Thursday, 10 August 2017

Tuesday 8th / Wednesday 9th August 2017

Slight change of plan for the last 2 days of the holiday. We woke on Tuesday to ...... Yes you've guessed it RAIN. We spent some time starting to sort out and pack our things into bags and finally set off when it was still raining. We popped into a boatyard on route to talk about having some work done there next year and were pleased to warm up in their cafe.

We finally arrived at Mercia at a quarter to three and although it was still raining lightly ( between the torrents) I washed the outside of the boat which definitely needed it! At 5 o'clock the rain was still falling and Graham suggested going home later that night as the forecast was the same for Wednesday. So we left about 9pm and were home just after midnight. The roads were empty and we did have a brief spell of dry weather during the journey.

A few facts about this Summer. 

Over 400 miles, over 200 locks and 71 swing / lift bridges. 55 nights on board and the highlights on the journey were :

The tidal Trent, Bingley 5 rise, Wigan 21 locks and the trip into and out of Liverpool with 3 nights to explore the city.

We have also enjoyed some great days off the canal exploring Yorkshire and Lancashire.

We have been asked about our feet photos so here they are for comparison. The August one had to be taken when we returned home due to the rain on Tuesday. We did have some lovely days weatherwise but the last 2 weeks have been quite cold with VERY heavy showers. We'll be back to the boat in Sept. to do some repairs and then we have the winter to plan the next cruise!

June 10th 2017

August 9th 2017

Monday, 7 August 2017

Monday 7th August 2017

No rain again today and we could even travel along in just T shirts but with all the blackberries on the bushes it still seems to be nearly Autumn. Apart from the usual queue for water at Fradley we had an easy passage as there were volunteers helping on each lock. One lady said that it saves her gym membership!

After Fradley we were back to doing them ourselves. At this one in Alrewas the back gate kept opening of its own accord so Graham was kept busy running round until the water pressure stopped the problem.

The gardens in Alrewas are always pretty .

Just past Alrewas the tow path consists of long bridges over Trent millstreams.

Typically at the narrow section we met a boat going the other way. 

The boat at Tatenhill Lock which we have never seen move in 5 years of passing this way.

We are moored at Branston water park and are booked to eat at The Bridge Inn which is really an Italian restaurant. There used to be many boats here but the loss of the hire company at Mercia Marina has definitely had an effect on the number of boats. This section of the Trent and Mersey canal seems much quieter. 

A new road bridge over the canal has been built since we were here last year. I think that they are going to build a big housing estate but at the moment they just seem to be putting in the roads.

We'll be back in the Marina tomorrow.

Sunday 6th August 2017

For the first time in weeks we have not had a single drop of rain all day! We filled with water and bought gas at Great Haywood. We bought a bottle of gas here last year too. The large signpost at the junction disappeared for a while but is now back.

There was a queue to get through the Great Haywood Lock. Everyone was on the move. At the next lock, Colwich Lock, there was another queue but this time 3 CRT ( Canal and River Trust ) men were there trying to sort out a problem. A boat had rammed into a shut lock gate and the wooden footbridge was hanging off as the metal supports had been bent. Discussions were taking place and then one boat was allowed through. They worked on the lock and then let another boat through and so on. The bent brackets can be seen here.

One solution to try to straighten the left hand side bracket was to put some wood under it, stand on the other end and hammer the bracket!

Now to sort out the other bracket. 

We were then allowed to go through. The plan was to take the bracket back to the workshop for repair. There is a footbridge at the other lock gates so the lock can still be used. 

After we had passed through we found the men now trying to repair the metal running rail.

One could say that they were 'lying down on the job' but actually they were working quite hard.

We continued to Rugeley and passed the Armitage Shanks factory. It has been built on a curve and the noise indicated that it was working on a Sunday afternoon.

There are normally hundreds of toilets stacked up outside but not this time. There must have been a rush ( or flush) on them!

There is a very narrow point on the canal here.

The final lock of the day always looks very small with the bridge immediately after it.

We are now at Fradley moored in an identical spot to last year. Off to Branston Water Park mooring tomorrow night with a visit to a favourite Italian restaurant on the cards.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Friday 4th August /Saturday 5th August 2017

We had only just left Barlaston on Friday morning when passing boats kept informing us of a calf in the canal. It had walked in the water a few hundred yards where of course " the grass is always greener"

Two canoeists persuaded it to walk back to the rest of the herd.

The journey to Stone was uneventful but rather slow as one of the locks had a blocked culvert so only one ground paddle was effective. 

It was at Stone where the first meeting was held to discuss the building of the canal.

Stone likes boaters and there are plaques and flower displays all around.

One of the boatyards was busy with this enormous hook on the end of a crane.

We ate at a favourite restaurant of ours tonight. Lovely Thai food.

Saturday was farmers market day and we were pleased that we were there to enjoy it.  Although I was rather worried to see this sign as we walked in.

A new foodstuff which we hadn't seen before was pancake balls. Cleverly made and filled with fillings of your choice. Very tasty.

Leaving Stone at lunchtime after buying some boat paint at the chandlery we had sunshine or heavy showers all afternoon. Luckily we had just stopped for lunch when one started. We had to watch the speed though. This sign was hidden behind a bush. Just like Speedwatch people!

We passed the half way point on the Trent and Mersey Canal which means that we have about 34 miles to go back to the Marina.

Tonight we are moored at Tixall Wide where, between the showers, a lovely sunset could be seen.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Thursday 3rd August 2017

Last night about 8.30pm the lady from the next boat, whom we had been talking to earlier, knocked on the door and asked if we had seen the fire. Shoes on, quick trip to lake side and sure enough a large fire was burning at the other end of the lake. Passing locals speculated about what was burning and it turned out that they were all incorrect as this morning the news reported that it was wooden pallets and sleepers. We could smell something burning but luckily the wind was blowing the smoke in the opposite direction. 

We set off towards Stoke passing one of the remaining bottle kilns, which were such a distinctive part of the landscape before most of the potteries closed.

Middleport pottery has been transformed into a visitor attraction with tours and heritage parts of the site open. When we first passed 4 years ago there was nothing going on. Today we looked around the Heritage section and next time we will book a tour of the working pottery. Our guide was very knowledgeable. The bottle kilns which you see from the outside are only the outer building with an inner kiln which was stacked with 'saggers' containing the pottery for firing. This photo shows some of them stacked inside.

Here you can see the two layers of a kiln where the fire was stoked from between the layers.

Metal bands helped to support the structure.

Thousands of mounds were found in the old pottery. Here are just a few of them.

The finished product is about 10% smaller as it shrinks during firing. Well worth a visit here if you are going to be near.

We set off down the canal and after filling with water at Etruria started the Stoke Locks at 2.45pm. We are now moored at Barlaston with lots of other boats. It is a popular site and we usually try to get here quite early but we managed to squeeze in again due to Graham's great parallel parking!

We had planned to barbecue tonight, but it is rather breezy and too cold outdoors. Ah, the wonderful British summer - where has it gone?

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Wednesday 2nd August 2017

Firstly a couple of photos from last night. After very mixed weather the evening turned out to be lovely and Graham went blackberry picking along the canal.

The sunset was excellent.

This morning we woke to solid cloud and yes you've guessed it the rain started as we ate breakfast. We waited for a break in the rain and set off with waterproof jackets on. Within a few hundred yards we had the trousers on too. By the time we had stopped for water, been shopping and had lunch the weather had improved so we headed for our last 'up lock ' of the holiday and the junction with the Macclesfield canal.

We are heading towards Burton on Trent but first had to travel through the Harecastle Tunnel. The original was built in 1777 by James Brindley. There was no tow path for horses so boats had to be 'legged' through the 1 and 3/4 miles by men lying on their backs walking their feet along the roof. The current tunnel was built by Thomas Telford and now has ventilation shafts so that powered boats can go through.

The tunnel staff register your boat at one end and then phone their colleagues at the other portal who check that you arrive safely. They allow you 90 minutes to get through but usually it takes about 45. It is a one way tunnel so 4 boats entered in convoy from our end. You can see 'In the Mood' third inline waiting to go through.

The water is this colour due to the chemicals leaching out of the rocks. A selfie while we wait!

You can get very close to the railway line here.

Once through the tunnel the change in water colour is immediately apparent.

These two photos just show the tunnel entrance from North and South ends with the gauging bar for checking your height as the tunnel becomes lower in the middle.

We were lucky to get a mooring tonight at Westport Lake as it is a popular stopping point. A local chap was telling us that the lake used to be the football ground for Port Vale before it was turned first into a boating and pleasure lake and now a nature reserve.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Tuesday 1st August 2017

After a lovely meal last night at the Italian restaurant at Wheelock wharf we woke to dry conditions although rain was forecast for later. We left at a quarter to eight and I should have known what was ahead when I noticed that all the cows who are normally in this field......

..... had decamped and were hiding under the road bridge!

Graham was working most of the locks today so I only took a quick snap of my backward view from the tiller as the lock gates were closing behind me before Graham started filling the lock.

This section of the canal between Wheelock and Kidsgrove is often referred to as "Heartbreak Hill". There are 23 locks in total and it is part of a popular cruising ring for hirers so I guess that they find it quite hard. We did it for the first time in 2013 and found it very tiring although it was a very hot day.
Today it was not so hot! We did the first 10 locks and stopped for coffee just as the rain started. Hassell Green is a popular overnight stopping point but all cafés and pubs have closed and you have traffic noise from the M6. There were not many visiting boats this morning.

Many of the locks are duplicated on this stretch which made for faster passage of boats when the canal was built. Very few now have both lock chambers in operation but this one has an attractive waterfall feature whereas others are just overgrown.

After coffee wet weather gear was the order of the day and we had some very heavy showers. Not just drizzle, real downpours. After 20 locks we reached Church Lawton where we like the mooring so we tied up, sorted out the wet clothes and enjoyed the warmth of the sun which was now streaming through the windows!

Looking back in my boat log for August 1st in other years, more often than not it has rained. We should have taken more notice of the cows this morning!