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August 25th 2012 - Chester

Well there has been lots of water and lots of bridges since the last blog!

We finally tore ourselves away from the Huddersfield area and headed down the Huddersfield Narrow back to Portland Basin where we filled up with diesel at the marina there.  We turned left back onto the Peak Forest canal and moored up once more in that lovely spot amongst the trees where we had been stuck for a week back in May waiting for Lock 1W to reopen.  The following day we continued our journey along the Peak and retraced our steps back up the Marple Flight.  That in itself was quite interesting to say the least! We arrived at the bottom of the flight and I emptied the lock and Clive brought the boat in.  When I went up to open the front paddles and fill the lock I was very surprised to see that there was hardly any water in the pound!  By the time the lock was full there was even less and it was perfectly obvious that there wasn't enough depth for Clive to get the boat from this lock to the next one so I had to go up to the next lock and open both front and back paddles to let water through into the pound.  Lady Arwen then managed to drag her bottom across the pound and into the lock.  The trouble was the next pound was now empty too!  Fortunately the third lock was actually full so I used that water to fill the pound and by the time we got up to the fourth lock things were beginning to settled down and we got up the rest of the flight without any more trouble.  Once on the Upper Peak Forest we decided to head for Bugsworth Basin, right at the other end near Whaley Bridge.  The Peak Forest is a lovely canal with fantastic views across the valley to Derbyshire.  The weather was varied, some days it was really lovely and others were very wet indeed!

Clive had an ulterior motive for going to Bugsworth Basin, there is plenty of excellent mooring there and it is very peaceful and quiet and he was desperate to paint the boat!  Weeks and weeks ago he went over the boat touching up all the bumps and scratches with rust treatment and then undercoat but hasn't had chance to do the topcoat because of the weather!  Anyway when we arrived we found a great spot to moor up and as the sun came out Clive wasted no time and was soon happily painting up to the gunwhales with new black bituminous paint.

Painting in progress!

Once he had painted one side he pootled down to the end of the basin, turned the boat around, brought her back to the mooring and painted the other side!  She now looks very smart indeed, much nicer with black gunwhales then when they were blue.

Moored in Bugsworth Basin

My sister Thelma came to join us for a couple of days whilst we were at Bugsworth and she and I were sitting outside playing music in the sunshine before she left to drive home - lovely!

We left Bugsworth Basin and headed back along the Peak Forest and when we reached the the junction at the top of the Marple Flight we turned left onto the Macclesfield Canal and headed for Goyt Mill.  There is a great launderette very close to the canal and we were in desperate need!  I made full use of the facilities, three washer loads!  I also left our huge 15 tog feather and down duvet there to be washed and dried for us with a promise to collect it the following Friday.  After that we pootled along the Macc stopping here and there as we pleased.  We also dropped Clive's laptop off at a computer repair shop in High Lane, again just a stone's throw from the canal - how convenient!

We returned to the Peak Forest after a few days and as we were pootling along we noticed a lady and gentleman and a teenager walking along the towpath.  The spotted us and called out to ask how far it was to Bugsworth Basin.  Clive slowed right down to have a chat and it turned out that they were a German family on a holiday boat which was stuck down at the bottome of the Marple Flight, which was closed because there had been a breach and a lot of the water had run out into somebody's garden!  That explains where all the water was disappearing to when we came up!  They were hoping that the flight would reopen in a few days but this didn't leave them enought time to get to Bugsworth Basin and back so they had decided to walk.  We explained that it was quite a long distance to walk and the gentleman asked if there was any chance we could give them a lift.  Naturally we were delighted to give them a lift, so they all hopped on board and we set off again.  We all introduced ourselves - Udo and Roland were father and son and Udo's mother, Ingeborg, their surname was Lindenbach.  We had a lovely cruise along the Peak Forest with them, they have done narrowboat holidays in the UK before and it is Roland's ambition have a share in a narrowboat some day.  Udu explained that Roland usually steers the boat when they are cruising - that put me to shame straight away didn't it!!  We finally arrived in Bugsworth Basin and moored up then we all went to the pub, The Navigation, where Udo very kindly bought us lunch.  After that we gave them a bit of a tour of the basin and explained some of its history to them.  We had been trying to figure out the best way for them to get back to Marple and assumed that the train from Whaley Bridge would be the answer, however we were informed in the pub that the trains from Whaley Bridge don't go to Marple, they go to Manchester!  The only way would be to get a bus back.  Just as we were about to say goodbye a car drew up at the side of us and the driver asked us if we knew anything about the basin, we got chatting and when he heard that the Lindenbachs had to get back to Marple he offered to give them a lift.  He wanted half an hour to have a look around and suggested they meet him back at the same spot then.  It just goes to show that there is a lot of kindness around and people will do the nicest things for complete strangers.

Ingeborg, Udo, Roland & Clive

Now I did say that we had dragged ourselves away from Huddersfield but in actual fact we couldn't quite get away completely because Clive's cousin Deborah and her husband Andrew were celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary and wanted us to join the rest of the family at their house for the celebrations.  So after a couple more days at Bugsworth Basin we went back along the Peak Forest and moored up at Furness Vale where there is a railway station. On Sunday August 5th we caught the train from Furness Vale about 10.45am which took us to Manchester Piccadilly where we caught another train to Huddersfield, Gareth picked us up from the station and off we went to the party.  We had a lovely time, Deborah is the hostess with the mostest and she and Andrew had provided a wonderful spread, which we all enjoyed very much indeed.  The weather also was kind to us and we managed to sit out in the garden for most of the afternoon.

The Family!

We had an uneventful journey back on the train and there was Lady Arwen waiting for us, safe and sound, when we got back.  The following day we were off on our travels again.  Back along the Macc with a brief stop in High Lane to collect the repaired laptop and then we continued on our way.  We finally moored up at Wood Lanes as it was a good place to meet Thelma who was coming for another visit. 

Many, many years ago Clive bought a set of fantasy novels by an author called Alan Garner and two of these books, The Weirdstone of Brizengamen and The Moon of Gomrath, were both set at a place called Alderley Edge in Cheshire and Clive has always wanted to go there.  So after meeting Thelma in the pub (as you do!) and having a meal together we planned to go on an adventure to Alderley Edge the next day.  Fortunately it dawned bright and sunny (rare occurrence!) so we made a picnic, put on our hiking boots, I got out my trusty hiking poles and off we went.  We had a lovely time!  Sadly we didn't stumble across any mysterious caves nor spotted any wizards but it was a great day out nevertheless.  The view from the Edge was spectacular and I tried out a new app I got for my phone which stitches shots together to make a panorama - here it is!

Panoramic view from Alderley Edge

When we got back to the boat Thelma left us for the drive back to Huddersfield.  We decided to stay put for the night then the following morning we got up early and headed off along the Macc.  We had a brief stop in Bollington so I could do a bit of shopping then we carried on past Macclesfield, through Congleton and on to the Bosley Flight.  We did the flight in two and half hours and finally moored up after a long, hard day for a well earned rest and a glass of wine!  The nexrt morning we were off again and managed to get all the way to Kidsgrove where we moored up first for a trip to Tesco and then we moved on a bit further to the top of the lock flight - Heartbreak Hill!  The next day we tackled the flight and managed to get down 26 locks before calling it a day and mooring up.  We set off again in the morning and soon got down to Kings Lock where we turned left onto the Shropshire Union Canal and after three locks Clived decided we should moor up for the day as the weather was due to turn very inclement around lunch time.  There were some very ominous black clouds looming on the horizon but funnily enough they never reached us, we sat there all afternoon in glorious sunshine with nery a raindrop in sight!  The following morning it was still nice and sunny so we set off again and soon reached the very picturesque Minshull Lock but found ourselves at the back of a queue of 8 boats waiting to go up!  There were just as many waiting to come down as well so it all worked out very nicely, one boat would go up another would come down and so on and so forth. Whilst we were queuing I went back to talk to the crew of the boat behind us, which I had recognised.  It was a brand new Braidbar boat called Three No Trumps and the lucky couple who own her live in Huddersfield!  We had first met them at Braidbar's boatyard on the Macc when they were taking their beautiful new boat out for a spin.  Talk about a small world, the new owner of the boat only went to Oakes County Junior School (where Clive and I went) and then onto Huddersfield New College (where Clive went!) however he is just a tad younger than us so we never actually knew each other in our early lives.  But what a coincidence!  We are both extremely envious, it is such a gorgeous boat, maybe one day we will upgrade but don't tell Lady Arwen, we don't want to upset her!

Queuing for Minshull Lock

It was the same story at the next lock, Cholmondeston Lock (we assume that this is pronounced Chumston!) however we pulled into the marina there to fill up with diesel and have a pump-out and I nipped into the shop for a loaf of bread.  We managed to slot back into the queue very neatly and were soon on our way again.  After that it was all plain sailing all the way to Nantwich then it got a bit dodgy as we couldn't find a mooring! Finally ended up just the other side of the aqueduct quite a distance from the marina but fortunately and unusually I didn't need the launderette!  When we were all tied up and secure I phoned my pal Heather to see if she and her hubby Les were around for a get together, they were but only for that night as they had other plans for the rest of the week and weekend.  So they came over for the evening and we had a lovely time catching up on all the goss and drinking wine! (Coke in Les's case, he was driving!).  Hopefully we will get to see them again as we are coming back to Nantwich on our return trip up to Chester.

We remained in Nantwich the next day and decided to nip up to the chandlery for a few bits and pieces and ended up gettting caught in a torrential downpour!  We got absolutely soaked in the time it took to cover the short distance from the chandlery round to the cafe!  Still we dried out whilst enjoying a cream tea!

After leaving Nantwich we made our way along the Shroppie to Chester.  We came here last year and found it to be a really lovely city to visit and is absolutely brilliant for shopping having all the usual suspects on the high street plus others.  We went on a spending spree  and bought lots of new clothes - well Clive did anyway!  I did get a few things for myself, mainly undies but also a couple of tops and a nice shirt.  We then decided to go down the locks and continue along the Shroppie, which we didn't do last year.  We moored up part way along at a convenient bridge because the following day we were going to Chester Zoo!  What a fantastic zoo it is, we had a wonderful time.  We went in at 10.15 and came out at 4.15 and we still hadn't seen everything!  There were some highlights though, the first was the butterfly house, which was wonderful but very warm and humid!  There were some amazing butterflies including one absolutely enormous one which was the size of small bird and I believe it was a Queen Alexandra Birdwing Butterfly.  Sadly it just wouldn't come down from the roof to let me photograph it but I did manage to take one of another beautiful specimen.

Tree Nymph Butterfly (I think!)

We sauntered around looking at various animals and birds, they have a really fantastic collection here at Chester.  We decided not to visit all the usual suspects but rather some of the more unusual animals that we had never seen before.  We then made our way to the Fruit Bat Forest and what a treat that was.  It was probably the best zoo exhibit we have ever, ever been to, it was truly wonderful.  It is basically just a large building which is more or less completely dark when you walk inside apart from a "full moon" up on one wall and a sort of sheet with a dim light behind it on another.  However our eyes gradually adjusted to the darkness and true wonder of the place was revealed.  There were fruit bats of all sizes ranging from tiny ones about the size of our Pipistrelle up to huge "flying foxes".  Some of them were just hanging around, leisurely feeding from trays of fruit fastened onto the branches of the trees but others were flying around, briefly alighting on pieces of fruit for a quick nibble and then off again.  One actually flew between Clive and I and we felt the breeze from its wings as it whizzed past.  It was absolutely entrancing.  We walked around to another spot where there was an opening in a cave-like structure and this was brilliant as the bats were just flying through it all the time in a constant stream and you just stood there with them fluttering past, wafting your hair with the wind from their wings, magic!  We had to drag ourselves away, I could have spent hours in that one exhibit alone!

Inside the Bat Forest

Believe me this does not do it justice but it was the only photograph I could get as the light was behind it.  After that we continued around the zoo but nothing could give us the thrill of the bat forest until we finally arrived at the Dinosaurs Bite Back exhibition!  It was brilliant.  We walked around the garden and there were dinosaurs everywhere, some small ones and some huge ones, all moving and making sounds and one of them even spat at people on the way past, it got me twice!  It was a brilliant exhibition and I really wished that our granddaughter, Indeia, could have been with us, she would have loved it.  Actually I believe her father, Gareth, would have been quite enthralled with it as well.  Wish they had had things like this when he was a little boy, he absolutely loved dinosaurs!  We both enjoyed it very much indeed and I actually took more photos of the dinosaurs than any of the living species in the zoo!

After that we had both had enough, our legs were tired, our feet were aching and it was time to head back to the boat and a nice cup of tea! The next day we continued our journey along the Shroppie, right to the very end, Ellesmere Port! We didn't stay long.  We pulled in for water and I went and had a look around and took some photographs but then we set off back the way we had come.  I think the best bit for me was seeing a huge ship going past on the Manchester Ship Canal!  Otherwise it was just a big basin with lots of ancient canal boats and barges, many full of water and weed.  There is a museum there but we neither of us fancied trailing around looking at a load of old boats so we didn't bother.  However we can now say that we have cruised the full length of the Shroppie from end to end!  We made it all the way back to Chester in good time and moored up again very close to a convenient Tesco store and only a stones throw from the city centre. 

Clive's cousin, Josie, lives in Prenton in The Wirral and it had been arranged that we would spend the afternoon and evening together on Thursday and Chris turned up to collect us about 2.00pm and drove us back to their house.  We had a cup of coffee in the garden, which was lovely and then we set off on the grand tour of The Wirral!  Clive and I have never been to the Wirral before, well Clive visited a hospital lab there once but that was all.  We had no idea what an amazing place it is!  We started off at Parkgate, which was once a thriving holiday retreat in Victorian times.  It has a lovely promenade but sadly no longer has any waves lapping against it!  The River Dee Estuary has all silted up and now only marshland butts up against the prom and you can just make out the river in the far distance.  However it did not deter us, we all had a delicious ice cream and walked along the prom whilst we were munching it!  Next we went to West Kirby and Red Rocks, which does live up to its name!  We parked the car and went for a walk on the beach and stood upon the red rocks!

Josie and Chris standing on the red rocks

From there we drove further around to New Brighton.  Again New Brighton was once a thriving seaside resort but then went into a decline now I am pleased to say it is being regenerated and I suspect it will once again become a popular destination for people who want to go to the seaside for the day, say from Liverpool.  Its looking good I must say.

A bit further around and we came to Egremont where we once again parked the car and went for a walk, this time to look at Liverpool across the Mersey.  What an amazing sight.

Across the Mersey to Liverpool

Then it was back in the car and off back to Josie and Chris's lovely home and a welcome glass of wine followed by a scrumptious meal and then we were driven all the way back to the boat and bed.  What a wonderful day we had had, many thanks to Josie and Chris for our whirlwind tour of The Wirral, it was brilliant and we now have a totally different outlook on this part of the British Isles.

Yesterday we packed a picnic and set off for a walk around the ancient city walls of Chester.  It was a lovely walk and we learned a lot about what Chester was like back in the day.  For a start the River Dee was actually lapping against the walls back in the 1600's and ships from Ireland, Spain,  France and Holland used to dock here to unload their cargoes, now there is a huge racecourse where it used to be!  We did eventually come to the river as we got further around the walls but it has receded a great distance from its original course.  We stopped and had our picnic when we got to the river and watched the world go by for a while before continuing around the walls and then back to the boat.  We like Chester!

We are still in Chester but will be heading off tomorrow back along the Shroppie to Nantwich for a couple of days.  Will definitely be making use of the launderette on the way back!  From there - well you will just have to wait and see!


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