Friday 30 April 2021

Leek lagoon, Hazlehurst Aqueduct, strange sentry box in the woods

Would you believe it? The instant I untied to reverse to the winding hole it started hailing. Then snowing. And, finally, just raining. What did I do? Carried on, of course.

I like Leek Tunnel.  Short and straight, with plenty of headroom.  I don't even have to remove the chimney (usually a problem because the stove is on the wrong side of the boat).
As it was still raining, and as it was coffee time, we tied up in the lagoon the other side of the tunnel. Less famous than Tixall Wide, but just as beautiful.
Carrying on, we crossed Hazlehurst Aqueduct ...
... and passed under the same aqueduct an hour later.
We tied up nose to nose with Ichthus and had a socially distanced cup of tea with fellow BCF members John and Jane. They showed us the trophy they have just won as editors of our club magazine, The BCF Word. The AWCC judged it to be the best club magazine for 2020 - well done John and Jane, and thank you for all your hard work. Here I should provide a photo of the trophy, but I omitted to take one. Sorry!

Instead, here's a view from our mooring.  There's a line of white houses on the top of a hill which stood out against a dark sky just before the rain came.
We walked back to the Hollybush at Denford for a meal with another BCF friend, Babs, who lives in Cheddleton. On the way I snapped this very small building with a door with a digital lock. Odd.
The food was good but we all got rather cold having to sit outside. (Roll on the end of these pandemic restrictions.) You can see how cold it was getting by the mist that formed on the water.
Tomorrow: Froghall. And will we squeeze through the tunnel? Probably not.

Thursday 29 April 2021

To the very end of the Leek arm

I was just attaching the tiller arm this morning when a boat came past to go up the Stockton Brook Locks. I went back inside and had a cup of tea. After half-an-hour we set off but caught up the boat after three of the five locks.

Here is Jubilee coming up the top lock.
Further on was the "obstruction" in the canal, which is the pivot point for a long-gone swing footbridge.
The cows showed little interest as we made our way towards Hazlehurst Junction.
Straight on for the locks and Froghall; turn right for Leek. We turned right but ended up to the left of the Froghall branch as we crossed it on Hazlehurst Aqueduct.
Large houses overlook this sweeping bend. In fact, there are quite a few such properties on this canal.
As always, I went to the very end of the canal. The narrow channel ahead was formerly navigable but is now the feeder from the reservoir. The narrow channel ahead is the feeder from the reservoir; rocks and mud bar entry. The canal used to continue to the right, parallel to Barnfield Road. Wharf House is at the end of Barnfield Road, near the junction with the A53, possibly indicating the original end of the canal.
I knew I was unlikely to be able to wind, being ten feet longer than the advertised maximum, but I gave it a go. No, the boat wouldn't go round, so I reversed to tie up with the other moored boats 100 yards downstream.
We walked to Morrisons for supplies and had tea. I watched an IWA webinar about sustainable boating, during which Jan drew my attention to a pink sunset.
Tomorrow we'll have a look round Leek. Then we plan to head for Cheddleton. (Updated to correct duff info re. the end of the Leek Arm, and to correct spelling of Hazlehurst)

Wednesday 28 April 2021

Broken stern fender, stiff Morse control, lovely Caldon Canal

It has been several years since we've been on the Caldon Canal; now we're enjoying this lovely waterway with lots of interesting features. First up was Etruria Staircase locks.
In the next lock, Planet Lock, Jan watched as the stern fender nudged the bottom gates as the lock filled. She continued to watch as the fender slipped to one side. Oops.
The left-hand chain has become detached from the fender - I suspect a shackle has failed. We tied up in Hanley Park and I made a repair of sorts, threading the chain through a loop of the ropework of the fender. I wonder how long it will last.
While we were stopped I had a go at freeing off the Morse control lever which had become very stiff. The last time the control got stiff was just before the gear control cable broke last year. I disconnected that cable from the Morse lever and pulled and pushed the inner. It felt a bit stiff, but not hugely so. With the cable disconnected I operated the Morse lever, which still felt a bit stiff, but not as stiff as before. I tried to dribble some oil down where the inner rod emerges from the outer sheath, but I don't know if this will make any difference. The Morse lever itself looks a bit like it's coming apart, so I think this is the real problem. With the gear cable reconnected it all felt much like it did before, i.e. too stiff.
Those cables look a mess, don't they? Some of that is how it was when I bought the boat but some is down to me!

Speaking of cables, not far above Hanley Park was this canalside box disgorging its innards.  I have noticed a few of these anonymous boxes - do you know what they do?
Of the three lift bridges encountered so far two - Ivy House Lift Bridge and this one at Norton Green - are electro-hydraulic operated by BW key; the third is manual hydraulic operated by (large-eye) windlass.

Interestingly, the control panel for this Norton Green lift bridge is user-friendly, being on the towpath side.
We tied up below Stockton Brook Locks and went for a walk before tea. Crossing the middle of the flight is an abandoned railway line. This is complete with concrete sleepers and rails. There are a few trees to clear before trains can run again.
From the urban surroundings of Etruria it's not far to the rural scene of lambs in the evening sunshine.

Tuesday 27 April 2021

Early start, wagon wheels, rain at last

We made an early start this morning, getting under way from Stone at 0615 so as to beat the forecast rain.
In the event, the rain only really came at about 2100 so we would have missed it anyway had we got going at a more leisurely hour. These few spots dampened the roof for a few minutes at coffee time when we stopped at Hem Heath Bridge for Aldi.
Coming into Stoke-on-Trent I saw hundreds of railway wheels at a "DB" works just south of the (invisible from the canal) station. I missed the best opportunity for a photo so you'll have to make do with this.
In the fight of locks up to the summit level we quickly caught up with a hire boat. One lock down from the top, when emptying the lock to go in, they had failed to notice that a top paddle had been left partially up. This took about 18" from the pound above; I was in time to restore some of the loss from the summit pound.

At Etruria we turned sharp right onto the Caldon Canal and tied up outside the museum opposite a large tree covered in white blossom.  We had the curry part two: just as good!

Monday 26 April 2021

Logs and good curry in Stone

We decided to have a "day off" in Stone today. We might regret this if the forecast rain comes as we're climbing the rest of the locks to Stoke-on-Trent tomorrow!

We happen to be moored right next to a most convenient pile of logs begging to be chopped.  I did my bit in tidying the area, leaving plenty for others.
For tea we got a takeaway from the Crown of India. I had easily the best chicken chat and lamb madras - also the hottest - for a long time. Unfortunately, owing to a slight misunderstanding over the order, I had to make do without pilau rice. We cooked some ordinary rice on board (as well as spinach from Morrisons) so all was not lost. Excellent portions mean tomorrow's meal is sorted too.

Sunday 25 April 2021

Moove away, please!

Last night was quite breezy. We have a BCF burgee attached to a short whip aerial just behind a water can on the roof above our bedroom. The flag was slapping the can and making quite a racket.

After Zoom church we left our mooring and made our way to Stone.  The bulk of Salt Bridge gives the impression that there isn't much headroom but, as the photo shows, there is plenty.
Two cattle took a close look as we went past.
I expect the owner of this boat got fed up with the inevitable comments after the Evergreen container ship ran aground blocking the Suez Canal a few weeks ago.
Someone has gone to town planting vast numbers of tulips at the entrance to Stone.
We tied up on the 5-day moorings, i.e. below the locks, and walked into the town. We like Stone and will probably stay here a couple of nights.

Saturday 24 April 2021

A swivel bridge that doesn't, a lockdown memorial, a swallow that might be.

This morning we walked into Great Haywood to buy a paper from Spar, then I did a little painting: priming the bare patches on the front wooden doors.

The first bridge between Tixall Wide and Great Haywood Junction is called Swivel Bridge.
I'd like to see that swivel. (Perhaps the brick structure replaces an earlier conventionally swivelling bridge.)
At Tixall Wide there is a wooden plaque commemorating boaters who shared the first lockdown together there. It reads: 
Covid 19 Lock Down March to June 2020
Tixall Wide Moorings
Keith & Carol  Serona Latis
Mark & Abigail  Utopia
David & Josie  Red Red Wine
Cornish Chris  Joan The Wad
Penny  Campanula
Lucky (with a paw print)

The plaque is lovingly etched and varnished.  Well, I suppose they had plenty of time ...
Near the bridge was a boat with an interesting wooden-framed, multi-panelled front window. Jan pointed out that the frame resembles a tree. Oh yes! A real work of art. The lower two panels are hinged so presumably can be opened for ventilation.
We turned left onto the Trent and Mersey where Jan spotted our first swallow. At least, we think it was a swallow.
I didn't think they rested, but this bird sat on an overhead line so I could take its photograph. Very nice, but next time could you please face my way? Thanks.
We tied up just past Weston upon Trent, away from the pub and the noisy chickens/cockerels. After tea we walked back to Weston and talked to fellow BCF member Peter who had joined his daughter's hire boat for a few days. We then looked round the churchyard before returning to Jubilee, where we saw red condensation trails from aeroplanes in the vicinity of the sunset.

Friday 23 April 2021

Stafford, long-lasting lock gates, two lots of outdoor refreshment

Another sunny day. We walked into Stafford via the long narrow bridge I mentioned yesterday.
I think it goes over the Sow, not the Penk. Our route then followed the Sow into the town. The river was formerly navigable via a lock from the Staffs and Worcs; it appears that work has started to build a replacement lock as part of the restoration of navigation into Stafford.
In the town I happened upon a Wetherspoon's; we were in time for breakfast so we had our first meal out for several months. "Out", of course, being the right word, as we sat in the beer garden. It was sunny and warm, more than can be said, sadly, about the fry-ups.

Before we left our mooring - a really good one, just south of Radford Bridge - fuel boat Bargus came by with coal for the boat in front.
One more thing about that mooring:  we heard a Cetti's warbler.  A passing towpath walker told us that there are three nearby.

We crossed the Sow on Brindley's Milford Aqueduct ...
... and came to Tixall Lock. The bottom gates are dated 1976. They have either lasted amazingly well, or the dated steel plates have been refitted to subsequent gates.
After seeing few boats on the move I was surprised to find the moorings at Tixall Wide very nearly full. We slotted in to what looked like the last space and tied up with some difficulty owing to the wind, which tried to push the boat away from the bank. After tea I walked back to Percy, moored just before the Wide, and had a good (socially distanced, external) chat with Nev over a beer.

Thursday 22 April 2021

Lockdown boating and lock tail bridge widening

On Wednesday morning I saw Nev approaching. He stopped Percy mid-channel while we exchanged greetings; as he got going again he turned round to take a photo of Jan and me at the front of Jubilee. I'm trying to remember when we last met up. It might have been some years ago. Anyway, while Nev was taking his photo Percy was drifting rather close to the moored boats in front of us. I pointed this out and Nev took avoiding action. Close one!
At Gailey we took on water and observed a boat coming up the lock. I remarked on the boat's name to the owner.
He said he bought it just as the first lockdown started and wanted something to remember it by. After all, he said, it was only going to last a month, wasn't it? Hence Lockdown (!)
As we approached Penkridge we rounded a bend, came through a bridge hole and saw Percy looking just about to set off. Nev held back and graciously allowed us to pass and take the lock. We were only going to the 48 hour moorings just below the lock, so I reset the lock for them.
We walked round the village but didn't need to buy anything. The next morning (today!) we had a very pleasant cruise in unbroken sunshine to Baswich, stopping just before Radford Bridge (handy for Aldi). These are the very neat park home-type dwellings on the north of Penkridge.
At one of today's four locks it looks like the tail bridge has been widened with the addition of a wooden beam. I suppose the original bridge was somehow deemed too narrow for today's plus-size generation.
At Baswich (or is it Stafford to the west of the canal? Or maybe even Weeping Cross?) we stocked up at Aldi and took a lovely dusk walk along the canal, over a long narrow footbridge over the Penk flood plain, through a housing estate with roads named after public schools and back past Aldi again.

Our view from the boat:
Hey - I've caught up! Unless I get behind again there should be just one day's worth of happenings to blog about every day from now on. While cruising. I hope.