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Wednesday 31 July 2013

Beeston Castle walk.

We set off for our walk in good weather. Just up to the Shady Oak pub and off the tow path. There is an old mill there and the mill pond on the other side of the road. There was a rumbling as we passed and it looked like the water wheel was still going round under the building. As we passed the garden we saw these venturis so I wonder if they are using the wheel to generate electricity.

Bates's Mill equipment.

Up the road a little and then we took to cross country. We went round the edge of a field of broad beans and it was literally heaving with Large Cabbage White butterflies. I have never seen so many at all. After seeing very few during the last few months the last few weeks of good weather seems to have brought them out. 

Broad beans and thistles with loads of large Cabbage White butterflies.

We were walking on the Peckforton Estate and we could see the battlements of the castle that was built in the Victorian age and is a complete medieval castle. It is now a wedding centre, spa resort and hotel. We had some overgrown lengths of footpath where a machete would have been an asset! Eventually we got to the base of Beeston Crag and paid out £5-90 to climb up to the top. It had been a neolithic settlement 1270 - 830BC as it was well above the swapy Cheshire Plain and a safe site. Later it was a safe spot from which to farm the cleared land. They also found copper in the area so bronze was smelted here. Flints from Yorkshire and Lincolnshire were found too. In 1220 Ranulfe de Blondeville, 6th Earl of Chester built a castle here. He had been on the Crusades for two years so used his experience of castles he had seen to build it. In 1237 with the death of Ranulfe's heir Henry III took it over where, as it wasn't on the 'front line' it slowly deteriorated. That is until the Civil War when in 1643 Parliamentarians took it over. They were ousted quite soon afterwards by the Royalists. Later the castle was under siege from November 1644 to November 1645. With the steady defection of troops and the more pressing lack of food the Royalist leader made terms with the besiegers. He did a good deal and they were allowed to leave with their arms and flags flying and avoided imprisonment. When Cromwell's men got into the castle the realised that there was only enough food for one more day. Cromwell ordered the castle to be pulled down. The castle was never really used again other than a gatehouse etc. It is now under the keeping of English Heritage. There are fantastic views from the top.

The rock cut moat by the inner ward curtain wall.

English countryside at its best. The view from Beeston castle to the north. Ther first line at the bottom is the railway and the second is the Shropshire Union canal. The red boat is ours.

Tony on the modern bridge from the Inner Ward looking south.

Helen at the Inner Gatehouse.

We then walked round to the east of the crag towards the canal. From the top we could see some works going on near the old Beeston and Tarporley Station. When we got closer it looked to be that it was a WWII facility. When we got back I looked it up and it was an oil storage facility. There were 6 tanks 118' x 20' in all holding about 29000 tonnes? It may have been aviation spirit and was on the pipeline from the Mersey refinaries that feed the fuel to the PLUTO (pipeline under the ocean) that finally led to the Mulberry Harbour that was built off Normandy after D Day. It also had a rail siding to it. I'm not sure what the work is that is going on bet they seemed to be uncovering them but not revealing them completely. I wonder if they are being converted to dry storage rather than being ripped out. There was no sign that it was still MOD property and as there is a large auction ground close, along with a reclaimation yard it could be 

You can see the Outer Curtain Wall half way up the crag and the inner curtain wall at the top of the 

Harey moment.

Helen called me yesterday evening to see a rat or water vole in the water. It was swimming in the cut and trying to get out out onto the opposite bank. It couldn't, and then it started swimming about. It looked like a rabbit swimming. It had obviously been trying for a while as it was tired out and kept going under. I quickly got a bucket and boat hook out to see if I could scoop it out. It came close enough to the bank through for me to grab it by hand. It turned out to be a leveret.

A little wet leveret.

Beeston Castle in the evening sun.

We dried the leveret off and warmed it up as best we could. It didn't move much and was clearly knackered. We went on line to get some information about them. We called this one Lucy the Leveret,(but it may have been a Lionel!). Lucy weighed in at a little over 700gms which showed that it wasn't yet weaned so we couldn't really move her far as we didn't have an hare formula milk. I think fully weaned leverets weigh a bit over 900 gms. I then got worried about us handling it etc as we would have to leave it for her mother to find and with it being kept in the cat basket too maybe it would have been rejected. In the morning she looked lively but didn't seem to have eaten anything we had left her. She was standing in the bowl of water so not sure whether she had any of that either. We decided to move over to the off bank and drop her over there where we had first seen her hoping we would be close to her Mum. I rubbed my hands with a bit of her droppings to try to lose my smell before handling her. I jumped off and moved a bit away from the canal. As soon as I opened the basket she leapt out. She headed straight for the longer grass which was by the canal, and promptly fell back in again!!! I quickly scooped her out again and as it was only a quick dunking I put her down and left her for her Mum to find. I hope she has done okay, but I have my doubts. We couldn't have left her to drown in the cut last night and don't really know what else we could have done. We did contact the Hare Survival people but of course it was at night and no message back today. Good luck to Lucy.

Lucy the Leveret looking much more dry and alert before release.

The moment of release, and just before Lucy jumped back in the water!

We set off in on and off drizzle. I didn't know whether to wear waterproofs or not, it was that sort of rain. We were only going as far as Egg Bridge and there were no locks today so Helen stayed inside and did some cleaning and baking, emerging just as we arrived. There were about two miles of linear moorings around Hargrave and this becomes very tedious when you are only doing minimum speed to prevent causing damage to boats and moorings as you pass. Egg Bridge seems to have been called this when the bridge over the canal was built in 1700 to prevent  Egg Farm being cut off from the road. Why else would it be called that? I was hoping for something more exciting really. As soon as we had moored up it chucked it down until about 1600. Once it had stopped we went off to post letters and buy some milk. Helen had made a crumble out of the spelt flour from Bunbury mill and the fuit was the residue from the red currants that we picked at Calveley and had made the jelly from. It was lovely.

Our mooring at Egg Bridge.

Monday 29 July 2013

Avoiding the showers.

There was rain again in the night but we have been fortuitous today as we have missed all but a few drops. Our first hurdle was the two lock stair case b y the Anglo Welsh Hire Base at Bunbury. At the top lock is a very long stable block that was for the horses of the fly boats from Ellesmere Port to Birmingham that used to cover the 80 miles in 24 hours! There were plenty of boats waiting at the Anglowelsh Base so not too busy just at the moment.

Stables at Bunbury Lock.

Bottom of the Staircase lock at Bunbury.

Tilstone Lock came next and the number of boats also increased. There was a nice little round building by the lock that were for the lengthsmen who used to look after the canal to keep their tools and equipment.

Round House store near Tilstone Lock

Helen was at the helm as we approached the next lock, Beeston Stone Lock and as nobody was around she contiued on and did the lock all on here own. Her first, and a wide lock at that. She had broken her duck and so went to enter the Beeston Iron Lock. How ever we had to wait for two boats to come and then by the time that happened there were crowds of people about but still she did it. Two boats came up and then we entered. There was a warning saying that the lock was not suitable for two wider boats so the next one wouldn't come down. I think the problem is really for older boats that were built by eye and so dimensions were not standard. the lock is a riveted cast iron lock, built by Tomas Telford as the ground here was really loose sand so stone/brick locks collapsed. The iron lock worked well and is similar to the Llangollen aqueducts.

Beeston Iron Lock.

Helen went on to do the Wharton's Lock too so I got my chance to do some locks. Helen has managed these wide locks, with an audience and in a bit of a wind so will have no trouble with the narrow locks further on in out journey.

All I can do is stand and watch as Helen brings the boat in with great skill.

We stopped not far after Wharton's Lock and this gave us a view of Beeston castle on it's rocky tour. It is on the Cheshire Sandstone ridge laid down in the triassic age. The glacial period eroded a lot but when the ice melted the whole area was covered with soft boulder clay, almost up to the height of the crag. This soft clay has been eroded again and left the crag prominent, along with other outlayers in the area.

The view from our boat, Beeston Castle.

I washed the port side and then polished it whilst Helen was making bread using the spelt flour that we bought at Bunbury Mill yesterday. Spelt flour is apparently made from an older type grain that is smaller and harder than modern wheat. It was very tasty. We had a quick visit to the Shady Oak pub just up the tow path before getting out tea.

Sunday 28 July 2013

Bunbury Mill.

It rained most of last night but seemed to stop about 0500 and we haven't got wet for the rest of the day, so far. After breakfast we walked down the tow path to a garage to get the Sunday paper. On the way back I picked a few more black currants to have sufficient for a recipe.
 We read the paper until after lunch and then decided to go for another walk.

Footpath to Bunbury.

There is a community owned water mill at Bunbury that is only opened on Sunday afternoons The walk was cross country and on some very little used roads too. We came in to the back of the museum site. There are guided tours so we had a cup of tea whilst we waited for the next one. There was a little excitement as there were some pipestrelle bats in the toilet. It seems that they do roost in the loft but the young or something had got 'lost'! The mill had been 'lost' for a while until rediscovered by a local. It is right next to the sewage farm for the village who wanted to demolish it but were persuaded to spend the money on refurbishment. That was back in 1977. A couple of years ago they wanted to get rid of it and the locals developed a trust to take it over. It is a working mill and the flour is for sale. We bought some to make some bread with.

Grinding floor with three sets of stones.

Power flour with the big drive wheel being driven by the over shot water wheel.

The tour was very good and informative and it was obvious that all the volunteers were committed to the project. After the visit we walked into the village and passed the church. St. Boniface. It is a Grade 1 listed building and is one of the best of its kind. The church mainly dates from the 14th Century and has some very important tombs inside. It had some very fancy pinnacles and gargoyles. 

St Boniface Church, Bunbury. The gate and piers are the war memorial for the village.

Gargoyles and pinnacles with the flag flying.

Neat graveyard at St Boniface Church.

After the church we went to the pub opposite, the Dysart Arms that is the Cheshire eating pub 2013 and several years previously too. We then walked round the village and checked out the houses etc and it seems a nice little place with a nice mix of houses. We were going to walk over the firlds back to the boat but the paths appeared to be blocked with nettles etc so as we didn't have a machete, or long trousers, discretion was the better part of valour so we continued down the road to the tow path and walked back along that. Whilst Helen was getting the lasagna ready I did the ironing to show my domestic skills off.

Saturday 27 July 2013

New Territory.

Last night was very still and warm and we sat out until long after sunset. The morning was beautiful again and another late start.

Sunset over Church Minshull.

Enjoying the cool of the evening.

Whilst in a Charity Shop in Middlewich I saw a little plastic stool so thought it would do for Helen to stand on to look over the flowers when she is steering. It seems to be just about right, but I don't suppose it will last the year out but I can easily knock something up to replace it latter when she knows exactly what she requires.

Helen in the crows nest!

Setting off later meant that we were in a queue at each of the two locks today. We were about fourth in line and it took the best part of an hour to get through them. As the sun was shining it was nice to stand and chat and see what I have been doing wrong all the time. Eventually we came to Barbridge Junction and all was quiet as we popped out and turned right. This is once again new ground for us as we head up towards Chester.

Barbridge Junction.

 Not far from the Junction is the service stop at Calveley. It was a transhipment wharf and warehouse between the canal and railway just behind. We stopped to take on water and ditch the rubbish. Whilst hooking up the hose I saw a bush full of red currents and on closer inspection there was a black current bush too. I was soon picking away and couldn't believe that they were still there as they were right next to the tap! I didn't have long and to be honest we haven't got any jam jars or bottles etc to put the stuff in that we make.

Tony Picking Red and Black Currents.

The transshipment warehouse is now a full service station with showers etc and has retained it's canopy that seems to be home to house martins as well as the ubiquitous pigeons.

Calveley transhipment Warehouse and service station.

The fruits of about 30 mins labour.

I managed about 1.5 lbs. of red and 1/2lbs of black currents. By tea time the red currents were made into jelly. It is actually more like a jam. The residue will be eaten with evaporated milk I think as it was too good to waste. The black currents will be made in to a black current vinegar to have on Yorkshire puddings and pancakes.

Friday 26 July 2013

Cheshire country.

We set off in beautiful sun again, and 1000 again too. We weren't going far so there was no rush. It seemed that others weren't so lucky as there were several boats passed us between 0500 and 0700! There was a bit of a queue for down at Stanthorne lock but not for us and we steamed on into some lovely countryside.

These cows seemed to be loitering near the canal like a bunch of yobs outside an off licence, and then I saw the tags, and knew they were all on ASBO's!

This is a former boat horse stable near Wimboldsley Hall. It has been altered to a residence. It is funny as there are no windows facing the canal and the modern doors are covered by stable doors. 

The Shropshire Union Canal Society have made several mooring places that have been kept neat and tidy for boaters. We missed a few and then ended up on one near Church Minshull. After mooring up we decided to go for a walk.

Shropshire Union Middlewich Branch towards Bridge No.11.

The River Weaver on the walk into the village.

St. Batholomews Church, Church Minshull. It was built around 1704 but after several fires and poor internal alterations it fell into very bad disrepair in 2000 but merited complete restoration. The wrought iron work round the gate etc is listed.

The Badger Inn interior.
None of our canal guides show a pub in Church Minshull but there is one now, the Badger Inn. It looks very nice and the food looks very nice too, if a little expensive. A local told us that you can wait for 4 hours for food sometimes!

The River Weaver Valley.

The view from our mooring with Church Minshull in the distance.

Macy enjoying the sunshine, the wide towpath, very few walkers and even fewer dogs.

After we got back to the boat I managed to sit and read a book without resorting to finding a job to do. Helen found it easy to accomplish the same task!

Thursday 25 July 2013


Boats had been going past us both ways for a while before we set of this morning. It seems that we got the best mooring for a long way as the tow path was well overgrown and the trees were overhanging making it gloomy. The end of the lock free cut is coming to an end. Other than Dutton Stop Lock near Preston Brook the last locks would be at Manchester or Wigan. These locks were on the Bridgewater Canal and were to wide beam size. The original Trent and Mersey Canal to Middlewich was also wide beam. At Croxton Aqueduct where the canal crosses the River Dane flood damage saw it revert to narrow gauge again.

Croxton Aqueduct narrows.

This meant that the Big Lock at Middlewich is left alone. Although wide size it is a rise of only 5 ft. After this the next three locks are narrow. I got no photographs at Big Lock as we took water just before it and got talking to an old boy. Another boat arrived so we shared with them. I thought it was brand new but it was older than ours. I think I know what he does when not cruising! Once we were in the lock there was a group at the lock seeming to be struggling. It seems that they had been using a Sea Searcher magnet and it had got stuck. It seems that it had got stuck on something. They thought that it was on something metal but it must have been jammed in the paddle gear as it wouldn't move at all. In the end they asked if I would cut it.

 As the next locks were narrow there was a slight delay. The next lock is close to Andersen Hire Boats and they looked well presented.

Andersen Hire Base from Lock No.74 with St. Michael's Church in the background.

Helen getting back into the swing of lock wheeling and enjoying the narrow size.

Lock No. 72 Middlewich.

The narrow locks means that you don't have to walk right round the lock to get to the other side as you can hope over the small gate or the small bridges.

Middlewich Hire Base. 

We hired a boat from here not too many years ago and were not impressed with the boat or base at the time. I know a new person has purchased the concern and they seem to have tidied up the base and the boats. I'm not too sure about the new colour scheme of blue and grey but very good luck to them all. Just after the base is the junction with the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union. It is a very bust junction as it it is on the Cheshire and Four Counties cruising rings and has a lock just by the turn. The lock is Wardle Lock and was built by the Trent and Mersey to link with the Shropshire Union. The 154' length of canal from the junction to the lock is called the Wardle Canal by some and is therefore the shortest canal in the country. We passed under a few bridges and then moored up. We went off into the town to do some shopping and were pleasantly surprised to see that the town had smartened up a fair bit since our last visit. After dropping the victuals back at the boat we wandered back to the junction to have a pint at the lock and watch the fun and then go to the King's Lock Chip Shop for a 'chippie tea', and very tasty it was too. 

Wednesday 24 July 2013


We woke up to the sun shinning and as we weren't going very far we didn't set out till later. We soon past the Lion Salt Works that were the last place using evaporating brine pans to produce salt. They have received grants etc and there seems to be a lot of working going on at the moment. It will be very interesting when it finally opens again after closing in 1986.

Canal cottage at Wincham Bend with original light over the door.

We were soon in among the working salt and Chemicals works. Brunner Mond factory had an arm into the factory. The company is now owned by the Indian Conglomerate Tata and there main products here are soda ash, sodium bicarbonate and calcium chloride. These products are used in many products such as making glass, cleaning products, dying, paper production etc etc. The factory here was first opened in 1874.

The canal arm into the Brunner Mond Factory.

The canal passes almost through the factory with bridges across the cut and pipelines passing over too. There are hoppers and silos, with steam and throbbing pipework and engines.

Passing through the Brunner Mond Factory at Northwich.

Places with 'Wich' in their name indicate that they are salt producing locations since Roman times. In this are the land has suffered from the extraction of salt as areas in coal mining areas have also. Rather than the rounded original canal bridges of elsewhere here they are flat topped. This is to make it easier to raise them when the land subsides with the extraction.

Flat topped bridge No.183 near Northwich.

In many places in the area the land has subsided so much shallow lakes have been created. The canal goes through several of these and you have to be careful not to stray too far off the track as you could easily get stuck. In the past they were convenient places to sink unwanted boats and barges but now they have been salvaged to recreate 'new' vintage boats. They are havens for birds etc and make lovely overnight moorings.

A flash with a wreck and a passing narrow boat.

We continued on a little way and found a nice spot with a bit of a normal width canal alongside and a good view. Outside of the flashes much of the canal is narrowed by the build up of reeds and overhanging trees.

Our night's view.

After a little rest I felt the need to wash the side of the boat and do a couple of little jobs to pass the time.