The Whitchurch Arm

Fear not, gentle reader, not some gruesome disembodied piece of anatomy but today’s destination for the Wrens-Nest.

DSCN0910Another day of not going very far, a mile and a half to be precise, but we did do the six Grindley Brook locks including the three lock staircase where each lock leads directly into the next.

Then it was just a fill of water and disposal of rubbish and we were away. We must have done about half a mile when a crew member from another boat that had been watering up came hotfooting it back down the towpath, they had left their keys at the waterpoint!

When he caught us up again, with keys safely retrieved, we offered a lift which he gratefully accepted and told us a tale of how he had become part-time gravedigger and told his wife that he had to swear vows and join a secret society to get the job. His wife was taking it all in but needless to say he just went a bit too far and she realised that he was kidding her!

DSCN0912We reached New Mills Lift Bridge which someone opened for us (hooray) and then reversed into The Whitchurch Arm where there are 48 hour moorings (an arm is a subsidiary branch of a canal). In this case it used to go to the centre of the town but was abandoned in 1944 and later filled in. With the support of the town council The Whitchurch Waterway Trust was incorporated in 1988 and the restoration of the first part of the Whitchurch Canal was completed in 1993. They have ambitious plans to create a new basin and further moorings.

IMG_20150627_165801676_HDRAfter lunch we caught the 205 bus into town and bought some provisions including some burgers for our tea from one of the town’s four butchers. As the 205 is a circular route it was difficult to know where our stop was, but the bus driver couldn’t have been more helpful and set us down even nearer the canal than the stop we had found for ourselves.

IMG_20150627_181941710While we were in town we found ourselves a small folding table which we used later when we lit our bucket barbeque and sat on the bench thoughtfully provided beside our boat to cook our tea whilst Catty explored the adjacent nature reserve. It’s a lovely spot and we think we shall stay here tomorrow.

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Grindley Brook

DSCN0893Today was but a short hop from Wrenbury with just one lift bridge today and that mercifully open and through four locks.

We passed the butty Jellicoe, usually paired with the fuel boat Mountbatten which, I believe, used to serve the Banbury area in the past but now plies the Llangollen Canal under the proprietorship of Jon & Hannah.

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IMG_20150626_155311501We took a brief lunch beer stop at Willeymoor Lock Tavern, originally a Lock Keepers cottage but much enlarged now. It has a large collection of teapots .

We have moored up just short of Grindley Brook locks which will be tackled in the morning, much to her delight Joy found a bookshop near the bottom lock.

Wrens at Wrenbury

DSCN0870Last night’s mooring was next to the A51 and so this idyllic picture is a little misleading but it didn’t disturb our sleep and we were up and away before ten. In 40 minutes we were back to Hurleston Junction and in a queue of three boats waiting to enter the Llangollen Canal by ascending the four locks. Joy didn’t enjoy these locks at all as she got the alignment wrong on the first one and then was lacking in confidence on the rest.

The Llangollen canal is used to supply water from to Cheshire, so there is a noticeable flow. Wikipedia says 

To the north of the locks is Hurleston Reservoir, which is filled by water which passes along the canal from the Horseshoe Falls at Llantysilio. As well as supplying the canal, the reservoir is also used for drinking water, and holds 85 million gallons Around 12 million gallons flow along the canal each day to supply it.

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A result of this water flow is that each of following locks has a strong bywash where the flowing water goes around the lock, this has the effect of pushing your boat out of line when entering the locks.

The first one seemed worst and Joy soon mastered the technique of compensating for it. We received lots of help from other boaters as well today.

 

Just as soon as she was used to this we encountered our first Llangollen lift bridge which needed winding up with a windlass, this job fell to me while Joy took the boat through.
No sooner she had was almost through three boats came in the opposite direction.

DSCN0888It would have been rude to close the bridge for them so there was I, stranded one side of the canal while Joy was attempting to tie up the boat on the other, fortunately a lady from one of the other crews came to help her and we then had the boat which had been following us catch us up from and go through, they assured me I would get my reward in heaven!

 

We had decided to spend the night at Wrenbury (where else) and nb Ruby Tuesday operated the next (electrically operated) bridge for us. and then we both moored up.

IMG_20150625_192255959_HDRWe treated ourselves to a meal at The Dusty Miller which was moderately priced and an outstanding meal, definitely not your usual pub grub! Lamb Tagine for me & Salmon for Joy, the chef produced a non-dairy lemon dressing for Joy and for desert a rum & raisin bread & butter pudding with banoffee sauce & custard. Beer of choice tonight? Lift Bridge Ale.
Top Marks to The Dusty Miller.

On the way back to the boat we picked elderflowers and Joy now has some elderflower cordial on the go, glutton for punishment isn’t she!

A short trip by boat and a longer one by bus

DSCN0858We had planned to stay at Nantwich today and do some shopping, but when we realised that to descend from the embankment it involved 48 steps, Joy declared that she had had enough of steps yesterday at The Bunker.

Instead we opted to move on to Barbridge and catch the bus from there. There is a canal-side sculpture trail the most impressive being the horse recycled from old lockgate timber I believe.

IMG_20150624_113122035_HDRIt took us just an hour to reach Barbridge,  we winded at Junction and reversed onto a mooring, 40 minutes later we were on the number 84 to Crewe where we visited Aldi for groceries and R & B Music for guitar strings. Then it was back to Nantwich bus station with it’s lovely flower display, we had lunch in town and then we returned to the boat, so passing over and under the Nantwich Aqueduct in one day.

Tomorrow we’ll return to Hurleston Junction and on to another canal.

Down to the Shroppie Fly & off to Nantwich

DSCN0816We left our overnight mooring at about 10am and recommenced our decent of the 15 Audlem locks, the flight wasn’t busy but we reached Audlem Wharf by 12 noon where we planned to have lunch at The Shroppie Fly. We had checked out their website and chosen from the reasonably priced menu, but when we arrived the menu was quite different and not quite so reasonable so we opted for the light lunch options of Cheesy Chips and Bread & Olives.

IMG_20150622_171141839_HDRUnfortunately Joy developed a migraine and so we de-camped, with food, back to the boat and decided to overnight on the 24 hour moorings just outside.

When Joy felt better she went and investigated Audlem Mill while I attempted to get better performance from our TV aerial by dismantling it and cleaning all the internal connections, what else can go wrong with a TV aerial? Later we walked around the village.

In the morning we watered up before descending the remaining 3 locks of the Audlem flight, which were easily accomplished as there were many more boats on the move, some of them trade boats headed for the Floating Market at Market Drayton this weekend.At bridge 85 we stopped for lunch and then visited the (not so) Secret Bunker.

DSCN0823For over 50 years this vast underground complex, remained secret, hidden on the outskirts of a sleepy Cheshire town. Declassified in 1993, the 35,000 square foot underground bunker would have been the centre of Regional Government had nuclear war broken out.

 

 Secrets of the Bunker

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DSCN0843After our visit we immediately approached Hack Green Locks and passed Wildside Perserves’ Jam Butty moored up, returning from Middlewich Folk and Boating (FAB) Festival, we assume.

Through the locks we continued the 3 miles to Nantwich and moored on the embankment above the town at about 3pm.

On to Audlem

Saturday’s weather was, as predicted, wet so we didn’t stray far from the boat.
I did visit Talbot Wharf and buy some more rope to practice my splicing and I now have a selection of ropes to moor up with.

This morning we visited Market Drayton Methodist Church and joined them for their 11am service, we received a warm welcome and enjoyed worshipping with them.
The current church dates from 1985 and to quote from their website:

IMG_20150621_123342900_HDRToday’s church is designed for all-age worship; it is warm and light, with comfortable chairs.

It is on two levels; the raised section with rear door access, is wheelchair friendly.

The Cross in the large circular window is an impressive and prominent feature.

DSCN0805On our return from church we set off straight away and immediately after the first bridge we encountered a fishing match stretching for about a mile, the guys were very good humoured as they raised their rods to let us through.

We had a clear run through to Adderley locks where we met two guys bringing a Springer narrowboat  bought on eBay back from Birmingham to Skipton!

They had had a couple problems the current one being a faulty water pump and they were having to keep the single cylinder engine cool by dousing it with a a watering can full of canal water occasionally. After the locks we caught up with them stuck in the shallows where the wind had blown them, we offered to tow them off and nearly got stuck ourselves.

DSCN0810We got off successfully though and towed them down to Audlem locks to give the ailing engine a rest, we left them there as we were mooring up for the night. We hope they manage to get a spare impellor at Nantwich tomorrow.

There was a canalside stall at the top lock where we bought some eggs and then found ourselves a mooring after the second lock where Catty could go out exploring.

Gnosall to Norbury and on to Market Drayton via The Anchor

We said goodbye to Gnosall (which we were reliably informed by a local is pronounced Knowsall or maybe it’s Nose-al) and it was just an hour’s jaunt to Norbury Junction where I wanted to visit Norbury Wharf to buy some fittings to make a better job on repairing the drip on the diesel leak-off pipe. Unfortunately it wasn’t in stock but they could order it for delivery the next afternoon, not to worry we’re in no hurry and there was washing to do, we enquired if there was a local laundrette, no.. but they could do a service wash for us, even better!

DSCN0759aOur part didn’t turn up until 4:30pm the next day but no matter, we filled our day, me pottering about and Joy did some art work. We finally got away at 5 o’clock and just did an hour’s cruise to The Anchor at High Offley. After a mushroom risotto for tea we visited the little pub which is an absolute delight, you could be stepping back a 100 years, just a simple bar with wooden settles/benches and scrubbed tables arranged for conversation!

high offley pubCheck out the reviews in this link, apparently 2 landladies in 105 years, Olive being the second and current one. We chatted with Mal Edwards the local fender maker and a visiting boater who it transpired not only came from Dursley (where we lived for 30 odd years) but was brother to Howard, a friend and owner of Dursley Garage which was next to my first business premises (now demolished).

This morning we were on our way again at half past nine, past the former Cadbury’s Factory at Knighton and in a couple of hours we were passing through the impressive Woodseaves cutting hewn through the solid rock.

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IMG_20150619_130915830_HDRWe stopped for lunch just before Tyrley Locks where a Black Prince hire boat was having problems opening one of the lock gates and had called C&RT, but before their man arrived from 25 miles away they and another boat had managed to ascend to lock and we were going down. Neither we or the C&RT man could find any problem.

The five locks were negotiated very easily meeting boats at every lock which saves closing gates as we leave the lock (note the grey Shroppie lock beams as opposed to the common black).

DSCN0799By 10 past 2 we were mooring up in Market Drayton where we annoyed two Muscovy Ducks by disturbing their afternoon nap. We have new(ish) housing opposite facing and embracing the canalscape.

This afternoon we walked down into the town which has a surprising mix of modern and half timbered buildings, Asda, Wilkinsons rubbing shoulders with independent shops, cafes and pubs.

IMG_20150619_161240961_HDRTomorrow is market day and we may stay to look around some more, depending on the weather.

Gailey to Gnosall

WEJourneyMap-40396Apologies for the recent radio silence, EE having decided we had used our monthly allowance (I don’t think so!) and our back up, tethering on GiffGaff, was impossible due to the poor signal, so no internet to upload our blog… Prepare for a catch-up edition.

After waiting at Penkridge until Saturday morning for our post to arrive, the rain arrived with it and so we just moved up through Filance Lock to the 5 day moorings overnight, as we had already been on the 48hr moorings too long. Incidentally, Penkridge market is great and was worth braving the drizzle.

Sunday morning was a great improvement and off we went, but no sooner than we had set off another boater hailed us and asked if we could oblige him with a jump start which we duly achieved. Our good deed for the day done it was off towards Gailey, there were about five locks on our way, all pretty easy and the M6 closed in again for a while as the map shows.

Our Pearson’s guide tells us that after the motorway was built, the lockkeeper at Rodbaston Lock couldn’t stand the noise and moved out of his cottage which was subsequently demolished. The  two picture are taken just yards apart and in the second one you wouldn’t guess there was a motorway behind the trees.

DSCN0667As we approached Gailey with it’s distinctive round lock house we noticed that the lock gates were open and we realised that a kind soul had spotted us coming and opened them for us. Whilst in the lock we ascertained that we could get a pump out at the adjacent J.D. Boat services and fill up with water just opposite. Having done all that we decided we would  stop for lunch, but in the event we stayed there for the night and let Catty have a roam in the nearby woods. Meanwhile I dealt with a slight diesel leak which I had discovered whilst jump starting that boat and fitted the warning panel for my new Fuel Guard water separator.

It turned out that it was Cosford Air Show and we were treated to some flying displays including a Vulcan roaring overhead, needless to say I wasn’t quick enough to get any photos, but the Shropshire Star reports on it here, and here is a YouTube video. A reminder of when I was a lad living near Boscombe Down and saw them on an almost daily basis.

WEJourneyMap-40414We have had some lazy days lately but on Monday we covered about 15 miles, we first headed south to Autherley Junction then turned north, through the stop lock (just about 6 inches difference in water level!) and we were on the Shropshire Union canal.

The Shroppie is a broad (but not enough for wide beam boats) straight waterway characterised by cuttings and embankments being the last trunk narrow canal route to be built in England. It was not completed until 1835 and was the last major civil engineering accomplishment of Thomas Telford.

We stopped for a cuppa at Brewood (most appropriate as it’s pronounced Brewed) but the mooring was in one of Mr Telford’s cuttings and a bit lacking in sunlight so we decided to cruise a further hour to Wheaton Aston. We passed Dave on Free Spirit Rising, another ex-employee from Heyford Wharf and nb Timewarp again on the way. Then it was through the only lock in 25 miles (apparently) and soon after we found ourselves a berth.

IMG_20150615_202208001_HDRSo a long day, for us… seven hours! After that we thought we deserved to treat ourselves to dinner at The Hartley Arms, it obviously has a good reputation as it was packed with diners but we didn’t have to wait too long for our meal and very good it was too. After we had a short walk to the village shop and an early night.

After yesterday’s exertions today started around 10 am, first we reversed to Turner’s Garage where, reputedly, the cheapest diesel on the canal system is to be purchased at 58.9p/litre. We met nb Timewarp there (yet again) regrettably we couldn’t squeeze in more than 45 litres, but every little helps!

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We stopped for lunch after the short Cowley Tunnel outside the Boat Inn at Gnosall it seemed a nice place and we were debating whether to move on or not, when Catty decided it was a nice place too and escaped through the kitchen window and went exploring. She returned large as life about half hour later by which time we had decided to stay. We walked into the village and patronised the village stores, later we might patronise the village pub too!

To Tixall and beyond

The nice thing about being retired is that we don’t have a schedule to keep to now, so when we moved just a couple of miles to Great Haywood and visited the fabulous Canalside Farm Shop and Cafe (they have some lovely fresh produce and we came out poorer than we intended ;-0) we opted to stay there for the night. In the evening Dave & Lesley, who we had been moored next to at Wolesley Bridge walked past so we invited them in and spent the evening chatting about everything and anything, including the fact that I wished that I could splice a rope properly. Lesley promptly offered to come back in the morning to show me, which she did, coming back equipped with diagrams and Swedish fids!

DSCN0639After my instruction we filled up with water etc. and then turned through the junction bridge onto the Staffs & Worcs (Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal). Tixall Wide is a broad stretch of the canal which the owners of Tixall House insisted on, so it looked like an ornamental lake, as part of the deal for routing the canal though their estate. Ironically all that remains of Tixall House is the impressive gatehouse, which is visible in the distance.

DSCN0646We passed through several locks and for most of the way the M6 was our near companion although we couldn’t always see it. There was an attractive Turnover Bridge to photograph swapping the towpath from one side of the canal to the other.

We paused at Park Gate lock to visit Midland Chandlers and buy some rope to practice splicing, then after passing through Penkridge Lock found ourselves a mooring where we shall stay for a couple of days as we need to have our post forwarded Post Restante to the local Post Office.

IMG_20150611_122949869_HDRWhilst here we have explored the town which has a good range of independent shops, including a proper hardware shop where we got cotton sash-cord, and had lunch at The Boat Inn who took 45 minutes to produce a burger, although it was nice to sit outside with a pint in the sunshine whilst we waited, but seriously guys, why serve an outside meal on a wooden breadboard so the salad blows away and the chips get cold?

DSCN0656I am happy to report that the Eye Splice has been mastered and I have made a couple of short mooring straps (or is it strops or maybe warps?) with eyes on either end, like this anyway!IMG_20150612_093657459sml
A little more challenging was the ‘Turk’s Head’ a largely decorative knot, used for Boy Scouts’ woggles, but in our case to decorate and protect the paint on the swan-neck from being damaged when opening the hatch in the counter (back deck).

It took me a while to find a set of instructions which I could understand but this set at Ropeworks worked for me.

IMG_20150612_101132761We passed Tony and Jacqui on nb Timewarp on our way here and yesterday afternoon they caught up and moored behind us. They were colleagues when I worked for Oxfordshire Narrowboats at Heyford Wharf  and they are now selling brass tiller pins from their boat.

Wolesley Bridge

DSCN0556Firstly, as promised here is a photo from our mooring outside The Plum Pudding, but perhaps it doesn’t convey the strange sensation of being above the road traffic too well.

There was a stiff breeze blowing as we left which helped us out of our spot but didn’t make for pleasant boating for the rest of the day.

IMG_20150606_102010321_HDRThe first task was almost immediately to put Joy ‘ashore’ onto the towpath as we had go through the Armitage Tunnel, now this is another of those tunnels which have had the roof removed but it is only single way working so it’s as well to send a crew member ahead to check it’s clear. Joy simply sent me a text to say ‘OK’, what did we do before mobile phones?

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The power station heralded our entry into Rugeley and we were lucky enough to find a space on the town visitor moorings as another boat was just leaving.

We were welcomed by the sound of a brass band, which was very kind of them but apparently it was the town’s Charter Fair that day and probably accounted for the strangely dressed folk whom we saw later in the indoor market. Rugeley is a pleasant town and we were able to do a shop in Morrison’s (there’s also a brand new Tesco near the canal) and get Joy’s prescription from Boots.

IMG_20150606_141120885While we were waiting for that we got ourselves a snack at Holly’s Cafe in the aforementioned market, it had a delightfully chaotic atmosphere with market traders and customers alike popping in and out. Sue the proprietor seemed heavily into charity work and was offering a roast pork dinner, followed by a pudding and tea or coffee all for £6 per head with £1 going to special care baby unit appeal (bless her). We however contented ourselves with a pasty and a sausage sarnie. Joy was asked if she’d like tomato with her sausage, but was surprised to get tinned ones! Perfectly fine, if a bit messy!

The wind continued to buffet us as we carried on after doing our shopping, so we found ourselves a somewhat sheltered mooring at Wolseley Bridge, where some folky folk were having a barbeque and a sing-song.

We knew that fellow bloggers Brian & Diana on nb Harnser were headed towards us but it was not till later we realised they were moored just the other side of the bridge and were able to have a brief chat as they passed us in the morning.

Now, I can’t seem to find out if this place is pronounced ‘Wools-ley’ like the cars or ‘Wol-sey’ either way we liked the mooring here so much that we have stayed a couple of days, done some odd jobs, varnishing for me and washing & painting for Joy (the arty type).

This morning we have been for a walk around the nearby Wolseley Centre which was very nice walk and we took loads of photos. There is also a Museum of Buildings which didn’t seem to be open and I can find no information about it except in this blog called Lichfield Lore.

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Tomorrow we shall be off, but not far, just up to Great Haywood Junction and on to Tixall Wide.