A long slow slog up hill

From Coole Pilate Leisure Moorings to Tom's Moorings, a distance of 8 miles, flg and 20 locks.

It was another non-descript day when we got up and headed off towards Audlem Bottom Lock No 27 and although we’d heard several boats move off from the moorings they all seemed to have been going north. So when we arrived at the bottom of Audlem there was only one boat in front of us.

Too good to last though. As we came up through the lock a boat moored on the lock moorings above the lock started to prepare to cast off, but we got past them and into the next lock and worked through that with only a slight delay due to boat coming down which powered down the pound and ended up trying to pass us just after we’d come out of the lock and were going past the moored boat.

We got to Audlem Wharf  and thats where it all went wrong. Two hire boats from Anglo Welsh just cast off the overnight moorings right in front of us. Well I say they cast off, they moved forward onto the lock moorings and then sent 1 person to work the lock whilst about 6 of them held the two boats and a bunch of them went off to shop. So after 90 minutes we’d managed to do three locks.

How two boats with so many crew can be so slow I do not know. Actually I do, I saw them pull the boat into the lock on it ropes and rather than going through as two separate boats the front one stopped and waited for the second boat which meant you had two boats wedged in each pound. Even with only myself and Kathy working the locks we were gaining on them.

So we made very slow progress up the locks and at Audlem Lock 2 No 14 one of the crew off a boat coming down was muttering about how useless the people going up ahead of us were.

We stopped for lunch below Adderley Bottom Lock No 12 and then followed a boat up the locks who, although they only had one person working the locks actually were very slick at it and we never really felt we were in a queue.

By the time we arrived back at Tom’s Moorings the visitor moorings were pretty moored up and we had to squeeze back into the moorings and luckly the bay next to ours was empty or it would have been pretty hard to get back in.

To Pilate without a pilot

From Stanthorne Lock No 3 to Coole Pilate Leisure Moorings, a distance of 16 miles, 3 flg and 5 locks.

We heard a couple of boats go past us before we got up and we started the day third in the queue at the lock.

We knew we were going to need some fuel and so as we approached Aqueduct Marina I noticed that they did fuel sales. But the entrance to the marina itself is quite narrow and I’d seen a boat have problems getting in the last time we came past and as I couldn’t see any obvious services pontoon I decided to not bother, knowing that we could pick fuel up further along.

By the time we arrived at Minshull Lock No 2  we were about 6th in the queue and so we stood there in bright sunshine for probably nearly 90 minutes waiting to get through the lock, by which time the queue of boats went back through Nanneys Bridge No 8 . Still I had a good chat with Pete from The Canalshop again and he said it was the first queue they’d had all week.

We did eventually get through the lock and all the boats in front of us seemed to have vanished. As we approached the railway bridge at Venetian Marina a boat pulled out from the marina and joined the queue. As we came under the railway bridge another boat attempted to pull out in front of us, it just simply cut across the canal but didn’t even really start to turn and had to back up and I cruised past. I’m sorry but you just don’t steam out your moorings like that. I had thought about fuelling up at the marina but it would have been awkward with the queue (I couldn’t see the people behind us letting us slip over, fuel up and come back and keep our place in the queue). But that was a moot point as they were out of diesel.

So we sat in a queue for maybe 30 to 40 minutes before we got into the lock which was being worked again by members of the Shroppie canal society. Again, once we got through the lock there was no queue so obviously all the boats were good at cruising and it was just the locks slowing us all down.

Approaching Barbridge Junction  I held back and watched the boat in front of us go straight into the bank. Once again lots of boats moving round with no-one giving hand or horn signals. I really can’t understand why there hasn’t been a serious accident there.

Several boats that had been in the queue ahead of us were pulled in at the Barbridge Inn but we continued past them. Given how busy the Middlewhich had been I was getting a bit worried about Audlem.

Hurleston Junction  is another place I’m surprised that there hasn’t been a bad accident at. The boat in front of us turned  to head up The Llangollen Canal and then it suddenly reversed back across the canal. I slowed down and two canoeists were messing round near the bottom lock and just seemed to be getting in the way. The boat moved forwards and just after he did that a boat came under Hurleston Roving Bridge No 97 and just turned across the canal in front of us. I guess they didn’t care that we might have been waiting to turn ourselves.

Then another boat steamed under the bridge so you’ve now got 4 narrow boats floating round and two nutters in canoes, and no-one drowned 🙁

We pulled into Nantwich Basin for a pump out and some diesel. We went in nose first but they won’t run the pump out hoses over the top of the boat so we had to wind to get pumped out, then of course we had to wind again so we could back all the way out and still be pointing in the right direction!

The nice day was gone by now and it was actually starting to rain which was a bit of a surprise givne just how hot and sunny it had been earlier, but it did help cool the sunburn down a bit.

The short term moorings by Nantwich Aqueduct  still had some of the same boats on as they had had at Easter which really is just taking the piss.

There were a couple of boats moving at Hack Green Top Lock No 28  but I think most people had given up for the day and we chugged on for a bit before mooring right up at the end of the sort term moorings at Coole Pilate Moorings

A bad case of Deja Vu

From Marbury Woods Footbridge to Stanthorne Lock No 3, a distance of 16 miles, ½ flg and 5 locks.

Or maybe its Groundhog day. That odd feeling that you’ve been here before, and that the day is one you’ve already lived through. Well that’s how it felt when I got up and we cast off. The only difference being that it was a little warmer and sunnier this time round, oh and that we’d booked our passage on the Anderton lift. But apart from that it was pretty much the same.

For once there seemed to be other boaters out and about and we’d actually had a few go past us before we got up and I actually had to time my casting off right to get out of the way of a mini convoy coming through. Everyone seemed to be bright and jolly and friendly.

Mum and dad had never been on the lift and really this day was her birthday present, so basically it was a trip down the lift, a little bit of time on the river and then back to the lift wander round the visitor centre and then the trip back up.

We arrived with plenty of time to spare at the Lift and I went in and confirmed our bookings and then we sat and waited for a bit. We were supposed to be going down with another boat but the down slot in front of us had an empty space and so they went down in that slot so we got the lift to ourselves. This time there were no real delays, and even though it was a sunny day it was still a bit chilly on the lift, I think it must just be a naturally exposed position.

We chugged slowly up the river, the sun was really bright and there was hardly a cloud in the sky, and as we weren’t really going anywhere there wasn’t really any need to rush.

We pulled in at the services at Northwich Bridge and filled up with water and got rid of the rubbish and then turned outside the now closed floating hotel before heading back down to Lift Visitor morrings. Mum and dad went for a walk round the visitors center and had lunch and Kathy and I stayed on the boat before going for a quick wander round..

Then it was back up the lift, again there were no problems and we were by ourselves, and on our way back to the moorings.

The sun was really rather hot by now and I think quite a few boats had given up. As we passed Marbury Woods Footbridge the other boat was still moored up on the offside, still with their satellite dish on the roof, which made it even odder to be honest.

Between Northwich Bypass Bridge No 182A  and Mort’s Bridge No 182 we saw someone in the canal in waders painting the hull of their boat. Its an interesting way of doing it but I’m not sure I like the idea, you never know what you might tread on down there.

At Middlewich Big Lock  we met up with another boat who had a new crew on and so as we waited for the single handed boat (which insisted on opening both top gates) to come down we gave them a quick lock working lesson and they followed us up to Middlewich Bottom Lock No 74 where we joined the back of a queue of boats.

It was another one of those odd queues in that once you got into the locks there was no real delay anywhere. By Middlewich Lock No 73 a group of people were snorting drugs, well it was either that or drain cleaner.  They made a few lewd comments about people but seemed to be keeping themselves to themselves but I’m glad we didn’t have to wait round to get into the top lock.

There was a little queue at Wardle Lock No 4 and by now it was starting to get to the point that we wanted to moor. We also wanted to BBQ so we headed out past the visitor moorings and decided that we’d moor on the embankment near the River Wheelock Aqueduct. But apparently according to a rather foul mouthed drunk fisherman they were night fishing there (not that it was any where near their tent) and had been preparing the water for “two fucking days”.  I think he would have hit me if his friend hadn’t stepped in and actually asked if we could move a few feet. Now why didn’t they do that to start with? The only thing I think his friend was going to be doing that night was nursing a thick head and I hope he had a really bad hangover the next day.

So we stopped just short of Stanthorne Lock No 3  for the night and then the BBQ decided not to play ball with us. So not a particularily good end to what had been a good day.

To the woods… again!

From Jacksons Bridge No 7 to Marbury Woods Footbridge, a distance of 16 miles, 2¾ flg and 7 locks.

A couple of boats had passed us by the time we got up but there was only one directly in front of us as we worked our way through Minshull Lock No 2 . By the time we arrived at Stanthorne Lock No 3 that one boat had turned into about 4 and we stood around for quite a while. There were quite a few boats coming up but we seemed to be at the tail of our queue of traffic.

It was chaos at Wardle Lock No 4. There were two fibreglass cruisers moored up on the tail end of the lock moorings by the bridge and with boats queuing to go down the lock they really didn’t help and the man sitting on one of the boats just sat there and looked smug and arrogant. I can’t understand why people behave like that, why moor up on lock moorings and sit on your boat watching the chaos you’re causing. Actually they nearly got rammed about three times, its a real pity they didn’t as that might have made them realise how stupid they were being.

Of course coming out of the lock and going through Middlewich Junction  is always fun because people who are staying on the main line seem to forget that there is a junction and there are usually boats all over the place. So it was situation normal as we came out of the lock, and manoeuvred round the boat that was waiting to come up, and turned sharp left. It’s always worth sending a crew member on, preferably with a phone or a walkie talkie, here so that collisions can be avoided.

If we thought it had been bad at Wardle lock then the situation at the main flight of three locks can only be described as a complete farce. Boats all over the place and to top it all off one boat had left the bottom paddles up on the bottom lock so the pound between the middle and bottom lock was a long way down. Luckily one of the boats coming up had seen what had happened and they ran some water through the top lock which overflowed down into the rather empty pound and with a sensible crew on the bottom lock who I think stopped a boat coming up when they shouldn’t have done meant that by the time we got to go through the pound that it was only a foot or so down (the previous boat had had to resort to flushing itself out of the lock).

By the time we got out of the bottom lock the queue for boats coming up was almost all the way back to the old BW Wharf by the A54.

We pulled up just beyond the water point and grabbed some lunch and supplies from the Tesco Metro.

By Middlewich Winding Hole we saw a pair of swans with cygnets and the swans were chasing away anything they thought could be a threat: ducks, boats, and even people on the tow-path. A photographer complained that we spoiled his shot by having our boat in the way!

At Middlewich Big Lock we met a boat coming up who had not been boating for years and were trying to remember just how things worked. She was heavily pregnant and I’m not sure that lock working is a recognised form of late pregnancy exercise, but she seemed to be enjoying it.

As you approach Wincham Footbridge No 191 you pass the Victoria Stadium (aka The Marston’s Arena) home to not only Northwich Victoria football club but also the Manchester United Reserves.

Marbury Woods seemed like a good place to stop for the night and we moored up at pretty much the same spot as last time. A nice, quiet location until a boat decides to come and moor up on the offside moorings (which I think are not supposed to be over night ones). When I say opposite I mean directly opposite, almost perfectly lined up. They then spent about 40 minutes trying to get their satellite dish set up so that they could watch something on TV (A tacky cheesy talent show on ITV is my guess). Why? Why moor up there, it obviously not good for satellite TV reception and there is a lot of good mooring on the towpath side so they could have moored up away from us, but they chose not to.

Just a few locks

From Tom's Moorings to Jacksons Bridge No 7, a distance of 18 miles, flg and 23 locks.

After travelling up on Thursday afternoon and eating in The Talbot we made an early start. That seems to becoming standard practice for us since we moved the boat here. We used to do the same sort of thing when we were moored at Braunston where if you didn’t get out of the marina at the break of day it could take until after lunch to get to the top of the Braunston locks.

We edged the boat of out the mooring and pushed the bow round so we could head north. It’s a bit of a pain that the mooring pontoons are all angled slightly southwards so heading north either means nudging the nose round when the mooring next to us is empty or we have to go to to Betton Mill and turn there which can be a bit of a pain if there are lots of boats on the water point.

On the drive up on Thursday night I’d missed a phone call from a recruitment agency and so when we reached Adderley Bottom Lock No 12 I hopped onto the bank and tried to find a spot where I could get enough signal to make a call. Given the number of mobile phone masts the country seems to be full of it’s often remarkably hard to get a good signal, especially with T-Mobile. So I stood still halfway into a ditch for about 5 minutes to take the call and then I ran down the towpath to catch up with the boat.

I’m not sure what is going on by Hawkesmoor Bridge No 72 but we basically ran aground about a foot and half out from the bank just after passing through the bridge. It wasn’t just a simple lump, it was almost as it BW had simply filled the canal in with clay. So if you have to do any manoeuvres or passing another boat here you might want to have your boat pole ready.

Audlem Top Lock No 13 had a very small queue but it didn’t take long for us to get in and start our journey down. We had a few little hold ups here and there but nothing major. Then at Audlem Lock 12 No 24 a boat just pulled out in front of us but they did seem to be able to work locks and we didn’t really get held up much more and we moored on the moorings by Moss Hall Winding Hole for lunch and it started raining.

Reaching the bottom of Audlem really meant that most of the locks for the trip, until we had to go back up Audlem, were done, and it was only lunchtime on the first day, which was the main reason for the early start.

We spent a pleasant afternoon pottering along the canal and once again the lack of boats astounded me. The Shroppie can be a very busy canal but once again there didn’t seem to be a lot on the move.

There was the usual chaos at Barbridge Junction with boats all over the place but we navigated through with no incident and chugged slowly past all the moored boats.

As we approached Benyon’s Bridge No 4  we had to hold back for a boat which had crew on the bank who were trying to re-moor a working boat which seemed to be full of tree cuttings and had pulled its pins, which given the speed some of the boats go along here is not a surprise. So once they had got it all tied up we followed them towards Cholmondeston Lock No 1  where the Shropshire Union Canal Society were doing a fund raising event and working boats through the lock.

In the cutting by Cholmondeston Hall Winding Hole the canal society have provided another good set of moorings with BBQ stands and tables and benches. We did think about mooring there but decided to push on just a little bit further and so we stopped for the night just before Jacksons Bridge No 7

A few days away

Well the boat has been getting quite a bit of use recently. A trip to Wigan over the Easter holidays which got all changed round but will be blogged about as part of the testing of the new route importer code (more about that on the main blog). Then Kathy and I took it out over the early May bank holiday and headed south and this time we’re heading north to Anderton

Mum has never done the Anderton Lift  and has always wanted to and she and dad can’t work the boat there themselves so Kathy and I have volunteered to do the hard work and get the boat there and back.

So if you see Mintball on the move over the next few days then feel free to say hello

Barbridge in the mist

From Barbridge Junction to Tom's Moorings, a distance of 15 miles, 3 flg and 22 locks.

After spending ages stuck in queues at locks and knowing that most of the boats that were going the same way as us would either be heading for Hurleston Junction  and the Shropshire Union Canal (Llangollen Canal) , or would be heading south to do the Four Counties Ring in a crazy number of days we decided that an early start would be a sensible thing to do. So Kathy and I got up and found we were surrounded by thick mist. We cast off and cruised past lots of moored boats, about 70% of which were facing south, so obviously no-one else could be bothered getting up.

As we came along the embankment towards Nantwich Aqueduct I noticed that a lot of boats on the 48 hour moorings were exactly the same ones as had been there when we’d come through on the first day of the holiday and moored in the same places. Now Nantwich is a popular destination and the visitor moorings are always in demand and it seems silly that BW are quite happy to let boats just sit there and blatantly break the 48 hour limit by a significant amount.

The misty morning was starting to turn a bit damp and it wasn’t getting any warmer either and when we arrived at Hack Green it actually seemed to be darker than it had been when we got up and unless you looked at a watch you really would have had no idea of the time of day.

Coole Pilate Moorings had quite a few boats moored up, and to be honest if we didn’t have to be back on the moorings I’d have been tempted to join them.

By the time we reached Audlem Bottom Lock No 27 the weather was starting to clear up and it was almost sunny. The passage up the locks went pretty well, surprisingly well considering we were on a really popular canal in the middle of the school Easter holidays, the canal was busy but everything seemed to be working well and there were no major holdups

By the time we left the top lock it was a completely different day and the sun was out. We sailed through Adderley locks and Kathy and I sat on the front deck and soaked up the sun.

We got back onto the moorings mid afternoon and luckily the public moorings opposite our pontoon were not totally full because its a bit of a pain getting back into our slot if there are boats on the towpath side.

The long push south

From Dutton Wharf Bridge No 212 to Barbridge Junction, a distance of 93 miles, 3¾ flg and 8 locks.

For various reasons, which this blog is not going in to, Kathy and I were still on the boat when we should have got off at Wigan, this of course meant that we were actually running out of time to get the boat back to its moorings.

So it was another early start for some of the crew. I was lazy and had a lie in and apparently I missed some wonderful photo opportunities as the Weaver valley was full of mist.

We arrived at Saltersford Tunnel (West end)  at just the wrong time and had to wait almost the maximum length of time before it was our slot to go into the tunnel.

We were about 40 feet in when I saw what looked like navigation lights in the tunnel and I sounded the horn and got a blast back. There was a boat coming towards us with NO headlight. They were almost at our end of the tunnel so we backed out and out they came, with no headlight on and no explanation of what the hell was going on. We told them that they had no headlight and they didn’t seem to care, and when we pointed out that they were in the tunnel when they shouldn’t have been and it was the slot for traffic at our end to go in (actually we were about 12 minutes into the slot by now which gives you some idea of just how wrong they were)  they just looked at us as if we were mad, pretended not to know what on earth we were talking about and didn’t even have the decency to thank us for backing out for them.

The Winding Hole between Barnton and Saltersford Tunnels  seems to be a popular place to moor up and looking at the number of artisically arranged beer cans and bottles someone had had a pretty good party the night before and they’d gone to bed leaving their chairs outside. There was no sign of life, for obvious reasons and the canal stayed pretty quiet right up to Anderton.

We pulled in at Anderton Services to get rid of the rubbish and to top up the water tank and to empty out the PortaPotty.

For an Easter Sunday the canal was still pretty quiet and we made good progress. We made good progress until we arrived belowMiddlewich Bottom Lock No 74 and thats where we joined the back of a rather long queue. It was a combination of the number of boats and some inexperienced crews and once we got into the locks we went through them quite quickly and then got stuck at Middlewich Junction in a queue to go through Wardle Lock No 4. Again once we were through the lock there wasn’t really much of a queue and we made quite good progress back to Nanneys Bridge No 8 where we joined the back end of a rather long queue. We exchanged pleasantries with Pete as we slowly moved forward. Nick and I did some work in the kitchen putting metal facings up round the cooker and by the time we’d done that we were ready to go through the lock. We got snarled up for a bit at Cholmondeston Lock No 1  but by this time I think some people were giving up for the day. But we wanted to push on, knowing that most of the traffic heading this way was going to be heading down the Shroppie. It was getting quite late when we swung south at Barbridge Junction and pulled over onto the visitor moorings for the night

Out of Manchester

From Astley Bridge No 58 to Dutton Wharf Bridge No 212, a distance of 30 miles, 5¼ flg and 1 lock.

Easter Saturday, and you think that you’d see some boats on the move wouldn’t you? Well we didn’t. We pretty much had the canal to ourselves again. All the way through Worsley and over Barton Swing Aqueduct and right through Trafford Park we saw just about no-one.

Kathy and I ended up phoning the RSPCA because by the Kellogg’s factory there was a Canada Goose with a crossbow bolt through its neck. It seemed to be swimming and breathing OK and not in pain but what sort of sick person shoots at birds like that. OK they’re a bit a of pest but you wouldn’t do that to your dog or your brother so why do it to a bird? We gave them the details and they said they had another report of another goose in a similar situation, so I guess there are just some very very sick people in Manchester.

When we got to Sale there were still a surprising number of boats on the Sale Cruising Club moorings which probably tells you a lot about just how big the club is. The rowers were out in force with at least three of the bigger boats being sculled up and down the canal, along with countless single sculled ones, populated almost entirely by people who didn’t seem to know what they were doing, maybe it was an open day or something?

We got a pumpout done at Oughtringham Bridge No 24 which has some pretty good opening times that are not just 9-5, and then we called in at Thorne Marine at Stockton Quay Bridge No 15 where we picked up a new fuel filter, some diesel bug killer and a hand held pump so we could pump the gloop from the bottom of the tank.

The canal was now actually quite busy but not so busy that we were in a queue and felt that we were either being held up by the boat in front or being pushed by the boat behind.

The Post Office atMoore Bridge No 7 sells some provisions and the towpath is in good condition so you can easily pull in and send some crew off over the road to the shop.

Actually we seemed to spend quite a bit of time popping in out of places buying things, we stopped at Midland Chandlers to see if they had any additives we could put in the tank to soak up any water. They had some stuff but it was a seriously silly amount of money so it stayed on the shelf.

When we were waiting at Preston Brook Tunnel (North end) for the transit window we pumped some more of the bottom of the tank and it was pretty unpleasant, and between that, and some pumping we’d done earier we probably took half a gallon of sludge and gloop out of the bottom of the tank.

We followed a couple of boats through the tunnel and we cruised on for a bit looking for a good mooring. The Trent and Mersey along here has some really bad edges and finding places where you can put Mintball in to the side is hard but eventually we found a good spot in a cutting by Dutton Wharf Bridge No 212


From Crabtree Swing Bridge No 32 to Astley Bridge No 58, a distance of 21 miles, 7½ flg and 8 locks.

It was another quiet morning when we set off, the start of the Easter weekend so probably a little early to expect a lot of boats on the move, but we saw a couple at Burscough and when we got back to Glover’s Swing Bridge No 33  the broken down boat was not there which was probably a good thing as there was a single handed boat coming down the canal.  Parbold was pretty quiet and we got through Appley lock with no real problems but we got stuck in a queue at Dean Locks No 90, where if the second lock had still been in working order we could have gone through it and got past the boat that was being really slow. We worked through Dean and through Hell Meadow Lock No 89  and  Pagefield Lock No 88 with another boat and then we had to wait round at Wigan Bottom Lock No 87  for a couple of boats to come down. I walked ahead to the next lock but had to come back because we’d run aground on something and in the rocking and tilting to get off what ever it was the engine decided to stop. Nick and I dug out the spanners and found that the fuel lines and fuel filter were full of a mix of water and sludge. Mintball had fallen foul of the dreaded diesel bug, that and obviously some dodgy diesel somewhere in the past few years and when we’d tipped over it had put the intake line into the gloopy mess.

So we emptied the fuel filters, and manually primed the pump to get any sludge out of the lines and then we opened up the lines to the injectors and manually bled those out before cranking the engine and closing each injector in turn. The engine started with a lot of smoke and I don’t think I’ve ever seen the battery ammeter read that sort of charge for that length of time for quite a while.

The weather had turned pretty dismal by now and it was a wet and miserable Wigan we said farewell to as we dropped down onto the Leigh Branch.

We met quite a lot of boats heading towards Wigan, It looked like most of Sale Cruising Club were out for the Easter weekend and it actually made a nice change to see people on the move. The wind on the section past Dover Lock  was as bad as it had been a couple of days earlier and with the rain adding to the mix it wasn’t really the most enjoyable of afternoons.  We met another convoy of boats just after we had passed through Plank Lane Bridge No 8, again from Sale Cruising Club.

There was a large group of teenage (just) kids hanging out under Leigh Bypass Road Bridge No 9A , not sure what they were doing or going to do, and I think we’ll leave that at that.

We stopped for the night just before Astley Bridge No 58  where there are no official moorings but the canal is deep and the bank is good. There are two pubs in Astley Green, both quite near the canal, we went to the one furthest from the canal and nearest to the mining museum. The pub had a good range of Real Ale and a pretty impressive food menu too. It was lively and had an “irish duo” in who actually played a lot of non irish stuff including Green Day.

So why Rickrolled for the title of this entry? Well we did stop at Rick Astley Green didn’t we ?