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Sunday, 22 July 2018

Boats, Beers and Boozers, 3.

We are currently at home so have fitted in one of my little pub blogs.

We were in Burscough prior to heading down to Liverpool and again on the way to and from the Lancaster Canal. It is the old railway hotel that is by the roundabout that now leads to TESCO's and the station. The pub had been built in 1874 as the Royal Hotel and was a coaching inn and stables as the main road was the turnpike that is now the A59. Burscough had a busy Canal wharf and with the mill there would have been traffic along the waterway as well as the road and the rail.

Every time we have been it has been very busy with people eating. The pub also has their own brewery that is situated in the old stable block, beyond the cobbled courtyard at the back of the pub.

The Hop Vine pub at twilight.



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The pub is just 5 minutes walk from Burscough Wharf so is easily accessible from the visitor moorings. The pub also has their own beers on the bar plus Timothy Taylors Landlord whilst we were there.

I had a pint of D'Vine IPA from the Hop Vine Brewery. It is 5.2% and £3-00 a pint. The alcohol content masked the smells and tastes of the hops.
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I also their Best Bitter, just 3.8% and £2-60. It was an amber coloured beer that had quite a malty taste but wasn't really to my taste.
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On other visits to the pub as we were passing I also tried their Flat Rib Stout craft beer. 3.8%, £2-00. I don't really go for craft beer over cask ale and for me it was very thin and 'gassy'.

I also tried their Hoppy Blonde 4.2% and at £2-80 a good drop as I found it the second best of their beers that I tasted
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The last beer I tasted was their Summer Ale 4.3% at £3-00. This was by far the best I had as on a very warm day it really hit the spot as pale beer with a nice hoppy tropical fruit taste and then a bit more earthiness in the after taste.

The food was good pub grub plus at a good keen price. There are plenty of staff to serve the food but could maybe use a few more to serve at the bar along rather than filling table orders too. The staff were attentive and chatty and the place was nicely decorated with a three large areas for eating and the outside cobbled courtyard beer garden. They also have singers/musicians playing in the early evenings sometimes. I would recommend it to those wanting to check out a new brewery, have a grreat meal, and all close to the canal.


Saturday, 21 July 2018

Swanning about to Swanley Bridge.

The weather started out overcast, shock horror, but it was still warm and was to clear up as the day drew on.

We got away and then had the Wrenbury Mill automated bridge to operate. It seems to be a bit tempremental but I think that the single barrier that you have to manually close has had the lug that operates the switch that indicates it is closed and allows the hydraulics to start up and open the bridge has been bent. This is because it has been 'slammed' shut. The whole thing is still mokay but you have to ensure the barrier is fully closed, this may need a second person to lean on it to keep it in position until the pump starts up. We had just dropped the barrier to allow the traffic to clear when a hire boat came round the corner. We were worried that we had dropped it on them and decided we would wait for them at the next lift bridge. It may have been thought of as a mistake as they were really slow. I was amazed that they were heading to Audlem for the night. They are seriously putting in some hours to get the boat back to Norbury Wharf.

We didn't have to go far as we are off home tomorrow so we pottered on behind then through the Baddiley Locks. The tree that had come down on our way up, delaying us about an hour, had been removed completely.

Helen was enjoying the task of passing through the locks. I usually wield the windlass on the way down lock flights as I am able to stride across the bottom gates, saving lots of walking and time. I am usually at the helm going up as I can usually close one of the bottom gates from the boat so saving Helen lots of walking and time.

We were meeting boats coming up regularly so that often we were able to leave bottom gates open, or if no boat coming up there was another hire boat astern of us that were there to close up for us too. One more lock to go as Helen brings 'Holderness' to the last of the Swanley Locks.

We were mooring up in Swanley Bridge Marina for a week or so as we have commitments at home. I was on the train from Nantwich at just after 1800 and was back aboard by 1000 the next day to collect cat, kit and Helen to take them off home for a while. The check list was gone through and the boat shut up and left on the solar panels to await our return.

The marina is bigger than I had thought with full length pontoons too. Their brokerage was very busy with folk coming to look around the boats they had on offer often. They told me that they sold one not long ago about an hour after it had been put on the market. A good market out there if anybody is thinking of selling. The depreciation on our outlay for 'Holderness' is perhaps not quite as much as we thought it may have been at the time we bought her, six years ago now.

Friday, 20 July 2018

Shropshire families.

We sat and waited for a good while, and did a few jobs, whilst we waited for the initial rush for the locks to dissipate. We also filled up with water and got rid of the rubbish too.

I love this old lock keepers cottage just because it has a nice veranda around the front. I would like a stoop right round the house so you could sit out in any weather  and stay dry. Mind you I understand that when it was lived in by the keepers it was very cold and drafty and hard to heat. It was sold off and is now a private house.

There werre a couple of boats threading their way through the staircase when we got to the top of them so still had a little bit of a wait. Helen was just watching to ensure that they were using proper, and safe techniques for working up a staircase system!

There were two voluntary lock keepers on duty keeping the boats flowing. The keepers are lucky having their own little 'den' to retreat into.

When we started down we were joined by a group who were hiring a boat a week later down on the Trent and Mersey and were just coming to see what to do at the locks. Helen was very patient with them and insisted that they should practice their windlass winding and beam pushing methodology so that she could watch and their technique and help them refine it for when they were on their own. They obligingly worked us down the a couple of locks. I hope they have a great holiday afloat.

By the time we got to the bottom we were on our own as we passed the old warehouse/bookshop. You can just see the tunnel in the shade. Actually it is just the bridge that carries the old Chester to Whitchurch railway.

Hinton Hall peeps out through the surrounding trees and could be easily missed from the canal. It was built in 1859 for Robert Peel Ethelston. It was built in the neo Jacobean style. During WWII it became a school for exiled Czech children and the nearby Hinton Manor was selected for the seat of government of the deposed Czech Goverment. The school became so overcrowded that another building was used not too far away in Wales. The buildings and contents were sold up in 2017 and it looks like it has been converted into apartments now.

As we approached Quoisley Lock the hire boat was moored up on the lock landing and declared they were just having lunch! It would have been much better to have moored on the last bollards as there would then be room to land a boat, but they made me feel a bit hungry as they were tucking into hot dogs and fried onions!

Before the football tonight we decided to take a walk up the cut to Wrenbury village. I don't suppose many folk get beyond the Dusty Miller or the Cotton Arms. The Dusty Miller was empty and the Cotton SArms rammed. Guess which one had a big screen? We found that St. Margret's Church was open so we went in for a look around.

In 1608 oak pews were added to the church. Up until then people would stand. The pews were tall to prevent drafts in the unheated church. In the Late 1600's new doors were added and most were painted with the arms of the families that owned them. This one is for the Starkey's of Wrenbury Hall.

In the early 1900's the doors were changed for lower ones and are the ones currently in place. They still have the coats of arms painted on them. This one is for the Kilmorey Family, whose faily name was Needham until 1625 when the 1st Viscount Kilmorey was created by Charles I for helping 'colonise' Ulster.

This is the Cotton family of Combermere Abbey. The Abbey came into the possession of the Cotton Family at the dissolution of the monasteries. Sir George Cotton was an Esquire of the Body to Henry VIII! A later Cotton became the First Baron and late Viscount Combermere after he excelled in battle, fighting in India with the Duke of Wellington, the Peninsula Wars .

This pew belonged to the Dysart Family. The family seem to have married into the Cotton Family but they seem to have originated in Scotland.

The church also has two hatchments. When the master of the big house there was a tradition that an armorial board was hung on the gates of the property for a year, and then placed in the local Church. There is one for the 1st and another for the 2nd Viscount of Combermere. This one is for the death of Stapleton Cotton, the 1st Viscount who died in 1865 aged 92. He must have had a charmed life as he was a soldier who fought in the Battle of Talavera and Salamanca where he became good friends with the Duke of Wellington. He was given the thanks of both Houses of Parliament for his efforts. He late became the Governor of Barbados and the CinC of the Leeward Islands and the West Indies before returning to fighting in India where he took the fort at Bhurtpore that was thought to be impregnable. He won a pension of over £2000 a year for this. The Combermere Obelisk that can be seen from the canal was also raised for him later.

It was not the day for the England team when we got back to the boat, but the 'lads have done well'.




Thursday, 19 July 2018

Birds, Beasts and Bracken.

We were off again at a decent hour of the morning. It was strangely overcast in the morning. It seems ages since we hadn't woken up to sun in our eyes. But it was still warm.

Bridge No.2 is another lift bridge and is actually called Stark's Bridge. It is not only Grade II* Listed due to it being a rare example of it being on the skew, but it is also a registered Ancient Monument!

The Toll House at the junction is actually three stories with the lower level below the canal.

This small dutch barn was infilled at one end and this sign indicated that it was a pigeon loft. I have never seen any exercising or sitting around the area.

Close by I just managed to get this quick shot of a bird carrying off a kill. The catch looked like a mole, but could have been a rat I suppose, and I'm afraid there are few birds of prey that I can distinguish as you never really get to see them close up and they all look like 'hawks; from a distance!

At Platt Lane the gardner has put a lot of effort into producing the 'Bridge 43' mini hedge that is quite striking but must take a little time to keep trim and tidy.

Alot of farmers provide access to the canal for stock on many canals. I have often wondered what arrangements they have with C&RT regarding water extraction and bank maintenance.

The bracken is at full height at the moment and provides good hedging at the moment. It always takes me back to my school days as we used to roam about with our bikes in the country and in fields park and rough land. Bracken was always a great place to hide. I can smell it now, and I also recall the many cuts to my hands as I tried to pull the stems.

This dead tree in the middle of a a field stood out starkly against the sky line. It was good to see that it had been left standing and not grubbed out to  make the planting and harvesting of the field easier.

We stopped for the day before Grindley Brook and once again had a nice easy afternoon. By the time we had out tea there wan't a mooring left.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Peace on Prees.

Helen went back into town to Vermyuden's? delicatessen to get some cold meats, the beef is beautiful, and a pork pie, whilst I stayed back and used the fact that we had a good internet signal to book train tickets and other jobs that needed doing.

It was lovely and warm byt the time we actually got under way so the dappled shade of the tree lined cut were very pleasant.

Ellesmere Tunnel was even cooler, and we were straight in as nobody was coming the other way. It was also dry, as most places are after about 6 weeks of no rain.

After the tunnel you get into a section of canal that wriggle round the Meres in the area, first Blake Mere, and Cole Mere. There are some lovely spots to moor and overlook the picturesque Blake Mere. We promise ourselves that we will stop, but never have yet. I just wonder what the insect life will be like at this time of the year as the horse flies are quite voracious at the moment. 

There were plenty of boats moving so it was quite nice to arrive at the Prees Branch and head off the main line for a bit and lose the boats passing either way. The Prees Branch was supposed to be built to the place of that name, about 5 miles away, but it never got that far. It ran out of money at Quina Brook where there was some lime kilns to provide traffic. It was opened about 1800.

On the short section that is still opened, just under a mile, there are two lift bridges and both date from the building of the canal. The first is Allman's Bridge and and was one of the last lift bridges to be altered to Hydraulic in 2010.

The end of navigation is now at Whixal Marina. It was the last part of commercial use as the clay pit that was still in use by the canal company to provide puddle clay for the maintenance of the canals. It looks like a big new building has recently been erected at the marina and it turns out that a local well know business family had bought the marina last year and have had the new building erected to house a cafe.

The also got planning for glamping opportunities in shephards huts that can be moved around, and stored away in winter. The 'facilities' would be in the cafe block. It didn't look like the cafe or the huts were in use as yet.

We winded at the marina and moored up at a bit of wide towpath, with a wide bit of canal, where there were no buildings. After sitting and reading a bit, to allow the engine to cool down, I did an oil change. It was a lovely quiet spot and again Macy enjoyed being in the grass.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Back into the Hurley Burly.

The locks at Frankton Junction open at 1200 so I took advantage of being close to the water taps by washing both sides of the boat, and topping the tank up afterwards too. Whilst I was doing this four boats went up towards the lock so there was less need to get ready at 1200 as they would have to pass up too.

We arrived at the bottom lock as the last boat was leaving the staircase at the top. Helen worked the locks today and we made good time on the way up. You can just see the plaque afixed to the stonework that tells of the conversion of the 'Cressy' that became L.T.C. Rolt's converted work boat for leisure. It was carried out at Beech's Boat Yard that was on the off side just below the lock.

I noticed this boundary post in the grounds of the house by the canal between the locks.

Not a bad spot for a house, next to the canal, but one that at present is not mega busy and where the locks are only open for 2 hours a day!

A boat came down the staircase and we went straight in. The voluntary lock keeper was very helpful and we were soon back up on the Llangollen Canal.

Here is another house with a good view. High enough above the canal not to be disturbed by the passing boats too much, but with a great view down the reach.

In the distance before Ellesmere we could see Ellesmere College. It was founded in 1879 by a Canon Woodward on 114 acres of land given by Lord Brownlow. It was originally called St. Oswald's School and was aligned with the Church of England. It actually opened in 1884 with 70 boys and 4 masters and was to provide a good education for a low costs for families of indifferent means. It is boarding and day school and the fees can be about £20,000 a year. Past pupils include Martin Aitchison who illustrated many of the Ladybird books that have once again become popular, Billy Beaumont England and British Lions Rugby Union Captain and now administrator in World Rugby, as well as the 7th Duke of Westminster.


We moored up opposite the services before the Ellesmere Branch. quite early. We went to do a little shopping and went back for a couple of pints at The Vault under the old Town Hall. It was a lovely temperature in the old cellars and we were told that it is easy to heat in winter as it is insulated by the ground. It was great to sit and do very little for an hour or two.

Monday, 16 July 2018

For Peace and Quiet

We go back just as the England game was finishing and caught the end on the radio before heading off. We decided to head back for the Weston Branch as it was so peaceful, as against the road noise here at Queens Head.

The main visitor moorings are by the Shropshire Paddlesport Canoe Club, but there is another set of bollards through the two bridges. Mind you it is no quieter. I was perplexed that by a canoe club the height of the bank was raised, as it would make it difficult to get in and out of them. I then noticed that the address of the club house was actually the 'Old Barge House', so it had obviously been a wharf in the past.

Over the road from the boat house is a building that looks suspiciously like a warehouse. It also seems that despite the new corrugated iron on the Canoe Club building it has actually been a Grade II Listed building since 1987.

At Heath Houses, as well as the Packet House building, is the only turn-over bridge on the Montgomery Canal. From here to Newport the tow path does not change sides again. Unlike in most other places where the track is ccobbled for giving the horses grip, this one seems to be grassed. I suppose that may well be a later thing though.

The canal passes over the little River Perry on a small aqueduct. It was between here, and the new winding hole a little to the north, that the breech in the canal occurred in 1936 that brought about the closure of the canal. They didn't want to waste any money on a repairs that had no boats using it! Looking at the pictures of the canal restoration it is amazing that there are no trees or bushes about.

The canal is definitely a place full of wildlife in the form of plants and insects. There is plenty of bird life but I didn't see any other mammals. 

We were very pleased to see that we were the only ones at the moorings at the Weston Branch. It was a lovely evening and Macy took full advantage of their being no people or dog walkers and loved being out and about.

After a good exploration Macy is pleased to sit on the sun warmed concrete to take in the cooling air.