All posts by Duncan

Day 13 – Braunston to Yelvertoft (ish)

Hours cruised –  7 – plus a 2 hour wait at Watford

Intertesting people met – a number

Domestics narrowly avoided – 1 – not ours I might add

Classic Album – Pink Floyd – Dark side of the Moon

Well the plan pretty much worked! Admittedly it was 8 that I got to the butchers, and 9 when we left, but other than that, the plan came together pretty much, well… as planned! Got to the bottom of Braunston locks just as 2 boats went in in front of us, so we would be on our own. But as I guess was to be expected, by the time we were ready to go, a boat turned up. Not the over crewed Hire boat one would hope for when looking for a lock companion, but a single handed boater! Oh well, if nothing else, we would have some “Lock padding” in the wide locks to stop us bouncing around.

In fact, the guy on the boat was pretty efficient, and def made the journey up easier. Fortunately, he also had pretty much the same opinions on all that is wrong with the world, so we were able to have a mutual moan as we went up – perfect!

At the top, we said our goodbyes and set off through the tunnel, and round Norton Junction – Buckby locks still closed, so free run to Watford, where there were only 2 boats waiting. The boat in front was going to Crick as a show boat. They had bought it 2 months ago and been asked by the company they bought it off if they could show it at Crick. Luckily it had not been out much since then, so still looked pretty unscratched! Made me think that maybe we should offer to show Blue Rover to show what a real boat looks like after being lived on by 2 people and a dog for 2 weeks. #notsoshiny, #doghairincluded.

  
Suspect the above picture may be different now! 

Whilst waiting, the news came through that the locks were open (for narrowbeams at least- one of the gates still won’t open!). The tsunami of boats up Watford was soon to follow.
Talking to the lock keeper having got our name on “the list”, plan was 4 boats coming down, then -wait for it- a CRT workboat doing some scheduled maintenance – we must remember that this scheduled maintenance prevents situations like the Buckby closure! – let’s think about that:

  1. The scheduled maintenance was – repainting Cill markers
  2. Buckby locks had closed because some idiot – yes an idiot even under the new rules- had been making a cup of tea in the lock whilst his boat lifted the gate off its hinges!

Struggle to see the connection myself

  
Through skillful negotiation by the lock keeper they decided to do their scheduled maintenance by carrying the paint can through the locks (rather than bringing  it down in a boat) hence removing the need to close the locks whilst they did it. It did still take 2 of them to do the job – one to carry the can, and one to paint the word Cill – and paint a nice block border round the marker. As they say – “You can take the CRT out of British Wateways but you can’t take BW out of the CRT!”)

Anyway – 2 hours later (not a bad wait for Watford) we were on our way.

By the way, the domestic had been about whether or not to go through a lock – fact is it would have made no difference – See Middlewich idiocy day 2 – so I left them to it. They were still talking to each other when we passed them later so obviously the issue was resolved!

On the way up the locks I saw a wonderful bit of Graffiti – on one of the Cill makers someone had added RIP (Cill) a – obviously a very big fan!

  
Past Watford, we cruised on past Crick – Enjoying the cruise so much, we didn’t want it to end – and on to Yelvertoft, though finding a pace to moor was a little tricky as every piece of Armco had a boat on it, many of which looked like they hadn’t moved in a while! The joys of southern boating – makes me hanker for those empty Northern canals!

Another post without using the phase “It turns out” – whilst still managing to get it in under the wire – Genius!

 

Day 12 – Ansty – Braunston

Hours Cruised – 7

Peregrin Falcons spotted – 1 (plus chicks)

Idiots met – under the new rules – 0

Classic Album – Marvin Gaye – What’s going on

It was going to be a long day today if we are going to make it to Braunston, so we needed to set off early. 10am again! That seems to be our default starting time. Only 3 locks today at the end of the day at Hillmorton (picture of Blue Rover at the top of the first of them below!), so basically about 6 hrs of cruising!

If Brindley (born 300 years ago in 1716 apparently!) had had his way, it would probably have been double that, but later engineers reworked the North Oxford cutting out many of the loops, and significantly shortening the route. The down side is that the new route is VERY straight, and thus the driving becomes a little boring!

  
Only real interest came at Newbold (following the Volefest on the Ashby, even spotting a water vole shortly after setting off was a bit run of the mill), where there was some precise driving required to navigate a very narrow section with 2 boats queuing in a water point on one side, a bridge, and 2 boats coming in the other. Added some spice to the trip though!

Arriving at Braunston at about 5:30,  and thinking moorings would be at a premium, we were delighted  to spot one just coming up to the marina. However, on mooring up and walking into the village, we discovered that it was actually really quiet, and there was loads of space right through.

Tomorrow is going to be the interesting day as we have to pass through the bottleneck that is Watford staircase. Normally, 2 canals converge just below Watford. From Braunston (us) in one direction, and from the Buckby flight in the other. However, we heard yesterday that the locks at Buckby were closed as someone had managed to trash one of the gates on Lock 8, meaning that currently no boats were coming up, potentially reducing the congestion! Good news for us ( not so much for those coming up the Grand Union). Apparently (according to NB Briar Rose’s blog – different Briar Rose to the one we have been playing leapfrog with all week, though we did pass them again today too!) there is a growing queue of boats at the bottom of the locks, so when they fix it, there will be a steady stream up the locks. Many heading for Watford. Ideally, we want to get there before this. 

Smart money (according to the brilliantly named Lee King of the CRT – Thanks for that one Briar Rose) is that they will have them fixed tomorrow afternoon, so our aim is to get off early (it will probably be 10am!) to be at Watford by lunchtime, avoiding the rush!

 Well That’s the plan!

In all the excitement, I have forgotten to mention the Peregrins! Coming back from the pub having eaten, walking past the Church, we heard what sounded like a hawk of some kind. Knowing that some churches use recordings of birds of prey to scare off pigeons, that was the assumption. But on looking up, we saw a hawk landing on one of the trefoils adorning the spire, followed by the squawking  of chicks. Looks like they have gone one better and got a real hawk to scare off the pigeons. A fact that was confirmed by 2 locals passing by who told us that this was the 3rd year they had nested. 

Couldn’t get a pic of the falcon, so here is a photo of the church ( the falcon is in there somewhere, honest!)

  
To bed now as I need to be up at 7 to be at the butchers when it opens at 7:30, in order for us to be off by 8 – like that’s going to happen!

Day 11 Sutton Cheyney to Ansty

Hours cruised –  6

Interesting people/idiots met – 1

Average depth of the water – not enough

Perfectly negotiated junctions – 2

Classic Album – Beach Boys – Pet sounds

It turns out that I use the phrase “It turns out” a lot in my writing so my aim today is not to say “It turns out” in today’s post. 

Did you notice, I have cunningly snuck it in 3 times already, so I can keep my averages up!

Late start today, as we decided to visit the Bosworth Field Battle site. Apparently, it’s where some king got beaten by some wannabe King, and turned the tide of British history. Fascinating! Also transpires (see what I did there – google synonym dictionary is your friend) that the battle was not where they thought it was but 100 yards away in a different field, but they have sorted that glaring inaccuracy in British history, so all is good! It was a good walk though.

  
Set off about 11:30, and the first 3 miles felt like we were going uphill – I really hate shallow canals! It was also at this point that today’s idiot showed up ( yes it was an idiot rather than an interesting person) and I have some thoughts on canal idiocy, but you will have to wait for that.

Today’s idiot was of the pulls out hurriedly when they see you coming variety. Sadly though, for them, within 200 yds of pulling out, they met someone at a bridge and ran aground! They subsequently did this again about 1/2 mile further on.

Fortunately, they used the excuse of stopping to ask directions as a good reason to pull over and let us past. Suspect they may have regretted their hasty move earlier!

It was about a mile further on where the incident happened that made me think about the concept of the canal idiot. Without going into detail, a situation arose that, while our action was utterly reasonable in our eyes, resulted in us being the canal idiot. (Or at least we would be if the other person involved was writing a blog similar to this one!)

This got me thinking as to the definition of “Idiot” on the canals. And I came up with the following.

An idiot is “someone who does things differently to you, and who by doing things differently prevents you from doing things the way you would normally do them”. One of the things I love about the canals is the wide variety of people who inhabit them, and that, in general, people with very different takes on life all share space, generally, amicably! With this new knowledge, I have decided to be more tolerant of Idiots. (Apart from those that jump out in front of you – Obviously!)

Anyway, back to the plot:

We made it back to Marsden junction (No 1 of the perfectly negotiated junctions – sadly, no one to see it though!) and headed on down the Coventry, the boat whipping along with the the engine merely ticking over, thanks to the fact that the canal actually had some water in it! 

On to Hawksbury junction (the second of our perfectly negotiated junctions). A tricky, tight U turn into a lock. This time with a pub full of people watching! Frankly, I am disappointed that we didn’t get a round of applause. Obviously these people were not afficionados of the boat handling art, but hey ho!

Through the he stop lock we were onto the Oxford, and on to Ansty and dinner at the Rose and Crown, a pub obviously  owned by an OCD Heath and Safety freak; I have never seen so many altogether advice notices in a menu, and highly specific warning signs (eg low beam, if you are over 5′ 8″ 1.73m tall, duck – I am surprised they had forgotten to take shoe type into consideration).

Target for tomorrow – Braunston, but looking at the map, not sure we will make it!

Day 10 – Nuneaton (ish) – Sutton Cheyney

Hours Cruised – 7

Interesting people and idiots – 0

Water Voles spotted – lost count at 7

Water Voles photographed so you could recognize it – 1

Classic album – Bob Marley – Legend

Set off at about 10am, having been passed by at least half a dozen boats (including Briar Rose) within an hour! On saying to the last one “it’s busy this morning” his response was “Is it, I hadn’t noticed”. That’s the great thing about canals, it can be very busy and you don’t notice it except at locks. No locks today, so all is good.

First stop was Nuneaton to pick up essentials (dog food & tea bags). It was a quick pit stop, as Nuneaton did not really encourage you to stop! Restocked, we took the decision to take a detour up the Ashby Canal. We had heard good things about it, so thought it would be a good opportunity to get out of the procession of boats we were in before we hit the lock at Hawksbury Junction.

First thing you notice about the ashby is it is SHALLOW. I know I have said that the Coventry was shallow, but the Ashby is REALLY shallow, and seemed to get shallower still as we went further up.

The other thing you notice is that there are a lot of burrows in the bank. Water voles, it turns out. There have been a lot of efforts made to reverse the decline in this fabulous little mammal, and on the Ashby canal it seems to be paying dividends to the extent that I was really hopeful I might spot one.

It seems they are actually quite common on the canal. I lost count at 7, but must have seen well into double figures by the end of the day. 

Other than the plague of water voles, and a strange duck disguised as a peacock at the Lime Kilns pub, the trip up The Ashby was pretty uneventful. We arrived at Sutton Cheyney at about 5pm, having struggled up that last couple of miles past ducks standing knee deep in the canal. Turned, and as the moorings there were all full, moved about 1/2 mile back down the canal to moor. In hindsight, a much nicer mooring.

Given the infestation of water voles, I thought I would get my camera out and see if I could catch one on “film”. Turns out they are a lot more difficult to photograph than to spot. I spent a good couple of hours sat on the bank, and whilst I saw a good number of the critters, I only managed to get one shot where you can actually tell it is a water vole. 

  
Ducks on the other hand are much easier to photograph.

  
The sunset was pretty spectacular too!

  

Day 9 – Polesworth – Nuneaton (ish)

Hours cruised – 6

Interesting people – 0

Idiots – 0 – there are definitely fewer idiots down south

Twitter followers encountered – 1

Times passed (by) NB Briar Rose – 4

Classic Album – Wings – Band on the run

It’s now 8:45, so I am late writing today’s post! The main reason being that today’s journey was another of those uneventful got up travelled, did some locks, got rained on, stopped for the evening type of days, and as such writing about it felt like it was going to be a chore. On this basis, if today’s post is short, you will know why!

Setting off at about 10am, having been passed by Briar Rose for the first time at about 9am (We had last passed them moored by Fazeley Junction the previous day, so they are obviously early risers), we passed them a second time about 1 hour down the canal.  

Next stop Atherston Locks, described in Pearsons as “Like a piggy bank, slow to fill and quick to empty”. The lockssage was pretty uneventful, and we were definitely going in the right direction, as we must have passed about 6 or 7 boats coming down! Half way up we passed a Braidbar boats boat “Sunny Day” I think, with trade plates. I will put money on the fact he is off to Crick too – time will tell if I am right.

Top lock was manned by 2 cheery lock keepers form CRT (they all seem happy in their work this trip!). This case the sluggish lock filling was ideal, as whilst it filled, I was able to empty both the rubbish and the toilet at the ajacent services, and still be back on the boat ready to depart the lock as the gate opened. 

  
Just after Atherston locks we stopped for lunch. Lunch consisted of cheese, pate and biscuits that had been purchased a couple of days earlier at Great Hayward farm shop. (Remember the £6 biscuits). During lunch we were passed by (yes you guessed it) Briar Rose! 

On towards Nuneaton, we passed Briar Rose for the 4th and final time (until tomorrow morning about 8:30 I suspect) and about 1/2 an hour farther on, passed Miner Bill, a regular Tweeter that I follow, and who in turn follows @nbbluerover – hello Miner Bill if you are reading this! Sadly didn’t get to see your shiny new nameplates as they were obscured by the boat  (Built in 1898, and now lovingly converted to a live aboard – @BoaterRalph, thanks for losing me that argument!) breasted up to you. 
Moored for the evening just short of Nuneaton, just as the rain started to come down more steadily.
  
Rumour has it tomorrow will be better weatherwise! And when it came to it, writing today’s blog was not too bad, so there you go!

Day 8 – Fradley (ish) – Polesworth

Hours cruised – 5

Interesting people – 1

Idiots met – 0

Curries delivered to the boat (well almost)   – 1

Classic Album – Simon & Garfunkel – Bridge over troubled water

One first thing to say is scratch everything I said about the butcher in Stone. Whilst the pork pie he sold us was very good, the steak (which we ate last night) was the worst steak I have eaten in a long time!! To still be in business, obviously, the people of Stone eat more pork pies than steak!

The forecast for Saturday (tomorrow) was not very promising, so on the basis that we might be staying put tomorrow, we decided to push on (still only made 5 hours though). On setting off, the first thing of note was that the Coventry canal is shallow, especially under the bridges. The engine seemed to be labouring the whole way along, and almost every bridge passage involved clearing the prop to get going again! Felt like going up the Llangollen.

Past Hopwas, we realised that we had done this part of the canal before, having picked up a boat (that belonged to a friend of ours) here a few years back for a trip up the Shroppie to Barbridge.

Through past Fazeley Junction, things got better. I suspect this section of canal between Fradley & Fazeley is less used than most!

Whilst stopped for lunch, 2 things happened 1: we were subjected to someone murdering Bridge over troubled water on the radio – leading to the decision re tonight’s classic album and 2: We were passed by a boat with a prow decorated with stylised Dragons. Turned out the crew were welsh (should have guessed really given the dragons painted on the boat, dragon tiller pin and, the real clincher, Welsh flag flying from the stern). 1/2 hour later we caught up with them in Glascote locks. They had been up and down in the lock twice (unable to get it to fill completely). There was a block of wood jammed in one of the bottom gate paddles. Once cleared, they were good to go! Glad we stopped for lunch and let them past!

Couple of hours later, we decided to moor at Polesworth. The Welsh boat (still don’t know it’s name) moored up behind us. Chatting to the guy on board, turns out they were continuous cruisers heading for London. (Apparently the cool dragon design, was actually nicked from the logo of one of the Welsh councils!) They winter on the Llangollen (so they should feel at home on the Cov given the depth) and always make sure they escape through Hurleston junction before the season starts to avoid the madness that the Llangollen becomes in the summer.

We had decided to eat on the boat until, whilst sat in the cratch doing the crossword, we were handed an Indian takeaway menu by a guy walking down the towpath ( “we are happy to deliver” were his parting words). Feeling that we could not ignore this initiative (Rugeley take note!), plans were changed & a takeaway ordered, though being moored only 100 yards from the restaurant we declined the offer of delivery. 

The meal was however well worth the 100m journey to collect it.

  
Didn’t take any photos today, so I thought I would share a photo of Boo (remember her, the cool border collie from day 1)  pulling her weight as part of the crew.

Day 7 – Worseley – Fradley (ish)

Hours Cruised – 5

Interesting people – 0

Idiots encountered – 1 – seems they do exist south of the Harecastle!

Goose Processions – 1

Classic album – Michael Jackson – Off the Wall

On another lovely morning, and on throwing open the curtains I was treated to the sight of 2 families of Canada Geese processing past the boat


Made my day, and it was only 9am! Do people realise that if we tighten up on immigration, sights like this will become a thing of the past!

As we were at a point where the Trent and Canal were in close proximity, I thought it would be a good time to do a bit more arial photography. Again, without incident!  (For those  who are interested, I will post the resulting video when it is complete). Whilst flying,  however, a guy emerged from one of the other boats moored nearby and we started chatting about drones. It turned out he had a very similar model but had never got it out of the box as he was too scared he would crash it!! Whilst I can absolutely understand where he is coming from (see day 1 post), it made me realise that the worst you can do is trash it and if you are never going to take it out of the box, what’s the difference! With this new found confidence, the next project is to get some footage of the boat whilst moving!! 2 man job I think!

Anyway, back to the cruise. We set off with the first stop being Rugeley to do some shopping. It was in Rugeley that we met today’s idiot. Approaching the moorings, they were all full but noticing activity on one of the boats, I slowed down intending to take his spot as he left. However, the owner of the boat, seeing my approach and obviously not realizing my intentions, redoubled his efforts, rapidly untying ropes, leaping on board and flooring the throttle, to cut in front of me. In fact, his actions did me a favour and saved me hanging around for him to leave but he still gets the idiot of the day award as intention is everything!

Having passed Rugeley a few times and never stopped, we thought we would give it some time this visit and whilst it didn’t disappoint, it does suffer from the same malaise that afflicts most small market towns in the UK. It has no ambition. If you are willing to look, you will always find some great little shops (in this case a great bakers – with customers queuing out the door, and greengrocers) but the overall effect is very utilitarian, catering to the lowest common denominator, and you can almost guarantee that the indoor market (if there is one) will be utterly depressing! We did get all the supplies we needed though, including come excellent cream cakes.

Lunch eaten, we left Rugeley with the prediction from the guy moored behind us, “It’ll be raining by 4!” heading for Fradley where 4 notable things happened:

  1. We left the Trent and Mersey and turned into the Coventry Canal
  2. We had to change Pearsons guides from 4 Counties to Canals of Birmingham
  3. The boat entered new ground, having only ever been as far south as Fradley
  4. It started to rain – that guy in Fradley ought to get a job with the met office – Or maybe he already has!

Travelling in the rain is never any fun. So we decided to moor for the night (just through bridge 90 on the Cov)

Day 6 – Burston – Wolseley

Hours cruised –  4

Interesting people  – 0

Idiots – 0 – Maybe idiots are a northern phenonenon

Canal Reptile experts – 1

Classic Album – Suzanne Vega – Solitude Standing

Plans to meet up with family in Wolseley meant another short day, which given the torrential rain we woke to, seemed like a good plan.

The rain had to be down to the fact that we had just called home to ask someone to water the garden to prevent it dying due to the unseasonably dry weather. Sure enough, as we put the phone down, the heavens opened!

Putting off the start of today’s cruise was definitely a good call, as within 1/2 an hour the rain had cleared, and with the exception of a brief shower later in the day, we remained fairly dry.

3 hrs and 2 locks later we arrived a Great Heywood Junction, and moored up to visit the Farm Shop. Plan was to buy a couple of scones to go with the clotted cream we had picked up in Stone. However, these shops have a way of drawing you in, and making you forget that £6 for a packet of biscuits is extortionate! The fact that I had refused to pay £1.50 for a large bag of crisps the day before, had been cunningly erased from by brain by the field that surrounds farm shops like these. 1/2 an hour later, 2 small carrier bags heavier, and a wallet £40 lighter we emerged ready to enjoy the homebaked scones, hand crafted cheeses, and beer brewed by pixies from the tears of a dragon. Though to be fair the scones, clotted cream & homemade jam were very good, and the fact that the jam was free as it was literally home made from home grown fruit evened things out nicely!


Whilst  enjoying our cream tea, we were regaled by what turned out to be the regions foremost experts on reptiles inhabiting the area who told us of the monster terrapins and 2m long grass snakes that lurk in the canals locally. I was a little “Yer Right as if” about the monster snake, but on doing extensive research (ie googling “Biggest grass snake in the UK”) I did learn that on rare occasions they could grow to 2m (well 190cm, but I will give him that. Not sure I would want to get close enough to a 1.9m snake to measure it. even if it was presumed to be a non venomous grass snake.)


1 hour & 2 locks later, we arrived at our mooring in Wolseley just in time for the meet up in the pub at 5pm. By now another lovely sunny evening.

 

 

Day 5 Barlaston – Burston

Hours cruised – 5

Interesting people – 1

Idiots – none – wey  hey an idiot free day!

classic album (s) – 2 today . – Dire Straits – Brothers in Arms/ Love over Gold

Short trip today. Just 6 miles and 9 locks through Stone, so late start kicked off with that narrowboating classic breakfast – the bacon and egg sandwich – with excellent dry cured bacon from (yes you guessed it) Mettricks. It seems I lied about having come to the bottom of our Mettricks stash, but this was definitely the last. 

Little of note between our mooring and the top of the stone flight. Arrived at the lock just as a boat was leaving – perfect timing – only to have to wait at the next lock as a guy with engine trouble dragged his boat through the lock – rather him than me. He did have a working engine, but thermostat trouble meant the engine was overheating, so he was saving it for the trips between the locks.

It was also at lock 32 that today’s interesting person entered, traveling at speed on 2 wheels. Dumping his bike at the lock, he proceeded to close gates & wind paddles like a man possessed. He was obviously wanting us to get through the lock as quickly & efficiently as possible. “Rob the lock”, as we later discovered was the name he went by, was working with the single handed boater behind us, assisting her through the locks. Based in Stoke, this is apparently what he does, offering his services to boaters coming down through Stoke & Stone, supplying a laundry service as a sideline. Sadly he doesn’t have a website, or I would have been sure to give him a plug! It’s guys like him that make Britain’s canals unique.

On through the locks, we moored in the centre of Stone for lunch and a little shopping. There were 2 things of note by the mooring spot:

  1. A statue commemorating Christina Collins – more about her in a couple of days
  2. A “peace pole” – erected by the town council and local Quakers, the pole is one of 250,000 around the world  promoting the idea that we should live together in peace – amen to that.

I remember stone as a nice little market town with an interesting high street. Sadly it did not live up to my memory, but we did manage to find the requisite butcher, baker and greengrocer. Though it has to be said, that the butcher was a little tricky to find. “Does Stone have butcher?” I asked in the greengrocer. At this he beckoned me outside, pointed down the street. “There’s an alley between that shop to let and the sweet shop, head down there, 3rd door on the left, knock  3 times and ask for Gordon (OK I may have made the last bit up, but this guy has to be good, as he will get NO passing trade!)

I will let you know how good when we try his wares later in the week.

Having stocked up, it was back on the boat and off down the last stone lock.

1 mile further on, at Aston Lock we come to a significant point on our trip. The mile post stating Shardlow 46 miles -Preston Brook 46 miles – the midpoint of the Trent and Mersey.

  
 How understated! If this was the US there would be a  big sign, a cafe and a gift shop at the very least. This I know for a fact as, having  been lucky enough to travel Route 66 in the US a couple of years back, I have a commemorative mug bought at the said gift shop. 

  

If only I could get the matching one for the T&M. Come on Stone, where’s your enterprising spirit!

Moored up for the evening in Burston – just in time to avoid the rain – first of the trip.

Day 4 – Red Bull to Barlaston

Hours Cruised – 6

Interesting people met – 4

Idiots encountered – 1 

Pubs visited that we won’t be going back to – 1

Classic Album – Fleetwood Mac – Rumours

Today’s big feature is the tunnel. In canal terms, on the Trent and Mersey, the Harecastle tunnel is the manifestation of the North South divide. You  enter the North Portal (after the extensive safety briefing) surrounded by the grim industrial wasteland that is the North and emerge 38 minutes later into the leafy paradise that is the South.

After doing all the canal necessaries (emptying toilets & filling water tanks), we set off. 3 locks of Red Bull, and then on to the tunnel.

Arriving, we were met by a cheery CRT operative, who took our particulars and gave us the safety briefing, now 50% longer thanks to the tragic accident that happened there last year. Don’t remember much of it other than “if you fall overboard, stand up, it’s only 4 feet deep”. Classic!

Entering  the tunnel, we negotiated the new profile boards (highlighting how low the tunnel gets, and probably the most tricky maneuver of the passage) we set off. 38 minutes later we emerged the other end. 

Whilst the Harecastle tunnel has a fearsome reputation it is, in my opinion, one of the easier tunnels to negotiate. It’s straight as a die, and for most part (apart from about 100m in the middle) is wide with plenty of headroom.

Once through the Tunnel it was on to Stoke past a mixture of post industrial wasteland, 70s office blocks. and working potteries with “Bottle kilns”, “slip rooms” and “firing chambers”, a magical world!

It was now getting on for lunchtime and we were still yet to encounter an idiot. I would like to have added the guy who turned out of the Caldon and cut in front of us entering the locks in Stoke, but fair dos he did get there first. Furthermore, if he had not done so, I would not have had the pleasure of hearing a youth worker explaining the difference between graffiti and “street art” to a group of youth volunteers he was wrangling by the lock. The world needs more people like him – great job!

5 locks, and a number of very low bridges later, we met today’s idiot.

 In fact, he had entered the story at the top of the locks in Stoke, but didn’t show his true colours until his idiocy revealed itself when he caught up with us about a mile before Trentham Lock. Rather than politely keeping a distance, he proceeded to tailgate us to the extent I could smell his southern arrogance!

At the lock, he moored up, and proceeded to “Help” impatiently  asking if we were “out for the day” or “doing a ring”. When asked where he was heading, he replied “I’m out till September & heading for London”. On which basis, I am not sure why he was in such a hurry!

Today’s mooring was at Barlaston. A lovely sunny spot, despite being 20 yards from the west coast mainline. 

  
It is here where we enter the pub to which we will not be returning (more later), and we meet today’s interesting people. 4 New Zealanders, on an Anglo Welsh hire boat spending 2 weeks doing the 4 counties ring ( lucky they didn’t meet Arsey Southerner, as his scorn would have been unbearable!).  We spent a fun hour discussing the wonders of the British waterways and does and don’ts of canal etiquette. 

At the point when they went to eat, we decided to do the same ( we had only come in to look at the menu whilst walking the  dog ( remember her, she’s called Boo. Day 1 featured a picture of her looking cool!).

We ordered 2 steaks ( they were practically the same price as burgers, so it seemed only sensible) and sat down. 40 minutes later ( having a discussed the facinating Neil Morrissey related trivia covering the walls – did I mention the pub was owned by Meil Morrissey) no sign of the food. On enquiring, I was told, very apologetically, that their ordering system had gone wrong, and they had lost our order. They would send out complimentary garlic bread & nibbles to tide us over, whilst the food would be given the highest priority, and would be with us shortly. 

15 mins later the steak arrived ( no sign of the promised garlic bread and “nibbles” ) but thankful for the fact that we had food, we did not complain! And credit where credit is due, the steak was pretty good.

Needless to say, we will not be going there again! Just so you don’t confuse it with any other well organized eating establishment, it is “The Plume of Feathers” at Barlaston.

At 9:30 (having ordered dinner a little after 7:30) and fed (eventually) we returned to the boat to write the blog, and listen to days classic album.