Wednesday, 24 April 2013


I thought I had done an update since Barbridge but obviously not.


18 April

Decided to explore a bit of the Chester canal before finding moorings for my visit home.  Travelled down 5 locks, including the Bunbury staircase - my first staircase locks, even though there are only two of them.   I had forgotten how much more difficult broad locks are when on one's own!
I was getting a bit tired and cold so moored just below Beeston Iron lock. 

This lock is unusual in that it is built of iron rather than the conventional stone or brick.
This lock, dated 1828, replaced the original lock which had collapsed due to unstable sand at the site in 1797

The warning notice is rather daunting!

There is no ladder up the side.  Not a problem going down but it was going to mean hauling the boat in on my way back up, including getting the rope under the bridge at the lock entrance - will not be easy.

Not a brilliant mooring with no phone signal and quite a busy railway line nearby but there was a village shop indicated in Nicholsons guide and it was near enough to be able to walk to the ruined Beeston Castle from which the views are supposedly magnificent.

 The original signal box is all that is left of the station which used to be here.


Walked up to the village shop - it looked as though it had been closed for at least 5 years!  So had quite a pleasant all day breakfast in the not originally named Lock Gate Cafe.  There are some huge, mostly underground, oil bunkers dating from the war just behind the railway line but I could not find a way to get to them.
After studying maps and looking on the internet I realised I was still a fair bit from the castle and would have to go down another lock, over a mile walk and a large hill to climb to get to the castle so decided to turn round and make my way back up towards the Llangollen junction where I am intending to head next.  There were also no shops nearby and I was getting very low on supplies.

Down the short distance to the winding hole (turning point) and had nearly completed the turn when another boat arrived coming up so they followed me up to the lock.  I was rather relieved as I would not have to tackle the ladder-less iron lock on my own!  
We decided it was not worth the risk of trying to do the lock together so I went first, with the couple from the boat working the lock and I went on to set the next lock ready.  We worked the next 4 together - I must admit the lady from the other boat did most of the work, volunteered by her husband!  

A pleasant afternoon and I stopped up at a nice spot I had noticed on the way down.  The chap on the next boat said there were half-hourly buses to Nantwich so I could restock on the morrow.
My primulas are doing OK despite the gales and freezing conditions!

20 April

Bus into Nantwich - £2.80 for a ten minute journey - I need my bus pass!  A very nice town and I sat out with a pint before visiting Morrisons.  As usual, I bought more than intended - why had I not brought my trolley?
 A beautiful day and a beautiful sunset - who could ask for more than this!

21 April

I managed the very tight and blind turn on to the Middlewich branch in the wind rather well, even if I do say so myself.  Decided it was worth the £70 for a weeks marina mooring, for the added security, while I went home.  Excellent service from Enterprise who came and picked me up at the marina to take me the half hour drive to their offices in Crewe to pick up a one month old Vauxhall Astra for the week.
So, I am now at home enjoying the luxury of a power shower, a huge TV with surround sound and just walking from large room to large room - life on the cut does have some disadvantages!

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Barbridge Inn

Despite the very strong wind, I decided to move on and try to find some more sheltered moorings.  I also could do with a bit of shopping.

Not easy getting off the bank with the wind and negotiating the two locks, with the wind and strong backwash, was not easy, but good experience.

I had intended to stop at Nantwich for the shops but all the visitor moorings were full and the phone signal was poor so continued on past the junction with the Llangollen canal where I will be heading after my visit home next week.  Briefly tried stopping but the dreaded Shroppie shelf would have meant a night with the hull scraping - not only damaging my blacking but probably a disturbed night.  My usual method of getting off the bank - pushing the stern out, a quick blast of full astern (which normally pushes the bows out with the wash from the prop) failed completely.  Tried pushing the stern out with the boat pole but the wind was just too strong.  Fortunately the boat behind me saw my predicament and my thanks to the two people who managed to push my bows out enough to get underway.

It was beginning to get a bit cold and starting to rain when I came across the Barbridge Inn - free 24 hours moorings, provided you use the pub.  An invitation I could not refuse which resulted in a really excellent belly of pork and a very enjoyable evening chatting with a delightful couple from Kent, who shared a lot of their local canal knowledge.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Hack Green Secret Nuclear Bunker

Rather than move the boat, I decided to walk up the towpath to visit the nuclear bunker at Hack Green  I had hoped to be able to cut across a field to get there but that was not to be so a slightly longer (1.5 miles) walk but very pleasant, despite the strong winds.
And what a fascinating visit it turned out to be.

In 1941 Hack Green, a site previously used as a bombing decoy site for the main railway centre at Crewe was chosen to become RAF Hack Green, to protect the land between Birmingham and Liverpool from hostile attack.
Following World War II, a major examination of radar capability showed that our existing radar defence would be unable to cope with the threat posed by fast jet aircraft, let alone nuclear missiles. Any operational station needed to be protected against the new threat posed by nuclear weapons. 'Rotor' was the code name given to the Top Secret plan to replace the Chain Home and Ground Controlled Intercept radar network. The plan involved placing 1620 radar screens into massively constructed bunkers covering the UK. Hack Green was a semi-sunk  bunker known as a type R6. RAF Hack Green joined 12 Group protecting Britain against the perceived Soviet threat of both conventional and nuclear war. With new long range radar, Hack Green could give vital warning of the approach of hostile Russian bombers and enable the RAF to intercept with fighter aircraft or Bloodhound ground to air missiles. In accordance with the then held tripwire theory, that a number of nuclear bombers would always get through to some targets, early warning of impending attack enabled our Victor 'V-Force' nuclear bombers to become airborne and launch a retaliatory attack.
 As a Rotor station, Hack Green had a compliment of 18 officers, 26 NCO's and 224 corporals and aircraftsmen. 1958 brought yet another change in Hack Green's role when it became part of The United Kingdom Air Traffic Control System, one of 4 joint civil/military Air Traffic Control Units. Civil flying had by then totalled more than 133,000 hours per year and military flying 70,000 hours. The increasing use of airways and the advent of the Boeing 707 entering UK airspace at 35,000 ft. started to create a problem for the RAF The solution was to establish joint air corridor radar control centres. It was in this role providing a safe radar assisted crossing service for both military and civil aircraft, that Hack Green was to see its final service as an RAF station. The station was closed in 1966, it's role having been transferred to RAF Lindholme in south Yorkshire.

In 1976 the abandoned site at Hack Green was purchased from the MOD by the Home Office Emergency Planning Division to be converted into a protected seat of government for Home Defence Region 10:2. It was cloaked in considerable secrecy over a five year period. At a cost reputed to be some £32 million, the original Rotor radar bunker was converted into a vast underground complex containing its own generating plant, air conditioning and life support, nuclear fallout filter rooms, communications, emergency water supply and all the support services that would be required to enable the 135 civil servants and military personnel to survive a sustained nuclear attack.


There are a huge number of exhibits at the site and the displays and the whole experience has been really well done and remind one just how close we were to being MAD (mutually assured destruction).

 The HQ became operational in 1984, region 10s other bunker at Southport, Lancashire was unsatisfactory and prone to flooding so its duties were transferred to Hack Green, which became responsible for a huge area from Cheshire in the south to Cumbria in the north. The HQ would have been headed by a Regional Commissioner who would have been an appointed civil servant or minister. Under the Emergency Powers Act he would govern his defence region, and neighbouring regions if other RGHQ's had been destroyed. He would attempt to marshall the remaining resources to put the region back on its feet and prepare for the re-establishment of national government. He was assisted by a network of County War Headquarters and the United Kingdom Warning & Monitoring Organisation.
Well worth a visit if you are ever in the region.

Monday, 15 April 2013

On The Move Again

Blog has been a bit neglected so here is the catchup.


Tuesday 9 April

Did very little over the weekend and finally felt able to get moving by Tuesday.  Fortunately I have a long lock free stretch ahead.  Just as well - I stopped off at Norbury Wharf to get coal and water and realised just how weak I still am.
This part of he Shropshire Union Canal (Birmingham & Liverpool Junction Canal) was the last built by Thomas Telford, completed in 1835, but not until after his death 6 months before the opening.  Regarded by many as the greatest of his canals it has very deep cuttings and high embankments.
One can only speculate as to the effort involved with no power tools and only "black powder" to assist.

From the height of this embankment.

To the depth of this very long cutting

And the very aptly named "High Bridge" - with a telegraph pole in the middle!
Moored for the night a bit before the next flight of 5 locks at Tyrley.  A lovely days cruising in hazy sunshine and little wind - 10 miles and no locks.  No TV or internet so watched film then slept for 11 hours.
One interesting aside - the odometer briefly appeared and showed 884 hours.  So, despite being 7 years old, the engine is hardly run-in!


Wednesday 10 April

The 5 Tyrley locks lay ahead to get to Market Drayton. A very pretty flight but after doing the top lock on my own, I realised it was going to be a struggle

And then, in the second lock - a hire boat caught me up.  I suggested they might want to go ahead as I was being very slow due to not being fully recovered from flu.  The reply - "there are 6 of us - we will help you through the locks" - thank you very, very much - you saved me a deal of sweat and exhaustion.  What a great community it is.

Spent Wed,  Thursday and Friday nights in Market Drayton.
Bit of a strange town - apart from the plethora of charity shops which now seem to multiply in all town centres, I have never seen so many hairdressers in such a small area.
Shopping at one of the smallest Asda's I have seen and a visit to the the home-brew shop to purchase the equipment to give me the ability to substantially reduce one of my major expense items!







Saturday 13 April

 5 miles and 7 locks to get to the moorings below lock 2 on the Audlem flight of 15 locks.


Monday 15 April

A beautiful morning so an early (0930) start to get down 10 locks to the moorings at Audlem.  The man in the next boat was born in Dunfermline and the skipper of the one after that trained at Rosyth dockyard - indeed a small world.  Refreshed by a pint sitting outside at the newly re-opened Shroppie Fly, it seemed too nice a day not to continue and enjoy a bit of lock free cruising.  Besides, I had no phone signal and was scraping on the renowned "Shroppie Ledge" (there tends to be a shallow ledge along much of the Shroppie which prevents getting tight to the bank and provides poor moorings).
So, three more locks and a cunning plan!  At the first lock, a young lad with his grandparents wanted to help with the lock gate.  By all means.  Would he like a trip to the next lock?  Of course he would and the grandparents kindly obliged by working the locks.  A delight to be able to make his day and introduce him to the world of boating.  Thank goodness there are still some people who do not worry that all men on their own are potential paedophiles.
Then a lovely, if very windy, cruise to the visitor moorings just below Hack Green.  Picnic tables and BBQ's provided but I do not think I will be using them - I will be rocked to sleep tonight with the strength of the wind!

Oh - I managed to bodge up the new aerial.  I have another pole to slot in and add extra height, if needed.  But I need to find a way to stop it rotating in strong winds which it is doing at present.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Struck Down

I have been laid low by the Gnosall epidemic which has swept through the attendees at the banter.
Managed to get to Norbury for coal and gas on Monday.  Bit of chaos at Norbury with boats moored everywhere, wind blowing hard and a boat already on service point.  I managed not too badly and only lightly glanced one boat - but I think they were foolish to have been moored opposite the service point.  Next boat coming in after me also hit them!
Tuesday I took the bus into Stafford and Screwfix to pick up a folding aerial and 3 metre mast which should make TV reception a lot easier in poor reception areas.  It will have to be a bit of a bodge to fix it up as they no longer sold the mounting which I wanted.  Very helpful staff at Screwfix and with the aid of copious amounts of gaffer tape managed to get the items secured to my trolley.
By Wednesday I was starting to feel a bit unwell and made the mistake of travelling for the hour to the next winding hole to turn round for my proposed get away on Thursday.  It was not to be - spent Wed evening in thermal underwear and jacket with the temperature on the boat at 25 deg - and I was shivering!  Thank goodness I got the stove going properly!  A 12 hour sleep drenched in sweat found me feeling a bit better but I had run out of Beechams so took the bus the mile to the chemist to restock.  A 200 yard walk left me completely cream-crackered!  I needed milk but could not face the short walk to the nearest shop.  Boating community to the rescue and thanks to the couple who kindly got it for me.  Spent most of the day and evening dozing in the chair but a bit better night.  Not fit enough to travel today - hopefully tomorrow - and it is supposed to be getting warmer!

Monday, 1 April 2013

Ellesmere Port

Saturday was rather a subdued day - too much indulgence on Friday and celebrating Andy Murray winning the semi-final at 0130.  Nice meal in the evening with Michelle & Andrew and Matty & Kath - could not resist the fish stew again!  Took it easy on the juice.
Awoke Sunday to a glorious sunrise, much refreshed but a bit confused about what time breakfast was.

A Sunday banter's breakfast is a bit of a tradition and the Navigator had agreed to cater for us.  Was it 9 o'clock or 10 o'clock - and was that new time or old time?  Worked it out and enjoyed a more than full English to set us up for the rest of the day and the trip to Ellesmere Port for the Easter Boat gathering (by minibus - too far for going by boat).

The town of Ellesmere Port was founded as an outlet to the sea from Ellesmere, Shropshire and the Welsh border area around Llangollen via a canal initially called the Ellesmere Canal. The canal was designed and engineered by William Jessop and Thomas Telford as part of a project to connect the rivers Severn, Mersey and Dee. The canal connected to the Mersey in the village of Netherpool, and the basin was known as Whitby Locks. The section between Whitby Locks and Chester was opened in 1795, connecting two of the rivers; but the connection to the Severn was never completed.
The village of Netherpool gradually changed its name to the Port of Ellesmere, and by the early 19th century, to Ellesmere Port. Settlements had existed in the area since the writing of the Domesday Book in the 11th century, which mentions Great Sutton, Little Sutton, Pool (now Overpool) and Hooton. The first houses in Ellesmere Port itself, however, grew up around the docks and the first main street was Dock Street, which now houses the National Waterways Museum. Station Road, which connected the docks with the village of Whitby, also gradually developed and as more shops were needed, some of the houses became retail premises. As the expanding industrial areas growing up around the canal and its docks attracted more workers to the area, the town itself continued to expand.

By the mid-20th century, thanks to the opening of the Manchester Ship Canal in 1894 and the Stanlow Oil Refinery in the 1920s, the town had expanded so that it now incorporated the villages of Great and Little Sutton, Hooton, Whitby, Overpool and Rivacre as suburbs.

The docks were still in use as late as the 1950's but now house the National Waterways Museum and each Easter a festival is held with dozens of working  and historic boats congregating. 

One of the forum members coming through a lock - I took the opportunity to get a bag of kindling.
 Various events are held throughout the weekend, including the tug of war

The site includes many historic boats and exhibits and includes Porters Row.  Originally built in 1833, the four cottages of Porters Row were, over the years, home to shipwrights, blacksmiths, railway workers and, of course, porters and their families.
Edwardian elegance at Porters Row
Today the cottages recreate homes from the 1830s, 1900s, 1930s and 1950s - each with the decor and features of its time, from oil lamps to electric light and from coal-fired coppers to early hand-operated washing machines.

An excellent day out and back in time to see Andy Murray winning the Miami Open and moving up to world no 2.  While watching the tennis, I put a pie in the oven and it was ready just as the tennis finished.  Except it wasn't - the gas had run out  and my spare was already empty.  Could not believe I had used two full bottles in a week.  Perhaps they had not been full?  Apparently some boatyards with hire fleets attached have been known to swap full bottles with half empty ones from the hire boats!  But, I doubt that was the case.  Now I have the fire sorted, my future use should be considerably less but it is just too tempting to turn up the thermostat just above my head in bed and spend another half hour or so waiting for the radiators to warm up the boat.
The lack of cooking facilities was a good excuse for a visit to the pub and a very enjoyable Sunday roast.  Many thanks to Carol for rustling it up after the kitchen was supposed to be closed. Fortunately I have a travel kettle, so will not have to forego my morning cups of tea, although I usually have the kettle bubbling on the stove top antyway.
Probably take a short hop the couple of miles to Norbury Junction in the morning to get gas and replace Andrew's bag of coal.  I have been itching to have a little cruise the last couple of days, anyway but did not want to give up my good mooring spot.  Many boats have already left so there will be no mooring problems when I get back.