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

 

Hack Green Locks

Yesterday evening we were too tired to blog, following an unexpected eleven hour day. We started at 8 am and quickly navigated the two locks at Swanley, before arriving at Swanley Bridge Marina to use their services. We had a short wait here on the outside services berth, waiting for a boat to unload, presumably at the end of their holiday. So following a pump out, and taking on gas and water we were off again. Arriving at Hurleston locks, we did not have to wait as we descended towards the junction with the Shropshire Union. By 1130 we had left the Llangollen Canal behind and were on our way to Aquaduct Marina. So far we were making good time. We only had two locks on the Middlewich Branch to navigate, but this is where we hit the queues. It was over an hour wait at each before we were through. Aquaduct Marina was only a short distance further on, and we occupied the fuel berth whilst we spent lots of money in the chandlers. However I now have enough oil for the next two engine services. We took the opportunity of using the Bistro for a late lunch, before departing again on a return route towards Barbridge. The queues at the locks for the return journey were not as bad but we still had a bit of a wait. To be fair this is the first time we have encountered longish queues so we are not doing too badly. We had not intended to travel that far, but we ended the day moored opposite  the Barbridge Inn. 

Today the weather was sunny from the start, two sunny days on the trot, it must be summer. After breakfast we set off heading for Nantwich. Our reason for returning to our winter mooring on this route is so we can explore a few of the locations we missed on the way, and nothing to do with avoiding Heartbreak Hill on the Trent and Mersey  🙂 
On arrival at Nantwich we saw Barolo No.3 a fellow Hudson Boat on the water point, and then within a short time nb Poppy, nb Eleanor and nb Brigand all Hudsons came past. It nearly had the makings of a Hudson convention. Nantwich is a pleasant market town with many old timber buildings, similar to Chester. In the square there was a craft market, and after perusing the stalls we attended the Red Cow P.H. for lunch. This was conveniently located next to an M&S food hall, so we popped in to stock up. Returning to the boat we again set off with the aim of reaching the moorings at Coole Pilate. We had two locks to deal with at Hack Green, luckily both were in our favour.
       

       

As we passed through the top lock the crew asked an oncoming boat what the mooring was like at Coole Pilate. The answer was, “busy”. On hearing this we nipped into a spot just above the locks and this will do us now till Monday. Later neighbours of ours on return from walking their dog informed us that the mooring at Coole Pilate was like Butlins so we are happy we stopped when we did.
      

Tomorrow in addition to our usual activities we also have an engine service to perform, so our Sunday roast may have to be postponed till Monday or Tuesday.
      

                                       With an evening view like this we may stay longer.

Friday totals 11 Miles 10 Locks 
Saturday totals 6 Miles 2 Locks
Running totals 405 Miles 188 Locks 17 Tunnels

Hurleston Junction

Conditions this morning were somewhat blustery as we departed Coole Pilate. On arrival at Hack Green Locks we found a short queue going both ways. Whilst waiting I read the information board at the locks, to find that Hack Green played an important role during the Second World War, as a radar station providing protection for the docks at Liverpool. We forget how far north we have come, and that Liverpool is not that far away. We descended through the pair of locks without incident. That’s it for the easy narrow locks for a while, it’s the heavy wide ones from now on. A couple of miles later we arrived at Nantwich. There is a small but bustling basin, with full services. We took on a tank full of water and visited the waterside cafe. We did not visit Nantwich town this time, we will save it for another day. Two more miles and we reached our destination, Hurleston Junction. This is were the Llangollen Canal departs from the Shropshire Union heading off towards Wales. Our intention is to do this trip when we have finished in Chester and Ellesmere Port.

       

                                                          Hurleston Junction.

       

                                                   Straight on for us to Chester. (this time)

After securing the boat we walked ahead towards Barbridge Junction a mile and a half away. There are a couple of pubs here, and we wanted to check out a possible Sunday lunch venue. Ye Olde Barbridge Inn has got our vote. We will probably move forward nearer to this on Saturday.
     

                                      Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal.

Barbridge Junction is where the Shropshire Union links up with the Trent and Mersey Canal at Middlewich. This will be our route back when we start to head south again for the winter. There is a canal and music festival at Middlewich this weekend, which may explain the heavy traffic over the last couple of days.
Returning to the boat the weather has warmed up making for a pleasant evening, although the wind is still gusting quite strongly.
      

                          Our spot at Hurleston Junction, with Oscar enjoying some playtime.

Totals 6 Miles 2 Locks
Running total 275 Miles 128 Locks 11 Tunnels