#29 Trent & Mersey Canal – North West. June 2016

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Thursday 2nd June 2016      Tis approximately 9.30am and narrowboat ‘Bartholomew Roberts’ (named after the Fearsomely Fantastically tacticianal – Pirate ‘Black Bart’ 1682-1722) turns West from the waters of the ‘Wardle’/’Shroppie’. Lister (& prop of course) then reverses Black Bart past the junction to refuel water & barter for gas from Kings lock chandlery. All sorted & we are moving, free again, passing Middlewich Narrowboats from whom we & Cap’ns J C Stevens hired our first narrowboat. ‘Willow’ was a fine craft in need of a little tlc. It were a soggy wet week upon Easter time many moons ago. BUT we still enjoyed our first experience of this wonderful world. Cruising the Middlewich Branch of the Shroppie, joining the main line at Barbridge Junction & leaving it again at Hurleston Junction to experience a few days on the Llangollen Canal. We only made it a far as Whitchurch that first time before having to wind Willow roand & return to Middlewich. ‘Willow’ had a proper engine room & oldie controls being the push/pull handle for selecting forward/neutral/reverse and a turny handle for the accelerator. Wonderful. Willow is still in the Middlewich Narrowboat fleet apparently.

Black Bart is similar to Willow (in concept) but ever soo much moor Fantastic !  !!  !!!

Middlewich 3 locks (narrow) ‘drop’ Bart & crew over 32′ before we can proceed horizontally. The nice curvy pound between upper & middle lock there be Middlewich Narrowboats Historic Dry Dock. nb:Willow was being taken there for underwater stern equipment checks after we returned from that first hire ‘oliday as skip caught Willow’s stern in the cill of Hurleston upper lock as we were leaving the Llangollen Canal all those years ago. Luckily our crew’s reactions on that day prevented careless helming becoming a moor serious incident. Quickly closing off the lock’s bottom gate’s paddles to prevent the chamber from emptying & opening the upper gate’s paddles to allow water in to refill the lock.

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With the stern caught on a lock’s cill, the bow of the boat keeps dropping as the lock empties & boats can sink. Willow & Skip were saved by our Wonderful crew. Fortunately, no serious damage was done. A lesson well learnt. Skip has been paranoid aboat cills ever since. No such similar incident has occurred since. Fortunately. As it were not a pleasant experience. Happy memories !! Anyway….  Not long after the three locks we are descending an almost shallow (only 5′ / 25 toes) in the wide ‘Middlewich Big Lock’ as it is fondly called. After a very comfortable downward journey Lister takes Bart forwards again as we begin a very twisty twinny canal cruise. The canal narrows & widens, then narrows again. Fluctuating repeatedly.

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Bart passes several very wide open lagoons on the east bank which look inviting but be very shallow. Bart remains sensible, remain in the correct ‘path’.

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As it narrows again, Bart stops & treads water to let a tug boat ‘Green Man’ & (unpowered) butty boat ‘overtake’. No ‘overtake’ is not the Butties (bacon butties. Mmmmm !!!) (concentrate Skip) (no bacon butties today. Oooohhhh ??) name.

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The Butty is the well known 1906 ‘Saturn’ fly-boat. Built for speed. Capable of over 7mph due to her light construction & streamlined design. We trog along as Saturn starts to leave Bart behind. She is not travelling at anywhere near 7mph today, but still outpaces Bart.

Countryside, residential dwellings & industrial sites provide an interesting mixture of sights, sounds & aromatics for canal travellers & towpath users alike.

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Boatyards with heavy lifting equipment & transporter gantries or cranes are plentiful.

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The open pan Lion Salt Works of Marston opened in 1842. Unfortunately closed in 1986. At least some of the works have been saved & now restored. The canal takes us past Witton & Neumann’s Flashes as we continue our bendy twisty narrowing, widening route.

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An enjoyable day’s cruise in glorious sunshine concludes as Black Bart comes to rest opposite Anderson long term moorings. Bart seems to have a relatively common problem in our moored position. concrete/stone below jutting out from the bank is not good. Skippet sorts tings out beautifully. With the usual bow line secured, Bart now has double lines off the stern to different mooring rings. Floating doughnut ring fenders are roped to other mooring rings with spare side rope fenders poked through the ‘oles to provide full support. Sounds Great hey !!  Well it is. And it works. Bart be well set for the coming ‘ers of many a (going by too fast !! )  passing narrowboat &/or plastic pig as skip lovingly calls them. Why Oh Why do the vast majority of helms-peoples not understand the term tick-over. SLOW DOWN !!!  PLEASE !!!  Skip’s biggest ‘bug-bear’.

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Friday 3rd June      Yesterday were a very early start & our Bart cruised for many moor miles than originally intended so today we is staying put and Lister & Bart be chilled. Crew of three take a walk to the famous 1875 Anderton Boat Lift.

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This Engineering gem is the link between the River Weaver Navigation and the Trent & Mersey Canal. a 50′ vertical boat lift. Incredible !!  Two huge water tanks (caissons), each with watertight sealable doors, carry boats up and down. The original counter-balanced system was replaced in 1908 by electric operation, but the lift now works hydraulically again.No description can adequately convey the sheer scale of this engineering feat. The lift worked until 1983 when serious deterioration of the structure was discovered. Some £7m was raised to fund the restoration, which was completed in 2002. Black Bart & crew hope to be experiencing this Marvell during our return trip along the T&M Canal later in the year. Look forward to that. 50′ down to spend a few days or moor on the Weaver & then back up 50′ to the T&M again.

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We walk down to the River Weaver & continue our trek along different banks, through the surrounding woodland trail. We eventually turn roand, making our back toward the Anderton Lift

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& return to Bart for coffee & late lunch. Now skip needs to try & bring the blog up to date again, while our talented skippet’s creative juices are flowing. Tittle Marvels of wonder are being manufactured here on Black Bart. Tennis on 5-live extra makes for good listening as a certain dour sounding Scotsman wins his semi-final in the French open with a fine performance against the defending champion. Only a certain brick wall of a Serbian stands in his way now. Fingers crossed for Sunday afternoon. Remember watching (Yes. Bart has a cathode ray tube device) Scotty beat Serbby in the Wimbledon Final in 2013 whilst moored at Stoke Bruerne.

Saturday 4th June      Good morning Bloggetts !!  And what a Good morning it is too. Usual sort of tings happen this morning & after all is done & ready we will be off on a cruise. A cruise to where we do not know yet.

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Black Bart gives other pirates the slip and makes for the safety of the dark Cheshire tunnels

Barnton (572 yards) & Saltersford (424 yards) Tunnels are not for faint hearted pirates me Hearties. Aaaarrrggh !!!  Can-ee even see ta far ends proper, if at all. On-coming pirates cannot be passed safely inside these dark mysterious labyrinths.

They be narrow. The liquid swirling path is dangerously crooked, twisting in all directions to disorientate any who dare to swim into the monsters slimey lairs. A risky place if ever there be.

We finally make it through safely tuther side of dangerous Cheshire black holes.

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After many ‘ers moor chug we fall (almost) upon a high embankment overlooking Dutton Hollow. Crew can almost see the River Weaver in far far away distant lands.

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Strange ducts not of the watery wet type lurk out there almost shrouded in the murky mist.

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Our tired crew need to chill after all that excitement. Black Bart is safely secured, floating proper like & happy now one is resting again after such a dangerous & almost torturous journey through many miles of almost treacherous waters. Bart & crew’s most hazardous journey yet. Deep Breath. Count to ten & breath…….  Relax……

Skippet has opened the ‘Bounty’ Red tin & is now painting the cratch’s front wooden frame. Now the fore’s hatch cover is receiving the tarting up treatment too. Now, the red borders of the cratch table are being re-freshed. And the red diamond. Then the yellow half diamonds are turning Bounty Red too.  LOOKING GOOD !!!   Skip has found the stash of sand paper. Port side roof edge/ridge is in need of some tlc. so starts the long arduous task of preparing paintwork/metalwork. Starboard side were sorted almost a month ago. Did someone say (imply) summit aboat chilling/Relaxation ??

Sunday 5th June      Buoy is it HOT today ??  Yes. It is Hot. Blue sky & MR/Mrs Sun are building it up splendidly. Skip continues that laborious preppy task. Metal is very hot as happens when tis sunny & hot. Have to keep pulling sandpaper away from Bart as too hot through the paper. Persistence is the name of the game ‘ere. As is the ‘norm’. A fair while on it yesterday. A good few ‘ers on it today. Late afternoon, with front half of Bart now shaded by our friendly local trees prep-ed paintwork is washed off & dried. A fair few spots have been taken down to bare metal. There were quite a few rusty spit-spots in concentrated areas. Skippet ready for stage 3. Rust fighting magic Owatrol Oil is applied as & where required. Masking tape is carefully (& hopefully correctly positionally like) applied. We trust the ivory border below the green will be safe from creeping splurges. Stage 4. Blue-y-grey Pre-Kote is open & two brushes (with Skip & Skippet at the none bristly ends) are working almost furiously.

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Two hours later. Amazing. Just don’t realise how long this all takes. You have to try & stop yourself looking ahead as you slowly progress along. Approaching 60′ long roof edge/ridge seems a long way away at times. Paint pot re-lidded just before 9.00pm. Quick wash (feeling very dirty) (moor than normal anyway) quick bite to eat. Knackered. Time for dozy-doze.

Monday 6th June      Buoy is it HOT today ??  Yes. It is Hot. Again. Fantastic. Crew are up & ready by 7.00am. It’s almost like those good old days. Ready for the off-to-work at ‘stupid o’clock’. O’ Happy Days…. Paint tin open & brushes at the ready. The team of two ready for action near the fore. We be now re-greening the port side roof edge/ridge. Four strips of colour. All turning Donegal Green. Steadily, slowly. The clock ticks & tocks noisily in the background.  Time creeps on by. Soon after 9.00am we have reached the stern. Thank goodness. Mr/Mrs Sun is really starting to heat things up, so we is ‘appy to bring stage 5 to a conclusion.

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Skippet takes advantage of the green being out & re-freshes the green border & diamonds. Magnificent. Looking Fantastic !!!

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Tea/coffee & a nibble of breakfast then masking tape is carefully peeled-off.

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Skippet has also anti-rusted,

primed & painted (the engine room’s)

Lister’s bullseye.

Look up mate. In the roof mate !!!

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Skip fell over taking this photograph. Must have been dizzy. Makes Skip dizzy again just looking at it. Whoa !!  I feel sick man.  No I don’t silly billies. Just a tittle joke all that. Anyway. Back to the green paint. Blind man be pleased to see that mate. Usual bit of paint creep here & there but tis miles better than it were. It be right hot outside now. Lovely. Pleased we got it done early.

Forgot to impart some information to you all earlier. Black Bart is moored on the high embankment at Dutton Hollow. In September 2012 a large section of the 235 year old embankment at Dutton Hollow on the Trent & Mersey Canal collapsed after heavy rain. The breach left a crater the size of 12 double decker buses and a huge clean-up bill. When the canal embankment collapsed, water flooded into a nearby farmer’s field leaving a 40 metre hole. CRT & their contractors have done Fantastic work repairing the breach & damage caused. Over 24 million litres of water and 12 thousand tonnes of stones were used to restore the embankment so this wonderful canal could be enjoyed by all again. We all remember the ‘summer’ of 2012.

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Bart is currently moored just before the trees at the right hand end of the breach.

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Very strange footwear this person has on. Not really…….

Actually, thow only washed toes (all ten of them) & three inches ‘up’ the foot.

Sorry !!  Forgot the rest.

It’s still just dirt (& hair) from there on up.

Tuesday 7th June      This is the day nb:Black Bart is to depart from current waterway companion The Trent & Mersey Canal. We have only made two brief excursions into these waters to aid our indirect route of cruising to a Very Famous City of the North West. We hope to be arriving in that particular metropolis at the end of June. Salt House Dock awaits.   Back to today – Tis Tuesday. Skippet gets the crew up like most days & Bart is readied for departure. Lister is checked & jumped into combustion. Lines released and we, the team are on our way.

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A few moor wiggly watery bits lead us to & past ye olde’ dry dock & finally to Dutton Stop lock. Through the lock, pull over & moor. Lister off. North bound craft have a 10 minute departure slot every hour, on the hour. Twenty minutes to go. Time for breakfast.

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Three narrowboats have arrived, waiting behind Bart. Lister is running again. It’s ten o’clock & Black Bart is cruising into the 1272 yard long Preston Tunnel.

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Our tittle convoy of four make good steady incident free progress through the darkness.

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Within twenty minutes Bart is leading (Yes we have managed to stay in front) our new temporary troop safely back into the light.

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We are soon at the junction, turning West (left to sum) along the original first five miles of the very old wide Bridgewater Canal. This Wonderful canal will be our lockless inland waterway companion for a few miles & a fair few hours of happy cruising. We bid a fond farewell to the T&M. See you again soon mate. Likely be back later in the year.

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–     –     –     –     –     –     –     –     –     –     –     –     –

Canal Pioneer James Brindley was appointed engineer for the Trent & Mersey Canal but unfortunately didn’t live to see it’s completion. The T&M was initially (part) opened in 1771, covering 93 miles from the mouth of the River Derwent to Runcorn Gap/Preston Brook. In 1771 the only obstacle that still had to be tackled was the hill at Kidsgrove, through which a tunnel was being dug. Until 1777 when the canal was finally completed , everything had to be carried on the short journey from Etruria, over the top of Kidsgrove Hill, and to the other side, where the canal then allowed continued passage to Preston Brook & the Bridgewater Canal. That tunnel is the Harecastle Tunnel, near Kidsgrove in the city of Stoke-on-Trent, north Staffordshire. There are actually two tunnels; the first was built by Brindley and was 2880 yards (2633 m) long, and barges were ‘legged’ through by men lying on their backs and pushing against the roof with their feet. This was a physically demanding and slow process and created major delays, so leading civil engineer Thomas Telford was commissioned to provide a second, wider, parallel tunnel with a towpath. This 2926 yard (2676 m) long tunnel was opened in 1827. In the 1900s, the Brindley tunnel was closed due to severe subsidence, but the Telford Tunnel – although also prone to the same problems – remains in use, and is the fourth-longest navigable canal tunnel in the UK.

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Black Bart & the Jolly crew have only been wandering the western reaches of this waterway this time. We have cruised bits & bobs of these waters on several occasions. Mayhaps Bart will cruise all of her one day.

 

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Black Bart has cruised North West from Middlewich at the Junction with the Shropshire Union Canal (Middlewich Branch) to the North-West connection with the Bridgewater Canal, swimming 17 miles of the curvaceous, wiggly Trent & Mersey Canal descending 3 deep narrow ‘Middlewich locks’, 1 shallow wide ‘Big’ lock, ‘Dutton Stop Lock’, swimming over the River Dane (Croxton Aque), Gad Brook, Marbury Brook, Wincham Brook, a River Weaver tributary using 5 strange channels called aqueducts, stumbling through the dark of 3 narrow crooked tunnels, sailing along a few (sum-times high) embankments including Dutton Hollow, waving to the amazing Anderton Boat Lift & passing under 41 bridges.

 

2 thoughts on “#29 Trent & Mersey Canal – North West. June 2016

  1. Don’t know what Alexi is on about – didn’t see any swash buckling dogs myself!! Fabulous descriptions thanks guys and lovely memories for you both. Cant wait for pictures of your 50 foot rise and descent on that marvellous mechanical contraption later in the year!!
    Fair winds
    N

    Liked by 1 person

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