Monday 29 February 2016

Huddlesford (getting ready for the change)

Our views from our front and back doors for the next week

Well, that was the final weekend before Karen starts her contract.

On Saturday morning Judith & Nigel left us to travel up to Yorkshire and we set off to Wendover so Karen could pick up some work clothes that she had been storing at her mum’s house.  It was really good to see Ann and not just because she cooked us a roast lunch!  It was a brilliant move having a roast on a Saturday as it felt like a Sunday all day and so we got an extra day in the weekend!  

We listened to the Scotland game in the car on the way back and then popped into the Plough at Huddlesford where we are currently moored.  We did make sure we got back to the boat in time for the start of the England game though.

On Sunday Karen went shopping for more work clothes while Buddy and I sussed out where we could moor next.  As we will need water by next weekend we reckon we should move to Fazeley junction as that is where the next water point is and it’s only about six miles away.  There looked to be some good spots to moor and within easy walking distance of places Karen can leave the car.  Once we are south and east of Birmingham we should be able to find places to moor where Karen can get a bus to work which will be better.

It was such a lovely Spring like day that we were able to have the side hatches open all afternoon  for the first time this year.

We went for a walk in the late afternoon and Buddy found a playmate that gave him a good run for his money.

It's certainly going to be strange getting into a new routine this week but it'll be fun.

Saturday 27 February 2016

Huddlesford (start of bridge hopping)

On Friday morning Karen stayed on board making soups and cakes whilst Buddy and I cruised down to Streethay Wharf for all the usual services.  We have used this boat yard three times now and each time we have arrived the workers are on a break.  It is wonderfully old fashioned; at 10.45 the office lady went outside and rang a bell and what seemed like streams of men appeared from a hut and went back to their jobs.  She assigned one of them to look after us.

We then continued another mile or so to Huddlesford where we will probably be moored for a week or two whilst waiting for some works to be completed on locks near Tamworth.  We are only about 40 miles from Karen’s office here and there is an M6 toll junction about four miles away so hopefully her commute won’t be too bad.

After lunch we walked to Whittington to get the car and bring it nearer the boat.  On the way we passed Louise who was just mooring her boat – we met her last night at Fradley.  There are quite a few boats moored near us and I had a chat with Mark on one of them.  It appears that most of the boaters moored here are using the easy access to the road so they can get to work by car.  This unusual coloured boat is moored near us. 

My sister Judith, and Nigel came to stay over on the Friday night and we had a most enjoyable time including watching the rugby.  We went to bed at a sensible time as we had to be up early on Saturday to get Karen’s work clothes which are stored at her mum’s in Wendover.

Friday 26 February 2016

Fradley Junction (three days until I’m a boat husband)

Another frosty start on Thursday but at least it meant the sun was shining as we set off for Fradley Junction.

Near Little Haywood
At Little Haywood we went down Colwich lock which is one of my favourites; I just love that the lock bridge is the entrance to a farm and always looks like the cows have just come in for milking.

Colwich lock, Little Haywood
Coming out of the lock feels like you are on a river rather than a canal.

St Mary's Abbey, Little Haywood - rumoured to have tunnels 10 miles long to Lichfield cathedral and another a mile long to Shugborough Hall
Just before coming into Rugeley this bridge fascinated me as it showed so many different types of bricks as it has been repaired over the years.

Bridge 68 - Trent & Mersey canal
We stopped at Rugeley for a food shop to last us until the end of next week.  It’s going to be quite a change for us as Karen will be off to work each day and I’ll be getting dinner ready each evening.  Going to an office five days a week for Karen will also be strange because before she went on her career break 16 months ago she worked from home for many years and only visited offices once or twice a week if at all.

The Crown by bridge 58 at Handsacre
The canal at Rugeley also passes over the River Trent.

Aqueduct over River Trent at Rugeley
One advantage of canals in towns is that the towpaths tend to be made up rather than grass.  As much as we like walking on the towpaths in the countryside, the amount of rain this winter has made them really muddy and tricky to walk along.

The second lock of the day was Wood End lock and I chatted to a guy on a residential mooring whilst Karen was setting the lock.  I said he was lucky to live there as the moorings seemed really tranquil and a long way from traffic noise.  He pointed out that the route for HS2 was about 50 yards away.  I don’t normally discuss political topics but I think that the HS2 is such a waste of resources; the train journey times from London to the northern cities seem more than respectable as they are.

Wood End lock
Soon after Rugeley we went through Armitage which always reminds us of Aileen as she is the queen of all things toilets as far as boating is concerned.  We can’t match her pictures of toilets the last time she and Mike went through here as the storage yard was practically empty apart from a few shrink wrapped together waiting for shipment…

Sanitary ware factory at Armitage
…but what we did see was a pile of broken toilets (your eagle eyes will spot them Aileen) – we assumed it was where the rejects are thrown.

Pile of discarded porcelain
After travelling 12 miles we finally reached the first locks at Fradley Junction…

…and were soon turning right off the Trent & Mersey onto the Coventry canal continuing our trek south. 

Fradley junction and apparently the most photographed canal pub (it does get packed here in the summer)
The white building in the picture above is the Swan at Fradley and after mooring up for the day we popped in for a couple of drinks and got chatting to some fellow boaters (and their dogs) although this picture makes it look like they are totally ignoring us.

Thursday 25 February 2016

Great Haywood (and a trip into Stafford)

If the trees weren't bare this could be a day in the summer

Wow!  That was a hard frost on Tuesday night – the first time our mooring ropes have been really solid this year.  The roof was also very icy so great care had to be taken when climbing down the lock ladders onto the roof to get back onto the boat at each lock.

Ropes frozen solid
It was such a sunny day that we set off for Great Haywood straight after breakfast.  We were soon entering Stone in Staffordshire.  Our memories of this town were from last summer when the town hosted a music festival on one of the wettest weekends of the summer.  We also remembered a couple of pubs by the locks but as they were so dreary looking and packed we gave them a miss.  As it was only about 9.30 in the morning we gave them a miss this time through too.

The North entrance to Stone
A boat yard near the centre seems to be hosting and renovating old working boats.

Boatyard full of converted and restored working boats
The towpath had its own tunnel under the road at the first lock.

A Buddy tunnel
Then we passed the original site of Joules brewery but they are now based in Market Drayton.  We paid a visit to the Market Drayton brewery on one of our trips up the Shropshire Union.  We remember the brewery could be smelt across town and down to the canal.

Old brewery building in the centre of Stone
A highlight for us was passing the midway point of the Trent & Mersey canal.  Although pedants would disagree about it being at this point as the canal continues for 1 ½ the other side of Shardlow to its real end when it hits the River Trent at Derwent Mouth.

Milepost with 46 miles in each direction
The lumberjack precariously balanced up the tree was left by his two workmates who came to see us through a lock.

Abandoned up a tree
This bridge is really out of character with the rest of the bridges on the canal.  I assume it was built in this way to appease the landowner when the canal was built.

Can't remember which bridge this was
This chair tickled us – maybe it was a case of, “your chair’s on the roof” akin to, “your dinner’s in the dog”.

It was another still day as seen in this reflective shot of a moored boat.

The Staffordshire & Worcestershire canal starts at Great Haywood junction and runs for 46 miles down to Stourport on the River Severn, thus linking the North West to places like Gloucester and Bristol.

The start of the Staffs & Worcs canal - another one of our favourites
We saw a few boats on the move today and one came out of the last lock of the day which was handy for us.

Coming in to Great Haywood lock after a boat had just left
The moorings at Great Haywood junction were packed so we continued on for a bit and moored overlooking Shugborough Hall having covered eight miles and gone down eight locks. We caught a taxi into Stafford to get some papers signed - our first visit to Stafford.  It was very quiet as it was early closing day, unusual for such a large town to still have an early closing day.  When we got back we spent the rest of the afternoon on the boat.

These are the other six locks we went through during the day.


Wednesday 24 February 2016

Meaford (on the look out for Brimstones)

We woke to a beautiful sunny cold day on Tuesday. There was no wind as can be seen in this almost upside down picture of a slim bottle kiln taken as we left our overnight moorings at Middleport pottery.
We awoke to a still spring-like day on Tuesday
After a mile or so we hit our first lock of the day, Stoke Top Lock.  I have included this picture as it proves I do operate locks sometimes.  Also it was our first descent this year signifying that we are now on the southern part of the Trent & Mersey that descends all the way to Derwent Mouth where the canal meets the River Trent near Nottingham.

Proving I can operate a lock
Just before the first lock was the junction with the Caldon canal which is one of our favourite canals.  We'll definitely be back there with the new boat as it will be easier to navigate the narrow twisty turns with a shorter boat.  At the second lock was a party of schoolchildren who were learning about cogs and also how locks work.  Unfortunately, due to Health & Safety, they were not allowed to help us at the lock even though there were some willing hands.

Schoolchildren learning about locks and cogs
This cheeky trainspotter was standing on the lock balance beam when Karen arrived at the third lock.

Man waiting to take a picture of a freight train

We had to remove some things from the roof to get through this low bridge in Stoke city centre.

Low bridge at Etruria, Stoke-On-Trent
Hanley cemetery is practically in the middle of Stoke but covers a really wide area with the older graves set well apart from each other – rather a pleasing sight.

Hanley cemetery
As we left Stoke we passed the Wedgwood factory (I always forget that there is no ‘e’ in Wedgwood)…

The Wedgwood factory
… and headed for open country again, stopping at the next village, Barlaston, to use the post office.

Between Wedgwood and Burlaston
More daffs are out on the back deck now and some of the pansies are blooming.  It felt really spring-like in the sun and we kept a constant look out for butterflies but didn’t manage to see any.

Our colourful deck

We moored for the day at Meaford after covering 10 miles and going down 10 locks.  

Our mooring for the night opposite a new housing estate at Meaford
Here are the locks not shown above.