Thursday 30 September 2021

A bun fight, short tempers then peace broke out.

 Sorry Reader to have left you in the lurch, I know you have all been waiting expectantly for the next installment, but I took a night off then one thing led to another and before you know it a week has passed by and I'm all behind like a dogs tail.

But moving on...

David had been out on one of his excursions by bike and called in at Sandbach Waitrose on his way back.. 

Its evidently not too far from Wheelock if you find yourself hereabouts.  He brought me lots of tasty treats I'm not sure if as a reward for Heartbreak Hill or a sweetner for Audlem locks coming soon..

Last night as I said we just jumped on the very first mooring in the rain and flopped, but had we have gone on past the popular moorings we would have moored fine away from all the moored boats.  
There is water here and a rubbish point too I believe and as we sailed past the water point I said shall we water up here?
No we'll do it in Middlewich where there is water too.

Okay on we went on miles of canal out into the countryside, past gardens which I was able to pass judgement on and houses too of course, then close to a railway line.

Just a few locks as we dropped down on the approach into Middlewich, we followed another boat who in turn followed a single hander so it was rather nice to chat as we waited the short time for each lock to turn.

Here's a converted mill if that takes your fancy, myself I fear it's almost ugly and I won't be making an offer.

Now how's this for a pleasant lawn with a canal at the bottom, myself I would have those willows down the day I moved in.

Well this is such a rare sight I thought I must post it.  It's a hedge that's been trimmed leaving a decent height to see over.  Fabulous.

Coming down into Middlewich, houses now where enormous piles of salt used to be heaped.

I was glad at least this pub still stands.  It looked to be a restaurant now, I can't be sure.

Gorgeous lock cottage, but whoever planted those Laylandii should be taken out and shot.

Great fun was had in Middlewich, firstly a hire boat pulled out in front of us, the lock was to have been ours as another boat had just exited it coming towards us.  Had we of gone into this lock it would have been the first lock in our favour in about 30 locks.
David was a bit cross, actually I was too, so in the windy conditions David hovered and eventually it was our turn.

Looking over the bridge here at Kings Lock it was a right bun fight.  Boats approaching the turn to the Middlewich Arm from the north, boats coming out of the lock wanting to turn onto the Arm from the south, boats not wanting to turn but just get past.  
To turn onto the arm you have to make a right angled turn under a bridge so you are completely unsighted, now then add to the mix, boats leaving the Middlewich Arm wanting to go either north or south onto the Trent and Mersey Canal (which we were currently on) but if a boat had already made the turn then there isn't really room to pass by the waiting boat, so the waiting boat might have to reverse back into the traffic from whence he came.  Stay with me Reader here for right on this junction, there is the waterpoint which we needed to fill up with.

Well there were boats everywhere, going in each direction and actually there weren't any punchups.

I chatted to a lady watching all this on the bridge, she was an ex-boater and I asked her if it was always like this?  
"Yes" she replied, "Its great watching it all!"

By complete fluke when we exited Kings Lock the water point which doubles as the lock landing for ascending boats was free.  David ran forward start filling with water our water tap attachment didn't fit the tap.  Now Reader, this little old attachment is years old, has been with us all over the system and at every other tap we have used it had fitted..... but not here.

By this time the sun was very warm, we had done well over the allowable union hours cruising.  I DEMANDED that we go  around the junction and take the first sunny mooring available as I wanted to relax in the sun.  

As it happened there was a sunny mooring just above Wardle Lock, which we were told by a man leaning over his hedge that it is the shortest canal on the system, Wardle Canal  HERE  is the shortest canal in the country even, from the bridge, the few yards to the 72' lock then a few yards more above the lock.  
Who knew?

We moored up, small argument about pins or rings, when you are 70ft the rings always seem to be in the wrong place.... in the end David did something very creative with ropes and dangles (fenders) and I found the sun by now a bit too hot to sit in.  So later much later when the mood was calm and loving again we walked around the corner to the Big Lock pub on the Trent and Mersey canal except it seemed to be three miles away.  Anyway as we got there and had the pub upstairs to ourselves, there was a hire boat on their first day, low level anxiety was palpable from the balcony where I was gongoozerling, so a narrow boater who was descending the lock stayed behind and gave a lesson in how to operate a double lock to the rank beginner and Reader I have to tell you she was a marvellous teacher and I wish I had met her years ago, she deserved a round of applause.  

Newby Hirer in pink, marvellous Locking Coach explaining all.

I'm quite liking my G&T in a cut glass glass here.

Well, we left the balcony and went to sit in the converted carpark which is now the sunny terrace.  Only intended to have a drink but ended up ordering food, to enjoy in the sun.

So supper ended up being a bucket load of nachos with all the trimmings plus olives.

We waddled back to WaL, got lost in the town and was helped by a local lady who took pity on us.


Friday 24 September 2021

Sorry how many locks did you say....?

I was expecting the day to be wet.  The forecasts had said rain in the morning and then showers, the other forecast said showers in the morning then rain setting in...  I have a new book and I was happy to have a day off, BUT cracks of blue sky appeared, then bigger cracks then loads of blue and we set off just to see if we could do a few locks before the rain appeared.

I was peeling off layers after the first lock and by the second lock we both had our sunglasses on. We have been down this flight a good few years ago but we had three young crew visiting and we just shot down the whole lot in one day, so I haven't much recall of the beauty of the surrounding countryside.
But it's really lovely.

Slightly out of sequence, as you can see the lock below is full and prepped, this was the only one of the day that helped.

This was our first lock of the day, see why we quickly donned sunglasses?

Now we are on the Staffs and Cheshire border which is big dairy farming country.  So good to see black and whites for us, a sight which is becoming uncommon down in the south of England.

I asked David if his heart missed a beat and would he of liked to have hopped over the fence to help the farmer get the cows in for milking for old times sake?
So that's okay then.

So Reader, you might recognise the photo below as Mow Cop.  Its accessible by foot from the Macclesfield Canal and we did just that some years ago but although I've searched I cannot locate the blog post to show you the photos from the top of the amazing views.
(It's called Mop Cop in our house but my SIL always corrects us.)

The views of the surrounding area from the top are spectacular.  

This was a "Turnover bridge" that is to say to my Reader in Brazil, when the towpath crosses from one side to the other and  the horse pulling the boat by rope could cross the bridge and not have to unclip the rope. 
Very very clever and the bridges are things of beauty.   But they are hard to photograph.

One half of the Turnover bridge

David was trying hard to avoid me curling up on the lock beam and going to sleep again so he jumped off and did some donkey work.

When I was down one lock I noticed these marks, I presume left by the stonemason, but I have seen similar on the door entrance at Tewkesbury Abbey and also on a house in Lecce South Italy in a house used by the Knights Templar.   

Well as you can see the sun still shone and I had wanted to stop here in Rode Heath, the moorings were full with no signs of anyone out and looking like they were thinking of moving.
So we carried on down towards Hassel Green, full moorings and so onto Wheelock. 

Rode Heath was full so on we went.

I might just like to say that I managed to get WaL into that lock below at the funny angle without any bangs or scrapes.  Not bad for a Rookie methinks.

Well sadly,  the clouds did arrive later in the day and the last few locks were done in a stiff breeze and steady rain.  Pity, but I was pretty shattered I have to say.  We had done 20 odd locks and bar one we had had to turn each one not meeting any other boats bar that one.

We exited the last lock at Wheelock and dived onto the first available mooring which was in front of the lock landing.  The creaks all evening from the lock being emptied each time were pretty noisy, anyway,  wet kit off and hung up in the bathroom, I was cold, laid down on the sofa under a blanket and promptly fell asleep,  David said it was an hour I say much less more like 50 minutes.

Too sleepy to go to the Italian here.  Supper was avocados with poached eggs on toast and tomatoes.

Wednesday 22 September 2021

A long day but a pleasurable one.

I forgot to put these few photos up last night of when we were at Weston a couple of nights ago.

A big local boy.

Then this was spotted over a lovely glass of white on the back deck.

Quite a good zoom.

A bloody brilliant zoom, rather them than me though.

Now who can tell me what this small door was for?  Farmers used to count their sheep while stuffing them through small door but something tells me this is for a different purpose,  Anyone know?

Back to Barlaston.

We were up early the next morning and slipped quietly out of the line of boats here at Barlaston.  We got in easily last afternoon but in high season it's a different matter.  There are the Stoke locks to tackle today.  
A few years ago when we heard of a family crisis at home and we were in a real hurry to get back, at these Stoke Locks we met "Rob The Lock".  Now we think Rob is a good egg and he used to help people through these locks with the aid of his bike and at one point his son although his son has moved onto pastures new, well Rob found us that day and locked us down at great speed helping us tremendously.  I paid him generously but today he has his own rates.
In fact just last week I had an email from Jaq "Mrs Valerie" as she is known in this house,  HERE   Jaq is the widow of Les who very sadly died after only a few precious years together.  Jaq returned to her native USA and from there wanted to know Rob's phone number for another friend who needed help with the locks all around Stoke.  I didn't have it after changing phones from Apple to Android, several numbers got lost in translation.  I have it now as Geoff had booked Rob this morning.

So as we arrived at the first lock there he was, already helping a single hander down.  There he was going to be meeting Geoff later.

An early sight in Stoke, an old Bottle Kiln.  Stoke and the surrounding areas was known as The Potteries making all England's finest bone china exported all over the world, there were these bottle kilns all over Stoke, in the heyday over 4,000 today I read just 47 remaining and all listed. 

No date on this shot but I would estimate late C19th. 

Caption reads

The Mersey Weaver Wharf - Burslem Branch Canal

note the amazing number of bottle ovens on the skyline
The skyline is the district known as Dale Hall - between Burslem and Longport

The above photo taken from HERE  
This one below looks in a sad state, but the whole site looked as if it might be going to be redeveloped.  Time will tell.

These two have been restored to my satisfaction, but even then they have green growing out of them.  I would want all the old buildings preserved but there again I'm not paying for it.

A famous name, but these are not the original premises

Along this stretch of Stoke, it looks like they are clearing the site, certainly of the saplings and weeds, David was disappointed that much remained in the canal or had been dropped.  I'll keep these photos to contrast and compare in the future.

Sad to see the old fabric declining.

We arrived at Westport Lake and could easily see why boaters stop here after Stoke.  Its most attractive with its visitor centre and cafe in the sun.  We almost moored up forgoing our 3pm Harecastle Tunnel booking but in the event we did keep going as we would have a couple of hours to have lunch, relax and rest before tackling the locks downhill from the tunnel.  

However on arrival, at 12:30 the nice little CART volunteer manning the tunnel waved us straight in "To get rid of us" we of course complied and chugged in.

I had found the life jackets under the bed and I donned my cycling helmet too and helmed WaL most of the way.  The roof of the tunnel is VERY low in the centre but today with water levels so low there wasn't a problem.

WaL nose and indeed interior was full of spiders, this should get rid of a few.

The south portal of The Harecastle Tunnel.  It took about 45 mins to get through in the dark and cold.

Initially we were completely blinded by the light changes. 

Exiting the northern portal.  From way back the light was again completely blinding, so much so I was convinced the boat in front had a backward shining light that I was cursing, but no it was the sun.

Looking back and just look at the change of water colour here.

Looks like caramel something to do with iron content....?

This adorable wee place is looking the worst for neglect since I was last here, I can't make out the wording now on the sign.

And so we start downhill.  It was beautifully warm now and with missing out on lunch I was beginning to flag.  David spotted the tell tale signs when I curled up on a lock beam and stopped moving.  He decided I needed to swap places...

Very nearly a split bridge.  

Last vestiges of summer colour here, same shade as the water.

The famous Red Bull service point but former BW Yard.

We rocked up at the Church Lawton moorings, which are about 5 or 6 locks down from the summit.

Sitting in the sun right beside a dairy farm.

This is where the day finished for me.  
We had nibbles and olive bread with cheeses, followed by peach surprise.

Tomorrow I can't quite believe it, is going to be rain either all morning or all afternoon, they haven't decided yet.
I am quite looking forward to DOING NOTHING.