Saturday, 11 July 2015

Heading up the Trent Valley

I mentioned in the last post that we had not decided which way to go.  The question was whether to go up the Erewash Canal, which Leo has done before, but Pas Mèche hasn't.  Well in the end we decided to start our climb up the Trent and Mersey Canal towards Stoke on Trent.  So, last Saturday, we carried on upstream on the River Trent and soon reached the Southern end of the Trent and Mersey Canal.

Here we are on the River Trent just approaching the start of the Canal.  You can see a tiny channel straight ahead which is the Canal.  To the left is the River Trent flowing in and on the right the River Derwent joins the Trent. Keep the size of the river in mind as you will see it again, much further up the valley.

This  is the sign approaching the junction shown above.  The tree obscures the left turn but you can follow the River Trent to the left for a mile or so to reach a marina at Shardlow.

The canal through Shardlow is very pretty.  This huge warehouse used to hold salt for loading onto narrowboats which could pass under the large arch to fill in the dry.

Here are some very young coots.  As babies they sport a tiny ginger top knot, but this soon grows out to become more like the adult black and white colouring.

On Saturday evening we moored at Weston on Trent (there are two villages in the valley with this name).  The picture shows Weston Church but sadly there are no longer any shops in the village.

On Sunday we came through Swarkestone Lock and just above there is an arm of the canal now used for mooring.  You can see the arm to the left of the picture.  This was once the start of the Derby Canal.

The elegant octagonal house was once a toll house charging boats for using the canal.  It was presumably positioned here to 'catch' the boats coming along the Derby Canal.

On Monday we carried on to Burton on Trent and spent the day there on Tuesday.

For part of the way the canal follows a minor road running alongside.  We liked the road sign that indicates a car slipping off sideways into the canal.  Fortunately none did.

At Burton we moored across a route followed by a moorhen family.  Undaunted they simply came aboard.  The picture shows two moorhen chicks on the stern by the tiller.  The downside to this familiarity was the bird droppings - piles of the stuff to clean off in the morning.  Having cleaned the back fender, we covered it with a bin bag.  Not very pretty, but practical.

On Tuesday we visited the National Brewery Centre.  Given that the main industry in Burton is brewing, it seemed appropriate.  We had an interesting day with six real ales to try at the end of our tour.  In the picture Victoria is saying hello to 'Jed' a Clydesdale used to pull a brewer's dray, though now to amuse the tourists rather than for deliveries.

This is one of a number of promotional vehicles preserved in the museum.  It reminded us of the publicity caravan that accompanies the Tour de France that we saw in Yorkshire last year.

Having used the first of the narrow locks approaching Burton (only one boat at a time instead of two), we have been climbing an increasing number of locks each day as we come up the Trent Valley, occasionally sighting the river itself.

This is Tattenhill Lock, a very pretty one coming out of Burton.  An old working boat is moored on the right.
 On Wednesday night we moored in Alrewas, a lovely little village with a first class butcher.  Leaving on Thursday morning  you soon come to Bagnall Lock.  This picture gives you a good idea of how tight a fit a narrowboat is into these small locks.  Stopping at the top of the lock for Helen to get back on, Leo refused to come out of reverse gear.  Engine off and pulled Leo over to moor.

We fairly quickly diagnosed the problem as a broken gear control cable.  Fortunately last year we bought a spare, so here you can see Ian working at fitting the new cable.  It took us an hour or so to fit the new cable and then we were off again, with Pas Mèche having caught us up by this time.  It really is worth carrying a spare cable and we will buy a new one as soon as we can.

We had discussed the previous evening how far we would get on Thursday but, with the time spent fixing the gear cable, we decided to stop above Fradley Locks.  There are five locks here and a junction with the Coventry Canal.  It is quite a tourist spot with this as the most famous view of the Swan Pub at the junction.

Here is the sign at the junction.  We had come from Shardlow and were heading for Great Haywood.

Here you can see Pas Mèche in Shade House Lock which is the top one of the five.  We moored just above enjoying the afternoon sunshine and this continued to allow us to have a good barbecue in the evening.

In the last two days we've reached Great Haywood and we are moored tonight at Burston, a tiny village North of Stafford.

At Armitage is a very narrow rock cutting which is definitely only wide enough for one boat at a time.  This was once a tunnel but was opened out in the 1960's because mining subsidence had made it impassable.

Here you can see the view looking back along the 'tunnel'.  It has some fine ferns growing on the rock sides.

Poor Christina Collins took a lift on a canal boat from Liverpool to London in 1839.  Sadly she was murdered by the boatmen carrying her.   Her body was found in the canal by the Aqueduct over the River Trent at Rugeley.  The boatmen were caught and hung, though the cabin boy was let off.

This is Colwich Lock, our last lock on Friday before we moored at Little Haywood, a delightful spot.

This morning (Saturday) we passed Great Haywood Junction.  Under the bridge on the left is the start of the Staffs and Worcs Canal which goes eventually to Stourport and meets the River Severn.  So here we have a meeting of canals that join the Trent, the Mersey and the Severn.

Above Sandon Lock we passed this steam powered narrowboat.  It is not a historic vessel and looks just like any other modern steel narrowboat, except for the huge fat chimney at the stern.  It was belching smoke as we approached the lock but by this time the fire seemed to have died down a little.

In this picture we have finished boating for the day but Ian is removing the remains of a huge pile of reeds that got caught round the propellor in a lock.

Here you can see Leo waiting for the arrival of Pas Mèche, the picture being taken from the bridge nearby.

Burston is a pretty and very quiet village.  This row of cottages looks out over the village pond.

And here, to finish this posting, is a picture of the River Trent as it looks near Burston.  Quite a different river from that a week ago at Shardlow (see above).

In the next few days we will be continuing our climb to Stoke on Trent where we face the excitement of a passage through the Harecastle Tunnel.  Watch this space!  

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