Sunday, March 31, 2019

Visitors, brief encounters and first sightings.

We’d intended to leave Rugeley on Saturday morning, but a text from KevinToo convinced us to stay. He wanted to come over and see us, and bring his mum Sheila. So we just moved down to a mooring near to Bridge 66 to make it easier to get to us.
We had a lovely couple of hours catching up before they had to head back home. Good to see you both, and thanks for the goodies!

We’d had a knock on the side of the boat on Friday evening, it was Annie off Dreamcatcher who we met on the Llangollen a year or two ago just saying hello, then a boat pulled up behind us, looking very smart in new paint was City of Durham, an ex-hire boat now owned by Nick and Ann. Oddly enough we met them the first time in the same spot… We caught up with the news for a few minutes.

So, after our visitors had left we decided to push on anyway, just for an hour to moor near Taft Wharf.

Our first ducklings, about a dozen of them.

Leaving Rugeley along Brindley Bank, just before the right turn to…

…the aqueduct over the River Trent.

Lambs I could actually get a picture of!

The river will stay close on the right bank now until Stone, then we’ll see it for the final time in Stoke. It’ll be no more than a large stream there though.

This morning it was quite a bit colder, no sun and a chilly wind blowing from astern. We were away at just before ten, though. We’ve got to press on, Meg has an appointment to see the vet in Stone early on Tuesday morning. As she’s permanently on steroids she has to have regular blood tests to make sure the drugs aren’t damaging her liver.

Dave Freeman has been busy, it looks like he’s finally started on the new boat he’s been promising his wife for a while…

I was thinking of waiting till we got here to fill with diesel, but instead topped up in Burton. A good job, Dexta, Will’s diesel boat, is out on the bank.
They’ll not be selling fuel from there, I guess.

Heading up the Trent Valley 

Bishton Hall, now a private school

Colwich Lock was our first today, and we caught up with another boat there. Not too bad though, another was waiting to come down so their were plenty of hands on the gates. Until it was our turn of course, when there wasn’t another boat in sight!

Heading towards Great Haywood Junction, Shugborough Hall is over on the left. Lots of pleasant walks around here.

There was plenty of room on the Shugborough straight and also above Haywood Lock, but we weren’t for stopping there today.

Great Haywood Junction.
A left turn here takes you south to the Black Country on the Staffs and Worcs Canal.

A brief pause at the service wharf to drop off rubbish and we were heading up past Haywood Marina to Hoo Mill.

Having left the earlier preceding boat at the marina, we now picked up another who’d just left the same place! Nobody coming down but these locks are quick to fill and empty.

Near Hixon we passed City of Durham, Nick and Ann will be turning around this afternoon to head back to Haywood Marina.

Up the attractive Weston Lock, past Weston Wharf now surrounded by new housing as it spreads outward from the village.

There’s about an hour to cruise to the next lock at Sandon. Salt Bridge is having some brickwork repairs under the arch.

Into Sandon Lock. This was the only one we didn’t have to empty first!

We pulled in just above the lock. I was thinking about going a bit further out to Burland, but it’s less sheltered there.

Into Stone tomorrow.

Locks 5, miles 10¾

Friday, March 29, 2019

Into town.

We moved from the rural to the urban today, heading into Rugeley. But the first few miles were splendid, a very pretty lock, woods and open fields before we met the urban sprawl at Bridge 57.

Setting off on another bright, sunny morning through Fradley Woods.

Woodend Lock

More bosky stuff above Woodend, the delightfully named Ravenshaw Woods.

Large fields of rape are just coming into flower alongside the canal, the sickly-sweet perfume drifting on the gentle breeze.

I spotted my first lambs in a field near Bridge 56, but the hedge was too thick to get a photograph.

The housing states of Armitage start to appear after Bridge 57.

In 1817 Thomas Bond built a large factory alongside the canal at Armitage, to produce what is euphemistically known as “Sanitary Ware”. The original factory is still here, and has expanded further. In 1907 Armitage merged with Shanks Holdings, resulting in the world recognised brand of Armitage Shanks. Most of the commonwealth population has either pooed, peed or washed in their products. Or all three…

The canal along here can be challenging when there’s a lot of boats about. There are narrow sections, blind bridges and the single width channel that used to be Armitage Tunnel before the roof was taken off.

Hawksyard Priory and moorings.

We topped up the water tank at the end of the moorings, then carried on into town, mooring before Bridge 66, handy for the shops.

Locks 1, miles 7

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Too good a day to waste!

Well, this morning we thought about just going up to the moorings near Fradley Junction, but when we got there we decided to push on up the rest of Fradley Locks, mooring above Shadehouse Lock.

We left the Alrewas Lock moorings at around half-nine, passing through the pretty village looking particularly good on such a bright morning.

The canal through the village is book-ended by Alrewas Lock to the east and Bagnall Lock at the west end. We were following a boat so were prepared to have to turn the locks, at least until we started meeting boats heading down from Fradley.

Coming up Common Lock, halfway between Alrewas and Fradley.

A small marina under construction above Common Lock.

It was only just after 11:00 when we arrived above Keepers Lock and that’s when we decided to push on, even though there was plenty of space to moor.

Keepers Lock, the second of the five Fradley Locks.

The Swan Inn, almost opposite the entrance to the Coventry Canal

Last one, Shadehouse Lock, with the very nice Shade House alongside.
Mags wants to buy this… but it’s no longer for sale.

We moored above Shadehouse soon after noon, so we had lunch then I set to with my latest little project. I’ve recently bought a cheap endoscope to inspect the inside of the stainless steel water tank, and wasn’t impressed. After 13 years of use there’re quite a few foreign bodies floating around in there. So I decided to install a filtration system for drinking water. Nothing sophisticated, just a five micron sediment filter followed by a carbon filter to remove contaminents.

It’s a microbore system, not enough capacity to supply the main taps so there’s a small additional one just for the purified water.

It does taste better, although maybe that’s just wishful thinking…

Mags was looking out of the window and exclaimed “That’s a pretty bird, what is it?” So I grabbed the camera and the bird book…

Greater Spotted Woodpecker.

I just wish he/she had spent longer on the sunny side of the tree.

Rugeley tomorrow.

Locks 7, miles 2½

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Fuel topped up at Shobnall, then on to Alrewas.

We had a quiet night at Shobnall Fields. The moorings here used to be shunned, difficulties with the local youths cited as a reason. But we’ve never had any problems the few times we’ve stayed here. And they’re good for Meg, being straight out onto grass without cyclists whizzing past.

We were a bit later away this morning, for one reason or another. So it was around 10:00 when we were maneuvering to reverse under the bridge to pick up fuel at Shobnall Marina.

We had to go in there… backwards!

Nicely lined up…

…and in, barely touching the sides.

We took on 90 litres of the red stuff, swapped an empty gas bottle for a full one, and were on our way again 15 minutes later.

The entrance channel to the basin would once have held a stop-lock, controlling access (and water) from the T&M into the Bond End Canal, of which this was the terminus. The Bond End dropped down through the town and joined the Trent, but is now mostly filled and built over, just this terminal basin and the dry dock built over the top lock.

Leaving the town behind the first lock for the day was Branston, only 3 foot deep and quick to negotiate, even though I had to empty it after another boat had just  gone up.

The development at Branston seems to be moving on; the new bridge over the canal is now open, and there is a huddle of posh new houses just west of Branston Bridge, in what used to be a meadow alongside the water park.

We caught up with the boat ahead at Tattenhill Lock, it was Mick and Sue on Mercury with a customer aboard having a training day. Which is why they were going more slowly than normal…
We keep bumping into them, up at Skipton in the summer, then on the Trent at Holme Lock, and now here.

Between Tattenhill and Barton is the narrow Bridge 36, where the towpath switches to the left again after moving to the right above Tattenhill Lock.

With no sign of it once being a turnover or roving bridge, where the boat horse could swap sides without dropping the tow line, I‘m at a bit of a loss as to why it’s built the way it is. If the towpath had been originally stayed on the left, there still would be no route for old Dobbin under the arch. And all the other bridges along here are a lot wider with towpath access. The only ones of this shape are at the tails of the locks… and there was certainly no lock here. Odd.

Heading to and past Barton Lock the canal runs close alongside the busy A38, or that should be the other way around!

We caught up with Mercury again at Barton Lock and passed them when we cleared the lock. They were turning round below Wychnor Lock and heading back into town.

Above Barton Lock was moored Pilot, an ex-GJCCo tug from the late 1800s. She is believed to be one of three steam tugs used to haul strings of barges through Blisworth and Braunston tunnels, and had a reinforced hull for ice-breaking. That probably explains the unusual bow design…

We finally left the traffic on the A38 at Wychnor, going up the lock onto the Alrewas River Section, the only bit of river navigation on the Trent and Mersey Canal.
Brindley must have gutted when he surveyed the route in 1755 and found that he had to cross the Trent on a level at this point. To control the water level he installed sluices and weirs at the downstream end of the mile-long pound and a large weir at the upstream end.

In fact, the term “river section” isn’t that accurate, the only stretch that carries all the river is from below Alrewas Lock to the large weir, a distance of about 250 yards.

Alrewas Lock was, as expected against us.

We managed to get moored above the lock, in the last remaining spot on this popular length. There are plenty of other moorings in the village, but this gets the best sunshine.

Another fine day, a little warmer than yesterday and it’s bright and sunny now. Really enjoying this.

Locks 5, miles 7¼