Duddleston Bridge

Having failed to write a blog for a few days, this entry will be a brief catch up including some pictures taken to get us back on track.     Sunday 10/6. Travelled from Nantwich to Hurleston Junction. Through Hurleston Lock onto the Llangollen Canal then moored between bridges 12 and 13. Total distance 5 Miles including 4 Hurleston Locks and 2 Swanley Locks.

Looking back down Hurleston Locks
Mooring by bridge 12 Llangollen Canal

Monday 11/6. Travelled to below Grindley Brook Locks a distance of 8 Miles and included a total of 7 Locks. We had a brief stop at the Willeymoor Lock Tavern for lunch and then due to it being a scorcher, took a mooring under some trees which cooled the boat by about 5 degrees.

Shady mooring below Grindley Brook

Tuesday 12/6. We travelled to Duddleston Bridge 4 miles away which included the 6 Locks at Grindley Brook, and 3 lift bridges which the crew had to wind up manually. Wednesday 13/6. Our journey took us through Bettisfield which we remembered was very shallow last time we passed this way. Just beyond the village we stopped for lunch at a nice spot so stayed there for the night. Distance travelled 6 Miles.

   
Mooring and views at Bettisfield

Thursday 14/6. Took us to Ellesmere where we planned to stay put for a few days. This was a distance of 4 miles and at the junction with the Ellesmere Arm we turned left and moored opposite the Wharf. We were allowed 72 hours here rather than the usual 48 and this suited our purposes.

Ellesmere Wharf Buildings
Side hatch view back to Junction

Friday 15/6. and Saturday 16/6.  We entertained friends who had travelled from Kent to visit us. We went on a cruise up to Frankton Locks and back on the Saturday which was a total distance of 6 miles. Sunday 17/6. Our friends having departed we needed to visit Blackwater Marina for services. Had to wait outside for several hours whilst they turned round their hire fleet before letting us in. In the end the wait was rather annoying as when they finally did the job we just held the boat in the entrance whilst they pumped it out. This could easily have been achieved three hours earlier. Then we cruised to Frankton Locks and took a mooring on the lock landing. We would be first in the queue. Total distance 3 miles.

Mooring above Frankton Locks

  Monday 18/6. We descended onto the Montgomery Canal and set off for the end of the navigation 6 miles away. We stopped at Queen’s Head the halfway point for lunch then carried on the final 3 miles. We winded at Gronwyn Wharf and took a mooring by the Canal Central cafe in Maesbury Marsh. Total distance 6 miles which included 7 Locks.

Mooring Maesbury Marsh

A frequent feature of the Montgomery is that it is ludicrously shallow in places. What might not be visually evident in the photo above is that the back end of the boat is 2 feet from the bank, and this is at a dedicated mooring location. Tuesday 19/6. We wandered off to beyond the end of the navigation to see the efforts being made to restore to unnavigable bit.

The end of the current navigation
Some heavy engineering
Overgrown canal bed

Judging by the photos above it will be some time before this sees any boat movement. After viewing the restoration works we returned to the boat and headed back towards Lower Frankton. We moored in the short Weston Branch below the main Locks for the night, taking the opportunity to wash the boat whilst there.

Weston Branch mooring Montgomery Canal

Our journey had not been uneventful. By bridge 78 we came to a complete stop, hard aground and for fifteen to twenty minutes we wondered if we would even get through the bridge hole. Entry into Aston bottom lock was also rather difficult. We expected this canal to be shallow but run aground mid channel has warranted an email to the navigation authority. Wednesday 20/6. We moved up to the lock landing below Frankton Locks for our pre booked ascent. We couldn’t get into the landing area and we’re again stuck mid channel. The crew notified the lock keeper of our difficulties, and once we had ascended the flight he asked us to make an entry in the visitors book. Once through the staircase lock we turned right onto the Llangollen Canal and travelled to Ellesmere. Our previous spot was full so we ended up mooring in the arm close to the junction. Total distance 3 miles which included 4 Locks. Thursday 21/6. The longest day. Today we travelled to Duddleston Bridge which included passing through 2 lift bridges. Total distance was 10 miles and the sun is beginning to make an appearance. The wind however is blustery and cold. Running total 261 Miles 111 Locks 8 Tunnels

Nantwich

So, Thursday 7/6. our time up at Coole Pilate we moved off. The weather was fine, and we soon approached the top lock at Hack Green. This is the location, of the not so secret nuclear bunker, that we visited the last time we passed this way. We descended both locks, meeting boats coming up at each. Then settled into the relatively short cruise into Nantwich.

View from Hack Green bottom lock.

On arrival at Nantwich, we picked out a mooring spot on the embankment section, with a very steep slope leading to the town below. In his excitement, four legs bounded from the boat, before realising stopping was going to be a problem. His four little legs were back peddling furiously. We settled into our spot, but it was not long before other boats started to arrive, and the whole stretch of mooring was full.

Nantwich mooring before it filled up.

The next day Friday 8/6. entailed a trip to the dentist to repair a cracked filling. We used the Riverside Practice, which the crew had visited before, and again this time they were really helpful. On the way into the town centre, we spotted a sign for a bar, but as the furry one had been left behind on guard duty, we didn’t go in.

Four legs has his own bar.

For those who read these ramblings and may not know the significance, four legs, aka the furry crew member, is actually called Oscar. Today, Saturday 9/6. There was an antique fair in the market square we wanted to visit. We spotted a few nice pieces, but it was more posh jumble than fine antiques. Whilst here we have had lunch in a small cafe by Nantwich Marina, which has been very pleasant, and today we nipped into the adjoining Chandlers to purchase some white spirit.

A robin waiting for food

The robin above was also a visitor to the cafe, and looks like he might be part of the mural on the wall. In fact he was sitting waiting to be fed by hand. He seemed to like bacon rind, and was lightening quick in taking it, if you held some out. Tomorrow we head for the Llangollen Canal.

  • Totals Thursday 7/6. 4 Miles 2 Locks
  • Running total 201 Miles 78 Locks 6 Tunnels 

Coole Pilate

So after a week of relaxation, well doing maintenance tasks, today Saturday 26/5. was the day the crew returned to the boat. I winded in the entrance to Kings Orchard Marina and took the boat the short distance back to Huddlesford Junction where I winded again and took up a mooring close to the Plough PH. Not long after securing the boat the crew arrived and we had a spot of lunch in the pub. Then it was back to the boat for the short journey to Fradley. The moorings at Fradley are generally busy and we were lucky to find one spot vacant. The mooring area is tree lined and having moored here several times previously we know the one solitary spot where it is just possible to line up the satellite dish. Unfortunately we were not in that spot so there would be no telly that night. One last throw of the dice was to link the sky box to my phone hotspot and see what happened. Success, we had access to the on demand services and it later transpired that an evening of streaming tv only used 2.5 gigabytes of data allowance. After securing the boat we wandered off to the cafe close to the junction with four legs and had an ice cream each. Four legs ate his tub of vanilla ice cream really quickly and then thought he could have a lick of ours. He was wrong. The next day we set off early, well for us it was and passed through the swing bridge before turning left onto the Trent and Mersey Canal. We navigated three locks meeting a volunteer at the last, Wood End Lock.  

Trent and Mersey ahead    
Looking back at Fradley Junction

  Passing through Armitage famous for its toilets, we navigated the narrow ex tunnel which is now missing its roof. The crew hopped off the boat here to stop any oncoming traffic as this narrow is single way working only. Shortly afterwards we arrived at Rugeley and took a mooring near bridge 66. This was only to be a short stop to allow the crew to replenish supplies at the adjacent Tesco store. Next stop was to be Taft Bridge 69 by the pig farm and diesel barge. We found a spot on a solitary stretch of piling just long enough for one boat, so no neighbours. Monday 28/5. Our destination was Stafford Boat Club. We were not going to stay at the boat club moorings as previously, but we do know there is nice mooring just beyond Hazlestrine bridge by the club. First we navigated the two miles and two locks to Great Haywood Junction. We stopped for water then made our turn from the Trent and Mersey onto the the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal. It was close to lunch and so we moored for a short period at Tixall Wide. After lunch we continued the remaining six miles and one lock to our chosen spot.   

   
Mooring Hazlestrine Bridge

  Tuesday 29/5. Would be a more gruelling day. Eleven miles and eleven locks would be the tally, and a lot of the journey would also include close proximity to the M6 motorway. We passed through Penkridge with its Midland Chandlers store situated right next to the canal, rather like placing sweets next to the checkout. We got through wallet intact. Just prior to Gailey near Boggs Lock we stopped briefly for lunch. Then in the afternoon continued on towards Coven our intended mooring spot. First we had to navigate a stretch of canal which passes by a chemical works. Warning signs are in abundance prohibiting any stopping or waiting for any reason. Holding our breath we passed to two to three hundred yards of unspecified hazard before arriving at the Hatherton Branch. One more mile and we moored for the night just beyond bridge 74, Moat House Bridge. Wednesday 30/5.  We travelled four miles to Autherley Junction navigating a very narrow cutting without meeting any opposing boats. We turned right onto the Shropshire Union and passed through Autherley stop lock. It was about now that the rain came so we took the opportunity to stop and fill with water waiting for the shower to pass. More ominous were the forecast thunderstorms that were impending, and we wanted to settled before they arrived. Initially we were aiming for the village of Brewood, but settled for a mooring between bridges 7 and 8. Thursday 31/5. No thunder or lightning came during the night, although we did think we heard the odd rumble in the distance. The forecast was similar, thunderstorms later in the day, but no rain before 2pm. Well the Met Office got that wrong. Literally within a minute of casting off the drizzle started. Fortunately it only lasted for a couple of miles and once beyond Brewood it stopped. At Wheaton Aston we pulled in to Turners Garage for diesel. Reportedly the cheapest on the entire canal network. Not sure about that but at 68.9 per litre we filled the tank to the brim. After that we trundled on until arriving at Norbury Junction. Here we moored within the five day section then wandered off to the Junction Inn for lunch. I had the steak and ale pie and it was huge. We later found out they do half a pie for lunch and this would have been plenty. We had planned to stay put for a day, but then we heard on the towpath telegraph about a stoppage at Audlem Locks. 

   
Views for side hatch Norbury Junction

Friday 1/6. We took four legs for a walk back to the village of Gnosall,  little over two miles away. As we had passed through the other day we had seen a nice pub and wanted to check it out. The Navigation PH is dog friendly and the food was very good. The walk between Gnosall and Norbury takes you along the Shelmore Embankment, and the towpath is excellent for walking. Later in the evening the thunderstorms arrived. We had some torrential rain as the storms skirted around us, but an hour or so later it was all over. Saturday 2/6. The notice came through that Audlem Locks were open again, so we set off for Market Drayton. We had eleven miles to travel which included the five locks at Tyrley, and the very narrow and dank in places Woodseaves cutting. We also knew that friends of ours on Barolo No.3 were also at Market Drayton. We arrived just after lunch and then in the evening went with our friends to the Red Lion PH. This was my first visit here and they have a fine selection of ales. The food is also of a high quality and I can recommend the lamb shanks. On return to the boat we spotted this.

Cygnets getting a ride

  Sunday 3/6. We set off for a favourite location of ours just below Adderley Locks. If we were really lucky we would have it to ourselves. The weather was glorious and we had completed the four miles and five locks prior to lunchtime. At the top of the flight is a farm shop and there is a stall by the canal selling pies and cakes etc. Inside the fridge were some homemade pork pies, so a few purchases were made.

   
Mooring below Adderley Locks

A couple of years ago the crew spotted some otters in the early morning playing with a fish they had caught. No such luck on this occasion but the setting is perfect. Monday 4/6. Ahead of us were the fifteen Locks of the Audlem flight. The crew was going to be busy. As we passed a boat moored by the top lock we were told no boats had come up today. This meant that possibly all the locks would be against us. As we passed through Lock four we could see the repair that had been carried out a few days earlier. It seems a boat either broke or lifted out the heavy beam with the cast plate that protects the cill. It does not look much but it required some heavy lifting gear and substantial wedges hammering in to fix it.

  
Cill buffer beam

We moored at the bottom of the flight on pins and for the first time on this journey we encountered the ‘shroppie shelf’, a concrete shelf hidden below the water line that grinds on the hull every time another boat passes. Tuesday 5/6. We set off the short distance to Overwater Marina for services then took a pontoon mooring whilst we visited the cafe for brunch. I had some very tasty cheese oatcakes before departing for the moorings at Coole Pilate about a mile away. These moorings are a lovely setting but also have picnic tables and barbecues. The towpath is wide and grassy and will allow me to finish weatherproofing our boat plank and poles.

Mooring at Coole Pilate

We will spend a couple of days here before heading for Nantwich and an appointment with a dentist.

  • Totals Saturday 26/5. 5 Miles
  •           Sunday 27/5. 9 Miles 3 Locks
  •           Monday 28/5. 8 Miles 3 Locks
  •           Tuesday 29/5.11 Miles 11 Locks
  •           Wednesday 30/5. 7 Miles 1 Lock
  •           Thursday 31/5. 11 Miles 1 Lock 1 Tunnel 
  •           Saturday 2/6. 11 Miles 5 Locks
  •           Sunday 3/6. 4 Miles 5 Locks
  •           Monday 4/6. 4 Miles 15 Locks
  •           Tuesday 5/6. 2 Miles
  •           Running total 197 Miles 76 Locks 6 Tunnels