Saturday, 29 November 2008

Pheasants, Frost and Fog!

5 Locks, 10 Miles, Now moored at Great Haywood Junction.

There was a really heavy frost overnight and it took until mid-morning for the sun to break through and start thawing things out. As I had a few last minute jobs to do, like putting a bird nesting box up a tree opposite the retirement flats it was no hassle.

Our gift to the birds of Stone

When we finally got away the sun was really starting to make an impact and it looked like a good cruising day but that was to be short lived. By the time we had travelled a couple of miles the sun was becoming heavily shielded by the fog/mist and was not seen again. Visibility on the canal was also becoming a worry as the fog was getting heavier the further south we came.

One sight that amazed us was 5 cock pheasants on the towpath but as we approached they flew across the canal into a field where we spotted up to 3 dozen of them, all cocks birds. I would hazard a guess that a farmer raises young birds on his property for an annual game bird shoot but why no hen birds it seems odd.

Did the Apprentices need arch building practice? Count the arches on this bridge.

1567 locks, 3257 ½ miles, 52 Tunnels, 42 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Friday, 28 November 2008

I'd rather this

Than derelict like this seen on the Trent and Mersey Canal recently

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Continuous Cruisers! like us

Its nice to see BW have seen sense not to place a surcharge on our licence (for this year at least) The proposal regarding a roving mooring permit to me seems a much fairer solution.  We will see!


7 Locks, 4 miles. Now moored at Stone.

There was a crisp frost on the ground when we got up this morning, needless to say we didn't hurry ourselves in getting under way again. We waited until the sun was high enough to make it's presence felt, no matter that the temperature was still pretty low.

We made good time with most locks being set in our favour and only passing 2 other boats on the move. We reached Stone just after noon and found a mooring next to the resident restaurant boat which is a nice sunny location. After lunch I finished a couple of jobs on the boat and then we wandered up into town for a look around.

After a meal at the Star Inn this evening we went into town after dark to photograph the Xmas light's.

Thanks for all the birthday messages he's now gone shy and into hiding.

1562 locks, 3247 ½ miles, 52 Tunnels, 42 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Who's the Birthday Boy?

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

The Potteries

9 Locks, 11 ½ Miles, 1 Tunnel. Now moored at Wedgewood Potteries.

As we were booked for the Harecastle tunnel at 8.30 we had to be up at and on the move by and it was only just breaking daylight as we entered the first lock. We had a good run through as we were the only boat on the move and arrived at the tunnel just as the BW staff were pulling their work boat out of the tunnel where it is stored overnight. The reason behind this became obvious when we found one of their butty boats across the canal blocking our way. The local hoons had let it loose overnight. I managed to squeeze alongside and pushed it back out of the way.

We didn't have to wait long before we were given the all clear to proceed. At the south end we expected to see the doors shut with the Stop sign facing us to let us know we had reached the southern portal but the door was already open which was handy. We stopped and watered up and had a chat with the BW guy who told us that there was another 2 boats booked South bound and 1 north bound but we were the only boat to show up so far. With the tunnel now working winter hours to free up staff for other jobs it's a bit rude not to either show up on time or cancel the booking.

Pottery Kiln at Stoke-On-Trent

As the day had turned out bright and sunny we opted to keep moving as it was still quite early by the time we exited the tunnel. Of course we are now retracing our steps of our 2004 trip from Mirfield in Yorkshire to the river Wey in Surrey. There were quite a few changes including the new bridges through Stoke on Trent which were only in the early build stage in 2004 and we had to negotiate a temporary tunnel to get through. As we passed through Trentham we also recognised the spot where a tree had been blown down and blocked our way for 24 hours.

Geoff and Richard do you remember this tree?

By the time we reached the Wedgwood potteries factory it was well past lunch time and the temperature was starting to drop so we decided to call it a day. We are well ahead of schedule as we cannot get through Atherstone locks until the 5th December so depending on the weather we can pick and choose if we move or not.

Oh dear how long has this been on the bottom at Stoke-On-Trent?

1555 locks, 3243 ½ miles, 52 Tunnels, 42 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Monday, 24 November 2008

Time out in Taddington

Still moored at BW Red Bull yard.

Red Bull lock 43 taken from the Maccesfield aqueduct

On Friday morning we deserted ship and were picked up by our boat friends Iain and Myra of Nb Martlet who we first met on the River Thames last year. Thank you both for such a fantastic and enjoyable weekend. We hope to meet up again in the new year. What bliss to enjoy a bath for the first time in two years! When they are not out on the "Cut" they spend some of the time in residence in the charming little village of Taddington, Derbyshire in the Peak District. The view from their lounge and kitchen was nothing less than spectacular looking down the valley across rural land with its stone walls marking out the farmers fields.

Saturday we went out to have a look at the local scenery and what is left of the railways of the district. The local station was still standing but the tracks have all been ripped up but there is still a freight line from 3 quarries in the Buxton area where bulk hopper wagons are loaded for shipment to all parts of the country hauled by class 58 and 66 diesel's.

Sunday morning we were greeted by snow and very cold temperatures. The snow was only a light smattering but enough to give the hills a whitish tinge. Icicles hung off the shed roof and didn't disappear until early afternoon. Mid afternoon and we had to farewell this enchanting village and head back to the boat and get ourselves organised for the Harecastle tunnel tomorrow morning. The tunnel is only a mile and 3 locks away but when we booked our passage we were told to be there by 8.30 so it's an early start tomorrow.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Lost Locks.

11 Locks, 3 Miles. Now moored at Red Bull Yard, Kidsgrove.

It was a beautiful start to the day but it didn't last long. There were no surprises waiting for us today but we were amazed at the amount of locks that had been filled in or are in a dilapidated condition. All the locks along this stretch of the Trent and Mersey Canal were twinned or duplicated to speed up the movement of boats. Over the years many have fallen into disrepair due to subsidence through the salt mining in the area. Locks 47 and 48 were 2 such locks which are closed but have a public notice attached stating that they are grade 2 listed buildings and subject to restoration. So it seems that it is not only the canals that are under going restoration to re-open but existing canals like the Trent & Mersey that have some serious maintenance problems to remain open.

1546 locks, 3232 miles, 51 Tunnels, 42 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Tracey's Day Today!


With love from us to you.

Together with Granny Buttons

Ferret at Heartbreak Hill!

12 Locks, 2 ½ Miles. Now moored near bridge 144 Trent and Mersey Canal.

Yesterday afternoon we went for a walk up into the village hoping to find a very unique truck/lorry which we had seen earlier but had no camera. Our luck held out as we found this beautifully restored Foden tractor unit with no other vehicles obscuring it. I believe that it one that would have been seen around circuses or fairgrounds. After talking to a neighbour it transpires that the guy that owns it used to work for Foden who had a factory in the area. He also has another one under restoration we were told.

The weather forecast for the end of the week is not looking brilliant so this morning we set off with the intention of going as far as Hassle Green and mooring up there but the noise from the M6 motorway would drive you mad so we carried on further to our present position which is only marginally quieter.

We had quite a surprise at the fourth lock because after Dot had closed the gates behind me I was eyeball to eyeball with a ferret sitting on the ledge half way down the wall behind the gate. I knew they could swim so as the lock filled I just had to keep on eye on him to see where he went and not to squash him against the lock wall. Eventually he swam the full length of the lock and climbed in behind the steel rubbing plate on the top gate above water level.

As we had 2 boats following us this created quite a bit of interest among the crews. As he appeared determined not to come out of hiding we left the others crews to it. I suspect that they may have spent some time at this lock because it took them quite a while to pass us after we had moored up for the day.

This boat opposite us caught our eye with the name Stobbs on it as Dot's family has an association with that name.

1535 locks, 3229 miles, 51 Tunnels, 42 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Bathroom modifications.

Still moored at Wheelock

Well it's definitely quieter here than Middlewich. As we have some time to spare I have taken the opportunity to fit the new wet wall lining around the bath/shower. Having to re-varnish the walls every year is not really protecting the walls as we would have liked as water damage is still appearing in various place's. We have found this plastic sheet moulded like tiles at B&Q's which will be more serviceable.

The preparation has taken quite a while but I have now got one panel on the wall and hopefully the other will go up tomorrow. The panelling is easy to work,only requiring a sharp knife to trim it to shape. All that will be required after that is to silicone all the edges and put the shower fitting back on the wall.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Salt Country.

3 Locks, 5 ½ miles. Now moored at Wheelock

What with traffic noise and heavy overnight rain we were both feeling a bit jaded this morning. When I went down the engine hole this morning I found an unwelcome sight in the stern gland having worked loose and parted company. It was only last week that I tightened it up after repacking so I don't know what caused it to work loose. However it's just as well I keep it well greased so it didn't take long to rectify the problem.

By the time we cast off this morning the weather was improving and as the day wore on we watched the black clouds racing away to the south ahead of us leaving a clear blue sky.

After mooring up we walked into the village for a nosey around and found  an old railway that has been converted into a cycle/walkway from Malkins Bank to Ettily Heath (Sandbach). It turned out to be just a freight line that serviced the Brunner Mond works at Malkins Bank bringing in coal and taking out salt which survived until 1970 and in it's final years a passenger service was introduced. We found the old station but have been unable to find any info as no station is listed under Wheelock. The line appears to have been LMS ex North Staffordshire railways.

1523 locks, 3226 ½ miles, 51 Tunnels, 42 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Night light's.

3 Locks, 5 Miles. Now moored above King's Lock Trent & Mersey Canal.

It was a bit eerie at our moorings last night with a full moon turning the night into day. Looking around the horizon we could see the orange glow in the sky from the lights of Chester, Liverpool and Northwich on our port side and Greater Manchester on our starboard side. It was quite spectacular

With a fine, mild but overcast day we set off this morning for Middlewich. Along the way we came across Steve and Barbara on Nb Silver Knot so we hove to in the middle of the canal for a quick chat and catch up. We may see them again in the new year around the Peak Forest or Macclesfield Canal's.

After watering up and visiting Kings Lock Chandlery we moored a short distance up the canal. Unfortunately we are beside a main road which up until now has been very busy so we will have to wait and see if it quieten's down later tonight. The weather looks to be OK tomorrow so we will able move to a better location.

1520 locks, 3221 miles, 51 Tunnels, 42 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Saturday, 15 November 2008

That was a surprise!


2 locks, 10 miles. Now moored at Church Minshull, Middlewich Branch.

With all our chores in Nantwich now complete we are free to move on and start our trek to Rugby for Christmas. Due to various stoppages we are having to go via the Trent and Mersey and Coventry Canal's but that's no problem.

The first job was to head south to the winding hole before we could head back towards the Middlewich branch. Surprisingly we passed 5 other boats on the move so we haven't got the canal all to ourselves just yet. After the first lock we pulled into Venetian Marina for diesel which was hassle free I'm pleased to say. The guy who served us was in total agreement with our 10/90 split as we are an all diesel boat. Their prices are £1.12 and 69p. We spotted this notice in the window which we thought interesting. Shows even the paparazzi get things wrong.

Just a bit further along after the second lock we saw the contractors busily preparing the entrance to the new Church Minshull Aqueduct Marina. The marina is due to be filled in early January.

A short time later we spotted a kingfisher sitting on the top of the hedgerow. Normally they fly off the moment you start getting too close but this little fella just sat there and Dot managed to get some photo's off which this one is the best.

1517 locks, 3216 miles, 51 Tunnels, 42 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Friday, 14 November 2008

Goodbye Nantwich!

Tomorrow we start heading south

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

That's where the money goes!

Nantwich Embankment.

This morning we had a visit from the local mooring warden and she told us that all BW staff will be busy over the next 2 weeks scouring the towpath's for unlicensed boats. Apparently this is a regular event that takes place after the cruising season comes to an end.

In our recent mail was a survey from BW and some of the questions had me searching the log book for answers. One surprise that came out of it was that we had spent £1800 on diesel in the last 12 months. Considering our boat is all diesel with only diesel fired central heating that isn't too bad. Other expenses included maintenance £1000, propane gas £126, insurance £188 and licence £833. That's the way the money goes.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Canal's in Flood?

0 Locks 6 ½ Miles. Now moored at Nantwich.

We had quite of bit of rain and wind overnight but it wasn't until this morning we found out that there had been more than an inch of rain and rivers were again in flood, no surprise there. What did come as a surprise was that the Grand Union Canal was in flood at Cosgrove and Stoke Bruerne and the canal was closed until further notice, unbelievable.

Our trip back to Nantwich was a cold and windy trip as we were heading straight into strong winds but at least the rain held off until this evening. We have a few engagements over the next couple of days and then hopefully we will be heading for Rugby via the Trent and Mersey Canal later in the week.

1515 locks, 3206 miles, 51 Tunnels, 42 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

An Improvement after the weekend

Monday, 10 November 2008

Lest We Forget

We Shall Keep the Faith

'Oh! you who sleep in Flanders Fields,
Sleep sweet - to rise anew!
We caught the torch you threw
And holding high, we keep the Faith
With All who died.

We cherish, too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led;
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies,
But lends a lustre to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders Fields.

And now the Torch and Poppy Red
We wear in honor of our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught;
We'll teach the lesson that ye wrought
In Flanders Fields.'

Moina Michael

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Biding our time.

0 Locks 6 ½ Miles. Now moored at bridge 4  Middlewich Branch.

As we had been on our mooring at Nantwich for 48 hours it was time to move so we cruised down to the winding hole at bridge 91, winded and worked our way back to our current mooring. We try to abide by the rules but we notice plenty that don't.

After lunch I did an oil change on the engine and changed the oil filter so we are all set for winter. I also had to tweak up the stern gland as it has now bedded in after re-packing it recently.

We plan to stay here for the weekend when we will return to Nantwich so that I can attend Leighton hospital on Wednesday for further tests. Dot has an appointment for a haircut on Tuesday and then for her annual flu jab.  We were lucky the local doctors accepted us as temporary patients as our own doctor suggested that the supplies of flu vaccine may have run out by the time we get to see her in December. In the meantime I have a few small jobs on the boat that I have to attend to which will keep me occupied over the week-end.

1515 locks, 3199 ½ miles, 51 Tunnels, 42 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Red Diesel Minefield

4 Locks, 3 Miles. Now moored at Nantwich.

Today we travelled down through the Hurleston flight to leave the Llangollen Canal and return to Nantwich. There was a mist hanging around making things damp but other than that it was a good day to cruise. There are still a few hire boats on the move but most private boats are now snugly tucked up in their Marina's for the winter.

Reading the various weblogs that we follow it would appear that there is a lot of confusion around regarding the new taxation of red diesel. It would seem that some boat yards are insisting on the 60/40 split which HM Customs have only put up as a guideline NOT a hard and fast rule. The boatyards are missing the point that boaters can self declare their own percentage rates as every case is different and that the responsibility lie's with the boater, NOT the boat yard. In actual fact the boat yards are committing an offence by not allowing self declaration. We will carry a copy of the document with us when refueling as a reference. For a copy view here.

One yard has come up with a rule that they will only sell at the 60/40 rate unless you have a separate tank for heating which is a bit unreal as very few boats would actually have been built that way.

What I would suggest is that all boaters with weblogs publicise what yards they buy from and what price, problems or feedback they experience so that we can warn each other of problem yards and boycott them. Once their sales start dropping off they may change their attitudes.

1515 locks, 3193 miles, 51 Tunnels, 42 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Back in the water on the Llangollen Canal

0 Locks, 1 Mile. Now moored by bridge 4 Llangollen Canal.

Well seven days has flown by and today was the day we were going back into the water. We more or less got everything done but it would have helped if our paint had arrived on time, the main thing is that there is now 4 coats of blacking on the hull. The paint finally arrived at 11.30 this morning so at least I now have the paint to touch up with in the future.We spent the morning putting all the gear back on the boat and tidying up the shed and the trailer finally arrived just after lunch.

Once back in the water we moved across the marina for diesel, pump out, gas tank and settle the account for the shed and power. The latter worked out quite reasonable, 7 days in the shed plus lift in and out with power came to £340.

We were the first customer to buy diesel at the new taxed rates but not before we had some lengthy discussion over the percentage's. The marina had a form with the 60/40 split on it and their computer was set to charge out at this rate. We told them that as we have an all diesel boat we were claiming a 90/10 split as majority of our diesel was used for power generation and heating. Eventually they conceded to changing the form to the 90/10 and charged us accordingly.

After hosing all the dust and dirt off the boat we finally got underway and just travelled a short distance from where we are in a handy position to make a short run into Nantwich tomorrow.

1511 locks, 3190 miles, 51 Tunnels, 42 swing bridges and 39 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Today's the day!

Swanley Marina DIY shed.

Will they, won't they. who's to know. Yes it's "D" day for red diesel derogation but from what we have heard HM Customs have not been forthcoming with any paper work for the boat yards or diesel retailers to administer, control or what ever, the sale of red diesel so as far as the yards we have spoken to, it's business as usual until otherwise notified.

If we find any retailer trying to work a swifty with red diesel pricing they will be politely told thanks but no thanks and I would suggest all boaters do the same. The rip off merchants will soon get the message.

Regarding work on the boat things are progressing well but I have been let down as my paint has not yet arrived. I was told it would arrive on Thursday or Friday but as of yet there has been no sign of it. Luckily I have enough on hand to do the important bits before we return to the water on Tuesday and the rest may have to wait.

He's hard at it!

Saturday, 1 November 2008

That wasn't on this weeks agenda.

Swanley DIY Shed.

A few days ago we discovered some unwanted moisture under our bed and upon investigation found the calorifier to be leaking. We were aware that if it needed to be replaced it would cost us at least £400 including fitting. I had contemplated the job but not knowing which pipe did what and no instruction sheet to help I flagged it away and called in Fred the Plumber.

It turned out that one connection had been cross threaded and the seal was distorted and another seal had split. The biggest problem was how to drain the damn thing of approx 12 gallons as the drain cocks were under the bed, no thought went into this build design. Solution, disconnect the shower pump and run a hose from the drain cocks individually and connect the other end to the pump. Bingo, it worked a treat and not a drop was split inside the boat. I found a drum outside that had been cut in half and with a borrowed trolley we caught the water as it was pumped out and disposed of it outside the building.

Fred then went to work checking all the connections and repairing the faulty two. Once he was satisfied that all was well he left with strict instructions to ring him if the leaks persisted once we get back into the water with the engine and central heating working again. Fingers crossed. If he's got it right it will have worked out cheaper than a new calorifier.

In the meantime I have now put the second coat of blacking on and done a bit more sanding. As I have nearly 3/4 of a tin of blacking left I will put a third coat on and below the water line for added protection. I am still waiting for the weather to warm up before doing too much more painting but it doesn't look promising.