Wednesday, 30 September 2009

September Cruise - Day Twenty

A much longer day today, made slower by people who kept pulling out in front of us. We left Tixall Wide at 8.20, and it was a while before we saw another moving boat. Then they came streaming in the opposite direction, usually at bridge holes. We had boats in front of us at every lock, so everything seemed to take quite a while. At Park Gate Lock, we had a five minute shower of rain.

It was lunchtime by the time we reached Penkridge, so we filled with water and got rid of the rubbish, then moved over to the other side of the canal for lunch. Just as we were setting off again, a Countrywide Cruisers hire boat winded, so we were second in line for the lock again. It meant we had to turn every lock up to Gailey. By the time we got to Rodbaston Lock the sun had come out, the temperatures had gone up, and a couple of layers had to come off. But the colour of the sky behind suggested that not everywhere was enjoying the sunshine.

Rodbaston Lock is right next to the M6, and there's a sign saying that Stoke on Trent is 24 miles, and Manchester 64. It's taken us since Sunday to get from Stoke, and it's a week since we were in Manchester!

We had one of the latest finishes of this holiday, not stopping until gone 5.30. We're tied at Coven Heath.

17 miles, 12 locks. (245, 188)

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

September Cruise - Day Nineteen

We had a fairly relaxed start to the day as we knew we didn't have far to go. But we still found ourselves slipping away from our mooring in Stone at 8.30. There were two boats in front of us at the first lock, with nothing coming up. But in the two and a half miles to the next lock we passed ten boats going the other way. At Hoo Mill Lock, a motor and butty pair were coming up, and it was fascinating to see the butty being pulled into the lock on a very long line, slowed by opening a top paddle, and then towed away on a long line. Both the water points at Great Haywood were occupied, so we turned onto the Staffs and Worcs Canal, and moored at Tixall Wide. There were very few boats here, so we have a prime spot with a great view of the Elizabethan gatehouse on the far side of the wide.

We had lunch, then walked back to the junction and visited the farm shop and the shop in the village. Then we walked across Essex Bridge into the Shugborough Estate. At £12 each to go into the house, we decided to give it a miss; but we carried on up the footpath through the estate, which is now owned by the National Trust. It's a pleasant enough walk with some great views of the house, but the number of signs telling you not to do things is perhaps a little over the top.

10 miles, 4 locks. (228, 176)

Monday, 28 September 2009

September Cruise - Day Eighteen

Westport Lake proved to be a quiet enough mooring, in spite of the road noise which I assume comes from the M6. The first boat heading north went past at about 7.15, clearly eager to be first through the tunnel. We set off south at around 8, and were at the top of the Stoke locks an hour later. The second lock down now has a notice on it, warning of leaking walls. We already knew about this problem having been up the locks on our outward journey: a couple of boats had told us they'd had their bedrooms or bathrooms flooded. This is the view of the water gushing out of the wall, seen from above.

At the bottom of the locks we passed The Silver Kroner, and had a quick shouted conversation with the owner, Steve. It's actually not the first of my Canal Boat review boats that we've seen: we passed Fizzical Attraction moored on the Macc on Saturday.

At the Meaford Locks, the sun came out. We also met a boat at every lock, which made life easier. Contractors have started work repairing the collapsed towpath below the second lock. We stopped for lunch near Roger Fuller's yard, then it was down the Stone locks. We stopped for water below the bottom lock, then as we were moving off we heard shouting from the towpath. It was Elsie and Eric from Bendigedig returning from a shopping trip. We moored up just beyond the very full town moorings, then went back to Bendigedig where we were invited on board for a cup of tea. It was nice to hear about Elsie and Eric's travels. We then went into town for some shopping. Quite an early finish for us, but because of our change of route we have plenty of time to get back to base.

12 miles, 14 locks. (218, 172)

Sunday, 27 September 2009

September Cruise - Day Seventeen

Time for Adrian's colleague Alex to go home today. She got a taxi at 9amfrom the aqueduct in Congleton to Macclesfield station, then on to Manchester. In about the same time, we had completed the five miles to the Hall Green stop lock. This one had a drop of about a foot.

It was just after 11am when we moored up near the aqueduct at Red Bull, and walked down the steps to the Trent and Mersey to do some washing at the BW services. We used the time to do a bit of cleaning of the boat. We then had lunch and were ready to set off again at 2pm, to make the short journey to Hardings Wood Juntion. Originally, we'd planned to turn north here, to complete the northern half of the Four Counties Ring. But the closure of the Shroppie means we're having to re-trace our steps back to Norbury Junction. So it was a right turn to the northernportal of the Harecastle Tunnel.

We had to wait about forty minutes for a boat coming north, then set off as the second boat in a convoy of two. The southbound journey through the tunnel seemed very different from the northbound trip just over a week ago. I was very conscious of not being able to see the end, and was much more aware of the changes in height and width of the bore. We saw the doors open for the boat in front, then as they'd clearly been going faster than us, the doors closed again with a resounding clang. As we moved south, the noise from the fans got louder and louder. We seemed quite close to the doors when they swung open. The trip through the tunnel had taken just over 40 minutes.

We moored at around 4pm at Westport Lake, on the northern edge of Stoke. We went for a walk round the lake. There's an impressive new visitor centre which is currnetly surrounded by fencing while landscape work is completed. On returning to the boat, a man from the boat in front asked if we were leaving, as he was planning to run his engine in gear for a while to charge his batteries, and there would be quite a flow. Adrian reminded him that this is against BW byelaws (which was apparently news to him). Anyway, he hasn't turned his engine on yet, so we can only assume that he's waiting until after 8pm, which is also against the rules.

9 miles, 1 lock. (206, 158)

Saturday, 26 September 2009

September Cruise - Day Sixteen

Bollington proved to be a very quiet mooring. We left in overcast but fairly warm conditions at around 8.30. We were soon passing Hovis Mill at Macclesfield.

The scenery south of Macclesfield is fantastic, with damatic hills and deep valleys. When we got to Bosley locks, a boat was just coming out the top lock so we went down and stopped in the long pound for lunch. The locks are picturesque, very rural, and much easier than Marple. They're deep, and made of huge stone blocks. We passed a procession of OwnerShips boats coming up

We've moored at Congleton, just past the aqueduct. It's a reasonable place for Alex to get back to Manchester in the morning.

14 miles, 12 locks. (198, 157)

Friday, 25 September 2009

September Cruise - Day Fifteen

From one extreme to the other -- 43 locks over the past two days, but none today. We left Bugsworth at 9 and made the short journey to the junction where we moored for a re-stocking trip to Tesco, which is right next to the canal. We carried on to the basin at Whaley Bridge to turn. Our progress back to Marple seemed a little better than yesterday; we only ran aground a couple of times. One particularly problematic place is just south of Furness Vale marina, where a willow edging has been put in on the off side. It has burst into life, creating an unruly willow hedge.

At Marple Junction, we turned onto the Macclesfield Canal, had lunch on the visitor moorings and then moved to the other side of the canal to fill with water. Setting off again, progress down the Macc was very slow, with the bridge holes particularly shallow. We stopped for services at The Trading Post next to Braidbar boats, where we had a chat with Bruce and Sheila from Sanity.

We stopped for the night at Bollington, just past Clarence Mill.

We're moored right next to a very high aqueduct. From the canal level, the road looks a very long way down, but it's only from the road level that the real scale of the aqueduct becomes clear.

14 miles, 0 locks. (184, 145)

Thursday, 24 September 2009

September Cruise - Day Fourteen

Another day with lots of locks. We set off at 8.30, went through two tunnels, and then crossed the Marple Aqueduct, which has a railway viaduct along side.

Then it was straight into the flight of 16 locks, which raise the canal more than 200 feet. Unfortunately we had another boat right in front of us, which meant each lock had to be emptied before we could use it. The other boat was an older couple, and I ended up setting a lock ahead for them, then returning to set the lock they'd just left. Alex and Adrian worked Debdale through. About half way up the flight, we started meeting boats coming down. It's a very pretty flight, although the paddle gear is very stiff, particularly on the bottom gates. But there are unusual locks, such as the two which are right on the road, and fantastic views of the pennine hills.

At the top, we failed to find anywhere deep enough to moor, so we had lunch on the move. We aldo ran aground half a dozen times. Regular boaters in this area tell us the water level is five or six inches lower than it should be. So it was slow going to Bugsworth Basin, a restored trans-shipment area which used to be used to transport lime. It's a fascinating area, and we went for a walk around the various arms. This evening, we went for dinner at The Navigation, a pub once owned by Pat Phoenix, aka Elsie Tanner from Coronation Street.

10 miles, 16 locks. (170, 145)

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

September Cruise - Day Thirteen

A remarkable day's boating, which was very hard work. Fortunately, we have additional crew, in the form of Adrian's colleague Alex, to help. We set off at 7am, straight into the Rochdale Nine locks. These are wide locks right through the heart of Manchester. The paddles are stiff, many don't work, some balance beams are short and need a chain-pulley system to open the gates. The route goes right along Canal Street.

The eighth lock is in a fairly grim setting, underneath a building.

Once the Rochdale Nine were out of the way, in a pretty good time of two and a half hours, we turned onto the Ashton Canal, straight into 18 further locks. Fortunately, there were lots of boats coming down which made things easier. Some of the route of the canal is being gentrified, but other areas are very run down, and parts of the canal were filthy and full of rubbish, far worse than any other canal we've been on -- including parts of the BCN backwaters. At Lock 10, the water level was so low I couldn't get the boat in the lock. We had to let some water down to give us sufficient depth. At the top lock we got something round the prop. We stopped for lunch at the top (it was 1.30 by this time), and Adrian checked the weed hatch, pulling out a pair of jeans, lots of string, and dozens of plastic bags.

The afternoon's boating was much less demanding: a lock free stretch onto the Peak Forest Canal. We turned at Portland Basin, and things immediately improved.

We moored for the night just beyond Bridge 9, and a quiet spot between Hyde and Romiley.

11 miles, 27 locks. (160, 129)

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

September Cruise - Day Twelve

Today we had the first rain of our trip. It started shortly after we set off at 8am, first as drizzle, then as we got closer to Manchester it turned to proper rain. The Bridgewater Canal quickly moves into suburbia, then there are long lines of moored boats through Sale. At Waters Meeting, where the canal splits, there's a huge container terminal. Then the canal passes Old Trafford.

Soon there are views of the Manchester Ship Canal, and Pomona Lock, which is the link between the two canals. Then we were at Castlefield. We stopped at the water point to fill the tank, and the "Water Womble" arrived. This widebeam barge cruises the Bridgewater Canal picking up rubbish. We had a chat with the crew - one of them confused Adrian by saying that the weather forecast for tomorrow was that it would be splitting the flags! We headed into the canal basin, turned, and moored up. It was raining heavily, so we dried out and had a change of clothes, by which time the rain had stopped.

We walked into town via the Rochdale Canal towpath, so we could check out some of the locks we'll be doing tomorrow. One section of Canal Street has already had the new fence fitted, to try to stop drunken people falling into the canal and drowning. I have to say, it doesn't look as bad as I'd feared, and certainly isn't as high as I'd expected.

We had lunch at Mr Thomas's Chop House, a fantastic Victorian pub, and then walked miles round the city centre. The weather had cleared up, and the sun was now out. This evening, we're joined by another crew member who'll be with us for a few days.

10 miles, 0 locks. (149, 102)

Monday, 21 September 2009

September Cruise - Day Eleven

Our mooring proved to be very quiet. We were up and away by 8, and didn't seen another moving boat until shortly before Preston Brook Tunnel. By the time we had negotiated Dutton Stop Lock, with a difference in level of around two inches, we had a fifteen minute wait for the tunnel. It's only wide enough for one boat, so entry is timed: on the hour until ten past for northbound boats, and half past until twenty-to for southbound. The southbound boats which came through must have gone in late, as it was gone ten o'clock by the time they emerged.

There were four boats in our convoy north. By the time we got to the other end, we were on the Bridgewater Canal. We made a brief stop at Midland Chandlers, hoping to buy a spare handcuff key, needed to unlock the paddle gear on the locks in Manchester. They didn't have any. Our next stop was at Moore, where there's a little newsagents right next to the canal. At Higher Walton, we crept through the middle of a fishing competition, and at Stockton Heath we popped in to Thorn Marine to get the handcuff key. It'll be useful, as we're gaining an extra crew member tomorrow, ready for the hard work on Wednesday. We made a longer stop in Lymm, a nice little town with some useful shops.

The Bridgewater Canal is owned by the same people as the Manchester Ship Canal, and facilities seem to be few and far between. The only tap we've passed was at Little Bollington. It's brick housing was a pile of rubble, and there were no bollards or rings to tie to. We decided to leave it until tomorrow.

Our mooring for the night is at Dunham, a pretty estate village near the National Trust Dunham Massey Hall. We found a farm shop, and went for a drink in the fantastically named Axe and Cleaver pub. It turned out to be very smart, and much to restauranty.

18 miles, 1 lock. (139, 102)

Sunday, 20 September 2009

September Cruise - Day Ten

Today we've encountered some of the worst steering we've ever seen on the cut. But the day started very quietly. We set off at 7.45; it was cold, but with signs of a promising day. Sure enough, within a couple of hours the sun was out and it was another warm day. We didn't seen another moving boat until we got to Rumps Lock at Middlewich, at which point we started seeing lots of southbound traffic.

As we left the Middlewich Big Lock, an Alvechurch hire boat with a hen party of at least ten girls on board, pulled off the water point in front of us. What followed was an excruciating 40 minutes, during which time they (and therefor we) covered just a mile as they zigzagged from bank to bank, crashed into bridges and boats, and spent quite a lot of time in reverse. Eventually, while they were paying another visit to the trees on the offside, we asked if we could pass them. Now we could enjoy this part of the Trent and Mersey, which has lovely wooded sections and wide fashes caused by subsidence. In the fifties, BW used them to sink lots of unwanted boats; one remains as a decaying hulk.

There's a brief change in character at Wincham, when the canal goes through the middle of a chemical factory, then it's back to more rural scenery. Soon we arrived at Anderton, where we moored up for a look at the boat lift. We walked down to the level of the River Weaver to watch the lift in action; the trip boat was going up, while two narrowboats came down. It's an impressive sight, and we resolved to take Debdale down the lift on a future trip.

It was 4 o'clock by the time we left the lift, so decided not to go too much further. An activity boat with a groups of Scouts on board pulled out in front of us in the short distance to Barnton Tunnel. I hope for everyone's sake that the woman at the tiller wasn't any type of instructor: the boat was all over the place, bouncing off the walls of the Barnton and Saltersford Tunnels. We moored for the night in a very quiet spot just beyond Bridge 204. There are some rocks sticking out below the waterline, which means we make a bit of a grinding noise every now and then, but as we don't expect any more boats to come past, we shouldn't be troubled too much.

18 miles, 9 locks. (121, 101)

Saturday, 19 September 2009

September Cruise - Day Nine

Today turned out to be a very socialable day. We had a lot to do, so set off at 7.15 down the Red Bull Locks. It was chilly and overcast, but as we moved north we came to the edge of the cloud and came into sunshine. There were lots of boats going down, which wasn't a problem at the duplicated locks, but each set that's down to a single lock became a bottleneck. But everyone helped everyone else, lifting paddles or opening gates as necessary. We were surprised that roar of the M6, which crosses the canal just below Lock 58, doesn't travel very far. Mostly, it's a very rural flight.

As lunchtime approached, my sister, her husband, and my neice Rachel arrived. We went down a couple more locks, and moored in the long pound between locks 64 and 65. We had lunch, Rachel had a sleep, a feed, and a play, and several hours passed in no time.

We set off down the last couple of locks; Rachel seemed to like going along and was particularly interested in the water leaking through the top gates as we went down. There were no available moorings at the village in Wheelock, so we stopped on the water point. Rachel had another feed while we filled the tank, and our visitors then disembarked to go back to their car. In the mean time, a couple of shady characters had sneaked up to the boat threatening to untie our ropes and push us off: it was Lesley and Joe from Caxton! It was great to see them again, so we moored up just past Bridge 154, and spent the evening in the Cheshire Cheese with Lesley and Joe, and their travelling companions, Jill and Graham from Matilda Rose. And as you probably suspected, the subject of toilets was amongst those covered.

6 miles, 24 locks. (103, 92)

Friday, 18 September 2009

September Cruise - Day Eight

Quite a productive day today. We set off just after 8, and were soon back in the outskirts of Stoke. We soon passed Windsong, and said hello to Roger and Pip. We saw them a couple more times during the morning.

We raised the Ivy House Lift Bridge, went through, put it down for some pedestrians to cross, and raised it again for a single hander. We moored up on some excellent new moorings (although currently in the middle of a building site) just through the bridge, so our friends Brian and Mike could walk the couple of hundred yards to Enterprise Rent a Car, to get back to their car at Norbury Junction.

We carried on to Etruria and carried on north. We stopped for diesel and a pump out at the very convenient wharf at Festival park Marina. At the next bridge, which is blind and on a bend, we saw the bow of a boat and heard a horn. Adrian was at the tiller and put us into reverse. But the Anglo Welsh boat coming towards us failed even to slow down, and hit us pretty hard. Adrian suggested in strongish terms that slowing down might have been a good idea, to which the man on the tiller replied that he'd sounded his horn! A few further words were exchanged, to go along with the green Anglo Welsh paint the boat had donated to us.

The Trent and Mersey seemed very wide after the confines of the Caldon. The site of the Shelton steel works is pretty sad, having been cleared and left. The moorings at Westport Lake looked pleasant, and wildlife was plentiful. But we carried on to the Harecastle Tunnel. We had a wait of forty minutes or so, which gave a good opportunity to look round the site and chat to the tunnel keeper. He asked us to take a pair of garden shears to the keeper on the other side.

Realising there was a washing machine at the Red Bull services, we bought a BW card. Then it was our turn to head through the tunnel. The doors really do clang shut behind you, and there really is a haze inside. But we could see the other end virtually all the way through. The journey took just under 40 minutes. We've seen the orange coloured water in photos, but its orangeness still took us by surprise. We dropped down two lock, and moored in the Red Bull pound, about a hundred yards inside Cheshire (which I think means we're now in the north). We found the BW service block and started some washing. While waiting for it to finish, we walked up to the aqueduct, and down to the Red Bull pub for a drink.

12 miles, 6 locks. (97, 68)

Thursday, 17 September 2009

September Cruise - Day Seven

Consall Forge is a great mooring, and we had a very quiet night. We were on our way again by 8.15, heading back to Hazelhurst Juntion. At the Cheddleton Locks we met Waterway Routes again, filming this time. Apparently, we'll be on the Caldon DVD. The canal seemed much shallower than yesterday, and many of the turns were even trickier heading in the other direction. At the top of the Hazelhurst Locks, I did a spin turn onto the Leek arm. For some distance, you can seen the locks on the lower level.

The turn onto the aqueduct is a right angle, but Adrian managed it without touching anything. (We noticed on the way back that a boat moored in a rather vulnerable position has a number of dents down the side).

The Leek arm is lovely, with several wide lake-like areas, with trees down to the water. At one, we saw a woodpecker. We went through the tiny tunnel, winded at the final winding hole, and moored up. After lunch, we walked into Leek to find the supermarket, and stocked up for the next few days. We set off again, retracing our steps, at 2.30. We made a brief stop for water at Park Lane Wharf, then made our way round the obstruction in the middle of the canal near the Endon Arm. It used to carry a light railway swing bridge.

The five Stockton Brook Locks were mostly in our favour, and by working ahead we completed them in half an hour. We moored for the night at 5.30 just before Bridge 22, a mooring recommended by a boat we passed on the Stoke flight a few days ago.

14 miles, 12 locks. (85, 62)

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

September Cruise - Day Six

Very chilly when we set off at 8.15, stopping very shortly afterwards for water at Park Lane Wharf. Very good water pressure, so we weren't stopped for long. We soon arrived at Hazelhurst Junction (where Waterway Routes was moored). It's a charming place, and the sun came out when we got there.

There was plenty of water going down the by-washes, and as I filled the middle lock, huge jets of water spurted up from the air vents. Below the locks there are lots of narrow sections and tricky turns. But at the river section, below Oakmeadow Ford Lock, the atmosphere changes completely. It's much wider, and the water is deeper. There's a lush green feel. Then another tight turn leads past the Black Lion at Consall Forge, and the railway station with the platform and waiting room sticking out over the canal.

After all that excitement, Froghall itself is a bit disappointing. There's a huge derelict factory, and not many moorings. We knew we wouldn't fit through the tunnel, so turned, moored up, and had lunch, before walking round to Froghall Basin and the old wharf. There are some impressive lime kilns there, and it's a pity so few boats can get through.

We decided to return to Consall Forge, and moored up for the night by the weir. We went to look at the railway station and went to the Black Lion for a drink. We returned there later in the evening for an excellent meal. The barman was full of tales of Northern Pride -- it seems Sandra and Barry made quite an impression!

10 miles, 9 locks. (71,50)

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

September Cruise - Day Five

No photo today as the internet connection is painfully slow. We set off from Barlaston at 8am, straight into Trentham Lock. It was overcast and chilly, but we've had sunny spells on and off all day.

At Stoke Locks, we passed several boats coming down which made life easier. At the top, Adrian did a fantastic spin turn into the Caldon Canal, and we stopped for water. Just above the staircase we passed Northern Pride and were able to shout hello.

We stopped for lunch at Hanley Park. The Caldon here isn't exactly picturesque, and is narrow, shallow, and has tricky bridges to get through. We made another brief stop at Milton to go to the shops, after which the canal improves considerably. Engine Lock is very deep and in an attractive setting, and the Stockton Brook flight is very nice indeed. We stopped for the night in lovely sunshine just around the corner from the the Endon Arm.

Tomorrow, Froghall. So I'm not expecting any internet at all!

12 miles, 15 locks. (61, 41)

Monday, 14 September 2009

September Cruise - Day Four

A slightly later start today, and a bit of a change in the weather. It was cloudy and chilly first thing, and the sun didn't come out until mid-afternoon. We set off at 9, heading for Aston Lock. We passed the new Aston Marina, which doesn't look close to opening on schedule in October. We were second in the queue at Aston Lock, and three more boats arrived behind us. Some of those waiting came up for a chat, so the time plassed quickly. At Aston Lock, there's a mile post marking the mid-point of the T&M.

On reaching Stone we moored at the first available space, and walked into town to re-stock at Marrisons. There's also a great hardware shop, where they sell Blue. As we took all the shopping back to the boat, I heard my name being called from across the road: Paul Balmer was taking Waterway Routes up the lock. We went to the Star for lunch, but on the way spotted Jo and Keith from Hadar coming down. It was good to catch up with them.

After lunch we set off up the Stone Locks, stopping for water after the second one. At the Meaford flight, we were following a boat up. At the third lock, the boat in front told us there was a boat coming down the top lock. We waited, and waited, and waited. Eventually a boat came out, with a crew who seemed to have very little idea. Even entering an open lock appeared to be a challenge.

Our mooring for the night was a Barlaston. We arrived early enough to visit the shop at the Wedgewood factory, but didn't buy anything!

7 miles, 9 locks. (49, 26)

Sunday, 13 September 2009

September Cruise - Day Three

Another misty start, in fact it was really quite foggy. We set off at 8.30, with the headlight on, but the sun broke through earlier than I'd expected. We made steady progress until Tixal Lock, when we were fourth in the queue. Ahead of us were a motor and butty pair, just bought by a man who planned to do them up. He'd comandeered a crew who didn't really know what they were doing.

At Great Haywood Junction, we turned left, and filled up with water. We moored a little further on for lunch, then went for a walk down to Haywood Lock and into the village, visiting the Spar and the farm shop.

In the afternoon, we made steady progess north, with plenty of boats about in both directions. We tied up before 5pm between bridges 84 and 85, after another veey sunny day. A chiken is currently roasting in the oven.

12.5 miles, 5 locks. (42, 17)

Saturday, 12 September 2009

September Cruise - Day Two

A very misty morning, but the sun soon came out and it was quite warm. We were up early, and set off at 8am, straight into Wheaton Aston lock. Passing Stretton Wharf, we passed Warrior, but weren't sure which of the boats there was Chertsey. At Autherley Junction, a heron was sitting on the finger post, then dived into the water for a fish. We stopped for lunch just past the Fox and Anchor, and said hello to Captain Ahab on Wandrin Bark. We had penciled in Gailey as our target for the day, but we got there much too early to stop. Instead, we filled up with water and carried on, meeting boats at many of the locks.

We enventually moored up just north of Acton Trussell, in a lovely spot about half a mile short of Deptmore Lock, where the sound of the M6 isn't too intrusive.

22 miles, 12 locks (29.5, 12)

Friday, 11 September 2009

September Cruise - Day One

We had an amazingly traffic-free journey to Norbury Junction, so arrived much earlier than planned. Fortunately, the boat yard has a cafe. Our Tesco delivery arrived on time, as did our friends, and then the final piece of the jigsaw fell into place: the boat was ready. We loaded our stuff on board, and set off at around 2.30.

It was a lovely sunny day, and the canal was new territory for us, over embankments and through cuttings. We moored up for the night at Wheaton Aston, where we made use of the Spar shop for the things we'd forgotten. Dinner on board, and we were all in bed by 9.30, at the end of a long day.

7.5 miles, 0 locks

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Knowle and Hatton

To Knowle today for a boat test. It was a lovely sunny day, and I was reminded what a nice stretch of canal this is. Knowle locks are very attractive, and when we made the journey at about this time last year, we were pleasantly surprised by the whole run into Birmingham Yet most people opt to use the North Stratford instead. In the few hours we were there, only three boats went by. It's a shame the northern end of the Grand Union isn't used more. It deserves to be.

We seemed to get this test done very efficiently, so I was already heading home by lunchtime. Consequently, I couldn't help but stop at the cafe at the Hatton Locks, as it was on my route. There were plenty of people about, but surprisingly few boats: just one going down, and one moored in a lock pound while the owners had lunch at a picnic table.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Stoppage update

BW have updated the Shroppie stoppage information, and it looks certain that we won't be completing the Four Counties Ring part of our planned journey. It seems they haven't even started the repair of the leak yet -- they're still finalising the design. As a result, the canal isn't due to re-open until at least 24 October.

It means that when we come down the Macclesfield, we'll be turning south instead of north. Interestingly, Canal Plan says the southerly route back to Norbury Junction will take exactly the same amount of time as going via the Middlewich branch; it's just that going south is 60 miles and 32 locks, while north is 48 miles and 62 locks. It's a shame: I was looking forward to doing the Cheshire Locks twice!