Book 6

Canal Cruising 2010

An eBook and website by Cyril J Wood


The title photograph shows the Bridgewater Canal at Grappenhall in Spring


Book 6

is dedicated to the memory of Brent Hindley 1951 - 2010...

... a good friend and fellow canal boater who lost his battle against cancer on the 27th October 2010.

We shall miss him dearly.



Chapter 1 - Canalmanac 2010


Chapter 2 - Italy Again

  Chapter 3 - Llangollen Canal Fifty Years On

Canalography 2010


Return to Introduction

Click on title to follow links


Chapter 1 - Canalmanac 2010

Looking towards Oughtrington and the ice that prevented us returning to our moorings

The winter of 2009/10 turned out to be one of the worst in recent years with snow on the Wirral Peninsula where we live which is virtually unheard of. Due to being iced in after the New Year's Party we had to leave "Total Eclipse" outside Lymm CC's Clubhouse until the ice had melted, allowing us to return to our Oughtrington moorings without damaging the hull's paintwork. But, as well as ice, it started to snow... and snow... and snow! At home we virtually hibernated for a week... the college that I work at was closed all week (on the one day I went in it took me three and three quarter hour to drive home... a journey that normally takes less than twenty minutes or thereabouts) and Ange was sent home from work due to the bad weather as well. We were worried about the boat but our "spies" in Lymm kept an eye on it for us. Barry Greenough took the photograph below and told us that, at one point there was six inches of snow on the boat's roof.

A virtually unidentifiable "Total Eclipse" (centre) outside Lymm Cruising Club... icebound and covered in snow

(Photograph - Barry Greenough)

It was to be nearly a month before the ice melted which would allow us to return to our Oughtrington mooring. But... we weren't going back to Oughtrington! For a while we had been thinking about moving our moorings when the opportunity arose. We have been at Oughtrington for over eight years and it is a wonderfully quiet mooring... secluded and out of the way, but not without its drawbacks. When it had been raining it was virtually impossible to enter the boat without treading-in mud and leaves. The lack of mains electricity meant that our generator had to be started before we could charge batteries or use power tools, etc. Rather anti-social early on a Sunday morning! Being on a bend meant that we could not moor tightly into the bank and the boat would move when craft passed. To get to the boat from the mooring's footpath meant stepping down quite a high step and could be problematic, especially in the wet. So Ange and I had a discussion about it last year and we mentioned to Alan Savage, the Club's Mooring Officer that we would like to be considered for a move when the opportunity arose. Then, in mid-January, Alan telephoned us out of the blue to say that a mooring had come up at Agden... would we be interested? We told him that we would, even though we would have preferred Lymm for various reasons. A couple of days later Alan rang again and told us of the possibility of a Lymm mooring coming up but we would have to leave "Total Eclipse" where it was (outside the Clubhouse) until he had juggled the boats around and made room for us. This was beyond our expectations and we were most grateful to Alan for offering us this mooring.

Ange helping Alan Savage (on the left) at the Oughtrington work party moving boats up the moorings

GRP and steel boats alike benefited from the work party move-up

The following Saturday... the 30th January was the day of the work party to shuffle the boats around. The day dawned dry, sunny if not a bit on the cool side. On our way to Oughtrington we called in at Lymm to make sure that the boat was ok and not causing an obstruction in the Arm. It had been moved out of the Arm by Alan Savage and "Moulty" ( John Moult - the Club's Harbourmaster) the previous Thursday and moored onto the canal frontage in preparation for moving to our new mooring. I noticed that ice was still evident in the arm and on the parts of the canal where sunlight had not reached. Satisfied that the boat was ok and not in the way we made our way to Oughtrington where members were starting to assemble for the work party. Alan Savage, accompanied by his son Phil (as well as Ozzie and Jake) arrived by boat soon afterwards. Ange assisted him with the measuring out and documenting the mooring list whilst the rest of us pulled up the boats to their new locations and hammered in the mooring posts where required. When completed, Brian Gornell off "Forty Winks" supplied the tea and coffee and the first part of the work party was over. Alan, now accompanied by his nephew Paul and his son Oliver, cruised down to Lymm and we also made our way there by car. Once there I started the boat's engine to charge the batteries after being standing for a month. Alan and co soon arrived, as did Phil Anderton off "Rensol" (soon to be our new neighbour) followed by Barry and Mark Greenough off "Philbarmar". Ange chatted to Lily and Stuart whilst warming herself up on "Seguido". In the meantime we started to move the boats up on the Lymm moorings.

"Total Eclipse" on its new mooring in Lymm, close to the jetties

We did not have to move as many boats at Lymm as we did at Oughtrington and it wasn't long before Alan asked me to bring "Total Eclipse" down to its new mooring close to the jetties. We brought the boat down and mooring stakes were hammered into the ground in the correct positions. Ours was the last boat to be moved and after mooring the boat and locking it up we left for home. We planned to call into Midland Chandlers for a new Chinese hat (a stainless steel one that wouldn't rust and fall off) for on top of the solid fuel fire's chimney and a couple of other bits and pieces. Before we reached Preston Brook we decided to stop at the London Bridge pub for lunch. An hour later, with our stomachs full we continued on our way to Preston Brook, had a look around Midland Chandler's showroom. We made mental notes about prices of a few items including the boat poles but we would have to come by boat to purchase one of these as it would not fit in the car! After collecting the items required we made our way to the till, paid for our purchases and headed for home after a most successful day.

Even on a cold January Saturday, there was boating activity at London Bridge

I had been a little concerned about water finding its way into the rear bilge in the boat's engine compartment. As last year progressed the amount of water present seemed to increase even though I had tightened up the stern gland. So, after moving to our new mooring at Lymm I decided that it was time to do something about it. My initial suspicions were that the stern gland packing had come to the end of its life, was passing water and required re-packing so we arranged to take the boat up to Agden for Alan Savage to have a look at. The following Saturday morning we called at Thorn Marine for some new stern gland packing material (graphite covered 6mm - ¼"). When we arrived at Lymm we saw that there was ice on the canal... not very thick but enough to chip away at the paintwork of the hull. I fitted our new Chinese Hat to the solid fuel fire's chimney temporarily and by the time I had finished and lit the fire a boat came past that was travelling along the canal in the same direction that we wanted to go. So the engine was started and we set off in the boat's wake allowing it to break-up the ice for us. Consequently, I steered the boat so that we travelled in the clear passage made for us. At Oughtrington Wharf we witnessed something we had not seen before... two swans mating. They do it in the same way that ducks do only with less aggression and more grace. The boat in front of us stopped at North West Boat Fitters just before the Barn Owl public house so we were left to break the ice the short distance to Lymm CC's moorings where we were meeting Alan. Once moored I lifted the deck boards and emptied the bilge with the wet and dry vacuum cleaner. Once emptied we could see that the stern gland was not passing an excessive amount of water but decided to replace the packing anyway. It was a job that I had not done before so Alan gave me instructions and loaned me a special tool not unlike a miniature corkscrew to remove the old packing once the end capping was slid forward. I did not know what to expect and wondered if a deluge of water would enter the bilge from the stern tube once disassembled (which it didn't). It was not long before the three pieces of old packing was removed and the new packing cut and placed around the propeller shaft with each cut at 90° to the previous one (12 o'clock, 3 o'clock, 6 o'clock and 9 o'clock). The end cap was then slid backwards into the gland housing and I was careful to ensure that it went on straight with the same number of turns on the nuts. I also had an extra two pieces to fit later on in the year when the material fitted today had bedded in.

Stern gland (left) and new packing material (right) before being cut to size

(Note the screw in the centre being used to remove the old packing material in the left hand photograph)

After checking that I could turn the propeller shaft with one finger indicating that the gland was not too tight, I started the engine, put it into gear, let it run for a few minutes and after checking that the gland was not running hot I turned my attention to finding the source of the water ingress. The only thing that I could see that might cause the problem was a joint on the gearbox oil cooler was slack, possibly caused by extremely low temperatures and some water was leaking out. This didn't take long to cure and we were in business again. Alan thought that the water collected in our rear bilge may have been from the melting snow and ice that we had experienced lately so, leaving it at that we made our way back to Lymm. The stern gland was checked again for temperature, tightened up a quarter of a turn and we prepared to come home. The generator was removed and put in the car as we will not need it much due to having access to a mains electricity land line at the side of our mooring. So we left for home  safe in the knowledge that with the stern gland repacked and the small leak stopped we would not have to worry about water in the rear bilge.

Lymm CC members in full swing at the Tarts and Vicars evening

The following weekend featured St Valentine's Day and a social event at Lymm CC was arranged. It had the theme "Tarts and Vicars" so many of us dressed-up for the occasion. In the week prior we made preparations for out costumes... Ange was to be the vicar and had a suitable outfit but mine was a little more challenging. Ange made a skirt and the rest of my outfit was sourced from various people or, as in the case of my hold-up stockings... purchased especially . My mother-in-law lent me a pair of her shoes (complete with heels and therein lies another story when I was trying them on in her kitchen!), a friend loaned a wig and I raided Ange's wardrobe for the rest... bra, knickers, top, ear rings, make-up, etc. As was to be expected the evening was full of hilarity and fun. We didn't win any prizes but many friends complimented us on our efforts including my shapely legs and cleavage!

Ange and I in our "Tarts and Vicars" costumes (Check out my legs!)

(Photograph - Barry Greenough)

With the start of the boating season looming on the horizon it was now time to start preparing the boat and doing some of those little jobs that had been put off until the spring so I planned to take a day off work during the Half-Term break and tackle some of the jobs. When I left home for Lymm it was a bright, sunny, Wednesday morning but, as I progressed along the M53 and M56 the weather worsened. On my arrival at Lymm it was cold and misty... so cold there was ice on the canal. I first plugged the boat into the mains hook-up and put the batteries on charge whilst I cleaned the solid fuel fire. When completed I vacuumed the inside of the boat with the Dyson which I had brought with me, had breakfast and a cup of coffee before going on to the next job. A couple of the windows had sprung annoying little leaks. I thought that these leaks emanated from the exposed screw heads that held the window frames together. Originally, a black neoprene strip covered these screw heads but the previous owner had taken the strips off and sealed the gaps with silicone sealant. The windows were also starting to look a little scruffy due to surface corrosion and scratches on the aluminium frames. I planned to clean the frames with wire wool before painting them with black Hammerite Smooth and then replace the sealing strips some time in the future. In preparation I had tracked down a source of the cover strips via the Internet in the shape of Seals Direct... a specialist manufacturer of window and door seals. Initially, I ordered a sufficient length of sealing strip to treat the two front cabin windows experimentally and, if successful, work my way aft as and when finances and time allow.

The new neoprene window sealing strip in position

The channel that the strip sits in was cleaned of debris and silicone before I started to fit them. The process of fitting was slow and laborious but the end result was well worth the effort. Half-way through fitting I heard a slow-revving boat's engine in the distance. As the sound got louder it was obvious that there was something special making its way towards me propelled by what sounded like a Bolinder. I jumped off the roof and got my camera just in case. I was not disappointed as the photographs below testify. The cargo hold was planked over and it looked as if the boat was once a tanker. Unfortunately it did not have a name painted on it but I saw it again a few weeks later after the signwriting had been completed, proudly announcing the boat's name to be "Spey".

Ex-working boat "Spey" propelled by a vintage Bolinder 16hp semi-diesel engine

After exchanging pleasantries with the steerer and crew of the ex-working boat and complimenting them on the sound effects I continued with my jobs. When completed the window looked as good as new. We'll just have to hope that the leaks are cured. The new Chinese hat bought from Midland Chandlers a couple of weeks earlier was made from shiny stainless steel and did not match cosmetically the stove's black chimney. Before painting with black Hammerite Smooth, it was drilled and attached to the chimney with stainless steel screws and nuts so that any overhanging branches we encountered would not sweep it into the cut. Whilst the Hammerite was out I touched-up the black paintwork on the bow. The daylight was was now starting to fade so it was now time to tidy up, put the tools away and head for home after one of those rare days when I had completed all the jobs (and more) that I had set out to do. I could do with a few more like today!

Saltersford Flash on a grey, winter's day

The last Saturday in February I arranged with my brother... Jim to have a "boys' day out". I picked him up and we headed along the M56 to Midland Chandlers at Preston Brook. It was the first time he had visited this canal boaters' supermarket and he was most impressed with the selection of boating stuff on sale. He was less impressed with the prices though! I purchased a length of fireproof rope for the fire's door, the special adhesive for same and a tin of black fire paint. We then made our way to Lymm to check on the boat and to put on board the items that we had just bought plus some other things in preparation for the new boating season. Our next port of call was Barnton. We parked the car and walked along Saltersford Flash to the tunnel. I showed Jim Saltersford Locks from the hill and we returned to the car and drove down to the locks.

The by-pass weir at Saltersford Locks in flood

As it had been raining there was a tremendous amount of water running through the disused original lock that is now used as a by-pass weir. After taking photographs we made our way to the Anderton Lift (£2 to park the car for up to three hours and £4 for longer - but nothing to moor a boat for forty eight hours!) where we had a quick lunch and a look around the excellent book shop (but they didn't have any of my books on the shelves). Jim had not been here for a few years and the last time that he visited the Visitor centre was in a Portacabin at the edge of the car park. I find it quite annoying that on top of the aforementioned car park fee there is an entrance fee to the Appreciation Centre. I know that all these facilities have to be paid for but compared to the Boat Museum at Ellesmere Port (car park and entrance free) it is not particularly good value. The next thing we know they will be moaning about insufficient visitors.

Jim with "our" Leica V-Lux at the Anderton Boat Lift Visitor Centre

Jim had a couple of cameras with him and brought out his Leica V-Lux 1 from the safety of the camera case whilst we were in the Visitor Centre. We have a standing joke that this is the camera he is leaving me in his will! I reminded him to look after "our" Leica... which he did. We left the Anderton Lift and as Jim had to be home for 3.00 pm so after a quick look in Harral's at Lostock Gralam we headed for home. We enjoyed our day out... even if the weather could have been better!

Lymm moorings on a sunny spring morning

The week before Easter I took the Friday off work in order to fill the fuel tank, replace an empty gas bottle and touch-up the paintwork on the bow at water level that was damaged by travelling in ice at the beginning of the year. I cruised up to Agden where I had arranged to meet Alan Savage, filled the fuel tank etc and had a cup of coffee together where we made a start on putting the world to rights. I then left for Lymm but not to our mooring. I planned to ground the bow of the boat on the slipway where Ray Nichol had his boat "Haj +2" out of the water on the trolley for cleaning and repainting the hull.

Ray Nicholl priming the hull of "Haj+2" on the slipway

As I lined the boat up with the slipway I gave the engine a little extra throttle to ground the bow on the shallow slope of the slipway. Ray looked around in surprise as I am sure that he thought that I was going to join him on the trolley! Once the boat was grounded on the slipway I tied the ropes tightly, donned my overalls and wellies and paddled down the slipway until I was adjacent to the boat's bow. The water level was an inch below the top of my wellies and I hoped that no boats went along the canal as the rise in water level would go over the top of them. After drying the offending area I painted it with red Hammerite Smooth before the water tank was filled which would lower the boat in the water by two to three inches.

Yours truly repainting the bow water line

(Photograph - Joan Gornell)

As I was already there I also decided to clean and paint the black paint on the bow on both sides as far back as the end of the forward swim. I also removed the curtains to take home for washing. Happy with the day's work I left the boat in the slipway and headed for home to the return the next day with Ange and the washed curtains. On arrival at home the curtains went straight into the washing machine and then the tumble dryer. Later on, when dry, they were ironed and folded ready for refitting the following day.

We returned early the next day and after refloating the bow I filled the boat's water tank before starting to clean and polish the superstructure whilst Ange cleaned the windows before rehanging the curtains. A few other Lymm CC members were preparing their boats for the season. I have already mentioned Ray Nicholl and we were joined by Joan and Brian Gornell. Brian was also doing some repainting on "Forty Winks" so if it started to rain there was someone also to blame! The side of the boat that is normally facing the canal had weathered worse than first thought. When I was cleaning it a large area of the paintwork peeled off. On inspection the original brown paint looked as though it had been varnished at some time. The varnish was flaky, extremely loose and not adhering at all... hence the paintwork above it peeling off.

Brian Gornell touching-up the paintwork of "Forty Winks"

After it was cleaned, dried and rubbed down with sand paper I primed it with red oxide primer and Ange completed the job later on with International "Toplac" gloss paint when the red oxide had dried. Whilst Ange was completing this job I replaced the sealing rope on the solid fuel fire and then re-blacked it. We had now completed most of the jobs we planned to do ready for the Easter cruise to Wigan. All that was needed was to check the water in the cooling system and top-up the engine oil. But for now I was tired, my back was aching and after putting a clean and shiny "Total Eclipse" on its mooring we headed for home.

A clean and shiny "Total Eclipse" ready for another season

The weather in the week preceding Easter had not been very good. We had rain, sleet, gales and very little else. I was trying to kid myself by saying that all the bad weather was being used up before we went away on the Thursday which both Ange and I had taken off in order to have a head start towards Wigan. British Waterways had very kindly removed the stoppage at Poolstock, approaching Wigan, where the pound between the two locks had previously been drained for maintenance. There had also been issues at Plank Lane lift bridge outside Leigh but these have now been resolved as well which would allow us a clear route through to Wigan.

Brooklands Straight leading to Sale

Thursday dawned bright and sunny (in Wallasey at least) and after s quick visit to the shops we made our way to Lymm, loaded up the boat and were soon on our way. As we made our way towards Manchester the weather started to look increasingly dodgy. However, it was not all that bad except for intermittent showers and being a bit breezy. We met many boats from the various cruising clubs all out for their Easter Cruises. At Patricroft Railway Bridge we encountered a fridge/freezer floating in the canal. As there were other craft behind me I could not pull-in to remove it from the canal but I noticed on the return journey that somebody had. During the preceding week I had been discussing the news article in "Waterways World" featuring the "Cut View" feature on Google Earth with members of Lymm CC.

The "Good Ship Google"

(Photograph - "Waterways World")

I mentioned it to a work colleague... Simon Wilson who shares my interest in computers and technology. He Googled "Cut View" but could not find any references to it and asked to see the magazine article. He said... "It says that "Cut View" will be available early in April. Would that be from April the first?" Well, the penny dropped! I had been duped by a "Waterways World" April Fool! And what's more I was sure that Simon wouldn't let me forget it either. Sure enough as I was approaching the site of the now demolished Gardner factory I received a text message from Simon. It read "Any sign of the good ship Google?" I rang him back and told him that my searching was in vain... well, what could I say? I was already embarrassed by being caught out by the April Fool! Moored outside the lighthouse was a very nice slipper launch by the name of "Victoria R". I remember there being one moored at Walton called "Sunbeam" a while ago but this is the first time that I had seen one resident in recent years.

The slipper launch "Victoria R" moored at Monton Lighthouse

As I was approaching Worsley Turn I was thinking that I had never met a boat here in all the years I had been on the Bridgewater Canal. Providence was tempted and sure enough, as I lined the boat up for the bridge there was another one coming in the opposite direction. I jut the boat into reverse and "Total Eclipse" did her party piece... stopping dead and then reversing in a straight line. The expression on the steerer of the other boat was a picture... I'll bet he had never seen a narrowboat reverse like that before! Between Worsley and Boothstown I noticed a new road on the right of the canal and building work on the left. Could there be a new bridge due to be constructed here I wondered.

The canal towers above the surrounding landscape due to mining subsidence

The canal between Worsley and Leigh as well as from Leigh to Wigan contains none of the original banking, bridges or canal features due to mining subsidence of the surrounding land and the canal banks being embanked over many years. Subsequently, the canal is now many feet above the surrounding landscape. It never ceases to amaze me the amount of work that has gone into raising the level of the canal banks in relation to the surrounding area (a major source of funding from the old National Coal Board). Not to mention relocating the two Dover Locks to Poolstock on the approach to Wigan. This is something that I have difficulty getting my head around!

Moored boats at Astley in the evening light

We soon arrived at Astley and moored up in front of "Eclipse Number 2". Ian, Michelle and Popsy Gilbody had already left to eat in the Ross Arms so we ate on board. The next morning Phil, Michelle and Emily Anderton aboard "Rensol" caught us up and we headed for Leigh where we moored outside the canalside Aldi and we all went into the town for shopping. On our return to the boats we set off for Plank Lane and the infamous lift bridge where our boat names and numbers were recorded by British Waterways personnel.

Construction work on the new marina development at Plank Lane

At Plank Lane work has now commenced on the new marina and the adjacent housing development. I wonder how subsidence will affect this area in the future as it was the location of the old Bickershaw Colliery. With this in mind, one questions the wisdom of building a development such as this in the area. Also at Plank Lane we passed the sad sight of the sunken narrowboat "Kingfisher" which has been hiding in the weeds for many years after catching fire. I remember this boat when it was in its prime at Barbridge in the 1980s and it is a shame that some boats that were once well loved and cherished end up this way.

NB "Kingfisher" lying sunk at Plank Lane for many years after catching fire

We planned to moor at the Dover Lock pub and restaurant for the night. It was rumoured to now be an Indian restaurant but this turned out to be false (even though it was an Italian restaurant at one time) and that evening we enjoyed the traditional food that they served as well as the company of our friends. Ian... (who will talk to anybody) was bought a shot of "Sambuca" and after sampling it I was asked to have a taste as well. I must admit that it tasted a bit like "Covonia" or "Benylin" cough mixture but that doesn't mean to say that I didn't like it!

Phil Anderton at the tiller of NB "Rensol" after leaving Dover Lock

The water level below Bridge Two... a roving bridge approaching Wigan, illustrates the subsidence in the area

Waiting for Poolstock Number One Lock to empty

Poolstock Number Two Lock being opened for us

We were all up early the next morning in order to beat the queue that was sure to form at Poolstock Locks if the boats moored at the Dover Lock was anything to go by. We ascended the locks to a pound that was quite low. No doubt this was caused by boats drawing water out of the pound and not replacing it. Quite a few Lymm CC members had already arrived in the wide section left of the Leigh Branch Junction but we secured a spot close to the River Douglas Aqueduct with "Rensol" moored on the side of us and "Eclipse No 2" moored in front. Paul Durbridge, one of the Club's members picked up a car wheel which completely jammed itself between the counter and the propeller of his boat NB "Dominion". All efforts to free it were in vain necessitating a tow home. I am sure that Paul was wheelie tyred of all the comments made and we must spare a thought for him. As the weather was bright and sunny we decided to have a picnic on the towpath before we headed into town. We did receive some funny looks from people walking along the towpath as you don't really expect to see people having a picnic in April... especially in the middle of Wigan. Still... we are boaters aren't we!

The Anderton and Gilbody families with Ange having our towpath picnic at Wigan

Boats from Lymm CC moored at Wigan

On our return from shopping we readied ourselves for the evening's bowling which is a Lymm CC tradition when in Wigan over Easter. Our bowling went well and Ange won the prize for the highest scoring female bowler. When we had finished we returned to the boat, watched tv for a bit and went to bed. Another bright and sunny morning followed and Nigel Foster... the 2010/11 Commodore hosted the Easter bonnet and egg throwing competitions. When completed we returned to our boats and made preparations to leave. We were all heading back to Lymm with the exception of some lucky members who were cruising on to Liverpool and the Liverpool Docks Link. We shared the locks with "Rensol" and whilst descending Poolstock Number One Lock (the furthest from Wigan) I was chatting to Phil and heard running water. When I turned around to find the source of the noise I was horrified to see water leaking out a cavity in the lock sides directly onto the steps leading from the rear deck, into the cabin and onto the laminate flooring just inside the door to the cabin. I engaged forwards immediately to reposition the boat away from the leak and when we were through the lock we mopped up the water which, hopefully, had not damaged the flooring. With the locks behind us we headed towards Astley for the night.

NBs "Rensol", "Total Eclipse" and "Eclipse No 2" moored at Astley (on the right)

Astley Mining Museum

The Pit Head Stock as seen from inside the Winding Engine House

Once moored at Astley, Phil, Ian and I visited the Mining Museum for a quick look around. We were impressed with the size of the winding engine and the assortment of exhibits on display. The giant steam engine (the largest winding engine in the UK) had been turned earlier that afternoon by compressed air as, since the Boiler House was demolished, steam is not currently available. The Red Rose Steam Preservation Society is endeavouring to raise sufficient funds to reinstate the boilers (there a donation bucket to help with this) so that the engine will be able to run under its own steam once more. I noticed on the Preservation Society's notice board that they were selling 00 scale private owner railway wagons with various local coal company names on the side. These included the Bridgewater Collieries at Worsley and the Manchester Ship Canal Company. I am considering ordering one of the Bridgewater Colliery examples and this would be my contribution towards their funds.

The largest pit winding engine in the UK

On our return to the boats we congregated on "Eclipse No 2" to decide what to do for tea. In the end we decided on the Chinese chippy just past the Ross Arms and we headed there with our list. Ian dragged Phil and I into the Boat House pub for a swift half (I had pure orange juice) as he wanted to see what pictures were hung on the wall... well that's his story anyway! We eventually made it to the chippy and ordered our food. I also managed to obtain a chef's paper hat that was reminiscent of a "Thunderbirds" International Rescue uniform's hat ("Thunderbirds 'ats... only a nicker!") much to the amusement of my friends. After eating we stayed on "Eclipse" and enjoyed a pleasant evening's conversation before returning to our respective boats and bed. As we had a long cruise back to Lymm we left Astley at 08.30 am on a cool and breezy morning. I stopped briefly at Worsley to empty the toilet, as did Ian for fuel, but we were soon under way again. The trip back to Lymm was without drama even though the wind was challenging at times. We arrived back at our moorings about 2.30 pm and it was not long before we said bye to our friends, loaded the car and we were heading down the M56 after an Easter break that was over far too quickly.

Part of the collection in the Anson Engine Museum

Our next outing was the 2010 boating season's Opening Cruise on Sunday 18th April. When we arrived at Lymm on the Saturday morning Phil was having trouble with "Rensol's" engine and his son was replacing the fuel pump which was thought to be the problem. I had planned to go to the Anson Engine Museum at Poynton with Ian who had to attend the AGM of the Gardner Engine Forum (Society) and when he arrived from Oughtrington he moored on the side of us and "Rensol". We left Phil with his engine and the ladies were going into the village shopping whilst Ian and I went to Poynton in his TVR Cerbera Sport Six. I have to say that this is without doubt the fastest car I have ever been in. The exhaust made the most exquisite sound effects, especially on over-run when it would pop loudly and usually caused heads to turn (Ian can time the "popping" to occur when passing pedestrians causing them to jump).

Part of the collection of classic Gardner engines on display in the hall dedicated to them

When we arrived at the Anson Engine Museum, Ian went to his meeting and I wandered around the museum admiring the examples of Crossley, Gardner, Blackstone gas and oil engines in addition to many other makes that I had never heard of, some of which we in operation. There was an example of a six-stroke engine and another variation on the four-stroke cycle where the flywheel turned once to four strokes of the piston. Both these engines were designed to circumnavigate the patents held by Nicolaus Otto... the person responsible for the development of four stroke cycle. The museum has a small shop that sells engine memorabilia, mugs, books, toys, etc and I just had to purchase an example of the beautiful Morris Minor Traveller model they had on sale. It now lives in the display cabinet on "Total Eclipse".

A classic Gardner oil engine in operation

When Ian's meeting was over we were given a guided tour of the exhibits and many more of the examples were fired-up including a large steam pumping engine currently turned by an electric motor but, like the Astley Steam Engine, there are plans to run it on steam in the not too distant future. I can recommend this place to anybody who has an interest in engines and engineering... I only wish that my father could have visited it as he would have been most interested and impressed by the engines on display. When we started to make our way home Ian's Cerbera bottomed quite a few times on the road leading from the museum. On our return to Lymm Phil's engine was still not working and he decided to call it a day hoping that the next morning a solution could be found. I got washed and changed and all eight of us went to the Spread Eagle pub in the village for a meal. We wish we hadn't. It was a disaster from the start. The lighting was too dim to read the menus (mood over functionality), the waitress was not exactly what you could call customer friendly (a smile costs nothing), the food that arrived was not always what was ordered and in some cases the quality left a lot to be desired. Needless to say we let the management know! Still... the company made-up for the food's disappointments. On our return to the boat club we all piled aboard "Eclipse Number 2" for coffee before returning to our respective boats and going to bed.

Mist greeted us on the morning of the Opening Cruise

The next morning dawned cool and misty but it soon warmed up  as the sun burnt through the mist.  After breakfast we had a look at Phil's engine but none of our suggestions helped it to start. Phil resigned himself to the fact that he would not be joining us on the Opening Cruise despite offers to accompany us on our boats. The proceedings were due to commence at ten thirty and we all walked along the moorings to the Clubhouse for the usual presentations and toasts. The guests of honour were John Stalker (ex-Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police) and his wife along with Mike Webb (General Manager of the Bridgewater Canal Company) accompanied by his wife.  There were a few short speeches before we relocated outside for the unfurling of the Club Burgee on the flag pole before the Commodore and dignitaries set off for Grappenhall. We were one of the last boats to leave as the boats at the front of the flotilla are usually bunched up together. We followed in their wake to Grappenhall at a stately two miles per hour.

Nigel Foster... Lymm CC's 2010 Commodore and his wife Lisa

Guests and Committee Members at the Opening Cruise

Guy  Burden... 2010's Rear Commodore directing traffic at the Opening Cruise

The sun was quite warm by now and after stopping for a sandwich we headed on to Stockton Heath and Thorn Marine for some bits and pieces. Ian had to head down the canal for a bit to turn around and after we turned around we were hailed from the towpath by Joanna Rankin... the wife of fellow club member Russell who owns NB "Toby" and had gone to Warrington to watch the rugby. She wanted to know if we could give her a lift back to Lymm to which we said that we could and pulled in so that she could board. We all chatted away as we passed through the start of Grappenhall and the boats from Lymm that had not yet turned around to go home. A little further along we came across Dave Williams whose boat NB "Centaur 111" which had broken down. We pulled-in, attached his bow rope to our stern cleats and towed him back to Lymm. Once on our mooring, Dave's boat was unhitched and pushed onto its own mooring a little way up from us on the piers. Ange started to take out things to the car whilst I erected the canopies over the front and rear decks and generally put the boat to bed. Ian's boat was being left at Lymm as it was coming out on the trolley to have its hull cleaned and painted. We made our farewells and headed for home. Little did I realise just how much sun I had caught until the following morning when I was shaving. It was only then that I realised just how dry my skin was. Needless to say... copious amounts of moisturiser was applied to alleviate matters during the following week.

Our overnight mooring between Daresbury and Preston Brook

Even the Pendolino wasn't intrusive even though quite close to our overnight mooring

A couple of weeks later was Lymm CC's cruise to the lagoon between Barnton and Saltersford tunnels. Again we took a day's leave from work on the Friday preceding the cruise in order to have a leisurely dawdle towards Preston Brook. We loaded our things onto the boat whilst the water tank filled and put wood for the bonfire on the roof. Before long we were under way and cruised down the canal before we moored for the night at a location between Daresbury and Preston Brook. It is a location where we have moored before and is very peaceful... even the Pendolinos on the nearby railway track don't seem intrusive. After tea we were joined by the Gilbody family and their narrowboat "Eclipse". After catching up with the latest news we retired to bed in order to have an early start the next morning, visit Midland Chandlers and catch the 10.30 passage through Preston Brook Tunnel. We were the last but one in the convoy through the tunnel. About a third of the way through Michelle Gilbody shouted back to us that they were stationary due to the boat in front of them stopping.  I put our engine in reverse. came to a stop and shouted to the boat behind us, NB "Mullymush" who were having problems of their own... their headlamp had gone out and were navigating by torchlight. After five minutes or so we were under way again and I later learnt that the boat that caused the hold-up ran into the back of another boat in the tunnel.

Preston Brook between the A56 Road Bridge and the "Old Number One"

Looking towards Preston Brook Tunnel from Dutton Stop Lock

Dutton Dry Dock

Once out we were in a queue for Dutton Stop Lock which gave us the chance to have a chat to other boaters waiting for the lock. After the lock is located Dutton Dry Dock. Surrounding the dry dock are many historic craft waiting to have maintenance to their hulls or to be cleaned and painted. We followed the line of the River Weaver Valley, past Black Prince at Acton Bridge where the hire boats awaiting their next tenants are moored three deep are sometimes difficult to pass... especially if there is a boat approaching from the opposite direction. Saltersford Tunnel was our next point of interest. As passage through this tunnel is timetabled we had to wait for ten minutes before we could enter and once through we were in Saltersford Wide... a natural lake that James Brindley utilised when constructing the canal. Here were moored other boats from Lymm CC and we turned around 180˚ before mooring alongside nb "Adreva". Once safely moored we mingled with our fellow members catching-up on the latest gossip. The weather was  warm and sunny... a far cry from when I was last here in February with my brother.

Boats from Lymm CC moored in Saltersford Wide...

... with the longer boats moored stern to the bank

Youth members messing around in boats... practicing for the Navigation Trials maybe!

The evening started with a game of Bingo in support of the Youth Section of the club and Ange donned her wellies to help Michelle Gilbody and Peter Powell... Lymm's Town Crier with the calling of the numbers. Later was the induction ceremony of the club's Rear Commodore... Guy Burden. He was presented with his "poking stick" before lighting his first bonfire. The barbeque and bar was then open and we enjoyed burgers and drinks around the bonfire.  When it had gone dark our commodore Nigel Foster fell into the water whilst getting onto his boat. There were plenty of helping hands to pull him out of the water but not before a certain photographer had recorded the incident for prosperity.

Ange showing off her wellies and Keith Moore at the barbeque

Ange the bingo caller

Guy Burden being presented with his Poking Stick

Commodore Nigel Foster just after falling in

Nigel banged his arm on the way into the water and later x-rays indicated that he had broken his wrist as well as damaging a bicep. The next morning we retraced our steps through Saltersford Tunnel and moored just past Morris Minor Bend. NB "Eclipse" joined us and after tea we all went for a walk in the beautiful countryside that the canal passes through. On our return we were invited aboard "Eclipse" and spent a most pleasant evening in the company of our friends.

An isolated mooring between Saltersford Tunnel and Acton Bridge

Our overnight mooring just past "Morris Minor Bend"

NB "Swallow" negotiating "Morris Minor Bend"

We had a bit of an early start the next morning to avoid the queues at Dutton Stop Lock and Preston Brook Tunnel. Ange and Michelle were surprised by the lock gate handle literally coming off in their hands at the Stop Lock. Once through the stop lock our early start was rewarded by being the only boats in the queue for the tunnel which we passed through a little quicker than on the outward journey. We cruised beneath the M56 motorway viaduct and past Waters Meeting at Preston Brook to where we moored a couple of nights previously near Daresbury. Here we had a full English breakfast on the towpath (much to the envy of towpath walkers) which set us up for the cruise back to Lymm, stopping at Thorn Marine on the way. Once at Lymm we stopped briefly in front of the clubhouse to load the car before putting the boat back on its moorings and heading home.

The handle came off in their hands... really!

Our full English breakfast on the towpath between Preston Brook and Daresbury

We would be back at Lymm the following weekend for Phyllis Greenough's 60th birthday party which was being held in the Clubhouse. As I was working the Saturday morning of the party we arrived late afternoon and had a really enjoyable evening. Nigel had his arm in a sling and was putting on a brave face due to the pain from his broken wrist and bicep.

Phyllis cutting her birthday cake at the party

We sat with Phil, Michelle and Emily Anderton and Ian, Michelle and Popsy Gilbody. One of the subjects discussed was "Rensol's" engine and we were pleased to learn that it  had  been repaired and we were looking forward to them accompanying us on the following weekend's cruise to Dunham Massey which would be his boat's first outing since being repaired. In the meantime we returned home early the next morning as Ange had family duties to perform. In the week before the Dunham Massey cruise the latest edition of "Waterways World" popped through the letter box. I was featured twice... once for identifying the location of a photograph of a tunnel with a tug towing boats (Preston Brook Tunnel) and secondly for relating the "Good Ship Google" story mentioned in the Easter trip to Wigan.

Dunham Park and the Obelisk

Relaxing in the sun at Dunham Massey

Phil posing and Ian polishing

As Dunham Massey was only an hour's cruise from Lymm arrived early afternoon and our friends had kept us a mooring space between "Rensol" whose engine had now been successfully repaired and "Eclipse No 2". This was directly between Dunham House and the Obelisk dedicated to a horse by the name of "Bay Malton"... hence the name of the pub further along the canal. As soon as we moored the collapsible chairs came out and we relaxed in the warm sunshine and caught-up with our friends' news... except for Ian who was busy polishing "Eclipse". I had polished "Total Eclipse" a few weeks earlier and some of the polish residue had been left behind. Ian suggested that I tried a polish by the name of "Mer" which might remove the residue... which it did. As we polished an unusual mahogany dinghy powered by a super-quiet electric outboard motor went past with four people on board and I ran to grab my camera and capture it photographically.

The finish on the electrically powered dinghy had to be seen to be believed

Ian lighting the brazier

The finish on the dinghy's varnish had to be seen to be believed. We had planned to have our tea delivered to Dunham Underbridge by a Chinese Take-Away in nearby Carrington and Ian lit a brazier (bonfires are banned at Dunham Massey) which we all ate in front of. Some of us walked back to the underbridge to collect our food and after eating it we all sat, talked and drank the evening away. We had to leave early the next morning to continue our packing for the Lake Como trip but we were to return the following Tuesday afternoon... but that is another story (see Chapter 2 - Italy Again)!

Lymm at Sunset from our mooring

The Bank Holiday Weekend following our return from Lake Como would normally be the Federation of Bridgewater Cruising Clubs Annual Rally but as there was no rally this year an extra cruise to Acton Bridge was scheduled. We decided not to go but to stay at Lymm and do some essential jobs like cutting the grass on the moorings, paint the boat's roof, give the engine a quick once-over, tidy the rear deck, etc. Talk about the best laid plans of mice and men... we arrived Friday afternoon and on the Saturday it rained all day. We decided to have a lazy day watching tv, reading, sleeping and did not set foot off the boat. Sunday was much better... quite warm with the sun shining and we moved the boat to outside the Clubhouse whilst I cut the grass, filled the water tank and sanded down the paint on the boat's roof.

Ange painting the roof of "Total Eclipse"

Once the sanding was completed we returned the boat to its mooring and started painting. It was quite breezy and the paint was drying virtually as soon as it was applied and was not drying to the glossy finish that we wanted. Also, the paint was not going as far as anticipated. We ran out of paint when the roof was half completed so I made a quick trip to Thorn Marine. When I walked in the shop with my overalls on and paint covered hands everyone started to laugh and said... "We know what you're doing Cyril!" My reply was "All I'm going to say is Union Canal Green please" I was presented with said tin of paint, paid for it and returned to Lymm determined to complete the task before tea time. As I was starting to run out of steam and suffering from back ache Ange completed the roof whilst I made us a cup of coffee which was much needed. All that remained for the following morning was to check oil/water/fuel levels, tidy and brush the rear deck and prepare to go home. We arrived home at lunchtime after a productive weekend's work.

The week that we flew to Italy, Wirral Metropolitan College... my place of work was being inspected by OFSTED. We had a really good inspection result and, by way of a little recognition of this the Principal gave us all an extra day's holiday to be taken on Friday of half-term week... the day before the cruise to Castlefield, Manchester. I planned to go up to Lymm early Friday morning and Ange would join me after work courtesy of her son Michael giving her a lift. Alan Savage asked me to take photographs of the ceremonies taking place at Sale commemorating the opening of the Bridgewater Way footpath plus the dedication of a bench and sculpture to the late Billy Bleasedale of Watchouse Cruising Club. The weather was hot and sunny and my plan was to arrive at Lymm early morning, load up the boat, cruise to Agden and take photographs of the ceremonies at Sale before returning to Agden. All went to plan even though I was held-up on the M53 due to an accident.

A busy, sunny Sale for the opening and commemoration ceremonies

Ken Weston... the mayor of Trafford opening the Sale to Stretford section of the Bridgewater Way

The Bill Bleasedale commemorative bench and sculpture in Sale

With the photographs in the bag we returned to Agden for lunch then Alan filled the boat's fuel tank and I did some jobs on the boat before Ange arrived. We had tea and made our way to Sale Cruising Club where we had arranged to catch-up with our friends and arrived there at 09.45 pm and moored alongside one of the member's boats. After mooring we went into Sale CC's club house and for a change I was not the person having the Mickey taken out of. Brent Hindley's son Neil had brought "Harry's Lad" to Sale as his father is unwell. Neil was wearing a pink rip-off "La Coste" polo shirt (bought by his neighbour in Turkey for £10) and was suffering for the sin of being well in touch with his female side... but more of this later. The next morning also dawned hot and sunny and the four of us ("Vive Para Hoy", "Total Eclipse", "Eclipse Number 2" and "Rensol") set off for Castlefield. As we had not done any "social boating" for a while and the canal was relatively quiet, Nigel and I couldn't resist the opportunity to indulge ourselves. We broke our social boating distance record by cruising alongside each other from the A56 road bridge at Stretford, past the marina, around Waters Meeting, all the way to Pomona Lock with only having to lose formation once when we met a boat coming in the opposite direction. Moorings at Castlefield were at a premium due to a large tv screen being constructed adjacent to the YMCA for some football match or other. Accordingly, the boats normally moored there were in the main arm that runs towards Deansgate and decreasing the number of moorings available there.

A busy Castlefield outside the Middle Warehouse

After mooring alongside Nigel and Lisa's "Vive Para Hoy" we had lunch aboard "Eclipse" with the Gilbodies then retired to the Lava Bar for liquid refreshment. Ian Gilbody hatched a plot when in the Lava Bar that evening (Nigel had organised for Lymm CC to virtually take over the bar for the evening with the "Britain's Got Talent" final being shown on their plasma tv) for some of the males in our group hid pink t-shirts beneath our normal attire and when Neil Hindley came in we stripped  down to the t-shirts. Accordingly, Ange and Michelle went into Manchester to purchase said shirts. Whilst Ange was away I took the opportunity to walk around the arms to see if they had changed over the last few years. Below is a selection of some of the photographs taken on my wanderings.

Potato Wharf with Brindley's Cloverleaf Weir on the right

 The remains of Brindley's cloverleaf weir in Potato Wharf

The Beetham Tower dominating the Castlefield skyline with the new sanitary station and water point on the left

I was pleased to see that James Brindley's cloverleaf weir had not been in-filled. This weir carries excess water from the Bridgewater Canal and runs it off into the River Medlock which emerges from its subterranean wanderings at the end of Potato Wharf. The Bridgewater Canal Company had installed a new Sanitary Station and additional water points between the entrances to Giant's and Potato Wharves. Let's hope that these new facilities are not monopolised by live-aboards and the trip boats that operate in this area. When Ange returned we relaxed on the rear deck of "Total Eclipse" before getting ready for the evening ahead. The Lava Bar soon filled up with Lymm CC members and the members of the general public had to sit outside in the open air seating area between the bar and the canal towpath. At a pre-arranged time after Neil arrived we took our shirts off to reveal the pink t-shirts beneath.

Some of Lymm CC's members in the Lava Bar

(Photograph - Paul Durbridge)

Neil Hindley and the Pink T-Shirt Brigade"

(Photograph - Angela Wood) 

It is not often Neil is stuck for words but this was one of those occasions... and we all revelled in it! We went into the car park at the side of the Lava Bar and were receiving admiring looks from someone driving away in a Mazda MX5. Apparently, when I was putting my shirt back on I was also getting glances from the bar man. Hmmmmm! With the final of "Britain's Got Talent" over (the Harry Hill look-alike comedian should have won it), our stomachs full of the excellent pizza they make and a couple of Sambucas downed, we returned to the boat as we had an early start the following morning. For our homeward journey the weather took a turn for the worse. The rain followed us from Manchester all the way to Lymm and it was only when going home, half-way along the M56 that it started to clear up (nothing new there then!).

Before we went to Lake Como I had been contacted by Paul Smith of the Russell Newbury Engine Owners Club who wanted to use one of my photographs on a label for a limited edition run of Russell Newbury cider to be on sale at their annual rally in June at the Boat Museum, Ellesmere Port. The photograph in question was of the Rochdale Canal in Manchester and you may have seen it as the lead photograph in "Canalscape - Book 5". It was taken at dusk opposite Pioneer Wharf, close to Castlefield, on a 5 x 4 plate camera and is one of my favourite canal photographs.

The photograph of the Rochdale Canal in Manchester as used on the Russell Newbury cider label

Paul arranged for me to collect a bottle sporting the special label as well as complimentary tickets to attend the rally. On Saturday morning we were up and out early to collect Ange's granddaughter, call in at the Boat Museum then on to Lymm, where we had to be there before 11.30 am as the roads were being closed due to the Lymm May Queen Carnival (even though it is June!) taking place. We arrived at the Boat Museum, met Ian Compton (Compo... a member of Lymm CC) who tried to find our contact but he had gone on an errand. Best laid plans and all that... so "Plan B" then! Compo was going to collect the bottle and pass it to me at a future date (provided that he doesn't drink it that is!)  After a quick walk around the museum and taking a couple of photographs we left Ellesmere Port and made our way to Lymm.

The Russell Newbury Annual Rally at the Ellesmere Port Boat Museum

We had initially gone to Lymm to pass a tripod to Paul Savage (NB "Adreva") who was borrowing it but it was also the day of the Lymm May Queen Festival Procession. Lymm Cruising Club won the award for the best float in last year's procession and this year's offering looked as though it was in with a good chance as well. We stayed and gave a hand with the float. Ange's granddaughter, Shannon, who had accompanied us was asked to dress up and go on the float and I was asked to take photographs for the Club's archives. A replica narrowboat had been constructed and mounted onto a wagon kindly loaned by Phil Savage's employer... Total Steelwork and Fabrication Ltd. When the finishing touches had been made, the float left the club's yard before lunchtime to take its place in the procession... provided that the overhanging trees in the lane leading to the Club did not demolish any of the decoration that is.

Lymm CC' members in front of the Club's entry into the 2010 Lymm May Queen Festival Procession

The trees in the lane being fended off so that they didn't damage the float before the procession started

Rounding Lymm Cross during the procession

Michelle Gilbody and the gang receiving the award after winning the Best Float Competition

Members stood on top of the float armed with brushes and mops to ward off any foliage incursions. It was a hot, sunny day and after refreshments and assembling next to the United Reform Church in Brookfield Way the procession was under way. There was plenty of good-humoured banter between the members walking alongside the float which added to the carnival atmosphere. All went well and crowds of people lined the route which wound its way past Lymm Cross twice before ending in Pepper Street next to the field. After some well earned refreshments the winning float in the procession was announced and... Lymm CC won it for the second year in succession! Well done Michelle Gilbody and the gang for all the organisation, construction and effort that made it a success.

Thelwall Cutting basking in the brilliant sunshine

The wonderful weather that we had been enjoying continued for another week and I was conscious that the grass on our mooring would need cutting sooner than anticipated. We had not planned on attending the President's Cheese and Wine barbeque at Spike Bridge as Ange's brother was visiting from the Isle of Wight but a last minute change of plans allowed us to drive up to Lymm on the Saturday morning after we had completed our shopping to cut the grass and see Ian Gilbody with details for the fitted kitchen that he was going to fit on "Total Eclipse". After cutting the grass and completing a few jobs we cruised to Thelwall where Ian and Michelle live and walked across the fields to their house which is not far from the canal. We pootled along at just over tick-over enjoying the hot afternoon and I can honestly say that I have never experienced temperatures that hot in this country. It must have been well over ninety degrees. When we moored at Thelwall a strange collection of boats went past us...

The unusual train of boats that passed us at Thelwall

An ex-BW work boat was being pushed by an ex-BW tug which was, in turn, pulling an ex-BW mud flat. We had been invited to Ian and Michelle's for tea and spent the evening with them before returning to the boat. The following morning we were up at 07.00 am and it was most enjoyable sailing in the early morning sunshine before any other boats were stirring. We reached Lymm just before 08.00 and were soon making our way home so that Ange could fulfil her family commitments.

The bottle of cider sporting a label containing one of my canal photographs

Half-way through the next week I took a day off work to catch-up on jobs for the boat. When I arrived there was a bottle of cider with one of my photographs on the label waiting for me on the rear deck courtesy of Compo via Brin Morris (nb "Harmony"), I planned to put a second coat of paint on the roof but, as it was so hot the paint would not have dried to a high-gloss finish  so I had to concentrate on other tasks. An LED reading light was fitted in the front cabin and whilst the electrical tools were out I completed the replacement of the fluorescent lights. The original lights were fitted adjacent to the windows so if they were on whilst the window was open flies and moths would be attracted to them and fly through the open window. The replacement was mounted on a shallow plinth (like the other two previously fitted) and attached to the centre of the ceiling. This meant that I had to drop part of the ceiling in order to conceal the wiring. Easier said than done! This particular ceiling panel was partially supported by the partition adjacent to the cooker and prevented me from gaining access. In the end I drilled the cable hole in the ceiling panel, stripped back the insulation on an old length of 2.5 twin and earth cable and poked the earth conductor through the hole until I could grasp it. The new cable for the light was then attached to it and pulled through. But how does one refit the panel without damaging it? With lots of determination and patience... that's how! As it was so hot I could only work inside the boat for so long and in-between stints I went outside and fitted another length of beading around one of the windows. It was so much easier in the middle of summer than when fitting it in February when the beading was not as pliable. Fine so long as it does not shrink in the colder weather! After putting the tools away and tidying up I stripped the bedding off to take home for washing and removed tools and other items not required on the summer holiday cruise in a few weeks time. With the car loaded and the boat put to bed I headed for home with a three out of three jobs scored. The only thing was that they were not quite the same three I set out to finish!

The following weekend we were due to attend a meeting about the Llangollen Canal trip. The earliest we could reach Lymm was after 9.00 pm. After being given the information we spent the rest of the evening with our friends before retiring to the boat for an early start the following morning when we were due to go to a barbeque at George Gleave's Bridge. After breakfast we prepared for departure but the engine would not start. I suspected that our reoccurring starter motor problem had struck again. Ian Gilbody said that he would tow us to Stockton Heath where he planned to go the the Summer Carnival. We could investigate the problem and get parts from Thorn Marine if necessary. We moored on the Recycle Centre side of the bridge and went to see what was going on. After a look in Thorn Marine we walked into Stockton Heath, had a look around the shops and returned to the boats.  On our return Ian and Phil "Rensol" helped me to remove the steps from our rear deck into the cabin so that I could remove the starter motor for inspection. After removing and taking the back cover off we could see that the back plate and springs holding the brushes in place had corroded as had the saddles holding the brushes in place. The neoprene seal surrounding the rear cover seemed to be misshapen and possibly is how water got in and corroded the offending parts. We had been fighting a losing battle with the calorifier which had been leaking for a while, putting off replacement which would require major surgery to the rear deck supports. Ian suggested that if we cut-up the old calorifier in situ and got a slightly smaller replacement model which would fit in through the aperture, then the surgery would be avoided. Consequently, we measured the existing calorifier and went to price replacements from Thorn Marine. After looking in their "Aquafax" catalogue one was identified that would fit the bill. It was more expensive than we thought (£277) but we had to have one and it was duly ordered. Ian was to collect it for me in the week and I was to take the starter motor to the Auto Electrician in Birkenhead who repaired it last time. Hopefully, we will be able to effect the repairs next weekend. Tea was pizza from Domino's which we all ate on the towpath and sat talking the evening away.

Ange and the Tombola stand

The following morning Ange got roped into running the "Tombola" stand at Thorn Marine, Michelle Gilbody managed the book stand whilst Ian and I took turns on the water bus service in one of Thorn Marine's day-hire boats between London Bridge, Red Lane Bridge Allotments and Lumbrook Underbridge. Afterwards we spent some time at the dog show before returning to the boats and heading for home.  As a teenager in 1967 I was involved in the making of an amateur film  called "Campbell at Coniston" about Donald Campbell's tragic world water speed record on Coniston Water by John Lomax, a friend from Wirral Movie Makers of which I was secretary. Campbell's support boats were two Fairline 19s. One had an inboard engine and the other was outboard powered. Quite often one sees examples of this well proportioned, narrow beam GRP cabin cruiser in varying levels of condition. In fact, we saw one last year on the Lancaster Canal that had been removed from Galgate Marina and was in extremely poor condition... a crying shame really. The example seen below is a recent arrival at Grappenhall on the Bridgewater Canal. This newly restored example and is a credit to the restorer.

The beautifully restored "Fairline Princess" moored at Grappenhall

Michelle and Ian Gilbody on "Eclipse" whilst towing "Total Eclipse"

(Note the rope around the dollies)

During the week my efforts to have the starter motor repaired were in vain. The Auto Electricians in Birkenhead were not able to source the parts so I contacted Thorn Marine who, I was was told, would be able to order an exchange unit and I asked them to order one for me. It was understandable that it would be more expensive (approximately £120.00) than having it repaired locally as it is still under warranty from the Auto Electricians. Whilst I was speaking to Thorn Marine also I learnt from Margaret that we had raised £879.00 at the weekend which was to be shared between Macmillan Cancer Support and the Cheshire Air Ambulance... excellent. The following Saturday we dropped the old starter motor off at Thorn Marine ready to be exchanged for its replacement the following week. Michelle Gilbody had already picked-up the new calorifier and once we all arrived at Lymm Ian cut-up the old one in situ and removed it in two pieces. On initial inspection the leak could not be seen but there was some verdigrease by one of the seams and closer inspection showed there to be a split about an inch long visible by pressing the seam to which it was adjacent. Due to the close proximity of the seam I do not think that it could have been patched successfully in any case. The new one was slightly thinner and taller than the original so it could be fitted without the surgery needed when removing the original in 2008. The fittings on the new cylinder were not the same as the old one and as Nigel Foster had just gone to Thorn Marine we telephoned them and asked for the necessary fittings to be given to him when he arrived. Half an hour later these fittings were on the cylinder which could then be mounted in place and it fitted perfectly with an inch to spare vertically. Even with the extra fittings that Nigel brought there were still a couple of connection problems from the engine to the calorifier coil but, as Phil "Rensol" was also going to Thorn he picked up a couple of correct fittings for us. On his return, the installation was completed and the calorifier filled. There was a small leak where the immersion heater blanking plug was fitted but once the tank was drained, the plug was removed, given a dose of PTFE tape and sealant (even though it did have a neoprene sealing ring on it) all appeared to be well. Unfortunately, we could not try it hot due to not being able to start the engine and that will have to wait until the new starter motor is fitted.

The new calorifier installed and plumbed-in

There was some delay with the starter motor as it had to be assembled specially. When it was ready for collection I took a day off work to go and get it from Thorn Marine then carry on to Lymm to fit it. Once at Lymm the stairs from the rear deck were removed and the motor fitted. When the new alternator was fitted last year a couple of cables were redundant due to alternative connections being utilised. They were isolated and taped up. I undid the "Spirowrap" loom and removed the redundant cables making the installation tidier. When the remainder of the electrical connections were made I turned on the power, ensured that there were no short circuits and gave the starter a quick "jag" just to make sure that everything was in order... which it was. The oil was pumped from the sump, a new filter fitted and fresh oil poured in. The engine was then started and ran for a couple of minutes to fill the oil filter, then stopped and the oil topped-up to the max mark on the dip stick. The engine was restarted and allowed to warm-up so that the thermostat would open allowing water to run through the calorifier coil and heat the water. When I was satisfied that there were no leaks when the water was was hot, the deck boards were replaced and we took the boat up to the winding hole, turned around and went to the Arm to fill the water tank and empty the toilet. Once done, the boat was returned to its mooring we retired to the Golden Fleece for tea before going home. We returned a couple of days later to bring-up the non-perishable food, cut the grass on our mooring, do the last minute jobs and generally clean and tidy up the boat before we leave on the Summer Cruise the following Friday afternoon.

NB "Grasp the Nettle"

The Saturday after we returned from the Summer Cruise to Llangollen we visited Brent Hindley... Angie's "weekend husband" in Wigan Hospice. We then planned to drive up to Lymm do a few odd jobs on the boat and check the fuel tank had enough in it for the Salford Quays/River Irwell trip over the August Bank Holiday Weekend. On our way to Lymm Ian rang to ask if we were going to Middlewich to look on board "Grasp the Nettle"... the Mike Christian narrowboat Phil was interested in buying (see Chapter 3 - Llangollen Fifty Years On). We said that we were and changed our route to meet at Ian's house in Thelwall when we would go in one car. On arrival at Middlewich we bumped into Nigel bringing his boat back from Barbridge and having a lads' weekend (another name for a pub crawl) with a few of his mates. Then down to business and looking at the inside of the boat. After checking over a few points and taking photographs Phil said that he would discuss it with Michelle and make an offer to the owner if they decided to go ahead and buy it. The offer Phil made was not accepted and the boat remained unsold. Even though it needed quite a lot of work and the offer Phil made was a fair one it was obviously not meant to be. This was a shame as Phil had set his heart on it but, you never know what is around the corner!

Our next cruise was to the River Irwell and Salford Quays on the August Bank Holiday Weekend. We finished work early on Friday and drove to Lymm, loaded our things onto the boat and sailed to Sale Cruising Club where we had arranged to meet some of our friends. Just after Altrincham the engine started to make a strange noise that turned out to be a pipe coming off our exhaust (again). Ian and Michelle Gilbody were not far behind us and towed us to Sale where the offending pipe was refitted successfully. Ian had planned to play one of his tricks on Nigel who had not yet arrived. This was about an incident concerning his feet (I will not elaborate) and when he arrived everybody in Sales CC's clubhouse was wearing a face mask and brown socks on their hands. There was also a photograph taken in Ellesmere of him wearing plastic bags on his feet for all to behold. When he entered the clubhouse and was subjected to the humiliation he took it in his stride (pun intended) and promised to return the prank on Ian at some time in the future (watch this space for that one!).

Nigel on arriving at Sale Cruising Club

Everyone masked and socked

The photograph displayed on the bar of Nigel wearing plastic bags on his feet

At the end of the evening we returned to our boats via Sale's floating bridge and the following morning set off for Pomona Lock which we were to arrive at 10.00 to descend into Pomona Dock and the River Irwell. Nigel and I did our social boating thing from Stretford Marina to Trafford Park Football Ground... much to the annoyance of Ian who was following us. On our arrival at Pomona Lock Mike Webb's team were as helpful as ever and locked us down without fuss. When we had locked down we cruised upstream, past Middlewood locks... the newly restored entrance to the Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal (where a stoppage was currently in force) and the Mark Addy pub where some Lymm CC members had already moored. Then into the gorge as far as Hunt's Bank adjacent to the Cathedral. Here we turned around and headed back downstream into the upper reaches of the Manchester Ship Canal to Salford Quays. It was quite windy and the large expanse of water outside the Quays had "white horses" on top of the waves. Ian moored "Eclipse No 2" and we reversed alongside without too much drama even though there was some flotsam present that threatened to block our raw water cooling inlet. Once moored we went into the Lowry to have a look at the shops and have lunch.

The Pomona Boys

"Eclipse" and "Total Eclipse" sharing Pomona Lock

Middlewood Locks... the entrance to the Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal

Newly completed basins on the Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal prior to development construction

NB "Eclipse" winding above Blackfriars Bridge

An aerial photograph of the Lowry area... we were moored on the far right just out of frame

(Photograph - Peel Holdings)

Lymm CC boats moored at Salford Quays

MV "Snowdrop"... our boats can just be seen past its stern in the distance

We returned to the boat after a couple of hours and saw that the Mersey Ferries' "Snowdrop" had moored outside the Lowry after completing a cruise up the canal. We had been invited for tea on board Ian's boat and then we got ready for the theatre. Ange arranged tickets for us to see "Corrie"... a play covering nearly fifty years of "Coronation Street" and we all met Phil "Rensol" and his family in the theatre's foyer. Phil, Michelle and Emily couldn't come by boat due to family commitments and after a quick catch-up we visited the Lowry's bookshop and I was delighted to see "The Big Ditch" on sale. We then took our seats for a most enjoyable evening's entertainment. After the performance we all retired to the Café Rouge across the square the Lowry for a night cap before bidding goodnight to Phil and family then returning to our respective boats. That night we were rocked to sleep by the waves that lapped against the boat's hull but half-way through the night a piece of driftwood was blown against the hull and it kept us awake for a while until the wind blew it around our stern to join the rest of the flotsam.

The Mersey Ferries "Snowdrop" passing our moorings and Lowry Footbridge lifting for her to pass beneath

After a lie-in the next morning the engine sounds of a dredger plus the horn of "Snowdrop" blew away the remnants of sleep as she left her moorings to return down the canal to Liverpool. We all watched the Lowry Footbridge rise-up to allow the ferry boat to pass beneath. No doubt the wind driven rain would ensure that on the return trip the passengers brave enough to go out on deck would be suitably soaked. With breakfast out of the way the shops were revisited and we were impressed by a large piano keyboard as featured in the Tom Hanks film "Big" on the floor where shoppers could play their favourite music with their feet (with a little help from a laptop computer and large screen plasma tv).

The "Big" piano in the Lowry Shopping Centre

On our return to the moorings we had a walk around the various basins and docks. This walk allowed me the opportunity to take new photographs of the area for the next edition of "The Big Ditch" and a forthcoming article on Salford Quays, the Upper Reaches of the Manchester Ship Canal and the River Irwell. Ian and I watched the dredger that had woken us up that morning removing silt from the basin adjacent to the Lowry Footbridge. It turned out to be the "Norma"... a water injection dredger owned by Westminster Dredging. We marvelled at the accuracy of the vessel's manoeuvring guided by GPS before returning to our respective boats. A couple of weeks later I saw the "Norma" at work in Wallasey Pool... the natural inlet from the River Mersey that is lined by Wallasey and Birkenhead Docks (also owned by Peel Ports).

The Westminster Dredgers' "Norma" approaching Lowry Footbridge

Whilst watching the dredger we noticed an odd-looking structure under construction on the opposite bank of the canal downstream of the Lowry Footbridge. This turned out to be a new footbridge linking the new BBC MediaCity Complex on the Salford side of the canal with Trafford Wharfside... the area between the Imperial War Museum North and Manchester Dry Docks. This unique bridge swivels from a new island constructed in the canal to allow passage of craft.

MediaCity Footbridge Under Construction

Wilkinson Eyre Architects were commissioned to develop designs for a unique opening footbridge. The bridge has a dramatic curved form which responds to the radial master plan of the site and which will form an integral part of an orbital pedestrian route around the Canal basin. The steel bridge deck is supported along one edge by a series of stay cables which transfer loads to a distinctive fanned mast. Behind the mast, the deck flares to form an amenable public space above the water which rotates with the bridge as a counterbalance to the main, one hundred metre moveable span across the Manchester Ship Canal. The bridge is due for completion in 2011. Another new footbridge is planned for just downstream of the two Trafford Park Road Bridges. The "Clippers Quay Footbridge" will be part of the Irwell River Park project which is hoped to provide a route from Media City all the way to Manchester Cathedral. This project will provide a walk/cycleway connecting the two points in the city along the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal and River Irwell.

Artist's impression of how the new footbridge will look on completion in 2011

(CGI - Wilkinson Eyre Architects)

Partially completed Media City Footbridge

Artists impression of Clippers Quay Footbridge

That evening Nigel had booked tables for all of the Club in the Pond Quay Oriental Chinese Restaurant (next to the Café Rouge) on the opposite side of the square from the Lowry, for an all you can eat banquet. The crispy duck, ribs and prawn toast were amongst the best I had ever tasted. To help digest the beautiful food we had just eaten we walked to the Quay House pub on the junction of Mariner's Canal and Ontario Basin to complete the evening. By this time the wind had dropped and we had a more peaceful night's sleep than the previous one.

Mariners' Canal in Salford Quays illuminated at night

Salford Bridge... as far as we went before turning around

Castlefield Bridge with Ordsall Manure Wharf on the left

Unusual architecture adjacent to the old Hulme Lock

A surprisingly rural Bridgewater Canal close to Pomona Lock

The boys from Peel Holdings were starting to lock us all back into the Bridgewater Canal at 08.30 the next morning. Not wanting to be caught in a queue of boats Ian and I cruised upstream again and as the weather was better than it was on Saturday I grasped the opportunity to take more photographs of the river. We cruised past the Cathedral... the point where we turned around previously venturing further up the gorge than I had ever been before. Then back to Pomona Lock and the Bridgewater Canal. I do not think that our engine went much above tick-over on the return trip to Lymm as we languished in the hot August sunshine and enjoying a leisurely return cruise. All too soon we were at our moorings, packing our things into the car and making our way home after a really enjoyable and memorable weekend. On our return home I emailed one of the photographs taken over the weekend and a short paragraph of text to "Waterways World" who promised to use it in their regular "On The Cut" feature in the near future.

The photograph of our Salford Quays mooring that I submitted to "Waterways World" for publication

The following weekend the BBC programme "Country Tracks" featured the piece that they produced on the Manchester Ship Canal for "Countryfile" that featured the interviews of myself with John Craven. Unfortunately, whilst editing it for "Country Tracks" they got some of the names of the people interviewed mixed-up and, apparently my name is "Dean Hammond" I work for the Manchester Ship Canal Company (aka Peel Holdings)! I have received numerous comments from friends and peers regarding this situation which I have found embarrassing. Needless to say, I complained to the BBC who apologised and promised to rectify the matter for future transmissions of the programme.

Grappenhall in brilliant sunshine and a threatening sky

One of the things that I look forward to when I retire is being able to take holidays in September ("Shroppie" sounds good to me). I am not allowed to take holidays in this month as it is one of the busiest times of the year in the college where I work due to the enrolment of the new intake of students. Two weeks into the enrolment period we had a cruise to "Spike Bridge" located between Walton and Moore. I was really looking forward to this cruise as I had a really busy week in work and needed to chill out to recharge my batteries. Three days before the cruise I received a rota for Saturday duty at the retail unit in Birkenhead that the College leases and guess who was on for the first stint that Saturday? Correct... yours truly. I do not "spit my dummy" out very often in work but this was one of those occasions. I had known about this cruise for nearly ten months and to be given three days notice that I was working that weekend was just acceptable to me. To cut a long story short I managed to find someone to stand-in for me (to whom I am most grateful) and my sanity (and weekend) had been saved.

Boats from Lymm CC moored at "Spike Bridge"

The weekend promised to be one of mixed weather but this did not deter us and we arrived at Lymm Saturday morning to cruise down to "Spike Bridge" in between the showers which were punctuated by sunny intervals. "Eclipse" and "Rensol" set off before us as I had to empty the loo but we soon caught them up, arrived at our destination and secured good moorings. Phil still hadn't sold "Rensol" and was hoping that the offer he had put on "Grasp the Nettle" would be accepted.


Members surrounding the bonfire after tea

After a bit of Mickey-taking (aimed at me and an incident concerning a letter box from guess who... the Man in a Boat of course) and setting up a rope swing for the children we had tea off the barbecue and the evening was spent chatting around the bonfire that Ian had lit. The evening was over all too soon (as is the way with these occasions) and we retired to "Total Eclipse" and bed. We were moored underneath an oak tree and our sleep was disturbed a couple of times by acorns dropping onto the boat's roof. Still that is the price you have to pay for a mooring sheltered by trees. We were up early the next morning and set-off for Lymm in brilliant sunshine. Just before Stockton Heath I saw a Kingfisher perched on a bush at the side of the canal. Unfortunately, on this occasion I was not able to photograph it and we had passed it before I could remove the camera from its case. Never mind... better luck next time! The sunshine continued and  gave us a perfect end to a weekend that I didn't think was going to happen as planned.

Looking towards "Spike Bridge" from where we were moored (note the overhanging trees)

The evenings are now starting to creep-in (as is the autumn weather) and it was time for our Illuminated Cruise. This year it was to be from Barsbank Underbridge... conveniently close to the Star Inn on the outskirts of Lymm. We arrived at Lymm at lunchtime on Saturday and had arranged to collect four drums of red diesel fuel, a bottle of Calor Gas and a bag of coal from Alan at Agden. We started the boat's engine, were virtually blown up to the Agden moorings by the wind and once the fuel tank was topped-up and the gas and coal stowed away we returned to our moorings at Lymm. Once safely moored we had lunch in the Golden Fleece and caught-up on the latest news with our friends. When we returned to the boat the wind had dropped  so we strung rope lights from the roof hand rails of "Total Eclipse", turned on the inverter and checked that the lights were working before switching the lights off and setting off for Barsbank Underbridge.

A nocturnal photograph of Barsbank Underbridge as seen from below

The rope lights on the roof of "Total Eclipse" as we cruised back to Lymm in the moonlight

After some liquid refreshment and sandwiches in the Star with our fellow Lymm CC members we returned to our boats, turned on the lights and took our place in the convoy to cruise back to Lymm on a very pleasant moonlit night. Once on our moorings we retired to the Clubhouse for a well earned bowl of soup and rolls washed down by some more liquid refreshment. There were twenty one illuminated boats taking part on the cruise which I think must be a record for yet another successful event organised by our Commodore... Nigel Foster.

The photograph and text as published in the November 2010's edition of "Waterways World"

We did not go up to Lymm for a few weeks after the Illuminated Cruise due to family commitments but I had booked the Boat Safety Examiner for the end of October when our certificate ran out. I only knew of a couple of items that might need attention such as lagging the exhaust pipe in the engine compartment and checking the gas locker drain pipe which was corroded. But, as is the way with these things there will, no doubt be other points that need attention! In the meantime, November's "Waterways World" arrived through the letterbox and I was pleased to see the Salford Quays photograph published along with a short paragraph of text. The added bonus was that I was to receive fifty pounds for the pleasure of seeing my work in print. I planned to use the money for timber to start the boxing-in of below the hand rail on the rear deck. I also wanted to purchase a heat gun and roller for repairing the rear canopy with the PVC material (the same as the canopy's) removed from below the hand rail.

Moored boats from Lymm CC near to the Bay Malton

The next to last cruise in the 2010 season was a short trip to the Bay Malton near Altrincham. Once moored we shared a cup of coffee with our friends from NBs "Eclipse" and "Rensol" before catching the number thirteen bus to the shops in Altrincham. We spent a pleasant couple of hours around the shops and market, but the crowning glory had to be seeing "The Duke's Cut" on sale in Waterstones. Michelle Anderton took my photograph in Waterstones before we caught the bus back to the Bay Malton where we had a table booked for a meal.

Yours Truly with "The Duke's Cut" in Waterstones, Altrincham

(Photograph - Michelle Anderton)

Our gang after visiting the shops and market in Altrincham

This was the first time we had visited the Bay Malton since it had changed from a conventional pub to a Thai cuisine restaurant and the meal did not disappoint either. We retired to the games room after we had eaten and spent the rest of the evening in good company with fellow Lymm CC members before returning to our boats at chucking out time. We had to be home early in the morning as Ange had family commitments. I set the alarm for six thirty and when I got up the next morning we were shrouded in mist. After starting the boat's engine we crept past the moored boats on tick-over so as not to disturb anyone (sorry if we did). This is a magical time to cruise and the boat cut through the mist beneath a clear sky that promised to be a beautiful autumn day. When the sun started to show itself it illuminated the mist and I could not resist capturing various locations. Please indulge me whilst I share some of the photographs that I took with you.

Approaching Dunham Massey

Sunlit mist at Agden

Misty reflection at Oughtrington

Misty mooring at Lymm

All too soon we were tying up at our moorings and making our way home. I was really surprised to discover ice on the car's windscreen as it did not feel cold enough for it. I planned to return to Lymm the next day in order to prepare for our Boat Safety Certificate examination on the following Saturday. We had booked Graham Thornton on Alan Savage's recommendation as our previous examiner... John Taylor had sadly died. I called at Thorn Marine on the way for a few bits and as the sun was shining I made a quick excursion to Thelwall Ferry to up-date my photographs in "The Big Ditch".

Thelwall Ferryboat on the Manchester Ship Canal

Thelwall Ferry showing both landing stages

I called into Lymm Village for food and I was soon lagging the exhaust pipe between the manifold and the point that water is admitted... the 180˚ bend was really difficult but I managed it in the end. I repaired the drain pipe from the gas bottle locker and after finishing in the engine compartment I checked the boat from one end to the other then gave it a quick clean in preparation for the Boat Safety Certificate examiner's visit. The day of the B.S.C. was also the Closing Cruise Dance followed the next day by the Closing Cruise itself. I went up to Lymm alone as Ange was unwell with a chest infection and after lighting the fridge and starting the engine for a while I walked down the moorings to meet Graham Thornton.

Graham Thornton whilst making the Boat Safety Certificate examination on "Total Eclipse"

Graham made a thorough inspection of the engine, electrical, and gas systems and after two hours gave "Total Eclipse" a clean bill of health and presented me with the new Boat Safety Certificate. Graham made a few suggestions regarding an extra fuse in the battery compartment, a safety strap on the engine sump pump and relocating the fire blanket and I was soon bidding him farewell. With Ange not being well we did not attend the Closing Cruise Dance or the Closing Cruise itself and everyone I spoke to hoped that Ange would recover soon. The end of the cruising season sees the start of the social events. I don't know where 2010, my fiftieth year of canal cruising, has gone to... it has passed so quickly. Well they say that time flies when your having fun and we most certainly have had our fair share of fun this year!

Ange, Brent and the BBC North West Tonight crew at Lymm CC in August 2007

The next weekend we were extremely saddened to hear about Brent Hindley's death (to whom "Canalscape Book 6" is dedicated). He had passed away at Wigan and Leigh Hospice having lost his fight against cancer. It came as no surprise to us as we had known about his illness for just under two years... in fact we heard about Brent's illness in the same telephone call that we learnt about Tony Whalley's death. I had a special affinity with Brent as we were the same age... both of us were born in 1951, a few months apart. But even so, no matter how much you have prepared for the inevitable, it still takes you by surprise and attacks your emotions when they are most vulnerable.  Brent had jokingly christened Ange his "Weekend Wife" after being on BBC Television's Northwest Tonight programme which was transmitted from Lymm CC. During the interview Ange and Brent were introduced as a couple from Wigan. Ange was not able to correct the interviewer as, unusually for Ange, she couldn't get a word in. Many of Brent's and Ange's friends who had seen the programme ribbed them about it afterwards asking Brent if he was with Christine to which he replied in his broad Wigan accent "Noor... thart wus ma weekend waf!" (I can just hear him saying it in my mind... it makes me smile to remember him saying those words). Ange got similar questions asking her if that was Cyril she was with on the television and she replied saying "No, that's Brent... my weekend husband!" And the joke has stuck ever since. In an effort to come to terms with Brent's death we went to Liverpool for some retail therapy. We travelled there on the Mersey Ferry with Ange's granddaughter... Shannon. It was Shannon's first time on a Mersey Ferry and the boat that transported us across the river was none other than "Snowdrop", which had passed us when we were on board "Total Eclipse", moored at Salford Quays a few weeks previously.

The Mersey Ferryboat "Snowdrop" approaching Seacombe Ferry

When we reached Liverpool I took the opportunity to see if any of my photographs of the Liverpool Docks Link needed up-dating. The area that I was especially interested in was the amphitheatre between the new Liverpool Museum and the Mann Island development. Unfortunately the area was still out of bounds due to construction work but should be accessible in the not too distant future. However, I did manage to take a reasonable photograph of the tail of the lock that leads down to Canning Basin.

The Liverpool Link at the Pier Head looking like glass

The tail of Canning Lock with Liverpool Museum in the background

Canning Basin with the lightship "Planet" on the right

It was not possible to take a photograph from this viewpoint previously due to a moored boat obscuring the view. After the visit to the Liverpool One Shopping Centre (and specifically the Disney Shop) we had lunch (MacDonald's Happy Meal for Shannon and a "Hog Roast" for Ange and myself) then made our way back to the ferry for the return trip across the Mersey. The ferry boat cruised downstream as far as New Brighton before turning around and headed upstream for Seacombe Ferry. On the way we were amused by many small boats anchored in the river with fishermen (and no doubt women) on board taking part in a fishing match... and not a raised roach pole in sight! To their annoyance two jet skiers were playing "tick" with the Mersey Pilot Vessel "Petrel" as it overtook "Snowdrop".

Fishing contest on the River Mersey and not a roach pole (or a scowl) in sight!

The Mersey Pilot Vessel "Petrel" overtaking "Snowdrop"...

... followed shortly afterwards by a jet skier...

... who went on to play "tick" with the "Petrel"

And we thought that we had problems being overtaken on the canals! I have to say that I would have had no qualms about taking "Total Eclipse" on the Mersey when it is like this... no swell, no wind and no waves except for the wash from other craft. I was born at 30 Egremont Promenade, Wallasey (which we passed) where I lived until 1982. One of my favourite childhood pastimes was watching and identifying ships on the river. Consequently, I have seen the river in all its moods with waves twenty plus feet high breaking over the promenade and reaching the bottom of our garden... a far cry from how it was today.

30 Egremont Promenade, Wallasey (arrowed)... my parents' house, where I was born and lived in until 1982

The 13th November saw Lymm CC's Annual Laying-up Dinner Dance at the Cresta Court Hotel in Altrincham. We had booked a room at the hotel so that we could have a drink and wouldn't have to face the long drive home in the early hours. Our table was populated by the usual suspects from NBs "Rensol" and "Eclipse". I was reminded of a happening at home concerning our letterbox that Ange had related to our friends a few weeks earlier (that is all I will elaborate on this story).  Behind my place setting was a letterbox suitably inscribed. Needless to say Ian ("Squirrel... you know that you can tell me anything and it'll go no further") Gilbody was the instigator of the letterbox presentation and I was frequently reminded of it throughout the evening. Ange, ever the celebrity spotter, met actor Andy Devine better known as Emmerdale's Shadrach Dingle in the hotel's lounge whilst on her way outside for a cigarette. When Ange said that she hadn't seen him lately he replied... "I'm dead love!"

The letterbox flap adorning my place setting

More letterboxes were in evidence as the evening progressed

Lymm CC members performing the "Half Monty"

The club's Chairman (John "Rosie" Melling) reflected upon the year and presented the various trophies won by Club members. Of special interest to me was the Photographic Competition in which I won the General Photograph Category with an image of Bellagio taken on our Lake Como trip. I was presented with a beautiful book entitled "Photos That Changed the World". This book contained photographs by many of my favourite photographers such as Lewis Hine, Dorothea Lange, Diane Arbus and Robert Capa to name but a few. Alas, none by Edward Weston or Ansell Adams who, even though they produced magnificent landscape photographs and contributed towards the development (sic) of photography, they hardly changed the World! The rest of the evening was most enjoyable with an excellent speaker relating stories of the Royal Yacht "Britannia" on which he served, a sumptuous meal and good entertainment followed by the inevitable dancing (except for Ian "The Wallflower" Gilbody) although our table (as usual) was most probably the noisiest and (I blame Phil for this one) the naughtiest!

My winning entry in the General Category of the Photographic Competition... "Bellagio Steps"

I had another photographic success in the week after the Annual Dinner Dance. One of my photographs was accepted by Granada TV as the weather photograph. As soon as the photograph had been shown the phone started to ring from friends who had seen it saying how much they enjoyed seeing it. The next day I received emails from colleagues saying much the same thing. The photograph used was one I had taken the previous week on my way to work of the sun rising over the River Mersey at Eastham. Fred Talbot... the Granada Television Weather Man announced that the photograph was "Sunset at Eastham" but I will forgive him this little "cosmopolitan" (Phil will know what I mean) error!

A screen shot of the Granada Weather Forecast...

... and the photograph itself entitled Sunrise over the River Mersey

Early in December was Lymm CC's Children's Christmas Party. Party games and food were served by an army of helpers who ensured that everyone was kept entertained and fed. Traditionally, the guest of honour leaves his sleigh and reindeer on the carpark in Lymm village and arrives by illuminated narrowboat. But, due to the canal being frozen he arrived by car and emerged from a specially constructed marquee to present the children with an early present.

The Christmas Party in full swing

Santa giving the children an early Christmas present... notice the naughty snowman on the left

He was assisted by a helper and accompanied by a naughty snowman whose antics were (for me anyway) the highlight of the party and "eclipsed" even Santa himself! He threw "snowballs" at the children and squirted them with imitation snow from a gun before being asked to leave by Santa in disgrace. The party was a great success thanks to the hard work of Michelle Gilbody and her army of helpers who kept everyone in order (except for the aforementioned snowman)... and what's more, nobody was sick!

The following weekend was the turn of the Adults to have their Christmas Party. We had planned to drive to Lymm at midday on Saturday, light the fire on the boat, retire to the Golden Fleece for lunch whilst the boat heated up then get ready for the Christmas Party before returning home the next morning after sleeping on board. The best laid plans of mice and men... heavy snowfall and Met Office warnings discouraging non-essential travel meant that we would be staying at home for most of the weekend. In fact our car didn't turn a wheel from coming home from work on Friday evening until returning to work on the Monday morning.

Outside our home in Wallasey after just an hour's snow fall

Christmas is a triple celebration for me. First there is Christmas, then my birthday on the 28th followed by New Year a couple of days later. Ange had organised a surprise party for my birthday and invited some of our friends from Lymm CC... the Gilbodies off nb "Eclipse No 2" and the Andertons off nb "Rensol". We spent a very pleasant afternoon together, made all the more enjoyable by the fact that due to living so far away we do not have many visitors from Lymm CC. On New Year's Eve we drove to Lymm and after I had dropped-off Ange at our friends Ian and Michelle Gilbody's house at Thelwall. I went to the Boat Club to light the solid fuel fire on "Total Eclipse" and put the batteries on charge.

"Total Eclipse" on its moorings at Lymm surrounded by ice

A cow walking on the frozen Bridgewater Canal at Daresbury

(Photograph - Tina Moorhouse - Warrington Guardian)

There was still ice on the canal and it didn't look as if there had been any boat movements since the middle of December. In fact, the whole length of the Bridgewater Canal was ice-bound and a photograph in the 30th December issue of the Warrington Guardian showed a cow walking on the frozen canal at Daresbury! When the fire had settled down I went back to our friend's house for tea and to collect Ange, returning to the boat a little later to get changed for the New Year's Party. As usual we had a good time and we staggered along the moorings to "Total Eclipse" at 2.30 am with our stomachs aching after laughing all night.

And so my fiftieth year of canal boating has now come to an end. It has been an eventful year... we had been to Lake Como, revisited the Llangollen Canal as well as enjoying cruises to many of our regular haunts. The year had not been without its negatives though. We had lost a good friend to cancer... Brent Hindley who we will miss dearly. The rise in fuel duty for red diesel as well as mooring and licence fees going up leaves a nasty taste in one's mouth (and a hole in one's wallet). Just like the motorist boaters, are prime targets for generating money for the Government and we don't always feel that we get value for money for these rises... especially when there are no justifiable reasons for the rise (like red diesel being a lot cheaper to produce than petrol but is more expensive to buy)!

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Chapter 2 - Italy Again

Based on the success of our trip to Lake Garda in October 2008, Lymm CC's Treasurer... Beryl Moult arranged another holiday trip to Italy for May 2010, this time to Lake Como. In the days leading up to the holiday (as well as a General Election) a volcano in Iceland was erupting and the ash clouds from it were playing havoc with air travel. There was a contingency plan to go by coach if our flight was cancelled and there were many comments both at work and at the boat club that if this fell through we could always rope our narrowboats together and do a Terry Darlington! I don't know if the Bridgewater Canal's reciprocal licence arrangement would stretch that far though!

Our luggage about to be loaded on the plane that was to take us to Italy

Our holiday really started on Tuesday the 18th of May 2010. I didn't finish work until lunchtime although Ange had been off work since the previous Friday. After a quick lunch we loaded our luggage into the car and headed for Lymm. We planned to have tea in the Golden Fleece and sleep on the boat ready for the 6.30 am pick-up the following morning. There were eleven couples from Lymm CC going on the trip to Como and after the jibes about the size of our suitcase weighing down the aircraft we were soon flying out of Manchester Airport's Terminal Three on our way to Milan's Malpensa Airport. We kept ourselves amused with our books and MP3 players for duration of the two and a half hour flight which landed on time and after the complicated route through customs and baggage reclaim we were met by a representative from the travel company who ushered us to our coach. We wound our way through the mountainous countryside and soon we had our first view of Lake Como from the hills above the town that gets its name from the lake that is the second largest in Italy. The road that hugs the shores of the lake lead us through the numerous villages to Cadenabbia... half-way down the lake where our hotel... the Britannia Excelsior is located. After eventually finding and unpacking our case we freshened up, had dinner, looked around the hotel then went for a  drink in the café bar in the basement of the hotel. Unfortunately, entertainment had been laid on in the shape of a keyboard player who wasn't very good and whose microphone was extremely prone to acoustic feedback so we retired to the roof terrace where our ears were safe from audio pollution. As was previously mentioned, I had a predilection for Sambuca (I blame Ian Gilbody - nb "Eclipse Number 2" for that one!) which was available at the hotel and I started a tradition of having one each evening after dinner. Much better than beer and lager which I despise.

A small breakwater that protects one of the many boathouses that line the banks of Lake Como

Thursday the 20th May we spent the morning at the lakeside lido attached to our hotel and after lunch we bought a rover ticket for the ferries that criss-crossed the lake and went to Bellagio... a village directly opposite our hotel and on the promontory that divides the east and west arms of the lake. We boarded the ferry and once under way we admired the views of the lake and surrounding landscapes afforded to us from this floating viewpoint. Lake Como is basically in the shape of an upside down "Y". The lower south west arm has the town of Como at the end of it, the lower south east has Milan at the end and the Italian Alps are at the upper northern-most tip. Where the two southern arms meet I took a panoramic photograph from the ferry of the centre of the lake which consists of three digital images "stitched" together.

A panoramic photograph from three images "stitched" together showing the confluence of the two southern arms of Lake Como

A photogenic alleyway in Bellagio

After looking in the shops and stalls that line the road from the ferry we had a drink in one of the lakeside bars. We returned to the hotel, showered and changed and after dinner we all met on the roof terrace for cocktails. We thought it best to have an early night as we were due to go on an excursion on board the Berlina Express... a three foot gauge railway that crosses the Alps from Poschiavo to St Moritz (

The lakeside Lido attached to our hotel

Bellagio with the Italian Alps in the background

We had an early breakfast as the coach picked us up at 8.30 am on Friday morning (21st May). The coach wound along the shores of the lake to the northern end and then through valleys towards Poschiavo  where, after coffee and cake we made our way to the station to wait for the train. Whilst we waited Keith Moore and I had a look around the sidings and engine sheds taking photographs of the interesting rolling stock and locomotives which included a classic wooden-bodied locomotive.

The interesting railway station at Poschiavo

Once on board the train we started to climb through the mountain passes around which the landscapes and views were truly stunning. I hung out of the railway carriage's window taking photographs and all too soon we arrived at St Moritz. On arrival at St Moritz we walked from the station to a tunnel that lead to lifts and escalators which would raise us up the the level of the town. The lift was very unusual as it was actually a funicular railway. Once at the top we headed into the town itself. There is not much I can I say about St Moritz except that "it was closed!" We eventually found a bar and all of us piled in and ordered coffees and beers which were delivered by a waitress that possessed absolutely no interpersonal or customer service skills what so ever. Needless to say we didn't leave a tip! After a disappointing visit (except for seeing the biggest and most expensive - €485 Victorinox Swiss Army Knife I have ever seen, complete with 58 functions!) we returned to the railway station where our coach had made its way down the mountains to Cagliari... a small town in the Italian Also. Here we sampled ice cream and drinks and we were made much more welcome than at St Moritz. Before long it was time for the coach to return us to Como after an exhausting day that we were to remember for a long time to come.

Stunning views of the valley below as the train began to climb

The train doubled-back on itself many times as it climbed

In one of the summit valleys the water in the lake was an unusual cyan colour

Once at the summit the train began to descend

Nearly all of us at a cafe-bar in St Moritz

(My hat appears twice... I wonder why that might be?)

The €485 Victorinox Swiss Army Knife seen in a shop window in St Moritz

Every Saturday morning there is a market in Como town itself. After breakfast we boarded the C10 bus which picked us up outside the hotel and deposited us on the quayside at Como. We walked through the town following the railway track that runs along the central reservation of the streets and eventually came upon the market. After the market we walked through the shopping streets and came across a model shop where pride of place in the window was a remote control scale model of a Riva Aquarama... the Rolls Royce of speedboats ( with the real thing costing up to €500000. I had first seen one of these beautiful varnished mahogany craft on Lake Garda (see Canalscape Book 5 - Chapter Three) but they are built on the banks of Lake Como and  spread throughout the world from there. But getting back to the model boat... the price tag of €550 was in the Rolls Royce class as well!

A Riva Aquarama speedboat in action

After lunch in one of the outside café/bars we made our way back to the quayside and boarded the ferry to Cadenabbia. Lymm CC had virtually the whole of the bow seating area until a couple of Italians, who insisted on talking very loudly on their mobile phones, gate crashed! The trip back to Cadenabbia offered many photographic opportunities and whetted our appetites for some of the places to try and visit before we went home.

This panoramic photograph aboard the ferry from Como is really two digital images "stitched" together

An unusual boat lift for dry-docking boats in Como

The hotel's Lido was our first stop after breakfast the next day (Sunday 23rd). We read our books in the warm morning sunshine then, after lunch, we purchased a ferry rover ticket and went to Menaggio. Once we reached Menaggio we looked around the shops and had a drink before returning to our hotel via Varenna. It was Keith Moore's birthday and when we had finished our dinner we used our lake rover tickets to go to Bellagio. We were the only people on board the car ferry and Ange suggested that there was enough space to have a line dance. After a quick burst of line dancing Guy Burden and Ange waltzed across the car deck and we were soon docking at Bellagio. We found a bar and had an enjoyable, if not expensive, drink in a beautiful location that made the expense worth while. Lisa, On our return we learned of an accident involving one of the members of our group... Olwen from NB "Whistler" who fell in the shower and broke a bone in her pelvis. We were later to learn that she would not be returning home with us but in an air ambulance with her husband Gordon a few days later.

Ange and Guy dancing on the deserted car deck of the ferry to Bellagio

The Bellagio Ferry Terminal at night

After spending the morning at the Lido, Nigel, Lisa, Ange and and I bought lake rover tickets the following day (Monday 24th) as well. We made a return trip to Menaggio to look at the speedboats that could be hired from there. We planned to hire a speedboat the following day and split the cost between us. We had our sights on an seven seat GRP speedboat fitted with a forty horsepower outboard motor. They also had a pair of Riva Aquaramas for hire but they were much more expensive so we booked the GRP one for the following afternoon. After booking the speedboat we had a drink in the outside café/bar we had visited previously. I had noticed another model Aquarama in a shop up the road but this time it was a plastic one which should be considerably cheaper than the wooden one seen in Como. It was, but at €65 I still could not justify the cost.

Nigel admiring the model Riva Aquarama (€65)

We caught the "Noddy Train"... a road-going tractor pulling two passenger cars back to the hotel. On the way out of Menaggio the "Noddy Train" came to a stop on a hill with a blind bend. At first we thought that it was "Oi-oi-oi-oil on the road" (Tourette's joke) but the lady driver announced on the intercom that she had called a taxi to take us back to our hotel. Ange arranged for us to have free tickets for tomorrow as well. In the meantime, a taxi arrived. I don't much like taxis as their drivers show no regard for the Highway Code or other road users (much like other "professional" drivers) but this one was not too bad and we were soon walking into our hotel for a shower before dinner.  After dinner we all made our way up to the roof terrace and it was here that John "Frugal" and myself had a most enjoyable discussion with Peter Corbett (Sooty) about different engine designs. This was carrying on from a similar discussion we had previously had in Lake Garda where John and myself deluged poor Peter (who was sandwiched between us and could not escape) with anorak information about the pros and cons of the four stroke engine versus the two stroke with the six stroke thrown in for good measure. Peter promised to accompany us to the Anson Engine Museum which I am sure that he would enjoy very much.

The "Noddy Train" at Menaggio

The last day of our holiday (Tuesday 25th) started off with Nigel, Lisa, Ange and myself catching the "Noddy Train" to Lenno, a village located on a bay we had not yet visited but looked interesting when we passed it on the ferry from Como. When we arrived we were pleased to discover that there was a market taking place which would give us the opportunity to pick-up some presents to take home. It was a most picturesque location and the market threaded its way through the village to the lakeside promenade along which it stretched for about a mile. We stopped at a lakeside café for a Coca Cola and saw a Golden Labrador dog getting into a rowing boat and sitting on a round seat protected from the brilliant sunlight by a parasol. Once the boat was rowed out into the lake the dog jumped into the water, captured a tow rope in its and pulled the boat to shore. Once at the jetty he pulled on a mooring rope bringing the boat to its mooring. Now there's an idea!

The Golden Labrador who is an expert boat tower and moorer... but I bet he can't tie a clove hitch!

After watching the dog's party piece and finishing our drinks we made our way back to the pick-up point for the "Noddy Train" to return to the hotel. A quick lunch and freshen-up and we were catching the "Noddy Train" to Menaggio and our speed boat trip. The crew comprised of Nigel, his father-in-law John Moult, Ange and myself. After the administrative and financial arrangements were completed we were given a briefing before being allowed out on the lake. Nigel was first at the helm and even though the boat "only" had forty horsepower we were impressed by the performance it offered. The lake could be crossed between Cadenabbia and Bellagio in just over five minutes... fifteen minutes less than the ferry! Ange surprised us all when Nigel handed the helm to her... I was just about to take a photograph of her when she opened the throttle wide causing the boat to immediately surge forward and me to grab for the handrail . The expression on my face, so I am told, had to be seen to be believed! I was up next and I took the boat past Lenno and around L'Isola Comacina. Needless to say I was less adventurous with the throttle (which allowed Ange and Nigel to have a cigarette) and actually adhered to the 10 kph speed limit around the back of the island which is just as well as there was a police boat moored in the straits between the island and the lake side. John has driven speedboats before and it showed in his mastery of the boat. When we were in the stretch of water past Bellagio the wind from the eastern leg of the lake whipped up quite a swell and we took it easy crossing back to Menaggio. Our two hours on the speedboat were over all too quickly and before long we were  making our way back onto the pier that we picked the boat up from. I think that we should receive "points" for cruising on Lake Como... even though it was not an official Club Cruise... but I'm not holding my breath!

Where's your hand Nigel?

Ange at the helm

its a little bit faster than "Total Eclipse"

John picked up a hitch-hiker (or should that be splish-splasher)

A "cracking" photograph (Nigel joke) of the intrepid crew returning to Menaggio

(Photograph - AC Boat Rental)

Once back on dry land we made our way to the nearest bar for liquid refreshment and caught the "Noddy Train" back to Cadenabbia (no "Oi, oi, oi, oil on the road this time!") and our last dinner in the hotel. Nigel had arranged for us to have a dining room to ourselves and, even though we did have a couple of gate crashers, a presentation of a painting was made to Beryl for arranging yet another successful holiday. Beautiful location, good food, excellent hotel, good company and wonderful weather. What else could we ask for? it was a most enjoyable meal.  Afterwards we all made our way up to the roof terrace (where the missing floor tile had been replaced) for a last drink before retiring to our rooms to pack our cases ready for the trip back home the next morning.

Beryl Moult... the trip organiser and the painting presented to her

Members of Lymm CC on the roof terrace of our hotel

It was a sad group who assembled the next morning. Eleven couples arrived and ten were returning home. We said fair well to our fellow members (or at least to Gordon as Olwen was in bed) and hoped that they would be following us home in the not too distant future. We boarded our coach and headed for Milan's Malpensa Airport.  There was a little confusion surrounding our luggage but we were soon being pushed back in our seats as the aircraft accelerated along the runway, into the air and heading for England and home. Once we had landed it did not take long to pass through Arrivals at Manchester's Terminal Three. The minibus arrived and returned us safely to Lymm where we all went our separate ways... until the next time! Until then I will leave you with one of my favourite photographs of the lake... one of the small breakwaters that protect the numerous boathouses that line the lake.

Sunset over Lake Como

We really enjoyed our second trip to Italy. Lake Como is more beautiful than Lake Garda due in part to the winding nature of the lake and the diversity of the villages that line its banks. We would like to return one day and maybe even hire a Riva Aquarama to explore it in!

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Chapter 3 - Llangollen Canal Fifty Years on

Lymm Cruising Club's Summer Cruise for 2010 was to be along the Llangollen Canal. It was five years since we had last cruised along one of the most popular and beautiful waterways in Great Britain and this year would be fifty years since I first cruised along it in Dean's Pleasure Boats "Kathleen" which my parents had hired in 1960. I knew of a few changes since we last cruised it such as the establishment of a new marina at Swanley and the replacement of the old United Dairies cheese factory at Ellesmere with a brand new Tesco supermarket but there were bound to be other changes along the route of the canal. I also noticed in the aerial photograph of the Ellesmere Arm below that the derelict workshops and warehouses adjacent to the Shropshire Union Canal and Railway warehouse have disappeared as have the two houses half way along the arm. In the photograph below the development is not yet completed and it will be interesting to see what impact it has had on the town.

An aerial view of Ellesmere Wharf showing the new Tesco development in the foreground

(Photograph - Ken Done, Shropshire Star)

The weeks leading up to the holiday had been fraught with starter motor and calorifier problems as documented earlier in Canalography 2010 and we were hoping that we would not have to lift the rear deck boards except for checking oil and water levels plus the inevitable forays down the weed hatch. Our hopes were in vain for, we arrived at Lymm on Friday30th July in the afternoon for the holiday cruise and when I started the engine to bring the boat down to the clubhouse to load our clothes, etc on board the engine's exhaust was very noisy and the engine compartment filled up with exhaust smoke. On inspection a piece of threaded steel pipe (a barrel nipple) in the wet exhaust system had rusted through allowing the exhaust gasses to exit adjacent to the engine and spray cooling water all over the engine as well. Well, they say that everything comes in threes. I removed the pipework from the manifold to the flexible exhaust hose and started to disassemble it.

Nigel, me (with the sickly smile) and Ian in the workshop working on my exhaust

(Photograph - Angela Wood)

The next morning Ian Gilbody arrived and we both tried to crack one particular joint that was proving troublesome. In the end I ran Ian to his house to fetch a Stilson wrench and to purchase the piece of pipe required. Thorn Marine did not have the part and neither did Midland Chandlers at Preston Brook although Ian made one up using three separate fittings. On our return to Lymm, Nigel Foster had already separated the offending joint and we reassembled the pipework with the new part. When it was installed it worked perfectly although one of the adjacent flexible pipes was showing signs of distress and I planned to buy a length from Thorn Marine as we passed. We eventually left Lymm late morning and had an uneventful cruise to Anderton, stopping briefly at Thorn Marine for the aforementioned length of pipe.

Nigel stripped and in his engine compartment tightening the engine mounts

There were four boats from Lymm CC moored together at Anderton... "Eclipse No 2", "Rensol", "Total Eclipse" and "Vive Para Hoy". Nigel was having problems with his engine which turned out to be loose engine mounts and after a joint effort between Ian and Nigel the problem was resolved. After tea we all sat around on the towpath and Ange brought a tray of cocktails for everyone to sample. They went down well (especially the Sambuca)  and this was to be the first of many such towpath samplings.

Unusual lighting effects at Anderton

The following morning we set off early and after a visit to the sanitary station we cruised through the sunshine towards Middlewich along one of my favourite lengths of canal. We all had walkie-talkie radios and they were to be invaluable in advising other members of our group of on-coming boats, especially at blind bends and bridge holes. At Croxton Flash we waved and said hello to Peter the Whittler who lives on two GRP cruisers hidden in the reeds. We had missed the hire boat turn around day and did not expect too many hold-ups but even so, there were quite a few boats in front of us in the queue for the locks.

"Total Eclipse" and "Vive Para Hoy" in Middlewich's Big Lock

Nigel taking advantage of the lock-side pub at Big Lock

At Big Lock we shared the lock with Nigel's boat and, as anticipated, he took advantage of the fact that there is a pub adjacent to the lock (even though it was midday). Ange took the boat through the locks whilst I worked them and took photographs at the same time. I was especially impressed with the way Ange negotiated the 90˚ turn between the second and third narrow locks... I couldn't have done it better myself!

Ange steering "Total Eclipse" perfectly into the third narrow lock

After leaving Middlewich Locks behind we turned right onto the Middlewich Arm of the Shroppie. This stretch of canal is always heavy going for "Total Eclipse" with her 2ft 6ins draught at the stern. The shallowness of this waterway means that 2mph is difficult to attain... let alone 4mph and when passing through bridge holes the boat almost comes to a standstill due to the current of water passing through them in the opposite direction. This is especially noticeable near locks when the bottom paddles have been drawn causing an increase in the current. We were due to meet other members of Lymm CC at Barbridge where a table for all of us had been booked at the Jolly Tar opposite the junction. The food was good even if the customer service a little lacking. Phil "Rensol" set off early the next morning to avoid the queues at Hurleston Locks. Before we set off I had suggested that we moored temporarily before the junction to have a look at Hurleston Reservoir before we turned into the Llangollen Canal.

The graceful bridge spanning the entrance to the Middlewich Arm at Barbridge

The narrows at Barbridge that was once spanned by a "drive-through" warehouse

The main line of the Shroppie as seen from the top of Hurleston Reservoir embankment

A panoramic photograph of Hurleston Reservoir... actually three images stitched together 

There was enough water for us to moor but the bank was overgrown and necessitated the use of the gang plank to reach the bank. Ange and I were the only members of our group who had seen the reservoir from the Shroppie side and it was an experience for the rest of our group to scrabble up the embankment which was rewarded with a spectacular view the reservoir and take in the size of this usually unseen expanse of water from an elevated viewpoint.


Looking up the flight of locks at Hurleston

On our return to the boats we cast off, made our way to the junction and joined the queue of boats waiting to ascent the locks that mark the start of the Llangollen Canal. After lifting the fenders we were soon in the bottom lock. Linda the lock keeper checked our licence and chatted to us as she was controlling the boats leaving and entering the locks to minimise water wastage.

Where we moored for Snugbury's Ice Cream Farm and the direction sign on the right (ten minutes walk... I think not!)

We had contacted Phil "Rensol" by walkie talkie and told him to wait above bridge 3 where we had agreed to moor for a visit to Snugbury's Ice Cream Farm which is a short distance away. Ange and I had visited Snugbury's by car on many occasions and even though we had seen the canalside signs on previous trips along the canal this was to be the first time we had visited the ice cream farm from the towpath. The walk to Snugbury's turned out to be along paths that skirted around fields that were challenging to Lisa's wheelchair to say the least (especially the stiles). When the terrain became too difficult for wheels the chair was picked up and carried bodily until smoother ground was reached.

One of the aforementioned fields and Lisa being "transported" around it

Snugbury's meerkat looking out over the landscape towards Acton Church and Nantwich

Ange waiting in anticipation in Snugbury's courtyard

Anticipation rewarded!

(Photograph - Phil "Big-Boy" Anderton)

But once there we were rewarded with a view of the 36ft high meerkat straw sculpture and exquisite ice creams. There are so many varieties that it is really difficult to choose which one(s) to have. For me the choice of maple and walnut topped with pecan and fudge was a "no brainer"! We decided to take a different route back to the boats along the main road, via a small holding for eggs and then by towpath from Bridge One (more of which later). Route "B" turned out to be much easier than the original. On our return to the boats we had a lunch break on the towpath before making our way to Wrenbury and the Cotton Arms. The walkie talkies came into use again and in true CB fashion we were all given "handles" (CB radio names). Phil was "Big Boy", Ian was "Man in a Boat" and mine was "Squirrel". We passed the new Swanley Bridge Marina between the two Swanley locks and were impressed by the sheer size of it as illustrated by the aerial view below.

An aerial view of Swanley Bridge Marina

(Photograph - Swanley Bridge Marina)

After passing through the locks we enjoyed the rolling Cheshire countryside and found a mooring virtually right outside the gate that leads to the Cotton Arms. We freshened up and joined our fellow Lymm CC members for a most enjoyable meal in good surroundings and in the best of company. We were told that some of our members had help ascending Hurleston Locks by a group of trainee lock keepers led by "Miserable" Mike Johnson... a friend of Ian's from the Gardner Engine Society whom I had met a couple of months earlier at Poynton's Anson Engine Museum.

Our gang in the Cotton Arms

(Photograph - Nigel Foster)

Mike joined us the previous evening at the Jolly Tar and also called into the Cotton Arms after our meal as it is his local.  Phil and Ian made an early start the following morning (much earlier than us) and after breakfast we cast-off with fellow Lymm CC members Phyllis Greenough and Linda Whalley operating the lift bridge for us as we headed for the next lock at Marbury. It was a beautiful morning and after passing through Marbury we headed up the valley that leads to one of my favourite locks... Quoisley.

"Total Eclipse" ascending Quoisley Lock

This lock brings back many memories for me. I remember standing on the nearby A49 road bridge nearly fifty years ago with my Father and brother Jim, looking at the landscape with the crows cawing in the fields and the smell of Mother's bacon and eggs cooking wafting up from our hire boat "Kathleen" moored below us. And the view has not changed all that much today either! Quoisley Lock is followed by Willeymoor and Povey's Locks and before long we were passing through the disused skewed railway bridge at Grindley Brook Locks. I was surprised that there was not a bigger queue at the bottom of the locks as there was only one boat in front of us.

The bottom of Grindley Brook Locks

As we ascended the flight things changed when we reached the lock before the three-step staircase lock. The lock keeper was letting three boats up the staircase lock then three boats down then three boats up again and so on. We were the fourth boat in the queue so we had a good hour to wait until we were waved into the lock. When it was our turn, Ange managed the boat through the staircase and I waved to Tom Merral who lives in the house adjacent to the locks. Tom came out to see me and greeted me like a long-lost brother. By the time we had an exchange of news "Total Eclipse" had risen into the top chamber and it was time to say farewell to my old childhood friend. Once out of the locks we visited the sanitary station to empty the loo and fill the water tank before setting off again. Nigel came up behind and overtook us. We agreed to take turns with the lift bridges with Nigel doing the first and closing it after Lisa had steered their boat through. At one of the bridges he gave us a wave from an elevated viewpoint as we passed through.

Nigel giving us an "elevated wave" from an open lift bridge

We made good time and it was not long before we were approaching Whixhall Moss where we had arranged to moor up for the night with "Eclipse" and "Rensol" and as we negotiated the Morris's Bridge (Bridge 45). This is where the "Maureen" had started to sink on our 1964 holiday.  We could see our friends moored along the straight stretch leading to the junction with the Prees Branch. On our approach we could see them sitting on chairs arranged on the towpath fronted by a large sign proclaiming "Nectar's Wine Bar".

Nectar's Wine Bar at Whixhall

Once we had moored cocktails were served and we settled down to an evening of food, drink and good company. Before long we were joined by a classic Dobson centre cockpit cruiser and other Lymm CC members.  Before the light went I walked up to the junction with the Prees Branch to take photographs.

"Fleur D'Eau"... the classic Dobson cruiser moored at Whixhall

Looking towards Bridge 45 from the junction with the Prees Branch

As I was taking a photograph of the junction my feet felt itchy and when I looked down at them I was horrified to them covered in ants from a nest that I had disturbed. A quick dunk in the canal well away from the nest removed them but not until I had several bites on my feet and ankles.

Looking down the Prees Branch from its junction with the Main Line

We planned our next stop to be at Ellesmere to replenish our store cupboards and fridges and have a walk around one of our favourite canal towns. The old cheese factory, as previously mentioned, has been replaced with a brand new Tesco supermarket and I have to say that the demolition of the factory and subsequent construction of the supermarket has considerably enhanced the eastern side of the wharf. Most of the buildings on the opposite side have been demolished and eventually there will be a housing development located here. We walked into town and had a look around our favourite shops. In the discount hardware shop on Wharf Road we purchased a few useful items and Phil "Big Boy" was tempted by a tub of body filler named after himself. In another shop we saw a pair of Tasco binoculars on sale for a reasonable price and I commented that they exhibited "good edge to edge definition". An observation that some of my friends took the Mickey out of and were to remind me of on numerous occasions (no change there then!). You know who you are. We had lunch in a cafe then visited Tesco before returning to the boats. With our stores replenished we set off again and cruised through the Shropshire farmlands to below Newmarton Locks where we planned to moor for the night. On the way I saw something that I had never seen before. Quite often herons would play tick with boats... waiting for boats to catch-up to them and then fly off a little way along the canal until the boat catches up again and so on. On this occasion I saw a heron land in a field of cows. When the cows saw it they walked towards it and the bird launched itself into the air and landed a little way off. This was repeated until the heron reached the field boundary then it flew to the opposite end of the field to repeat the process. I was fascinated by this and it was obvious that the bird was teasing the cattle and that it had a sense of humour (if that is possible).

The new Tesco supermarket at the end of the Ellesmere Arm

Phil with the body filler named after himself

The old Shropshire Union Railways and Canal Company warehouse framed in a wheel on the crane at the end of the Ellesmere Arm

The cruise out of Ellesmere was in warm sunlight but as the afternoon wore on the weather turned cool. We were to have dinner aboard "Vive Para Hoy" and each boat cooked part of the meal which was chicken korma. Our contribution was to be the rice and naan bread and when we completed cooking the rice we went aboard Lisa and Nigel's boat to eat the korma. After our meal Nigel and Lisa plied us with cocktails some of which had most unusual flavours.

Looking along the pound towards Newmarton Top Lock from the Bottom Lock

Newmarton Top Lock

Lisa and Nigel had to leave early the next morning and we helped them through the locks before our breakfast. When Ange lit the grill to cook the bacon for our breakfast she thought that she had lit both sides and when she discovered that only one side had lit she bent down and blew into the grill to chase the flames onto the unlit side. A loud thump emanated from the kitchen as the excess gas exploded singeing Ange's hair, eye brows and eye lashes. She was so lucky that she didn't burn herself any more than she did and if she had needed medical help the problem was that we were miles from anywhere. As it was, copious amounts of cold water did the job except for the singed hair and crispy eyebrows. Hopefully, when we reached Llangollen she would be able to find a hair dresser for remedial work. Ange now takes more care when lighting the grill and realises how lucky she was not burning the skin on her face.

Phil and Ian chatting whilst locking through Lisa and Nigel

Once we set off we knew that there were very few places to moor between Newmarton and Llangollen so we planned to be cruising for most of the day. We followed "Eclipse" for most of the way to Chirk but we had to give way to on-coming traffic on numerous occasions and a Black Prince hire boat pulled out in front of us at one stage. This type of hire boat is one of Ange's favourite designs and whilst they are very nice inside from a boat point of view they do seem to struggle when manoeuvring and even going in a straight line can be challenging to them.

In a queue on Chirk Aqueduct

When we reached Chirk we joined a queue half-way across the aqueduct. The queue was caused by craft coming through Chirk Tunnel and not giving on-coming craft the chance to enter the tunnel. As a result the basin between the aqueduct and tunnel soon filled up with boats going both up and down stream. Ange took the boat across the aqueduct whilst I took photographs and when we eventually managed to enter the tunnel she took the boat through that as well. It turned out to be one of the longest journeys through Chirk Tunnel we have ever experienced.

Looking towards Chirk Basin from inside the tunnel

The hire boat in front of us was cruising through on tick-over and half-way through someone started to sing opera! I did not think that the acoustics of the tunnel were conducive to singing due to the echoes produced.  We eventually came out of the tunnel and the hire boat was still crawling along on tick-over. I do not condone speeding on the canals but it would be nice to be able to travel fast enough to be able to steer the boat though! Thankfully, the boat pulled in and moored for lunch allowing us to carry on and catch-up to "Eclipse". The section of canal between Chirk and Froncysyllte has changed little over the last fifty years but one change was at the point where the A5 crosses the canal. There used to be a garage that we usually stopped at for two gallons of "fifty to one" petrol/oil mixture that the engines of our old hire boats and outboard powered boats used. Just after the garage were located private moorings and I can remember one of the boats that moored there... the "Acorn". This was a varnished mahogany, centre cockpit cruiser not unlike a Taylor. Today one would not know that there had been moorings here at all. Before long we had our first glimpse of the mighty Pontcysyllte Aqueduct through the trees. We had to wait in another queue whilst boats coming towards us cleared the aqueduct.

The mighty Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

Ange steering "Total Eclipse" across Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

Michelle and Popsy can be seen by the bridge preparing to hitch a ride on "Total Eclipse"

Popsy and Michelle on "Total Eclipse"

Ange volunteered to take the boat across whilst I walked across taking photographs. Michelle and Popsy also walked across whilst Ian steered their boat. I was too busy taking photographs to catch=up to Ange who was lining "Total Eclipse" up for the ninety degree bend onto the Waterline... the stretch of canal that leads up to Llangollen. She paused briefly to pick-up Michelle and Popsy whilst I hitched a ride on "Eclipse" with Ian. Once on board I chatted with Ian and we headed towards Llangollen.

The view from the tiller of "Eclipse"

The waterline is extremely shallow and on numerous occasions Ian's boat grounded. Most of the time, opening the throttle would encourage the Gardner 2LW to push the boat through the shallows. However, a couple of times we had to pull the heavy boat around shallows. As we rounded a corner we saw a sheep with its head caught in the fencing around a field. Ian asked me to take the tiller and manoeuvre the boat close to the shallow off-side of the canal so that he could jump ashore and free the sheep. He landed successfully, ran towards the sheep who, seeing his approach, struggled to free itself with renewed vigour. It was successful in its efforts and, once free ran away from Ian to rejoin the rest of the flock further up the hill. Ian retraced his steps and I brought the boat in again so that he could jump aboard. Once he was back on board I reversed the boat away from the bank and we were back under way.

The Waterline overlooked by Castell Dinas Bran high on the hillside

As we neared Llangollen we encountered a hire boat moored close to a bridge. It was moored directly in the deepest part of the channel and we grounded once more as we drew parallel to it. We reversed and made a run at the bridge hole missing the moored boat by inches. We did ground briefly but managed to carry on through the bridge. We rounded a bend and saw that Ange had brought "Total Eclipse" into the side so that Michelle and Popsy could board their boat and I could join Ange. Once under way again we came to the narrow one-way part of the canal constructed after numerous landslips and breaches. We made it through without meeting any other boats and were soon at the start of the Llangollen moorings. After reporting to BW's marina officer we were told that there was possibly two moorings left and we proceeded to the marina. As we were arriving a boat was leaving and once it had left the marina I turned "Total Eclipse" around and allowed her to perform her party piece... reversing backwards into a confined space much to the amusement of our new neighbours. Coincidentally, this was the same mooring that we had on our last visit in 2005. Ian followed me into the marina and steered "Eclipse" bow first onto one of the mooring piers on the opposite side of the marina.

Llangollen Marina... most of the boats moored are from Lymm CC

"Total Eclipse" tucked away in the corner... the same mooring that we had on our pervious visit in 2005

Once moored we walked around to the BW office to pay for our moorings. Most of the marina moorings were taken up by boats from Lymm CC and on our return we chatted to our friends. Angie's son Michael visited with his girlfriend Lisa and a few of us went for a drink at the Bridge Inn before returning to the boat for tea. Ian had been chatting to the BW Marina Manager and we had all been invited to the Llangollen RAFA club on Saturday night for an evening's entertainment by Stephanie James... top female vocalist. The ladies in our party planned to go into town the following day and have Ange's hair sorted after being singed. Whilst they were in town Ian and Popsy, Phil and Emily and myself took the horse-drawn boat trip then went on the Llangollen Railway. I was a little disappointed that the trip boat did not go all the way to the Valve House adjacent to the Chain Bridge Hotel at Llantisilio but if it had we would not have caught the train on the Llangollen Railway. The motive power on our Llangollen Railway journey was an ex-LMS "Black 5" built in 1948. The railway journey gave us some excellent views of the River Dee Valley not possible by road.

A quick snack aboard the Llangollen trip boat

The "Black 5" 44806 that was the motive power on our Llangollen Railway journey

The River Dee above Llangollen

Michelle A, Ange and Michelle G sharing a joke

On our return we all met up and went for a walk around the town before returning to our boats. On our return we were visited by my brother Jim and his wife Norma who accompanied us for a meal in the Station Inn where Nigel had arranged us exclusive use of their function room. The food was excellent as was the company. On Saturday we had a lazy day chilling out. Ian arranged for us to spend an extra day at the marina provided that there were enough spaces and no craft waiting to come in. Whilst we went to pay for the extra night's stay the boat next to Ian left and when we returned "Total Eclipse" had moved from our previous mooring to the newly vacated one next to our friends. After tea we got showered and changed and went to the RAFA Club which is situated opposite the Marina entrance. The walls of the club were decorated by pictures of many historic airplanes... Lancaster Bombers, Spitfires and Hurricanes with a large wooden propeller from an old biplane adorning the ceiling. After we had settled down with our drinks (no Sambuca unfortunately) we were informed that the entertainer would not be coming but after the inevitable games of bingo one of the members would be entertaining us. I must admit that the entertainment was absolutely hilarious and when the evening was over we returned to our boats after a most pleasant evening.

A deserted Waterline after our early morning departure from Llangollen

Ian and I planned to leave early the next morning so that we would be less likely to meet other boats on the narrow one-way section and at Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. It was 6.00 am when we left the marina and I made a mental note to apologise to our fellow club members when I next saw them in case we our early engine starts disturbed them. Our plan to leave early was a good one and it was not until we had crossed the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct that we met another boat. We retraced our steps to Chirk and as we emerged from Chirk Tunnel a hire boat pulled out in front of us without any indication or warning that they were doing so. Apparently, they had been waiting for the aqueduct to clear before they set off to cross it. A passing boater scolded me for blowing our horn at him but on explanation to the boat behind him our actions were condoned. We had arranged to meet Phil and his family just after Bridge 9 in the middle of nowhere a couple of miles after New Marton Locks

Our idyllic mooring at Bridge 9

Checking out the "edge to edge definition" of our binoculars

(Photograph - Michelle Anderton)

We moored in front of Phil and Ian caught up with us a little later. In the field opposite were many sheep, one of which looked as though it had been savaged by a fox. We got our binoculars out and viewed it from a distance. It gave us a good opportunity to check out the "edge to edge definition" of our binoculars! After tea the evening consisted of another tasting of cocktails and we could have quite happily stayed here for another day such was the idyllic nature of the location. Phil was away early the following morning and we left after breakfast. We had a stop at Welsh Frankton to have a look at the locks and morning coffee before carrying on to Ellesmere to replenish our fridges and cupboards.

Looking down the locks at Welsh Frankton...

... followed by morning coffee

NB "Rensol" cruising in the sunlit cuttings coming out of Ellesmere

Blakemere - one of the lakes adjacent to the canal near Ellesmere

The weather was overcast with showers but when we left Ellesmere the sun came out as can be seen in the photographs below. Not long after leaving Ellesmere we had just passed Lyneal Wharf when a kingfisher passed us on the off-side of the canal. I have always wanted to photograph one of these colourful, elusive birds and kept the camera to hand in case I saw it again. I did see it again and photographed it. The quality of the image is not to my satisfaction but I have included it here non-the-less. I had also seen quite a few Red Admiral butterflies during the day. No doubt they were brought out by the warm weather.

The kingfisher seen at Lyneal

Passing through the centre of Whixhall Peat Moss

Bridge 44 between Whixhall and Platt Lane... a good example of a roving or changeline bridge

We carried on across Whixhall Moss as we all wanted to stop at "The Shop in the Barn" just after Whixhall Moss but we couldn't all fit in the moorings available due to inconsiderate spacing of other boats moored there. We carried on an found suitable moorings just after Platt Lane where we caught up with the two boats from Stafford Boat Club that were moored next to us at Llangollen. After tea the braziers came out of one of the boats and we arranged our chairs around them for yet more cocktails.

The picturesque hamlet of Platt Lane

We moored for the night after Platt Lane Bridge

An evening around the braziers at Platt Lane

Phil (Big Boy) and Emily after the face painting

Ange arranged face painting for the children and afterwards they set-off Chinese lanterns that we had purchased in Ellesmere. We had a lie-in the next morning and cruised to Whitchurch where we moored on a newly cleared part of the Whitchurch Arm. In fact the BW personnel had only just cleared the channel when we moored. We had a chat with the BW guys about the proposed extension and then walked into the town along the line of the canal. It is hoped to excavate, in the not too distant future, the line of the canal from Chemistry Bridge (the present limit of navigation), beneath the concrete Meadowcroft Bridge to a wide meadow where the new terminus is proposed. It was originally planned to extend the line of the canal further into Whitchurch itself with an inclined plane but these plans have now been scaled back and possibly (according to the BW personnel we spoke to that were working on the project) will have to include a shallow lock leading to a new winding hole and marina mooring terminus. This plan could also be extended further into the town when funds allow.

Map of the proposed extension to the Whitchurch Arm - red numbers refer to photograph locations (below)

New Mills Lift Bridge (31) and the entrance to the Whitchurch Arm (1)

The winding hole on the Whitchurch Arm (2)

Freshly excavated canal at Whitchurch before Chemistry Bridge (3)

Chemistry Bridge and the infilled canal as seen from Meadowcroft Bridge (4)

The line of the extension to the Whichurch Arm and Meadowcroft Bridge (5)

Location of the proposed marina mooring terminus at Whitchurch (6)

Artist's impression of the proposed marina mooring terminus at Whitchurch (6)

On the way into the town we passed through a children's playground and none of us could resist a go on the swings. We came across a large hardware store that had many items of interest including solid fuel stoves from £189... really good value. They also had rolls of clear PVC that is the same as the damaged window in our rear deck canopy. I had never seen this material on sale before so purchased a couple of metres which would be sufficient for the purpose with quite a bit left over in case I made a "pig's ear" of the job. After our trip to the town we set off for Grindley Brook and we hoped that the queues had diminished by the time we got there.

"Total Eclipse" descending the staircase locks at Grindley Brook

Povey's Lock

After a quick visit to the water taps and sanitary station we descended the locks and moored for the night between Povey's and Willeymoor Locks just as the sun was setting. Wrenbury was to be our aiming point the next day. It was only a couple of locks and a few miles away so we should be there about lunchtime.  On our way below Willeymoor Lock our friends from Stafford Boat Club were moored who waved to us as we passed. Ian wanted to polish his paintwork when we moored and I replaced the clear PVC window on our rear canopy with the material purchased the previous day in Whitchurch. Joining us for our meal in the Cotton Arms were Michelle Gilbody's parents and Miserable Mike and his partner.

Mike Johnson's immaculate 1930's Riley 9

Mike had arrived in his beautifully restored 1930's Riley 9 which is a credit to him. Over our meal we decided to have a really early start the next morning as there were reports of long queues at Hurleston Locks. I set my alarm for 6.00 am and as I went onto the rear deck I saw Phil taking "Rensol" beneath Bridge 19. We tried to be really quiet and I didn't start our engine until after the mooring ropes had been untied and we were in the centre of the canal. Even so, we received a wave from Phyllis on "Philbarmar" as we glided past them. Before we reached Swanley Locks we encountered a couple of BW work boats drifting across the canal. I later discovered that Ian had discovered an abandoned puppy on board one of them whilst pushing them out of the way. He took the pup on board "Eclipse", dried and fed it and when he arrived at Hurleston he gave it to Linda the lock keeper who reported its discovery to the RSPCA. The pup was found to be chipped and was soon returned to its owner. In the meantime it started to rain and rain and rain. After doing one lock I was saturated and had to have a complete change of clothes before proceeding. We were cruising with the canopy up and when we reached Bridge 1 at Hurleston instead of dropping the canopy whilst passing beneath it I thought that we could just scrape through. All was going well until we encountered a piece of cement hanging down from the underside of the bridge and it ripped the cover. I knew that the bridge was low and I should have dropped it but I was trying to be clever and not succeeding! Our decision to leave Wrenbury early had been a good one as we didn't have any problems descending them unlike later on in the day when a boat became stuck in the bottom lock and other members reported to us that they had a five hour wait whilst the boat was freed and the resulting queues of boats worked through. As we came onto the main line of the Shroppie the rain thankfully stopped. We encountered yet another pair of BW workboats that were drifting across the canal. I think that BW will have to start giving their operatives lessons in basic boat skills!

Approaching Barbridge from the south

For the rest of the day the rain was on and off. We cruised down the Middlewich Branch with very few queues at locks although we did get stuck behind a hire boat that was having difficulty passing through bridge holes without hitting them and went aground on numerous occasions. We caught up with Ian and Michelle at the lock outside Middlewich and we kept them company until we moored next to "Rensol" adjacent to the children's playground at Middlewich. Ian had planned to touch-up his hull blacking when we got there but it started to rain again and the job was put off. We walked into the town and had a look around the shops before returning to the boats. Whilst looking over the wall of an overflow weir at one of the locks we were surprised to see fresh water mussels "spitting" water from the slit in their shells when the water level dropped to uncover them. We had frequently scraped these crustations off the underside of our boats but never seen this behaviour before. When we eventually returned to the boat we had forty winks before getting ready for an evening in the "Big Lock". I had previously had a bad experience at this pub and had not been in there since but I can honestly say that the meal and service we received was good.

NB "Grasp the Nettle"

The "sold" sign on "Grasp the Nettle"

A disappointed Phil on seeing the sign on "Grasp the Nettle"

There was a Mike Christian trad narrowboat boat for sale just below Big Lock called "Grasp the Nettle" and Phil was interested in it. We all went to have a look at it and even though the boat was in need of attention and the metalwork around the waterline was corroded there were no insurmountable problems visible. The contact telephone number had fallen off and Phil was going to contact BW and ask them to pass on his telephone number to the owners. Unknown to Phil, Ian had ran down to the boat and put a notice on it saying that it was sold. When we came past it the following day there was a look of disappointment on Phil's face. Ian was going to reveal the joke that evening when we moored up. We had an uneventful trip from Middlewich to Preston Brook and moored for the night where we had moored previously, half-way between Preston Brook and Daresbury. After tea we were all invited aboard "Eclipse No 2" for an end of cruise drink.

Our last holiday cruise mooring near Daresbury looking towards Preston Brook

Phil's realization...

... and with the sign

It was then that Ian revealed to Phil the joke about the sign on the boat that he was interested in. Phil's face was a picture but he did suspect that something was going on! Next morning we set off for Lymm and by lunchtime we had come to the end of our holiday cruise. All that remained was to load our things into the car and put the boat back onto its mooring and say our goodbyes to our friends... the worst part of the holiday. The next week I was back at work and in the quiet times of the day I relived the holiday and the good thing is that I got to relive it again in detail whilst writing this and editing the one thousand plus photographs that I had taken.

Timetable of 2010 Summer Cruise to Llangollen

Friday PM 30-7-10


Lymm CC repairing exhaust

Saturday 31-7-10


From Lymm to Anderton

Sunday 1-8-10


From Anderton to Barbridge Junction

Monday 2-8-10


From Barbridge Junction to Wrenbury

Tuesday 3-8-10


From Wrenbury to Whixhall Moss

Wednesday 4-8-10


From Whixhall Moss to below Newmarton Locks

Thursday 5-8-10


From below Newmarton Locks to Llangollen Marina

Friday 6-8-10


Stayed at Llangollen Marina all day

Saturday 7-8-10


Stayed at Llangollen Marina all day

Sunday 8-8-10


From Llangollen Marina to Bridge 9

Monday 9-8-10


From Bridge 9 to Platt Lane

Tuesday 10-8-10


From Platt Lane to above Willeymoor Lock

Wednesday 11-8-10


From above Willeymoor Lock to Wrenbury

Thursday 12-8-10


From Wrenbury to Middlewich

Friday 13-8-10


From Middlewich to Daresbury

Saturday 14-8-10


From Daresbury to Lymm

Boats and crew on the 2010 Summer Cruise to Llangollen

"Amadeus" - Jeff Hughes (left Lymm the week before the cruise dates)



Wendy, Paul & Oliver Savage



Eleanor Muirhead & Dave Ross (left Lymm the week before the cruise dates)

"Barefoot Days"


Hilary & Rob Hoyle (left Lymm the week before the cruise dates)

"Bees Knees"


Sue & Guy Burden



Tina, Paul, Samantha & Tom Durbridge

"Don Ross"


Beryl & John Moult

"Eagle" - Lindsay Wroe & Geoff Chiltern

"Eclipse No 2"


Michelle, Ian & Popsy Gilbody

"Go Placidly"


Helen, John & Emily Jackson

"Haj +2"


Ray Nichol



Betty & Dave King



Sallie & Peter Corbett (left Lymm the week before the cruise dates)



Lyn & Alan Savage

"Mullymush" - Joan, Joanne & Levi & Clarke



Phyllis & Barry Greenough



Michelle, Phil & Emily Anderton

"Rosie" - John Melling



Linda Whalley assisted by Derek Ridpath (Phyllis Greenough's brother)



Lily & Stuart Williams

"Total Eclipse"


Angela & Cyril Wood



Sandra & Bill Avery

"Tyntesfield" - Diane & Joanne Swindell

"Vive Para Hoy"


Lisa, Nigel & Lindsey Foster

Llangollen - Fifty Years On Epilogue

I can honestly say that as far as I can remember, since first cruising the Llangollen Canal canal fifty years ago it has retained its character... a fact that I am sure my parents would have been glad about There have been inevitable changes but not many places have changed out of all recognition. Obvious changes are at Swanley - new marina, Whitchurch - reopening of the Whitchurch Arm, Bettisfield - new housing lining the canal, Ellesmere - new Tesco store and the demolition of the disused workshops, Welsh Frankton - the on-going Montgomery Canal restoration and at Llangollen itself - construction of the new marina moorings plus the addition of the concrete channelling along the Waterline. The canal is a lot busier that it was in the 1960's and I initially questioned the wisdom of cruising along Britain's most popular canal during the school holidays but, as it turned out, the queues at locks, etc were not as bad as I thought they would be. The style of craft using the canal has changed tremendously since we first cruised it when wooden cruisers were the most popular craft using it. Over subsequent years GRP boats rose to popularity and then waned in favour of steel narrowboats. Having said that, we did see two classic Dobson cruisers on our trip. Whilst we were away I learnt of an exciting new extension to the canal. The Flexsys Rubber plant at Trevor was located on the line of the old Plas Kynaston or, as it is sometimes known... Pickering's Canal (see "Shroppie" Chapter 6 - The Ffrwd Canal). The Flexsys plant closed in 2008 and the company had an obligation to dismantle the plant and return the land to public usage. One of the proposals for the future of the land is to excavate the old canal and construct marina moorings at the end of it. I will watch with interest the developments in this area. The next time we cruise the Llangollen Canal I would like to be able to cruise down an extended Whitchurch Arm, do "The Full Monty" and maybe even cruise along Pickering's Canal. We have purchased a few "Barrows of Boulders" to help with the Monty's restoration which is all well and good but I am not holding my breath for being able to cruise any of these projects in the foreseeable future at least! To sum up... we had a wonderful cruise along the canal even though the weather could have been better we didn't have much in the way of brilliant sunshine but we did only had a few days of rain.

So, Llangollen Canal, until the next time...

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Canalography 2010

A list of milestones in my canal cruising experiences during 2010

2nd January 2010

"Total Eclipse" stranded outside Lymm CC's Clubhouse due to being iced in.
30th January 2010 "Total Eclipse" went onto her new mooring at Lymm
1st April 2010 Easter cruise to Wigan
19th May 2010 Lymm CC holiday to Lake Como (and beyond)
29th July 2010 Lymm CC Summer Cruise to Llangollen
28th August 2010 August Bank Holiday Cruise to Salford Quays and the River Irwell

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The story continues in...


Book 7

Canal Cruising 2011


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or select another book below...


 Book 1 - 1960 to 1982

 Book 2 - 1983 to 1999

 Book 3 - 2000 to 2005

 Book 4 - 2006 to 2007

 Book 5 - 2008 to 2009

 Book 7 - 2011

 Book 8 - 2012

 Book 9 - 2013

 Book 10 - 2014

The History of Lymm Cruising Club

The Duke's Cut - The Bridgewater Canal

The Big Ditch - Manchester's Ship Canal

Shroppie - The Shropshire Union Canal System

The Manchester and Salford Junction Canal
Mersey  Connections
Wonders of the Waterways

2011 Gardner Engine Rally Report

Foreign Forays - Canals of the World

Worsley Canal Heritage Walk

Castlefield Canal Heritage Walk

The Liverpool Docks Link

NB Squirrel
NB Total Eclipse

Canis Canalus


Don't Call it a Barge

Canalscape Photography
Lymm Cruising Club Website

Footnote and Acknowledgements

Site Map
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Updated 09-12-2013