The HMS Charge visits the River Weaver near Northwich
- Credit: not Archant
History was made when HMS Charger, normally based in Liverpool, made the first courtesy visit of a Royal Navy craft to Northwich, the key town and ex-boat building centre on the River Weaver.
HMS Charger followed the route across the River Mersey, through the Manchester Ship Canal, entering the River Weaver at Marsh Lock, to complete the journey with a three-hour cruise along the river to Northwich.
HMS Charger is an Archer Class P2000 Fast Inshore Patrol Craft, but was required to reduce its speed to a mere tick-over to transit the river.
The visit came about after a suggestion by John Tackley, Chairman of the River Weaver Navigation Society, who contacted both the Royal Navy and Canal and River Trust.
The proposal was received enthusiastically by Lt. Ian Critchley, commander of the vessel, and Wendy Capelle, Manager of Canal and River Trust.
The voyage was undertaken without incident, in both directions and required the swinging of three important road bridges, Sutton Weaver, Acton Bridge and Winnington Bridge, not normally undertaken at weekends. Sutton Weaver Bridge is scheduled for closure for 12 months, for a major overhaul to take place. This will mean that craft of this size will be denied access to the river until next summer.
HMS Charger was joined by Northwich M.P., Graham Evans, and John Tackley for the last few upstream miles of the journey and escorted by a flotilla of narrow boats from Acton Bridge Cruising Club and Broken Cross Boat Club.
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HMS Charger was moored below Town Bridge, in Northwich for 24 hours during which time access was permitted for the locals to visit this fascinating craft.
There was widespread interest from the visitors and narrow boat owners expressed incredulity at the enormous amount of equipment and crew berths that can be accommodated in its 68’-00.” It does, however, have three decks, is 19 feet beam and a draught of 6’- 6”, not to mention two Rolls- Royce engines, twin screws and two generator/alternators.
On the Saturday evening the captain and crew were taken by a small fleet of narrow boats back to Anderton Boat Lift, where they were given a special tour of the Boat Lift by Canal and River Trust staff, before being given a civic reception. This was attended also attended by the Lord Mayor of Chester, (who also carries the title of Admiral of the Dee) the Mayor of Northwich, Wendy Capelle, and many other local dignitaries, as well as guests interested in the well being of our waterways.
John Tackley said, after the event, “I am delighted that everyone involved tried so hard to make this visit a success, resulting in such a memorable weekend. I believe that the Royal Navy benefited, as boat handling in such constrained situations provides concentrated training opportunities and very close crew liaison.
It also generated a great deal of local goodwill for our Senior Service and we are hoping to persuade HMS Charger to come and visit us again next year, a wish that has already been expressed by several Council Members.