#28 Shropshire Union Canal – South & East. May/June 2016

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Thursday 26th May      Aaaarrrggh !!!  You should know what this pirate speak means ‘first’ thing in the morning by now.

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Crew have been to visit the Manchester Ship canal on foot. Feet & toes to be moor exact. We were a tittle wet at the end. Not from the canal (as we didn’t physically venture into the waterway) but due to the fine, but steady & very persistant drizzle. The Manchester Ship Canal is a 36 mile Marvell. Open since 1894 to provide ships access to/from the River Mersey & Manchester. We need to see if Black Bart & crew can cruise this magical waterway one day in the future. Time will tell.

We return to Bart using the old (it’s just a saying) (quite young pins really) legs again. After coffee for crew (two of us anyway) Lister is warmed up ready for cruising. Nappy pins (Bart wears large ones) (only seldom required) are released from the armco barrier & Black Bart slowly moves away from the weedy sides of the canal & heads South again. Steady flow of water through/past/from the propeller is NOT the name of today’s game. Skip attempts numerous reverse thrusts over the first mile of cruising. it helps a tittle, but summit it not right doin there. Other similar occasions in the past weeks have proved successful in removal of the nasty thingies doin there bothering ‘old prop’ as we call him/her. Not working today though. Skip gives up, bringing Bart in to moor temporarily. Apron plate removed at stern/helm position. Weed hatch clamp bar unscrewed & removed. Weed hatch plate lifted out. An abundance of plastic bags entwined with cables & wires have enveloped the propeller shaft for & aft of the propeller’s central mounting boss. Skip reaches down & pulls out the offending debris. wire cutters are needed to assist this interesting process. Skip goes in elbow deep to check round the shaft & propeller boss moor closely. We seem clear now. Weed hatch plate re-inserted & clamped into position. Apron plate repositioned. Lister restarted again & we are off cruising a few moor miles. All is smooth & flowing well again below the uxter plate. The steel plate that forms the bottom part of the narrowboat or canal boat’s counter deck directly above the rear swim and propeller. Here endith the lesson. Skippet has been working her magic with Bart’s Brass internals all day. Carrying on from yesterday. Bart is absolutely sparkling inside now. Quite amazing. Looking Mighty Fine. At the stern, amongst other tings we have the brass knobs, the brass ‘ship’ bell & horse brass plates. China plates mounted above the Epping Stove have all been scrubbed clean too. You can’t even start to imagine the expanse of brass everywhere else. Poor ‘old’ Skippet.

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After a Very Long Day’s Cruise Bart finally brings us back smoothly & safely into Chester. A very ideal & pleasant mooring position to which we have berthed. Good Night all/any Bloggetts out there………

Friday 27th May      Black Bart is resting in a most ideal berth today. Just roand the corner from the wide Northgate 3-staircase locks. A few chores today. A few foody tings are acquisitioned in the store-de-local. It’s almost like being in France here. Not really. Actually. Guest are arriving late this evening having travelling for many hours & days over vast distances to find us. It is Good they be arrived & safe. Time for a couple of days relaxation in ‘Bart World’ for Cap’ns M J Suffolk.. Welcome !!!  & ‘Ciao for now’ to anyone out there in the ‘normal’ world.

As some of you might know Black Bart is resting in the City of Chester. Construction of the Chester Canal was started way back in 1772 & were connected to the River Dee by a staircase of five locks.

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The Chester Barge Canal, opened in 1779 originally providing a route from the River Dee at Chester to Nantwich, terminating at the basin & associated warehouses. The 1772 plan was to link the Dee to the Trent & Mersey Canal at Middlewich with a spur to Nantwich, but money & engineering problems effected changes to the plan. In 1791 plans had been published to build a canal from the River Mersey to the River Severn, passing through Chester via Pontcysyllte. The line from The little fishing village called Netherpool became known as Ellesmere Port when the Wirral line opened from said port on the Mersey to Chester in 1796. The Chester Canal & Ellesmere Canal Companies merged in 1813. The narrow Middlewich Branch of the Chester canal wasn’t built until 54 years after the wider barge canal. Then just after in 1835 the Birmingham & Liverpool narrow Canal was opened, providing a waterway from Nantwich to Autherley Junction near Wolverhampton where it linked with the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal. In 1845 the Chester and B&L Canal Companies merged & the Shropshire Union Canal was ‘born’. Buoy, wasn’t that confusing. It’s actually moor complicated than this but hopefully you can almost stay with the basic storyline.

Anyway. Love the red sandstone you see everywhere in Chester.

Saturday 28th May      We be a moor generous crew of five. Yes Five. Just for a couple of days bloggetts. No need to worry. A leisurely start to proceedings & a visit to the city centre is enjoyed with a rest-up for coffee & Bakewell Tart. Yum ! Yum !!  Our busy day continues back on Bart. Later the joy of bacon & egg sandwiches is experienced. Delicious !!  Skip disappears for a while, trogging off along the route of the Dee Branch to investigate the link to the river.

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It be a bit sad the route to the River Dee is currently unnavigable. There be discussions afoot to reinstate access to/from the river/canal. Mayhaps Bart will get a chance to traverse the Dee in the future.

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Even later we enjoy a most marvellous chunky ‘melt in the mouth’ meat chilly. What a tiring day we have all had. Skips thinks we all need a good night’s sleep after all that.

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Sunday 29th May      It may be Sunday but today Bart wakes us up early & following some ablutionings Lister is helping Bart reverse past a few moored metal craft for water. After quite a delay we are off, under the road bridge, roand the tight bend & now waiting under the railway bridge for Northgate Staircase of three locks to be emptied of a descending boat. It’s getting busy. A lock companion has arrived in the form of a 60′ narrowboat with crew of two. Two moor narrowboats soon arrive. Haven’t seen this number of boats waiting for a lock since we left base camp weeks ago. Once bottom lock is free the triple lift process commences. Into bottom lock. Up we go & forward into middle lock. Up moor & forward into top lock. Final raise of the three. Bart & lock companion worked well together.

Swiftly dealt with, we are back on the mid-levels, working our way through town.

Our recent lock companions stay with us, sharing the five next locks as we climb 44′ & Chester starts to disappear behind us. FYI 44′ is aboat 220 toes. As there be 5 toes per foot.

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Bart & crew os five are finally able to enjoy the wonderful Cheshire countryside. Many ‘ers of chug chug chugging & rolling hills pass by. One of our longest cruises of the year so far. Early start & we still don’t secure Bart’s lines & stand Lister down until late a’noon. It has been a Fantastic Day of Barting.

Mummy & Daddy Swan with Eight Babies. Yes !!  Eight !!

We likes Cows. They go Moooo  Moooo

The reason why COWS GO MOO is because they have trouble getting their tongue round saying the letter N. If it weren’t for this unfortunate speech impediment we’d understand that they were trying to say MOON (hence the endless repetition of MOO, MOO, MOO). The young cows in the field opposite Bart were very playful & enjoyed their evening exercises running from one end of the field & back. Repeatedly. No film foot-age were available at time of going to print. Sorry !!!

Monday 30th May      After Yesterday’s very uncharacteristic start to the (Sun)day we decide a moor restful commencement is required on this morn. Cap’ns Suffolk & Suffolk are off, on their way, near the mid-day hour. Hugs & kisses all round. We may see them again sum day. Cheerio !!   Our depleted crew return to Bart for an early afternoon coffee break & Lister thumps into life. Bart is ready for some forward motion of the propellered kind. Southwards we go, reaching Barbridge Junction within four ‘ers or so. Four moor wide locks have raised Bart over 33’. Bunbury Staircase of two locks looms up in front of us. For the first time in ages there be lock keepers ahead. Can’t remember the last time we had CRT Lock keepers on hand to help our vertical passage of H2O. An-udder narrowboat has caught up with us and joins Bart as we gently swim into bottom lock. Not experienced this before. We have a single narrowboat in top lock of this twin staircase. Bart & companion climb & gates between chambers open. Bart glides forward into top lock. Our companion moves across behind Bart. The boat coming down moves forward into bottom lock. Skip is on Bart’s roof, pushes against the lock wall, moving the bow towards the other side of the lock. Back at the helm, a little forward revs & tiller hard over Bart is now lined up properly & our lock companion moves forward to join us again, in our switched positions. Chamber gates closed behind us. Bottom lock is emptied & boat going down carries on their way. Top lock is filled with water & with upper gates opened we two boats cruise on Southwards. Very Good. That went well. Many a moored craft have also slowed us doin this a’noon. We is still happy here though, on the canal. Tis 5.30pm & still the warm sun tries to dodge the clouds. Black Bart finally reaches Barbridge Junction & turns East. Left to some who shall remain nameless. You know who you are. Te !!  He !!!

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Sorry aboat the weirdo bloke below the sign post. Just try & ignore ‘im. I would. Moor moored narrowboats again. Lister chugs quietly as Bart slowly slips by until…..

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Seen moor Herons in the last few days than the last few weeks. Lovely to watch them.

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We enjoy boat free waters (accept for Bart obviously) for a wee while. Finally attempt to pull over & berth, failing a couple of times. Too shallow. Go on a tittle further & third time lucky. We’re in. Fab !!

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Gooood Night Peeps.

Tuesday 31st May      We make a sharp (late morning) get-away following a dozy start to our day. Unusual as you all k-no-w. Cholmondeston Lock is soon upon us & Bart finds out Tuesday’s water lift mode is set to ‘Fast Descent’. Clearly a large plug hole on this one. And the others too, we soon find. Minshull Lock lowers Bart to Aqueduct Marina from where crew of two hired 45′ nb:’Mary Grey’ in 2010. History has shown this tittle boat floated us all the way to Llangollen Basin & back, via both Chirk & Pontcysyllte aqueducts. Two of the most wonderful engineering marvels of our canal world. Black Bart is too deep draughted for the last section of the Llangollen Canal from the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct to Llangollen Basin but hopefully Bart will one day take us to & across Thomas Telford’s Wonderful waterway of the sky. Comprising 18 piers 126ft high, and 19 arches each with a 45ft span. Pontcysyllte means ‘the bridge that connects’. Another grand architectural masterpiece of Mr. Telford, Chirk aqueduct takes you over the border from England to Wales. Often, a little unfairly ‘overshadowed’ by the 1,007ft long biggy. Back into today’s Bart World…..

As we the crew of three trog gently along we enjoy the many delightful sights & smells of the delightful surrounding Cheshire countryside. Black Bart sails over the River Weaver (which we will hopefully see properly in all her glory later this year) & be soon swimming the last mile of today’s canal cruise, taking in (down) Stanthorpe Lock shortly before entering Middlewich waters.

Three narrow lock chambers we have experienced today, all of 11′ deep or moor during our easterly traverse of the Middlewich Branch of the ‘Shroppie’. We land (actually Bart is still floating properly here) within sight of the last (or first of course if you be travelling tuther way) water lift of our current inland waterway. The sun has been out smiling today, although the breeze has had quite an edge it. Tomorrow we will see what delights the market town of Middlewich offers visitors. Black Bart is moored opposite narrowboat Elizabeth. An interesting historical iron hull barge dating back to the 1860’s. Her unique ‘stepped’ cabin design was constructed from Mahogany & Iroko in 1936 & she has been lovingly looked after by her current owner since 1966. Amazing !!

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A lovely photograph borrowed from ta intraweb – of nb: Elizabeth cruising along.

Wednesday 1st June     Cannot believe we the crew and our fantastic floating home (Yes that be Black Bart) are here in June 2016 already. We now have a Bart World 2016 ‘Rest Day’.

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nb:Elizabeth is off on a cruise. reversing back to the lock readying to join the T&M Canal.

A look roand town & some larder restocking amongst udder tings. There were some ‘lovely’ country smells cruising this branch of the ‘Shroppie’ canal. Moor so than other canals of past weeks. Our visit to the market town of Middlewich is also an aromatic experience. There is an unpleasant whiff in the air everywhere in town. Apparently a very common thing. Back to Bart for fresher air & some chillin’. It not smelly ‘ere. It’s amazing how quickly and fluently Bart’s rest days pass by, quietly & relaxingly. Ciao…..

Thursday 2nd June      We are abluted & Lister is checked & turned over. Bumbling away as she warms up. Skip notices several surrounding moored craft are preparing for ‘the-off’ so quickly releases Bart’s lines & engages forward motion to get a jump start on the ‘race’ to & through the Wardle Canal & down Wardle Lock.

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Maureen Shaw, a boat woman who was well known to passing boaters as well as the local and canal community, lived in the Lock Cottage at Wardle lock for many years, with the result that it was often referred to as ‘Maureen’s Lock’. Following her death in 2012, a memorial panel was placed at the lock in her honour.

The Wardle Canal is the shortest canal in the UK at 154 feet short (long). Many discount the Wardle Canal’s existence, but it is said to join the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal with the Trent & Mersey Canal. A stone in the bridge just before the junction identifies all that they be on/in the Wardle Canal.

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Shortly after 9.30am Black Bart leaves the ‘Shroppie’, joins the ‘Wardle’, leaves the ‘Wardle’ & turns left into the flowing waters of the Trent & Mersey Canal again.

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One last look along the ‘Wardle’ (& ‘Shroppie’) as Bart reverses for fuel. Water & gas. Not in the same glass though. Chink, Chink, Chink one & all !  !!  !!!

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Black Bart has cruised South from Ellesmere Port at the Northern connection with the Manchester Ship Canal to Barbridge Junction where we then swam North-East(ish), along the Middlewich Branch until we met with the Trent & Mersey Canal, swimming 33 miles of the increasingly aromatic Shropshire Canal ascending 4 wide locks, one wide 2-staircase lock, one wide 3-staircase lock, descending 3 deep narrow locks, swimming over the River Gowy, River Weaver, River Wheelock & udder tings called ‘roads’ using 5 strange channels called aqueducts, sailing along the odd embankment, passing under 102 bridges, descending the 9’9″ deep Wardle Lock and finally swimming all 154′ of the brief Wardle Canal.

3 thoughts on “#28 Shropshire Union Canal – South & East. May/June 2016

  1. Been away too long from BB her skip and crew and Roxy, thort of y’all as emerged from Wytham Wood into welcome sunshine this Bank Hol Sunday, sending greetings, hearty good cheer and wish you clear weed hatch for evermore xxxxxxx Leap – whose engine is out of order yet again 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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