Sunday, 27 July 2014

Historic Boats and Secret Bunkers

We are moored tonight on the embankment at Nantwich so we are now in the salt mining area of Cheshire.  We have been passed over the last few days by a good number of old working narrowboats heading for a festival at Audlem and yesterday we saw them all assembled there.

On Wednesday we carried on past Norbury Junction.  This used to be a junction with a canal that went down locks to the West heading for Newport and Shrewsbury.  Sadly that canal no longer exists.

As you can see there is still quite a lot of boating activity at the wharf there and a thriving cafe for boaters and non-boaters alike.

This unusual bridge across one of Telford's deep cuttings has a telegraph pole in the middle.  The bridge has become very much a symbol of the Shropshire Union Canal.
The last few evenings when the extreme temperatures of the day have subsided, we have gone on short bike rides to see more of the surrounding countryside.  We moored on Wednesday at Goldstone Wharf and visited the village of  Cheswardine which proved to be quite a climb from the canal.  The church had this elaborate tryptic behind the altar.

And in the evening, back on Leo, we saw this wonderful sunset.

On Thursday we moored in Market Drayton, partly to catch up on shopping.  The town has some lovely old buildings:

This was the old Grammar School right next to the church.

Ian had drunk a pint of Joule's the other day (he does try to sample the local brews) and here is the brewery. 

We both liked this notice on a seat by the canal.  The Shropshire Union Canal Society have put in a number of seats and picnic tables by the canal.

On Friday we filled up with diesel in Market Drayton (only 78p a litre!) and then while also filling with water, Willow Too pulled in.  We had met them last on the Caldon Canal in May.  It was a very hot day and we were grateful for Telford's deep cuttings which give welcome shade.  We went down the five Adderley Locks and moored below.

Again we went out on the bikes visiting Adderley village and then down the main road to Coxbank where we climbed back over the old railway to the canal bridge where the picture is taken.  We then cycled along the towpath back up the top few Audlem locks.

On Saturday we went down the Audlem locks and through the festival of working boats.  There are 15 locks but they are well maintained and a delight to use.  The centre of the village is between locks 12 and 13, but we could not moor here because of the festival.  CRT volunteers were managing a very sensible and efficient one way system through the festival area of moored boats.  We moored a mile or more beyond Audlem and cycled back to see the boats.  Two of them, Stanton and Purton, moored at High House where Leo spent last winter, so we were able to renew friendships.  Ice creams and then beers by the Shroppie Fly pub made a nice end to the afternoon.
Audlem Locks - the small building was probably a stable

We've seen several other boats this year called 'Leo' and this Leo was one of the working boats in the festival.  She was built in 1935 and has no engine, being designed and still used as a butty towed by a powered narrowboat.

Two old boats were carrying coal.  The coal was given by UK Coal as a form of sponsorship for extending the restoration of the Ashby Canal.

This gives some idea of the difficulties of travelling through the festival area.  There was only space for one boat at a time.

Today we've cruised on to Nantwich and this morning visited the Hack Green Secret Nuclear Bunker.  In Cold War days this would have been used in the event of a nuclear strike as the seat of Government for the North West.

We both like the idea of signs to a secret intallation.  Obviously it is now decommissioned and a tourist attraction.

But they have preserved the appearance of the site as a secret military establishment.  Part of the display was the playing of a BBC film that was never shown on TV about the effect of a nuclear strike on military locations in Kent.

It was an interesting visit but not a happy place - we both came away feeling a bit gloomy but also wondering what similar arrangements exist today?  One point of interest was the communication console used by Margaret Thatcher in giving the order in the Falklands War to sink the Belgrano.

I'm pleased to say that we have cheered up now and having come down two more locks this afternoon we are moored in Nantwich.  We are off now to explore our surroundings as last time we came here it was pouring with rain.

In the next few days we are heading towards Middlewich, another salt town but we need to go home for a few days so there may be a break before the next posting on this blog.

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