Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Middlewich Folk and Boat Festival

Sat 16th Jun  Aqueduct Marina

We drove to Middlewich via Church Minshull, with instruments in the boot, and we parked in the car park for the Boars Head, or so we thought.

We walked up the main street, Wheelock Street, where there was a small market going on. We met the vicar as he came out of the church, and he told us the time of the service tomorrow (11am on the field).

We wanted a coffee, and looked into the window of the church cafe, which was very busy. We spotted Malcolm and Stephanie there, so we went and joined them, and met Martin and Fiona  Buck who are also Waterways Chaplains, and members of BCF, and have a boat called Audacious.

The information in the FAB Festival guide was very sparse, giving names of artists, but no other details, so we wandered around rather aimlessly.  We had time to spare, so we visited the church, where there was a Labyrinth.  This was the most amazing experience.  Many of the schools had put together scenes and stories from the Bible, making animals and scenery, temples, etc.  There was a winding route, taking you through from Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, right through to the cross, and the Easter story, and heaven.  There was even a Sea of Galilee, with real water, and real fish.  They had taken a week to put it all together, and would take a week to disassemble it again.  This happens every three years, just to coincide with FAB Festival. It was a major project, and they had many hundreds of visitors over the weekend.


The Easter door

We went to the main stage and looked round the stalls on the field. A disappointment was the lack of real ciders in the beer tent!!  Just one gassy thing.  We saw the Cody Sisters on the stage, and they were very good.

Cody Sisters on Main stage

We headed back down into the town just as a torrential downpour took place. There were huge puddles at the side of the road, and vehicles were pushing up waves and spray.

Heavy downpour

We eventually returned to the main stage where we saw a band from Amsterdam called Snowapple singing a song in Spanish.  There was a very tall lady in red wearing a red top hat.

Snowapple - link here

We had a very good meal in a Mexican restaurant, before going for the session at the Boars Head.  There was a sign indicating that it was meant to be a singaround, but there was so much loud chatter that we could possibly have been heard. In the end we just played along with some of the louder instruments such as fiddles and squeeze boxes. At one time we had a brass section.

Session at the Boars Head link here.

We discovered that we had parked in the wrong car park, that of a hotel next door, but it didn’t seem to matter.  We drove back to the boat where Hugo was hungry and pleased to see us.

No boating today

Sun 17th Jun  Aqueduct Marina

We drove to the Middlewich Festival again, and parked in the public car park.

We walked up to the field for the 11am open air service, and sat just in front of our four Waterways Chaplains friends.  There was a large choir, and a children’s choir, leading us in some well known worship songs.  There was a good turnout, despite having no mention in the programme.

Sunday service

We explored some of the action in other locations such as the Narrowboat Inn, and the Big Lock, and the White Bear. Then we walked up the towpath to see what was happening at Middlewich Narrowboats. We discovered that their chemical toilet disposal point had been brought back into service for the weekend, although most of the boaters probably did not realise it.  All my emails and phone calls had come back with the answer “Nothing has been arranged”. There were also mooring spaces there, so we could have gone by boat. However, the breach in the canal would have meant a long detour to get to the Llangollen Canal afterwards.

We patronised an Indian restaurant. Quite nice, but nothing special.

Then we realised that we had time to attend the evening praise event in the Labyrinth in the church. There were about thirty of us, and the service was led by Jeremy, the musical director. After a few songs on the keyboard, we went to various locations in the Labyrinth and sang appropriate songs there, accompanied by Jeremy on the guitar. It was a good event.

Praise in the labyrinth

Then we drove back once more to Aqueduct Marina where our boat was moored.

No boating today

Next: heading for Chester.

Monday, 18 June 2018

Nantwich to Aqueduct Marina

Sun 10th Jun  Nantwich

Moored in Nantwich

We allowed an hour to walk to the church we had chosen, as it was further than all the others and we did not want to rush. We walked down the steep steps from the embankment and along the road into town.  There are some fine old buildings here.

Old wood frame buildings

We found the Elim Church which is part of the original Elim training college, so they have lots of rooms. The training college is now in Malvern.

We arrived as the worship team were having a practice, and they were excellent. We heard three new songs which we would like to try, in particular “Way Maker”, and “One”. There were a few people being welcomed into fellowship, and one person being sent elsewhere with a blessing.  The welcome was good, with several people coming up to say hello.  The service was followed by a barbecue lunch, and they invited us to join them

Elim Church

Worship team

We went to Morrisons and Aldi afterwards, and filled our shopping trolley.  Although there were bus stops, there were no timetables visible, which was frustrating. It was very hot again, and we visited Nero’s for a cold drink. While we were there we saw a bus go past.

We walked back to the boat, using the path up to the embankment this time, and not the steps.  We had a brief chat with David and Jane on Rowan, who were now moored near the aqueduct. Thankfully our boat was not in the shade from some large trees opposite.

No boating today

Mon 11th Jun  Nantwich to Hoolgrave Bridge

As we set off this morning we saw that Rowan had gone, heading for Ellesmere Port. We emptied cassettes and rubbish at the sanitary station. Nantwich Basin was where the Chester Canal once ended, before the rest of the Shroppie was built.

Crossing Nantwich Aqueduct

Nantwich Basin

After two miles, we came across Willowbrook with Tim and Hilary, so we stopped for a coffee with them. As they can’t go up the Llangollen, they are at a bit of a loose end.

Tim and Hilary

We moved on once more, passing the end of the Llangollen Canal, with Hurleston Reservoir alongside, where the water is collected from the River Dee at Llangollen, using the canal as a water feeder.

Llangollen Canal

Hurleston Reservoir

Then we turned right into Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union.

We spotted an ex hire boat from the seventies or eighties, with louvre windows and the characteristic bars for minimising accidents with bridges. We hired one like that in 1984 from Black Prince, and we did the Cheshire Ring in a week, with seven people and a dog.

Ex hire boat

We went down through Cholmondeston Lock, where a young lad was having problems using the paddle gear as his windlass was too long. His dad was steering, and they only just bought the boat. James locked them through. We visited Venetian Marina with a view to booking a mooring for the weekend, but the moorings had no shade, there were no bushes for Hugo, so there was no booking. However, we did make use of their water tap, and we bought some ice creams. It was very hot.

We were warned about a mosquito plague at the picnic site where we had hoped to moor, so we passed by without stopping. No-one else was there either, but this canal is very quiet this year because of the breach preventing through routes.

Picnic site unoccupied

We passed through Minshull Lock, the second of the day, and lock number 3000 for this boat since it was launched.

Minshull Lock

We visited Aqueduct Marina, and booked a space for Friday. We chose a berth with a shady tree nearby, and some grass and a hedge. We were pleased to see that they have a cafe that serves breakfast.

Aqueduct Marina

As we left the marina, we spotted the boat we had helped earlier, moored up just outside. We checked our windlass stocks, and found a spare one, which we gave to them, along with “How do locks work?” We moved on a short way, and found a shady mooring just before Hoolgrave Bridge.  Hugo was very pleased.  No boats passed for the rest of the day.

There were some white plants (Hogweed?) and every flower is different, like snowflakes.  There were also wild roses, and a speckled wood butterfly.

Moored at Hoolgrave Bridge.

White flowers all different

Wild roses

Speckled Wood butterfly

We had a visiting family of swans, with six cygnets. We noticed that one was whiter than the rest.

The swans with the lighter coloured cygnet

Hoolgrave Bridge

Moored on our own

2 locks, 8 miles   We have now passed through exactly 3000 locks with this boat.

Tue 11th Jun  Hoolgrave Bridge to Church Minshull

We had a very leisurely cruise, going as far as we could, turning in the last winding hole before the breach.  We returned to the visitor moorings for Church Minshull where there are rings. There was one other boat there, and he had chosen the mooring with the best view, as there was no hedge.

The winding hole

The view

There were five buzzards circling overhead at one point. We had a relaxing day, with our chairs out on the bank.  Hugo was so relaxed that he fell asleep in the grass.

Buzzards overhead

Hugo very relaxed

We brought everything in again when the skies started to look a bit threatening.  Later we walked down the hill using a narrow wooded path past badger setts to Church Minshull, where we had a pleasant meal at the Badger Inn. We had proper pies with sides and tops, and Thatcher’s Gold cider.

Threatening skies

The path to the pub

The Badger Inn and the church

We walked back via a different route along farm road. James’s torch fell apart, but it was still light so it wasn’t needed. New torch is now on the shopping list.

We crossed the river Weaver on an uneven farm bridge, and returned to the boat via Hoolgrave Bridge.

The farm bridge

The Weaver

James went to try to see some badgers. He didn’t see any, but he did see a Tawny Owl, gliding silently along the path at head height.  Thankfully there were no mosquitos.  Walking back, there was a lovely view over the illuminated church tower, with the fading sunset behind.

Badger setts

Church Minshull illuminated church

0 locks, 3 miles

Wed 12th Jun  Church Minshull

The other boat moved off, so we reversed back 100 yds to where he had been. This was beyond the official mooring, and there were no mooring rings.  This is where we guessed author Tom Rolt would have spent a few months on his boat Cressy, as the views were exceptional, and there was no hedge at this point.

Our view

Looking the other way

Although Hugo had been on board when we moved the boat, he ran back to where we had been as soon as we let him off.  It was several hours later when James went to find him, and carried him back to the boat.  He was alright after that. He found a rabbit hole, and seemed to enjoy going inside, turning round, and lying inside, peering out.

We met a man called David, with a dog called Patch. He sat with us for a while, and had a long conversation. We gave him a Bible.

In the afternoon the wind picked up. Rain was forecast in the night, and gales were predicted for the following day. We decided to stay another day and a third night here before going to the marina on Friday morning.

No boating today

Thu14th Jun  Church Minshull

There were high winds today, as had been forecast. We didn’t move the boat as we didn’t want to be under trees.

A lot of leaves and blossom ended up floating on the surface of the canal, and there was a large raft of flotsam that move past the boat. Later, the wind direction changed, and it all drifted back again.

Raft of leaves

The day was spent catching up on a few chores, and relaxing in the boat as it was too windy to sit out.  Hugo found a small rabbit and he brought it to show us.  He dropped it on the grass, and walked away.  We assumed it was dead, but when we looked again two minutes later it had gone. We guessed it had gone down one of the many rabbit holes nearby.

Hugo and his rabbit

We were treated to another lovely sunset this evening. The view from here is amazing, so we have unrestricted sunsets.

Sunset over Church Minshull

A little later

No locks, no miles, 1 rabbit

Fri 15th Jun  Church Minshull to Aqueduct Marina

We had an early start and travelled the short distance under just two bridges to get to Aqueduct Marina. 

Swan family


We were given a mooring which backed onto a grassy slope, without having to negotiate long pontoons. We were delighted to discover that electricity was free, and so were the showers.

In Aqueduct Marina

We had a cooked breakfast in the cafe, and were collected by Enterprise around midday.  The route to their depot was very confusing, using back roads to avoid congestion. The result was that when we tried to find our way later we got a bit lost.

Our first stop with our hired Peugeot 205 was PC World for a new printer, as ours was useless. Trying get out of Crewe was a challenge, especially as there was one junction which showed Middlewich in two directions. We went left, and then the signs ran out. After 20 minutes, we found ourselves back at PC World!! We tried again, and turned right at that junction. This was more successful, and we ended up in Middlewich.

We parked outside the White Bear and went in to pick up a programme, and have a drink. Happy Daze cider was on offer – very nice.

Cider in the White Bear

As we had some time available, we rang Don and Celia, to see if they were on their boat Northwich. They were, so we found our way there via Tesco and Waitrose.  It was great to spend some time with them. They invited us to stay for an evening meal, so we gladly accepted. 

Don and Celia

We didn’t return to Middlewich, but instead went via Winsford and Church Minshull back to the boat in the marina.

No boating today

Next:  Middlewich Folk and Boat Festival (by car), then heading for Chester.