Thursday, April 30, 2015

Into the Trent Valley

It’s been a day of three parts; a fine, sunny start, showers and a cold wind through the middle then finishing off with bright evening sunshine.

We cruised into Stone, having to turn Limekiln Lock then meeting a boat just leaving Newcastle Road Lock.

Good timing at Newcastle Road

Below the lock we filled and emptied at the services, then shuffled along to moor outside Stone Boatbuilding for a bit of shopping, including a couple more bags of smokeless. I thought we’d done with that!

That place looks familiar – Canal Cruising Company. IMG_4485
We only left here a month ago, with a freshly blacked bottom!

Star Lock, the Star Inn alongside.

We had a chance for a bite to eat and a brew on the 1½ mile pound down to Aston Lock. Alongside the lock is one of the regular mile posts, this one indicating that we’re very nearly halfway along the canal.

During WWII these markers were removed, like road signs were, to prevent them being of use to an invading army. Afterwards they were replaced, but some had gone walkabout. They’ve been replaced by replicas, usually sponsored by individuals or local businesses.

Below the lock there’s work going on, dredging and bank repairs.

Posts support a fabric “curtain”.IMG_4490

The space behind is then filled with the silt dredged from the canal. It takes a while to consolidate and veg over, but leaves a softer edge than the alternative steel piling. And it’ll be considerably cheaper too!

From Stone the canal follows the River Trent, apart from a bit of a detour to Fradley Junction. The valley here is wide and flat, meadowland used mainly for grazing.IMG_4493

There were three black lambs in this flock…IMG_4495

We pulled in just past Bridge 85, with a herd of longhorn cattle to keep us company across the canal.IMG_4498

Great Haywood tomorrow…

Locks 5, miles 4½

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

We “get a man in” at Etruria.

There were a couple of engine jobs needed doing, jobs that I could have done myself but I wanted someone familiar with Isuzu engines to give the donk a once-over as well, before we embark on the Wash crossing.

I was recommended Chris Jones (07887 565531), who duly arrived yesterday lunchtime.


One problem was a water leak, a pressure test soon identified a split hose under the header tank. You can’t actually see it, without standing on your head and twisting your neck just so… It’s jobs like these that can soon get out of hand if you need a new hose, or header tank gasket. That’s why I called in a professional.

The other major task was installing a pre-filter and water trap in the fuel line. We’ve never had one, instead relying on the engine mounted filter. No trouble so far, but why go looking for it… Once again, bits of pipe, fittings and mounting brackets mean that you need to be moored close to a chandlery or boatyard before tackling something like that. So Chris did that too, along with checking out a fault I’ve had with the oil pressure gauge for some time. It looks like the sender is u/s, I‘ve ordered one off good old ebay.
A check over the rest of the installation gave a clean bill of health, so I’m happy now that it’s not going to let us down halfway between Boston and Wisbech…

Unfortunately the news wasn’t so good for the owner of a Sea Otter moored just in front. Chris had to have a look at that too, and diagnosed no compression on either of the cylinders of the Vetus two-pot engine. Valves, piston rings or blown head gasket meant that this morning he bow-hauled the small aluminium boat back to Festival Park, where he’d been offered a temporary berth in the marina while he got it fixed. Sounds expensive…

Rain woke me up a couple of times last night, but by the time I took Meg for her constitutional at 07:30 it had stopped and there was a hint of blue sky in the west. It was soon after nine when we swung out, back onto the Trent and Mersey, and down Stoke Top Lock.

No, that water isn’t going down Mags’ neck! I think she’d have told me…IMG_4464

Some of the railway bridges have minimum clearance!IMG_4466

We made an easy job of the five Stoke Locks even though we had to turn them all as we were following a hire boat that left the junction before us. Then we caught up with another boat on the long pound to Trentham, so had a bit of a pause at Trentham Lock.

The waste incinerator at Sideway seems to straddle the canal…IMG_4468

On the edge of Trentham there’s a proposed new housing development by Barratt Homes on a meadow alongside the canal. A protest campaign seems to be well supported by residents in a nearly new housing development alongside the site…IMG_4471 

A short queue at Trentham LockIMG_4473

We’d intended to moor near Wedgwood, but the day was improving and we’d made good time, so pushed on, down the four locks at Meaford and moored on the straight just up from Stone.

Meaford LocksIMG_4478

We stopped in time for a late lunch, following which both my girls had a doze after a hard day…

You’ll notice that Meg makes sure she knows if Mags gets up!IMG_4479

I checked the recent engine work for leaks, no problem there.

We’ve got to stop at the services in the morning after Newcastle Road Lock, then I want to call in at the chandlery for some bits. After that we’ll head down, out of town, and moor somewhere between Aston and Sandon.

Hi KevinToo, yes. I think you’re right. I can’t quite make out the script at the bottom of the number plate, that might confirm your supposition. Doesn’t explain the screen cameras, though…

Hi Chas and Ann. That is one and the same. Ivor and Mel sold Mountbatten and Jellicoe two or three years ago, and bought a smaller motor so they could concentrate on selling Mel’s excellent painted canal ware. ACCC are not working the pair on the Langollen, just the motor. That would be asking for trouble!

Locks 10, miles 10.

Monday, April 27, 2015

It’s all downhill from here!

Today we ascended the last six of the Cheshire Locks, up onto the summit level of the Trent and Mersey Canal. Most of the water used by the locks heading back to Preston Brook and onward to Shardlow is sourced from here.
Some comes down the Caldon Canal, some down the Macclesfield Canal. Two other canals feed in lower down on the eastern side. The Staffs and Worcester comes in at Great Haywood, and the Coventry Canal, also including water from the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal, runs into the T&M at Fradley.
Below Fradley a short passage along the River Trent also provides a valuable supply. Various springs also make their contributions. All of these feeders meant that the canal could be built without expensive reservoirs to store water supplies.

Away from Church Lawton, another sparkling morning after a hard overnight frost.IMG_4425

Our first lock. Oh good, someone’s left the gates open!IMG_4428

We did the first three then stopped at the wharf for the services, before pushing on.

Mags being Mags…

Bingo caller’s 22…

Mags heading for Pool Lock, number 42IMG_4433
The aqueduct behind carries the Harding’s Wood Branch across the main line to link up with the Macclesfield Canal.

We stopped again below Lock 41 so I could trip up to Tesco, then up the lock and under the railway bridges to Harecastle Tunnel.

Top lock number 41, Hardings Wood Junction Bridge on the rightIMG_4435

We had a short wait at the tunnel entrance before setting off, following another boat.

Into Harecastle Tunnel

The tunnel was much the same as usual, Kit Crewbucket still leers from his sanctuary…IMG_4440

…it’s low in places…

…high in others.

Wet in places…

…dry in others.

We’d timed it well, several boats were waiting at the other end when we emerged once more into daylight.IMG_4453

From here it’s a steady cruise past the remnants of the pottery industry to Etruria and the start of the descent into the Trent Valley.

At a garage on the canal side there’s an odd sight. Four, maybe five Mazda MX-5s, all with consecutive plates – SCLR 11 to SCLR 15 – and all fitted with screen mounted traffic cameras.


An internet search of SCLR turns up Somali Congress for Liberation and Reconstitution – nah.
How about Single Configuration Linear Response? Don’t think so.
Ahh, could be Shane’s Computer and Laptop Repairs. No, you’re right. Unlikely.
So I don’t know what the significance of the registration plates is. Or why the identical cars are fitted with cameras. Any ideas?

Back to the canal…IMG_4458

I’d not spotted this before, in fact I almost missed it this time…IMG_4459
The moulding says “1890 Anderton Co.” It’s on the end of an old warehouse. The Anderton Company built this and a boatyard next door to service their carrying fleet.
The company name lives on – The Anderton Canal Carrying Company, with fuel boat Mountbatten, recently started working on the Llangollen Canal, delivering coal and diesel to boaters.

At Etruria Junction we turned on to the Caldon Canal, turned around and moored outside the Etruria Industrial Museum.

We’ll probably stay here tomorrow, it depends on a chap coming to check over our engine and fit a water trap in the fuel line. There’s no problems, but I‘d just like things to stay that way!

Locks 6, miles 7½

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A late start but a good day.

We didn’t get going till nearly half-twelve, having watched the elite runners finish the London Marathon. No surprises in the men’s race, the Kenyans taking the first three places. But an upset in the women’s, with the relatively unknown Ethiopian Tigist Tufa pulling away from the pack and finishing clear of the second placed Kenyan, Mary Keitany.
Paula Radcliffe, running her last event today, wasn’t competing, just enjoying the run after starting with the masses. And enjoy it she did. I’m sure her cheeks will be more tired than her legs, she never stopped smiling all the way round, responding to the applause of the crowds of spectators.
Then there’s the masses, running for charity or for personal goals. All shapes and sizes, and some pretty exotic costumes too. Having struggled last weekend in race gear, seeing a guy start off in a pink ball gown, and another dressed up as a T-Rex I can only say I’m in awe of their commitment. Respect!

So we set off, in fine sunshine but with a cool breeze chasing us as we headed east.

Away from Hassall GreenIMG_4416

Pierpoint Locks

We originally only intended to go up to Rode Heath, but the locks were in our favour, the weather was beautiful and the wind was in our sails, so we toddled on, up the Lawton and Church Locks to moor below All Saints Church at Church Lawton.

Swapping over in Lawton Treble LocksIMG_4421

A Mallard keeps an eye on our locking technique at Church LocksIMG_4423

Church LocksIMG_4424

We pulled in at around a quarter to three, ready for a cup of tea and something to eat.

I was tempted to suggest another three locks up to Red Bull, but I could see Mags was starting to flag and my right ankle wasn’t feeling too good either. It’s slowly improving, I‘m no longer using pain relief but maybe today I should have…

So tomorrow off early, up three locks and fill and empty at the wharf, another two and stop for a flying visit to Tesco for fresh fruit and veg before we get scurvy, the final lock and then head for Harecastle Tunnel. Depending on the time and the weather, we’ll either stop at Westport Lake, or push on along the summit pound to Etruria.
We’re well up on my planned schedule, but the weather next week could slow us up a little.

Locks 10, miles 3¼

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Back to normal weather as we head up the locks.

Meg’s trim got knocked back again, from yesterday morning to the evening. Lynn of Hair of the Dog was still not feeling too good. So instead of staying below the locks and getting jostled by the water every time a boat came down, we headed up the first two, mooring on the pound above Lock 65.

Up the start of the Wheelock flightIMG_4401

Moored for the day
The day had started well, fine and dry, but later the start of that period of cooler, wetter weather moved in.
I was just getting ready to take Meg back down to the village for her half-five appointment when a boat went past, the crew waving.
It was NB Chuffed, who we were expecting to see at some point, but not quite as soon as this! They only left Stone on Wednesday!

Dave, Debby and dog Meg, NB ChuffedIMG_4406

And Meg finally got her makeover!
Just in time for the cold weather to return…

We made it up to Hassall Green today before the showers started in earnest, just having to put up with a couple of light showers before we got tied up. A few boats about, mainly going the same way as us, unfortunately.

Heading for Lock(s) 66IMG_4407

If you allow the bow fender to run up the buffer plate on the cill, you have to keep a lookout for obstructions!

Below Hassall Green Locks, the M6 crossing ahead and the rising ground of Mow Cop on the left.IMG_4410

We’ve had some heavy showers this afternoon, and it’s got considerably colder. Mags was laughing and shaking her head while I loaded those logs the other day. She’s not laughing now…IMG_4411

It’s a shame for those taking part in the London Marathon tomorrow. Breezy with showers is the forecast. At least it was fine for mine last weekend. The race tomorrow starts at 10:10, so the first elite finishers should be crossing the line around 2 hours later. We’ll move up to Rode Heath after watching the elites.

Locks 10, miles 2.