Bluebells in Churnet valley
James Brindley
Anderton Lift
Swan at Tarleton
Woodseaves cutting
High Bridge No. 39 Shroppy
Leaky lock walls
Les Lobbs Diary
May 2011
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T&M, below bridge 148, sunny and very windy
We got to Harecastle tunnel in time for the 08.00 "convoy" and exited it at 08.50, damper and colder. As it is Sunday, we stopped at bridge 139 for a pub lunch and then carried on for a few locks before the wind finally beat us.

On the right is the statue of engineer James Brindley (1716-72) erected at the Erutria junction; he built the Trent and Mersey canal, with it's tunnels, aqueducts etc ; a brilliant achievement.

The answers to last months puzzles are on the "Answers" page, accessed from the home page.

Middlewich, sunny and still windy
Good days run and now stopped before the Middlewich junction, opposite an ice cream shop. The locks are nearly all the same pattern, with only ground paddles at the top and gate paddles at the bottom; some of the gate paddles need a bit of welly to get them moving. After the next few locks we change to widebeam canals, which are not so quick to pass through, as we need to tie-up unless we can find a boat to travel with.

Locks :- For anyone interested in how the locks work, there is a link on the home page. Locks
Northwich, sunny, wind has dropped
After the 5 locks at Middlewich we had a lock-free trip to our nights mooring above Northwich. The banksides are covered in hawthorn blossom and large chestnut trees, in blossom, overhanging the canal. We are meeting more boats than we did on the Caldon, but not having to wait long at the locks. Tomorrow should see us at the "Anderton Lift", which is a great piece of engineering that lifts boats between the T&M canal and the river Weaver navigation. I think there are moorings nearby so we will probably overnight there. Marie - thanks for the email, Dawn will answer it soon.
Below Preston Brook tunnel, sunny but clouding over now
A completely lock-free days cruising, along what must be the prettiest part of the T&M.
Mid morning we stopped to see the Anderton Lift, pictured left, in action, and it certainly lived up to our expectations. The boats (2 max) enter a chamber at the higher (T&M) level and then the chamber is lowered to the level of the river Weaver, 50ft below; there is a second chamber which rises at the same time, thereby counter-balancing the chamber in use.

Tomorrow, weather permitting, we should pass through the Preston Brook tunnel and join the Bridgewater canal, which is owned by the Manchester Ship Canal Co. Our BW licence entitles us to 7 days travel, which should be enough to cover the 20 miles, lock free, to Waters Meeting, where we turn left to the Leeds & Liverpool canal.

Lymm, raining
Entered the Preston Brook tunnel at 09.00 and came out at 09.08. then joined the Bridgewater canal. We travelled till just after lunch and did about 12 miles in a good depth of water on a nice wide canal. The town of Lymm is a traditional market town, and today was market day, so we had a stroll around and the catering dept. bought me a "meat pie" - ee t'war grand! After a cuppa I was left on the boat, while 'erself donned her charity shop hat and went off bargain hunting.
Astley, cloudy after an afternoon of sun
We were undecided whether to set off this morning, as it looked decidedly unsettled, but at 08.30 we started. At 14.00 we had skirted round the bottom left corner of Manchester and reached Astley (18 miles), on the way to Wigan. We had drizzle on and off all morning, then it started to brighten up and by the time we had stopped it was full sun. There is a swing aqueduct over the Manchester Ship Canal, which was fortunately in our favour, giving great views along the MSC. (You wouldn't like it Barry!). We saw something we had not seen before, a heron taking a small mallard chick; one moment it was in it's beak with it's feet waving and then it was a lump in the herons throat. I know it is only nature, but we don't look on herons so kindly now. If we get to Wigan tomorrow we are straight into widebeam locks, with the Wigan flight of 21uphill locks.
Dover Lock, (between Leigh and Wigan) Leeds & Liverpool canal, raining
We left this morning in fine weather but when we stopped, after 2 miles, to fill up with water, it started raining with a vengeance. We stopped in Leigh where the catering manager was able to do a decent sized shop, so we are now fully stocked and watered; she even got a leg of lamb. At Dover lock, a pub name only now, as the lock has been dismantled, we decided enough was enough, so we have tied up and will probably move into Wigan on Monday morning. The worst thing about travelling in the rain is getting coats etc. dry afterwards; if we use the stove the boat gets steamed up and leaving them in the cratch (covered foredeck) is OK but takes longer. The area is rather sad, as the mines have all gone and there are abandoned mills along the banks in Leigh. In Astley, where we stopped last night, Dawn asked if there was a shop and the lady said there was only a hairdressers left, the rest went after the mine closure. (Even the chippy has shut down!)
I will try and sort out a few puzzles tomorrow.
Dover lock, still raining
Getting back into routine now, I made my first batch of muffins yesterday! After a wet and windy night we spent the morning doing some of the jobs that get "left till later"; we put a new seal on the weedhatch, as it was starting to let water in, replaced the mica viewing panel in the diesel stove, which was on its last legs and Dawn altered another curtain. We thought that, after doing these jobs, we deserved a roast lunch at the pub, so we dodged the showers to get there at opening time. If it looks OK in the morning we will rig the boat for wide locks and tackle the Wigan flight; it would be good if we got another boat to travel up with.

Two convicts are locked in a cell.
There is an unbarred window high up in the cell.
No matter if they stand on the bed or one on top of the other they can't reach the window to escape. They then decide to tunnel out. However, they give up with the tunnelling because it will take too long. Finally one of the convicts figures out how to escape from the cell.
What is his plan?
If I am a three digit number and my first digit is seven less than my second digit, and the second digit is four times that of my third digit. What digit am I ?

Parbold, Douglas valley, changeable
The best laid plans and all that; set off just before 07.00 to arrive at Wigan flight for their 08.30 opening, arrived spot on time and got tied up in the bottom lock, waiting for the BW man to unlock them. Seemed strange that we were the only ones waiting, then Mr BW arrived to tell us that the flight was closed because of a damaged cill nearer the top of the flight. Our choice was to wait in Wigan for a few days, or go somewhere else; we therefore set off down the Douglas valley in the direction of Liverpool and the river Rufford. By lunchtime it started to rain, so we stopped at Parbold and found a cafe serving homemade carrot cake which, with a pot of tea, went down very well. We are still undecided whether to go right into Liverpool as the last stretch is under escort, because of previous troubles from the scallywags.

Parbold, changeable
We are still at Parbold; I rang BW for an update on the Wigan flight and was told that the damage was more severe than they initially thought, and it could possibly mean fitting new gates (repeat of last year at Devizes ?). Until we know something definite we will stay around here, as I don't really fancy going into Liverpool if an escort is necessary. As we are coming up to 400 hours on the engine, I rang a local marine engineer to see if he could do a service on the engine while we are "stuck" here, I am still waiting for a reply; simple enough job, but if I do it they may not honour the guarantee, if I ever need to claim.
Rufford, windy !
The engineer rang last evening and is getting the "bits", so that he can service the engine Friday morning. Rather than stay tied up, we tootled down to the Rufford junction, where we filled up with water and emptied cassettes. As the engineer is based at the end of the Rufford arm at Tarleton, we turned off onto the Rufford arm and are now moored up in the country; it is only a further 3 miles to the boatyard. Latest idea is to do the Ribble link, which involves a trip up the tidal river Ribble and then via sea locks onto the Lancaster canal; all depends on tides and how long we have to wait for the link.
Tarleton, very windy
We had a good night despite the wind and, when we had managed to push the boat far enough off the bank to get underway, went through 2 swing bridges to Tarleton.
The Ribble link is off because it is booked up for weeks ahead; Dawn spoke to a chap (she's always doing that) who was walking his dog and he told her he booked his trip in January! Now waiting for the engineer to ring with a time for tomorrow; he has had to order the oil, so we are hoping it has arrived.
Tarleton, wet and windy
The engineer came after lunch and has done all the jobs we asked for; when we offered to pay he said "no, just pop in the office in the morning". When I last checked the Wigan flight was still closed so, weather permitting, we will start heading that way tomorrow, calling in at Tesco at the Rufford junction. If the flight is still closed when we get there, about 2 days, we will have a re-think. Housekeeping has done a shop in Tarleton and returned with a "proper" pork pie and a black pudding, amongst other essential things like shoes!
Parbold, wet and windy
Yesterday was not very special, so we stayed put; boats stacking up as the Ribble link was cancelled because of the strong winds. We set off this morning at 06.30, to miss the boats going out into the estuary to catch the tide up to Preston. A very windy trip with rain starting late morning, not very pleasant at all, so we tied up at Parbold. Lots of mallard and goose chicks but no cygnets yet; we have met a few aggressive males protecting the sitting female. Finds today :- 2 fenders and one small life jacket.

Bridge 45 (4.5 miles before Wigan), windy and raining
We had a walk round Parbold, before deciding if we were going to stay put, or move on. Eventually we left at 11.30, only to travel 1 mile before meeting a log-jam, literally; a trip boat was across the river in front of a fallen tree which was being chopped up by BW men. This meant we were stuck behind the trip boat, a widebeam, and trip boats are notoriously slow, so after only 1 lock and 3 miles we have moored up for the night. We should be able to get through and clear of Wigan tomorrow, if the weather lets us. The locks take ages in this area, because nearly all of them are fitted with "vandal locks" which you have to unlock and remove before working the paddles, and then refit after you are clear of the lock.
The floating things are bits of bread, which I thought she would like, she just looked at it as if to say "I'm not leaving these eggs for that !!"
Astley, cloudy
Left our mooring at 08.30 in light drizzle and reached Wigan junction by 10.30; after 3 down locks we then joined the Bridgewater canal and stopped at Astley, where we had stayed before. The area around Wigan has had a lot of re-generation work on the canals, towpaths, and surrounding wet lands, which means that the bird life is very good; swifts followed us for most of this part of the trip. We missed our Sunday pub lunch, so called into the pub at Astley, starving hungry, only to be told that the chef had gone home. Fortunately our boat catering dept. found some haddock fillets, which she prepared with new pots, peas and sweetcorn - who needs pubs!
Lymm, sunny and windy
Well we've got around Manchester and are now heading for the more rural stuff. There is a stretch through Sale which is about 4 miles long, mostly straight, and has moored boats for a good part of it; for those who don't know, it is accepted that you drop your speed to tickover when passing moored boats, to prevent them banging about on their moorings, or even pulling out their mooring pins. On our trip north through this section we were mugged by a male swan as we neared it's mates nest. This time it wasn't satisfied with chewing fenders, it let us get about 40 ft away then came charging at us with wings flapping; he kept hitting the boat with his wing as he aimed at the side of the boat I was standing on. We arrived at Lymm in time for our belated Sunday pub lunch, and the crew found a hairdresser willing to tackle her windblown mop.(Looks good - creep creep) As it is market day tomorrow, we will visit it, and the charity shops, before moving on.
Four different digits 1-9 are required to open a safe.
From the clues below, can you find the right four-digit combination?

(1) The second number is three less than the fourth.
(2) The middle two numbers total nine.
(3) The third number is one less than the first.
(4) The second number is even.
(5) The first number is greater than the fourth
Safe Cracker
North of Anderton, sunny
Visited the market and topped up with fruit & veg, then started off in dull and windy weather. We saw our first cygnets of the year, six of them, near Stockton Heath; we still have not seen a kingfisher yet. GRUMBLE TIME :- Before Preston Brook we visited Midland Chandlers, a large chandlers with many outlets, to get some bits and pieces. When we walked in there were two chaps behind the counter, one turned his back to us and picked up the phone, the other buried his head in a pile of papers; neither of them welcomed or even acknowledged us. We picked up a few of the things we needed and Dawn went over to ask one of the chaps where the pipe was - he ignored her and pushed in front of her to answer the phone; with blood now nearing boiling point, we put our stuff on the counter and walked out. As we cast off the boat, one of the chaps came out and asked if we could find everything we needed, I won't write Dawns reply here!! With two million on the dole why do they employ these people? End of grumble. We timed it wrong for Preston Brook tunnel, so had our lunch while we waited for our turn to go; when we came out of the tunnel the sun came out and has been good all afternoon.
Middlewich, Shropshire Union canal, sunny
Back to narrow beam locks again; we can put all the ropes away! There is a Chippy here with a very good reputation - we tried it this evening and can confirm that it is very good. The Shroppy is a favourite of friends John & Jean, so we are looking forward to cruising it. At the junction, while we were waiting for a boat to lock down, a hire boat loaded with young men armed with cans of beer arrived behind us; it seemed prudent to let them go first, which we did. (I'd rather have them in front, where I can see them!) While waiting for a tunnel, we saw a female mallard teaching her chicks to dive under water; they look too fluffy and buoyant to sink, but they copy mum.

Hurlestone junction (where the Llangollen meets the Shroppy) WINDY
Another blowy day, so we stopped at lunchtime and will probably stay tomorrow also, if the weather forecast is correct. There is a big flight of 15 locks at Audlem, about 8 miles south of us, so a days rest before that might rejuvenate the crew. We've been watching the mallard chicks again, sad aren't we, they seem to charge about, then stretch up their necks snapping at what we now realise are flies; there must be a lot of energy in the fly, just to replace the effort needed to catch it.

Hurlestone junction. Very windy
Last night was really windy, with rain which must have given the roof a good pressure wash; today we are staying put, unless there is a change in the weather.
We have done several jobs, such as re-wiring the horn, which was getting a bit intermittent and splicing lines to the various fenders we have found along the way. This morning we made another batch of muffins - banana and raisin (except we hadn't got raisins so we used dates). There are a few hire boats moving, but they are having a job with the wind.
North of Audlem, Very windy
We set off at 06.30 and got through all the moored boats at Nantwich before most boats were moving. The wind got stronger after the two Hack Green locks so we pulled in at the picnic area near Coole Lane; the intention was to carry on when the wind dropped, but it hasn't !! Although it was only a short trip, it was sufficient to re-charge the leisure batteries. The forecast for tomorrow varies from different sources, so we will see what it is like in the morning. Jenny - congratulations on your win.
I've put up another video clip, which can be found via the home page.
Below bridge 47, sunny and windy
Another early start, 05.30. We cleared the Audlem flight with all but two of them set in our favour; as the weather was OK, we carried on and did both the Adderley and the Tyrley flights. Total today of 26 locks and 14.5 miles, and we had a pub lunch at wharf bridge, Goldstone. There were several narrow sections where two boats could not pass, these were stunning if you consider they were cut out of solid rock by navvies with explosives, picks and shovels. (see pic on left) Our aim tomorrow is Brewood, where Paul, a friend we met in France, now lives.
For readers having a problem finding the "Home page", I apologise -- I should have put a link to
Brewood, fine
We had a good run through to Brewood, stopping at Wheaton Ashton to fill up with diesel, as it is reputedly one of the cheapest places on the cut. After strolling round Brewood, a charming village, we found a "proper" butcher and came away with pork pie, black pudding and faggots. Paul came to the boat, where we had a good meal and spent the evening sampling Chinon, which we had bottled when we were in France.
Above Gailey, Staffs & Worc canal, wet and windy (where's summer gone?)
This morning, before leaving, we walked to Paul's house, which he is renovating. He's certainly got his work cut out; so far he has completed the kitchen, bathroom and the main bedroom. We then set off in a light drizzle, which has gradually increased to solid rain, until we stopped at 14.00, well wet. At Autherly junction we turned left onto the Staffs.and Worc. Canal, which will take us back to our berth at Gt. Haywood.
Pic on right is bridge 39 on the Shroppy; it shows how deep the cuttings are.
Home page
Gt Haywood, sunny
Drizzly start, getting quite cold towards midday. When the wind got up, we were undecided whether to tie up or keep going -- we plodded on. Some of the locks are leaky where the joints in the lock sides let water build up behind the wall when the lock is full; when it is emptied this water is released and does its best to soak unwary boaters. (see pic). After we got back to the marina the sun came out and it is warm now; lots of boats are setting off for the holiday. Julie is bringing the boys here on Tuesday, so we hope for good weather then.