Friday, 8 August 2014

Nearly Home!

The last full day of the Summer 2014 trip.  We awoke rather late after an enjoyable evening out last night.  But we were able to set off at 9am immediately descending Star Lock and soon afterwards Aston Lock just beyond the edge of Stone.  However as it turned out we hadnt started early enough as an hour and a half later we were fifth in the queue at Sandon Lock.

There were a similar number of boats waiting to come up so it was about an hour before we were able to travel onward.  Then along the familiar route via Great Heywood Junction and Heywood and Colwich Locks (another queue) mooring at Wolseley Bridge just before 4pm after being on the go for 7 hours.

 It means that we are now in easy striking distance of our home mooring with no further locks.  So an easy run tomorrow even if the weather turns bad.

This is the last blog entry until our next journey, perhaps in October or maybe not til next year.

Thursday, 7 August 2014


The trip from Barlaston into Stone of 4 miles and 7 locks  is one we have made many times and is pleasant and usually fairly quick and easy.  This time although it was still a pleasant journey we were delayed by other boats particularly on the outskirts of Stone where we were third in the queue when we arrived at each of the three locks.

At the last lock we were delayed further when a boat coming in the opposite direction broke down in the lock.  The owner looked at the engine and found that it was no longer connected to the prop - somewhat disconcerting!  So she and her crew member had to pull the boat out by hand to the adjacent boatyard.

We reached Stone, one of our favourite canal towns, at lunchtime and were lucky to moor at the last available spot as it is popular with many other boaters.  This evening we will be going out for a meal with friends.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Through Stoke on Trent

Stoke - Old pottery 

 Stoke - Derelict canalside factory 

Stoke - Old bottle ovens preserved in grounds of block of flats

Heavy rain overnight but OK in the morning.  We  left the lake at 9:30 and traveled through Stoke.  As the guide book says " a fascinating length of canal, not always (if ever) beautiful but all extremely interesting". Extremely interesting particularly to industrial archaeologists as unlike in many places nowadays the old industrial canalside buildings have  been left to decay into dereliction rather than renovated to create flats, shops, restaurants, offices, and museums designed to take advantage of a waterside location.

At Etruria where Josiah Wedgwood built his pottery and arguably kicked off the industrial revolution, we reached the first of the locks which will take us down hill again all the way home.  There was a small queue of narrowboats when we arrived, longer by the time we left over half an hour later. By lunchtime we had left Stoke and were approaching the last of today's locks at Trentham.  We moored shortly afterwards opposite the "new" Wedgwood works built in the 1930s with the latest technology removing the need for the highly polluting bottle ovens.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Harecastle Tunnel into Stoke on Trent

A much easier day to day.  After setting off at 8:25 we just had 5 locks and 1 mile until we reached Kidsgrove where we moored an hour and a quarter later to visit the local Tesco, our last chance to shop until Stone.  Shopping completed about 1 mile further cruising with one lock took us to highest section of the Trent & Mersey Canal and the entrance of of the 1.75 mile Harecastle Tunnel.  It was built by Telford in 1822 to supplement one built some 45 years earlier by Brindley.   Telford's tunnel included a towpath (now removed  to provide extra headroom required because of mining subsidence) whereas boats had to be "legged" through Brindley's.

The tunnel isnt wide enough for boats to pass and so passage is controlled by C&RT staff.  We had to wait an hour with 7 other boats for the tunnel to clear before we were allowed to enter, each boat starting 2 minutes after the previous one to allow diesel fumes to clear and to minimise the chance of collisions.  Then a pretty quick 35 minute journey through to the southern end on the outskirts of Stoke on Trent.  Much of Stoke is an unattractive city from a canal perspective, but the Westport Lake a mile beyond the tunnel provides very pleasant mooring and gives us a home for the night.

Monday, 4 August 2014

heartbreak hill

Wow!! That was hard work!  6 3/4 hours continuous cruising with 20 locks on what is sometimes called Heartbreak Hill.  Fortunately the weather was perfect - sunny and warm but not too hot.

We started off at 8:15, hoping to get a free run at the locks, but it didnt quite work out as there was a boat ahead of us when we stopped at the first lock, three other boats soon followed behind us.  We are now on one of the most popular hire boat routes, the 4 counties ring,  and each week a wave of hire boats passes around the route.

Waiting at one of the Church Lawton Locks

After the first lock others followed at irregular intervals taking us steadily up hill.  I didnt notice the scenery much, but there appeared to be little of interest until the last part of the journey when we ascended the very attractive 6 Church Lawton Locks.  As the picture shows these like the others on his section of the Trent & Mersey Canal are often paired locks allowing better traffic flow.  However whilst a significant number of locks either never were paired, or have one of the pair out of use, there continue to be bottlenecks.

We moored up at 3:15 in hilly countryside near Church Lawton.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Moving again towards Stoke on Trent

Lucky we didnt move again yesterday afternoon - soon after publishing the blog there was a heavy thunderstorm.  However the weather was much better this morning.  We started fairly early as we wanted to avoid queues at the locks.  This is a heavily locked section of canal, with 31 ascending locks in the 13 miles between our Middlewich moorings and Stoke on Trent. Each lock is pretty easy but the number saps ones enthusiasm and the total distance means that the journey would be expected to take us 2-3 days.

Although there were many boats on the move we didnt experience any major delays.  The countryside is mainly flat agricultural land enlivened by the occasional salt works where white mountains of the stuff can be seen.  We carried on for 8 locks and 5 miles until lunchtime when we stopped near the village of Wheelock not far from Sandbach.  This was our last chance of mooring before a further 11 locks to the next mooring opportunity, perhaps another 3 hours.  Not wishing to cruise until late afternoon this is where we have stayed and plan to start again early tomorrow.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

A wet day

Pretty wet for much of the day so we stayed in Middlewich.  The rain stopped mid-afternoon but too late to make it worthwhile moving on.  Opportunity for a bit more grocery shopping, Guardian Crossword etc etc

Friday, 1 August 2014

A rainy trip to Middlewich

The rain started soon after we got up.  By 10am it was still raining, but the forecast was worse for tomorrow.  So what to do?  Stay where we were for two days with no shops or pubs within easy walking distance and our stores running low?  Or brave the weather and make for Middlewich some 3 hours away?  Eventually we chose the latter.  Fortunately there were no locks until the Big Lock at Middlewich and no swing bridges or anything else which would force us to get off the boat.  So after warming the engine and undoing the ropes we were on our way.

I drove whilst Denise stayed below for the first 1.5 hours.  It wasnt too uncomfortable as the rain was relatively light, there was no wind, and our waterproofs are very effective.  There were a fair number of boats on the move, many of them being hirers needing to get back to base for the weekend. Denise drove for the second half of the journey and by 1pm we were moored in Middlewich, soon afterward the rain had stopped.  We are assuming that we wont move tomorrow.