Monday, 13 August 2018

A Scotish Interlude

We left our mooring in front of the marina around 9am and 200m along the canal entered Tattenhall Marina. I had already called ahead to make sure there would be a mooring in the marina available for us. I had also picked up a hire car and left it in the marina (with their permission) the evening before. Once we had tied up and paid the mooring fee we were off to the Chester Station to drop off our friends who were heading to London then on to Scotland for five days.

Tattenhall Marina


Heading along the M6 Motorway we have passed the exit to Lockerbie many times and said we must go there one day, well we finally took a look. Our second day in Scotland we buzzed down the M6, about a one hour drive, we went along the main street looking for the memorial to the people that lost their lives in the terrorist bombing. The memorial sits in a large area set aside in the beautifully kept  town cemetery.

Particularly interesting is a small museum in the front corner of the cemetery, run by locals and free entry. The museum gives a good insight into the bombing and the aftermath. Afterwards it was lunch and a stroll on the high street before heading home.

We filled another day with a visit to Linlithgow Palace, principle residence of the monarchs of Scotland in the 15th and 16th centuries and of note because it is the birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots on 8 December 1542, to King James V and his French second wife, Mary of Guise. A building here dates back to the 12th century.

The Front Door

The Court Yard
Fountain close-up
Part of the Royal Apartments now

Artist's impression of the Royal Apartments

View across the palace to St Michaels Church

The Great Hall now

Artist's impression of the Great Hall

The kitchen fireplace

View of the inland loch surrounding the palace

St Michael's Church in the forecourt of the palace
We had booked Serafina into the marina for a week and had left her connected to shore power to charge the batteries and keep the refrigerator running. We don't do a lot of long cruising days these days so it was good to get back and see the batteries finally get to float level. The batteries normally get to around 90 - 95% because it would take several more hours of cruising to get to 100% (float). We returned mid-afternoon on the sixth day and straight away made the most of the marina facilities by doing a couple of loads of washing and then filling the water tank afterwards. It was good not having to run the engine for a couple of days to heat water, charge batteries or run large appliances, just for a change.

Saturday, 11 August 2018


Chester is our ultimate destination on the Shropshire Union Canal (SUC), there's a couple more hours cruising to Ellesmere Port if you have never done that part of the canal before. We cruised down to Ellesmere Port in 2014 checking out the museum and the port itself and that will do us.

Why do I mention this? Well we made sure we moored before the winding hole near Bridge 123E but not in the 48 hour moorings, they're near the pub and can get a little rowdy, a few customers ended up in the canal the first night we were in Chester. We found a nice mooring just a little further back near Bridge 123C where we had the shade of a nice willow tree for the afternoons.

All our plans to pick up visitors had fallen into place and this was no exception. We arrived the day before our friends were due to arrive by train so that meant a trip into town to have a look around before we became the guides. Here are some of the photos over our three day stay.

Probably one of the most photographed parts of Chester is the Eastgate Clock erected in Victorian times atop the city walls, the walls originally erected by the Romans.

Further on down the mall are the Rows, two tiered medieval buildings containing many up market shops on the verandah while we found several nice cafes downstairs.

Another street shot this time with Chester Cathedral in the background

The Church of St John the Baptist, the oldest church in Chester and the ruins around about it, apparently the site of christian worship for over 1300 years.

The Roman Amphitheatre, the largest of its kind in Britain.

A stroll through the Roman Gardens containing Roman artifacts collected from the local area.

Remains of Roman bathing halls

We strolled from here along the wall and the River Dee (not sure where those photos went) and around to Chester Castle (National Trust). Lots of steps to get up and into the castle but not a terrible lot to see.

The oldest part of the castle is Agricola Tower, built in the 12th century.

We walked most of the 2 miles of city wall enjoying the small coffee and wine bars built into the wall as we strolled along. We departed the wall next to the canal near Frodsham Street, one of the main streets of Chester.

It's not often we get to large shopping centres so Rachael made the most of our stay before winding and heading off back up the locks. Of course our traveling day was overcast and as expected, when we got to our first lock the heavens opened. Lucky I was on the boat waiting under a bridge, Rachael had volunteered to do this lock! Five locks and a few hours later we were moored outside of Tattenhall Marina in the 48hr moorings, tomorrow we will leave Serafina in the marina as we head off for a break.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Heading North on the Shropshire Union

Cruising on the Shropshire Union Canal continues to be relatively quiet when you consider it is the middle of the summer break. It's usually a time when it is difficult to get a mooring at the popular mooring places and queuing is the 'norm' at locks but we have seen none of that. The breach at Middlewich, severing the Four Counties Ring, seems to have kept many boats away, not keen to do the one-way trip. We took this photo of the breach back in May when we first arrived in England.

Continuing our cruising, leaving Gnosall on yet another fine day, this is the first chance I have had to get a decent shot of a heron, this one was happy to let us pass by.

It was only a short cruise to Norbury Junction (no longer a junction but previously the junction with the Newport Canal) where we stopped for water and fuel. We were tempted by the tea rooms but not this time! Only a short cruise on and the Premier Foods loading wharf juts out nearly to the centre of the canal, a great place to stop for temporary relief if it's raining.

Our mooring for the evening was at the top of Tyrley Locks. The wharf and stables were built in 1838 and were a busy port until the 1930's. The stables have now been converted into small apartments.

Tyrley Locks 'The Stables

First thing in the morning a team of CRT workers turned up which made me think something was up. I went down to talk to them and sure enough in half an hour they were going to close the Tyrley Lock Flight. We were quick to get organised and start our decent down the five lock flight rather than wait their anticipated four hours to complete the job. It's only a short cruise from the bottom lock into the town of Market Drayton. Time to do a bit more work on the boat before tomorrow's Saturday market.

As with most market towns the centre of Market Drayton has the old market building. The Saturday Market seems a lot bigger than it was in days gone by.

A pleasant few days in Market Drayton and it was time for a busy day of lock wheeling. Less than an hours cruise from Market Drayton are the Adderley Locks, a five lock flight followed closely by the Audlem Locks, a fifteen lock flight. A working boat and butty (unpowered boat) passed us just as we were thinking of moving off  so we delayed our departure for an hour. That's the equivalent of having more than two boats ahead of you since the butty has to be dragged both in and out of each lock.

We always enjoy getting to the top lock at Audlem for the fresh produce at the farm shop with honesty box. This time we grabbed a pork pie for dinner for £3, we'll stop here again on our return journey.

We arrived at the Audlem Flight and the working boat and butty were well down the flight, seems they had a team of people working the locks. We passed another working boat getting ready to go down the locks as we cruised straight into the top lock, a boat having just exited. A few locks head start on the working boat behind us and they too had a team to work the locks.

We stayed ahead of the working boat and lock team for nine locks before the team sent one person ahead to help us which sped things up immensely. We stopped for water in front of the Shroppie Fly Inn as the working boat continued on.

It turns out there is a canal festival in Audlem next week and all the boats were coming down to get ready.

When we had finished filling with water so had the rain so we pushed on with the last three locks and finished the day after another half hour moored near Over Water Marina just in time to beat another heavy downpour. Only a short cruise into Nantwich in the morning, in place and ready to pick up more visitors off the train from Crewe. Back to the boat to drop off luggage and it was time for a walking tour of Nantwich before a pub lunch and more touring.

The next day was a short trip to Barbridge before turning onto the Middlewich Branch and taking them down through a lock where we had planned to have lunch at the Wilton Marina Cafe which we now know is closed on Mondays. Plenty in the fridge to feed everybody before finishing the day back at Barbridge moored outside the Olde Barbridge Inn where we had dinner. We sent our visitors off from there the next morning as we winded (turned) and headed off down to Chester heading for our mooring tonight at the base of Beeston Castle. We dropped down through Beeston Stone Lock on to our mooring, all locks are doubles on this leg of the trip.

 This is a great mooring and there were plenty of deer around.

Not to mention plenty of rabbits popping out of these holes later in the evening.

We made our next over night stop in Christleton (pics are in the July 2014 blog) before heading down into Chester to pick up more visitors off the train. Rachael's on the tow path heading down to set Hoole Lane Lock, the last before our mooring in Chester for a few days.

Saturday, 21 July 2018

A Quiet Cruise on the Staffs and Worcester and the Shropshire Union.

A couple of days at Fazeley Junction allowed me to continue honing my sanding and scraping skills in preparation for more painting. It can be frustrating doing all the prep work and the painting as you move along the canal because the tow path changes from side to side, you need to have jobs going on both sides of the boat. While we were at Fazeley we managed to fit a bus trip to Birmingham in, we spent most of the day in the huge Bullring Shopping Complex, most importantly picking up Rachael's birthday gift at Selfridges.

The Bullring Shopping Complex on both sides of the mall

Passing through another Birmingham mall
The last leg of our trip on the Coventry Canal saw us arrive at a nice mooring in Fradley, just short of Fradley Junction for another two day stop for yet more prep work on the right or starboard side of Serafina. While we were there we took the chance to have a look around Fradley village where we spoke at length to the owner of the off-license/post office. She pointed us to a nice corner of the local church which contained the graves of  quite a number of WWII Australian Airmen, apparently Fradley had a military airfield right next to the canal during the war.

The RAAF section of Fradley church cemetery
We turned on to the Trent and Mersey canal at Fradley Junction continuing on our journey stopping for the night at Rugeley, with a chance for a large grocery shop with Tesco right next to the canal. We made several trips over the two hundred metres from the boat to the supermarket, the first trip was mainly bottled water in our shopping cart, it's been reasonably warm and hasn't rained since we got to the UK two months ago. The next day it was just a short run of two hours and one lock to Great Haywood for another overnight, we stopped along the way to fill the water tank.

Next morning at Great Haywood we turned off the Trent and Mersey Canal and on to the Staffs and Worcester Canal where we made it a two day trip on the S&M, only stopping at Penkridge. Early next morning, before getting underway, we strolled down to the shopping centre for the Saturday morning market. Once moving again we came across this boat moored outside a marina, trying to deter speeding boats.

It was getting close to the end of the day when we turned on to the Shropshire Union Canal at Autherley Junction. Under the bridge and into the stop lock, only one foot deep but enough to stop your boat and 200 years (or so) ago pay the toll, gauged by weight, to the canal owner.

We finished the day on a nice rural mooring just outside the village of Brewood. There ae lots of beautiful deep cuttings on the SUC, this heavily wooded cutting was no exception. Although, not so good if you are needing the solar panels, a long day for us so no such issues the batteries were fully charged.

Serafina from the bridge
Mile post at the mooring

The bridge in the photo above is much more ornate than the standard bridge on the Shropshire Union Canal. It seems that wealthy land owners required the new bridge to be a little more special in return for allowing the canal builders to build the canal on their land. I'm sure two hundred years ago it was very grand but the years have taken a toll. We took a walk next morning to see why the land owners wanted this 'special' bridge.

On top of the bridge
On top of the bridge

After walking a well defined track through woods for around two kilometres we came to the gates of Chillington Hall.

Chillington Hall is a Georgian country house built in 1724, it looked at least another kilometre away from the gates.

After our morning walk we set off again heading for Gnosall Heath, another bright sunny day. The Stretton Aqueduct carries the canal over the A5 to Holyhead and into the Saturday fishing competition. Fishermen for a few miles!

Through the 81 yard Cowley Tunnel blasted out of solid rock.

Cowley Tunnel signaled the end of our cruise for the day, mooring up a few hundred metres past the tunnel in a sheltered position away from the hot sun. It was time to lock up and have a walk around Gnosall Heath, The Boat Inn next to the canal at Gnosall early on in our walk around town.

 And further on into town was the used gypsy caravan lot.

We did a circuit and ended up on a Right of Way in a farmer's wheat field.

I did get a chance to finish a few jobs while we were moored in Gnosall. The port side hatch needed some touching up around the doors and rust repair at the base. The fairlead (rope guide) base was also badly rusted but is now ready for a new fairlead to be screwed back on.
Port side Hatch before shot (primed)
Completed Port side hatch
Fairlead base before

Fairlead base completed
 We will be on the Shropshire Union Canal for quite a few weeks, we've only started our journey.