Category Archives: Nature

Boaters Covid Support. 31st March

Lockdown Mooring 2

Oleanna seen from lour walk today

A couple of weeks ago Kate Saffin and a few other people started a facebook group with the aim of connecting small local boating groups on the network in relation to Covid-19, circulating information and supporting where help was needed.

We started as a group for boaters running local waterways based COVID support groups. That is still important – creating a network of small, local, responsive groups across the waterways with this group as an umbrella group to support anyone running a group. As things have developed we’ve been asked for help by more isolated boaters, so this also a network for any boater to connect to other boaters – for some practical help or just to know that there are others around your area.

Boaters Covid Support-National Network, Facebook

Existing groups contacted them and then there were people like me who wanted to connect to a local group if there was one around. This part of the Shropie didn’t have a group, yes I could have set one up with the guidance from the Boaters Covid Support, but as we’ll be moving on when we can it seemed daft to become an admin for an area we are (hopefully) only visitors in.

Tilly watching the mystery bird

I’ve been checking back to see if a group had been set up and today I found a growing list of such groups. Hopefully this link Covid Suppport Groups Listing will take you to the relevant page where you can download the list. A small group had been set up for the Northwich/Middlewich/Nantwich area, so we both joined.

So far there are ten members in our group, but I hope it will grow. These groups are intended so that people can offer help locally or ask for help should they need it through these challenging times.

On our side

Today we’ve been watching the farmers ploughing the fields around us on both sides of the canal. This is exciting as I may soon have a whole field to dig and run around in. Having my own pooh field as shore based facilities will keep Them happy.

And across the way

Our mystery bird returned and I tried to film it to capture it’s call. Here it is right at the beginning, before the White Tipped Tailed Tilly starts with her whingeing! Thank you for the suggestions so far. I think however it is possible that it might be a Turn of some sort and only calls when in flight.

This afternoon we set out on a walk. The Ordnance Survey map was checked to see if we could do a circular route and one was found that would keep us on this side of the canal.

Good chimnys behind the modern houses

We walked up towards Hurleston, stopping for a chat with Barry who’d been very industrious painting his plank and pole. Then we continued on along the towpath past the junction and on to where the fairies live at the bottom of the garden. Behind the canalside properties lies a rather nice looking house with great tall chimneys. Maybe we’ll head that way another day.

Along hedges, across fields, we were quite glad Mick had the map on his phone because other than at the occasional gate post there was no obvious footpath to follow.

Down that way

What until recently must have been thick mud now has a dried out top crust all cracked and in parts deceiving as you foot squelches through into the underlying softer layers. Then tractor tracks hard baked make the going hard, we did our best not to twist any ankles.

Tractor tracks

Grassy fields, old maize fields with the remaining husks long since devoured by wildlife.

Maize
Red Dead-nettle

Past a very large new barn being built, alongside the farm track and across more fields.

New barn

Down into the corner where a wrong footed style gave us a conundrum along with getting spiked by the holly tree that had grown round it.

Wrong footed

Here we could see our route across a small wooden bridge a style at both ends.

The bridge into someone’s garden

This then led us into a very well maintained garden! Hang on, we thought, we can’t go tramping up their garden. We checked the map. It suggested the path went up the left of the buildings, except these buildings didn’t look like they were L shaped.

A very inviting route up the garden

We tried round the other side of the hedge, no. Then up the side of the garden apologising as we went. In the corner by an area where chicken were fenced in there was a style, phew we could get out of someone’s garden.

Hello Mrs

We soon joined the track away from the houses and on a telegraph pole saw a notice saying that the footpath was closed until June, due to damage sustained by the bridge during the recent floods. The footpath on this map suggested that we should have walked right up through the garden! Glad we didn’t.

There’s some lovely looking houses about with their two tone bricks. A 4 bedroomed barn conversion is for sale, a mere snip at £570,000. Link

The one in the middle for sale

The road led us back towards the canal and our nearest southernly neighbours. from here it was back onto the towpath and back to the boat. A good three mile walk, slightly challenging under foot.

0 locks, 0 miles, 6 boats, 1 after dark, 2 fields ploughed, 1 flock of seagulls, 1 mystery bird, 1 poem ready to add, 3 miles walk, 2 kissing gates, 2 styles, 1 tennis court in use, 2 coats left outside, 1 big pan of chicken and sweet potato hash, yum.

Drifting On By. 25th Marc

Lockdown Mooring 1

Lockdown Mooring 1

The mornings are filled with sunlight at the moment and sleeping past 7am is getting hard, this will help next week not to feel too lazy when the clocks have jumped forward. Our mooring is close ish to the railway but with the reduced time table we rarely hear them, instead the world is filled with bird song. That is until a boat comes past, I can hear them from quite a distance at the moment.

This morning we were expecting at least one boat, NB Briar Rose. Adam and Adrian had set off almost three weeks ago from their marina on the Grand Union and had headed for the North. Sadly most of the north is still closed due to storm damage. Now Corona-19 has stopped all but essential navigation of the network, they’d been feeling the lock down approaching in the water too, so had turned round a few days ago. NB Briar Rose is being left at a marina and they will be returning home, four weeks early.

Adrian and Adam

They were the first boat to come past this morning and we managed to have a chat with them as they drifted past at a safe distance. Tilly was a touch disappointed not to see Adam as last summer he visited us in Guildford and brought her lots of treats. But she was far too busy in the sideways trees to even pop her head out to acknowledge them. We wished them a safe journey home.

What’s that over there?

Tilly spent much of the day outside. Luckily there seems to be a lot to keep her occupied and today she managed to keep to the newest rule of using shore based facilities. She’s a touch exhausted so you may not hear from her for a while.

I continued painting my model and then in the afternoon moved onto a new project that needs to be done for Friday. My stocks of card are kept low on the boat due to lack of storage, but an old pad of tracing paper provided me with enough card for my model. Tomorrow I’ll finish it and be able to post some footage on line.

The basic bits cut out

Mick started on his list of jobs. Today to grease the hatch doors and locker lids. As the weather gets warmer a lot of our hinges (Oleanna’s not ours) start to creak and we always intend to give things a good grease. Well today the side hatch doors were take off and some stern gland grease applied. The two bow locker lids also had the same treatment.

It came off in my hand

These took a bit of removing so Mick dug the Hebble Spike out from a locker and used it to cushion the hammer blows to nudge the lids along their hinges. Sadly the locker lids are in need of some attention from me as they are not quite central to the opening. So as they get opened and closed any grit down the side has worked the paint off and now rust is working it’s way along. These have been on my list of jobs to do for a while.

Hebble spike coming in handy

A walk to the chandlers on the off chance of some milk. The café window was open but nobody was around to serve. The lady at the chandlers hadn’t been able to get any milk for the last few days and any bread she’d got had been snapped up first thing. Rumours were that the shops were chaos in Nantwich with long queues still.

The café serving hatch

Walking back the two chaps moored near the lock asked if we had everything we needed and were we alright for shopping? A better community spirit than on other stretches of the towpath around the country.

Watching the world go by

During the day we counted eighteen boats go past. The first being NB Briar Rose and the last NB Halsall in the dark.

I’ve had a wash time to go out again

0 locks, 0 miles, 9.5 hours, 18 boats, 1:55 ish model, A4 sea, 1lump hammer, 1 Hebble spike, 2 hatch doors, 2 locker lids, 1 gas locker hinge greased, 1 heel stitch dropped, 70% spent pouncing not sleeping, 2 Mrs Tilly stamps of approval.

And STOP. 23rd March

This morning we could feel something in the water around us. A few boats were moving, most coming past us to wind and then head back towards Venetian Marina. We walked down the towpath to check out if there was space at the barbeque mooring as we’re wanting to clean our boat covers. One boat was pulling away leaving one, there would be space for us.

Celendine

Back at the boat I was receiving emails about my Dark Horse show, they were wanting my opinion on how the show might be realised with current restrictions. Obviously the play can only be performed once restrictions are lifted. I sent an honest reply back. Some elements won’t be affected much if on-line orders don’t get affected. Costumes, another matter. With social distancing I wouldn’t be able to do fittings with the actors, worst case scenario the actors would have to wear their own clothes, should the show go ahead. But my strong belief is that when restrictions are lifted, theatres and theatre companies will need to have a show up their sleeve, one that can be built and rehearsed quickly. So I can finish the design, we’ll have our meeting in a couple of weeks over the internet and then time and restrictions will guide us as to how much will be possible. My next payment will be on completion of the design, due in two weeks, this will go straight out to renew our boat licence.

The feeling we’d woken with was growing inside. If a lock down of the country was imminent then we wanted to be somewhere we’d be able to get water, shopping, diesel etc. We had lunch, headed to the winding hole in front of us, turned the boat and headed back to Cholmondeston Lock.

Back past our mooring

Here a boat was waiting below to go up, they were emptying the lock, we nudged in behind them. The chap opened up the gates and came to move his boat, I walked up and closed the gates for them and then operated the towpath side paddle whilst the chap did the off side.

We chatted from opposite sides of the lock. He was moving his freshly painted and spray foamed boat towards Birmingham. Tomorrow he’d pick up timber in Nantwich so that he could start to fit the boat out and then a friend was coming to help him up the rest of the way. When asked where we were going I explained that we felt movements would be restricted soon, so we wanted to be above the lock.

Venetian Marina

Once we’d ascended the lock ourselves, gloves were removed, hands washed, windlasses disinfected, we pootled along to the next winding hole. Here we winded again then reversed to some Armco. Hatch to the towpath. Here will do, it has a farmyard smell to it, we may get used to it.

Whilst we’d been moving we’d had emails from other boaters who’d been feeling the same vibe. An email from C&RT had come through asking boaters to limit themselves to an area. We would now be staying on this pound.

Approaching the lock

During the afternoon we turned the BBC on, the usual press conference at 5pm wasn’t going to happen, a COBRA meeting was taking place. All Brits who were abroad were being urged to return home as soon as possible. There would be a broadcast at 8:30pm.

Mr Johnson with fists clenched announced the new measures from No 10. We knew this was coming and to a certain extent it was a relief to finally hear it.

At 11:00 this email from C&RT dropped into Mick’s inbox.

Following the most recent announcement from the Prime Minister regarding the UK’s response to the coronavirus crisis, we are asking leisure boaters to stop all non-essential travel. As a result, and to help those who live-aboard (along with those who would need to travel to their boat in order to move it) we are suspending the requirement to move every 14 days. The suspension will be kept under review in line with revised government guidance, applying initially until 14 April.
 
We ask everyone to be considerate and make sure at least a minimal amount of essential movement is maintained to keep vital boater facilities and services accessible to those that need them. We will continue to maintain boater facilities and pump out cards are available from our online shop. (We will be urgently reviewing the implications for face-to-face sale of pump out cards and facilities keys from our public offices). 
  
Please click here for the latest updates to our Frequently Asked Questions and up to date advice on where to get support.
 
Colleagues whose roles are critical to the safe management of the waterways, for example those managing water levels, those carrying out statutory inspections of canal structures, ensuring essential facilities for boaters are available etc will continue their day to day work. 
 
We will be doing whatever we can to support our customers and protect the waterways so we can return to enjoying them fully when the crisis is over. We will keep the situation under active review and update you in line with changing circumstances and guidance.
 
Thank you for your patience and forbearance and please stay safe during these unprecedented times.
 
Richard Parry
Chief Executive
Canal & River Trust

So from now until further notice we will only move for water and shopping. We’ll try to combine the two. Tilly will have to adapt too, rationing of the outside may have to be brought in.

Tilly trying not to use this outside up

Stay safe, stay well, stay at home my friends.

1 lock, 0.83 miles, 2 winds, 1 determined theatre company, 2 unnerved boaters, 1 set of covers that can wait, 1 pound, 3 water points to choose from, 1 town for shops, 2 Dreamies not 4, 1 pongy mooring, 1 country on lock down.

Fusilli. 20th March

Nantwich

A shopping list was drawn up over breakfast with what we’d like to get from the shops. A Brompton bike and bags at the ready we walked into Nantwich to see what we’d find.

The arms houses are so pretty on a sunny day

Up on the embankment people kept their distance from each other. With less traffic on the road than normal it wasn’t necessary to press buttons at crossings. It being the last day of school, teenagers stood outside Malbank High School puffing away on cigarettes, we kept a wide berth as they enjoyed their nicotine.

Cafes open today, but not tomorrow

Town wasn’t as quiet as we thought it would be, mostly older people doing their shopping. Each bench around the war memorial had only one person sat on them.

Butchers

We headed for Pepper Street. Here an older lady jokingly warned friends she had the lurgy and to keep away! Then proceeded to stand close and have a good natter, this Social Distancing is going to take some people a while to get the hang of!

Now which one?

H. Clewlow Butchers had their display of pies in the window as usual. Mick made his choice then went inside, returning with a pie, a chicken and some frozen gluten free sausages.

Bread shopping

Next it was Chatwins for a loaf of bread. All these items a touch more expensive than if we’d got them at Morrisons, but at least we were supporting local shops.

Now a self scan shop

Holland and Barrett next to see what gluten free flours they had. Sorghum flour is out of stock everywhere I look on the internet, I knew they wouldn’t have any but I did manage to get some brown rice flour which should keep my sourdough starter happy, that’s if it can cope with a change of food. Here I was invited by the shop assistant to scan my own items, he just had to press buttons on the till.

Then to Morrisons. Fruit and veg seemed fairly well stocked the potatoes a touch depleted, but round in the next isle was a different story. Booze, only sweet or expensive wine left. We’re fine for now.

Down every isle the shelves were being restocked, the sound of boxes and plastic wrapping being cut away. Anti-bac handwash was going out on the shelves so we picked one of them up, we use this normally. Shampoo, meat and mustard were the new isles to be empty.

I’m glad I was brought up cooking and able to look at what was left on shelves and know we’d be eating tasty things for the next few days. Most things on our list were covered now just a few exemptions, so whilst Mick sorted the bike out I headed to Aldi.

The view from bridge 92

A shop assistant was astounded at the amount of frozen ham and pineapple pizzas they were getting through. Then a chap asked why the booze isle was empty. The manager explained that until there are more drivers they are restricted to one delivery to the store a day and she was ordering nappies and pasta rather than booze. Next week things would be restocked, but for now Nantwich would be a sober place to be.

Heading back towards the boat we stopped at B&M where Tilly’s cat food filled the shelves. £2.99 each of 3 for £10! I got one, she now has supplies for a month. I have to say I never thought I’d be buying free range eggs at Home Bargains.

Strange place to hide your pasta stash

After lunch we walked over to the bins at the services. Mick spotted in the skip a new unopened bag of Fusilli pasta with a date on it. What was this doing here? The only pasta in Nantwich. If I wasn’t gluten free we’d have had it, but left it for someone else to find.

NB Halsall had been due in Nantwich over the next few days and Mick had sent in an order. However they have had to change their schedule due to deliveries to them being altered. We tried working out where we might meet them, considered getting a bag of coal from the chandlers here. In the end we checked if they would still have enough stock for us if we met them at Calverley tomorrow, rendez vous arranged.

As Mick had a towpath haircut Tilly tried her paw at catching squirrels at the bottom of the embankment. It really isn’t fare! They jump from tree to tree without doing any calculations, its as if Isaac Newton never existed!

 

Us

Then we sat down to watch todays press conference. Life is different and will stay this way for sometime. Our summer plans of catching up with people in Yorkshire will not happen, we’ll still venture north as C&RT say they have no plans on closing the navigation. Emails full of photos will be sent to those we’ll no longer be able to see. The camera and microphone are now working on the laptop and tomorrow there is a planned get together of Mick’s family on Zoom. I suspect we’ll end up seeing more of each other over the next few months than normal.

0 locks, 0 miles, 1st chiffchaffs, 4 shopping bags, 1 laden bike, 0 porridge, 0 wine, 1 coal boat rendez vous, 1 bag of pasta, 1 shaved head, 1 speedy squirrel.

Pigs Not Ponytails. 19th March

Coole Pilote to Nantwich Aqueduct

Over the last couple of days we’ve been discussing whether we should wear gloves whilst working locks now. Apart from when we venture to the shops this is when we might be in contact with the virus. So far I haven’t bothered, making a mental note of what I touch when back on the boat and giving those places and my windlass a wipe down.

Shhhh!

Mick however today decided that he’d wear gloves to protect others as well as himself. Doing so makes you a touch more aware of what you touch. He wore his rubber coated gloves and I pulled out a disposable pair for working our way down Hack Green Locks.

Bstruction

I’ve also changed how I tie my hair up. A ponytail doesn’t quite keep it all away from my face when working locks and this gets quite annoying when you are trying to avoid touching your face! So today I decided to revert to pigtails. All good so far, except my hat doesn’t quite sit on top of them.

A few boats had come past this morning and the lady from the boat behind us had been out for a walk with her dog and cat. We pushed off at nearly midday, well Tilly had been out finishing off her friends!

Tilly’s work of art from yesterday!

The communications mast from the Secret Bunker hid behind the trees for much of the mile to the locks. We wondered how much toilet roll was stashed away down there in the cold war and if it still might be there.

There’s the mast

Our new modus operandi for working the locks seemed to work well. That was until I spotted bedoingee lambs in the field alongside the locks and had to take a photo!

Baa!

My camera would now need a wipe down. One little lamb obliged when a bedoing was requested and both Mick and I bounced up and down to keep it company.

Over kill maybe, or better safe than sorry

The locks were easy work, followed by wiping things down and disposing of gloves. I think the top of the cabin sides of Oleanna will end up being very clean at this rate.

A zoom in to the hill tops just in view confirmed that we could see Mow Cop on the horizon a familiar sight from the Trent and Mersey and Macclesfield Canals.

Mow Cop

Then a dart of blue, quickly followed by another! Two Kingfishers sprinted ahead of us. We kept our eyes glued to where we thought they might have landed. The camera worked overtime pointing in their general direction and I was lucky to get one reasonable shot with the two of them. I wonder if they were by their nest as it’s now breeding season.

Two in one photo!

We pootled along soon reaching the outskirts of Nantwich. A long line of boats greeted us, did this mean the embankment was full? No it meant the usual boats that stay in one place for a fortnight were doing just that, close to a bridge and away from visitor moorings.

Jellicoe

Along the first stretch of 2 day moorings we spotted Jellicoe the butty for NB Mountbatten. Here is a possible mooring for a supermarket delivery, but as none are available we decided to continue on towards the aqueduct. Last time we passed here NB Valerie was moored along the embankment. Today another green boat sat on the same mooring.

Nantwich Aqueduct

As we rounded the bend of the embankment we could see that there was plenty of space up ahead near the service block and the ramp down to the roads below. We crossed the aqueduct and found ourselves a place, furthest away from the road as possible.

Not so sure, it’s a bit dry round here!

Our shopping trip was put on hold until tomorrow when we’ll face others in the queues at the tills. So Tilly got to reacquaint herself with the hill we’re sat on. Too much footfall for her liking, but better than BUMingham.

Just need to stay on my toes here

During the afternoon I received an email that I really hadn’t expected. Dark Horse have decided to continue with The Garden. They don’t know when or if it will get to be seen by an audience, but want to continue as if it will be. So this afternoon I have scanned my drawings and emailed them off to my friend Graham for a quote. I will colour up the model and in April we’ll have a virtual production meeting via Zoom. Depending on when the show goes ahead will depend on how much I can achieve of my design as I’m not sure charity shops will be open for me to start collecting costumes.

Pink sky

Late afternoon the laptop was handed over to the IT department. It’s all very well arranging for meetings to take place over the internet, but you really need to have a working microphone and camera for such things. After an hour or so, both were working. Mick is now going to see if he can connect my camera up to the laptop at the same time so that I can walk people through the model more easily than with the laptop.

2 locks, 3.93 miles, 2 outsides, 0 friends, 4 muddy paws, again! 1 job to continue, 2 Kingfishers, 2 pairs gloves, 2 antibac wipes, 2 pigtails, 1 last of everything fresh stew, 1 sister-in-law in Australia, 6 weeks lock down in China starting to lift, 0 new measures here.

Hop, Skip And Slip. 15th March

Beeton Wood Bridge to Coxbank Visitor Moorings.

Turnover bridge Shropie style

A touch of shore leave for Tilly whilst we had our breakfast. Three boats came past, two heading towards the locks, oh well, we’d have to reset them for ourselves. As we made ready to push off the cows could be heard in the distance, at least they hadn’t been audible all night.

Top of the flight

The Adderley flight is an easy one. I’d expected all the locks to be empty, but the second one down was full due to a paddle that had been left halfway up, good job there’s plenty of water coming down!

How did someone miss this?

We passed boats coming up hill in the bottom two locks of the flight, one a familiar boat from a couple of years ago. They have a cat, Tilly had had a stand off over whose territory the benches were in at Nantwich.

One coming up

At Hawksmoor Bridge a boat we’d been following was just settling onto the visitors mooring. New stop planks all numbered up had been left by the bridge. There was a stoppage here until recently which caused a shortage of water down into Audlem. But today the levels are back to normal, just a shame that the canal under the bridge is very shallow. Oleanna made a big lean as we came through, it was like being back at Ryders Green!

Labelled stop planks

On to the top of the Audlem flight. There’s a handy mooring just two locks down which is where we planned to moor for the day.

It’s a bit lumpy through that bridge hole

Works at the top lock cottage are all completed now. The lower half of the very big extension is brick with the upper half timer clad that has had time to silver. Mick wasn’t too keen and I think it swamps the original cottage somewhat, the silvering timber will never make it fade into the background.

The lock cottage

No goodies for sale, here today. I didn’t bother checking in the fridges as I didn’t fancy a chilled medication.

I hitched a lift back on Oleanna to get round a muddy patch on the towpath on the way to the next lock. Down the lock and then we had a choice of where to stop as the moorings were empty.

Our first lamb this spring, certainly not a new born

We chose the first stretch just before a very very muddy length of towpath. It was just long enough for Oleanna and neither of us would have to wade through any mud. Just after we’d tied up it started to rain, perfectly timed.

Tilly came and went during the afternoon and I had a catch up phone call with my brother. Jac my sister-in-law had been planning to fly to Melbourne last Wednesday for the rest of the month to visit her Mum and family. I’d wondered if she’d gone, she had. My brother is quite calm about what is happening, he just hopes he gets his wife back sometime. It was good to have a catch up and hear news from London.

New tyre fitted

A few days ago Oleanna had caught a tyre whilst we were moored, so Mick set about replacing one on our wheels that has had a puncture for ages now. It fitted, we just need Oleanna to catch another one sometime and not around her prop!

As the tyre was pumped up a boat came past up the locks. I could hear Mick talking to a lady asking if she was alright. I bobbed out to see what was happening. The lady was walking between the locks windlass in hand and had come across the quagmire on the towpath. She’d tried to get round it, only a mountain goat or Tilly could do this up the steep bank, and had slipped onto her hand. Nothing broken thank goodness as her husband sailed away up to the next lock.

The ladies boat by the next lock

Only one thing for it, we’d give her a lift. Shoes back on, cratch rolled up, Tilly back onboard as their dog ran to find Mum on the towpath, we untied and got the bow just past the muddy section where the lady could hop on the bow with me. She was very apologetic about her muddy shoes, but really that didn’t matter, we’re muddy as anything at the moment! Mick reversed us back up and the lady could hop off and walk on up to the next lock. Her husband was closing the bottom gates at the lock about to start filling the chamber, wonder if he got an ear full?

It rose another inch before it went back in the fridge

My sourdough starter had come out of the fridge earlier with the aim of waking it up to make some pasta for a lasagne tomorrow. It warmed up and after a feed sat on the dinette table slowly growing all afternoon. Just a shame it ended up back in the fridge as we have sausages that will need eating tomorrow. Oh well it can come out and be woken up again tomorrow, I might make a loaf too.

As a joint of pork cooked away in the oven the sun set in the cloudless sky. What a wonderful sight.

Wonderful

7 locks, 2.82 miles, 3 uphill boats, 0 baked goods, 1 starter woken, 1 sister-in-law out of the country, 1 starter put to sleep, 1 new tyre, 4.5 hours shore leave, 1 muddy lady rescued, 1 joint pork, 3 year old balls of yarn, 1 bag of socks I really must update my etsy shop.

Woodseaves. 14th March

Goldstone Bridge to Beeton Wood Bridge 66, then a bit further on.

Time to see what has been blocking the way ahead for a while. I’ve started to get bored of photographing every tree that gave up it’s will to stand upright during the storms, but today going through Woodseaves Cutting the camera was out.

Two years ago it was so magical along this stretch, today it still is, it just shows the scars of the February storms.

Heading in

By Cheswardine Road Bridge clumps of snowdrops filled the banks, these have long been past their best in less sheltered sites, and daffodils covered the tops. We now entered the cutting. Vertical rock hugs the canal and towpath either side, cut through around 185 years ago. Just how did Thomas Telfords navies do this? How long would it take us now to do the same with our diggers and lorries?

As we cruised along patches of red earth showed where things had slipped and every now and then there would be a pile of logs and sawdust.

High Bridge

Two walkers with their dogs could be seen up ahead by High Bridge clambering over something on the towpath. The colour gave it away, this must have been where the main landslip had been.

Blimey

A short distance on from the bridge a large red scar came down from near the top of the cutting. Red earth and large red boulders covered the towpath all very straight edged as if they’d been precut. The boulders were large and we’re sure some must have fallen in the water, but we sailed on past at our sedate speed, no bumps from below.

More trees had come down and there was another large red scar with tree roots by Hollings Bridge. Thank goodness the wet and windy weather seems to have eased as I’m sure there is a lot more that could have come down in the cutting given half the chance.

Still magical

On reaching the top of Tyrley Locks we were slightly relieved, we’d made it through without incident.

More red roots

The house at the top of the locks is up for sale. Built by Thomas Telford in 1837 it really is a picture. Three bedrooms and a private mooring for £385,000. Exposed beams and a bathroom with a walk in shower that looks like Tilly stepped in a pot of blue paint before doing circuits.

A great looking house

A change of footwear was obviously needed with the amount of mud and standing water around the top gates of the top lock. Quite a lot of branches and twigs accompanied us down where the next lock sat waiting for us with it’s top gate open.

Glorious mud

From Lock 3, I could see there was a boat below the bottom lock, were they coming or going? We knew there was a boat ahead of us, but I could have sworn there had been one heading for the locks. The pound between the bottom two locks is where we got stuck two years ago. Signs, now very worn, warn you not to stop in the pound.

Tyrley Lock 1

I hesitated to go and set the next lock, but Mick and some walkers said that the boat was heading away from the bottom of the flight. I had another look and sure enough it was. So as Mick descended I walked down to fill the next chamber.

Hang on! There was someone at the next lock. Then I could see the roof of a boat rising, there had been a boat coming towards us as well as one going away. I closed paddles and lifted others to empty the lock so they could use it. Swung the gates open and waved them in, then headed back up to let Mick and Oleanna out of the lock above.

NB Bessie Surtees

Walking back down the lady recognised me. ‘Are you Pip?’ The boat was NB Bessie Surtees, our paths have crossed a few times over the last few years, but I’ve never met them before, sorry I don’t know your names. They come from Scarborough too, so it was very nice to finally meet them. Having said that we both kept our distance, something that will be common practice over the next few months.

Bye bye

As the boats swapped over we waved farewell and continued downwards. Normally Mick loiters in the throat of a lock and closes the offside gate for me, but not here, I wouldn’t let him. The bywash is a torrent and could easily have pushed Oleanna onto rocks on the offside, so it was much better for him to just gun it out of the lock and into the next one, leaving me with the gates.

Phew!

Phew, no getting stuck!

A family were walking up the locks so I enlisted their help to open the gate and close it again. We pulled up short of the first bridge into Market Drayton, pulled out the shopping bags and walked into town to stock up on fresh food. Our walk felt like we were walking into the lions den, Corovirus just waiting to pounce. Normally a busy supermarket is just that too busy, too many people, but today this had a different edge to it.

Only expensive pasta left, or an open bag

Luckily the things we wanted were on the shelves, fresh veg, milk and bread along with our Saturday newspaper. We don’t see the need to stock pile, also we don’t have the space. We did however check the loo roll isle, nothing. Pasta, only the really expensive stuff left, opposite the gluten free fusilli, we picked up a bag just in case! Long life milk, none.

A box of white wine was added to our trolley to make up for the missing one the other day. There were plenty of people about, only one face mask though. This was a home made version worn by an old chap. I’m not certain but it was either made from a white cotton vest or from a pair of new pristine white underpants.

Cheese Twist mountain

A quick call into Lidl where Mick was very pleased that there hadn’t been a run on cheese twists! We were done now and headed back to be away from the crowds again.

Betton Mill Wharf looks like it is now being used by C&RT for it’s work boats. A much better use than a few years ago! This is where we came to talk to Stillwater about the build of our narrowboat that wasn’t in October 2012. For those who don’t know the Crown Prosecution Service took the boat builders to court last year on two counts of fraud.

Now a C&RT yard

Since we went to the sentencing hearing last April, not much has happened. When we left court further hearings had been arranged to confiscate funds to be used as compensation to the victims, us being only one of several. Late last summer I contacted the lady who’d been looking after us to see who we should contact regarding what had happened. This is when she informed us that the hearings had been cancelled. She could give us no reason for this and was of a similar opinion to us about how ridiculous this was. We always knew we’d never get our full money back, but the court had suggested we’d get something. But it appears that you can fraudulently take money from people and get away with it if you keep your nose clean!

It appears nobody would have told us about this and we haven’t been told officially either. Maybe things were said in court for our benefit then not to be acted upon. What a joke our underfunded legal system is!

Blimey! That’s a big one

Anyhow back to today. Soon we came across the biggest tree that had been across the cut and to some extent still was! The jagged crack on it’s trunk suggested the force at which it had fallen.

Crack!

We pulled in about a mile further on where the towpath was relatively green and dry. A herd of cows watched our every move from half way across the field on the off side. They made comments and I’m sure would have given us marks out of ten if they had hands.

Moo
along with many more!

Tilly and I played stick for a while and then she was left to her own devises, climbing trees, pouncing, she doesn’t need me for such things.

Tree

Shortly before sunset, Tilly came home a touch hungry. The teenage bovines in the field across the way had managed to get to the canal and were running around kicking and mooing, goading us. Then they were joined by another gang of teenage boys in the field alongside the towpath. We were surrounded with mooing and noises that sounded like several were elephants in disguise.

We looked at each other, then at Tilly who no longer was looking longingly, watching the birdies, but was warily keeping an eye on lip licking cows through the hedge. ‘Lets move’ we said to each other. Tilly agreed.

As we moved along the cows followed us, even more amassing behind. They must have such a boring life. Will this be what human teenagers occupy themselves with should/when the schools close? I suspect we’ll find out.

5 locks, 5.61 miles, 4 landslips, 7 trees down, 1 big bird, 1 high bridge, 9 boulders, 2 Scarborough boats in 1 pound, 1st meeting, 1 box of wine, 1 packet gf pasta, 1 loaf bread, 2 cheese twists, 1 joint pork, 1 cabbage, 4 carrots, 4 parsnips, 0 toilet roll, 1 newspaper, 1 y front mask, 2 boaters wanting to wash our hands, 0 compensation, 326 teenagers, 472853245 moos, 2 moorings, 1 quiet evening at last.