Saturday, August 30, 2008

Steady cruise to Willington

Well we fell foul of the queues again today, but only once. We left it until 11:15, hoping for a slackening in the stream of boats going past, but still joined the 6 boats already waiting for Branston lock.

In a pickle at Branston…
We got talking with the children from the hire boat behind us, and finished up with a potted history of the family! Apparently Dad wears a hat ‘cos he’s bald. I know how he feels…
I took an hour to get through the lock, and then we had a steady cruise to and through Burton on Trent. I was surprised (and pleased) not to encounter too many anglers. Last time we came through the town on a weekend we ran into a 1¼ mile fishing match.

The second and last lock of the day was Dallow, and is the last of the narrow locks on the canal heading east. It’s also the last we’ll see for a while, probably till Foxton.

Dallow Lock

Even swans have problems with adolescent offspring. Come on kids, still in bed and it’s gone lunchtime!
Another 4 and a bit miles took us to Willington, where we expected to find Carol. There was Corbiere, moored near the road bridge, but with no-one on board. It is so busy here we’ve had to go ½ mile to find a place to pull in. It’s a bit near the railway line, but in this village everywhere is! At least there’s a gap in the trees on the south side of the canal, so we’ve good TV reception.

I’ve had enough, Dad.
It’s been another fine dry day, starting overcast, but giving us sunny spells later. Pretty warm and muggy, there are thunderstorms forecast for tomorrow.

Locks 2, miles 7

Friday, August 29, 2008

Boats, boats and more boats. But full cupboards.

Unfortunately the Tesco man didn’t arrive as early as hoped, and it was past 11:00 by the time the groceries were all away. The queue of boats starting at the top of the flight had reached us by this time, so we hung on, waiting for a gap.

Not in our fridge it don’t!

Still, the cupboards are nicely full again.

We got off in a bit of a lull at around 12:30, but still had 1 or 2 boats in front of us at every lock. Most of the boats seem to be going in the same direction as us today, so we didn’t often get the benefit of empty locks.

We filled with water at Alrewas, just above Alrewas Lock that drops the canal down to the short river section.

Alrewas water point

The landing at the lower side of the lock has been sliding into the river for a couple of years now. It looks like BW are making preparations to do some repairs this winter.

Which reminds me… I must have a look at the Winter Stoppage List for this year that I downloaded the other day.
I like the river section, the water smells somehow cleaner and fresher, and you can see the bottom 4 feet down.

The weir is getting a bit overgrown, though. A good flood will soon sort that out.

Back onto the canal and we went past Barton Turns Marina where a lot of the hire boats will be returning to tomorrow, and pushed on to Branston. There’re good moorings here, either side of bridge 34, but no vacancies tonight. We got in a bit further on, on rough banking. It’ll do for tonight.

The good weather continues. Dry but overcast and quite muggy today. Still, it’s better than rain. Now, when do you think the first hosepipe bans will be introduced?

Locks 8, miles 7

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The best laid plans of mice and men…… are subject to revision.

We set off this morning full of intentions to get to Alrewas. The Chinese takeaway was beckoning…..

It’s a beautiful run to Wood End Lock at this (or any other) time of year.
But long waits at the locks were frustrating, so we pulled in at Fradley, just past the services. The idea was to let the traffic die down a bit, but the boats kept coming and coming, so we decided to stay over.

Boats and gongoozlers at Fradley
Moored above Keepers Lock
We’re still short on our normal grocery supplies; there’s only so much you can carry any distance. So I checked up and booked a Tesco delivery for tomorrow morning. Hopefully, if he gets here early enough, we can get away and avoid some of the queues.

Locks 4, miles 2½

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

10 miles in 3 days. We're really on a roll!

Another fine day yesterday, but we didn’t move. I had a hard training run first thing (only 10 days to the Great Yorkshire Run), and didn’t feel like doing much else. In the afternoon we defrosted and cleaned out the dog and gave the fridge a good brushing.

We were getting ready to move out this morning when Carol went past. She’d spent a few days at Great Haywood. We followed on 20 minutes later, but stopped at bridge 66 in Rugeley for shopping. The cupboards are getting pretty bare. I think I’ll organise a Tesco delivery for when we pass through Fradley.

We got a fair bit of stuff at Morrison’s, and I got longer arms carrying it back. Then we set off again, with no clear idea of a stopping place for tonight.

Just ½ mile down the canal we came across Carol, moored next to bridge 63. She’d called RCR out again, this time for a fault on the charging circuit. Since the new starter was fitted, the voltmeter has been showing more than 15 volts, higher than it should be and in danger of cooking the batteries. So she wanted them to check it out. The chap had arrived, fitted a new alternator which didn’t work, and had gone off again to get another.

There wasn’t anything we could do to help, and we couldn’t get Seyella into the bank anyway, so we carried on, out of Rugeley and towards Armitage. Filled up with water near Hawkesyard Priory, and then had to wait for a queue of boats coming through the narrow bit where Armitage Tunnel used to be. All day there has been a lot of traffic in both directions. Understandable, really. This is one of the most popular canals, and it is a busy time of year, even though the weather isn’t anything to write home about.

We called it a day around 16:00, pulling in just before Kings Bromley Marina. Not a bad spot, trees both sides keeping the breeze off but making it prematurely dark. TV is surprisingly good, too.

Carol cruised past about 30 minutes later, with a (working) new alternator fitted. It’s turned out to be an expensive fuel filter change, after all! She still intends to get to Alrewas tonight. I reckon she’ll have a late one, to get to the village she’s got about 4 miles but 9 locks. And with the amount of boats about, there’s likely to be queues. I’ll speak to her later and see how’s she’s done. I got on with swapping the 2 shackles that hang the tipcat and back button fenders for larger, stronger ones. There’s quite a bit of weight there, and 6mm ones hardly seemed up to the job.

It’s been fine again but cool, with a SW breeze and no sun. The next couple of days are forecast to be a bit warmer. Let’s hope.

Locks 0, miles 7.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Escape from Great Haywood and a good read.

Yesterday morning I spotted NB Phyllis May again, moored near Tixall Wide. I was returning from a 10 mile run. They were heading back up to Stone shortly, so I arranged to meet up at the junction so I could get a copy of “Narrow Dog to Indian River”, Terry Darlington’s latest book. I ran back to Seyella, had a quick shower, grabbed Meg and walked back to Great Haywood junction. I was too late, they were back on the T&M and heading for Hoo Mill. So I chased after them, heading them off at the lock.

I’m glad I made the effort, I finished the book after we stopped today, and it’s easily as enjoyable as his first, “Narrow Dog to Carcassonne”. Well recommended.

We were getting a bit stir crazy at Great Haywood. Too many boats, too many towpath pedestrians and poor TV. So I made a visit to the Spar shop for a few more essentials, took Meg for a last pee, and we were underway at 13:20. By this time the morning rush had eased, and the evening rush hadn’t started.

We didn’t move very far; through Colwich Lock and another couple of miles to moor in the open near Taft Bridge.

Sunny at Colwich Lock
Open views and a nice wide towpath where Meg and I can sit out without being tripped or cycled over.

And it was worth sitting out when we stopped. Although it’s been breezy, it’s been warm and sunny. The best day for a while.

On the bank
Locks 1, miles 2¾

Saturday, August 23, 2008

More queues on the last bit to Great Haywood.

After the excitement of the last couple of days, today was a bit dull by comparison. Not the weather, that has been gorgeous, blue skies with just the odd “Simpson” cloud floating about. No, just an uneventful cruise, queuing again at each lock to Great Haywood.

Waiting at Sandon Lock in the sun
Nosy Cows at Weston Lock

Busy as always at Great Haywood.
While I was out for my early training run I came across NB Phyllis May. This is the Darlington’s boat, which Terry and Monica, with long suffering whippet, Jim, sailed across the channel and took down to the South of France. Terry describes their adventures in his book “Narrow Dog to Carcassonne”.

I stopped on the way back, but T, M and J weren’t aboard, daughter Lucy and family have borrowed Phyllis May for a few days. They’ll have to get used to being accosted.

They are here at Great Haywood, moored at the other side of the junction. If they’re still there in the morning, I’ll see if they’ve got a copy of “Narrow Dog to Indian River”, which recounts their journey, in the narrow boat, down the US Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway a year or so ago.
Carol is moored a couple of hundred yards away. The phone didn’t survive it’s dunking, but Sonja has arrived with a spare, so we’ve got our back-up back.

The day finally spoiled itself with a heavy shower at teatime. How unusual.
In the last 2 days we’ve done 13 locks and 14 miles. I think we need a couple of days off…..

Locks 4, miles 7

Friday, August 22, 2008

Corbiere has a (nervous) breakdown, Carol goes swimming and we play follow-my-leader in Stone…

Well, we’ve had an interesting couple of days. On Wednesday afternoon Carol decided to change the fuel filter on Corbiere. It’s not been done since she bought the boat, so it’s overdue. She asked me to be on “standby” while she did the swap, as she hadn’t done it before. Neither had I on a BMC diesel! But, how difficult can it be???
Well, the change over went without a hitch. The old filter was well clogged with black muck, so it was a necessary job. It was when we came to bleed the system that the problems arose. Getting the air out of the filter and pump was OK using the manual lever on the lift pump. But to bleed at the injectors you need to crank the engine with the pipe unions slackened. Unfortunately the engine only turned for about 15 seconds before slowly grinding to a halt. Ah, flat battery. It is quite old, fitted in 2001. So we tried coupling in a spare I carry, but with no improvement.
Carol partly charged the battery using her petrol generator till it ran out of fuel, but it still didn’t have enough juice to turn the engine over.
So we called it a day, deciding to breast the boats up in the morning so hers could be jump started from Seyella. I was convinced that it’d start with a decent battery connected.

So yesterday dawned brightly, and I started Seyella up and let her run to make sure the starter battery was charged before we pulled Corbiere up alongside. We connected up the jump leads full of anticipation, which soon turned to disappointment when the engine ground round half a turn before stopping again. After trying various combinations of batteries we gave up and Carol called out the experts. She’s a member of River Canal Rescue, the inland waterways equivalent of the RAC.

While waiting for the “very nice man” (was that the AA ad?) to call back, Carol stepped off her boat carrying a chair and dropped her phone into the canal!
She had to find it, all her phone numbers are on it. But first I called RCR on ours to leave them an alternative number. Then Carol went canal diving.

Yuk! Now, a gentleman would have offered to look instead. If only there'd been one around....
I didn’t hold out much hope, but she persisted and after 5 minutes groping about in the murk came up with a big smile clutching the phone.

Successful Phone Retrieval

We stripped it down and left it to dry, then swapped the SIM card into our spare. Luckily most of her numbers are on the SIM, so she could use that phone instead.

Meanwhile the man from RCR arrived and diagnosed a failed starter motor. He reckoned it was unable to cope with the extra demand of cranking the engine to bleed the fuel system. He had to get one (of course), so would be back in the morning.

Today dawned fine and dry again, and the RCR man arrived as promised. By 11:00 Corbiere was back to herself, the engine chugging happily under the aft deck.

RCR to the rescue

Carol wanted to be down at Great Haywood by tomorrow, so set off after tidying up and putting things away. We let a couple of boats and a short shower pass before following, expecting to catch her up at Meaford Locks.
But one of the boats ahead was very slow, and all we saw of her was a glimpse on a lock side ahead before she moved on again. It took us 1½ hours to drop down the 4 locks. On a good day they can be done in 40 minutes!

Queue at Meaford Top Lock
Mags in Meaford Locks
Into Stone and things went from slow to snail’s pace. It’s a good job we’re philosophical about these things. We stopped to empty a loo and fill with water at Newcastle Road bridge, then moved on to Yard Lock. This is just below the base for the Canal Cruising Company, the place for boat hire in Stone, and they’d just released 4 boats with new crews on the first day of their holidays. It’s always busy with boats around here, and with half a dozen milling around trying to find somewhere to moor while waiting for the lock it was interesting, to say the least!

Lots of boats at above Yard Lock, Stone
Anyway, after about an hour we got through the lock, on to Star Lock and through with no difficulty. Then we had an uneventful trip to and through Aston Lock, stopping about a mile further on.

Apart from a short shower while dropping down the Meaford Locks, we’ve had a dry day. A bit of a record for us. I seem to always get wet in Stone, but not today!

You’ll have noticed there are quite a few pictures of Mags in various locks today. Val, a friend of long standing, emailed to ask if I’d lost her overboard, as she’d had no mentions for the last couple of weeks. So Val, here she is, alive and kicking!

Locks 9, miles 7

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A long weekend at Westport

On the last post I said “I reckon we’ll stay here tomorrow”. Well, the tomorrows lasted till yesterday, with the poor weather discouraging us from moving. Still, the Olympic coverage has kept us entertained. Haven’t they done well! No golds today,1 silver and 3 bronze though take the total haul to 37, including 16 golds!

A shame about Paula Radcliffe, though it shows how determined she can be that she even finished after only a few weeks to prepare. For those who live on Mars, she was diagnosed with a stress fracture at the head of a femur just 12 weeks before the start of the games. This severely restricted her training, in fact she was told she would be unable to compete at all.

I was disappointed though that coverage of the other two GB runners in the Marathon was sketchy at best. Mara Yamauchi coming 6th was an excellent result, and the ever present Liz Yelling did herself justice with a 26th place.

Back to the mundane, coal boat NB Alton, owned and operated by Brian and Ann Marie McGuigan, came by on Sunday. We filled up with diesel at 78p, got 3 bags of solid fuel (hopefully not to be opened till the autumn!), and a tipcat fender for the stern. I tried to get one on the Macclesfield, if you recall.

Brian and Ann Marie.
Carol gave me a hand to fit it that afternoon. It don’t half look smart!

New tipcat fender. No more bumping the rudder…
And here’s a heron reflecting on life…..
In other news, BW re-opened the Rochdale Canal between Failsworth and Picadilly. The pollution incident appears to have been caused intentionally, but the culprit(s) still have not been identified. Official EA report here.

We moved on today, with the weather indicating improvement for the rest of the week. A steady, uneventful hour took us to Stoke Top Lock and the junction with the Caldon Canal. We turned into the Caldon for a few yards to get to the facilities block, then, appropriately emptied and replenished, winded and came back onto the Trent and Mersey.

Etruria Junction on the Caldon
James Brindley stares forever across the canal at the sanitary station…

The 5 Stoke locks were easy, with traffic coming up we didn’t have to set up any.

Stoke Top Lock from the next one down.
After the locks we had a steady 1½ hours to Trentham and the last lock of the day. We moored, as usual, just beyond bridge 104 near the Wedgewood factory.

The weather has been kind, warm and dry till we got moored up when we had a couple of showers.

Locks 6, miles 7½

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Goodbyes (again!) and a change of canal.

Derek and Gloria, with dog Jake, set off at around 09:00 this morning. Their first stop was at Heritage Marina just along the canal for diesel, so I followed them down to get a picture.

Completely Foxed at Heritage Marina.

They are going down to Hardings Wood Junction and turning North for Middlewich, while we are turning South for Shardlow, so this is definitely the last time we’ll see them, at least for this year.

We got off around 10:30, had to queue for water at Hall Green Stop Lock, picked up Sonja at Red Bull and arrived the northern entrance to Harecastle tunnel on the Trent and Mersey around 13:00. There were 8 boats queued up to go through, and, as they only allow 8 at once in the tunnel, we resigned ourselves to a bit of a wait.

Back onto the muddy T&M

Queuing at Harecastle.

We were surprised when the tunnel keeper told us to set off after only waiting 30 minutes. Apparently the first boats were emerging from the south end and there was no one waiting to come north. So off we went.

I always try to get pictures that show the atmosphere in these canal tunnels, these are today’s offering.
Harecastle Tunnel is 1¾ miles long, so there’s plenty of time to experiment…

Every so often there are man-sized alcoves in what was the towpath side of the tunnel. I guess these would have been to allow pedestrians and horses to pass.
We emerged into daylight and moored at Westport Lake, about a mile from the tunnel mouth. We often stop here; it’s good for Meg and popular, so there’s always other boaters around. The only downside is the high towpath, which encourages the plentiful dog and children walkers to peer in the windows.

I reckon we’ll stay here tomorrow. Sonja has to go back to collect her car left this morning near Red Bull, and the weather is looking dodgy again.

Locks 1, miles 5

Friday, August 15, 2008

Farewells and Greetings, and another walk up Mow Cop

We wanted to catch up with Carol at Congleton before she left, so were away yesterday at 09:45.
As we were heading along the long straight past Buglawton I glanced over my shoulder and spotted a familiar cratch board behind us, and 2 figures on the towpath, one canine and one human. Completely Foxed had caught us up, after leaving Bosley locks earlier. Gloria was walking Jake, while Derek steered the boat. We had a towpath to boat chat as we cruised along, till we reached the aqueduct just before Congleton. Here they pulled in and we waved farewell, and then passed Carol doing a bit of rubbing down on the window frames on Corbiere.

Completely Foxed at Congleton Aqueduct.
We stopped for an hour or so at High Town for a visit to the shops, then pushed on down the canal.

The day wasn’t as bad as forecast suggested, with a sharp shower at around 13:00, then no more rain till late afternoon, which cleared to leave a fine dry evening.

Not a bad day….
Unfortunately it was not such a good day for Carol. She’d decided to repaint the roof edge that got spoiled by rain last week. Just before that 1 o’clock shower came by. So it’s ruined again.

She moved to the moorings at High Town and stayed there to wait for a visit from Sonja.

As we were approaching the moorings near Mow Cop we’d used on the way up, I was feeling a bit weary so we decided to stop here again. I was sat out reading in the afternoon sunshine, when, for the second time that day, Gloria and Jake came into view on the towpath. They’d decided not to stay at Congleton after all, and were as surprised to see us as we were them, expecting that we’d be down at Hardings Wood by now.

We had a very convivial evening sat on the towpath talking, with the dogs playing, sometimes involving me!

Going to the Dogs.

The forecast for today was good (for a change) so Gloria and I decided to take the dogs to the top of Mow Cop this morning. We had a fine walk, the dogs enjoying each other’s company and us enjoying the fine views from the top.

Dogs Playing
Meg Posing

Mow Cop Castle
And the Old Man of Mow. (The rock, not me!)
We got back down soon after lunch, and then Carol arrived, now on her own as Sonja had taken Laura back with her this morning. She’d brought with her 50-odd slot cars from the race track set up they’d bought, and spent the afternoon sorting through them, and checking that they worked.

We’ll move on tomorrow, apparently back to the normal showery weather. We’re hoping to get through Harecastle Tunnel and stop at Westport Lake, but we’ll see how we go.

Locks 0, miles 6

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Interlude at Bosley

Another view of our mooring at Bosley Locks, from bridge 57
We’ve had a very pleasant couple of days below Bosley Locks. Yesterday wasn’t as bad as the forecast predicted, so Gloria, Amy and I, with the 3 dogs, set off to climb to the top of Hen Cloud.

Hen Cloud from the bottom of Bosley Locks.
This gritstone ridge rises 1350 feet above sea level, one of a chain of outcrops running along the edge of the Peak District. Mow Cop, which we climbed earlier in the trip, is the furthest south.

It was quite steep towards the top, but we made it, taking about 1¾ hours. The dogs really enjoyed the exercise. Hen Cloud is apparently Old English for “steep rock”….

Gloria was well pleased to reach the top, Jake wonders what all the fuss is about...
G, A and dogs pose on the top.

The view to the west. Fiddlers Ferry power station was just visible on the horizon, 27 miles away.

And the main building of Jodrell Bank, a mere 8 miles away. The summit was a mass of purple heather.
We didn’t see a drop of rain on the walk, it wasn’t until later in the afternoon that the first of the days showers came along.

Carol arrived at the top of the flight in the afternoon, intending to join us today, so I offered to go up and do the locks for her this morning.
We had an easy trip down, and Laura earned her own windlass, looking after the current lock while I went down to set the next.

Laura at Lock 7
After a bite to eat, Carol decided to push on a bit. After all, she’d done nothing all morning; Laura and I did all the work! 

After saying our goodbyes to our erstwhile neighbours, we followed on, but only went a mile before a shower of rain told me to pull over. I rang Carol, and she’d made it to Congleton before stopping, so we’ll have to play catch-up tomorrow.

Locks 0, miles 1.