Today started with tea in bed as usual. However today this was accompanied by a present and cards. Today was Mick’s birthday.
Last year was a significant birthday, this year with a 1 added to his total age the present wasn’t quite so good! He did get more than a few pairs of socks, these were just for the initial effect.
Tilly helped with the tidying up, shredding the wrapping paper for us.I really like birthdays!
I sadly needed to get a bit more work done, so as I sorted out sliding scenery Mick occupied himself on the internet with last years present and eight inches of table, whilst Tilly sat in a tree watching for friends and foes. After lunch we had a nice walk, returning to shower and put on smart cloths.
We headed out for a meal at The Plume Of Feathers, the Neil Morrissey pub. We’d booked a table and sat by the window where we could watch crown green bowling. The portions coming out from the kitchen looked large and as there was only one starter on the menu that I could have we decided to launch straight in to the mains.
Mick chose Fish and Chips which looked very good and I had a Warm Duck Salad with squash spinach and beetroot, with a portion of chips on the side. Both were very good and the chips were certainly the best we’ve had in a long time. A pint of Neil’s beer and a large glass of wine for me. A very nice evening with just one slight disappointment. Neil obviously couldn’t be bothered in making an appearance for Mick’s birthday (well it was only a minor one), so I didn’t get chance to ask him how it had been back in 1982 playing Robin Hood at Chipping Norton.
No need to buy pudding. I’d managed to fool Mick into believing that the baking I’d been doing yesterday was part of my model! So he had no idea that I’d made the most chocolatiest chocolate cake with chocolate ganache and extra chocolate bits on top.
Candles blown out and a slice each. I suspect we’ll be eating it for quite a while!
0 locks, 0 miles, 61st, 5 pairs socks, 39 chocolates, 1 sweatshirt, 1 fleecy top, 2 cards, 4 hours work, 4 miles walk, 1 major plan hatched, 1 green boat in the winding hole, 0 Neil, 1 pint, 1 glass, 1 fish and chips, 1 duck breast, 2 slices of very rich cake, 1 BIG Happy Birthday to my boy!
Alarm set, we’d had breakfast and were in the first lock of the day at 7:10 am, a little later than we’d planned but only by ten minutes. The plan was to reach the tunnel by 8 am when it opened to hopefully be the first through. All four locks needed some emptying, some more than others including one that had had a paddle left up on it. As we made our way past the boats at the services we noticed that there was now a space, one of the boats had moved backwards to the end ring.
At 8:10 am we pulled in on the waiting moorings by the north portal to the tunnel, the C&RT boat was just being brought out from the tunnel entrance. Would we be waved straight in? Sadly no, a boat had just set off from the south portal so we’d have a 40 minute wait.
Time for another brew and to try to use up the last of the gas I baked the remainder of my biscuit dough. Still not empty!
At 8:51 an Anglo Welsh hire boat appeared out of the tunnel, one chap stood at the front fending off. They all looked a touch chilly. With our pre-tunnel checks already done, light, horn, life jackets etc we were waved into the dark.
Our passage through took us about 35 minutes the glint of light between the doors at the far end just coming into view as we reached about halfway. These were opened with about a third of our journey left, the occasional head of the tunnel keeper bobbing round to see how far away we were.
We emerged to no waiting boats and only two Canadian Geese grazing, a bit of a surprise. Well on track to reach Capital Gas by midday we pootled along the summit pound. Only four boats at Westport Lake, maybe people have been put off after the Oatcake boat had their windows kicked in a few weeks ago. On past the bottle kilns and potteries, Stoke boats and empty land that once contained factories.
The stretch of towpath past Festival Park up to Summit Lock has very recently been resurfaced. If you have had a recent paint job this would not be the place to moor! The path has been sprayed with tar and then a thick layer of gravel added on top, most of it nice and loose. Bicycles have difficulty getting a grip on this and spray the loose stones up in the air. Like autumn leaves kids can’t resist kicking either!
With two new bottles of gas (the second one must have been on it’s last breath, it certainly was giving off the smell of a just about to run out bottle) we then headed up the hill to pick up a few bits and bobs from Sainsburys. I have a cake to make in the next couple of days for someones birthday, chocolate has been requested.
The service moorings at Etruria were empty, so we pulled in and made use of them, filling the water tank as we had lunch. The option was to back out onto the Trent and Mersey or go up to the winding hole, which is what Mick opted for. The junction had turned into a kitchen, everybody wanted to be there! A boat was coming towards us from Middleport, another just coming out from the lock wanting to turn towards us and we wanted to turn towards them and the lock. This all took a bit of doing but everyone ended up facing the direction they wanted to be in.
Down Summit Lock whilst refilling the lock below, Oleanna crossed the pound as the local helper on a bike appeared from below, who opened the gates and helped us down shouting to the boat he’d been helping to get out of the way ‘Boat coming down!’
This stretch is so familiar and Mick always needs wants a train to go past when we’re in Cockshute’s Lock. Today a cross country train obliged with it’s timing bringing a smile to my boys face. The number of vehicles parked outside the house at Stoke Bottom Lock has increased again.
Passing over Trent Aqueduct where the narrow stream of the river starts. We’d last seen the river at Keadby on the 5th February, some 299.61 miles and about 270 locks ago. A bit of a different sight there!
Graffiti changes, a hot dog on legs had us hunting through Flintstone footage and then watching John Travolta singing ‘Sandy’ in Grease to find the reference which happens just at the end of the song. Wonder if this is where it came from?
Now we had the four mile pound towards Trentham Lock passing new warehouses that have gone up since we were last this way and all the gardens backing onto the canal. Once down the lock we only had to pass the Wedgwood Factory and then pull in on the outskirts of Barlaston. Here will do us for a day or two. Lots of work to get done and of course that cake to make!
10 locks, 12.32 miles, 10 biscuits, 1 wall route planned, 2676 m of tunnel, 2nd through, 2 bottles of gas, £26.15 each, 3 boxes wine, 6 possible chips, 1 left, 1 full water tank, 1 wind, 1 sharp left, 1 sour dough woken up, 1 sponge fermenting, 350 grams chocolate, 120 grams cocoa, 0 notification of my parcel.
First boat to go by this morning had a bow full of crew all wrapped up against the chilly damp morning. This was Tyseley the Mikron Boat heading south after having work done at Northwich Dry Dock, she was heading to Welford where this years cast will start their touring by boat. We doubt we’ll get to Welford or Crick in time this year but may get to see them further south.
My yarn order hadn’t been dispatched until Wednesday so we decided to wait until after 1pm to check if it had arrived. I spent the morning putting things in my Puss in Boots model box and making notes. This always brings up ideas, at least my list is only one side of A4.
After lunch the weather had improved, the sun back out. We walked up to the village store in the vain hope that my parcel would be there. The main man did his best to help, but if it wasn’t there it wasn’t there! Maybe tomorrow or Monday, we can at least give him a call.
We need to be making a move so one of us will come back when/if it actually arrives. I have a feeling there is a shelf in the warehouse where the special orders go, and so far nobody has seen to them. Just a shame no other company has this specific yarn.
Pushing off at 2:15pm we wanted to reach Red Bull today, we knew we’d not manage to get to Harecastle Tunnel in time before they shut. This would mean an early morning tomorrow to get through the tunnel and arrive at Etruria before midday. Why? Well you should never pass this way without replacing your gas bottles. In fact we’re doing our very best to arrive with two empty ones. The heating goes on to take the chill off, baking, extra slices of toast, jacket potatoes tonight all just to try to get the second bottle empty, it very nearly is.
We worked our way up the six locks close together, Mow Cop getting closer all the time. At Lawton Top Lock there are two sets of stone gate posts. The bridge over the bottom of the lock is flat and wider than the others. The three Lawton locks replaced a staircase of three, the gates must have lead to the area around the old locks. I haven’t managed to find an old map showing them, but around 1897 a Smithy is marked between where the locks are now and where they used to be.
Up Halls Lock, today considerably warmer than the first time we moored there on a hire boat twelve years ago, it snowed overnight and continued as we headed through Congleton. Today the hay in the fields was being turned.
Church Locks were a little congested. A single hander going up, a hire boat waiting to come down, us and a duck with her ducklings. She had decided that a good place to sit everybody was on top of the bywash, this resulted in several of them being swept over when the top lock emptied, her brood split in two.
NB Mellow is still on it’s mooring and the cows had brought themselves in to be milked. A nice mooring, just a bit pongy!
With each lock uphill the water got more and more orange, we’re getting closer to Harecastle. With one lock to go before Red Bull services I walked up to check on mooring space as we didn’t really want to go any further. Three boats were moored up, gaps at the ends, gaps between them. Nobody sharing rings. I paced out the gaps, Mick did the same later. Oleanna is 26 paces, the git gaps added up to two Oleannas. Yes a boat may have left, not sharing rings was the main culprit. We moored up below the lock and settled in for the evening.
The pound was low when we arrived, alleviated when boats came past, letting water down. But gradually we listed more and more. Mick emptied the two locks above, then went to check below. At lock 45 one of the chambers is out of action at the moment. A top paddle is missing and what was causing our problem was a bottom paddle just open a little bit. This most probably would have gradually drained the pound overnight. Mick closed it up, the level gradually rose back to where it should be.
8 locks, 2.09 miles, 147 photos, 87 of a model, A4 of notes, 0 parcel AGAIN!!!! 2 boats coming downhill, 1 going up, 73 cows, 1 smelly mooring, 4 git gaps, 1 cracked paddle, 2 locks of water, 1 boat afloat, 1 endless gas bottle, 0 things to knit!
Yesterday shortly after we’d moored up, a red boat arrived. In front of us we’d left enough space for an average sized boat to pull in and tie up on the rings before the winding hole, we’d backed right up to a Diamond Resorts boat. Opposite the hole the rings have been removed and a sign on a pole says ‘No mooring,Winding Hole’, for (to us) very obvious reasons. The red boat pulled up tied to the last ring and proceeded to bang in a spike, positioning themselves perfectly with the winding hole, leaving a lovely git gap!
A few hours later someone must have had a word and they moved on behind the boat behind us, well out of the way.
Later on another red boat arrived. They pulled into the same spot. But to give them credit before they tied up I overheard them comment about it being a winding hole. They pulled forward towards us, ‘But isn’t that too close!’ Unless they were going too be touching fenders with us and playing loud music all night we don’t mind being close. They moored up and all was well.
Mick popped off to the village store this morning to see if my parcel had arrived and to get some milk as we were expecting visitors. The Diamond Resorts boat pushed off and started to wind, luckily the red boat had already moved on this morning leaving plenty of room to swing a boat about. There was a lot of engine revving going on and it seemed to be taking a long time for them to wind.
I popped out to see Mick pulling on their stern rope, their fender was up to give them another inch or so, a chap stood on the bow pushing with a pole. They had managed to get the boat 90 degrees round, but that is where it had stopped. Had they got stuck? Was their boat the exact length of the winding hole?
There was possibly a few more inches spare if they could get the bow a bit further over. With me now holding the fender, everyone pushing the back came away. The bow slowly moved over a few more inches then the next big push to get the stern round. There was certainly more space here and the stern came round with about 2 inches spare. Phew! They could now return to Anderton.
Around 11am a familiar face looked in. Our visitors had arrived.
Tom and Jan are in England for a month visiting family. They left life on the water a couple of years ago selling NB Waiouru and moving back to Perth, Australia. Our bows crossed theirs several times through the years, first on the Leeds Liverpool Canal in 2014 at Rodley and the last time at Norton Junction about a week before they packed up and left England.
There was plenty to catch up on despite both being bloggers. Tom came on board to have a look round whilst Jan opted to stay on the towpath at a safe distance away from Oleanna. They loved their life afloat and obviously miss it, getting too close could mean that we’d have a stowaway or two!
As we walked up to the pub for lunch another red boat had arrived and moored up, yep you’ve guessed it right slap bang in the winding hole! The sign in line with their stern and plenty of room on rings either side. Are people blind or just thick?
Over pies, sausage and mash and a steak we covered most subjects. Obviously we compared notes on boat builders and the things that can and did go wrong for us both. Tom waited until the last moment to bring up the subject of toilets, he just couldn’t resist it! Since becoming composters we don’t have the urge (excuse the phrase) to talk toilets as much, most probably because we no longer have the concerns of having to get to the next pump out before our tank is full, or wonder when the seals or pipes will need replacing.
We did ask if they’d like to help us up to Red Bull, a couple of hours of Heartbreak Hill. But this was quickly turned down. It would be too dangerous to work a lock, their addiction would be awoken, so safer to stay on dry land away from the locks..
We had a lovely afternoon with them, I suspect they’ll be turning up and looking through plenty more boat windows before their time here is up.
A second visit to the Village Store to check on post, still nothing. We decided that the locks could wait until tomorrow giving my parcel another day to arrive.
0 locks, o miles, 3 red boats, 1 blue boat stuck in the winding hole, 70ft or 66ft long? 2 antipodean ex-boater blogger visitors, 5 hours conversation, 1 pink boater, 3 biscuits, 4 cuppas, 2 pies, 3 sausages, 1 steak, 2 tales of boats gone wrong, 2 tales of happy boating, 2 hours freedom, 1 Tom Tom, 0 parcel still, 2 sets of treads, 1 swivel chair.
Yesterday we’d moored under trees so the solar panels didn’t do quite so well. However we’d been grateful for their protection from the driving range! Mick decided to experiment with the dishwasher this morning. The heating cycle uses a lot more juice than the washing machine, so he knew he’d be getting the engine going before it had finished. These experiments are not that scientific, there are other things drawing power, but it’s interesting. The first heating cycle drew 17% of our battery capacity.
Just after breakfast I had confirmation of my next panto meeting, so quickly purchased an Advance ticket. Cross Country now charge for you to pick up your tickets at a machine! So I opted for an e ticket which was free.
Several boats had already come past this morning, the last two going down hill, so we hoped that at least the first lock would be in our favour. We’d actually timed our departure with a lot of boats coming down hill, so we didn’t have to turn too many locks.
Lock 60 is a pair, the towpath side chamber has had a width warning on it for some time. Today however it was locked up. Padlocks preventing you from operating paddles and no leakage through the gates. Looking down I could see where the lock was now bulging, a damp area of bricks highlighting it.
The first two locks brought us closer to the M6. Mow Cop visible for the first time on the horizon.
The blue sky today was filled with vapour trails from planes. We wondered if there were any clouds up there or was it all being produced by planes?
Boats came towards us, at Lock 57 we had to wait for one coming down before ascending. Two short boats waited their turn to share the single lock down. On we pootled catching up with a boat we were following at the last lock of the day, Thurlwood Lock 53. Here I helped them up, another boat down before we came up into the pound we planned to moor on.
We pulled in just before the winding hole and Tilly was let out to explore. Rode Heath must have at least one dog per human! There is a constant stream of them being walked in the field just below the moorings. Tilly found a suitable gap in the woofers and headed for the large trees below, these kept her busy for quite sometime.
Time to get back to work, my model won’t finish itself. With a new list of jobs to be done, I set about sorting out the flying in the model box. This isn’t anything fancy, just thin bits of wood with model scenery attached so that they can be lifted in and out of the box. I added marked rests on either side of the box, so that positions would be accurate. This took all afternoon. I’ll need a few none cruising days before my meeting in Chippy to get everything finished and there are still plenty of locks to come.
8 locks, 2.75 miles, 2 in a lock, 1st sight, 2 initials swapped over, 6 hours, 2 red boats moored in the winding hole, 6 flying bars, 1 parcel left till morning, 2 fingers crossed that it’s there.
The sun had been shining for ages before we got up this morning and the batteries were already up to 80% charge, so Mick decided to put a load of washing on without the engine running to see how everything coped. By the time we moved off the batteries had dropped by 12%, so all was fine. It’s nice not to have to have the engine running.
We waved goodbye to Tilly’s friend Ben and moved on up to Wheelock where we’d originally planned to be last night. Our change of plan had given us a better mooring, quieter with more sun and a wider towpath.
Approaching the services we could see two boats already there, so we slowed right down and came in slowly, hovering by a moored boat. One boat was just about finished so we didn’t have to loiter long before filling our tank and doing a few chores that involve water. As soon as one boat had finished and moved off another arrived to take it’s place.
Now at the bottom of the paired locks we started our ascent. I’d talked to the yarn people this morning and my order was hopefully going to go in the post today, third time lucky, so there was no rush to get to Rode Heath, drying the washing would be more important.
A Diamond Resort boat was just in front of us, the crew of four kindly lifted a paddle for us on the second paired lock which meant it had emptied by the time we reached it. We decided to do another four locks before stopping for lunch and possibly the day. We soon passed our helpers who’d stopped for lunch and caught up with another boat. We were both having to empty locks, at Lock 62 we had to wait as only one of the paired locks is usable, the other having been converted into a bywash.
Lock 61, Cardboard Lock, had a new sign on it (admittedly an old sign as it was originally a BW one). The towpath side lock has shrunk and is now only suitable for boats under 6ft 10inches wide. There are a few like that along this stretch. Older boats with a touch of middle age spread or boats with their fenders down might get stuck. But Oleanna still has her trim waist line so we were alright.
A slightly longer pound than elsewhere and still a distance away from the M6 we pulled in for the day, hung the washing out and had lunch. If we’d been aware of low flying golf balls plopping into the water we’d possibly have moved on up a few more locks, but so far none have hit us!
The afternoon Tilly did her thing outside avoiding making friends with a Ginger Tom from a boat that had stopped for lunch. I re-read panto as a third draft had arrived in my Inbox yesterday. A couple of new thoughts, but nothing major to change thank goodness. A Banana and Buckwheat Loaf went into the oven which was just cool enough to enjoy a slice for pudding. Very nice it was too recipe here. I might try the marzipan and raspberry one some time.
6 locks, 2.3 miles, 1 full water tank, 1 clean pooh box, 8 hours for a flap, 1 parcel hopefully on its way today, 4 near misses, 1 springy loaf, 3rd draft, 1 song sheet added.
Bridge 22 to Rookery Railway Bridge 158, Trent and Mersey
No shore leave for Tilly this morning, we weren’t going to risk her getting carried away and not returning for hours! With a mooring in mind we pushed off in the glorious sunshine to find the next winding hole to turn in.
Just over a mile and a half away there it was, for a change nobody was using it. Mick swung Oleannas bow in towards the V and started to turn her just as a boat came round the bend, they’d have to be patient for us to finish, which they were. Then we were on our way northwards again to be able to head southwards.
More fields were being ploughed, hay turned, cattle grazed with a few very young calves having a rest by Mums feet. The branch is so rural, just the West Coast Main Line to break things up. We passed the cottage with it’s painted shutters, a new coat of paint has been added avoiding the roses. The converted stable block is another must for a photo.
By the time we had descended Stanthorne Lock it was lunchtime, so we decided to try out some of the new mooring rings at the breach site. I walked along to have a better look down at the side of the aqueduct where the breach happened. You can’t get down to see from below, but from above there is a definite scar where the water pushed everything out of its way.
The bank has a fresh layer of grass taking hold, but at the bottom there is still earth showing. The bank of the river has been made good and twigs mark where a hedge will grow in the future. The stone up on the aqueduct almost certainly marks the spot, a local dog has also left it’s mark here!
After lunch we swapped with a boat coming up Wardle Lock. A horn sounded below, then the bow of a boat appeared round the bend just after I’d lifted the bottom paddles. The bow hit the far side of the bridge as the chap at the helm tried to get their boat to turn, then the cabin top took a bump as the angle aligned perfectly. A chap walked up towards the lock and saw that I was opening the gates, ‘Thank you!’ He hadn’t realised there as a boat in the lock.
I walked on to set King’s Lock leaving Mick to navigate around the hire boat and turn. As he waited for the lock to empty he spotted that the annoying water point at the junction has gone. Here there used to be boats moored up outside the chandlers, boats turning into and out of Wardle Lock, boats waiting to go up King’s Lock with another sat on the water point. Such a busy busy junction, all empty now.
Up above NB Elk was pulling in. We saw New Year in with Brian a few years ago at Bugsworth in the hold of NB Tench (I doubt he recognised us, we were yellow then). We wonder where Tench is now as her owner sadly died in a boat fire a year ago.
When on NB Winding Down we’d always count the swans in this pound. A popular spot for them, a fence was even put up to keep them from wandering onto the road. But we now seem to arrive when the numbers are low. At first count there was only one who’d made the effort, but another four were hiding at Rumps Lock.
Some work has been done by C&RT on the lock landings along this stretch. For years the concrete edge has been collapsed and you had to choose where to step off your boat carefully.
British Salt is always an interesting sight. The mounds of white stuff outside looking like part of the Alps and indoors the more pristine mounds were being rounded up by a very diddy digger. A short distance further on is a footbridge that goes to nowhere now. When we first bought into Nb Winding Down here stood the remains of the 1920’s factory for Bisto.
As we reached Booth Lane Bottom Lock, we’d caught up with a boat ahead. I asked if the locks had been full when they arrived, ‘Yes’, ‘The same here!’ I helped with the gate and reset the lock for us. All the locks on the Trent and Mersey today have had chains and padlocks at their bases. I’ve not noticed this before.
Crow’s Nest Lock 67 is a nice lock. It used to occasionally be a really nasty lock too, but now it’s just nice. This was quite often the first lock we’d go through on NB Winding Down, it was also quite often the last before tidying, cleaning and packing away after our time on board. I helped a hire boat down, then it was our turn.
Artie’s backyard is still a mishmash, the cottage looks like there are new owners and a boat is pulled up on a permanent mooring where the Carefree Cruising turn arounds used to happen. New build houses over look from behind and Artie’s new backyard is settling down well, it really is a huge house.
We’d originally planned on mooring at Wheelock, but the afternoon was ticking on. A fill of water also required, so once through the railway bridges we pulled in where there are rings, deployed our tyre fenders and settled down for the remainder of the day.
Today would have been the first day of the fraud case in Derby. The last few weeks we’d have spent cruising to get to a mooring. Mick would have been in court today, I’d not have been allowed to watch until I’d given my evidence. Our life would have been taken over by it for the next four weeks. How different today was, we made the most of the lovely weather and cruised.
I wasn’t too enamoured with this outside to start with. The friendly cover too thick for my liking and the towpath had just been cut, removing all the tastiest morsels. But after a while I found a good patch of trees. These provided me with very good climbing and a group of crows and magpies flocked to join me, serenading my achievement at climbing so high.
She came out to see what all the fuss was about, I think my new friends were being a touch too noisy. As we walked back to our boat a Tom stuck his head up out of another boat. ‘Excuse me is that Jingle Cat?’ This is the name I go under on social media. This was my Tom friend Ben. I met him in the Bugsworth outside ages ago, his memory is better than mine. She and Ben Tom chatted away whilst I found more grass and then disposed of it as only cats can. Then I spotted Ben Tom’s cats inside his boat. Olga and Betty. They shouted at me then hit each other, I’m not that surprised as I would never ever dream of living with a cat!
7 locks, 8.16 miles, 1 wind, 1 right, 5 swans, 1 bumping boat, 2 boats with boats in front, 0 water, 2 familiar boats, 1 with a repaint, 2000m, 0 court, 67 nice lock, 1 Ben Tom, 1 hour chatting, 2 bickering cats, 0 yarn news.