Or it might still be Week 19? It is pretty approximate as the weeks tend to start or end whenever I decide they do – just like old times! This week we had a lot of servicing elements planned, as much as actual travelling, starting with our 500 hour engine service which was booked for Monday morning in Nantwich. We were still in range of the original engine fitter so it made sense for us to get him to come and do it, then he couldn’t start blaming anyone else. To make that work we really had to get there and find a mooring on Sunday, so that we could text him the exact location to find us. Of course, there was no saying what time it would actually be finished so we planned to stay here for a couple of nights.
We had been promised that the weather would break down on Sunday and at first that seemed to be the case. We had successive waves of very heavy rain from about 05:30 for a couple of hours and anticipated a wet trip. After that period, however, it settled down. It was very mild and stayed dry with some good spells of sunshine for the rest of the day. We had a couple of short periods of fine drizzle after we moored up in time for lunch and the rest of the afternoon was quite fine.
We found ourselves moored on the embankment approaching the aqueduct. Beside us were signs pointing the way for the Nantwich Riverside Loop, so it seemed wrong not to get out and follow the route. The towpath here is well made up and we followed it along the embankment, across the aqueduct and past the visitor mooring at the far end, where the loop turns off and starts to go through the edge of a new housing estate and then through fields to the Shrewbridge Road before taking you back through a park and nature reserve along a path between the lake and the river to arrive on Welsh Row, the main road back to the canal and our starting point. A very nice walk for the afternoon.
Gary, the engineer, gave us an ETA of ten o’clock and turned up promptly at eleven fifteen. We have had a very slight drip of oil under the engine for some time, which I had spoken to him about on the phone and having examined it he recommended contacting the gearbox manufacturers, PRM Newage, to have it looked at under warranty. Otherwise, it was a clean bill of health with various filters and the oil changed ready for another 250 hours.
While Bracken and I waited for Gary, Sue went into town to start the shopping. Big town equals big grocery shop. You don’t always get your supermarket of choice and in Nantwich the main offering is Morrison. How many times you have to go there depends on how much you are able to carry back and how far you have to carry it. As it happens their store is the other side of the town. As the canal lies quite a little way from the town centre to start with, we would have to go at least twice. While she was in there Sue also picked up a town trail from the Tourist Information office. Since yesterday’s Nantwich Riverside Loop neatly avoided pretty much all of Nantwich we could still do the town itself today.
After lunch we talked to the gearbox people, who said an engineer would contact us. Then we set out on the trail. It wasn’t quite as well organised or the sites quite as comprehensively labelled as in Chester but we found our way around it. Nantwich, as the ‘wich’ in the name implies, was another salt town, based on the natural brine springs in the area one of which, ‘Old Biot’, still feeds an open air swimming pool, which is the last of its kind in Britain. It seems ages since we went down the Anderton boat lift to explore the River Weaver but Nantwich is still on the same river. As well as the importance of salt production, Nantwich was significant as the last outpost in the area before the Welsh border. As you leave the town centre and cross the bridge over the river you follow Welsh Row, the main road to Wales used by the coaching trade in one direction and, earlier, by marauding Welsh armies in the other.
They seem quite proud of the number of disasters that have befallen the town over the centuries but the most notable was the Great Fire of 1583, “caused by an illicit person’s brewing”, which lasted for 20 days. Constant winds fanned the flames but fire-fighting efforts were also hampered by the four bears that were released from their cage in the town’s bear pit for their own safety. It’s an ill wind, however, and the resultant re-building has left lots of attractive timber framed buildings in the main town.
All in all it was a nice town and an interesting tour, despite the rain that made its presence felt half way through. That rain continued solidly right through the next day until about three in the afternoon. We tried to wait it out and spent the morning doing some more detailed route planning but in the end, about half past twelve, we decided we would need to move. Our forty eight hours on the mooring here were up and we needed to get water etc. in any case. We had also heard from the gearbox guy and arranged to meet him further up the canal that afternoon.
Wet it was but windy it wasn’t, so reversing up all the way back to the CRT services at the last bridge seemed a viable proposition. As ever, keeping it in a straight line was one problem, other traffic in either direction would be quite another. Fortunately, everyone else seemed to have the good sense to stay battened down and we completed the manoeuvre quite easily. While we were there the engineer rang and said he had finished his other job early so we arranged to meet at the other end of the Nantwich aqueduct in a few minutes.
As you might expect, Gary’s confident diagnosis was instantly rubbished by the new expert on the block, who had his own theories. My role was to hold the umbrella over the open engine hatch, a task that fell comfortably within my technical abilities, while he removed, resealed and replaced one of the connections from the engine. He was obviously competent but also happy to acknowledge that this might not be the final solution. If it didn’t do the trick the leak is minimal and could easily wait until we are laid up for the winter. That morning I had arranged a mooring from November with Calcutt Boats and he had been down there on a job only the day before, so he was happy to deal with it then, if it were necessary and we left it that I would keep him posted.
We parted company as the rain began to ease and we headed off down through Hack Green Locks to Bridge 85 where we had arranged to meet Aintree Boats and Eberspaecher, the boiler makers, the next morning. In preparation for their visit we turned off the heating programme that we usually rely on for hot water and warmth first thing each morning, crossing our fingers for a mild night.
We were in luck, it was very mild and the kettle can always be relied on for hot water. Before we had finished breakfast Aintree had already sent their text to say that they would not be coming. Another death in the workforce family, it seems, so how can you seriously complain? The boiler team were still en route, however, so while I waited I set about the exciting task of drying out the engine room and cleaning the gutters around it. They hit some traffic that delayed them but turned up in due course and I must say they were very thorough. The conclusion was that the system definitely isn’t heating up as quickly as it should do. The size of the heater is absolutely not a problem, the type of radiators we have chosen may play a part but actual flow of the water is the key element. Without Aintree there to provide details of the plumbing they couldn’t do much more but left to get in touch with them and obtain some diagrams. Watch this space!
There was time in the afternoon to go for a walk in the local area. I have been planning routes based on public rights of way on the Ordnance Survey for at least fifty years and I have to say it does seem to have become harder rather than easier to walk these paths, certainly here in the North West. I thought that relying on a designated long distance path, the South Cheshire Way, would give us a good chance for a clear route. Instead we ran foul of careless crop planting within the first fifteen minutes. We were faced with a wall of seven foot high sweet corn planted right across the path, with no attempt to reinstate the right of way as required by law.
We did manage to pick our way around it all eventually but lost both the time and enthusiasm to complete the whole route planned and ended up cutting it short. We did still manage to come back past Hack Green Secret Nuclear Bunker. This is one of Nantwich’s most famous tourist attractions but surely that is a bit of a contradiction?
Thursday started pretty bright and we had a good run down to Audlem to moor up a few yards from the Shroppie Fly, a famous pub on the canal whose name refers to the ‘fly boats’ that became the express service of the established canal age, running non-stop day and night delivering urgent and perishable goods. We risked another walk in the afternoon, which was straightforward this time and brought us back into the village of Audlem from the other side, with a great view of the church across the fields.
We did have a couple of short spells of fine drizzle during the day but by and large it was fine and sunny. That evening we celebrated Bracken’s first birthday, the day before, by taking her into the pub. We managed a good hour with her engrossed in her chew while we ate and had a conversation. Quite a promising improvement, as she usually starts barking as soon as our food arrives and gets us thrown out of the pub.
If Thursday was more sunshine than showers, Friday was the reverse. There were frequent spells of fine drizzle as we prepared to tackle the remaining thirteen locks to the top of the Audlem flight. A large posse of CRT volunteer lock keepers were in attendance to keep things moving and made the job a good deal quicker and easier than it might have been. We even managed to stay fairly dry overall, until the heavens opened just as we were finishing the top lock; our cue to moor up and have lunch.
This was when we discovered THE LEAK. There was water on the kitchen work top and on the cushions of the dinette as well as on some of the things we had left out on the seats and table there. There were no leaks from the window so we struggled, at first, to work out where it was coming from. In the end we found a steady dripping from behind the wooden beading on the wall between the galley and the dinette, but how was it getting there?
We took photos and emailed them to Aintree and tried to call them. A bit later Dave called us. He couldn’t talk for long as the office had called him but he was at a funeral. However, his guess was that one of the mushroom vents in the centre of the roof was leaking and the rain was making its way across the ceiling inside the insulation and finding its way down the side wall. The best suggestion was to cover the vent with something. It seemed like a long way from the vent to the leak but Sue found a glass mixing bowl and we put that over the top. Eventually, the dripping stopped. The jury is still out on whether that is down to an accurate diagnosis and effective temporary fix or just because the rain had stopped.
We didn’t have very much further to go as we had decided to stop just short of the next group of locks for the night and tackle them on Saturday. Once the rain passed we went back to have a look at the cake stall beside the top lock we had just come through. An impressive array and the lemon drizzle cake and chocolate tiffin proved irresistible. Having added our money to the cash box we moved up to the mooring in time for the sun to come out and dry everything off for the evening, inside and out.