Sunday, 24 May 2015

Time for a break

We're off to Kent for a few days so no blog entries for a while.  Enjoy the Bank Holiday!

Saturday, 23 May 2015

It really is a small world near Middlewich



We had seen a recycling centre in Middlewich so I cycled in with all our recycling and Buddy ran behind me.  He loves it when we cycle as he gets a really good run.  This was Buddy’s first trip to a proper recycling centre.


I caught this swan pecking algae from under our waterline.  Some mornings, when there are a number of swans or ducks, the noise of their bills on steel can be quite loud inside the boat

During the morning I was really surprised to get an email from the Lion Salt works.  If you have read the blog entries for earlier this week you would know that we were disappointed that the Lion Salt works museum wasn’t open when we went to visit.  Their email said that the opening date will be announced  on 29 May.  They also made comments about us on their page: ButterflyGardenatLionSaltWorks

In several places along this stretch of canal we have seen old rail tracks jutting over the edge.  The ones shown here have been restored but for some reason painted white.  They were sited near clay pits during canal construction and the clay was loaded into trucks and tipped into the canal by using the upturned tracks.  The clay was puddled into the bottoms and sides of the canal bed and forms the lining of most canals in this country.

We went for a walk around the local fields in the afternoon and Buddy seemed to really like the long grass as he kept rushing round in circles.  We don’t think we have ever seen him run anti-clockwise but will look out for it from now on.  When he runs with his sticks we have to keep out of his way to prevent our legs getting bashed.

There seemed to be a constant stream of boats cruising past today as people take advantage of the bank holiday or half term.  We will miss the heavy traffic on the canal as we are going home for a few days on Sunday.  This is us moored in our little bit of Cheshire countryside...


...and here is our view from the dining room.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Near Middlewich



As we set off on Thursday we realised how the rain and sun over the last week has suddenly turned everywhere green and summery.

We only travelled a few miles and found a good place to moor about two miles north of Middlewich.  We were in the middle of nowhere, over a mile from the nearest road but there were a few mooring rings so we stopped to take advantage of them.  If you use mooring stakes/pins then there is always a danger they come out when boats come past too fast.  Mooring bollards are better than pins but people can easily cast your boat adrift as we found out when we were on the Huddersfield Narrow canal north of Stalybridge.

Whilst having lunch we had an unexpected guest.

After lunch we walked into Middlewich.  The Croxton aqueduct of the river Dane has been rebuilt three times over the last two hundred years as, like other buildings in this area, it has been subject to subsidence due to the local salt mining.

These stanking planks are left open to the elements rather than being sheltered in a store.


If we went on this bridge with all our children we would break the limit – we wondered how it is policed.

Stanking plank store in the middle of town.

When we got back from our walk we had a chat with a couple, Derek and Helen, who had moored up next to us.  As soon as their last child left home they moved onto their boat.  They spend the winters in a marina and cruise the system from March to September.


Thursday, 21 May 2015

It’s a small world



We had a relaxing morning on the boat on Wednesday morning before setting out.  Karen had noticed that the herons in this area are relatively tame like those near Bath – they don’t even fly away when the boat goes past (please note the flowering geraniums!).
We stopped after a mile or so as we saw a lovely large wood and wanted to give Buddy a good run after being cooped up in urban areas for a while.  We came across the remains of an ice house – something we have always found fascinating that ice can be kept for so long in natural conditions.

Our initial plan was to visit the Lion salt works at Marston.  It used to be open for public viewing but closed down in 1986 and has been converted to a museum. 

The opening day was actually today but we found that it was only for invited guests for the first week so we missed out on seeing it.  The Lion salt works was the last in the UK to use what is called the open pan method of salt extraction.  Excavated brine was put in large iron pans which were then heated from underneath and the salt crystals raked off.  Modern processes are far more efficient hence the demise of open pan salt extraction.  The pans were about 20 feet by 30 feet and this is one of the buildings that housed a pan – ‘Pan House’.

Here is a discarded pan.

This boat has the largest number of solar panels we have seen on a boat. – they covered the sides, top and ends.  There are even two vertical ones that also hold up the washing line which is on an old fashioned pulley system.

Many of the chemical plants in this area are owned by Tata, the massive Indian conglomerate.

South of Marston we passed the construction site of a new marina.  All the pontoons seem to be up so it probably won’t be long before the dam under the bridge is broken and the marina flooded.

The Trent & Mersey canal in this salt mining area has many large lagoons or flashes. This were formed following subsidence caused by salt mining.

This is the largest swan family we have seen this year – eight cygnets.

We moored up next to two boats near one of the flashes.  As we were mooring up one of the boaters came running down to us – it was a guy called Les who we were moored up with in London’s Paddington basin last summer.  As it was such a lovely evening he joined us for a glass of wine and a chat on the bank before we had dinner.  It was really good to catch up and talk about each other''s travels since the summer.


Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Back up the lift



On Tuesday we found there was a garden centre that was only a mile away from where we were moored at Northwich.  Our spring pots are beginning to go off and Karen wanted to start potting them up with some summer plants.  It was Buddy’s first trip to a garden centre and here he is investigating some of the ornamental animals.


We didn’t get rained on too much and when we got back we moved to a water point so that we could empty the pots and clean them up before being replanted.

We decided to set off back to the boat lift and wait for a slot to take us back up to the Trent & Mersey.  On the way down a trip boat came hammering past us.


It wasn’t long before we could see the boat lift in front of us so we moored up and I went to book in.  I got a slot for 3.00 so we had some lunch whilst we waited.

Going into the lift from the bottom seemed even more awesome than coming down as the full height could be seen.

The basin at the bottom of the lift used to be used by proper freight ships up until the 1970s.

We moored soon after getting out of the lift and finished potting up the new plants and I put our latest plaque up for the River Weaver.




Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Anderton boat lift





As it was pouring on Monday morning we didn’t get on our way until it cleared up at midday.  It was so nice being out in the country again and on a narrow canal.  A narrow canal means you have to travel even slower but that makes it even more tranquil.  The wild garlic  is now in full bloom and quite stunning.



Saltersford tunnel is one way only and when travelling south as we are it can be entered at half past the hour.  As we had some time to kill we stopped for lunch.



Shortly after Saltersford tunnel we came up to Barnton tunnel.  This is also one way only but you are allowed to enter if you cannot see a boat coming the other way which is quite surprising as it is over ½ mile long.  Our entrance was on a bend so I had to get the boat into the tunnel before we could see if it was clear or not.



As we approached the Northwich area we could see large salt works in the Weaver valley.  Most are either derelict or converted to make other chemicals.



We arrive at the Anderton boat lift and went to see what the waiting time was as we hadn’t booked a passage down to the River Weaver.  We were fortunate that we only had to wait 30 minutes until a trip boat was due to come up from the river.  The boat lift was built in 1875 and consists of two caissons each of which can hold two full length narrowboats side by side.  A steam engine operated a hydraulic ram under each caisson and as one went up the other came down.  The drop/rise is 50 feet but feels a lot higher as it feels like you are on a boat in a bath!  The steam engine was replaced by electric power in the 20th century.  The lift ceased operation in 1983 but was restored to full operation again in 2001/2.


This is entering the holding area at the top of the lift.  The two troughs are aqueducts with guillotine gates at either end.  We were asked to go into the left hand aqueduct and you can see the gate is partially lifted.



The gate is fully lifted so we could swing round and go in.



Once in we had to stop whilst the gate was dropped behind us.





This is looking down onto the river from the lift aqueduct.



The front gate of the aqueduct was lifted and we moved forward into the caisson.



Here we are looking down to where the other caisson will ascend.


After a while the trip boat entered the lower caisson so we were nearly ready for our descent.



Here is the half way point where we passed each other.  You can’t see them but the trip boat was full of people also taking photos.



We found it incredible that one hydraulic ram can hold that weight – really awe inspiring.  One of the operators at the top in high viz gives an idea of scale.



This is at the bottom looking back up.  The picture at the top of the page is also looking up but shows the other caisson which is full of water and a boat!



We didn’t have to wait long before the gates were being lifted…



… and we were out onto the River Weaver.



Looking back at the lift we could onky marvel at its size and construction.

We all wear our life jackets on rivers because they are generally much deeper.



We turned left when we came out of the lift and headed into the middle of Northwich on the River Weaver.  All the road bridges on this river, which runs from the old salt towns of Cheshire like Northwich and Frodsham down to Runcorn where it meets the River Mersey and the Manchester Ship canal, are massive swing bridges.



We went for a walk round Northwich but decided it was traditional (pub marketing speak for tired) although it did have a smart new Waitrose that we moored opposite.  We took advantage of the free coffee from Waitrose before retiring back to the boat for the evening.  Here is us moored for the evening – Waitrose is on the other bank just out of site to the right.  We had only just moored up and Buddy had already found a stick to chew!