Perfect Harmony

Perfect Harmony
Moored at Huntingdon

Thursday, 23 June 2011

23rd June '11

Last night was just so perfect that we took Paddy for a walk around the marina after 10.00pm. He usually justs gets taken up to the grass for a last pee at that time but we couldn't resist the lovely evening and took our cameras. Here are my photos:

The last one was taken at about 10.30pm - lovely record of the light slowly disappearing! I shall look back on these in mid-winter to remind me what a summer evening can be like!

Today we have been getting the van ready for travelling tomorrow and we are going to do a slight detour to look at a marina near Stone, close to Stafford - we shall look at another one on the way home next week near Rugby. Fingers crossed!

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

22nd June '11

Midsummer has come and gone in a cloud of showers and heavy clouds! Lets hope that there's some sunshine around the corner.

We have had a bit of a disappointment in having a message from the marina that we have to move the motorhome into a compound away from the edge of the marina - this is not what we understood when we chose this one so we have appealed. We are to be allowed to keep it where it is for the time being because it is our only vehicle but the future in uncertain. Therefore we have started to look around at other marinas - there are a lot to choose from but we will try to get to see some of them and check them out. We have paid here until the end of August so have some time to think about it.

On the bright side - we have booked our workshops for the IWA festival at the end of July. John is going to learn how to make rope side fenders which will be great as we seem to lose them at an alarming rate! I am going to have a go at signwriting in case we want to add our names to the side of the boat which is what a lot of people seem to have. In any case it will be something new to have a go at for both of us and we're both quite excited about it.

We are also going down to Dorset on Friday this week for a week to see loads of people so that will be lovely.

I polished the floor today in the saloon and Paddy is now doing Bambi impersonations - we can't help laughing at him - poor thing he looks so funny trying to get his legs to work under him to jump on the seat!

I went to the doctor yesterday and got some tablets for my stomach upset and feel a lot better now thankfully.

Monday, 20 June 2011

20th June '11

Back in the marina - settling down for the evening and it has just started to pour with rain - luckily we have just got back from walking Paddy so all is well!

What have we been up to in the last few days? Well Saturday was not a good day for me - after 2 nights with little sleep I was cold and miserable and the day wasn't much better! We set off from Handsacre (had fish and chips for tea - think that was why I felt so ill!) and made good time to the first lock at Woods End and then on down to Fradley Junction. There are 5 locks at Fradley and once again it appeared that most boats were going in our direction but we got through the first two without much incident and then while waiting for the third lock, which John had to fill so took a while, the heavens absolutely opened. John was out in his fleece, I was wearing my anorak that leaks (don't know why I keep it really) and Paddy was just forlorn!

Between locks 3 and 4 John got his anorak and the rain continued to pour - at one point it hailed on me but John said he didn't get any so make of that what you will! By lock 5 we both just wanted to call a halt but there's no-where to moor so we continued down through the lock into Alrewas, by which time it had stopped raining and the sun was vaguely out, and moored, ready for the next day.

Woods before the Woods End lock.

Moored at Alrewas - it was a good mooring as it was just before a bridge and where the canal became a bit narrower so boats HAD to slow down - it's etiquette to slow down past moored boats because the wash really rocks the boat and doesn't do it or the occupants any good at all.

Talking of good manners it's also correct procedure to close all the lock gates when leaving a lock and through all the rain at Fradley we were following a hire boat (from Mercia in fact - nb Juliet) which left ALL the down gates open so poor John had to shut them which means crossing to both sides before he was able to open the top paddles to fill the locks - not what you want in a downpour. I wanted to 'have a word' with them but when I found the boat moored there was no-one in it. Just as well I suppose.

On Saturday we went out to the National Memorial Arboretum - it was lovely and we will take the van next time so we can leave Paddy in it while we have a good look around, because I had to stay on the outskirts which is fair enough as you don't want dogs lifting their legs or worse on the memorials.

We left Alrewas after lunch and got to Branston where we spent the night before going on to Burton where we got some groceries and both of us treated ourselves to some new 'longs'. Mine are too baggy and John's have just about fallen apart - so we deserved them!

Then an easy journey in wonderful weather today to get back to Mercia.

Apologies to Norwyn and Sheila who have been our neighbours on the other side, in Shell Bell, they have been following the blog and have apparently left a message but it isn't here - if anyone else has left messages apart from Tom and Terry then we haven't got them. Not sure what you have to do but please try again. Shell Bell is leaving tomorrow until November which is a shame - have a great trip and stay in touch!

One thing that this trip has shown us it that we really do want a pram cover for the stern - we had thought about it during the build but been talked out of it - we have seen exactly what we want and so will get one made before the winter hopefully. If you don't know what I'm talking about then this is what I mean:

Friday, 17 June 2011

17th June '11

I have been, once more, let down by technology! Yesterday I discovered that I had left my camera turned on overnight so had to use my phone for pictures and then in the evening we were moored up at Great Haywood and had no signal so was unable to do anything with them in any case!

Yesterday we left Stone at a reasonable hour and went to the chandlers to buy another piling hook for mooring and also a chain so that if we are in a dubious area we can use it to moor, utilising one of Paddy's covered wire leads - it makes it harder for little darlings to cut through or untie the boat and leave us drifting in the night or when we leave the boat in the day. We haven't had any problems so far but some areas can be a bit risky.

This is the photo I missed on the way up - the halfway mark on the Trent and Mersey canal - it's at Aston Lock just south of Stone. Some of these are the original ones but in WW2 they were all removed as a safety precaution in case of invasion - after the war they found as many of the original ones as possible and had new ones made to replace the lost ones and they mark the canal the whole way from Shardlow to Preston Brook!

Unfortunately this isn't very clear from the phone camera but these are boats advertising a boat painter and they are absolutely beautiful - we have vowed that if we win the lottery and have a traditional boat built (which is a dream that really does need a lottery win I'm afraid) then we will have them done by this lady! Yes we are now enamoured with traditional engines and boats and roses and castles - all the things that we weren't interested in when we started all of this. STILL do not mention the awful dolls to me though - saw a boat called 'Josie and Im' and I was overcome with horror!

The locks were all against us again and queues going down with us and very few coming up to help out, so it took a long time to get through them all. The wind sprung up during the day as well, which didn't help at all. We dressed in full jeans, jumpers and jackets and kept taking things off and then putting them back on all day. Awful weather for June.

At Trentham Lock we were stopped by a photographer for the RSPCA who was taking pictures of people and their pets on their boats. We paid £1 and he has sent us 4 nice pictures by e-mail and we can order framed prints if we want - guess what my Mum is getting for Christmas???

I put this on fb to show how changed Paddy is now. He is so used to going through locks with me now that he just lies there, totally unbothered unless we are above ground level and there are people about. One lady wanted to take a picture of him doing his looking over the side bit that he does so well but her camera ran out of batteries - didn't have time to give her the blog address!!!

We moored up just before the rain came in heavy at Great Haywood - only about 1mile from where we had stayed last Sunday in the rain. Our view was over to Shugborough Hall and so in the evening when it stopped raining we walked over to see it a bit closer and also went into the village to have a quick nose around. Quaint little place and we found a lovely bridge going over the river Trent, which runs parallel to the canal along most of it's route.

Back to camera pictures as I took Paddy out to see the bridge again this morning before setting off - it's very narrow and only for pedestrians although we suspect that small carts could have been pushed across it. It's very old but we couldn't find any information about it.

Here you can see it in all it's splendour! The river isn't very deep here but it was flowing very fast.

A bit further on and we actually cross the Trent on an aqueduct that was originally built by Brindley who is a big name in canals - a bit like Telford and Brunel.

I am amazed that this came out so well - I only spotted it at the last moment as there is a very nasty right hand bend just after the aquaduct - photo to follow....

It looks wider here than when you're going around it and naturally, because that's what happens on canals, another boat came along just as we had got around the corner! You cross on the different sides to on a road which meant that he had to take the corner very much on the inside, which can't have been easy!

There are lots of trees growing in unlikely places at strange angles along the canal and here is a good example of it - just a bit before this there is a high sandstone cliff with a Church balancing on top! There are trees growing around rocks in this cliff that make you wonder whether the rocks are supporting the trees or vice-versa!

Just north of Armitage there is an interesting section of canal that was once a tunnel, when it collapsed they had to clear the rubble and re-inforce the sides which makes it too narrow for two boats to cross. One person has to run ahead and see if anythings coming and halt further traffic while the captain waits for the all clear.This is where Mum's Christmas present of walkie-talkies really come into their own! I am about 1/3 of the way along the narrow here, while John waits patiently to be called through.

All was clear so here he is sailing majestically through and about to pick me up again! This is just next to the Plum Pudding mentioned in the blog a week ago!

We had stopped just before this to fill up with water and chatted to boaters while we were there. One boat had 2 couples who were over from the Channel Islands! Shame they didn't bring some of their weather with them  - it stayed dry while we were out today but is raining now.

This is the Armitage Shanks factory from the other side - it's actually quite a building as it curves slightly to accomodate the canal. As you get closer it still looks dreary but is apparently still in full production despite broken windows etc.

We fancied fish and chips for lunch and at Handsacre there was a good one listed - unfortunately we got there just too late and it had shut. We had lunch and then it started to rain in earnest, plus I am feeling exhausted from a bad nights sleep so we have stayed here (again). The cunning plan is to have fish and chips for tea instead!

I want an early night and then hopefully and early start in the morning to get through all the Fradley locks so that we get to Alrewas tomorrow. Almost home again - much prefer being out and about but we need to get back so that we are ready for our road trip south at the end of next week! Looking forward to seeing people I must say. Now it's almost time for fish and chips!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

15th June '11

Well we turned around and after climbing 133'8" yesterday we have dropped 94'4" today. By that you can see that we haven't travelled quite back to where we started from but have decided to moor where it is a bit quieter and tackle the remaining 4 locks at Stone tomorrow.

This is where we moored last night - the road over the bridge is quite a busy one as this is the side of Stoke that has many of the industrial estates and the 'entertainment' complex that we moored next to! There was a Toby Inn about 100yds forward of us next to the Festival Park Marina.

Here's the marina entrance with the Toby on the right and we are turning at this point so it is the most northerly point of our travels.

This milepost was the last one we saw although we were only a short distance from the next one so we can see how far we have come from the marina. The Trent and Mersey is the only canal we have been on that has these mileposts along the whole stretch - they make a welcome record of our travels!

Stoke is a bewildering mixture of old and new - here is the sign pointing out the Roundhouse which is all that remains of the original Wedgewood factory - it was almost opposite us on the mooring just next to the bridge - behind it is part of the local newspaper buildings that take up the best part of the block - The Sentinal.

...and this is the Roundhouse - as much as you can see of it anyway! There were two at the entrance to the Wedgewood factory apparently.

More old and new - these are two remaining bottle ovens used in the pottery business - surrounded by some pretty awful modern architecture (I sound like Prince Charles!).

As I stood on the stern of the boat waiting to go through one of the locks in Stoke I took 4 pictures - one from each direction just to show the diversity of the area.

To the west.

To the south - the lock takes the canal down under this road - it's a long tunnel to get out of after getting through the lock!

To the east - modern industry over the railway the other side of the canal.

To the north where we had just come from - looking quite peaceful apart from all that's going on to the west!

After a blissful day of sunshine yesterday, today has reverted to normal and it has been overcast most of the day with brilliant spells (very short) of sunshine and other (rather longer) spells of rain - quite light rain but enough to make us damp and need anoraks that we have then been too hot in when the rain stopped!

We had lots of boats going down the locks ahead of us:

... and very few boats coming up so the took ages to get through as John had to fill each one  before I could take the boat in and then it had to be emptied to let me down and some of them were very deep - the deepest one was 11'11".

You can also get quite wet going down as they tend to leak and obviously this is where one stands! You tend to stay as well forward as you can without banging the front doors or you damage the paddle mechanism!

It took us nearly 2 1/2 hours to get down the 5 Stoke locks today, considerably longer than it took to get up on our own yesterday.

This shows that it isn't only boats that cause damage to bridges! I'd spotted this yesterday but couldn't get the camera out in time. Something must have really bashed this hard from the road, and it's not a very large road either!

This must be the poshest winding hole ever - we are moored just a bit upstream from it on the outskirts of Stone.

We were stopped at one lock by a photographer working for RSPCA. He was taking photos of people on boats with their pets, charging £1 for doing so and then he is going to e-mail the photos and if we like them we can pay for a proper print. I daresay they are going to be locked so that we can't download it ourselves but we thought it would be a nice idea so had it done. Why does this have to happen BEFORE I have had my shower and washed my hair - I can imagine looking a complete wreck especially as it was just after one of the rainshowers we had today! Still we shall wait and see.

Just in case anyone is interested I have started tweeting and put odd bits and pieces on as we cruise along, I'm on @livingonaboat if you want to follow me!

Not yet heard tomorrows weather forecast but hopefully it will be a bit better than today.....

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

14th June '11

a busy 2 days and no signal last night! I am going to make this a picture blog to try to get everything in!

This was the view we had at Little Haywood where we moored over Sunday - the weather improved yesterday and so this was just as we left. No sooner had we started off than we arrived at the first lock of the day!

We spotted this lovely house a bit before lock 2 of the day and then realised that it was Shugborough Hall - we had seen the signs from the road in the past but never visited it - still not visited but at least we have seen it!

After lock 2 we got to Haywood Junction - one of the widest junctions we have seen and much easier to manage than Fradley! We stopped to fill up with water, get rid of our rubbish and empty the toilet cassette - that all done we were ready to move on - John popped over to a Farm Shop over the bridge but it was nothing like as good as the one at Ditchford - still our favourite!

It is quite a busy junction and while there we bought an anti-vandal lock as some of the locks further up need them - signs of things to come????

One of the largest swan families we have seen - there were 9 cygnets!

Herons usually fly off as soon as the boat gets close but this one just stayed there completely unfazed by us!

Bridge 82 - built in the 18th century apparently for the gentry to cross the canal....and very nice too! This is just outside a village called Salt because the canals allowed the salt production in the area to become profitable as they were able to transport it for them, apparently it had produced salt since Roman times but hadn't really made much of a profit from it up to then. They also produced all the salt beef for the Royal Navy!

I was just amused by this - never been watched by a cow standing on a bridge suckling her calf before!

We moored at Stone last night, I managed to miss the milestone that showed the halfway mark on the Trent and Mersey canal - I shall try to get it on the way back!

Stone is famous for being the place that Tom Rolt had his boat built - he's THE famous canal boater who wrote the definitave canal book, started the IWA and promoted the start of the canal restoration programme. ALSO if you have read either of Terry Darlingtons Narrow Dog books it's where he moored the original Phyllis May until it burnt out.

This is the Star pub on the canal at Stone - we left at 10am so haven't got to go in it but maybe on the return journey??

An interesting entrance for a lock!

I thougth this was quite a deep  lock at the time but that was before we got to Stoke!

This was an old brewery in Stone that is no longer used - brought out by Bass and that was an end of them!

This was the opening for one of the locks - tricky to get in - I took this just as John was shutting the gates.

John spotted this old horse tunnel at Stone and got the camera - I haven't seen one of these before.

While he had the camera he took this of me coming into a lock - not sure he knows where the zoom button is but I'm better from this distance!

This was on the way to Stoke - you can tell you're getting near the potteries! At this point the country was really quite nice.....

This is one of the locks at Stoke - very deep and scary!

I'd just had to get through this - thought the previous entrances were bad but this excelled them all - I had to duck to get through and I'm not exactly the tallest person!

This was what the view was once the boat had come up - lovely???? We had just come past the police sorting out a crowd of drunks next to the canal!

This is one of the interior bits of one of the lock - it seemed to be falling apart showing all the wood underneath. Hadn't realised that this was the structure - and this was one of the deep locks!

Japanese Knotweed is alive and well in Stoke - so much for trying to eliminate it!

On of the bits of the old industrial past. Stoke is a really depressing place to come through. So much derelict industrial building. This is the first time that we have really seen the grimy past of the canals - we had decided to turn and get out of it before the locks but missed the winding hole (it was just part of the grimness!) and so we had to do the 5 locks shown above. We did 14 locks today and feel quite proud of ourselves.

We have realised that we are not going to get as far as we wanted to so are going to turn tomorrow and do the return journey, hopefully to stay for a day at Alrewas - we shall see how the weather goes - it's been beautiful today and that makes such a difference.