Monday, May 22, 2017

Manic Monday!

Wow, it’s been crazy today! At just about every blind bend, bridge hole or narrows we met at least one, often several, oncoming boats.

It started well, a gentle 15 minute chug to fill with diesel at NB Dexta at Taft Wharf, aka the pig farm. A very reasonable 67p/litre.
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Then another 35 minutes and we were tied up near Bridge 66 so I could make a quick visit to Tesco’s.

Over the Trent, it’s getting bigger now…
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A splendid little duck house, fit for an MP’s garden!IMG_4639

In front of us when I got back was NB City of Durham, belonging to Nick and Anne. It appears that Nick is a long-term blog reader, though how he puts up with this drivel is beyond me…
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They’re on their way to take part in this year’s BCN Challenge, hoping to better their ranking from last year.
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Good luck with that, guys.

The chaos started soon after we left the moorings. First I had to run into the offside shallows to let two boats through Bridge 64, then we met another under Bridge 62, the one with the awkward S bend under the main road. There was a queue for the water point just beyond, then, at the end of the long length of moorings there was a boat emerging from the narrows where Armitage Tunnel used to be.
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I held back to let him get clear before we went through ourselves.IMG_4647
By this time we were at the head of a three-boat convoy.

Coming past The Plum Pudding we met another two, I think the following pair may have cleared the narrows by then though, then got through the next restriction, below the church and around the corner, unopposed.
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It’s the next narrow bit, I hate. Beyond the railway bridge there’s a left bend before Bridge 59, leaving you unsighted through the overgrown channel.
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Of course, a boat was just coming through the bridge as we rounded the curve…IMG_4655
We’ve some scratches on the cabin side from where I had to dive into the shrubbery. They should polish out, though.

My nerves were getting a little frazzled by now, I think we’d seen more boats this morning than through the entire winter!

For the next 10 minutes the canal was empty, then another three boats arrived at Bridge 58, just as we did.
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I held back to let the first one through, drifting into the offside shallows for my trouble, so decided to stay there while the second, hard on his leader’s heels, came through too. He dithered and dallied while I got more and more frustrated waiting for him to make a move.
It’s not easy holding a narrowboat in one place while there’s a breeze, shallow water and a passing boat. Finally my frantic gesticulating got through and he very gingerly crept past. I wasn’t waiting for number three, pulling out and going for it while he got out of my way! IMG_4657

The last mile or so to our overnight stop near Bridge 55 passed without incident, what few boats we saw were met on wider bits of the canal.

We pulled in, allowing past the hire boat that had been chasing us since Handsacre, at around 2 o’clock.IMG_4658

Aah, summer cruising on the Trent and Mersey, don’t you just love it… Maybe we should join Nick and Anne on the nether regions of the BCN!

Tomorrow to Fradley Junction.

Locks 0, miles 8

Sunday, May 21, 2017

A long day and a brief encounter

With a fine day in the offing we decided to make up a bit of the time lost yesterday, getting off at around a quarter to ten.

Clearing skies last evening
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A good start to the day
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Our first lock was a half-mile away, at Sandon.IMG_4607

Old lock paddle in the garden of the keeper’s cottageIMG_4608

Ornate brickwork on Salt Bridge
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Not far from Salt Bridge, just after passing a length of permanent moorings on the offside, a familiar boat came into sight around the corner.
It was NB Pilgrim with Malcolm and Barbara. We’d not seen them for a year or two, and I think then it was ships boats passing in the night day.

We first met up on the Wirral Line of the Ellesmere Canal, now the stretch of the Shropshire Union north of Chester. We’d moored up against a stretch of piling, struggling to find a deep enough spot. Pilgrim came along hoping that the one spot deep enough for their 30” draught was free, which of course it wasn’t. We were on it!
I did feel a little guilty as they had to tie up with the stern stuck out in the channel, but not guilty enough to move!
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We spent 15 minutes floating stern to stern in the middle of the cut chatting, before an oncoming boat made us go our opposite ways. We may see them later in the year though.

Goose creche near Weston.
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I think there were three families here. One pair of adults were on guard duty, another was grazing and the third couple were splashing about in the canal. They can be a right nuisance, but you can’t fault their parenting skills.

The development to the south of Weston has now completely surrounded the old wharf.IMG_4616

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I wonder how long it’ll be before the new residents start to complain about the old boats at the end of the garden…

Waiting for a boat coming up Weston LockIMG_4618
Lovely spot, this. Quiet moorings above and below the lock.

Three-quarters of an hour later we were waiting for another upcoming boat, this time at Hoo Mill.

Mother swan keeps her youngsters close while Dad makes threatening gestures at the large noisy thing invading their space.IMG_4620

Hoo Mill Lock
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It took a while, this one. The couple had only just bought the boat, setting off from Great Haywood Marina just a quarter-hour before. The lady doing the paddles was taking it very, very slowly. No rush though. Better to be slow and safe than over-confident and careless.

Great Haywood Junction, busy as usual
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I had help with the gates at Haywood Lock, a couple of small boys were keen to add their weight to the balance beam. 

Not just boats and would-be lock-keepers either, plenty of walkers about enjoying the day.IMG_4624

IMG_4626Colwich Lock was next, after cruising past Little Haywood. There’s often morning queues here, it being the first lock south of the popular Great Haywood moorings. But it must be even worse at the moment, with only one top paddle operational it takes ages to fill the chamber.



There was one boat ahead of us when we arrived, and another behind by the time we’d refilled the lock.

We pulled in just before Wolseley Bridge, with the Trent running a couple of hundred yards to the right and the ancient hunting grounds of Cannock Chase rising beyond.
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It’s been a good day, a bit breezy, but warm when the sun appeared from behind the clouds.

Tomorrow we’ll fill with diesel at Taft Wharf then toddle into Rugeley for a bit of shopping. We’ll not stay in the town though, we’ll carry on towards Fradley.

Locks 5, miles 8½

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Rain Stopped Play…

Well, today’s forecast went something like – “A bright start with showers moving in, some heavy”. With that in mind we didn’t have a planned destination, we decided to see how it went.

It was half-ten by the time we untied, and still dry but with cloud building. We got down Star Lock, filled the water tank, and almost cleared Aston Lock too before the showers started.

Heading to Star Lock
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A handful of cygnets
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Aston Lock…
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…at the halfway point on the canal
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The Trent valley along here is wide and fertile, mostly given over to grazing. IMG_4594 

A fine pair, motor boat Baltic and butty Star
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The rain had moved in and was becoming pretty steady. I decided that if it didn’t let up by midday we’d pull in. No joy in travelling in the rain.

Two Canada geese families
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Another two groups are grazing in the field beyond.

We gave it best just after Bridge 85, with open views to the left and a hedge to keep the breeze off to the right.IMG_4601
Soon after we stopped we had one of those predicted heavy showers, we’d probably have stopped then anyway so it was good to have pulled in at a place of our choosing. They’ve been on and off all afternoon, but they didn’t deter more intrepid souls than ours.

It’s a fine evening now, and the weather is supposed to improve overnight and next week, too. We’ll probably do a bit tomorrow.

Locks 2, miles 2¾ 

Friday, May 19, 2017

Just down into Stone.

We timed it well today, dropping down three locks that were in our favour, and getting on the popular moorings above Star Lock.

Roger Fuller’s yard above Limekiln Lock
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It looks like Cactus is getting some new metal stuck to her bottom.IMG_4574

Limekiln Lock had a boat just coming up as we arrived.IMG_4575

Mags and Meg below Limekiln.
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A pair of volunteers locked us down through Newcastle Road Lock, then we chugged gently past the moored boats on one side and Joule’s Brewery warehouse on the other.

A few inches of water was needed to fill Yard Lock, but that didn’t take long.IMG_4579

Very familiar territory, this. I’ve blacked the bottom above the lock at Canal Cruising’s dry dock, and nearly 3 years ago we spent a week in the wet dock painting the cabin.

Mossy lock gates
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We’d decided that we’d moor below here if we could, but it’s usually full…

…not this morning!
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The offside moorings were full, but they’re not my first choice being alongside the carpark, but there’s room for three boats on the right. That’ll do nicely, thank you.

We’d tied up and I noticed something new has been erected in the grassy area just across the way.IMG_4582

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It’s positioning is a little ironic. It was here on Crown Meadow that Sir William Stanley camped his army on the way to the decisive battle at Bosworth. And it was there that he and his brother Thomas betrayed King Richard III, throwing in their lot with Henry Tudor which led to Richard’s defeat and death. For Henry it wasn’t enough to defeat the King and steal the crown, in the ultimate act of humiliation Richard’s naked body was slung over the back of a mule and paraded through the streets of Leicester.
As you can probably guess, I’m not a fan of the despotic and self-serving Tudor dynasty…

Locks 3, miles 1

Thursday, May 18, 2017

A rather better day…

Bright sunlight woke us this morning, and the day kept up it’s promise, with long sunny spells as we headed to Stone.

But first we had to say goodbye to Dave and Dilys, who got away about 25 minutes before us. We didn’t expect to see them again, but we did… briefly.

Dave, Dilys, Sadie and Puzzle with Mags and Meg this fine sunny morningIMG_4549

Leaving Barlaston – NB Trundle…
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…then us.
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It’s about 40 minutes to the top of the four Meaford Locks, passing through pleasant countryside but with the fairly busy railway line up to Manchester running alongside.
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Meaford Top Lock
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No-one waiting to go down, which was a surprise, but there was a hold up at the next one down Lock 33, as it is filling very slowly.

We caught up with Trundle here we arrived at the L33 as they were going down.IMG_4563

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Yeah, right.

By the time we’d slowly brought a boat up, then dropped down ourselves, they were out of sight near the bottom lock so that’s the last we’ll see of them for a while.

We had boats coming up both the lower locks so they didn’t need to be set or filled.

Passing in the pound above the bottom lockIMG_4569

We were intending to moor on the rings above Limekiln Lock, but the stretch of grassy towpath on the straight below the locks was inviting in the sunshine, so we pulled in there instead.IMG_4571

I think the damp weather yesterday hasn’t agreed with my camera. There’s a blurred blob in the middle of the lens, very visible in the photo above, and I sometimes get an error message after it’s switched on, with the zoom not extending properly. There’s dust inside the lens housing as well, after three years of being carried around in trouser and jacket pockets, so I think it’s time it had a graceful retirement. It’s replacement will probably be something similar. It’s a Canon Powershot SX170 and it’s given good service through quite a rough life.

Not sure what we’re doing tomorrow. The weather seems to be settling down again to sunshine and showers over the next few days, and we can cope with that. Five gentle days will take us to Fradley by the middle of next week to keep an arranged rendezvous.

Locks 4, miles 2½