Monday, July 29, 2013

Great Haywood for the weekend

I really should try to post more regularly; by the time I get around to it I’ve forgotten what we’ve done!

We stayed near Burston till Thursday, more work done on the right hand gunwale and the rear hatch slide. The slide is very heavy, I’ve had it off it’s runners only once before, but couldn’t actually lift it, I just rolled it over onto it’s top face. This time I decided to raise it on wooden blocks to clear the brass rails it runs on. I had to take them off to de-rust, prime and paint under them. That done they were refitted. Another job done.

Thursday we headed off to join Chas and Ann at Great Haywood. We keep saying goodbye, then meeting up again!

Hotel boats Snipe and Taurus at Sandon LockSAM_6058

It was the last of the reliably fine days, before this current series of thundery showers rolled in.

Even the horses were sunbathing

Some fine elderly boats at Weston WharfSAM_6060

We moored overnight near the road bridge, opposite the farm shop, then in the morning moved around onto the Staffs and Worcester, mooring on the straight before Swivel Bridge.

Local neighbourhood watch….

Yesterday we had an excellent lunch on board Moore2Life and later Ann and Chas brought round a birthday cake for me, a week early but we’re not going to be together after today, we’re heading back to Stone, they’re heading home, leaving M2L in Great Haywood Marina for a week.

So today we headed off at around 08:45, down to Tixall Wide to turn around, then back to the junction and mayhem around the service point.

Tixall Wide this morningSAM_6074

Coming back past M2L, Ann….
…and Chas

I thought that getting off a little earlier than normal we might have missed the crowds, but, as usual, the water point was thronged. We waited for about 40 minutes on the offside for the opportunity to fill up, deliberately aground so we didn’t drift about in the breeze.

Great Haywood JunctionSAM_6077


After filling and emptying, I then set myself the task of reversing for diesel on the Anglo-Welsh wharf. Those who know the junction will understand the challenge, for those who don’t, it required backing off the water point, then a 90° turn to go under the bridge, still in reverse, and another turn onto the wharf. And I didn’t touch the sides anywhere. Smart a**e.

Fueled up, watered up, rubbish and loos emptied, the last job was a bit of grocery shopping. Although it’s dearer, I decided to pop across to the farm shop rather than trail up the village to the Spar shop. We pulled up behind Tony and Jacqui on NB Timewarp just through the road bridge.

Tony and Jacqui

Tony gave me a bit of a confidence boost; he’s got a lot of experience of painting boats and was very happy with the preparation I’d done, and the plan going forward. He also gave me some valuable advice when it comes to the final coats. Thanks, both, see you again soon.

This is what it’s all about… Bridge 81 and Leatop Farm on Ox Hill. Beautiful.SAM_6086

Sunshine and showers was the order of the day, but it was still very pleasant and we finished up going further than planned, ending up mooring above Sandon Lock.

Some fine cloudscapes todaySAM_6087


My first job was securing a couple of boats that were only tied at one end, mooring pins having been pulled out of the soft bank by passing boats.SAM_6089
I just made it before the heavens opened as a short but intense thunderstorm passed over. It’s brightened up since, and turned into a fine evening.

We’ll spend a couple of days here, there’s a winding hole just ahead so I can turn around and do a bit of work on the right hand side, then we’ll head up to Stone on Thursday.

Locks 3, miles 6

Monday, July 22, 2013

Looking for a low bank…

We set off at around 10 this morning, by the time I’d done what shopping was needed. First lock, just 100 yards ahead, was Star Lock, named for the pub alongside.

Star Lock
Unusually for a canalside pub, it pre-dates the navigation.

Moving out of town we managed to sneak past the swan family near Brassworks Bridge. The cob is notorious for attacking passing boats that invade his territory. He must be knackered with the number of boats about!SAM_6045

Only two locks to do today, the second was Aston Lock, which also marks the mid-point of the Trent and Mersey Canal.

Aston LockSAM_6046


These original mileposts were cast in Stone, marked “R&D, Stone, 1819” The R&D is Rangley and Dickson, a foundry company that was in Lichfield Road in the town.

During WWII all the posts were removed in case of an invasion, and 34 were lost. Replacements were cast by the Trent and Mersey Canal Society to the original pattern, sponsored by various companies and individuals

We moored a couple of miles further on, just past the village of Burston. SAM_6049
You can see from the picture that the bank is low enough for me to get at the gunwale, and I set to with the orbital sander to sand it down, before applying a couple of coats of black paint to the scrapes and scratches that this area inevitably collects.


When that’s dry the whole section will be rubbed down again, hopefully flat and level, ready for top coating. I’ve always used cheap black household gloss, rollered on and tipped off by brush to give a good finish. My thinking is that expensive coach enamel scrapes off on locks sides as easily as the cheap stuff.
The trend seems to be to use a matt black finish along here, it’s easier to repair. I might think about that. 

With the threatened thunderstorms not yet arriving, I then rubbed down the cratchboard, inside and out, and gave it coat of grey undercoat. Still undecided on the colourscheme here.

We’ll see what the weather does tomorrow, we may stay here for the day or move on a bit.

Oh, and congratulations to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, more commonly known as William and Kate, on the arrival of their long anticipated (at least by the media) baby. The boy, third in line for the throne, is likely to be a George or maybe James.

Locks 2, miles 3½

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Still in Stone…

After a few days topside of the town, rubbing down and painting, we needed water and also a change of scene.
I’d managed to get both handrails recoated after turning around and moving to the shade of some tall trees on the towpath side. But it was still 7 o’clock in the evening before I could start. I thought I’d be struggling to do the prep work because of weather, but expected rain, not hot sun!
Today was quite a contrast, I set off for my morning run at 06:00 in fine drizzle. It was rather pleasant for a change, although I wouldn’t want to make a habit of it. All day it’s been cloudy, with just a hint of damp every so often.

We also needed some groceries, so, after breakfast and dog-walking, I cycled into town, not realising that the shops didn’t open till 10:00 on a Sunday. Silly me. Still, it’s all good exercise…

Into Stone
Ooh look, shiny red handrails!

Good timing at Limekiln Lock, an Anglo-Welsh hire boat just leaving the lock ready for usSAM_6038

Dropping down the next lock at Newcastle Road, we had to wait for a while in the queue for the waterpoint, but it gave a chance for the washing machine to finish it’s cycle, sucking the last few dregs out of the water tank.

Filling up at Newcastle RoadSAM_6039
It’s not the best placed service wharf on the system, it’s also the lock landing and there was a regular stream of boats up and down while we were there. Then all the boats disappeared, none to be seen past Joules Brewery and then we had to refill Yard Lock.

Canal Cruising Company…..SAM_6040

….we’ll be in that white shed in a fortnight’s time, putting on the top coats.SAM_6041

Still needing to shop we pulled on the carpark side moorings below Yard Lock, then, cupboards replenished, pushed across to moor on the towpath side opposite the meadows along the river.SAM_6042
Amazingly, for this time of year, there wasn’t another boat on either side here when we arrived, but all the moorings are full now.
We decided to stay here for the night after a pretty disjointed sort of morning (and my legs were complaining after a brisk 8 miler first thing, followed by pedalling to the (closed) shops). I can make another trip to the shops tomorrow, and there’s a couple of bits I need from the chandlers. Isn’t there always?

Locks 3, miles 1

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Partings and meetings at Stone.

On Tuesday we moved on down to moor just short of Stone. Below Meaford Locks there’s a long stretch of piled towpath with a winding hole half-way along, ideal for me to be able to get at both sides of the cabin.

Staffs County Council are working on a big towpath improvement project, upgrading the stretch from Meaford to Barlaston to speed cycleway standard.

New surface….

…and new edgesSAM_6031
We had a bit of a pause while crew moved everything out of the way for us. In fact, with the amount of traffic on the cut, I’d be surprised if they got much done at all!

Anyone who’s walked this length of towpath will know it was in dire need of repair, and it’s good that the local council have taken it on, rather than C&RT.

It didn’t take us long to get to the top of the 4 locks at Meaford, and we had an easy trip down, mooring below at around 2 o’clock.

Meaford Top LockSAM_6034

We’d had a later start than recently, I wanted to get another coat of paint on the coachline first thing.

Plenty of room on the piling below the locksSAM_6035
We turned around in the winding hole and moored just behind Moore2Life (just visible in the distance). I can get the left cabin side flatted, and, with a bit of luck, 2 coats on the coachline this side too.

Yesterday Chas and Ann pressed on down through Stone. They’re heading for Great Haywood for the end of the month, so we knew we’d be parting sometime soon. Meanwhile we’ll be pottering about around Stone waiting for our appointment with the paint shed at Canal Cruising early in August.

I gave them a hand through the first three locks, then dropped in to see the facilities we’ll be using for the final coats before doing a bit of shopping and returning to Seyella.

Unusual for me to sit at the front of a moving boat….DSC_0123

Waving goodbye below Yard LockDSC_0124
We’ll have to adjust to a quieter life now. We’ve been traveling together since we met up at Great Haywood in March. Cheers guys, see you later in the year, all being well.

I had a welcome interruption in the evening, I was wielding my sanding block and wet-and-dry when Tom off NB Waiouru came toddling up. He’d seen Chas and Ann below Star Lock, so knew we were up here, and walked up to say hi.

We had a good chat, mainly topically about painting, before he took his leave and I had another half-hour of shoulder exercise before calling it a day.

This morning I’d had my early run, showered and broken my fast, walked Meg for 45 minutes up around the common, and was just tidying up a bit when there was a toot from outside and Tom and Jan cruised past.

Tom and Jan, and a fine looking NB WaiouruSAM_6036
It was touch-and-go whether they’d actually be able to realise their ambition of owning a narrowboat, but you’ll have to go to their blog to read the story….

It was good to finally meet you, next time it’ll be for longer! Have a good trip.

The rest of the day has been spent in finishing off the flatting on the left cabin side and marking out for painting on the coachlines. I’m going to do that when it cools down a bit. With it being so warm for so long there’s very little dew overnight so not much chance of the paint blooming. Anyway, it’ll be dry in a couple of hours!

Locks 4, miles 3.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Another catch up post

I’m getting lazy, aren’t I. No regular posts recently, but frankly there’s not been a lot going on.

We moved on from Church Lawton on Friday, heading up the Red Bull locks to the summit level of the Trent and Mersey.

Moore2Life waiting for Lock 44SAM_5961
Although there were a fair few boats around, the paired locks meant that progress was good, till we joined the queue at the water point below Lock 45. It took about an hour to get the relevant tanks emptied and filled, then we were up 2 more locks before stopping again, this time to visit Tesco to top up the cupboards.

Lock 42 with Poole Aqueduct in the backgroundSAM_5966
The Hall Green Branch leaves the summit level at Hardings Wood Junction and doubles back to cross over the main line on this aqueduct. It connects end-on with the Macclesfield at Hall Green Stop Lock, although these days it’s generally accepted that the Mac starts at the junction.

Waiting at the north portal of Harecastle Tunnel.SAM_5970
Telford’s tunnel, dating from 1827, is the one in use now. Brindley’s original, completed in 1770 after an arduous 11 years of labour, can just be seen to the right. Subsidence caused it’s closure early in the last century. It’s also affected the later tunnel, the towpath was removed to allow boats to use the centre of the bore with higher headroom. There are still some pretty low sections, though.

Some pictures through the tunnel….

Flowstone from lime leaching out through the brickworkSAM_5975

I think this guy’s got a name, but I can’t remember it at the moment…SAM_5977
I assume the towpath was on the left (east) side of the bore, as these alcoves are set into the wall at regular intervals. Probably refuges to avoid passing boat-horses.

Glazed tiles set in the walls originally marked the distance, more visible paint has been applied since.

The ochre colour of the water is due to passage through iron ore deposits in Harecastle Hill. The same mineral tints the flowstone in places through the tunnel.

Red flowstone

One of the low bits….

After exactly 40 minutes M2L emerges into the daylight, 2926 yards further on.SAM_5996

Looking back at the south portal, the fan house which draws air through the tunnel (and makes for a cold draught in the winter but a refreshing breeze in the summer) sits on top.SAM_5997
We stopped overnight at Westport Lake, 15 minutes from the tunnel.

After a quiet night we pushed on, just a short, lock-free trip to Etruria and the junction with the Caldon Canal.

Westport Lake moorings

Longport Wharf uses canal warehouses dating from 1840.SAM_6002

Along the wide, wooded section towards Etruria, it’s hard to believe that the area once resounded with heavy industry, with a massive ironworks on one side and a colliery feeding the furnaces on the other.SAM_6006

We pulled up at Etruria, just above summit lock, and dived inside to get out of the hot sun. It was later, around 4 o’clock that I took Meg for a stroll around the junction and decided it would be a good idea to move to moorings just below Etruria Staircase Locks on the Caldon.

Etruria Junction
We’re just entering the Caldon Canal, Stoke Top Lock on the T&M is to the right.

Now that’s a better mooring….SAM_6009
We stayed here for 2 nights, with a large area of grass for the dogs, and walks along either canals it’s a pleasant spot.

Etruria Staircase LocksSAM_6010

Hanley Park is a short way up the Caldon CanalSAM_6013


The park was created in 1894, a traditional municipal park complete with bandstand and formal gardens.

Today we were away at around 9 o’clock, a visit to the services followed by a return to the Trent and Mersey and the start of the descent of the locks on the south-east section of the canal.

Stoke Top LockSAM_6019

A trip through the potteries wouldn’t be complete without a picture of…..

bottle kilns!
Of the hundreds that once dotted the industrial landscape of the Five Towns, only a few preserved examples remain.

Cockshutts Lock, with CrossCountry Class 220 Voyager on the bridgeSAM_6021
Headroom below the lock is very limited, we squashed our chimney cap here several years ago.

Stoke Bottom Lock was rebuilt during a road improvement scheme, I’ve already had a rant about it here, so I’ll say nothing today…

Leaving the bottom lockSAM_6022
Boats had started to come up the flight by now, there were four waiting to come up as we left. With the speed this one fills they’ll be there for a while…

We headed out of town, through Trentham and dropped down Trentham Lock, our last for today.

Trentham Lock

It’s been another hot one, in contrast to when we came up this way in March when we were trying to avoid snow showers. Ahhh, the joys of our variable climate.

Where we’ve moored tonight we’re shaded from the afternoon sun, so I thought I’d get a bit of gloss on the cabin side. It’s been just too hot and sunny to consider it recently.
So I marked out the coachlines on the right cabin side and the rear panel, and slapped the first coat of ebony white on.
We didn’t have “mouse’s earholes” on the old scheme, and I‘ve always fancied them, so we’re having them in this one.

There are 2 schools of thought when it comes to applying coachlines. You can paint the background panel colour, then overlap it with the foreground colour, finishing off by covering the overlap with the coachline. Or, you can put the coachline on first, mask if off and apply the foreground and background colours (carefully) in one session. This is the method I’m using. It’s cheaper on masking tape, too!
I’ll lightly flat the new paint and get another coat on in the cool of the morning before we leave tomorrow.

Since the last post, locks 12, miles 12½