Sunday, 26 June 2016

We remained (in Middlewich)

At Malkin's Bank on the T&M is a pair of locks where the offside lock has some curiously rusty paddle gear.

The metalwork furthest from the camera has been painted black, as usual, but the three others have been left untreated. I seem to remember this from the last time we came this way, two years ago, I think. Did the paint run out?

We had originally intended to move on up the Middlewich Branch today, but after going to church this morning, and hearing about a service based on the EU referendum result in the evening, we decided to stay and go to it. We were glad we did, as it was very good. It wasn't in the church building, but in the "Church@28" house opposite. The leader did a thorough summing up of what led to the referendum and went through some analysis of how the country voted. He used clear graphics on the screen and did a job worthy of any TV programme. The rest of the evening included an interview with the chaplain of Crewe Alexandra Football Club, again, very interesting.

We'll definitely move on tomorrow, keeping an ear on the news as we do so. Surely Jeremy Corbyn can't survive as leader of the Labour party much longer? And what will George Osborne say tomorrow morning to steady the markets? Interesting times.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Sinking workboat?

We have stayed put in Middlewich today, giving ourselves a "day off". The high street was closed to traffic as it was given over to a "makers' fair", with lots of craft and food stalls. We weren't tempted. In the afternoon I cycled to Lidl in the sunshine and got a surprise when I glanced out of the window after being in there only five minutes. It was raining hard. By the time I'd paid for my purchase it had stopped.

We had the leftover curry from last night for tea. Why is it that curries lose their heat the next day? Mine had chopped fresh green chilli - plenty of bite yesterday but not noticeable today.

I took no photos today, so here are a couple from earlier. From the 20th, in fact, at Trentham, I think it was.

A work boat looks in danger of sinking, possibly as a result of all the rain we've had. You might just be able to see the water in the boat.

Hmm. Thinking about it, I should probably have told CRT. Bit late now. Actually, there's still a good few inches of freeboard, so perhaps it looks worse than it is.

Tomorrow we'll go to church in the town, then probably move up the Middlewich Branch. Depending on showers.

Friday, 24 June 2016


We finished off the Cheshire Locks today without getting too wet. Soon after setting off we came across a motor and butty preparing to come up. The butty is Tewkesbury; I didn't get the name of the motor.

At the golf course at Malkin's Bank they were flying the flag. The EU flag.

I guess the golf club isn't too impressed with the result of the EU referendum. I was shocked - along with many others, I'm sure - when I heard the news; how can the UK stay together now?

Further on was this sad sight.

We tied up in Middlewich above Wardle Lock after topping up with diesel at King's Lock. For tea we got a takeaway from the Indian/Bangladeshi just along from Tesco Express. I think it's called something like the Middlewich Balti Takeaway. They give you a nice coffee - with cream - while you're waiting. When I got our order back to the boat we found a few extras: poppadoms, chutneys and a garlic naan. The portions were vast - we have more left over than we ate! That's tomorrow's lunch sorted.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

No mobile phone signal in Harecastle Tunnel

And why should there be, you ask? We all know that mobile phone signals struggle to penetrate buildings and boats sometimes, let alone hills and tunnels. But since the death of a boater in Harecastle Tunnel a couple of years ago things were supposed to change. The waterways press reported that CRT was installing repeaters to enable emergency calls to be made from within the tunnel. The tunnel keeper on duty at the south end told us that, despite a successful initial trial, the technology has not worked. And then there is the question of what constitutes an emergency. The tunnel keepers have been told that a breakdown in the tunnel is not an emergency, and the system of blasts on the horn is to continue.

We left our mooring near the facilities at Etruria just after 0900 and stopped after a couple of hundred yards at the gas place (13kg for £19.43). At the tunnel we were 20 minutes too late for the convoy going our way, so we topped up with water and waited.

To add interest, Admiral class Effingham came along.

The young owner has had the boat only since the beginning of the year and has been working on fitting out the back cabin. The boat looks in very good condition; the owner is saving up for cloths. The gunnels look to have been made to take the blue fibreglass covers that other Admiral class and River class boats have, but the hoops and blue tops don't go together.

The tunnel is sporting a new profile gauge .

When the time came to go through we were the lead boat and did it in half an hour. We stopped just below the first lock to go to Tesco; I took the opportunity to cycle to Home Bargains. Then we made good progress down the locks, tying up for the night above Pierpoint Locks. Here Jan is steering into Lock 51.

Well, the polls have closed, we hope our postal votes arrived in time to be counted, and this time tomorrow we should know our relationship to the European Union. We shall not be listening to Jim Naughtie and Carolyn Quinn all night; tomorrow morning we should have a good idea of the result.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Narrowboat by L.S. Lowry

Our neighbours here outside the Etruria Industrial Museum (which never seems to be open) invited us for coffee this morning. The name of their boat, Gerty, came to them in a flash of Basil Brush-inspired - er - inspiration.

Apparently a catch phrase from the TV show was "Dirty Gerty from number 30". The only one I can remember is "Boom, boom!". We discovered we had a few things in common; Robert and Wendy had lived in Norfolk and Wendy and Jan had friends/acquaintances in common.

As they went off up the Caldon we walked into Hanley, the "city" centre. (Is Stoke-on-Trent a city? Can it be a city if it has no cathedral? Or is it a city because the town city council says it is?

The first thing we found was the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery. And the first thing I came across there was a corner devoted to L.S. Lowry. I have a fondness for his paintings having been to Salford University; among the dozen or so works exhibited was one apparently depicting a narrowboat.

There it is, on the right. The 1938 painting is The Coal Barge.

We traipsed round endless collections of pottery and then went downstairs to the café, where I was pleased to find that they did oatcakes. Two filled oatcakes for £3.10 I thought was very reasonable. I can recommend the cheese and bacon.

I'm very glad the museum's oatcakes were so tasty, as walking on we came across a café, Peter's Tavern in Piccadilly, doing what seem like amazing value cooked breakfasts.

If the photo is still a little small I'll transcribe it for you. For £1.99 you get 2 x toast, sausage, bacon, egg and beans. A pound more will buy you the regular breakfast: 2 x toast, egg, cheese, 2 x sausage, 2 x bacon, hash brown, beans and egg (yes, it does say "egg" twice). And for a fiver you could attempt the "Hungry man's breakfast" consisting of 4 x toast, 2 x egg, cheese, 3 x sausage, 3 x bacon, hash brown, beans and tomato.

Perhaps next time!

We wandered around the town/city some more, then I remembered that the museum was supposed to have a Spitfire in it. We discovered it hiding on the ground floor, with an effigy of the man who designed the aeroplane, Reginald Mitchell.

Why does a museum in Stoke-on-Trent have a second world war Spitfire? Mr. Mitchell came from Stoke-on-Trent.

Back to the boat for a welcome cup of tea, then a bit of a relax while it rained. When it stopped I thought it would be good to move on to Westport Lake, but then we remembered that we hadn't got the new gas bottle from the cheap canalside place here. So we stayed put and had tea. I cycled to Lidl in Boothen, only about a mile and a half away.

We'll get cracking tomorrow, having now "done" Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-under-Lyme. (Town centre-wise I think I'd have to say I prefer NuL to SoT.) Through Harecastle Tunnel and down a few locks - that's the recipe for tomorrow.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

A flurry of historic boats at Stoke-on-Trent

It suddenly got very busy outside our boat this morning. At least five historic boats appeared, having come through Harecastle Tunnel in convoy, and started queueing for the locks. First was Nutfield (without Raymond), followed by Sudbury and Stanton.

Here is Sudbury, whose owners have had the boat only since Christmas.

Here is Stanton, with Sudbury in front and Nutfield just visible in front of Sudbury.

Then came Nuneaton and Brighton, newly painted but with no signwriting as yet.

I couldn't help them down the locks as we had to go to the post office to see if our postal votes had arrived. At 1145 they hadn't, so we walked on into Newcastle-under-Lyme town centre to have a look round. We had coffee/hot chocolate at the Wetherspoon's.

Back at the post office they still hadn't had their delivery so we returned to the boat for lunch. At 1450 Jan phoned the post office ... and they had an envelope for us! Exciting! We hot-footed it back and claimed our post, which Ally and Ben had sent us. Among other things it contained our voting packs and our new two-together railcard. We marked our crosses and posted the ballots back to the council.

At last! They should be delivered in time to be counted. If the vote is as close as some predict I want to be the one with the casting vote, as it were! (Actually, do I really want that responsibility? No, I know it's not really like that!)

We did some shopping at the big Tesco and had a barbecue. Later we invited Robert and Wendy from Gerty, moored next to us, for drinks. They had been to the New Vic theatre to see a play about Martin Luther King. That's two more boaty friends made. It turned out that Wendy had made the small knitted owl that we bought at Crick for Josiah; Wendy helped Jan with some knittery and promised her some wool when we go round for coffee in the morning ...

Oh - forgot to say - we moved onto the Caldon Canal to use the facilities and find a better mooring, which is how we ended up next to Gerty.

Monday, 20 June 2016

A Holy Inadequate pub in Stoke-on-Trent

The rain was forecast to stop at 1100. At 1045 it seemed to have done so, so we set off. After a very short time the rain restarted and got heavier and heavier. Under a bridge at Trentham I took the opportunity to put on my overtrousers and wellingtons. Thus waterproofed we carried on ... and the rain stopped straight away. I kept covered up, though, and was glad I did as the rain gradually picked up again. We tied up just above Etruria Junction and had lunch. Then the rain stopped and we recce'd Basford Post Office, just over the "border" in Newcastle-under-Lyme, where we hope to pick up our postal votes tomorrow.

On the way there we saw some interesting things. First, a pub with an inferiority complex?

"The Holy Inadequate" (sic)

And a stainless steel sculpture, "Privilege" by Denis O'Connor.

From the hill we saw a colourful building towards the city centre. Later in the evening we found ourselves walking past it, One Smithfield, fronted by a delightful wild flower meadow.

Well, probably not that wild. And not really a meadow.

We were on our way to the Jaflong curry house in Hanley where we enjoyed their Monday special: a "three course meal" for £8.95. The courses were poppadom; starter and balti with pilau rice or naan. It was very good value and very tasty.

We took the scenic route back along the Caldon Canal, just down the hill past the Emma Bridgewater pottery, from where I took this photo.

The rain had cleared the air; the evening was still and the sun shone. I think I would like to explore the city centre tomorrow; despite having passed through by boat many times we don't really know Stoke-on-Trent at all. First, though, we need to return to the post office to see if we do, after all, have a chance to vote in the EU referendum.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

What is this strange chimney in Stone?

On my way back from Christchurch in Stone this morning I noticed a chimney with large circular holes in it towards the top.

A quick internet search yielded nothing useful; does anyone know what it is?

I forgot to mention yesterday how high the Trent was at Shugborough. This is the packhorse bridge; I was in danger of getting wet feet taking this photo. The ground was boggy and there was other evidence of the water level having been even higher.

We moved on to Barlaston, checking out the canalside Plume of Feathers for a meal but deciding to eat on board instead. The pub's offering was a limited menu for Fathers' Day.

This afternoon it rained. I thought we'd had enough of the stuff in the last few days to last the summer, but apparently not.

FMC Dove, with shiny brasses, came past earlier.

Stoke-on-Trent tomorrow, where we will make a last-ditch attempt to locate our missing postal votes. Curiously, Ally and Ben seem to have received Jan's ballot papers despite them already having been sent elsewhere. Must be a duplicate. We really don't know what's going on, but there's a chance Jan, at least, could get to vote in the referendum.