Monday 30 April 2018

Ingestre (winter seems to have returned)

One of the seemingly many meetings we have with boats at bridge holes - I had to let this one through

With abysmal weather forecast for Monday we decided to move on Sunday.  The aim was to get beyond Great Haywood to a short stretch of Armco out in the open countryside.  We didn’t set out until 11.30 by which time all the other boats moored with us, except the ccers, had long since left on their travels.
I have to admit that I felt quite cold when I took Buddy out for his first walk and so we decided to keep the stove on tick over all day.  Not only that, I put on a thermal top as I knew I’d be standing on the back of the boat without moving for most of the day; it must be psychological, but I felt it was colder than many winter days.  I suspect it’s because you expect it to be cold in the winter but not at the end of April.

We were soon going through Armitage (home of Armitage Shanks) and passing the stockpiles of porcelain toilets.  I have refrained from including a picture of them this time as I think it probably only interests Aileen and she has seen them many times herself as well as pictures from each time we’ve gone past (sorry Aileen 😊).

Just outside Armitage we passed Celtic Kiwi with Roger and Heather on board having a coffee break:

A little further on was the old tunnel whose roof has been removed.  It is only wide enough for one boat and as there is a bend at one end you cannot see if a boat is coming the other way.  It’s fine if you have crew because they can go ahead and check, but the last couple of times I came through I was on my own.  That meant mooring up, running down the towpath, checking there was nothing coming and then running back to get through as quickly as possible 😊

Today was fine as Karen was off the boat with Buddy and went ahead to phone me when it was OK to go.

The narrows

Another shot of the narrows with Buddy walking ahead

We were soon approaching Rugeley with its four distinctive cooling towers that can be seen for miles around.  There are quite a few bridges on the way into town and, although there were few boats on the move, we seemed to meet one at every bridge, so someone has to give way.

We moored at the visitor moorings in Rugeley and had lunch before popping into the Tesco by the canal for a few provisions.

Karen had walked the five miles to Rugeley and was able to get some good pictures of the mileposts I mentioned yesterday.  Although we have travelled the 93 ½ mile length of the Trent & Mersey several times and therefore probably seen all the mileposts there are some we still haven’t taken pictures of.  Also, many of the existing pictures are blurry and need replacing.

The canal was opened in 1777, but the mileposts weren’t installed until 1819 and they were cast by the Rougeley & Dixon foundry in Stone (half way along the canal), hence the ‘R & D Stone 1819’ plate on the originals that remain:

These posts will be 200 years old next year!
To celebrate the canal’s bi-centenary in 1977 the Trent & Mersey Canal Society (T&MCS) arranged for new mileposts to be installed where the originals had gone missing. 

A replacement milepost with the inscription ‘T&MCS 1977’

Each replacement milepost was sponsored by private benefactors or local companies or both.  Plates can be found at the bottom of the posts with inscriptions about the sponsorship.

The inscription from the post above reading, ‘This milepost was donated and unveiled by Owen and Bob Hall for the joys of boating’.   Further plates can be seen with the mileposts on our ‘Mile markers’ tab.

Soon after leaving Rugeley the canal goes over the River Trent and for most of the journey up to Stoke-on-Trent the river runs alongside the canal.  The trees growing between the canal and river provide shady and damp conditions which are ideal for wild garlic.  Consequently, cruising at this time of year means you are often accompanied by the wonderful smell of wild garlic.  It is especially rife up at the far end of the canal between Anderton and Preston Brook.  

Cruising over the River Trent

We were soon going past Shuckburgh Hall at Great Haywood.  This is a popular spot for boaters and there were a dozen or so boats moored up already but we wanted to carry on for a couple of miles or so before stopping for the day.

Approaching Haywood lock with its quaint stone bridge

From Haywood onwards, the River Trent is gentle and makes ideal spots for children (and adults 😉) to go paddling.  Even Buddy has been known to go in on very hot days to cool his feet.

There are also many boats moored above the lock as it is Great Haywood junction.  This is where the Staffordshire & Worcestershire canal heads all the way down to the River Avon at Worcester.

STOP PRESS:  Alf has pointed out that it's the River Severn at Worcester, not the River Avon - sorry for the typo!

Pretty towpath bridge at the junction

The last lock of the day was Hoo Mill lock complete with its own stanking plank shelter and milepost.  All the stanking plank shelters on the Trent & Mersey that we have seen are open and have shallow sloping corrugated roofs.

We moored at a place called Ingestre which is a strange looking word but pronounced Ingister.  We were going to moor further on but this spot is quiet enough and we were on our own.

Moored at the pleasantly named Pasturefields bridge at Ingestre

We travelled 11 miles through three locks on Sunday and didn’t get rained on all day 😊

Where we’ve been since Karen stopped working a week ago

Sunday 29 April 2018

Kings Bromley (meeting up with blog readers 😉)

Our mooring for Saturday night at Kings Bromley

We fancied cruising on Saturday even though light rain was forecast all day.  After picking up our Saturday paper and saying goodbye to some of the boaters we had met whilst at Fazeley we set off for Kings Bromley.

The plant boat moored at Fazeley for a week or two

I said yesterday that we were moored next to an ‘earworm’ boat and the guy was leaving as we went to get the paper.  We both remembered each other and our boats but, as usual, not our names.  We had spent a couple of weeks moored around Polesworth two years ago and bumped into each other occasionally since.

I did explain to him that I don’t like seeing his boat and he immediately guessed (and understood why) 😊

My earworm boat

We were now on the Birmingham & Fazeley canal and wanted to get to the end and turn left onto the Trent & Mersey at Fradley junction.  We find the Birmingham & Fazeley canal quaint because it has bridge names plaques, rather than just a number plaque as on most canals, and also stanking plank stores built into the bridge supports.

Hopwas School Bridge showing the name, rather than the number as on most canals, and the door to the stanking plank store

Even though it rained nearly all day we saw lots of boats on the move.

The rain stopped for a while soon after we left Fazeley

Karen walked with Buddy the first four miles or so and I drove the boat. 

Pretty Hopwas woods (an army shooting range so no mooring allowed)

The rain suddenly came down harder around midday so we stopped for lunch a bit earlier than planned.  We stopped just after Streethay Wharf – a boatyard that takes us back to the olden days.  At the start of tea/coffee/lunch breaks a bell rings and all the workers file into a workman’s hut and all file back to work when the bell rings again.

Just after we set off again, the engine started straining and I realised that something was caught round the prop.  I drifted the nose into the bank with the stern sticking halfway across the cut and Karen stood on the deck ready to indicate to oncoming boats that we were immobile.  I couldn’t believe that it was just a plastic builders sand bag that practically stopped us dead!  Mind you, they are made of quite sturdy plastic.


These kissing ducks at the end of a canal side garden amused Karen

Approaching Fradley junction a couple of guys on a moored boat were gesticulating at me and I realised they were warning me of some large logs that had fallen in the water.  I came to a stop and had a quick chat – they had been rescuing them with a grappling hook on a line and piling them on their boat.  I tried to reach a couple but I only had my short boat hook at the back of the boat so I left them to it.

We stopped at the junction to take on water and get rid of yet more recycling and rubbish.  Whilst we were standing waiting for the tank to fill Marie and Ray came by with their two dogs.  They retired some while ago and moved onto their boat and we have often bumped into each other.  They had it repainted recently and renamed it, ‘Two Odd Nuts’ which is a great name and must bring a few smiles to passers by.  We mutually follow each other: they via our blog and we via Ray's social media posts on his runs and Marie’s on their cruises.

Just as we were putting the hose away a guy came along and was saying hello to Buddy and saying things like, "You're Buddy aren't you?".  He introduced himself as Roger from Celtic Kiwi but already knew our names as he recognised us from the blog.  He and Heather are on Celtic Kiwi and we have been leapfrogging each other over the last week.  They are Aussies and have a six-week share in the boat that they take every spring which works out really well for them as they get a long break in the UK.  The majority of shares in a boat don’t offer more than two or three weeks in one stretch so this means they only have to fly back and forth from Oz once a year.

Roger and Heather write a blog too and coincidentally this picture of our boat was the front cover on their entry yesterday 😊


Saying goodbye to Aussie Roger and friends on Celtic Kiwi

We decided to do the top two locks at Fradley and then Wood End lock and moor up a mile later at Kings Bromley.  We know a quiet spot there but it is very popular with continuous cruisers as it is close to a bridge with ample car parking.  So, it was fingers crossed there would be room on the Armco so we wouldn’t have to use pins.  We turned left at the junction towards the north west, right carries on to join the River Trent near Nottingham.

Leaving the Birmingham & Fazeley and turning left onto the Trent & Mersey...

… and from Karen’s point of view outside the pub…

…and waving goodbye to Marie and Ray as they came back from walking their dogs

We were now going up the locks and, as is always the case when you change from up to down or single to double etc., it takes a lock or two before getting into the swing of how to operate them efficiently.

Ready to go up Fradley Middle lock

Approaching Wood End lock I was reminded of the pretty lock bridges at many of the locks on this part of the Trent & Mersey:

Karen walked quite a bit during the day and was forever on the look out for wild garlic as now is the season for using it.  She finally found some by Wood End lock:

Just before the lock is one of the 94 mileposts on the Trent & Mersey.  We have pictures of a lot of them but are still missing 25 or so.  59 of the mileposts are originals from 1819 (they weren’t installed when the canal was opened in 1777) and the remainder were replacements installed in 1977 to mark the bi-centenary (and to fill in gaps where the original had been nicked or whatever).

Original (well, early) milepost just before Wood End lock

There was still room for three boats when we arrived at Kings Bromley and we moored up and retired for the evening.  

Moored at Kings Bromley with Buddy on guard as usual!

Ironically the rain stopped after we moored, and it turned into a really pleasant evening – see photo at the top where there are reflections all around, including on the side of the boat which was surprising as it hasn’t been cleaned or polished for months ☹ 
Half an hour after mooring I popped outside and saw the remaining spaces had been taken so we had arrived just in time.   

We travelled 13 miles through three locks during the day, leaving us only 68 miles and 33 locks to get to the Peak District in a fortnight to meet up with friends and family.

Our travels since Monday

We will have a cruise on Sunday, probably to a good remote spot we know just beyond Great Haywood, with a lunchtime stop in Rugeley.  Monday is meant to be really wet and windy, so we don’t plan on moving then.