Mrs. Duck brought her family of 10 ducklings to snuggle together for their afternoon siesta in front of Oakfield. Dave and Jan called by in their smart newly painted boat and we had a long chat over coffee. Just as they were about to leave a family of Weasels came to play and the smallest of them was jumping on and off of the back counter of the boat moored in front of us. So the cameras came out and we watched them larking about. They were delightful, but moved so quickly it was difficult to get a good shot of them.
Sunday, 28 July 2013
The weather has been quite humid and ‘tropical’ which has suited the flies and animals well. Here we have a Tortoiseshell Butterfly, the black and yellow stripy larvae of the Cinnabar Moth and Mrs Grey bum.
We have had many Ducks, Rabbits and ‘Harry’ with his cute furry paws, visiting us every day along the towpath. In fact the field next to us is Rabbit heaven, there are hundreds of them in there.
Friday, 26 July 2013
Funday was on Sunday, so I wandered up to mingle. A beautiful Rolls Royce was displayed near the entrance, reminding me of ‘The Darling Buds of May’. There were many stalls with canal based arts+crafts, hot dogs+burgers, home-made cakes and the model boat club of Crewe. Their lovely sailing boats had just finished sailing around on a cordoned off corner of the marina.
‘Fred’s Workshop contained replica scaled down real tools and their models were all created from wood, including a working bracket clock, amazing.
Thursday, 25 July 2013
Hooray, Thursday we had landed on a rare fourteen day mooring, so we decided to stay put until Monday. Usually we try to avoid travelling over the weekends anyway. This turned out to be a very wise decision as on Saturday boats began queuing below the lock before 9am continuing right up until 9pm! We sat out on the towpath enjoying the sunshine and chatting to boaters as they slowly crept up the queue. Reckoning on about four boats going up the lock every hour at least 48 went up and almost as many came down. People were sitting on chairs holding their ropes, cleaning their boat and having tea whilst hanging around. It was a good job that Oakfield was securely nailed to the towpath on substantial old pointed pin I fished out of the canal with our magnet! So what boats were moving in such great numbers, some from the marinas giving their boats a run up to the pub for lunch, live-aboards, share boats and hire boats. After all the school holidays are now in full swing aren’t they?
There are many bridges crossing the last stretch of the Middlewich Arm providing access to a choice of routes into town . Opposite Wardle Lock Cottage an information plaque has been installed to Maureen Shaw ( 1934-2012 ) who used to live there. She spent the first part of her life with a family on a working boats and could not read or write. She later married and lived in this cottage where she chatted to passing boaters and made many friends. If you double click on the image you can read her interesting life story.
Here you can see Oakfield emerging from the junction bridge to turn sharp left, then on down three wide-beam locks. As we came out of the bottom lock, this little boat with a single lady steerer was waiting to enter, so I helped her go through. BIG LOCK was next with the pub of the same name beside it and a row of newish houses. Once through we pulled in and I had a shower while we filled our water tank. Still sunny, but pleasantly cooler than it has been, we cruised on to moor at Billinge Flash. There were many salt mines hereabouts which have left some subsidence and wide stretches of water known as ‘flashes’.
Wednesday, 24 July 2013
Turning towards Middlewich we dropped down Minsull Lock and moored just below it, as we had arranged to have our first Boat Safety Scheme test done by Adrian Pye. He covers the Northwest, Midlands and Wales areas. We had picked up one his advertising cards en-route and arranged to meet him here. He and Sue run The Borders Cheese Carrying Company selling cheeses+chutney from their lovely narrow-boat SQ 11. He duly appeared, gave Oakfield a thorough inspection and told us we had passed, phew! As he was having a delivery of cheese in Aqueduct Marina we popped around later to pay him and pick up our report. Then we called in to the marina cafe and had a lovely lunch, so no cooking for me on this very hot day, perfick.
We paused at Beeston Wharf for a coffee break, I read on the notice board there that the small hills nearby were built to hide the ‘Pluto Tanks’ beneath. These stored fuel which was piped under the sea to France in 1944. Quite amazing really, anyway you could Google it to find out more if you are interested. There were many permanent and continuous cruisers boats moored around Calveley where we stopped. I was quite amused to find this sign outside the farm cottage, very appropriate! Everyone was sitting out on the towpath in the shade of the hedge and we got chatting to many of them. Back on board in the evening our boat was invaded by house flies. I found that they could be herded out by flicking them with my little dusting mop, down the boat and out at the back. When we cruised off waving goodbye it seems that there must have been a mass hatching out as everyone said ‘did you have flies indoors last night?’
En-route to Middlewich we passed these beautifully converted stables and cottage. This nice flowery plant was growing in a side-pond. We walked into town for a few supplies and the weather was very hot and muggy. Tuesday we woke up to rain and thunder which soon cleared up, but it remained far too warm and humid for some. John and Ange passed us by on nb Iona slowing up to say a quick hello.
The steam boat Emily Anne came slowly and quietly past with by Daniel’s family on board, he was in India. Notice that someone has to climb on the roof to lower the chimney when they pass under the bridges!
We also spotted the unusual boat Elizabeth which we have seen before in various places. Later on she came up past us towards the lock.
Tuesday, 23 July 2013
Only the ducks are managing to keep their cool.
Well we have been unable to cruise with being iced in, or when it has been too windy, or hammering down with rain, but never before when it has been just too darn hot! So, at the moment we are moving early, then taking turns every half an hour to steer, while the other one cools off inside the boat. The steerer has to keep a sharp eye out for Horse Flies that persist in buzzing up behind you and stinging your legs! We have seen many steerers cruising along under the shade of umbrellas, but we usually wear sun cream and our hats. So, if you see a boater doing a sort of Morris Dance with a handkerchief on the back of the boat, he may only be flicking the flies away. Some boating people have been going along with strappy tops or no shirts, sporting very red sunburnt skin and swigging alcohol. I bet they will feel like they are on fire when they try to settle down to sleep at night. It seems that most of the recommended moorings on the Shropshire Union Canal are for 48 hours only, so we have to keep moving on. Other mooring sites we have found to be too shallow, even with our wheelbarrow wheels floating to keep us right away from the edge.
Sunday, 21 July 2013
This lovely old open topped bus was waiting patiently for some passengers to take on tour around the city. It had L.G.O.C above the radiator, London General Omnibus Company and was called The pride of Chester rightly so. It was adorned with colourful old adverts, even up the windy stairs at the rear, I wonder how old it was?
I liked the two letterboxes cuddling up together, and is this a K6 lurking on the corner of the street? Now for something blue, the Park and Ride bus advertising Chester Zoo with a snake wrapped around it, luvly jubbly!
Although we enjoyed being in Chester very much we were glad when our 48 hours were up and we could wind (turn around) and return to the more peaceful countryside!
Saturday, 20 July 2013
We entered by the cloisters at 9.15 and proceeded to walk around, a lady then told us to have a look in the cathedral first as there was a service at 10am. So off we went, only to be stopped by an old chap who asked me if I was attending their service. To which I said, no because I wasn’t dressed appropriately wearing my shorts. He held up his hands and said, you cannot come in then , what a brilliant welcome we thought! Anyway we looked around a side chapel and happened to wander into the altar, east window area for a quick peep. This chap didn’t like that and rushed past me and shut the door behind me, Ah well, we are all equal, but some are more equal to others, or so they think!
These were my three favourite pieces of stained glass!
We very much enjoyed looking at the stained glass windows and listening to the choir practising as we did so, but because we were treated as riff-raff, we didn’t put a donation in their big moneybox. The two pictures top right are entitled ‘The Circumcision Jan 1st’ and ‘Epiphany Jan 6th’. I thought they were unusual because I don’t remember seeing stained glass of these subjects anywhere else.
Friday, 19 July 2013
We set off at 8am on Sunday to walk around the city walls which was about two miles. Here we were on a level with the rooftops and were able to photograph some of the details featured on buildings. The Victorian clock which stands on the bridge over the street was very elegant, with it’s gold leaf and rich red paintwork.
This is one of the weatherworn sandstone towers that was the easiest look-out tower to photograph. I liked the lifelike sculpture of the baby Elephant standing in the street, also these fish and rat clay figures on the chimneypots. From the walls we could see the River Dee, part of Wales in the distance, Chester racecourse and down over the canal where it passes through a deep rock cutting. After that we needed some refreshment so we sought out a Wetherspoons for coffee and breakfast rolls.