Friday, July 31, 2009

A load of old rubbish again and again!

OK, so the sun was shining as we set off from our mooring this morning and headed for the first of the 15 locks anticipated today. The scenery certainly deteriorated as we progressed! Stopping only for water and a cup of coffee at one lock we continued on while dad had the chance to start wittling his stick for the Calder and Hebble!
I had to stop to clear the weed hatch just before one lock and pulled out a large mass of plastic and a pair of boxer shorts! As I entered the lock, Hillary on NB Tree Sparrow who we have been paired up with for the past 2 days shouted at me as her engine stalled. I reversed out to help her, (our crew were the other side of the busy road preparing the locks!) I picked up something again and had to stop rather rapidly - it was the tracksuit bottoms to go with the boxers! Finally we managed to both moor up breated on the lock waiting area to clear things out. NB Tree Sparrow had picked up a large amount of rope that had wound very tightly round the shaft and even started to pull into the stern gland tube. Much cutting and sawing from us all and we managed to shift it one hour later.
We navigated the rest of the flight on tickover whilst dodging the amazing collection of bikes, trollies, pushchairs, wheelbarrows, road signs, pallets and other assorted unmentionable or unidentifiable objects!
The first glimpses of what look like hills and vaguely Pennineish scenery could be glimpsed at this point.
And yep! They still have water shortages - here's one example of todays lock to prove it!
Final mooring was at 4.30pm at Littleborough. One obvious liveaboard was taking up the entire, and what turned out to be the only deep, mooring with rings so we are both on the lock waiting area, NB Tree Sparrow in a tree; literally, and us moored about 3 foot from the bank listing on the mud - apparently it's quite a good lock waiting area which is well maintained and used!
Tomorrow we have 4 locks to do to meet the BW man at lock 44 who will escort us through the summit. Opinions of the Rochdale so far? Uninteresting, dull, filthy and hard work although we have had no local trouble whatsoever and everyone we've met has been extremely friendly - even the fishermen all smile, engage eye contact and say hello or start a conversation! We just hope the top part and the way down is significantly more rural, tranquil and interesting!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Every weather today!

The title speaks for itself! Torrential horrendous rain much of the morning with temperatures as low as 10 degrees with breath billowing mist from our mouths. In between this was fierce squalling winds, ear shattering claps of thunder and very scary lightening and at one point even a hailstorm that left the roof of the boat white! Towards the middle of the afternoon the sun came out in patches which resulted in steam pouring off of the boat tops and us. Now moored up and although the sun is still out between the clouds, the wind is still fierce. In fact, we've been moored for some time but the phone refused to connect again due, I guess, to the amount of water that poured out of the socket at the base of the unit! It has only just dried out in the window.

You see, we had to book into the Rochdale due to water shortages as a result of the heatwave this summer. Water shortages in locks are dreadful things and cause all sorts of problems as seen in this picture I took of the lock just ahead of us!
Now I thought you might like tosee where we moored last night.
Set off this morning at around 7.45 with the BW man un padlocking all the chains in front of us as we headed through extremely rough looking areas. Truth be told, I think we had the best weather for this part of the journey as there wasn't a soul around. We were paired up with a couple from NB Tree Sparrow who turned out to be very experienced boaters and also extremely pleasant.
The time passed quickly and much amusement was had along the way despite the dreary weather and even drearier surroundings! The only interesting points were the run down old cotton mills:
....and vertical road lift bridge:
Oh! and what we constantly had to keep pulling out the weed hatch!
Our final mooring is just above the Rose of Lancaster where we plan to have a meal this evening and just before lock 63, (Walkmill Lock, Chadderton)
Tomorrow onwards it seems as if the locks spread out a little more and the countryside becomes a little more pleasant as we climb the Pennines.
It's OK anyway - father has just checked the guides and the log book twice now. We are on schedule so long as we maintain a steady 10 hours cruising per day from lock 44 to get to Standedge Tunnel!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Manchester here we are!

A very interesting day! Set off this morning and although very cloudy it was, at least, dry. An hour into the journey and we arrived at Waters Meeting.
Fork left onto the Leeds and Liverpool or right onto the Rochdale. Past the closest point to the Manchester Ship Canal,
....and on past towerscrapers of containers awaiting trans shipment....
Old Trafford was the next point of interest in what was turning out to be a very interesting little trip.
On to the city centre of Manchester where this was the welcome!
Finally arriving at the first of the 9 wide locks on the Rochdale at Castle Quay.
These locks are certainly very eventful to navigate! They rival the Kennet and Avon quite easily. Several of them have only one top paddle working, all have anti-vandal locks and some of them are so stiff to undo that it's an impossibility. The water pouring over meant that a nudge by the bows of the boat was the only way to get out of them and the lock beams where room is restricted have a very cumbersome and awkward chain and block system which requires the windlass to open or close them. Cursed hydraulic paddles abound on all of them and the area they pass through are, to say the least, dodgy! This turned out to be our standard lock operating kit:
One lock took us 36 minutes to navigate from arriving to closing the gates as we left!
Eventually we arrived at the top and moored in Picadilly Basin amongst the sumptious surroundings of building sites and tower blocks.
It was nice to get an email as we landed from someone who worked in the offices at the top of the locks to say they saw my boat pass. Apparently they have a boat in Ventnor Farm and it turns out that one of their neighbours is now safely ensconced at Brinklow - what a small world the boating world is!
Tomorrow morning at 8.30 we need to be meeting the BW official who will lock us through lock 83 for some reason and then we head on towards the summit locks where we are to be escorted through lock 44 on Saturday morning.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Lazy dayz!

A thoroughly enjoyable day and for once the weather didn't bother us one little bit. Somehow I feel rather smug in fact at having enjoyed the day so much without the constant heavy showers causing any stress: Edwards 1, British summer 0!

A very lazy start to the day and a lovely fried breakfast to set us up. We then toddled under the bridge and up the lane to Dunham Massey Hall, an imposing National Trust stately hall, parkland and gardens.
Thanks to all the local boaters and people who emailed to say that this was worth a visit. We had a fantastic time. Walked round the deer park before it rained and then went into the house as it rained! My father had left his National Trust memebership card at home but credit to the NT, one phone call to their offices confirmed that he was amember and tickets were duely and freely issued.
A fascinating look round the house and gardens together with the water mill and a very tasty scone and tea in the restaurant, more time wasted in the shop and then a stroll back to the boat. We have noticed that boats on the Bridgewater don't seem to slow down for moored craft and our front stake was almost out. Apart from that, all was safe and sound as we left it and Simba had obviously fulfilled his duty as guard dog by barking at everyone he heard walk past! Right now, the engine is topping up the batteries for the evening whilst the rain continues to lash; my father, (who was whipping a rope!) has come scuttling back in to read Canals and Rivers while I finish the blog before embarking on the dinner process. Tomorrow - up and off through Manchester to Picadilly Basin in readiness to be locked onto the Rochdale at 8.30 on Thursday morning.

Monday, July 27, 2009


Some people go to the Bahamas for their holiday, some to Spain - I've gone to Manchester! Now there's nothing wrong with Manchester, (so far!) but it's not exactly my ideal holiday destination! Quite an enjoyable days cruising today as we started through Preston Brook Tunnel and then onto the Bridgewater - a whole day with only one little stop lock to worry about!
The Bridgewater is a very pleasant canal. Owned by the Manchester Ship Canal Company it is wide and easy to navigate with pleasant waterside frontages and interesting things to look at as one passes by.
Finally moored at the end of the day just before Dunham Town Bridge in time to sit down and relax.
...and yes - the observant people will notice that that is actually a sun umbrella with my father sitting under it however it must be noted that the minute I put my shorts on and went out to join him, the wind got up, the clouds gathered and threatened and it was time to go back in again - my father managed to sit out for approximately 10 minutes - I managed 0!!
We have a day in hand now as we have to meet the lock-keeper at lock 83 on the Rochdale to be escorted through at 8.30 on Thursday morning. This means we plan to stay here tomorrow and then cruise through the city of Manchester all day on Wednesday, (starting early to beat the hoodlums,) to arrive at Picadilly Basin to moor for the night on Wednesday night just before lock 83. There is a National Trust House nearby so we may go and visit that tomorrow but certainly tomorrow will be a non boating day, (cries of shock horror I hear from those who know me well!)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Nearer to Preston Brook

Last nights BBQ was lovely! Only a few spots of rain but it didn't stop us and the end of the BBQ saw this scene!
It was getting chilly and in true boating style, the BBQ was being raised 'Pheonix like' into a brazier! It worked and this was the end result!

Rain, rain and more rain today! What a surprise!! Set off this morning in the rain and headed slowly towards King's Lock and Middlewich. Apart from queueing behind 3 boats at every lock en route, there was very little traffic about - probably due to the weather. Through Kings Lock and on towards the Anderton Boat Lift.
From here on, it was new territory for us and it was nice to see glimpses of the Anderton and Weaver as we passed on through. A very happy summer was spent in 2007 on the Weaver and we both agreed, we could quite happily make a return visit.
Our final mooring is just before bridge 211 almost Midway between Saltersford Tunnel and Preston Brook tunnel.
18 miles and 9 locks today - all in the rain. My brother phoned to inform me that he was watching the sun setting over the beach with a cool sea breeze blowing across the pool in 35 degree+ temperatures on holiday in Cyprus. To prove it, this phone picture arrived!
The caption read, "Thought you might like this"!
I returned this picture:
My caption read, "Thought you might like this - to cool you down!"
An interesting comparison to finish with! Zooming in on the River Weaver with my camera and on maximum digital zoom I took this picture from the back deck of Khayamanzi moored on the Trent & Mersey:
I knew I remembered it so hunted back through my 2007 pictures. Here is the same wreck taken in 2007 from Khayamanzi as we pased it on the River Weaver!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Harecastle or bust!

7.30 this morning and a BW tunnel keeper knocks on the boat, "you're going through first - ready when you are!" Frantic slurping of coffee mixed with untying of ropes and calls of 'good morning' down the queue of boats ensued as we all readied ourselves to enter the tunnel.
Being the first boat through again, the mist hadn't quite cleared and yet again there was a patch where we couldn't see the front of the boat.
According to the tunnel keeper, the water level was at maximum height and this was born out by the fact that I have never seen the bottom part of the roof so close to the top part of the boat!
Clive, dads friend and the person who so kindly ferries dad to and from meeting me whenever we travel north, arrived during the first flight of locks and helped lock-wheel through all todays mammoth locks on this section of the T & M. True to the forecast, the weather was very warm and sunny all day which aided the mood of relaxation as we queued behind 2 boats at least at every lock!
It's interesting to see that whilst bollards are the big talking point of the Oxford Canal and the useless waste of money that installing them has been, around here the topic of conversation must surely turn to the condition of their bollards!
I'm not sure if the bollard was holding the boat secure or the boat rope holding the bollard secure!
26 locks and 7 miles later saw us arrive at bridge 157 just above Wheelock where a lovely little spot enticed us to moor. A quiet secluded spot with a wide tow path for the BBQ and open fields all round - perfect!
Tonight, Clive and his wife are joining us for a BBQ and then tomorrow onwards towards Middlewich and beyond.... in the rain!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Relaxed? Today was horizontal!

Today I did nothing! Well that's not strictly true; I did wake up, cook a fried breakfast and then took my father on board to help me crew the next 2 weeks but that was about it! I didn't leave the lake until the afternoon and then motored the significant distance of about half a mile to the tunnel portal at Harecastle. Here we are sitting at the very back as directed by the tunnel keeper because we don't want to go through until tomorrow morning. ....and a close up of the action at the entrance!
Shortly after this boat appeared a hire boat came out and pulled up. The tunnel keeper went on board with a first aid kit and promptly came back out again to phone for an ambulance. It turned out that one of the kids was getting a little over excited in the tunnel, jumped up and smashed his head on a rock. Mother and small child were duly carted off to A & E in the ambulance leaving dad and the older boys to continue their journey as they had to get the boat back to Stone by 9.00 in the morning. It did leave me wondering how many of those types of accidents happen each year; and more significantly how many more it will take before we all have to wear hard hats in every tunnel we enter!?

The rest of the day was spent doing this:
(Or at least in between the thunder, lightening and rain downpours.) Tomorrow - through the tunnel at 8.30ish and on through as many of the 15+ locks as possible!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Westport Lake

A lovely site this - a welcome breath of fresh air and rural tranquility after a long haul through Stoke!
Set off this morning in glorious sunshine with blue sky and puffy white clouds. This was brilliant:
The boat was called Wombat and was 55 ft long and it's owners were defintely antipodean! Always good to start the day with a chuckle and this certainly did the trick!
It was somewhat sad to pass by the 'old' Wedgewood factory. I took another shot of it as a kind of lament to its past.
Onwards through Stoke. An uneventful passage in the midst of several boats going up and several coming down. It was good to have the company to be honest as I negotiated kids on mini motorbikes and drunks.
I entered the top lock at Etruria in blue skies and hot sunshine and by the time I closed the gates, the rain was lashing down from a dark grey sky. This continued until I had almost reached my destination but as I passed the boatyard at Longport, the sun was once again in full force. I finally moored at the very civilised time of 15.30 at Westport Lake - the only boat there and I see why. Several came, attempted to make lines fit and left again - why do the people building these lovely moorings not ever do any research about boat lengths - the rings never fit. As I type this, I'm being bumped about intot he wall at every gust of wind as my lines have to be several miles long and even then the front one doesn't reach back onto the boat for a secure 'tie-off'.
Tomorrow - on to Harecastle, pick up my father and then either through the tunnel tomorrow or Saturday morning depending on the time.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The camera can lie!

Another day of sunshine and showers; more of the latter than the former and most of them very heavy! The general mood on the cut is getting a bit more fed up now! People seem to be muttering more about 'property abroad' and 'jacking it in'! The on/off ritual of waterproofs and sunglasses is getting a tad irksome to say the least!
I often smile at the range of signs boaters post requesting, begging or demanding passing vessels to slow down. I tend to think that the more aggressive the notice, the least often the boat actually goes anywhere! This one made me laugh today.
What do they want - 2MPH or tickover: they are very different! If I passed them at 2MPH I would be a long way above tickover, especially on the shallow bit of canal that the moored boats were found. It really seems little more than a display of ignorance on the part of the continuous moorer but thanks for the chuckle anyway!
A little further along the Trent and Mersey and this was happening:
I guessed it was a new marina and the sign displayed proved I was right:
I fear for new marinas being just started now. There are so many of them popping up everywhere. The canal bubble will definately burst and only the established ones or those that have something special to offer will survive. A couple of years of recession together with several years of total lack of summer weather and the numbers of boats will start to drop again until the respectable level of the 80's - what will happen to all these 'prestigious developments of marina complexes' then I wonder? They'll all be snapped up at rock bottom prices by aspiring property developers I guess - you wait and see!
Onwards through Stone with a quick stop to pick up diesel and fill in the most complicated system of declaration I have ever seen! I declared 60/40 but was asked if I have a diesel heating system on board. When I replied in the affirmative, I was told that 60/40 was totally unrealistic and that I should declare 20/80 - who am I to argue? Apparently they had an undercover customs man in the shop a week ago and a customer wanted to declare 100% heating/generating. At this point the customs official showed his card and questioned the boater. "Absolutely no problem sir," he told the boater, "however is one side of your boat dirtier than the other?" Puzzled the boater replied, "no I clean it." "Ah then you must have turned it round using the engine to clean the offside and therefore you can't claim 100%!" He allowed 10/90 instead! How petty and rediculous this whole system is and what a total free-for-all. As one boater in the shop remarked, "they used to carry pistols and wear masks - at least that gave us a fighting clue as to what they were up to!" Yet again, good 'ol England shall bow her head in meek obedience to the bundling beurocrats of Brussels and then make a complete disaster of picking up her pieces!
Ah well, here is my mooring spot tonight:
Looks pleasant doesn't it! Everone caming up was telling me there was absolutely no room in Barlaston whatsover and that they had been searching for hours. With this in mind, I broke all my morals and moored here - don't be fooled, the camera DOES lie! I have a sewage works one side, railway line the other and the position is actually here:
I have to put up with the scowling faces of passing boats - I know it's a stupid place but I spent the last hour crawling through trees and overgrown undergrowth and dragging the back end through every bit of mud I could find with no success so when the stories of 'no moorings this side of Stoke' started propogating the towpath and lockside, I was just glad to find any little bit of space I could get into!
Tomorrow, I have 9 miles and 6 locks to get to Westport Lake for the night - should be comfortable. At least here, I have a good HSDPA signal and an excellent satellite signal for the new series of Midsomer Murders!!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Making good time.

Yestrday I completed 21 lock miles, today 17.5. I need to take it easy a bit more or I'll be at Harecastle by Thursday! The weather was absolutely foul for most of the day with the rain only stopping as I moored up and then even the sun attempted to put in a show. It ranged from steady drizzle to heavy drizzle and back again all day long and the whole days cruising was viewed from under the rim of my umbrella. A fairly uninteresting days motoring. The most exciting point was passing Ilford at Shugborough!
Very little traffic moving due to the weather. A short stop at Great Heywood to get rid of rubbish and take on water and then onwards to find a mooring place. A passing boat advised that Weston on Trent was busy so I stopped just short at bridge 78. Another passing boat told me there was plenty of space at Weston and very little traffic moored there - oh well; it just goes to show you should never rely on towpath gossip!
The plan is to motor through Stone, (with a short stop to see if they have a new brass tunnel light in stock,) and on to Barlaston. Then Thursday on through Stoke, (any offers of 'heavies' for protection?) to the lakes just this side of the tunnel. Finally, Friday morning a short hop, skip and jump to the tunnel portal where I shall pick up dad to help crew the next leg up and over.