Category Archives: Trent and Mersey Canal

A Spooky Coincidence. 21st and 22nd May

Brooke House Winding Hole to Lime Kiln Lock 30

Hiya!

Browsing through Facebook on Tuesday morning we came across photos of the next pound down from us being empty. This had been put on a local page and as ever boaters were commenting, blaming C&RT. Where as the more likely reason for the pound being empty was someone had left gates or paddles open at the next lock. The short length of the pound could easily be refilled from the pound above which is around 3 miles long, so we weren’t worried.

No boats at home today

We pushed off around 11am passing a few boats on route, nobody mentioned an empty pound to us and when we arrived I checked ahead. There was plenty of water, someone had sorted it.

Going down

The Meaford Locks were busy we managed to swap with boats at two of the locks, paused to empty the yellow water tank between locks, before the towpath changed sides again. Our hope was to be able to pull up on the five day moorings above the locks in Stone. From here it would be a ten minute walk to the station for me to get to my panto meeting. We were in luck, there was space.

Model finished

Tuesday afternoon I finished off my white card model ready for my meeting whilst Tilly became unimpressed with Stone and Mick had a walk down to Morrisons for a few bits. He returned via the towpath to see if he could find NB Mr Blue Sky who we’d shared the locks into Manchester with a few weeks ago. A rendez vous was arranged for Wednesday morning.

Ah the red and white rose of NB Mr Blue Sky

Wednesday arrived and two moorings became vacant (after one boat moved on!) so we nudged up, closer to the footpath to the station. A short while later Clare appeared, followed by Graeme at the helm of NB Mr BS, they slotted nicely into the gap behind us.

Tea and Cake!

Time for a catch up on their travels. Since we parted ways in Manchester they have been down the Shoppie, done some of the Staffordshire and Worcester then come back up the Trent and Mersey, covering at least twice as many miles as us. They also wanted a sneak peek at my model. Despite the still fairly early hour we all had a thin slice of birthday cake, only half left to go! It was lovely to see them again, our paths may cross next time they are over or when/if we venture over to New Zealand.

Always smiling

Mick walked up to help them with the Meaford Locks whilst I was left to finish off my technical drawings. A trial pack and check through of everything for my meeting, I was ready by 3pm.

Clean after a good wash down
Our neighbours with baked on grass

Fountains came along trimming the overgrown towpath and kicking up a lot of dust. We did get a knock on the side of the boat asking if they could cut alongside our mooring. Mick said yes as he could be stood ready to brush it off as soon as they finished. This proved a touch harder as the sun immediately baked it onto the gunnels, half an hour of washing got rid of it. At least we were in, our neighbour wasn’t, so didn’t get asked they just cut the grass anyway.

A good sized foodhall

We had a walk to the station to time it as my train in the morning is early, ten minutes without getting too puffed climbing over the footbridge. Then we walked down through town (the Co-op had gone) to the new Marks and Spencers which is canal side just below Star Lock. With sandwiches for tomorrow and a few bits and bobs we walked back along the canal to Oleanna.

I do like a good …

The bywash at Star Lock was roaring away, a boat was coming down Yard Lock above. As we walked along the pound we paused to pay our respects to Alex Bennett who’d died early last year in a boat fire here. We’d seen New Year in with her at Bugsworth Basin 2016/17 in the hold of her Fellows Morton and Clayton boat Tench, our paths had crossed a few times since.

We turned to carry on walking. The gates of Yard Lock opened, a snap shot of atmosphere with the leaking gates sprouting water behind the helm as the old workboat engine chugged it’s smoke into the chamber. As we got closer we could see that it was a Fellows Morton and Clayton boat. Closer still, it was Tench. We’d hoped we’d see her about somewhere, but in this pound where her owner Alex had died! A very spooky coincidence.

Hello

There was a chap at the helm, was that Brian from NB Elk? We’d seen him the other day in Middlewich and he was a very good friend of Alex’s. I checked later with a mutual friend and she confirmed that it most probably was Brian. We’re glad Tench has a new owner that will care for her as Alex did.

Check
Ah ha
Yep
Good to go

4 locks, 3 miles, 0 empty pounds, 5 day mooring to 48 hr mooring, 2 smiling New Zealanders, 4 slices of cake, 1 model ready, 12 sheets of drawings ready, 1 new yarn order, 1 assistants approval, 1 Tench, 1 spooky coincidence, 1 new owner.

Not The Same As A Computer. 20th May

Barlaston

Present

Today started with tea in bed as usual. However today this was accompanied by a present and cards. Today was Mick’s birthday.

Secret socks

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.

Paper!
Shred it!

Tilly helped with the tidying up, shredding the wrapping paper for us. I really like birthdays!

Who is coming out to play today?

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.

Neil’s pub

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.

Yummy!

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.

CAKE!!!!

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.

Huff
Puff
Blow

Candles blown out and a slice each. I suspect we’ll be eating it for quite a while!

Yum!

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!

Early Start To Catch The Gas Man. 18th May

Lock 44 to Brook House Winding Hole

First Lock up to Red Bull Services

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.

Last uphill lock
Nearly there

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.

Just about the same colour

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!

Boredom before she got tunnel fright

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.

In
Out

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.

Garden in the sky
Tiled letters meant to stay

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.

Chiptastic surface!

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.

Everyone wanting to be where we were

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!’

Perfect timing

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.

Baby Trent
Grandfather Trent in February

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?

Trentham Lock

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.

Gas. 17th May

Rode Heath to Yew Tree Lock 44

Tyseley on her way

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.

What lies behind the red curtain?

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.

Mow Cop still in view for much of the day

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.

Old gate posts alongside the lock

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.

Halls Lock 49 recently repainted

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.

No snow today
The church
Mum with her last two babies

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.

Mellow Blue. Not the same

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.

Orange

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!

He Just Couldn’t Resist It . 16th May

Rode Heath

What is it with red boats and this winding hole?

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.

Last nights red boat

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

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?

Proper pies without a puff pastry floating lid

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.

Cow Mop. 15th May

Lock 61 to Rode Heath

Oleanna pushing her way through the water to the next lock

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.

The bulging wall at Lock 60

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.

Netting to diswade you
All locked up

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.

First sighting over the M6

The first two locks brought us closer to the M6. Mow Cop visible for the first time on the horizon.

Is any of this actual cloud?

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.

Lock 55 I believe

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.

All fly bars in position

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.

Making A Start Up The Hill. 14th May

Rockery Railway Bridge 158 to Lock 60

Another lovely morning

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.

We’ve seen this boat about before, I wonder how we recognise it

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.

First of the paired locks

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.

I love this cottage, especially on a sunny day

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.

Looking back

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 new old sign

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!

Spotted on one of the locks today, wonder how long that piece of wood will last

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.