This morning we departed Tixall Wide having spent a few wet and wild days there. Over the weekend period, the wide had been very busy accommodating Stafford Boat Club during their regatta. We enjoyed watching the boat manoeuvring skills competition, well until the rain started, then we went inside, battened down the hatches and left them to it. We got straight onto the water point at Great Haywood Junction and topped up the tank. Whilst waiting, we chatted with the crew of nb Maple Knot who informed us of a food festival in Stone next week. Wrong way for us, but we will chalk it up for another time. We had two locks to navigate and our timing at each was impeccable. On arrival at the pig farm we found our usual spot vacant. After securing the boat, the two legged crew gave four legs a brush. He had not been done for a while and was a bit knotted, so he was somewhat resistant to the process. There was only going to be one winner, and it wasn’t him. Tomorrow we head for Fradley after a necessary stop at Tesco in Rugeley.
Totals 4 Miles 2 Locks
Running total 354 Miles 211 Locks 14 Tunnels
Tixall Wide this afternoon
Tixall Wide this evening
Today we had a marathon day, for us anyway. We set off from Barlaston at 8.30 am, the sun was shining, but there is a definite autumnal feel in the air. We passed through the four locks at Meaford, meeting a couple of boats coming the other way, and soon we were entering Stone, the birthplace of the Trent and Mersey Canal. At this stage we were blissfully unaware of the drama that was soon to occur.
Former waterside warehouses in Stone.
Shortly after passing the above warehouses, we picked up a small grp (plastic) boat ahead of us. This was going to slow our progress through the remaining locks. Sometimes with these small boats, two boats can descend in the lock together, but our 60′ and their 15′ meant our combined length was too long for the locks. At the final lock in the flight, the plastic boat caught up with a shorter narrowboat and followed it into the lock. All was fine and once the top gate was closed, other boat crews began to open the paddles draining the lock. It was at this point the lady from the plastic boat climbed back onboard. The boat tipped and moved away from the edge of the lock, depositing said lady in the water. Fortunately the paddle operators saw what had occurred and immediately dropped them stopping anymore water leaving the lock. At the same time, three or four of us onlookers grabbed the lady before she disappeared under either of the boats. It took all four of us to haul her out, even though the water level had only dropped by about a foot. After all the excitement we pushed on, navigating a further two locks at Aston and Sandon, before arriving at our intended mooring spot just beyond the village of Salt.
Our primary reason for choosing this location, was the good reports we had received about the Holly Bush Inn. It is a 16th century thatched inn and is reported to be the oldest in Staffordshire. After securing the boat we walked to the pub and were not disappointed by the choice on the menu. The food lived upto expectations.
Totals 9 Miles 10 Locks
Running total 346 Miles 207 Locks 14 Tunnels
Yesterday we set off from our mooring at Westport Lake for our trip through the potteries, aka Stoke on Trent. We had six locks to navigate on the eight mile journey, including the three at Etruria. The trip was fairly uneventful, meeting only a few boats on route. The amount of canal traffic seems to have reduced dramatically over the last week or so.
We moored just beyond the Wedgwood factory, and after securing the boat we walked to The Plume of Feathers P.H. for lunch. Today we visited the Wedgwood factory for a tour of the site and museum. The factory had moved from its original location at Etruria, to Barlaston due to mining subsidence. Many of the original methods used by Josiah Wedgwood, remain in use today. Some of the machinery however has been updated. The modern kilns for example take just over nine hours to fire the pots, whereas the old bottle kilns used to take up to 48 hours to achieve the same result.
The tour was very informative, not least the fact that there are only two hand painters working at the site. A hand painted tea service has to be pre ordered and will set you back circa 30 K. After the tour lunch was taken in the Wedgwood dining hall, but not using Wedgwood hand painted bone china.
Totals 8 Miles 6 Locks
Running total 337 Miles 197 Locks 14 Tunnels
We set the alarm for this morning, a very early 8 am. Within 20 minutes of getting up we were underway, hoping we would not have a queue at the water point, by Hall Green stop lock. We were in luck, it was free, so we commenced filling our empty water tank and had breakfast while waiting. A number of boats passed us heading north, and approx. 40 minutes later we set off for the end of the Macclesfield Canal. At Hardings Wood Junction we turned right onto the Trent and Mersey, and headed the half mile or so to the northern portal of Harecastle Tunnel. Having travelled through here only a few weeks ago, we had cleared the roof of items that were too high, and were prepared at the back of the boat for the CRT horn and headlight check. There were two boats in the queue ahead of us, and a further two arrived shortly after. Boats were still heading north in the tunnel, so we had a short wait until they emerged. There is a bit of a turn as you exit, and a Black Prince hire boat did not make a very good job of it, striking the bank quite hard. Unfortunately for the steerer there was a large audience, which is usual when things go wrong. Once the second boat cleared the tunnel we were on our way. We had one objective in addition to the transit, and that was photograph the tunnel skeleton in his alcove.
Not the best photo in the world, but not bad in the pitch black, whilst moving, using an iPhone. For anyone reading this wanting to know where he lurks, travelling south he is 450 yards in on the port (left) side. After emerging into the daylight at the southern end, it was just a short hop to our intended spot at Westport Lake. We will only spend one night here, then tomorrow head for Barlaston.
Totals 4 Miles 1 Lock 1 Tunnel
Running total 329 Miles 191 Locks 14 Tunnels
Having spent the past few days in Congleton, today we moved on. During our stay we have enjoyed several walks around the area, including a walk along the Biddulph Valley Way. This was a former railway used to carry freight between Biddulph and Congleton. It was dismantled c 1927, and now forms a scenic walk along the side of the valley between the two towns.
We also visited Congleton town centre with its impressive range of shops, and even more imposing town hall. We had lunch at a small Italian deli, and in the warm sunshine it had a Mediterranean feel to it.
Sunday lunch had been taken at the Railway Inn close to the canal. We have eaten there a couple of times and the food was exceptional. They are also dog friendly, but this time four legs stayed on the boat.
We allowed the overnight rain to clear before setting off for Scholar Green shortly after breakfast. Just prior to our intended mooring spot we stopped at Heritage Narrowboats hirebase for services. After securing the boat and having lunch, we walked across the fields towards the hamlet of Moreton. We had several hundred cow pats to negotiate on our way, the furry crew member’s nose seemed to find most of them. The reason for our cross country trudge was to visit Little Moreton Hall. This is a 15th century half timbered house with moat, and given its top heavy construction it’s a wonder it is still standing after 500 years.
The property was unfortunately closed to the public today, but beyond the huge wooden front door, peering through the keyhole, we could see a glimpse of the courtyard within.
Looking through the keyhole.
We are now located less than two miles from the end of the Macclesfield Canal, and nicely positioned for our turn onto the Trent and Mersey canal and transit of Harecastle Tunnel tomorrow.
Totals 4 Miles
Running total 325 Miles 190 Locks 13 Tunnels
Well, yesterday evening we had the mother of all thunderstorms. The rain was coming down like rods and the forked lightning was striking something, further along the valley. It was great watching, safely tucked up inside the boat, peering out from the portholes. The centre of the storm did not pass directly overhead so we were spared the worst, and after a couple of hours it was all over as it moved northwards. It certainly cleared the air, as this morning we woke to bright sunshine and blue skies. Just as we were preparing the boat to move the Canal and River Trust boat logger, logged us at Bosley. We saw him again as we were cruising on the approach to Buglawton, and again at the water point the other side of the village. On this occasion we did ask if we only went in his book once, and not the three times he had seen us. After topping up the water tank, we cruised the final mile to the Aquaduct at Congleton. Unusually the mooring here appears to be up to 14 days, rather than the normal 48 hrs we have encountered elsewhere.
View from the sidehatch, down the valley to the viaduct.
The views from the other sidehatch.
We had planned to stay only one day here, but given the setting, and the fact that the centre of Congleton, a small market town is only one mile away, we will probably stay here till the weekend. Lunch was taken today at the Queens Head P.H. which is canal side in the town and they are dog friendly.
Totals 3 Miles
Running total 321 Miles 190 Locks 13 Tunnels