14th July – Sport, beer & BBQ

Stephen & Lucia moved off early-ish, we waved them goodbye but would catch them up later at Fradley bridge. In fact we leapfrogged them at Rugeley when they stopped to visit Tesco. Just one lock, Wood End today plus the excitement of two very narrow stretches near Rugeley and Armitage.

Rugeley
The narrow, rocky bit – just room for one boat – luckily we followed a guy . . . so it must be clear!
Hmm, rocks!
Surprisingly quiet this Sunday morning – the Trent & Mersey looking good
Still following that same chap . . . past the Armitage Shanks factory
This doesn’t help the waistline but is rather nice
Final Stretch down to Fradley
Final resting spot – taken Monday. Sorry no pix of Sunday evening, when we were obviously having toooo much fun! A pint in the Swan followed by a MrD BBQ – with his fancy fan driven BBQ machine – producing excellent results – belly of pork strips plus Bratwurst & sausages. Lots of nibbles, a super Lucia salad and some quantity of Sicilian wine followed by either Zubrowka vodka or Navy strength gin! All this with the background of the British Grand Prix (British win & a record set!) plus probably one of the greatest cricket matches ever – the World Cup, going to a tie and a tie breaker! Well Done England and well done Mr D & Mrs D for a lovely evening. We got up to see them off on Monday morning, helping them through the two locks. Hopefully we’ll meet up again back in Yelvertoft.

Four’s Company with Two’s Company

A lovely morning’s cruise down through Great Haywood – just three little locks and moor at Wolseley Bridge to await the arrival of Stephen & Lucia on Twos Company.

Colwich lock and a fairly quiet cruise
We only had 2 hours to get to Wolseley bridge, so we were there about 11. Another hour later and . . “They’re here!”. They were doing the Leicester Ring but had spurred up the 4 – 5 hrs from Fradley Junction to meet up with us at bridge 70 – so very nice of them . . . just so we can all go to the Shimla Palace restaurant. They needed to turn their boat around, so they shanghaied me to help them do the 3 locks (twice!) . . .
Yes, they do hail from Syracusa
Bye Steve! See you in an hour or so.
Our final mooring spot – chairs out for cocktails at 1845 – time for a “Bitter Lady” – very nice
Here they are moored ahead of us.
It turned out to be a very nice evening
Speaks for itself
And there’s the mighty Trent – yes, Toby get his promised swim earlier on but he’ll have to be a good boy and stay on the boat tonight.
Here’s the Indian restaurant, Shimla Palace
And curiously, a Wine Loft, formed from the former bull pen, moved brick by brick from Bishton.
A veritable Aladdin’s Cave of wines, gins etc
And here’s the team after the splendid meal – having had their fill of Tawa’s, Achari’s and Naga dishes – highly recommended.

Stone to Ingestre

Our glorious chums, Stephen & Lucia, known by all as those Sicilians! Are back. And they’re out on their boat, Two’s Company, doing the Leicester Ring. We hope to coincide . . . somewhere and that somewhere is Wolseley Bridge (No 70) on the Trent & Mersey for the sole aim of dining together at the Shimla Indian restaurant. So we slip our moorings at 0845 and bimble a few hours to just beyond bridge 78 and adjacent to a rare nature reserve – an inland salt marsh.

We slip away . . . no one notices . . leaving the two lovely ladies on Lazy Days . .
Another M&S purchase (2 for a tenner) – got to keep the old girl sweet! 😉
One of those “awfully nice” hi-ziz a rind har
Some wild geraniums (meadow cranesbill?)
And some more wild flowers – wild sweet peas
You do meet some lovely folk on hire boats – here are some Netherlanders from Zeeland – yes, a new flag for me! Such grace, they all speak such excellent English… how’s your Dutch? I did say there’s a song from OMD but I don’t think it’s that Zeeland.
And after letting out the Zeelanders, in comes Steve
Three locks today, all well spaced out. Aston, Sandon and then Weston
There are some lovely bridges on the cut – such a lot of work went into these and probably by guys upside down for most of the day?
Um, as we used to say in Nottingham, “it looks black over Bill’s Mother”, luckily the rain really did go away . .
Final mooring point.
Oh, that restaurant https://www.shimlapalace.com/ notes to follow . . . Tripadvisor review to follow . . .

Stoned

Perhaps, just perhaps, our favourite stop is the town of Stone. Decent, quiet and all so convenient moorings. Convenient for shops, water, refuse, pubs, shops, pubs . . . Chance for a good stop. A few days of rest and recuperation and beer. And a new shop – a mirage perhaps? No, it’s a real M&S foodhall, right by the canal. Yes, we’ll stop here for a bit of R&R.

You get a lot of wildlife on the canal
A view of the bar in the Plume – a good range of beers
And then, the open road . . . .
Meadowsweet . . used… to flavour mead and to strew on the floors, plus the first herb to give us aspirin, used to treat fevers . . and a lot more see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filipendula_ulmaria
Going down the Measham locks
Some very sweet locks . . . Toby’s happy
Going down . . .
And welcome to Stone . . . the birthplace of the Trent & Mersey canal
the final locks down to Stone
Best moorings are past all the locks and then some . . .
And another welcome to Stone – the usual CRT overflowing waste bins
Ah, many a pound spent here – that M&S foodhall, just past the last lock
Centre of town
Quite a few more closed down shops and the Co-op has gone . . .
A photo of the rush hour . . reminds us of why we’re on our boat! I haven’t driven a car for over 3 months! Viv & dog wait patiently . . . I thought we were going to the pub?
Ah, our target for today, the Royal Exchange, a Titanic brewery pub. Not perhaps the best icon for boaters and I had a pint of Iceberg beer!
A great welcome. A great variety of beer – very dog friendly pub.
And a good slogan too . . . .

I almost enjoyed it

Sunday and time to move on. Six more locks – through Etruria, Stoke, Hem Heath and then Barlaston. The sun was now out.

This must have been quite a busy place 100 years ago. Westport, Longport, Middleport . The heart of the Potteries . . . Spode, Wedgewood, PortMeirion…
Middleport pottery is still functioning and producing, well, pots . .
And here are some . . .
The place is open 10-5 every day and has a good cafe
I wouldn’t call this area pretty but they do try – some nice animal murals . . .
And the best showing of poppies yet
The Stoke water park . . I can’t see these things and not think of the Not the Nine o’clock News sketch where they emptied into a sewage outlet . . .
More wildlife – Toby didn’t get to see this rabbit.
Lots of new signs . . .
Etruria Locks (19 feet – 3 locks) – Stoke locks (50 feet in total)
It felt deep. And wet.
Out for a Sunday morning stroll – must be the second or third batch??
Lots of pottery kilns (dis.)
And ancient mariners (almost dis.)
No, this area is def. not pretty but it’s not long to the more rural bits
And interesting names . . .
Ah, the big Stoke incinerator – def. designed by a man, eh?
A big reminder of the coal digging past – Great Fenton & Hem Heath collieries
The last lock of the day – Trentham (nearly 12 feet)
Final stopping place – Barlaston – why here – see below . . .
This a good stop as Neil Morrissey has his pub, the Plume of Feathers here. Lots of real ale (Pedigree, Black, Sheep, Jaipur, Plum Porter plus his own brews). The food wait was over an hour, well, it is a Sunday! Beer will do us.
And here’s the man himself – with his dog. Could explain why the pub is so dog friendly.
Link to the pub: http://www.plumeoffeathersbarlaston.co.uk/

Steve has put his back out – must be all those 32 locks – so a day off tomorrow. And why the title? Well, some bits of our travels have been a bit stressful, hard work, wet etc. So today was, yes, almost enjoyable. 😉

Rode Heath to Church Lawton

We met a nice single-handed chap, called David, on Snowgoose. He was out of Venetian marina and was heading for the Harecastle tunnel. We’d helped him up through some of the locks – just setting paddles and opening gates etc. I suggested we repeat the same today, only we’d planned just to do the next six locks only, just around 2 and a bit hours away. So we all set off – up the Lawton locks, Hall’s Locks and Church Locks – it was quite warm!

And here’s the sweet mooring at Church Lawton, before bridge 135
It was quite a hot day – the matt grey roof does make the boat hot but it also dries clothes really fast! (Did you really take a photo of your pants & socks, Steven?)
I went for a stroll to see this interesting church
It looked rather unusual – the main building burned down in the 18C
Hence the new-ish, brick work
It has quite a modern interior – with signs of quite a vibrant congregation
Some handmade things for sale
And even refreshments!
A longer shot showing how rural this little spot is.

Saturday, 6th July. It was so quiet – boat movement wise – that we thought we’d move – it did rain and it was still spitting . . just the 6 remaining locks and the Harecastle tunnel to do. So we went. And it did rain. Quite a few locks were out of action plus we got stuck in No42! The gate wouldn’t fully open. So a bit of argy-bargy and we did get the boat in. No pix here, cos it was too wet. The canal was turning more orange as the water from the tunnel contains iron minerals. We got to the top and met up with Snowgoose again. And luckily, saw 4 boats ready to go in the tunnel – here you have to wait. The tunnel master allows six boats in at a time, then shuts the door. It’s a 40-45 minute transit – 2.7km or 1.5 miles!!! Anyway, in we went . . at least it wasn’t raining!

Yes, nearing the tunnel . . . the ochre water!
And out the other end – notice to boaters: good water point here (also a fast one at Red Bull services)
Longer shot showing Viv looking after the business end of the water hose. Plus the nice house that was for sale last time we came this way.
CRT blurb . .
And a pic of the original, Brindley built tunnel, which subsided – as you can tell!
Just ten minutes further on and it’s Westport Lake – a good spot to moor with a large bird lake (note Viv is brushing the goose poo off the towpath!) and a huge visitor centre, all very eco as they have a sedum roof with solar panels plus straw bales for insulation and a ground source heat pump underneath!
View from the boat . . . lake in the distance and yes, the sun is trying to peep out.
Those lovely geese . . .
The Eco visitor centre
Note to boaters – looks like good services (for boaters) underneath
The lake – a reclamation site – opened by Ted Heath 1971!
And Viv gets to finish her masterwork! Hurrah. Marvellous

Bimbling Home

We left Nantwich on Monday, 1st July. Swung the boat and chugged back to the wharf for a pump out – because it was sooo nice! The chap does it all for you and spends about 40 minutes doing a very thorough job. Recommend the place. We then went on Barbridge junction to cruise the short arm to Middlewich – passing through a few pretty big locks – the first had a queue but three volunteers were on hand to help (Cholmoldeston Lock). More queues at Minshull lock, well, I suppose it is July now. And to moor at a quiet spot, just beyond Aqueduct marina and near the aqueduct over the Weaver, where a certain dog went for a swim. Tuesday was on to Middlewich. And then it was on to the Trent & Mersey canal and the long cruise south.

The cygnets are all growing up
Barbridge junction – not quite raining and yet, not quite dry either
Cheerful chaps at Cholmondeston (“Chom’ston”)
Big, deep locks. Venetian marina just after
Minshull lock
Ah, a boat called Vivien
This bit looks nice and shiny . . .oh, this is where the big breach occurred! All fixed now.
Brief stop in Middlewich, overnight, shop in Morrison’s . . then out through Wardle lock and into King’s Lock early at 0750! The Trent & Mersey does have some picturesque bits.
Six locks and some twisty bits of canal and we’re in Wheelock. Always passed this canalside bistro – tonight – we’re going in! And it wasn’t too bad – early bird menu (£7 for one course or £12 for two). A good mixture of Italian/Mediterranean food.
Off early to begin the infamous Heartbreak Hill – 14 locks today to Rode Heath. To be honest, it’s not that bad – you get to see all the locks in one go, like Hatton, which can sap the morale a bit. Here they are grouped in twos and the landscape is very pretty. It was very sunny & warm. We did swap over – Steve did the first 8 locks and Viv the last 6. A single hander (on Ebenezer) was in front of us but he was most gracious in re-opening paddles or even gates after he had ascended. Thanks mate! It all helps.
Hassall Green locks and the M6 in the background
Pierpoint Locks – note most of these are duplicated – making passage faster if there’s lots of boats. Not much traffic today.
Arriving around lunchtime – Rode Heath. A nice stop, we tried mooring in the shade this time, see if it makes the boat cooler. There are two pubs here plus a Chinese, an Off Licence and a small shop.
Looks like some decent walking for the dog too.