Monday 11th August
Ellesmere to Whixall Moss
We went to Tesco for some vital supplies, and walked round to Blackwater Meadow Marina to check out their chandlery. All we came away with were the two free magazines: Towpath Talk and the Tillergraph. James found a bank vole under a metal notice board lying in the hedge.
We were getting low on fuel so we used one of our two 5 litre fuel cans, as the marina was very expensive (£1.04 per litre) and they were not serving fuel on Mondays. The next place is Whixall Marina, but they are closed on Sundays and Mondays, so we couldn’t check the price. It surely has to be cheaper than £1.04. On a rough calculation we can go for two hours on a litre.
We put down our pram hood, and swept away some of the bits of fir tree that covered the boat after the winds. As we left we realised that the boat in front of us (the guy with the cat on a lead from last night) was Tupelo, who had been moored with us at the end of June at Middleton Lakes, on the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal.
We headed to the sanitary station to empty the cassettes and throw away the rubbish. Thankfully our water tank was mostly full, as there was a queue for the water taps. We reversed out with precision, letting the strong winds take the bows round to point downstream, and we set off through Ellesmere tunnel and past Blake Mere, giving a farewell wave to Bill as we went past his amazing home overlooking Cole Mere. It is three weeks since we saw him on the way up.
Sign at Blake Mere. Are we allowed to talk quietly?
It wasn’t long before we were at our destination for the day: Whixall Moss. We moored exactly where Amy Em had been moored three weeks ago. They are now in Droitwich. We had planned to go for a walk in the afternoon, but the wind was really strong, and the threat of rain loomed, so we stayed on board. This apparently was the remains of Hurricane Bertha.
There were several boats going past and they were evidently in a hurry, because after two had steamed on without slowing down, our mooring pins at the stern came out, and the boat swung out in the canal. It was just as well we weren’t out on a walk as planned, as we were able to tie up again.
The pram hood went up as the rain came down again.
Hugo caught a mouse. He doesn’t seem to mind the rain.
Moored by Whixall Moss
0 locks, 7 miles, 2 mice (1 Hugo 1 James) 2hr40
Tuesday 12th August
Whixall Moss to Tilstock Park Lift Bridge 42
We got up early while it was less windy and before any rain started. We went for a walk on Whixall Moss. This is a raised peat bog and we are told this is left over from the ice age. The information boards tell us that there are curlew, peregrines, short eared owls, adders and raft spiders here, but we didn’t see any. However, we had a very pleasant walk, seeing buzzards and a cormorant.
Old peat Cuttings
On our return, and after breakfast, we cast off and went down the Prees Branch. This was our first ever visit here, as we decided to leave it last time as we had gear box problems (in 2000).
Turning into the Prees Branch
There are two lift bridges in the short arm, and the first one was straightforward. James got off the boat and raised the bridge with a windlass, Hazel steered the boat under the bridge, and James dropped the bridge back down again.
At the second bridge, a young lad had raised the bridge for a boat coming the other way. James suggested that they come through first, with the boy getting on the boat as they went through, and James crossing across our boat to put the bridge down again. For some reason the man at the helm of the other boat pulled into the side and beckoned Hazel on, so James went across Gabriel and the young lad leapt onto their boat as it went past – no hands – very worrying. James then put the bridge down.
At the end of the Prees branch is Whixall Marina, and we obtained some diesel at 96p from a machine. It will keep us going until we get back to cheaper diesel areas.
Then of course we had the two lift bridges again, the second of which we could leave up, as two boats were coming the other way. Round the corner onto the main line of the canal once more, there was one more lift bridge, a very low one that actually rests in the water (Morris Bridge).
We only went another two miles, and moored on rings just before Tilstock Park Lift Bridge.
0 locks, 5 miles, 5 lift bridges, 2hr00
Wednesday 13th August
Tilstock Park to Whitchurch
As we were preparing to leave, a hire boat came past, and we agreed that they would put the bridge up and we would put it down. We followed them through the bridge and James took the windlass and put the bridge down as agreed. We were hoping we could do the same for the other two lift bridges, but we never saw them again. They were travelling quite quickly, probably not slowing down for moored boats.
We operated the two Hassels lift bridges on our own and entered the Whitchurch Arm.
Turning into the Whitchurch Arm
This has a winding hole, so we turned, and reversed in to a mooring space behind Heron, which belongs to Ron and Mary Heritage, keen IWA people who are always at the Banbury Canal Day. Sadly we didn’t see them on this occasion.
Moored in the Whitchurch Arm
We received a text from Roger and Mirjana about a folk session in Whitchurch this evening, and also to let us know that they had a pallet for us to put on the boat roof. We told them where we were, and suggested we take them for a meal before the folk session.
We went to find the bus into town mentioned in the First Mate Guide. We found the bus stop, but the timetable said no service Mon-Fri or Sun. It was Saturdays only. We walked instead along a pleasant path past the remains of the canal and a stream.
We pottered round the shops looking for a small vase to take a few wild flowers. No success. When we arrived at Tesco we saw a 205 bus, so we asked the driver for information. He said it runs every half hour, and the timetables were printed wrong!!! We took the bus back when we had our shopping from Tesco.
Soon after we arrived back we met a guy carrying a guitar and a didgeridoo. We told him about the session in the Old Town Hall Vaults that evening and he said he might come along, but he avoided pubs generally as he was an alcoholic. We said we would be off alcohol as well. James is finding it aggravates his cough at the moment.
Roger and Mirjana arrived with the pallet, which we put on top of the boat. We will need to modify it a little to cope with the curve of the roof.
As were getting our guitars out on the towpath, the guy from earlier (Alan) came past again, and said we may see him later.
We then went in their camper van (jokingly known as the truck), and had a good meal at the Black Bear, before going the Old Town Hall Vaults for the session. It was great fun, with several melodeons / concertinas, a monologue man, and some singers. We sang Well well well, Long Way Down, Here come the Navvies, Waterloo Road, and Streets of London (a request). Alan turned up with a steel guitar and did some blues including bottle neck style. Very good. We think he enjoyed himself.
Back to the boat in the truck. Lots of slugs and snails all over the path plus a frog.
0 locks, 3 miles, 3 lift bridges, 1hr20
Thursday 15th August
Whitchurch to Grindley Brook
Roger and Mirjana had told us that Peter and Lin were back on their boat, so we sent them a text asking where they were. “Whitchurch” they replied, “By the lift bridge”. We said we were just leaving and would stop by their boat.
On the way we passed Alan’s boat Ruth Marie, and we had another chat with him. He has only had the boat for three weeks. He has split up from his wife. He comes from Mirfield, a place we know well. We gave him our details, plus a “How do locks work?” leaflet, and he gave us three copies of his CD.
As we left the arm, we had to turn left and use the winding hole, in order to turn right, as the turn was too tight. We operated the lift bridge, and moored behind Gospel Belle for a chat. We gave them two of the CDs, one for them and one for Roger and Mirjana, as they were going to be seeing them.
Lin with Gospel Belle
We moored just before the Grindley Brook locks and put up the hood as it started to rain. We went for breakfast at the café. It was after 1200 by this time, but they still served us.
Grindley Brook Lock House
Then we had water, loos and rubbish to deal with, before going down the staircase of three and the three single locks. We stopped just round the corner at 3pm. We hadn’t gone very far. Hugo caught two mice.
It wasn’t a wonderful place to moor, because every time a boat emptied the lock, the boat surged and banged the side.
6 locks, 1 ½ miles, 1 lift bridge, 2 mice, 3hr30
Friday 16th August
Grindley Brook to Wrenbury
As we were putting down our pram hood, preparing to leave, Gospel Belle arrived and moored two boats back. They had done the Grindley Brook locks early and were having a pause before moving on. Like us, they are heading for Nantwich for Saturday night, with church there on Sunday morning.
Shroppie Fly Boat Saturn moored near Grindley Brook
At Quoisley Lock the man was there again selling locally grown produce. We bought some huge onions, a cabbage and some carrots. He is a helpful chap, and has a windlass, and he set the lock for us as we approached.
When we arrived at Wrenbury, Hazel was prepared to get off and operate the electric lift bridge, but a boat came the other way and kept it open for us. We moved on through the second (manual) lift bridge 19 and moored between there and bridge 18.
Lift Bridge at Wrenbury
We were surprised to find a TV and internet signal there, because last time, between the two lift bridges, we had no signals at all.
4 locks, 6 miles, 2 lift bridges, 2hr40
Saturday 17th August
Wrenbury to Nantwich
Hugo was not in his usual place on the dinette this morning, but we weren’t too worried as it was easy to get to the other side of the hedge to flush him out if necessary.
While we were having breakfast, a line of 6 boats came through the lift bridge and passed us. We could imagine the lock queue at the first of the three Baddiley Locks just over a mile further on.
We had shopping to do, so we took the path from the next bridge, and returned via the lift bridge path.
Hugo was back on board, so we prepared to leave. As we left, two boats came through the lift bridge behind us, and it transpired that the second one was Gospel Belle.
When we arrived at Baddiley Locks we were the second in a queue of four. At most of the locks there were boats coming up so we didn’t have to fill them.
Moles in rows at Baddiley Locks
After the two Swanley Locks we passed Swanley Marina, and as we were nearing bridge 5, a man waved us down. He was BCF, from Miss Heliotrope. We pulled in and moored up. Peter and Muriel came on board for tea, and brought some wonderful custard creams they had made yesterday. We had met last year at Hawne Basin. This year they had come onto the Llangollen Canal in February, and were travelling slowly. They said they only move when they need water, about once a week.
We spent an hour with them, during which time, Gospel Belle went past, and we said “See you at Nantwich”
Peter and Muriel (Miss Heliotrope)
When we arrived at Hurleston Locks there was a queue of six boats. We were able to dispose of rubbish and empty cassettes while we waited. Gospel Belle was two in front.
When we finally set off down the locks it only took 30 minutes, despite getting stuck in a low pound. We had to let some more water down, and James had to haul the boat with a rope from the bank.
Although our plan is to go left towards Middlewich, we turned right and travelled the two miles to Nantwich for church in the morning.
Horse sculpture at Nantwich
The first set of visitor moorings were all full. After the aqueduct, on the grassy embankment, there is a line of moorings marked “Permit Holders Only” and there were a couple of spaces. We saw Barolo moored up, and asked them if they thought it would be OK to moor here, and they said they treated this like visitor moorings. We pulled in, and saw that Gospel Belle was three boats further along. We had seen Barolo earlier this year between Napton and Braunston.
Hugo wasn’t too keen on the exposed nature of the surroundings – just a grassy slope, with one small sapling nearby. He went out after dark, but we don’t think he went very far.
9 locks, 8 miles, 5hr10
Sunday 18th August
A boat went past before 0600. Although he went fairly quietly, he still woke up all the boaters. Another went past at about 0700, without appearing to make any attempt to slow down, so everyone was wide awake by this time.
Peter and Lin called for us at about 0930, and we all went down the steps from the embankment and walked into Nantwich. We found Market Street Church and were some of the first there. In the end there were about thirty people. The worship was led by the minister with a guitar, apart from one song projected from youtube. The preacher was a retired URC minister who spoke about the woman at the well. We had a very good welcome.
Market Street Church
We all walked to Morrissons for a few items, and then went to the ancient timbered building which is the Crown Hotel for a very pleasant lunch.
Back on the boat we had a relaxing afternoon. zzzzzzzz
No boating today