Monday, 25 May 2015

Mostly flowers and a new hobby.

Well we made it to Middlewich for our annual visit to Jill's cousin and after a couple of days we dropped down through Wardle Lock, traversed the shortest canal in England, took on water and then came back up through the lock and headed out into the country.

Shot of the plaque on the bridge across the Wardle Canal. When the Shropshire Union built the Middlewich Branch the Trent and Mersey were determined to control the junction so they built one hundred and fifty four feet of nominally independent canal to connect to the Shroppie at Wardle Lock.
As it is a Bank Holiday we stopped out in a nice quiet spot and have sat out the rush of traffic.

"Ne'er cast a clout 'til May is out." There is some discussion about this saying, does it mean that one should retain one's winter undergarments until the start of June or until the may trees come into flower? Whichever is the true interpretation the trees used to have a bad reputation as "Witches trees." Personally I like 'em.

 "Singing, singing buttercups and daisies." Well we weren't on our way to Strawberry Fair but there was an abundance of the flowers along the towpath.

In places the daisies looked almost like snow.
There are plenty of flowers about at this time of year so as we took our morning constitutional I busied myself with the camera.

Field Mouse Ear with it's delicate little blooms.

Some more mouse ear with the last of the cowslips.

Should be a good supply of conkers come the autumn.

Well I've racked my brains and searched through my usual oracle, the Readers Digest Field Guide to British Wild Flowers (1981), but I can't make a positive I.D. on this one.

Looking at the heading and the 'phone number on this notice I reckon it has been adorning the bridge for a good few years.
This last winter I have taken up a hobby again that I have not indulged in for at least forty years.
Model making, so while Jill has been busily cross stitching I have been deep in paint and plastic cement.

This was this winter's project. Well it helps to pass the time.

Watch this space.......

Monday, 18 May 2015

Three days for the price of one.

They say you should never look back but couldn't resist taking one last shot of the canal in Chester as we left on Friday. We were fortunate that we managed to pair up with another boat going up the locks out of the city. They are no fun for single boats, the water seems to come at you from all directions and chucks the boat all over the shop.

The Victorian water tower of Boughton water works. The water works is situated on the site of the springs that supplied Roman Chester with piped water and the area has been involved in water supply to the city virtually continuously ever since. The tower is now a listed building, those old Victorians knew a thing or two about building.
We stopped at Beeston that afternoon.

I know I put up pictures of the castle on the way up but I've put this one in just to keep everyone up to date.
Saturday we were again lucky in pairing up with another boat for the last five of the wide locks. We took Beeston Iron Lock singly though as the distortion makes it a bit iffy for two boats to share it. We were ahead at Bunbury staircase and the volunteers who were working it let us in the bottom but shut the gates on our companions as they had two boats in the top chamber. It's a couple of years since I last performed the "Bunbury Shuffle" but all went well and we were soon up and away, I was rather too busy to get pictures of this interesting manoeuvre, sorry. Brief stop at Calveley for water and to ditch the rubbish and on to Barbridge Junction for a quick left turn onto the Middlewich Arm and finally mooring for the day above Cholmondeston lock.
After our regulation Sunday brekkies, (It has to be a Full English on a Sunday doesn't it?) we joined the queue at the lock, fortunately all there were experienced boaters and worked through in fine style. As we left the bottom of the lock there was a boat coming up which suddenly swerved across the cut, collided with one of the moored boats at the marina and ended up jammed across the canal. It turned out that his bow thruster had failed and the wind had taken him. One should not rely too heavily on these aids to navigation.

Not long after leaving the errant boat behind us we came across the first brood of cygnets we have seen this year.
Like all bloggers who have travelled this way in the past I will include the obligatory pictures of

the wonderfully Dutch gabled house at Minshull Wharf and

the old canal stables a little further on; now a des. res.
We are now sitting on the forty-eight hour moorings above the River Weaver and Northwich  Winsford Top Flash. Wind and rain so far today so it will be tomorrow when we move on down to Middlewich.

Watch this space.........

Thursday, 14 May 2015

More of Chester.

Chester never disappoints. We spent the first couple of days moored on the bollards by the new Waitrose, very swish and surprisingly quiet. We then moved a couple of hundred yards down to the forty-eight hour moorings by the Lock Keeper pub. Contrary to what all the worriers say these moorings are as safe as any urban mooring and handy for the city.

You have a choice of two ways into the city centre, walk down Frodsham Street or, and this is our favourite way, through Kaleyard Gate. The area now occupied by Tescos and the Lock Keeper were once the vegetable gardens of St. Werburgh's Abbey but to get to them involved a circuitous walk out of Eastgate so, in 1275, they petitioned Edward 1st to let them cut a gate through the city walls. Permission was granted on condition that the gate was not large enough to allow a mounted man through and that it was closed and locked at nightfall.
This takes you into the handsome Abbey Square

and after tottering across a vast expanse of cobbles you pass through

Abbey Gateway and out into Northgate Street,

virtually opposite the City Information Centre and then the city is your oyster.

The city centre is dominated by the abundance of half timbered buildings,

in particular the famous "Rows", covered walkways with shops at first floor level and at street level another row of shops, some of which are in the undercrofts of medieval buildings and in one case, below Spud-U-Like in Bridge Street, a Roman hypocaust.

Also in Bridge Street is Three Old Arches, claimed to be the oldest surviving shop front in England.

It's not all historical though, the Grosvenor shopping centre is as modern and upmarket as any.
So having had a surfeit of retail therapy we wandered off for a walk around some of the city wall.

Jill poses in front of King Charles's Tower. Probably originally built in the 13thC. it was known as the Newton Tower, then the Pheonix Tower and it now bears the name of that unfortunate monarch as legend has it that he stood on the tower and watched his troops take a right walloping at the Battle of Rowton Heath in 1645.
Tonight we are off to the Old Harkers Arms for a meal with my nephew and his wife and tomorrow it will be back up the locks and heading south again.

Watch this space.........

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Chester at last, with a smattering of moorhens.

What a contrast, yesterday we left the most bucolic of moorings and now we are in the middle of Chester, moored next to a shiny new Waitrose and in the shadow of rows of blocks of flats.

Just by the Shady Oak this splendid lady was relaxing on her nest in the shelter of the willows.

The Shady Oak has undergone a major refurbishment and is now very smart. At the moment the menu is very limited as the kitchen is still being fitted out. Let's hope that this time it stays open.

Crossing the Cheshire plain the clouds cleared and the sun shone but the wind continued to make life interesting

The moorhens are definitely busy with their nests at the moment, their choice of nesting sites is rather eclectic. These are definitely rural ones, in urban areas their nests are frequently constructed of rubbish garnered from the cut. Once saw a nest neatly built in a styrofoam takeaway tray.

The five locks down into the city run through the nicely manicured suburbs. Be warned though, these locks are heavy going and all but the top one were against us.

Jill kindly said I could have the honour of doing the locking  as I must be fed up with just doing the steering. So I spat on my hands and got on with it. I was soon down to shirt sleeves but flexing the muscles I whipped up paddles and heaved on beams and soon had us down the flight. I did think of doing a Poldark but removing the shirt would not have revealed a six pack, more a Party Seven.

After emerging from Hoole Lane lock

you are suddenly in the heart of urban Chester with flats all about and the old shot tower dominating the skyline. We intend having a few days here as Chester is just about our favourite city.

Watch this space..........

Sunday, 10 May 2015

We have made it as far as Beeston.

After watching the snooker and then enduring two days of howling winds and driving rain we eventually got away on Thursday heading north towards Chester.

We were soon passing the Middlewich Branch at Barbridge Junction and after a stop at Calveley for water and a pump out we fetched up at Bunbury locks.

The most southerly of the wide locks of the old Chester Canal, a sharp contrast with the narrow locks of the Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Canal.

The locks here are a two chamber staircase and have an impressive row of stables alongside the upper chamber.

Spotted this on one of the stones in the top chamber. It's a mason's mark, it would have been put there by the mason who shaped the stone so he would be credited with the payment due, it was all piece work in those days.

At Tillstone Lock is the first of the charming little circular lengthsman's huts. Note the way the domed roof is gleaming. Yes, normal service had been resumed and it was chucking it down so we donned full foul weather gear and plodded on.

Just to give an idea of the size of these locks.

The second of the two locks at Beeston is unique in that it is made of cast iron plates. originally there was a two chamber staircase here but in November 1787, owing to an unstable sub-strata it collapsed, forcing the closure of the canal. It was eventually rebuilt as two separate locks but once again the quicksand on which the lower lock was built proved it's nemesis and in

it was rebuilt in iron. It has stood up fairly well over the intervening years but now even the iron has bent to the forces of nature and the chamber has become distorted and although it is technically two boats wide C&RT recommend that only one boat at a time uses it.

We stopped on the moorings just above Wharton's Lock,

in the shadow of Beeston Castle, set on its rocky crag, towering over the Cheshire plain. There are traces of an iron age fort up there so it has been recognised as a defensive position for a year or two.
Beautiful moorings here, no roads near and just the occasional whoosh of a train on the nearby line. The only drawback is a lack of mobile signal, it has taken me the best part of two hours to cobble this post together. I hope you appreciate the effort I've put in.
Especially as today is our forty sixth wedding anniversary, you have to hand it to Jill, the girl's got stamina.
Off towards Chester tomorrow.

Watch this space.......