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.

Day 3 Wheelock to Red Bull

Interesting people met – 0

Idiots encountered – 1 – Plus one absent idiot!

Classic album – Queen – A Night at the Opera

There are some days, when boating, that just happen! And today was one of those days. We set off, we did locks , we did more locks, and we arrived at our destination. As such, it’s a day where there is little to tell.

The locks in question were Heartbreak hill between Wheelock & Red Bull. I believe it is so named (and if this isn’t true it should be) because the 26 locks are spaced in such a way that you either walk a very long way, or are forever getting on and off the boat. Heartbreaking!

But before we get to the locks we come to the absent idiot who, deciding he no longer needed his boat, moored it on the water point at Wheelock with a for sale sign on it.

Understandably, someone (who wanted water presumably) moved it and tied it haphazardly to the bank 20 yards further up. As we set off from our mooring, it decided that would be a good time to shed its moorings and drift into the centre of the canal!

Resisting the urge to simply barge past it ( it was a fiberglass cruiser so I think I could have done that with little risk to Blue Rover) I re-tied it just as haphazardly to the bank, and off we went.

As flights of locks go, it was pretty plain sailing, with most locks set in the right direction.

One thing about Heartbreak hill that makes it less of a chore is that it contains the best lock on the network (Lock 58 at Hassle Green). This is where you go under the M6 and then immediately up the lock,  with the traffic streaming down the Motorway, though it’s at its best when the sun is shining and the motorway is solid with traffic so the cars are travelling slower than us. At that point, as you stop for an ice cream at the lock side shop, life is sweet.

The ice cream shop may be gone, but its still a wonderful place that reminds me why I love boating!

On up the locks and enter stage right today’s idiot. Today it was a chap walking down the locks as we went up. It was a duplicated lock, and we were going up the one farthest from the towpath. There was a boat coming down the lock above – perfect – we both leave our gates open, pass in the pound and continue on our merry way.

However, said idiot decided o be “helpful” and open the top gate of the other lock. On explaining the error of his ways, he simply said “never mind, I needed the excercise & there will be another boat along in a minute” and wandered off. AARRGH!

He did at least take the hint when a I set off round the lock to close it and came back to shut the gate.

Rest of the locks were uneventful and, fortunately, there was water in the pound past “Smelly Corner” (between locks 47 and 46), so called because it’s a corner and , thanks to a very large dairy farm by the canal, it smells. Last time we came this way, I was very glad to arrive safely at lock 46 having scraped the bottom all along the 1/2 mile pound from lock 47! (Leaking sill to blame apparently).

3pm saw us arrive at Red Bull and a perfect sunny mooring spot. Just in time to risk taking the drone to the air for a second time – this time, better shots of a boat coming through the lock and still managed not to kill or drown the beast. Result!


Night at the Opera really is a good Album – not a bad track on it!

Day 2 – Middlewich – Wheelock

Hours Cruised – 4

Interesting people met – 2 – including an itinerant blacksmith

Idiots encountered – Too many to mention

Classic album – Rush – Moving Pictures

Day two, and the objective is Wheelock, and the Barchetta Italian restaurant. Based simply on that fact, today’s classic album has to be Moving Pictures by Canadian prog gods Rush – Those who don’t get the reference need to listen to the album (track 2).

First stop was Middlewich big lock, and encounter with interesting person number 1. Local guy, obviously a professional gongoozler who knows the canal well, and willing to deliver advice on lock operation to anyone who would listen. However he did have a very cute border collie named Meg, so he was obviously a sound individual.

Past big lock, we moored up just behind a narrowboat pair (Emily & Bronte), and interesting person 2, but more of that later.


Into Middlewich to stock up with provisions, with visits to butchers bakers and in lieu of a candlestick maker, Tesco! Though interestingly interesting person 2 did make candlesticks.

So we get to Bronte & Emily, and interesting person 2 – Working from the narrowboat pair (Bronte housed his forge) was an itinerent blacksmith, selling a range of ironwork, from candlesticks, to  fire irons & door knockers. Apparently he build Bronte, (the tug of the pair) 22 years ago, and has been travelling the waterways since, plying his trade – #livingthedream. If you want to check out his work, his website is www.briangreaves.com

Back on board having purchased a birthday present ( can’t say what as the recipient may read this and don’t want to spoil the surprise, but needless to say it may be a forge fabricated gift!) we set off to negotiate Middlewich locks, and this is where our day was beset by idiots – (warning – the following paragraphs contain a rant – skip forward to “rant over”  if you want to avoid it.

Middlewich locks are tight at the best of times with short pounds, and a rather interesting 90 degree bend between locks 73 And 72 (going up). This arrangement is no problem if you take the “One up, One down approach”. In this way, two boats leave their respective lock, cross in the pound, enter the next lock and continue on their way – simples!

So Why oh Why did people coming down think it was a good idea, despite a boat coming up the lock below, to refill their lock and follow the boat in front down, thus resulting in 3 boats in a very small pound trying hard to avoid each other and the sides of the overflowing pound!! Add into this the 90 degree bend, and …. ( you get the picture). What’s worse is that it doesn’t save them any time, as they simply then have to wait in the next pound. At least it gives them a chance to get over the stress that their lack of forethought has caused them and everyone else.

What makes it worse is that when you point out that manoeuvering is going to get tricky, the response is, “don’t worry, he’s very experienced” …. AAARGH. You could almost understand if the culprits were novices!

Ok RANT OVER.


Above Kings lock, we decided to stop for lunch. (Mettricks pork pies this time – last of the Mettricks stash). 30 mins later, blood pressure back to normal, about to set off, and a boat pulls out behind us. It’s decision time, there’s a lock 200 yards ahead – do you let them pass? Of course you do! That way you are doing the hassling from behind!

2 hrs later arrive at Wheelock. Sat outside the Barchetta restaurant enjoying a beer in the sun, and who should arrive but friends from home! I really must check the boat for tracking devices! Nice surprise though and a chance to see the photos from the Big Geordie Wedding.

Evening finished with a great meal at the Barchetta, and back to the boat for Eurovision – obviously. Smart money suggest the UK stand a chance of doing well this year – will they never learn!

Day 1 Anderton to Middlewich

Hours Cruised 4

Interesting people met – None – though we did pass a guy with the most amazing sideburns ! – might regret adding this element, but the canals are full of them so fingers crossed.

Classic Album of the day – Stevie Wonder – Songs in the Key of Life

For anyone who happens on this blog, it is basically a record of a trip from Anderton to Crick to visit the Crick Boat Show. 14 days – 1 boat, 2 people and a dog ( aging Border collie named Boo – Yes that’s her in the photo)


Arriving at Anderton, we parked the car only to realised that we had positioned it so that all the doors and the boot were positioned 0ver muddy puddles, meaning that unloading without covering the boat in mud was a challenge. A challenge that I a might add, we rose to admirably!

With the exception of the discovery that we will have a leak in the engine cooling system – something to investigate later – unpacking, filling up with water and eating lunch – An excellent (as always) Chicken and Bacon Salad box from Metricks butchers in Glossop – were all uneventful.

After touching up some major scrapes on the hull ( not sure where they came from since we painted it 2 weeks ago!  I can only think someone has been borrowing the boat and joyriding, playing dodgems with locks and other boats!) we set off about 3:30 turned left out of the marina and set off for Crick.

Just before the Salt Barge, it was good o see that GrowlTiger, was back on its “Home” mooring. Having not moved for the past 2 years, spotting it on the Weaver 2 weeks ago was a tad un-nerving

Plan was to stop at Bramble cuttings but moorings were full, and didn’t fancy brestin up – (in hindsight,  probably a mistake given my objective of meeting interesting people on the trip. But in my defense, I only set that objective after making that decision!), so carried on to just short of Middlewich.

As we moored by a large field with few trees, I saw it as an ideal spot to “get back on the horse” drone wise – previous week – Drone, V large tree  – flying backwards while concentrating on filming – you get the idea (Apparently it’s number 8 in the top 10 rookie mistakes that lead to drone crashes – but thanks to some help from Sam from Arundel Tree surgeons, and some amazing tree climbing the drone lived to fly another day – who says there are no such thing as miracles!)

So took it for a short flight. At one point even flying over water!!!
Film was very bad – Def need lots of practice. But drone returned in one piece, so all round – result!

Finished the evening listening to some of the Eurovision Entries. 30 mins of this and I had the “daily classic album” idea. But it did get me thinking, it would be ironic if this year we won it, so become the host next year then voted to leave Europe in June!