Shropshire Union Canal - August 2001
Venetian Marina to Brewood
This holiday was the first with just our family. The boat was Summer Breeze which is now part of the small Cheshire Cat fleet. At the time it was their only boat with another being built. As might be expected, there was a lovely family feel about the operation and a real pride in the boat.
The log entries were written by Alison, Andrew and surprisingly Laura who was obviously rather more enthusiastic during that first holiday...
Andrew and the kids carried out a reconnoitre in July to locate the marina and see about parking arrangements etc. We also looked at the nearby lock to show the kids how that worked. Here are a few photos of that visit
Now the trip proper...
Saturday 18th August 2001
Venetian Marina -> Nantwich 5m, 1 lock
It took about an hour to get to the Venetian Marina. We found the narrowboat and the owners showed us the basics of the boat; how to steer and so on. We went back to the car and unloaded. It was chaotic. There was little storage but it was very clean.
2.30pm Arrival aboard
3.30pm Started off
5.30pm Finally through Cholmondeston Lock after early blockage had caused tail-back)
5.45pm Finally found space and moored boat for tea. It was rather hard to get it tied up. Far side of Nantwich, "The Belt" between bridges 92 & 91.
Sunday 19th August 2001
Nantwich -> Market Drayton 12m, 22 locks
7.00 Woke up
7.30 Had breakfast
According to the camera, this picture was taken at 07:50 and Alison is swabbing the decks!
8.20 Family of swans visited. 2 adults and 3 babies. CUTE!
8.30 Engines on
9.00 Hack Green locks. Clearly Scouts don't help unless it's bob-a-job week. Seem to remember a boat-load of scouts who did a lot of standing around: Ed
9.30 Two locks operated.
9.40 7 swans and loads of ducks! We've seen 3 herons (so far)
11:45 Engines off after clearing first 3 locks at Audlem. Lunch time! Lunch at Bridge Inn, Audlem. Banks' bitter. S&K pie and chips. Liver and onions. OK but not brilliant. Perhaps try Shroppie Fly on return.
14.45 Ready to set off again.
16.05 Done the remaining 12 and more than ready for a rest. Laura and Mum well exercised
(At this stage Marc was only 7 so not up to much heavy work and Andrew was doing most (all?) of the steering as our RYA Helmsman course was many years away and Alison was not confident!:Ed)
16.45 Recovered and continuing for Market Drayton by night
18.00 Through the 5 Adderley locks and first beers opened
18.55 Moored in for tea. Sandwiches and salad. Alison discovered that we are not allowed to stay in current moorings during day. Alison shower before bed. Lovely hot water.
21.00 All hands settled for night. Concern about possible road noise utterly unjustified.
Monday 20th August 2001
Market Drayton -> Gnosall 13.5m, 5 locks
7.30 Kettle on for tea
08.00 Andrew shower. No hot water! cos engine not running. Most refreshing!!
08.20 After breakfast moved boat 100 yards to 5 day moorings. Want to visit Market Drayton this morning. Pity the market is on Tuesday...
Family of swans came to say hello. It was the 2 adults and 3 babies again. (Might have been different family since the log shows the previous day's visit as 12 miles away!:Ed)
09.20 Swans return only 1 adult (Dad swan gone out probably) but babies Curiosity, Pearl and my little Dust were still there. Gave them a feast of grass and clover. (This entry by Laura!:Ed)
Visited Market Drayton, a pleasant town obsessed with gingerbread and other cakes but also with first-rate cheese and a wonderful butchers.
Back aboard laden with eatables (especially pork scratchings. Great hopes of black pudding) and moved to the water point.
Beyond bridge 62 are 48 hour moorings so plenty of options available.
11.50 Finished watering and on our way. Aiming to climb the remaining 5 lock before lunch if my (Alison's:Ed) and Laura's joints can stand it.
1pm Through the Tyrley locks with ease as all locks set by descending boats. No good mooring before Woodseaves Cutting so lunch on the move.
Alison took a trick for - ooh 20 minutes. Astonishingly we hit nothing but Andrew got pretty weary of our snail-like progress and took her over again.
Beautiful countryside all afternoon matching the weather. Several pictures of a deeply stupid heron.
17.45 Finished with engines just within stumbling distance of the Navigation Inn. Perhaps tonight we'll manage to stay awake past 8pm.
20.10 And we're ready to leave the pub...
20.25 and the children are in bed. Excellent meal at the Navigation. We'll try and stop here again on our way back. Andrew-Chile con carne, Alison - Peppered pork, Laura- Lasagne and Marc- Sausage, chips and beans. Various desserts and 2 rounds of drinks £24.80. Nice friendly welcome.
Tuesday 21st August 2001
Gnosall -> Gnosall! 17m, 2 locks
A leisurely start: unmoored by 9.15am, postcards away. Lovely sunny start, fresh breeze.
Cawley Tunnel was a bit of a disappointment after we'd carefully de-mounted everything. Still, we solemnly put the light on, tooted the horn and yelled all the way through (81 yards).
To Brewood at 12.15. Sleepy little village where we picked up a few essentials and had lunch aboard.
Having been disappointed that the pump-out facility was not available to the public, checked with Norbury Junction that theirs were, before committing ourselves to turning round and heading back before steaming all the way down to Autherley Junction, the other option.
So steam up and unmoored at 13.45
14.10 Turned round in winding hole south of Brewood and turned around to go home.
Crossed over Stretton Aqueduct
Kingfisher spotted By Me, Laura. Shocking electric blue (The kingfisher that is, not Laura...:Ed)
Engines off outside our spiritual home: The Navigation.
Wednesday 22nd August 2001
Gnosall -> Audlem 13m, 5 locks
08.15 Unmoored from Gnosall to head for pump-out at Norbury Junction. Concern at battery light showing and no rev counter proved unfounded as Angle-Welsh were able to confirm system charging correctly. All water points occupied so decided to move on. On our way by 09.50
15.25 On way back from Market Drayton saw two ADORABLE horses, one white and one black. Black horse came over and we fed it. CUTE!
17.50 Dust, Curiosity and Pearl prove to be just as loyal as I thought. They visited us again with Mum and Dad. They're starting grow white feathers. My little babies are growing up! (Another couple of Laura logs!:Ed)
19.50 Engine off and moored in for the night. A gorgeous evening with sheep and ducks our only neighbours apart from a flock of Canada geese who circled a few times discussing among themselves where to land. Luckily they moved elsewhere!
Thursday 23rd August 2001
Audlem -> Hack Green 7m, 20 locks
Toast for breakfast. Engine at 8.20. Adderley & Audlem locks ahead. Overcast during the night, now a light drizzle.
10.40 Finished 15 locks in a row and sat down for a drink and chocolate Mmm...
Part way through we passed an elderly chap in 26' (?) cruiser called "Peace" who it seems is a legend on the cut. He and his wife have lived aboard for 15 years (5 years in caravans before that) and no-one knows how old they are. They have no house ashore and only moor for any length of time in winter.
11.30 Moored in and engine off to see bunker (Hack Green Secret Nuclear Bunker on all the maps).
Fascinating visit which strongly reminded me (Alison) of the growing realisation of the - problems seems too feeble a ward - of surviving nuclear war: and of the absolutely serious conversations where we decided at the 4-minute warning to head for the hottest possible place to get it over with.
There was a room where each government department had one desk - completely desperate.
Decided to stay put for the afternoon and night to explore Nantwich tomorrow before getting into pole position for a night at Barbridge Junction.
Friday 24th August 2001
Hack Green -> Barbridge Junction 6.5m, 2 locks
Another gentle start prompted into action to join the queue for the locks by the sight of an approaching squadron. Congenial company while waiting and through with little delay by about 10.15.
Steady drizzle however and clouds at tree top level, though mild. The deck swept through to start making the place presentable ready for tomorrow morning.
Nantwich was very wet but friendly. Too much choice of pubs so we went to Stead & Simpsons instead and then back aboard by 12.45. Seeing the canal busy we decided to stay wet and push on up to the Jolly Tar before lunch - it's less than an hours steaming.
Duly arrived at Barbridge Junction. Overshot canalside pub but found mooring well enough. Settle down to lazy afternoon - smack off to sleep in Andrew's case.
Dinner at the Olde Barbridge Inn. OK could could have been excellent for a little extra effort. Andrew had chicken, bacon avocado & cheese with chive mash but the mash was Smash! Not really acceptable in this day and age when mash is seen as a delicacy in London.
Alison enjoyed her steak followed by double chocolate Boston Cake. Laura had fish shapes (rectangles!) followed by hot toffee pudding. Boys had ice-cream. Kids had great fun in playground with other kids.
Alarm set for 8am tomorrow. Wouldn't do to oversleep!
Saturday 25th August 2001
Barbridge Junction -> Venetian Marina 1.5m, 1 lock
Up and at 'em! Washing up by the time the alarm went off. Everyone working hard; in the case of the children with some guidance...
It seemed further than we remembered up to the last lock probably because there was a solid wall of moored boats this time due to the lockwind when loads of enthusiasts turn up to operate the locks for everyone (A fundraising event by the Shropshire Union Canal Society: Ed). There we met up with Christine and Arthur and said a shaky farewell to Summer Breeze leaving, it turned out our bread in the breadbin. (The beginning of a long tradition of leaving something on the boat...:Ed).
It felt unbelievably odd to be travelling at more than walking pace. And to have a choice of directions. We got hopelessly lost trying to find the main road to Chester.
We will be back (But not on Summer Breeze... However it is likely that we may cover some of the same ground next year in Sojourn as we are based at Wrenbury at the eastern end of the Llangollen)