Saturday, 30 October 2010

Manoeuvring for Penkridge Lock

Saturday 30th October

Another lovely day, we set off in bright sunshine to return to Stafford for dinner tonight at John's.

The weather had brought a lot of boats out and the canal was as busy as we have seen it. The half term hire boats are all heading for home and the end of season people seemed to be taking one last day out. We came across an interesting boat at one lock. A single handed operator with a remote control so that he could operate the lock and then drive the boat in without having to get back on the boat, then drove it out again and shut the gates before getting back on board. A real boon for the singleton.

We got to Radford just gone midday and treated ourselves to bacon sandwiches for lunch before taking the bus into town for session in the local Sainsbury's to stock up for the first few days on the marina.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Friday 29th October

It seems as though we get one day a fine and the next is foul. Today's was poor. We had decided to move to Penkridge today. Last night was very windy, the boat rocked and nearby trees could be heard swishing around and when we got up the sky didn't look too promising.

Despite that we set off. Some of this length of canal is very exposed and the wind whistles across causing the boat to veer sideways from time to time. Sometimes at lock moorings the wind would pin the boat against the side and Cath coped very well, unlike one chap we came across at a lock. He appeared to be having a bit of trouble because he was hard against the side and couldn't get off. When I offered to help him he was very pleased and said that he'd been trying to get off the side for about 10 minutes!

The sky continued threatening rain but somehow it kept off and there was even a tiny show of sunlight. (about 30 seconds).

At Penkridge there is a winding hole so we turned around before mooring up. I went off onto town to get a few things before we settled down for the evening.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Wednesday 27th October

Yesterday was a good day not to be moving! Monday night we had a good meal in The Star, and wandering back to the boat we could feel that the weather was on the change. When I woke up in the night the rain was pounding on our roof, a lovely noise if you're not planning on going out in it.

Morning light showed a dull and dreary day under leaden skies, so our decision to spend the day here anyway was re-enforced. I took a walk over to the supermarket to top up our wine supplies but that was it until the rain let up mid afternoon. I then had a go at tightening our 230 volt generator belt which had started to squeal under load. I wasn't happy with the result of my attempt as the belt still didn't feel tight enough, but no matter how hard I tried I couldn't get any more on it.

This morning showed that I was right to be concerned as the belt was no better. We suffered throughout the day with a much reduced power output so tomorrow morning I'll put a new belt on it and that should cure the problem.

We travelled down from Stone to Great Haywood today and then turned onto the Staffs & Worcs so that we could spend the night on Tixall Wide, a really pretty spot.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Monday 25th October

Clear and cold again this morning. An even thicker coat of frost over everything, and that magical glitter to the landscape.

Once again we didn't plan on going far, only to Stone, about 12 lock/miles. We were followed all the way by a party on a share boat “Stolen Time” who were very friendly and keen. They had plenty of hands and helped with all the locks. Just before Stone we stopped at the facilities to do the necessary and then at the boat yard to see about a quote for our damaged prop. The chap who can give definitive quotes wasn't there, but a best guess was around £500 with little or no delay if the quote is accepted. I'll go back next Monday to get the written article. We only need to get one more now to put before the insurance company and we should be okay.

We've moored up in Stone again and after doing some shopping we are now planning to go out to The Star Inn, one of the oldest pubs on the canal system. It's mentioned in the Guinness Book of Records because non of its rooms are on the same level.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Sunday 24th October

A frosty morning, we set off under a clear sky to cover the short distance to Wedgwood. The canal was fairly busy today and we had to wait to take our turn at all the locks. In the sunshine it felt quite warm, there was only a hint of breeze to take the heat away if you were in shade.

After two days moored up the batteries need a bit of charging and with only a short distance today we must run the engine while stationary.

Checking the fuel I transferred all but one of our spare cans into the fuel tank, I could get the last one in but it is in an awkward position in the engine bay and I can't get at it while the engine is running so I'll leave it for another day.

A little while ago I bought another hook for our cratch cover, along with what I hoped to be reasonable quality self tapping screws. I've just had a go at fitting it and to my disgust the screws are worse than the ones I had before, absolute chocolate! Back to the drawing board, maybe it will have to be pop riveted.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Saturday 23rd October
Chickened out this morning! We had always decided not to travel in rain unless it couldn't be avoided. As we prepared to leave it started to rain so we decided to wait and see what was going to happen. The rain continued on and off so it was decided to close the hatches, settle down and give it until midday, if by then it was still wet we'd stay until tomorrow.
The rain continued so we're still here. The outlook tomorrow is very bright, so fingers crossed.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Yet another statue to James Brindley, at Etruria
The day started out cool, the sun was doing its best, but this is October. Setting off this morning we had 8 locks and 7 miles to do to reach Etruria. Surprisingly the canal was fairly busy today, we met boats at the first 5 locks so that every one was in our favour.
During the morning the wind started to get up a bit and cloud developed, but out of the wind any sun still felt warm.
We reached Etruria at about 2.00 o'clock, and by then the cloud cover was complete, it did try to rain but only a few drops. Once again we are moored up at Etruria and will start down the Trent & Mersey tomorrow.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

A Taste of the lovely scenery around here

At the junction where the Leek and Uttoxeter Branch split

An LMS engine driver training on The North Staffordshire Railway

Wednesday and Thursday 20th 21st.October

After yesterday's deluge the weather decided to give us a break. The day dawned very cold and perfectly clear. Everything was covered in a thick layer of frost, the ropes were frozen and we had ice on the inside of the windows. But the sun shone high wide and handsome.

In brilliant sunshine we plodded through a wonderland of frost with mist rising from the water.

Our first goal was Cheddleton where there is an old flint mill. This mill, which is powered by a water wheel, was saved from destruction in the 60s and has been kept in working condition.

We walked up into the village to do a bit of shopping before continuing.

The canal has been following the course of the River Churnet and at Oakmeadowsford Lock we drop down onto the river itself for about a mile. Here we are joined by the North Staffordshire Railway which runs right alongside the river for about half a mile. We have moored up in the river section, right across from the railway. They are carrying out driver training today and the engine keeps coming back and forth.

No internet signal here so will post this tomorrow.

Thursday 21st October

Not such a cold night, no ice on the windows this morning.

We have decided not to go the full distance to the end of the canal. The boat can't get through the tunnel near the end because she is too tall and with the possibility of rain we do not want to be caught either on the river or on the wrong side of the river section. We went to the end of this river section where there is a winding hole and started back towards Stoke.

The decision looked to be a good one when it started to rain, but it was short lived thankfully and we continued motoring until we arrived at Endon, where we spent the night a few days ago. Once again we'll stop here until tomorrow.

For any boaters who may be reading this, we can't help but recommend this canal as a place to see. Local tourism does try to say that it is the most beautiful canal in England and I would rate it up there with the best.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Hazelhurst Aqueduct, where the Leek branch crosses the Froghall Branch

Tuesday 19th October

With the weather report saying that it would be showery by this afternoon we set off, expecting to stop if it became to threatening.

After using the Park Lane facilities block we continued the junction where the canal divides with one branch, which once went to Leek but has been opened only as far as Barnfields, a journey of only 2½ miles goes off to the right before turning and crossing the Froghall branch on an aqueduct.. The other branch, which we are taking, goes straight on down 3 locks and passes under the Barnfields branch.

The showers had started soon after we set off and became frequent so we decided to moor up as soon as we could find somewhere suitable. This turned out to be at Denford and we are now all closed down watching the rain and thinking it was a good decision to stop.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Monday morning and people were back at work! We know because the factory we had moored near to started banging and crashing before 6 o'clock!
When we finally got up it was to a fairly dull day, but not too cold. Setting off through the still industrial landscape, with plenty of signs of regeneration going on. Since we were last here there has been quite a lot of work done clearing old industrial sites and putting up houses, but there is still plenty to do.
As we continued out of the urban sprawl the outlook started to improve greatly with some nice views over the surrounding countryside. We are now moored up at Endon for the night and will continue, probably to Froghall tunnel, the end of the line for us as we are too big to get through it.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

We went for a walk this morning to look for the local shop which is shown on our map. No luck, we found where it should have been, but it was gone.
Once more the day was wonderful, wall to wall sunshine as we set off to go a short distance to Hanley Park, which is a very pretty park just along from Etruria. When we got there we found that there was a local fishing competition going on, so rather than disturb them (discretion being the better part of valour) we decided to go a little further and have moored up near a main road bridge with good access to Hanley town centre.
I decided to have a go at straightening our propellor because yesterday while manoeuvring for a lock we picked something up in it which caused a big bang and now we have an annoying shudder through the tiller. A quick inspection of the prop through the weed hatch soon showed what I suspected but I cannot straighten it fully while it is in the water so we'll have to wait until it comes out for blacking this winter.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Trenham Lock in the rain 2007 (above)
The same place 2010 (below)

Saturday 16th October

Another glorious day today as we set off heading for Etruria, Stoke on Trent. The last time we came this way it was a very wet and cold February in 2007. I've included the picture I took at Trentham Lock at the time to compare the scene.

Six locks today, rising 62 ft to the summit level of the Trent & Mersey. After Trentham, the last 5 were Stoke Flight where we had a great deal of trouble last time around. Yobs had managed to drain the pound between locks 37 and 38 and I had to go to the top of the flight to let water down and fill the pound. No such trouble today and we sailed up the top and turned onto the Caldon Canal.

Here at Etruria is the start of the Caldon Canal and also a museum based on a flint and bone grinding mill which supplied the potteries with raw material. There is a lovely beam engine here, but it isn't running today. They do run it on the first weekend of the month for most of the year.

Tomorrow we will continue our trip along the Caldon Canal. The last time we tried this it was shut after a few miles for maintenance, but now it's open so we'll have a go.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Friday 15th October

A lovely breakfast of bacon and egg baps this morning before setting off expecting to stop somewhere near the Wedgwood factory.

Just after the first lock we stopped to take on water and throw rubbish. Opening the cupboard where we keep the waste bin under the sink, we discovered that we had a leak somewhere in the sink drain. Clearing out the cupboard and throwing some water down the sink soon showed where the water was coming from. The sink overflow had come adrift and the tube had fallen down allowing liquid to spill into the cupboard. A bit of cleaning up and a simple repair and we were back in operation and carried on up the canal. The weather was very overcast and soon a bit of mizzle was noticable.

Rising through 7 locks, about 70 ft., we passed the villages of Meaford and Barlaston before deciding to moor up just short of the Wedgwood factory, in lovely open countryside. This was another good call because not long after that it started raining constantly.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Star Lock and The Star Pub, Stone, Staffordshire

Thursday 13th October

We decided to stay in Stone for the day. I had a look above the first lock in town and there was a good mooring available so we moved up there and decided that we might as well stay put as Stone is a nice place, and the weather looked very dull. It was a good call because it did actually rain later. There are some good looking places to eat here so we may well stop on our way back and sample one of them.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Salt Bridge, No. 82 Trent & Mersey Canal

Wednesday 13th October

Following the Trent & Mersey northbound from Great Haywood, it is at first pretty ordinary countryside. The canal is bounded on one side by the A51 and a railway line, and on the other by the River Trent. They continue to follow us for the rest of the day, sometimes the railway line is so close you feel that you shake hands with the drivers.

The weather started quite cool and cloudy, but as the day wore on it became much clearer and by 1.00 o'clock it was wall to wall sunshine and fairly warm. As we climbed through the locks the countryside improved and soon was very pretty. We're now moored up about ½ a mile from the town of Stone. I took a walk into town to buy my MCN and when I got back decided to sweep off the top of the boat as it was starting to get bit a leaf covered. The local police helicopter paid us a visit and decided to disturb the countryside peace for nearly 30 minutes. Must have been looking for a doughnut shop!

We have decided to go and have a run down the Caldon Canal. When we were here in 2007 we took a short trip along it, but it was winter and a lot of it was closed, hopefully it will be fully open when we get there as it is said to be a pretty bit of canal. The museum at Etruria may also be open I hope.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Monday – Tuesday 11th, 12th October

Monday morning we spent shopping with John and then returned to the boat to get some much needed cleaning done. Carol was due back from Manchester Monday evening so John suggested that we go out and get a Chinese take away. This was enthusiastically seconded by us.

While shopping this morning we bought a replacement for our destroyed slow cooker, but were unsure of the size the original was so bought a 4.2 ltr. Model, but when we got it home it turned out to be too big for the shelf we keep it on so when we went to pick up the take away I took it back and exchanged it for the smaller model, which actually cost more. A good night was had by all and we retired to the boat ready for a good nights kip.

Tuesday morning John again picked us, this time to go to the local doctors' practice so that we could replenish our medicines. Once that was done we set off to travel to Great Haywood Junction where the marina we intend to spend the winter is located.

Once we were moored up at the junction I took a walk to the marina for a look around and to confirm our booking. It looks rather good in there, all facilities are clean and new and the clubhouse has free tea and coffee available all the time. Every mooring has a pin coded gate access and the marina itself has an automatic barrier also with a pin code. The only downside is they don't handle mail so we must get a box at the local Post Office.

We'll spend tonight moored at the junction and will head off north tomorrow towards Stoke on Trent.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Surprise visit!
Sunday 10th October
Yesterday was spent in Penkridge as planned. We did some shopping and then I took the bike for a ride along the towpath to visit Teddesley Lock where there is a branch of Midland Chandlers, so I could have a browse in the 'toyshop' and also buy a hook to replace the one I dropped in the water a few days ago.
Planning on stopping in Stafford to visit John (our son's father in law) we rang up and were told that Daniel was with him for the weekend while Liz was out larping, so we had lovely surprise. Today we set off fairly early to get to Radford Bank, a good mooring spot to get into Stafford. When we moored up we set off for John's house which is only a few minutes away. He fed us a lovely lunch and we got to play with Daniel as well, what a bonus!
We're now back on the boat and John has offered to take us into town tomorrow to do some shopping.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Friday 7th October
A really dull day today, warm but with no sign of the sun. After a very good meal at The Fox and Anchor last night we chugged off this morning hoping that the sun would break through, but it didn't. Our route was joined by the M6 for a little while, noisy things are motorways. The countryside around here is quite ordinary, farmers fields, and occasional factories. As we approached Penkridge housing estates became visible crowding right down to the waters edge. We're moored up in Penkridge now and will probably stay here tomorrow.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

A very decorative bridge over the Shroppie

Brewood church spire from the canal

Wednesday 6th October

After a late breakfast we plodded off, heading for Wheaton Aston where there is cheap fuel to be had. When we were here in 2007 this place was well known for its fuel prices and that is still true today. Their non propulsion diesel is priced at 58.9 ppl, which is another country from some of the prices other rob-dogs on the system try to charge.

The Shropshire Union is a very pleasant canal. One of the last to be built, it isn't a contour canal and has made use of cuttings and embankments to straighten the route, and because the country through which it passes isn't very hilly, at least around here, there are few locks. In fact we only passed one today, at Wheaton Aston. The canal itself changes from very wide in places to just enough room for one boat in some places. We had a minor disaster at one of the narrow bits this morning. While pulled over to allow a boat through a narrow section I noticed that as it came through something on the canal bed caused him to tip sideways quite a lot. Thinking that I could avoid the obstruction I decided to keep over to the other side of the channel. Big Mistake! There was an even bigger rock on that side which caused us to tilt over so far that the slow cooker fell off the shelf and smashed on the floor, cracking a tile as well as breaking its crock pot interior. Ah well, we'll have to buy another because it so useful.

After filling up at Wheaton we carried on for a few miles until we found a winding hole where we could turn around and are now heading back for Autherley Junction. We have moored up out in open countryside and have just missed a rain shower, our luck holds out again.

Thursday 7th October

Another misty start today as we headed back along the Shroppie. While passing Brewood I took the chance to drop into the local shop and get some provisions and MCN. After a while the mist started to lift and by midday the sun put in an appearance.

We were disappointed on reaching Autherley Junction to find that the can dump facility is no longer available so we'll have to wait until Gailey now.

At the junction we turned left towards Stafford and have now moored up at a pub where we'll eat tonight for a treat.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

The start of the “Wolverhampton 21” Aldersley Junction
Tuesday 5th October
Another fairly nice day to start with as we set off intending to get a start up The Shropshire Union today. We passed through several more locks, finishing with Compton Lock, which marks the end of the 31 lock climb from Stourport, a rise of 294 ft. We then passed Aldersely Junction where the BCN starts with a 21 lock climb to Wolverhampton and Birmingham.
The next junction is Autherley, where the Shropshire Union starts. Here we turn left through the stop lock, a rise or fall of next to nothing, it's just there to keep the two canal from stealing water from each other. Despite the lack of difference it is still very slow to fill/empty.
After stopping for a spot of lunch we continued along, passing under the M54 and have moored up just beyond bridge 7 in a nice spot with several other boats for company.
I thought that I'd get on and replace the broken hook for our cratch cover but after drilling out the rivets on the old plastic hook and drilling a new hole for the new hook (the mounting holes are in a different place on the new hook) the self tapping screw I was using sheared off and the hook dropped into the cut. End of project today!

Monday, 4 October 2010

Bratch Locks
Monday 4th October
A fabulous day! A bit of light mist this morning which soon cleared to give wall to wall sunshine, and by about 11.00 o'clock it was really warm as well.
We continued along this very pretty canal, this stretch has just enough locks to keep the interest but not too many to get a pain. I mentioned before that a lot of this canal is cut through sandstone which leaves one side of the canal as a cliff. At one place someone has put up a door in what looks like sheer cliff, but there must be some sort of cave behind it. The door had a well kept lock on it so it isn't abandoned.
Our day took us through Botherham Staircase Locks and we then stopped at Wombourne Bridge where there is a good sized Sainsburys to stock up. Continuing on we went through Bratch Locks, a flight of three which you treat as a staircase even though there are gates top and bottom of each lock and a very short pounds with side ponds. At this time of year there is a look keeper to assist which make life easy. The last time we were here it was winter and we had to do it alone.
We've moored up for the night at the top of the locks, in really beautiful surroundings.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Sunday 3rd October
Woke up this morning to the sound of heavy rain on the roof. A quick decision not to move was made. Cath has been reading and cooking while made the most of a day off with a full day of bike racing, and great it was too!
It's now 4 o'clock and at last the sun has shown its face, tomorrow is meant to be a fine day so we'll push on, not sure how far yet so we'll just see what happens.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Saturday 2nd October

Not a good night last night! Kidderminster isn't a nice place to spend a weekend night. The place seemed to be teeming with noisy louts and we were disturbed several times with stuff thrown and youths knocking and running away. The last occurrence was about 3.30 am.

As we left this morning just outside of town another group of yobs was hiding in the canal-side trees throwing apples.

That's off my chest now. The weather has been much better today and as we plodded along we even got some glimpses of the sun. It wasn't too cold either.

We travelled as far as Stewponey (or Stewpony depending on which sign you read) before stopping for the night. There are some lovely moorings here in this quiet village setting.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Friday 1st October

The only thing one can say about today is WET. It has poured down all day just as the weatherman predicted. Luckily we took this to heart and have stayed put, done a bit of provisioning and generally relaxed in the warm and dry watching those poor souls who ventured out. Watching them standing soaking on the backs of their boats we felt sorry for those who for whatever reason had to travel.