Friday, 23 September 2016

We got it right again - the timing that is

Wednesday 21st September 2016
Shady Oak Pub, Beeston to Chester
10 miles, 8 locks

We woke to yet another glorious day - chilly to start with, but it soon warmed up.  We set off early (well early for us!) - the dogs and I left just before 8am and Chris followed 10 minutes later.  My walk was idyllic once past this field of young cattle on the other side of the canal.  As they saw us come under the bridge they rushed across the field and set up the most unearthly racket. I think they might have thought we were arriving with food!

For the rest of the couple of miles it was peaceful - we only saw one man with his dog

Our only other companions were these serene and graceful swans

Then once back on board we came across this very, very long line of moored boats.  For non boaters - you have to slow down to idle going past moored boats.  The line is over a mile long and by the end you are losing the will to live!

 But it does end eventually and normal speed can be resumed.  The worst part is we know what is coming on the way back!

I do love to see properties where the owners make the most of their enviable canal locations.

As we approached Chester there are five locks to negotiate and our timing was perfect.  As we approached a boat (nb Spadger) was just entering the top lock, so by the time we arrived the gate on the far side was open and ready for us to sail in.  We shared all five locks and even better the first four were full and ready for us.

The approach to Chester is a bit industrial, but there are points of interest - this is the Lead Shot Tower - it used to be used to making musket shot during Napoleonic Wars.

Right opposite this is a new Waitrose - at least we assume it is fairly new as it does not appear in either of our guide books.  We stopped to get some 'goodies', but moved on to moor again to get our basics from Tesco.

As you creep forward you become aware of the city walls

This definitely has the feeling of being a moat

Our final hurdle - the three staircase locks at Northgate.

Again we were lucky and arrived to find a boat in the top lock and the gate on this side open and waiting for us to enter.  The paddle gear on the first two locks is on the towpath side, so I did not even have to do any winding!

As you emerge at the bottom under this low bridge it is a sharp turn to the right to

Tower Wharf where we moored up opposite the Warehouse built by Thomas Telford which is now a very pleasant pub

Just before Taylor's Boatyard which is the oldest working boatyard in the country.

We were also opposite this tribute to LTC Rolt

We wandered along the towpath with the dogs - someone has a sense of humour

Well it made us smile.

Thursday 22nd September 2016

A leisurely start today before we headed out with both dogs to walk the walls of Chester

It is a fascinating walk that takes quite a while as there is a lot of reading material as you go.  There are views of wonderful buildings

hills in the distance

nb Tentatrice!

The Roodee Racecourse

Chester Castle

The Old Dee Bridge over the River Dee and leading to Wales

How is this for an address?

And the view of the River Dee from that balcony must be amazing

We diverted off the wall to walk through the Roman Gardens

Where we found a Roman soldier educating a class of school children - he was demonstrating how much protection his head got as he tried to chop the volunteer's head off!

Next stop was The Albion for lunch

We met the criteria and were made very welcome.  They do not allow children, but dogs are welcome and are given a large bowl of water.

It is a WWI theme inside.  The landlord has been there for 43 years.  A place we would recommend.  Chris had a good sandwich and I opted for a Staffordshire oatcake and it was a particularly good one.

Outside again we passed by the Roman Amphitheatre and another Roman soldier instructing a school party.

These were being shown how to form a 'wedge' which had to shuffle forward to break up the line of teachers and parents!  They were having a whale of a time.

Grosvenor Park gave Monty and Kiera a chance to let off steam and have a good run.

 There were a lot of these which kept both dogs very busy.

We took the open top bus tour which was very empty, so we were able to spread out all along the back seats.

I always find these tours the best way to find out about new places.  There are so many wonderful buildings in Chester it is hard to know what to leave out (but I will!)

This is called Noah's Ark - the HQ of Chester Scouts

There is that boat again!

What an amazing Town Hall

 Once off the bus we decided to walk back to the boat via the shops and the famous 'Chester Rows' - a unique double-tier shopping street.

We still have about a third of the wall walk to complete the circle, but maybe on our way back next week.  We found a fabulous green grocer and an even more amazing cheese shop on the way back to the boat.  Their Stilton and Walnut paté is to die for.

It was after 5pm when we got back to the boat - it was a long day, but one we both really enjoyed. Chester is a wonderful city - somewhere we would like to come back to one day.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Perfect Timing

Monday 19th September
Swanley Bridge Marina to near Hurleston Junction
1 mile, 0 locks

First job of the day was the saddest - we bade Sue and Ken farewell.  A much shorter joint voyage than the previous two years, but it was so good to spend some time with you both again and on such a lovely stretch of the canal system.

as we left our mooring opposite Swanley Bridge Marina at 08:30 to moor up in the marina for a service at 09:00.  The latter all went very smoothly and we were able to stay in the marina to make use of all their facilities - launderette (bedding and towels), showers, elsan, rubbish, water and diesel

before we left to move a little further down the canal.  A busy domestic day with things that had to be done, but it could not be called exciting.

Tuesday 20th September 2016
Near Hurleston Junction to The Shady Oak Pub, Beeston Castle
8 miles, 10 locks

Today is where the perfect timing came in from start to finish of the day.  We slipped away from our moorings at 08:30 to arrive at the four locks at Hurleston to find no queue.  There was, however, a single-hander just leaving the first lock, so we thought we were in for a long transit down. We were, however, wrong as two hire boats arrived behind us with a lot of adult experienced crew and they all pitched in to get everyone where they needed to be which included two single-handers coming up.

We made it down in around 35 minutes - vastly quicker than when we went up a couple of weeks ago.

We arrived at Barbridge Junction to use the services to find it empty.  As we were ready to leave this boat popped out of the Middlewich Arm straight into the opposite bank before winding and getting the stern stuck on the far bank.  He was getting it sorted when

This boat emerged to join the fun!

It all got sorted and we were able to proceed onto new waters for us.  Just before bridge 103a Chris spotted this Texaco garage - too good an opportunity to get the paper to pass by, so I was equipped with the voucher and some money and sent off to see what they had

The problem was getting there up this steep embankment!  Someone has left some blue rope to help haul oneself up which I did successfully.

The next hurdle was the railing - it is a good job I have reasonably long legs.  Then it was across a busy road, but I was successful and found it had most basic supplies before I had to repeat the journey in reverse to get back to the boat.  The only safe way down the embankment was on my bottom - not dignified, but needs must.

I asked the other day what the 'cupboard' in a bridge was for and Les from nb Valerie answered that it was for stop planks - had I waited until today I would not have had to ask the question as this one has no doors.

Yet more perfect timing as we approached the staircase locks at Bunbury - there were two voluntary lock keepers and the lock was ready for us.

The locks here are broad, so even better a boat came up behind us to share the two staircase locks and the next two.

This lock cottage struck me as odd with no windows on the canal side - did the lock keeper not want to view his work?

I did note a mobile home in the garden, so I wonder if someone has bought it as a project?  It certainly has potential.

The second lock at Beeston is iron sided and although it is notionally a broad lock the advice is only one boat at a time as there have been boats caught on the side.  The boat that had shared the previous four locks with helped us with this lock, so we stopped below the lock and gave them a hand.

We are moored with Beeston Castle as a view from the tow path - it really is an idyllic spot and one we look forward to re-visiting on our return.

nb Inca - this is another boat name you need to look at very carefully!  For those who did not see their post - look HERE.