Tuesday 3 April 2007

One Way to Llangollen - Egg Bridge to Chester

3rd April 2007
Egg Bridge to Chester, and back to Egg Bridge again!
Shropshire Union Canal (Chester Canal)

10 Miles
16 Locks
6 Hours
A day of effort and toil, only to moor up again in the exact same spot the next night!
Egg Bridge is only a hop skip and jump to Christleton Lock, which marks the final descent into Chester. As with so many towns, the entrance to the ancient town of Chester by canal is an underwhelming experience. The waterway slinks down through post industrial wastelands and gas works, with high factory walls obscuring the view.
Whilst the southern approaches are dull, the final encounter with the town is impressive by any standard. As you finally emerge from bridge 123E you are faced with the walled fortifications rising up from a sheer cliff, through which the canal channel has been cut like a slot. Fern covered rocks and walls hem you in and bridges soar above, drawing you on and on to the top of the Northgate staircase. If you don't fancy the staircase there is a good public mooring bridges 123D and E, but if you do progress there is no winding hole - so you are committed.
The Northgate staircase of three appears to have side sluices capable of absorbing a full lock of water let down from above, without emptying the lower chambers first. Sadly, this is a false assumption and the accumulated debris impedes the flow of water and resulting in an overtopping of water which flowed down the cobbled towpath. This sudden cascade was quickly remedied by the partial closure of the gate paddle, but not before I attracted some baleful glares from pedestrians who had been obliged to take some lively steps to avoid wet feet! I will know next time!
We turned at Taylors Boatyard, which is located in the lagoon which also serves as an entry to the little used Dee Branch with its three locks to the river. We stopped at the public moorings opposite Telfords Warehouse and wandered up onto the Walls and then into the town for a look see.
Chester is a fabulous town which we have visited before. We therefore didn't hang around and instead sought out a Millets for two warmer sleeping bags for Tilly and Jeff, a pizza for lunch and finally a visit to the nearby supermarket for supplies.
With nothing else to do, and no films on at the cinema that we wanted to watch, we decided to set off back in mid afternoon. We passed a working boat in the Northgate flight which was making its annual pilgrimage to the Easter boat gathering at Ellesmere Port. With a shuffle past completed in the middle chamber we pushed on into the late afternoon, finally returning to Egg Bridge as the sun was setting.
Like I said, a whole days effort to go absolutely nowhere! An excellent days boating which left the 8 miles to Ellesmere Port unexplored, and also a potential descent to the River Dee. I can feel a one week return trip coming on sometime in the future to fill in these gaps.

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