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The Odyssey 2009: Day 38

Posted by indigodream on 17 August, 2009

Sunday 9th August

Audlem to Barbridge

These cabins are a feature of the Audlem Locks - so tiny but they still fitted in a fireplace!

These cabins are a feature of the Audlem Locks - so tiny but they still fitted in a fireplace!

We had a quiet night at Audlem and although we thought we’d set out early (8.20am!), several boats had already passed by and there was a lively traffic through the locks. We passed through Lock 12 to the famous waterscape of the Shroppie Fly pub with it’s antique waterside crane. Interestingly, there are 5-day moorings on the offside above lock 13, though the towpath moorings are 48-hour. We also noticed mooring rings between locks 13 and 14 and sheet piling by bridge 80 and again by bridge 92.

Past Audlem, the canal continues its peaceful journey through this much loved landscape of golden fields. There are particularly well-appointed visitor moorings (48-hour) at Coole Pilate, with a wide mown verge, picnic tables and even special stands for disposable barbecues, all provided by the Shropshire Union Canal Society.

Fine old wharf at the bottom of the Audlem flight

Fine old wharf at the bottom of the Audlem flight

A little further on there’s the excitement of the Hack Green locks and the BIG sign for the “secret nuclear bunker” – it’s well worth a visit if you have the time. We didn’t stop there this time but we did go round it a few years ago when we were on the Dragonfly. The sign makes you laugh but there’s nothing funny about the intent – it’s a grim reminder of a terrible threat, whether you thought is was real or just political paranoia.

As we got past Bridge 89 we noticed a few red ‘arrows’ (signs, that is, not the famous aeroplanes!), crossing the landscape in straight lines showing the passage of a buried what? One was a gas pipe for certain, the other might have carried fuel oil. Were they to do with the Hack Green Secret bunker – who knows?

Now, with most of the Shroppie towpath in appalling condition (and a distinct lack of road access), we’ve seen very few walkers and cyclists on this canal. It was a bit of a shocker to arrive in Nantwich to see throngs of people on the towpath and even more boats passing along the canal. Now Nantwich is a fine boating town but it felt unpleasantly busy after the miles of rural cruising we’ve enjoyed since

Another iconic feature on the Shroppie

Another iconic feature on the Shroppie

leaving, well, since leaving Kidderminster really.

But Nantwich is making the most of its heritage, with a well-maintained towpath and wooden sculptures dotted around – most looked like lumps of wood to our unartistic eyes, but there’s no mistaking the life-size wooden horse by Bridge 92.

There is a busy service point here; we stopped for water. For reference, there is room for two boats to moor at the services, though there’s only one waterpoint.

It was very busy through Nantwich – understandable really – it’s not far from the big junctions at Hurleston and Barbridge so there’s traffic from the Llangollen as well as boaters doing the four counties ring.

Nantwich (with the sculpted horse by the bridge)

Nantwich (with the sculpted horse by the bridge)

Although we soon left the suburbs of Nantwich behind, the canal doesn’t quite regain the peace of it’s southern reaches. Nevertheless, Hurleston Junction is very pleasant with its high reservoir banks dominating the canal – interestingly, the giant reservoir doesn’t feed the canal – it’s drinking (and washing!) water. A little further along, there are some very attractive houses coming up to Barbridge.

We’d booked an engine service with Neil Coventry, the engineer who’d originally installed our engine. He’d suggested that we moor by Bridge 100 which has good road access and parking, as well as being secure and 14- day. We arrived early afternoon and the towpath looked to be in good condition so a pin mooring seemed feasible. There was a working pair moored nearby, selling fancy canal goods and a few more practical items. We bought some more mooring pins and tied Indigo Dream on five pins – two each fore and aft and one in the centre just in case. There’s an infernal ledge here and the boat got bumped unpleasantly every time another boat passed (and there were lots). We tried some cunning work by sinking our fat fenders between the boat and the ledge, but to no avail. Never mind, we weren’t staying the night.

Distant view of the top of the Hay Tower - clever stuff

Distant view of the top of the Hay Tower - clever stuff

Richard went off to get the car – he took a minicab this time, it would have taken too much time to cycle all the way back to Audlem. I did the usual domestics and Blue and Lou stretched out, it was too hot for rummaging and they were hiding out from the numerous wasps swarming around the boat. Does anyone know what wasps are for, apart from being a damn nuisance?

It took a long while for Richard to get the car, and by the time we’d done our usual faffing around (we always find it so hard to leave Indigo Dream) it was quite late. Not too late for us to admire the ‘Hay Tower’ nearby – an amazing structure made of hay bales – this time the Westminster Tower complete with a working clock face. Apparently they change it every year and it’s a big visitor attraction (or is it the associated ice-cream factory that’s the big draw – sadly just closing as we drove past).

Hurleston Junction

Hurleston Junction

We got home late (after our usual stop at the Cherwell Valley services) but it’s been a great weekend’s cruising for a change with proper summer sunshine.

Now we have the big dilemma of where to go next. We have some visitors from Australia coming on board. We were planning to visit Chester (then across the Manchester Ship Canal to the Weaver) but we’ve bumped into a boater who’s had trouble there – ropes being untied, objects being thrown; another local told us that it can be a bit rough there during the school holidays. Now, our visitors haven’t travelled thousands of miles just to have stones thrown at them by a few morons, so we’re now wondering whether to go up the Llangollen instead. I swore I’d never do the Llangollen at the busiest time of the year, but you can’t deny that Pontcysyllte would be a great experience for our visitors. Or do we just give up and go along the Middlewich branch and up heartbreak hill – another great canal experience (though maybe not as scenic). It’s an important choice – we’ve decided to spend the winter in London so we only have a few more weekends of cruising up here before we have to turn south to dodge the winter stoppages.

Photoblog:

Ducks enjoying the bywash

Ducks enjoying the bywash

Poor old Lou's tired already, well, she has been up for half an hour....

Poor old Lou's tired already, well, she has been up for half an hour....

Spring 2010 may be a bit optimistic......

Spring 2010 may be a bit optimistic......

You lookin' at me?

You lookin' at me?

Rare sight of a village...

Rare sight of a village...

Lou having yet another rest - once she'd got settled in this shady spot she wasnt at all keen to catch up with the boat....

Lou having yet another rest - once she'd got settled in this shady spot she wasn't at all keen to catch up with the boat....

This sofa ain't big enough for both of us.....

This sofa ain't big enough for both of us.....

Long way from home - wouldn't it be good if the Glamorgan canals wre still open...

Long way from home - wouldn't it be good if the Glamorgan canals were still open...

Day boat at Nantwich - get those legs back in the boat....

Day boat at Nantwich - get those legs back in the boat....

Fellow bloggers Bendigedig - alas the crew wasn't around

Fellow bloggers Bendigedig - alas the crew wasn't around

Richard took great delight in taking this photo - this is the place where I took my one and only accidental bath in the canal on our first cruise ever

Richard took great delight in taking this photo - this is the place where I took my one and only accidental bath in the canal on our first cruise ever on hire boat Silver Saturn

Attractive moorings and housing on the approach to Barbridge

Attractive moorings and housing on the approach to Barbridge

5 Responses to “The Odyssey 2009: Day 38”

  1. Don’t miss the run up to Chester – it’s only the bit in the town itself that’s a problem, and the rest is great. You can always tie at the Cheshire Cat in Christleton and take the Park and Ride bus into town.

    Just make sure you’ve got a full water tank – there’s nothing after Calverly until you get to Chester.

    Cheers

    Bruce

  2. indigodream said

    Cheers Bruce, that’s really useful advice. That’s what makes the blogging community so special.

    We’re still waiting for the Australians to let us know when they’re coming so no decisions yet!

  3. Greygal said

    Hi Sue

    We enjoyed the Chester/EP run hugely – even though we’d had similar doom-mongers trying to rain on our parade. And you can encounter morons anywhere…Another suggestion to throw into the pot – across the Middlewich branch and then a foray up to Anderton? It’s a gorgeous run as you get to look down onto the Weaver and you can finish off with a trip down/up the Lift.

    Best wishes

    GG

  4. indigodream said

    Hmmm that is two positive votes so I suspect that we will go back to plan “A”. As you say you can get trouble anywhere, we were thinking that it is best avoided if we have the australians on board but we will think again. My planned route looks like the Cheshire Cat, Chester, Ellesmere Port then up the MSC to Weston, River Weaver to Anderton then 400 lock miles to get home over 2 months worth of weekends. Information pack ordered, surveyor provisionally booked. Just got to think of a way of breaking the news about a short hike up the MSC to Sue …

    Richard

  5. indigodream said

    There’s a lot to be said for going North – not least because of the recommendations of our fellow boaters. I was thinking it may also get us out of the way of the traffic on the 4-counties ring, now sadly broken by the Shroppie breach.

    Ah, the MSC, do the dogs and I decamp to the road as we did on the tidal Severn and leave Richard to play with the big boys????

    Sue

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