THE CHESHIRE RING
1st - 8th September 2007
Saturday 1st September
(warm, but overcast)
- The skilled and brave crew gathered at Alan's
house at 9-15am in eager anticipation of the tasks ahead of them. They departed for the boatyard at Acton Bridge (between Northwich and Runcorn),
diverting into Morrisons at Warrington to collect sufficient healthy provisions
for the week, including ample salad, porridge, orange juice and smoked mackerel fillets.
The crew had previously decided to reduce their intake of bacon and sausage and
limited themselves to rations of one item of each per day. They
arrived at the boatyard at 12-30, to be told firmly by the lady in charge to
go away and not return for at least one hour. After consulting with
one of the young cleaning girls, a pub was recommended just a few minutes
walk away called the Leigh Arms. The crew whiled away the hour with
lunch of healthy Beef & Onion Baguette (except Neil) with two pints of
Robinsons Unicorn Ale, which met with the particular approval of Ron.
- On arriving back at the boatyard after 2pm, the staff
were quick to recognise the superior skills of the crew and allowed the
"Carol" to commence the long, difficult and daring route at 2-15pm.
However, within 15 minutes disaster struck when, with Neil driving, as he
firmly grounded the narrowboat into swallow waters, whilst passing another
boat with inexperienced crew. Despite being stuck fast,
with expert team work, the skilled crew managed to free the narrowboat to
recommence their journey on towards the first lock and the Preston Brook tunnel
(1,239yds). Due to the considerable delays, the crew arrived some 7 minutes after
the prescribed northbound navigation window of "On the hour to 10minutes past"
and therefore moored for welcome coffee and biscuits. (Note for Cran:
The crew observed that the narrowboat Carol performed in an inferior way,
compared with S'mine Too, with which the crew were very familiar).
||Waiting to enter the Preston
Passing the junction with the
- The tunnel was expertly traversed in a mere 14 minutes
by Ron, where upon the crew were able to gaze at the delights of the M56 as
they passed beneath and shortly afterwards the junction with the Runcorn
Arm. The Bridgewater Canal was found to be wide as it wound its way
through the country past Daresbury Laboratories. The narrowboat was
carefully guided onwards to its planned overnight mooring at Stockton
Heath, where the excited crew were anxious to view the Manchester Ship Canal
for the first time. However, before reaching this location, they
passed through the delightful village of Higher Walton, where Alan was
dispatched to investigate the Walton Arms. He returned reporting that
the pub was very acceptable having an attached Bistro offering, amongst
other things, a carvery at £7-95. The crew felt that this would be a
better stopping point and promptly moored before 6pm for an evening of beer
and food. Ron and Neil took the opportunity to take a healthy one hour and
five minute energetic power walk to beyond Stockton Heath, which greatly
enhanced their appetite.
||Narrowboat "Carol" moored at Higher Walton
The Walton Arms in Higher Walton
offering a carvery dinner
- The crew all enjoyed carvery dinners served by an
attractive waitress with a pleasant liverpudlian accent. Several
strange draft ales were sampled, including "Brains" and "Cains",
which were consider foreign to the crew's tastes. The crew returned to
their boat for well desired rest without need of cheese and biscuits. They looked forward
in eager anticipation to their next day, which
would take them into the unknown areas of the heart of Manchester.
Sunday 2nd September
(overcast with brief drizzle, turning into persistent rain in the afternoon)
- The crew in their very comfortable beds sleep to a late
hour rising at 7:55 to enjoy portions of wholesome porridge prepared by
Neil. The crew quickly cast off to gaze at the neat gardens of
Stockton Heath, where a quick stop was made under London Bridge at a
Chandlery to procure a pair of "Piling Mooring Clips" at a bargain price of
only £5 each.
- The Narrowboat sedately cruised down the canal with
Alan at the helm through Grappenhall, where Neil read of an daring excursion
possibility crossing the Manchester Ship Canal on a Scull Ferry, to visit
the giant Latchford locks, which greatly intrigued the crew. The
boat was promptly moored near the Thelwall Aqueduct and the crew set off at
great speed in excited anticipation. After the 3/4 mile walk the ferry
station was located, together with Scull, but alas to their despair was
found not to operate on
Sundays. They therefore set off on foot to find the locks by road,
which due to their superior navigational skills, were soon located.
||The deserted ferry station, closed on Sundays
- The giant parallel locks were found to be deserted
and sadly neglected, but on meeting an old gentleman also looking at the
locks, it was discovered that until 1988 he was a Pilot on the Ship Canal,
after leaving the Merchant Navy, and this was the first time he had returned. The well spoken gentleman was able to
tell us much of the history of the canal, which proved to be fascinating.
He was in fact waiting for his son, to join a boat coming down from
Manchester and through the locks around Midday. Although the crew were
keen to see the rare event, it soon became apparent that it had been delayed
and they reluctantly left to return to their narrowboat.
||The giant lock gates of the
The largest Lock
- Neil prepared a healthy salad lunch, with pickled
onions, Granary Baps and some chutney, which was greatly appreciated by the
crew. They quickly set off on their adventure, much revived after their
morning exertions. The narrowboat continued on its epic voyage travelling beneath the M6 motorway
before entering the pretty village of Lymm.
- Whilst passing the village of Oldfield Brow a
stricken craft with engine failure having numerous distressed persons on board
was encountered. The crew feeling great pity for the situation, promptly stopped
and offered a lifesaving tow. After the
boat was securely tied, they set off towards Manchester with the other
narrowboat in close tow.
The stricken craft under tow, by the
compassionate and skilled crew
Ron expertly towed the stricken craft for 4 hours
towards Manchester in frequent heavy showers, passing such sights as the
Trafford Park Containerbase terminal, Salford Quays and the Manchester
United football ground at Old Trafford. The narrowboats continued
onward, through difficult waters, to gently enter
the Castlefields Basin where a suitable mooring location for two boats was
sought. The crew rapidly located a suitable spot where both boats were
moored without event. The grateful survivors offered tokens of their
appreciation, which were declined by the gracious crew.
||Passing Old Trafford, the home of Manchester
- After recovering in the warm boat after the harrowing
events of the afternoon, the crew showered and prepared themselves for a
night out in Manchester centre. They left in search of food and drink
and having passed many trendy bars and restaurants, located the White Lion
Hotel, which offered Landlord and Thwaites "Bomber" Ales, together with Chinese cuisine. They enjoyed
several pints of ale and a most enjoyable Chinese meal in homely
surroundings before returning to the boat for small portions of cheese and
biscuits. The crew reflected on their many accomplishments of the day,
which had been achieved without the benefit of a fried breakfast.
However, the crew remained very conscious of the fact that the following
long day, having 27 locks to negotiate, would be most taxing and dangerous and
would require an early start. They retired to contemplate these
Monday 3rd September
(sunny and warm all day)
||The Narrowboat "Carol" ready to
leave her moorings
Part of Castlefield Basin
- The crew awoke at an early hour eager to view the
delights of the Rochdale Canal heading up through the very heart of
Manchester. Statutory porridge was prepared and consumed with gusto
and Alan removed the reed hatch to remove some rope and a polythene bag from
around the propeller. The narrowboat "Carol" was the first to leave
its moorings entering the first double sized lock at 7-50am. A minor catastrophe
occurred when the gate paddle flooded the well at the front of the boat, but
quick thinking actions by Neil by closing the front doors, stopped the boat
from being overwhelmed.
- However, the second lock was a different matter
entirely. It was obvious that a preceding boat, with inexperienced
crew, had caught the bow of their boat in the lock gate and as the water
rose lifted it from its bottom hinge. The gate was hanging at an
awkward angle and attempts to drain the lock proved fruitless. The
crew quickly dismissed thoughts of failure to complete their allocated task
for the day and promptly moored to prepare a healthy breakfast of sausage,
bacon and fried egg with wholemeal toast.
||The misaligned Lock Gate which caused the
crew much delay
British Waterways engineers
testing the lock gate after repairs
- British Waterways were informed of the problem and
their engineers arrived after some 2 hours. Under the scrutiny and
close attention of the crew they proceeded with heavy duty jacks to lift the
giant gate and manoeuvre it back into its correct position. The crew
then having completed their wholesome breakfast were able to proceed further
through the remaining locks crossing the centre of Manchester. At the
top lock in Piccadilly Basin, where the crew were about to turn into the
Ashton Canal, two narrowboats with inexperienced crew, were witnessed moored
in a strange location. The crew using their analytical skills quickly
established that these must have been the offending boats that caused the
damage to the lock gate which had put their plan of progress for the day in
Travelling through the centre
- The Ashton Canal proved to be in need of much
attention and the locks were generally found to be in a poor state of
repair. The slow progress caused the crew much concern. A
further 18 locks were negotiated, passing several open pubs, but the crew
did not falter from their allocated tasks. It was noted that the canal
was not well used, as no other vessel was passed until almost the end of the
day. Several further stops had to
be made to remove rope, polythene bags and even articles of underclothing
from the propeller. Neil prepared Smoked Mackerel Sandwiches for the
crew during a brief pause while waiting for a lock to fill. This was
greatly appreciated by the hungry and tired crew and helped sustain them for
remainder of the day.
- The mounting delays meant that the planned liaison
with Sharon (from Colin's factory at Dukinfield) would not be possible, much
to the disappointment of the crew. However, the crew pushed onward
with grit and determination, desperate to reach their planned stopping point for the
evening at Romiley. The very sharp turn from the Rochdale Canal
into the Peak Forest Canal was accomplished with near perfection by Ron and
the crew continued in an organised and committed way. Calculations by
the skipper confirmed that due to the immense skill and determination of the crew, the
narrowboat was in fact ahead of schedule and had made up virtually all of the lost
time. They arrived at Romiley at 6:30pm after what was agreed, as being
the most taxing and dangerous day of their expedition so far.
- The exhausted crew after showering, quickly made their
way into Romiley and chose the Duke of York public house for their evening.
The pub boasted the attached "Mediterranean" restaurant and also served a
selection of real ales to the delight of the crew. They started with
pints of London Pride, although Neil found this not to his liking and quickly
changed to Bombardier. High quality dinners of Medallions of Minced Lamb and
Mixed Grill, with extra Chilli sauce, were chosen by the crew which were
thoroughly enjoyed. Afterwards the friendly locals invited them to
join in their regular Pub Quiz, in which they consider they faired well,
although the scoring system seemed to disfavour them. They were also
amazed at how well the beer settled with their mood and the quantity
consumed over the evening amazed them. They were further surprised by
the observed licensing hours, which seemed to benefit the locals.
After returning to the boat, both coffee as well as cheese and biscuits were
declined and the crew (except Alan) retired to contemplate their next day on
the narrowboat. A difficult day down the Marple Locks lay before the
skilled and capable crew as they lay dreaming of further sunny and perfect
Tuesday 4th September
(another warm and sunny day)
- The crew enjoyed a comfortable lay-in until 8-15am
confident that their superior skills would enable a swift passage up the 16
Marple locks. Neil prepared nutritious porridge after which they set
off through the Cheshire countryside. They stopped to admire the
incredible Marple Aqueduct and the adjacent railway viaduct.
The narrowboat crossing the Marple
- The Marple flight of 16 locks proved no difficulty
for the experienced crew, despite all the locks being against them. As
it was felt that a narrowboat ahead of them could cause them some delay, a
stop for coffee with Hob Nob was made in one of the attractive locks, by the
road, where the group photo below was taken. The crew enjoyed the
pleasant surroundings of Marple and top lock was reached in an envious time.
|The intrepid crew enjoying coffee during their
transition of the Marple Locks
- A stop for sustenance was made after the exertions of
the Marple flight of locks and they moored just after the junction with the
Macclesfield Canal. Ron prepared a splendid cooked lunch with
double bacon rashers and baked beans, which met with the full approval of the
other crew. The skipper allowed a period of relaxation afterwards,
where emails were sent and postcards written to their loved ones. A two hour cruise down
the remainder of the Peak Forest Canal to Bugsworth Basin lay before the
crew, where they were looking forward to studying the historic canal town.
- The crew enjoyed the stunning views of the Peak
District as they cruised towards Whaley Bridge in the warm sunshine.
Particular note was made of the "Swizzlers" factory at New Mills, but no
female staff were seen waving from the windows on this occasion. Neil
exercised his Lift Bridge opening skills at several locations on route, much
to the amazement of the others. The Whaley Arm was selected at the
junction and the narrowboat gently slid down passing numerous moored boats,
also observing the "Stealth" narrowboat recovered and
moored by the crew some weeks earlier.
The crew observed the "Stealth"
narrowboat rescued some weeks earlier and safely moored on the Whaley
- Neil was despatched to purchase further supplies of
milk, fruit and orange juice from the local Tesco store. The narrowboat was
filled with water and expertly turned before setting off to head to
Bugsworth to take a tour of the historic basins. Several mooring
locations were considered, but the entire area was explored before Neil expertly
turned and reversed the narrowboat into the chosen mooring spot, demonstrating
considerable skills, much to the amazement of his fellow narrowboaters.
| The crew exploring Bugsworth Basin
- The crew showered and prepared themselves for the
delights of Whaley Bridge, considering dinner and ale at one of the local
establishments. They left the boat at 7-45pm to take the torturous
direct route over numerous hills to arrive at Whaley Bridge following the
route of the old incline railway. They rapidly located a number of
drinking establishments, but to their distress found that none of them were
serving food. The experienced crew were unperturbed by this disastrous
news, and set off on foot to follow the easier but longer canal route back
to the Navigation Inn at Bugsworth, where they arrived in time to consume
Fishermans Pie, Haddock and Scampi dinners, together with a number of pints
of Timothy Taylors Landlord bitter.
- They returned to the boat for a little cheese and
biscuits with their coffee. The tortuous plans for the next two days
were discussed, before they retired to their beds to contemplate the arduous
work ahead of them.
Wednesday 5th September
(damp and overcast in the morning, but getting better)
- The refreshed crew awoke to see rain on the windows as
Neil prepared heartening porridge. The initial section of the Peak
Forest Canal towards Marple, was navigated through quite heavy drizzle at times. The
various swing and lift bridges presented no problems for the courageous crew
and they again studied with great interest the Swizzlers factory at New
Mills, as they sensed the sweet aroma that wafted into their nostrils.
- The tight and dangerous turn at Marple into the
Macclesfield Canal was negotiated precisely by Alan before stopping for
water and to allow Ron to prepare a delicious and protein rich breakfast,
with double sausage, which was considered essential for the further exertions of the day.
The weather had improved considerably at this stage and the remainder of the
day proved most satisfactory.
| The crew enjoying their nutritious
- The crew continued their lock free journey down the
Macclesfield Canal, towards their planned overnight stopping point at
Oakgrove, looking forward the feasting themselves on the splendid views of
the Cheshire countryside. Neil's incredible eyesight enabled him to
locate a Kingfisher in flight and pointed this out to the other crew, which
greatly pleased them.
The crew were amazed by the
magnificent mill buildings along the route.
The Adelphi Mill at Bollington
- An opportunity was taken to moor the boat at
Macclesfield for a walk to the local Tesco superstore to procure a minimum
of 12 slices of sliced granary loaf, based on calculations of 3 crew x 2
pieces of toast x 2 days. The cunning crew selected an Oatmeal
Farmhouse Batch having 15 slices at 78p, with considerations that the local
ducks may benefit from the extra 3 slices.
- On leaving the store, Ron was quick to locate 2
attractive young blond girls having difficulty with a pressure hose.
He gallantly went to their assistance by inflating their tyres, while
the remainder of the crew gazed with envy at his characteristic opportunism.
|The crew satisfied with their purchase of
additional bread supplies
- The narrowboat arrived at Oakgrove at 6-15pm and
moored before the electrically operated lift bridge, due to a significant
number of boats already moored after the bridge. Neil expressed his
concern that this would cause unnecessary delays to the traffic in the busy
morning rush hour, but the other crew remained totally unconcerned. Neil was
despatched to book a table at 8pm at the "Fools Nook" pub, but arrived back
advising that they would be very busy. However, on recognising the importance of the
trip they promised that they would attempt to meet the crew's needs.
- Neil and Ron decided to use the slack time before
dinner to investigate the local area on foot, leaving Alan to update the
Ship's Log. The crew hurried to the Fool's Nook for healthy and
delicious Salmon dinners rich in Omega 3. Considerable quantities of
Thwaites Original bitter (despite being 3.6%) were much enjoyed. The
crew rejected the advances of a middle aged Welsh lady in pink tight suit,
despite the constant
exchanges of eye contact. The faithful crew returned alone to their
boat for coffee, without cheese and biscuits.
- The weather forecast for the following day appeared
encouraging and the crew retired to their beds to further contemplate their
Thursday 6th September
(overcast in the morning, but really hot in the afternoon)
- The crew were up at an early hour for fibre enriched
welcome porridge, setting off at 8am, after Alan took delight in stopping
all the morning traffic with the electrically operated swing bridge.
After the excitement of the bridge the crew continued their serene cruise through the Cheshire countryside
looking out for Jedrell Bank, but in the mist again failing to locate it.
Passing bridge 53 brought the boat to the top of the Bosley flight of 12
locks, where the crew were anxious to exercise their superior locking
- The crew noticed a lone gentlemen and his dog
ahead of them traversing the locks and chose to help his passage by
operating the locks. He was most appreciative, but somewhat sad as he
explained that this was his first trip on his narrowboat since his wife,
Elaine, died in March. They had spent over 30 years "On the Cut"
together and he was finding it difficult to continue on his own. The
crew bid him farewell at the bottom lock and promptly moored for a
nutritious cooked breakfast with freshly squeezed orange juice.
|A near catastrophe was averted by the quick
thinking actions of Ron, when a narrowboat appeared at high speed
through a narrow bridge on a blind corner. The resulting emergency
stop grounded the narrowboat into the undergrowth, but the experienced
crew swiftly corrected the situation and the delay caused was minimal.
- As the day continued the weather improved
considerably and the heat of the sun made it necessary for two of the crew
to remove their shirts. A number of high aqueducts were passed which
allowed the crew superb views of the Cheshire countryside. The town of
Congleton was passed before reaching the single Hall Green Lock.
Shortly afterwards Neil prepared a serving of Hot Dogs, with Classic Yellow
Mustard, which provided sufficient additional energy to sustain the crew for
the flight of 12 deep locks ahead of them.
- The sharp turn into the Trent & Mersey Canal proved
too tight for the 68 foot narrowboat and additional help was provided with
the use of ropes. The crew were surprised to find the locks ahead of
them were mainly "doubles", but their poor condition made their transition
difficult even for the skilled crew.
The crew found the Trent &
Mersey deep double locks in poor condition, but this did not
distract them from their important mission.
- After 12 locks the crew stopped at their planned
destination for the day in the pleasant village of Rode Heath. They
moored opposite the canalside Broughton Arms. Alan investigated the
pub which boasted a good menu and Marston Ales. However, on taking
advice Ron walked to an alternative pub called the Royal Oak, which offering
Bombardier and Abbott Ales, met with the universal favour of the crew.
The crew rejected the Broughton
Arms at Rode Heath, as not providing the most suitable ales for their
- Neil foolishly decided to take a take an
energetic run along
the tow path, before returning to the boat, when the crew prepared for their
penultimate evening at Rode Heath. Meanwhile Ron took the opportunity
to feed the local floating wild life.
Ron feeding the local wildlife
- After a reasonably long walk, The Royal Oak was
visited by the tired and cunning crew who quickly noted the 2 meals for 1
offer. Dinners of Steak Chasseur, Pork Steak and Chicken Jalfraizzi, with
poppadom, were selected at a bargain total price of only £19-55.
The considerable savings achieved resulted in the crew succumbing to the
delights of the sweet trolley, where Toffee Crunch, Lemon Meringue Pie and a
Spotted Dick were ordered. Charles Wells "Bombardier Ale" was chosen
as the accompaniment for their dinner and sufficient quantities were
purchased to keep the crew happy. Coffee, with cheese and biscuits were consumed back
at the boat before the crew retired at an early hour, contemplating the
successes of their day.
- A long and busy day lay ahead of the crew on their
last day, where they were hoping to reach the famous Anderton Lift.
Ron highlighted a flaw in "The Plan" in that their were two short one way
tunnels in the last section of the route, which may result in delays to the
return of the boat and the success of the mission. Consideration was
given to mooring after the first tunnel on Friday night, so that the passage
times for the remaining tunnel could be taken into account for Saturday
Friday 7th September
(cloudy most of the day, but with some sunshine around midday)
Alan's Original Plan"
In order to have any chance of completing this dangerous
mission, Alan worked out a plan in advance. As it is very ambitious, it was
considered that only a skilled crew could achieve this tortuous route, although they
are acutely aware that any slippage of this plan could spell disaster!!!!
Depart the boatyard heading northwards on the Trent & Mersey, turning onto
the Bridgewater Canal after the Preston Brook tunnel (1,239 yds). Continue to
overnight at either Higher Walton or Stockton Heath. (7 mls, 1 lock & 3.25 hrs)
Continue on the Bridgewater canal, past the Thelwall Viaduct, adjacent to
the Manchester Ship Canal to cruise through Lymm. Continue past Sale, turning
onto the Rochdale Canal near Stretford. Moor near Castlefield junction for
a night in the centre of Manchester. (19.5 mls, 0 locks & 6.75 hrs)
MONDAY: (Long Day)
Travel through the heart of Manchester City ensuring that the well
hidden turn is made into Ashton Canal at Piccadilly basin. Passing the
Manchester Stadium and National Cycling Centre to Pass through Dukinfield,
where it is hoped to meet Sharon (from Colin's works). Another
dangerous turn into the Peak Forest Canal is to be made at
Ashton-under-Lyne, where after passing Stalybridge and Hyde an overnight
stop is planned by Bridge 14 at Romiley. (15 mls, 27 locks & 10.5 hrs)
TUESDAY: (Easier Day)
Continue down the Marple flight of locks (16) and along
the Whaley Bridge arm to overnight in the historic Bugsworth basins (8 mls,
16 locks & 5.75 hrs)
Return along the Whaley Bridge arm to turn into the
Macclesfield Canal at Marple. Then heading though the Cheshire
countryside past the Mill towns of Bollington and Macclesfield to overnight
at Oakgrove. (19 mls, 0 locks & 7.25 hrs)
Continue southwards descending the 11 Bosley Locks on
route past Congleton to reach the end of the Macclesfield Canal. After
making the dangerous turns onto the Trent & Mersey at Kidsgrove, the
narrowboat will descend more locks to arrive at Rode Heath for the overnight
stop. (16.5 mls, 25 locks & 8.5 hrs)
FRIDAY: (Long Day)
Continue northwards descending more locks , passing
Sandbach and Middlewich, to travel through the Cheshire countryside,
eventually arriving at Anderton where the crew hope to gaze at the wonders
of the historic Anderton Lift. Mooring for the night shortly
afterwards at Barnton, but before the Barnton Tunnel. (19 mls, 23
locks & 11 hrs)
A short journey back to the boatyard at Acton Bridge to
hand back the narrowboat and commence their journey to their homes. (3 mls,
0 locks & 1 hr)
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