Monday, March 31, 2014

Cooler as we move to Stone

We had a quiet day yesterday watching  the boats go by. I’m also pleased to be able to report that I found yesterday’s F1 GP in Malaysia a tad more exciting than a fortnight ago. Not so many mechanical failure retirements, and a bit more competitive racing, at least among those teams that didn’t carry a Mercedes badge. The works Mercedes cars seem to have just got the balance right… for the moment.

It was cooler today in the absence of the sunshine we enjoyed over the weekend. Back to jackets to keep out the chill, but I did persevere with the shorts. It’s Spring, after all!

Lots of Sunday lunches on the hoof….SAM_8780

Aston Marina, just before the first of today’s locks

Aston Lock is quite deep, and also marks the half-way point on the canal’s route from Shardlow to Preston Brook.

Aston Lock


There are four locks lifting the canal through Stone, the first with the popular Star public house alongside. Unusually the pub predates the canal.

There was a boat just leaving the lock as we arrived, and another was on the water point so I kept to the right – too far as it turned out, finishing up stuck on the soft mud below the lock.

Just before we got stuck…SAM_8790
A bit of toing and froing got us going again, and into the lock.

Star Lock, Star pub

Yard Lock follows, named for the boatyard directly above.

Canal Cruisering Company, based at the old boatyard in Stone.SAM_8793
We spent a week in that white shed last August while I painted Seyella.

We stopped below Newcastle Road Lock to fill with water then went up and around the corner, up Lime Kiln Lock and moored just in front of NB Balmaha.

Newcastle Road Lock, big hole for boats, small hole for boatmen and boat horses.SAM_8795

Moored above Lime Kiln, Mo is trying to blend into the fence on the right…SAM_8797
I guess he’s a little camera-shy…

We’ll be staying here till Wednesday. Things to do, places to visit.

Locks 5, miles 4

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Short sleeves, short pants, longer evenings.

I hope you all remembered to put your clocks on one hour last night…

Yesterday was very pleasant, so long as you were out of the wind. In the wind it was merely pleasant. Warm enough to dispense with the trousers and dig out the shorts. I even started out in just a T shirt, but had to grab a jumper for the more exposed stretches of canal.

Today is the alternative first day of spring, I think this is the Met Office’s definition. I still prefer the Spring Equinox, myself, there’s something comforting about relying on the immutable laws of celestial mechanics rather than some government body’s arbitrary decision.
Whichever definition you choose, there’s no denying that this one feels more spring-like than the last!

We had a few locks to do yesterday, the first just around the corner from where we moored.

Haywood Lock, the last before Great Haywood JunctionSAM_8749
It’s only shallow, this one, and it didn’t take long to drop a downhill heading boat down, then to take us up. Then we cruised past the popular moorings and the junction, pulling onto the service wharf for the emptying and filling rituals.

Our homage to the gods of waste and water complete, we toddled on, heading north-west, climbing steadily up the Trent Valley.

Somewhat vertically challenged ponies…SAM_8752

…and a curious buzzard.SAM_8753
You looking at me…?

The locks come steadily between Great Haywood and Stone, every mile or 2 there’s one to ascend, most in pretty, rural settings.

Weston Lock, good, quiet moorings, both above and below here.SAM_8759

Is it time to get back on, Mum?
It must be warm, Mags has taken her hat and coat off!

Weston Wharf, always well maintained old boats to be seen here.SAM_8762
The wharf used to be in farmland to the south of the village, now it’s surrounded by a large housing development.

Sandon Park rises to the right of the canal, with the Trentham Belvedere on the hill just hazily visible.

Sandon ParkSAM_8765
The Belvedere was moved from Trentham Hall when it was demolished in 1911. A bevedere, according to, is A summer house or open-sided gallery, typically at rooftop level, commanding a fine view.”
The park has a monument erected to William Pitt the Younger, and the house itself is a Grade II listed building, dating from 1852. It replaced an earlier house severely damaged by fire.
Unusually for a “stately home” in England, the estate is still in private hands, though it is available as a wedding venue. Neither the house nor Pitt’s Column can be seen from the canal.

An impressive, decorated brick bridge carries the minor road connecting the village of Salt to the main A51.

Salt Bridge
Ornate canal bridges usually carry a road of importance to local landowners, maybe a carriage road to a grand house. But Salt seems to have no particular significance, so  don’t know why the designer went to such trouble and expense.

Sandon Lock was our last for the day, and like all the others, was set ready for us. Even better was the fact that a well-crewed boat was waiting to come down, so I had to do very little.

Leaving Sandon LockSAM_8779

Our regular bit of piling was occupied, so we tried a couple of spots further on, finally finding deep enough water close to the bank near Upper Burston Bridge.

We’re not moving today, I‘ve a nice looking lump of pork (yummy, crackling!) to roast, and we’ve the Malaysian Grand Prix on the box.

Stone tomorrow…

Hi Carol, sorry to have missed you, I must have been emptying the loo. Hope you had a good trip.

Locks 4, miles 7

Friday, March 28, 2014

Two days to Great Haywood

Yesterday morning we moved just 20 minutes, around the corner to moor near Taft Bridge.

Under the Rugeley by-pass bridge

We spotted our first spring lambs in the meadow on the opposite side of the canal.

Mum 61 keeps a wary out for the youngstersSAM_8732

This morning we headed to Great Haywood, stopping first to fill with diesel at Taft Wharf.

NB Dextra, cheap diesel at Taft Wharf

And mum number 65 herds the young uns away from this intrusive metal thing.SAM_8739

I enquired about another service now being offered here…SAM_8736
Our 2nd 4-yearly Boat Safety Scheme check isn’t due till June, but I thought I’d ask as the £100 quoted is very reasonable. I wanted to know if it included the £38 fee for the certificate, and it does! I don’t think we’ll be taking advantage of it, but it’s worth knowing, isn’t it. If you can get the inspection done inside 2 months of the old certificate expiring, the new one will be dated to the end of the old one.

We only put 50 litres of fuel in, but at 79p that’s saved us about £5 at the going rate.

The brisk, cool breeze we started the day with slowly eased and the day warmed up, with the odd splash of sunshine to brighten things.

A fine array of daffodils at Little Haywood

Just one lock today, at Colwich. SAM_8742

We moored before Great Haywood, looking out of the Trent towards Shugborough Hall.SAM_8746
A team from the estate were removing a large tree, a casualty of the winds.

We’re looking forward to a fine weekend, according to the forecast. It’s not been too bad today, we just caught the fringes of a thunderstorm a while ago, but that’s the only rain we’ve seen.

I’ve tried Meg off her Metacam for the last few days, that’s the NSAID for pain management and to reduce inflammation caused by her arthritis. She was OK for a couple of days, then was obviously in a bit of pain so I started her on it again yesterday. This afternoon she was back to being bright and bubbly again, wanting to play and larking about with other dogs. I guess we’ll have to keep her on it, but she’ll need regular blood tests to make sure that the drug isn’t affecting her kidneys.

Not sure what we’re doing over the weekend; we may stay here or move on a bit towards Stone.

Locks 1, miles 3½

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Delivery day.

We had a slow start this morning, Tescoman wasn’t due before 11:00 so we had plenty of time to potter. Unlike some of the boaters passing this morning. It was one of those “sod the moored boats, I’m going just as fast as I please” sort of days.

Pulled pins from passing traffic…

There were quite a few boats about this morning, several topping up with water as they passed. The coal boat, NB Zingaro, also moored on the offside, just down from the waterpoint, and was doing brisk trade.

We pushed across at around 10:45 after I’d removed a load of plastic and some unidentifiable apparel from the propeller. That’s the first time I’ve had to go weed-hatch diving for months. We don’t seem to pick much rubbish up; what we do is usually removed by “chucking back”, giving a quick squirt of reverse.

There was a boat on the waterpoint so we tied up below Zingaro, and, with a bit of time to kill, bought a gas bottle off them. I found out that they too were expecting a delivery, several tonnes of coal.

And here’s their delivery man…SAM_8722

….closely followed by ours.
SAM_8723Luckily we’d been able to get around Zingaro and onto the waterpoint just as he arrived, else we’d have had to carry the groceries around the coal truck.
They were still transhipping solid fuel when we moved off towards Rugeley, fridge, wine rack, cupboards and water tank replenished.

We didn’t need any shopping, but I had to stop in Rugeley anyway to post a couple of letters, one the all-important Mother’s Day card. The moorings around Bridge 66 were busy as always, but we dropped into a slot in the shadow of the old factory on the offside.SAM_8725
The date stone on the canal-facing wall says 1886. I’m not sure what it was built for, although it involved transportation by canal. I imagine it’s been through a few reincarnations, and is for sale again, a “development opportunity”.

We’d just got tied up when an impressive hail shower blew over, so I waited a few minutes before setting off in search of a post box.

That duty done, we headed out through the fringes of the town to leave the built up area at Brindley Bank.

On Brindley Bank
SAM_8728Brindley Bank is a level “shelf” cut into the valley side above the Trent to carry the canal. It ends in a hard right turn to cross over the river on an aqueduct.

Over the Trent

We were planning to stop near Taft Bridge, about 20 minutes on, but the sky was looking full of another shower so we took advantage of the recently installed rings just up from the aqueduct. We’ll move up to Taft Bridge between showers tomorrow.

Locks 0, miles 2¾

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A duck sort of day…

Just the sort of day that ducks are designed for; dull and damp. It’s been very quiet on the water today, not many boats about and even the afore-mentioned fowl were not very chatty.

Duck's **** bottom

Stepping out…SAM_8710

We left about 11:00, an hour or so behind NB Medos (I called it Medoc yesterday), and Mo and Ness on Balmaha.
We had a really good night last night, chatting about this and that till it was time for the Tim and Pru Show (aka Great Canal Journeys) which was, once again, entertaining. The network should consider it for a regular slot…
Even though a quantity of grape juice was consumed, I was still up at 06:50 for my morning run. In the rain. Sucker for punishment, eh. With 8 weeks to go till the Manchester 10k, I’ve now started my training schedule.
We’ll probably catch up with Mo and Ness at Stone at the weekend, for the moment they’re going to be ahead of us.

Our short trip today took us through Handsacre and Armitage, where I stoically fought off the impulse to take yet another picture of stacked up lavatory bowls, settling instead for a shot of the Armitage Shanks factory.

In Handsacre we paused for twenty minutes or so to chat to Glen and Nigel on NB Ami Bovard. One of these days we’ll actually moor close enough to have a brew as well! Have a good trip, you two.

Through the opened-out, then almost totally re-roofed by the A513, Armitage Tunnel and we moored not far past Hawkesyard Priory.
We’re having a Tesco delivery in the morning on the opposite side of the canal at the end of the permanent moorings. There’s a new 24 hour Tesco in the middle of Rugeley next to the canal, but doing it this way saves me getting long arms…
We’re getting a bit short of some of the heavier essentials. (Scotch, wine, dog food, potatoes in order of necessity).

Tomorrow, after putting away the delivery, we’ll be heading through Rugeley, probably ending up near Taft Bridge for the night.

Hi Carol, will pass on your greetings when we catch them up again.

Locks 0, miles 5

Monday, March 24, 2014

Back to winter as we head north

Since the first day of Spring we seem to have gone back to winter! Cold wind, sleet and hail, frosts at night.
We set off yesterday with the intention of getting to the Trent and Mersey at Fradley Junction, but after an hour of the cold wind, and my right cheek going numb under the onslaught of sleet and hail, I called it a day just short of the new Kings Orchard Marina.

Leaving Whittington, quite pleasant for a start…SAM_8685

Huddlesford Junction, the sun has gone, the clouds are building and we’ve had one squally shower.

I nearly stopped on the moorings near The Plough, but decided to push on, hoping for an improvement that never materialised, and we were moored up less than a mile further on.

As it turned out the weather did improve through the afternoon, but we decided to stay put anyway.

We had a sharp frost last night, but it left us with a bright, sunny day, cold in the wind but dry. We got away just before 11:00, past Kings Orchard Marina and then Streethay Wharf.

Kings Orchard Marina, taken from the towpath bridge over the access channelSAM_8687
There’s a couple of dozen boats in there, it looks like there’s still some work to do to finish off the rest of the finger pontoons.

The moorings on the wide next to Streethay look pleasant in the morning sun.SAM_8688

Not seen much of Andrew Denny recently…SAM_8689

Streethay Wharf, always busy

Leaving Streethay the canal runs alongside the busy A38 for a while, before looping away and then ducking under it at Bell Bridge.

The A38

Bell Bridge, with limited headroom.SAM_8695

The traffic didn’t seem to be bothering this dozing mum-to-be.SAM_8694

Heading towards Fradley we spotted our first brood of ducklings.SAM_8696

We isolated two panicky youngsters on the other side of the boat, plaintive cries answered by their mum…SAM_8698
They can certainly shift, even at this age.

We were surprised to see very few boats moored just before the junction, it’s usually fairly busy along here.

Approaching Fradley JunctionSAM_8700

We filled the water tank here, while that was going on I took the rubbish and a loo tank around to the services, then, all done, Mags took Seyella through the swing bridge and around onto the Trent and Mersey.

Mags brings Seyella around at Fradley Junction with aplombSAM_8701

Middle Lock was almost full, so I topped it off for a boat coming down before we went up ourselves.

Middle Lock

The plan was to moor above Shadehouse Lock, but it looks like all those that weren’t moored below the junction have moved up to here…

Coming up Shadehouse Lock, full moorings aboveSAM_8705
These are popular moorings anyway, better than the “goldfish bowl” moorings between the locks further down.

So Plan B was to go up Woodend Lock and moor on another pleasant spot just above the lock landing, but that was occupied too, but we did squeeze into a bit of bank a little bit further on.

Moored above Woodend Lock, NB Medoc (behind) has pinched our favourite spotSAM_8706
We’ve got to make this most of the peace and quiet up here, come HS2 it’ll be a tad noisier…

I took Meg for a walk towards Kings Bromley, and got talking to another boater for a while opposite Ravenshaw Wood. Coming back I saw that another boat had managed to get in a little bit ahead of us; closer and I thought it looked familiar…

It was, Mo and Ness (NB Balmaha) had turned up, and were having a brew with Mags. They’re coming round again this evening for an odd drink or two…

Locks 2, miles 6