Monday, 18 September 2017

Final Post for the 2017 Season

After another short stay in Middlewich we headed off to our final destination for this season. The trip was quite uneventful but I did notice along the way that CRT are starting their winter maintenance program already. Another thing you notice towards the end of the season is the signs going up for designated winter moorings.

We are currently preparing Serafina for her winter stay in our chosen marina for this year. The washing machine has been going flat out so we carry as many clean clothes with us as possible, we still have a couple of weeks holiday on the way home to Australia. There is plenty of general cleaning to do and not to mention there's still some painting to do.

Sunday (yesterday) I washed the boat from top to bottom and now have half of one side left to polish. It's a shame that I will only see her polished for a few days and then when we return I will have to do it all over again prior to leaving the marina. I hired a car today from Enterprise, they picked us up this morning and it will make the final few days that little bit easier to get around and get a few things done.

We  did discuss some possible cruising destinations with our friends Kevin and Carole while we were moored together which we will firm up over the (UK) winter. So preparations are already underway for the 2018 cruising season. First up in 2018 we plan to give Serafina a refit with work to be done on the galley, side hatches and bathroom.

No photos for this post but our soccer ball count advanced by two to finish at 43, a surprising result! I thought the total we be in the three figures but I have noticed that the canals we have cruised this year seem to cleaner than previous years.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Back in Middlewich and Nantwich

Middlewich seems to be the centre of our universe at the moment as we headed off down 'Heartbreak Hill' for an overnight mooring in Rode Heath, a small village with a nice pub, The Broughton Arms. On the way we passed by this farm where the calves had just been released from the barn to their mothers in an outside pen, the din from them all trying to find each other sounded chaotic.

And the view from the side of the canal as we made our way back down the 11 locks to Rhode Heath, I'm guessing for the third time this season.

A 9:30am start next morning as we headed off from Rhode Heath once again and straight to the first of 14 locks for the day. We planned to get to Wheelock today, another small village. An overcast day with some light showers but we managed to dodge the worst of it, as we were mooring up the rain really came down heavily. With the rain finishing off a longish day, I hit the shower. Showers on the boat after cruising are much better than first thing in the morning, the water is scorching hot!

We scored a lot of rain overnight so we didn't move off the boat until next morning where we got going early, cruising the 300 metres to the Services where we filled with water and dumped our rubbish. The water point at Wheelock was nice and fast and we were off reasonably quickly, trying to make Middlewich around midday for lunch with friends. Today, Saturday, we had another eight lock day ahead of us.

You know you are getting close to Middlewich when you pass British Salt. So much salt!

And of course The Kings Lock pub is right in Middlewich at, you guessed it, Kings Lock.

I rang our friends as we locked down into the junction with the Middlewich Arm and Kevin was straight up to help us through the last three Middlewich Locks, we moored just above Big Lock, so called because it is large enough to take broad beam boats. Apparently the plan was to be able to have broad beam boats move from the Mersey River (coast) inland as far as Middlewich however, all the tunnels can only take narrowboats. It was lunch at The Big Lock pub overlooking the canal and a long chat and then again over the next few days before the ladies decided they would like a larger shopping centre, we headed off up the Middlewich Arm to Nantwich.

We see this boat often as we head out of Middlewich, it's a historic boat, the hull built in 1860's and was horse drawn up until 1928 when it was converted.

I wouldn't recommend the kids using this slide into the canal, I've seen some of the things that float in there and get thrown in too.

It's a two day trip to Nantwich for us stopping overnight near Venetian Marina along the way. Rachael and I stopped off at Aquaduct Marina just before mooring and spent an hour touring through Knight's Boats, a brand new boat would be nice but!

Here we are following our friends up one of the locks along the way, the girls working the locks together, getting ready to let the water go. Practicing for next year's cruising perhaps?

It was a couple of nights stay in Nantwich and with everyone contented, shopping bags stowed we headed off to the winding hole to turn and go back the way we had come. Not my favourite sort of day, we had waited for the rain to subside but half way to the winding hole down came another shower. Fortunately, we were nearly at Barbridge when the rain came down again, a little short of our original destination but at 12:30pm it was a good time to moor and grab lunch at The Old Barbridge Inn.

It was also the best place to watch the rain, enjoying a nice hot lunch and a drink or two, we decide to stay at Barbridge for the night and head off in the morning.

Today (Sunday) we said farewell for the second time to our friends after stopping short of our destination the day before, they continued further on along the Shropshire Union Canal (SUC) towards Chester and we turned right at the junction to head down the SUC Middlewich Arm. There was a queue at the first lock, we were number four to use the lock and several boats coming up the lock as well. This continued for all three locks today as we followed the same boats. This is lock number two for the day with the old lock keeper's cottage beside it now converted into a residence as most are.

We followed a hire boat with six older (50 or thereabouts) ladies on board and plenty of booze on board too. It was entertaining to watch as they made their way back to the Middlewich hire base, running aground on several occasions and hitting the side of the canal so hard I thought the boat was going to run up on to the tow path. It kept our day interesting! For what should have been a three hour trip it turned into a long day, more like five hours with all the queuing. However, we managed to dodge the rain all day and moor up just in time for a heavy downpour that has lasted over an hour so far.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Finishing the Four Counties then up the 'Macc'

We've been moving around rather quickly just recently, well for a narrow boat anyway! Just trying to get a few things sorted before we head back to Australia for summer. Most boaters have the winter to get things done on the boat, we tried that once from long distance with poor results.

We headed off from our overnight mooring in Rode Heath before continuing on up the dozen locks and cruising on to the Harecastle Tunnel (2926 yards). No waiting today, the Tunnel Keeper took our details and did the usual checks and we were straight into the tunnel as I was still putting my waterproof jacket on. It can get rather wet inside the tunnel! A forty minute (or thereabouts) cruise through the tunnel we finished our day mooring at Westport Lake. It's the first time we have moored here but we have been for coffee and cake on several occasions, it's a lovely area with lots of birds.

Not the only boat on the mooring, there were half a dozen others with us eventually but it has been a strange cruising season, these moorings would normally be full quite early in the afternoon, especially in August. And the view across the lawn...

Overnight at Westport and then a stopover at Stoke Boats ten minutes along the canal, for a quote for some joinery work before cruising on to Stoke on Trent moorings, this is the end of the Four Counties Ring for us in Staffordshire. A longer stopover in Stoke gave us a chance to get a few more quotes for joinery as well as getting a chance to fix those niggling jobs, our mooring was only five minutes walk from the retail park. We made it a five day stopover to get all the bits and pieces done so we slipped down to the Services for water at the start of the Cauldon Canal before winding (turning) just before the staircase lock and going back on to the same mooring we had left in front of the Toby Carvery. While we were on the mooring we managed to slip into Toby Carvery for breakfast with friends who dropped in for a visit on their way to Fradley.

Everything sorted for now we headed off back through the Harecastle Tunnel, this time on our way to the Macclesfield Canal to visit friends Dave and Gwen on NB Harebell. Rachael snapped a couple of pictures as we headed out of Stoke on the Trent and Mersey Canal. There are several abandoned old warehouses as we moved along the canal.

The last shot is of Middleport Pottery, built in 1888 and still operating as a pottery, there's a nice cafe with moorings just out of this shot. We finished our day on the Macclesfield Canal at the Scholar Green moorings. A short cruise on from our overnight moorings were the rolling green lawns of Ramsdell Hall built in the 18th century.

The 'Macc' mile posts look a lot like gravestones, this one giving us the distance to Marple which is at the terminus of the Macclesfield Canal.

There were no locks to do as we took it easy with a nice two hour cruise to our overnight mooring in Congleton before we take on the only lock flight on the 'Macc', Bosley Locks, a 12 lock flight.

Bosley locks takes our boat up 113 feet (34 metres) in just a mile. These locks had a unique water saving system once in use now the Bosley Reservoir does the job. The ponds next to each lock use to take half a lock full of water the other half would go to the pound below the lock.

Heading along the embankment on our way into Macclesfield.

Dredging opposite the Macclesfield Pontoon Visitor Moorings. There's plenty of dredging required right along the canal!

On our way out of Bolington after a lunch break at the Waterside Cafe, one of the residents of the old mill (in shot).

An interested on looker, herons don't usually hang around as you pass.

Still with some work to do we met our friends Dave and Gwen at the moorings at Higher Poynton. After a long chat we had dinner together before heading down to the Boar's Head Pub for a drink. It was only a flying visit and by ten o'clock the next morning we turned around and headed back down the way we had come.

The view from the moorings at the bottom of Bosley Locks.

On one of the permanent mooring sites along the way.

One of the views from our moorings as we head back down the 'Macc'

The tow path changes sides of the canal on several occasions and each time there is one of these bridges with a large sweeping path to accommodate the horses towing the boats in earlier times.

It was such a beautiful day when we left Higher Poynton that we just kept on cruising arriving in Congleton around 7pm, a long day but a lovely cruise. From Congleton it was only a short cruise and one stop lock to the Hardings' Wood Junction and back on to the Trent and Mersey where we started to lock down the hill from Kidsgrove almost straight away. This time we are heading back to Middlewich

We have only added one to our soccerball count, the total now 41.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

The Four Counties Ring

In my last blog, I know Bob it was over two weeks ago, we were just turning on to the Staffs and Worcester Canal to do the Four Counties Ring. And, here I sit, just outside Stoke-on-Trent having effectively completed the Ring with no blogs in between.

Even after four years of canal boating it's still difficult to slow right down, I think we still did the circuit too fast, even with most of our stops at least 48 hours and shortening our travel days. We collected a few pics along the way, trying not to duplicate too many from our 2014 circuit. We had stopped at Penkridge over night and Gailey is just down the canal, it is hard to pass the roundhouse at Gailey without a picture.

By lunch time we had turned off the Staffs and Worcester and on to the Shropshire Union Canal (SUC). Lots of long straight stretches on the SUC and high arched bridges.

Coming into our mooring at Gnosall Heath we passed through Cowley Tunnel. Cowley Tunnel was interesting as it was carved out of solid rock with do brick lining required.

Our mooring at Gnossal Heath.

Another of the high arched bridges on the 'Shroppie', this one with an old, unused telegraph pole in the centre.

We passed the old warehouse of Premier Foods, old but relatively new in canal terms, opened in 1911 for the loading and unloading of  grain and stores, you can see the verandah projecting well into the canal.

There were several lock gates along the SUC to stop the progress of boats, I would assume for some sort of tolling.

Saturday morning and we were cruising at tick-over for quite a distance, fisherman every ten metres for what estimate to be two kilometres, there were a lot of them!

Just like the tunnel above there were several stretches along the SUC that were cut out of solid rock. It was a little tricky at times, these stretches weren't terribly wide so oncoming boats had to wait for passing points.

We were looking forward to getting to Audlem, last time we were here there were several farm shops and Audlem didn't disappoint. As we waited at the top lock for our turn we came across the first of two farm shops where we picked up a blackberry pie and some cornish pasties. This farm shop was at lock three of the fifteen lock Audlem Flight where we picked up some ice cream and shortbread biscuits, both home made.

Another nice mooring on the Shropshire Union, this time at Audlem.

And The Shroppie Fly pub at Audlem; headed here for a pint after a long locking day.

After a night in Audlem we moored in Nantwich, locked up the boat and headed off to Liverpool for a few days to see friends who were moored at Salthouse Dock for a week. Our highlight, after spending time with our friends, was taking the Magical Mystery Tour. We didn't get a chance to do this last year when we spent a week in Liverpool.

After Nantwich our next major stop was Middlewich, it was a four day stop. We spent two days on the visitor moorings before moving down to Kings Lock Chandlery to have a 12 volt line installed for a new refrigerator. Despite the fridge being 12 metres from the batteries Mick had the line in without too much difficulty and Friday our new fridge was delivered.

Today (Sunday) we cruised from Wheelock, after a two day stay, to Rode Heath, a fourteen lock day. Many of the locks today were duplicated, speeding up the locking process.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Cruising From Trent Lock on the Trent and Mersey

We arrived back at Trent Lock after our quick sojourn on the Erewash Canal. Just after we arrived I received a phone call from one of my workmates, he was in the UK and staying nearby so instead of heading off straightaway tomorrow it was lunch at the Steamboat Inn instead. After lunch we took the short cruise to Sawley, mooring across from the marina on our second attempt. Our first attempt was abandoned when one of the more classy boaters you meet was trying to catch his dinner and complained bitterly that tying our boat to the moorings here would ruin his fishing. Our discussion was taking place over the top of the noise from his huge generator powering his boat electrics, I was only too pleased to move down a few boats and moor. We couldn't hear the generator inside our boat but it was still going when I locked up the boat at 11pm.

Overnighting in Sawley, we headed south-east down the Trent and Mersey Canal, this is the first time we have cruised this part of the canal. The countryside was unremarkable as we cruised south until we got near to Willington where it seemed to change, I'm not really sure how it just seemed different for some reason. We were doing double locks for quite a while until they stopped abruptly at Burton Upon Trent. Not sure why but I'm sure if I delved deeper there would be a reason.

On our way to Alrewas we met a fellow Australian over in the UK for the summer.

We spent the next night in Alrewas, our tour of this village went via the village butcher where we picked up some beautiful cornish pasties and pork sausages.

We moved on to Fradley Junction on Friday, only a very short cruise, less than an hour. Back on familiar waters we have cruised time and again, it seems you need to go through Fradley Junction to get to so many places. We took an extra day at Fradley although it turned out to be very busy over the weekend. I managed some more coats on the painting jobs with the extra time and we made several visits to the Canalside Cafe.

What was suppose to be a another short hop of a couple of hours cruising to Rugeley turned out to be the canal version of peak hour to get through the Fradley locks, we started at number six in the queue. Sometimes it can be difficult to get a mooring at Rugeley, it is hugely popular with boaters. The older boaters tell me it is the 'Tesco (supermarket) factor' being 100 metres from the moorings, it was never a problem mooring when there was only Morrison's. Another forty-eight hour stay at Rugeley with a chance to do some more painting and get another quote for some upgrades to Serafina.

We arrived in Great Haywood just after lunch and moored just below Haywood Lock. A few hours later a CRT work boat moored behind us with a couple of lock arms as cargo. My conversation with the two volunteers delivering the work boat was that first thing tomorrow Haywood Lock would be closed for three or four hours for maintenance. I quickly untied the ropes as Rachael set the lock and we now sat on a mooring above Haywood Lock ready for an easy get away tomorrow. Turned out to be a good decision, by the time we left, just after 9am, there were already half a dozen boats waiting at the top of the lock and several more at the bottom.

We cruised just past the junction to fill with water, reversed once full and headed off the Trent and Mersey canal and on to the Staffs and Worcester, all this under a very overcast sky. This will be the second time we have cruised this portion of the S & W Canal this season as it is the fourth time we have been through Great Haywood and several times mooring at Rugeley and Fradley Junction.

The soccerball count is now at 40.