Friday, September 30, 2011

Chance meeting

We were gently cruising along just south of Sandon Lock when I spotted a familiar boat. It was NB Wilvir, with Bill, Ginny and Gunner the dog aboard.

Bill and Ginny, NB Wilvir.

It’s been a while since we saw them last. We keep coming across them, usually heading in opposite directions, so we’ve not often shared a mooring. We pulled alongside and spent a half-hour catching up on the news.Good to see you both again, have a good winter!

Then it was onward again, towards Great Haywood.
It’s been busy on the water today, I reckon a lot of folk are taking advantage of the good weather and are having a long weekend out. They mostly seem to be heading north, so that’s good for us. We’ve not had to queue once, and boats have been waiting below most of our locks today.

Leaving Sandon Lock, our first today.

Weston Lock. Excellent, quite moorings both above and below, but only room for one boat at each.

Heading down the valley alongside the Trent the locks are spaced out now, and set in gently rolling farmland.

Ornate brickwork at Salt Bridge

Hoo Mill Lock is the last before the busy Great Heywood Junction.

Coming into Great Haywood

The Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal heads off under the bridge on the right. Forty-six miles from here to the River Severn at Stourport, and as such another major trading route.
The moorings here were busy as usual, and we had to fill Haywood Lock before we could use it, the only one all day.

Colwich Lock is a mile further downhill, and once again we caught it just right with a boat leaving the lock as we arrived, and another waiting to come up.

Colwich Lock
We called it a day just past Taft Bridge, a mile or so before Rugeley. It’s a popular spot and there’s not much room here now. We’ll stop in the town for shopping tomorrow.

Before we set off this morning Meg and I had a pleasant 4 mile walk heading back parallel to the River Trent and the canal to Aston, then returning along the towpath.
There’s a vehement protest going on against the siting of 3 wind turbines south of Aston.

Anti wind farm protest

The turbine towers may be erected just to the right of this track…..

…..spoiling this view.

The river in Aston-by-Stone is no more than a stream at this point.

River Trent

Another cracking day today, the temperature sensor on the roof aerial recorded a stonking 36º degrees this afternoon. A lot of that would have been reflection off the roof, though. October tomorrow….

Locks 5, miles 9½

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Through Stone

Off at 09:40 this morning, a little later as I slept in a bit! It was nearly 7 before I woke up. I’m used to getting up at daylight, but as dawn gets later and later as we move towards winter I’m going to have to reset my internal alarm clock.
We were sharing this stretch of piling near Barlaston with several other boats last night, but they’d all moved off by the time we were ready to go.

Leaving Barlaston Mooring

It’s about an hour’s gentle cruising to the Meaford Flight of 4 locks, passing a private house called The Boatyard.

The Boatyard, Barlaston. Jealous? Me?

Not sure if it ever was a boatyard, but the dock seems to point that way.

Apart from a maze of electrical cables on pylons, there’s nothing to be seen of the large Meaford Power Station. This coal-fired station opened in 1947, was upgraded with Meaford “B” opening in 1957, and finally closed in 1991. There’s no evidence that fuel was provided by canal, despite it’s proximity. Rail spurs would have supplied the coal. It utilised water from the Trent for the turbines.

Autumn colours

Meaford Top Lock

We were surprised not to meet any boats coming up the locks, we had to refill every one as we were following another boat.

Dog Cart?


There’s a ¾ mile pound before arrival in Stone.

The town was the headquarters of The Trent and Mersey Canal Company. The offices were below Star Lock, where Westbridge Park now sits.

Painted Boats

Below Limekiln Lock

There were lots of people out and about on the towpath, but only one boat going the other way. We pulled over just below Newcastle Road Lock for water and other essential services.

Newcastle Road Bridge

The lock is just the other side of the bridge, the towpath tunnel avoided boat crews and horses having to cross the road.

Yard Lock is the third in the town going downhill. Alongside is the boatyard, base of Canal Cruising Company, the oldest established hire boat hire business on the network.

Yard Lock and the Boatyard

The final lock is Star Lock, alongside the Star Inn. The fine weather ensured that there was a good crowd to watch Mags enter the chamber without touching the sides. Bless her!

Star Lock

We normally stop over in Stone, we both enjoy the town, but today we pushed on, through Aston lock and past the new marina.

Wing exercises for one of this year's cygnets 

Aston Marina

We pulled in at Bridge 87, near the hamlet of Burston. There’s a pleasant walk back towards Aston along the river that Meg and I will look at early tomorrow. This afternoon it was just a matter of lying in the shade.

Locks 9, miles 6½

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Up the hill, through the ‘ole, back down the other side.

No, it’s not a way of remembering how to tie a bowline! It’s what we’ve done today. It’s been a long trip; it always is through Stoke and Harecastle Tunnel, no matter which way you go.
You can never be sure exactly how long the journey will take. The potential hold-ups at the tunnel and the locks can add a couple of hours. And this is what happened today.
After such a long day I can’t be bothered with a load of writing so you’ll have to make do with pictures today. OK? Good.

First lock of the day, Number 43, alongside the Red Bull pub.

Mags heading under Poole Lock Aqueduct, for Lock 42

I‘ve always called it Poole Aqueduct, but the weathered date-stone says different. The date, incidentaly, is MDCCCXXXIIII, or 1834 for us plebs. This is probably the time when the locks were duplicated to speed up traffic.

You have to keep your head down going into L41!

This is the top lock on the northern/western side of the canal. The 2926 yard Harecastle tunnel is on the summit level, which runs to Etruria before starting the long descent to Shardlow.

Hardings Wood Junction.

The way to the Macclesfield Canal is under the bridge on the left, then over the previously mentioned aqueduct.

We joined a queue of two other boats waiting to enter the tunnel. The one-way traffic is controlled by tunnel keepers at either end.

Waiting for the tunnel.

We had about 40 minutes to kill as there were 3 boats in the tunnel coming north.
Brindley’s original tunnel, now collapsed in the middle.

This tunnel was completed in 1777 after 11 long years. Fifty years later Thomas Telford was asked to recommend a solution to the severe congestion it caused, and in 1827, after just 3 years of construction, the “new” tunnel was opened. This is the one we use today. Both were in use for a while, but the earlier tunnel was finally decommissioned in 1918. It’s now impassable. There’s a third tunnel, higher and to the north of the canal tunnels, built for the railway. This one is also now closed. Harecastle Hill contains seams of iron ore and this dissolves into the water causing the ochre staining in the water, on the banks and on your hull blacking!

It took us 40 minutes to get back into daylight.

Still sunny at the south end

I’ve mixed feelings about Stoke-on-Trent. There’s a lot of history here, and the city has tried to re-invent itself since the almost total loss of the pottery industry. But it still feels run-down and shabby.

Dereliction at Middleport

New and old rub shoulders near Fenton

At Etruria Junction, where the Caldon Canal heads off to the east, the canal starts descending into the Trent Valley. Inevitably, as there was a convoy through the tunnel, there was a queue of boats waiting to go down the deep and slow Stoke Summit Lock.

Queueing for the summit lock

It took about an hour to clear the backlog, then we were on the way again.

In the short pound just below the summit

We worked our way steadily down the Stoke Locks, unfortunately having to refill most of them as we were following other boats.

Railway and canal coincide at Cockshutts Lock

The huge municipal incinerator next to Bridge 109 marks the end of the built up area. From this direction it looks like a single-horned bug-eyed monster waiting to swallow approaching boats…


Or maybe that's just rubbish….   Laughing 1

Nearing Trentham we encountered the ex BW workboats Linsay and Keppel heading north

Then dropped down the last lock of the day.

NB Samuel in Trentham Lock  

We’d followed this couple all the way from Kidsgrove.

Pissers in Trentham Lock. Yes, they really are called that!

We pulled over between Bridges 104 and 103, just north of Barlaston.

The fine weather continues, in fact it’s been a bit warm sometimes today. Sweaty
Did I really say that?

Looks like I’ve waffled on as usual, after all. Ah, well.

Locks 9, miles 10½

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Still climbing….

Another cracking day today, but with a bit of a breeze. And another early-ish start, pins pulled at 09:20.
Just around the corner was the pair of Pierpoint Locks, quite shallow compared to some of those around here.

In the Pierpoint Locks.

There’s an intricate bywash weir alongside Lock 55, with 3 different heights of overspill.

After these two there’s a chance for a brew as it’s a mile the small settlement of Thurlwood, on the edge of Rode Heath.


Another pause for breath then there’s the very pretty Lawton Treble Locks alongside the hamlet of Lawton-Gate.

In Lawton Treble Locks, Mow Cop on the horizon

We’d been following NB Chance since Thurlwood, with a crew of four ladies on board. They didn’t hold us up though, in fact they helped us along, setting up a paired lock for us or lifting a paddle as they left an individual chamber.

NB Chance in Halls Lock.

The two Church Locks are separated by a very short pound, and the paired chambers alongside are both derelict.

Mags waiting patiently as I set Lock 48

Derelict lock chamber alongside lock 47.

These are back to the normal 8-10 foot depth, common to most of the locks.
There’s some very pleasant moorings here, near the Church of All Saints at Church Lawton. But we decided to carry on, up the first 3 of the Red Bull Flight.

All Saints, Church Lawton

Red Bull Locks

We moored just above Lock 44, just a mile and a further 3 locks from Harecastle Tunnel. That’s our landmark for tomorrow, from there on it’s a long downhill slope following the Trent Valley.

On a day like today there're not many trips that beat this very attractive climb up to the summit level. It's a bit different in horizontal rain, though.

I’ve done a bit of a mod on the central heating. When the boat was built there were two small-ish radiators at the rear end of the boat, and a larger one in the saloon. I soon fitted a towel rail/radiator in the shower room, but this only made the imbalance between the opposite ends of the boat more extreme. With the heating on the back of the boat was like a sauna and the saloon still cool. OK, there’s the solid fuel stove in the saloon but there are times in the spring and autumn when it’s not worth lighting it for a couple of hours in the evening.
When I refitted the cabin, fitting a cross-bed instead of the in-line one, I had to take out the rear most  radiator. I stored this in the engine ’ole, not quite sure what to do with it but reluctant to get rid.
Anyway, I’ve now installed it in the saloon on the opposite side to the existing one. Piped on a spur rather than on the ring I expected it not to get really hot but was pleasantly surprised when it got as hot as the rest. No leaks either!

Next job on the agenda is secondary glazing. If we have another winter like last one…..

Locks 13, miles 4