Day 16 – 14 locks to Wheelock

We had a very damp afternoon and evening on day 15 but found that the nearest pub, the Broughton Arms to be excellent. Not only did they have a dozen or so beers but two pints cost £5! Must make sure we stop here on the way back.  It was also raining heavily the next day so we didn’t set off until after 11. Our plan was to get to Wheelock for the afternoon – so just a few miles but 14 locks to get through.

Unusual to see a mason’s mark on a stone in one of the locks

The rain soon went as did a brief meeting of the canal and the M6

Lots of bird life about as well as quite a few heron

We met a few working boats on their way back to Braunston (the Nuffield et al), this one was towing the next one

It may have only been three and a half hours but it was tiring work.

Narrow but very deep locks

One of the last locks and onto the visitor moorings at Wheelock. A bit of a rest and then over to the huge pet shop to get Toby yet another ball (he’s lost 2 so far) plus some of those dried sausages, I noticed a Chinese take away so that was our supper sorted. We stopped off at the Cheshire Cheese pub for a pint of Hyde’s bitter – hmm, rather old-fashioned soapy beer, never mind plenty back on t’boat.  Tomorrow – Middlewich!

Day 15 – scHarecastle Tunnel

Having met the very friendly & chatty tunnel master, Derek, last night. He said he’d be on at 0800 the next day, so we got going early and arrived at the portal around 0900. One boat had just gone through and then there’d be three coming the other way – so a good hour’s wait, time to put the kettle on!

Then it was our turn ….  into the gloom … with the tunnel getting narrower and lower the further you go …

Utmost concentration required …

I told you it was like a ghost train ride – here’s the skeleton

Phew, some 40 minutes later and we made it!

Out of the northern portal and the ochre coloured water

The plan was to chug on for a while, have a look at the CRT facilities at Red Bull and then do a few locks before finding a good mooring spot for the night (pub please!)

Viv did a few locks and then after a lunch stop, Steve did six more making it 12 locks today. Most of these were duplicated, i.e. there were two locks which eases the traffic flow . . 

Some of these were quite deep – note the wee bridge with the gap in the middle? This was to take the towing rope from the horse.

We moored up at Rode Heath – nice rural spot with two pubs and even a Chinese take away … here’s a view of the guide book we use . . (we’re going right to left)

Day 14 – Beyond Stoke

A busy day today, away by 0950 – that’s early for us and finish by 3 ish. Six locks, which Viv boldly worked- most of em very deep and very heavy. We sped past the Wedgwood factory – for, yes, we are in the Potteries now! And on to Etruria, Stoke and finally Westport Lake. A good resting point for two reasons – adjacent to the Harecastle tunnel for tomorrow and by a lake for Toby!

And some very Midland sounding names . . 

Some of the Trent & Mersey was covered in oil – shimmers of oil came thru the surface as we chugged alone – not nice. It’s said it dissolves the protective bitumen paint on the hull. Some quaint bridges too

The Stoke locks were not very pleasant – low bridges, deep locks …

View from … the boat

More reminders of the kilns for the potteries

Finally, reaching Etruria and the Bone mill, where posh bone china was made from, er, bones – some human bones too apparently!

Etruria junction, where a right turn goes down the Caldon canal

There are some potteries still in action, like this one.  It even had a cafe outside. Nice. See

According to the guide books and our peeking at Google maps – Westport Lake seemed to be a good mooring point. Visitor moorings with rings. Fairly safe and just a 15 minute chug to that Tunnel. We walked around the lake, saw a giant carp being landed and it gave Toby his promised chill time – a swim. We then carried on walking to the portal; no, not some quantum wormhole that connects us with our Mother planet but the southern portal of the Harecastle tunnel 2926 yds long and a 45 minute journey in the dark!!

Our mooring point and opposite, the lake (boat is hidden – good idea!)

Here’s the guy catching his carp

And here’s our Boggle chilling out

It was a mile on to the portal but it was a grand day so on we went

And lots of info about it … it always reminds me of the fairground Ghost Train, as they let you in they the shut the doors!  It’s to draw the fumes out, I think.

We saw this boat emerge as 3 Black Prince hire boats waited their turn, here comes John & Diana on Molly Rose – two New Zealanders, enjoying their UK Summer holiday. One of the best things about this boating lark is meeting other people – especially folk from overseas. We met a boat full of Swedes in Stone and then a Danish couple at Hilmorten – who had hired a boat for 3 months. Shame this country is so paranoid and xenophobic (as seen in this EU referendum) because these guys are fascinating and you can learn so much from them.

Another milestone, we are edging ever so slowly onwards to the end of the Trent & Mersey

Ah, the orchids are flowering

And some local art work … quite like this! And the spikes help.

We ran the engine for around 5 hours which meant we could run the slow cooker and cook our Sainsbury’s Gammon joint! Left in the pot for another hour and it’s ready – yum! Open the Albariño and let the party begin!

Viv’s driving, Welsh flag flying (just for the one day!) and a great pub lunch.

Day 13 – Barlaston & Viv’s Birthday

A few hours chugging thru 8 locks and onto the Plume of Feathers at Barlaston and a birthday luncheon at Neil Morrissey’s place


Taking on water in Stone before the Stone 4 locks – flying Viv’s flag


Viv drove for four locks – lots more confidence now


An arty shot of the ground paddles – winding these up lets water into the lock.


Bridge 99 – one of the many scenic bridges we encounter


Just had to take this photo – it was the false eyes!

Day 12 – Stand In Stone

Oh, another day off from chugging and another Victron Multiplus problem solved. Owing to the lack of sunshine, there was little solar power to charge the batteries, so the engine had to go on for 2 hrs. Chance then to do some washing. Such fun. But, oh why does the system take so long to charge up the batteries? Two and a half hours later and it’s gone from 67 to 76% ??

Meanwhile, off round the town . .  here’s TWO boats fitting into one narrow lock – you don’t see that every day!

And where to? Yes, the Royal Exchange, a Titanic Brewery pub. It has no TV and hence was empty (there’s some kind of footie match on at 1400, England v. Wales). 

The very welcoming Michelle was on hand to welcome us . .

There were 7 of their own beers on plus another 6 guest beers – lovely. Viv had a pint of Steerage (3.8%) and “one of the best session beers I have ever tried”. I had a mixture of Plum Porter and Steerage – a Plummage, apparently! Nice.

Yes, we give the town of Stone a good thumbs up. Very welcoming and full of interest.

Now to that techie problem … the manual for our Victron Multiplus, invertor/charger says we should limit the amount of charge the batteries get to 10-20%. The charger side of this gadget is 120 amps and for some reason the previous owner had configured it to just 25% – i.e. 25% of 120 amps.  This means the batteries only get 30 amps max. No wonder it takes ages to recharge. I took the front panel off and nervously reconfigured the dip switches so that it was now charging at 75%, i.e. 90 amps. We have a 600 Ah battery bank so, 10 to 20% would be 60 to 120 amps, so I guess 90 is OK.

Running the engine again, just for an hour saw the % charge zoom up to 90% and go into absorption mode. So, success I think. We’ll see how we go when chuggin along tomorrow.

Welsh flags out tomorrow as it’s Viv’s Birthday … yeeeeeeeaaaaah!

Day 11 – Static in Stone

Such a nice place is Stone. So we really slowed down by staying put.

But first … a 3-egg omelette with chopped sausage and two rashers of smoked, dry-cured bacon. No meagre ship’s rations here.Lots of sight-seeing, shopping and pub hopping today. A day of hot sunshine then more rain!!

Day 10 – Stone

Despite the persistent drizzle we set off at 0825 this morning, past Great Haywood and the Shugborough estate, past Salt, Weston and Aston Marina . . some five locks and some 5 hours chugging until we reach Stone.

This is Essex bridge. Enabling the Anston family to take their carriage directly to church.

It was not the best of weathers  … 

Past Haywood junction and the entrance to the Staffs & Worcs canal …

Some wonderful bridges . . on this wide and serene Trent & Mersey canal

The sun started to shine and Viv had a go at a lock – just 7 wide and our boat is 6 feet 10 inches – so not much to spare . .

And lo, in without a bump! Bravo!

Another lock and Viv’s “man” is on hand to operate the lock (Aston lock)

And then it was Stone. We moored up as soon as we could – a method that works, as sometimes you keep going and  find there are no further moorings!

We wandered around the town – successfully collecting our mail from the post office – it worked! And ended up in the CAMRA local pub of the year, the Swan

Loadsa real ales to sample – we only had halves but promised to go back later tonight – I took an albeit wobbly photo of this unusual beer

Then we wobbled back to the boat, past an unusual mosaic (note the electrical insulators on the feet)

With several weeks in hand we may spend a few days here and no, not just residing in the Swan!

Day 9 – Rest Day-Cannock Chase

We planned to have a day off and since we’re so close to Cannock Chase (bridge 72 leads to it and the Seven Springs), we ought to take our boggle off for a walk and maybe a splash about in these springs. Looks like the worry over selling our house may be coming to an end as a date for exchange & completion are imminent ! Hurrah. Lots more emails & phone calls this morning. Plus a quick call to Stone post Office (which is now inside a Co-op, the original one is a Wetherspoons!) to check if they do a post restante service – so my parents can forward our vital postal vote in the EU referendum. And they do. So off to Stone in the next few days.  Meanwhile we strolled off for an hour or two to Cannock Chase


The Chase is vast and you could so easily just keep walking for hours . . 


The dog found the stream and was very happy.  The rain sort of held off. Still Viv’s new Rohan jacket was good for the job. It’s her birthday on the 17th!!


What can we get her????

Day 8: Fradley to Little Haywood

Despite the forecast for a dry day – it poured. We filled up with water then watched to our dismay as two working boats, one towing the other chugged past. It then took over an hour to get thru the two locks as the second, unpowered boat had to be physically pulled thru. Oh well what else does one do on a wet Sunday morning? We then sailed on through gorgeous wooded areas and on past the King’s Bromley marina … waterproofs on!

So many boats and so many odd names, just seen a susie slapcabbage or sommit. Lots of “This is it” and “That’ll do”. Might be me getting older but what happened to the decent old names … and what is this one?

We went on to Armitage – yes, they of the Armitage Shanks – still going


And the Plum Pudding pub – looked good and even a board welcoming boaters and a second board saying real ale @ £2.60 a pint. Must call in on the way back.


Then round into the Armitage tunnel or what is left of it – only room for single file and a bit of a slalom for narrowboats


Concentration required … .


The skyline hoves Rugeley into view


Very handy for the shops and we also passed the two working boats – I think they were bound for the river Weaver as the lead boat was made down there.


And an aqueduct over the river Trent


Lots of geese and their goslings . . 


What to do if you’ve washed your beloved teddy bear and want to dry him off?


yes, stick on top of the hot engine (it was off)

And here’s the final mooring spot – down from bridge 72 – sandwiched between two railway lines …never mind – it is handy for Cannock Chase tomorrow