Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Swinging the Bridge

Apart from our brief forray up to the Flash and back we have stayed put at Vale Royal for several days. There is an incredible variety of bird life to be seen from the porthole. A pair of Grebes with young ones, a solitary grey heron which stands patiently watching for a meal to swim by, and some splendid Cormorants which pose with wings outspread drying thier feathers.
This morning we decided it was time to move. After firing up the 'Gardner' the captain phoned the lock keeper at Vale Royal Locks to let him know we were coming while I started unmooring.
10mins. downstream the lock was ready for us. Friendly as ever, the Lockie said he thought we had got lost upstream. Most people only go up to the head of the navigation and return. Seems a shame not to enjoy the peace and quiet of the river. Half an hour further downstream the second lock for the day was also ready for us and we were soon out and heading into Northwich.
As we passed the large maintenance yard there was a tug and barges with signs of life on board. We had just moored up below one of the large town swing bridges when there was the raucous bellow of sirens and the gates started shutting to close off the road. Slowly the huge bridge started to swing open, supprisingly smooth and quiet. Within minutes the tug and barge were through and the bridge silently swung back into is not often these bridges are moved so we were lucky to have seen it.
Although the day started fine and sunny the showers that were forecast arrived just as we got back from shopping for supplies. No alternative then but to put the kettle on and put our feet up.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Flash---Ahh ahhh

No, not Flash Gordon. Our destination today was Winsford Flash, a huge lake created by subsidence from the local salt mining industry.
We set off at 10.00am in company with NB AmyJo towards the first obstacle, Newbridge swing bridge. With headroom of 6ft 4in Steve on AmyJo was a bit unsure, however he squeezed under with a couple of inches to spare. Oakapple, being lower in the water, went under with a foot to spare.
In bright sunshine we cruised on past the huge salt mine at Meadowbank. Opened in 1844 ,This is the only salt mine on mainland UK and provides most of the salt for our winter roads. Several shafts are 200m deep and parts of the mine are used to store sensitive top secret documents and artefacts in the stable temperature and humidity conditions.
On past the 'Red Lion' pub, and we were off the weaver navigation and, as the lockie told us, on our own. The flash is very shallow over most of the area, even though there is a sailing club based there. We only poked our bows  in far enough to have a look and turn the boats, before making our way back to the pub to moor up and enjoy a couple of pints in the bar. It was great to cover this last bit to the head of the navigation in company with AmyJo. What with her being a bit tall for the bridge, and us being a bit deep for the flash, it was good to have some support available, even though we didn't expect to need it.
Feeling rather mellow after our pints we cruised back to our moorings at Vale Royal, tackling the low swing bridge with rather more confidence than on the way up.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Hot days and Baking Days

Wednesday was the hottest day for ages. We decided to catch the bus to Chester for the day. Big mistake!
It was hot, the bus took an hour to get there, and it was crowded. I have never been in Chester when it wasn't. Still, it was a day out and it is always good to walk the walls of this fine old city.
On thursday we moved off the town moorings and made our way upstream to Vale Royal, through two of the huge Weaver locks. Before we could leave we had to wait for a tug with a large barge to manoeuvre into position alongside the swing bridge where they have been dredging the channel.
The friendly lockies soon had us through the locks and we moored at vale royal to enjoy the peacefull views.
Rain was forecast for Friday and it duly arrived, all day. Nothing for it, we did some baking. Chilli bread rolls, flapjacks and a tray of ginger muffins. It is a great way to fill a rainy day and we were well pleased with the result.
The sun came back on Saturday, putting 13 amps back into the batteries from the solar panels. Also arriving was NB AmyJo, who we met last year at Tattenhall. They have just arrived on the Weaver via the Manchester Ship Canal, quite an experience. (See their blog to find out more).
We had a good catching up session over a couple of glasses of wine. Today another boat joined us. NB Kanbedun Again with Linda on board. We briefly met Christmas before last at Braunston. We had just arrived to spend the holliday in the village, and she was just leaving her boat to visit relatives. We sat out this evening enjoying a beer and cup cakes made by Chris. until the biting insects drove us inside.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Back to the River

Yes, we are back on the River Weaver. Next month we are booked to go into Liverpool docks. That leaves us four weeks to get there which is hardly a demanding cruising regime. With the canals being so busy in the school holidays, what with all the hire boats racing around, we decided to revisit the Weaver where things are a lot more civilised.
We had a very early start on Monday, (due to our batteries being rather depleted), and moved on through Middlewich, arriving at the lion salt works mid afternoon. This old family business used to produce all kinds of salt products and is now opened as a museum, unfortunately not on Mondays.
It was a very warm day on Tuesday, very pleasant for the short hop to Anderton and the boat lift. Arriving there at 10.30 we were booked to go down to the river at 12.10, the next available slot.
We moved onto the holding mooring and awaited instructions. As our allotted time came and went we were eventually told there was a problem. Seems the lift had failed and the trip boat was stranded in the caisson. The general opinion was that it was  something to do with the software. Now when the lift was built the only 'software' involved was the boatmans fleecy jacket. Oh well, I suppose that's  progress!
Eventually we got the thumbs up and we gingerly moved onto the lift. This is the second time this year we have gone down the lift and it was just as awe inspiring as the first. So smooth and quiet, we were on the river in no time, only an hour later than we had expected.
Just a gentle cruise upstream took us to Northwich where we moored at the town quay in time to walk into town for the Tuesday steak club in Wetherspoons.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

The Audlem Jetwash

since my last post we have covered the rest of the 'Shroppie' and are now on the Middlewich branch heading for the Trent & Mersey canal.
The Shroppie is a canal of mixed scenery. Some very deep cuttings and also some impressive embankments. The weather has been mostly kind this week with some warm spells to sit out at the fine mooring places with picnic benches and BBQ stands.
The only big flight of locks to negotiate was at Audlem. There are 15 locks in the flight so we set out early, before they got too busy. After the chaos we found at the single lock at Wheaton Aston earlier in the week, these were quite civilised. A lot of the locks have very fierce bypass weirs which exit across the tails of the locks, sometimes called the 'Audlem Jetwash'. They can make negotiating the flight somewhat tricky, especially after some heavy rainfall.
After spending a day at Hack Green, the site of the 'Secret Nuclear Bunker', we moved on through Nantwich and turned west at Barbridge Junction. This branch connects the T&M with the Shroppie. It is quite an important link and, as a consequence is very busy at this time of the year. We have spent most of today moored up and have been astonished at the number of hire boats passing us, mostly heading for Llangollen I suspect.
We did take a walk away from the canal, down a footpath to the village of Church Minshull. The river Weaver runs through the valley here, although it is a mere trickle compared to the part we were cruising on earlier in the year. Alongside the path we saw a large amount of freshly dug earth, spilling  down the bank from some quite large animals den. We debated whether it was foxes or badgers but still can't decide.
After a quick 'half' in the local pub we made our way back to Oakapple to cook Sunday Lunch and to watch the cows opposite us drinking out of the canal.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Once in a Blue Moon

we moved on from Deptmore lock on a very cold morning. Another boat with an outside thermometer told us it had gone down to 3 degrees in the night. Brrrr!
By the time we reached Gailey it had warmed up and we decided to stop there for the night. The Captain spotted a news item about there being a 'blue moon'. Apparently it has nothing to do with the colour. It is when there is a second full moon in a calendar month, according to google, although there is some debate about the origin of the name. It was however an exceptionally fine full moon.
Up early on Saturday, we went up the lock and cruised on towards Autherley junction where the Shropshire Union Canal starts. Before reaching the turn we negotiated the narrow rocky cutting with passing places to pull in to when meeting another boat. Fingers crossed the captain 'went for it' while I hopped ashore to take a few pics. Although the canal had been quite busy we met nothing,  and were soon on the 'Shroppie', to moor at a nice open visitor mooring.
Lazy day today, relaxing in the sun. That was until a boat moored up behind us around lunch time. After shouting at passing boats to slow down the crew got out chairs, table and radio. Dinner was produced from inside the boat. The potential diner, like a modern day captain Bligh, waved his knife and fork at 'Mrs Bligh' and complained he wanted new potatoes!  I didn't hear the response, but we saw him throw the offending spuds in the hedge. Mid afternoon the radio went quiet, the ropes were cast off and they chugged away. No sign of 'Mrs Bligh' who was no doubt down below washing up. Peace returned and we sat back to enjoy the rest of the day. Just shows, there is no accounting for human nature. Perhaps he spent too long looking at the Blue Moon?