Tuesday, 14 June 2011
We left Rugby quite late in the day, I had been trying to arrange travel insurance and awaiting a return call, but we decided to make a start and soon had the three Hillmorton locks behind us. We carried on for another hour before stopping for the night close to Willoughby Wharf. On Friday morning we continued on our way back to our old mooring at Wigrams Turn Marina, The church spire at Braunston showed us that we weren’t far from the turn and soon we were on the last leg of this journey. Fifteen months since we had been this way and the old working boat was still sunk and it looked like another one was about to go under, very sad.
As we motored down through the marina to our new mooring, several old chums waved us a welcome and we were soon settled in and our spring cruising was at an end. We shall start again and continue blogging later in the summer, in the meantime have a good one.
No locks today but we did have a rendezvous to keep, We first met Judy and Don of N.B. Angonoka last year near Chester, we all, including the dogs got on really well. We had hoped to join up with them later in the year, but my heart event prevented that. They were travelling in the opposite direction to us, but we planned to meet at Hawkesbury Junction, where the Coventry meets The Oxford Canal.
On the way we passed the well preserved BW yard at Hartshill and the interestingly dilapidated old boatyard just south of entrance to the Ashby Canal, I remembered the owner had a fascination with mannequins from the last time we passed and it didn’t disappoint this time.
We arrived at Hawkesbury to see Don & Judy waving at us, we tied up a couple of boat lengths down, Cressy, their Bedlington/Whippet dog was jumping up and down with excitement and as soon as Duggie leaped of the boat they resumed their love affair as if they had never been parted. We lunched, walked the dogs and dined together and following morning again walked the dogs, before we waved them on their way.
We filled with water and turned of the Coventry onto the Oxford Canal under the black and white iron bridge, in front of The Greyhound Inn. We continued with the weather either throwing torrential rain at us, or the sun so bright that the hull steamed as it baked dry.
We continued on The Coventry Canal though Tamworth and as we passed a boat yard at Grendon Bridge I spotted a PowerCell van and sure enough there was Will, who had fitted our new batteries a few weeks ago, doing the same to another boat, I slowed and had a brief conversation with him and the boat owner, before we moved on to tackle the eleven Atherstone locks, fortunately another boat was always coming towards us leaving the next lock ready for us. We stopped at the top for the night and walked six minutes back to the Aldi store for essentials, beer and chocolate OK.
By the time we got going in the morning several boats had gone down the last two locks before Fradley Junction. When I untied SKYY the front end swung free but the stern was stuck fast, the water level must have dropped several inches. The bow swung right across the cut and fortunately a boat coming towards me stopped and the skipper helped me try to push the stern off, but to no avail. N.B. Snowgoose approached from behind and my stern line was passed around his forward T stud and with a combination of its bow thruster and plenty of reverse with a lurch with sent all the drawers flying open, we came unstuck, it was just like three years ago on the River Avon, only there we had to wait three days before Eric the tug pulled us off.
We passed the attractively situated White Swan pub, locally called the Mucky Duck as we swung onto the Coventry Canal. We were now back onto familiar waters, having been this way twice before and we knew that nothing should delay our arrival at Fazeley Junction, ten mile away. We found a quiet mooring about a mile before the junction, although there are no problems with mooring much closer, but it was better for walking Duggie where we were.
Sunday, 12 June 2011
The early June weather was magnificent and after a few locks we stopped for lunch at Stone, this had been a major canal centre and a boat yard and three dry docks completed the picture. The pretty Star Inn at the bottom lock was very busy and I sure has added fame as being the local for Terry Darlington, the author of Narrow Dog to Carcassone.
As we cruised on late in the afternoon, I slowed right down as we passed this gentleman sign writing a boat from a floating pontoon, he was very grateful, saying that we were the only boat that had taken the trouble to slow sufficiently so as not to send him bobbing up and down. We moored for the night a little way before the Great Haywood Junction with the Staffs & Worcs Canal. We hadn’t travelled any of this canal as yet, but tomorrow we would turn onto it, just for a mile or so to see what Tixall Wide was all about
As planned, on Saturday morning we turned onto the Staffs & Worcs Canal, passed the Anglo Welsh hire boats and few minutes later entered the wide expanse of water at Tixall, I don’t know why it was dug, but it is navigable right to the edges, so plenty of room to turn round. The imposing Tixall Gatehouse overlooks the water and maybe the owner wanted to look out onto a lake rather than just a canal, maybe that was the reason.
We retraced our route back onto the Trent and Mersey and briefly the facade of Shugborough Hall was visible. We kept going passed Rugeley and its power station, when another stately pile came into view, this time it was Spode House, home to another famous pottery family. The canal suddenly narrowed and was bounded by sheer rock walls with a short tunnel at the far end, this had been a much longer tunnel, but in 1971 it was opened to the air, as again subsidence caused by coal mining was causing a major problem.
A few more miles and Fradley Junction wasn’t far ahead, we tucked ourselves in behind a long line of moored boats, I couldn’t get the stern it tight and had to use the gang plank, but we would be fine for the night.
The city of Stoke on Trent is a combination of six pottery towns, Burslem, Fenton, Hanley, Longley, Stoke and Tunstall and they were only united as recently as 1910. The city centre is formed around the Hanley area and it is here that the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery is found. We spent a good time here and learnt a lot about the pottery industry. They also have on display items from the Staffordshire Hoard, discovered in 2009; sadly it did not glitter as much as I thought it would, as much of it is still covered in the earth that it was dug from, but the delicacy of the workmanship is amazing. I would have like to have spent time at Jesse Shirley’s Etruscan Bone & Flint Mill, which is right on the junction of the Caldon and Trent and Mersey Canals, but for Jacquie’s taste it was too industrial and on this occasion she won the choice.
Up until 1930 Josiah Wedgewood’s factory at Etruria, which was built in 1766, was still standing right beside the canal; opposite where we were moored, the site is now a modern commercial area. Subsidence at the old site and the need to modernize prompted the Wedgewood family to build a new factory at Barlaston, five locks and five miles down the canal and on Thursday morning we moved down to visit the Visitor Centre.
We came in via the back entrance from the canal, but eventually found the main entrance and bought our tickets to the museum, shops and demonstration areas. The museum is very well laid out in chronological order, but eventually I was going a little potty, so we headed off to the demo area.
Monday, 6 June 2011
When we awoke the rain was still hammering on the hull, another duff forecast, but by the time we were ready to cast off the rain stopped and gradually the sun won the battle with the clouds and the month of May did its belated best to redeem itself.
It didn’t take long to reach The Macclesfield’s junction with The Trent & Mersey, but first we passed under two Snake Bridges. These bridges were designed so that when the towpath changed from one side of the canal to the other, the horse towing the boat could do so without having to unhitch. A local dog walker said that locally they were called Snail Bridges, but this elegant design is also called, Turnover or Changeling Bridges.
Just before the junction is the pretty Hall Green stop lock, this was to prevent precious water flowing from the Macclesfield into The T & M canal. The junction is an unusual arrangement as first the Macclesfield crossed the T & M on an aqueduct before executing a ninety degree turn and running parallel with the T & M bypassing two of its locks before joining with it.
A few yard further and we arrived at the entrance to the Harecastle Tunnel. There was just one boat waiting ahead of us as the Tunnel Keeper briefed us. If we should break down, then we must sound one long blast on our hooter every thirty seconds until we hear three short blasts in return, if we hadn’t managed to exit the tunnel after one hour and fifteen minutes they would send in the tug, however we had no intention of breaking down. The estimated time from start to finish traveling the 2926yds. was forty five minutes at a steady three to four MPH. But in fact we were out the other end in thirty five minutes. There is a door over the exit which is only drawn back as we approached; this is to enable the fume extraction system to function more effectively and as we exited it looked like that we had just driven out of a garage with accommodation over, weird!
The photos clearly show another tunnel entrance, this was the original tunnel that took eleven years to dig, opening in 1777, but forty five years later the bottle-neck to traffic was so great that it was decided to dig another one, this time it only took three years to complete allowing two way traffic. The original tunnel has since had to be abandoned as coal mining in the area had caused it to subside, but as all the traffic now is leisure and self propelled the one tunnel is sufficient.
The fact that we were now in the pottery area of Stoke on Trent was very apparent when the first brick built bottle kiln came into view, they really do look like milk bottles, Most of them have disappeared and the remaining ones are preserved, but not used. Pottery is still what this area is all about so we moored a little way before the festival marina, determined over the next couple of days to investigate.
Saturday, 4 June 2011
Firstly thank you Carol from Rock’n’Roll for letting me know that the area of water by Plank Lane lift bridge is going to be a marina and thanks also to Sharyn of the USofA for her kind comments.
Saturday we wandered down from the canal and then up into Macclesfield town. The pedestrian way up was via a cobbled path and was steep enough to visualize the bakers lad pushing his bike laden with Hovis loafs, just like the old TV advert, but the lane wasn’t quite olde worlde enough.
We left the Hovis Mill behind us as SKYY transported us four miles or so, to the top of the twelve Boseley Locks, down hill all the way now. Again these locks are beautifully located, easy to operate and fill and empty very quickly.
At some point Duggie unearthed a small ‘Welcome Aboard’ life buoy, his antics with this new toy kept us all amused for ages, until Kim decided to try it for size. We drove the pins in for the night about a few hundred yards passed the last lock and relaxed for the evening.
Sunday was Kim & John’s last day with us and we thought Congleton would be a good place to arrange a taxi back to the Portland Basin Marina to collect their car. We moored in a deep cutting with a road and a railway bridge overhead, but as the weather was dull in didn’t make much difference. Just up the steps beside the bridge was the Queens Head pub and they provided probably the best Sunday Lunch Roast dinner that we have ever enjoyed. At 3.30pm the taxi arrived beside the pub and another sad farewell was had, before it whisked them away.
We decided to stay put for the rest of Sunday and as the Bank Holiday Monday’s weather was even worse with non stop rain, we postponed our departure until Tuesday for when the forecast was much more positive.
Wednesday, 1 June 2011
There is a well situated Tesco store on the junction of the Whaley Bridge and Buxworth arms that we made good use off, the views as we retraced our steps to Marple were just as good. We turned into the start of the Macclesfield Canal and immediately went passed another wharf that covered a small arm off the main canal and then obviously Del Boy and Rodney had traded up from a Reliant three wheeler to a boat, well done lads!
The large Goyt Mill dominated the horizon for a while, restored and occupied and then for ten miles or so we were back into rural surroundings, before Bollington where again Clarence and Adelphi mills demanded our attention. Macclesfield, whose main claim to fame is as a silk spinning and weaving centre, was soon upon, we tried to moor up in the country but the water was to shallow to get any where near the bank and eventually we tied up between the Puss In Boots pub and the original Hovis Mill. The town is way down the hill and although I don’t like mooring near pubs we had a quite night.
On my early morning walk with Duggie we came across these seven fine furry black pigs, but on our return the next day they weren’t there, just mum mooching about in another pen, sad!
The weather was cold and blustery, not at all what we were expecting for the end of May and we were all well wrapped up as we preceded under the two lift bridges and passed two swing bridges and the sweetie factory that makes ‘Swizzles’, you know when you are approaching by the sickly sweet smell in the air. We continued passed the junction to Buxworth, arriving in pouring rain at Whaley Bridge, the terminus of the Peak Forest Canal. We stopped for lunch and waited for the rain to abate before we explored, particularly the warehouse that covers the canal allowed loading and unloading in all weathers from the railway wagons that ran in right alongside the boats.
We returned to the junction and headed to Buxworth, The basin at the end is still called Bugsworth, but the worthies of the village at some point thought Buxworth had a more upmarket sound. In fact there is not much of a village at all, but the basin is on a grand scale with three arms, which allowed for the loading of great quantities of limestone that was brought down from the Quarries at Doveholes, over six miles away by horse drawn tramway. There is lots still to be seen including the old stone sleepers that carried the rails. The scenery is superb with the hills of The Peak Forest all around and The Navigation Pub that overlooks the basin filled all our needs and to my surprise the Nicholson’s guide says that Pat Phoenix who played Elsie Tanner in Coronation Street was at one time the landlady. We were so snug here that we decided to stay the night.
Wednesday was going to start with a full English breakfast as Kim and John would have been on the road from about 5.30am and that would get them fuelled up and ready for the climb up the Marple flight of sixteen locks. We got under way mid morning, but first we filled with water in the Portland Basin beside the Industrial Museum, before turning and entering the Peak Forest Canal. The scenery was very reminiscent of the Langollen Canal, with distant view of hills the other side of the deep Goyt River valley, particularly at the Marple Aqueduct which was very similar to the Chirk Aqueduct with a railway viaduct running alongside.
We had been warned that the locks were stiff, but whether that good breakfast had paid off, we found them very easy, each one taking only ten minutes on average and they were all very picturesquely situated. At the top of locks we were in Marple and also the junction with the Macclesfield Canal, we chose to continue on The Peak Forest Canal towards Whaley Bridge. There being no pub for several miles we stopped for the night after just a few minutes in a lovely spot.