Monday, 27 July 2015

Ten cygnets!

Exeter Ship canal, 25th July 2015
It’s Dave’s birthday, so this afternoon we went for a drink at the Turf, the pub at the end of the universe Exeter Ship Canal.

On the way we saw this female swan with ten cygnets.  We’ve never seen this many in one family before.  The RSPB says the average number of eggs is 4, but  the Swan Sanctuary says the maximum hatched is 10.

10 cygnets 1

As the pen was in charge, where was the cob?   A few hundred yards away, defending his patch.  On a sunny weekend afternoon, there were others using the canal too.

10 cygnets 2

She started to get a bit fed up with all the attention -

10 cygnets 3

and eventually she sent the cygnets off to the far bank while she watched the kayakers out of sight. The cygnets all went off in a group and waited together on the far side - I wonder how they knew what she wanted? 

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Up the lift and into the marina

Monday 20th and Tuesday 21st July; Barnton Cut to Anderton marina

Well, Meg was her normal self this morning and walking more easily, so we thought an early dash to Anderton would not be necessary, though we still kept her on the lead while she was off the boat.  We were away soon after 9.  Isn’t the mooring lovely?  Only phone pics today, as my camera battery has run out.

1 leaving barnton cut

We decided to go up the lift this morning if there was a slot available, and get a taxi from Anderton if Meg’s paw got worse.  There would be space at 10 o’clock, and the lady on the phone said it wouldn’t matter that we couldn’t get there half an hour beforehand – just get there as soon as we could.  So we cranked up the revs a bit, passing under Winnington Swing bridge soon after 9.30 (when we should have already been on the holding moorings).  You need to use the higher end if you want to keep your head!

3 keep to the left

It’s not far from the lift and at 9.45 we came round the bend to see a boat just entering the caisson.  The message had got through to the operator and we were waved in with a cheery greeting.  The gate was soon closing behind us.  Bye bye Weaver!

4 goodbye weaver

There was a splosh of water from up above as a boat entered at the top.  Our companions in the caisson were going into Uplands marina and we have booked into Anderton on the other side of the canal.  Before the descending caisson drew level, I stretched my phone out and took a snap of the chamber underneath it – I couldn’t see much myself being somewhat vertically challenged, and I certainly wasn’t about to stand on the roof or even the locker to get a better view!

6 looking down into other chamber

The view upstream towards the park is lovely, but downstream is over an industrial estate, incongruously named Daisy Bank Lane.

7 upstream  8 downstream ind area

We left the caisson, then the holding chamber ……

9 leaving top chamber  10 leaving top chamber

and were back on the Trent and Mersey.  You can only turn right when you leave the lift as the left turn is too sharp for most boats; there is a winding hole (turning space) conveniently close if you want to go north.

11 back on t and m

Meg’s paw seems to be getting better all the time, so we pulled in on the 24-hour moorings and instead of phoning a taxi to go to the vet, Dave went off to Northwich station to go back to Manchester and fetch the car.  Meanwhile I got out the sponge and bucket and set to, washing the rows of muddy splashes from the dripping gates of the lift – along the roof, down both sides, the gunwales, the cratch cover and bow.

12 muddy drip splatters on roof

I managed half the roof before it started to rain.  I finished the roof and starboard side between showers, though Dave got rather wet on his walk to Northwich.  His train was delayed too, but he was still back by mid-afternoon and left the car in the Boat Lift car park.  As long as you buy a ticket from the machine no-one seems to mind if you leave the car overnight.  Meg is almost walking normally now so we decided against going to the vet.  All we can think of is that she stood on something pointed but not sharp enough to cut, like a stone or stick, and bruised her foot.

We went up to the Stanley Arms to eat.  We had a very pleasant meal and a chat to the couple we shared the lift with.

On Tuesday we put a few things in the car before moving down to Anderton marina, where we have a very convenient mooring.  Tuesday and Wednesday are good days to be here – there are no handovers on the hire fleet so apart from the staff occasionally moving boats around it’s quiet.  We left for home at lunchtime.

1 and a half miles and the boat lift.

In our first hour on the T&M more boats passed than we’d seen during our four days on the Weaver.  Back to normality!

We haven’t decided where we will go next time out, but it won’t be for a month or so.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Lovely Barnton Cut

Sunday 19th July; Frodsham Cut to Barnton Cut.

It was wet and windy overnight and first thing this morning, but had cleared up by the time we were ready to leave.  The Runcorn Rowers were out again but had mostly returned to base before we left.  We saw a kingfisher and two Great Crested Grebes on our way back upstream.  The Devil’s Garden mooring was a lot busier than it had been the other night - 4 boats were moored – but there was still space for a couple more.

1 devils garden quite busy

We tied up on the lock landing before Dutton locks.  We hadn’t phoned ahead, as when we came down the other day the lockie told us not to bother, as the signal was so poor.  While he prepared the lock I took a snap of the info board the owner of had put up.  It’s hard to read because of the shadows – the lock dimensions are 225’ by 42’.  Quite big.

2 dutton locks facts

The river path here is part of National Cycle Network 5.  We have found towpath cyclists in the north and midlands to be pretty respectful of pedestrians, and ring their bells or call a polite warning when they are coming up behind you.  Even in London they warn you of their approach, unlike a lot of cyclists in the south-west, who seem to think you have eyes in the back of your head.  Which is stupid, because if they warned you (pedestrians, runners, slower cyclists) of their approach then you would move aside before they reached you and they wouldn’t need to slow down so much.

Anyway, we were joined by nb Nestor, who had been moored at Devil's Garden for a couple of days.  They had managed after three tries to leave a voicemail for the lockie.  We paused briefly at Acton Bridge to drop off some rubbish then followed Nestor to Saltersford lock.  A cruiser had swept past us on our way but was made to wait by the lockie while the three narrowboats got sorted – share boat Winthorpe was already there, having been moored at Acton Bridge.  Like us they had turned at Marsh lock yesterday and must have gone back upstream while we were walking along Frodsham Cut.

3 in saltersford lock

The cruiser also had to wait while the narrowboats left the lock – I seem to remember on the Thames they let the plastic boats go first.  Not here though!  We moored at the lovely Barnton Cut moorings for lunch, and decided to stay put.

After lunch we walked up a footpath to meet the canal towpath where it runs along the top of Barnton Tunnel.  We knew where we were because we could see the top of a ventilation shalt.

6 vent shaft barnton tunnel

The shop is five minutes walk from the eastern tunnel portal and has a very good range of items, so it’s one we will remember for future use.  It is open long hours too – until 8 on a Sunday. We took an alternative path back which was rather overgrown.  We spotted this large bracket fungus which had unfortunately been knocked off its tree stump.

5 bracket fungus

Later on we rubbed down the second dinette window and Dave got a coat of varnish on.  He was just putting things away when he looked up to see Meg on the bank limping towards him.  We have no idea what had happened – there was nothing sticking in her paw, no blood, no apparent problem with her shoulder, just a sore paw.  What to do?  She was not upset in any way, and apart from not putting weight on that leg she behaved as normal.  So we found a couple of vets on the very slow connection, and planned to go straight up to Northwich in the morning.  We had intended to spend another day here getting on with some jobs, but with the weather likely to be a bit damp we didn’t mind cutting our stay short.  Meg’s more important than paintwork after all.

7 and a half miles, 2 locks

Friday, 24 July 2015

Windy on the Weston Cut

Saturday 18th July; Big Wood/Devil’s Garden to Frodsham Cut via Marsh Lock

Another bright sunny morning, though the wind got up as we left the shelter of our mooring.  It must have been hard work for the scullers out from Runcorn Rowing Club.  Though there wasn’t much current to row against, when they turned they had to battle against the wind.

1 early morning scullers

We passed Frodsham cut on our way towards Sutton Swing Bridge. It’s not navigable.

19 frodsham cut

You can see the railway bridge behind the swing bridge.  The photo shows how the cloud had come across making it feel even colder as the wind got stronger.

2 sutton swing bridge

These bridges are rather more complex than the ones we operate by hand!

3 sutton bridge  4 sutton bridge

Once we had passed the M56 and the rowing club (most of the boats were already put away in the sheds by the time we got there) we could see the chemical works which stretches away towards Weston Point and the docks.

5 chemical works stretching away

Towers and pipes extended as far as the eye could see.  The windsocks on the towers were streaming out horizontally.  We thought if there was a chemical leak or fire, they would need to know the wind direction to know which areas to evacuate.  We reached Weston Marsh lock where the wind was now funnelling up the cut between the chemical works on one side and the high bramble-covered banks on the other.  It was pretty unpleasant.  We are not die-hard proponents of the ‘must get as far as we possibly can in all circumstances’ school of thought and decided we’d had enough of the battering wind, and turned – easily, helped by the wind.  We moored up on the lock landing.  You have to book ahead to use this lock, and there was clearly no-one about so we knew there would be time for us to have a look round.

15 moored at marsh lock pontoon

We went for a nose around the lock.  There are extensive views across the ship canal, which goes from left to right across the picture.  The jetty on the left is where you would have to tie up if the lock was not ready for you!  I suppose you could put ropes round a couple of the uprights.  Left goes to Ellesmere Port

7 marsh lock looking out over ship canal

and right to Manchester.  The Mersey is behind the low sandbanks in the top picture.

13 manchester thataway

I wouldn’t fancy tying up to that jetty.  You certainly couldn’t walk safely to land!

12 derelict jetty and buoy

The lock itself was windswept but when we walked a little way up the vehicle access track the butterflies were flying in the warm shelter of the bramble bushes.

9 marsh lock

The windlasses on the paddle gear are fixed to the stand, the same as the ones on the locks elsewhere on the Navigation.

14 fixed windlass

It was still deserted, so we stayed on the pontoon for lunch.  The wind rocked us and the ropes creaked – almost like being at sea!  Even on the canal there were waves.

17 very windy

But with the wind behind us, travelling was more comfortable and a lot warmer.  We stopped briefly at Sutton swing bridge to dispose of rubbish and recycling.  The mooring is labelled as 48 hours, but there’s only space for one narrowboat and no separate mooring for the water point.  It’s also close to the road and very noisy.

We decided to moor for the night at Frodsham cut.  The swans handily indicated the depth by standing in the water as they preened, and although the wind made it tricky we moored in adequate depth about 50 yards from the junction.

25 moored above frodsham cut

We went for a walk along the cut.  The strong wind was doing its best to blow the boat away from the bank so before we went we dropped the anchor to be on the safe side.  As we walked away from the navigation it got less windy and much warmer.  Even if the water in the cut were not so shallow, you couldn’t get further than a low bridge a few hundred yards along. There is a lock at the end of the cut, where it rejoined the Weaver on the old route to the river Mersey.  Weston Cut was opened in 1827 (decades before the Ship Canal was built) allowing traffic to avoid the river till Weston Point, and Frodsham Cut was eventually abandoned.  The lock is derelict with stop planks above

23 top frodsham lockand is full of reeds.  The tall structure looks like some sort of sluice.

20 bottom gates frodsham lock

We walked as far as the busy road bridge to Frodsham but didn’t go up to the town.  There is a water-sports place by the bridge and enthusiasts were riding jet-skis and having Ringo Rides (we had to ask what they were) along the river as far as Sutton Weir below the navigation.

21 jetski and ringo ride  22 jetski and ringo ride

The wind lessened by late afternoon and it was a lovely sunny end to the day.  Dave has finished varnishing the saloon window frames and is now starting on those in the dinette.  It’s been very quiet boat-wise; just one going upstream this morning and nb Winthorpe going downstream as we moored this afternoon.

7 and a half miles.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Devil’s Garden? More heavenly than hellish (though Dave might disagree….)

Friday 17th July; Vale Royal to Big Wood/Devil’s Garden

We pulled pins around 9.30 and followed tug Jerome down to the locks.  Vale Royal is a lovely quiet mooring.

1 leaving vale royal moorings

We shared Vale Royal and Hunt’s locks with Jerome, then left them to carry on to Saltersford lock while we waited for the service mooring at Northwich to become free.

2 jerome leaving hunts lock

It didn’t take long, but as we moored another boat, Harriette, approached so we invited them to breast up.  We first saw them moored on the Ashton, having a breather between locks.  We emptied cassettes and topped up the water, then they borrowed our hose while we continued nattering.

We had a pleasant lunch stop at Anderton, watching the occasional boat pass, including the massive CRT work boats – three this time with two diggers - and then a smaller vessel which was scooping up cut branches from the water.

3 massive work boats at anderton mooring

4 picking up cut branches

We called ahead to Saltersford locks as we set off once more.  On the south bank is this strange seemingly derelict works.  The walls with windows don’t appear to have anything behind them, not even a floor, just empty space. Very odd.  There seems to be some kind of track running under the roof, possibly to do with loading or unloading cargo.

6 strange works

Saltersford locks are huge.  There are attractive cottages on one bank.

7 pretty cottage at saltersford

We were on our own going down, dwarfed by the lock.  When I took the photo we were nowhere near the bottom gates but we’d already moved forward and right away from the wall.

8 leaving saltersford

The swing bridges that carry the roads across the river are large and impressive.  This is Acton Bridge.

10 acton swing bridge

11 acton swing bridge

Even the weir footbridge at Dutton is much bigger than we are used to on the canals.

12 weir footbridge dutton locks

Dutton is another very large lock.  It has a pair of intermediate gates half way along the lock chamber, which were used when there was commercial traffic on the river.  I don’t know if it was a water-saving measure, or more to speed up passage when only a half-lock of water was needed (a full lock takes nearly half a million gallons).  I have left the photo uncropped to indicate the width of the lock – we were by the opposite wall.  You can see the scale from the ladder, which looks to be the same as you get in a canal lock.

13 massive halfway gates in dutton

Salterford and Dutton are electrically operated, so there is only one lockie on duty unlike Hunt’s and Vale Royal which had two.

The wind was strengthening as we approached the huge Dutton railway viaduct.  You get a much better view from the river, though I think it is possibly more impressive when seen at a distance, from the canal.




It was blowing strongly on the exposed sections of the river, but our mooring for the night was sheltered and warm.  Nicholson’s names this area Devil’s Garden, but I think Pearson’s may not – not everyone has heard of the name.  Or perhaps they just don’t like to use it. It is just downstream of Big Wood on the left side.  There was plenty of room, and just one other boat there at the far end.  A small group of young cattle wandered up to have a look but they soon meandered off.


After a relaxing cup of tea, Dave and Meg set off for what should have been a circular walk of less than an hour.   An hour and a half later, I was waiting to cook tea so I rang him up to find out why he was overdue.  The path he had been expecting to take back towards the river had a locked gate and a ‘no public access’ sign. Eventually he had to retrace his steps.  Lucky he took his phone – and there was a signal!   An hour’s walk turned out to be more like three.  The path by the river was very rough and overgrown so they were pretty tired when they finally got back.

It was a beautiful evening anyway.  Dave saw a kingfisher earlier and I watched one fishing opposite our mooring, as well as a couple of grey wagtails pottering about.

12 miles, 4 locks, 5 hours.