Wednesday 31 December 2014

Wednesday 31 December 2014 ½ mile outside Stone

Well its been bit of a trial the passed 12 hours. Last night we were cold. It was -5°C and the Dickinson our only form of heat was not performing, so this morning that had to be sorted.
Firstly I removed the diesel feed to the control valve and virtually no flow. I had only changed the filter a few weeks ago, but I opened it it and it was all still spick and span, the oil flow from the tank to the filter was fine and also through the filter. I blew the oil back from the stove to the engine room and no blockages, put it all together as still next to no flow. I think the problem is the anti vibration loops I put in and air collecting in the top of them, after a lot of sucking and blowing, flowing oil in the wrong direction I finally got a mediocre flow, better than first thing but not as good as I would like, still we have heating for tonight. By now it was gone 12 mid day and we set off down through Star Lock, There was clear water behind us but about half an inch ofDSCF7981 ice ahead. The boat moored in front came out and gave us some dirty looks as I slid passed him.

Below the locks the ice was worse and I got some verbal from one of the boaters moored there, thanking me for damaging his boat. Half way passed the moored boats the ice had been broken, we were on to a winner, but the broken ice only went just beyond the moored boats so someone must have moved up closed to the town. We pushed on breaking virgin ice that was between ¾ and 1” thick which we found a bit heavy going so we pulled over. We had been here about an hour when a boat came passed in the same direction as us, he got some verbal as well near the locks so we were ready to go again only for him to moor up in front of us for the night, he also thought it a bit heavy going. The outside temperature had been up to 8°C outside today and the forecast is for a warmer night and much warmer day tomorrow.

Today’s Journey map 10 1 Lock, ½ mile in ¾ Hour.

Tuesday 30 December 2014

Tuesday 30 December 2014 Stone

Last night was the coldest this winter, it may have even been the coldest of the year at –5.6°C which left the cut well frozen this morning and as we were only going to Stone were in no hurry to leave. Just before 11 I started the engine and was making ready to leave when an Anglo Welch hire boat came steaming through the bridge towards us, they had come all the way from Stone and broken a nice passage all the way. Although last night was colder and it was not so bright this morning it wasn’t long before it started to thaw and things were dripping wet. If it had remained cold all day it may have caused problems tomorrow as in places the broken ice was 10mm thick.

Barlaston Boatyard has a rather nice private mooring with a lift bridge across the entrance and room to moor just two boats.DSCF7971 in the garden he has a pair of lock gates set up in the lawn and its a good place to show off his plastic sheep.DSCF7972 

With the thaw setting in but still very cold in other places icicles had started to form in some places like under this bridge.DSCF7974 When we arrived at the top of the Meaford we found the lock empty so there must be someone a short way ahead of us, as we left the top lock there was a boat coming up about to leave Meaford Road Lock so hopefully he will have turned everything for us. I waited where the old flight of locks use to rejoin the new DSCF7975line of the canal. The boat ahead must have been closer than we thought as all the other locks were against us including those in Stone.

The foot bridges over the tail of the locks here on the Trent and Mersey canal still have the decks in two parts with a slot left between them where the tow rope would have gone when the boats were towed by horse. DSCF7977 Another feature still standing is the posts that were erected to protect the bridges from the how ropes as the horses pulled the boats through, the ropes would cut large groves into the brickwork so on the corners some form of protection was fitted, on the Caldon we saw hard wood, some places have rollers, most common is a strip of iron on the brickwork, but here there are DSCF7979wooden posts with iron strips attached to them. It even looks as if the posts were made to rotate at one time.

We wanted to moor in town for the night if possible and there was just one space in the 24 hour moorings by the car park just above Stare Lock, it was also the end of the broken ice, so no one has used that lock today.

Today’s Journeymap 9 7 Locks, 4 Miles in 3¾ hours.

Monday 29 December 2014

Monday 29 December 2014 Barlaston

As we were moored outside we ate in the Toby Carvery last night as well as using their free WiFi. The canal had already frozen over when we returned to the boat and overnight it dropped to about
-3°. This morning was again bright and the three boats in front set off at 8-30 AM kindly braking all the ice as far as Etruria locks. I tried to get a photo of them leaving but the camera batteries decided they didn’t like the cold sitting by the back door all night.

We set off at 9-30 following the channel the others had cut. the ducks for some reason where waddling about on the ice, maybe they think its fun.  DSCF7968

Bridge 117 has been treated to some heavy graffiti with every inch of the tow path side wall covered. DSCF7970

When we reached the junction with the Caldon canal at Stoke Locks we turned left and went up the Caldon for about 100 yards to fill up with water, it pays to keep the tank full in this weather as we could get stuck in the ice somewhere or the next lot of taps may be frozen. That job out of the way we backed up to above the locks and set off down Stoke Locks, the first two were with us but after that I had to fill them all. I worked the locks as it was quite icy and slippery around them. From here Diana was breaking ice, thankfully it was only about ¼” thick so not a problem. Not long after Stoke Bottom lock, just before the Dolphin we met a boat coming the other way, so now we both had a nice channel of broken ice to follow and he had all the flight with him.

We didn’t see another boat on the move until after we had moored up on the visitor moorings just above bridge, since then there have been several go by including the Bolinder engined Kangaroo.

Today’s Journeymap 8

6 locks, 1 junction (just) 5½ miles in 3¼ hrs

Sunday 28 December 2014

Sunday 28 December 2014 Festival Park Etruria

Last night was cold, -4° but today has been wall to wall sunshine. The first section of iced over canal we uncounted was not until we were back on the T&M where it was about ¼” thick,DSCF7955 this was after we had broken it.

We pushed off at 10 am and the other boats moored here had left before us so we knew the locks would be against us, not that it makes much difference with a stair case as you always have to turn one chamber  regardless of which way the last boat was going.

CaRT have tried protecting the off side brickwork on some bridge with wooden battens but even these are getting split at the ends.DSCF7936On one of the bridges they have actually fitted sheets of material to protect it.DSCF7937 

Ivy house Lift Bridge goes up much faster that it comes down, you can see the control box tucked away to the side.DSCF7941 For some reason the bleeper sounds before the barriers go up as well as down which seems a bit excessive for the people living nearby.DSCF7943

The new houses built along the offside have a communal area with some steel bull rushes growing out of the brick weave and even here someone managed to find a Lifebelt and rope to play with.DSCF7947  

We remembered bridge 9 and removed the exhaust, Dickinson chimney and back cabin chimney in good time, as you can see its a low one.DSCF7949 Just beyond here on a sharp left hand bend I met an ex working boat, he was coming into the bend and I was going round when I first saw him coming out of the very bright, low sun. I am sorry to say I caused him aggravation, something I didn’t chose to do but the only course I could see was go wide round him, maybe my first response of slowing down was wrong and if you are reading this I am sorry.DSCF7952 This was my last view of him across the bend. If anyone can Identify and knows the boater please apologise for me.

I still cant get my head around the difference in capacities of the two chambers of the stair case locks, Was the overflow cut lower to save flooding, or where the walls raised by two foot leaving the overflow channel at its original level, the brickwork suggests the latter.DSCF7954

Back out on the Trent and Mersey canal we carried on north to Harecastle Tunnel. DSCF7961On the way we uncounted the first frozen canals we have come across this winter.  We passed the site of the old Burslem Port on our right with just a sign to say where it was. DSCF7957There are ambitious plans to restore the arm and port which can be found HERE and also the buildings of Middleport PotteriesDSCF7958 which does factory visits see HERE.

After winding at the tunnel mouth, (there is room for a 62ft boat to get round if there is nothing moored in the way) We headed back to Westport Lake where we had planned to more for the night, but considering how clear the sky was and how cold it was last night we decided to continue to moor outside the Toby Carvery at Festival Gardens. Well if it does freeze hard where would you rather be stuck? 

Today’s Journeymap 7 1 normal lock, 1 Staircase Lock, 1 Junction 2 canals, 11¾ Miles in 4½ hours.

Saturday 27 December 2014

Saturday 27 December 2014 Milton

It was reasonably warm last night but froze hard this morning which meant all the soggy snow was now ice and I couldn’t open the rear slide as it was about half an inch thick. but the morning was bright and clear with no wind.DSCF7922We set off at 1030 am and met several dog walkers and even some toboggans, The polypropylene  ones seem to work well on a thin layer of frozen snow. There was a boat moored just ahead of us last night so all the locks were against us.

The chaps doing the tow path surfacing have found a good way  to stop speeding boat, they put chicanes in the canal, There is DSCF7927about 40ft between the bow of the offside boat and the stern of the towpath one and then again the other side.I wonder if they will do the same for cyclists.

We met our first boat of the day as we approached bridge 31 where the contractors are moored double breasted, it involved me reversing and then us passing on the wrong sides. Just through the bridge are the CaRT services where we stopped to fill with water. That is where I sent yesterdays blog from. Once full I dropped off the bow line and wandered down to the stern, undid the stern line and hopped onboard, never looked behind after I hoped  and pulled away, it was then I heard a bow thruster. The boat we had met earlier must have winded and came through the bridge behind me as I stepped back onboard.

He caught us up at Stockton Brook locks and I apologised for pulling out in front like that, but he got the best of the deal as I back set all the flight of locks for him.

The boat is still on the lock moorings that was there before Christmas when we went up,he is not even at one end, but bang in the middle with one unused bollard each end.DSCF7932 We didn’t see the following boat after this and it was at this point it started to rain. We were considering mooring below the locks but decided to continue on into Milton for the night, to improve the timings for tomorrow. We arrived at Milton at 2 30 pm and found two boats already moored there, we did drop in between them but noticed an overhanging tree which was right over our cabin, if you get light rain this leads to water torture with a constant dripping onto the roof, so we moved to the front of the line. needless to say after we moored up it stopped raining.

Today’s journey map 69 locks, 6½ miles in 4½ hours

Friday 26 December 2014 Cheddleton Mill

Firstly I am sorry that this is a day late but there is no internet signal on the Cheddleton visitor moorings so it was not posted until Saturday.

Last night Diana cooked us a lovely Christmas dinner with turkey, sprouts, roast potatoes, carrots, pigs in blankets and bread sauce, this was followed by Christmas pud and Brandy sauce. It was a candle lit meal apart from the fairy lights.DSCF7889

We were as expected all alone, well that is apart from the owls,DSCF7893 there was more than one. As you can see there is room for 8 boats against the pontoons, they are a bit short for Narrowboats but that gives more room to swing in the basin. The Uttoxeter canal will leave in the far left corner where the bridge is at the moment.

When we woke this morning there was not a breath of wind and setting off at 1030 AM the mist was hanging in the hills. WeDSCF7900 returned through Froghall tunnel this time without touching the sides and headed back up towards Flint Mill lock. On the way we pass through Cherryeye Bridge. This is a bit unusual for a canal DSCF7904bridge as the arches are not normally shaped like this. Also unlike most bridges that had irons to protect the stone work from the tow ropes this one has hard wood edgings. DSCF7902

Just before Flint Mill lock there floating in the water about 100Mt below the lock all innocently was yesterdays wooden log thatDSCF7905 caused us the problems, still it well out of harms way now and I expect someone will fish it out and give it a loving home until its dry enough to burn.

On to Black Lion railway bridge, here the tow path that runsDSCF7907 under the bridge has collapsed just as it goes under the bridge so the area is barriered off and you have to walk round via the pub and I assume crossing the railway line.

Just passed the weir at Consall is a water point, there are no bollards or rings to tie to, its ether put a stake in or tie to the water point its self. We opted for the stake method but when we tried to fill with water the pressure and flow was so poor it wouldn’t go through the kinks in the hose, so we gave that one up as a bad job. As steady push up the Churnet which was still behaving its self we were soon at Oakmeadow Ford lock, here on the edge of the lock was some poo, to me it looks full of fishDSCF7914 bones so I wonder if its a Mink or an Otter. They say you can tell by the smell but I didn’t fancy getting my nose that close.

As we passed the Churnet Valley Railway this diesel unit had itsDSCF7916 engine running, there were a few people about but we hadn’t see any sign of life further down so I don’t know if it was just maintenance of if they are running a service this afternoon. We did the two Cheddleton locks, passed under the workshop that bridges the canal and moored on the visitor moorings by the old flint mill for the night. We had been here about half an hour and it started to rain, so our timing was spot on. I have also had the freshwater pump to pieces and fitted a new diaphragm so hopefully it will not continue leaking.

As I couldn’t send this blog a couple of updates.

Firstly the pump still leaks, so it will have to be a new one.

Secondly we missed it being a whit Christmas here by 18 hrs. but I think it has to snow in London to be an official White Christmas.


Today’s journeymap 5 2 canals, 1 junction, 6 locks 5¾ miles in 3¾ hours

Thursday 25 December 2014

Thursday 25 December 2014 Uttoxeter Basin

We decided to wait until the sleet stopped before setting off at 10 AM but it was still raining. I reversed back through the bridge  to the junction where Diana had the top lock ready for me to drop back down the Caldon canal.Hazelhurst Junction There are three locks in the flight and it rained all the way down, but then stopped. We met a few dog walkers to wish Merry Christmas to.
At times the sun even peeped out for a look but there were always clouds in the distance.

Every boy wants a train set for Christmas and at Cheddleton we passed a big one, but there was no one playing with it today.DSCF7874

We met the only boat we have seen moving on this canal at Oakmeadow Ford Lock where we dropped down onto the river Churnet for a bit. They timed it right as Diana spotted them just as I started to move out of the lock. The river level was well down in the green and we were able to make good speed down to the Black Lion. We were making good progress until we reached Flint Mill Lock. The water was slightly down so I did what I normally do and put the bows against the top gate for Diana to top it up, I then just draw back very slightly so she can open the gate, at which point I drive in. Today I got just less than a third of the way in and stopped dead, we were wedged solid by a floating branch about 250mm long and the same round. The boat was held firm, I couldn’t knock the wood out of the way. We spent some little time in full astern, followed by ahead, repeated lots of times in quick succession before we finally started to move backwards. I really didn’t want to have Christmas dinner stuck in a lock.
However had I have stopped earlier and let Diana off to set the lock I would have been going much faster when I jammed and would probably still have been there.

At the bottom of Flint Mill Lock the C&RT have hung a PVC strip curtain to show the clearance of Froghall Tunnel. As you can see we just clear it.DSCF7876

From here it is not far to Froghall Tunnel and there is a similar gauge curtain hanging there but some of the pieces are missing,DSCF7880 which is just as well because once the front of the boat passes under the curtain it is not possible to see where it is so without being able to see where the missing bits are you would have no view of the tunnel at all, as it is you cant see the front corners of the cabin which is how I again scraped the paint in the same spot as last time.

Less that quarter of a mile  the other side of the tunnel you comeDSCF7883 to the locks on your right that will one day take you to Uttoxeter at the moment they just drop to the basin, which is where we are moored for the night, we are the only boat in here on the finger pontoons. The blue line shows our route from the tunnel to the Froghall Basinmoorings.  Had we have continued straight on along the Caldon Canal we would have come to the terminus about 100 yds beyond bridge 55. You can see the Uttoxeter canal going off to the right.DSCF7882

So this is Christmas and we will spend it moored her by ourselves. The turkey is in the oven and the pudding has been steaming. Diana made our Christmas cake which we have already started on.DSCF7887 No sooner had we moored up and it started to rain again.

map 4

Today’s Journey 7 ¾ miles 2 junctions (one backwards) 2 canals. 9 locks in 4¼ hours.


A very Merry Christmas to all who read these blogs.

Wednesday 24 December 2014

Wednesday 24 December 2014 Hazelhurst Locks

Nice and quiet last night other than the sound of the rain, thankfully all the geese cleared off early evening, that just left the sound of the rain.

This morning was bright and clear, but colder than yesterday. The sun was up and very few clouds to be seen.DSCF7855 We pushed off at 9-15 AM and straight into the Bedford Street staircase locks.
The bottom chamber has a very large overflow, maybe it was enlarged because people operated the lock incorrectly and flooded the lower chamber? I am sure that with a shallower overflow very little water would be lost over it with correct operation.DSCF7857

We passed notices appealing for sighting of the poor chap that was found in the canal on Monday near the park. 

We had a slight misunderstanding with bridge 9, I lowered the exhaust but the bridge was about a foot lower than I realised so it wiped out the weather station and ripped the chimney from the diesel stove which rolled off the roof into the cut before I could catch it. We did manage to find it again feeling around under the bridge with the boat pole and once located managed to retrieve it with the boat hook. I was pleased to get it back as its a twin walled stainless steel one costing about £250. I was quite surprised that under the bridge in the centre of the canal I was unable to touch the bottom with the boat hook. The chimney required a slight bashing with the windlass before I could get it to fit on the stub again.

Over the course of the day the wind picked up and the temperature seemed to drop a bit lower and we even saw a rainbow this afternoon so someone was getting a bit of rain from all the dark clouds that had been gathering.

One thing that has changed since we were last this way is that Ivy House lift bridge has been recommissioned and is now normally down again. It now has nice automatic bleepers, barriers and a stainless control panel that works on the tow path side just north of the road, it is hidden away a bit. DSCF7861I think it now opens faster than it closes.


Today our luck with locks ran out and they have all been against us. We found a boat moored on the lock moorings just below the top lock of the Stockton Brook Locks, he didn’t moor at one end, but right in the middle. Just through the bridge above the locks CaRT have been piling the bank and installing new lock moorings (where the work boat is moored) The strange thing is that they have edged it with what looks to be 4” galvanised angle iron with the angle sticking out over the water.It should be an interesting edge.DSCF7869

The Foxley pub at the old Foxley Junction was quite nicely lit, it was here that the Foxley Branch joined the main canal   DSCF7866We carried on to the top of the Hazelhurst locks where we turned right onto the Leek arm to moor for the night. As you can see at 3-30 PM the sun was well down and just catching the top of the hill across the Caldon Canal. Tomorrow we will back up to the junction and continue down the Caldon to Froghall     DSCF7872

We had not been moored long and there was a tap tap on the porthole, looking out there was Rachel who had walked down to find us. Her partner Richard follows our blog and from our travel pattern had correctly worked out where we would be tonight and sent her down to find us. Congratulations Richard.

map 3Today’s journey 9.3 miles 2 canals, 1 junction, 7 normal locks and 1 staircase lock in 6 hours.