Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Leaving the Trent Valley behind

After a week or more on the Trent and Mersey we turned off today and joined the Macclesfield Canal.  We are moored tonight (Wednesday night) at one of our favourite places below the Cloud, but we'll tell you about that and other Macclesfield adventures in the next posting.  So to bring you up to date here goes:
Last Friday we left Fradley and came up the last three locks to continue on the Trent and Mersey.

Here is Leo just setting off from our mooring part way up the Fradley locks in lovely sunshine compared to the deluge the previous evening.  Helen has gone up to the Junction Lock to prepare it, while Ian is pottering up with Leo.

This is the famous view of Fradley with the Swan (aka the 'Mucky Duck') just opposite the junction with the Coventry Canal.  Not far down the Coventry is Fazeley Junction which we had passed nearly a month before.

This is looking up to Shade House Lock, the top one of five at Fradley.  There were several volunteers on the locks helping boats through and plenty of traffic in both directions.
A few miles further on at Armitage is a tunnel which subsided due to local mining and, as a result, had its top removed.  This part is like a real tunnel because there is a wide modern road on top.

And further on the canal is just a very narrow channel with the towpath behind railings to one side.  You do have to be careful here to make sure no-one is coming the other way because there is certainly no way of passing in the narrow section.

We stopped in Rugeley for shopping. As well as having Tesco and Morrisons right by the canal, there is also an excellent DIY and hardware store in Rugeley.  Just beyond Rugeley the canal crosses the River Trent and we moored just past the aqueduct.  Here is the view of the Trent from the aqueduct.

And here you can see the aqueduct itself.

Apart from the sight of Ian doing a bit of painting along the gunwhale, this picture is memorable because a boat called 'Leo II' is just passing Leo.

It was by the aqueduct that the body of Christina Collins was discovered in 1839.  She had hitched a lift with a canal boat bound for London and was murdered by the crew.  Quite a sad story, though the crew were found and variously executed or transported.

On Saturday we passed Great Haywood junction where the Staffs and Worcs Canal turns off for the Severn and came up more locks to moor on a wide stretch of canal above Sandon Lock.  We had several showers in the morning but the afternoon and evening it rained solidly so we didn't see much of our surroundings.

This is Colwich Lock, one of two climbing up to Great Haywood.  The picturesque lock house seems to need a coat of whitewash.

This is the junction with the Staffs and Worcs Canal leaving under the arched bridge in the middle of the picture.  Our way this time lay straight on.

The canal passes the village of Weston Upon Trent which we've not yet looked round.  The church is just visible through the trees across a duckpond.  We must stop and visit sometime.  We moored overnight above Sandon Lock.  It rained most of the afternoon and into the evening so, although it is a nice spot, we didn't explore further.

A much better morning for weather on Sunday took us into Stone for lunch and then onto Barlaston to moor overnight near the Wedgwood factory.

We rescued these happy ducks from the canal below Aston Lock.  Well they're happy now we've rescued them!  They were tied together with string, so if anyone has lost them, send us a message and we will return them.  Till then they look good on the top of Leo.

Here is Leo coming up the second of four locks in Stone.  The large building in the background used to be a hospital but we think it is now converted to flats.

Joules Brewery which has now moved to Market Drayton used to have warehouses by the canal from which presumably boats were loaded with their beer.

Here at the third of the Stone Locks Helen is giving a lesson to some interested passers-by who wanted to know more about our canals and how they work.

The other side of Stone we had to climb the four Meaford Locks.  These are a delight and, as you can see, the sun was shining.  The footbridge by the lock has a deliberate split down the middle.  In times when horses pulled narrowboats this allowed the towrope to pass through.

We need to buy this house at Barlaston.  Leo could have her own dock and quay and even have a friend to stay.

On Monday morning at Barlaston Ian changed the oil and a fuel filter so we left late for the journey through Stoke on Trent to moor at a lovely spot just to the north at Westport Lake.

This is the first of several pottery kilns that emphasises that you are now in the Potteries.

The Stoke Locks are deep and to reach this one you come under the main line railway and then climb the lock to be level with it.  The graffiti here is pretty pervasive but the locks are interesting and challenging.

A local character at Stoke is 'Rob the Lock' who spends his time cycling up and down this and other lock flights helping boaters.  When a lock ahead of us magically emptied itself and then opened its gates we were not surprised to find Rob about.  Thanks for your help, Rob.

Ahead of us in this photo is the final short pound below the top lock.  There is not much room and manoeuvring three boats in the small pound was a bit of a challenge. 

 The top lock at Stoke must be about 15 feet deep.  It certainly is a deep dark hole and the paddles cause some powerful currents as the lock fills.

Middleport Pottery has been extensively restored and now has a cafe as well as a museum and produces pottery.

In a storage compound by the canal we saw these concrete blocks.  They look like Lego blocks and presumably slot together in the same way.

Yesterday (Tuesday) we came through the Harecastle Tunnel and turned off up the Macclesfield Canal.

The Harecastle only allows boats to pass in one direction so we had to wait about half an hour for another boat to come through heading south before we could go north.

Here we are finally going in.  The tunnel is one of the longest on the system at 1.7 miles and took us about 40 minutes to pass through.  If you do this tunnel watch out for the Boggart near the northern end! Though the tunnel is quite high at either end, in the middle it is much lower, hence the height gauge.

Here you can see a second boat coming in behind us.

And 40 minutes later here is the northern portal of the tunnel.  The water really is this strange orange colour due to iron deposits that leach into the tunnel from the ground above.

A few hundred yards out of the tunnel you can see the first of many locks that lead down into Cheshire.  However we turned left just behind the moored boat you can see.  This takes us onto the Macclesfield Canal, which swings back over the Trent and Mersey once the latter has dropped down a couple of locks.

And here is the view looking down from the Poole Aqueduct where the Macclesfield crosses the Trent and Mersey.  You can see the paired locks of the T&M below us.  The design of this junction with flyover is quite similar to motorway junctions that were built so much later.

The hill with the strange folly on is called Mow Cop and is quite a landmark round here.

Just a mile or so from the junction we came through Hall Green Stop Lock.  This was built so that the Macclesfield controlled loss of its water to the Trent and Mersey Canal.  It only rises a foot but that acts to hold back the water.

We moored on Tuesday night at a favourite spot with an excellent view and lovely blackberries!  You can walk about a mile across the fields from there to Little Moreton Hall, a National Trust property.  This is the finest timbered property there is.  We mainly went in this time for a cup of tea, having toured it before.

We had a lovely sunset that evening and that seems an appropriate place to stop for now as it is getting late.

I will do another posting soon of our impressions of the Macclesfield but tomorrow we have the excitement of the 12 Bosley Locks, so I really ought to get some sleep.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Up the valley of the Trent

We've decided to travel the long way round from the Midlands to Yorkshire on our way home which means going up the wrong side of the Pennines and over the top.  So we are now going up the Trent and Mersey Canal towards Stoke on Trent.  On our last posting we were on the River Soar heading downstream.  The rain came down as we left Barrow on Soar last Friday (19th) and we came just a short way to Loughborough.

Before we left to go through the lock at Barrow this unusual vessel came up.  It was a canoe with outriggers and could apparently carry up to five people.  Never seen anything like it before.

The road bridge at Barrow below the lock is very attractive but, being on a sharp bend, you have to keep a good look out for oncoming boats.

By the time we were approaching Loughborough the rain was quite heavy.  As you can see, even this heron was taking shelter under a bridge.

It was a bit of a shock to see this cruiser coming through a bridge.  There is not much spare room with his cabin roof up.

One reason we stopped at Loughborough (apart from the rain) was that we spotted our friends Dave and Jan on 'Yes Dear'.  We had a good afternoon catching up with them having tea and sheltering from the rain on their boat.  On Saturday morning the rain seemed to be stopping so we decided to set off.  However the wind was very strong and did not think it sensible to go out on the wide waters of the River Trent.  We moored a few miles further down the Soar at Kegworth.  In fact the wind was so strong that Ian's cap blew off into the river.  It was too windy to try and recover it, but Ian walked back a mile or so from our mooring to see if there was any chance it had been fished out or washed up.  Amazingly it was still floating and making its way slowly down the river!  Spotting a bend coming up, Ian followed the cap until it came close enough to the shore to fish it out with a boat hook.  So we can now say that Harris Tweed is so water repellent that it floats.

The River Soar flows right past the village of Normanton and its old church.  

Approaching a lock cut at Zouch there are some flood mooring 'dolphins' seen here.  The idea is to moor to the posts if the river is in flood.  We're not sure why they are called dolphins though.

 From the boat at Kegworth we walked into the village.  This view is taken from the road bridge over the Soar looking to Kegworth Shallow Lock.  You can see that both sets of gates are open which is normal in summer.  The lock is a flood lock and is only closed when the river floods.

In this view from the bank looking up river you can see Kegworth Deep Lock with the church behind.  Depending on the river level the Deep Lock can be 10 feet deep and there are warnings about the number of boats in the last year that have been caught on the cill.

On Sunday we carried on down to where the River Soar flows into the Trent at Trent Junction.

Here is the view in Kegworth Deep Lock as Leo goes down.

The lower reaches of the River Soar are pretty wide and open to the wind which was still blowing quite hard.

Here is Leo going through Redhill Flood Lock, the gates of which are open.  This is the last lock before the Trent.

Here is Leo approaching the confluence of the Soar and the Trent.  You have to remember to turn left, upstream, as there is a huge weir just beyond the railway bridge to the right.

This is looking to the right where orange buoys remind you not to go towards the weir.

If the Soar felt big then the Trent is enormous.  Here we are going upstream towards the lock straight ahead that takes you onto the Erewash Canal.  This is Trent Junction which is a major meeting of the waterways.  Right takes you down the Trent, left leads to the Trent and Mersey Canal.

Here is Leo moored on the pontoon at Trent Junction.  The power station in the background is at Ratcliffe on Soar.  As well as Sunday Lunch at the Steamboat Inn (highly recommended) we met our nephew Martin and his girlfriend Caroline.  We managed a cream tea with them and they even took us back to look at their house in Nottingham.

Monday we set off up two stretches of the Trent and then onto the Trent and Mersey Canal to Swarkestone.

The first lock a couple of miles upstream of Trent Junction is at Sawley.  This proved to be manned which made life easier as the landing here below the lock is high and a bit tricky for narrowboats.  As it happened, two boats were just coming out so we could go straight in.

Approaching the start of the Trent and Mersey at Derwent Mouth there is a cross roads.  The River Derwent comes in from the right and is not navigable and the Trent comes in from the left.  Straight ahead is the entry to the Canal.  The mixing of the rivers here leads to some strange cross-currents.

Through picturesque Shardlow and a few more broad locks further on we came up Swarkestone Lock.  Above the lock is an arm on the north side which is all that remains of the Derby Canal which once went all the way to Derby.

We had a good walk around Swarkestone.  This is the bridge there over the River Trent which starts a mile long causeway across the river valley.

This unusual building which can be seen from the canal is a summer house and all that remains of Swarkestone Old Hall that was demolished in the 18th century.  The wall either side encloses a square field which was used for bear baiting.

This hole in a wall near the Summer House reminds me of a cartoon character powering through a wall and leaving his shape as the hole.  To me it looks like a chap with a big hat.  Well I thought it was funny.

Swarkestone's claim to fame is that it was the furthest south that
Bonnie Prince Charlie reached before returning north to his defeat at Culloden.

Our friend Steve (otherwise known as Hodge) met us at Swarkestone.  We enjoyed a good meal at the Crewe and Harpur Arms and Steve stayed onboard and joined us as we cruised on the following day to Burton upon Trent.

The last of the broad locks on the Trent and Mersey is at Stenson and is a cracker.  12 feet rise with a reputation for fast flows of water.  Here is Leo waiting below for the lock to be emptied.  There were CRT volunteers here as well.

After going through Willington the canal crosses the River Dove on an aqueduct.  The Dove seemed quite full.

Here you can see the aqueduct with the River Dove flowing through the shallow arches beneath.

Steve took to steering a narrowboat like an old sea salt.  Pity he didn't tuck his shirt in before the picture!

At Burton upon Trent there was just time to check the e mails!

Yesterday we had fun going on the brewery tour at Marstons Brewery.  This was entertaining and included a certain amount (quite a lot in fact) of tasting well established and new experimental brews.

Here are the coppers where the mash is being boiled and hops added.  This was for a brew of Hobgoblin.

This is a picture of the Burton Union System.  This is how Pedigree is brewed and is a system peculiar to Marstons.  The system functions with gravity only and the beer finishes up in the barrels at the bottom and the yeast in the troughs above.

This is the fermentation  house with three Burton Union plants and several stainless steel fermentation vessels for other brews around the sides.

What is Leo doing in a house?  Actually we are filling with diesel at Shobnall Marina where you have to reverse into a tiny under cover area at right angles to the canal.  Quite tricky.

Today we've come through Alrewas and into Fradley where we are moored just a lock below the junction with the Coventry Canal.

Before the rain started we came through Tattenhill Lock which is very pretty.  This is not Leo but the boat that went up before us.

We've never seen a heron before perching in the telegraph wires.  It looks very precarious.

Some of the bridges here are certainly not for wide beam boats!

At Alrewas there is a short section where you venture out onto the River Trent for the last time.  Much smaller than further downstream of course but nevertheless flowing quite fast after the rain.

And here we are in Alrewas Lock coming up off the river.

We are out for a meal with our friends Rowan and Martin this evening and tomorrow we will carry on up the Trent and Mersey towards Stoke on Trent.