Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Busy to Stone

Before we set off this morning there seemed to be a continuous stream of boats going past, most of them in the same direction as us!

We dropped into a gap at around 10:30, heading to Weston Lock about 10 minutes away.

Queueing at Weston Lock.

The other side of Weston Upon Trent is the small village of Salt. There was a small salt production industry around here, and I guess that the village is named for that.

South of Weston there’s a hamlet called Shirleywich. Shirley for the family that developed the industry, wich for salt, as in Middlewich and Northwich.

Decorative brickwork at Salt Bridge.

The Trent valley here is delightful, peaceful apart from the occasional intercity whooshing along the nearby West Coast Main Line. It’s a sad fact that canal and railway building both require much the same terrain with shallow gradients. And of course they fulfilled much the same function. So canal and railway can often be found side by side.

The trains didn’t bother these guys enjoying the sunshine…

While the youngsters just chilled.

In a few places along the canal there’s evidence of dismantled bridges, narrow sections with raised banks either side. There must have been a rationalisation programme at some point, renumbering the bridges.

Original Bridge 90, now Bridge 85

After queueing at both Weston and Sandon Locks it was a pleasant surprise to arrive at Aston with no boats waiting. In fact there was a boat in the lock coming down with another above, so it worked out well.

Aston Lock

Aston is the halfway point along the 92 mile canal.

Halfway milepost

From the Trent at Shardlow to the Bridgewater Canal and the link to the Mersey at Preston Brook the canal rises over 300 feet through 40 locks to Kidsgrove, then drops back to around the 80 foot contour through a further 36 locks.

We thought about stopping just above the lock but there was no room, so we toddled on into Stone.

I thought we’d lucked out here as well, with a long row of boats filling the 5 day moorings below Star Lock. But there are 2 spaces just above the winding hole, and one was empty so we dived in there. A bit closer to the road than we’d have liked, but beggars can’t be choosers. The alternative would have been to go through Stone to the moorings near Bridge 96. There are some moorings in the town, but we’ve never seen them empty yet.

Coming into Stone we were set upon by an angry swan. Looking around we could see that his consort was sitting on the nest, so he was just being protective.

First he flew in to attack the bow….

Then set about trying to unravel the stern button.

They’re fearless in defence of their families, but also ruthless. Ducklings and sometimes adult ducks are attacked and drowned if they compete for food and territory.

Locks 3, miles 7½

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