Friday, 18 July 2014

Amost Too Hot To Go Boating

At 3am this morning we were woken with thunder and lightning right overhead and rain to match. So quick exit from the depths of sleep to close the cratch and dog boxes on the roof.
When Keith visited Crick this year he made enquiries about the moorings at Ashwood Marina on the Staffs & Worcs so when we passed today we dropped in to make an inspection. A delightful rural setting at a site that you have to either reverse into or out of. They are fully booked at the mo but they took our details if a slot becomes available. We shall see.
We passed some very delightful canalside gardens before we stopped for lunch at Kinver.

Nice to see you

Our namesake at Kinver Lock

Even the cat found it too hot!

A typical bywash on the S&W Canal

One of the caves at Kinver
Come on in me dear

Even the houses are partially made from the red sandstone

Kinver church on the hilltop

So it was on to Wolverley for the night where we always moor up at the very end of the visitors' moorings. We have never seen it so empty with only two other boats moored.
We usually like to eat in the Lock that is beside the lock but it was too hot to go inside and the paying gongoozelers were plonked into the car park whilst the outside dining are was being revamped. Bad timing me thinks. So it was off into the village to dine in the Queens Head garden. We had to wait a while for our food but the scallops and sea bass were wonderful.
We have decided to make the M5 journey back to Bristol on Sunday morning as the schools have broken up in the Midlands today and we didn't fancy sitting in a linear car park for hours with the Birmingham holidaymakers! So back to the boat for some chilled white wine and some local cheese.

Thursday, 17 July 2014


We were made most welcome in the Wolverhampton Boat Club clubhouse last night with members going out of their way to make conversation with us and the beer was only £2.20 a pint! We were moored right opposite the Sun Valley chicken processing plant that runs 24/7 but it did not interfere with our efforts to sleep though.
We cast off at 7am this morning as we wanted to pass the school near Aldersley junction early as we have been stoned there in the past by the pupils going to the school. No problem this time though. The sun was getting strong even at this time of the morning threatening to be a scorcher of a day.

Getting a bit narrow through here

A few locks to negotiate until we got to the well known Bratch Locks that are a noted feature of the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal, planned by James Brindley, and opened in 1772 as a three lock staircase. They were later re-engineered as three separate locks.

Waiting our turn

Next was the Bumblehole staircase(great name) that dropped us down a further 10 feet. By now it was getting really hot so we pulled up outside the Round Oak and sat in their garden enjoying a good old plate of fish and chips and a couple of pints of Wye Valley Goddess beer. Through a few more locks and the heat beat us so we moored in the shade near the newly refurbished Old Bush Inn now named The Hinksford arms. A couple of quick cool showers and its off to their garden to enjoy an evening meal out in the countryside.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

On A Mision

The mission of the day was to move on the three miles from last night's mooring to Turner's garage at Wheaton Aston. Nobody with a narrowboat would pass this spot without dropping into here to fill up the diesel tank at it is renown to be one of the cheapest places on the system for fuel. The tank was dipped last night to get an idea of the amount of diesell likely to be required, 142 litres, in order to measure out the correct amount of fuel treatment fluid. In with the pipe, squeeze the trigger and hey presto, without even looking at the meter, 142.6 litres were bought at a base price of 70.9p/ltr. It had even dropped a penny overnight!
It was then through the lock to tackle some of the very long straights found on the Shroppie.

A beautiful bridge near Brewood

We had previously Emailed ahead to the Wolverhampton Boat Club for an overnight mooring there. We have found in the past that the lads around Autherley and Aldersley junctions have an affiliation for throwing stones at passing narrowboats. The boat club is near to these junctions that will enable us to pass them early in the morning before they leave their homes for school.
Last time we came here we were made most welcome and were able to join in with one of their club evenings. Today we have a spot right near to the clubhouse so its off there after a meal aboard.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Lock Free Shroppie Day

We love the Shroppie it has a charm of its own. OK it might have many long straights and banks that slope so that you cannot moor easily without using a plank to get ashore but you can admire the rolling countryside with a fine view of the Wrekin for miles around. It has many cuttings as the Lords of the land at the time did not allow an easier route across their land. There are many high bridges in order to span the cuttings.

The most famous is the High Bridge at High Offley through Grub Street cutting. It still retains the original telegraph pole high up into its arch.

There have been problems with this cutting having suffered landslips from its steep banks. Have to say that a lot of the offside vegetation has been cut back to enable easier boat passing. There is evidence of this with numerous piles of wood chippings from the offending trees. One pile was even growing masses of fungi from it.

We passed a large ex-chocolate factory (now producing only dried milk) whose goods used to be carried to and from Bournville by canal boat.

The highlight for Keith on a trip up the Shroppie is a visit to the fine old boaties pub called The Anchor. This is a genuinely untouched historic heritage pub. When you step into The Anchor, you step back in time. There are just two small rooms. The one to the left as you go in I suppose you might call the lounge. The one to the right is usually where travelling musicians gather, usually instigated by a local narrowboater called Mal (MBE) who is a wonderful fellow with a large repertoire of songs, many of them self-penned and which are known and sang along to by the locals It is owned my a delightful lady named Olive who has been there for years and we can remember her descending down into the cellar, if you wanted a pint of beer, in order to fill a jug before decanting it into your glass. She is getting a little older now and has a pump fitted in order to dispense the one and only beer on the handle, Wadworth's 6X. Her daughter keeps the garden immaculately adorned with flowers. At one time she had a display in the form of a narrowboat, now sadly gone.


Our stern fenders are looking a bit tired after 4 years of use and so Mal was commissioned to make a new set so this will give Keith a chance to revisit the delights of The Anchor in a couple of weeks time when he drives up to collect them.
Tomorrow we head on down to Wheaton Aston in order to replenish the diesel tank with an estimated 150 litres of red diesel. This is reputed to be the cheapest source on the canal system for red diesel.

Monday, 14 July 2014


Saturday 12 July

Today Dianne jumped ship and travelled back to Bristol for a Christening after being picked up by Sarah from Manchester. Keith had a free day so whilst the boat was safely moored at Nantwich he took the bus into Crewe to explore the railway museum. What a disappointment! The site resembled a scrapyard with not one steam train in tact. There was a model railway exhibition taking place but that was all of any merit there.

At the entrance
The controls of a 60s loco
Work in progress!

Boys with their toys

A signal box from yesteryear

The mainline passes the museum

There are some good things about Crewe!
After a bite to eat in Subway it was time to head back to Nantwich. Rather than take the bus Keith kept the theme going and caught a train that only took a few minutes to make the journey and it only cost £3!
Keith was having withdrawal symptoms not having an Indian curry for over 4 weeks so off he went up town to a restaurant that has been converted from the old railway station and then off to the pub to watch Brazil lose once again!

Sunday 13 July

The boat that was moored behind overnight was festooned with all sorts of brassware for sale and so an investigation was needed! An old brass wheel nut was selected together with an octagonal brass knob to match the castellations on the nut. A little bit of machining will be required back home before it can be mounted on the tiller boss.
How it will look when machined.
It will sit a bit lower than shown.

Purchase made it was time for a bit of single handing in order to get to Audlum to pick up Dianne when she returns from Bristol. It certainly concentrates the mind when negotiating locks making sure everything is safe especially when ascending a lock. Fortunately there was some help available for two out of the four locks before mooring near the famous Shroppie Fly with the bar made from the bow section of an old wooden work boat.

The priority now was to find a pub in order to watch the World Cup Final. The Shroppie Fly had no tele, the Bridge screen was too small but the Lord Combermere offered a seat of choice provided a meal was had. Deal done!
During the match Dianne returned together with Sarah, James and grandchildren Jo and Martha on route to home in Manchester.

Monday 14 July

Dianne went off to do some shopping in Audlum and to visit an exhibition of lino cuts in the Mill next to the Shroppie. Then it was catch up time and we travelled 7 miles and worked through 23 locks today. At the top of the Adderley flight there is a canalside farm shop so Dianne went in and stocked up the fridge with all sorts of farm fresh meats including some delicious Barnsley chops for tonight. We moored at the top of the Tyrley flight just before the long Woodseaves cutting that is very narrow and provides no opportunities for mooring. It's now blowing a gale but we are tucked in besides trees on both sides providing protection.

Friday, 11 July 2014


Wednesday 9 July

We carry on today descending Hassall Green locks, and the Wheellock flight where there were no less than 12 C&RT personnel working to replace a set of lock gates.

A place to dump the loo and take on water

We then reached Rump's Lock. This is the lockside cottage where we bought Anna back in 2001.

Unbeknown to us at the time she had sat outside the cottage for 6 years adjacent to a salt factory that produced an atmosphere in the surrounding area that slowly ate away her hull and we had to get her overplated.

The salt factory

And the salt

We then came into Middlewich and turned into the Shropshire Union canal Middlewich Branch. At this junction stands Wardle Cottage up until recently owned by Maureen Shaw who was a boat woman through and through. A beautiful plaque has been erected opposite her cottage where she spent many an hour telling boaters in no uncertain terms, how to operate the lock!

No, that's not Maureen!

After working the lock we were very fortunate to occupy a slot nearby as a boat vacated it. It's Keith's uncanny luck again!
We spent the evening in the Kings Lock enjoying a meal just before the second semi-final. The pub has recently been taken over and is tastefully refurbished.

Thursday 10 July

A late start this morning and we just pootled 5 miles down the arm to the village of Church Minshull where the mooring overlooked the surrounding fields and in the distance The Wrekin.
After Keith removed the cratch cover in order to give it a thorough clean and re-proof it, we wandered through the woods, across the river Weaver and into the village. The last time we visited here seven years ago, the pub was firmly boarded up and the Post Office had shut. Today, however, the Badger is splendidly open again having been lovingly restored and we enjoyed a local brew, Shropshire Gold, in the garden that is right next to the church.
The church was open so we reminded ourselves of its interior. In one corner sits one of its bells that became cracked in 1983. Hanging from bearing pin is the original clock weight of 1722.

Friday 11 July

We headed on down to Barbridge junction and joined the Shroppy proper. On the way we experienced our first serious queue at locks. Oh well, we had all day to travel the 8 miles into Nantwich.

A wooden sculpture on the way in to Nantwich

It is a really hot and somewhat humid day today so we found a shady spot on the visitor moorings above the town and had a wander down to explore the unspoilt period shops and buildings that adorn this fine old town. It was devastated by fire in 1583 but rebuilt in fine Tudor style. Many of the half-timbered buildings still remain.
We took in a pint of Manchester ale in the Vine before dining in the nearby Thai restaurant.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Back on the Trent and Mersey

It was such a shame to have to leave last night's mooring for it had a wonderful view overlooking the fields surrounding Little Moreton Hall.
On the way up the Mac we spotted nb Rosie and we had originally met Roy and Audrey at Cambrian Wharf in Birmingham on our maiden voyage back in 2010. They are fellow BCF members and have had their boat for 40 years and boy, have they looked after it. They have travelled along every waterway in England and were then looking for a canalside house where they could eventually hang up their lock keys. So Keith dug out their mobile number and dropped them a text to see if they would be in when we passed the spot this morning. Bingo yes they would be there and furthermore, they had just bought their dream cottage.

Roy was waiting for us when we pulled up and helped us moor. Dianne had just secured the bow rope through the thick grass and was getting off the boat when she fell into the canal right up to her waist! Fortunately no damage was done and was able to get back onto the bank without too much trouble.

So after a quick change of clothing we were invited in for a cup of coffee. They have taken over the property only five weeks ago and found that the garden and the inside were in a sorry state and needed a lot of work doing to it. That has not put them off even though they are in their late 70s and have concentrated on sorting out the garden during the fine weather and live on their boat in the meantime. Interestingly there is no vehicle access to the property and everything has to be walked up a steepish slope 100 yards from the road.
The cottages were originally occupied by British Waterways workers whose sole job was to open and close the swing bridge by means of a chain 24/7 to allow the working narrowboats to pass. It still works now!

After a good few hours of chattering about their many exploits it was time to leave and to begin to tackle the locks on 'Heartbreak Hill'.

As we come off the Macclesfield canal we drop down through one lock and go under the Mac.

The Macclesfield canal passing overhead

It was essential today to find a spot with good TV reception in order to watch the first of the semi-finals or a pub with a screen! We moored outside the Broughton Arms at Rode Heath but could not get a decent signal so booked a table for a meal inside and a ringside seat.