Sunday, 27 October 2019

Cruising the Trent and Mersey and Caldon Canals

From Whittington it's not a long cruise to Rugeley where we were able to easily get a mooring right near the Tesco Supermarket, our cupboards were a little bare. It had been around three hours of cruising and only three locks to knock over, so a leisurely days cruising. Two days here and we were off again to spend a couple of days in Great Haywood and once again a leisurely cruise, this time one and a half hours and two locks for the day. Another two day stop and we love to get across the Essex Bridge to Shugborough Hall and have a walk around the estate. If you would like to know more about Shugborough go here.

To continue our town hopping, another short cruise, this time to Stone, where we had the boat hull blacked at the start of the season. Just one day in the 48 hour moorings before we moved up four locks to the other end of Stone and on to the five day moorings, we were heading for Scotland for the last time this season.

When we were up in Scotland last and on our tour of the Outlander Series sites we went to Falkland for a half hour visit as it doubled as an early Inverness in the series. We didn't have time to see what really caught my eye, Falkland Palace! So, it was in the car and back over to Falkland in Fife for another visit. The palace as you see it now was begun in 1501 on the site of an existing castle and previous to that, in the 12th century, a hunting lodge. It is one of two Renaissance palaces in Scotland.  The palace is a National Trust site and well worth a visit.

Falkland Palace

Falkland Palace from the street.

Tapestry in the hall

Mary Queen of Scots' death mask

The queen's bedroom
Back to the boat and just an overnight stay in Stone before we were off to Stoke on Trent. Rather than make it a leisurely trip we had booked some tickets for the cinema at Festival Park, so it was a six hour, 12 lock trip. Two days in Stoke outside the Toby Carvery before winding (tuning around) and heading back less than half a mile to the junction with the Caldon Canal, first opened in 1779. A tank of water at the Services near the junction before heading up Locks 1 and 2, a two chamber staircase lock. We finished our first day on the Caldon at Endon. The weather was rather average so we stayed an extra day then headed off towards Leek.

 The Caldon Canal junction, Leek to the right, Froghall to the left.


An easy run to Leek, winding just after the 120 metre Leek Tunnel then reversing back three boat lengths to our mooring.


The terminus of the Leek arm is another few hundred metres on with a 45 metre winding hole, not quite big enough for us!


The tow path across the now filled in aquaduct into Leek. Morrisons is a fifteen minute walk, Leek shopping centre an additional fifteen minutes.


Heading off from our Leek mooring towards the tunnel after four days.


Out of the tunnel...


We headed back to the junction while it was a reasonable day for cruising. The weather hasn't been very predictable and it started raining as we arrived back at the junction. A short but heavy rain storm and then we knocked over the three locks to get us under the 1841 built, Hazelhurst Aquaduct and under the Leek Arm above.


Last time we were on the Caldon the moorings were limited at Cheddleton but some investment recently from various sources has allowed CRT to more than double the number of moorings. There's room for approx. a dozen 57 footers!


We were still dodging the rain and on Sunday we took a tour of the Cheddleton Flint mill. This water powered mill supplied flint to the nearby potteries including the Wedgewood company.



The weir with channel to the water wheels
The furnaces
A collection of mill wheels
A half hour walk down the tow path from our Cheddleton mooring for a drink at The Boat Inn.


And just near The Boat, the Cheddleton Station (excuse my finger) part of the Churnet Valley Railway maintained by volunteers.


Looking back down the hill to the main road through Cheddleton, we found a nice tearoom called the Old Schoolhouse Tearoom, at the top.


We were told that the Churnet River was well up and to get to Froghall we had to drop on to a river section after Lock 16. We left our mooring on yet another overcast day, under the building in the pic and to the first of several locks for the day.


It wasn't a long cruise to Lock 16 and sure enough the River Churnet was in flood, well into the red, too dangerous to attempt going further. We turned and headed back to Cheddleton.




Consall Forge moorings are at the end of the river section on the Caldon. We didn't have time to wait around for the river to go down and take the chance of getting cut off, we were heading home to Australia in a few weeks. But with a visitor dropping in for a couple of nights we decided to head to the Black Lion at Consall Forge for dinner, it was the only way were we going to get to Consall Forge this year. It turned out to be good company and good food.


It was time to head back to Stoke. One of the sculptures beside the lock on the main line. There were several of these depicting aspects of the surrounding area such as pottery.


One of the locks, note the split in the bridge to allow the rope of a horse powered boat to go through, the safety rails are a later addition.


On our mooring at Milton and starting to feel the cold, it was time to stoke up the fire for the first time in six years.


Coming back into Stoke on Trent. Here we are about to pass under one of the ornate bridges of the city park. We had been told to keep an eye out for stone throwers in this area but no such problems. These issues come up from time-to-time, generally in the main school break.


It was time to head for our mooring and pack up for the winter.

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Leaving Birmingham on the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal

It was a false start as we headed off from our mooring. I went through the usual preparations for our departure from our mooring but when I started the engine there was no charge going into the batteries! After some basic fault finding I gave River Canal Rescue (RCR) (like the AA in Britain or the RACV in Australia) a ring for a bit of expert help. They were there in an hour and we were off around 11am but half way down Gas Street and the same issue again! Although, this time the problem had a burning plastic smell!

We returned to our mooring and gave RCR another ring and again they were out within a few hours but this time they replaced the offending alternator which had virtually no pin left to attach the exciter wire (for those technically minded). Then there was the burning smell which was easily located as I no longer had any instruments reading at all. The wiring was sorted out and all but the oil pressure were recovered, it seems I have a project to do a little later. It was now after 4pm so no cruising today!

The next day we did get away from our mooring, that's Serafina heading down Gas Street.

Gas Street beside the basin

Looking back towards the basin

Under one of the major entertainment streets of Birmingham
Nearly at the turn onto the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal, just a right turn under the bridge in the distance and the work for the day begins!


Within one hundred metres of turning onto the new canal we arrived at our first lock of many for the day. After dropping down a couple of locks you are engulfed in multi storey buildings, that pretty much the story (excuse the pun) for the whole Farmer's Bridge Lock Flight, thirteen locks in all.


Still on the Farmer's Bridge Locks, this lock was under a bridge. You can see the other arch, possibly for an additional lock to speed things up. There is evidence of dual locks right along the route out of Birmingham although one of our readers (see comments) tells me that in fact they are just side pounds to maintain the water supply down the flight in the absence of any by-washes.


Same lock but from further back.


Still traveling under the buildings, all designed to accommodate the canal.



Starting to get out into the open as we make our way out of Birmingham.


Same lock again looking back.


Still continuing down Farmer's Locks.


Finished! The Farmer's Bridge Locks done we were able to get going but not for long.



It was only a short cruise before we made a turn at Aston Junction which, I don't mind saying, caught me by surprise as I nearly cruised pass the turn. It was tucked away very closely behind another bridge and I had to back up to make the turn. Lock 1 of the Aston Flight is right there at the start so I had to reverse back to the lock landing to get off and set the lock. Then it was back across to Serafina because I forgot my Lockmate Key to release the vandal proof lock.

The Aston Flight contains ten locks, several of which you had to slosh through the water as they overfilled.


So that was another ten locks to knock over. The last lock was the only one that we needed to take extra care with, as we were passing a boat exiting the lock he warned us that there were a couple sitting under the bridge shooting up. We completed the lock without any drama though, You never know what they're using and sometimes can be unpredictable but we left them to do their thing.

We continued on and turned right at spaghetti junction (overhead freeways everywhere), making sure we didn't head off towards Star City (hard right) although Rachael was keen to double her money! It was still the outer suburbs of Birmingham and they took awhile to shake. We passed through the last three locks for the day at Minworth, the water at Minworth had an attack of blue/green algae but not for very far. Our day finished on a comfortable mooring at Curdworth.


Another fantastic cruising day as we head off from our mooring at Curdworth. Straight off it was the 57 yard Curdworth Tunnel. The cruising plan for today was to get to Fazeley Junction and see how we felt.


We almost enjoyed doing the eleven Curdworth Locks as we continued down the hill from Birmingham. These locks drop us a further seventy-four feet (approx). We passed the Dog and Doublet Pub just after Lock 8, lots of people out for lunch, very tempting. Not far to go now as we knocked over the rest of the Flight, this pic was the last lock for the day.


Not a flattering photo of me but the Old Lock Keepers cottage at the bottom of Curdworth Locks was looking great!


A popular bridge for photographers, the Drayton Foot and Swivel Bridge.


Less than half an hour from this bridge and we were at the junction turning left onto the Coventry Canal. It was only reasonably early so we continued on, we finished our day on the Visitor Moorings at Whittington. A late finish for the day, for us anyway! A little after four and we had no problems getting onto the visitor moorings, with school hols over there's a lot fewer boats on the cut.


Saturday, 21 September 2019

Birmingham

A great day for cruising again, as we set off from Alverchurch. The canal was in good condition, not much rubbish at all (you do expect it as you draw closer to a city) and we were on the summit so no locks for the day. We were looking forward to getting into Birmingham. We passed through Bournville with moorings right next to the station and on the offside too. No vacancies on the offside though!


These moorings are only a short walk from Cadbury World, if you are interested in a visit. Although, I found walking around Bournville more interesting than Cadbury World, where I was hoping to see chocolate being made.

We did pass some nice quiet moorings, just near the university and not far from our final mooring on Gas Street. We arrived in the early afternoon from our mooring in Alverchurch and we had the pick of the moorings but by 5pm they were full. This area has quite a few cafes, restaurants and bars but it quietened down quickly after 10pm.


Our mooring at night.


Not a great pic of the renamed Black Sabbath Bridge, named after the band.


Just down from our mooring was Gas Street Basin with a public walkway through the centre. Not sure security would be terribly good?


The iconic roundabout, the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal to the left and on the right the Worcester and Birmingham Canal (Gas Street).


We spent plenty of time wandering around this part of Birmingham, the canals have become very popular and are starting to command top dollar all over Britain if you want to live or build a commercial building near them. There are more miles of canals in Birmingham than in Venice and they have lots of shops and cafes nearby to investigate. Not far from our mooring is the main shopping centre of Birmingham, we seemed to visit each day, particularly The Bull Ring shopping centre. With time on our hands it was also a great chance to wander the numerous pedestrian malls.

We managed a busy few days here in Birmingham but most enjoyable.