Monday, 24 June 2013

Westport Lake.


This week we are moored on the Trent & Mersey Canal alongside the site of the former Port Vale football ground at Westport Lake in Stoke on Trent .Port Vale FC were named after the “ Valley of Canal Ports “ on the Trent & Mersey canal and were founder members of the Football League Second Division in 1892,they had a ground here from 1881 to 1884.The area used to be a rubbish tip but Westport Lake is now a nature reserve,well known for its waterbirds and is popular with walkers and fishermen.

Church Lawton 026 Church Lawton 004

Not quite the view from the bedroom window,but it is what you can see of Westport Lake,just a few yards away from where we are now moored.The “Town Pump” at Sandbach,used in the 19th Century by some of the lucky residents of Sandbach to get water.

Last Week we were moored at Wheelock and on Tuesday while walking around the village being nosy,as you do,we saw people waiting at a bus stop and decided to go where they were going,which turned out to be Sandbach.Everyone’s heard of Sandbach Services on the M6 Motorway,well the town is a little over a mile from the M6 and is probably best known for being the former home of two of the most famous British truck manufacturers,namely Foden and E.R.F.We had a pleasant couple of hours there,for less than a couple of quid each on the bus,and then enjoyed our last night in Wheelock with a pint or two in the Cheshire Cheese.

Church Lawton 006 Church Lawton 012

A couple of Anglo-Saxon High Crosses in the Market Square of Sandbach.They are thought to date from the 8th or 9th Century and are carved with religious scenes and dragons.One of the double Cheshire Locks,this one is the first of the Thurlwood Locks as you approach the village from the West.

Our next stop was Thurlwood,which is now joined to Rode Heath,this was a village that was quite a hive of activity in the 19th Century.There was a Salt Works here that was owned by Suttons of Shardlow,there’s nothing left now though and,the area has been landscaped and turned into a nature trail.There was also a boatyard and a Flour Mill,again,there’s nothing left,just a sign next to some newish housing indicating the site of the mill.In the early 19th Century,because of congestion on this stretch of the T&M,which was called The Cheshire Locks,most of the locks were duplicated and then,after World War 2,when the canals were in decline,some of them suffered from subsidence and were abandoned.Not the one at Thurlwood though,in 1957,a steel lock was built but it was awkward to use,it fell into disrepair and was dismantled in 1988.There’s nothing of this lock remaining now except the Lock Landing.

Church Lawton 015 Church Lawton 016

The second set of locks at Thurlwood,this one the site of the Steel Lock.The Lock Landing and the bridge over the lock approach are all that’s left now.Lisa with the site of what was once the Salt Works,behind her.

After Thurlwood,we did all of 12 Locks and 3 Miles to Church Lawton where we just relaxed and took things easy for a couple of days.There’s not much to do around there,though we did walk to Harecastle Tunnel to refresh our memories as it’s been about four years since our last trip this way.We left Church Lawton this morning and having stopped for water, the services at Red Bull,just before Hardings Wood Junction,we went through the Tunnel and moored here,where we will stay till Wednesday or Thursday.

Church Lawton 020 Church Lawton 021 

The entrances of the Harecastle Tunnels,there were three,two canal and one rail.These two are the canal tunnels,the first to be built by James Brindley between 1770 and 1777 on the right and Thomas Telfords from 1824 to 1827 on the left.Telfords is now the only one that is navigable which you can probably guess from the photo’s.

That’s all again for this week folks.Since our last blog we have done the Majestic sum of 26 Locks and 10 Miles,giving us a grand total of 332 Locks and 458 Miles since we set off last October.Take care everyone.

Monday, 17 June 2013



Here we are,moored this week in the village of Wheelock,about a mile or so south of Sandbach in Cheshire.We’re going to stop here for a day or two to do a bit of boat tidying after the excellent weekend we had in Middlewich,at the Folk and Boat Festival,and also to give the wallet and liver a bit of a break.

We left Church Minshull on Wednesday,waving to a friend on NB Blue Buzzard as he headed off in the opposite direction,we’ve been running into each other since the beginning of March.While we were moored at Church Minshull,Lisa had been reading the Towpath Talk,a free waterways newspaper,and noticed that the Middlewich Folk and Boat Festival would be on over the weekend,so we decided to give it a try.We’ve not done a boat festival before so we didn’t know what to expect and what it would be like for mooring.As it turned out,it wasn’t too bad,there were a number of festivals on other canals at the same time so there was plenty of room.At no time,over the weekend,would I have said it was full,with only a few boats breasted up,ourselves included,but for us,only on Friday night.

Middlewich 002 Middlewich 006

Swans dining out.Every day,at the same time,someone comes along with bags of seed and feeds them.The Swans know they are on to a good thing as there can be as many as 70 of them feeding at times.NB Saturn,the last of the Shroppie Fly Boats,built in 1906 and restored between 2002 and 2005.She was the express of her day,carrying perishable cargoes on the canals pulled by horses that were changed regularly to enable her to travel round the clock.

Lisa's Middlewich 008 Lisa's Middlewich 009

A band that entertained us while we waited for the parade,and very good they were too,and the Pipers at the head of the parade.

Lisa's Middlewich 017 Lisa's Middlewich 020

A couple of groups of Morris Dancers.the usual on the left,the Earl of Stamford and Jockey Morris and on the right,something a bit different,Boggarts Breakfast,described as “Tradition Challenging” and the “Dark side of Morris”.Very good though,and colourful.

There were a dozen or so entertainment venues for the Festival,all of them staging a couple of bands a day,as well as having a bar.The entrance to most of the venues was free and not all of them were pubs,Middlewich Narrowboats being one with a little stage and a beer tent.Some were so popular you could barely get through the door.The bands were varied and all the ones we saw were worth a listen,even though Folk Music is not my favourite.There was a parade through the town on Saturday with the crowning of the Middlewich Rose and there were large crowds watching,helped of course,by the absence of rain.All in all it was a very good weekend with a very friendly and cheerful atmosphere and,from what we saw,an absence of any problems.The Boat Band on Saturday evening at Middlewich Narrowboats was the highlight for me,plus making a few more friends of course,so many thanks to all those who helped make it a very good weekend.

Middlewich 026 Middlewich 030

A couple of the venues at the FAB Festival.Middlewich Narrowboats on the left,with a band called Pastry Shoes,don’t ask.On the right,opposite the Big Lock pub,is Gordie MacKeeman & his Rhythm Boys from Canada.

Middlewich 020 Middlewich 024

I couldn’t go without posting a couple more pic’s of Boggarts Breakfast.The costumes and face painting were brilliant.

We met up with a couple who I only knew previously through Twitter and it was great to put faces to Linda and Richard off NB Mary ll.We’ll meet again,I’m sure of it.Also there was Marianne and Mike off NB Dormouse,aka,Cast off & Blast off,we had quite a few enjoyable hours with them over the weekend and we’ll keep in touch.

That’s all again for this week.Since our last blog we have done the monumental total of………………………wait for it…………….13 Locks and 12 Miles.Giving us a grand total of 306 Locks and 448 Miles since October.Take care everyone.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Church Minshull


This week finds us moored,on the Middlewich Branch of the Shroppie,on the embankment,overlooking the Cheshire village of Church Minshull with it’s early 18th Century church prominent in the distance.We arrived here yesterday morning,having cruised all of 3 miles from Cholmondeston Lock.It’s nice here,moored overlooking the surrounding area,the sun shining down and with a steady stream of narrowboats cruising by.This branch is quite busy just now,being part of the popular Four Counties cruising ring.In the short time that we’ve been here we’ve managed a couple of walks along the towpath and though there isn’t much else here,it will do us for a few days.Yesterday evening we took a stroll into the village itself where we enjoyed a drink in the Badger Inn,there are no shops but we’re ok for provisions for a while so all is good.

Last Tuesday we were moored at Beeston,where we intended paying a short visit to the local market the next day,and then,afterwards,to make our way here.It didn’t quite work out like that though.As well as the market there was a tool auction and as we browsed the lots we saw a couple of items we would like to bid for.There is what is called a Collective Implement Sale at Beeston on the first Wednesday of every month,with lots varying from Agricultural Machinery to Spanners,quite a wide variety of tools in fact.We had our eye on a Singer Sewing Machine,the one you operate by hand,and a 56lb Potato Weight,the sort you seldom see now and are a tad expensive when you do.Our lots were not due to be auctioned till late afternoon so we amused ourselves watching the Auctioneer and assessing the likely bids we would have to make.Both our lots became ours for slightly more than we had hoped but less than we were prepared to pay,so we had a successful day.The sewing machine works a treat and all without electricity,marvellous.

Church Minshull 003 Church Minshull 004

Chas Harden’s Boat Yard at Beeston and on the right is the best I could get of what was an Aviation Fuel Dump during the Second World War.This overlooks the canal at Beeston and stretches for quite a distance alongside the canal as you head to Chester.It seems there was 29,000 Tons of fuel stored here and this dump was situated on a pipeline that ran from Gloucester to the Stanlow Refinery at Ellesmere Port.

Church Minshull 009 Church Minshull 010

Lisa enjoying one of our BBQ’s and on the right,how do you get through this lot??? It’s the approach to the Bunbury Staircase Locks,you have to negotiate a way through the hire boats moored at the Boatyard at the bottom,as well as other boats coming from the locks.It does look far worse on camera than it really is,though there isn’t a lot of room.

On Thursday it was across the canal to Chas Harden’s Boat Yard,where we filled up with fuel and water,emptied the cassettes and our rubbish and then set off for here.After 5 Locks and 6 Miles we decided that the moorings before Cholmondeston Lock looked welcoming so that was as far as we got,after all,what’s the rush?? Shortly after our arrival,a couple we had met while moored at the Shady Oak turned up and that was all the excuse we needed for breaking into our stock of Wine and Cider.A good night was had by all,thanks to Andy and Rachel off the good ship Damsel.We look forward to meeting up with them again sometime in the future.Krystal and Robin came out to see us on Saturday,bringing with them all the makings for a BBQ,which we enjoyed on the towpath in the sunshine.

We finally set off to cover the last few miles to here on Sunday,calling in to Venetian Marina,just after Cholmondeston Lock,to fill up with water and empty the loo.There was no charge for using their facilities,so,as a way of showing our appreciation,we put a donation into the Charity Box on the Chandlery counter.

Church Minshull 012 Church Minshull 015

Chyandour waiting at Minshull Lock and then there’s us entering the lock with Lisa waiting to close the Top Gate.

Church Minshull 017 Church Minshull 019 

The view from our mooring towards Church Minshull and there’s Chyandour on the mooring.We have moved a bit now cos’ this mooring,like many others,suffers from the dreaded Shroppie Shelf,a concrete ledge about a foot or so below the surface,sticking out about 18 inches,preventing you from getting close in.Surprisingly,at the end of the moorings at the front of us in the picture,the shelf isn’t there,so it’s possible to get right into the side

Church Minshull 020 Church Minshull 049

A couple of views of the Middlewich Branch,close to where we are now.

Well,that’s all again for this week.Since our last blog we have done the fantastic amount of 7 Locks and 9 Miles,not bad hey???? Giving us a grand total of 293 Locks and 436 Miles.Take care everyone.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Too hot to be inside.


What a difference a week makes.We are now basking in some of the best weather we could ask for and as the title says,it’s too hot to be inside.This really is what we signed up for,long lazy days outside on the towpath,drink in hand,stretched out on the recliners.We are now moored near the village of Beeston,having moved a mile from where we had been since last Wednesday.There’s a market here tomorrow morning so we intend to visit that first,fill up with diesel and water at Chas Harden’s boatyard opposite,then move on to the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal for a few days.

We left Tower Wharf in Chester last Tuesday and cruised about 3 miles till we got to the outskirts of the City and called it a day.I don’t think it stopped raining at all so we were glad to get moored up near the Cheshire Cat pub and go for a drink.After staying there overnight we set off to do the 7 miles back to the Shady Oak pub near Beeston Castle.Canal life isn’t all pubs you know.The weather had stopped us from doing the walk that we had planned for when we moored there the previous week so we were looking at having another try.Our next 250 hour service was nearly due too and things were looking good to get that out of the way now the weather looked like improving.It was 16 weeks since the last time we did it and I didn’t think that that was too bad a timescale.We always have spare oil and filters so it’s no big deal to do it when it becomes due and it doesn’t take Lisa long.

Beeston Castle 001 Beeston Castle 005

A rather murky Tuesday morning and as we were leaving Tower Wharf I saw this,it’s the Airbus Baluga,a converted A300-600 Super Transport used to carry oversized and awkward cargo between Airbus factories in Europe.On the right is a last view as we leave Chester,the City Walls are above on the left.

On Friday the sun was shining and it looked good for our planned walk.It’s one of the walks in the Ordnance Survey Pathfinder Guide for Cheshire and is a relatively easy walk for a couple of oldies with only gradual climbs and about 6.5 miles in length.We saved the hard bit till the last,this was the climb up to Beeston Castle itself,that was a bit tough and I did suggest to Lisa that she need only carry me to the top and not back down again but she would have non of it,bless her,it had to be both ways.At the top there are some great views right over eight counties,from the Pennines to the Welsh mountains, from what has been an Iron Age Hill Fort through to a Loyalist stronghold,in 1645,during the English Civil War.

Beeston Castle 007 Beeston Castle 014

A heron waiting to pounce and a tree forming an arch over the footpath as we explored the off side of the Shroppie on our walk to Beeston Castle.

Beeston Castle 029 Beeston Castle 015

How’s this for checking out the views over Cheshire.This one on the right is not one of our family.

Beeston Castle 017 Beeston Castle 020

Beeston Castle as we walked from the East and Lisa on the footbridge to the Inner Gatehouse.

Beeston Castle 034 Beeston Castle 030

A couple of views from the top of Beeston Castle.

We met up with some boating friends on Sunday evening,and having each gone our separate walking ways on Monday,spent a very enjoyable afternoon and evening outside on the towpath in the sun.Each of us with numerous glasses of home made cider,that’s the reason I didn’t post this last night.This morning,after our friends had departed,we walked the couple of miles or so into the nearby village of Tarporley for some provisions.What a lovely village it is,with quite a number of best kept village awards.Well worth the walk from the canal along the Sandstone Way and Cheshire footpaths to a variety of shops.After getting back we moved East to where we are now and Lisa is busy setting up the BBQ for tonight’s tea.

That’s all again for this week.Since our last blog we have done 9 Locks and 11 Miles,giving us a grand total of 286 Locks and 427 Miles since we set off last October.Take care everyone.