Monday, 26 March 2018

Overwinter Cruise - Week 20

Sunday 18th March - Chester

Another snowy day in Chester, too cold to move anywhere, so a quiet day on the boat.  The daffodils are bravely keeping their heads up against the cold and the snow.

Monday 19th March - Chester to Ellesmere Port

The weather was vastly improved today, so we moved onto Ellesmere Port.  On the outskirts of the town is the most enormous oil refinery - Stanlow Refinery - owned by Essar Energy.  It stands on the south bank of the Manchester Ship Canal.

We arrived at Ellesmere Basin and found that the Museum was closed on a Monday so we moored up at the visitor moorings above the basins.

On our explore around, we came across a Manchester Ship Canal tug called MSC Victory, she is 42 years old and spends her days escorting enormous oil tankers along the canal from the refinery to the sea.

After chatting with the crew we were delighted to be invited aboard to have a look round.  The crew were obviously very proud of their vessel and were keen to show us around.  

The steering wheel is a little different from the tiller we have on Ella.

Dave went down into the engine room and was incredibly impressed by the enormous engines - this is one of two - both kept immaculately clean and shiny. 

At the stern and the bow there are these massive ropes which are connected to the ropes from the oil tankers and used to guide the tanker along the canal.  Two tugs work together, one in front and one behind the tanker.

This tug was having a break as they were due to move a tanker from the refinery to the sea later on this evening and we decided to be on the canalside to see them go past.

We can see here the sets of locks you can use to get down from the Shropshire Union Canal to the basin.  It costs 4GBP a night to moor here, but as the museum was closed we decided against it.

There were already quite a few boats moored up in the basin.

This is the lock which you use if you want to go down onto the Manchester Ship Canal.  I understand that there is a lot of coordination needed between various responsible parties to organise a trip along the canal from Ellesmere Port to Weston Marsh Lock onto the River Weaver.  

8.15 that evening saw us down on the canal side watching MSC Victory guiding this enormous tanker along the canal, the tug is in front of the tanker.  We thought the tug was large when we were on board but it is dwarfed by the tanker!

Here you can see both tugs and the whole length of the tanker once it has passed us.  It really was a stunning sight, and although it was a large tanker it is not the largest the tugs accompany.

Tuesday 20th March - Ellesmere Port to outside Chester

In the morning we paid our entrance fee and explored the museum.  Dave was able to go aboard one of the 'dumb' barges, effectively a butty but huge which were pulled along the canals by horses.

It was very interesting to see some of the restoration work being carried out.  This one is currently drying out before further work can be done to her.

We continued until we were within about 2 miles of Chester and moored up for the night at open moorings and good footpaths so Toby could have a lovely walk without getting muddy!

Wednesday 21st March - Chester to Bate's Mill Bridge - The Shady Oak.

We set off from the outskirts of Chester and made our way up the Northgate Locks, going up them wasn't anywhere as daunting as going down!

Coming along the canal front there is still lots of redevelopment to be done, and we shall look forward to seeing the results next time we visit.  

The Steam Mill has been re-developed and at the bottom is the Artichoke Cafe where we had a lovely evening meal and Sunday lunch.

Coming through Beeston is a super shot of the two castles -Beeston Castle on the left and Peckforton just off centre.

We moored up for the night just past the Shady Oak pub.

Thursday 22nd March - The Shady Oak

Today we have decided to stay and fit in a walk exploring the countryside both sides of the canal.

Friday 23rd March  The Shady Oak to Barbridge

We left our mooring and headed for the first lock and to our great delight we were followed by nb Le Lapin Agile, this meant that we were able to share the double lock and the lock work was shared between two people.

We also passed these two boats, a powered craft pulling a butty, which we originally saw moored up in Nantwich on 7th March.

As we got to Beeston Iron Lock we met Kate and Rowan who were investigating the state of the footbridge in front of the lock.  They wanted to take photographs of the bridge from underneath and hopped on our boat so they could get some decent shots.  Rowan is an engineer based at CRT boatyard at Ellesmere on the Llangollen Canal.

Here at the top of the Bunbury Locks we said goodbye to Ian and Yvonne and thanked them for sharing the locks and work with us.  
We also thanked Peter the volunteer for his help with the staircase lock.

Further along we met Richard and Ruth on Chamberlain Carrying Company, moored up with their butty.  They are on their way to the historic boats meet over the Easter weekend being held at Ellesmere Port.

Our journey took us past the entrance to the Middlewich Branch.  There has been a massive breach of the canal, part of the canal over the aqueduct has collapsed in to the River Weaver and there is no access to Middlewich.  It could be months before the breach is fixed and will have huge implications for the cruising public over the boating season.  Apart from the impact on the natural environment.

Sticky buds appearing on the trees along the canal - more signs of spring!

We moored for the night just past Barbridge and spent a quiet evening on the boat.

Saturday 24th March - Barbridge to Coole Pilate

Very pleasant cruise towards Nantwich where we pulled over to put on diesel and have a delicious bacon bap from the cafe there.

Moored up at Nantwich was The Blacksmith we first met at Alrewas on our way back from Shardlow.  I love the names of their boats Emily and Bronte, the blacksmith's forge.

We moored up for the night at Coole Pilate, our final night out on the cut this trip.

Sunday 25th - Coole Pilate to Overwater Marina

A beautiful day for our final trip to Overwater Marina.  Sunshine, light breeze, and even beginning to feel a little warmer.  Spring must be on its way!

We moored Ella back on her pontoon and spent the day packing up clothes and emptying food from cupboards and fridge.

Some Thoughts

When we set out 20 weeks ago, in October 2017, we wanted to see what it would be like to live aboard our narrowboat during the winter months.  

Well, we have certainly seen some wonderful winter weather, snow, sleet, hail and ice. 

Did we suffer through it? No - the boat remained warm with a combination of diesel central heating, log burner and the excellent insulation we remained warm and toasty.

We particularly liked being able to cruise when we wanted to and stay for an extended time in our favourite places - moorings during the winter are mostly 14 days.

Favourite places - Llangollen, Montgomery, Prees Branch, Middlewich Branch, Great Haywood, Stourport. Kinver, Chester, Ellesmere Port.

Special events - Castel Dinas Bran walk,  meeting the peregrine falcon on Middlewich Branch,  visiting Bourne Boatbuilders in Penkridge,  lovely evening meal in Whittington,  Tug and tanker in Ellesmere Port, our own 6 day mini break in Chester.

What have we learnt?   Some of our best moorings were 'wild moorings' peaceful, quiet, secluded, brilliant for Toby, excellent walking territory.
We gave up planning too far in advance, the countryside and weather will dictate when it is time to move on.
Living on Ella becoming more and more a home, not just a floating holiday home.  
Finally, we saw this painted on the side of a boat, and have to agree

"Travelling in the company of those we love is home in motion." 


Map Key   
Week 1 - Brown   Week 2 -  Purple   Week 3 - Dark Blue   Week 4 - Light Blue
Week 5 - Green    Week 6 Olive Green   Week 7 - Yellow  Week 8 - Orange  

Week 9 - Pink      Week 10 - Dark Pink     Week 11 - Dark Brown  Week 12 - Light Purple         

Week 13 - Indigo  Week 14 - Blue/Green   Week 15 - Dark Green  Week 16 - Muddy Green
Week 17 - Yellow Week 18 - Light Orange  Week 19 - Dark Orange Week 20 - Purple

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Overwinter Cruise - Week 19

Sunday 11th March - Beeston Lock to Cheshire Cat, Christleton

Woke to a very pleasant Mother's Day morning.  Sun was shining so decided to move on towards Chester.  The first of our Tete-a-tete daffodils are beginning to come into bloom.

Our first lock of the day was the Iron Lock.  Although it is not very deep, it is quite daunting with all the plates of iron on the gates...

and on the inside of the lock.  The ridges are the parts that could snag the side of the boat if you were to get too close.  I stayed well in the middle of the lock!

Heading towards Christleton there is a long line of moored boats, over a mile in length, so we were moving along at tick over speed giving us plenty of time to look at the boats.

As this part of the canal has wide locks we were pleased to see our first wide beam boat.  

After some false attempts to moor the boat (the canal is very shallow here and I was getting stuck on mud), we eventually arrived at The Cheshire Cat in Christleton and made a safe and secure mooring there.

Monday 12th March - Christleton

The weather has closed in again so we decided to stay and enjoyed a pleasant lunch in the pub.  

Some interesting properties with canal frontage - wouldn't look out of place on the River Thames!

Tuesday 13th March - Christleton to Tower Wharf, Chester

More signs of spring, this weeping willow is just beginning to show leaf buds with a hint of the green leaf coming through.

We stopped at the water point to put on water behind another boat.  We waited patiently for 15 minutes for them to complete putting on their water, then to my utter disbelief the lady removed her hose pipe and slammed the cover to the water tap closed as I was walking towards her.  We have been out on the canals since October last year (except for a couple of short breaks) and we haven't come across such rudeness in all that time.  Sadly I have to add that this wasn't a hire boat, but a share boat, and they should have known better!

As we came down through the locks approaching Chester, there is a delightful line of canalside cottages.   These are just before Hoole Lane Lock.

I'm sorry to report another sorry encounter with a share boat.  Dave was filling the lock ready for me to descend, it was virtually ready, Ella was hovering and a lady approached the lock windlass in hand and opened the paddles to empty the lock.  She had apparently failed to notice the boat, Dave at the lock and the paddles open to fill the lock.  Dave had to be very assertive to gain her attention and get her to stop and close the paddles.  Shocking behaviour!
We moored outside Waitrose and did a quick shop before continuing through the city centre towards the Northgate Staircase Locks.

This hotel restaurant boat was preparing to take diners for a lunch time cruise along the canal.

As you come through the staircase locks you pass through a very steep rock cutting with the old city walls towering above on the left hand side.  The round tower from which King Charles I watched his Cavaliers being beaten during the first English Civil War in the 1640's.

The Northgate Staircase Locks were hewn out of solid rock allowing for a drop of 32ft.  The gates are enormous and very heavy to open and close.

We moored up for the night across the canal from Telford's Warehouse in Tower Wharf.  The warehouse which is partly built on land and partly over the water, allowed boats to load and unload from the full height of the loading bay within the building.

The building is now used as a public house and restaurant.

Wednesday 14th - Saturday 17th March - Chester

We have decided to give ourselves a City Break and explore Chester for a few days.

The Dee Branch lies below Tower Wharf and is currently used for private moorings.
Navigation through the locks on the Dee Branch is feasible but the bottom lock onto the River Dee is not fully operational.  The river below the lock is tidal and only recommended for sea worthy vessels.
Upstream the navigation is interrupted by the weir which is only passable at certain states of the tide - scary thought really! 

We walked around the racecourse, Toby is checking it is all clear!

The Roodee is the meadow in the centre of the racecourse and there has been horse racing here since 1540, making it the oldest racecourse in the country.  It was originally used as the venue for the bloody Gotesdday (or Shrove Tuesday) football match. These games were so violent that the annual bloodbath was banned in 1533, and replaced by horse racing six years later.

A large colony of cormorants including some juvenile birds with the pale breast feathers.

A squirrel hiding, having raced up the tree away from Toby. 

The river cruise boats offer half hour or two hour cruises southwards along the River Dee.

Heron, fishing in the quieter waters of the River Dee.

Beautiful buildings abound in Chester.  This one has a plaque suggesting it was built about 1503 during the reign of Henry VII.

Graduation Day at Chester Cathedral - brings back memories of attending with great pride the graduations of our own girls.

Saturday - the mini beast from the East - freezing temperatures and snow.  This shows the Dee Branch in the foreground and Ella moored above in Tower Wharf.

We are unlikely to go anywhere until the temperatures rise again!!!

Map Key   
Week 1 - Brown   Week 2 -  Purple   Week 3 - Dark Blue   Week 4 - Light Blue
Week 5 - Green    Week 6 Olive Green   Week 7 - Yellow  Week 8 - Orange  

Week 9 - Pink      Week 10 - Dark Pink     Week 11 - Dark Brown  Week 12 - Light Purple         

Week 13 - Indigo  Week 14 - Blue/Green   Week 15 - Dark Green  Week 16 - Muddy Green
Week 17 - Yellow Week 18 - Light Orange  Week 19 - Dark Orange