Sunday 31 July 2016

Friendly fishermen and a pub from the past

We enjoyed the modern service at St. Mary's, Market Drayton, this morning; then we bought a few provisions at Lidl and set off at about 1320. The old wharf building has a For Sale sign but I don't know if it's the whole building or just a part.

We had a salad on the move, then we were at Tyrley Locks.

These were fairly busy with boats coming down at each of the five locks, although we seemed to be the only boat going our way.

Between the locks and Shebdon Embankment there was a fishing match on. Almost without exception the fishermen (all men) were happy to exchange pleasantries and some were even chatty.

We stopped at the Anchor, High Offley, and had another successful barbecue - despite a brief shower while the coals were heating up. After this we went to the Anchor pub and enjoyed the interior largely unchanged from the 1820s. We were served by Olive, now 79 or 80, who had been the landlady for more than 40 years, her ancestors being the original publicans.

Saturday 30 July 2016

Shovelling soot; and our locking system

One of the first things I wanted to do today was to look at last night's quiet monsters, the steam engines by the Shroppie Fly. The driver of the traction engine was cleaning the soot out of the smoke box (as I learnt it was called).

This machine was built in 1914.

Whereas President was built five years earlier. The crew must have read my blog as they were scrubbing the cabin side this morning.

One of the volunteer crew, David, invited me into the engine room where he told me how it all worked. Sort of. It's a fascinating piece of kit - I could have spent hours in there.

But we had a schedule to adhere to, so I returned to Jubilee. At the same time Paws 4 Thought was just tying up, so Tony and Pat came aboard for coffee. We set off for Market Drayton at about 1230 and made good progress up the locks. Very unusually I did the steering into the locks while Jan went ahead to open the bottom gates. Having entered a lock Jan closed one bottom gate while I got off and closed the other one, then we walked up to the top gate and raised the paddles each side.

I got back on the boat while Jan walked up to set the next lock. When the lock I was in was full I put the boat in forward while opening the top gate. As the boat moved out of the lock I walked across the stern to the other side to lower the offside paddle, then stopped the boat just clear of the arc of the top gate. I got off, shut the gate and lowered the paddle, then got back on and steered up to the next lock which, by this time, was ready. A fast, efficient system. We encountered no other boats on the Audlem flight. At the top lock we bought shortbread and ice creams from the stall. Going up the Adderley locks we kept to our system but it was a bit slower as we had to wait for boats coming down. At the Adderley Top I bought a pork pie from the farm stall there. The home made butter was tempting but I resisted. I bet it tasted wonderful!

This lovely old building - stables? - was part-way up the Audlem flight.

I was looking out for kingfishers as we saw plenty on the Shroppie last year. I was rewarded by this one perched on a post. It didn't move as we went past - but I didn't have the camera ready so this is on a long zoom. Grr. Still, I got something.

At Market Drayton we used the services, then reversed back to tie up opposite Malcolm and Stephanie's house where we went for a very enjoyable meal and chat.

Friday 29 July 2016

Where boaters' pots really got emptied

We had only a three hour cruise scheduled today so we didn't rush to leave Nantwich. As we were thinking about going Jenny B tootled as it went past; after Tony and Jenny had moored we invited them on board for coffee. It was good to chat with them; we departed once they had gone and continued south towards Audlem.

We knew space there would be at a premium as boats were gathering for the annual Audlem Festival of Transport; after breasting up to BCF boat Coriander displaying a friendly home made "Welcome to moor alongside" notice we eventually moved up five locks to a space on the visitor moorings.

I somehow got talking to Phyllis Johnson of Perch. She was born on a boat in the Potteries and was a working boat woman for many years. Her uncle was "Chocolate Charlie" - Charlie Atkins - who used to carry for Cadbury's. She was a very interesting lady; I hope that one day she will tell her story for the record. One thing she told me - unprompted! - was where boaters used to empty their buckets/chamber pots. Yes, we're talking toilets. The hedge? The cut? I think it will come as no great surprise that it was nearly always the cut. Phyllis was also scathing about the so-called boaters' attire of bonnets and petticoats for the women. Her argument was that that sort of Victoriana just wasn't practical for working boaters so they wouldn't have worn it.

There are lots of historic boats gathering for the festival; I expect HNBC will list them all in a future newsletter.

We ate the rest of yesterday's takeaway curry for tea, still very good. As I was finishing off a boat went past to go up the locks. It became apparent that he was single handing so I got my bike out and lock wheeled for him up the flight. He was, naturally, very grateful. It was a fine evening and I enjoyed the workout. His name was John; the boat - with a Russell Newbery engine - was Lily.

When I returned from the top of the locks I found that Jan had gone to visit Richard and Angie on Coriander so I went to join them and had a pleasant time with them.

On our way back to the boat we had a bonus. Two steam traction engines were manoeuvering into position outside the Shroppie Fly pub. The light was fading rapidly; by the time they'd done it was dark. The surprising thing was how quiet they were - a little clanking, some gentle hissing, but none of the noise associated with steam locos on the railway. No photos (no camera and too dark anyway!)

Thursday 28 July 2016

Bunbury bubbles

The rain seemed to have stopped by 1030 so we set off. It started raining again. Oh well, I had waterproofs. Unfortunately my shorts got wet before I put overtrousers on.

We stopped at Tattenhall Marina for some diesel. We couldn't hold out until Wheaton Aston as we were down to about six litres in the tank, and nothing in the jerry can. Shadow was moored here for a while; it was windy then and it was windy today. Reversing onto the fuel pontoon was interesting. There were two boats already there so I tried to put Jubilee in front of one of them. As soon as I lined up to reverse in the wind pushed the bow round. I managed to get in by using a steel bollard - there for the purpose - to pivot around.

We shared all the remaining locks, initially with an Anderson hire boat and then with a private boat. Ascending the Bunbury staircase pair an oncoming boat arrived unfortunately too late for us to do the "Bunbury Shuffle" (three boat version). As the top lock get close to being full there was a large amount of bubbling coming from in front of the lock gates.

As we passed below Hurleston Reservoir I spotted a long line of seagulls perching on the fence. Each seems to have its own space. I particularly like the one in the centre standing on one leg.

We tied up in Nantwich and got a takeaway curry from Indian Ocean. Half tonight, half tomorrow.

Wednesday 27 July 2016

Barbecued whisky banana

Before coming up the two locks from the lower basin I showed Jan where I had walked to the Manchester Ship Canal.

At the top of the locks we wanted to stop to pay our mooring fee (£4) and empty the Elsan. On the mooring was a fisherman ignoring the No Fishing sign. We managed to tie up. While paying the fee to the CRT badge-wearing staff at the museum I complained about the fisherman on the mooring. "Nothing we can do, it's outside the museum area". Great.

We encountered a bit more weed on our way back to Chester. Huge wodges attached themselves to the bow from time to time, but little got round the prop.

We followed a boat up the Northgate Locks; after we had started up the staircase another boat came up behind. One day I'll manage to get a photo of a train passing while we're in the locks. I wasn't quick enough today.

Every time I travelled to Manchester by train from London in the 1970s I would look out for the wonderfully exotic-looking locks which were almost in touching distance. It was a dream one day to be able to do them by boat - and that dream came true in 2005. Even now I experience a frisson of excitement when working through Northgate Locks.

We continued through Chester, up the other five locks and stopped at Christleton where we had a towpath barbecue. There was plenty of heat left after the meat was done, so I wrapped a banana in foil, added whisky and demarara sugar and put it on the grill. Should have been brandy really, but it worked well. Yum yum!

Tuesday 26 July 2016

Boat unloading on the Manchester Ship Canal

As we were within the precincts of the National Waterways Museum we spent almost the whole day looking round. First we went to pay our admission fees which covered our mooring last night. Unfortunately I was unable to find a way of getting the Tesco Clubcard voucher scheme to work for us; the only option seemed to be post rather than e-mail.

It's sad seeing so many boats sunk in the basin, but I suppose the timbers are better off in the water if there's no money for full restoration.

The snake emerging from Merak's porthole is presumably a pump outlet.

I saw a boat, Wes Finja, being unloaded on the Manchester Ship Canal.

We walked into Ellesmere Port town centre later on. I say "town centre" but either it's just a long line of run down shops or we missed it. In a side street was this building dedicated to "manual instruction".

In what, I wonder?

In the evening we were picked up by our friends Phil and Penny and transported to the Bunbury Arms in Stoak for a very enjoyable meal. Then we returned to the boat for some of Jan's excellent tiffin.

It was good to see you, P+P, do come again!

Monday 25 July 2016

Super loo!

We're now up and running again with our computer, thanks to a new screen fitted by Chester Repair Centre. The £89 it cost seemed a lot but it's less than a new laptop and it was done in one hour. Thank you all who made suggestions and offered courier services etc.

Now I can post photos here are some from yesterday to start with. Recent comments on Erin Mae's blog came to mind when I visited the facilities in Christ Church on Sunday morning. The loo is as old as the Victorian church building and is the sort you see in museums.

On the wall was a certificate to show that it is twinned with a latrine in Burundi.

Before the service started proper coffee and croissants were on offer - very civilised! We had a quick guided tour of some of the many interesting things in the building, including a reredos from Oberammergau.

This is just a GV of the interior after the service.

I mentioned Brook Street Café, where we had Sunday lunch; then we entered the rocky cutting leading to Northgate Locks.

The lock chambers themselves are partially hewn out of the rock. Almost impossible to imagine how it was all done by hand.

And so we jump to today. The computer repair delayed our leaving Chester; we arrived in Ellesmere Port just after the National Waterways Museum had closed. Initially we winded and tied up on the visitor moorings outside the museum area, but after having a word with someone still in the shop we ascertained that we could go down the locks and still be able to get out by foot with a BW key. This was necessary because we were due to be picked up by Jane and given a meal at her house back in the Chester area.

Cuddington is the largest boat we've tied up next to in a long time.

When Jane dropped us back at the museum I took this twilight photo.

Tomorrow we'll have to buy our museum entrance tickets, then we'll have a good look round. We must explore some of the Manchester Ship Canal too, plus the town itself.

Sunday 24 July 2016

Oh no - the computer has died

Two minor hiccups and two Good Things today. First the Good Things. A little online research yesterday led us to Christ Church for the service this morning. It was very good. We were interviewed about the Boaters' Christian Fellowship during the service, something we've done in other churches before, so we were used to it. The other Good Thing was the Brook Street Cafe nearby, to which we and several others who'd been in church went for lunch. We had a good roast lamb with excellent roast potatoes. (The veg wasn't quite so good but perfectly acceptable.) And only £5.50 including a drink.

The not so good things were that our laptop PC has died. This is a bit of a problem as it is the main repository for all my photos; it's also where we download documents etc. from e-mails and websites. Fortunately I have a "smart" phone, but I'm not very smart with it. For instance, my camera has a button labelled "WiFi", but I don't know how to proceed. (I've tried switching it on and connecting this phone to it but it wants me to launch the image app which I can't find.) We will need to find some way of transferring the data from the broken machine to its replacement when we get it. Anyone know a good computer shop in Chester?

The other not so good thing was something that happened as we were tying up at Tower Wharf this afternoon. I can't write about that yet - it's something which I shall return to at the right time. Sorry to be so mysterious. Yes, after lunch we met up with Jan's friend Jane and descended the Northgate Staircase Locks.

Sorry I cannot illustrate this post with photos. I hope that normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

Saturday 23 July 2016

A few minutes at the races

We have always liked Chester. Today the city was - still is - buzzing. The main event was the horse racing at the Roodee, which was drawing in the dressed-up crowds in their thousands. We had never witnessed a horse race before, and found that an excellent view could be had from the city wall alongside the track.

We completed our circuit of the wall, returned to the boat for lunch, and got into position by the racetrack (is that the right word?) in good time to see the 2.50 contended by just four horses. We were surprised that the start was on the other side of the course and that the horses raced only half a lap.

This was the scene with about 15 minutes to go.

The race started on time and was over in no more than two minutes.

I was reasonably pleased with my action shot, especially as it was hand held on full zoom (30X).

It seemed that the real point of the occasion - for those who had paid £15 or more to access the ground - was to dress up and drink to excess. Or should that be dress to excess and drink up? And lose money gambling, of course. We stayed for the next race, half an hour after the first one, and saw that the horses this time had to cover very nearly a whole lap. Perhaps these early races are merely warm-ups for the proper racing where - who knows? - maybe ten laps would be covered. No, maybe not.

Those two races were enough for us and we went for a cup of tea.

Jan spotted something about the red phone box.

It now doubles as a cash machine.

Has that happened everywhere and I just haven't noticed? Or is it just here in Chester?

We had hoped to be able to go down the Northgate staircase locks this evening, but there was no space on the visitor moorings at Tower Wharf. We've stayed where we are, by King Charles Tower, hoping that the Saturday night revellers will quieten down soon.

Friday 22 July 2016

Down the (weed) hatch

We made good progress down all the remaining locks to Chester today. All were either in our favour or with a boat already coming up. Below Beeston Iron Lock we shared with another narrowboat.

We picked up the first prop rubbish since the beginning of this trip in April. A plastic coal bag which obviously hadn't been in the water long. I even caught a glimpse of it under the surface in the split second before it wrapped itself round the prop.

Below the water tower we met the hotel restaurant boat L'eau-T Cuisine.

We are now by the city wall; we'll go down the Northgate Staircase locks tomorrow.

Thursday 21 July 2016


Before leaving Nantwich today we nipped into the town for some provisions. At the church we saw that we were in time for a lunchtime concert, so we went in and enjoyed an astonishing piano recital.

It was given by Leo Bailey-Yang, an eight-year old pupil of Chetham's School of Music in Manchester. Yes, that's right, eight years old. Here he is, standing next to his raised piano stool and introducing his first piece, a Scarlatti sonata.

He performed two Scarlatti sonatas, one by Haydn, the Fantasie-Impromptu op. 66 by Chopin, Ravel's Sonatine and Étincelles op.36 no.6 by Moszkovski. All from memory, and all played with incredible accuracy and musicality.

The programme notes give a few details about Leo: he started learning the piano at six years old; the next year he got a distinction at Grade 8, being the world's fastest and youngest to do so - and with a score of 144 out of 150. He has, the notes go on to say, appeared on the TV show "Britain's got Talent" and has won many piano competitions; in May this year he played at the Carnegie Hall in New York. Oh - he's a swimmer too. He's won medals in his first UK swimming competition.

Take a bow, Leo Bailey-Yang.

He received a standing ovation after his recital; for his last of two encores he played Rimsky-Korsakov's The Flight of the Bumblebee.


If he plays like a prodigy aged 8, which he does, what will he be like at 18? I think we'll hear more of him, and we were privileged to be at his first Nantwich gig.

Onto more mundane matters, albeit canal-related. We reversed to the junction with the arm to Nantwich Basin where we winded in order to proceed northwards. In the arm was this boat. It took me ages to work out the name; Jan got it straight away. (Answer at the bottom).

Approaching Bunbury I was surprised to see a boat with its stove going. Perhaps that's its only means of cooking. It has been slightly cooler today, but not that cool!

We tied up shortly after the Bunbury staircase pair of locks. Tomorrow we'll push on to Chester.

The boat's name is James.

Wednesday 20 July 2016

Crewe railway station promotes canals

The pair of Bywater Hotel Boats temporarily blocked the canal this morning as they pushed the butty across to let their guests off.

Then they moved a few boat lengths along to tie up not far in front of us.

Ally and Josiah were getting the train to Crewe to see us today, so we made the short (one stop) journey to Crewe from Nantwich Station in order to meet them off their train.

I was interested to see the railway company recognising the importance of canals.

The poster reads "90 minutes to London, 15 minutes to countryside, canals and traditional market towns."

We walked into the town centre, had lunch at the Wetherspoon's and walked to Queen's Park. On the way was a metal "treatment" facility with an unusually good viewing point from the pavement. It was the end of the road for this poor Renault Scenic.

After it had been squashed into a rather less aerodynamic form by the crusher it managed to retain its number plate and its "Scenic" badge.

But the main point of today was to spend time with Ally and Josiah. Here he's having his first ride on a swing.

It has been slightly cooler today; but without the threatened thunderstorms. Tonight looks like being more comfortable too.