Saturday, 30 April 2011


We were away in good time this morning to avoid any congestion delays at the tunnel which was a short, very straight run away. As we approached we could see directly in front of us the original tunnel entrance, replaced later by the larger Telford tunnel.

We checked in with the tunnel keeper - we were actually the second boat to arrive, the first was about fifteen minutes ahead of us and we were asked to wait a few minutes for a further boat to catch us up. He could then avoid opening the tunnel doors a further time! These doors have a fan built into them to ensure that there is good ventilation and when the doors were closed after both boats were inside, there was a very definite increase in air speed.

Andrew was at the tiller and we passed through without touching the sides once! If only Standedge will be like that!

The other end of the tunnel we passed Hall Green Junction where the Macclesfield canal leaves, to pass over the Trent and Mersey a short distance ahead and then comes the start of the Red Bull flight of locks - most of the locks in this section are doubled. A large sign outside the pub at the first lock reminded us that it was the day of the Royal Wedding: at least one of us had completely forgotten! However, it did mean that a much larger number of boats than usual were moored up with their television masts at the ready! Also close by is a reminder of the former Kidsgrove Gas Light Company.

We stopped at Red Bull services for the usual and then continued on down to Church Lawton where we moored. After a lazy lunch break, Mike and Andrew set off to walk to Kidsgrove station to catch a train to Willington, via Derby in order to pick up cars from Mercia Marina and bring them back to the boat. The journey was very smooth and just as planned.

The church of Church Lawton is curious - its nave is obviously a lot more recent than its tower. The following morning we called in for coffee and to look inside the church. Its tower is 16th century with remains of a Norman entrance door but the main part of the chancel fell down and was replaced in the 19th century in the style of a non-conformist chapel, complete with a West Gallery but also an organ!

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Stoke on Trent

Overnight it had been rather cold and, although it was a bright sunny morning as we arose, there were still some traces of a ground frost.

We continued along the Trent and Mersey, first through Aston lock and then up to Stone. At the second lock there is a carved statue to commemorate a lady who was murdered as she took a boat ride - it being cheaper that going by stage coach!

Here we filled our fuel tank at Canal Cruising where we first hired a boat back in 1967!

Meaford locks followed - during the flight Mike booked train tickets for him and Andrew tomorrow to return to Mercia Marina to collect the cars.

The morning remained bright, almost cloudless and gradually warmed up to be quite pleasant although a cool breeze remained until later in the afternoon.

At Hem Heath there was once a very modern colliery which largely supplied Meaford Power Station a little south on the canal. Today both have long gone and on the site at Hem Heath stands an incinerator!

Pleasant cruising continued - most of the canal south of Stoke city centre is very well kept - as we passed then to the north we gradually saw more industrial remains, largely of the potteries. A number of old bottle kilns have been preserved - as far as we know, none remain active. this pair were restored as part of a housing development.

Just below Etruria Junction some of the early warehouse facilities have been preserved as a museum recording life as it was on the canals in their heydays. The lock at the junction itself once acted as a gauging stop where boats were checked and details recorded so that the weight of their cargo could be agreed.

A little further and we passed through the area that once saw the huge Stanton Iron and
steel Works - back in 1967 we navigated right through the middle of the works - very impressive - but today the large area is flattened, largely awaiting some new development.

At Middleport, Burleigh (originally Burgess and Leigh, one of the earliest potteries here) Earthenware pottery is still operational and beyond is a large Steelite Factory, with a 1998 bridge connecting sites on both sides of the canal with a new factory dated 2000.

We moored at Westport Lake Visitor moorings, a pleasant development since we were last here four years ago - the visitor centre opened in 2009.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Great Haywood

The day started well as well set off in good time and made short work of the first four locks, beginning with Gailey and its distinctive tower. It was chilly and overcast so exercise was needed to keep warm. Overnight we had identified a problem with the plumbing - for some time we suspected a leak as the water pump would intermittently trigger during the night. Eventually Christine realised that it was under the wash basin in the bathroom and Andrew tracked it down to a particular joint.

We aimed to use the services at Penkridge - unfortunately a boat was already at the water point. However, Andrew set off to the local hardware store (and some other provisions) but, although successful with the 'extra'items, the main purpose of a tee-piece was not. The boat filling with water was so slow that he returned before we had even started on out fill!

Eventually we were off again, keeping an eye out for possible chandlery. At Park gate Lock. home of Teddesley Boats, Andrew succeeded in finding the required part and also made contact with a 'new' boat painter, complete with indoor workshop. We spent some time talking with them about a possible re-paint: July seems a possibility.

Below the lock, Andrew set about fixing the leak which proved more troublesome that we had anticipated. In the end another trip to the chandlers for some Leak Fix promised at least a stemming of the growing flood! (Not the best of pix but it was a snatched shot by Christine when andrew was not looking!)

As a result of these unplanned delays, lunch was 'on the go' - by now the weather was improving, sunshine emerged and it was tolerably warm - but out of direct sun it could be surprisingly chilly still.

Deptmore Lock with the cottage undergoing restoration as a modern home.

We crossed the River Sow on a low aqueduct - initially visible as we approached around a sharp bend - and soon after the canal widened out into Tixall Broad comes just ahead of Great Haywood, looking splendid in the late afternoon sunshine. Just before Tixall Lock we had a slight scare - a strange noise came from the engine and prop but, even though we stopped and looked in the weed hatch we could find no explanation and once we re-started the problem - whatever it was - had disappeared.

By now it was a bright sunny afternoon, which lasted until a fine evening.

At the junction we turned north back once more onto the Trent and Mersey Canal.

Although the canal runs close to the railway line it is not particularly disturbing. Some of the locks still have the footbridges with a slit in the middle so that the tow rope did not have to be detached from the boat in order to pull the boat into the lock.

With such a fine evening we carried on until we were above Sandon Lock - our first attempt at mooring had to be abandoned when the water's edge proved too shallow. Time now for a chilli and movie.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011


We were up in good time to begin the repair to the engine. Alas, although we knew what needed to be done and we did indeed have a spare fan belt, it was a little on the small side and we failed to fit it. Not wanting to be without domestic electrics much longer, we opted for an RCR call out even though the normal membership does not cover this repair.

An error in recording our address meant that the engineer was a bit muddled about our location but, after a further call to us was on his way. he arrived about 10:30 and applied just a little more force than we had to succeed in persuading the fan belt into place and all now seems well. At least the batteries are being charged again.

By 11:30 we were at the top of the Wolverhampton twenty One - again the distraction of wanting to get on the road after the unexpected delay diverted us from using the camera until we were almost at the bottom of the flight. Although the flight starts its descent in commercial and industrial surroundings, by the time we neared the bottom it was already quite rural.

Despite following close behind another boat, we still managed to complete the flight in three hours. At the bottom we immediately moored up with a promise of one of Christine's famous soups for lunch, using some of the carcass remains from Sunday's roast dinner.

The route north began with an impressive turnover bridge - showing how the engineers in the past were able to combine function and form.

At one point the canal becomes very narrow and apparently carved out of rock.

Hatherton Junction is one end of the Lichfield Canal - the other end of which we saw three days ago. There
are plans to re-open what would be an important link but it seems to be some time off just yet!

At Calf Heath there used to be extensive chemical works which made this stretch a rather unpleasant link between the more attractive rural areas north and south. Most of the works have now disappeared and been replaced by small factory and warehouse units and nature is beginning to reclaim the canal surroundings.

We opted to moor before Gailey - locks and the motorway can wait til tomorrow!

Monday, 25 April 2011


After breakfast Mike and Jess went for a short walk over the various bridges around the junction. At one point, two small dogs came to welcome us followed by a lady from the boat who offered Jess a tiny butterfly clip which she was very pleased with - Alice came along later and also received the same present! The name of the boat was Butterfly.

Next, we reversed back to Cambrian Wharf to use the usual services and then moved on to a mooring close to the Mailbox. We shut up thew boat and went in search of the 'world famous' markets (or so they call themselves) but, alas, they were not open as it was a Bank Holiday. nevertheless we did find our route to New Street Station and also bought some food essentials at a local Sainsbury store.

Lunch next and then it was time to check the last minute packing for the girls. They walked to the station with Andrew and Mike - the latter was accompanying them on the train back to Reading where they met up with their family and said farewell to their holidays.

Mike's journey back to the boat (now at Wolverhampton Broad Street) was as planned but when he arrived he learned from Andrew and Christine - who had navigated from Birmingham whilst Mike was on the train - that the alternator belt had, as predicted, given up. The engine was too hot to tackle now so we left it until the next morning.

Alas, these events distracted us from photography and so today there are no pictures.

Sunday, 24 April 2011


A day of locks - 33 in all! We began in good time - in contrast to the previous few days, it was overcast and comparatively cool, just what we needed for the stretch ahead.

The first task was to complete the remaining eight of the nine Curdworth Locks. Alice and Jess were out and about, helping with the gates and exploring the surroundings as well as the wildflowers.

At Curdworth Top Lock, Andrew had prepared an easter egg hunt which the two girls quickly completed and then proceeded to demolish the contents!

As we left the village of Curdworth and approached Minworth we lost the countryside as the edge of Birmingham arrived. It is quite a clear transition.

The three locks of the Minworth Flight are quite separated and We were keeping an eye open for a shop - milk was high on our agenda and, as it was Easter Day, no large stores were open. Christine explored near Tyburn Bridge as we used the full range of services - alas she returned empty handed.

We were not optimistic in the area ahead of us as it is largely industrial or commercial but at Butler's Bridge we found some bollards which made a useful lunchtime mooring. Also, Andrew found a small shop which largely sold alcohol in its many forms but also stocked both red and blue top milk.

Off again and we were soon to pass under Erdington Hall where a now disused factory was bult out on concrete beams completely over the canal.

The motorway loomed and then we ran alongside until we neared Spaghetti Junction where we took a left turn under the high level bridges to join the Aston caanal. Alice and Mike hopped off the boat as they passed over the aqueduct just beyond the junction so that they could walk up to the next flight of locks: Aston Nine. They were surprised to see several clumps of bluebells, obviously thriving in this unlikely environment.

By now were were working as a team and for the most part able to work ahead to set the locks before the boat arrived. There was very little traffic about today, perhaps no more than ten boats to pass all day.

However, we picked up some rubbish around the propellor and, at the top lock of the flight, Andrew opened up the 'weed' hatch to discover several plastic bags which took some time to cut away. We suddenly made much better speed afterwards.

We had read in the guide book that mooring were now available between the Aston and Farmers Bridge flights of locks but not only were the three or four bollards fully occumpied by fishermen, the surroundings were not great and very close to a busy road.

So, as it was still quite early, we decided to press on as we knew that there would be much pleasanter moorings at the top. We entered the bottom lock at 4:30 and it was only an hour and twenty minutes later that we emerged at Cambrian Wharf - many of the locks in the flight have a definite cavernous feel and Jess was able to practice here 'echo' calls quite frequently!

We moored at a familiar spot, close to the Sea Life Centre and on the quieter side of the canal. All that we now have left to do is finish off preparing the roast chicken dinner!