Into Wales…..

From Chemistry Bridge to Froncysyllte Visitor Moorings (East), a distance of 25 miles, 3 flg and 2 locks.

Once you’ve reached Whitchurch you’ve pretty much done all the locks on the canal but you’ve hardly started on the lift bridges – so your crew don’t get much time to lie in after you’ve cast off from the moorings.

Typical Llangollen Canal lift bridge

The bridges all have hydraulic lift mechanisms

Most of the bridges heave almost no clearance above the water and the access roads to them drop off quite steeply on either side of the canal

From Whitchurch up the canal features some of its most impressive engineering and also runs through some very attractive countryside although it can be quite bleak crossing Whixhall Moss, especially when its blowing a gale and raining. We stopped for a late breakfast on the Colemere Visitor Moorings and the sun actually came out and it was all rather pleasant.

Cabin by Cole Mere

Great views from their garden.

The sun was still out as we went past Blake Mere and there were a few boats on the move.

Blake Mere

Another view of Blake Mere

And another view…..

Getting through Ellesmere Branch Junction was a bit of fun as there were several boats moving round who didn’t seem to know where they actually wanted to go – but there were no collisions and no raised voices so it all went quite well and we made our leisurely way to The Jack Mytton Inn where we stopped for a couple of pints which was quite pleasant although the pub was a little on the cold side.  After leaving the pub we hit New Marton Bottom Lock No 1 where there was a queue of traffic for some reason, although as you approached the lock it was hard to work out who was queuing for the lock and who was moored up.  Oddly enough once we got through the lock there didn’t seem to be much traffic moving but when we arrived at the moorings for The Poachers Pocket PH it became obvious that most of the boats had stopped there for the night.

It was total chaos at Monk Bridge No 21 with boats coming down the canal and people trying to moor and people deciding to move moorings for no apparent reason and I think it was more by good luck than anything that no boats hit each other.

We had to wait for a boat to come through Chirk Aqueduct and then we had to wait in Chirk Pool for a couple of boats to come through the tunnel.

Chirk Aqueduct

This wasn’t made easier due to a boat moored on the bollards which are there for boats waiting to get through the tunnel so we had to float around in the pool for about 5 minutes before entering the tunnel and making extremely slow progress through it,

It was starting to get dark when we got through Whitehouses Tunnel and we found a boat moored for the night on the waiting moorings… they were so close to the tunnel mouth that at one point I thought they were actually in the tunnel.

We stopped for the night at the end of the visitor moorings and after eating we walked up the towpath to the Aqueduct Inn for a few beers. The pub had several good beers and what looked like a good range of food.

Onwards and upwards to Whitchurch

From Marsh Lane Visitor Moorings to Chemistry Bridge, a distance of 16 miles, 3¼ flg and 19 locks.

The odd thing about the visitor moorings in Nantwich is that they always seem to be full but there never seems to be any sign of life on the boats. It takes a remarkable length of time to get past all the moorings over the Aqueduct and past Nantwich Basin Entrance before you can open up the throttle a bit and appreciate the wide and deep part of the canal on your way to Hurleston Junction .

Our plan for the day was basically to get through … that was it… how we did it and where we’d stop for the night was all up in the air.

Turning in to the Llangollen Canal coming North from Nantwich is not the easiest, or safest, of manoeuvres due to the bridge right before the junction and the fact that people coming out of the locks often steam full speed ahead without checking if the way is clear.

There were some water problems going up Hurleston Locks with one pound being extremely low but we scraped over the cill out of the lock and managed to get to the next lock with only a few bounces off the bottom.

Even with the low water levels we made good time and it wasn’t long before we were moving into the top lock.

Although there may have been water problems on the flight there was plenty of water flowing down the canal and into the reservoir which was pretty much full.

As you can see the weather wasn’t the best, but we’ve boated in a lot, lot worse, but I guess everyone else was pretty much a fair weather boater and we pretty much had the canal all to ourselves right up to Willey Moor Lock No 12 which we passed through before stopping for lunch and walking back to the pub for a pint or two.

Willeymoor Lock and pub

The pub had a good range of beers on, and with the moorings above and below the lock it’s a good place to stop. We didn’t eat lunch there but the food looked and smelled good.  Over a couple of pints we decided that Whitchurch seemed a sensible place to stop for the night – if Grindley Brook was busy then we’d get there late-ish and if it was quiet then we’d have a little more time to explore the town and the pubs.

So we dragged ourselves out of the pub after a round of rounds and continued our journey.

Although there had been a flurry of activity round the lock at the pub when we arrived it was very quiet when we left and we spent a rather pleasant afternoon on a pretty much deserted canal until we got to Grindley Railway Bridge No 27 where we met someone coming through the bridge at full speed with no care in the world.

Grindley Brook Railway Bridge without mad boat.

There were a few boats moving around and we had to wait for about 15 minutes to get into the staircase… but that’s nothing …

Grindley Brook Bottom Lock

Grindley Brook Middle Lock Gates

We stopped above the locks at Grindley Brook Water Points to fill up with water and use the sanitary station… well we did have a few pints of beer to get rid of !

Once through the locks the canal was quiet again and we made it to Whitchurch with plenty of time. We moored in the stub of the Whitchurch branch canal. You need to go to Whitchurch Winding Hole, turn and come back and head into the arm bow first. But then you need to wind in the Whitchurch Branch Winding hole before pulling onto the moorings. I guess you could do that turn the next morning but it seems to make sense to do it as the last thing before stopping.

To get into town you start by walking down the line of the old canal arm which has been filled in.

Chemistry Bridge – End of the line towards Whitchurch

The town, like many, is feeling a little tired but there are some good pubs.  The Old Town Hall Vaults is owned by Joules and is well worth a visit.

Sign on The Old Town Hall Vaults.

So if you are heading up or down the canal you should take the time and detour and visit the town. Many of the pubs do food so you should find something suitable and within your price range.

Quietly to Nantwich

From Tom's Moorings to Marsh Lane Visitor Moorings, a distance of 11 miles, 3¼ flg and 22 locks.

We had a fairly late start as we drove up from home in the morning, so we only actually left the moorings just after 10:30am, and as usual the canal was pretty quiet, but the weather could have had something to do with that as it was far from ideal – basically a mix of sunshine and heavy showers : when the sun was out it was quite pleasant but when it rained it was heavy and cold.

The rain made the grass round the locks quite slippery and of course all the balance beams were soaking wet, but we make pretty good progress considering there were only three of us.

We arrived at Audlem Top Lock No 13 and entered the flight, there weren’t many boats around and we made pretty good progress down to Audlem Vistor Moorings (Above Wharf) where we stopped and went off to The Lord Combermere for a couple of pints.

After lunch we made good time down the rest of the flight and it was pretty quiet all the way out to Hack Green Top Lock No 28 . The total quietness continued right on to Nantwich where we moored up on the Marsh Lane Visitor Moorings for the night and went into Nantwich for a walk around and a few beers.

It’s a lot older than it looks.

God Grant Our Royal Queen in England Long to Reign For She Hath Put Her Helping Hand to Build this Town Again.

One of the many old buildings in Nantwich

Back to Market Drayton

From Shebdon Visitor Moorings (The Wharf Inn) to Tom's Moorings, a distance of 7 miles, 5¼ flg and 5 locks.

We made an earlyish start, but still not that early and, once again, no boats were on the move… in fact we saw no moving boats until we got to Goldstone Wharf where we met a boat that had just cast off and was heading south.

When we got to Tyrley Top Lock No 3 there was a boat going into the lock, but they had a Volunteer Lockie with them who got them to wind up a top paddle when they were leaving the lock so we made pretty good progress down the locks as most of them were just about ready when we got there.

We got back to the moorings, moored up, put the power on and tidied up the boat before heading home.

 

Back to the Wharf

From The Fox and Anchor PH to Shebdon Visitor Moorings (The Wharf Inn), a distance of 21 miles, 7¾ flg and 2 locks.

We had another moderately lazy start but still managed to get moving before any of the other boats.  Anglers were starting to collect near Coven Heath Pipe Bridge – obviously the sewage works outfall attracts the fish but does that compensate for the smell?

We made it all the way to Autherley Junction before we met another boat.. they were in the lock and we waited for them to come through the bridge which they did by going in a perfectly straight line and trying to turn using just their bow thrusters…. which was a pretty spectacular fail… I suspect they they could have turned faster if they’d used their boat pole but obviously that would have been to much like hard work. Eventually they did manage to get round and I swung Mintball round under the bridge and straight into the lock.  Business was obviously good at the boatyard as their moorings were totally and utterly empty, but the moorings at Wolverhampton Boat Club were still quite full – so I’m not sure when people from there actually go out on their boats.

We had another “encounter” near Three Mile Post – a hire boat was coming towards us and started to pull over to the side to go past us and as they started to do that a boat pulled out from the visitor moorings. The hire boat panicked a little and went aground and the boat that had pulled out, finally realising we were there accelerated across the canal and nearly went into the back of the hire boat.

We continued on through Brewood where the moorings were moderately busy and then we ground to a halt at Wheaton Aston Lock No 2 . We’d expected a small queue, we’d expected people who didn’t know how to work a lock.. we hadn’t expected a boat in the queue to tie up on the lock landing and take a break, and for the boat behind them to just sit there….. which is what happened.  Once people had been prodded and pointed comments made (by other boaters) the queue moved moderately quickly.

We had though about stopping for lunch or a drink at The Hartley Arms PH but there were no moorings to be had anywhere around so we chugged on.

There was a fishing match round Rye Hill Cutting Bridge No 23 – 35 sullen and dour fishermen sitting in a line, most of them left it to the last minute to move their rods and then muttered about it, several of them swung their rods back before the boat was completely past them and I was waiting for one of them to lose the end of their rod.

Gnosall Visitor Moorings were full, in fact ALL of Gnosall was full including the pubs and most of the boats seemed to have stopped for the day. Even  The Anchor Inn (High Offley) was packed, or at least the garden was.

As we cruised along past the moorings between Bullock’s Bridge No 43 and Shebdon Bridge No 44 I saw a Kingfisher on the moored boats on the offside. It was using boats as fishing perches and kept flying ahead of us.

It was no surprise when we got to the Visitor Mooring at Shebdon Wharf to find the same boats moored there that had been there on the Friday when we’d come through.

Convening the Coven

From Shushions Bridge No 21 to The Fox and Anchor PH, a distance of 19 miles, 2¾ flg and 2 locks.

We had a bit of a lie in as we weren’t in any real rush, and made our way down towards Autherley Junction. There weren’t very many boats on the move at all and we made pretty good time to Wheaton Aston Services  where we pulled in to to top up the water tank.  We didn’t need to wait long to get through Wheaton Aston Lock No 2 and the section beyond the lock was extremely quiet and so we were able to make good progress.

As we approached Three Mile Post there was a boat coming towards us – it sat solidly in the middle and refused to move out of the way, I moved over just enough to miss them (the offside has some bad silting and I didn’t want to get stuck) and said “Hello” as we passed them… they ignored me completely. I really do not understand people like that at all.

We stopped for an earlyish lunch just after Bathurst Bridge No 2 where we saw a turtle in the canal.  It seemed to be enjoying sunning itself on the branch and given its size I suspect it had survived the previous winter.

Turtle in the Canal

As we finished lunch a couple of boats came past heading towards the junction so we gave them a few minutes to get through the lock before casting off. As we approached the junction I could see one boat in the lock, the space between the lock and the hireboat base empty and one boat on the water point.  As we passed the water point the boat on it pulled out, cutting across us and forcing me to go into reverse. They made their way down to the lock and proceeded to work through it very slowly. I pulled over and once they’d got the top gate closed I opened the paddles; the man from the boat said in a sarcastic tone “It would have been much faster if you’d helped”… well it would have been much faster for me if you hadn’t been such a dick and pulled out when you did.

I worked us through the lock and we turned left onto the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal (Main Line: Autherley to Great Haywood) . The boat that had gone through before us was motoring off down the canal so I followed it at a more reasonable speed.  As we approached Marsh Lane Bridge No 67 (South End of Narrows)  I could see Mr Numpty powering his way through the narrows, ignoring the boat coming the other way. I held back and watched the arm waving and shouting and let the boat that was coming towards us to clear the narrows before entering, making sure that there was no-one else coming through.

By the time we got to The Fox and Anchor PH there was another boat between us and Mr Numpty. Mr Numpty decided to pull in right before the pub moorings (and made rather a mess of it) and so we followed the other boat, who seemed to have a rather random speed pattern, down to Hatherton Junction

As you approach the junction there are some big signs advertising the Calf Heath Marina Complex but there doesn’t seem to be any way to get into it from the towpath as the gates on the offside of the Junction bridge seem to be padlocked shut…which all seems a little odd. But apparently they do sell real ale so maybe sometime we should pull over and go and investigate – I suspect the only way to get there is to moor at Long Molls Bridge No 76  and walk back along Straight Mile

We got to Calf Heath Bridge No 77 where we found the boat in front of us attempting to turn round. The winding hole here is right against the bridge and although its a very deep winding hole it isn’t very wide and you have to basically swing the back of the boat round into the bridge hole to turn round. The crew of the boat turned out to be first time hirers and they had major problems turning round. A boat turned up behind us and seemed annoyed that I wouldn’t let him pass – he couldn’t see the boat trying to turn. It took about 10 minutes for them to turn, and the people fishing opposite the winding hole seemed to be quite tolerant and understanding. I spun Mintball into the winding hole and managed to turn without either ramming the rudder into the bridge pilings or scraping the cabin side against the bridge arch : both things the other boat had done.

We followed the boat back through the junction and to the pub where we stopped right on the end of the visitor moorings, whereas the hireboat moored much closer to the pub.

Slow, slow, quick… err no.. make that slow

From Tom's Moorings to Shushions Bridge No 21, a distance of 17 miles, 4½ flg and 5 locks.

We had a bit of a lie in because we were just out for a leisurely weekend. Over night the all singing and dancing Smart Meter system had decided to turn itself off… we’ve no idea when or why it happened – we certainly didn’t get a disconnect email so it looks like it was just a glitch..

We headed south and made pretty good time through the locks as there was a boat coming north at just about every lock. The crew at the top lock closed the gates despite me waving at them and blasting the horn several times. They did eventually open one of them but the woman on the bank told me that one of the gates wouldn’t stay open (which isn’t the case).

There was a boat watering above the top lock so we left the gate open and headed off into the cutting. The Notice at Tyrley Farm Bridge No 59 always amuses me – I’m not sure what sort of evasive action you can take in a canal boat if rocks start falling.

Falling Rocks Notice Tyrley

Danger!!!

The cutting itself looks quite stable and the major works C&RT did a couple of winters ago seem to be holding firm, but on the approach to it a tree had come down and had pulled quite a bit of rock with it.

We made quite good progress through the cutting and things were going quite well until we reached Goldstone Wharf where we got stuck behind a couple of slow boats.. and when I say slow I mean SLOW.  I think they dropped right to tick over well before any bridge and then seemed incapable of actually speeding up after going through them.  One person on a moored boat even asked if there had been a delay – seeing so many boats in a queue like we were.

We gave up at Shebdon Visitor Moorings (The Wharf Inn) and stopped for lunch, hoping that it would allow the slow boats to actually get a decent way ahead.  There were two other boats moored on the 48 hour moorings, one at each end, and one had a very annoying notice:

Arrrggg!!!!!

After lunch we cast off and made reasonable time to Norbury Junction where we topped up the fuel tank before continuing.

As we were moving away from Norbury a boat pulled out in front of us and proceeded to dawdle down the canal to Gnosall where luckily they pulled over on to the Gnosall Visitor Moorings. In fact everyone seemed to be stopping and we did consider it ourselves but decided to take advantage of the weather and the fact that everyone else had stopped and so we pushed on for a little longer before stopping for the night.

Finally some good weather

From Nantwich Visitor Moorings (South) to Tom's Moorings, a distance of 11 miles, 4¼ flg and 22 locks.

When we were at Audlem on our way out on the Friday one of the single handed boats was stopping on the visitor moorings and told us that “tomorrow is going going to be really hot”. Of course it wasn’t and the Sunday started off pretty grim too although it did turn nice in the afternoon.

Monday started off bright and it was already quite warm when we cast off, and it just got hotter and hotter.

There were very few boats moving, actually make that none at all, and we arrived at Hack Green Bottom Lock No 29 and worked through without anyone else around – not even one of the boats moored above the locks showed any signs of life.  Of course that was too good to last and as we approached Moss Hall Aqueduct a couple of boats cast off in front of us and, of course, they were rather slow which is just what you’d expect.

So we slowly made our way up the flight and there was a lot of sitting around waiting, and standing round holding ropes and it was hard to find any shade so with the sun shining down it started getting rather warm.

Adderley Locks were even slower than Audlem – I suspect it was one of our slowest passages ever but eventually we arrived at Adderley Top Lock No 8 where Nick picked up some supplies for home from the farm shop.

We got back to the moorings, backed in and had a bite to eat before packing up and heading home.

Which wich is which wich?

From Wheelock Visitor Moorings to Nantwich Visitor Moorings (South), a distance of 19 miles, 7¼ flg and 9 locks.

It was another damp morning when we set off on our way back, wetter than Saturday morning and it really didn’t look like it was going to change much at all, so we envisaged just being rather damp by the time we moored up for the night.  Not many boats were on the move, and you could hardly blame anyone for not moving, and we had a pretty uneventful trip back to Middlewich Junction by which time it had stopped raining but it was still quite overcast.

When we were in King’s Lock No 71 I walked round onto the Middlewich branch to see what was going on with the lock and found it full with a single handed boat sitting in it adjusting his roof furniture, however when he saw me he moved out of the lock and moved onto one of the moorings. We worked through the lock and were chugging slowly through the visitor moorings when a hireboat pulled out in front of us – and that was the start of the queue we were stuck in for the entire length of the canal.

Once again several of the boats were very short on crew so we ended up helping most of the queue through the locks.

We stopped for brunch on the Eardswick Visitor Moorings taking a calculated risk about moving boats and where we would end up in the queue at Minshull Lock No 2, and as it happens it really made no difference at all and it took about an hour to get through the lock when we got there. The queue had a varied mix of crews – people from the UK, a crew from New Zealand, a crew from Los Angeles and Hawaii and everyone was well natured and chatty, although the pigs in the farm by the canal sounded far from happy.

The weather had been slowly improving since Middlewich and by now the sun was starting to show and burn off the low cloud and it was starting to turn into a nice day.

Barbridge Junctionwas it’s usual madness – we saw a boat do a three point turn in the junction without sounding their horn at all so we approached with caution. We sounded our horn and waited for a reply and hearing non we edged forward with a lookout on the front deck, and it was a good thing we had one because as we nosed out through the junction a boat came straight through on the mainline without stopping and he looked extremely annoyed when we pulled out immediately behind him.

We made slow progress to Hurleston Junction but from there on we made good time and easily found a spot on the visitor moorings. We walked along the canal to Davids Bridge No 90 and took the Nantwich Riverside Walk route into town where we had several good beers and a good meal at Naaz before wandering back up Marsh Lane to the canalbank and back to the boat.