Thursday, 27 October 2011

Wrenbury, in the rain....

Quite a bit of progress has been made this week & we have done so well that I will now take Rowen back home from Whitchurch instead of Nantwich. 
Leaving Stoke on Trent at 7.30am on Monday morning,
 we got to the tunnel at 8am & went in 30 mins later, 3rd in a convoy of 4
 It doesn't seem too low so why all the advice to clear the roof?
 Ah that's why !
 Nearly through...
Once through the tunnel & the lock we moored up for a quick trip to the handy Tesco & then pressed on hoping to make some serious progress. 
 Rowen being useful..
 These stairs have seen some use
Stiff paddles!

Calling it a day at 5pm  we moored up between Malkins Bank & Wheelock, we had done 12 miles 26 locks &1 tunnel in 8 & a half hours, a very long but good day. A much easier day on Tuesday, we did 7 miles & 7 locks & then moored in a lovely spot between Stanthorne Lock & Normans Bridge. It was Sid friendly with a field of sweetcorn behind the hedge in which he had a whale of a time. 
He now has the loc8tor  tag on his collar & although he hasn't been 'lost' as yet it seems to work fine, 2 tags were supplied with the loc8tor so Soona is sporting the other one, just in case although she rarely goes more than a few yards from the boat.
Yesterday was another long day, leaving Stanthorne at 7.30am on a bitterly cold morning, hats & gloves were quickly dug out of storage but before long the sun came up on a glorious autumnal day.

We reached Hurleston Locks by midday, they weren't too busy & we waited for one boat to go up before us, a boat was descending so we passed in the pound to the 2nd lock

 Waiting at the bottom of the Hurleston Locks 
Our assistant's training is coming along nicely. ;) 

A boat had come into the top lock so Mark waited patiently for them to descend so we could pass again in the pound, Rowen & I walked up but our assistance wasn't required as there was a crew of 4. The lockie was keeping an eye out as usual which was just as well as he realised that there was a problem. As the paddles were raised & the water level dropped the boat (sorry, didn't get the name & if I had I'd have forgotten anyway, hopeless with boat names!) began to tilt, the stern was back up against the top gate & on the cill.The lockie quickly dropped the paddles & it turned out that the boat had lost forward drive & as the steerer tried to go forward he just went in reverse. When the lock was refilled & the panic over the boat was pulled back out of the lock, we then locked up & then pulled over onto the service point. A lot of head scratching was going on in the other boat, which the 2 couples on board had just borrowed for a holiday, we left them to it as not being mechanical types any advice we could have given would have been worse than useless!

We plodded on until Wrenbury, mooring up at 4.30pm in the rain, 16 miles & 11 locks in 8 hours. It's raining again today so we have had a good excuse to be idle but as we have made such good time it's okay, if it stops raining this afternoon we may grab the chance to move on a bit otherwise we shall do so tomorrow.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Llangollen Bound so a change of plan, again...

We didn't have a winter mooring last winter as we decided we would see how it went, being our 1st winter away from shore power & it was fine. We did get frozen in at Coven Heath which wasn't ideal but fortunately we had another boat moored close by who had a car nearby & they were brilliant making sure we were okay for water & fuel, even took me to the launderette. After a couple of weeks there was a slight thaw & we managed to get to Wheaton Aston  before everything froze solid which was just the job as all services, including the cheapest diesel on the system at Turners, were close by.

We were thinking that we'd probably see how it went again this year & possibly look at going in to a Marina if things got bad. The BW winter moorings have never really appealed as the majority are on visitor moorings where there may be some facilities ie water, rubbish & elsan disposal but not usually electricity & it seems to be a lot of money just for the benefit of not having to move on also last year you had to book for five months from November to March & we really didn't fancy being so long in one place.
 But there are some with electricity & they do seem to be worth the money as not having to run the engines to charge the batteries is a big saving on diesel plus less wear & tear on the engine.
 Llangollen is one such winter mooring & this morning I read on Bendigedig's blog that you can now book one or more up to five months, so interest aroused I had a look on the BW web site. There was still a few meters left so we bit the bullet & booked in for December, January & February. 
 Then I had a look at the stoppages,  oops... we had planned to potter around between here & Tixall whilst Rowen is here for half term then back down the Staffs & Worcs & up onto the Shroppie but with the change of plan we now need to head north, we knew that Wheelock 65 closes on the 7th Nov & that's no problem but so does Maesterfyn Bridge 5W to Pollets Bridge 6W on the Llangollen not due to open again until 21st Dec ! 
So we need to get a move on, we will move up to Stoke for Friday so I can get the coach to Manchester & once I'm back on Sunday we will be heading north planning to get to Nantwich for the 29th so Rowen & I can get a train back to Manchester, only 35 locks Rowen ! Then when I'm back on the 30th we will press on to make sure we are on the right side of the stoppages. Phew... 

Monday, 17 October 2011


 Friday morning was sunny & warm as we left Tixall Wide & went up to the junction, the water point was busy with 2 boats filling up & one waiting so Mark reversed back onto an empty spot on the right of the junction & then nipped up to the village for a paper whilst we waited. It looked impossible to get on the diesel point at  Anglo Welsh so we didn't even try but it seems it would have been possible as Geoff (nb Seyella) pointed out in a comment, evidently they can serve diesel if you're moored on the service wharf, presumably they have a long hose.....

As we came through a bridge ( can't remember which one!) we spotted this horse on the towpath with butty Verbena alongside.  

Turns out that there was to be a gathering of working & historic boats at Limekiln Wharf in Stone over the weekend & Danny the horse was going to tow Verbena to it.
We carried on for a while before  mooring up in Weston for lunch, as we were getting ready to move off Danny , Verbena & crew were coming up behind us so we passed the rope over Poppy & let them take the lead.

 Danny complete with harness

 Danny looking like an old hand when in fact it was his first time pulling a boat.
 Verbena in the lock
 & Danny gets chance for a rest & a nibble
 Ready for off again

We followed them until we found a mooring spot in Little Stoke, it was 4pm & a longish day for us but Danny still had another mile or so to go,  according to his handlers he was doing really well.
Saturday morning was cold!!  We'd not had a fire on Friday night as it was so mild but the temp plummeted overnight. We moved a mile or so nearer town & then did a trip to Morrison's via Costa Coffee, then fire was lit & has been in ever since. :)

Yesterday was another pleasant autumn day & we had a walk up to Limekiln to see the boats, unfortunately my camera battery was dead so just a couple of pics off my camera which don't do the colours or detail justice

 The boats getting ready to move off to do a parade.

A change in the weather today, not much sunshine, a couple of showers & the wind getting up this afternoon. Tomorrow we are expecting a visit from RCR  to do an engine service,  Mark does a service every 250 hours but we feel it's a good idea to let a professional loose in there now & again, we had one done last October & it was really useful - the engineer picked up on a few things we hadn't including an engine mount that had perished due to an ( unseen by us!) small fuel leak dripping on the rubber. 
The original plan had been to make for Stoke on Trent by the weekend as I'm catching a coach to Manchester on Saturday but Mark has decided he would rather hang around here than Stoke so we will head out into the country for a couple of days & then return to Stone on Friday, I will then catch a bus to Stoke to make a connection with the coach & then do the reverse on Sunday when I return with Rowen in tow.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Tixall Wide

We've not moved far since last weeks blog, just round the corner & back onto the Staffs & Worcs at Tixall Wide as we've been hanging around waiting for some post but it's no hardship being here it's a lovely spot & Sid loves it as plenty of hedges to clamber around in.
 He managed to lose another collar today so he's wearing Soona's, I spotted this a while ago & have decided to get one, I ordered it from Amazon as they were selling it at a better price. I've had it delivered to Beks & will pick it ( & all the other stuff I have recently sent for including thermal underwear!) up when I am up there in a couple of weeks to fetch Rowen who is joining us for half term.

The weather has been wild whilst we've been here, very windy at times, not a lot of sunshine & cool enough for a fire most days, but today the wind has dropped & it was quite mild so we went for a walk round the edge of Stafford Plantation & Shugborough  Park then back through Great Haywood village.   
 Into the woods
 The Triumphal Arch in Shugborough Park 
Shugborough Hall, not the most exciting of buildings ( in my view!)

 unlike the elegant Essex Bridge over the River Trent
 which is a packhorse bridge built in 1550 by the Earl of Essex for Queen Elizabeth 1st so she could go hunting in the local woodland. It  only has 14 of it's original 40 span arches left but is still the longest packhorse bridge remaining in England.

It now leads  to the bridge over the canal at Haywood Lock & Great Haywood village through the railway bridge.
These 2 rows of cottages were built for residents of Shugborough village that was demolished to " improve the ornamental appearance of the park".

Just passed the cottages is the village Post Office, I popped in on the off chance & my post had arrived :) so tomorrow we will move on towards Stone. Anglo Welsh have a base at the junction, their current price for diesel is a respectable 85p before tax & we'd quite like to top up but with most of their fleet 'at home' there's not much space to get to the diesel point.  We'll have to see what the state of play is when we pass in the morning.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Great Haywood

If I was disciplined enough to update this blog every few days I wouldn't then have to rack my brains to remember what we've been up to although I do keep a dairy of sorts but it's mainly  basic cruising notes & to log the engine running  hours so we know when a service is due. 

After leaving the outskirts of Tamworth we moored for the weekend at Tamhorn Park just passed Hopwas,  the diary entry notes it was a good mooring for Sid because he could safely go out & that it rained on the Sunday. Nothing too exciting then...

On the Tuesday we moved a couple of miles up to Whittington & after mooring up caught a bus into Lichfield. We enjoyed a potter round the town in the warm sunshine, had a pub lunch in Weatherspoons then walked up to tescos for some supplies, we were back on the boat by 2.30 so decided to press on & enjoy cruising in the sunshine. We  intended to stop before Fradley Junction but no moorings appealed so we carried on through Fradley turning left onto the Trent & Mersey, as we came through Woodend Lock  we spied a likely spot, it was 6.30pm & it was good to get moored up, it had been a long but very pleasant day.   

Woodend was okay for a overnight stop but not really Sid friendly so we pressed on in search of a good spot to spend a few days. Mooring spots seemed few & far between, the bank was either thick with reeds or overshadowed by trees. We didn't need to stop in Rugeley for shopping as we'd stocked up in Tamworth so we went straight through, round the sharp bend at Brindley Bank, over the River Trent Aqueduct, under the new A51 bridge, under bridge 68 & success ! a Poppy sized space in the reeds with no trees & a wide towpath. Okay, some noise from the Virgin trains whizzing past but the view was compensation enough.

Sid enjoying exploring
whilst Soona plays safe

We spent Thursday & Friday enjoying the warm weather & I took  the opportunity to remove the sliding hatch as the paint had become scratched & chipped so I sat on the towpath in the sunshine sanding & undercoating - not too much of a chore.
The larder was in need on stocking on Saturday so we reversed the few yards to the winding hole & headed back to Rugeley, winding again & mooring up near bridge 66, very handy for Morrisons & the town centre. Once restocked we set off again & as we passed our mooring of the last few days it was already occupied, not that we minded as we were heading for Tixall Wide for the weekend.

Poppy entering Colwich Lock 
Approaching Great Haywood Junction on a very busy Saturday
We went past the junction to get on to the service point, the Anglo Welsh hire base is just round the corner so very handy to nip in for an ice cream whilst the water tank was filling, then a nifty reverse back past the turning & turn left onto the Staffordshire & Worcester Canal, by 3pm we had found a suitable spot &  got the chairs out on the towpath.

Hot air balloon over Great Haywood
The sun sets over Tixall Wide on the hottest October day on record

Our Boat Safety Scheme certificate ( MOT for boats) is due to be renewed this month & I had already spoken to Dave Freeman, the nearest examiner to us & he had said he just wanted a couple of days notice so I rang him & arranged the test for Tuesday morning.
 On Monday we moved back through the junction to Taft Bridge, Dave's boat is moored on his smallholding on the offside. He has pigs,chickens, a couple of cows with a calf, a couple of llamas & a mad border collie. Sid wasn't keen on the pigs, hiding behind the sofa when they squealed at feeding time.
Dave was prompt at 9am & took a couple of hours to do the test. All was okay, apart from 2 minor things, a bit more lagging needed on the exhaust & a grommet on the gas pipe where it passes through the bulkhead neither of which were a fail so we are now 'certified' for the next 4 years & at £110 not a bad price as I expected it to be nearer £150. Mark has sorted the grommet & we shall pick up some lagging in Stone.

Once done we went up to Bridge 68 to wind & saw that the mooring spot from last week was empty so made a quick decision to moor there again, Sid was very happy! It was such a nice day so I  walked into Rugeley, had a potter round the town & managed to get my hair cut.

Yesterday we both walked to Morrisons, it's only about a mile but with full rucksacks it seemed a lot longer on the way back! We could have taken the boat down but the exercise seemed like a good the time.

This morning we have moved back up towards Great Haywood & are moored overlooking Shugborough Park & gosh what a difference in the weather !! Hats & gloves have been dug out of storage & the fire has been lit. We shall be staying in this area for a few days as I am awaiting  a prescription. It was a bit of a challenge finding a post office that's still open, Weston Upon Trent has closed, Stone was closed very suddenly in July & I couldn't find out if it had reopened but Great Haywood is still there & what a little gem, I usually ask if it's okay to have mail delivered 'Poste Restante' at the smaller village post offices & usually it is (twice I have been refused) the chap in Great Haywood being very helpful.