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Saturday 30 June 2018

Going Back in time.

There are a fair few boats that seem to getting off early in the morning, to beat the heat I assume, but we just left as normal. We didn't get too far as when approaching the Baddiley Locks we passed a C&RT work boat and a couple of the lads walking to pick it up. They told us that a willow tree had dropped across the canal above the bottom lock so we should moor up below the other boat whilst they penned up to see if they could do anything about it.

I went up to have a look and it was obvious that some boat had been through alongside the towpath so it was passable. The work boat penned up and soon had some of the branches on the front and were saw through with a bow saw. They had already called the contractors but already there were five boats waiting to go up and three to come down. There were many hands to assist moving the cuttings etc and in less than an hour there was a clear way through for single boats.

Helen brings 'Holderness' up and just clicks out of gear as she passes through, but there was no problem. There was still a branch below but deep enough for us not to touch at all.

The next first of the day was the Wrenbury Frith Bridge. They aren't the same as all those we did last year on the Leeds and Liverpool and I don't think there are as many on this canal either. They are quite picturesque in the sun, and I wasn't having to wind them up either!

We were lucky that another boat was just leaving by Wrenbury Wharf and they went ahead to open the bridge. The bend before the bridge hole makes the approach not easy and I expect it catches quite a few boaters out.

We moored up in the countryside about a mile further on and in the distance we could see the Combermere Abbey Monument. Comberemere was built as an abbey in 1130 but didn't fare too well financially and was anyway shut down in the Dissolution. Sometime after this it was bought by Sir George Cotton who knocked down the church and rebuilt it as a home. It was remodeled over the years but around 1814 the 1st Viscount Combermere, Stanley Cotton more or less created the house that can be seen today. He died in 1865 after a great career as a soldier and diplomat. 25 years later the obelisk was raised in the grounds as a memorial to him as in the terms of his widows will.

When the heat started to leave as the sun sank a little we decided to walk into Marbury, about a mile or so away from the mooring. It is a little hamlet really with the habitual black and white house or two.

St. Michaels Church in the village must have one of the best views in the country as it looks over the Big Mere. A very nice spot to leave your relatives. There is a memorial in the church to one William Poole who was a Captain in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers at the Crimea. He was there for the Battles of Alma and Inkerman and right through the siege of Sebastopol. He was wounded at the head of his men during the final assault on the place and died of his wounds  about two weeks later. He had seen and done a lot in his 20 years.

The current church dates from about 1530 although there has been a place of worship here since at least 1299. There is a fine carved wooden pulpit that has the proud boast of being the second oldest in Cheshire! You can't really see it in this picture but subsidence has meant the tower is a couple of foot out of true!

There are many crude carvings on the exterior of the building with this cow or boar's head among them.

There is also this young lad pulling faces. It must have been a boring sermon.

Friday 29 June 2018

Having to become narrow minded.

We have been hindered in posting with lack of single. I wonder if it is the weather?

On the hill above our moorings above Beeston Stone Lock was Beeston Towers. This was built in 1886 by a John Naylor a timber merchant from Warrington. In 1871 he and his brother walked from Lands End to John O'Groats which was the first recorded such trek. They actually just walked from place of interest to the next interesting place rather than the shortest route. They covered 1300 in nine weeks. He died in 1923 and in the 1930's it was used as a school until 1946 and then became the Wild Boar Hotel. To the left of the photo are many new buildings that were added to make it into a motel. That bit seems to be boarded up now.

As we got to Bunbury staircase lock the farmer was just moving the cattle to new grazing. I have often wondered that if the wall painted Shropshire Union Railways and Canal Co. Carriers is protected and whether it would be allowed to repaint it?

At the top of the lock, where we crossed with a pair coming down, is the former stables. The size of them shows how busy a place it was as there were plenty of horses kept here.

It wasn't long before we were stopping at the former transhipment wharf that is close to the railway. It was nice to have a small time in the shade while we filled up with water and dumped the gash. I was disappointed to see the red and black currants near the tap were not ready for picking.

We went a little further and just pulled over near the garage on the road above to buy some milk as we aren't really passing through any where for the next day or so.

A boat pulled out of the Middlewich Branch at Barbridge Junction and went straight on the water point. You can just see there is a boat coming from the opposite direction and I waited for him. Eventually he turned into the Middlewich Branch. In the past there was a straddle warehouse over the canal where the canal narrows and then there would have been not chance to see him coming.

I was surprised to see there was nobody waiting at the bottom of Hurleston Locks at the start of the Llangollen Canal so we started up immediately. A volunteer Lockie arrived too. We were soon up and they told us that it had been very quiet today. I like the sound of that

This is our first narrow lock, other than the paiir of Whitby Locks in the Boat Museum at Ellesmere Port since May last year. They do look small, but they are so quick to work through. I like being back in the land of the smaller locks.

We were soon at the top and off into the country. Neither of us could really remember the eastern end of the Llangollen Canal, maybe as the big ticket items like Chirk and 'THE Aqueduct, and Llangollen are at the other end. However the countryside is very pleasant indeed and it was nice to cruise gently through it in the sun.

We were enjoying ourselves so much we kept on going up the Swanley Locks and further into the countryside.

It was a lovely quiet spot with hardly anybody passing us. It was a while before the sun sank enough to allow the air to cool down a little. Macy the cat hasn't stirred much over the last few days.

Thursday 28 June 2018

Castles in the air and holes in the ground.

We had an early start to get back to the boat, but all went well with a straight forward journey there and back. I had ten minutes at home before having to leave to catch the bus to get back to the boat. On the way home I used all Northern Trains and all went well. They are on strike today so rather than pay £15-50 I was paying over £30 so I was hoping all went well. Luckily it did, but only just as I got the platform at Piccadilly when the train for Chester was pulling in! The bus was on time too and I was back with Helen by 1915.

There was no post for a couple of days as for only the second or third time the 3 MIFI couldn't find a signal!

We were off by 0900 and it was a beautiful morning too. Tattenhall Marina is very quiet, despite the train line close by. It seemed there were no trains over night, or at least I never heard any.

The bus stop is close by the back door to the Marina and there is plenty of moorings on the tow path too.

Peckforton Castle stands in a wood on the Peckforton Hills and looks like a Medieval Castle but it was built between 1844 and 1850 to look Medieval by John Tollemarche who was a land owner and MP. The family held occasional family gatherings there and during WWII it was used to house handicapped children from the London area, but otherwise it was not lived in until 1969. After that it was rented to an American George Barrett and was used as a film sett form several things like Dr. Who and Robin Hood. In 1988 it was bought by Evelyn Graybill for £1 million, and she got planning permission to convert it to an hotel. In 2006 a Chris Naylor got married then and the bought the place. It is now an hotel, corporate and wedding venue. In 2011 it was severely damaged by fire during a wedding. Later the bridge groom was found guilty of arson! We could have just said 'I don't' and it would have saved a lot of trouble.

On a neighbouring outcrop sits Beeston Castle. This is a genuine old castle, so much so that it is in ruins! It was actually built around 1220's by the Earl of Chester when he got back from the Crusades. Henry III took it over a little while later, but by 16th Century it was allowed to fall into disrepair as it was thought to be no longer militarily useful. However  it was used in the Civil War and was partially demolished afterwards. It is now looked after by English Heritage and the walk to it and back, and up to the top is worth it as on a xclear day you can see eight counties.

The bottom gate at Wharton's Lock looked like somebody was descending, but when we got close it was just leaking like a fire hose! Somebody should invent a cost effective rubbing band as it is just where the boats rubbing band wears a groove in the mitre edge of the gates. hardly anybody opens both gates for a single boat and these locks seem narrower than normal so almost impossible to not touch the gate edges.

This length of canal is very nice to potter along and it is even nice to see a few boats moving. We are getting used to it a bit now, but me thinks that it will get busier.

On the hills by the canal area herd of red deer that are farmed so don't get too attached to Bambi.

The hills hide some large fuel tanks that were built underground during WWII, 1940/41 for Regent Oil. It was linked to the pipeline that ran up and down the country and from coast to coast, and still does. It stored refined oils and lubricating oil and could also load into rail wagons on the adjacent line and road tankers. You can see some of the ventilators and accesses on the hill side.

It was used until 1986 when apparently the fuel tanks were cleaned and the site sold. At Chas. Harden's they told me that a scrap metal dealer bought the site, demolished the tanks for the scrap and sold the site on.

This was taken in 2017 so I'm not sure if they are all gone!

As we approached Tilstone Lock we stopped off at Chas. Harden's and filled up with diesel at 70p base rate and a gas bottle for £29-75. 

The next thing is the Beeston Iron Lock. Due to loose sand in the era the ground was not stable enough to support the normal brick and stone lock so Telford used these iron plates. They have buckled over ther 200 odd years they have been there so it is recommended that boats use the lock on their own.

The next lock, Stone Lock, is built in the traditional way and at the top is the little round house that was not a toll house like at Tarvin Lock on the outskirts of Chester but was used as a store for tools etc by the lengthsmen. I love the central chimney and wonder what sort of stove it had inside.

We didn't go too much further as it was getting close to 1300. I had the aerial up and TV on right on kick off. It was worth watching as there were plenty of goals, but not quite a world champion's performance me thinks. If they keep improving though who knows what may be achieved. It was good to see the Rugby Union and Cricket and F1 British winners too.

Monday 25 June 2018

Home for a busy time.

After a quiet night at Christleton we had a short stretch to do to make it to Tattenhall Marina. We were popping home for a week as we had loads of stuff to do.

We had a letter to post so went to find the post box and looking back from the bridge the water looks frozen! It has been so dry that dust is everywhere, including 'Holderness', especially after mooring anywhere near a road. There is an awful lot of tree pollen about at the moment too.

I love the Bridge by Waverton, Egg Bridge, as they have kept the ornate light furniture. It makes me think of the a horror film in old London or Edinburgh. It says that this bridge was built in 1937, replacing to original from 1770, so it is even more strange that the old lights were placed there.

Just after the bridge is an old mill that was steam driven to produce flour from wheat brought up from Ellesmere Port. It was built before 1850 and was called the Victoria Mill and is apartments now. Waverton was a little industrial hub with coal, lime and cement depots as well as a rubber works.

If there is anywhere on the system that tries your patience in tick over for prolonged periods it has to be when passing the Golden Nook moorings! On a nice day like to day it is not so bad but when it teeming down and blowing across the cut it is difficult to edge the revs up a bit. Mind you it seems that some do it more than others as it was interesting to see the boats ahead pulling away quite quickly from us!

It wasn't too long before we slotted in to a berth on the temporary moorings and go the boat ship shape. I had to leave just after lunch to catch the bus that took me back to Chester. from there I went to Stockport, Sheffield and Hull and everything was on time until a ship decided to pass up river on the Ouse to Howdendyke so we were about 12 mins late arriving in Hull.

I stayed home over night before heading back with the car. 2 hours 20 mins there and the same back again. I managed to cut the grass that evening. We have been very busy whilst at home but I found time to lay in some rhubarb gin and after not having any lemons on the boat and then getting home and not having any citric acid I finally got some at WILCO's and the elderflower cordial was put to soak. This year I went for adding oranges and lemons too.

Friday 22 June 2018

A Royal Visit.

Today the Queen was coming to Chester, and bringing along the newbie Royal Meghan Duchess of Sussex. They had been along to Runcorn to officially open the new road bridge and then were coming to Chester to open the new Arts centre. There were bound to be big crowds.

Where there are big crowds expected I would normally head in the opposite direction but Helen wanted to see if we could get to see them, so head into town. We had a couple of hours wait and got to see them as they got out of their car and stood for the Grenville Tower 1 minutes silence before heading inside for the ceremony. We then went about our business for a short time as they were again due to walk to the Town Hall and on the balcony so we thought we may get a better view. We didn't really. There were4 many foreigners that were caught up with the excitement and people were talking to each other about this and that as they waited so it was quite a nice day. I do like the Royal family but I don't really get standing for hours to catch a fleeting glimpse as they pass at a distance, but there you are.

The old warehouse opposite Tower Wharf is aptly named as Thomas Telford was responsible for its building in 1790. As you can see the nearest part was built so that boats could be unloaded under cover and the three storey block of the building discharged through the doors on each level. It was converted to a pub in the 1980's but suffered a big fire in 2000 before being once more refurbished.

Whilst Helen was getting some lunch together I helped a couple of hire boaters up the staircase just to get my eye in for when it was our turn. I love the way that they are hewn out of the bedrock of sandstone. Helen brought the boat up as I fiddled with the locks and all was smooth as there are not too many paddles to open that could cause flooding if you got them wrong.

The iron railings and the wooden hut set off the middle lock and there are always folk about taking photos here. They are pleased to see a boat moving as it is all added colour for them. Originally the Chester Canal had five locks at the Northgate until it was joined by the canal from Ellesmere Port.

The cut follows the walls of the city and we can see firstly the Bridge of Sighs. Not quite the same as that in Venice, or even that in Oxford but none the less illusions of Grandeur. The road bridge is of Northgate itself that passed through the walls into the city.

At the end of the rock cut canal by the walls is King Charle's Tower. It is called so as it is said the Charles I watched the defeat of his army at Rowton Moor from the tower on 24th Sept. 1645. This can not be true as you can't see the site from here, but he may well have watched the retreat from the battle. The Romans had built a fort in this place but was lost when the left the country. Along this stretch of wall by the canal you can see the original base of the Roman wall that looks in better condition than its later counterpart. A new tower was built in 1613 when it was called Newton Tower as it over looked that area of the city.  It later became the home of the City Guilds of the Painters, Glaziers, Embroiderers and stationers and their emblem was the Phoenix so it had also been called the Phoenix Tower.

On the outskirts of the centre is the Steam Mill. It is well preserved when you think that it was built in 1786 and housed the very first steam engine driven mill driven by a Boulton and Watt engine. Actually this building was built over the original mill in 1820's. The original steam engine was replaced in 1827. It has undergone a successful conversion and looks in very good condition.

Mn the opposite side of the canal to the steam mill is the Lead Shot Tower. In the Grosvener Museum can be seen examples of lead ingots from North Wales that were produced in Roam Times and lead was obviously an important commodity of trade for them. When the Chester canal was dug in the 1770's started lead works to set up here. and the industry became very important to Chester in the  19th Century. The shot tower is just about all that remains of the factory that developed her. It was built in 1799 and was used to make lead shot during the Napoleonic Wars. Molten lead was taken to the top of the tower where it was poured through a colander. The lead fell as drops and by the time it landed in a pan of water at the bottom it had solidified. It is one of only three shot towers left. I Hull we have the modern equivalent.  

 Piped water was introduced to Chester by the Romans but the Broughton Road Waterworks date back to 1851 to 1853 when the water tower, boiler hose and steam pumps were built to create a water system of the locality.  The buildings and tower were finished in an Italiante style. In 1913 a diesel engine house was added. This later became the control room but the engines are still there as well as parts of the steam pumps. The tower has been raised twice to increase the pressure and recently the tower, boiler room and engine house have been Listed Grade II to protect it for the future. The site as undergone a £12m refurbishment.

The building with the spire by Hoole lane Lock was built in 1908 designed by a John Douglas. It was a mission church for the boatmen and their families but was attached to the local Church of St. Paul's. It is now a private home. In 1833 there was a proposal for a canal to be dug from Birkenhead at it would have joined the Chester canal close to where the church is via a shallow lock.

Tarvin Road lock makes a nice picture with the lock keepers cottage to the left, the lock itself, built in 1775, and the little round house by the lock that was the former tool house. It is not contemporary with the lock but was built about 1850's. Both however are Grade II listed.

When we got clear of Chester there was nobody on the water point at Christleton so we stopped to fill up. We pushed on a little further to get a bit more of a gap between the canal and the main roads, and find a spot for the sun on the solar panels. I couldn't resist the stonecrop growing out of the bridge as we passed under.