narrowboat with master, ex-soldier Jim and dog Rosie! After a walk up to the canal and back, we continued to much quieter moorings below Saltersford Lock, preceded by a cormorant. Overlooking the lock was a large willow tree with about twenty cormorants arriving to roost in the approaching dusk, quacking like ducks. A grebe lazily floated below the lock, head on shoulders. We had arranged to moor here and go up the lock next morning, as they close about five.

Wednesday 14 September A gorgeous day exploring the lower Weaver
Today, the plan was to travel all the way down the Weaver to the Mersey, so we set off inglorious sunshine through Saltersford Lock. They didn't answer either VHF channel 74 or the mobile, so we just arrived! The lock keepers unhurriedly used the larger lock, telling us they also cut grass and tend flowers when time allows. The scenery is sublime, We passed under Acton Bridge to Dutton Lock and onwards, noting the visitors moorings were not quite as in Pearsons guide in all cases. The river splits away for the last couple of miles, leaving us to travel down the navigation past a mile of chemical works before we paused to take photos at Weston Marsh Lock, the tidal lock with views of the mouth of the Weaver and the Ship Canal, plus the distant Mersey mud flats. We then continued up the deep Weston Canal two thirds of a mile, with the Chlorine works all along the right bank. We moored in front of the simple swing bridge which prevented us getting into Weston Docks and reaching the distant boarded up church visible at the far end of the dock through the bridge, which looked perfectly clear and navigable. The docks were being used to store pallets of chemicals, so we just popped ashore to take pictures from the bridge before making our way back up the Weaver to visitor moorings just up river of Sutton Weaver Bridge (not at the services on the opposite side, below the bridge, marked as moorings in Pearsons guide). We made the best of a lovely evening, reading on the bank with a glass of wine, etc. Happy Days!

Tuesday 13 September the Anderton Boat Lift
After a busy few days at home, completing various tasks, we arrived back at Anderton in plenty of time for our 1630 descent onto the River Weaver. John moved Annie to the services opposite Anderton Marina (where for two years we  moored our share boat Osprey), where we loaded up and did the usual jobs. Reaching the Boat Lift, we were asked to descend early, so happily chatted to the two staff as we did so. A mile or so down river, we moored on one of the two pleasant visitor moorings, well used by a number of boats.

Leeds & Liverpool cruise from Liverpool via the Bridgewater Canal to Anderton unfinished pictures to come

Thursday 8 September Homewards from Anderton
Bridge 206 has a good view of the Weaver below Saltisford Lock. Today, Liana decided to walk the three miles back to the car at Midland Chandlers, Prestonbrook, while John took Annie through the Saltisford and Barnton tunnels to Anderton. Liana got rained on, unfortunately. The shorter 400m Saltisford tunnel has timed movements, South for 20 minutes on the half hour, North ditto on the hour, because it is so bendy, you can't see the other end until you reach the middle! At Anderton Boat Lift, we booked passages down and up because there is Winsford Regatta on when we return, so the lift may be busy. You can turn up and use it for no charge, if you have a CRT license, bit booking costs £5.
A phone call to the friendly CRT Enforcement Officer gave us permission to overstay on the 48 hour visitor moorings while we go home to catch up on family, house, church and Lions Club activities.

Wednesday 7 September 2016 Runcorn and on to the Trent and Mersey Canal
Our mooring in the country just outside Higher Walton, near Thomason's Bridge, was pretty and not too noisy: Just a gentle hum of traffic in the distance. The fine day beckoned, so we enjoyed the morning sun and scenery, stopping at the excellent stores at Moore for milk, water and a paper. After a gentle hour or so, passing the Daresbury Science Park, modern and expensive looking (stainless steel benches overlooking the canal), we turned right onto the Runcorn Arm in the shadow of the large M56 bridge. Naturally, we met a boat! The lovely weather showed this 4.5 mile length of canal at its best: While there was a view onto open country on the right, the left side has been filled with decent quality new housing this century. We have to admire the way that the Bridge water Canal has been maintained, with good towpaths and painted cranes with stop planks wherever needed. We enjoyed the whole trip to the basin in Runcorn. The Waterloo pub is now a Sikh temple, sadly for the drinkers! The town is fairly ordinary, but ok, with an excellent bookshop called The Old Curiosity Bookshop in the High Street. Before Liana took the train from the nearby station to Litherland to collect the car, we found the filled in locks and walked up from the Ship Canal back to the basin. Strictly speaking, the “basin” is not the original end – the two sets of ten locks passed through the right and left hand arches of the blocked bridge at the end to a basin beyond, then down to the docks. Maybe, one day …..
John motored back to Midland Chandlers near the junction to meet Liana. Leaving the car, we took Annie through Preston Brook Tunnel (South on the half hour) and up the few inches of Dutton Stop Lock. Ironically, we passed five boats moored at the site of the 2012 Dutton breach, as the lack of hedges gave a great view of the Weaver valley. We moored further on, looking down on Dutton Lock and the Acton Swing Bridge.