Monday, July 30, 2007

Bad weather forecasted for Saturday night and Sunday encouraged us to stay in the marina for another couple of days. In the event, the rain was not as bad as predicted. I think the weathermen were just being cautious, covering their a***s.

So early today (well, early by our standards), we moved from the mooring and onto the dock in the marina, where we filled with diesel and water, and emptied the loos. Here we also picked up our passengers. Sue and Trevor joined us for the day.

Picking up fuel and waiting for passengers.

We had a good day, first of all up to Birstall for supplies, then downstream through Thurmaston lock and the next 3, to finish up just above Mountsorrel lock. The level indicators at the locks were still on the amber. I think it’s going to be a few days before they’re back in the green.

Cossington Lock, just after lunch

Moored at Mountsorrel

The weather has been good, sunny with a breeze from the north-ish. The forecast is good for the rest of the week. Looks like summer may finally be upon us….. S & T enjoyed the day, it’s the first time Trev’s been on a narrowboat, and he spent some time on the tiller. A bit different to the speedboat he’s got at home!

Kay will be pleased with the improvement in the weather, she’s organised a BBQ for Wednesday evening. We’ll get the chance to meet her new arrival, a 10 week old St Bernard called Ruby. Should be interesting!

Locks 4, miles 6½

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The big event of the past week has been the family gathering at The Plough at Normanton. A good day, but somewhat let down by the service at the restaurant. But still, it’s good to get most of the family together.

Gathering of the Clan
We stayed the night at my brother’s house in Syston, thanks Andy and Nyree. Had a marathon Monoploy game with Luke, Megan, and Trevor, Sue’s NZ husband. It took another hour on Sunday morning to finish! (Trev won.)

When we got back to the boat on Sunday PM, the level in the marina was up by about a foot after Saturday’s rain, and continued to rise another foot or so through Monday morning.

Flooding at Birstall Lock
Tuesday and Wednesday’s drier weather allowed recovery back to just on the green at Birstall lock, but heavier showers again today have pushed the level back up again. The problem is that with standing water still in the sodden fields, there’s nowhere for the water to go apart from straight into the river. But we’re still a lot better off than those people in Tewkesbury!

We’re planning to move out on Saturday, round to Birstall for provisions, then slowly northward. Sister Kay is organising a BBQ in Loughborough on Wednesday, and we’d like to be there. All depends on the water, of course.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Rang Dave at Raynsway Marina first thing, and booked a mooring for about a week. Then saw Mo on NB BALMAHA going past, so had a quick chat. They’re heading up to the North-East as well, so we may meet up later. Especially as the water levels may hold them up.

Away around 11:00, and a fine sunny day saw us through the 7 locks to Thurmaston. We didn’t have the opportunity to share any of them today, but it’s not as if we need to save water anyway. Although the level continues to fall, most of the markers are now showing green, unsettled weather forecasted may have an impact.

Another new marina, this time at Pillings Lock near Barrow, is nearing completion.

Pillings Lock Marina

Old Junction Boatyard still looks the same…

Locks 7, miles 9

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The water is down! Well, at least almost in the amber. BW at Newark tell me that Sawley is in the amber, and the Soar is open.
So we’re away at 09:15.

Shared Derwent Mouth lock, and out into the main flow of water from the Trent and the Derwent. The picture doesn’t do it justice, we were doing about 10mph at 800 RPM. We normally only do about 3mph at these revs.

Derwent Mouth

The flood lock at Sawley was closed, so we had to lock through. Newark didn’t tell me that!

Then on to the main Sawley locks, where the level was supposed to be in the amber. Well, in the red is almost in the amber, I guess. Anyway we locked ourselves through, in company with a 20 footer with an outboard. More on this later….

Sawley Lock
An interesting run back under the railway bridge against the current to get onto the service wharf. At one point we had a huge bow-wave but were barely moving forward. I’m glad I asked for the larger engine when we specced the boat.

Filled/emptied as required, then turned again and shot back under the bridge and down to the Soar junction. Redhill Flood lock was surprisingly open, so we caught up with the 2 lads on AUNT EMMA III at Ratcliffe lock.

This was the 20 footer from Sawley. They’d bought it at Sawley, and had to wait for the water to go down till they could move. They’d never had any boating experience, unless you could count one of them having a day trip as a child. The trip involves getting to Newbury, and then to Bristol! After 190 miles and 139 locks to Newbury, then a further 75 and 85 respectively, they’ll certainly be experienced! Good luck to them.

We shared the next couple of locks with the intrepid duo, but then got separated when the charity trip boat “DANDELION” from Loughborough slotted in between us. So we shared Zouch and Bishops Meadow with them, and Loughborough with a Tupperware cruiser.

Zouch Lock
Emergency Mooring “Dolphins” at Normanton. Who’d want to moor here otherwise?
Cleared Loughborough and moored at the (busy) visitor moorings near Millers Bridge.

Remember last Thursday’s post and my last ritual baptism in the cut? And the hat that was “jauntily floating off”? Well it’s probably jauntily floating past Nottingham by now!
A gust of wind took it clean off my head near Redhill, and with the strong current, brisk breeze and proximity of moored boats, I chose not to go back for it. I’m blaming the haircut Mags gave me yesterday…..

A long day, nearly 8 hours, but it's stayed fine and dry, with lots of bright sunshine.

Locks 8, miles 13.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Checked the flood level indicator this morning, the water has dropped about 8 inches overnight, but it’s still in the red. There have been one or two boats moving in both directions this morning, and even a couple last night, but we’re not prepared to chance it just yet.

All change this afternoon, though. Even with the occasional heavy showers, the water continues to fall, and we’ve had a flotilla of Canaltime boats going past in both directions. I guess if the marina thinks that it’s safe for hire boats, we can give it a go.
But we’ll wait till tomorrow morning, now, and have a good run up the Soar.

Spent the morning working in the engine bay. Cleaned out the bilge, re-aligned the engine to the shaft and reset the stern gland. Then checked the gearbox and batteries. All set to go, now. Keeping our fingers (and a lot of other things) crossed that the river(s) don’t flood again overnight.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The last leg on the Trent and Mersey today, with the broad locks down to Derwent Mouth to go through.
We shared the first 3 with a couple on a canaltime boat, but we carried on when they stopped for lunch.
When we were in Aston lock I rang BW to find out the flood position on the Trent and Soar, and found out that the Trent is closed, but the Soar is open.
We’d planned to overnight just above Derwent Mouth lock, so stuck to the plan and moored around 14:30. The flood warning lights are on red at Shardlow, and the level indicator at the lock is well into the red zone, so I guess we’re stuck here for a bit. The weather is showing signs of improvement though, so maybe it won’t be too long….

Flood level indicator at Derwent Mouth lock
Derwent Mouth, lots of water!
Locks 5, miles 9½.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Horrible day, Friday, rain all day so we stayed put. Moved out today at 09:20, and were through Burton on Trent and at Willington by 13:30. 2 trips to the shops topped up most of the stores, then we had a wait to get on to the services. Away again by 14:30, and moored at Stenson an hour later.

A fine bright day, but heavy showers and thunderstorms are forecast for tomorrow, so we’ll be staying here.
We just missed a bit of a drama. A plastic cruiser came out of the marina opposite, veering all over the canal. He hit the side of one boat, then angled across the channel, straight into another. The second collision was on the corner of a window, and pushed it into the boat (without breaking the glass, luckily. There’re double glazed). So there was a bit of a fuss going on, names and addresses taken, of culprit and witnesses. Then the errant cruiser went on his way, and was later reported as being at Burton. It’s amazing what you can find out on the cut.

I forgot to mention, as we got underway this morning, I went to put my specs on (I can’t see so far without them these days) and couldn’t find them. Thinking back, I couldn’t remember seeing them since my episode on Thursday afternoon, so I guess they must have finished up in the canal. We’d moved away from the mooring by the time I’d realised, else I might have been tempted to go fishing. Good job I’ve a spare pair, but these haven’t got reaction lenses so I’ll have to get some more.

Locks 2, miles 9

Thursday, July 12, 2007

We knew that Fradley would be busy, so we got off a little earlier than normal, went down through the first 3 locks to the sanitary station, did the essentials then cleared the last 2 in the flight by 10:15.

I know BW are a bit strapped for cash, but getting this out of retirement is a bit unfair..
Common, Bagnall and Alrewas locks took us onto the river section were the Trent enters the canal for a short while. This bit was closed because of high water earlier in the week, and the debris on the weirs shows why!

Alrewas Weir
Alongside the A38 was noisy as usual, and past Barnton Turns marina. The development of hotel and retail outlets is coming on apace here, as well.

Barton Turns Marina
Arrived at Branston Water Park at around 13:30, where I had a bit of a to-do.
While sorting out the stern line to tie up, my foot went down a hole in the bank and I lost my balance. I don’t remember much about what happened next, but I finished up standing IN the canal on my right leg, my left still on the bank, a lump on my head from head-butting the counter of the boat (not recommended) and my hat jauntily floating off down the canal.
Luckily it was one of those times when there was no-one around to watch!
Anyway, I recovered my hat (and dignity) and finished off tying up before getting changed. A scrape on my left calf along with some bruising could have been a lot worse.

Locks 11, miles 7½

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

We joined the short queue at Colwich lock after 20 minutes. There’s usually a queue here in the morning as it’s the first lock after GH. Through the lock and in to Rugeley. Intended to stop at the visitor moorings at bridge 66 and go shopping, but this was another Stone! All the moorings for a good ½ mile were full, so we pressed on and had a short stop in Armitage to go up to the Londis Store.
Then on through Woodend lock, and moored just above Shade House at 16:00.
Another dry but cooler day, still busy with traffic.

Locks 2, miles 11½

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Uneventful day today, a gentle cruise, arriving at Great Haywood after a dry, bright day. Moored after the lock. Pretty busy with boats, all moorings full above the lock, but that’s normal for here. The new marina, just above the village, is coming on. Looks like the buildings are nearly finished, and there are boats on the pontoons already.

Marina at Great Haywood
Locks 4, miles 7½

Monday, July 09, 2007

From the last posting, we intended to stay between Trentham and Barlaston for the weekend, but moved on to nearer Stone on Saturday morning. The chap on the boat in front of us had had 3 mops stolen from his cabin roof overnight (though why he needed 3 I tactfully decided not to ask). We’d not had any trouble, nor heard anything, and there were far more valuable things about than mops, so I guess it was probably kids.
Still, it’s a shame. This is a spot we’ve used several times in the past, but we’ll now be reluctant to use it again.

We found a good mooring about a mile out of Stone, opposite the new housing development. Good satellite reception meant I was able to watch Lewis Hamilton take 3rd at Silverstone on Sunday. Shame he didn’t win, but isn’t he doing well! (I’m talking about Formula I, by the way).

Into Stone on Monday, very busy. Had to queue for every lock, and couldn’t find anywhere to moor close enough for our customary stroll through the town. So we moored on the end of the 5 day section and I made a quick dash up to Morrisons for essentials. We also filled with diesel at Stone Boat Builders, and did the required sanitary bits and pieces.
Moved on and stopped after Aston lock, near bridge 88
Oh, and as usual in Stone, it rained.

Cloudscape near Stone

Locks 9, Miles 7½ (since Friday)

Friday, July 06, 2007

Wet and windy overnight, but finally brightening up around 07:00, just in time for my morning run.

We pulled pins at 09:45, and were through Ivy House lift bridge by 10:30, but a heavy shower made us dive for a mooring immediately after. 10 minutes (and a cup of coffee) later, and we were on the move again.
Down through Hanley, where the redevelopment continues apace, through Hanley Park with good moorings (though I’m not sure I’d want to use them overnight), and Planet Lock.

At least they left the bottle kilns up…
Hanley Park
Then on to the Etruria staircase and back onto the T&M around 12:00

Bottom chamber of the staircase, Mags being daft!
The 5 Stoke locks were as much fun as always, heavy to use and in uninspiring locations. A high point was meeting the pair CLEMATIS and GIFFORD coming out of Lock 37

A low point was waiting in a queue of 4 boats, in the rain, to go down the incredibly slow bottom lock.

A good run through occasional showers took us to and through Trentham lock, and on to a mooring near bridge 104. We’ve stayed here several times without any problems, but were told by a chap already here that 3 moored boats had their ropes cut last night, setting them adrift. This was just up the canal, near the lock. Hope it was an isolated incident, as we’d intended to stay here for the weekend.

Locks 9, miles 8½

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Off at 10:15 today. Overcast but dry, but threatening rain for later. A gentle 1½ hour run down to Hazelhurst, then down to Endon services on the main line. Followed this by a quick visit to the Spar shop, and pressed on to Stockton Brook.
The 5 locks took some time to pass, all were against us so needed filling before we could go in, but we were passing the waterworks again around 14:00.

The Victorian Waterworks at the bottom of Stockton Brook flight.
There were a few drops of rain in the wind, but nothing to worry about.

We were lucky at Long butts lift bridge, a boat was just coming through as we arrived, and they were kind enough to wave us straight through.

Norton Green lift bridge, followed by Engine lock, and the rain came on. The last ¾ hour was spent in heavy and persistent rain, before we finally moored near bridge 16 at around 4 o’clock.

Val took this photo of Meg while she and Neil were visiting from Canada. Better than any I've taken.

Locks 6, miles 7

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Just 3 locks today, at Hazelhurst, then a sharp left turn into the Leek Branch of the canal. This is only about 3 miles long now, the last couple into Leek have long since disappeared and been filled in.
The first ¾ mile has a lot of linear moorings, but after those it improves dramatically. The channel has been cut into the wooded slopes of the Churnet valley, winding and narrow in places.

Along the Leek Branch
Once the 130 yard long Leek tunnel is reached, the horizons broaden to give views across the river to the hills beyond.

Churnet Valley
We went through the tunnel and to the terminus, hoping to moor for the night, but the piling was occupied, so we turned around, back through the tunnel and moored just after.

Leek Tunnel
Moored near the tunnel, taken from the ridge it’s cut through
I like the Caldon Canal, a pity we couldn’t take the boat down to Froghall Wharf (the tunnel to the terminus is too low for us), but at least I went on foot. The Leek Branch, although short, is the icing on the cake.

The forecast was right, heavy showers this PM, but we were tied up by then. Supposed to be more showers overnight, but clearing by morning, with a better day following. We’ll see.

Locks 3, miles 5

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Not a good decision, to spend the night still on the river section of the canal! At 07:00, when I took Meg out for her early “constitutional”, the river was up 9” on the day before, and flowing fast. We were moored securely, but I was not prepared to risk the trip back up to Oak Meadowford Lock with the river this high. I’m pleased to say Mags resisted the temptation to say “I told you so”, she wasn’t keen on stopping here, but I particularly wanted to run down to the terminus at Froghall, about 2½ miles away, this morning.

Moored, waiting for the level to drop. The weir is just under the bridge to the left.
A lot of water going over the weir.
The steamers on the Churnett Valley Railway gave me a good photo opportunity.
We monitored the level all morning, and by 15:00, it'd gone down by about 4”. So we took the chance and set off, back upstream.
The trip to the lock took 25 minutes, sometimes barely making headway on the narrow windy sections. I was glad to see the tail gates of the lock, believe me! No pictures, I’m afraid, I had other things to think about!

Up through the lock, where a couple of boats were hanging about waiting for the river to drop, then retraced our route back up to Cheddleton Mill. Stopped just past the mill at around 17:30. After a very wet morning, the afternoon brightened, but we still suffered a couple of showers, short in duration but heavy in intensity.

A large whisky is in order, I think.

Locks 4, miles 3

Monday, July 02, 2007

We stayed put Friday, Saturday and Sunday due to less than clement weather. In fact, it was horrible, windy and with very heavy showers.

We intended to get away to move on down to Froghall at around 10:00, but a lady dog walker left us with the responsibility of a moorhen chick, apparently abandoned further up the canal. It was cold and wet, and very sorry for itself. But after drying and warming up, it became quite chipper.

Milly the Moorhen
I didn’t fancy trying to hand rear the chick, so rang the RSPCA for advice. I was amazed that they offered to come and collect it, and take it to a wildfowl hospital. I expected them to tell me to put it back where it was found and let it take it’s chances.
Anyway, we arranged to meet at the road bridge next to Endon sanitary station. Before we set off I took Meg for a short stroll back up the towpath, and spotted a couple of adult moorhens in the undergrowth on the opposite bank. This was close to where the dog walker rescued the little one, so I dashed back to the boat, collected the chick and released it back into the water. After a couple of circles to get it’s bearings, it set off purposefully across the canal to a clump of overhanging vegetation, where it was soon joined by an adult. I hope that it was Mum.
Anyway, they seemed happy enough, so I left them to it, and we set off after cancelling the RSPCA mercy mission.

First stop was at bridge 28 for shopping, then to the services for water, rubbish and loo, and finally on route proper at around 12:00.

After a showery morning, the afternoon was mainly fine, and we made good time through the locks at Hazlehurst, Cheddleton Mill, and Woods and Oak Meadowford locks. Not far from Cheddleton Mill is Cheddleton Station, where the Churnett Valley Railway starts.

Cheddleton Station

At Hazelhurst, the 3 mile Leek Branch heads off to the right, and then back over the main line on the aqueduct.

Hazelhurst locks, the Leek Branch off to the right.
Hazelhurst Aqueduct
Cheddleton Mill, the original watermill
After Oak Meadowford lock, the River Churnett joins the canal for about a mile, until it leaves over a weir at Consall Forge. When I came down here on my morning run on Sunday, the river level was high, above the level where it would be safe to proceed.

Oak Meadowford Lock
I was pleased to see that the water had gone down to safe levels, so we carried on through the lock. But with the weather being so variable, we decided to turn at the next lock, Flint Mill, and moor so we didn’t get stuck on the wrong side if the river flooded again. We finally stopped at Consall Forge, near where the river leaves the canal.

In the evening a photographic club turned up, travelling by train, and took pictures of the area, with Seyella in the foreground.

Photo Club

Locks 7, miles 8½