Friday, July 28, 2017

Busy, busy as we head to Stone.

Yesterday was a day of queueing. Queueing for water, queueing at every lock.

We must have timed it wrong, arriving at the ever popular services at Haywood Junction just behind everyone else…

Haywood Lock wasn’t too bad, only one boat ahead of us here…DSCF0549
…but there were two already on the service wharf, another just arriving and a fourth waiting under the bridge for a space to get into.DSCF0550
Twenty minutes of hovering in the channel, getting out of the way of passing traffic, and we were able to get near a tap.

Tank filled we set off again, past Great Haywood Marina. The next lock up was Hoo Mill, three boats ahead of us here, but a handy post to tie up to while we waited...

Above Hoo Mill Lock there’s about an hour’s cruise to Weston Lock.

I honestly thought this was a zebra at first glance…DSCF0554

Just two ahead of us here as the convoy of boats spreads out between the locks. We had one coming down as well, the first downhill boat we’d seen since the junction.

Weston Lock
The sky looks a bit grim, but apart from a light shower as we set off we stayed dry until we’d tied up.

I hadn’t noticed before, but the decorative brickwork on the faces of Salt Bridge aren’t the same.

East side…

and the west.
I wonder if different brickies were responsible for each side of the arch?

Sandon Lock was our last, we pulled in just above after what seemed to be a long day.

Below Sandon Lock

We'd done a washload on the way (in fact it was finished before we got the tank topped up!) and I‘d just hung the towels out on a makeshift line on the stern when the heavens opened and I had to fetch them back in again. The rain continued on and off all evening, but it had faired up again by the time we were ready to go this morning.

Fine and dry, but a bit cool as we got away.DSCF0571

It’s about an hour from Sandon Lock to Aston Lock, a steady run across the wide pastures of the Trent floodplain. Not so many boats about this morning, either. A handful of early birds had passed first thing but we only saw two or three up to Aston.

Leaving Aston Lock, no queue here but  did have to empty it…DSCF0572

There’s lots of recent residential development work along the line of the canal on both the south and north sides of Stone. The houses start just after the new road bridge, 90a, over a mile on the right hand side before the old town limits at Stafford Road Bridge.DSCF0574
The developments won’t be continued on the left bank, though. The proximity of the Trent will prevent that.

As we approached the moorings below Star Lock we realised why we hadn’t seen many moving boats today. It looks like they are all here!DSCF0575
They looked to be nose to tail but we managed to drop into a Seyella-sized spot part way along. As a repeat of yesterday the rain arrived soon after we moored up, and has been pretty persistent all afternoon.
Unsettled all weekend as well, according to the forecast, but maybe better tomorrow. Not sure what we’re doing, although we’ll stay in the town for the weekend. We’re on the 5 day moorings here, so could stay put, but we may move up through the locks. We’ll see.

Locks 5, miles 10 (2 days)

Wednesday, July 26, 2017


Meg went out for a wee last evening, at around 9 o’clock, and I was amazed to see the roof of the boat covered in flying ants!

All scurrying about, making baby ants…

Apparently this is the time of year for it. The ants swarm from the nests, males and females competing for the chance to mate. After getting his oats the male dies, the female then looks for a suitable nest site and if successful sheds her wings and spends up to 15 years as a pampered queen, laying millions of eggs in her lifetime.

Our light-coloured roof must have attracted them, boats either side with darker paintwork were completely clear. Luckily the fly-screens on the roof vents kept them out of the interior. They were all gone this morning, flown off elsewhere with a few dead ones washed into the gutters by the overnight rain.

The rain has persisted as expected. What boats are moving are doing so with steerers bundled up in waterproofs, often with umbrellas strategically placed. We won’t be joining them…

But why do they feel the need to go so much faster when it’s wet? It ain’t gonna keep them any drier!

Locks 0, miles 0

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Steadily up towards Great Haywood

We did move on Sunday after all, just to find a quieter bit of towpath, really. Not too far, out through the town, along Brindley Bank, across the Trent Aqueduct and moored on the offside between the river and the bypass.

Brindley Bank

There’s a hard right turn at the end, which takes the canal over the river.

Moored up, looking back towards the aqueduct.DSCF0525

In the field alongside two fine looking horses were grazing contentedly…DSCF0526
…amongst the flowering and highly poisonous ragwort! I guess they know to avoid it.

Yesterday we set off again, intending to get to Great Haywood with a stop at Taft Wharf for diesel. When we arrived and pulled up alongside NB Dexta there was a sign saying that they’d run out. Dave came down and explained that they’d been busy, but a refill was due that afternoon or in the morning. So we decided to stay on the bank opposite.

Arriving at Taft Wharf, aka the pig farm…DSCF0528

…for obvious reasons!
They also have a couple of alpacas, a flock of sheep and chickens, so calling it the pig farm isn’t really accurate. 

We had this noisy herbert cruising around checking power cables in the afternoon.DSCF0533

The fuel delivery didn’t arrive until this morning, so it was late morning before we got rolling again.

There’d been a lot of boats about in both directions earlier so it was no surprise to see a bit of a queue waiting below Colwich Lock.

Past Wolseley Bridge, Cannock Chase rising on the horizon.DSCF0536

Waiting below Colwich Lock
By the time we were in the lock there were at least 5 waiting below.

We pulled in below Great Haywood, on the straight looking out towards Shugborough Hall.DSCF0539

The weatherman reckons that it’s going to be raining most of tomorrow, so I guess we’ll be having another day off. Ah well.

Hi Carol, yes, the video is fabulous isn’t it. It’s a shame you can’t get the full impact from ground level.
Hi Debbie. All being well I’ll be running a half-marathon up near Manchester in October. That’s assuming everything holds together. All OK so far, 106 miles into my training plan and no niggles yet. Touch wood…

Locks 1, miles 4¾

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Onto the Trent and Mersey and up to Rugeley

On Thursday we moved on to Fradley, stopping just short of the junction. It was a fine morning, with scattered cloud and spells of sunshine, but clouds built up later.

Passing Streethay Wharf

On the boatyard moorings lie the restored pair Starling and Ethel.DSCF0498

Starling has been restored to her original 70’ length after being shortened to 40’ in the 1960’s. This was fairly common with boats being made redundant as canal carrying dwindled and the fleets sold off for little money. Often a motor would be cut in half, the back end having a new bow section welded on and the fore-end a new counter and engine room. These shortened boats initially formed the basis of the holiday hire fleets that started up in the late 60’s and early 70’s. In this case the middle was cut out, the ends reunited and the middle hull section formed the basis of another craft.
The style of the bow indicates that both Starling and Ethel were built by Yarwoods in Northwich.

We pulled in on the end of the moorings at just before 1 o’clock after a late start.

Friday wasn’t as damp as predicted, in fact we didn’t see any rain till mid afternoon. We still stayed put, though. Last night made up for it. Two really heavy showers woke us up, the water running off the roof through the drainage gaps in the handrail sounding like a waterfall. It washed all the little bits of tree off, though.

Once again the forecast said rain by mid-afternoon, so we were on the move at about half-nine, topping up with water before going through the little swing bridge and out onto the junction.DSCF0504


Volunteers were manning the locks up from the junction, although strictly speaking Woodend Lock was “womanned” (is that even a word??), so we made good progress up to the long Rugeley pound.

Heading for Middle Lock, just being opened for us.DSCF0507

Mags waiting patiently as a boat comes down Woodend Lock

Clear of the locks we had a steady run to Rugeley.

Through Ravenshaw Wood.

A glimpse of Rugeley Power Station of the fields.DSCF0513
No smoke from the stack, nor steam from the cooling towers. The coal-fired facility was closed last year partially due to the government’s commitment to reduce the country’s energy production from fossil fuels.
One company that still seems to be doing well in Armitage…DSCF0514
You know – Armitage-Shanks? No drop in the demand for sanitary ware, then.

We caught up with another boat at Armitage and had to slow a little. But it wasn’t a problem; we were able to follow them through Armitage “tunnel”. The tunnel here was notoriously unstable and was finally de-roofed. Since then, though, the Rugeley Road has been significantly widened and now covers a good half of the resulting narrows.DSCF0516

It’s one-way through here and blind too, so it’s recommended that someone goes ahead to check for oncoming traffic. But with a boat ahead we let them do that!

Passing the long length of permanent moorings and under the main road at the Ash Tree pub the canal comes into the urban landscape of Rugeley. It seems quite a long potter past the back gardens to the moorings near Bridge 66, where we pulled in. I went up to Tesco’s for something for tea, and got back just as the rain started, on time at 3 o’clock.

We’ll probably stay here tomorrow, I’ve a long run in the morning and might not feel like doing much afterwards. We’ll see.

Locks 3, miles 11

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Just plodding along…

Well, we have. I can’t say the same for others, though. Lots of boats about, especially yesterday. I had to chuckle at one chap coming the other way. He was in such a hurry to beat us to Hademore House Bridge that he overshot the bend immediately after and went hard aground in the shallows. The irony was that I’d already backed off and was just about to wave him through anyway. And when we moored up just north of Wittington the greeting from a boater moored in front was “Welcome to Silverstone…”

Anyway, we left our mooring near the Tame aqueduct yesterday morning, and stopped after 5 minutes to take on water at Fazeley Junction.

Topping up the tank at Fazeley

There’s another tap around the corner at Peel’s Wharf, where the local CRT offices used to be. Now they’ve moved out the bins have too, although you can still empty cassette loo tanks here.

We had a steady run north out of the built up area around Tamworth, with the extensive Hopwas Hayes Wood on the horizon.DSCF0476
Part of it used used by the MOD as a firing range.

Hopwas is a good refreshment stop, with moorings right outside The Tame Otter…DSCF0478

…and opposite the Red Lion

Through Hopwas Hayes Wood

Did I mention that it’s a firing range?

From Fazeley Junction to Wittington the navigation was built by the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal Company, and, as was their preference, the bridges have names rather than numbers. Bridge name

The end-to-end connection with the Coventry Canal (built by the Trent and Mersey Canal Company, but that’s another story…) occurs in Wittington, and has a marker stone at the spot.

The last bridge before Fazeley Junction is number 77, and from the Wittington marker they just picked up where they left off, Bridges 78, 79 and 80 crossing the canal in the village.

We pulled in on a pleasant spot just before Cheadles Bridge, number 81. Ha, just realised. Classic one-upmanship. Number and a name!

So yesterday was bright and warm, but clouded up later with the forecast threatening thundery showers. They didn’t materialise, but today has been overcast and sultry. We weren’t sure whether to stay or go, but I had to run the engine to put a bit of charge into the batteries so we toddled on for about 40 minutes, stopping just past Kings Orchard Marina.

We passed Huddlesford Junction on the way, where the Lichfield Canal once headed west to meet the eastern edge of the Birmingham Canal Navigations at Ogley Junction.


Lichfield Canal Map
You’ll probably have to click on the map to enlarge it… it’s an extract from Paul Balmer’s excellent series of canal maps -

If there is one particular restoration project that is worthy of support, it’s got to be this one. The reopened canal would provide access to Birmingham from the east, and could be a part of several new cruising rings.

We pulled in just past the marina entrance, surprisingly on our own. It’s a pleasant spot. DSCF0491 

Another butterfly picture, this one’s a Comma, so named because of the comma-shaped marking on the underside of the wing.DSCF0493
I tried to get a closer view but spooked him… Looks a bit tatty, doesn’t he, but that’s what they’re like apparently.

Fradley tomorrow, I reckon, then a day inside watching boats going past in the rain on Friday.

Locks 0, miles 7¾ (2 days)