Walking Down The Locks. 21st December

Bridge 126 to Marston Doles Visitor Moorings

Teepee. No hot tub

Windy this morning, but with possible rain later on we decided to move earlier rather than later. No need to push off today, once the bow was untied I had to pull it back in to jump onboard before Oleanna was blown back out, no hoping on at the stern today!

No longer listing

Only an hours cruise for us today, all grey and windy. The hot tub by the teepee has been removed and sheep installed in the field. The boat in the middle of the field has been levelled out, it must have been on a list for some time (the muddy mark still evident on the hull).

Some cars

The visitor moorings at Marston Doles have been turned over to Winter Moorings. Two boats were tied up with permits in their windows, space at the end possibly for us. The washing machine was put on as we approached the water point and ran as we filled up. The tank was full before the machine had finished, but nobody was coming past so we waited for the final rinse before topping up the tank again.

In the mean time I had a walk down to see if there was any space below the second lock to moor. One cruiser sat there, but the towpath was rather muddy so we decided to use up the space left on the winter moorings instead. One of the winter moorers commented that we were the first boat he’d seen in months. We knew there was a boat ahead of us somewhere so we weren’t the first boat to pass him.

Top Lock

After lunch we decided to walk down the flight to check on progress at Lock 9 of the Napton flight which had been closed since 5th November to more or less be rebuilt. The stoppage notice had said that it would re-open today at 4pm, we wanted to check if that was the case. With a bag of rubbish each we set off hoping that the big black clouds would find a route around us. We were fortunate and only had a light bit of drizzle for a few minutes, the bins were getting on for two miles away.

On our way down we made note of where else we could moor should we need somewhere. In the long pound a section of the towpath had disintegrated so much that it was fenced off with orange netting. But this had left no space to be able to walk, so the towpath sideways trees had had a severe cutting back. The black area on the ground is how far they used to encroach.

Sideways trees cut backWol on his way downLock 14 was open, no signs suggesting that the flight was still shut and as we rounded the bend before Lock 13 we could see NB Wol, the boat that was in front of us, just entering it heading down the flight.

All looked finished

We walked on ahead and at the last bridge before Lock 9 there were a lot of builders bags of sand and aggregate, either too much had been ordered for the works or it would be used on the towpath. There was no fencing around the lock, just orange mesh to keep you off the newly laid earth. The site was clear, the bottom gates of the lock wide open and boats were sitting in the pound below.

New bit of towpath too

Lock 9 is where NB Tyseley got stuck this summer. Numerous ropes, a boat pulling and flushing through of water had to be used to get her unjammed. The lock had been gradually getting narrower and any older boats with a touch of spread had been getting caught. The stoppage notice said that they would ‘Take down and rebuild the towpath chamber wall. Take down and rebuild the offside approach walls. Carry out localised repairs throughout. Please be aware the end date of this closure is outside our published winter stoppage period due to the extent of the works involved.’

Hopefully straighter sides nowTowpath side almost all rebuiltBreeze block coping stonesNew brickwork and oldThe works were certainly finished. The towpath side chamber wall is 7/8th new brickwork, the off side about 1/5th. We did wonder why some bits of old brick work had been left, but there must have been a reason. The large stone on the bottom off side of the lock looked like it had been shaved back and put back in place above new brickwork, the corners having been chamfered off. One thing we were very surprised about was the use of breeze blocks as new coping stones on the towpath side. These are normally large bricks or stone (as on the off side). Will they be able to withstand the beating from boats entering the lock to come down, especially as in the summer months many will be at the helm for the first time on hire boats. Will the gritty texture do wonderful things to gunnels as boats rise encouraging more use of fenders in locks?! The use of them does suggest one thing, that Lock 9 is not a listed structure so cheaper materials could be used.

On our way back from the bins we quickly closed the bottom gates for the chap coming down hill, the bywash in the pound above was blocked so at least the water could run over the gates and start to fill the lock for him. He was making good progress down the flight, if it hadn’t been so late we’d have offered him a hand, but with no torch and a muddy towpath ahead we carried on.

The lock must have been reopened today early on. The site had been cleared. A bit further up hill we could see where C&RT had had access to the site, a temporary road across the field had been laid, now removed leaving yellowed grass beneath.

If we’d known the flight would open early would we have moved along the summit quicker? Maybe, maybe not.

Up north on the Middlewich Branch, NB Halsall and NB Bargus look to have been the first couple of boats through this morning at just gone 9am. NB Harnser went up Wardle Lock after the fuel boats came down. The canal looks a touch sterile from the photos, but once grass has seeded and nature has weathered the concrete it will soon mellow. But what’s more important is that the branch is now open, linking two routes north again. Middlewich has boats back and C&RT and Keir have worked wonders in getting this done before Christmas.

DSCF7114sm9 locks walked down, 9 locks walked up, 2.34 miles, 1 blowy day, 2.5 hours they said, 2 hours on account, 1 boat going down, 3/5ths of lock rebuilt, 1 no longer skinny lock, 1 clogged bywash, 1 full water tank, 2 bags of rubbish, 0.5 of a sock to go.