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The 1999 "Earnest" Maiden Voyage Cruise


8. Manchester to Chester, inc. the Runcorn Arm and Ellesmere Port, via The Bridgewater, Trent and Mersey and Shropshire Union Canals.

On Tuesday 27th July we set off from Manchester at 7.25am, with no particular stop point planned. The Bridgewater Canal is wide and deep and we made good progress, passing Waters Meeting Junction at 8.10am and the junction with the Runcorn Arm at 1.45pm. Colin and Neil did the Runcorn Arm in 1995 in "Beatty" and we decided to cross it off "Earnest's" list of canals to do. The arm is deep, clear and fairly weed free and we reached the end at 3.05pm. This was after Neil doing his usual kissing the bank just under the bridge. From this point on the rest of the canal down to the Ship Canal and the connection with the Weston Canal is filled in. This is a real pity as it would have enabled you via Weston Docks to connect up with the River Weaver without going on the Ship Canal and its stupid regulations. The main item built on its line is the link road to the 1960's built Runcorn-Widnes Bridge which replaced the famous transporter bridge. We did not stop although the basin is fairly pleasant and got back to the junction at 4.30pm. Neil seemed to remember that the Preston Brook Tunnel was one way and that Southbound it was on the half hour. It was going to be tight so we whizzed up to the tunnel entrance. We started at 4.45pm which was 5 mins late, but stormed through arriving at the South portal at 4.57pm, much to the amusement of another boat waiting to go Northwards, which is on the hour for 10minutes. We were soon through Dutton Stop Lock which is a strange affair, it very definitely marks the start of the narrow Trent and Mersey Canal as you go in a pair of wide gates, then come out a single narrow gate! We carried on high up along the Weaver Valley, looking back you could see the Weaver Locks at Dutton and in the distance the strange shape of Acton Bridge, one of the River Weaver Navigations large swing bridges. I say strange, because it was still covered in scaffolding and sheeting as it was having a facelift. We passed the Black Prince hire base and Bridge 209 and moored round the corner. That  night we walked up the hill to "The Hollybush" an old farmhouse style pub with an amazingly tiny main bar (That used to be the pub!) which sold reasonable home cooked food in the new barn extension.

The next day Wednesday 28th July we set off at 8.20am. We passed the sad remains of the Anderton Lift at 9.35am. Just before this was the Anderton mudslide, site of a recent bank collapse into the canal. Neil has never been up and down in the Lift, always being in a hurry to do the Cheshire Ring when passing it. Neil's parents did do it once on their second from last canal holiday. Quite a lot of traffic was met going up and down the Middlewich Locks and we had a wait to go round the corner and onto the Middlewich Branch, achieving this at 1.40pm. Barbridge Junction was passed at 5.40pm. It was a nice evening and as we had now planned to get to Ellesmere Port at the top of the wide Shropshire Union Chester section the next night, we pushed on till dusk at 9.20pm. This was after a meal on the Bunbury water point between 6.50pm and 7.50pm. We got to a nice deep mooring (rare on the Chester Section!), just below  Wharton Lock. 

Thursday 29thJuly saw us leaving at 8.25am, we got to Chester at 1.00pm and spent an hour shopping and having lunch. The amount of traffic held us up at the top of Northgate Staircase for 20 mins, we eventually came out the bottom at 3.05pm. The lock-yourself-in haven of the Boat Museum was reached at 5.45pm after being pelted with stones at Weavers Bridge 142. Upon passing the yobs hid behind the parapets. This may have been a mistake because Neil was ready for them and threw a couple of 1664 bottles full of water (for a bit more momentum and to guarantee they smash!) up in the air, smashing on the bridge deck. It is all very well throwing things back at yobs, but you want something that smashes and they cannot throw back at you! We never knew if we hid them or the got showered with shrapnel, they certainly did not appear while still in sight. There is a gate on the towpath just before the locks down to the lower basin in the Ellesmere Port Boat Museum. At night this is shut and you can get out using your B.W. key. Since the Holiday Inn was finished and since our passage on the Ship Canal in 1995 the swing bridge into the Lower Basin and hence the Ship Canal has been "restored". This is now fitted with a non B.W. keyed padlock, to open it you have to phone up Neston and Ellesmere Port Borough Council. Yet more ridiculous "red tape" to stop people using the Ship Canal. By 5.55pm we had passed through the two narrow locks and moored on the islands opposite the new Holiday Inn. The only 60ft mooring left had no rings, so Neil had to hammer thin pins into cracks between cobbles. That evening we had a wander around the site and went to the "The Waterfront" a new Italian Restaurant on the old outer wharf overlooking the Ship Canal with Stanlow Oil Refinery shimmering in the back ground, surely "The Costa de Ellesmere Port"! The meal was OK, but a bit expensive. It was a hot evening, all the doors were open out to the terrace, the high octane of Stanlow could easily be smelt! Afterwards we sat on the terrace watching quite a few craft moving on the Ship Canal, it must have been high tide at Eastham!  

Friday 30th July saw us have a lie in then we wandered up to the Museum, paid our dues and looked around the inside of the museum. Departure from Ellesmere Port occurred at 12.00pm, we only had to get to Chester as we had arranged to pick up Linda's mother that evening. Neil supposes his Mother-in -law should be included as an honorary T.N.C. member as she has been away with us a few times now. This time we went straight into the Northgate Staircase and passed someone coming down. We moored in Chester at the end of the moat moorings, near the "Slow Boat". This was at 3.40pm and further on from the narrow section where you can get things dropped on you from the City walls. Linda's Mother was coming up to Chester in extravagant style, by mini-cab. She was going to stay with us till Monday afternoon, when we should have got to Llangollen. The cheapest deal Linda's mum got was to use a firm in Llangollen. She arrived a little bit late at the nearby bus-station, where Linda was to meet her. That night we went out again to the "The Slow Boat" Chinese restaurant, first visited, when just opened in 1984.  That was the year Neil + Linda + Julian + Jackie came up here in a Teddesley Hire boat. The Restaurant had not changed in the 15 years since our first visit and even did the Mother-In-Law a nice steak. After the good meal we went for a stroll around Chester and the City walls.

Looking back from the end of the Runcorn Branch, originally the Main Line of the Bridgewater Canal.

Detail on bridge exiting Runcorn Basin.

The jinxed warehouse before Preston Brook Tunnel. This was restored in middle 1970's as pub / club, but burnt out. 

North Portal of Preston Brook Tunnel, we are 5 mins late!

Dutton Stop Lock Northern Trent and Mersey Canal.

The shrouded Acton Bridge on River Weaver.

Barnton Tunnel, all the tunnels around here have kinks in them.

The quickly shored up slip, just before Anderton.

Top of the forlorn Anderton Lift.

ICI  Northwich Works, straddles Trent and Mersey Canal.

One of the many flashes below Northwich on the Trent and Mersey Canal which used to hold the hulks of abandoned narrowboats.

Croxton Aqueduct, just before Middlewich Big Lock.

Middlewich Locks, Trent and Mersey Canal. Andersen Boats just below lock where Linda and Neil started their 1977 canal holiday. 

Junction with Middlewich Arm (Under bridge to right). Waiting for Wardle Lock, the first on the Middlewich Arm to be free.

Bunbury, wide Chester Branch of Shropshire Union Canal.

Top of Bunbury Staircase Locks.

Having dinner and filling with water below Bunbury Locks.

On our way back, Beeston Iron Lock, Chester section of Shropshire Union Canal.

Beeston Castle.

Christleton Lock, Shropshire Union Canal, on approach to Chester.

Tarvin Lock, Chester and that famous water tower.

The start of Chester "moat". "Slow Boat" Chinese Restaurant on top of Iceland Supermarket.

Looking back up Chester moat just before Northgate Staircase Locks.

We finally get stuck into Northgate Locks, Shropshire Union Canal, Chester.

Northgate Locks.

Looking back to bottom of Northgate Locks under bridge, sharp turn to left

Chester, the dry dock and River Dee Branch Locks.

Looking down on Dry dock and start of River Dee Branch from Chester City walls.

First of narrow locks down into Ellesmere Port Middle Basin.

Looking back up Shropshire Union Canal from Ellesmere Port Top Lock. Beyond the crane you can see the (B.W. key) locked way in and out. 

"The Waterfront" Italian restaurant, Manchester Ship Canal to right.

Dusk, looking up Ship Canal to Stanlow Oil Refinery. What a scenic (and smelly!) backdrop to the restaurant!

Ellesmere Port Lighthouse, we are looking from the entrance of Ellesmere Port onto the Ship Canal. Before the Ship Canal was built this would be the Mersey Estuary beyond here, hence the lighthouse.

Looking at the Ship Canal big berths just down from Ellesmere Port.

Not much freeboard on this oil barge on the Ship Canal.

Arklow Villa grain carrier, which we met on the Ship Canal in "Beatty", in 1995.

The Holiday Inn, built on the site of the Straddle Warehouse, lost by fire in late 1970's. Ship lock to Middle Basin in foreground. 

The Holiday Inn, this was just a shell when we came up off the Ship Canal in1995. The arches of the Straddle Warehouse used to go over the two inlets beside the hotel. 

Middle Basin from Upper Basin, which is the Boat Museum Proper. Arches of the Straddle Warehouse used to go over these inlets. "Earnest's" mooring was just out of sight to the right.

In the Boat Museum. Ellesmere Port.

In the Boat Museum Ellesmere Port.

The tour continues...

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