Fri 22nd Jun Waverton to Chester
Soon after we set off we spotted our very first boat moored up. It had just been repainted, and looked very smart. We named her Lystra, as we had been in Lystra in Turkey in 1997 when the base plate was laid and work first started. We sold her in 2003 to a boatyard in Huddersfield, who renamed her Summer Wine, because the boat was used in the TV sitcom. It is now called Kiska II. We’ll get better pictures on the way back.
Our first boat
We soon came to the first lock of the day out of five. It was Christleton Lock, shortly followed by Greenfield Lock. Here we met Blue Meon returning from Chester. We had shared the Bunbury locks with them on Wednesday. They had gone no further than Chester, and had not attempted the Northgate staircase locks.
Blue Meon returning
Hoole Lane Lock
Apart from the very obvious blue painted water tower, visible from the final two locks, there was what looked like a tall factory chimney, but with windows in the side. We discovered later that it was Chester Shot Tower. There used to be one near the Royal Festival Hall. Apparently they used to drop molten lead from the top and by the time it had fallen to the bottom it had formed droplets which cooled to form lead shot as they entered a water tank at the bottom. The Chester one was built in 1799 and is probably the oldest one in the world.
Chester Shot Tower
When we arrived in Chester we had hoped to moor behind Iceland, where there is a small landscaped area of grass below the city walls. There were two boats already there. One was at the near end of the moorings, and the other was right in the middle of the remaining area. There was not quite enough room for us to fit between the two boats, and if we went beyond, the edge was curved, so the bows stuck out into the channel. We asked the occupiers if they could either move forward or back so that we could fit in properly, as we were expecting a friend in a wheelchair. They didn’t want to move. We couldn’t go behind them, so we had to go in front of them, sticking out a bit, as the stern had to be close in to the side for access. They said they might move after lunch. If the roles had been reversed we would have moved straight away without question.
Three boats and a gap
It wasn’t long before a wide beam restaurant boat came past and couldn’t avoid nudging us as the channel was so restricted. Thankfully the first boat departed, and we reversed into their space. When the trip boat returned they said thank you for moving.
We climbed onto the walls (using the stairs provided!) and watched a falconry display taking place on a large green space behind.
Hazel on the wall
We had a brilliant time in Chester as we kept meeting people – some by accident, some by appointment.
Firstly, Peter and Steph came past on foot. We have met them a few times before, in Weybridge and Yelvertoft. Their boat is Maggie May, previously owned by Canal Ministries friends Roger and Mirjana, who we will see later on in Ellesmere.
Then Peter and Deri Fabian arrived. We used to be in the same church in Leatherhead in the nineties, and they have a daughter who goes to our church in Aylesbury, where we renewed our acquaintance in April. Peter has suffered from a stroke, and has lost the use of his right arm, has walking difficulties and speech challenges. We managed to get him onto the boat, and had a good time catching up.
Peter and Deri Fabian
We decided to go down to Chester basin to see the facilities, so we walked down via the city walls. On the way we met David Jones, who lives in the cottage by the top of the staircase locks. He used to run the boatyard in the basin, and he is the only pilot for the river Dee. An interesting character. He was filling the top lock as the lock gates leak, and the noise of the water disturbs him at night.
The canal goes through a deep cutting in the rock, and down through three locks in a staircase
Cut out of rock
Arriving at the basin, we found a white cruiser called Millennium Falcon moored up. This was BCF friends Pauline and Antony Wainwright, and they invited us on board for a drink. They are returning from Ellesmere Port. We last coincided with them two years ago on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal at Litherland.
Sat 23rd Jun Chester
Continuing our meeting with people, Gill Taggart came to see us. She was one of the circuit preachers when we were at Weybridge Methodist Church, and she now lives in the Chester area. We had a lot to catch up on.
We went shopping and found Chester Market where we bought some cheese, and found someone to replace James’s phone battery (ordered for Monday). We saw the Chester Giants, part of a procession known as the Midsummer Watch Parade, and later we saw the event taking place with ships, dragons, and the devil.
Our “immoveable boaters” had moved from their mooring, and another couple had arrived on a boat called Freya Joe. They were a Christian couple called Ken and Les. This was their third year of boating and they were due to sell the boat at the end of the season, so they didn’t join BCF.
We found a noodle bar for our evening meal.
5 locks, 4 miles
Sun 24th Jun Chester
Old buildings in Chester
St Peter’s at the Cross
We always try to find a church every Sunday, and for Chester we had considered Freedom Church, which is New Frontiers. Peter and Deri had suggested instead that St Peter’s at the Cross would be good as they are a lively congregation with guitar led worship. We followed their suggestion. As it happened, on two occasions every year, this church has a special service for the guilds and freemen of the city, so it was much more formal than usual, with robes, and 1662 wording. However, there was a guitar involved, playing “Be Thou My Vision”, and the organ played “Lord of All Faithfulness”, to the same tune.
Guitar led worship in St Peters at the Cross
The preacher was a young lady, and she delivered a superb talk based on Romans 3, where it says that we are all sinners, but that Jesus has taken our place on the cross, and paid our penalty, so it is now as though we are without sin. All we have to do is accept it, or “receive it by faith”. This was very appropriate to the assembled congregation wearing chains of office and insignia. After the service we all went out into the street and the vicar proclaimed blessing on the city of Chester.
Guilds and Freemen
Pauline and Antony Wainwright were there, and we also discovered that the vicar, Jonathan Phillips, was the son of Michael and Penny Phillips. We had been to Penny’s funeral some years ago, and we are still in contact with Michael, who lives on a boat called Shiraz in London.
Hazel Antony Pauline
With Jonathan Phillips
We went for a pre-booked meal at a Brazilian Restaurant called Picanha. The food was excellent and so was the service. Eat as much as you like from the buffet, with a selection of meats carved at your table. Lovely.
We happened to catch the parade for a second time, with a very sinister looking devil, and a large red dragon.
Pauline and Antony arrived on Millennium Falcon, so we had three Christian boats in a row.
Three Christian Boats
We had planned to visit a folk club, and both the other Christian couples said they would come as well. We turned up at the Bear and Billet, a very ancient pub, where the Raven Folk Club takes place every Sunday evening on the second floor. We sang “Long Way Down”, “Banks of the Ohio” and “Pilgrim”. It was all good fun.
Bear and Billet
Old windows on the first floor
Raven Folk Club
We had a pleasant walk back to the boats along the city walls.
No boating today
Mon 25th Jun Chester
We needed to go down the locks to use the facilities, and we were hoping to get back to our mooring later to meet Dave and Caryl Ingoldby. The canal goes through a steep cutting through the rock, with the city walls high above. Then there are the three staircase locks taking the canal down under a railway bridge, round a sharp bend and into Chester Basin.
Leaving our mooring space
City walls and the canal
Cut through rock
Northgate Staircase Locks
We found Maggie May in the basin. We filled up with water and emptied cassettes before turning round to back again. As we passed Maggie May, Peter asked if we could wait for a few minutes and then we could share the locks.
Using the facilities
Sharing with Maggie May
Up the staircase
Peter and Steph of Maggie May
Back through the cutting
We found that we had lost our mooring, so we had to move onto rings near the Lock Keeper pub. These were alongside a road, so Hugo had to stay on board. James had to go back to the market to get a new battery installed in his phone.
Hazel went to Tesco to get a few bits for lunch, and we were delighted to have Dave and Caryl Ingoldby stop by on their way from Addlestone to Wales. They are good friends of ours from our days in Weybridge Methodist Church.
Dave and Caryl Ingoldby
We had a further visit to Tesco to buy provisions in preparation for a canal section devoid of decent shops for a few days. We waited for the weather to cool down before we moved off.
While we were moored up, we had a knock on the window. It was ex-BCF members Ian and Karen, who used to have a boat called Tacet. They were trapped on the Wey by our house at one time as the Thames was in flood.
We also saw Kay on Karry B. Kay and Barry moor in the basin at Aylesbury.
After a brief visit to Waitrose for some bits we couldn’t get in Tesco, we set off. It was after 5pm, and getting a little cooler.
In Chemistry Lock the flows worked strangely, and the boat was knocked against the side. Our pencil pot fell on the floor, scattering pencils everywhere and sending Hugo scurrying. Also our framed map of the waterways fell off the wall, where it held by Velcro. The glass remained intact, but the frame fell apart. It is now awaiting attention with pins and Gorilla glue.
That blue water tower again
We took another photo of our first boat, which looks in good condition.
Lystra aka Kiska II
We moored soon after, close to our mooring on the way north, between bridges 117 and 118.
Heron in flight
Moored near Waverton
A Christian couple came past on foot and told us that they went to Waverton Evangelical Fellowship.
Hugo started making miaowing noises, and we thought he just wanted food. When James went to feed him, he rushed past his dish and up the steps onto the towpath. James followed him, and he disappeared down a small path. When James caught up, he was waiting in a hollow. As soon as he realised that James was looking, he disappeared into a circular pipe, presumably a culvert, and turned round and peered out. This was the same trick he performed at Church Minshull when he went into a rabbit hole. He obviously thought this was great fun.
Sunset at Waverton
11 locks, 5 miles
Next: Back to Hurleston Junction, and starting up the Llangollen Canal.