Locks, Stock and Secret Nuclear Bunkers

From Ladybird 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.

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