Thursday, 28 August 2014

Stone to Tixall Wide

Last Wednesday we were expecting James' cousin Laura to arrive at Stone station, having left her car at Tamworth, and join us for a couple of days. We had the message from her she was on the train and expecting to arrive about half an hour later, we were just about to leave to meet her at the station when another message from her arrived to say there were signalling problems in Stafford so the train wouldn't be stopping at Stone, we later realised the train went through Stone but due to the signalling problems it was on the wrong track to be able to stop at the station. Instead she ended up at Stoke then got a taxi to Stone, where we headed to the Royal Exchange for a pint, pie and crisps before going on our way to Tixall Wide.

We went down the four locks from Stone and then through Aston Lock I then got the fire lit and casserole cooking as it would be fairly late by the time we arrived at Tixall.

Hard at work

And still hard at work!

We had a further lock at Sandon to do, it was great with two of us working the locks we were zooming through them.

We turned right onto the Staffs and Worcs Canal at Great Haywood Junction, it must have been just before 8pm when we arrived at Tixall Wide and were very lucky as there was just one space available and it was LJ size.

Tixall Wide (the following morning, the boat in front had left)

10.75 miles and 6 locks
Total  388.75 miles and 339 locks

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Kidsgrove to Stone

Sunday saw us leaving our Kidsgrove mooring crossing the aqueduct over the Trent and Mersey Canal, which apparently is one of only three such aqueducts in Britain. I'm guessing the other two must be the ones on the BCN, we passed over and under the one on the Birmingham Level Mainline and the Wolverhampton Level Mainline, and the other on the Engine Arm going over the the Birmingham Level Mainline.  

Macclesfield Canal over the Trent and Mersey
We turned a sharp left bend and ran parallel to the Trent and Mersey for about 600 yards, as that rose through two locks two meet the Macclesfield level, where we had another left hand bend, under the bridge and at the junction we turned right heading for 'the' tunnel. Just before the railway bridge was the queue where the tunnel keeper was and he informed us we were boat number eight, which was lucky as they only allow eight boats through at once, three other boats arrived after us to join the queue. It wasn't long before the five boats coming the other way passed by and we were on our way last in the convoy, the tunnel keeper had told us this was the best position heading south as the extractors were at the other end drawing all the fumes away so we should have a clear passage.

Entrance to Harecastle Tunnel 

Entrance to the original tunnel

Tunnel keeping waiting to close the barrier behind us

This was one of the low places

And out again in the sunshine, looking back
It took us just over 50 minutes to get through and at a couple of places it was really low. Once out, squinting in the bright sun, it was just as busy the other side with about 12 boats waiting to go through, some of them were going to have a wait of about two hours.

There are three tunnels through Harecastle Hill with only one remaining in use. The first was completed in 1777 and took 11 years, it was 9ft wide and one and three quarter miles long, there was no towpath and boats had to be legged through, as it was slow going it become a major bottle neck with huge queues and long waiting times, and in those days 'time was money', so a second tunnel was constructed in 1827 and took three years to complete, this time there was a towpath, but due to subsidence resulting in it being more than a foot under water in places, it was removed. Each tunnel become one way until 1918 when the original tunnel bore had sunk too much from mining subsidence. The third tunnel was a railway tunnel and runs 40ft above the canal tunnels, this was closed in 1960 and the railway now goes round the hill and through a much shorter tunnel.

We continued on to Etruria, where we moored near Festival Park for Morrisons which was a walk through the lovely wooded park to a massive retail park. We got the solar panels back on the roof which kept the batteries happy in the nice sunshine.

6 miles

Moored near Festival Park
Tuesday we set off through through the Stoke lock flight, which is made up of five locks and a drop of 50ft. At the top lock we met a hire boat just entering the lock, there are anti-vandal locks here, unfortunately they dropped their key into the water, I worked the lock for them as they attempted to get it back with a large magnet borrowed from the CRT maintenance yard next to the lock. We got LJ through the lock and left the hire crew still fishing for their key, hope they were successful.

I spotted this building along the road look over from the second lock
We carried on through Stoke-on-Trent and past the Stoke City football ground, which we could just see through the trees, then through Trentham lock with a drop of 11'11", past the Wedgwood factory and moored in a nice open stretch near Barlaston.

5.25 miles and 6 locks

Moored at Barlaston
Yesterday we set off just after lunch, after all the rain had passed by and were soon at Meaford Locks, where there are four locks with a total drop of 32'5". It was good going through these locks, with one in front and one behind us and passing a hire boat from Mercia Marina with a lovely couple and their daughter along with two dogs, which were in disgrace as they had rolled in something nasty.

Extreme measures to get a TV signal

Waiting for the lock, which is just behind me

Bottom lock and fisherman taken up residence on the landing
We carried on for a little while longer and moored up a couple of hundred yards from Lime Kiln Lock, just before Stone.

3.75 miles and 4 locks

Moored near Stone
We had a wander into Stone to suss out where the train station was so we knew where to go to meet our visitor on Wednesday. We found the great chippy and as time was getting on treated ourselves, would definitely recommend it, on our stroll back to LJ we passed by a Pub Boat and then found a shortcut to the station!

Enjoying steak and kidney pudding, chips and mushy peas

Inside the Bar Boat

Total 378 miles and 333 locks

Monday, 18 August 2014

Bollington to Kidsgrove

We made the most of our nice wide towpath and got the rest of our log supply chopped up and stored ready for winter, although with the temperature dropping like it has been it seems we will start to use it earlier than normal this year.

We set off aiming to stop just before the Bosley locks, so again no locks today, but there were two swing bridges. We past through Macclesfield and to the first bridge which was a manual one and the hire boat in front of us kindly re-opened it for us to pass through as they were waiting for their kids who were geo-caching.

Then it was onwards to the Royal Oak swing bridge which is mechanical, there were two hire boats in front of us hoping to stop at the pub, which appeared closed. I operated the bridge and they went through followed by James and LJ who then shouted across there was another boat following him. Luckily enough I had already been over to the car who was waiting and explained there were a few boats coming through and he was fine with it, he wasn't in a hurry.

As we approached the locks we realised the line of moored boats were permanent moorings and there wasn't anything else, there was a space without a name on it and as it was now early evening and we were leaving early morning we pulled in. 

We started off the next morning for the locks just as a hire boat past us, by the time we reached the lock there was another boat behind us, and when we reached lock 5 boats were now starting to come up, so for virtually the rest of the flight it was one up and one down. At lock 11 we both spotted a damson tree full of ripe damsons so we stopped at the visitor moorings at the bottom and went and picked some, then ended up staying there for the evening.

Bosley locks

Next day we had a rough plan for stopping in Congleton it sounded like it was a town with a lot of history. As I had planned doing a wash load we passed by the visitor moorings and planned to moor just outside with no-one else around so I could use the generator without bothering anyone, unfortunately it wasn't to be as we couldn't even see the towpath due to reeds and trees growing on that side so we carried on and stopped a couple of miles past, but too far to walk back to look around town.

Had to take this photo, I've seen it on so many blogs

Another viaduct

Lovely snake bridge just past Congleton

Moored just before bridge 81

Here we got our roof sorted ready for the tunnel, the roof boxes had to come off as we thought they would be too high at the edges. This gave us the opportunity of giving the roof a good scrubbing. We have also dismantle our wind generator and control box ready for selling as we just don't use it with the solar panels.

It was then just a short journey with just a stop lock then stopped before the junction with the Trent and Mersey at Kidsgrove.

Stop lock 

Near Kidsgrove

17.5 miles and 13 locks
Total 363.50 and 223 locks

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Bugsworth Basin to Bollington

On Saturday we made the trip back from Bugsworth to Marple passing by the wonderful views and through two swing bridges followed by two lift bridges. It was slow going as it is so shallow and when every boat passed us we ended up being grounded as we had to move over from the centre, most coming the other way had the same problem. 

Moored opposite the marina in Marple
6.5 miles

Sunday morning saw heavy rain, in the afternoon it cleared up a bit and the sun made an appearance so we set off, turning left at the junction onto the Macclesfield Canal. We stopped shortly after for water and the heavens opened complete with thunder and lightening, the worst had passed by the time the tank was full so we were on our way again and passing Goyt Mill. It was feeling pretty chilly by the time we arrived at Higher Poynton so the fire was lit to warm us up.

Goyt Mill

Just before bridge 14
3.25 miles

Monday it rained most of the day so we hibernated.

This morning was another early start going for a lovely walk in the sun up Cage Hill and Lyme Park, where there is a lovely National Trust house in a deer park. On the way back we stopped for a cup of tea at the Tea Cosy, a trading boat, where we had a great pot of tea and biscuits for just £1 each. Unfortunately, going by the nasty notice at the nearby Bailey's Trading Post they don't like a bit competition. We got back to LJ fully refreshed and straight away pulled pins and set off on our way again.

Looking up the canal

I suppose James does look shepherd like, with his stick

The Cage in the distance

And up close

The main house

Poodle wearing gaiters

The Macclesfield has lovely bridges.

Then it was past Clarence Mill and Bollington, mooring up before bridge 30.

5.75 miles
Total 346 miles and 210 locks

Friday, 8 August 2014

Marple to Bugsworth Basin

Setting off from Maple we turned right at the junction back onto the Peak Forest Canal, this section is know as the Upper Peak. We were treated to fantastic views, the photos really don't do it justice.

We moored up after just a couple of miles near Strines, I was more than happy as we were opposite a field a of my favourite cows, although we didn't see much of them as they were in a huge field with only a small part by the canal.

Continuing our journey a couple of days later we passed by a tree which had fallen across the canal, someone had cut just enough from it to get a boat past.

Then is was past the Swizzel Matlows factory, where I spotted the Love Heart production through some windows.

And another stop off just before Carr Swingbridge, where we had fantastic views from the windows.

Onwards again took us through the swingbridge and past a row of lovely cottages.

And the wonderful views continued.

We carried on down to Whaley Bridge and moored on the long term moorings for the night, there were only two visitor spaces and they were both taken.

We had a wander round Whaley Bridge and yesterday we winded and stopped right outside Tesco to top up the cupboards.

The end of the Peak Forest Canal at Whaley Bridge
It was a right turn down to Bugsworth, first we had to drag another boat back across the canal, it's front rope had come undone and there was no-one on board, the basin was surprising empty, only four other boats in the whole place when we arrived.

Set up for a BBQ in the evening sun

Hot smoked mackerel, potatoes and salad, very yummy

With banana, toffee sauce and cream for pudding
This morning we set off for an early morning walk up to Eccles Pike, which was about five miles in total, but seemed a lot more as it was really hilly, we were back at LJ by 10:15 ready for a well earned cup of tea and some Welsh Cakes.

Crossing the A6, too early for the morning rush hour

Passed by these old fairground rides near a farm

We came across this old lock beam a good few miles from the canal

It was uphill all the way

They have strange looking sheep up here 

7.5 miles 
Total 330.5 miles and 210 locks