Monday, 28 April 2008

Ahhhhhhhhh we saw this lovely little duckling all on its own

This is us coming back up the lift with the trip boat in the other caisson going down, they take two narrow boats each or one wide beam trip boat. They weigh 250 tonnes each which includes 160tonnes of water held in each one. It takes about 10 minutes to travel the 50ft between the Trent & Mersey canal and the River Weaver below.. There is a hydraulic ram for each one that goes into a 50ft shaft driven into the soil beneath the caisson.When the shafts were dug in the 1870s they used compressed air to keep out the river water and many of the workers got the bends.

Day 27 stuck in Middlewich

We had plans today to set off early and head for the Llangollen canal. On waking at 08.00 it was pouring with rain and therefore a lay in was required. It had brightened by 10.00 so off we went towards Middlewich for shopping. We then set off after lunch and were immediately advised by a boater walking back from the locks that a lock gate in the second lock had been damaged by a hire boat and that the BW team had been summoned. They arrived very quickly (infact 6 vehicles in all),they needed cutting and welding equipment as the boat had managed to bend a piece of 1/4 inch steel plate on the gate. It was all sorted by 18.30 ( thank you BW)by which time we had already decided to stay put for the night as I had an excellent 3G signal. Its now an early start tomorrow for the Llangollen canal rain permitting.

Total to Day 27 (28 April) we are about 5 days difference to my original rough plan which is not bad considering the weather and all our distractions.

Cappuccinos still 5 ,lift bridges 6, locks 98 and miles 202 (we only managed 1 lock and 5 miles today)

Our memorable events have now increased to 6 - the two new ones being;-

our down and up trip on the Anderton Boat Lift yesterday with Jeff and Sylvia. What a fantastic piece of engineering. The Victorians sure knew how to make bold statements with big bits of kit

and the damaged lock gate today which enabled all the stranded boaters to get together to watch and natter( in fact it was a bit like the balcony of the sailing club when everybody had a better way of doing it!!!! great fun)

Billinge Green Flashes

Saturday, 26 April 2008

North of Middlewich is serious salt mining area and there is a lot of subsidence which produces these wide areas of canal called flashes. You have to keep close to the tow path on the left hand side as the flash area is very shallow. We moored last night Friday just around the bend it was just like the Norfolk Broads.

Day 25 Anderton boat lift

We are moored about 50 yards from this magnificent piece of Victorian engineering which we are planning on going down and up tomorrow probably in the rain if the forecast is correct.

Totals to day 25 are;-
Cappuccinos to date now 5 - last one being at MoCoCo in Middlewich which is a coffee shop run by the local Community Church!
Memorable events 4
Lift bridges 6, locks 97 and miles 187

The weather is getting better as at least the rain is warmer and we are only lighting the fire in the evening!

On the way to Anderton we passed through Marbury Country Park which had masses of bluebells starting to come out which really brightened the day as it was a bit cloudy.

I have just waved at a boat called Dick Turpin

Day 23 now south of Middlewich

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Cappuccinos to date now 4 ( latest at Lock 57 brasserie at Hassall Green)

Today 12 locks and 3 miles - we have now completed the 26 locks of Heartbreak Hill since we left Stoke on Trent.

Total to date- 6 lift bridges, 88 locks and 178 miles.

We have decided to add one more heading which is "Memorable Events" which to date are 4- they are;-

1. Due to high winds and a very shallow area on the Caldon it took 20 minutes to get through bridge 29.

2. Hitting the submerged rock near the Boat Inn on the Caldon.

3. Moored overnight near Engine Lock on the Caldon we had a chair and our rotary washing line nicked from the cratch whilst we were on the boat. There were some lads fishing nearby who we think became opportunists - the washing line was in a black bag that looked like fishing equipment- we need to be more proactive in how we store things around the boat.

4.Going down lock 58 on the T&M the boat hung in the chamber and listed to one side by about 30degrees not very nice , luckily I had only opened one gate paddle so could quickly close it to level the boat out again. Most of the items came off the shelves but only one thing broken.

The Trent & Mersey north of Stoke on Trent is very lovely as we drop down onto the Cheshire Plain but the red water ( ironstone) does take some getting used to as you reappear from the darkness of Harecastle tunnel.

We moored up the other night at Red Bull near Harding Wood where Reginald Mitchell was born -the father of the Spitfire.

We are now heading for one of the wonders of the waterways the Anderton Boat Lift designed by Edward Williams and opened in 1875 originally hydraulically powered by steam but then converted to electrical power in the early 1900's and closed in 1980 but recently completely refurbished and now working.

Pictures of last few days

This shows the redness of the water and the duplicated locks which are common north of Stoke on Trent and also the scenery of the Cheshire Plains.

Our mooring tonight near bridge 157 just past Wheelock on Trent & Mersey

Awaiting clearance by the tunnel keeper to enter Harecastle tunnel , they shut the doors as you enter and start up the large fans - which sound like jet engines behind you!!!. The tunnel roof half way through drops by about 2 ft for approx 100yards- its not like Braunston or Blisworth at all!

An old pottery we passed on the way to the southern entrance of Harecastle tunnel

Hit a rock!!!!!

Monday, 21 April 2008

The Caldon is very shallow and we ran aground many times -what we didn't expect was a hidden rock. We were going along looking at the Boat Inn at Cheddleton ( where we had a lovely Sunday roast) when we read the above sign. I thought very good where is it ------ah we found it!!!!!!! it then took us half an hour to get off the rock with the help of some walkers.A local based boat owner said that the canal over time has moved to the left and exposed the rock which originally formed part of the tow path.

Caldon pictures

The above is the Cheddleton mill which has two water mills which supplied power toa flint mill, paper mill and brewery in its time.

The above is Hazelhurst junction where the Froghall branch goes down the locks on the left which we are about to enter and the Leek branch goes to the right to cross the Froghall arm over Hazelhurst aqueductin about a quarter of a mile.

Caldon canal Day 20

The above is our mooring for the evening of Thursday 17 April just past the Hazelhurst aqueduct built in 1841 when the Leek arm was built and the route to Froghall was re-aligned. It was also our only sighting of the sun during our visit to the Caldon where we have had high winds and cloud all the time and 6 layers of clothing on most of the time.The weather though has not distracted from the industrial history or scenery of the canal. In the 1850's 200,000 tonnes of limestone was transported by canal which represented 30 boats a day every day.

Total to date is 3 cappuccino's(still), 4 swing bridges, 58 locks and 161 miles
Spring despite the weather is here as we saw loads of swallows yesterday.
This canal provides water for the Trent & Mersey canal from several reservoirs including the
Rudyard near Leek which gave Kipling his christian name.
We met Jeff and Sylvia today who have a friend at Endon whose grandfather owned the firm that took the last load of coal by horse boat from Stockton Brook to Cheddleton Mill in the mid 1930s.

Todays pictures

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Our mooring tonight at Bridge 22 before stone walls and small holdings begin to create a Pennine sense of obduracy

How about this the old North Staffordshire Railway line between Stoke and Leek is still in place ,although closed a long time ago, just in case they need to resume the stone traffic from Cauldon Low. It crosses the Caldon canal at Stockton Brook locks.

As we moved out of Stoke on the Caldon you pass a lot of old pottery sites that are being redeveloped. These two bottle kilns are all that is left of the Imperial Pottery site.

Wedgwood's Bone & Flint mill as we approached Etruria junction opened in 1856 ish

07.00 this morning showing the fog and frost its just like November not April!

Day 15 through Stoke and now on the Caldon

Day 15 - 11miles,10 locks and 2 swing bidges
Total to date 3 cappuccinos, 2 swing bridges, 133 miles and 44 locks

We were up and away by 07.30 with a heavy overnight frost and fog which burnt off fairly quickly but the sun decided to stay hidden. The run through Stoke and to the junction with the Caldon canal at Etruria wasn't too bad although there are a lot of derelict or cleared sites on which old potteries once stood.

We turned onto the Caldon at 11.45 and it took 3 hours to get to our mooring for tonight 6 miles from Etruria near bridge 22. A fellow boater told me about low bridges 8 to 10 but failed to tell me about bridge 18. The whole chimney decided to head butt the bridge but luckily fell back onto the roof - to fight another day!!!!.

Day 14 - Stone and Wedgwood

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

We are moored near the Wedgwood factory at Barlaston and had a very interesting visit around the works. The bronze above is of the man himself.

Day 14 - 8miles and 9 locks
Total to date 122 miles and 34 locks
Good cappuccinos to date now 3 (last one in Stone) which is a lovely canal friendly town.

We have had sun and some very heavy showers today- guess which the above is?

This is the front view of the late Lord Lichfields country residence which is very nice and has a lovely atmosphere inside.
So far we have seen two lots of new ducklings with 4 swans nest sitting.
Tomorrow is Stoke on Trent which is not boater friendly and therefore requires a dash through so we can get on the Caldon canal which is supposed to be very lovely but may not be internet friendly- speak to you soon or it may be next week!


Monday, 14 April 2008

I saw the above two swans in a field on the way up to GH, you don't realise how long their necks are as you never see them in this sort of position

Our friends picked us up yesterday for a day around Uttoxeter and on the way to their house for luch we stopped at the Amerton Light railway for a quick ride, Anne really enjoyed it.

A day on dry land

This is a view of Shugborough Hall from the T&M as we approached Great Hayward. We are going to visit it this morning as its a NT property shared with the local council so it should be free entry to the house we think.

Now at Great Hayward

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Just arrived in the marina at Great Hayward,Anne is doing some washing and I am using the free wifi connection in the clubhouse.You do not appreciate how nice a broadband connection is until you don't have one.

I haven't completed the log entry for today so will update that later as I have just found out that although the office closes at 16.30 you can use the wifi connection in the shower area which has seats!

The weather today has been real April showers at one point I was going into a strong northerly wind with added sleet- not nice. The entry into the marina was also fun in strong wind with a crowd of people watching who had been looking at a new ownership boat built in Poland, my boat handling was good if I say so myself.

We can through Armitage which has a very narrow part through rocks that used to be a tunnel but due to the local mining collapsed- photo above,

We are planning to visit Shugborough Hall on Monday after we meet Jeff and Sylvia tomorrow.

RAF Lichfield

Friday, 11 April 2008

After the top hat had dived into the canal, around the next bend were four old aircraft hangers and you could see some old taxiways. I therefore thought I would try and find something on the internet. Although our 3G connection is good for basic stuff it is very slow and sometimes falls over when I try and do searches but I did find something.

Well its near Fradley and its RAF Lichfield which has already had a large Tesco warehouse built on it and there are also plans to build a total of 5000 eco friendly houses on it.

During the war the 51MU Air Transport Auxillary was based their that prepared and delivered aircraft to their Squardons. These included Beaufighters and Mossquitos for the Israel Airforce.

There are rumours that a headless rear gunner haunts the airfield who walked into the propeller of a Lancaster bomber whether it was an accident or suicide we'll never know.

Polesworth Abbey

Although Polesworth was an old coal mining town its history goes back a long time. This is the remains of the 15th century Abbey which leads to the imposing Norman church which can trace its hisyory back toAD827.

Fradley pictures

The ducks wait by the door of the shop on the wharf to be fed by the lady who runs the shop

Fradley junction which is a classic remote canal site with very poor road connection

The BW depot with latest service van of 1935

100 up on Day 10

Today 8 miles and 3 locks
Total to Day 10 - 100 miles and 20 locks
Good cappuccinos to date now 2 (latest one being the cafe at Fradley junction.)

We are now on the Trent & Mersey canal just south of Rugeley near Armitage although we can see the huge cooling towers of Rugeley power station.

The day started sunny but soon the clouds came rolling in, just before Fradley junction at bridge 89 the top hat on the chimney decided to head butt the bridge and then dived into the canal( so far since we have had the boat 3 top hats have gone this way). As we arrived at Fradley to stop for water the clouds opened and I got soaked through. Within 20 minutes the sun was out again!

We lunched in the cafe at the BW depot which is a very typical old wharf. I took some photos but there is a blogger problem so will have to upload them later.

We left Fradley at 13.30 and cruised towards Rugeley, just as we were nearing a lock I was hit by a huge gust and then spent the next 15 minutes getting off the bank and the last 75 yards to the lock landing area. A day of many different things but great.

Retirement takes its toll

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Its happening -most bizarre incident or is it my southern accent. We had walked into Atherstone to do some shopping and find a coffee shop. We did it all but no increase in my good cappuccino count. We found the only cafe in town and noticed that they did marmite to go on toast. We order our coffee - 1 mug of cappuccino and 1 cup of black cofee and 2 pieces of toast one with marmalade.

Well one mug and one cup of cappuccino arrived with 2 pieces of toast one with marmite! I am sure I ordered black coffee and marmalade- Anne reckons its how I said it!

The locks have arrived

Our mooring tonight is by bridge 50 north of Atherstone.

Today 4miles and 11 locks , total to date 80 miles and 15 locks

The photo below shows a larger version of Black Bess's colours! we saw it in Barry Hawkins yard which is located at the old Baddesley colliery wharf.

The photo on the right shows the old toll house at the British Waterways yard at Hartshill north of Nuneaton which we passed through yesterday. It is leased from BW by a banjo playing folk singer who pays a low rent but has to keep the inside of the grade 2 listed building in good order. The boats used to pass underneath the building to be measured for toll fees but has now been bricked in and forms a cellar for the house.

Tomorrow we head for Fazeley and Fradley junctions on our way to Great Haywood where we will join the Trent and Mersey canal which will take us to Stoke on Trent and the Caldon Canal.

Still connected on the Ashby

Monday, 7 April 2008

Well when we stopped tonight at bridge 8 Burton Hastings I still had a 3g connection. The photo is our mooring for tonight in bright evening sunshine its now raining.

Travel day 6 - 12 miles no locks, cumulative is 66 miles and 4 locks

Good cappuccinos to date 1

The calm before the storm as once we head for Great Haywood the locks come thick and fast, Anne cann't wait!

A few more pictures

Canal boating can be dangerous saw this on the Oxford canal the other day

Anne is very proud of her "snow through a porthole" picture

Coming off the Ashby Canal

The above picture is of Hawkesbury junction or Sutton Stop named after one of the lock keepers which we went through last Friday.Its where the Oxford meets the Coventry canal( the one on the left) The tall chimney is the old pumping house that pumped water into the canal from a deep well.

Sunday morning 07.30 in the middle of nowhere on the Ashby Canal the fields and trees were all covered in snow but by midday it had all gone. The Ashby runs between Rugby and Leicester and is very remote ie no Orange 3g signals at all. I am posting this just outside Hinckley beside a huge new Triumph motorcycle warehouse.
We are aiming to leave the Ashby tomorrow and head up towards Fradley and Great Haywood junctions where we can get onto the Trent and Mersey Canal.

Mooring tonight

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Our mooring at Hillmorton near Rugby. In the background are the masts of the Rugby Radio Station which in 1926 was used to operate the first telephone link between London and New York and now broadcasts time signals for the Royal Observatory.

At last we have started - Day One

The above is a picture of Hillmorton top lock - the first of 300'ish

Today 12.5 miles and 3 locks

Well we have finally left the marina and have gone 15 lock miles to Hillmorton near Rugby. Left at 07.50 and stopped for the day at 13.00. At least the wind has now dropped compared to yesterday and the run was not too bad, a bit cold but the stove was alight and warm air passed through the boat from the bow to the stern so at least my feet were nice and warm.

The other event is that we have 4 bars on my phone and I am connected to the internet so an excellent start to our trip. We did hear the weather forecast for the weekend and its snow showers again!. We should be on the Ashby by then near to Bosworth and the battle site of 1485.