Canal Cruising 2020
An e-Book and website by Cyril J Wood
The title photograph showsan almost symmetrical reflection of Thomason's Bridge on the Bridgewater Canal near Moore
Click here for the latest entries or on the required section below to follow links
Chapter 1 - Canalmanac 2020 Part 1
We wish you a Happy New Year and welcome to Canalscape Book 16. Both Ange and I were ill with coughs and colds over the Christmas period but, even though we were a little under the weather we still managed to have a good time. The first weekend in January promised to be a busy week regarding Lymm Cruising Club. Accordingly, I arranged to take Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday off work and we asked Harbourmaster Phil Savage if we could leave the boat at Lymm for a few days (to which he said yes) and brought it down to Lymm from our Agden mooring on the Saturday morning and moored it in the slipway.
nb Squirrel moored in the slipway at Lymm CC
That evening it was the Lymm CC Committee Meal and we all went to Lymm Spice Indian Restaurant at the allotted time. The food was lovely but the location has issues with space (or the lack of it) and noise (in excess) from other diners both young and more mature who should have known better. I found this especially annoying due to temporary hearing loss brought about by infection. But the deficiencies in the restaurant didn't detract from the evening which was enjoyed by everyone. We were told not to order desert by our Social Secretary Ken Powell as he had already sorted it so we returned to the Clubhouse where we enjoyed our desert followed by coffee and accompanied by good conversation as we could now actually hear each other!
Lymm CC Committee Meal at Lymm Spice and later in the Clubhouse
The next day we were back in the Clubhouse for breakfast after which we helped to take down the Christmas decorations before going to Paul and Wendy Savage's house in Sankey Bridges. We had a lovely time with our friends, exchanging presents and catching up on the latest news before having a lovely meal and heading back to Lymm. Monday we had visitors from home in the shape of Ange's son Michael, his girlfriend Amy and their Brussels Griffon dog Yoda. We all went to Ye Olde Number Three at Little Bollington for lunch which was most enjoyable then headed back to the boat. We said farewell to our visitors and got ready for the Lymm CC Committee Meeting that evening. It was the last Committee Meeting before the AGM in February so a few loose ends had to be tied-up just in case the Committee changed (which we hoped it doesn't). Tuesday we had the luxury of a lie-in till midday (I did get up with Ruby early, gave her breakfast after which she decided to go back to bed). That evening it was the Lymm CC January Monthly Meeting and Ange wanted to prepare her Quartermaster's Shop as she had a few new and exciting additions to the stock.
Ange's Quartermaster's Shop
We didn't leave the Clubhouse until late after the meeting was over and were grateful of our lie-in that morning. Wednesday we planned to do a few jobs on the boat, pack our things into the car, take the boat back to its mooring and return to Lymm by car that evening for the FBCC (Federation of Bridgewater Cruising Clubs) meeting when the FBCC Runcorn Rally Application Forms were being distributed. Accordingly, we checked and emptied the food cupboards of out and near-dated food, cleaned the boat, took home any unnecessary items, emptied the toilet and water tank ready for the hard weather expected in January and February. With the boat back on its mooring we had our tea and made our way back to the Clubhouse by car. We filled-in ours and Paul's forms and handed them in complete with payment then headed for home after a busy few days that were non-the-less rewarding.
The next couple of weeks were spent preparing the latest edition of Lymm CC's Slipway magazine as well as preparing Brian Burns... the Club's 2020 Commodore's Cruising Programme and a condensed version on a foldable bookmark for the printer. On the day that I was due to collect the work from the printer we were experiencing fog and mist. With living close to the River Mersey this weather presents a unique photographic opportunity in the shape of low cloud over the river with the Liverpool skyline poking through the mist. Needless to say this weather phenomenon just had to be captured photographically and is included below.
A screenshot of the Granada TV Weather Forecast using my Misty Mersey photograph...
...and the original un-cropped photograph
The resulting photographs were screaming out to be used as weather photographs and what I consider to be the best was sent to Granada Television to use as a weather photograph. However, in my opinion, the original, un-cropped photograph looks better.
Tuesday the 5th February 2020 saw Lymm CC's AGM and we arrived at the Clubhouse early so that Ange could attend to a couple of her Quartermaster's duties prior to the meeting. With being early it also ensured that we had good seats as well. During the meeting we were confirmed as being on the Club's Committee as our respective Quartermaster and Magazine/Website Editor roles. We also paid for our mooring and Club fees to Jack Kershaw... the Club's Treasurer, at the same time. The following evening was the first Committee Meeting of the season when we had a most productive meeting (if a little long) before heading for home.
Every New Year Paul Savage and myself have a "Boys' Day Out" to a location that is something to do with canals. This year our "Boys' Day Out" had to wait due to various reasons. The ideal opportunity presented itself when Ange was invited to Wendy Savage's daughter's baby shower. After dropping Ange off at Paul and Wendy's house, Paul, Ruby and I jumped into the car and went to Longdon on Tern. Many of you will know that this is the location of Thomas Telford's Pontcysyllte Aqueduct prototype which carries the Shrewsbury Canal over the River Tern. Telford's aqueduct replaced the original masonry aqueduct, built by Josiah Clewes, which was washed away in a flood caused by a storm nearly two hundred and twenty five years ago to the day. Telford was approached to replace the aqueduct and the replacement is the one that we went to see. It is the oldest remaining cast iron aqueduct in existence and is still in extremely good condition, only being pre-dated by a few days by a now demolished aqueduct on the Derby Canal. The Shrewsbury Canal has, unfortunately, been filled-in and, besides the aqueduct, only the mound which indicated its course can be seen. For more information regarding the Longdon on Tern Aqueduct follow this link to http://www.canalscape.net/Shroppie - Chapter 8 - The Shrewsbury Canal and Longdon on Tern.
The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct prototype at Longdon on Tern
The aqueduct's beautiful cast iron trough...
...and the towpath alongside it which is similar in construction to the later Edstone Aqueduct on the Stratford on Avon Canal
Paul standing next to the aqueduct
After our visit to Longdon on Tern we went to Norbury Junction where we visited the café there to replenish our stomachs. No visit to the Norbury Junction café would be complete without also visiting the canal shop and boat chandlery there. Unfortunately, there was nothing there that required our wallets to come out so we went outside to take a couple of photographs of the area. It was dull and overcast with a storm promised and we hoped that the next time we visited Norbury (hopefully on our 2020 Summer Holiday Cruise) the weather was better than it was today. With the photographs taken I set the Tom-Tom sat nav and we made our way home after an extremely pleasant day out.
A couple of photographs of Norbury Junction on a dull, overcast, winter's day
Ange gave me a surprise Valentine's Day present in the shape of a stained glass canal scene of a narrowboat crossing an aqueduct. She must have bought it last year but managed to keep it hidden from me all this time... most impressive ("but you are not a Jedi yet"). It will take pride of place on nb Squirrel when it is hung on the lounge wall.
Stained glass canal scene of a narrowboat crossing an aqueduct
The following weekend it was Lymm CC's Valentine's Social. We planned to stay on the boat and when we arrived we were relieved that Hurricane Ciara had not done any damage to the boat although our love seat and table on the moorings had been blown about a bit. Thanks to our Mooring Officer Alan Savage had righted it and put it next to the fence. Unfortunately, the Club's Oughtrington moorings didn't get away that lightly as a tree had blown over from the adjacent field and very nearly damaged a couple of the boats in the process An emergency work party removed the branches and plan to remove the offending tree in the near future.
Fallen tree at Lymm CC's Oughtrington Moorings...
(Photograph - Simon Ryder)
...and the emergency work party to remove it
(Photograph - Ken Powell)
The Valentine's Social was a great success... good company, good food and good entertainment courtesy of our resident MC... Danny Abbott. After the social we returned to the boat and were rocked to sleep by another Hurricane in the shape of Dennis. Later that week I received a message from one of my Facebook friends... Norman Pimlot who had very kindly sent me a photograph of the boat on its mooring at Agden taken from the towpath... thanks Norman. Another of his photographs is used on the front cover of Lymm CC's monthly magazine... "Slipway".
nb Squirrel on its Agden mooring
(Photograph - Norman Pimlot)
Another of Norman Pimlot's photographs on the front cover of the Slipway magazine
At the Lymm CC Monthly Meeting Ange was presented with the Canalscape Trophy by me for her photograph of a cow crossing an accommodation bridge on the Llangollen Canal near Whitchurch. The photograph, called "Nosy Cow", also won the Humorous Section of Lymm CC Chairman's Photographic Competition and is included below for the readers' appreciation.
Me presenting Ange with the Canalscape Trophy for...
(Photograph - Paul Savage)
..her photograph entitled "Nosy Cow"
(Photograph - Angela Wood)
That weekend was Lymm CC's Opening Cruise... the first official cruise of the 2020 boating season. The cruise was preceded by the Opening Cruise Dance but, due to Ange not being well we were not able to attend. The following day, I drove up to Lymm alone to take photographs of the proceedings. All together, forty two boats attended the cruise to Grappenhall which was a great turn-out for a cold, overcast day.
Forty two boats attended the 2020 Lymm CC Opening Cruise to Grappenhall
In the days following the Opening Cruise, the country was thrown into the grip of Corona Virus (Covid 19). Subsequently, as well as Ange and I being told to socially distance ourselves by our respective employers, all Lymm CC cruises, meetings and social events were cancelled for the foreseeable future. The FBCC Rally to be held at Runcorn in May was postponed until 2021 (although the Rally Raffle, which is date sensitive, will still go ahead with the winners notified accordingly) and the Crick Boat Show was postponed until later on in the year. Initially, we thought that the best way to socially distance ourselves would be to stay on the boat for a while... away from everyone. Well... that was the plan before the Government told everyone not to travel unnecessarily and the journey to our mooring would be deemed as unnecessary. So it looks as if this will, unfortunately, be the last entry on Canalscape for a while. No Easter Cruise, no boating weekends for the foreseeable future either. Let's hope that it is all over by the time our Summer Cruise is reached. In the meantime, there will be the latest information posted on Lymm CC's website (www.lymm-cc.co.uk) or, if you are suffering from canal withdrawal symptoms, you can always look at the photographs in the Canalscape Gallery page or go back to the Canalscape Contents page and visit another section of the website. To whet your appetite, I have included a photograph of Gronwen on the Montgomery Canal taken on a beautiful, magical day during our 2019 Holiday Cruise.
A wonderful memory from last year to keep us going - Gronwen on the Montgomery Canal
But for now, our beautiful narrowboat will just have to slumber for a little while longer and I will have to concentrate on my other writing projects such as "Mersey Connections... Navigable Docks and Waterways Connected to the River Mersey", "Canalscape... The Book" and "Lifescape... The Autobiography of an Anorak". So hopefully, we will see you again soon at the other side of the Corona Virus (Covid 19) lock-down.
Just as I thought that canal interests were on the back-burner there was an entry on the Unlock Runcorn Facebook Page showing how work was progressing at Waterloo Bridge in Runcorn. The concrete bridge just behind Waterloo Bridge carrying the old Jubilee Suspension Bridge approach road has now been demolished and the northern side of Waterloo Bridge exposed for the first time in sixty years. Below is a map, from the on-line version of my book "The Duke's Cut - The Bridgewater Canal" of the proposed canal route and a couple of photographs taken by Unlock Runcorn Supporter... Carol Patricia to whom I am grateful for allowing me to reproduce her fascinating photographs here. It is interesting to note that on the computer generated plan of the proposed restoration there is not only a boat lift proposed but, in a nod to the original old line of locks... a two-step staircase lock and an inclined plane as well.
Computer generated plan of the proposed restoration of the Bridgewater Canal at Runcorn
Let's hope that the development goes ahead and doesn't fall by the wayside in the same way that other canal restoration projects have. Further details can be found on the Unlock Runcorn website. Fellow Lymm CC member Paul Entwistle (who also operates the "Water Womble" canal cleaning boat) also sent me a photograph of Waterloo Bridge but from the canal side, which is also included below. Based on the information and computer generated plan provided by Unlock Runcorn I produced my own map to add to the web version and third edition of "The Duke's Cut - The Bridgewater Canal".
Waterloo Bridge showing the view through the arches
(Photograph - Paul Entwistle)
My map of the proposed restoration of the Bridgewater Canal route to the Manchester Ship Canal
Waterloo Bridge revealed
(Photographs - Carol Plumpton-Walsh - Unlock Runcorn Supporter)
Later that week I heard reports of a fire at Lymm CC's Agden moorings. It is thought that a discarded cigarette end from a passing motorist had started the fire when it landed in a clump of dried-out fern fonds adjacent to our moorings boundary fence. A dinghy, storage box and some equipment belonging to one of the moorers along with a mains electricity hook-up post and part of the boundary fence were damaged.
The location of the Agden Moorings fire...
...the damaged mains electricity hook-up post...
...and the burnt out dinghy, storage box, etc.
Mooring Officer Alan Savage assured us that the fire was well away from our boat but that didn't stop us from worrying and when the Government announced that they were relaxing the regulations regarding travelling to remote locations for exercise provided that the duration of the exercise exceeded that of the journey, they provided us with the justification to drive up to our mooring to help with the remedial work. We didn't think that we were contravening the Government's Lock-down Regulations as we were travelling in our own car and on arrival we were keeping socially distanced from anyone else on the moorings. Realistically speaking, we were less at risk here than going to a supermarket where many shoppers have no perception of spatial awareness. We arrived at Agden just as the work party finished but it seemed silly to waste the journey and such a beautiful day, so we brought the boat up to the water point, filled the water tank, had lunch then took the boat back to our mooring and started to wash, T-cut and polish one side of the boat with Auto Glym Resin Polish. The difference this process makes is quite dramatic.
Before and after polishing...
...and one side finished
We had a visit from Jo Clarke who is a senior nurse in a Covid 19 ward at a Manchester hospital. Jo told us that she was a "Covid time bomb" just waiting to go off. Consequently, she is living on her boat during the current crisis to minimise infecting her family. Ange had been knitting medical mask ear protectors and gave Jo the ones she had knitted. We later heard that Jo was really pleased with Ange's mask ear protectors and having someone to chat to made her weekend appear more normal. These small acts made our journey worth while and we felt as though we had done a little bit of good for our Lymm CC NHS heroine. I completed my cleaning and polishing one side of the boat. Later on we had visitors in the shape of our cruising companions Paul and Wendy Savage who were later joined by Paul's Aunt and Uncle... Alan and Lin Savage (all observing social distancing).
Having a socially distanced cuppa at Agden
Whilst having a socially distanced cuppa in the beautiful sunshine we chatted and caught up with everyone's news. As we sat there we were entertained by a duckling balancing on Squirrel's rudder. I took the photograph of it shown below and christened it the rudder (not rubber) duckling!
We left for home at tea time but I planned to return the next day to finish the job weather permitting. The following morning dawned bright and sunny so I left home just after eight am and arrived at Agden just before nine. After a quick cup of coffee I started work. I planned to clean the roof first but, due to a mal-functioning Kärcher jet washer I only managed to clean one quarter of it. Consequently, I could not complete everything I wanted to (such as jet washing the non-slip surface on the roof and gunwales) but did manage to turn the boat around and wash the dirty side. Unfortunately, the water and detergent was evaporating as soon as it was applied because the sun was then shining on the side being cleaned. This caused problems with streaking due to the dark green paintwork absorbing the sun's heat and making the steelwork hot to the touch. Completion of this and the other jobs will just have to wait until a later date. As well as the mal-functioning Kärcher, I took home the small wooden table from the foredeck to clean and revarnish along with our flagstaff for replacement after being damaged in a lock. Ange was working from home and needed the car to check on her mum when she logged-off so I left in good time and breezed down a virtually deserted M56 and M53 motorways... quite a difference from the traffic normally encountered at this time of the day. Hopefully, we won't have to wait too long before the Government relaxes more restrictions and our lives can revert to some semblance of normality. With any luck this will be before our Summer Holiday Cruise at the end of June.
The next day I tackled the Kärcher. Having looked at a couple of jet washer maintenance websites I decided to flush it out. rather than start stripping it down. I connected the garden hose to the unit, turned on the tap and let it run for fifteen minutes. At first the water coming out of the high pressure pipe connection port was discoloured with what appeared to be silt. After a while it ran clear so I decided to try it and it worked perfectly. Next, I tried it with the scavenge pipe immersed in a bucket of water. This worked satisfactorily also... mission accomplished then! I will have to think of a way to immerse the scavenge pipe in the canal but keeping it well away from the silt at the sides and bottom of the canal. With this job finished I turned my attention to varnishing the table and flagstaff. Fortunately, the fabulous weather we were experiencing allowed me to set up my Black and Decker Workmate in the back garden and clamp the flagstaff in its jaws after giving it a quick rub down with fine sandpaper. Four coats of varnish later I was satisfied with the results. In between varnishing the coats on the flagstaff I varnished the folding table as well. The darker colouring looking much better than the light pine of the original table colour and both items were stored awaiting being taken up to the boat.
On the 10th May 2020, the Government announced further relaxation of the travelling for exercise rules as from Wednesday the 13th May 2020. These rules were quickly followed by announcements from the Canal and River Trust (see below) informing boaters that they can visit their boats, observing social distancing, but only undertake journeys of an essential nature.
The Bridgewater Canal Company usually follows C&RT's lead after a day or so, but the relaxation of the Government's lockdown rules is all that I needed to place everything I planned to take up to the boat in the hall ready to be loaded in the car and taken up to Agden the next day. Ange was working from home so I loaded the car and set off for Agden at 8.00am. It was a beautiful day and I whizzed up the M53 and M56 motorways, arriving at our mooring by 9.00am. Everything was taken down to the boat and after a quick cup of coffee I turned the boat around and started to power-wash the roof. Once this was completed I washed the paintwork on the port-side of the cabin, T-Cutted it and started to polish after lunch. I have learnt that the best way to apply the polish is to have a small amount of polish on a piece of stockinet and apply to a small part of the paintwork in a circular movement. his is immediately wiped off with a micro fibre cloth then polished with a clean duster to prevent any streaks. This took most of the afternoon and when completed I was most satisfied with the results.
Shiny nb Squirrel on her mooring
After my exertions I was tired, my back was aching and I was ready for a sit down, tea, a relaxing evening and was even presented with a beautiful sunset that evening that was just crying out to be photographed.
Glorious Agden sunset from our mooring
The next morning I checked the results of my efforts and after a second polish turned the boat around to its normal orientation. As the boat turned I was horrified to discover that the water from washing the roof had put streaky lines down the paintwork that I polished a couple of weeks previously. I started to polish the streaks out but, by this time, the sun had moved around and had heated up the paintwork to such an extent that it was impossible to polish without adding even more streaks so abandoned the job for the day. Mooring Officer Alan Savage was cutting the grass on the moorings and asked me to help him with a couple of jobs which I did before we had a cuppa.
Alan Savage and Woodsey cutting the grass on the moorings
I then did a couple of jobs inside the boat including fitting wooden trims to the central heating radiator pipes and checking that our new flagstaff fitted in the holder. It was then time to put everything away, wash the dishes and tidy-up ready to go home after a rewarding (mostly) couple of days. Sure enough... the Bridgewater Canal Company sent their latest Covid-19 announcement that day although I had already heard of it via the Bridgewater Canal Users' page on Facebook. This is the light at the end of the Covid-19 tunnel for canal boating and signalled the start of a return to normality as far as canal cruising is concerned.
We travelled to Agden on Saturday lunchtime. When we arrived the boat's paintwork was too hot for cleaning and polishing so I planned to do that early next morning. After having a catch-up with Lin and Alan Savage we chilled out for the rest of what was a beautiful day. As the light was good I took some photographs of our mooring which I have included below. The first photograph shows the farm and fields adjacent to the moorings. It is a pity that in a few years the farm might be demolished and the view obstructed by the proposed HS2 viaduct that might be cutting a swathe across the landscape at this location. Apparently, there will be minimal disruption to our moorings when the high-level viaduct is constructed.
A panoramic view of the rolling countryside adjacent to our mooring
Looking east down our moorings towards Agden Bridge
Next morning I started my jobs early, before the sun came around and heated up the port-side of the cabin paintwork. Two hours and a cup of coffee later I had finished the job and was very pleased with the results. We chilled out for the rest of the day and set off for home at tea-time safe in the knowledge that I had accomplished what I set out to complete.
Mission accomplished... both sides of nb Squirrel cleaned and polished
The Bank Holiday weekend we journeyed up to Agden ready to do some more jobs. I sanded down and re-varnished the lounge window surrounds as well as Brassowing the curtain poles and fittings just in time for Wendy and Paul Savage arriving with our new bunk mattresses, cushions, curtains and matching roller blinds plus a beautiful picture of a squirrel that Wendy had made for us. Everything was fitted and the unwanted items put in the car to go home. In addition to this I pulled up the original green carpet in readiness for the wood grained vinyl planking that we planned to fit.
New mattress covers, cushions, curtains, blinds and squirrel picture on the wall
Agden at dusk from the side doors
We had been discussing the possibility of converting the two single beds in the aft cabin to a double bed. Accordingly, I made plans and took measurements and photographs. To maximise the available storage space, we plan to have the base that the mattress will sit on raise with assistance from a pair of gas-filled struts, similar to something that we saw at the Crick Boat Show last year. When we arrived home I did some detective work and found the supplier of the gas-filled struts and I contacted them for further information. They replied almost immediately with the information that I required and ordered them. I plan to do the conversion after our summer cruise. For more details follow this link to Future Plans on nb Squirrel's webpage.
The good weather continued the following weekend and we journeyed up to Agden with the car loaded with some of the packs of floor covering planks. I decided to try and start laying the planks in what I considered to be the most seen area... the lounge seating. I also considered this to be one of the most difficult areas and managed to lay one complete pack of planks.
Laying the new floor covering in progress
With it being so hot I decided to lay the flooring in small batches and planned to return later in the week to continue the process. Needless to say, we were presented with yet another beautiful sunset and it would be a shame to let it go without being captured by the Leica.
Another Agden sunset
Due to Ange being unwell I did not return in the week but the next weekend the flooring laying continued. In addition to completing the lobby area adjacent to the steps leading to the foredeck, the lounge was completed and the kitchen nearly completed. Needless to say... back ache ensued! No photographs I am afraid... you will just have to wait until it is completed but I planned to come up later in the week to do some more. In between laying the flooring, one narrowboat that passed was being steered by my old friend Alan Thompson. I first met Alan in 1986 at BMBC, Runcorn when he was airing his sleeping bags on the roof of his beautiful Morgan Giles GRP cruiser... Morgan Mariner. It was then that he quoted the saying that has been engraved in our memories informing everyone present that he was "letting the farts out!"
I returned to Agden mid-week to replace the red microwave oven, kitchen storage jars and breadbin as well as to continue laying the new floor covering. After some "challenging" areas and the aft cabin the flooring was completed the following day. I was very pleased with the end result although there were a couple of planks that required some remedial work.
Cruising through Agden at sunset
The remedial work was completed at the weekend along with filling the boat's fresh water tank and cruising down to Lymm to empty the toilet. I asked Phil Savage to replace the centre fairleads with a new pair that I had purchased. The original ones were of the type fitted to the bow and proved to be unsuitable at the centre of the boat.
Phil replacing the old centre fairleads
I had previously made a start doing what, on the surface of it, appeared to be a straightforward job but ended up breaking three drill bits in the process... such is the hardness of the steel used when the boat was built. Whilst Phil was doing the job he only broke one! Instead of using self-tapping screws Phil tapped a thread into the holes so that ordinary brass screws could be used. With the jobs completed Ange and I went from one end of the boat to the other removing items that would not be required on our summer cruise and putting them in the car to be taken home. With this done the boat was returned to its mooring and we went home. I planned to pop-up during the week to bring our clothes and the non-perishable food.
To be continued in Canalmanac 2020 Part 2
Click to return to Contents
Chapter 2 - Summer Cruise 2020
2020 is the 60th anniversary of my first canal holiday and after much deliberation we decided that, for our 2020 Summer Cruise, to partially retrace our 1960 route by going up the Shroppie, turning right at Autherley Junction onto the Staffs and Worcs Canal to Wolverhampton (see Canalscape Book One - Chapter Two, 1960 First Holiday). After Wolverhampton we would deviate from our first holiday route and head down the Staffs and Worcs Canal, past Bratch, Kinver and Kidderminster to Stourport on Severn. We might even venture onto the River Severn, time and river levels allowing.
But that was before the Covid-10 Corona Virus outbreak. Wendy and Paul would not be joining us now for various reasons. As previously mentioned, we had originally planned to cruise down to Stourport but, with the canal system only just being opened up after a considerable period of dormancy, there may be maintenance issues that require emergency stoppages. This would not be much of a problem for me as I am currently furloughed, but it would for Ange who would have to return to work… even though it was from home. Bearing this in mind, we decided to keep our cruising range reasonably local… Northwich, Middlewich, maybe Nantwich, Beeston, Chester, etc.
We had been up in the week prior to the start of our holiday cruise to bring up clothes and non-perishable food, etc. We set-off for Agden on Friday lunchtime. We arrived early as a surprise party had been planned for Lin and Alan Savage's Golden Wedding Anniversary. The party was well attended by Club members... with the visits at staggered times and all respecting social distancing... naturally. We were having visitors the next day. As we would be away on Father's Day, Michael wanted to come up with my card and presents but could only manage Saturday afternoon so we delayed our departure and waited for him and his girlfriend Amy to arrive. After a catch-up the card and presents were given to me and we ordered our tea from The Wheatsheaf at Agden as a take-away... and very nice it was too. When our visitors left we had a cuppa with Lin and Alan Savage then went to bed ready for an early start the following morning.
Lin and Alan's socially spaced anniversary tea
We set off next morning and as I untied our mooring ropes I saw Lin Savage walking down the mooring waving us off. Little did I know that she was actually bringing some wool for Ange. We stopped at Lymm CC's Clubhouse to empty the toilet and rubbish bag before carrying on. The weather was brilliant and we had lunch on the go. Ange had a message from my daughter Lisa who wanted to meet up at Preston Brook Tunnel to give me my Father's Day card and presents so we cruised for longer than we would normally. At Walton we briefly saw my youngest son Glyn with his family along with his mother and her boyfriend leaving their boat's mooring, but, as we were working to a schedule, we didn't stop. We made good time and it wasn't long before we were entering Preston Brook Tunnel. Twelve minutes later, on exiting the tunnel we saw Lisa's boat Adeline waiting for us in the tunnel approach. After a quick catch-up and giving me my Father's Day presents Lisa set-off through the tunnel to her mooring at Top Locks, Runcorn.
Father's Day cards and presents... mmmmm!
After waving goodbye to Lisa we set off through Dutton Stop Lock and headed for the Dutton Breach Moorings were we planned to stay for the night. After tea we relaxed in the brilliant, evening sunshine then went to bed after a busy but very pleasant start to our 2020 Holiday Cruise.
We planned to cruise short days... a few hours should be enough to keep the batteries topped-up and the water hot. Accordingly, after breakfast we set off the very pleasant Vale Royal section of the Trent and Mersey Canal which is a good example of James Brindley's contour canal construction technique, clinging to the valley sides. At Anderton, we found a mooring next to the ice cream boat and, as it was another hot day, took advantage of them by purchasing a Cornetto each.
Anderton on a pleasant June afternoon
The hot weather continues the following day and we watched a C&RT work boat being filled with puddled clay adjacent to the boat lift. I asked the operatives if there was a problem on the canal and they told me that there was a leaking run-off sluice near Whatcroft Hall further along the canal. After breakfast we set off for the sanitary station to fill-up the water tank, get rid of our rubbish and empty the toilet. Whilst the water tank was filling I took the toilet's cassette to the sluice room and was horrified to discover that the stainless steel sluice was nearly overflowing with what I can only describe as bilge water and soil! Plan b then... there is a manhole cover behind the sanitary station and after lifting the cover, emptied to cassette down it before rinsing it by flushing the ordinary toilet in the station. As we set-off, two C&RT work boats came around the corner from the direction of Marbury Park and I informed them of the blockage. We were told that it would be reported and added to their "to do list" (nice to know that I am not the only person to possess one of these "to do lists"!) We left the sanitary station behind and cruised through the leafy Marbury Park which offered a bit of relief from the hot sunshine. Whilst passing Orchard Marina we noticed that all the boats were moored on the main line of the canal whilst work was being undertaken on the drained marina.
Orchard Marina drained
At Broken Cross the new canalside housing development opposite the pub was nearly completed. The finishing touches were being made to the houses that some lucky owners would soon be moving in to. There even looked to be space for moorings there... We'd have one!
The new housing development at Broken Cross nearing completion
Soon we were mooring in Billinge Green Flash. This lovely, popular location is usually full of moored boats but there were only three other boats here and we managed to get our preferred mooring. The paintwork on the boat was so hot that it could not be touched for any period of time. Ange sheltered beneath the brolly and Ruby benefited from having a towel wetted with cold water draped around her to keep her cool. Afterwards, she found a nice bit of shade to lie in.
nb Squirrel moored at Billinge Green Flash
Ange (wearing her "Vera" hat) relaxing in the shade at Billinge Green Flash...
...and Ruby chilling in a nice, shady spot
Sunset at Billinge Green Flash
Next morning we set off after breakfast and soon saw the three C&RT maintenance boats moored were the leaking sluice was located. Some of the puddled clay had already been applied to the leak with more to go. The boys were working hard to keep the canal open. Once at Middlewich before entering the Big Lock we ducked beneath the temporary foot bridge erected to replace the permanent bridge whilst it was being refurbished. We also noticed that the Big Lock public house was scaffolded, boarded-up and looking forlorn with a "lease for sale" sign outside. With the possibility of a closure at the back of our minds, plus a none too promising weather forecast for the following week, we decided to turn around at Middlewich and retrace our steps, just in case the canal needed to be closed.
Lock gate at Big Lock, Middlewich
That evening we decided to have a beautiful M&S quiche for tea. When cooked I started to take the quiche out of the oven and it tipped onto the glass oven door. I managed, with some help from Ange, to rescue part of it onto a plate but the remainder slid down the gap between the glass door and the oven opening onto the floor. Guess whose piece that was. The five second rule came into play and all I can say is that our kitchen floor is so clean that you could eat your dinner off it! It was, non-the-less, very tasty.
After breakfast the following day we set off in more beautiful sunshine. We cruised along one of my favourite stretches on the T&M, past a fallen tree not far from Bramble Cuttings and before long reached the location where the C&RT crew were working on the leaking sluice.
Fallen tree not far from Bramble Cuttings
The scale of their work confirmed that we had made the right decision to turn around as, in addition to the three work boats there were two maintenance vans parked a little way down the canal and even more operatives working away. After passing we were safe in the knowledge that we would not be stranded if the leak became worse. At Lostock Gralam we saw a heron on the canal bank with its wings outstretched as it basked in the sunshine. I am not sure if it was drying its wings after a dunking or keeping cool in the heat.
Heron basking at Lostock Gralam
We carried on to Anderton, visiting the sanitary station on the way. I was pleased to discover that the Elsan disposal blockage had been cleared and after filling the water tank we carried on around the corner where we moored for the night. It was still very hot and after tea we bought more ice creams from the ice cream boat again...they were much appreciated!
Leaving the sanitary station behind at Anderton
The next morning was a total contrast to the previous day. It was overcast, cool and as we set off it started to rain. We only got as far as Anderton Road Bridge where I stopped the boat beneath the bridge and put on my waterproof trousers, jacket and Barmah hat. We passed through Barnton Tunnel and timed our arrival at Saltersford Tunnel perfectly. On emerging from the tunnel it had stopped raining and we were greeted by bright sunlight. Needless to say, the waterproofs came off and it was not long before we were at Dutton Stop Lock. After negotiating the stop lock we had a fifteen minute wait for Preston Brook Tunnel... just enough time for a cup of coffee. We were now back on our home waters of the Bridgewater Canal and planned to stop for the night between Daresbury and Moore... by the old Anderson Shelter (which is deteriorating quickly now) and we had arranged to meet Lisa on her way to Walton.
Remains of the Anderson Shelter near Moore
Ange chatting to Lisa and her mum near Moore
After a quick chat, Lisa and her mum were on their way and as the sun was still shining the Leica came out for an airing. Ruby and I went for a walk over the bridge and into the adjacent field before returning to the boat for tea. The sky then started to look threatening and thunder storms were forecast. And thunder it did. First came the rain with a tumultuous downpour followed by thunder... no lightning just the sound effects. Ange joked that her mum would be closing the curtains, turning her TV off as she hates thunder. We watched the storm which lasted well over an hour before going to bed with rain pattering on the boat's roof.
Corn Field at Daresbury... taken on my Leica D-Lux 3
Sunshine and rain at Moore from the side doors...
...and a few minutes later, tumultuous rain during the thunder storm
The rain continued the next morning so the waterproofs were donned again. As we were on the Bridgewater Canal with its wide bridges the umbrella came out as well. A quick stop was made at the convenience store adjacent to the canal at Moore for milk and bread then we continued in the rain towards Lymm. The rain accompanied us for most of the way to Lymm but there were sunny spells as well. On reaching Lymm, we stopped at the Lymm CC Clubhouse to empty the toilet before carrying on to Agden. We didn't go straight to our mooring but went onto the water point to load some of our stuff into the car. We considered going further up the canal for a couple of days but, with such poor weather forecast we decided to return to our mooring after a damp end to our 2020 Summer Holiday Cruise.
Timetable for our 2020 Summer Cruise
|Friday 19th June 2020||-||Stayed on Agden Moorings - Lin & Alan Savage's Golden Wedding Anniversary|
|Saturday 20th June 2020||-||Stayed on Agden Moorings - pre-Father's Day visit from Mike and Amy|
Sunday 21st June 2020
Agden Moorings near Lymm to Dutton Breach Moorings
Monday 22nd June 2020
Dutton Breach Moorings to Anderton
Tuesday 23rd June 2020
Anderton to Billinge Green Flash
Wednesday 24th June 2020
Billinge Green Flash to Middlewich
Thursday 25th June 2020
Middlewich to Anderton
Friday 26th June 2020
Anderton to Moore
|Saturday 27th June 2020||-||Moore to Agden Moorings|
|Sunday 28th June 2020||-||Stayed on Agden Moorings|
Epilogue to Summer Cruise 2020
We were really looking forward to our 2020 Summer Holiday Cruise but the Covid-19 Corona Virus outbreak put paid to our plans. As mentioned at the start of this chapter, 2020 is the 60th anniversary of my first canal holiday and I was looking forward to revisiting some of the places we passed through in 1960 but, it was not meant to be. Never-the-less, we enjoyed our abbreviated cruise even though Ange and Ruby did not like the extreme heat that we experienced. I am writing this the week after we returned home and I have to say that the weather forecasters were correct in their predictions. We definitely made the right decision to come home when we did. Maybe next year we can try again to reach Stourport... we shall just have to wait and see if these plans come to fruition... fingers (and everything else) crossed! When we did arrive home I ordered a Black and Decker USB Portable Air Cooler and a Rotek USB Mosquito Zapper from Amazon to help making future voyages more comfortable when the weather turns hot.
Squirrel at Moore at the end of our 2020 Summer Cruise
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Chapter 3 - Canalmanac 2020 Part 2
Regular readers might remember my writing about Ken Thomas... the Old Tramp of Moore a while back. Well, the week after we returned from our Summer Cruise I was contacted by Stuart Allen from Runcorn and District Local History Society requesting copies of the photographs that I took of Ken's memorial at Moore in 1985. Stuart informed me that they were going to reinstate the memorial in the shape of a plaque attached to either the wall adjacent to where he sheltered beneath his umbrella or to nearby Moore Bridge. He also asked if I would like to unveil it. Well... I was flattered and agreed to do so when the date was finalised... most probably August or September. In the meantime, to refresh your memories, I have included some details below regarding Ken.
On the wall of the Red Lion Pub at Moore, as well as some rather good, old monochrome photographs of the Bridgewater and Manchester Ship Canals was a commemoration to Ken Thomas the Tramp aka The Old Man of Moore. Ken was a friendly, intelligent man who dropped out of society of his own will. He sometimes slept in the nearby Anderson Air Raid Shelter but could usually be seen huddled beneath his umbrella, and was always willing to catch the ropes when we were mooring close by. We always offered him a cup of tea in return and have a chat until he died of pneumonia in March 1984. He is remembered and missed by the more experienced, older boaters on the Bridgewater Canal. I was given permission to reproduce the painting of Ken below and also the poem entitled "The Old Man of Moore" that was written about him by Mrs Marjory Pike; also of Moore. Around the corner, just before Moore Bridge, was a memorial placed adjacent to the wall where he sheltered beneath his umbrella. It was placed there by the locals to the memory of “Ken the Tramp”. Sadly, the original memorial became overgrown and has since been lost.
A painting depicting Ken the Tramp at Moore
A sketch entitled "The Old Man of Moore"
The Old Man of Moore
Some things leave impressions in our minds for all of time,
On recalling they're so vivid like the pungency of wine,
Through the years I will remember the first time I ever saw,
The canal and boatman and the Old Man of Moore.
There he'd laze away the hours man and nature so at one,
Not for him the homely comforts, spurned they were, that life was done.
Large umbrella now his shelter, crooked arm his head to rest!
But to him he's found his haven like the bird high in its nest.
Children came each day to see him and the boatmen knew him well
As he fished beside the water, oh what stories he could tell!
Starry nights and frosty mornings, wind and rain and summer gone!
He would while away the hours lost in thought till day is done,
But I'm sure in times afar off telling tales of days of yore
I'll remember my encounter with that nice old man of Moore.
Marjory Pike (Mrs)
(Reproduced by kind permission of P Burdell - The Red Lion at Moore)
The location of Ken's Memorial and a close-up of the memorial itself
The remains of the Anderson Air Raid Shelter where Ken would sometimes sleep
More details of Ken's life can be found at... https://www.facebook.com/stuart.allen.3538/posts/494818160903512 and more information regarding the Anderson Air Raid Shelter can be found in The Duke's Cut section of this website and at https://www.andersonshelters.org.uk/bridgewater_canal.html. The date and details of the plaque unveiling, probably in August or September, will be posted on this website when they have been confirmed.
Two weeks after we returned from our Summer Cruise we went up to Agden and planned to meet Wendy and Paul at Little Bollington. As we travelled along the M56 the weather became increasingly worse and what started off as intermittent drizzle ended up as heavy rain. Once on the boat we decided to wait until the rain ended so chilled-out until tea time then cruised up to meet our friends in bright sunlight. We moored just after Little Bollington Underbridge and after a catch-up over a cuppa we had our tea.
Our mooring not far from Little Bollington Underbridge
We were later joined by Ange's son Mike who stayed for a couple of hours before leaving for home. I saw him to the underbridge and, on my return to the boat Ange received a telephone call from him. "I've just heard a noise and it's not a bird!" Ange stayed talking to him on the phone until he reached the Swan With Two Nicks where he had left his car. I said to Ange that it was most probably the horses in the adjacent field (which is exactly what it turned out to be when we were discussing it a few days later). On the Sunday, Paul and I went for a walk to the Bollin Aqueduct... site of the breach in 1972.
The site of the 1972 breach at Little Bollington...
...and the same location today
I wanted to walk down the path and take photographs of the embankment and aqueduct from below. I had previously photographed it from the other side of the embankment but not from this side. We clambered down the embankment and when we reached the bottom the aqueduct's arch was obscured by the foliage. I should have brought my drone to take photographs from the middle of the river. I had taken my selfie-stick with me which doubles-up as a long-reach arm for situations such as this. It is only when you are down at the river level that you realise just how high above the surrounding landscape the canal actually is.
The height of the aqueduct can be judged from this photograph
The arch of the aqueduct hidden in the foliage
With the photographs taken we returned to our boats. Wendy and Paul had a family meal planned that evening so turned their boat around and headed back to Agden. We followed suit shortly afterwards and left for home a little later after a nice relaxing weekend.
When taking photographs whilst the boat is moving can be sometimes problematic. Especially if a forward facing photograph is required without any of the boat impinging on the image. I had an idea that if an action camera with remote control was mounted in the boat's foredeck, photographs could be taken whilst steering at the other end of the boat. High-end cameras such as the GoPro Hero or the Insta 360 One (complete with Leica lens and sensor) are too expensive for what would be occasional use but a compromise between price and performance was found in the miniscule CamPark X20.
The miniscule CamPark X20...
...and well protected in its waterproof housing
Featuring a 20 megapixel Sony Exmor sensor and chip set, 4K video recording, waterproof housing, remote control and WiFi connectivity at under £50 it promised to be exactly what I was looking for. As I still had some Christmas and birthday money left plus an Amazon gift voucher from Father's Day I ordered one from Amazon. An added bonus was that if I wrote a review about it for Amazon I would qualify for selecting a free CamPark accessory. One of the first photographs that I took with the X20 are shown below. I have shown if full size and cropped to illustrate the quality that it is capable of and I must say that I was impressed. Consequently, I am now looking forward to taking some "serious" photographs with this latest addition to my photographic equipment "arsenal".
An un-cropped photograph of the River Mersey taken on the CamPark X20...
...and a cropped version of the same photograph illustrating the quality the X20 is capable of
Another purely self-indulgent purchase was made in the shape of a Riva Aquarama remote-controlled model boat. I first became aware of Riva Aquarama speed boats, featuring twin Lamborghini V12 engines, whilst on holiday in Italy 2010. I saw them on Lake Garda and Lake Como where they are built. In a Como town toy shop was a remote-controlled model of an Aquarama but at that time I could not justify the €65 price tag.
A Riva Aquarama spotted on Lake Como
Nigel Foster admiring the Riva Aquarama r/c model in Como Town circa 2010
I accidentally (that's my story and I'm sticking to it) came across a similar model on Amazon for a reasonable price and I still had an Amazon voucher left so I took the plunge and ordered it. Considering that it was dispatched from Italy it didn't take long to arrive and I can't wait to try it. I just have to figure a way to attach the CamPark X20 to it now!
Ange's son Michael was buying a new car (Mercedes C63S AMG Convertible) and asked her to accompany him to Watford to collect it. I was going up to the boat with Ruby the same Friday and Ange was being dropped off the next day. When I arrived at the mooring my first job was to fill the stern gland greaser and when this was done we cruised down to Lymm to empty the toilet. That evening there was another spectacular Agden sunset just begging to be photographed.
Another spectacular Agden sunset
We had purchased a Black and Decker air cooler/humidifier and a Rotec mosquito "zapper". They are both USB powered and the existing USB sockets do not deliver enough current for the air cooler and the zapper obscures the TV whilst it is charging. Accordingly, I decided to fit a new twin USB socket beneath the port gunwale in the lounge. I took a 12 volt electrical feed from the refrigerator supply to prevent excess voltage drop and fed the cables through the trunking to beneath the port side shelf and up to the socket's location. The new dual socket works well and has a higher current rating than the existing sockets so I am now going to replace the existing sockets with the same type.
The new USB sockets beneath the port side gunwale in the lounge and the mosquito "zapper"
With my jobs completed I chilled out and waited for Ange to arrive. Later, I received a telephone call from her to say that she was feeling breathless and suffering from chest pains. Michael was taking her straight to our nearest A and E at Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral so I packed everything up and headed for home. After dropping Ruby off at home I was about to leave for the hospital when Ange phoned to say that she was being kept in overnight and that I couldn't come to see her as the hospital were not allowing anyone in except for patients. She was kept in hospital for over two weeks having been diagnosed with pneumonia and heart failure and hopefully, can now put this enforced medical interlude behind her.
With Ange being in hospital and then recuperating we didn't go up to the boat until the August Bank Holiday weekend. We arrived at Agden on the Saturday lunchtime and chilled out after a busy morning shopping. On the Sunday I cut the grass and brambles on our mooring before having visitors in the shape of Lin and Alan Savage. We drove to the Red Lion at Moore for a meal with Wendy and Paul Savage which was most enjoyable. Wendy and Paul had been away on their boat for the preceding week and were due to return to our moorings the next day.
Lymm on a sunny Bank Holiday Monday
The combine harvester working in the field...
...and the resulting crop being loaded into a trailer
On Bank Holiday Monday we cruised down to Lymm at lunchtime to empty the toilet and on our return to the mooring we saw a combine harvester working in the field adjacent to the mooring. Wendy and Paul arrived late afternoon and I finally managed to give my Riva Aquarama remote controlled boat its christening voyage. I was most impressed with the speed even though the model doesn't possess two Lamborghini V12 engines! After a catch-up and a cuppa we packed-up our stuff into the car and made our way home after an enjoyable, relaxing weekend.
My Riva Aquarama model doing more than 4mph on the canal...
...and yours truly at the controls
(Photograph - Angela Wood)
Two weeks later there was a work party at out Agden moorings to cut back some of the foliage around the car park. When we arrived I installed Ange, Ruby and Yoda (Ange's son's Brussels Griffon dog) who we were looking after for a couple of days, on the boat and then joined our friends on the work party. We had finished by lunchtime and chilled out until teatime when a barbeque was planned. We had an enjoyable evening catching-up with the latest news from our friends and the Club.
Cropped hedge in Agden Moorings Car Park
Ange and Yoda
View from the side doors at Agden
Bonfire and barbeque at Agden
The next morning we chilled out and later an unusual boat went past. It was a tug-style narrowboat with a butty stern and flexible hydraulic pipes connecting to the ellum (tiller) which indicated that a hydraulic drive unit was attached to the tiller beneath the water. This would give provide good manoeuvrability, directing the thrust from the propeller in the same direction as that of the rudder and might even allow the boat to reverse in a straight line.
Tug-style narrowboat with butty stern...
...and a close-up of the rudder showing the hydraulic drive pipework
The day turned out to be really hot and was possibly the last hot day of the year that we would have on the boat so we made the most of it, sitting out in the sun and chatting to our friends. Even Yoda had a good time aand made some new friends. We left for home at tea-time and were sorry to have to leave on such a beautiful day but some of us had work the next morning... more is the pity!
To be continued
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Our Canal Cruising Experiences and Milestones During 2020
|05/02/2020||-||Ange & I accepted back onto Lymm CC's Committee... Ange as Quartermaster & me as Magazine/Website Editor|
|08/02/2020||-||Visited Longdon on Tern Aqueduct & Norbury Junction with Paul Savage|
|03/03/2020||-||Ange presented with Canalscape Trophy @ LCC March Monthly Meeting for her "Nosy Cow" photograph|
|10/03/2020||-||Entered social distancing due to Corona Virus (Covid 19)|
|20/03/2020||-||All Lymm CC cruises, slipway bookings, meetings @ social events cancelled due to Corona Virus (Covid 19)|
|13/05/2020||-||Relaxation of Government's regulations allowing visits to boats (C&RT's interpretation of the regulations)|
|19/06/2020||-||2020 Summer Cruise to Middlewich|
|Lymm CC Cruises & Work Parties Attended During 2020|
|08/03/2020||-||Attended Lymm CC's Opening Cruise by car to take photographs|
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The story most probably continues in...
Canal Cruising 2021
Finances, health, and time allowing!
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|So You Want To Go Canal Cruising?|
Book 15 - 2019
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Shroppie - The Shropshire Union Canal System (In Preparation)
|The Manchester and Salford Junction Canal|
|Mersey Connections (In Preparation)|
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