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Cheshire ring, spring 1993

The Anderton boat lift, in its derelict state

A 2-week trip on the classic Cheshire ring, with side trips to Chester and Wigan, including parts of the Macclesfield Canal, the Peak Forest Canal, the Aston Canal, the Rochdale Canal, the Bridgewater Canal, the Leeds and Liverpool Canal Leigh Branch, the Trent and Mersey Canal and the Shropshire Union Canal. Total 181 miles and 128 locks.

Diary extracts:

Sat 1993-05-01
Start of canal holiday. Sunshine to start, hot by midday, cool, dull and windy by the time we set out. In two cars to 'Heritage Narrow Boats' at Scholar Green, off J16 N of Stoke-on-Trent. 'Kinder Scout' 48ft, 2 bunks at back, 2 in cabin amid and double/dinette up front. 2-cyl Lister, diesel-burning hot-air heating, 1 bog between 4. Not the most luxurious. Nearly 1h of waffle to get the boat out, the 12V is 5A or 3-pin rubber in-line type, so the 2A that I put on the cellphone adaptor won't do. Get away only at 16h30, mooring between br 77 and the aqueduct at 18h00. Eve to Wharf, near the aqueduct. Bought Rochdale licence, 27L50. Today 3 mi and 0 l (1.5 hr = 2 mi/h, which is about max for this canal, reckoned to be less than 1m deep). Dire warnings about doing the Ashton and Rochdale in one day, to minimise risk from juvenile vandals.
Sun 1993-05-02
Away at 08h30, through the 12 locks in Bosley flight and moor before br 49 at 1336. Followed 'Denstone' up the flight, with one woman doing all the work "I'm not an outdoor sort of person." Leaving paddles open for a boat with only 2 on behind us. Water 5 mins at top of flight. Lunch at "Fool's Nook" by br 49. Aft restart 15h, driving through automatic swing bridge, to reach Bollington (just beyond the aqueduct) by 1800. Eve (briefly) to 'Dog and Partridge', which was full of young locals. Bollington a little stone town, with lots of steep hills and water falling. Aqueduct very high, and horseshoe-shaped rather than a simple arch. Today 14 mi, 12 locks, 1 swing bridge. Boddies lunchtime, Robinson's eve.
Mon 1993-05-03
Mayday bank holiday. No locks or other impediments. Start 09h, me walking along ex-railway cycle/foot/horse path from br 18 to br 15, easily beating the boat. Lunch stop 12h30 at br 2, eat in Ring O'Bells (Robinson's - excellent fresh salmon salad). Queue for water after lunch, then at 1430 start down the Marple flight, warm sunshine and hosts of gongoozlers. About 2h for the flight, then over Marple aqueduct and on to Hyde, mooring about half-way between the M67 and br 4 at 18h40. Today 13.5 mi and 16 locks. Peak Forest is narrow, but, unlike the Macclesfield, seems deep to the edge, so no problem mooring. So far, everything has been picturesque, even the towns, esp canal through Marple and Macclesfield summit. Tomorrow, the mad dash through Manchester.
Tue 1993-05-04
A very busy day. Sunshine all day, melting the overnight frost to start with, then sweltering most of the day and a pleasant evening. Started at 0715, breakfasting on the way. Water steaming in the sunshine and cold air. Rapid progress down the remains of the lower Peak Forest. Turn onto the Ashton, the first part of which is quite pretty. Picked up the inevitable gang of children at lock 10, throwing stones and trying to ride on the boat. Lots of other boats about. Water at BW Fairfield Jnc, 15 mins. The children were down to very young age, in school uniform, male and female. Tiny tots smoking and swearing. Came out of narrow lock territory around midday and handed over our "carnet" to the Rochdale office, the real office, not the hut in the car park, who didn't know what to do with it. Very old-fashioned office, gold leaf on the door, staircase. Then they let us in. Vast numbers of boats coming up, from a festival at Castlefield Jn, lots as pairs tied up. We had to divert to a side channel under an office block to let some up. Here, in a dark, subterranean cavern with concrete pillars everywhere, we had to wait for perhaps 20 mins. The boat's throttle-cable broke, so that we could only move at a crawl. The cellphone did its job. Boatyard suggested that we went down slowly and have it repaired at Castlefield J. Did this, sharing with Black Prince boat with people walking the Cheshire Ring. Tedious with boats coming up, but after it cleared tied ours together and they drove us down. Found the repairer at the junct and he put in a new cable in 45 mins. Then away again 15h45 for a fast, lock-free stretch, to moor at Worsley (br 52) at 18h00. Quiet, just on the outskirts of the conurbation. Feature of this part the Barton swing aqueduct. Rochdale locks very heavy and doubtful if we could have worked them ourselves. Passed Marple going the other way around at Rochdale bottom lock. Mooring, found that all port side lights were not working and a fuse had blown. Suspect the repairman had shorted something. Swapped fuses so that the starboard lights were out, as these are not so important. The Tandy multimeter came in useful, to show not shorted before I put the fuse back in. Eve to eat at Bridgewater Hotel, a find-a-table-and-remember-its-number type of place. Boddies. Today 16 miles, 27 locks, 3 swing bridges (or rather 2 swings and a lift bridge). 18 narrow locks and 9 broad ones. Not a bad day really, for 4 of us. All knackered. Still haven't found the wherewithal to plug in the cellphone, the repair boatyard scraped and found a 2A, but I already had one of those.
Wed 1993-05-05
Another hot, sunny morning. Start at 09h, down the Bridgewater and back onto "bridge-and-bullrush" territory at Leigh - the Leeds and Liverpool. Moor for lunch at br 4, lunch in Dover Lock Inn, 1200-1310. Water at Butts Bridge on the Bridgewater (10 mins) AM. Assist another boat up the 2 arm locks (where see "Polynomial", driven by a jovial scientist/mathematician), then down 2 locks and moor at Wigan Pier at 16h00. Shopping excursion - food, more fuses, connector for the TV 12V to attach to the cellphone. A good job, because we had to use it again. The port side lights have fused again during the day and the man wants to come and fix it. So he came out (90 mins) and disconnected the shaver adaptor (which seemed to have the short) and replaced another fluorescent unit that appeared to be faulty. On scene for 1h, so we decided to stay here overnight, even though it's a bit noisy. Today 13.25 mi and 4 locks (plus one mechanised lift bridge). BW man checked licence carefully at the bridge. Main town centre of Wigan unimpressive, lots of the "same-everywhere" shops. Wigan Pier has a pub, a shop and a nightclub. Must be more we haven't seen yet.
Thu 1993-05-06
Dull andovercast, a little cool, most of the day, except bright sunshine and hot in the late afternoon. Start 08h45. Water at lock 86 (reel-out hose attached to water point, very fast) for 10 mins. Moor at Leigh Br (junction of Bridgewater with L&L) at 12h. Six pubs visible from this bridge, plus post box, phone box, fast food. Eat at "The Bridge" canalside. Basic, but good and cheap. Then on at 13h. Tiller strange, jumps up and down as turn it - later try lift it back up into its socket properly. Straight run, slowing only for anglers, back over the aqueduct and through the red-water region (from roughly br 54 to br 50) and to Waters Meet Jn again, back on the ring. Moor at Bridgewater main line br 36, just N of Sale, by "Bridge Inn", which visit later (Boddies), at 17h. Right beside the "railway" part of the tram system. Today 19.75 mi and 4 locks (plus 1 automated swingbridge, operated by a keeper). We're all sunburnt to some extent. Unruly children at eve mooring until controlled by parents, throwing stones at the boat. Rowing 4s going past plus a boat and butty. Horn does not work. Could this be on same circuit as shaver socket - it's right on the control post, which the man at Castlefield dismantled to get the new throttle cable in. Cellphone successfully charged from boat.
Fri 1993-05-07
Bright and sunny from dawn to dusk, hot for most of it. Start 0845. Water 10 mins near "Ye Olde No 3" pub and a pump-out at "Wharfage Boat Co" - 8GBP - 1117-1137. Lunch 12h10..14h05 at Lymm bridge ("Golden Fleece"), late re-start waiting for the Post Office to re-open. Aft long hot stretch with no locks or other bother, except a stop for gas (13kg propane 9.80GBP) at Preston Brook. Through Preston Brook tunnel and the few centimetre stop lock to get back on BW water. Moor between br 209 and 208 at 18h25. Eve to "Horns" by the swing bridge over the Weaver, 500m from canal. Today 22.5 mi and 1 lock. Gas stop was 10 mins. Some shopping at Lymm.
Sat 1993-05-08
Bright, dry day, but not hot. Start 08h45, through 2 short but crooked tunnels, to moor by the Anderton lift 10h00..10h55 (inc water). Lift is dismantled, the wheels and counter-weights on the ground alongside. No explanatory signs or collecting boxes, just signs saying "danger - keep out" on the fence shutting it off. Then on again for lunch at br 184, Broken Cross, 12h10..13h15. No food in pub, so just quick pint and sandwiches on boat. Aft notable only for a big jam of boats in Middlewich, mainly because we went through just as Andersen boats were turning out dozens of hire boats. Eventually out onto the Middlewich branch, now no longer heading for Barbridge, and moored in the middle of nowhere at br 19, at 17h55. Today 17 mi and 6 locks. Eve on boat.
Sun 1993-05-09
Heavy rain overnight and windy. Still warm. Start at 09h00, queues at the locks on the Middlewich branch, lots of anglers after the junct, and rendezvous with friends at br 104 at 12h15. To "Davenport" for lunch (garlic mushrooms, roast beef, mash, roasties, carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, Yorkshire and banana split, all for 5.95GBP) (and the landlord saw me inspecting a slightly cloudy pint and sent over a replacement). Re-start, at 1425. Crossed another boat in the staircase (he was skeptical, but it works) and water immediately after for 4 mins (very fast hose). Locks along this stretch (14-foot gauge) are very slow to fill, and canal is shallow so progress is slow. Nevertheless, there are plenty of boats around though very few hire boats; they seem to have gone for Llangollen or the 4-counties ring. Moor at br 113 at 17h55. To the "Alderney Arms Hotel" (now "Poachers Pocket") nearby. Today 14.5 mi and 6 locks.
Mon 1993-05-10
Rain most of the day, thunder overnight and evening, but not cold. Start at 08h30 on a section of canal that's badly silted, can't go fast or get within 2m of the bank. Water at Christleton br (122) for 10 mins then through 5 locks, turn before br 123e and moor there in Chester at 11h50. Lunch in pub, then shopping in the town. Eve for Chinese meal right on canal. Today 7 mi and 5 locks.
Tue 1993-05-11
Dry, warm, but mainly windy. Sunny in the afternoon. Start 09h15. Through the locks, we're the only boat going out of Chester, but lots are coming in - passing a couple at every lock. Water at br 122 for 5 mins, then on through the shallow bit (to br 113) and the faster bit thereafter, to moor at br 109 at 1320. Pub here (Shady Oak) is a Chef and Brewer, and though they served us that late, their backstage conversations made it clear that it was reluctantly. Then start 14h35, sharing the locks and staircase with another crew. On to moor on the Middlewich branch, by br 2, at 1810, for eve on boat. Why is it, that when you try to moor out of the way, someone comes and moors right next to you? Today 15.75 mi and 11 locks.
Wed 1993-05-12
Windy to start, later clear and hot. Start at 09h30 & just pootle along the branch to moor after bridge 23 for lunch on the boat. Off again at 13h20 through last 2 locks. Roped boat back to Middlewich Narrowboats, where took on water and had a pump-out. Again 8GBP, but they kept us waiting nearly an hour (1435..1530). Bought various maps and guides in the canal shop, now, out of the breeze, very hot. Then on to moor after lock 70 at 16h20. Need to go slow now, as we have 2 days left and only enough canal for 1 energetic day. Mooring here noisy, between a busy road and a salt factory. Today 10.5 mi and 6 locks. Eve to "Kinderton Arms" - basic but good beer.
Thu 1993-05-13
Mostly dull, but warm and dry. A fair wind as well. Start 0900, through three locks, then moor at Wheelock, after br 154, at 11h20. Take on water here and wait for family visitors to arrive. Lunch in the adjacent "Cheshire Cheese". Then re-start at 13h40, This stretch is mostly locks, but rapid ones, able to set most of them ahead. Also, most are duplicated. Thurlwood steel lock is gone (dismantled 1988, so our pix were just in time, last time here) and very little sign of its site - just the paired bridges on the tail side. Moor for the night opposite "Broughton Arms" (or at least that's what Nicholsons calls it - it looks like a formula eatery to me from the back - "Country Fayre") just before br 139 at 16h55. Today 9 mi and 17 locks. Eve to the pub: Pedigree.
Fri 1993-05-14
Rain most of the night and morning, with occasional respite, dry in the afternoon with some sunshine. Start at 0950 and stop at 11h20, after lock 44. No water today, though there was a free point here. To "Red Bull" for lunch (buy a ticket at the bar, they serve up your food as you wait, then they take it away for final heating before bringing it to table). Then away again at 1325, stopping by derelict swingbridge 88 on the Macclesfield at 1505. Here tidying and I walked to the boatyard to check return time. Today 4.75 mi and 13 locks. Hall Green lock was originally 2 stop locks back-to-back - so have to drive through one (gateless) lock to get into the other. Also, this lock has a single bottom gate and paired top gates. Eve to Rising Sun, near the boatyard.
Sat 1993-05-15
Run for 10 mins at arrive at boatyard at 0825, away by 08h45.
Day	Date	Hours	Miles	Locks	Sw Br	morn	aft	Water
Sat	930501	1.5	3       -	-	-	Kath
Sun	930502	8.0	14	12	1	Sue	Nigel	Bosley top
Mon	930503	7.7	13.5	16	-	Cath	Kath	Marple Jn
Tue	930504	9.8	16	27	3	Sue	Nigel	Fairfld Jn
Wed	930505	5.7	13.25	4	-	Cath	Kath	Bedford
Thu	930506	7.1	19.75	4	-	Sue	Nigel	Wigan
Fri	930507	7.6	22.5	1	-	Cath	Kath	Bollington
Sat	930508	7.2	17	6	-	Sue	Nigel	Anderton
Sun	930509	6.7	14.5	6	-	Cath	Kath	Bunbury
Mon	930510	3.2	7	5	-	Sue	-	Christleton
Tue	930511	7.6	15.75	11	-	Nigel	Cath	Christleton
Wed	930512	4.7	10.5	6	-	Kath	Sue	Middlewich
Thu	930513	5.6	9	17	-	Cath	Nigel	Wheelock
Fri	930514	3.2	4.75	13	-	Kath	Sue	-
Sat	930515	0.2	0.5	-	-	Nigel	-	-
Totals		85.8	181	128	4

Day	Lunch				Evening
Sat	-				Congleton 'Wharf'
Sun	Bosley 'Fools Nook'		Bollington 'Dog & Partridge'
Mon	Marple 'Ring O'Bells'		Hyde (on boat)
Tue	Manchester (on boat)		Worsley 'Bridgewater Hotel'
Wed	Abram 'Dover Lock Inn'		Wigan (on boat)
Thu	Leigh 'The Bridge'		Sale 'Bridge Inn'
Fri	Lymm 'Golden Fleece'		Little Leigh 'Horns'
Sat	Broken Cross 'Old Broken Cross'	Middlewich Branch br 19 (on boat)
Sun	Calveley 'Davenport'		Huxley 'The Poacher's Pocket'
Mon	Chester 'Victoria'		Chester (Chinese meal)
Tue	Beeston 'Shady Oak'		Middlewich Branch br 2 (on boat)
Wed	Middlewich Bch br 23 (on boat)	Middlewich 'Kinderton Arms'
Thu	Wheelock 'Cheshire Cheese'	Rode Heath 'Broughton Arms'
Fri	Kidsgrove 'Red Bull'		Kent Green 'Rising Sun'
Sat	-				-

©nib 2003-03-22..2005-12-07

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