With the jobs done we cruised the 300m to the base of the staircase lock to take us up and out of Stoke. The workers were dredging this section of the canal, there was a significant stack of rusty bicycles, shopping trolleys and steel bed bases. I hovered at the bottom of the lock while Rachael set it. Rachael's not a fan of these, things can go wrong! This time it did but Rachael was up to the task. The bottom lock didn't fill enough and the boat was grounded on the cill of the next lock, a quick release of more water from the top lock paddles and the boat was afloat again.
We cruised out of Stoke once again but this time on new water with some interesting sights, more bottle kilns, more evidence of the huge pottery industry that once was. Day one was really uneventful apart from all the rubbish that floated by and the double bed mattress that I managed to avoid. This is the worst part of the canals in cities, it seems there is always lots of rubbish that finds it way into the water. Our first stop was Milton, the last mile was rather slow with the boat very sluggish and running hotter than usual, the obvious signs of having rubbish wrapped around the propeller shaft. We moored at Milton and straight away I opened the weed hatch, donned a rubber glove and dived my hand in to feel what was going on. I pulled out some booty, mainly weeds and what was left of an old cloth. Propeller sorted! Rachael has started spending a lot more time on the tiller but mainly at locks to share the workload.
Cheddleton was the next port of call, a cruise of 3.5 to 4 hours normally, but with quite a lot of work being done on the canal tow path it slowed the trip somewhat. On our way we cruised past the Leek junction, then down three locks to pass under the canal to Leek, we will head that way in a few days. We moored in front of an old flint mill that had been around for quite a long time with reference to corn milling back in 1694 and then converting to flint grinding in the late 18th century. I took a self guided tour which was well signed giving you an idea of how the mill worked. One of the most interesting things was the double water wheels, must have been a busy place! If you would like to know more go here.
We headed into the Churnet Valley which was very picturesque. Today we spent most of our time cruising beside a historical railway with the same steam engine passing us both ways several times. It's no wonder the railways took over from the boats delivering cargo, so much faster! We cruised to the terminus of both the canal boats and the trains at Froghall. Cruising mainly through thick forest, it reminded me of Puffing Billy and The Dandenongs at home. It was early afternoon so we moored the boat and went down to the station for a cream tea. Turning the boat at the terminus we headed back to Cheddleton to spend the night.
The plan for the next day was to spend a few days at Leek, a short arm of the canal and only around two hours cruising from Cheddleton, an easy day. This was also where we had told our solar panel installer to meet us to do the solar installation. We passed through the Leek tunnel, around 70 metres, I dropped Rachael off to search for a mooring while I turned the boat. I got Serafina half way around and there was a hell of a commotion on the bank behind me. A dog owner's two dogs off the lead had jumped onto one of the boats after the boat owner's cat. I think they had had words before because of the way the argument was going. The poor old cat ended up in the water to escape after dropping off the side of the boat and swimming to the other side. The owners saw Sarafina as the quick way across the canal and asked to come aboard. I dropped them off to search for the cat who was well hidden by now. I continued my turn and as I picked up Rachael the cat was being carried, dripping wet back to the boat. Rachael had come back empty handed, no space! We promptly headed off to an alternative mooring, reaching Endon in 1.5 hours. An interesting phenomenon in Endon, opposite the moorings, is a paddock that the geese seem to like, there must be over a hundred of them squawking.
We let the installer know of our change of plans, which is always a challenge because phone signals on the canal are usually poor. In this case we had to walk up to a bridge about 100 metres away to get a phone signal. While we were on the bridge we received a text message from friends wanting us to meet them in Milton tomorrow which fitted in nicely, it gave us a free day. We had to be in Milton on the 31st because Rachael had made a hair appointment on the way up.
A nice low key day in Milton ensued, some beers and a spot of fishing off the back of 'Dunslavin', we could see the fish but none were prepared to commit suicide on our lines. The carpenter had rung and said he wanted to pick up our table to do some work on it that we had requested. Turns out it is near his home so he was there in a flash and over a cup of tea decided to completely demolish the Pullman dinette while he was there, not just the table. While we are away in Scotland he is going to rebuild it to Rachael's specifications.
We are now back in Stoke and leaving Serafina in a marina for a few days while we head off to Scotland for birthdays and farewells. It's nearly time to go home and back to work.
|Filling with water at Stoke Services before setting off|
|Rachael bringing Serafina through a lock|
|Artwork beside one of the Stoke locks, this one dedicated to the pottery industry|
|Passing under the Leek Arm Aquaduct, Caldon Canal.|
|Cheddleton Flint Mill|
|House built across the canal at Cheddleton, probably an old warehouse|
|Cruising beside the historical railway|
|Train arriving at Froghall as we are on our way to the station for cream tea|
|Just some of the geese at Endon|
|Fishing off the back of Dunslavin at Milton|