Friday, July 30, 2010

A Few Days In Stone

We spent a few days in Stone on the comparatively quiet moorings below Lock 27 which is next to the Star Inn. They provide 48 hour and 5 day moorings here and it's a good spot as it's near a big recreation field alongside the River Trent where the dog walkers exercise their dogs. Ben loves to play ball as well as exploring the shallow edge of the river. He did have an anxious moment though when he went in the shallow water and found the bank too steep to get out. I could hear splashing and had a look- usually he's running in the water and having fun but this time he was trying to get up the steep bank. I ended up on my hands and knees grabbing his collar and yanking him out although he could easily have got out further along but he was in panic mode. It didn't put him off going in the water though the next time we took him for a walk and I thought collies had brains.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Going Down To Stone (Trent & Mersey Canal)

Going down locks above Stone

We had to move as we were on 24 hour moorings and I could have stayed put as I was feeling like a lazy day. Ben and I walked until we came to about a hundred yards of thick mud and puddles -so Eric to the rescue as he picked us up. Soon we were at the top of the locks which would take us into Stone. It wasn't our day as there wasn't a boat coming up and all the locks were empty which meant we had to fill each lock before we could go down. It took an age to get down as far as the Chandlery where we stopped to get some engine oil. Two more locks and we were moored up in the one and only space as the heavens opened.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Through Stoke-on-Trent To Barlaston

A Bottle Kiln

A Derelict Pottery

Ben and I enjoyed a lovely walk around Longport Lake before we left this morning. I enjoyed our cruise through Stoke as it's like a step back in time as you imagine what the derelict buildings looked like in their hey day. There's the derelict potteries with their bottle shaped kilns and some working potteries still working. New office blocks have sprung up amongst the derelict buildings. The large expanse of land which was Shelton Steel Works is just sitting there waiting to be put to good use. You can now the course of the Burslem Branch which used to join the Trent and Mersey Canal as the vegetation has all been cut to make it visible.

At Etruria Junction the Caldon Canal is to the left but we climbed down the five Stoke Locks which were very busy with boats going up and down. It was a good chance to chat to other boaters as we helped each other through the flight of locks. The top lock now has a handcuff lock which is a new addition since we last came this way. The water levels are now much better and we finally moored up near Barlaston on our own until the mooring filled up with three more boats.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Through The Harecastle Tunnel

Low water at Longport Visitor Moorings
We have spent the last couple of days moored above Church Locks near Church Lawton with Niz and Liz (NB Henry) moored in front of us. It has been a good chance for us to take the dogs for some nice long walks and have some nice long chats. Yesterday we walked across the fields to the Macclesfield Canal, back to it's junction with the Trent and Mersey and then back along the canal towpath to our mooring. Some well marked footpaths but some gaps due to private roads with no visible footpath signs meant we ended up walking further than planned but nevertheless a pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon. We did stop for a soft drink at the pub on the way back- I was lucky as I ordered drinks and the barmaid said £4 which was all I had in my pocket.

On Monday morning Liz walked with Connie and helped us through the locks up to Harecastle Tunnel. Nick caught us up at Red Bull on his bike and they decided to come through the tunnel on NB Bendigedig as they hadn't been through before. We stopped at Red Bull while I picked up supplies at Tesco and Liz bought us to lunch. After a lovely lunch it was one more lock and we were heading for the tunnel with boats coming towards us we hoped we were in time for a passage south. We arrived at the northern portal as the first boat went into the tunnel and we followed the second boat through. It was unusual for me to sit at the bow and see the tunnel from a different viewpoint. Ben occupied his usual place on his blanket on the bed while Connie stayed with Liz and I at the bow. Eric steered and ducked in appropriate places while Nick was wondering if NB Henry would have a trip through the tunnel soon.

Soon we were moored at Longport Lake, not that we can see the lake from the boat as the water level is down. We said our goodbyes and Liz, Nick and Connie left to catch the train back to Kidsgrove and then they had a walk back to their mooring. Ben is asleep now after a busy time with Connie!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Busy Between Pierpont And Church Locks

Working through Church Locks

We left our lovely mooring and did a couple of locks before stopping at the shop in Rode Heath as we needed some bread. We had to try the Staffordshire oatcakes recommended by Liz although we were still in Cheshire. There was a public field next to the mooring so Ben and I played ball before continuing up the next six locks. Liz and I worked the locks while Eric and Nick steered the boats trying not to crash and we also had some help from a lad whose hobby is helping at the locks complete with his own windlass! After Church Locks we moored up and off he went to help some more boats quite happy with some pocket money.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Another Ten Locks To Chell Aqueduct

She's nice and clean after a wash!

Leaving Wheelock behind we travelled some of 'Heartbreak Hill' enjoying the duplicated locks along this section of the Trent and Mersey Canal. Sometimes one lock was empty ready for us making life easier but other times both were full so we had to turn the lock. There seems to be more traffic going towards Stoke-on-Trent than the other way towards Middlewich. The weather was glorious and Ben enjoyed his run alongside the boat as we Eric steered the boat and I walked. We finally moored up after Pierpoint Locks as it was peaceful and a place we could set satellite TV. After ten locks of 'Heartbreak Hill' worked through we needed a quiet afternoon. Tomorrow we'll continue the climb towards Harecastle Tunnel.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sandbach To Wheelock

Ben and Connie

NB Henry's New Coat

We'd left NB Henry and his occupants moored at Church Minshull on Monday enjoying the peace and quiet. So we were surprised on Wednesday evening by Connie appearing on the bow of NB Bendigedig looking for Ben. Liz and Nick were looking for a nice mooring away from roads and railways and they came around the corner to find us sitting in just the spot.

In the morning we walked the dogs the three miles to Wheelock while Nick and Eric steered the boats. It managed to stay dry until we had nearly finished using the services and then the heavens opened and we got surprisingly wet in just a few minutes. We had to move off the waterpoint as soon as we finished as an impatient pair of boaters wanted to water up despite the torrential rain. We moved just a little way and moored up and waited for the rain to stop. Eric and I decided to stay put but later changed our minds as we were crashing and banging everytime a boat went past.

We worked the first two locks of 'Heartbreak Hill' which is a series of 26 lock chambers in seven miles of canal. We moored up in the pound above the two locks planning to continue our climb tomorrow. The pounds here are very low but we aren't touching the bottom. At least here we're not banging the sides when a boat goes past.

I took a picture of NB Henry's new coat- it's got interesting back door panels- very unique- click on the picture for a closer look. The flag is for Lincolnshire where the occupants of Henry used to reside.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

On The Trent And Mersey Canal

We travelled along the Middlewich Branch enjoying the greenery and stopped at one of our favourite mooring overlooking the lakes past Church Minshull. Liz and I walked with the dogs for a while. Nick and Liz (NB Henry) had stopped to sort out a fouled propeller at Church Minshull Lock and caught us up the next day. Liz and I walked into Middlewich with the dogs while Eric steered the boat. We stopped near Bridge 29 to go and do a Tesco shop. Liz and Connie went back to their mooring as they planned a relaxing few days. Shopping done Eric and I decided to stay put in Middlewich as we were feeling hot and bothered.

Today it was a different day altogether with lots of rain but we needed to move to give the batteries a boost. We worked through Wardle Lock and turned right at the chaotic junction to go down the Trent and Mersey Canal- although the locks are now going up locks! We managed to pull in to get water before mooring outside Kings Lock Chandlery to get fuel. We wanted to check if the new smaller propeller made a difference to fuel consumption. As far as we can tell it hasn't made much difference as we like to travel slowly anyway. Moored on our own enjoying the peace and quiet of the countryside even if it is raining!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Turn Left At Hurleston Junction

NB Bendigedig at Hurleston Junction

On Saturday morning we were on the move again, I walked with Ben the dog to the locks at Hurleston with Eric steering the boat. We arrived to an empty waterpoint and filled the water tank and used the services. We were turning left and then right at Barbridge Junction to go onto the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal. We didn't go far along it and stopped at the visitor moorings at the lock above Venetian Marine.

A few hours later NB Henry moored behind us and we could see their lovely new paint job. Connie was at the bow of our boat looking for Ben so we knew they'd arrived. The dogs chased each other and rolled around on the towpath, Liz made teas and coffees and Nick got our the garden chairs and before we knew it was five o'clock.

Friday, July 16, 2010

No Water Shortage At Hurleston Reservoir

A pair of old boats at Wrenbury (Eric's photo)

After Eric came back from Newport it was time to move on to obey the 48 hour mooring sign but we didn't go far- just through the electrically operated lift bridge to moor up for the night. In the morning we did a bit of shopping in the Post Office Stores at Wrenbury and then we were on the move again. Liz of NB Henry had texted to say they were still in Swanley Marina and arranged to meet us once I'd told her we were leaving Baddiley Locks and heading towards Swanley Locks. Ben had a surprise to see Connie on the towpath with Liz some way behind- Connie was on a mission. The dogs had their usual mad play session while Liz and I had a good catch up chat. After helping us through the locks she walked back to the marina with a promise to see us tomorrow.

Eric and I were looking forward seeing NB Henry with her new colours but the wind and rain have been dreadful so the boat stayed in Swanley for another day. Meanwhile Ben and I went for a walk with me thoroughly prepared for the weather with my wet gear on. We walked as far as Hurleston reservoir and enjoyed a walk around its perimeter before returning along the towpath to the boat. There was certainly no shortage of water in the reservoir and it absolutely hammered down with rain as we walked back. As soon as I could see the boat I sent Ben on ahead and Eric had dried him off by the time a dripping me arrived although my wet gear kept me nice and dry inside.

Liz and Connie came for a visit in the afternoon and the dogs had a great time while we chatted. Tomorrow we're working down the Hurleston Locks and heading for the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal. Keep your fingers crossed for a dry day without all this wind.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Walking Wrenbury To Marbury To Wrenbury

Ben posing on the footpath through a field.

Purple flowers on the towpath-what are they?

Presently moored at Wrenbury as Eric has gone to Wales. For the last two days Ben and I have been walking the towpaths and we've been lucky as it's rained only when we were safely back on board. This morning Ben had a contrary moment as I wanted to walk along the towpath to Marbury and back giving us a four mile walk. He decided he didn't want to go that way but had no choice when I kept walking leaving him sat by the boat. It was a case of she's gone without me I'd better follow her - when I was out of sight!

We met a lady from NB Bob's Dream walking her dog while her partner steered the boat. We had a good chat and discovered she originated from Cwmcarn just outside Newport where I was born. There's lots of welsh people on the cut. The dogs enjoyed a good play and as usual Ben found some water- there's a stream running alongside the canal. Both dogs went in for a paddle- luckily it wasn't one of those dirty ditches- so they both came out clean. When we reached Marbury we turned back while they carried on to wait in the queue for the lock. Back on the boat it's raining again very heavily. Eric's on his way back by train with more eye drops but he hasn't got to go back to the eye clinic at the hospital unless he has a problem with his eyes again.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Saturday, Sunday, Monday- Just Cruising

It's great to be moving again so the last three days we've been going north easterly towards Hurleston Junction. Looking at the map the canal from Llangollen runs south easterly to Ellesmere then north easterly to Hurleston Junction. I got my hand in with the five lift bridges but as usual the one by the Whitchurch Arm was hard going- I didn't count after 50 turns to get it up and then it had to be wound down but that's always much easier. We stayed near Whitchurch overnight planning to go down to Grindley Brook the next day to use the services and then turn around and go back to Whitchurch as it has a railway station. Eric needs to go back to the eye clinic this week.

But on Monday morning I said " shall we go to Wrenbury there's a railway station there?" So a change of plan as we cruised in the rain. We filled up with water and used the facilities then we were just in time to be the third boat going down Grindley Brook. Locks always empty quicker than they fill so we soon on our way down the staircase of three with the help of the chatty lock keepers. The next seven locks were all set against us so we had to fill them before we could go down as there were no boats coming up- what a waste of water! Ben enjoyed a nice long walk with a rub down with a towel when we got back on the boat. By four o'clock we were at Wrenbury and after moving the boat to the next mooring ring three times we now have a satellite signal for the TV. I wonder if we'll have any boats going past at ten o'clock in the dark tonight. Yesterday a hire boat went past us complete with candles on the roof- very pretty!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

A Change Of Plan and Direction!

A Thistle (for Anne)

Follow that Dog!

Eric returned after a busy few days in Newport- he ended up visiting the eye clinic at the hospital after his doctor's appointment. He is suffering with iritis and has to go back to the eye clinic next week. We decided not to rush to Llangollen this weekend but go back along the canal to Whitchurch as it has a railway station. This means we won't have to rely on a bus service to get to a station as we did in Ellesmere. The buses to Shrewsbury from Ellesmere are hourly in the morning but in the afternoon there is no longer a bus at 2pm on a weekday other than in the school holidays. Of course Eric went to catch this bus and had to wait until 3pm!

On Friday we used the BW services and I left Eric to wait for the water tank to fill and took Ben for a short walk. He planned to moor on the arm so we could do a Tesco shop without having to carry anything. With Tesco's permission we pushed our shopping in the trolley to the boat and the young lad from Tesco took it back to the store. Did they think we were going to pinch it but where the hell could we have put it on a boat!

Shopping done and we were on the move again travelling a few hours to find a nice quiet place to moor. We had quite a surprise when a duck landed on the sidehatch opening wanting food but nothing should surprise me after a swallow flew in and out of the sidehatch when we were moored at Ellesmere. As they nest in the dry dock they must be quite familiar with boats and we often watch them drinking from the canal in flight.

On Saturday morning I had a lovely walk with Ben the dog although in a few places we felt like we were in the jungle with the tall vegetation and only a narrow pathway through but I mustn't grumble as we had the towpath all to ourselves. After a few hours cruising we stopped and moored up - just in time for Eric to watch the qualifying rounds for the Grand Prix on Sunday.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Moored At Ellesmere

I am at the moment feeling like a sitting target moored near Ellesmere . I wonder how many boats will run into us this week. Two hits to date! What annoys me more is the fact they don't even apologise which means I turn into a grumpy old woman and yell out the side hatch, after all sorry costs nothing. Today I was hit at 8.30am and I was asleep and wondered what was going on- who needs an alarm clock. The boater steering was heard to say 'they should straighten out the bends on this canal' as I put my head out to look at the boat name. At the next bend they just hit the bank. I'll be looking out for that boat if they pass by again and I may turn into a grumpy old woman ! I just wish some boaters would be more considerate and slow down as they pass our moored boat. They are on a mission to get to Llangollen as fast as they can rather than enjoying the journey. Moans over!

Ben and I are enjoying Ellesmere while Eric gets the doctor and dentists appointments sorted in Newport. We enjoy walking here and today we walked about seven miles from our mooring in Ellesmere to Colemere (and back) including a mile and a half walk around the mere as the lakes are called around here. Ben enjoyed a paddle with the water up to his middle as he loves water- warm or freezing cold it makes no difference. It took us about two and a half hours and it was just one of those places I'd passed in the boat I'd wanted to explore. Ben really enjoyed it in the woods and is now having a nap giving me peace and quiet for a little while at least.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Walking In Ellesmere

The Mere- from Castle Fields

Ben at Castle Fields, Ellesmere

The boat is moored up in Ellesmere and we chose to moor by a grassy towpath rather than next to the dusty surface of the visitor moorings. We could have moored on the Ellesmere Arm but its much quieter where we are and fewer dogs go past for Ben to bark at. He guards his boat from intruders and keeps us safe. Eric got the garden shears out and cut the three foot grass so we could see out of the windows. The shears were a new buy only £3 at Tesco's. It also meant he could see how dirty the boat was and give that side a wash.

I did some necessary housework - the inside of the boat needed a good clean to get rid off the dog hair so out came the dyson. I know it won't stay hair free for long with Ben the dog! Ben waited patiently until I'd finished and then we went for a walk. We walked along a familiar route along the towpath until we came to the footpath leading to the woody area Ben likes so much as there's different tracks and we try and vary our route. Leaving the wood we walk along the road until we reached the gate which leads to Castle Fields where Ben can have a good run. At this time of the year it's like a wild flower meadow and he loves to have a rest in the long grass. We walked through the field and then back to the boat via the wood and the towpath.

We decided to take the boat for a little cruise to turn around at the winding hole so we were facing the right way to get some water on Monday. The change of propeller made the boat feel different and the steering lighter but no doubt we'll get used to it. It's great not to have vibrations and noises from the stern and Eric's much happier!

Friday, July 02, 2010

Docked For A Day- Now We're Mobile!

The new(to us) propeller

High and dry again

The boat was in the dry dock by 9.00am Thursday and it was high and comparatively dry- there's always a wet muddy floor in a dry dock. Eric looked at the propellor and realised there was no way he could fix the dings. I rang Maestermyn Marine Boatyard and they had a slightly smaller used propellor which we ended up having fitted Thurdsay. He rang around for us to try and get the same size as on the boat either new or previously owned but no luck. Anyway the prop he brought was a much better quality than the one on the boat so at least we won't have all the noise and vibration although we'll probably notice a little less power at the same revs of the engine. We'll look out for a good quality correct size for when it next goes into dry dock. Eric's been busy painting the gunnels and putting another coat of Comastic above the water line to cover up the scrapes while the boat is dry docked.

After our night in the dry dock we were up and ready by eight am to try out the propeller when we were out of the dock. The dry dock filled up really quickly and the BW men carefully pulled us out until we were able to start the engine and be on our way. They said they hoped they didn't see again for two years. Let's hope we don't see them either because it always costs us. The noises from the stern have ceased so all is well on NB Bendigedig.

We're planning to have a few lazy days here in Ellesmere watching the boats whizz by- now not too close it's new paint on those gunnels. Maybe a summer trip to Llangollen is our next destination as we've only ever been there in the winter.