Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Etruria Junction Wed 23 Aug 2017

Again another good value meal at the Hollybush before returning to the boat to bed. We were woken this morning to heavy rain but it stopped by the time we got up. DSCF8791By then it was just dank, almost drizzle and very low cloud. It stayed like this until after we had set off around 10 am, as we approached Hazlehurst Junction we could see a stream of boats coming up the three locks with more than one in a pound so we were pleased to be ahead of them.

Our first stop was Endon to top up with water and dispose of some rubbish. There was a CRT dredger moored at the service moorings as its also a CRT yard. The chap on the dredger had the weed hatch open and was performing with a Bargee Bill prop cleaner, its the first time I have seen one and they are quite a beast, but he sorted it. Here is a link

As we were leaving a lady on a boat coming the other way called out she read our Blog, she comes from Tasmania and she found our Blog due to a friend who lived in Malaysia who is married to and English chap. It so happened I worked with this chap over 20 years ago.
By now the boats that had been coming up Hazlehurst looks started to arrive to use the services, so we were still ahead. At the top lock of the Stockton Brook flight we found the bottom paddle up, Di walked down a bit but couldn't see another boat so dropped the paddle and I filled the lock, we just started emptying it when a boat appeared below, he was single handing and had walked up from the next lock, which is round a bend to set this one. He was only held up by 2 minutes, the time it takes for a lock to drain and then he also had the gates opened for him, so I would suggest he was a winner in the end. By this time the boats from Endon were also above the lock waiting to come down. We met a few boats in the locks, the best one was at the second from the bottom, when I got there, the lock was full, both top paddles up and both gates shut, a boat in the lock and the owners picking Blackberries. It wasn't till I dropped the paddle they realised I was there, by then I had also opened the top gate for them.

By the time we reached Planet Lock there must have been a boat ahead or us as it was empty, likewise the top chamber of the Bedford Street Staircase lock, what I didn't realise until later was that they had left a bottom paddle up about 3 clicks, so looking down it looked closed but was enough to prevent the two chambers making a level and the bottom chamber not coming to the weir, this is what alerted me to a problem. As we rounded the bend at Etruria I could see just one mooring space that looked just big enough for us to get into. It was right in front of fellow Blogger NB. Seyella. If you want to read their adventures you will find them here

Today's Journey map 08

9½ miles, 9 locks in 5½ hrs.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Hazlehurst Tuesday 22 August 2017

We had very good meals in the Hollybush last night, 2 mains and 2 pints under £25, tasty food and a good portion size, so we are back tonight.
This was the view through the porthole just before we left this morning around 10 am. (I said we were near the door)DSCF8714

Up the 3 Hazlehurst locks, meeting boats at two of them and then sharp left up the Leek arm. We stopped for a few minutes to chat with an old friend, Mike who moors here, we left when a boat arrived behind us. The first test of the day was the turn onto the aqueduct that crosses the Caldon which we had passed under a bit earlier, it didn't quite go right and then on towards Leek. Leek tunnel is much higher than Froghall, I could even have left the exhaust up. DSCF8722

It had a major repair a few years back when a section was lined with concrete, following the work it was reopened in 1985, it was only a few years after this that we made our first visit up here.DSCF8719

Just after clearing the tunnel we met a boat who informed us there was no chance of a mooring at the end. The first time we visited you could boat right to the end but now its badly silted and boats moor just after the winding hole. As it was so full we winded and left, returning through the tunnel and mooring on the wide just at the West portal.DSCF8725 The boat who had been following us did the same thing and moored behind us. It turned out they came from Norfolk and had friends in the next village to us, they were also members of the Ipswich IWA.

As we sat on the front deck having lunch, well it was almost sunny a heard of heifers came down to the canal to drink, several of them just remained standing up to their bellies in the water and were still there when we left. DSCF8727

I was hoping for a photo of one of them flicking the water in a large arc with her tail, but I couldn't quite get the timing right as there is to much lag on my camera, unlike to old mechanical film ones where when you pressed the shutter it took the picture, not like today when they do it when they feel like it.DSCF8764

After lunch Diana went for a short walk but a good climb to the topDSCF8762 of the tunnel, when she returned we set off leaving our new friends behind and headed for Hazlehurst, we passed a pair of artists on the way, set up on the towpath painting a bridge, but I do wish they wouldn't moor on the outside of bends.DSCF8790

We had already decided we wouldn't moor on the aqueduct so finding 3 boats there didn't matter, I know from experience there are some large rocks under the surface there. We crossed the aqueduct, got round the right angle bend much better and moored on the section or visitor moorings about 50 yards towards the junction. Here there is a nice deep, straight edge with rings, but I have never seen anyone use it.

Once moored I fitted a bracket to the boat exhaust in an attempt to cut down the resonant movement at different engine speeds. Since I fitted the new silencer the pipe on the roof slowly rotates in an anti clockwise direction. The bracket has reduced the movement greatly but I don't think it will last, probably die from metal fatigue. I may need to look at a rubber mounted one.

Today's Journeymap 07

3 Locks 5½ Miles in 3 hours.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Denford Monday 21 August 2017

Well another wet night and a miserable day, we set of at 1015 hrs heading for Froghall. We passed these Tipis (Teepees)beside Willow Cottage Bridge, earlier a truck had come along the track carrying a portable toilet block so I suspect they had an event on this week. It was not all happy as there was chap there collecting a dead horse.DSCF8684

There was a nice reflection at Oakmeadow Ford Lock and the iron work has been nicely painted, but the replacement rail on the parapet that would have guided the tow rope over the bridge is bit of a poor effort, with the T connections on the top of the uprights.DSCF8686

The river level was fine and we were soon slipping under the low bridge by the Black Lion and then the railway bridge.DSCF8687

I had just cleared the two bridges when we heard the train approaching so I held in the wide section until it passed giving a photo opportunity of it coming into the cantilevered station.DSCF8690

Flint Mill lock has the Froghall Tunnel height gauge hung across the exit. To get under through the tunnel we would have to move everything to the centre of the roof and also remove the engine exhaust, just hinging it down wont do.DSCF8696

We continued to the tunnel and did the necessary preparations before going through, this time I managed it without scratching the paintwork. I find lining up to enter the hardest part of the operation.DSCF8702

At Froghall Lock we winded and then moored up, we didn't bother locking into the basin as we were not staying over night. We were quite surprised to find 4 boats moored there, we have always been the only one before.

After checking out the new tea rooms, which are closed on Mondays of course we walked down to the basin and had a word with the moorers, one who was hard at work finishing rubbing down his cabin sides who reads this blog, I didn't ask his name and of course there wasn't one on the boat, but its the ex working boat in the photograph.DSCF8706

We returned to Harnser for lunch and while we were eating it one of the boats from the basin left passing us. That is why there is only three in the photo. We left about half an hour later, for some reason there is a piece of pipe sticking out of the tunnel roof just in the right place to catch the steerers head, I will enquire with CRT why its there.DSCF8704

We were to meet 4 boats before we reached Flint Mill Lock, luckily we met them all in good spots thanks to the first one who warned me the others were behind, the boat ahead was not so lucky so he was just entering the lock when we arrived. So although we met 4 boats and we were to meet more all the locks would be against us.

Talking of locks I spotted what I thought were two unusual things today, firstly Froghall Lock the iron work is bolted on top of the stone work, it is normally recessed and then set in lead.DSCF8707

The other point was Oakmeadow Ford Lock, this is the only lock I can think of where the balance beam is not on the towpath side, I bet the old working boatmen use to swear about that if they had to turn it.DSCF8710

We carried on back upstream meeting a total of 8 boats plus finding one floating around the cut at Cheddleton which we stopped to remoor, the plan was to stop above the flint mill and have a meal at ether the canal side Mexican Restaurant or The Red Lion. We could see the Mexican was closed Mondays so Diana walked up to the Red Lion while I carried on to the visitor moorings. When she caught me up she said there was a big notice "We don't do food!" so it was on again to The Holly Bush at Denford where we moored right outside the front door, they are doing food until 8-30 so that is where we will be tonight. I hope the board is right.

Today;s Journey  

map 06

11½ miles, 8 Locks in 6¼ Hours.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Cheddleton Sunday 20 August 2017

Woke to a lovely sunny morning, as soon as a boat came down the canal we set off as this would mean that Engine Lock would be in out favour. I had undone the bow and pushed out, lifted the fenders and was just taking the stern line off when a boat came behind but as I was so close to setting off I continued, a good job to as there were two more boats just behind him.

Engine lock is unusual, its quite deep and as you fill it the water also comes in at the tail of the lock, so the boat is not drawn forwards or tries to surge about.DSCF8674

Above the lock another boat was just setting off and we followed them to the lift bridge, I waited after they were through for a boat coming the other way and the lady then decided she couldn't wait any longer and lowered the bridge. Its a key operated electric bridge and you have to lower it to remove your key.

We met boats in every lock going up Stockton Brook Locks which also eased the work load.

It was a toss up whether to carry on straight at Hazlehurst Junction or right to Leek, when we arrived there was no one heading down the locks and the top one was full so decision made, straight down.DSCF8676

Looking at the row of houses beside the Holly Bush Inn it looks from the lintels above the doors and windows of No.4 as if the have suffered subsidence in the past.DSCF8678

At Cheddleton Mill both the water wheels were running, but by now we had passed the visitor moorings and were soon at the lock, so we failed to stop this time for a look round. We have stopped before but it was years ago. Just beside the lock is a Mexican Restaurant where a 50th birthday party was taking place with much merriment.

The Cheddleton locks are fitted with hydraulically operated bottom gate paddles and required 23 turns of the hand pump to lift them, it wasn't helped by one drifting closed by its self, so needed constant winding to hold it open. It was here that Diana enlisted some youngsters to assist in pushing the gates open and closed.

Just through Basford Lane bridge are some 48hr moorings, room for two boats, the first bit is OK but the second section must be the worst official visitor mooring on the system, its just a rough concrete edge over a weir, its horrible.DSCF8680 Luckily there were no boats here and we could get on the first bit. Also on the first bit is another canoe access point. This one consists of a wooden frame with a rubber mat inside it.DSCF8681

Today's Journey 

map 05   7 Miles, 11 Locks in 5 Hours.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Norton in the Moor Saturday 19 Aug 2017

Woke up this morning to the dawn chorus. The smoke detector by the bedroom door started chirping. Have you ever tried changing the battery in a smoke detector in the half light, without your glasses on and only half awake. Once that was sorted the Rooks chimed in, then a boat went by and this was all followed by the trains tooting.

So the day began, it was fine when we set off at 1030 am. Timing was critical to ensure the bread was baked before we reached Harecastle Tunnel. We had a good run up the locks as far as the CRT offices at Bulls Bridge which is a single lock that was against us, so were both the next locks. At Plants Lock the boat we were following went into the offside lock, so Diana drew the near side one, unfortunately there was a boat moored, facing me in the lock mouth. It seems he had broken down and a mechanic was trying to fix it, he had to pull forward a bit to let me into the lock. By the time we had locked up the other boat locking up was about to leave, so I asked if they were going through the tunnel. He said they were going up the Mac but he was going to go towards the tunnel to moor and go shopping, he asked if there was a winding hole by the tunnel and I told him no, but he carried on saying there was one on his map.

We followed him up and he tried to moor at Smithson's long term mooring before moving on. As we approached the tunnel it was very congested and a boat was just coming out so we waited until it had passed before going under the railway bridge.

Our friend was there beside one of the boats waiting for the tunnel, Duke and Duchess were also waiting so we lay alongside Duchess while the other 3 boats came out.DSCF8654

The chap who had come to moor and shop had to reverse back to the junction which he did just before the forth boat exited the tunnel and after a forth boat joined the mellay to go south.He is not the blue one but the one under the railway bridge. I hope he doesen’t burn his bowthruster out getting back.DSCF8655

The back boat was first into the tunnel followed by Duke and Duchess, then us and finally the last boat to arrive.DSCF8660 It was 20 minuets from when we arrived at the tunnel mouth, after waiting for the first boat out to clear the rail bridge that we started entering the tunnel for an uneventful trip to the South Portal.

Exiting the tunnel it was raining steadily and within minutes it was chucking it down, Duke and Duchess pulled over and waved my by, I thought they were being friendly but looking back they set to buttying up, so I guess there were having dinner while it chucked it down. I think we were at Middleport before the rain stopped and the sun came back out. A short way south of the tunnel is a new canoe access point, this one seems to have a hard pad on the bank plus a sign.DSCF8668

At Etruria Junction we swung left up the Caldon Canal. A boat coming up the Stoke locks had turned in in front of us, but he stopped at the services so we passed him.

Below Baker Street Lock there is another new sign, just a sign, nothing else. I would thought a canoeist would have worked that one out for them self, but it looks good.DSCF8670

A boat was just leaving the top of the locks so we didn't need to fill the top chamber, just empty the bottom before entering, once in the lock there was an impressive waterfall from the top of the intermediate gates.DSCF8671 The lock was much easier to work than it has been in the past so CRT achieved something during the last stoppage. It will be interesting to see what happens to Bridge No2 with the broken cast sections. maybe they will replace them with plate.DSCF8672

The boat ahead was well gone by the time we reached Planet Lock. At festival Gardens there is another canoe access point, well there is a sign which is the only difference to any other part of the bank. Do you get the feeling I don't think these signs are money well spent? DSCF8673

We carried on mooring for the night a short way below Engine Lock where I paid our first visit of the trip to the weed hatch, I picked up something earlier but it had virtually disintegrated by the time we moored up at 5pm. just some cloth round the shaft.

Today's Journey map 049 Locks, 12½ miles in 6½ hours

Friday, 18 August 2017

Church Lawson Friday 18 August 2017

Again last night we had some rain but it was bright and sunny when we set off this morning. We had a good run as far as the M6 at Hassle Green where our luck ran out. We just came under the motorway when it started to rain. By the time we had cleared Hassle Green locks we had had 2.5 mm, that's in about 15 minutes so we moored on the visitor moorings so that poor old Diana could get some dry cloths on.DSCF8632 Not only did it rain but both the locks had been against us.

Once we set off again it started thunder and lightning ahead of us, but thankfully we didn't seem to catch it up and we only had another couple of short showers in the afternoon.

It looks as if some one has been grappling along the canal as I have seen 2 bikes that have been dragged out left near bridges, I wonder if they will get removed before they find their way back into the water.

 DSCF8635 DSCF8634 

One of the features of this canal is that after it was opened all the locks were doubled except the Lawton locks and these were bypassed with three new pairs of locks 50-52 and the winding holes are where the canal went off to the North. From below lock 52 the line is quite obvious.DSCF8636

Another feature of these locks was a set of paddles between them, this was situated in the bottom gate recess which is now covered in wood. This allowed the water from one lock to be used to part fill the other, or a full lock to be part drained into the other so saving some water. It would be interesting to see behind the wood.DSCF8628

If anybody knows I would be interested as to why these stone gate posts are beside lock 50 on the off side. Could it be they predate the new line of the canal?DSCF8639

We decided to stop at Church Lawson for the night, it was still thundering and we weren't in a hurry. One of the Church Top Locks is closed because its in a dangerous condition, it has braces in the chamber to stop it collapsing in. However it still has its bottom gates and as the lock has been closed for some years they are not of a modern design. The paddle gear was supported on wooden upstands where as today they are mounted on steel.DSCF8646

Today's Journey map 034.8 Miles, 18 Locks in 4 ¾ hours

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Wheelock Thursday 17 Aug 2017

If I was to say it rained last night it would be somewhat an understatement, as we went to bed it was hammering it down, the next thing was thunder. Every time I woke up it was still raining even at 8am this morning, so it looked like a late start, but by 10 am the sun was out and apart from a few small clouds stayed with us all day. One of the things we couldn't understand was the large drips landing on the roof as we were nowhere near any trees. This morning the mystery was solved, we had moored directly under some high voltage cables so the drips had quite a fall before hitting the boat.

We pushed off at quarter past ten and were soon crossing the aqueduct, I think this is the third one to be built in this spot and was originally capable of taking wide boat which could then go up above Big Lock into Middlewich, now it limits travel to just narrow beam craft.DSCF8618

We moored a short way above Big Lock and headed for Tesco to top up for the journey. I took the opportunity to clean out the rain monitor, it only recorded 0.3 mm last night. Inside I found a very large spider and a very small one. there were also 2 spider carcasses which I guess were dinner for the large one. All were evicted and the web cleaned from the measuring cradle so that it see sawed freely. The spiders love getting up in here for some reason.

There were two Volockies on the Middlewich locks who were well on the ball and they soon assisted us up through the first 2 locks, we had to wait for a small boat to drop down the top lock before we could proceed. Much to our surprise there were very few boats moored at Middlewich Narrowboats, its normally single file traffic through there.

Up to Kings Lock which was against us, we just started dropping it and a boat came down the canal.

I said it rained a lot last night, the road opposite the salt works was still flooded, I am always surprised the speed motorists will hit a bit of flooded road.DSCF8619

We pushed on to Rumps Lock which was also against us. The Thai Restaurant Kin Ardi is closed until September as they are collecting new dishes from Thailand. (must be a good take a way)

We met a few boats between here and Wheelock but non of them assisted our journey. We stopped for water at the Wheelock services where there was a good sized dead rat by the mooring post, I deposited it in the waste bin.DSCF8627

Once full of water we were off again this time having moor luck with the locks, the offside bottom lock had a gate open and the second lock only had a couple of feet to drain. Above the lock Diana picked a few Blackberries on he offside just before the old railway bridge.DSCF8630

We then stopped for the night just through the old railway bridge before Saw Pit Lock, there were loads of free moorings in Wheelock had we wanted to stop there.

Today's Journey map 0210 Locks, 8 miles in 5 ¼ hrs