Lock opening times and some recalculations.

From Martin's Bridge No 3 to England - Wales Border, a distance of 18 miles, 4¾ flg and 15 locks.

It was a little cool over night but we woke to clearish, sunny skies and headed off up the canal. We’d done some calculations based on the opening times at Frankton Locks and we had two options – push on a lot today and get there before noon on Monday or not push on and get there for opening time on Tuesday. As the second option seemed to be pretty much a waste of a day we decided that, barring hold ups at Grindley Brook, we’d go for a Monday morning passage. It would mean stopping out in the middle of nowhere overnight but with Covid and the fact that we had a lot of beer on the boat it wasn’t really that much of an issue.

Spey was moored up just before Ravensmoor Wharf Winding Hole and looked all locked up and secure so I guess they weren’t planning on moving any more over the weekend. Burland Pipe Bridge no longer seems to exist – to the extent that there isn’t even any sign of it at all. We got up the two Swanley locks with no problems but there was a bit of a tail back round Baddiley Lock No 7 due to faulty top paddle – which although it was a bit of a pain actually helped space the boats going upstream out a little. One of the boats coming down had managed to do something unpleasant to their rudder on Grindley Brook and were limping their way down to Swanley Bridge Marina

We exited Baddiley Lock No 9 with just one boat visible ahead of us and they were moving at a pace so we could move at a good speed without catching them up. When we got to Wrenbury Church Lift Bridge No 19 we found that they were stopping at Wrenbury for lunch (which they made in plenty of time) and so we went through Wrenbury Lift Bridge No 20 by ourselves. The boatyard was just about empty and we found out that every yard on the canal had almost all of their boats out on the canal.

We got to Willeymoor Lock No 12 and thought about stopping for a drink, but now we knew how many boats were out on the canal we decided to push on. Whilst we were waiting for the lock Nick popped in and got a takeout for later in the day.

Grindley Brook is notorious for delays but when we arrived at the bottom lock we didn’t have to wait for very long at all. It was when we got into Grindley Brook Lock No 15 that the problems began. There were boats above the top lock waiting for the staircase and a boat sitting in the top lock and two boats waiting in the pound. We slipped in at the back of the queue and started the wait.
Mintball waiting for the lock

More boats came up behind us and things started getting a bit crowded.

The queue grows behind us

One of the boats coming down was a hireboat and they apologised that they were slow because their throttle wasn’t working. There were various conversations about what the problem could be and I offered to have a look. A quick look under the deck revealed the problem – the nut holding the throttle cable bolt in place had dropped off and the cable had bounced out. I had a quick check in the bilge which was very clean – it was a very new boat – but couldn’t see the nut. I showed them what the problem was and showed them how to reseat the cable and off they went. So that was my good deed for the day.

They were letting 4 boats up and 4 boats down the staircase which meant we didn’t make the first group going up so we had to sit in the pound below the staircase and wait. It didn’t help that one more boat came up through the top lock than really should have done which made it awkward for the boats coming down the staircase but we muddled through it.

The lockies on Grindley Brook Staircase Locks Nos 17 to 19 know their stuff and know how to work the locks as quickly as possible but we almost didn’t make it into the middle of the three locks as there wasn’t much water between us and the cill. But we made it without getting stuck and were soon out of the staircase and on our way.

We fairly flew along until New Mills Lift Bridge No 31 where we had to wait whilst two boats manoeuvred in and out of the Whitchurch arm. There was an amazing smell of cooking coming from a boat moored on the Whitchurch Offside Visitor Moorings and I told them that when they stuck their heads out to see what was going on.

All the Viking Afloat boats at Whitchurch Marina were out but there seemed to be quite a few people busy in the yard tidying things up. We played leap frog with another boat through the two Hassell’s swing bridges and Tilstock Park Lift Bridge No 42. They were a little on the slow side but we ended up in front after the last lift bridge as we headed down the long run to Morris Lift Bridge No 45 and by the time we got their they were a little spot in the distance so we didn’t hold the bridge for them. We headed through Whixall Moss Junction and moored up just past the Moss visitor moorings for the night.

Down and then Up Again

From Tom's Moorings to Martin's Bridge No 3, a distance of 14 miles, 6 flg and 26 locks.

We travelled up on Friday night and had a pleasant evening on the moorings drinking some bottled beer. We’d left the fridge on from last weekend so we could just load it all up. We put the cool blocks in the bottom to act as thermal ballast. It was an early night – I think we were both in bed before 11pm!

We woke to a cool but clear morning, in fact a lot of the days were like that over the course of the week, and slipped away from the moorings. Apart from a couple of people walking dogs on the towpath there was no-one around at all and we made good time to Adderley Top Lock No 8 and started down the flight. The locks seem to be an odd mix of full, partially full, and empty but with no obvious pattern.

As we approached Audlem Top Lock Visitor Moorings a boat cast off and started down the locks and we basically joined the back end of a small queue of boats heading down. There were a lot of boats coming up too so we basically had to wait a bit at each lock – so even though there were only 2 of us we actually couldn’t have made it down the locks any faster. We pulled in on Audlem Vistor Moorings (above wharf) and we headed off to the Pub and the Co-Op. Nick went to the shop and I went to the pub and found that it only opened at noon, so I sat round waiting for Nick and then we sat round for a few more minutes until the pub opened and our order was taken promptly by a member of staff who brought our drinks to our table.

This was the first pint of hand pulled beer I’d had since the lockdown

First pint of Real Ale since lockdown… it was nectar

and it tasted pretty damned good. It was a little warm but the second one was perfect. We sat there in the sun, relaxing, and it was so tempting to have a third and basically stop for the day but we really thought we should push on a little more. So it was back to the boat and down past the wharf

The Shroppie Fly
The Shroppie Fly

We knew we wanted to eat out on the last night so Nick popped in as we waited for the lock and booked a table for the following Saturday.

When the lock was about 3/4 empty a boat cast off from the waterpoint below the lock (they’d been moored on the waterpoint at the wharf when we’d been sitting outside the pub) and proceeded to make its way slowly down the canal with its engine noise drowned out by the yapping of the dog on the back deck. They apologised to Nick for the barking dog but not for pulling out in front of us.

We got to the bottom lock and made our way past the moored up boats and then met a boat coming the other way who wanted us to speed up to try to pull them off “the ledge” as “it’s pretty big here”, but of course by the time he told me that we were almost past him anyway. I think if he’d dropped his speed a little bit he might have drifted out with no real problems.

The boat in front of us was only going as far as Overwater Marina and they seemed to be making good speed – which of course you can along this section of canal. There wasn’t much traffic moving and we made good time to Nantwich where, for once, the moorings weren’t totally full… there were however two boats moored on the no mooring section opposite Nantwich Sanitary Station, one was a boat with some young women on it and one was a “working boat” who really should have known better.

We arrived at Hurleston Junction Visitor Moorings (south) to find relative chaos – boats coming down, boats wanting to go up and queuing from both sides of the junction. I held the boat and Nick leapt off taking one of the Cobra Walkie Talkies with him – he wandered round and talked to everyone and established that we were the fifth boat in the queue to go up. One of the boats going up was an old wooden Thos Clayton oil boat called “Spey” – this was the first time up the canal because until Hurleston Bottom Lock No 1 was rebuilt they’d never been able to fit up the flight – they fitted through there but they were a little worried about lock four but said if they didn’t fit they’d pull to the side and let everyone else go through. However they did fit and after about an hour we started up the flight. One of the boats in front of us had an early evening table reserved at The Dusty Miller which there was no way they were going to be able to make, even if they hadn’t been delayed. Although there were other boats going up the progress was swift and before we knew it we were out of the top lock. We decided we’d move a bit away from the locks and moor up for the night – so we stopped just before the bridge, where we had some beautiful views over the countryside and tucked into a chicken casserole that had been sitting in the slow cooker all afternoon.

Sunset across the fields

An Autum Jaunt into Wales

2020 has not been a good year for boating and with so much of lockdown still in place the traditional September holiday couldn’t take place. But we were determined to get out on the boat for a bit so this trip was just the two of us…. Originally we were going to do all of the Llangollen but it was rammed full of hireboats and wasn’t actually enjoyable so we changed our plans mid trip and instead of doing the top bit of the Llangollen we did the Shroppie down towards Chester

Starting at Tom's Moorings and finishing at Tom's Moorings with overnight stops at : Martin's Bridge No 3, England - Wales Border, The Queen's Head PH (Montgomery Canal), New Marton Bottom Lock No 2, Povey's Lock No 13, Bunbury Railway Bridge No 105A, Beeston Stone Lock No 33, and Snows Bridge No 77. A total distance of 148 miles, 6¾ flg and 114 locks.