into the unmasked public was to obtain a UK sim card for J’s phone. For anyone who is interested our UK number is 07376-404612
We also braved M&S’s food emporium for the essential stocking of Empress Grey tea.
the items left in readiness are now coming as quite a surprise to us.
and wished we had left some shorts accessible. I began my boat gardening with two planters of pansies - which should weather any unexpected late frosts. By this time our hire car was packed to the gunnels. Jackie-the-Boat now set Easter
Sunday, early afternoon as the planned handover time. We transferred our luggage to high quality bin bags, as there is no room for suitcases on a narrowboat. Stylish travellers are we.
fridge is microscopic.
We returned the hire car to Manchester airport this afternoon, some 40 miles away, then Uber-ed back - an airport to airport hire car is slightly less exorbitant than Point A to Point B.
the Llangollen to see some friends tomorrow. I wonder if we can remember how to do a lock!
These sites are good references for more information:
I’m sending this out unedited and vetted, so all spelling, word omissions and tense anomalies are all my own. Corrie normally kindly takes care of this for me but the internet is so spotty that I think bizarre with pics is best.
For the first days underway we’ve had amazing weather, sunny with clouds and light breezes.
We set off from Swanley Bridge Marina just before 0800 - the clock in the cabin was ticking too loudly and has now been permanently stopped at 0804. Determining the time is now a bit tricky as we are conserving battery power on our phones and my Fitbit still operates on Canadian time and can’t be read out of doors anyway.
It was a cool but fine morning with little wind. Wind is a significant challenge when negotiating a narrowboat marina berth, very tight space for an unmanoeuvrable object 57’ feet long.
The birds were in full song, leaves visibly unfurling, grass in many shades of technicolour green, sprouting all over the fields. Fields and hedges all appear to have been manicured. The ploughed fields resemble brown corduroy.
After the first two locks, very near the marina entrance J’s comment was “Well you’ve done some locks now. Can we go back to Canada?”
Our initial plan was to go up the Llangollen canal as far as Willey Moor, where some friends we made on our first trip on Queen Bee, are living on their boat.
Getting back into the swing of locks has been remarkably smooth, it’s a bit like the fox, goose, rabbit and canoe thing to open/close the paddles and gates in sequence as efficiently as possible.
It’s hard to describe how lovely the scenery is. This canal hardly touches even any villages. This canal was originally mainly a watercourse to bring water from the Welsh hills around Llangollen to the towns of Nantwich and Crewe, hence this canal has a current, very unusual. Then cargo boats started using it for a while. It was largely falling into disuse when early leisure boaters began to use it, thus preventing the former operators British Waterways from closing it altogether.
We arrived at our friends boat Willow precisely at the moment that two young lads were delivering their new washing machine. Measuring for a washing machine and actually getting through the hatch are two different things. John of course was immediately involved unscrewing any extraneous bits that could possibly be removed and eventually it was persuaded into the hole by dint of turning it upside down and angling the knobs (that had refused to be removed). By the time we returned to meet our friends for a beer at the pub, Chris had joyfully completed her first load of washing and was very disappointed that we didn’t need any washing done at this stage.
Having made our rendezvous, we had to continue up the canal (another 4 locks) to reach a winding hole (a wider point) in which to turn around. We actually turned just below the Grindley Brook staircase locks, it was a lock pound (water pond between locks) but we managed to turn with a foot to spare and without bothering any down bound boats. We spent the night nearly back where we started with a good west facing view over some distant cows.
Oh darn, I’ve discovered a snag - I can’t add pictures to this as they are on my phone which without decent internet won’t upload to the cloud…
For the time being I can only refer you to Instagram or FB…
We are still getting the techno side of life sorted here - charging and hotspot use is a challenge.
We are now heading to the Middlewich Branch and on to the Trent and Mersey…
Wishing you happy and healthy stitches! Lucy
Yesterday was a crazy day. Our major goal is to reach the Huddersfield Narrow Canal via the Macclesfield. But there is a snag. A couple of years ago (2019) there was a catastrophic failure of the Toddbrook Reservoir. Google it there are some interesting/scary videos. The result of this that there is a water shortage. The CRT is trying to conserve as much as possible to keep the waterway open so a critical flight of locks, the Bosley flight, is now only open on Thurs and Sundays.
Water is conserved by a combination of putting people off going this way and lining up boats so that every lock has a boat in it in sequence. As you exit an uphill lock, there will be a boat waiting in the pound to go in. It doesn’t often jive like this without coordination.
However due to a misreading of the website, we thought it would be open today, Sunday 24th.
With this idea, the decision was made to put a push on and cover 2 days cruising in one to meet the Sunday deadline. This meant covering a total of 27 locks to put us in good shape to reach Bosley in time.
Yesterday saw us underway at 0600, with the first stop being the sanitary station at Wheelock, where we refilled the water tank and emptied the cassettes and garbage. We then made excellent time through the first 9 locks, they were all set against us (full of water and we were going up) so each had to be drained before we could enter. All the locks were spaced far enough apart to require a lot of walking but not enough time to make breakfast!
This stretch of the Trent and Mersey was widened to have duplicate locks c 1830, however some of these are either filled in, or not in service so there was no possibility of overtaking. At one lock there was a delightful older lady wearing lots of layers of clothing (it was cool to stand around) with a laden shopping cart on a one-woman campaign to raise funds for the NHS (National Health Service). She was selling knitted blankets, hats and jam. One of her items was a hot water bottle with a knitted cover and it was precisely what I wished I had packed, but forgot. When I later examined it, it had a lovely drawstring and beautiful pom poms and was even lined with fabric. I wish I could let her know my proper appreciation of her talents (I sadly doubt that she will reach the status of Major Tom). I was a little preoccupied with working the lock. She lived near the lock and could remember when the second lock was filled in 40 + years ago.
The weather was cool and breezy but good for working locks. We made it to the turn onto the Macc, around 1500, but in the last lock before the junction we met a boat that had just come down and they sympathetically enlightened us to our error. We had to leave the lock and come to a decision. Our options to kill 4 days were 1) go on to the Harecastle Tunnel just the other side of the junction (this requires pre-booking) and we’ve done it several times previously. 2) Turn around and go back the way we just came, it was attractive but would involve 12 locks to reach the winding hole to turn around. Making an additional 24 in total. We checked the book for the options on the Macc, and found plenty of winding holes, the option of a small marina if we needed to empty cassettes again and the possibility of food in Congleton.
This left us with one more lock to tackle - a 1’ rise (this separates the waters of the Macc from those of the T&M) and then on the first promising looking mooring for a well earned G&T and dinner.
27 locks, 224’ 2” risen, 17020 footsteps!
This mooring was close to perfect, despite the railway line not far away (electric trains are surprisingly quiet), with a panoramic west facing view, with a field of suckler beef cows with well grown calves. These were adjacent the ramshackle farm buildings - and at least 3 of the cows had had c-sections, the shaved flanks and healed incision still being visible. I wondered if this was some form of special care unit as there were lots more cows with suckling calves in the next field too.
We stayed here for two nights - it being very conveniently located for me to take a walk to the National Trust house, the moated Little Moreton Hall. It was delightful. Built in the late 1400s - oak beams and lath and plaster. The moat was intended to drain the land (rather than defensive) but house settled any way into most bizarre undulations. The addition of a fashion long gallery on the third floor supported only by the floor joists on the lower level rather than the walls further amplified the issue. Then topped of with 240 tons of lightweight roof tiles - solid stone slabs rather like paving stones. There was a large wooden table, listed in the house contents in the 1500’s, and the wood itself was estimated to be at least 700 years old when the table was new.
I popped back to the small marina nearby to see if I could find a new light switch for the bathroom, J was entertaining himself by fixing things around the boat. No light switch there.
I actually dug my knitting out - not having looked at it since we arrived on the boat. The weather continued mostly sunny with a fresh breeze - not warm enough to sit out on the bank.
Day 2 I headed up to Mow (rhymes with cow) Cop, I high point with a faux castle ruin atop. It was a stiff hike up with a 25% gradient at times. I was surprised to find it surrounded with a small village and a modernist church - apparently Mow Cop was a significant place in the Baptist church revival around 1900!
Yesterday we headed out to go to Congleton, a small town and found a tiny hardware store and Spar shop to stock up on heavy shopping such as soda water by using our shopping trolley! Only problem was the steep flight of steps from the canal to street level. After this we took a taxi to Tescos and stocked up on a few more items as there isn’t much opportunity for food for a while. More reading and knitting and a few more flowers planted. We departed town and went looking for a nearby mooring that would meet my exacting standards! I’m marking the book with notes for future reference. We were last on this canal on a hire boat in 2016, and didn’t have time to linger only having 2 weeks in which to complete the Cheshire ring.
Today we cruised as slowly as possible (to heat the water and charge the domestic batteries) to a water point and filled up and then meandered just past the last winding hole before the locks. If needs be we could reverse and turn round but we are now nicely situated for the lock opening on Thurs. It’s delightfully rural here and have a field of sheep with young lambs next door - but rather hidden by a hedge.
J took advantage of the early morning still air and made a video with the drone. It’s still very much in the experimental stage. See the links below. Life is challenging without good internet - I can only get internet by hot spotting to J’s phone, which then promptly flattens his battery!
We are finally up the 12 Bosley locks. We along with another 10 boats were moored below Lock 12 were awaiting the unlocking of the Lock 11. However the CRT person arrived with only one padlock key - eventually one of the waiting boats came up with an angle grinder and was sanctioned to cut the chain. Initially whilst fidgeting for the opening almost all the boats sent out a body with a windlass towards the locks (I don’t know why they use the term windlass - when in reality it is a winch handle), in almost all cases the carrier was the female of the pair. Women with windlasses! The men folk were walking their boats (rather as if leading a horse) with the centre line as the line shuffled forward. There were many hands making light work of the first few locks and a whole bevy of CRT Volunteers. As everyone’s respective boat passed through the first few locks, people thinned out to accompany their own boats up the flight.
It took a while for the boats coming down to meet up with the boats going up, but once that happened, lock operations became smooth and water efficient.
When the uphill boat has emptied their lock and the downhill one has filled, they can both exit their respective locks, and steam into the pound (without closing the end gates) pass in the middle of the pound and each steam straight in their next lock. Very slick and fun.
One advantage of stoppages such as this is it offers a chance to meet your neighbours. One lady turned out to be a textile artist with a specialty in beautiful textured art quilts.
The lack of proper internet is becoming very frustrating. I can only access the internet through J’s phone hot spot, but his battery is so dodgy that it almost instantly goes flat. We plan to stop in Macclesfield tomorrow to try to resolve this situation.
I’ve been doing some calculations to predict when we will be arriving at Standedge. We have to book a passage on a Monday, Weds or Friday but before that we have a flight of 16 locks with another passage restriction - Tues or Sat….I think I have a plan…
weather continues dry and cool. We’ve had to resort to lighting the evil diesel stove, that burps and farts and leaves big clods of soot to take off the chill at times. It’s quite cool in the mornings, the temp gradient is water temp at below knee level and slightly warmer above. A nice solid fuel stove would be much more controllable.
Today (Friday) was a beautiful day, sunny, warmer than yesterday and calm, with unrelentingly stunning scenery. We set off early to be sure of reaching our objective a rendezvous with friends on Saturday afternoon/evening (and the Tues lock deadline). The scenery on this canal is lovely at a minimum. The canals seem to have areas of animals and we have now left the lush Cheshire dairy land with beautiful cows and moved into a sheep and Canada goose area. Sheep, much as I love their wool, are not engaging. Although it has been interesting to see the variety in breeds represented - the most spectacular of which has been some Manx Loughton - the ram has particularly funky horns - Google them!
However the bird life, regrettably mostly Canada geese, seem to favour daredevil flying and on several occasions we thought we would be hit but have been unscathed thus far.
We stopped off in Macclesfield today, the canal skirts the town most elegantly on a high embankment, but we tied up and walked into town to find a phone repair shop. J’s phone battery (with UK internet and my conduit to the world) has been failing. We found a lovely Kashmiri chap with a little phone repair shop that could provide us with a new rechargeable battery and replace the failing battery and a couple of leads that we didn’t know we would need -virtual life is looking more promising. We had coffee at Marks and Spencers, a peculiarly UK thing to do and bought groceries whilst we awaited the new age of battery power. Crossing roads here feels life endangering - I’ve reverted to the Tufty Club rules but still I’m appalled at the speed of vehicles in close proximity to pedestrians (they could do with a few potholes).
Whilst tied up here we discovered that our carefully laid plans to do the Standedge tunnel were going to be foiled by lack of water and the CRT. Hopefully we will be able to work around this but it mean going to Manchester and Rochdale again …not pretty or fun.
We chugged on this afternoon and found ourselves for the first time in the conundrum of where to tie up. Sites with a west facing aspect without a big hedge were scarce as we were heading north with the tow path on the left.
Tomorrow should find us on the Peak Forest Canal…
Wishing you happy and healthy stitches! Lucy