Saturday, 20 February 2016

Sandbach (radical change of plans)

On Thursday Karen went for an interview for a six month contract at Warwick, her first interview for many years, and they called her on Friday offering it to her!  The Warwick area is a great place to live on the boat as there are so many canals where we can moor whilst Karen commutes to work.  She always planned on getting a contract for a few months this year so it’s all part of the overall plan but what it does mean is that we have to ditch going to Chester and get to the Warwick area as quickly as possible.

Just as well we got the call as we were about to turn off the Trent & Mersey to head up the Shropshire Union (Shroppie) to Chester.  We filled up with water just before the first lock of the day and a hire boat pulled up – it was going to be their first lock ever and they were nervous.  We said we would help them through.  It’s the Big Lock at Middlewich and is the last double width lock heading south from the northern end of the canal.

The Big Lock at Wheelock
Once through the next three locks we approached the junction with the Shroppie and called in at the boat yard on the left to buy three new batteries.  We had been trying to avoid doing this as we are getting our new boat in April/May but the existing leisure batteries were getting so tired that we were having to run the engine several times a day.

Trent & Mersey canal.  Shroppie off to the right under the bridge and boatyard to the left
After five locks we were through Wheelock and out in open country again.  At one point we were escorted by a couple of families of swans…

…and here’s Buddy wishing he could fly with them.

We passed a salt works and after another four locks we moored up about a mile before Wheelock which is the start of Heartbreak Hill.  There are 26 locks on this hill which is not as many as other hills; it’s called heartbreak because it is over several miles rather than a steep flight which makes it more tiring.

I replaced our batteries and then we spent the rest of the afternoon planning our trip south.  Because of winter works on some of the canals heading to Birmingham we are going to head down the Trent & Mersey to Fradley and then turn right onto the Birmingham & Fazeley which then joins the Coventry canal.  We hope to get to Hopwas before next weekend – a pretty village before Tamworth.  We will then be stuck there for a couple of weeks as locks are being repaired at Tamworth until 11th March.  Still, it’s fewer than 40 miles from Warwick so not too far for Karen to drive each day.

As part of the route we have to go through Harecastle tunnel and as it is winter we have to give 48 hour notice to book a passage.  The plan is to go through on Monday but by the time I called them to book a passage they had gone home.  We intend to get to the entrance by Sunday evening and just moor up and hope they let us through as early as they can.  Another part of the route will take us past Middleport pottery that we visited in the summer and was also the scene of a reality TV series.  I have to admit that it was a TV series that I enjoyed!

Life is certainly going to be different for the next six months with Karen going to work whilst living on the boat.  I will now be able to look at how I can do some volunteering which is something I’ve always wanted to do.  I like to think of it as giving time for free to do something worthwhile to others as volunteering sounds a bit grand.

I must admit that part of the fun of Karen working whilst living on the boat is that she won't always know where to come back to as Buddy and I will have time to cruise on our own.  We still have to move around the system and not stay anywhere more than 14 days - that's the beauty of the Warwick location - there's the Grand Union, Stratford, Coventry, Oxford and various Birmingham canals all in easy commuting distance.

This is the route for the next week or so – 54 miles and 50 locks.

Here are the other locks we went through today.


  1. Well done Karen! Peter and I had been talking about how we would get to see you both this year and had decided that we would have to come to you, wherever you where, and this just makes it a bit easier! At least you're going to be in one vaguely small area for the next six months. See you both soon, and lots of love, Miranda and Peter xx

    1. Hello both - great to hear from you. Sounds like you're spending more time in the UK now so more of a chance to catch up this year. Definitely come and see us in the Summer - we should have the new boat by then too :) xx