Monday, 28 September 2009

Summer’s over

I did end up moving on Saturday morning as it would have been a very long day of doing very little if I hadn’t. Moored for the rest of the weekend just above Lock 10 of the Atherstone flight. As usual the race on Sunday was pretty unexciting, I’m beginning to wonder why I bother to arrange my weekends round the races.

Woke very  late this morning so by the time I had done the next 4 locks it was time to stop for lunch. This had the advantage that, as a boat came down whilst I was stopped, the last 5 locks were all in my favour. Continued for a while after getting to the top and am moored close to Nuneaton.

It felt a bit chilly as the sun set this evening so I have lit the fire, so I suppose that that means that summer is now officially over.

Friday, 25 September 2009

back in familiar territory

Stopped off at Peel’s Wharf to dispose of some rubbish, and more importantly the significant amount of recycling that has built up whilst I’ve been out. Once past the junction I was very much back on the water that I know best.

It took a while to get through the Glascote locks as there were a few boats already waiting and the locks aren’t the fastest in the world. The top gate of the top lock is also very difficult to close so I stopped to help close it for the boat about to descend before moving on a bit and stopping for lunch.

I intended getting a bit further along the canal, but as my normal spot at Pooley Fields was empty I decided to stop. Couldn’t get in to the edge due to the level being a bit low at the moment so am moored slightly further along.

It’s another GP this weekend so I might end up staying here, but it can get a bit busy at the weekend so maybe it will be better to move to somewhere quieter.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

The day started well…….

It was a lovely morning, it had been a bit overcast and chilly first thing for the last few days, but today it was warm and sunny. Being right next to the nature reserve meant that there was somewhere good to take Lyra for her morning walks, and tucked away behind the pool is this wonderful sculpture of a heron.

PICT0094 I was about ready to leave but I looked back along the canal and saw a working boat approaching the bottom lock, so had another coffee and waited for it to come up and pass me. It turned out to be nb Hadley.

Once she had continued on her way I left and that’s when it all started to go wrong. I have avoided ranting about the actions of other boaters on this blog as I’d rather not have the reminder of the less good parts of my trips when I look back, but today’s idiot needs a mention. I left my mooring and headed towards Junction Lock. There was a boat that had been using the water point and I could see him untying the boat, nothing wrong with that, in fact it’s the right thing to do as it would have meant that if I was planning to use the water point he could move off easily. He then got back onto the boat and seemed to be waiting for me to pass. Once I was virtually on top of him he decided to put his boat in gear and move into my path, without a single glance behind him. I had to put the boat in reverse at full revs to avoid a collision. Eventually he managed to get his boat alongside the lock mooring, but managed to be in a position that meant that there was no room for me to pull in behind him despite there being plenty of space for two boats, so I had to wait mid channel until the lock was prepared for him. He seemed to be totally oblivious to what he had done when I got to the lockside, I’m sure that he had no clue that I was there rather than wanting to beat me to the lock, and I couldn’t face having an argument so I just let them work the lock alone.

I wonder what the outcome would have been if he had tried the same thing in front of Hadley, with much more momentum, traditional engine controls and limited visibility over the bow of an unladen Large Woolwich.

Thankfully they headed on up the T&M so hopefully I won’t come across them again. I got through the lock and swing bridge and headed down the Coventry, deciding to stop fairly soon after. A play with Lyra meant things didn’t seem too bad.

The day improved after that, and I had a pleasant run and am now moored on the outskirts of Fazeley.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Fradley again

Yesterday was another pretty short day. Not a lot happened except at Willington where there was much excitement, with a fuel boat breasted up doing trade and boats crossing between the visitor moorings and the water point. This all meant that I needed to try to keep my boat still in the middle of the cut in the stiff breeze that was blowing. Moored at Branston again as Lyra loves the pool so much.

it would have been wrong to have travelled through Burton without sampling it’s produce and as I am definitely in the “Hate It” camp an alternative had to be sought. This was found in the Bridge Inn in the form of a pint of Pedigree. It was so nice that it just had to be followed by another. This had it’s usual effect and I felt too sleepy to do anything once I got back to the boat. Lyra also seems to have great taste as she really enjoyed the small amount that she was allowed.

This morning the locks worked out pretty well, meeting boats at each one, and got to Alrewas, where there was plenty of space to moor,  in time for lunch. I was expecting to meet nb Hadar sometime today, and thought that it would possibly be at Alrewas, sure enough they were moored further into the village so we stopped for another chat. Lyra was intrigued by Marmite as she hasn’t met cats before.

I almost stayed where I was as it was trying to rain, but decided to press on. I got into Common Lock, but the bottom gates wouldn’t close behind me. Flushing water through wouldn’t dislodge the “something” so I moved the boat back and had a poke around the cill with my boathook. Whatever was there obliged by moving out of the way and I was soon on my way. There do seem to be more “somethings” lurking in the depths this year as I haven’t encountered any before but that is now 3 this year.

Tied up below Junction lock tonight. Had to pay a quick visit to the Swan, but haven’t fallen asleep yet. Should be back on much more familiar waters tomorrow.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Heading for home

We couldn’t leave this morning until Lyra had had another swim, she made that clear on her first walk, which is just a short one she had before breakfast to do what little dogs need to do, when she headed straight for the swimming point. She came away when called which was very good. She did get her swim on her proper walk after breakfast so she was happy. Just as we were getting ready to leave the boat moored in front of me was also getting ready so we ended up following it to Branston Lock. I really like this little lock with it’s position out in the middle of nowhere. Once through we had a pleasant run into Burton.

Ended up behind another boat, which I think had just winded, at Snobnall so followed them to Dallow lock, which today was where the wonderful smell of hops appeared. Carried on until we got to bridge 29A where we moored outside the pub for lunch.

It’s perhaps not the most scenic point in Burton, with a modern pub building, a modern bridge and an industrial estate on the offside, but it was where I stopped on the first night after I had bought the boat and was moving it my mooring. As it was also where Katy spent her fist night on the boat, I couldn’t help get a bit upset as I still miss her terribly.

Once out of Burton, the canal is lovely but never far away from major roads or the railway. Approaching Stenson I saw the temporary bridge that is providing a crossing due to the proper bridge having suffered from a tractor crossing it. I didn’t want to go down the wide lock at Stenson, so winded in the marina entrance and have moored near to the damaged bridge for the night.

The damage is pretty severe, with about half the width missing.

PICT0080 There is a notice on site saying that the bridge is going to be rebuilt as original, and the work is scheduled to start during this winters stoppages so it should be back to it’s former glory by the time I next come this way. On our walk, we crossed over the temporary bridge and followed the canal back down to the railway bridge which has a pedestrian arch on the offside. There is a small area, Stanhope wood, here which had been cut off by the canal, railway and new road from the rest of the farm and has been planted with native trees, with a wildflower meadow.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Day off

Woke fairly late on Friday morning, but it was still pretty cool, cool enough for Lyra to not want to have a swim on her morning walk. Had a short run into Rugeley where we stopped so that I could pick up a few things that I had forgotten when I last went shopping, which merged into an early lunch break. Passing through the town I witnessed a first for me, in the 6 or so years and however many miles I cruising I have passed countless fisherpersons, but Friday was the first time that I have actually witnessed one of them catching a fish.

Armitage “tunnel” is one of the few places that I find does cause me a problem as a singlehanded boater, but I came up with a cunning plan. I needed water anyway so stopped at the water point on the straight before the “tunnel”. Just as the tank filled a boat passed me so I could pack my hose away and follow the other boat through. Once through I held back to create a decent gap between us. Once out of the towns, the next section of canal seems very remote, at times the only buildings visible being the cooling towers at Rugeley. I caught the boat I had followed just as we were arriving at the lock but they moored for the night so I again had a quick passage.

I expected the moorings above Fradley locks to be full,it being about 4pm by the time I arrived, and they were. I didn’t want to go through so had a feel for depth just before the VM. It was pretty shallow but I could get the front of the boat to the edge if I left the stern quite a way out in deeper water. I could probably have moored parallel but then would have needed to use the plank which Lyra is scared of. 

I walked down to the junction, and had to have a pint outside the Swan, only one boat passing in the time it took to drink it, and noticed that there was a space on the moorings at the junction and a bit of space below Junction lock.

As I was firmly on the bottom I didn’t feel boats passing, but they must have made bow the boat creep forward and the stern inwards as by the morning it had moved quite a bit.

IMG_8986 This did cause me a bit of a problem as I couldn’t pole the stern off the mud, Seeing a boat approaching I ran back to ask them to pass quickly in the hope that it would float me off the mud. It worked enough to make poling off possible.

Despite it being Saturday morning, getting though Fradley locks was quite quick, with only a couple of boats waiting at Junction lock when I got there. There was a space just above Bagnall lock when I got there, and as it was about lunch time by then I moored up expecting it to be busy in Alrewas, but walking Lyra down the towpath revealed that there were only a few boats moored.

The river was well down, it wasn’t even in the green at Wychnor lock being at least an inch below the bottom of the indicator board. Once through the lock the next section of the canal would be wonderful it it wasn’t spoiled by the constant traffic noise from the A38 running alongside, but soon the canal veers away and peace is restored. Soon after we arrived at my planned destination at Branston. We ware moored next to the water park entrance which is very convenient.

I was feeling pretty tired when I got here so decided to do as little as possible today so have stayed here. Lyra has loved it as it means she has had lots of walks and swims. The dog swimming area being just a few yards from the boat.

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Thursday, 17 September 2009

A short day

Lyra had another good play in the Trent this morning, it’s a lovely bit of river for her at Great Haywood as it’s quite shallow for much of it’s width and at the moment doesn’t have much of a current. She hasn’t quite worked out that if I throw a stick into the moving water it won’t be where it landed, so kept searching in the same area rather than looking downstream.

IMG_8977 When we passed the lock on the way back from her walk, there were a few boats waiting to drop down so there didn’t seem to be much point in leaving for a while. After doing very little for a while we had another walk and swim, and a chat with Jo on the way back, by which time the queue had cleared so we did finally get moving. Went straight into the lock, and by the time it was empty a boat had arrived to come up. As it is starting to get a bit chilly in the evenings I tied up just behind nb Hadar in order to buy some coal.

Once I had bought the coal, a boat was just coming down the lock so waited until it passed before leaving so I wouldn’t be taking their lock when we reached Colwich. A boat was going down as we arrived, and we both had to turn the lock as there was nothing waiting to ascend. As it had been a late start, it was lunchtime by the time I was out of the lock.

I didn’t feel like getting through Rugeley today so decided to head for Wolseley Bridge again as it’s a nice mooring and Lyra can have a swim in the river here as well. As I arrived I spotted nb Sanity moored, I had wondered whether I would pass her today. I almost moored next to Sanity, but the spot right at the end was free so I moored here again as it means that I don’t have to pass moored boats to take Lyra out.

Having been here for a while, I was outside when I saw nb President and Kildare approaching.

IMG_8981 Wondering where they were heading to, I checked the website to find that it’s the Huddlesford gathering this weekend. I was planning to turn back down the Coventry, but this weekend might not be the best time to try to get through so maybe I’ll head further along the T&M.

I dropped in on Bruce & Sheila this evening, leaving Lyra outside as she was still wet and muddy from her swim earlier. Has a nice chat, but after a while I did wonder what all the scratching noises outside were all about. Lyra had decided to remodel the towpath a bit, but the hole is filled in now.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Great Haywood

Had a fairly early start yesterday in order to get to the locks before the first batch of boats came through the tunnel. This meant that I had a very good run down the Stoke flight. Once out the boat felt so much happier with the greater depth of water so speedy progress was made. After a coffee stop just before Trentham, we arrived at the lock to find the boat wanting to come up was having trouble closing a gate. Opening it and flushing a bit of water through dislodged the “something” that was lurking in the depths and we were soon through.

Stopped for lunch at Barlaston and did a bit of shopping. I did consider having a short  day but being so close to the railway didn’t really appeal. Had a good run through the Meaford locks and eventually stopped at the visitor moorings above Stone locks. These moorings have a solar powered cats eye adjacent to each mooring ring which isn’t something I have encountered before. In my opinion this is a far better use for these things than putting them on roads where I find them irritating as you can see them in the rear view mirror.

I would have tried to get a photo of them illuminating the towpath as the effect was quite nice, but this and blogging last night suffered from my getting distracted by an Iceberg. When shopping I decided that having no beer on the boat was a bad situation, I almost corrected this with a stock of Marston’s Old Empire as it’s my favourite bottled beer, but there on the shelf was some Titanic Brewery Iceberg, which I don’t recall having tried before. It seemed right as I had just left Etruria, to go for a local brew. Maybe I should have done things before opening the bottles, but I did enjoy the beer and wish I had bought more.

Another early start today, but only down three of the Stone locks before I tied up in order to do a proper shop. Lyra needed some more food and the pet shop in Stone was convenient for this, and I now have a full fridge for a while. Got back and put the food away and then left, just a boat came through the lock so I could go straight in. After this I arrived at each lock as a boat was about to go down, with another one already waiting, so it was a bit slower than I have been used to but there were no really long queues either way.

Moored above Haywood lock. Took Lyra for a walk down past the lock, as we approached the river she was off, unusual for her but I knew where to find her. She had a good play in the river, but was a little confused by the current at first. Stopped  to say hello to Jo as we passed Hadar on the way back to the boat.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Still on the Caldon

On Friday I moved back up to do the washing, and then took another trip up to Leek, where there were quite a few boats moored this time. Moved back to the junction in the hope of getting a reasonable TV signal for the weekend. Didn’t get one so moved back to Endon where I knew that I could get a reasonable signal. As usual I was disappointed at the amount of action that occurred on the circuit, maybe it will be better next year without refuelling.

Had a very pleasant run down the canal today, but did have to turn every single lock as I must have been following another boat. The two  manual lift bridges  were passed using ropes to move the boat through and I was again lucky with the automated bridge with willing assistants on a break.

Stopped for lunch in Hanley Park. I arrived at the staircase to find a boat waiting and one descending. Part of one of the paddle mechanisms had failed earlier so these boats had been delayed whilst BW removed the broken part and took it away for attention. Draining the top chamber with only one paddle took a while but I was in no hurry.

Now moored back at Etruria, so will be off this lovely canal and back on the T&M tomorrow.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Pointing the wrong way

Have ended up pointing back towards Froghall/Leek this evening, but there is a reason for that.

Didn’t get round to visiting the flint mill today, just didn’t feel like it. Spent a long time just hanging around on the boat and taking Lyra for walks, and eventually set off after lunch. Made my way back onto the summit and stopped off at the services near Endon to see what card I would need to use  the washing machines. I then needed to get hold of the cards which meant coming further down the canal and winding at bridge 27.

Will be making my way back up to do the washing tomorrow, and then perhaps a little further.

I think I’m going to find a spot to spend the weekend up here as it’s another grand prix weekend.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Back to Cheddleton

I was tempted to stay for another day in the basin as it is such a peaceful spot, but decided to start my return along the canal. Having ascended the lock I decided to hog it whilst I topped up my water tank, fairly confident that I wouldn’t be preventing anyone else from using it. I hadn’t used much water overnight but it seemed sensible to have as much clearance as possible.

PICT0065 I didn’t bother to visit the wharf arm through bridge 50 as it would have been difficult to reverse past the trip boat and there isn’t a lot of it.

DSCN1879 Pushed the boat through the tunnel from the well deck again as it seemed to work well coming through yesterday.

Met a few boats heading towards Froghall as I made my way back down the canal, having to reverse once to let a boat through one of the narrow sections. Approaching Oakmeadowford lock I was hailed from the towpath by the crew of a boat that having descended the lock had got stuck on the sandbank formed where the river and canal join. When I got there I tied the front of their boat to mine and the combination of full reverse from me and full power from the other boat soon shifted it.

Arrived at Cheddleton and realised that I had a potentially serious shortage of coffee, so set off with Lyra to find a shop. It’s not that far up the road from the flint mill, but the traffic seemed to be really rushing past, quite disconcerting really. I didn’t have time to have a look around the flint mill today, but will probably do so in the morning.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

We made it through

A short but satisfying day.

The first highlight of the day was passing the station at Consall Forge.

DSCN1845 Having read up on the tunnel, I had resigned myself to not being able to make it but coming out of Flint Mill Lock there was still the feeling of “will she or won’t she”. It looked vaguely promising when approaching the gauge below the lock.

DSCN1847 The front edge of the roof didn’t clear the gauge with it looking as if the handrails were going to be a problem.

DSCN1849 There was plenty of clearance for the back edge of the roof, about an inch. This did mean that getting through the tunnel was a possibility as the gauge is supposed to be a bit pessimistic.

Continued down the canal, which is quite narrow in places.

DSCN1855 When I arrived at the tunnel I decided to move a bit of ballast around as the front was a couple of inches higher than the back. I don’t know if it really made much of a difference, but my approximate measurements seemed to change. Despite concentrating on taking a picture I just managed to miss the edge of the tunnel as I entered, it seems that this edge does get hit quite often.

DSCN1856 It certainly is low in the tunnel, and I couldn’t see what was happening up front.

DSCN1858 As I felt that knowing what was happening up front was the most important thing, I decided to go to the front and push the boat along with my hands. This worked pretty well although I did manage to scrape one of the handrails once, but they need painting anyway.

I think that the lowest point of the tunnel is fairly near the start as there looked to be more room looking back along the roof of the boat. There seemed to be plenty of clearance and with a bit more care I wouldn’t have touched the roof at all.

DSCN1860 Once through the tunnel it was down the first lock of the Uttoxeter arm and onto the pontoon moorings in the basin, which I had all to myself.

DSCN1873  As I made it here I decided to stay the night. There are some waymarked walks, and I headed off long one of these with Lyra after lunch. We followed the route of one of the old tramways that brought the limestone down to the canal, then turned across a field, then turned again, so were heading roughly towards the canal again. Then I lost the waymarks but followed a path that was headed in roughly the right direction. It then wandered it’s way through the woods and I was beginning to wonder where we were heading. I wasn’t lost, but only on the basis that you’re not lost if you know where you came from, and I was close to retracing my steps. Eventually we reached a road and I could see a tall chimney in the distance which I assumed was the same one I had seen at the other side of the tunnel, so headed in that direction. This proved to be the right way and eventually we go back to the wharf. At some point when unsure of my location I must have crossed the tramway that I followed up the hill, but somehow managed to miss it. It was a very nice walk though.

Up until this evening it had been a wonderful day, how could it possibly get better? I was sitting outside having a cup of coffee when I heard the wonderful sound of a Bolinder approaching. I now have a neighbour in the basin, the Thomas Clayton tar boat Spey.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Through Cheddleton to Consall Forge

Hazlehurst locks were as delightful as they looked, and not even the horrible hydraulic paddles could spoil the experience of descending them. The highlight was that the bottom lock has go a working side pond. Even though both the lock and the side pond were already full a small amount of the water could be drained into the side pond even if it did go straight over the overflow. Hopefully I’ll be able to use it properly when I get back there.

PICT0057 After descending the locks I was soon passing under the aqueduct, roughly an hour after I had set off 26’ higher. It really is a beautiful canal and it didn’t matter that the lack of depth means that you have to travel pretty slowly. Stopped for lunch at Cheddleton, and again found a lovely spot on this canal. The flint mill buildings and Bridge House are a wonderful sight.

DSCN1825 DSCN1821 Carried on after lunch, but I intend stopping at the flint mill on the way back to visit it properly. Dropped down onto the river which is well in the green on the gauge at the lock. With very little flow it seems little different from the canal above, just a little more winding. The depth was noticeable as the boat felt much happier than on the shallow canal. I couldn’t pass Consall Forge without stopping so moored up for the day. Took Lyra for a walk down to the station to get the obligatory picture of the waiting room. I also had to drop in to the Black Lion for a pint.

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Sunday, 6 September 2009

To Leek, and back a bit

A late start as I wasn’t in a hurry to get anywhere today. Stopped briefly to refill the water tank and get rid of rubbish, and get my licence checked, it seems that the name change hasn’t got into the system yet.

This canal just gets better and better and soon I arrived at the delightful looking Hazlehurst Junction. I turned right onto the Leek Arm as doing a bit of shopping was called for again today.

DSCN1779 The Leek arm is beautiful with nice wooded sections and the short tunnel.

DSCN1784DSCN1792All too soon the end is reached, with the instruction to wind just after the bridge if your boat is over 45’. I tied near the winding hole and had a look at the end of the navigation. As there were mooring rings there, and as there was no one around to witness my masterclass in how not to reverse a narrowboat, I made my way to the very end of the canal.

DSCN1800Lyra needed a walk, and as I knew that it is possible to follow the feeder up to the reservoir that seemed like a suitable destination. The Leek Arm was originally only intended to be a feeder but the locals convinced the canal company to make it navigable to the town. It was a very pleasant walk through woodland and then out into open fields across the floodplain. Unfortunately we didn’t make it all the way as we got to one stile where “609” didn’t seem to want a little dog in her field. There have been quite a few incidents with cows recently and I didn’t want to risk it. It does give me a reason to return though, maybe the field will be empty next time.

DSCN1807 On the way back down we found a spot where Lyra could get into the feeder for a paddle, so I had a happy wet dog for the rest of the walk. There haven’t been too many opportunities for her to paddle recently.

DSCN1810 I left Lyra to look after the boat whilst I wandered off to the supermarket. It’s a bit of a shame that the original end of the canal is now occupied by an industrial estate, with as far as I could see no traces apart from Wharf House.

Came back down the arm to moor at Hazlehurst aqueduct this evening, there were plenty of other spots that looked as if they would be suitable places to stay the night but I wanted to get back to here.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Up the Caldon to Endon

The moorings at Etruria proved to be peaceful overnight, but I did need to add an extra layer to my thin curtains to block out the light. Some of the locals were unfriendly but that isn’t unusual. Why they approach the boat and then start having a go at my poor little do I don’t understand.

PICT0020

The staircase locks were the first obstacle of the day, and things started off badly as I was concentrating on getting (and failing) a good photo of the locks as I approached and ended up allowing the boat to get into the substantial flow coming down the overflow. It was a bit of a struggle to haul the boat out of the flow and get it properly tied so I could set the locks, but at least it was early in the day so there were no witnesses to my incompetence.

DSCN1743Approaching the staircase before it all went wrong

The lower chamber is missing it’s buffer plate and so there was a good chance of getting the boat caught up again so I ended up having to use one of the lock bollards. These have been discussed a great deal and most of the time I have no use of them, but on occasions they are invaluable.

With all the locks of recent days having been relatively deep, Planet Lock seemed out of place with it’s 3’ 10” fall, looking on Wikipedia explained that it had to be added as the whole of Etruria had subsided. there are nice looking moorings at Hanley Park, and new looking ones all the way from bridge 8 to the lift bridge, but there wasn’t a single boat moored on them. The bridge was likely to have been the first real obstacle of the day and sure enough the control panel is on the offside with the only convenient mooring points being on the towpath. Luckily there were some convenient passers by to rope in to operate the bridge for me. I stopped for lunch and dog walking just below Engine Lock, the canal now passing through countryside again. The water flowing down past the lock could caused problems if I had needed to moor below the lock but as a boat had come down shortly before I got there I knew it would be empty and so could leave the boat in the mouth of the lock whilst I opened the gates.

PICT0029I was again lucky with the next lift  bridge, as I approached it a young girl asked if she could work it for me, a request that I was happy to agree to. I finally had to do the work myself at the next bridge and taking my long bow line across with me to haul the boat through worked well.

The final locks of the day were the Stockton Brook flight which I really liked as they are in a wonderful setting and really well maintained, the sun even put in a brief appearance part way up the flight. I had been wondering whether the flow down the locks was usual or due to the wet weather we have been having, but at the top lock it became clear that it is due to water being run down to The T&M summit level, presumably due to the extra traffic caused by problems elsewhere. Onto the summit I soon arrived at what is mentioned only as “Obstruction in centre of canal” in my Nicholson’s guide. Just round the corner looked like a good spot to moor which meant that I was close to the obstruction to go back for a better look, on the offside there are other archaeological artefacts and it turns out that the obstruction was the pivot point of a swing bridge that carried a railway across the canal at this point. There is more history of this bridge and the mill it served on the Caldon & Uttoxeter Canals Trust website.

I seem to have ended up having a day off again today as just as I was about to get moving earlier today the wind picked up again and it looked as if it was about to rain, although it has cleared up again.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

The weak links worked

It was still raining this morning so there was no point in moving until it finally stopped. Still not great boating weather as the wind was again very strong. Stopping where I did last night was a good move as I didn’t spot anywhere else that would have been suitable until I got to Barlaston, and there were loads of boats moored all the way from there to Trentham Lock.

I keep the bow of my boat at the front of the lock when ascending as I can see what is happening with it, but there is a protruding bolt on this lock which I could see was likely to catch the front fender. Sure enough it did and the upper weak links duly broke allowing the fender to drop out of the way and the boat to continue up the lock with the stem rubbing up the gate. I decided to wait until out of the other end of the town before stopping to refix the fender, but there was nowhere that would have been easy to moor as it was all a concrete edge so I would have needed to use pins whilst trying to keep hold of the boat in the wind.

Arriving at Stoke bottom lock there were already a couple of boats waiting so I had plenty of time to refit the fender using some more cable ties. When it was my turn, there were so many people about that the lock was worked for me, and one of the crew of another boat went ahead and prepared the next lock for me so the first two were very easy. I arrived at the middle lock just as another boat was leaving so had yet another easy lock. The next lock I had to turn and work myself.

Then came the top lock. Once the descending boat left I drove the boat in and suddenly realised how deep it is. There wasn’t a boat waiting to come down so I had to climb the ladder. Now I don’t do heights, I feel sick if I’m watching the TV and there’s a shot over a drop. The position of the ladder also meant that I was climbing from the counter rather than the roof. It wasn’t nice but I was soon at the lockside. After leaving the lock I winded in the junction with the Caldon and moored up as it was lunchtime.

It was still threatening rain so having had a look at the moorings at the start of the Caldon and deciding they looked nicer, and deciding that I wouldn’t go any further today, I moved the boat onto this mooring. Will be heading off up the Caldon in the morning so have staircase locks and lift bridges to look forward to.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Through Stone

The first lock of the day was Aston Lock, where a new marina is in the process of being dug out, which was empty so I could go straight in. There is a box at the lock with leaflets about the town, which was a good sign as to how the canal is viewed.

DSCN1735Aston Lock 

The line of moored boats on the way into Stone started well before the formal visitor moorings but I was lucky as a boat was just pulling away as I approached. Took Lyra for a walk up the locks and I really liked this bit of the canal. The boatyard half way up the flight is really nice looking and I really should have remembered to take my camera with me*. Once back at the boat I left Lyra whilst I did a bit of shopping.

There had been little in the way of boat traffic when I was walking along the canal, so I didn’t expect to find so much of a queue when I got to the bottom lock, but I’m in no rush and its good to meet other boaters. I also took the opportunity to use the water point whilst waiting.

As the boat was coming up the top lock I gave Jo Lodge of nb Hadar a call to see if she and Keith were around a it’s good to be able to meet people whose lives you look into through their blog/facebook.  Hadar is currently back at her birthplace for some work before heading off for a winter of supplying coal on the GU Leicester section. Rather naughtily I tied the boat onto the end bollard of the lock landing whilst I had a pleasant chat with Jo and Keith, and Lyra had a good play, next to the lock.

Once on the move again I made my way up the next four locks. By this time it was late for me to still be moving and that ever present feature of this summer put in an appearance again. Not wanting to get totally soaked again I chose the first spot that I could get tied easily and called it a day. Not the greatest mooring as the railway is a bit close but I think I’ll be able to sleep though anything tonight.

* I need to remember to carry a camera as my N95 has curled it toes up, it has turned itself off and refuses to turn back on, not for the first time and it’s had to go back to Nokia once before. Luckily I have my trusty old 6310 to use, but it’s failing is probably also it’s strength – it’s just a phone rather than an all singing and dancing box of electronics.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

I knew it couldn’t last

Finally found myself a lock queue today!

I was tempted to stay where I was as it was such a nice spot with the river and some wonderful trees, including many mature beeches. Beech trees are very much my favourite. I did leave though, I can go back there whenever I want. Colwich lock was the first of the day, I’m getting to really like these T&M locks with their bridges over the tail of the lock. Colwich has a comedy bottom gate, one of those that waits until you get to the top gates and then swings back open, half a paddle before returning to close it again dealt with it. It was still quiet when I got to Haywood lock, having to turn it as there was no one wanting to descend, and then plenty of space to moor up for coffee.

Last time I was there I turned off down the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal, but today carried straight on at the junction so am now in new territory. My lock queue put in it’s appearance at Hoo Mill Lock, with 5 boats already there. This meant that I had a choice of hovering in the channel for 10 minutes or so until there was space on the end of the lock landing or making a leap of faith into the vegetation to be able to hold the boat in. Leaping won out and I did land on solid ground rather than canal. As it took a good while to get through the lock it was time to stop for lunch once through and I soon found a suitable looking spot which turned out to be a 48hr mooring in the middle of nowhere. There was some thunder about and a few light showers, but it didn’t seem to be amounting to much so we carried on for a while. As I tied up at Weston lock it started to rain so I put on my wet weather gear, by the time I had walked up to the lock I was drenched as it had got heavier. There was no point taking shelter so I worked through in the downpour. Once through Sandon lock I decided that it was time to call it a day and have found a lovely spot midway between bridges 84 and 85.

One of my favourite things about the waterways is that each canal has it’s own character, with different paddle gear on the locks and their own design of mileposts. The T&M ones are really nice and I just happen to have one of the originals just by the boat.

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