Saturday, 1 October 2016

The Best Laid Plans......

Ours were to leave Chester on Tues 27th Sep to arrive at the Shady Oak, Beeston Castle on Wed 29th Sep to meet up with Sue and Ken on nb Cleddau who would be coming from the south.  We were then going to leave on Thursday to move on to Nantwich which we planned on visiting.  Friday was to be Hack Green to visit the Secret Bunker to then arrive at Audlem on Saturday 1st October.

However...... read on.....

Tuesday 27th October 2016
Tower Wharf Chester to just passed Egg Bridge (119)
4.25 miles, 8 locks

We were moored in front of nb Spadger who we had shared locks with on the way to Chester - they too were leaving, so we had arranged to travel through the Northgate Locks together this morning after we had both taken on some diesel from the fuel boat.  Job done and with the added bonus of help from a voluntary lock keeper.

We stopped at Tesco for a big shop, had our lunch and I then walked on to Waitrose whilst Chris moved the boat along.  Fully stocked up we continued on for what seemed like forever. I am not sure why it took so long, but it did!  There was a boat ahead of us for the five big locks out of Chester, however despite me waving my windlass like a mad woman they did not spot us, so we were on our own.  Anyway we made it eventually, but having slipped our moorings at 10:00 and not stopping until 18:30 it really was a long day.  We had hoped to moor near a pub called the Cheshire Cat, but there was no room at the inn, so we had to keep going and it took us three tries to find a mooring that was not too shallow.  However the sunset that evening made it all worthwhile!

  It even went round in front of us as well as behind

It just got better and better, so we hoped for a good day on Wednesday.  So far, so good - we were 'on plan'

Wednesday 28th September 2016
Just passed Egg Bridge to Shady Oak, Beeston Castle
6 miles, 0 locks

A quick dirty dart along the cut to arrive at our meeting point to find we were in splendid isolation, so there was no problem for Sue and Ken mooring up behind us

with this splendid view over the hedge

It was great to see them again and we celebrated with dinner aboard our boat.

Thursday 29th September 2016
Beeston Castle

So today was the first change of plan - it was a lovely sunny day and Sue and I decided to walk up to Beeston Castle ably supervised by Monty.  The shortage and most pleasant route takes you across a footpath over farmland, however there was a problem.

They were very young and flighty and standing on our only route across the stream that leads to a tunnel under the railway.

The farmer arrived and tried in vain to move them along, so we gave up, went back along the towpath and took the route up the road.  Not the nicest of walks, but it is a very quiet road and a long steady climb.

This new route took us over the railway and on up to

the imposing entrance to Beeston Castle.

We took in a lot of reading in the reception area before heading on out and up where we encountered the first party of school children having a lesson about arrows.

These are the lower outer walls of what must have been a very extensive castle

The views are worth the visit never mind anything else

 Continuing on you head for the inner walls - a bit more 'up'

To this steep and imposing entrance - a modern addition with H&S in mind

which includes this sign

They do not exaggerate

The views when you get there are far reaching with the railway line easily visible,

but the canal a little harder to spot, but if you look carefully you can just see our boats

and a zoom lens helps even more

What you cannot see from the photos is the one obstacle we faced - wind.  It was very strong and we both had difficulty fighting it.  There was another party of school children up there seated on the ground being asked to draw what they could see.  Each had an A4 piece of paper and I am sure you can guess what happened to a lot of them - yes there were teachers and TAs running around all over the place to retrieve those that escaped.  I think they were fighting a losing battle.

As you leave to descend you are afforded this framed view

 There is a woodland walk which we set out to do, but it started to go 'down' which meant more 'up' and we felt we had done enough of that for one day.

We wandered over to where there are a couple of caves before having a sandwich and cuppa in the very limited cafe (I would take my own if I were to go again)

From our vantage point on high it looked as though the cows had moved across to the other side of the field, so we decided to risk going across country, however by the time we got there they were blocking the tunnel under the railway, so we had to re-trace our steps and go back via the road again - down hill this time, so it did not seem as long.  As you get back to the canal there is this wonderful mill pond.  Isn't this a perfect scene - even though that boat is not going anywhere it just seems to belong
  and it goes on
 and on - I could happily live with this at the bottom of my garden

As this was to be our last night together we went aboard nb Cleddau for coffee and a night cap before turning in,

Friday 30th September 2016
Shady Oak, Beeston to Nantwich
9 miles, 6 locks

The day dawned fine and bright.  When we got to the first lock Sue and I checked on those cows - and yes they were still blocking the path!

This gives a good idea of how far and how high we went yesterday.

So here we were back where we belonged sharing locks together.  It certainly makes things a lot easier.

This is just to show that sky - it was perfect

At Tilstone Lock we came across these two historic boats coming up and travelling together to Chester for the weekend.  She stayed on board with the sterns strapped together whilst he worked the locks

 Chris and Ken were waiting down below
and quite a wait it was too as the boat on the right was just too long to allow me to open the gate

The lady clambered along the boat and heaved the bow button out of the way allowing me to open the gate
  and let them out
 and on their way for their weekend break

 We eventually arrived at Bunbury staircase locks to find a lock keeper there to help us.

I peeped over a garden wall and spied these lovely boots - I would like to thing that the occupants are Mum, Dad and little one.

We stopped at Calveley services for water and rubbish disposal when the next change of plans happened - Ken slipped as he was getting back into the bow and had to choose between falling into the cut between the boat and the side or into the bow.  He chose the latter and I have to say he was very lucky not to have more than a badly pulled muscle in his left leg.  This was definitely not on the plan.

On again to Barbridge Junction where we had expected to wave goodbye to nb Cleddau and her crew as they turned left towards the Macclesfield Canal and home and we went straight on along the Shropshire Union Canal.  However, plans were to change yet again - we were met by Canal and River Trust staff saying the Middlewich Arm was closed due to pollution.  Either oil or slurry had been leaked into the canal and the earliest it will open will be Monday.  Decision time for the Cleddau crew and they decided to continue on to Nantwich with us.

As you enter Nantwich you come across this rather charming horse, which has been created out of old and discarded lock gates

Under the last bridge we went and to our surprise and delight we found a space large enough for three boats which we made good use of.

We arrived too late for us to go to Nantwich and we knew there would not be time to go in the morning, so that was the next change of plan for us.  We ended the day with Sue and Ken visiting us for cheese and biscuits (supplies from the Cheese Shop in Chester that needed eating!), coffee and nightcap for our second 'final night' together.

Saturday 1st October 2016
Nantwich to Audlem
6 miles, 5 locks

First job of the morning is always to take Monty 'down the garden'.  I thought he was taking a long time when I realised his leg had lowered and he was staring intently at something in the distance
I am glad to say he obeyed the 'leave' order and we continued on our way

Around 9am it was time for us to leave

Monty and I were walking and Sue and Ken came out to say our final farewell for this trip

All along the moorings (which stretch for a long way) there are a series of carvings done by a local school - they look as though they have been there a long time.  The first is a dog, the last fish, but the other two have me stumped.

We passed over this very attractive aqueduct

Over this not so attractive road

Monty's attention was taken with something across the cut

With all that water between them there was no point in either barking or chasing

The forecast for the day was for the occasional shower.  Around 10am the rain started - it was persistent and very, very wet.

As we approached our first lock of the day a boat was coming out and one big advantage of a long straight canal is you can be seen and they left the gates open for us.

As we approached Hack Green we came across a flotilla of boats coming towards us - there must have been at least six in close formation.

So here we were at the not so secret bunker that we had intended visiting, but we continued on as we wanted to ensure we got a good mooring in Audlem.  It really was too wet to dally and we are meeting friends tomorrow, so progressing onwards seemed like the best idea.  We will come back to here and to Nantwich one day.

It was still pouring when we got to Audlem and went up the first three locks.  At the last there is a garden that is full of ornaments - meerkats dominate.
 We got a good mooring in front of Audlem Mill and have spent a quiet afternoon tucked up in a very cold boat - we had a table booked at the Lord Combemere for dinner or we would have been lighting the stove for the first time this trip.  At one point we were both sat wrapped in a blanket!  The meal out was excellent and much to our delight they offer small portions.  Chris had fish and chips and I had gammon and egg - both portions were perfect - any more and a lot would have been wasted.

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