Friday, 2 September 2016

A Busy Day.

Friday 2nd September, 2016 at Whitchurch.
A cloudy start but still with a pretty sky.
We had been warned that long queues could build up at the Grindley Brook staircase locks, particularly on Thursdays and Saturdays as hire boats returned to, or left from, their hire bases (typically change-over is on a Friday). So, we decided to go through the Grindley locks today, while all the hire boats were in their bases changing over. We set off early and soon went through the first of, what turned out to be, fifteen locks.
Two days ago, we had met up with two Australians on nb "Lazy Bee", who were planning to spend six months on their new narrowboat in England and then six months in Australia each year. Today, we passed them again but this time they were moored next to another boat called - would you believe - nb "Two Lazy Bees" - also apparently crewed by Australians! A remarkable coincidence on both counts. A very lively conversation seemed to be in progress!
Last year, lift bridges on the Leeds & Liverpool were the bane of M's life. Today, we met the first one this year and M was not pleased to hear that there are several on this canal! This was the first of four today.
Encroaching reeds made the canal narrow in places, on one occasion causing us to have to wait a while for a boat coming the other way to go through.
M decided to walk the towpath for some of the way to get some exercise and found that, in places, the towpath width was also restricted by reeds. Very pretty, though.
We stopped for lunch around midday under some very unusual conifer trees that we couldn't identify. There were five or six of them along this bit of canal, all very mature and about the same age/size.
At Willeymore Lock, we had to wait for a pair of cabin cruisers to come down in the lock. The second cruiser was solar powered and the pair, who were travelling together, had been obliged to abandon plans to get to Llangollen as the sun had gone away and their back-up generator had failed!
Grindley Brook has six locks and the top three of these are a staircase. Our plan to avoid the queues seemed to work. Nb "Eleanor" was going into the bottom lock just as we arrived and the lock keeper told us to empty the bottom lock as soon as she was up into the middle lock and to follow her in.
R sat on the balance beam as the bottom lock emptied, contemplating the happy prospect of cake in the cafe in the background once the lock-wheeling was done!
Then he walked down and sailed MM in. When we emptied the middle lock into the bottom lock, the water level was over a foot below where it should be because the bottom gates were leaking, so the lock keeper had to empty some water from the top lock into the middle before we could get over the cill and into the middle lock. Remembering the accident to a friend's boat that got caught on the cill between two staircase locks, R was very cautious.
While working the staircase locks, we fell into conversation with a delightful couple, Andy and Susan with their grandson Charlie. We ended up having a coffee with them in the café beside the lock. Andy is seriously considering exchanging his sea-going yacht for a narrowboat, so they joined us on MM for a short "taster" trip.
When we stopped to let them off, Charlie helped by hauling on the centre rope to bring MM into the edge.
Then  we bade each other farewell and they walked back to the locks, where their car was parked.
We would love to know if they do acquire a narrowboat some day. We often wonder if our chance encounters like this lead to people taking to the canals. We hope so. Something about tiny acorns and mighty oak trees comes to mind...
Perhaps this C&RT notice on the lift bridge outside Whitchurch says it all! We think it does!
There is a short arm off the main canal at Whitchurch which provides moorings and that is where we moored for the night.
Today: 12 miles, 15 locks and 7.6 hours.
Trip: 321 miles, 241 locks and 238.5 hours.

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