Thursday, 31 July 2014

And so to ... Bugsworth Basin

Bosley Bottom to Bugsworth Basin

This will be a really short post as we had a long day, we've been doing more planning, we couldn't eat at The Navigation as the chef had gone off sick, and it's now very late. And I need some sleep.

We did a bit too much today, but I was set on reaching Bugsworth. We started up Bosley Locks at 0750 and finally tied up here at 1950. We had lunch on the move and went through lots of interesting places ... and it won't happen again. Not stopping, that is.

So please accept my apologies for the lack of photos - I'll try to do better tomorrow.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

One man went to mow ...

Kidsgrove to Bosley Bottom Lock

We're now two weeks into our Big Summer Cruise, but it feels longer than that. Time passes in a completely different way on a boat.

Soon after leaving last night's mooring on the Hall Green Branch of the Trent and Mersey we came to the stop lock where the Macclefield Canal proper begins. Or, rather, ends. The bridges and locks are numbered from Marple.

When we got to Bridge 85 we tied up and took sandwiches with us for a walk to Mow Cop.

Sometimes you can have too many arrows. Which way should we go? We chose to go over the stile.

This was the wrong way, which I realised after Jan had picked her way across a muddy bit.

The right way was to continue up the track up the hill, through the cow field, through the woods,
through the horse field, to get here.

I know what you're thinking, but you're wrong. The Old Man of Mow is the peculiar rocky pillar in the photo below. (Looks more like a woman to me.)

I scrambled up to the trig point; this is the view from up there. Unfortunately it was too hazy to see very far.

Another local peak visible from the canal is The Cloud. Perhaps we'll walk up that next time we come this way.

After a total of only four hours cruising we came to Bosley Locks where we tied up and enjoyed a barbecue with great views.

The weather has remained excellent, although it has cooled off a bit compared with most of this fortnight. It is still T-shirt conditions, but I did wear a fleece first thing. Yesterday coming through Stoke-on-Trent we had some very fine drizzle, but it was hardly worth getting the coat on for it.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Queues at locks? What queues at locks?

Meaford to Kidsgrove

We've been fortunate with our locks so far. We've had to queue at only two or three locks, and each time it was behind just one boat. That was on the Staffs ands Worcs a couple of days ago. We've seen queues facing us, and boats have queued behind us, but so far we've had a good road.

Stoke Top Lock is one of the deepest we'll do on this trip.

There are few bottle kilns remaining in Stoke-on-Trent, but pottery manufacture still goes on here. Steelite sounds as though it is a metal company, but it makes the sort of things that this area is famous for ...

... as can be seen from the reject skip.

We made good time, stopping for lunch at Westport Lake (just south of Harecastle Tunnel). I made a tour of the lake by bike, photographing a goose behaving as if he owned the place.

And then it was on to Harecastle Tunnel, where we had to wait for only half-an-hour or so.

Shortly after exiting the tunnel we turned left onto the branch which leads to the Macclesfield Canal, and tied up on the 48 hour moorings between Poole Aqueduct and Red Bull Aqueduct. The former takes the canal over the Trent and Mersey main line; the latter over a road.

I knew there was a large Tesco along the road, so I whizzed there on my bike for essential supplies (milk and toothpaste). It was "interesting" getting down the steep bank to the road with the bike. Even more interesting getting up it again!

Tomorrow sees us on the Macc. proper to continue our journey north. Bosley Locks, here we come - woo hoo!

Monday, 28 July 2014

A ceramic welcome to Stone

Tixall Wide to Meaford

North of Great Haywood on the T&M is what looks like a Gipsy encampment.

A dog on a leash was repeatedly jumping up and down.

In a field I saw a strange bird. Can anyone identify it for me?

On this stretch CRT were doing bank works. I stopped mid-channel and waited while they got out of the way. As a bow thruster they used the digger, putting it down on the bed of the canal and moving the bow across by extending the arm.

South of Stone I recognised this boat before I could read the name. It's No Direction, formerly belonging to former bloggers Ray and Jayne, who will, no doubt, be pleased to know that the new owners appreciate the lovely boat.

At Stone we trawled the many charity shops in the pedestrianised High Street, and did a food shop in the Co-op. I think more than half the items we bought were reduced, including tiramasu, lemon tart, chocolate eclairs and strawberries! We're all right for pudding-type materials for a while.

There's an interesting welcome sign by the towpath, but facing away from the canal so you see it only if accessing the town via Bridge 93.

It's composed of ceramic tiles, each (presumably) made by different people of the town or signfying different elements of Stone life.

Tomorrow I think we'll bash on through Stoke on Trent and the Harecastle Tunnel. Another early start? 10.5 miles and 16 6 locks to the south portal should take 5.5 4.5 hours. Yes, we should easily make it.

Now, with the sound of a mosquito's high-pitched whining in my ear, I'll go to bed. Oh, and the more pleasant noise of trains running past a few feet away.

edit to say: My brain's going. I subtracted 34 from 40 (Stoke Top Lock) and got 16, not 6. (Adam, where were you?)

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Bad beer, good beer

Penkridge to Tixall Wide

I omitted to mention yesterday that I sampled the Banks's Mild in the Star pub in Penkridge. Unfortunately it had a nasty metallic taste, and the replacement from the new barrel didn't taste much better. Perhaps the old stuff hadn't been properly pulled through.

The Star redeemed itself today, though, with an excellent Sunday roast lunch and a pint of Jumping Jack. The lunch was exceptionally good value at £5.50. If we'd had room for pudding that would have been an extra £3.00. I can't remember ever having been anywhere where the service was so quick. After ordering and sitting down with our drinks we barely had time to wonder whether we should have brought the crossword when the food came.

Before lunch we went to the Methodist church in the village, where a few people remembered our son-in-law Ben and his parents. His dad used to be the minister there.

We left our mooring shortly before 2.00 and moved slowly along a pound which had gone down several inches in the night. (At 0600 we'd been awoken by the boat banging against the side. I looked out and saw that the mooring lines had gone loose - I tightened them and went back to bed.)

The low water level revealed how the bank had been strengthened in the past with old tyres.

Later we found ourselves negotiating a narrow channel in the reeds.

Slightly more hazardous was the sunken boat, the second of our trip so far.

Never a pretty sight.

Speaking of sinking, one little job I did while we were going along was to clear out the waste hose from the bathroom sink.

I undid the Jubilee clip and pulled the hose off the white plastic bit, then blew through the hose to eject the gunk. Testing it after putting it back together revealed that the sink still wouldn't drain properly. Undid again, removed plug device, cleaned with old toothbrush, blew more gunk out of hose, reassembled - now drains properly.

Reach for the skies ...

... and give me your logs.

And so to Tixall Wide where we have moored for the night. After a light tea we walked to Great Haywood and visited the Clifford Arms. This is the "good beer" of the title: Okell's Porter. This was the best beer of the trip so far. And the barlady (landlady?) gave me a taster glass before I committed to the pint, and she removed the sparkler on my request. Perfect.

A small note on the weather: It has been a bit cooler today after some rain yesterday evening and overnight. There's still been a good amount of sunshine though, but it has been more comfortable. Not that I didn't like the heat...

Saturday, 26 July 2014

More than 21 locks in Wolverhampton

Somehow the boat we overtook yesterday beat us to the locks this morning, despite our prime mooring at the top. By the time Jan had been for a paper and I had hunted for O-rings Jura Reve (there should be a circumflex over the first "e") was about five locks down. Not to worry, there were plenty of boats coming up the flight so I didn't have to turn many.

Do you see the large building behind Jan? I noticed it yesterday.

The question was, WHAT was founded in 1818?

The other side of the building provided the answer.

Chubb's lock works.

Back to the other type of lock. Exiting the top lock Jan steers Jubilee under Littles Lane Bridge.

There are several interesting bridges over this flight, including one railway bridge over another one over the canal. I saw a freight train pass over the lower bridge - unfortunately I wasn't in a position to photograph it. Here's the high skew bridge instead.

It took us three hours and five minutes to clear the flight; here Jan does a rare bit of gate work.

Shortly after turning right onto the Staffs and Worcs we topped up with diesel at Oxley Marine. At 86p/litre they claim to be the cheapest in the area.

Approaching Penkridge we were buzzed by a couple of microlights.

As soon as we were on the S&W we noticed the difference in the amount of boating traffic. We even had mini queues at locks, with plenty of novice boaters.

Friday, 25 July 2014

The clear waters of Wolverhampton

Day 10 of our Big Summer Cruise of 2014. Here are some stats for the five hours of cruising we did today:

Locks: three.
Trips down weed hatch: two.
Moving boats seen: two. No - three, there was one on an aqueduct overhead.
Barbecues had: one.

We made a leisurely start from Gas Street at 1015 and were soon out of the central Birmingham area on the wide and deep Birmingham Canal (new main line). We saw there was a boat in front of us, and were catching it up over a distance of two miles, until just past Bromford junction he waved us past. It was a curious place for the overtake as it was quite bendy and there were trees overhanging on the right. As I opened the throttle and moved to the left I was aware that the canal was quite shallow near the bank. This had the effect of giving me minimal speed advantage over the boat we were overtaking (Jura Reve). I got there in the end, just feet before a bridge hole.

Before this excitement we had the bonus of seeing a boat pass overhead on the Old Main Line or Wolverhampton Level on Stewart (or is it Steward or Steward's) Aqueduct.

Here's a graffito for Adam.

It was another hot day, and the grass cutters were doing their thing on the north towpath. Except they weren't, they had abandoned their strimmers and were taking a break in the shade of a tree.

It's great that the towpath vegetation is being cut back, especially on the lesser-used northern one, but it's a pity so much of it lands in the water. Shortly after passing through all the floating grass cuttings we stopped on the Ryland Aqueduct where I removed a quantity of freshly cut stalks from the prop.

Perhaps I should have waited until we'd cleared Factory Locks.

After the three locks progress was again slow. I couldn't be sure whether it was the relative narrowness and possible shallowness of the Wolverhampton Level we'd joined, or something else round the prop.

We got through Coseley Tunnel and then stopped. A visit down the weed hatch produced a large thick plastic bag from the prop. I'm always surprised by how well the boat copes with so much rubbish round the prop.

Immediately after Deepfields Footbridge is a large pipe bridge. These youngsters found the challenge of beating the anti-climb spikes too much to resist.

Nothing of great significance happened until we tied up in Wolverhampton just above the top lock. (Nothing of great significance happened then, either.)

We walked into town to look round. It was our first time there, despite having passed on the canal at least twice before. I continued my search for a supplier of large O-rings for a project on the boat and, again, drew a blank. Where are all the hardware/ironmonger's shops? There's an excellent one in Norwich (Thorn's) but that's no good to me here.

When we got back we had a towpath barbecue, then pushed the boat across to the other side to be slightly "safer" from night-time revellers. The police and ambulance sirens are slightly closer, but the trains are slightly further away. Not that you'd notice. There's a curve just to the north of the station, right opposite us. The train wheels squeal as they negotiate this curve, and the track sounds like (proper) jointed rails (not the continuous welded stuff which doesn't sound right!) I can feel the vibrations in the boat. I don't suppose all this noise will keep us awake, though. If it wakes us early in the morning we'll make a reasonably early start down the locks to beat the heat. (This summer weather is fantastic, isn't it? Long may it last!)

Oh - the clear waters of the title: here in Wulfrun* the canal bed is very weedy. This seems to filter out the sediment from the water, with the result that you can see the bottom, and loads of fish.

After we had moved across to the 24 hour mooring the other side I noticed a floating island of rubbish. This was gradually moving to our original mooring, so I went round and fished out the bottles, cans and expanded polystyrene, put them in a discarded carrier bag, and deposited it all in a bin.

Maffi would be proud of me.

*Wulfrun is apparently the old name for Wolverhampton. A case of the modern name being an embellishment of the original rather than a contraction?

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Evolving language at King's Norton

We moved on from Bridge 5 on the Stratford Canal today and tied up for the night in central Brum, just round the corner from Holliday Wharf. On the way there were several interesting sights.

First, by the water points at Bridge 5, this house has been in renovation mode for several years.

It's looking almost finished ... apart from an extension (a garage?) being added at the back. It now sports a name: Canal Cottage.

Just past Bridge 3 lie the sorry remains of a fibreglass cruiser. It looks as though it had been set on fire. CRT notices warned of the hazard.

After Brandwood Tunnel, in which we passed a boat which entered as we had almost exited, we came to the old guillotine lock at King's Norton. This has recently been "restored", but not to operation. There's no need, as the Stratford Canal now meets the Worcester and Birmingham on the level.

On the western gate someone, presumably Gary or Gareth, has left his mark.

"Gaz waz ea". In former times this would have been "Gaz woz ere" (I don't suppose there would ever have been an apostrophe). Now we have "ea" for "here"! It's logical. If, in a few hundred years' time, the accepted spelling of the word meaning "at this place" becomes "ea" you read it ea first.

Not that I condone in any way the daubing of graffiti on anything, let alone historic canal structures.

And so to Gas Street Basin (almost). We attended to the loo cassette at Holliday Wharf then, as I have said, moved round the corner. I'm now regretting moving as it's quite noisy with all the revellers walking past. There was plenty of space at Holliday Wharf.

Oh well, it's only for one night. Tomorrow we have the delights of Wolverhampton to look forward to.