Thursday, 21 September 2017

Thinking of Les Biggs at Consall

It is a fine thing to inspire people. Many years ago when I was toiling away and planning a future of less work and more boating one picture of the many on the bloggers blogs was by Les Biggs   who took a shot that inspired me to plan to do the same ... 'someday'.

Well that someday arrived as they all do and I managed to get my shot at the same location. I have unashamedly saved Les' picture that was taken August 25th 2006 over 11 years ago.

There was a boat in front of me so I could not get the exact same shot and we were pointing the other way but the shot pleased me greatly and I have to thank Rachel for her forbearance while I waiting outside to get the shot.

The trip then had a real connection as coming back down the T&M just past Burston  we passed a green boat and it was Jaq's boat with Jaq waving to me through the window. Some dubious boat manoeuvres saw me hop off for a 10 minute chat while John and Mick took Percy on to the next lock. It was a treat to catch up and have the briefest of chats. But I know where Jaq will be over the winter so I can hopefully get more time to talk and offer any help I can. I'd also like Rachel to meet up as well. She is a truly amazing person who is also an inspiration but for a different reason. I am not sure I know of a person with more character and determination. I was just sorry we were on a mission to get my co crew back for the weekend so I could not spend more time chatting.

As it is we are now sitting out the forecast rain at Woolsley Bridge with food being the reason for the location as we have eaten at the pub by the bridge on a few occasions. 

I have much more to blog about for this trip but wished to put my thoughts onto my blog and dedicate them to a fantastic couple of inspirational people. 

Thursday, 14 September 2017

A small fire aboard, but not in the woodburner !!

Today was always going to be the longest of the week. I think Stoke has an unfair reputation as everyone we have met  (apart from one boater) has been very friendly.

We untied at just before 8am which turned out fortuitous as by the time we had got to Trentham lock there were three boats behind us.

Another beautiful start with lots of blue sky.

I have never been to the factory tour - it is on the to do list.

No queue for us at Trentham lock 

We were soon joined by three other boats who left just after 8 

I like the run into Stoke, it gets progressively more urban then industrial, 

What is difficult to appreciate is the growing noise as you approach the A50/ A500 roundabout then it is just full on noisy. 

 I can't help but imagine the faces that have looked out onto the canal from these long last used windows 

 You just know this is someones well thought out home 

The couple of hours went very quickly and we were soon at Stoke bottom lock. This is just a massive concrete box and it echoes like no other lock on the system. We were helped initially by an Austrian crew who were off up to Chester. We then got help by a very enthusiastic lock wheeler and entrepreneur   - a young man on his cycle called Rob. He was very efficient and advised he cycles as far as Stone and will help on the Wolverhampton 21. He also said he does laundry and shopping ! I have his mobile in case you ever need it.

The top lock was staffed by volunteers, Rob said he had been a volunteer but did not like it as he had to stay on one lock.  It is an imposing lock and one I do not like being in for no reason I can put my mind to !

We are still climbing and have been ever since leaving Fradley. Tomorrow I'll tot up the feet we have risen when we hit the summit pound. This is looking back from the top of the stoke flight.

Yep you guessed it my 180 degree turn onto the Caldon was perfect and no one saw it . We watered up and emptied the bogs then off to the staircase to climb some more.

Again we met and chatted to a fella who lives close to us .... he come to the locks to operate them for boaters to pass time while he waits for his boat time. 

Then off through Stoke .... I have to say it's much improved since we last came. Lots of new property by the canal. Shame the canal is not in better condition with lots of off side growth needing cutting back. It really is a meander and slow due to the reduced width and tight turns.

We both got it wrong on a couple of turns. Bridge 18 is shocking I had to pull the boat around on the centre rope as there was no other way of avoiding trees and bushes on the off side as I came through the bridge hole. 

Good old bridge 9  - it caught us out last time on Waterlily when I creased the chimney ! This time we were ready .....

Lots of decent development and some renovation.

It does get better  - wider and more rural. Only one hand lift bridge now as the other has been converted. Still impossible / difficult for a single hander as the winding mechanism is on the off side 

We made out schedules stop at the bottom of Stockton brook. CanalPlan said 7 and a half hours we did it in 7 with half an hour to water up so very good cruising

Moored with fishing in mind. Caught well until some predatory fish were attracted then it went dead. I put a spinner on and lifted out a large Perch - proper fishing.

The fire.... we treated ourselves to a deep bath and when Rachel brought the kettle in to top up my bath she used the tea towel to lift the kettle and realised it was on fire as she came into the bathroom. She cuold have dropped a boiling kettle but instead was practical and dropped the tea towel in the sink to put out the flames - so easy to have an accident.

Tomorrow we aim to eat at our local - The Black Lion.... lets see !

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Leia goes for a swim, I lose my phone and men are behaving badly.

We survived the storm, good mooring planning helped as it blew all around us. We did meet a boat on the Meaford flight who advised he had two trees fall on his boat in the last 10 years - now that's unlucky.

There was evidence of damage so it is correct to plan to be away from trees, it's not always the tree itself but more likely a large branch.

Our mooring was beautiful as is the area. We were watched as we left ....

As we approached Aston lock we met Brian and Anne Marie not on Alton but crewing Halsall down to Great Haywood. I took (well paid for) three bags of Excel at a very good price indeed. I paid £12 from the coal boat that comes to Fradley and these were less than £9 quid each !! They were doing good trade at the lock.

The moorings at Stone were solid  - nothing at  all for our size boat, until we went up Star lock and the car park mooring was free. So we had early coffee then into Stone  - what a lot of charity shops ! Sad as they seemed the busiest.

The long line of Stone boats 

Looking back to Star lock  - a good pub where I recall the plans for the Trent and Mersey canal were drawn up 

The Stone locks are deep and wet, good job Percy has a lot to wet before the main cabin.

After shopping we were off up the remaining locks  meeting boaters coming down in most cases.

We ate lunch on the go  - we were hailed as we passed Roger Fullers Yard, someone asking about Tony's boat. A the bottom Meaford lock the sky grew quite dark so we waited on the lock landing while the rain and hail storm passed

I do like the Meaford locks but they are not in great repair with one ground sluice blocked linked to a leaky bottom gate resulted in a very slow filling lock. Plus the top one there was no rubbing plate and an option to snag a front fender if not watching.

We thought we were on the last leg coming through the few bridges leading to Barleston when there was a splash and we both looked back to see Leia swimming to the bank. She has only fell in once before near Tixall. Some how she scrambled to the side and got out. As it always the case there was a boat coming so we stopped and reversed back while she followed our command to sit....

I took the above photo then put my phone in my jeans back pocket that has a rip in it.... we got back going and as we were arriving at Barleston I realised my phone was missing. Fearing the worst Rachel moored up outside the pub and I ran back and found it just by the waters edge - lucky or what!

So we are treating ourselves again tonight  - The Plume of Feathers. I have had good and bad food in here as we frequented it a lot when our share boat was at Etruia. It is now owned by Neil Morrissey  - he has his name on the sign!

So food and an early night as we have a long day tomorrow 

PS the dog stinks !!