Friday, 10 June 2016

Heading for Wales

As I type this we are apart.  Helen is looking after Leo moored in Whitchurch in Shropshire while Ian is visiting home to check all is well there (it is!).

After last weekend walking in Snowdonia, Ian returned home to Leo on Monday to find that Helen had been making new friends with lots of boaters moored or passing through Middlewich.

Here is Saturn passing Leo.  Saturn is an historic boat built in 1906 and is the last horse drawn Shropshire Union Fly Boat in existence.  You can see that she is being towed through Middlewich.

And here is another old working boat passing Leo.

We only cruised a short distance on Monday afternoon, seeking the embankment above Winsford Top Flash to gain a bit of a breeze on a boiling hot day.  On Tuesday we had a long day going to the end of the Middlewich Branch where we turned left for a mile and a half and then turned right on the Llangollen Canal which we have not cruised for 4 years.  We were looking forward to doing it again, but this time at a more leisurely pace.  So far we are really enjoying it.

Boaters generally have a good sense of humour and this boat obviously likes plastic ducks.  These were on the cratch at the front ....

And this one was all on his own on the rear fender!

The locks on the Middlewich Branch are narrow but very deep, being each around 11 feet rise.  This is Minshull Lock.

Here is a gaggle of goslings we met on our travels.  See how Mum and Dad are keeping the brood safe between them.  We are always impressed with how good parents geese are.

 This picture is taken looking back to Barbridge Junction where the Middlewich Branch goes right just past the building, and straight on leads to Chester and Ellesmere Port.

Having turned left at Barbridge it is a short hop to the next junction at Hurleston where four locks head right at the start of the Llangollen Canal.  Here you can see Helen by the bottom lock setting it for Leo to come in.

 This is the sign at Hurleston Junction with Chester one way, Birmingham the other and Llangollen our next destination.

This is the view looking down from the Top Lock.  The four locks lift the Canal over 30 feet past Hurleston Reservoir which receives the water flowing down the Llangollen Canal from Wales to fill the Shropshire Union Canal and to provide drinking water.  There is a definite flow down the Llangollen - enough to slow boats passing this way.

On Tuesday we also climbed the two Swanley locks and moored in the pound above.  We walked into Ravensmoor and had a good meal at the Farmers Arms.  Curiously we took the wrong road back, so the beer must have been stronger than we thought.

On Wednesday we explored the villages of Wrenbury and Marbury both of which are a short walk from the canal.

This heron looked very lordly surveying his domain from the fence alongside the Canal.

We thought Wrenbury was delightful with a village green, a fine church and a post office and stores where we enjoyed ice creams on another hot day.  There are two lift bridges in Wrenbury, the first carrying a footpath and this one carrying a road.

Here is Helen holding her finger on the button to lift the bridge.  We always watch for emergency vehicles but we did hold up the bus here.

Here is the bridge in its open position with Leo passing underneath.
Oh dear, we dropped on of our favourite tiller pins in the water!  We had been trying a new way of wrapping the stern mooring rope around the swan neck and, in taking it off, Ian propelled the tiller pin (a rather nice lion one) into the drink.  Here Ian is fishing with our strong magnet, but eventually had to strip to underpants and paddle in to successfully retrieve it on his foot - no pictures of the exposure though.

We moored just above Marbury Lock shown here.  When we'd recovered the tiller pin we walked into the village of Marbury.

Marbury church is a fine one perched above one of the many meres or lakes around this part of Cheshire.

The tower of Marbury Church is leaning.  It is about 25 cm out of the vertical.  You might just be able to see in this picture that it is leaning towards the left.

Yesterday we came up three more locks and soon came to the foot of the six locks at Grindley Brook.  The top three locks here form a staircase with a lock keeper managing the flow of boats in a pretty congested spot.

It's not all work for our in house lockie.

The second lock of the day was Willeymoor Lock which has a pub right by the lock.  It was too early for the pub to be open and supping while locking is not easy.

Approaching Grindley Brook you come through a narrow tunnel under the old railway and you are immediately below the first lock, seen here through the bridge.  The dark wharf building has a tiny shop where we bought some rhubarb and ginger jam and a birthday card.

Here you can see Leo waiting for the 'all clear' from Helen to come into the first lock.  We used walkie-talkies here for the first time this year as it is difficult to see what is going on further up the flight.

Leo here is in the bottom of the three staircase locks with another boat in the middle lock.  It was busy here and four boats were being allowed up followed by four going down.  We were the last of a group of four.  It took us about an hour and half to get through the six locks.

Here you can see the view looking down the staircase from the top lock.  There is a cafe here next to the bottom lock.

A mile or so beyond the Grindley Brook Locks we reversed into the Whitchurch Arm which is a bit tricky given the narrow entry to the Arm and moored a few boat lengths down.  Reversing in saves twice winding the boat as you can't directly turn into the Arm from the East.  In the afternoon we took the bikes and cycled into Whitchurch.  It is just a little too far to comfortably walk there and back as well as tour the interesting town.

The main church is St Alkmunds and it reminded us of the actors' church in Covent Garden, St Pauls.  It has a large light area inside not so separated into nave and aisles as many medieval churches.

I'm hoping you can read this. 

John Talbot is buried under the porch of the church.  He features in Shakespeare's Henry VI part 1 where he is described as "Valiant Lord Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, Created, for his rare success in arms."

A claim to fame of Whitchurch is Joyce, the local clockmakers established in 1690.  Here you can see their second factory built nearer the railway when this came along.  The made clocks for both local use (St Alkmunds has one) and for export all over the world.  One of their largest clocks still graces the Custom House on the Bund at Shanghai and we have seen that, though we didn't then know the connection with Whitchurch.

Tomorrow Ian will return to Leo and in the next week or so we will be heading west towards Llangollen, though we intend to take in the navigable part of the Montgomery Canal on the way.

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