Audlem – or why do we bother boating?


From Nantwich Aqueduct to Tom's Moorings, a distance of 11 miles, 5½ flg and 22 locks.

It was raining and blowing a gale when we got up – not a good start for the last day of a holiday, or any day to be honest, but it suddenly all cleared off and it was quite sunny by the time we reached Hack Green.

Things seemed quiet and we approached the bottom of Audlem without seeing many other boats. As we approached the bottom lock a boat cast off from the visitor moorings and moved onto the lock moorings. That was bad enough but the people on the boat seemed to be clueless, they sat right in the middle of the lock moorings making it hard for us to get in and their lock working…. hmmmmm.

After they had gone through the first lock a boat came down, seems he knows the boat going up and they are well known for doing what they had done to us.

At the second lock the woman apparently opened one ground paddle and then looked at the other ground paddle and the gate paddle and didn’t know which one to open next… she then claimed she had never seen a gate paddle !!.

Progress was so slow we stopped at the water point below the next lock to put some water in. We dropped about 1 space back in the queue, and were overtaken by a Challenger boat which, just to make a point, turned out to be crewed by people who actually knew what they were doing.

Things got slower from then on – we queued for over 20 minutes for the lock above the wharf and that sort of delay wasn’t usual all the way up. At one point there seemed to be a boat in each lock and one or two in some of the pounds. Someone came up from a couple of boats back and decided to “help” us by winding up the paddles before we had the gates closed, and when we complained she swore at us, claimed she was only helping “close the gates” and told us that we were incompetent. So if you were the woman with the pinkish top on Audlem locks who swears like a navvy.. you’ve just made it into history..

We eventually made it out of the top lock over 4 hours after we went into the bottom lock. The boat that had cut us up at the bottom lock was moored up with its owners sitting on it eating lunch and looking smug.

From then on everything was quite quiet and we made it back to the mooring mid afternoon


Everyone Needs a little Salt in their Diet


From Cow Lane Bridge No 123E to Nantwich Aqueduct, a distance of 18 miles, 7 flg and 11 locks.

None of us were feeling particularly rested when we got up on Sunday morning. The highlight of the rather disturbed night had been a woman saying, rather loudly, “Where do they Pee, Ooh, Ohh, on a canalboat”. Seemed rather odd that someone who had no problem of getting rather drunk finds it necessary to spell out the word poo.. but then again it takes all sorts I guess.

We started the long slow crawl up the locks away from Chester. The locks might have been good for barges and paired up narrow boats but with no gate paddles and really badly positioned ground paddle outlets they aren’t fun at all.

As we worked through Tarvin Lock No 38 a boat moored above the lock cast off in front of us (how original!). As the locks are broad Neil headed off up the canal to make sure the people knew we were behind them.

They were waiting for us at Greenfield Lock No 37. One of the gates doesn’t open all the way and of course they weren’t pulled in behind that one so Nick had to try to get a narrowboat through a gap that wasn’t really wide enough.

So we got the gates closed and Neil was standing by the ground paddle. The woman off the other boat turned to me “Do you think one paddle 1/3 of the way?” I said that with 2 boats I’d suggest both paddles 1/3 to 1/2 way, and that I was going on to the next lock to get it ready.

Neil wound his paddle up half way and the woman looked at him and said something about how opening his paddle only was only “helping” our boat.

They didn’t come through the next lock with us – odd people. I guess its something to do with people with boats from Longport (see the Tyrley Locks Post for more details).

We worked the next lock alone but then another boat (single handed) asked us how far we were going and could he share locks with us – which is fine by us as it makes things so much easier on the locks.

Being Sunday there were lots of fishermen out – trying to outwit the fish, so we had to crawl past them, and then past all those damned linear moorings… still at least the weather was OK and we could stand there and watch the world go by.

Working through Beeston Iron lock was fun as we went through together (naughty, naughty Mintball!) and sharing locks was so much easier. However as Anglo-Welsh was still open we pulled in for a pump-out and a new bottle of gas, but luckily a boat there wanted to go up the locks so the single handed boat was happy. As the locks are a staircase it takes a while to prepare and work through and we had just got the lock ready for us to go through by the time the pump-out was done, so we didn’t lose too much time.

The traffic on the A51 was still as slow as it had been on Friday.. don’t you just love road works! At Barbridge Junction  a Challenger Boat came out of the Middlewich Branch with no sounding of their horn, no person on the front deck keeping lookout, no they just steamed of the junction and then proceeded to move at a snails pace past all the boats. They would speed up slightly in open water but at the first sign of a bridge it was power down to tickover, wobble the tiller back and forth and just about make it through the bridge hole.

We were hoping they would turn up the Llangollen but no such luck and we were stuck behind them until they turned off into Nantwich Basin .

We stopped for the night on the Visitor moorings just before the aqueduct and headed into town for a couple of beers and a curry

Antiqui Colant Antiquum Dierum

From Beeston Stone Lock No 33 to Cow Lane Bridge No 123E, a distance of 11 miles, 2¼ flg and 7 locks.

Beeston Iron lock was totally empty when we got to it the next morning, so we bounced the bottom gates to dislodge anything that might have been stuck between them, and then filled the lock and worked through with no real problems. The bottom gates have a rather large gap when closed and it looks like its been caused by boats clipping the edge of the gate as they go in and out of the lock as the biggest gap is right at the top rubbing strake level – hopefully BW will get it fixed soon as its not going to be long before someone leaving the top gate open will drain the pound.

Some people think linear moorings are “nice” and “interesting” to pass. I suggest they are made to travel the canal between Nixon’s Bridge No 114 and Faulkner’s Bridge No 116 , preferably several times and then say how wonderful it is.

The canal was pretty quiet all the way to Christleton Lock No 36 where we had to wait for a boat ahead of us to go down and a very slow boat to come up – the boat coming up came up on half a paddle.

The locks down into Chester aren’t the fastest and it was early afternoon by the time we had made it to Cow Lane Bridge No 123E , turned in the winding hole and taken up the last 52 foot of the rather short length of visit moorings.

After a quick freshen up we headed out into the City to do a bit of sightseeing. We started walking clockwise round the city walls, taking a slight detour to have a closer look at the amphitheatre and then a walk through the “Roman Garden”, and its collection of fragments of salvaged stone work, to the river. We got back onto the wall and walked round past Northgate Staircase Locks Nos 41 to 43 , over St Martin’s Way (A wonderful example of what Labour were capable of doing in the 1970s), and to Northgate where we came down off the walls and headed into town for a beer or two.

If you are in Chester, and you like your beer, then you must visit the “Old Boot Inn” in EastGate which is a Sam Smiths pub and serves Old Brewery Bitter for a staggering £1.34 a pint. When I bought the 3 drinks and it was £4.02 I thought the barman had made a mistake… but he hadn’t.

So we were forced, from a point of fairness, to do a whole cycle of rounds.

We then wandered off, completed our walk and went back to the boat.

We decided to try the Mill Hotel and Spa as its supposedly a great real ale pub but the whole of Chester seemed to be in there, so we wandered round town and found a Marstons pub to have a lightish evening meal in before heading to the “Bear & Billet” on Lower Bridge St. An Okells “Beers of the World” pub it had a good range of Okells ales, other hand pulled real ales and draught European beers .. How many places in the UK do you know that sell Dark Budweiser Budvar on draught?

We left just after 11 and headed back to the boat. Not sure why we bothered as the drunken sots of Chester stumbled noisily past the boat until the early hours of the morning.

Locks, Stock and Secret Nuclear Bunkers

From Tom's Moorings to Beeston Stone Lock No 33, a distance of 19 miles, 2½ flg and 26 locks.

After an evening checking out some of the pubs in Market Drayton we made a moderately early start. Not a traditional early start (like 6:30 am) but a more sensible 8am.

Things started off quite well but, as with so many things, it was just too good to last.

The 5 locks at Addersley went OK but Audlem was a complete disaster. We arrived at Audlem Top Lock No 13 at 10am and started off down the 15. Progress was slow – there were quite a few boats that were either single handed or only had one person working the locks. Throw into that a smattering of boats with no clue and its a recipe for disaster.

Just above Audlem Wharf we met Huffler No 2 and three other boats out from Braunston. We used to moor on the other side of the jetty to Huffler No 2 so we had a good chat as they worked through. They had been out since March and were obviously having a good time. Two of the boats were single handed but with 4 boats running as a convoy, all using walkie-talkies, and sharing crew they were extremely efficient.

We arrived at the bottom lock at 1pm – far from the best time we’ve ever made down the locks.

On the way to Hack Green and its “secret nuclear bunker” we met a Challenger boat heading towards Audlem. This boat was another fine example of the “Challenger Boats are crewed by idiots” theory in that it was, somehow, managing to pull a breaking wash which was the full width of the canal, and by the smell of their exhaust the engine was about as keen on it as the local duck population who were beating a hasty retreat from the tidal wave that threatened to engulf them.

There was a shortish delay at the Hack Green Locks as a boat, which had pulled out in front of us from the Coole Pilate “leisure area” moorings, had to work through and there was a boat coming up.

The visitor moorings at Nantwich were pretty full; apart from the long section where BW removed the visitor moorings because people living in the newly built houses below the canal embankment complained. This sort of behaviour is really annoying : if you buy a house by a canal then don’t complain when a boat moors up outside your windows. I guess the sort of people who make complaints about mooring boats are the sort of sad people who move to the countryside and then complain about church bells or the local cockerel crowing.

By the time we reached Barbridge Junction  people seemed to be mooring up for the night even though it was still relatively early. The A51 was pretty much stationary due to road works and for the distance between the junction and Wardle Hall Bridge No 103 we were actually moving at a higher average speed than vehicles heading the same direction on the road.

Bunbury Locks  were pretty deserted by the time we got there as the boat yard was shutting up for the day and most of the visitors had gone home.

We had the canal to ourselves as we made our way through Tilstone Lock No 32  and down to Beeston Stone Lock . We noticed that Ivor and Mel Bachelor’s working pair were moored up above Beeston Stone but there seemed to be no sign of life on the boats and no indication that they are still selling fuel. It was a surprise to see the boats this far north as we had been regular customers of Ivor’s when we were moored down in Braunston – I hope that it doesn’t mean that another trader has been forced off the waterways.

We decided to stop for the night just below Beeston Stone lock – its not a long walk to the Beeston Castle Hotel but you are not too near the road or the railway line.

After we had moored we noticed the water level was dropping so Neil set off to check no-one had done anything silly at Beeston Iron Lock . He came back a few minutes later saying there was a boat coming up.

A while passed, no boat appeared and the water level continued to drop and by now there was a noticeable flow on the water so I went off to see what was going on; there was a boat in the lock with both top paddles open and the gates shut. They said they were stuck -the bottom gates were leaking (they are worn but something was obviously stuck between the gates) and they couldn’t open the top gates. I tried the top gates and they opened fine – so I guess if I hadn’t gone down they would have sat there until they had drained the pound and the lock had emptied itself.

As the pound was now down by over a foot I told them that I’d go up and get the next lock ready for them. So off I went and worked them through Beeston Stone and then once they were through I dropped the lock into the rather low pound – water was still running over the overflow so it would top itself up in time but…

So we went off to the pub and had several good pints of beer, and by the time we staggered back to the boat the pound was full once more.