Sunday 15th May 2016 Today we be swimming through the tight turn at Autherley Junction, turning from the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal into the waters of the Shropshire Union Canal. The ‘Shroppie’. We have joined the ‘Shroppie’ early afternoon, passing through the tight (only just long enough for Bart) ‘stop lock”. Typical of some junctions still. Good to see a fair few still remain. Black Bart moves forward from the lock to the water pint to restock. Rubbish is disposed of in the correct place & Lister restarts, propelling Bart & crew North/North-West (summit like that anyway) towards Brewood & beyond. Moor narrows are cruised without incident or accident. This canal is awash with narrows & many deep cuttings as we find in the coming miles. The canal cuts it’s way through the first deep banked, tree engulfed wedge through the countryside as we pass through Brewood. Fortunately, there is moor level & visible surrounding country side evident at times.
We continue to make good progress. As we pass a raft of boats lining the cut this miniature narrowboat caught skip’s eye. If only we could have had Bart in the same pics, you would be able to appreciate how small this dinky-boat actually is. The rowing boat tied to the back might give you an idea. ‘Spirit of Phoebe’ wasn’t just short. She was scaled down in all respects. Very clever. Neat.
We are eventually on the final swim, descending Wheaton Aston lock & pulling gently into a fine mooring position for the night.
Skippet goes for a tittle walk to stretch her pins. Skippet has two of those. Feet & many toes are located at the bottom end of those pins.
Monday 16th May We are up fairly swiftly today, slipping Bart’s lines & cruising on from Wheaton Aston.
Long straights, tree lined embankments & cuttings pass us by.
Short tunnel & interesting bridges ducked through.
Steam narrowboat ‘President’ & (unpowered) butty ‘Kildare’ are ch00-ch00ing along as we are pulling-in for water at Gnosall. A most Splendid sight & sounds.
Norbury Junction & wharf are busy places. The canal link to Telford & Shrewsbury is unfortunately now only a shortened ‘arm’ used for long term moorings.
Another half(ish) a bakers dozen miles of canal water are pleasantly chugged through by Lister & friends as the fantastic rolling countryside ‘sweeps’ along both sides of us. That be port & starboard to those in the know. Many Many long term mooring positions fill the canal along an extended area, before, during & after Shebdon. In all our waterway travels before now, we have not experienced a canal like the ‘Shroppie’ where there are many long term moorings filled to the gunwales.
Goldstone Wharf eventually provides a safe haven for our 3 feet draughted/drafted craft after an earlier attempt further back, along an inviting embankment fails due to the common sounds of unpleasantness down below, when trying to approach the bank to moor.
Tuesday 17th May Even earlier start for Bart, Lister & crew this morning.
We continue along the ‘Shroppie’ through the impressive Woodseaves Cutting of which the initial section is just shear walls of stone, cutout by navvies with no power tools. Quite incredible. Unfortunately, didn’t get a picture of that first section. Maybe next time we pass through. ‘High Bridge’ was also missed by old Lumix, so unfortunately you ‘ave to make do with the short Holling’s Bridge shown above. Tyrley Wharf appears before us as we depart the diminishing contours of the Shropshire peaks, sitting atop the 33’ drop of five Tyrley locks.
First three locks are descended with aplomb. The last two (as locks) were fine but unfortunately the difficulties be with the lock departure process. The lock water bypass channel feeds the rushing water out, right across the path of the lock’s bottom entrance. The bypass channels on the upper three locks feed the water along the lock pound towards the next lock. Not these bottom two. These are horribly different. There is water aplenty trying to escape the bypass channel
so the current it creates is pushing Bart’s bow strongly across the pound as we try to cruise out through the open lock gates. There be tree branches & nasty looking lumping, jagged rocks sticking out of the water. “Moor Power Scotty”. “Ay ! Ay !! Cap’n”. Lister puts the power on, billowing smoke out the roof exhaust. Bart is travelling sideways, but forward thrust & tiller manoeuvrings just aboat manages to keep Bart’s hull from avoiding the sharp edges of the rocky protrusions & the cabin side just aboat stays clear of the overhanging branches. If we had ended up over there, getting out of the situation would not have been easy. Thankfully that didn’t happen.
Could have been some nasty scratches, and/or worse. Not very comforting at the helm, but Bart & Lister rose to the occasion. Phew !! Not the most pleasant few moments for Bart or crew. Bottom lock escape is not quite as nerve-racking. A few deep breaths as we gently move on from our most recent of relaxing experiences.
We exchange pleasantries with this happy chappie fisherman & his tittle stumpy friend. Forgot to ask him what he had caught in these ‘ere waters.
Bart soon moves away from all the tree coverage to moor open countryside, passing along an embankment flowing our tight crew & craft into Market Drayton. We have almost free choice of position as there ain’t many udders ‘ere. That changes in the coming ‘ers, but we is already settled in our chosen berth. It’s only just aboat to swing the old yard over over so crew are off to find the local food store. Sum tings are low in Bart’s larder stores. Including the chilly bit.
We ‘ave a wonder into town & ‘ave a butchers to see what it’s like ‘ere. Very quiet. A bit tired. quite a few empty shops. It’s a little sad. The weather is turning grey so back to Bart we go. Skip notices readings on the battery management system are not what they aut-a-be. Even when it’s raining the solar panels are usually pulling summit into the batteries. Time spent checking the display decides we have a problem. No solar charging. To be investigated.
Wednesday 18th May A wet day is promised today so we shall stay moored in Market Drayton for now. Skip clears port side engine room of – ‘Francis’, chief engineers’ drawer units, tool boxes, tool roll, inverter cupboard & shelf – to provide viable bodily access to Bart’s battery boxes. We go for the most obvious first. The positive feed from the solar panel MPPT controller to the battery bank incorporates an in-line fuse. Yes the 20A fuse has blown. We had upgraded the MPPT controller before we escaped base camp to maximise the capabilities of the solar bank. Previous unit was slightly under-rated. Silly skip had not increased the fuse accordingly. A new 25A fuse is fitted. It might be fairly cloudy out there but we now have +9A charge from the solar panels now. Fantastic !!! Lister’s room will have to be put together later. Skippet has managed to organise delivery of a new wifi gizmo to the Market Drayton so we waddle off, prepared to blockade the post office until delivery white van man turns up, hopefully during his allotted slot. 13.11 to 14.11. Tis Market day in town. Not as big or busy as Penkridge’s but it makes the town feel moor alive. Ginger cake is bartered for & then we’re off to postie. Whilst waiting, Cap’ns DM Smythe appear. Our friends have surprised us with their company for the day. Wonderful !!! Package arrives so we are on the search for a lunch venue. A couple of options are checked out. We end up on a local pub. After closer inspection we agree a departure, intending to find a better option. The Tudor Restaurant provides moor acceptable surroundings & cleanliness. Tasty food & drink. Pleasant company. Warm & sunny now too. We four return to Bart for chats and relaxation. Coffee & (recently acquired) ginger cake. Not just any old ginger cake this one. They usually be tasty. This one is very gingery. Delicious !! That went down very well.
We waive a sad farewell to our buddies. Until another time friends. Ciao for now. Lister has been a smidge/smudge whingey. grumpy sum might say. Skip puts a smile back on Lister’s face by putting everything back in her (his ??) room. Finally, we’re all happy again.
Thursday 19th May A warm start to the day. Rain is ‘promised’ for later. After watering
Bart is swimming along the flat for over an hour. Most enjoyable cruising.
Boatyards are interesting places.
A cross-over bridge where the towpath crosses over to tuther side o’ canal.
Now a moor enjoyable, less fraught, leisurely experience is had with the Adderley Lock flight than that of a couple of days ago. 31′ lower down & the levels are level again for a wee while. Then the biggy !! Fifteen locks. Not the most Bart has negotiated though. They only be narrow too as is the Shroppie way. Audlem locks. 93′ of descent.
Scones & Rhubarb (Rhubarb. Yum ! Yum !!) pie are chosen & payed for at this lockside ‘help yourself’ joy of goodies. No nasty strong cross-currents. Most of the locks are the wrong way so Skippet has extra work filling them before Bart can enter. A couple had boats coming up, but that were aboat it.
We is almost half way down & the rain comes down. earlier than expected.
Options discussed but crew decision is to go on. Descend !! Descend I Say !!!
Once down all the way we venture, soggily on another mile or two. The drizzle is enlarging, expanding, evolving. The water intensity growing. Crew has had enough for one day. Hire boat holidays where you keep going to get your monies worth are no more. Or should that be moor. Doesn’t matter my friend(s). Blogget(ts). What ever you might be calling yourself today. A secluded spot between bridges is found & nappy pins are ‘pinned’, I guess. A tittle shallow, but Bart has suffered far worse. That’s the trouble (one of them anyway) with big bottoms. Bums even. Mayhaps it’s moor an under-belly than a bum. Yes, that’s closer to the mark my dear. Onto our location. It turns out we are in the area of Coole Pilate CP. A quiet rural spot. The noisy bustling metropolis of Audlem to the South. The urban agglomeration known locally as Nantwich to the North. The powerful descent of water droplets has slowed & now stopped. The clouds are creeping away. Blue sky is appearing & a hint of sun to finish the evening. Lovely !!
Friday 20th May We will hopefully make Nantwich today. Lister warms up & attempts to dry-up after all that rain of tester-afternoon. A finer day it no doubt is this morn. Lister is ready to go so Bart breaks the shackles & chugs off slowly as it the norm in ‘Bart World’.
After no moor than aboat half-n-‘er we notice sum twerp has let the ‘cat out of the bag’. Not the brightest of sparks was that chap. Head of Coole Pilate’s road sign department. To make it even worse (if that were possible) it’s not even at the side of the road. No. Not even in the middle of the road. That would have been very silly. No. On the canal bank. Priceless !!!
Bart carefully slides 60 toes down the two Hack Green Locks. The rapids are quite scary but we stand firm & proud. Stiff upper lip & all that.
The relaxed calm of the flats with luscious green grass, hedges & trees be our reward. We meander our way on until we enter the Nantwich Embankment. Moored boats aplenty we find. Skippet spots a Bart sized ‘spot’ & Lister brings the old girl (Bart that is) in beautifully. Yes. Bart is a girl. Strange thow might think. Wonder too ?? But that is just a fact of life. Black Bart is a Fearsome Pirate, it is true. Black Bart is also a narrowboat & our Lovely Home. Boats are girls. There is no doubt in my mind. Anyway, Black Bart the Pirate was a flamboyant (or is that flamgirlant) dresser so ‘he’ may have been a Girl. Not a boy. We may never know if this be fact or non-truth. Conjecture will continue for many moons. We have arrived in Nantwich. A fine position. Never been here before. After lunch crew of two take (quite) a (long) walk along the embankment, get our feet (& moor) wet traversing Nantwich Aqueduct & ‘doin’ the steep steps to terra-firma below. Nantwich is eventually found, via Welsh Row.
Found, in fact to be a Fine Town adorned with many an architectural gem. Fine historical buildings & features on every corner, and everywhere between. Even new builds have been approached with care & sympathy to their surrounding brethren. The town centre & it’s fine array of shops are predominantly of wooden framed Tudor architecture. Splendid.
Saturday 21st May Today we stay in Nantwich moored on/in the high tree lined embankment. Market day it be. We like Market days does our merry crew of three so off we go again into this marvellous place near which we moor. Doggy likes markets too you see. There are lovely smells & lots & lots of people to say hello to.
There be stalls outside in the street & this fine indoor market too, dating from 1867. There has been a market in Nantwich since 1500. Fine acquisitions are made. Fresh produce & bakings. Wool & haberdasheries. Bags are filled & wonder back home we do to enjoy some of the fruits of our inquisitivenesses. There be rain in them ‘ills. The wet stuff finally tracks us down again. Bart is comfy & dry so we are not phased.
Sunday 22nd May Expected weather improvement is encouraging Black Bart to ‘make hay’ while the sun shines. In amongst the blatant cloud cover. Skip forgot the salad stocks in the larder fridge are low so having checked the quickest route via back streets, footpaths & river crossings, a brisk walk to one of our favourite food suppliers & back (with a brief interlude to pick up & pay for a few fresh produces) is required. After the eggs (of course) (tis Sunday) have been duly munched. Bart & Lister are prep-ed & readied for our long long cruise of the day. We gently chug past all the embankment’s moored craft,
over the splendid Nantwich aqueduct, roand the bend & Bart brings us in for an aquerefresh. Refreshed, We flow under Nantwich Junction Bridge, past the entrance to Nantwich Basin & continue North-ish. We are now entering the wider northern section of the ‘Shroppie’. The hole through all bridges is now very generous for narrowboats like our Bart & the canal is most wonderful. Well proportioned waterway & moor windy/bendy/winding. But not too much. Just as we like our water. The southern section travelled the last few days has not been our most enjoyable of cruises. We love the Oxford Canal. We love the Staffie. This water & surrounding countryside of wonders a tittle like them. Rain settles in for a while, but we’s be still really enjoying our cruise. The Crew are soon passing Hurleston Junction where the Llangollen Canal sails off West, into the beautiful Welsh lands. Then Barbridge Junction with the Middlewich Branch casting off to the East, swimming it’s way, eventually into the Tent & Mersey Canal. After many ‘ers of swimming we are descending the two wide staircase Bunbury locks. Two narrowboats ahead of us were negotiating the stairs as we approached top lock. We can start drip drying now too. Air drying can often be better if available.
Skippet ‘lock keeper Extraordinaire’ takes control & Bart is safely down the double water lift & back progressing on a level. As usual, we be locking on our own-sum. Wide locks is better shared with an-udder narrowboat. Particularly ‘going up’. Here we be ‘going down’, but would still be easier. Particularly for Skippet. Moor (single) wide locks come & go in the coming miles.
Tilstone Lock. Beeston Stone Lock. Beeston Iron Lock.Wharton’s Lock.
The railway has been tracking our watery route since passing Barbridge Junction.
14th century Beeston Castle (ruins now) casts an imposing shadow from the high ground as Bart ‘jumps’ from lock to lock. After what seems like (is) ‘ers, we are ‘sailing’ over the River Gowy & wonderful seclusion is their inviting us. Bart’s lines are secured with the Big mooring pins, Lister is finally rested, crew fed & watered as has to happen on occasion.
Monday 23rd May We make hay while the sun shines. Well, the weather forecast ‘said’ it were going to. No sun roan ‘ere mate !! Quite nippy out actually. Overcast with a strong breeze. Five baby swans/cygnets. Parents doing a Fab job. We passed a family of six little-uns a few days ago. Only seen such Big families a few times. Wonderful !!!
We may even have a ready-made lock companion following Bart a tittle way back. With locks scheduled for the final run into the ‘istorical City that we is aboat to visit. Lock companion you say. That would be nice for a change. Then our ‘companion’ disappears into Tattenhall marina. Oh well.
We very slowly glide past a very long line of ‘on-line’ moored floating craft as we traverse the ‘Shroppie’ through Huxley. Takes ages. Our ‘lock companion’ appears to be back, creeping up on us as we be trogging slowly. Disappears again a while later. Shouldn’t have ‘worried’. As we slipping those lines after aqua-top-up another narrowboat appears from roand the corner. We hold back letting them pass & then Skippet goes ahead to help with the lock.
What a joy. Boaty friends & Bart’s crew help each other lower thow craft over two hundred toes (forty feet for those not in the know), sharing five wide locks. Cap’ns R & C Solitude of narrowboat ‘Blue’ are fine lock companions indeed with many a fine story to tell.
And to our moorings for the night. Maybe longer. who can tell. You don’t know. We certainly don’t know. That is the whole point. Jus go with the flow. Enjoy. Relax. Chill my friend(s).
Chester City Wall & the King Charles Tower cast an eye over the new arrival ‘Black Bart’. The Crew of narrowboat ‘Blue’ are invited for a celebration drink on Bart as able seawoman Solitude is in birthday mood. A splendid evening is had be all. & Roxy is such a Good Girl too.
Tuesday 24th May The City of Chester. Absolutely Marvellous. Fantastic place. If you have never been here then one day you must. A Historical Splendour !!!
A walk along a fair length of the city wall, passing the cathedral. Down to the River Dee & then into the city centre. The Medieval double-tier ‘Rows’ just add to everything else.
Tis mid afternoon & skip cannot leave Bart in this lovely mooring position for a second night. Unfortunately the Stonework angles into the canal below the water line
& Bart keeps making contact. Sounds delightful. Not.Lister moves us on, roand past Kings Charles Tower & into Northgate staircase top lock.
A wide stairway of three locks. No one to share the locks with so down we go,
immediately under the trains & sharp right under an-udder bridge, past the river Dee locks, the boatyard
& onwards towards the River Mersey. Let it be said right now ‘Black Bart will not be venturing out onto the Mersey’. Although the Trent & Mersey Canal will definitely be within Bart’s grasp in the near future.
We crew of three float on towards the Wirral, passing through very quiet waters & enjoying pleasant green countryside. Sheep & cows too. Lovely.
Only a couple of static boats on route & one moving (at high speed for a canal loving narrowboat) south towards Chester. No care about the wash he was creating and the likely damage to the canal banks. No respect for the environment in which thy travels. Some people !! We are apparently within (sensible) walking distance of Chester Zoo. An ‘er plus & we view a promising looking location for the night. Depth is good as we carefully approach the bank. No listing or graunching from down below. Bart is safely to the berth & still floating proper like. And the cows come over to welcome us.
Wednesday 25th May We awoke this morning, as you do. Yesterday were sunny & warm. Today be overcast & cool. We leave the noise of the Zoo animals
& move on, struggling for depth a tittle, here & there. Good to see ‘law enforcement’ cameras have finally started making it to the waterside. Hope that twerp caught ‘zapped’ yesterday. He may be receiving a letter in the post. One can hope. Under the noisy M53 & M56 motorway bridges. It just noisy everywhere today. Must be those clouds. Only one boat passes us today, like yesterday.
The M56 now shadows the ‘Shroppie’ as Bart passes industrial plants. Places of work & unfortunately, dead & dilapidated ex-works.
Pylons. Marvellous constructions of tallness towering high above us. 32000V or summit like that flying all aroand us. The air tingles all aroand & zippy zaps in yar-ears. Bart World is travelling through pylon city today.
A moored narrowboat slips their lines & follows Bart the last mile of today’s cruise. The multi-lane asphalt/concrete strip crosses over the top of us a couple moor times on our final chug into Ellesmere Port. Bart gently glides into the basin, mooring for water.
Our recent companion moors behind Bart, so there now be no free berths left in the basin. Oh Well !! As this stretch of canal has been soo unbelievably busy we try our luck and decide to block the water point mooring for an ‘er or two.
Bart is liquidly refreshed & suddenly Cap’ns R & C Solitude of narrowboat ‘Blue’ are ‘ere. Berths there not be my boaty friends. Upon invitation a successful ‘rafting-up’ procedure is practised. Their first one. Cap’n R Solitude is a fine helmsman. Of that there be no doubt. After many days, hours & minutes we decide to/two aboats turn & go find a cupple of berths for the darkness of time. Bart leads & after a few failed berthing manoeuvres we finally land. Although it be said & recorded in this ‘ere blog, we are not ‘landed’ as our Lovely Bart still be a floating. Barticus were ‘landing’ on the failed attempts. That be why we is ‘ere & not back there sum-wear. ‘Blue’ glides in gently behind. Not a bad spot all things considered.
Thursday 26th May Aaaarrrggh !!! is what a pirate calls out instead of just saying “Good Morning”. It also has other meanings too. We can talk aboat those an-udder time. Onto other tings now. Tis cool. Cold even. Wet & miserable. Perfect. The crew of ‘Solitudes’ are setting off back to the delightful city of Chester this morning. Bart is locked up safe & secure as one needs to be & our crew of three are off back to the basin. Old fashioned method of traversing by leg power. Two legs & even four legs. Walking is to be used.
The Manchester Ship Canal looks Mighty Fine. Very inviting. Unfortunately we &/or our Bart do not have the necessaries (what ever they are) to permit passage along this Fantastic achievement, opened in 1894. navigable by 600ft long ships. Need to investigate this further for another opportunity in the future mayhaps. One Day. Small isn’t it !! Te He…
Black Bart has cruised from Autherley Junction at the Southern connection with the ‘Staffie’ to the canal’s Northern end where is connects with the Manchester Ship Canal, swimming 66 miles of the diverse Shropshire Canal descending 29 narrow locks, 9 wide locks, one wide 2-staircase lock, one wide 3-staircase lock, swimming over the River Gowy & many roads using 7 strange channels called aqueducts, sailing along many high embankments, negotiating numerous Deep & sometimes narrow cuttings, through the 81 yd long Cowley Tunnel and passing under 170 bridges.