Sunday, July 21, 2019

Damp and grey up to Stone, fine and dry back.

The less said about Friday’s trip from Sandon to Stone the better. It rained. I got wet. It dried up later and I dried out, almost.

Leaving Sandon, just a bit drippy at this point but it got worse. A lot worse…
In fact this is the only photo I took all day, the camera stayed firmly in the dry.

We spent yesterday in Stone, shopping to do and I had Mags’ meds and the mail to collect from the Post Office. Later, when the traffic had died down, I motored up to the winding hole, turned around and reversed back to fill the water tank below the lock before mooring again.
George and Carol made the same manoeuvre this morning.

Heading backwards…

As we were ready to go we pulled pins and set off, at around 09:00. Very early for us. WaL followed on as soon as they’d filled up, arriving at Aston lock as we were leaving it.

Heading out of Stone on a lovely morning.

A very sad tree… Big arrh.

No-one was waiting at Aston Lock, but I had to fill it before we could descend.

Aston Lock marks the half-way point on the canal, at least in miles. Coming up from the Trent though you’re only a third of the way through the 76 locks on the navigation.

Upper Burston Bridge sits at an awkward angle on a blind bend, so inevitably we had to meet a boat there…

A beautiful morning…

By the time we got to Sandon Lock traffic had started to build up, and there was a short queue waiting to drop down.

Twenty minutes later we were in the lock, and the line of boats waiting had grown.
George and Carol had finished up behind two other boats since Aston.

We fetched up at Weston at noon, surprisingly joining just one other boat on these popular moorings, and he left shortly after we arrived.

WaL turned up about 40 minutes later. We’re heading to Great Haywood tomorrow, turning right to spend the night on Tixall Wide. That’ll be the last night we have with George and Carol. We’ll be returning to the T&M heading east, WaL is heading down the Staffs and Worcs and onto the Shroppie.

Locks 4, miles 10¼

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Further up the valley – in company!

We were joined this morning by George and Carol, normally of Still Rockin’ but the temporary custodians of Dave and Lisa’s What A Lark.
They’ve done a boat swap for the next couple of weeks, Dave and Lisa will be zooming up and down the Thames on SR, while George and Carol are looking forward to a more sedate time on the narrow canals.

WAL was in Great Haywood Marina when they picked her up yesterday, so today they motored out onto the canal and pulled in behind us for a brew and a chat before we all set off.

It was well after 11:00 by the time we got going but at least we avoided the queue of boats leaving Great Haywood and arriving at Hoo Mill Lock in convoy.

Out of the lock and cruising slowly past the moorings above, we spotted a familiar boat heading our way. It was Dave and Barbara on Liberty Bell, returning to Burton after a trip around the Cheshire Ring.

A ten minute pause was called for as we caught up with the news, then we parted company with the promise to try and meet up again in September.

The next lock is the pretty one just south of Weston, spoiled a little by having steel gates rather than the original wooden ones. But they do last a bit longer…
I think these date from the 1970s. The life expectancy of wooden gates is around 20 years.

The moorings in the village were surprisingly empty, in fact there hasn’t been the boats about that I expected today.

Mum looking after the youngsters…

…while Dad makes sure that they’re not disturbed, even by large, noisy steel things!

There’s a three mile pound from Weston to the next lock at Sandon, but it is very attractive, apart from the section near Salt where the railway runs close alongside.

We dropped lucky at Sandon, with a boat just leaving the lock and another waiting above.

My tummy was grumbling a bit by now, so, instead of pushing on as planned to moor near Burston, we pulled in above the lock. The Rockers, (or should that be surrogate Larks?) pulled in behind us and joined us for tea and cake.

Meg has had enough, fast asleep in the cool of the long grass.

Tomorrow we’ll head up to Stone. Might be a little damp, though.

Locks 3, miles 5¼

Back up the valley

Over the last couple of days we’ve headed slowly back up to Great Haywood. It’s a bit cooler but still fine, with showers generally being civilised and confining themselves to out of cruising hours.

Taft Bridge and the pig farm moorings.

We’d got off at around half-nine, hoping to beat the Rugeley exodus to Colwich Lock, and it worked out tolerably well, with only one boat ahead of us waiting to go up.
There were boats on the way down too, having left Great Haywood.

Pretty through Little Haywood.

We pulled in for the rest of the day opposite Shugborough Hall, rather than going up to the main moorings.

Shugborough Hall over the fields

We had some heavy showers later in the afternoon and they came and went overnight, but it had dried up by the time we set off yesterday. We didn’t intend to go far, but we needed to fill the water tank and get rid of refuse so we moved up to Haywood Lock, once again timing it well with just having to wait for one up and one down.

Then we cruised past the surprisingly quiet Great Haywood moorings, and got slotted in on the end of the service wharf.

At noon we were tied up through the bridge opposite the Canalside Cafe attached to the farm shop.

We had lunch then decided to shove on a bit, people sitting on the cafe’s terrace seemed to be very interested in staring through our windows, and pulled in again just shy of Great Haywood Marina’s entrance. Another wet late afternoon and showers overnight have left the air fresher again, but it’s a pleasant morning. We’re waiting for a phone call now before we move on up towards Stone…

Locks 1, miles 4½

Monday, July 15, 2019

A bit manic in Rugeley

On Saturday we pulled pins and left Great Haywood, heading out to moor out in the sticks. We didn’t get too far, mooring opposite the “pig farm” just past Taft Bridge.

A dull morning as we leave Great Haywood.
You can just see Shugborough Hall across the meadows.

Amazingly, no-one waiting at Colwich Lock.
There’s usually a morning queue here, as everyone leaves Great Haywood around the same time. We had six boats in front of us once…

Wolseley Bridge, crossing the Trent.

We stayed put yesterday, I wanted to get the brackets for the life-ring painted, and the Silverstone Grand Prix was on in the afternoon. And what a race that was! Best one of the season so far, and with live coverage too.
Since Liberty Media took a controlling interest in Formula 1 from Bernie Eccleston, TV rights to broadcast the race meetings have had a shake-up, and this year the only free to view event is Silverstone, the rest covered only by highlights shows.

This morning we unhooked from the piling and set off to Rugeley. We’ve not had the chance for a good grocery shop for a while, and the cupboards are looking a little bare.

The beautiful Trent valley, with Cannock Chase rising in the distance.

Over the Trent just before Rugeley.

We just dropped lucky on the very busy moorings around Bridge 66, able to get tied up close to the bridge and close to Tesco. A couple of trips for groceries, then a pause for lunch and we were on the move again, past the long line of moored boats to the very shallow winding hole just before bridge 65.

We turned around and headed back, almost making it through the gauntlet but meeting three boats coming through Bridge 66.
A chap tied up where we’d just left took our centre rope and held us breasted up while they all came through.

And that was about the most interesting bit of the trip. Heading back out of town we crossed the aqueduct again and moored on the offside moorings just beyond. It’s a pleasant sunny spot here.

Someone’s going to be disappointed when they come to tie up later today…
Back to Great Haywood tomorrow.

Our plan for this year was to head south, using the Coventry and Oxford Canals to join the Thames at Oxford. But Meg’s condition three weeks ago was causing us concern, so we’ve decided to stay in the Midlands near where we have vets that we know and trust.
Meg has improved again now, in fact she’s doing quite well but it’s too late to head down, especially as we intend to be near Loughborough by the middle of September for a family gathering. So we’ll be pottering for a bit. Seem to be doing a lot of that lately…

Locks 1, miles 6¾

Friday, July 12, 2019

Avoiding the showers as we head just around the corner

We had rain again overnight, but it was dry although blowy this morning as we set off from The Wide to great Haywood Junction.

The almost obligatory picture of Tixall Gatehouse.

The last bridge to negotiate (before the one at the junction) is Bridge 102, aka Swivel Bridge.
Did it replace a swing bridge at some point, I wonder?

Over the Trent Aqueduct just before the junction.
The Trent and Mersey Canal follows the Trent valley from Shardlow to Stoke, with a few deviations as the river meanders. But you’re never far away from the river. It rises not far to the north-east of the Five Towns, on Biddulph Moor.

Emerging onto the Trent and Mersey Canal we turned left to the services wharf, luckily being able to get into the one gap available.

Regular visitors to the junction will know how busy it can be here…

Filled with water and with rubbish and recycling dealt with, we reversed to the junction, turned around and headed towards Haywood Lock.

Looking back to the junction
Like I said, it can be busy...

There were no spaces above the lock on the 48 hour moorings so we dropped down, under the old carriage bridge and pulled in.

Haywood Lock

The crossing took the carriage road from the church to Shugborough Hall across the canal, then the Trent. But the river bridge has been demolished, so there’s no longer any direct vehicular link between the village and the estate. The only way across the river here is by the 16th century packhorse bridge, know as Essex Bridge after the Elizabethan nobleman who had it constructed, the Earl of Essex.

Although there were odd showers through the day we managed to avoid all but the shortest. Tomorrow we’ll move on a short way towards Rugeley.

Locks 1, miles 1¼

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Another good day.

We had a drop of rain overnight, and a sprinkle later this morning, but apart from that it’s been fine and warm.

We got off a little earlier than is customary, on the move by soon after half-nine.

Around the corner is the Stafford Boat Club headquarters and moorings, and it looks like they’re playing host to the Autotrail Owners Club this week.

Pleasant but a little overgrown…

We passed the moorings at Radford Bridge, the closest you can moor to Stafford, then had a bit of hanging back to do as boats going in opposite directions met at Meadow Bridge.

The canal swings around in an arc to the east around the rising ground of Weeping Cross and Baswich, and on the curve is where the Stafford Branch or River Sow Navigation left the main Staffs and Worcs.
Constructed as a private project funded by Lord Stafford it dropped down from here to the River Sow, which was made navigable into the town where the navigation terminated at a basin and wharf. Opened in 1816 it served the town until the 1920s when it fell into disuse.

A project to re-open the waterway, under the name Stafford Riverway Link, will see a slight change to the canal link to the river, but the river will still take the navigation into the centre of Stafford. it’ll be handy if it comes off.

Heading east now, the canal runs between the river valley on the left and the railway on the right, with ahead the bulk of Cannock Chase on the horizon.

The towpath changes sides at Milford Bridge, then the canal follows a dogleg to cross over the Sow on a substantial stone aqueduct.

A couple of bends and another bridge saw us coming up to the pretty Tixall Lock, joining the end of a short queue. We expected there to be one; we’d allowed a hire boat past earlier and expected to catch up here.
It actually wasn’t as long as it appeared, the boat at the front had a gearbox problem so we were able to pass him. And the young woman off the boat was acting as amateur lock keeper while the men were messing with spanners and WD40.

Just 20 minutes after leaving the lock we were tied up, just short of the wide bit of Tixall Wide, after a very pleasant day.

The disabled boat came past a little later, so they must have made some sort of fix. They were only going to Great Haywood Marina so should be OK.

Tomorrow we’ll brave the inevitable congestion around Great Haywood Junction, fill with water then head down Haywood Lock to moor across the fields from Shugborough Hall.

Locks 1, miles 5.