Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Beeston Castle.

Wednesday 24th August, 2016 at Egg Bridge, Waverton.
A cloudy start turned brighter later.
We set off mid morning and almost immediately came to Bunbury locks, a staircase of two locks. Fortunately, we had the help of a C&RT volunteer. We also had help from a Danish family travelling on two hire boats.
The locks on the canal north of Nantwich are all wide locks and many of them have these attactive round lengthsman's buildings.
Our goal today was to visit Beeston Castle, about a mile's walk away from the canal, so we moored up and set off on a footpath across the fields. Beeston Castle is built on the top of a natural sandstone outcrop that rises 500ft above the Cheshire plain. The outcrop is clear in the distance.
The only hazard (other than the odd cow-pat) that we encountered on our journey was a very large herd of dairy cows who were crowded around the gate through which we had to go. It transpired that this gate led to their milking parlour and they were queueing up, already impatient to get milked! It always seems such a wondrous thing that they naturally know when it's time to be milked and will make their own way to the milking parlour.
The farm buildings were clearly old but beautifully maintained (the farm supplies milk to Tesco) and the farmhouse itself was straight from a picture postcard.
Although the Castle is mediaeval, the gatehouse and the external wall is Victorian; however, this gatehouse is built very much as the two ruined Castle gatehouses must have been.
As with most castles, it has a chequered history including battles and sieges in the Civil War - the victors, as usual, trying to tear it down after they had defeated the occupants.
There is evidence of Bronze Age occupation of the rocky outcrop, but the castle dates from 1220. An outer wall surrounds a massive outer bailey or "ward" with a single gatehouse entrance. Right on the top of the 500ft outcrop is the inner ward with its own huge gatehouse and divided from the outer ward by a deep rock-cut ditch, which was the source for much of the stone used in the Castle's construction. This photograph was taken inside the inner ward at the top.
The views from the top were astonishing (it's possible to see eight counties), particularly as the day was very clear. Between the castle and the canal, there is a railway line; we watched this "Nuclear Waste" train go past. - the third in as many days that we have seen.
We spent a happy hour or so exploring the ruins and, in the inner ward, met a family which had come together from all corners of England, and from Connecticut in the USA, for a family gathering. They asked R to take a group picture of all of them together.
We found it impossible to take any photographs that did justice to the massive size of this Castle and its surrounding wards, which must have been incredibly impressive sitting high above the plain below.
Later, as we were sailing on to Chester, we looked back at the rocky outcrop, illuminated by the sun low in the west and agreed it is certainly the Castle's most impressive aspect. It was only by chance that we happened to look back and saw it - so we will do our best to photograph it on the way back.

Back on MM, we thought that we would get a few more miles under our belt as it was a beautiful evening. This pretty moth joined us on the stern for a while, perhaps convinced that MM was a (very) large flower.
We moored at Egg Bridge for the night, which might give you a clue as to the menu for breakfast tomorrow!
Today: 9 miles, 6 locks and 4.5 hours.
Trip: 270 miles, 200 locks and 201.0 hours.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

A Stop in Nantwich for Provisions.

Tuesday 23rd August, 2016 at Calveley.
Our athletes have returned from the Olympics, rightly to a hero's welcome. M remarked that if lock-wheeling were ever elevated to Olympic sport status, she would win the Gold! But, in the end, she had to make do with a golden sunrise.
A pretty morning with a touch of mist still lingering over the water and a heavy dew.
One of R's "Smiley Breakfasts" was the order of the day with delicious middle-cut bacon from our "personal butcher", Nick Griffin at Stone.
We set off mid-morning and soon came to Cholmondeston Lock, the last of four locks on this stretch and as deep, at 11ft 3in, as its name is long.
No, M hadn't been drinking when she took this photograph - the steps are really that wonky! They tell the story of the many thousands of feet that have passed this way. Mind you, she said it made her feel tipsy just looking at them...
While R was helping the boat in front of us through the lock, M popped across to the small shop in the Venetian Marina to buy some milk.
Soon came Barbridge Junction, where we ultimately intend to go north towards Chester; however, fresh food supplies on MM were running low, so we turned left (south) and headed for nearby Nantwich so that M could aquire a "few bits".
Almost immediately, going south, we passed Hurleston Junction, where the Llangollen Canal branches off. Its four locks looked very enticing. We are very much looking forward to tackling them next month.
After we have been to Chester and Ellesmere Port, our intention is to go up the Llangollen (but after the school holidays end when it will, hopefully, be less crowded - it's an extremely popular waterway for hire boats).
We moored on the aqueduct, high above Nantwich and walked into town.
This charming town never fails to delight, with its half-timbered, crooked buildings, many built soon after the devastating fire of 1583. The First Elizabeth had donated £1,000 to help the reconstruction of the city, and it certainly seems to have been put to good use.
Our favourite building is the café/bookshop dating back to 1584. We spent a very happy couple of hours there having tea and browsing.
One book in particular caught R's eye - and no, he was not the author - although he might well have been!
M loved this imaginative tile in the Ladies' loo. R said that there was a similar set of tiles in the Gents', except that it was only half finished and was obviously being painted by hand.
The afternoon had turned very hot and it was over a mile from M&S back to MM. Luckily, M&S is next to the bus station and a visit to the Tourist Information Office there established that the number 84 bus would take us (and the "few bits") back to the aqueduct once an hour, on the hour. So, for once, R's arms and legs got a rest.
The bus duly dropped us off at the aqueduct, an elegant wrought iron structure designed by Thomas Telford. It just goes to prove that narrowboating is far superior to road transport!
Having unpacked the provisions, we set off north again and found a very pleasant mooring at Calveley. Daisy, the very sociable resident feline on the boat next to us, came to visit. She was very beautiful, being a mix of three different pedigrees.
It was the perfect evening for sitting in the setting sun with a gin and tonic, something that we have done all too infrequently.
Our reward was another lovely sunset.
Today: 12 miles, 1 lock and 5.1 hours. 1 kingfisher.
Trip: 261 miles, 194 locks and 196.5 hours.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Back on Board Again.

Monday 22nd August, 2016 Just West of Aqueduct Marina.
We arrived back at Aqueduct Marina mid afternoon after a bus ride, three trains and a taxi.
It was tempting to stay in this lovely marina one more night, but after a cup of tea in the Café, we decided to move on. We moved MM on to the service bay for a pump out and then made our way to the exit past the marina buildings.
At the exit, we turned west with a rather dramatic sky scape in the east.
At Minshull Lock, just a few hundred yards from the marina, we met a chap who was single handing a recently acquired boat and who was, by his own admission, "inexperienced with locks". Although he was in front of us, he suggested that we go through the lock first as he was likely to be slow. We suggested he should go through first and we would help him through - which we did.
At 11 ft, it is a deep lock and he was very grateful for the help. Although we had travelled only a short distance from the marina, it was clear that there was something on the propellor causing a nasty vibration. So R went down the weed hatch to remove a large piece of cloth, which had wrapped itself around the propellor.
Soon after the lock, we both moored up and his dog "Buster" came to say hello. We think that he fancied becoming ship's dog. M remarked that she used to look after a dog also called Buster when she was young.
This Middlewich arm of the Shroppie is truly lovely and we were treated to another beautiful light effect down the canal.
Yet another pretty and peaceful mooring, the only sound coming across the fields was from occasional distant trains. A little soft rain fell overnight.
Today: 1 mile, 1 locks and 0.9 hours, 1 kingfisher and 2 herons
Trip: 249 miles, 193 locks and 191.4 hours.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Nick's Un-birthday!

Thursday 18th August, 2016 in Aqueduct Marina.
Another lovely morning, if not quite so clear.
A hilarious start to the day...
Our diary said that today was the birthday of our friend Nick, who is the Moorings Manager at Aston Marina. So, we called him on the phone to wish him a happy birthday - but getting his voicemail, we just sang happy birthday loudly in two-part dis-harmony.
Shortly after, we got a call back from Nick asking if it had been us who had sung Happy Birthday on his voicemail. It turned out that his birthday is actually in March! However, he said that it was one of the funniest things that had happened to him in ages and that he and his family fell about laughing!
An unexpected side effect of our daftness was that Nick happened to be in our area today and very kindly offered to drive us back to Aston Marina. We have to go home for the weekend and had arranged to moor MM at Aqueduct Marina about a mile from Church Minshull and then take a train to pick up the Touran, which is parked at Aston Marina.
So, with a degree of reluctance and sadness, we said goodbye to our mooring at Church Minshull and headed for Aqueduct Marina.
On the way, we passed this cheerful gentleman in his inflatable canoe.
Aqueduct Marina turned out to be beautiful. Very well maintained and landscaped with mature trees, lovely reed beds, flower beds and planters.
The mooring allocated to us was occupied, so R had to turn MM round, head back to the service bay and go to the office. They were miffed that someone had overstayed, but told us to go to bay D1, which turned out to be the nicest spot in the marina!
Nick had said that he would arrive late afternoon, so we passed the time happily sitting in the sun outside the marina's "Galley Café" and having tea/coffee, cakes and chips!
The Café overlooks the marina and one of the boats for sale was a Kingsground boat (the blue one, second from the right in the photo).
Nick arrived about 4:30. It was good to see him again so unexpectedly and to have time in his company on the drive back to Aston.
Our faithful Touran was waiting at Aston Marina. Strange to look out over our empty mooring bay, although we noticed that the Eddie Stobart tin of sweets (kindly given us by Nick and family) was trying to muscle in on MM's spot.
We drove home, arriving sometime after 10:00pm - but, thanks to Nick's very kind gesture to drive us to Aston, we arrived a full day earlier than expected.
We shall return to MM on Monday by train to Crewe to continue our Summer Cruise.
Today: 1 mile, 0 locks and 3.0 hours (including power yesterday).
Trip: 248 miles, 192 locks and 190.5 hours.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Lazing on a Sunny Afternoon!

Wednesday 17th August, 2016 at Church Minshull.
...with a nod to the Kinks. One of our favourite songs of all time. We saw the West End show last November; absolutely fantastic.
A beautiful day - this is the third time that we have moored here and each time the weather has been sunny and warm. Better come here every year!
"Our" bench was the perfect place for M's early morning cuppa.
Behind us was moored nb "Norton Sun". We've been passing each other for about a week now, so we went and had a chat. Martin and Mary (and their very elderly dog Toby) had been joined for the day by friends Malcolm and Katherine, whom they hadn't seen for twenty years!
The sun was very hot, so R set up MM's large umbrella as a sun shade. Posh!
Some way back down the canal, we had passed an ice cream and gift shop so had promised ourselves that we would walk back to it. It was definitely hot enough to justify an ice cream, so we set off down the towpath. After about a mile, we saw the welcome sign.
The shop is incorporated into a family run dairy farm and access is through a field and their garden gate.
It turned out that the ice cream is the same that is served at Aston Marina (so we know it well!).
We enjoyed our ice creams in the lovely back garden of the farm house (although the garden was in need of some weeding. The lady owner said the cows take precedence!).
Walking back to MM, we watched this "cowgirl" at work (top right), rounding up the cows on horseback for milking.
"Our" bench was the ideal spot to have supper, a glass or two of wine and to watch the sun go down. Happy days!
The moonrise was spectacular, the moon will be full tomorrow morning. It seemed that one of the cows opposite was trying to "head" the moon.
Today: M, R and MM all lazed quietly in the sun.