Tuesday 30 September 2014
From our "posh" pontoon on the River Trent we ventured downstream in thick mist ( Hammer - horror style), lights ablaze ,through two giant,manned locks reaching Worcester around lunchtime in warm sunshine. We were impressed with the place, a sort of posher Stourport with less history. Our plan was to join the Worcester and Birmingham canal, heading towards home, despite horror stories of the 58 lock journey to Birmingham, none of which has proven true to date, and we are already moored after the 12th lock.
Monday 29 September 2014
Debdale lock is hewn out of solid sandstone and also is the site of a large cave with a door-shaped entrance, previously used to rest canal horses ?
At Cookley there is a solid rock 65 yard tunnel with terraced houses atop and then we moored for supplies from Sainsbury's in Kidderminster, a town boasting a pleasant mix of old and new warehouses, now home to several household name stores such as M & S, Next, Debenhams, Tesco etc. Having quietly admired the town design we then noticed the town centre locks were all fitted with ant-vandal locks or "water conservation keys", which says a lot. Luckily we had purchased one yesterday from a CRT volunteer.
Next stop Stourport on Severn where a series of 4 staircase locks led us to the River Severn , a seemingly endless expanse of water. It is fair to say the Stourport basins increased Lynne' tension levels but a very friendly and understanding CRT volunteer was on- hand with excellent advice and expertise throughout our adventure.
For some unknown reason Lynne chose to ignore his advice to moor on a pontoon near the locks exit and we trundled past Stourport marina to Lincomb lock. Following advice from the lock keeper we headed for mooring next to the Hampstall Inn, site of the Hampstall ferry disaster in 1919, when nine people drowned as the ferry was swamped by the waves of a passing steamer.
Minutes after mooring we suffered a very heavy and prolonged shower, an unfitting end to a warm and sunny day.
I will publish this blog sometime tomorrow as we currently have no internet, TV or phone connections.
Saturday 27 September 2014
From Compton we set off in pleasantly warm sunshine passing Whitwick Manor, now National Trust, and Pool Hall, Dimmington reservoirs and 5 locks quite nicely spaced until the infamous Bratch locks, a set of 3 raising or lowering the canal 30.2 feet within a very short distance .
Whilst the procedure for operating the locks is well explained by notice boards on-site, a lock keeper is based there to help or advise if needed. No problem.
A few locks later Botterham staircase set looms (20 ft ) but with no lock keeper to help. Again no problem.
Bumble Hole lock failed to live up to it's name and sadly was instantly forgettable .
All in all we completed 15 locks today and moored near Ashwood Marina to recuperate.
Thursday 25 September 2014
My viewing of an adult Bittern in Staffordshire warranted a call to the UK RSPB as the species was pronounced extinct here in the early 1900's. It is a member of the Heron family but chunkier and far more beautiful, with speckled plumage. The RSPB are hoping for another Red Kite success story of bringing a species back from extinction. Very exciting stuff. I'm sorry I do not have a Bittern photo, but if you google it there is a wide range of photo's there.
Tonight we are at Gailey on the Staffordshire ring, although where we go tomorrow is anybodies guess.
We're playing it by ear and attempting to stay cruising until the last possible moment. Gailey brings back pleasant memories as we regularly used to hire Viking Afloat boats from here when we were younger and fitter. Their boats were good, apart from the colour scheme, a hideous yellow and red. There was no hiding place with those. A few still remain.
The days are certainly getting colder but remain good for cruising, with shorts, tee shirts and sandals being a no-go now.
We made it to Compton for overnight mooring, still on the Staff & Worcs canal, which has considered itself to be a river up to this point. Very wide with gradual sweeping curves. Suitable mooring became rare today so we squeezed between a boat and Compton lock, bearing in mind locks are not used at night so will not disturb us.
Wednesday 24 September 2014
It rained all evening and night but we were greeted by blue sky and sunshine this morning. What would us Brits talk about if we had "normal" weather ?
We got to Great Haywood in time for lunch (beans on toast.........we know how to live )and turned onto the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal ( Staff and Worcs for short ) to undertake the Stourport Ring. We are in no rush to get home and this fills the gap admirably, we think. Weather permitting, of course.
They appear to have the same maintenance regime as the Macclesfield, the actual footpath is unmade but the jungle between it and the canal is identical. The canal is generally very wide but mooring is rare, as are locks. The scenery is agricultural but pleasant.
An exciting and rare event happened this afternoon. A BITTERN showed itself when it took off from reeds on the canal and landed in some nearby marshland. It is the first Bittern I have ever seen, a large and very, very rare member of the heron family with fabulous speckled wing feathers. I consider myself very priveledged to have seen one. Excited, or what?
Back to the weather: it became very windy and cold during the afternoon. We moored opposite a hotel/restaurant in Acton Trussell.
Tuesday 23 September 2014
We had a brilliant Italian meal in La Dolce Vita with two new boating friends, unfortunately followed by a hypo. The moral of the story being not to underestimate the carbs in Italian dishes.
This morning was sunny and pleasant again, prompting a leisurely cruise through Stone to one of our famous "middle of nowhere" mooring spots further south on the Trent and Mersey. Considering where we are it was great to find mooring rings ready for us to use, one major plus point of this canal.
Sunday 21 September 2014
Having sensibly suggested Stoke can solve our"housing crisis" by converting defunct industrial buildings into desireable flats and vast acres of wasteland into a new town/city/community, without adversely affecting wildlife,farmers or us, the general public. I suggest this new development, South of Stoke, is named Potteries, and includes a shopping centre, a swimming pool and any other facility required. The area already has good transport links by train, bus, car and boat, what more could you want?
We are back to shorts,tee shirts and sandals today, courtesy of warm sunshine. Lynne has fully recovered from the shock of falling in but shows no lasting affects ( physically ).
The day started warm and sunny but dropped a few degrees by lunchtime, after which we tackled 5 locks and cruised as far as Stone, a fairly nondescript medium sized town with character.
Saturday 20 September 2014
We were both extremely sad to leave the Macclesfield as we both loved it. With the exception of the jungle betwixt canal and towpath it has everything a boater could wish for ( more water would also be nice ).
However, joining the Trent & Mersey heading for Stoke in warm sunshine I was revisiting (softening) my earlier tough opinions of it. The services at Etruria were immaculate again and the Harecastle tunnel "keeper" as helpful as ever, especially when Lynne fell off the side of Tardis up to her knees and he helped me haul her aboard again and offered to call an ambulance (declined).
The tunnel adventure went well and coming into Stoke from that direction offers a positive impression of the place, but unfortunately it's all downhill from there. The decrepid old, unused and unloved mills and warehouses unavoidably loom into view, as do acres of brown field sites. Both offer the obvious solution to Britain's current housing crisis without sacrificing good agricultural land or ruining landscapes.
Trying to find a mooring place proved almost impossible as no rings or metalwork seem to exist and pins only enter the grass banks about 3 inches before hitting something solid.
Friday 19 September 2014
As I start writing we are sitting below the Bosely flight of 12 locks in pouring rain,eating our lunch over 110 ft lower than when we started our journey but only a mile onwards.
We preferred the weather at the higher altitude, but I'm not complaining, honest. The locks were busy with a steady stream of boats heading up and down, which is good news as it halves the workload and doubles the available crew size. Having said that, it is still exhausting work, but completing the job gives a tremendous sense of achievement.
The above new-build "old warehouse" in Congleton would give Stoke decision makers pause for thought with regard to their real historic warehouses currently crumbling into extinction.
We are about 1 hr away from leaving the Macclesfield and rejoining the Trent and Mersey canal.
Thursday 18 September 2014
Beautiful sunshine heralded our return to Joel's car at the Olde Kings Head. The sunshine also highlighted the immaculately clean chrome mushroom vents and boat roof. Joel polished the vents and washed the roof far better than I could have done and in half the time.Joel returned home mid-afternoon and we began our trip South at the same time. CORRECTION: we remained in the Olde kings Head with an eclectic mix of Dr. Who characters until late afternoon before staggering back to the boat where we re-thought our plans and delayed our departure till the morning, bearing in mind we have lots of locks to negotiate. ( best done sober ).
Wednesday 17 September 2014
We had a leisurely start in bright sunshine. The plan was to give Joel a trip on Tardis Two whilst delivering a prescription to a chemist for me.
We set off to the nearest winding hole in the direction we were facing, which was hidden by a scrubby tree and was small. In short, we missed it and needed to reverse a considerable distance before struggling to turn, and set off for a chemist in Bollington, taking on water and emptying the oblutions en-route. As we had agreed to drop Joel off at his car by midday tomorrow we turned at a winding hole calculated to get us back in time (after mooring overnight in the middle of nowhere on the Macclesfield canal.)
Tuesday 16 September 2014
Hypo during the night. My own stupid fault but no harm done. Otherwise not much to report.
Cloudy but bright morning, fairly mild. The landlord of the Olde Kings Head very kindly let Joel leave his car in the car park "during his stay", which was very gentlemanly and probably saved us a lot of hassle.
We are meeting our house's previous owners for lunch and perhaps a canal trip, weather permitting.
Unbeknown to us The Kings Head has a curry evening on Tuesdays but does not offer food the rest of the day so we resorted to visiting nearby Sutton Hall, a stately home with connections to Lord Lucan, later converted to a hotel and now an interesting pub/restaurant. The food, service and surroundings were exemplary. Well worth a visit.
We intend staying here overnight and see what tomorrow brings.
Monday 15 September 2014
Bright sunshine and equivalent warmth announced the morning but, sadly no great views of the Peak District. We are moored on a stretch of the Macclesfield which resembles the M6 or M25 (pick your favourite) on a good day, full of boats end to end. Moored, not marooned.
We toodled through Macclesfield, past the breathtaking Hovis Mill,taking on water en-route to the Gurnett Aqueduct where we moored near the Olde Kings Head where we met Joel (youngest son) and plan to meet friends from home tomorrow.
The days are distinctly autumnal now and much shorter, starting to get dark and chillier around 4.00pm.
Overall a good day, with nothing exciting to report.
Sunday 14 September 2014
Having turned off the Peak Forest onto the Macclesfield Lynne immediately requested a water stop, which was ironic given one reason for our row yesterday. However, I failed to react through gritted teeth and hoped the day would improve for it. We had a quiet Sunday lunch at the "Ring O" Bells" pub in Marple, accompanied by a brass band ( not the Sally Army ) The food was far better than the music.
We moored between Middlewood and Higher Poyndon.
Saturday 13 September 2014
Yesterday lunchtime we relented and walked up hill and down dale to buy our newspaper in Whaley Bridge, following the canal back to Tardis Two, mainly because it was level, we were knackered and we could not get lost (?)
Whaley Bridge is very like Bugsworth, only bigger, busier , and has a wide selection of shops, including a large Tesco. Lynne chose her forthcoming birthday present in a tiny boutique.
I could see no reason for staying longer, but Lynne could. Unfortunately we failed to discuss our individual decisions with each other, so our departure took place under a distinct cloud and coolness, coming to a festering head at the first swing bridge where we had a loud row, very unusual for us, but it cleared the air and scared one or two passers-by in the process.
We moored overlooking a spectacular view. I can't wait for the morning.
A bright, warm morning for exploring. This place seemed quite formidable in poor dusk light, but takes on a much more likeable face in sunshine. We had the opportunity of choosing to walk to either Whaley Bridge or Bugsworth for our morning paper. We unfortunately chose the latter with no shops at all, but lots of hills.
Thursday 11 September 2014
A cool, cloudy day for our midday arrival at the Peak Forest canal, perched right in the heart of the Peak District. Only 6.5 miles long and currently lacking water it has proved difficult to moor on as the boat scrapes the bottom, presenting severe challenges to progress, but the scenery more than makes up for it.
The slow progress, not helped by 2 lift and 2 swing bridges, resulted in us arriving at our destination, Bugsworth Basin, just as daylight was fading . The Basin was abandoned in the 1920's but now enjoys Ancient Monument status. I'll tour the place on foot in daylight tomorrow and let you know my verdict.
Pat Phoenix ( Elsie Tanner ) apparently Worked in the Navigation Inn at the Basin in her pre - Coronation Street days. Our late arrival and subsequent late dinner unfortunately precluded us visiting the pub. Tough times indeed.
According to the map we still have a way to go on the Macclefield and we have arranged to meet our youngest son in the town of the same name, so the Peak Forest arrival may be delayed again.
The proposed meeting never occurred as my son was busy so we cruised on over two more aqueducts to Bollington and two brilliant conversions of spectacular mills into offices,Adelphi Mill and Clarence Mill. Bollington, despite the name, is a charming old town of local stone buildings and walls, all supplied by canal from local quarries. We originally moored on a bend which, for the first time, forced us to use the gangplank ( if you exclude my rescue with the ladder/gangplank combined ). After a couple of shaky trials we opted to moor further on, but this time on a straight section where we ( and the cat ) could get on and off Tardis Two in the "normal" way. Simple.
Wednesday 10 September 2014
Please excuse the mop but if you can tear your eyes away from it you'll get some idea of the beauty of the Macclesffield with the Peak District in the background.
Last night We moored opposite Heritage Narrowboats near Kent Green and Little Moreton Hall, one of Britain's greatest half-timbered buildings dating from the 15th century. In brilliant warm sunshine we cruised for several hours through amazing countryside and farmland before arriving at Bosley locks, 12 raising or lowering the canal 110 ft. We stopped for lunch before commencing our climb through the locks, very closely spaced and all well maintained, thankfully. By the time we finished almost 3 hours later we were keen to moor and have dinner. The Macclesfield canal has lots of potential mooring places but we have promised ourselves to bring shears and industrial gloves on our next trip on it so we can get on and off Tardis Two easier. For some unknown reason the tow path itself is well maintained, but the strip between it and the canal is left to it's own devices, so by this time of year the wild flower seed heads and stinging nettles often exceed 4 ft in height, making the need for shears and industrial gloves essential.
Tuesday 9 September 2014
An early start in warmth and sunshine,completing 11 locks before lunch just before we turn off the Trent and Mersey for the Macclesfield canal, totally new territory to us.
The Macclesfield canal is something else. Imagine a canal running through Jurassic Park, but without dinasaurs ( we have yet to see any, but they may be hiding in the tangle of undergrowth I suppose )
After making a U turn right off the T&M onto the Macclesfield both canals run parallel to each other until the Mac swings right over the T&M using a viaduct,which raises the question why didn't they turn left, avoid an expensive viaduct and save a few hundred yards of canal? There must be a good explanation.
Monday 8 September 2014
A bright, sunny start to the day........and lively.
As I dragged myself out of bed I thought I heard someone on the bow of the boat, a loud splash, Lynne shouting and a cat screaming. Phoebe had fell in. At first she was attempting to swim towards the stern until Lynne encouraged her to turn round and swim towards the front of the boat where she was hauled out to safety. I rushed for a towel and Phoebe slowly returned to "normal", apparently none the worse for her adventure.
The delayed start and slow progress through 12 poorly maintained locks meant our planned ETA at the Macclesfield canal will have to wait till tomorrow . To press on means tackling a further 12 locks before mooring for dinner and the night. Common sense prevailed or exhaustion won the day.
Saturday 6 September 2014
A crisp morning ( ideal for walkers ) with sunshine and laughing ducks. We seem to be in the habit of waking or being woken at 7.00am these days, but it is a lovely time of the day ( honest ).
The Middlewich for me is a take it or leave it canal, but Lynne loves it. Large field after large field full of Frieshan cows does nothing for me, but at least there is plenty of mooring if you don't mind the smell.
The weather veered between very warm in the sun to very cool in the shade. At a very hectic Middlewich canal crossways we escaped along the Trent and Mersey heading for the Chesire Plain 250
feet up through 26 locks. We finally moored near Wheelock.
After a good nights sleep we woke to an overcast day with a cold breeze. We continued our trip South down the Shropshire Union, sharing the double locks with a time-share boat and elderly crew. As a result good progress was made through the Bunbury Staircase locks ( 15 ft ) , Tilston Lock (10 ft) and Beeston stone lock (8.5 ft ), took on water and emptied the cassette loos, before taking a sharp left turn onto the Middlewich where we replenished our calor gas supply at Barbridge Marina ( not cheap ! )
Phoebe blotted her perfect record by disappearing for over an hour, causing Lynne to panic and rush up and down the canal bank. Eventually Phoebe turned up on the bow, meowed and went back to bed, totally unphased !!!
We moored on the Middlewich.
Friday 5 September 2014
Warm and sunny, much like yesterday. We had arranged to meet our eldest son and grandchildren today so we headed into Chester again, stopping for water at the slow tap, which worked much better today. Pleased with our success we set sail for the Northgate staircase locks. 32 ft deep but very badly maintained, they quickly wiped the smile off our faces. We stopped in the centre of Chester below the historic City walls to recover and get ready for our meeting , which was short but extremely sweet, cheering Lynne up no end. Our youngest granddaughter is delightful and has doubled in size since we last saw her, plus increased her vocabulary amazingly. A real chatterbox ! I wonder who she takes after?
We managed to team up with an elderly hire boat crew to get through the next four locks, equally badly maintained, but at least our frustration and exhaustion was halved , after which we found a place to moor pretty much in the middle of nowhere.
The formidable Northgatestaircase bottom lock
Wednesday 3 September 2014
A better night and a warmer morning. Our aim is to make Ellesmere Port today not only because it is the first place for us to turn round (about 1.5 hrs) but it is the home of the UK inland waterways museum also, which should be worth a look.we moored at public mooring near the museum and were chatting to a couple from Liverpool considering buying a boat when a woman appeared and bluntly asked us to move as she needed to get to the water point. We directed her to a water point outside the museum cafe taken by a green narrowboat, the crew presumably having lunch in the cafe. I pointed this out to her but she was still insisting we should move , at which point her moronic husband appeared on the scene, complete with boat , and was equally as rude. Lynne started a "conversation" but I suggested not arguing with him as you can never win against a moron. However, the museum staff confirmed we were in the right, but sadly only after we had moved several yards down the canal. These types of morons deserve to be stuffed and mounted in the Natural History museum with the dinosaurs. The waterways museum was excellent. How the old bargee's managed to bring up a family in such a small space is astounding.
Our mooring place near the zoo seemed ideal for Phoebe, who delivered "presents" for us after each foray down the canal bank. Although Lynne is always on edge whenever Phoebe is "off boat",for obvious reasons, she always stays within sight and returns without problem ( Phoebe, not Lynne ).
Despite our exertions yesterday we both felt OK this morning and relieved to be cruising again.
We had the need to remove a beige tank top from our propeller today, another addition to our shredded wardrobe.
Tuesday 2 September 2014
A restless night caused me to get up far too early,still tired. Maybe a day at the zoo will prove relaxing.
According to the forecast, weather today should mirror yesterday's, sunny and warm, although it feels quite chilly to me at this ridiculous time of the morning.
Whilst on the subject of wildlife ( zoo ) I should confirm the midland/northern canals boast large numbers of herons who seem oblivious to passing boats and/or urban living. Similarly we have seen far more kingfishers who also tend to hang around longer than their southern counterparts. We have seen several mink and a few cormorants. Buzzards appear to be very common.
Something else that appears to be common up here but I had not seen "in the flesh" before is the Airbus A320 Guppy, a bulbous transport plane developed to deliver airbus parts manufactured around the World for fitting together in France. Exciting stuff ( for me at least ).
Chester zoo has similarities to Howletts and Port Lympne in the way they were started, eccentric owners with unorthodox ideas on keeping, breeding and exhibiting species. Chester was the first bar - less animal collection ( I hate the word zoo ).
Two locals gave us conflicting advice on the quickest way from canal to zoo, by road or bridle-path.
Needless to say we chose the wrong advice and had to retrace our steps,which was less than good news as the zoo is atop a huge hill. For your information the bridle path is the best choice.
Zoo entry is far from cheap but you get a free map, designed by Picassozz in abstract I think. It is practically impossible to find anything, least of all the monorail station. We opted to get lost on foot at no extra cost, thank you very much.
Plus points are the fruit bat jungle, the elephant paddock and the large aviary. The rest I found disappointing to be honest, but I am judging it against Howletts and Port Lympne, who not only breed endangered species but also repatriate them, which is fairly unique. The Chester chimp and orang enclosures are clinical and unadventurous for the inmates. Chester facilities for humans are superior, but so what.
The only real casualty of my unintentioned swim was my favourite windlass,(not the one that broke my leg)now lying somewhere at the bottom of the Shropshire Union. An exact replacement was purchased at yesterday's "pit stop", thankfully.
Today dawned as bright, beautiful and warm, but further developed into very hot and sunny. We opted to visit Chester Zoo by boat, via the centre of Chester which is a clever combination of old and new. The old being a set of 3 staircase double locks which are in desperate need of maintenance and thus take forever to get through. Luckily another boat and crew accompanied us through, which halved the workload. In Chester basin we filled with water alongside a sunken narrowboat supposedly being re - floated by a large group of drunken hippies. The water supply resembled a hospital drip so we had plenty of time for lunch before we headed through beautiful countryside to the zoo. We moored for the night a short walk away ,planning to visit in the morning and spent late afternoon sunbathing on the canal bank before calling it a day.
Monday 1 September 2014
Today was diesel and gas day. The first of each month is our big spend day as we pay our credit card bill in full on the last day then launch into next month's spend for big items and live off whatever scraps are left until we get paid what we're owed ( we live in hope ) and any outstanding debts are paid off. I suppose most people think we're living the life of Riley with a house and a boat, but looks can be deceiving. We're asset rich and extremely cash poor.
Typical of our luck we managed to pay online electric, house gas, council tax etc using the card before we left our overnight moorings and pulled into Tattenhall Marina for diesel. 5 hours later we were still there as the worldwide payment system for Maestro cards had mysteriously crashed and thus we could not pay for the 232 litres of diesel and the calor gas we had filled our boat with. To alleviate our boredom we filled with water, emptied the oblutions and washed the boat. I even resorted to weeding the marina office shrub beds !!! Old habits die hard. Normality resumed when they rectified the problem and we were able to escape to our original destination, The Cheshire Cat pub for a meal and Sainsbury's for supplies.
My leg is remarkably OK, as is the rest of me. Lucky, or what?