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.