Saturday, 30 April 2016

Heartbreak Hill - Saturday 30th April

The sun woke us up early this morning and so we were off early only to find that Nb Jenny had the same idea and was in the first lock so we had to follow them all the way to Rode Heath where they stopped for breakfast. On the way down we passed Rob the Lock helping 3 single handers up the flight and he was his usual happy self.

We called in the shop at Rode for a paper and then carried on reaching the locks by the Romping Donkey. The cafe and shop at the side of the lock seemed to have closed and it looked to be a normal house now! We had a couple of unexpected short but sharp hail showers en route but I suppose that it is April still.


We passed a Hotel boat coming up the next lock and then went under the busy M6 Motorway. How nice it is to be pootling along rather than dashing at 70 mph. IMG_6944

Lock 63 was always a narrow lock and required us to raise our side fenders (wash your mouth out) but C& RT were refurbishing the offside lock. It looked as though they had replaced the lower gates and paddle gear.


Nearing the bottom of the flight June was operating the locks and I was steering and here she is walking over the bridge to the arm which houses the Malkins Bank Canal Services Boat Yard.


We moored up just below the last lock and G & C came in for coffee.

Later we went to Barchetta, the Italian Restaurant by the services for dinner and had an excellent meal.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Dry and Warm for 30 minutes–Friday 29th April

This morning we left in bright sunshine and headed through Longport passed the Dalton Outlet Shop and Middleport Pottery with its visitor mooring and café. A little further on is one of the few remaining Pot Banks. IMG_6930

We then reached the open expanse of Westport Park Lake with its excellent visitor moorings alongside. We had planned to moor here last night but with the inclement weather decided to stop near Etruia.IMG_6932

Turning the corner and travelling down a mile long straight brought us to the southern entrance to the 2926yd Harecastle Tunnel. We had to wait a short while for two boats to come through from the north and were then off in a convoy of 4 boats. It was a treat inside the tunnel warm with no more of that cold northerly wind to contend with and no rain just the very occasional drip from the roof. We made good progress and exited the tunnel 30 minutes later to a queue of 6 boats waiting to go through. The tunnel had a new profile gauge fitted yesterday at both ends but the one at the southern end is set too low and we only just missed catching it although there was plenty of clearance at the north end so they will need to adjust it or risk stopping boats going through which would have no problem navigating the tunnel.a1

Before entering the tunnel there is the compulsory safety briefing from the tunnel keeper and checking your light and horn work. Notices show the opening and last passage times. Rob the Lock was waiting for us at the tunnel and joined us for a cup of coffee whilst we waited. He was then off to meet us the other side and had the locks ready for us to start going down.a2

Immediately before the first decent lock (No. 41) is the entrance to the Macclesfield Canal and just after the next lock it passes in an aqueduct over the Trent and Mersey.IMG_6941

Some of the locks still have the rollers on the entrance to protect the brickwork from the tow ropes.


Between the sets of locks is this seat and garden of remembrance to Michael Sutton who died in 2011 aged 19.


The weather began to look a bit uncertain and we were undecided as to whether to stop just below Red Bull Services but decided to carry and do the next three locks and moor above Church Lock. Just after we moored the rain and wind came.

After lunch June made some scones and G & C came in for Tea and Scones. When the rain had cleared away I walked back up the canal to the Tesco store in Kidsgrove. I returned along the road and noticed that there is a bus from the canal bridge which would have taken me there or into Hanley and which appeared to run every 20 minutes although I did not see one on the walk.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Onward to Stoke and Intriguing Animals - Thursday 28th April

I missed this Mile Post by Aston Lock which shows the Mileage to Preston Brook as 46 and to Shardlow as 46 which is the exact half way stage on the Trent and Mersey Canal. Fortunately Carolann spotted it and took this picture


Leaving the mooring we negotiated the four very pretty Meaford Flight of Locks with June at the helm.


Looking back down the locks from the turnover bridge which switches the towpath from one side of the canal to the other.IMG_6911

A couple of Bridges above the locks is the Hundredth Bridge on the Trent and Mersey.IMG_6918

Entering Barlaston with its lovely houses backing on to the canal we came across this one with its own mooring and crane to lift the barrier.IMG_6919

In the garden are a pair of lock gates with sheep crossing the walk way.IMG_6920

As we left Barlaston the Wedgwood Factory comes into view. I am not sure what they make there now if anything but I believe the museum is still open.d1

Approaching  Stoke we spotted these Jackdaws appearing to pluck hair or insects from this cow. She seemed to be enjoying the attention.IMG_6925

At the last but one lock in the Stoke flight we were waved in by a chap in a yellow jacket and it turned out to be “Rob the Lock”. He cycles the canals around Stoke helping boaters through the locks. June appreciated his help as it had just started to rain. Seemed a really nice lad and said that he lived in the flats by the Bottle Kilns further back along the canal. He told us that he will also do washing and ironing as well as shopping for boaters.IMG_6927

As we came out of the top lock we passed the entrance to the Caldon Canal which if I remember correctly used to serve one of our old Gas Works.IMG_6929

The rain started to come down heavily so we decided to stop just after we had passed Nb Priscilla and Nb Sanity Again.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Very Sad Day - Wednesday 27th April


A very sad day for us, as Neil from Guide Dogs came to collect Tiana to take her into Tollgate. We were expecting him at about 11 am but he arrived at 9.30am so we did not have much time to have our last cuddles before she was gone. No matter how many pups we have we always feel sad when they leave us but Tiana is a bit special. She is the first Standard Poodle we have had and she has such a lovely character and loving ways. She has been a real pal to me and I will miss her company very much.a1

Last nights mooring was also a bit special as we had fairy lights strung across the canal above the boats and along the nearby pub giving it a very holiday feel.


After shopping in Stone and saying our farewells to Nb Yarwood we moved off the 24 hour mooring and up the last 3 Stone locks passing the old Stone Brewery and  Stone Boat Building with its very well stocked and friendly chandlery.


Just above the locks is this boat yard where they were renovating some old working boats.


The visitor moorings as you enter Stone have Rings with Cats Eyes built into the concrete foundations something I have not seen elsewhere but seems and excellent safety idea. IMG_6914


As we left Stone we passed their Welcome Board proclaiming Stone as the birth place of the Trent and Mersey Canal.


We moored up just out of Stone opposite some nice houses and with lots of large well fed rabbits playing in the field next to us. We had travelled up in lovely sunshine but just after mooring down came the snow-sleet-hail in a typical April shower.IMG_6907

Parked on the drive of one of the houses opposite is this lovely old Morris Traveller.


Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Lamb Rescue - Tuesday 26th April

We left Great Haywood after filling with water at the Junction taps and headed for Weston where in years gone by, whilst on a hire boat, we had met up with our neighbours to give them a trip on a narrowboat.

Motoring on we passed through the ornate bridge 82 which was presumably made so for the benefit of Sandon Hall high up on the hill.


A little further on we were surprised to see the boat travelling in front of us stretched across the canal and the skipper appearing to be trying to push it off with the pole. However, when we stopped to help he was not stuck but had been trying to rescue a lamb from the canal. He managed to get it onto the mud bank but could not get closer to pick it up. I asked two walkers who were trying to help to go across the bridge about 20yds around the corner and pick it up. They went off to do this when I saw the farmer muck spreading in his tractor. With a lot of arm waving and yelling I finally got him to stop and he came over the fields to rescue the poor bedraggled little chap. Lets hope that he survives.


As we came into Stone we saw what appears to be a shrine to someone on the edge of the canal. It is next to a bench and I wondered if someone had drowned at the spot.


The moorings below Star Lock were all full but we managed to find one spot on the car park mooring above the lock.  Autumn Years were following us and were going to breast up with us but the people on the boat two behind came back from shopping and said that they would be leaving in 5-10 mins so mooring solved.

Who should be moored opposite but Joe and Lesley on Nb Yarwood. We had met them when they first had Caxton and we were looking at Brinklow Marina as a possible mooring for our boat.

Joe popped over on his way to the shops, for a chat with June, whilst I was in the shower.


Monday, 25 April 2016

Great Haywood - Monday 25th April

I walked Tiana up to Wood End Lock to get it ready whilst June brought the boat up, unfortunately a chap off a boat coming down had not seen us and had just opened the paddle to fill the lock as I arrived so I helped him through whilst June moored up on the lock landing. We were soon through the lock and then helped Autumn Years through as they gates are heavy iron ones and the bottom gates open as the water is let in so need holding shut.

We motored on passed Kings Bromley Marina and on through Armitage where Armitage Shanks make their ceramic toilets which can be seen stacked outside in the yard.

June and Tiana walked through the narrows of the old collapsed Armitage tunnel to make sure that it was clear for us proceed as there is a bend at the southern entrance which means you cannot see through as you approach.

Autumn Years stopped for water at bridge 62 and we carried on to Rugeley to do our shopping at the new Tesco on the side of the canal.

After shopping and lunch we motored on and as we left Rugeley we passed a house with a covered swimming pool alongside the canal. Unusually inside the covered area they had stored a smart BMW Car and Motorcycle a good talking point as your guests swim in the pool.

We crossed the Brindley Aqueduct over the River Trent and motored on passed this field of lovely black lambs.


At bridge 69 we stopped at the Dexter diesel boat to top up our tank with diesel at 55p/ltr. It was very windy and we had great difficulty mooring up to the boat as the wind kept blowing us off and there are no easy places to tie up to.


A little further on is this boat moored outside the Boating Christian Fellowship residence which looks very nice set behind extensive lawns down to the canal.


Spring is the best time for wild life with swans and ducks nesting, woodpeckers calling and drumming and herons like this one fishing just in front of your boat.

Below is one of the many lovely gardens which boarder the canal along this stretch.


We passed by Wolseley Bridge where we used to like to stop to visit the Garden Centre but after our last visit we decided to give it a miss as it is no longer as good as it used to be.

Travelling through Little Haywood there are so delightful houses overlooking the canal, River Trent and with views the other side of the valley of Cannock Chase.

After passing through Colwich Lock we moored up in Great Haywood with great views over to Shugborough Hall.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Rain Stopped Play - Sunday 24th April


We moored overnight between the main Tame aqueduct and the flood relief aqueduct and had a very quiet and peaceful evening. In the morning I took Tiana for her walk down by the aqueduct and around the parkland bordering the river. On the lakes were hundreds of Terns safely nesting on the islands and making a terrific noise.

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As we left Fazeley we had to stop as a fisherman was just trying to land a very large Chubb and we did not want to cause him any problems. Before I could take a picture he had placed it in his keep net and thanked us for waiting.


Travelling through Hopwas we passed this boat covered with tiny plants for sale, it even had small green houses on the roof to nurture them. We also met the man and his dog who was walking from Oxford to Wrexham who we met in Atherstone.IMG_6880

En route we passed some lovely scenery including this lovely weeping willow over hanging the canal and garden.

We stopped at Street Hay Wharf for Autumn Years to get some bits for their Squirrel stove from the extensive chandlery they have. They are well known for fixing all sorts of boat problems.

The stretch of canal from Brook Hay Bridge to Fradley is very shallow and we made slow progress to the junction. It really does need dredging. As we arrived at the junction it started to rain and so we moored up for lunch.IMG_6881

After lunch when the rain had stopped we walked up to Shadehouse Lock to check on the moorings and as there were 3 places available we decided to move up there. By the time we had negotiated the swing bridge, turned onto the Trent and Mersey, and negotiated  2 locks there was only one space left overlapping the final bit of armco. So we moored up there and Autumn Years breasted up against us whilst we waited for a hire boat to finish their lunch and move off. We were then able to moor securely for the night.

The Gongoozlers were out watching Autumn Years go through Middle Lock.


Big Surprise at Atherstone Top Lock

After and early morning frost it was a lovely bright sunny morning as we headed for Atherstone where we moored up whilst I went to fetch the paper. As I got back to the boat a single hander moved off to the locks and so we were to travel down behind him. However as we arrived at the lock and began to help him through who should appear but Graham and Carolann. They had set off early and walked up the locks to help us go down. It was like manner from heaven. As it turned out Carolann ended up helping the single hander through the locks and Graham helped us so the we were not held up.  We moored up at the bottom of the locks next to Autumn Years for coffee and stayed for lunch.IMG_6875

After lunch we set off passing Grendon Dock where this old rotting boat was waiting renovation.


We stopped to check out the new Co-op store which has taken over the old Anchor Pub building at Bridge 70 and purchased some provisions. We continued on past Norton Canes new boatyard in the former Hudson basin and down the two Glascote locks mooring up just passed the Tame Aqueduct for the night. Graham and Carolann joined us for dinner.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Off at Last - Friday 22nd April



We arrived at the boat late on Thursday and decided to make an early start this morning. Although the cloud was high there was a cool wind blowing from the NE.


Just passed All Oaks wood we came across the first of many young duck families ranging from this very young ones to those who were a few weeks old.

We moored up for lunch at Hawkesbury Junction where there was plenty of room. It seemed just like the old days before the explosion in canal boating. The old Navigation Inn is continuing to be developed as a family home and is looking very imposing. The owners have even added metal features to the walls including this tree on the bridge.


Charity Dock appears to be expanding now that it has featured in Towpath Talk. It always brings a smile to boaters faces and is one of the most well known features of the Coventry Canal.


As we pass through Nuneaton the long length of Allotments are being actively prepared for the growing season.


On the other side of the town the old Granite Quarry is now a lovely new housing estate with houses backing onto the canal.



We moored up near Mancetter a suburb of Atherstone and at the winding hole by bridge 35 is a notice board showing details of Boudicca’s last battle against the Romans which is believed to have taken place on the plane below the Hartshill ridge near to Watling Street, the old Romana road. It is reported that 80,000 Britons were slaughtered with a loss of only 400 Romans.

Shows a photograph of a statue of Boudicca on her chariot. She is holding a whip and the two horses pulling the chariot are rearing up.