Sunday, 2 September 2012

To Chester and back again

I am sorry for the gap in updating this blog.  It has proved difficult in rural Cheshire to obtain internet access or sometimes even to obtain an ordinary mobile phone signal.  But we've finally managed it this evening.

Since the last posting we have travelled from Middlewich to Chester and Ellesmere Port and then back again.  On the canals this entails climbing up the four locks of the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union and a gradual descent almost to sea level at Ellesmere Port and then reversing all this to return to Middlewich.

We enjoyed the Middlewich Branch much more than when we travelled that way in June.  The fact that the sun shone had quite a lot to do with this.  We stopped to admire the view of Winsford Top Flash – the lake further upstream than the Bottom Flash that we had ventured onto from the River Weaver.

Winsford Top Flash, seen from Middlewich Branch
At the end of the Middlewich Branch we met the main line of the Shropshire Union at Barbridge Junction and picked up David and Victoria there.
Picking up new crew at Barbridge Junction
After lunch we tackled the Bunbury Staircase of two locks.  The double moored line of Anglo-Welsh hire boats below the locks make life hard for passing boats.
Looking down Bunbury Staircase Locks
We stopped below Tilstone Lock and only when we stopped did we realise that we had moored in the one place where you could see Beeston Castle in the distance.  Beeston Castle was built on a sandstone crag some 500 feet above the Cheshire plain and the following morning we walked a mile or so to the castle from the canal.
Beeston Castle on Sandstone Crag
View North from Castle

David, Victoria and Helen at Beeston Castle

Distant view of Liverpool from Castle - Cathedral is in the centre

David and Victoria helped us down the last five locks into the city of Chester and that evening we enjoyed a walk along the Rows – streets of medieval shops at both ground and first floor level.  Our mooring was right by the city walls.

On Monday morning we motored through the amazing rock cut gorge by the city walls and then down a staircase of three locks which are carved out of the solid sandstone rock.
Rocky Gorge in Chester

Bridge of Sighs, Chester

Rocky Gorge with City Walls on top

At the bottom of the staircase there is a basin, a dry dock and a branch of the canal that drops down three more locks to exit onto the tidal River Dee.  This branch does not look as if it has been used for a long time.  On a really high tide we understand that it is possible to navigate upstream crossing the weir that normally marks the tidal limit.  Certainly we saw a narrowboat up there so perhaps you can.
Exit route to River Dee
We said our goodbyes to David and Victoria and made our own way in pleasant but unspectacular scenery to Ellesmere Port.  The last mile or so is pretty unpleasant with factories and motorways providing the backdrop, but eventually we arrived at the National Waterways Museum.  This occupies the basins and warehouses which mark the junction between the Shropshire Union and the Manchester Ship Canal.  We planned to spend a night in the basin which is two locks down towards the Ship Canal and one lock above it.  Such a mooring is free for one night for those who pay to enter the museum.  However there was such a luxuriant growth of two sorts of water weed that simply getting down the two locks was a real struggle.  We had the help of Steven from the Museum, but we had to bowhaul Leo through the weed with Steven standing on the bow pushing the weed ahead of the boat and pulling it out from behind the lock gates.
Lower Basin at Waterways Museum - can you spot Leo?

William Stevens Barge from River Wey 

Barges awaiting restoration - note the weed growth

We looked round the Museum on Tuesday with Ian’s sister, Ruth and husband, Peter.  They joined us for a couple of days and travelled back with us to Chester.  We had time on the return trip to walk the whole circuit of the city walls and to have a lovely meal at the Gallery Cafe.
Peter and Ruth in charge

Chester City Walls, Cathedral behind

City Walls with Canal far below

Bridge over River Dee

Victorian Clock on City Wall

Chester street with 'Rows'

On Thursday we took Ruth up a few locks out of Chester while Peter fetched their car from Ellesmere Port and then said a hurried goodbye as we had arranged to pair with another boat up the locks out of the city and they were waiting for us.

Since Thursday we have been working our way back to Middlewich where we returned to the Trent and Mersey and turned right heading South.  Today we’ve had just a short day tackling some of the long collection of locks rising to the Harecastle Tunnel, known by old boaties as “Heartbreak Hill”.  In fact we’ve found it fairly easy and tonight we have a view of Mow Cop, the hill by Harding’s Wood Junction where the Macclesfield Canal turns off which is where we went in June.
Tonight's Mooring - Mow Cop in the distance

1 comment:

  1. Hi,good to meet you both yesterday on Heartbreak Hill. Enjoy your travels,will keep a look out for you again.


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