Tilly headed out this morning and managed a whole half hour before returning home. We’d decided she would dictate when we moved on today, we needn’t have worried as she was home long before we’d finished breakfast. Despite there being very little footfall here it was deemed too unsafe to go to the toilet, so she came back to use her box instead! This mooring doesn’t seem to have floated her boat quite as much as last time so no Mrs Tilly stamp. It’s the lack of trees! Anyway I used it all up last time.
After cereal my loaf of bread was sliced open. Maybe a little bit too dense at the bottom. Once sliced we toasted some each. Gluten free bread always takes an age to toast, especially homemade. Hope we have sufficient gas to last this one loaf! Verdict, well a little bit heavy but maybe that was because I think my starter is a touch too liquid and I had to add some extra flour to the mix to help clean the dough off my hand. I’ll have another go at this recipe and see what happens.
Nature seems to be conspiring against our trip north, along with the canal system not playing ball. Our original plan, Trent and Mersey, Macclesfield, Huddersfield Narrow, work, then Huddersfield Broad, Calder and Hebble, Aire and Calder, River Ouse to York has been out of the window for a while due to the destruction of The Figure of Three Locks in the storms.
We’re in no rush so had planned another route. Shropshire Union, across the Middlewich Branch, up the Trent and Mersey to the Anderton Boat lift and onto the Weaver. Back onto the Trent and Mersey, up to the Macclesfield, Peak Forest Canal onto the Ashton Canal. Then the Bridegwater to Leigh and the Leeds Liverpool, at Wigan we would turn right and head over the top to Leeds. I’d go to work then we could carry on to York.
However there is a new stoppage on the Macclesfield near Marple, an unstable embankment. We were really looking forward to cruising the Macc again, but this may no longer be possible.
The winter stoppages on the Shroppie are due to finish soon, but the storms have brought down numerous trees. Most have been cleared quickly, but at Woodseaves Cutting above Tyrley Locks trees have come down along with some of the cutting. Reports were that there were trees stood upright in the middle of the canal! Woodseaves is a magical place, a steep damp cutting. We’ve been waiting for a couple of weeks now for news that the way ahead is clear. A notice on Friday said
Engineers have inspected the affected area and are advising contractors the best way forward, to safely remove the trees that are blocking the navigation. A further update will be provided next week.
Then Filance Lock on the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal has been closed for much of this week due to concerns from boaters. So even if we changed our minds, there would be no point in retracing our steps and heading that way, well not until the end of the week and we’d rather carry on up the Shropie if possible.
Plans are having to remain fluid, but at the moment we can’t go far, so we’re taking it slowly.
Not far today. Just to Wheaton Aston where we hoped to get a mooring on the services side of the bridge to get a delivery.
The Shroppie for the most part is made up of embankments and cuttings, it’s course quite straight with flights of locks. Today we saw plenty of the destruction that the storms had wrought. Every cutting we came through had evidence of trees having given up and fallen across the cut.
Most trees along here are covered in ivy, some creating a waterfall from branches all very atmospheric but adding to the weight of branches in stormy winds, no wonder so many gave up the fight.
Others simply snapped with the strain. Several boats sadly had been moored in the wrong place at the wrong time and ended up with trees on their roofs. Have to say we’d have moved Oleanna onto an embankment rather than hope for shelter around these trees!
A couple of hours after pushing off we arrived at Wheaton Aston Lock the wind was quite strong, so it took quite a bit of effort to get Oleanna away from the side to enter the lock. A lady came up to help with the offside gate as her boat was just winding to come back up, I loitered to close the gate for her.
The water tank was topped up and I walked to see where we might be able to moor. A space just after the winding hole had our name on it.
Just by the water point and service block there is this in the ground. Was it the base to a crane? Fixings for some mechanism of water control? Or the base for a gun in WW2?
As we were tying up rain started, by the time the covers were all poppered back into place it was heaving it down. Once the online shopping was complete we watched another Morse story, Service of the Dead. We’d seen this one not too long ago, so I knew Morse shouldn’t have been getting too attached to that woman!
1 lock, 4.82 miles, 1 solid loaf of bread, 4 crossed legs, 1 cloud given the go ahead, 1 Joe understudy, 8 trees down at least, 2 routes north blocked, 1 way open back through Birmingham! 1 full water tank, 0 rubbish, 1 handy mooring, 1st helicopter, 4 murders, 1 suicide, 1 stumble, 8 Jag review, 1 very wet afternoon.
Apologies if you got this post yesterday and are getting it again. The internet on the Shropie can be patchy and play tricks on you, as it has done. So sorry if you get this post a second time. Due to uncertain internet I may not be able to post every day.
Checking our vital statistics for a years worth of cruising takes a while. We have a trip computer which records almost all our journeys, sometimes it counts locks twice, sometimes it doesn’t quite catch where we reached before we wind. Before we used this method of recording our journeys I would use canal plan to work out our distances. This method can also miss out parts of our journey but it does give me more statistics. You know how I like numbers! How many bridges, how many narrow locks and what distances we travelled on different types of waterways. So inputting a years worth of cruising takes some time.
Anyhow, here is our round up of the year.
The New Year was seen in at Crick. From here we decided to head to Sheffield to have the last snagging jobs done on Oleanna, we were fortunate that the route north was open with no winter stoppages in our way until we reached Yorkshire. Once in the top chamber at Foxton it was going to be downhill all the way to Keadby.
Sadly our blog started to loose it’s photos, which is a great shame. It was a problem shared by many bloggers who were all doing their best to get things working again. Have to say we ended up jumping ship from blogger to wordpress, but posts still lacked their photos when moved. We hope gradually to rectify this by replacing the missing photos, I miss them when looking back. But this will be a long job.
During January we cruised down stream on the River Trent, the weather was getting colder the further north we got. Our route was clear but at Keadby the lock off the river was being dredged, so our journey was held up a touch. Then with February came cold nights and the canal at Keadby froze over. So we waited at Cromwell for things to improve.
Daylight hours and tides meant we split our tidal journey at Torksey. The early morning start from Torksey was very cold, so I was very glad I’d knitted us both balaclavas, we remained cosy cheeked for our journey.
Our journey up towards Sheffield meant we coincided with the bicentenary of the opening of the canal and a very unseasonably warm weekend. The chaps at Finesse replaced a leaking window, gave us a new one (our choice), sorted out our gas locker lid amongst other bits and bobs. It had been a good decision going to Sheffield, it saved them time coming out to us and it saved us money on the extras we’d asked for.
Next we headed for Goole, the lure of cheap diesel and a night away to see our friends Bridget and Storm on the otherside of the Humber was a bonus. We then hunkered down to sit out storms and rising river levels. Our original plan had been to go to York, but flooding put paid to that, so instead we went by train.
Towards the end of March we decided to give a trip up the Ouse another go, the rivers were at better levels and we still haven’t taken Oleanna there. But first Bank Dole lock wouldn’t fill due to silt, then when we reached Selby the Lock onto the Ouse had a fault which would take too much time to mend for us to wait. This was a relief for Tilly as this was where she’d discovered the difference between grass and duck weed and ended up learning to swim a couple of years ago.
At the beginning of April we headed to Leeds. From here we had a day trip to Derby Crown Court for the sentencing of our original boat builder (Stillwater) who had finally pleaded guilty for fraud. I also spent a more pleasurable day in London, having a meeting for Puss in Boots.
With panto in mind we planned our cruising for the remainder of the year. The remainder of April we made our way up the Calder and Hebble and onto the Rochdale Canal.
Our friend Frank joined us to do the stretch from Sowerby Bridge to Hebden Bridge, which included the deepest lock n the network, Tuel Lane. He’d not done this stretch back in 2014 when he and I walked from Manchester locking Lillian over the Pennines to get to the Tour de France.
Once over the top we picked up a boat to share the locks down into Manchester. Clare and Graeme were over from New Zealand for a few months and proved to be very good company.
On the 1st of May, with the help of a Canal and River Trust volunteer our passage down into Manchester went well. The following day both boats headed down the Rochdale nine with an extra pair of hands from an old college friend of mine, Doug.
During May we cruised down the Bridgewater and onto the Trent and Mersey Canal gradually heading southwards. A short detour up the Middlewich Branch to look at where the breach had been before we carried on southwards.
A pause in the Cheshire Locks meant we got to meet up with Tom and Jan who were over for a visit. For Micks birthday we moored at Barlaston and had a nosy at the wonderful hall on the hill, our plan still stands if any of our family are interested! https://oleanna.co.uk/2019/05/23/the-plan-20th-may/
We saw the end of May out mooring at Tixall Wide before rejoining the Trent and Mersey and heading onto Fradley Junction where we joined the Coventry Canal. With Atherstone Locks out of the way I spent time below working whilst we cruised familiar waters on the flat, it might have rained too!
A day trip to London from Rugby for us both, me to a seminar for Separate Doors 3 and Mick to catch up with his friend Siobhan who was over from Australia. Continuing down the North Oxford Canal to Braunston where we joined the Grand Union Canal to head to London.
A visit to the Royal Ordnance Depot at Weedon meant I bought some lovely yarn to make a cardie for myself (it’s nearly finished!) and caught up with our friend Heather Bleasdale, who just so happened to be moored there as well.
Our route then up and down the Grand Union meant we managed to get to see both Mikron shows this year as well as teaming up with the cast and NB Tyseley to climb the locks up to the summit.
Tilly was left in charge for a couple of days whilst we headed to Scarborough to check on our house as we had a change of tenants. This meant we got to stay with Jaye and Duncan and catch up on the news from home.
We now pressed on down to London where we booked a mooring in Paddington Basin for a week in early July. This gave us the opportunity to catch with with friends and family before we headed back out west and down the Hanwell flight. I made the front cover of Canal Boat for July.
Mid July we locked out onto the Thames cruising the Tidal section to Teddington. From here we transited to the River Wey, brand new waters for us.
With my final design for panto delivered to Chipping Norton from Guildford we could enjoy our cruising a bit more, despite the soaring temperatures which had us hiding under trees for a couple of days.
On the 26th July we ticked off our third point on the compass, reaching Godalming the furthest south you can get on the connected network. On our way back to the Thames we met up with Adam from NB Briar Rose, both he and Tilly got wet that day.
The original plan had been to cruise the Basingstoke Canal whilst we were there, but sadly the levels were too low and the canal closed before we got there, so we spent a while longer on the Wey.
Onto the Thames where we managed to get a space outside Hampton Court for a couple of days and I discovered the joys of standing in line for some fresh veg. Gradually we made our way up the Thames. Waking early and getting going worked for us as mostly we managed to get moored where we wanted around lunchtime. Three years ago we did from Teddington to Oxford in a week but with a months licence we took our time.
The further upstream we got the quieter the river got, less hustle and bustle. We met up with Paul and Christine (NB Waterway Routes), missed Carol and George (WB Still Rockin), finally got to have a proper conversation with Sue and Vic (WB No Problem XL) as we headed upstream.
As the rivers bends got tighter, the banks were harder to get up. A mooring by Kelmscott Manor required a rope from the post to help us get on and off the boat, but it was worth it to visit the house.
On the 26th August we winded at the furthest point we could reach on the Thames on Oleanna and started to head back eastwards. Tilly gave one of our moorings a double stamp of approval and stayed out well after dark!
An incident with engine coolant nearly stopped us from reaching Oxford to see War Horse. But a nice man from RCR got us going again so we had a narrow lock fix and headed to the show catching up with Matt and Bill for a drink afterwards.
Then at the beginning of September we turned off the Thames onto the Kennet and Avon. For the last five years we’ve been meaning to head this way, but for one reason or another it hadn’t happened.
With tales of lack of mooring we kept to rising early hoping we’d get moorings. This mostly worked and wild moorings were very rarely needed, we did still have to use the gang plank every now and again. We only encountered one pound on our westward journey where even the longest plank wouldn’t have helped which meant we had to carry on up a flight with the clock ticking before locks were locked around us.
At Devizes we met an Instagram friend Frankie who’d been working on the flight over the summer. Despite following another boat down the flight we made good time with the help of the volunteers.
Onwards to Bath and Bristol. Here we moored with HMS GB in the background and met up with two of my old school friends for lunch. A big shame we couldn’t stay longer as there was more we wanted to do and see whilst there, we’ll just have to save up for next time as the mooring fees are quite pricey!
The section between Bath and Bradford upon Avon was our favourite, with the aqueducts and views along with the second deepest lock on the network.
Mick and Tilly got to enjoy it for a week longer than me whilst I headed off to Cornwall to eat gluten free pasties and start painting my panto set for a week.
Once I was back we had two weeks to reach Oxford, but the weather had different ideas. What felt like the monsoon season started. There was rain on most days, luckily not the day we did Devizes. We managed to team up with two couples from Bristol on a hire boat, by the time they reached the top of the flight they could work uphill locks with their eyes closed, we left them to master downhill on their return journey.
Our second low pound struck as we tried to leave Cobblers Lock, Oleanna was sat firmly on the ground and unable to leave the lock until a good flushing of water set her free. The rain actually did me a favour as whilst we sat in Newbury hoping for the Thames to drop I managed to get my model for A Regular Little Houdini finished.
At the end of October I headed off to panto land leaving Mick and Tilly a short distance outside Reading, hoping they would be able to get up the Thames in the following week. Our friend Paul came and helped Mick out onto the Thames reaching Goring on their first day. Here Mick and Tilly got to met Carol and George (WB Still Rockin’) who’d been clinging onto the moorings there before heading downstream.
Paul returned later in the week and despite the engine overheating and having to deploy the anchor they succeeded in getting to Abingdon where Oleanna had her second visit from RCR. Mick battled on against quite a downstream flow and reached Sandford Lock before tying up. Here the levels rose and fell, the engineer came for a second visit and found lots of crud in our cooling system.
With the engine in better fettle, Mick nudged his way up towards Oxford and finally made a dash up Osney Lock and onto the canal despite that section still being on red boards. It turns out he’d chosen his moment well as the river has stayed on red boards since then.
Once I left all the singing dancing and glitter behind and returned to narrowboat life we had to sit out high levels on the Oxford canal and on the River Cherwell. We loitered in Oxford, but as soon as it looked like things were improving we were on our way.
We paused in Banbury for Christmas haircuts and shopping before pulling in for a few days at Cropredy Marina, from where we headed to London for a Sibling get together at my brothers.
Onwards to the top of the Oxford Canal the day the locks reopened and down the other side continuing onwards to Radford Smelly for Christmas.
In Warwick we met up with my family and then picked up crew Mike and Chris to help us up the Hatton and Lapworth flights.
The last few locks were done on New Years Eve bring us up to the Birmingham level for the new year.
Quite a busy year. So our vital statistics for 2019
According to Canalplan
Total distance is 1199 miles, ½ furlong and 886 locks . There are 119 moveable bridges of which 22 are usually left open; 139 small aqueducts or underbridges and 20 tunnels – a total of 8 miles 2 ¼ furlongs underground and 8 major aqueducts.
This is made up of 207 miles, 4 furlongs of narrow canals; 399 miles, 5¾ furlongs of broad canals; 102 miles, 5 ¼ furlongs of commercial waterways; 226 miles, 6 ¼ furlongs of small rivers; 212 miles, 5 furlongs of large rivers; 49 miles, 6 ¼ furlongs of tidal rivers; 150 narrow locks; 626 broad locks; 109 large locks; 1 lock on major waterways.
838.2 engine hours
That is 255 miles and 272 locks more than last year! But 246.4 hours less engine running, just goes to show it’s worth having solar panels.
1336.93 litres diesel, 9 (although we’ve got 2 empty now) gas bottles (used for central heating as well as cooking), 6 overnight guests, 6 packs Dreamies, 1 cover cat, 32 friends, 17 Mrs Tilly stamps of approval, 1 double stamp, 5 pairs socks, 3 pairs gloves, 1 baby blanket, 2 shows designed, 1 cover illustration, 5 lots gluten free puff pastry, 9 supermarket deliveries, 39 boxes of wine delivered, 12 bottles of wine delivered.
Magazine Bridge 55 to Hopwas Wood Bridge, Birmingham and Fazeley Canal
Well we tried our best, but failed. I have most definitely come down with Micks cold. He however suggests that it can’t be his as his started off with a dribbly nose and mine with a sore throat. One thing is for sure we now both have a box of tissues. Mick has been improving during the day whilst I’ve been going in the opposite direction.
Boats were coming past in both directions in a constant stream, so we pushed out and joined them. The off side is predominantly wood, Ravenshaw Wood which is currently filled with the pinky purple mountains of rhododendron flowers. A fantastic sight. In the garden of the house where I was born we had similar bushes, ours reached about 15ft high and were of varying colours. Here they towered higher 20 to 25ft high and all the same colour, the sun making them different shades as we passed by. Flowers as far as you could see through the trees.
After about 20 minutes of rhododendrons we arrived at Wood End Lock. A boat was coming up and another in front of us waiting to go down. As one boat left the lock another would arrived to replace it in the queue. By the time it was our turn there were three below and two behind us. But now we were spaced out with suitable time between us and the one ahead to not have to wait too long at Shadehouse Lock.
The Trent and Mersey Canal reaches it’s most southerly point and does a 90 degree turn back to the north east. Around here HS2, phase 1, will cut across the canal heading up towards Rugeley. How our landscape will change.
At Shadehouse we had a short pause as one boat finished coming up the lock. The volunteer on duty here, Brian, was very jolly and we had quite a chat. A large group of walkers stopped and watched boats through the lock and then posed for a group photo. Brian did his best to not be too prominent, however he appeared in quite a few of my photos. He watched from the bridge as we made our way to Middle Lock awaiting the next boat.
A younger chap worked us through the next lock, he was quite eager to have his lunch break so was a touch disappointed to hear about the boats following us. But when Brian decided to go for his lunch break he’d join him and it wouldn’t be long before he was feeling peckish as well.
Our intention to turn right onto the Coventry Canal was radioed ahead, we’d not be proceeding to the next lock. I walked ahead and checked at the junction, a boat was coming from the south and turning towards Oleanna. It can be quite chaotic at the junction at times, but today everything was quite orderly.
Mick turned Oleanna and I swung the swing bridge open we then pulled in just past the water point, collected our rubbish up and Mick headed to the bins back round the corner. An early lunch then we pushed off again to head for Hopwas.
Now on the flat I retired below to start painting my model. Mick plugged his ears into the Men’s Cricket World Cup and was happy for the next few hours. New large houses just south of Fradley have that 1930’s look, without chimneys or the window onto a quarter landing on the staircase. Hardly affordable housing.
At around 4:30pm the hard edged section past the Ministry of Defence woods at Hopwas ended and Mick pulled us into the side. Back at Fradley everyone had been suggesting which pub to visit and how much they liked Hopwas. Except we stopped short and let the four legged one out. Tilly spent hours just feet away from Oleanna going round in circles, not knowing which friend to play with. I got the base coat of paint on much of my pub whilst Mick tried to grease the side hatch hinges which are starting to get stiff again.
3 locks, 10.3 miles, 1 mountainous mile of rhododendrons, 3 to come up, 2 to go down, 90 degrees back to the north, 2 Lockies, 1 right, 1 swing bridge, 0 held up, 2 bags rubbish, 3 weeks, 4 sliders, 2 sets doors, 3 tables, 2 bar stools, 6 short stools, 3 friends all wanting to play.
Today would be the day, had I avoided getting Mick’s cold?
Unfortunately I woke with the start of a sore throat, so almost certainly not. By the end of the day I was starting on the drugs too.
Last night we’d considered having a walk around Shugborough, but then we worked out how many hours cruising we’d need to do to reach our next destination in time. Not being good at getting up and going early (unless we have to), the fact that we need to be doing around four and a half hours a day meant we’d not be hanging around today especially as we were in need of a proper shop.
On our way late morning we passed a few boats and timed our arrival at Colwich Lock very well as a boat had just come up leaving the next awaiting boat’s crew to help us down. I took advantage on them being on the towpath side and headed straight to the bottom gates. Just here, in the lock cottage garden, is a rather lovely Black Elder plant. In the past it has given off such a wonderful scent I made a bee line for it. As with the more common Elderflower they are only just starting to come into bloom. Only a couple of heads were in flower today and the lack of sunshine meant it wasn’t producing it’s aroma. Next week it will most probably be at its best.
As ever below the lock there was a queue. We pootled onwards. Swans were taking advantage of their piece of canal bank and through Taft Bridge Dexta was high and dry.
NB Dexta used to be moored on the cut, red diesel would be pumped from the farm behind, to a tank on board to be sold to passing boaters. A favourite for many a boater, but we’d heard that the boat was out of the water. No signs anywhere about diesel. Either the boat is out for maintenance or they have stopped selling to boaters. Glad we’d known this and filled up in Stone.
Pootling onwards over Brindley Bank Aqueduct we now cruised past numerous moored boats. We were wanting to stop at Tescos to do a big shop, as we got closer we wondered if there’d be a suitable mooring.
A boat was just pulling out from the 7 day moorings, not wanting to risk not finding anywhere through the bridge we pulled in knowing from past experience we wouldn’t get into the side. A hire boat was just about to push off and offered us their space, they’d got into the side. It took forever for the chap at the back to untie his rope, a tsunami would have a job shifting them from that mooring ring. We pulled back and managed to get one end of the boat close enough.
A relatively big shop to keep us going for the next week or so and we were on our way again. Of course there was loads of space through the bridge! As we passed Rugeley Winding Hole, we were reminded that this is where we turned around in October 2017, our plans having changed. We’d been heading towards Derby for the court case and had received news that it would be postponed until the following year, so had turned round and headed north for Christmas. Today we continued southwards, you could say for Christmas.
With a couple more hours of cruising planned we pootled on. Through Armitage Tunnel, no body was coming so I was able to wave Mick into the narrow channel when I’d only got half way through. Would there be space above Wood End Lock to moor? We didn’t want to risk everywhere being full so tried a few places on the way.
Lovely places, all suitable for Tilly, just too shallow for Oleanna. After Bridge 55 we pulled in as far away from the road as possible and let Tilly out. She was given a couple of hours but brought back a friend after three and a half!
This evening I had a go at Toad in the hole with a third of my buckwheat pancake mix. I added an egg and a touch of baking powder hoping that would help lift the heavier flour. It was tasty especially as I’d added some rosemary and thyme to the mix, but it certainly hadn’t reached for the sky. A good blob of ketchup on the side made it even tastier. I won’t be rushing to make it again. One third left to go!
1 lock, 10.93 miles, 1 new Charity Wharf, 2 many shallow moorings, 1 boat too deep, 7 half hitches, 3 sheep shanks, 2 bowlines, 1 reef knot, 2 grannies just in case, 27 days, 4 boxes wine, 1 sore throat, 20 minutes behind schedule, 1 pudding with 6 sausages, 1 very lively friend.
The rising sun urged me to get up off the sofa bed and peek through the curtains. What a sight! The side hatch had to be opened to get the full effect.
Steam rose from the water so close I could just about touch it, reminiscent of my first experience of sea fret in Scarborough wafting through open van windows. The sun rising in the east caught the clouds above with streaks of orange and pink. Not as bright and bold jaw dropping as sunsets can be but more in keeping with the hour, a quiet calm beauty. I felt privileged to have been able to experience it.
Both of us had slept better, I had too, nobody moving the duvet around to find more space for themselves. An hour and a half of shore leave whilst we had a leisurely breakfast, then it was time to move on. We pushed off and headed back to Great Haywood Junction. I hopped off as we crossed the Trent Aqueduct and walked on ahead to check on the situation.
There was space for one more on the water point, we fancied a top up, and nobody was coming so Mick brought Oleanna out from under the bridge, turned her to the right and then reversed back to the water point. One boat was having a pump out, the aroma reaching the noses of walkers coming down from the road. The young girls had no idea what the terrible pong was, but they certainly didn’t like it and made sure we all knew about it!
Once our tank was full we pulled along past the bridge and found ourselves a space before the lock. Here was better positioned for a drug run into the village (more Lemsips required), a look in at the Spar shop to see if there was a copy of Canal Boat and then a look at the Farm shop.
Tilly struck lucky, there were several copies for sale. I refrained from reorganising the shelf, leaving our four legged thug hidden behind Take a Break and Hello Magazine. They also had Dreamies, so we were able to stock up again (No need for Mungo and Dog to parachute in their spare packet yet, but thank you Joa).
The Farm Shop has changed a touch since I last visited. The cheese is now all pre-cut and the wonderful fish counter has gone. The meat counter still looks good, only one variety of frozen gluten free sausages on offer, so we refrained. However we couldn’t resist a punnet of strawberries picked this morning and some asparagus. The latter not quite so fresh or local, it came from Kent! Mick got a pork pie too and we made our way back to Oleanna for lunch.
The mooring here was dark and on a drizzly afternoon it meant we needed the cabin lights on, so we decided to move down the lock. We do-si-do’d with two boats and I stayed to help close the gates for an old work boat which had two C&RT volunteers on board. Mick pulled up at the end of the lock mooring to see what the Fender boat could sell us.
After around 1615 locks our bow fender is looking a touch used. Mick lifted it the other day but we wanted to add another fender lower down to stop the bow catching on cills as we rise in locks. Mick chatted away and was shown several fenders ranging from £60 to £85. We ended up with a mid range fender and discussed how to attach it, this should be fairly easy with the fixings we already have.
We pootled on a short distance more. Here the towpath opens out with a view over the Trent to Shugborough Hall. A few years ago we made the most of our National Trust membership and visited the estate several days in a row. Today we’d thought about having a wonder around the grounds but the constant drizzle put us off, so instead we stayed inside and got the stove going again.
Tilly spent several hours in the long grass and returned muddy and soaked. No longer the glamorous cover cat, just our bedraggled Dreamie demanding murderous thug. I’m glad things are back to normal.
1 lock, 1.22 miles,1 right, 1 reverse, 1 top up, 10 lemsips, 1 copy, 1 months supply Dreamies, 1 fantastic awakening, 1 approach, 1 punnet strawberries, 11 spears from Kent, 1 pie, 2 hash browns, 1 roast chicken stir fry, 2 tickets to London booked, 1 sock looking promising, 3rd night of quarantine this time on the dinette.
Sandy Lane Bridge to Tixall Wide, Staffordshire and Worcester Canal
Because Mick is snotty and cross contamination isn’t wanted I’m trying out the sofa bed. This confused Tilly somewhat last night. First there was the excitement of me pulling out the pouffe from under the shelving. This reveals a secret passage behind the sofa. I know it’s there and quite often try to dig it out, emptying the shelves of leaflets and books, but this never works. But tonight it was there, open for me, just there!
What is down there? I hear you ask. Quite a few foil balls and some pens which are behaving themselves and staying on the floor, they did need rearranging though. She wanted to check that I was alright so I bobbed my head back out as everything changed again! Wow!! Which way to go next. The secret passage had become wider, more obedient pens, but the sofa had also gone flat! Both were good until the sofa folded up again, I think it may have been a touch drunk as it had fallen over. A duvet was brought out from the other side of the secret passageway and the sofa went flat again. All this excitement, but then I realised that the sofa being flat meant there was no easy access to the window above.
When the lights went out I didn’t know what to do. I normally spend most of the night keeping her toes warm and ‘hogging the duvet’. ‘How can such a little one take up half the bed?’ That bit’s easy. So Tom was on his own, leaving half the bed just for me, but he was making noises! She was on the drunk sofa, plenty of space for me, but did I trust it? Better to be safe and sleep on the cushion.
Boats were coming past us early, we’d not be first to Weston Lock. When we were ready we could see in the distance a couple of boats coming towards us, both taking their time if they were moving at all, so we pulled out and headed for the lock. There a boat was just finishing going down and NB Ondina the oilboat was waiting to come up. NB Grace pulled up once out of the lock to stock up, once the transaction was done they came into the lock and rose. Mick wandered down and placed an order for 10 L of 15W/40. As soon as Ondina had risen enough the chap hopped down and delved into the front of the boat bringing out two plastic 5L bottles. The transaction was completed as the top gate opened along with the heavens.
Behind us two boats waited to follow us down another arriving to come up. On we pootled past alpacas and old caravans. Apparently Llamas have banana shaped ears and Alpacas straight ones, you learn something new.
Hoo Mill Lock the last for today, we hoped, if our plan of drawing the crowds away to the north of the Trent and Mersey had worked. The water point at Great Haywood Junction was busy, two boats already filling. There was space on the end for us to wait, then another boat arrived and pulled alongside. As one space became available it was easier for the newly arrived boat to move up then we’d pull back when the other became free.
As we filled we were joined by a hire boat and another boat waited through the bridge for their turn, all very busy. Two boats turned at the junction towards Tixall Wide, would there be enough space for all of us? How many git gaps?
We turned onto the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal to see if our luck was in. Coming round the bend we could see boats, but there were also some spaces. The prime position is a mooring with a view of Tixall Gate House. The spaces we could see were just before this. Ahead a hire boat was plonked right in the middle of a two boat gap. The young crew said hello and then started to untie, yes! We winded and pulled in, nudging up to the boat in front.
Our view isn’t quite as good as it could have been. We can see the gate house, just. If only a bit more offside pruning had been done!
An afternoon of hunting, blowing a nose and finishing off my model. I then took a full set of photos ready to do a story board tomorrow which I’ll upload to Dropbox for everyone’s reference.
2 locks, 4.46 miles, 1 right, 1 wind, 1 wet morning, 10 litres 15W/40, 2 Dreamies (only) a visit,1 box of tissues nearly finished, 1 drunk sofa, 5 obedient pens, 2 pencils, 1 mooring with a view, 1 model finished.
Stone Bottom Lock Winding Hole to Sandy Lane Bridge 81
Time to move on, past time actually! As we made ready to push off an Anglo Welsh boat came past, NB Golden Finch, on board was Lorraine an Instagram acquaintance of mine who is out for 8 weeks. I waved from inside and got a cheery wave back from the chap at the helm. Lorraine only realised it was us when she saw Tilly. Spotting someone you half know isn’t that unusual, but a short time later we realised that NB Golden Finch was the last hire boat we had. Hired in December 2013 for five days from Wooten Wawen, we’d sold our shareboat and were waiting for our boat to be built, we needed a canal fix.
The day was going to be a wet one. We rolled back the covers, then took shelter whilst a storm cloud went past. After five minutes things looked good, we pushed off and headed to Aston Lock.
Eagerly awaiting us was a family, the son so excited that he’d get to see a boat in a lock he was bouncing up and down, higher and higher as we got closer. With two extra helpers, one who was almost jumping on board for a ride with us, it took no time to descend the lock.
A quick pause to take the obligatory photos, the mile post (which doesn’t mark the centre of the T&M but the central point between Shardlow and Preston Brook) and the potting shed with chimney.
Aston Marina looked inviting but other than stopping for a third roast in a row (this one would have been very much better than yesterdays and they have a gluten free menu too) we had no need to stop. As we pootled our way along rain showers came and went, nothing too wet thank goodness.
At Sandon Lock a boat was coming up so we manged to swap with them, very well timed. The amount of extra crew on hand suggested there was a queue below and as I hopped back on board the three boats started to nudge up closer to await their turn. One thing I noticed was that the lock cottage at last has a new low wall and fence, there has been a temporary fence there for years!
Mick was disappointed as always at there being no trains zooming past us on the parallel line, he always drops the revs in such places making the window of opportunity that bit longer.
There has been some work done to Salt Bridge. A new edge towpath side and arrows guiding you into the bridge hole as though on a steep bend in a car. Here”s hoping these measures enable the bridge to stand for many years to come.
The next bend brings with it permanent moorings. Here a new character was sat on the roof of a boat, bedraggled from the rain looking totally deflated. I won’t post the photo I took of Dante as he is still obviously in a bad way and has been mixing with the wrong crowd for far too long!
Now we wanted a mooring, it was lunch time and the sniffle Mick had started with yesterday was increasing to sneezes. As the railway moved away we pulled in on some armco. Within ten minutes the heavens opened and emptied itself, luckily we were indoors, Tilly was out and only returned when it got exceptionally heavy. After a quick bath she’d sit at the back door and wait quietly for one of us to open it for her, again.
We’ve lots of chicken to eat, so I decided to make some pancakes to stuff. Buckwheat pancake batter is best made ahead of time and left to rest. I’d checked the recipe and a while later weighed out the flour (must add Buckwheat flour to shopping list), cracked an egg into the bowl, a pinch of salt, but how much milk? I checked, 300ml. I measured it out added half of it to the bowl and mixed. Blimey this flour must have got drier or something! I was going to need an awful lot more milk to make the batter into a suitable consistency.
I checked the recipe, 300ml of milk was correct, but I’d remembered the quantity of flour wrong. 100 grams not 300! Should I start again, there’d be enough flour, but I also had enough milk and eggs so could make a lot of batter.
In the end I decided that this would be less wasteful and I could freeze the remainder. Yes I know I’d nearly emptied the freezer to defrost it, but we’ll try to consume the batter in the next week. I wonder if buckwheat pancake batter will make Yorkshire Puddings? The batter is more or less the same with normal flour.
Mick sat and worked his way through a box of tissues whilst watching The Battle of Britain. The heavens continually opened up all afternoon and evening. A perfect Bank Holiday Monday.
2 locks, 5.69 miles, 1 Insta friend, 2 damp boaters, 3 in a queue, 0 trains, 1 soggy moggy, 1 tasty starter, 1.3kg of pancake batter, 2 tuperwares in the freezer keeping half a tub of ice cream company, 1 classic film, 3 lemsips, 1 box tissues, 4 savoury pancakes, 4 sweet pancakes, 1 double rainbow, 2 ball experiment of none stripy stripy sock.