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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 – Day 34

Posted by indigodream on 30 October, 2014

Rewind to Saturday 7th September

Congleton to Gurnett

The Macclesfield Canal is high and beautiful - and this is before we climb the Bosley flight :-)

The Macclesfield Canal is high and beautiful – and this is before we climb the Bosley flight :-)

We made a big decision today – after looking at the logistics every which way, we decided to stop the daily car shuffles and leave the car in Congleton until we came back round to Middlewich. Although it’s always reassuring to have the car as a backup, it was a daily chore for Richard and we never did fulfil our plan of using it to explore sights away from the canal.

I started the day with a dog walk back towards Lamberts Lane Bridge, a fine turnover bridge which, back in the day, allowed for easy passage of barge horses when the towpath changed side. It was quite early by Indigo Dream standards, so I hadn’t really taken in the fact that it was a turnover bridge. Imagine my alarm then when Ollie, who was off lead, vanished! He’d gone over the bridge and right down to the towpath on the other side. He has these “plan Ollie” moments and I do sometimes worry that he is becoming a bit senile; but sometimes I think that he knows exactly what he’s about and just enjoys giving me a heart attack! Because of Ollie, we ended up walking a bit further than we intended, but it was another very fine morning so it didn’t matter…

Once we’d done the dog walking and feeding, we took advantage of the car to take a trip to Tesco and stock up our food/drink supplies. When we got back, a new boat was moored behind us. They were just tying up and the man of the boat seemed quite pleasant until we let the hounds up on deck (not on the towpath and nowhere near him!). He then went on to regale us with his opinion of dogs and their owners. Now, we sometimes meet people who are scared of dogs, we sometimes meet cat people, but it’s very rare to meet someone who just doesn’t like dogs. He really didn’t like them or their owners and he didn’t understand why anyone would want a dog, or why people talk to their dogs etc etc etc ad infinitum. Now you may have noticed that we love dogs and I often natter to my hounds – all in all, we thought it was best to just move Indigo Dream as soon as possible! Who’d have thought there would be such a disturbed individual (him not me, obviously!) on the waterways :-D

Approaching the Bosley Locks - we've been looking forward to this moment...

Approaching the Bosley Locks – we’ve been looking forward to this moment…

We had a great sense of anticipation as we cruised toward the Bosley Locks – they’re a great favourite of ours and we’ve yearned to return there. Aah, they didn’t disappoint – they were every bit as lovely as we remembered. Although we got into our usual rhythm at the lock flight, we had a rather sedate passage as we got behind a single-hander who was very slow indeed and had a tendency to leave the top gates open behind him (until Richard went up to help him and hinted that he shouldn’t!). But the Bosley is to be savoured so we benefited from the sight-seeing time!

When we set out from Congleton, we passed a family who were just getting ready for a canoe trip. We had assumed they were just having a little paddle around the town, but they caught up with us at Lock 6, having paddled, then portaged, all the way. This is a pretty serious journey for the young ones in the group, realy well done. Like us, they were no strangers to logistics – they were camping on the greensward on the offside of lock 6 and had shuffled their car to the bridge above the lock so that they could easily pick up their camping gear and other supplies.

The Bosley flight was very quiet, with very few other walkers, so Archie lock-wheeled most of the way with Richard. Henry Beanz settled into running between a lock then cadging a lift up to the next, while Ollie just got off for bimbles at each lock but did not run between them. Well, not until we got to the short stretch between locks 4 and 5, where he indulged in some joyful zooming. Ollie does love to run, but because of a chronic muscle weakness caused by being starved by his previous owners, he does pay tend to pay for zoomies with stiffness later :-(

Rummaging with a view :-)

Rummaging with a view :-)

Luckily I had the greyhounds on board as we approached the top lock, because we met some truly badly behaved terriers with their well-to-do owners (judging by the shooting set clothes they were wearing). As Richard tried to cycle up the path, the two terriers set about nipping his ankles, making it impossible for him to move on. The owners did absolutely nothing to stop this behaviour or admonish their dogs, though they did say that it would “serve them right” if Richard ran them over. Quite extraordinary!

We got to the top of the Bosley towards the late afternoon; we now had a long lock-free pound ahead until we reached the Marple flight. We knew we wouldn’t reach Marple top today, but we weren’t sure how far to go. The weather continued to be fair so it wasn’t a chore to keep cruising and with the boat full of supplies, it wasn’t essential for us to find a pub.

Our first potential stop was the Fool’s Nook, another familiar haunt from our time on nb Dragonfly – but we were surprised to find that the pub is closed and up for sale. We carried on with a vague second target of Macclesfield. However by 6.30pm, I was feeling a bit weary, so we stopped at the wonderfully picturesque Gurnett aqueduct. By 7pm we were in the nearby Old Kings Head pub, which we really enjoyed as it was dog-friendly, cosy and served good, but plain, pub grub. It was a good end to a good day  :-)

Photoblog:

Steep steps up to the Queen's Head in Congleton - bit much for Ollie but the climb was worth it!

Steep steps up to the Queen’s Head in Congleton – bit much for Ollie but the climb was worth it!

Viaduct...

Viaduct…

Where reality and reflections merge...

Where reality and reflections merge…

Was I bragging earlier that they had real cows "oop north" - ah, unless the farmers here have learnt how to breed a blue variety then I might be wrong :-D

Was I bragging earlier that they had real cows “oop north” – ah, unless the farmers here have learnt how to breed a blue variety then I might be wrong :-D

This far escarpment, romatically called the "Cloud"  loomed ever closer as we cruised along...

This far escarpment, romantically called the “Cloud” loomed ever closer as we cruised along…

The scenery on this canal is astounding - I'd forgotten just how beautiful it is...

The scenery on this canal is astounding – I’d forgotten just how beautiful it is…

Hard to believe just how this canal looms over the surrounding river valleys given that the Bosley Locks will take us up another 100'! I'm not sure which river is spanned by this fine aqueduct though...

Hard to believe just how this canal looms over the surrounding river valleys given that the Bosley Locks will take us up another 100’! I’m not sure which river is spanned by this fine aqueduct just at the bottom of the Bosley flight. Shame there was no obvious path down.

Smiley boys :-)

Smiley boys :-)

Ooh, this just has to be fighting for the title of "my favourite lock flight" but we haven't revisited Marple yet! :-o

Ooh, this just has to be fighting for the title of “my favourite lock flight” but we haven’t revisited Marple yet! :-o

Endless views...

Endless views…

Top of the world, well, of the Bosley! :-)

Top of the world, well, of the Bosley! :-)

 

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 – Day 33

Posted by indigodream on 29 October, 2014

Rewind to Friday 5th September

Westport Lake to Congleton

Lovely morning at Longport Lake..

Lovely morning at Longport Lake..

We had a tentative plan to get in the car first thing and visit the Westport pottery museum/gallery that we passed yesterday. But instead we decided to start the day with a car shuffle and get on up to the Harecastle Tunnel, which can sometimes be a boating bottleneck.

It was a lovely morning, so while Richard did the car shuffle I took the hounds for a walk round the lake. They were still weary after yesterday’s adventures, so yappy dogs, vexatious bottom-sniffers and assorted wildfowl were left in peace. We walked right the way round the lake – I was afraid it might be a bit too far for Ollie, but he was in good form and seemed to enjoy it tremendously.

We got to the far end of our walk just as Richard appeared on his bike – good timing – and set off from our mooring just after 11am.

We were pleased there were no boats at the Harecastle Tunnel portal – Richard likes being first in the queue to get through! I was surprised that the water wasn’t its trademark orange (the result of iron sediments from years of mining) The tunnel-keeper confirmed what I suspected – the orange sediment settles overnight and is gradually stirred up by passing boats during the day.

We're now on the Macclesfield Canal, crossing over the Trent and Mersey - bye for now :-)

We’re now on the Macclesfield Canal, crossing over the Trent and Mersey – bye for now :-)

A convoy had just started through at the far end, so we had a bit of a wait, enough time for the hounds to have a bimble and for us to have a chat with the tunnel keeper. As well as a general gossip, the keeper gave us a safety briefing and safety leaflet – all new since the terrible accident that killed a boater in May. He also gave Richard a very handy map showing the route over the top of Harecastle Tunnel, made the cycling much easier!

We observed a stream of boats coming out from the tunnel, accompanied by a cloud of diesel fumes – this is one reason why it’s so much nicer to be at the head of the convoy! The tunnel keeper ran the fans for a brief while, then he let us through. We were followed in by just one other boat, though when we got to the far end (which didn’t take very long with Richard at the helm), there were a lot of boats queuing to come through.

Now we were back on some very familiar territory – our old share boat, nb Dragonfly was moored at Heritage Wharf on the Macclesfield Canal and she spent a LOT of time on this stretch, especially as most of our co-owners just cruised the Caldon Canal (we were a bit more adventurous and still remember the fuss that our passage of the Standedge Tunnel caused, even though Dragonfly was totally unhurt!).

We turned left at the top of Heartbreak Hill (the Cheshire Locks) onto the Macclesfield Canal and then took the sharp right turn over the aqueduct and said “au revoir” to the  Trent and Mersey Canal. We were soon at Hall Green, a 1′ stop lock and the last lock that we’d see for a long while. We stopped for water here and mused on what to do next. Richard had left the car at Harecastle but we decided to do the shuffle a bit later so that he could enjoy another cruise on what used to be our home ground.

The first of many fine stone bridges on the Maddlesfield canal..

The first of many fine stone bridges on the Macclesfield canal..

We enjoyed a tranquil cruise to just outside Congleton, where Richard cycled back to the car and I moved on in search of a mooring. It’s always tricky in these circumstances – I wasn’t sure how far I could move in towards town and still find a mooring place. I think I bottled out a little too soon when I snaffled the last mooring rings right by Dog Lane Aqueduct. It was a good enough spot, though I found out later that there was plenty of space further along (and nearer to a decent pub). Never mind, I moored up and took the hounds for a stroll – our job was to find a suitable parking space for Richard. We found a spot on a nearby road just as he drove past – more good timing.

We seem to have lost some photos here which is a shame as the route back to Stoke across the top of the Harecastle Tunnel goes through a nice park.

The boaters on the moorings were a chatty bunch, apart from one chap, who kept walking past Indigo Dream and scowling at my back ropes. I checked and re-checked them but couldn’t see any reason for his disapproval – it was quite disconcerting! We also met a chatty group of lads walking a few lurchers – they obviously used them for hunting and their dogs probably don’t get the standard of care that I’d offer. They were very interested in the greyhounds – we were quick to tell them that they were old and slow (sorry Archie!) and neutered – can’t be too careful with dog thefts on the rise at the moment!

In due time, we wandered off to find a pub – the Queen’s Head, recommended by a local boater, was quite a walk from the mooring. What surprise us was that we were moored high above the road, but the time we got a little way along, the canal was in a deep cutting and we had quite a climb up some steep steps to get to the pub. This was very hard on Ollie and I hoped that the pub would be halfway decent. The pub is dog-friendly but it was very full inside, so we found a spot on their quiet back terrace. The food was very good here and they didn’t charge us for the hound sausages, so it got a Henry seal of approval.

We searched for an alternative route back to the boat to avoid the steep steps, but it involved some complicated navigation around the back streets of Congleton. We just had to take it slow down the steps, making sure that Ollie didn’t slip or slide. We came across a hire boat moored at the bottom – we’d met them earlier in the day with their yappy out-of-control little dogs. Henry and Archie were exemplary, despite much provocation (we don’t worry about Ollie, though he can be quite assertive in a quiet way).

It was a bit of a trek back to the boat, but it was another lovely evening. We got back just before dark and settled down for the night – I’m writing this just as the clocks changed back and light evenings are already a distant memory….

Photoblog:

Ollie enjoying a bimble around Longport Lake :-)

Ollie enjoying a bimble around Longport Lake :-)

Halfway through a busy holiday and the hounds are too tired to bother the local wildfowl...

Halfway through a busy holiday and the hounds are too tired to bother the local wildfowl…

Harecastle Tunnel Portal (South) - the Trent and Mersey is an interesting canal...

Harecastle Tunnel Portal (South) – the Trent and Mersey has some interesting features…

The convoy comes into sight - this is a very straight, very dark tunnel - although these boats look close, it took an age for them to emerge :-)

The convoy comes into sight – this is a very straight, very dark tunnel – although these boats look close, it took an age for them to emerge :-)

Archie always forgets to pace himself - he's all go at the start of the holiday but as the days weear on we got less "Olympic Looking" and more "Olympic Snoozing" :-)

Archie always forgets to pace himself – he’s all go at the start of the holiday but as the days wore  on we got less “Olympic Looking” and more “Olympic Snoozing” :-)

This is a newly restored swingbridge - judging by the multile fendser I assume that nb Rosie just beyond has been clouted a few times :-p

This is a newly restored swingbridge – judging by the multiple fenders I assume that people look at it too closely and so nb Rosie just beyond has been clouted a few times :-p

The sign for the pub, crudely daubed on every stone bridge nearby, really made me cross - it's grafffiti!

The sign for the pub, crudely daubed on every stone bridge nearby, really made me cross – it’s graffiti on a lovely bit of stonework!

Heritage Marina - our old home :-)

Heritage Marina – our old home :-)

 

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 – Day 32

Posted by indigodream on 27 October, 2014

Rewind to Thursday 4th September

Stone (Star Lock) to Westport Lake (with extra captions by Archie)

Our newest hound!

Our newest hound!

We had a good start to the day – after a quiet night on the mooring, I took the hounds off for a walk and had a lengthy (by greyhound standards!) exploration of the woods and fields beyond the leisure centre. The greyhounds are pretty relaxed when it comes to exercise, but the linear nature of the towpath does cramp their style occasionally. Today we found a bit of woodland then we hit the jackpot, an absolutely deserted meadow where they could do some zoomies. These runs only last a minute of so, but they are a joy to watch as they circle an invisible track. Of course, zoomies guarantee that they’ll spend the rest of the day, and probably the next two days, fast asleep!

While we were having an extended walk, Richard was catching up with the crew of nb Albion. Although we’re fiercely competitive on the BCN Challenge, when the marathon’s over, we can appreciate the opportunity we’ve had to get to know the BCN and our fellow boaters. It’s lovely how we could all congregate in Hawne Basin one minute then be scattered all over the system the next :-)

The hounds really did have a splendid morning – on our way back to the boat, a squirrel hopped onto the towpath and then skipped toward the hounds (who were safely on lead) – Archie and Henry were astonished – a kamikaze squirrel – top entertainment. I hissed at the squirrel and it finally got the message and went back to its tree. Then they topped it all off with breakfast – great!

With the hounds exhausted, Richard and I wandered into town for breakfast at Costa. We had a look around the shops and found one which had a few different greyhound/whippet sculptures (bit grand really as they were cheap and cheerful). We settled on a silver resin greyhound – I’m not sure what we’ll do with it but it took our fancy. Although we’re very happy with our chrome greyhound tiller pin, we’re always on the lookout for replacements if it should every come to harm (our first greyhound tiller pin is lying on the bottom of the Stort).

Just chillin' by Stone Chandlery...

Just chillin’ by Stone Chandlery…

We eventually set off at midday, again, but we didn’t get very far! We stopped at the wonderful Stone Chandlery to get a pump-out, fill with fuel and explore the chandlery for some bits and pieces. The hounds don’t enjoy being locked in, and the deck would be occupied by fuel/pump-out hoses so I took them off for another bimble. They weren’t really interested, so I sat on a convenient seat outside the chandlers and they settled onto their sheepskins and waited to be admired – they didn’t hae to wait for long! Several passers-by gave them a big fuss, but then a passing young woman, Italian by the accent, stopped and fell in love with them on the spot. Henry and Archie made the best of it and soon had the young lady feeding them bits of her freshly-bought baguette – they are shameless :-)

We then set off for a steady day’s locking, with a stream of boats coming the other way. One was nb Kingfisher, who we last shared locks with in Braunston several months ago, with the same houndie crew. His little dog is still yapping madly when her daddy’s off the boat; Henry and Archie continued to ignore her :-)

Great canal but areas alongside are run down

Great canal but areas alongside are run down

This stretch of the Trent and Mersey has some wonderful contrasts – there’s Stone itself, a town with its smiling face turned towards the canal – and that was before author Terry Darlington made it famous; then there are lovely country locks, the dishevelled Wedgwood Factory and then Stoke on Trent….

Stoke on Trent is such a dump from the canal – although the towpath is well-maintained and obviously well used by cyclists and runners, it has nothing to entice the boater, and the section through the new road culvert are particularly dispiriting. However, the deep Stoke locks carry the canal through an iconic industrial landscape which tells the tale of the once thriving potteries.

We weren’t sure whether to stop at the pub that used be the “China Gardens”, but the pub moorings were full. There were plenty of enticing mooring rings beyond, with several other boats moored there, but Stoke has a fearsome reputation and I had a fancy to go to Westport Lake (which, confusingly, is in Longport!). We had food on board so we didn’t need to find a pub – we carried on, passing yet more iconic buildings – the bottle kilns that are such a characteristic feature of the area.

An open deck door would normally be an invitation to mischief, but Henry and Archie were happy to just sit and watch the world go by - they'd had a busy day :-)

An open deck door would normally be an invitation to mischief, but Henry and Archie were happy to just sit and watch the world go by – they’d had a busy day :-)

When we first cruised this way in nb Dragonfly, there were still some derelict industrial buildings flanking the canal. These have been demolished and cleared since, though I was surprised that they hadn’t been developed yet. The clearance allowed the westering sun to light our path and it became a golden afternoon.

The moorings at Westport Lake were largely deserted – this suited us just fine! We found ourselves a spot away from the visitor centre – this was good for the hounds, especially as the towpath was slightly high so we had to leave the deck door open. Not that they were interested in escaping after their super-busy day :-)

Richard cycled back for the car – he figured he’d have just enough daylight for the job; I pottered around with the hounds. The lake is lovely and a fine walking spot, though they were far too tired to walk right round this evening.

When we came here last, the visitor centre was still being built – it now looks as if its been there forever.

It didn’t take long for Richard to come back, and we settled down for a DVD. Oh dear, BAD mistake, we watched the film “all is lost” with Robert Redford (ok, ok, the clue IS in the name!), which I personally would rate as the most boring and pointless movie ever made (though I accept that there might be a lot of competition for that title…).

Photoblog:

First lock of the day

First lock of the day

Fantastic pump out machine!

Fantastic pump out machine!

 

Good access to the engine, comfy seat, plenty of cooling breeze, what more could you want (other than windscreen wipers)?

Good access to the engine, comfy seat, plenty of cooling breezes, what more could you want (other than windscreen wipers)?

 

more locks . . .

more locks . . .

Trent & Mersey locks don't have fill the lock quickly.

Trent & Mersey locks don’t half fill quickly.

Love the gate

Love the gate

r_ID-0321-04Sep14

Sad looking Wedgwood sign

Slip quietly past here whilst Richard is inside . . .

Slip quietly past here while Richard is inside the boat . . .

Ah someone I can tart up to!

Ah someone for Archie to tart up to!

Strange combination of activities

Strange combination of activities

Worth coming up here just for the various Bottle kilns

You get to see loads of Bottle kilns

Look closely, there's a boat coming!

Look closely, there’s a boat coming!

I don't think I realised there was a reasonably busy road that close

I don’t think I realised there was a reasonably busy road that close…

A proper deep lock

A properly deep lock

 

Eturia, here we come!

Eturia, here we come!

*sigh* from Richard

*sigh* from Richard; “grrrr” from Sue – this is an example of “yarn bombing” – I don’t like it, looks like litter to me!

Not a place you want to stop overnight but Eturia looks so interesting

Not a place you want to stop overnight but Eturia is interesting

I smell rabbit

I smell rabbit

Oh yes, just there

Oh yes, just there

Any more?

Any more?

or are they there?

or are they there?

Did I miss one?

Did I miss one?

End of the day overlooking Longport Lake

End of the day overlooking Westport Lake

The true meaning of "footrest"...

The true meaning of “footrest”…

 

 

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014: Day 31

Posted by indigodream on 26 October, 2014

Wednesday 3rd September

Great Haywood to Stone

Looking across at the swanky new coffee shop at Great Heywood...

Looking across at the swanky new coffee shop at Great Heywood…

Richard started the day with a car shuffle – a local boater who parks his car inside the gate to the towpath (makes sense when you see it) had told us we could park there too, so we did! This was extremely useful overnight, but we weren’t sure how “official” the parking space was, so we decided not to chance leaving the car there all day. The shuffle seemed to take a long time – mainly because it was hard to find a parking space in Stone and the poor state of the towpaths meant that he had to resort to road cycling on the way back.

In the meantime, the hounds and I had wonderfully relaxed morning – we had an extended bimble to the next bridge and had a very long chat with the affable crew of nb Tiger. They were such friendly folk, and showed the appropriate reverence for the greyhounds – always a winner! It was another fair morning – I couldn’t get over our luck

When Richard came back, we decided we couldn’t leave without having a look at the rejuvenated farm shop. We were coffee’d up, so we skipped the cafe and headed for the shop – wow, it’s so posh! The staff were very friendly and the produce looked good – we indulged in some faggots (nominally for the hounds) and some nice items from the bakery.

More lovely views.

More lovely views.

We eventually set off at midday – by this time, it was a little overcast, but we still had a lovely cruise. We had lunch on the move and the poor hounds missed out as I experimented and found out that warmed up faggott slices make a surprisingly delicious sandwich filler. Don’t worry hound lovers, there was still one left for the hounds’ supper!

There is a long line of moorings below Star Lock in Stone. We’ve never moored there because we’ve always come to Stone from the North and stayed at the far end – we were always afraid to come right through the locks in case the moorings below Star Lock were full.

Today, there were spaces beyond Andre Mills Bridge but we pressed on and found a very handy mooring on the 48-hour rings just by the winding hole. This gave us the best of both worlds – far enough away from the road for hounds, but still an easy walk to the pub.

We got to Stone late afternoon and enjoyed a bimble around town with the hounds. This took an age as we kept bumping into people who wanted to talk greyhounds. One woman had a delightful greyhound of her own (can’t believe I didn’t make a note of his name!) – it was her first greyhound and she was utterly besotted :-)

Wonderfully ornate brickwork at Salt Bridge..

Wonderfully ornate brickwork at Salt Bridge..

Most of the shops were shut by the time we actually got to the town centre! But it was nice to have a scout around anyway – we were hoping that there might be a DVD type place where we might find the next series of “Game of Thrones” – we were out of luck, mainly because it hasn’t been released yet! I was a bit weary, so I waited on a high street bench with the hounds while Richard ppped over to the supermarket. Now, when I was a very young woman, I had this strange talent for attracting weird strangers – it seems that time has not eroded this skill! A young-ish man visiting his parents was absolutely fascinated by the greyhounds and chatted for an uncomfortably long time and told me his life story. Ah well, he seemed harmless and my three hounds would surely have defended me (NOT) if he hadn’t been – nontheless, I was a bit relieved when Richard came back!

We ate at the Star Inn – this was a bit of a dream for Richard as he’s always wanted to stop there – on other occasions when we’ve passed through, the pub has always looked full of happy people having a good time. It also has a very positive review in Nicholson’s.

We took the hounds, and although we could have gone inside, we chose to sit outside because it was such a benign evening. The hounds were soon mobbed by a group of three children, who, with some guidance, gave them a nice fuss. Their mum had an interesting life story to tell so we were entertained! However, the food was real disappointment and we’ll find a better eaterie if we pass through Stone again.

On our way back, I noticed Richard inspecting the moorings and texting someone – it was nb Albion, whom we met on the BCN Challenge. Just as we’ve done in the past, Martin was wondering how close he could get to the town centre. Richard thought Albion was only 40′, there was one 40′ sized mooring otherwise all the close in moorings were full. Sadly Albion is 50′ so Martin parked a way back. We had a brief chat but then settled in for an early night…..

Photoblog:

 

Country hounds...

Country hounds…

Urban dogs...

Urban dogs…

The greyhounds look good in every environment but there's no doubt that the sofa's the best place for them

The greyhounds look good in every environment but there’s no doubt that the sofa’s the best place for them

On the Regent's cana the cows are made of plastic, in Milton Keynes they're made of concrete -  up here you get the real thing :-D

On the Regent’s canal the cows are made of plastic, in Milton Keynes they’re made of concrete – up here you get the real thing :-D

 

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 – Day 30

Posted by indigodream on 25 October, 2014

Rewind to Tuesday 2nd September

Stafford (Radford Bridge) t0 Great Haywood

The aqueduct over the River Sow - such a wonderful stopping place...

The aqueduct over the River Sow – such a wonderful stopping place…

I was really excited today as we’d be cruising through the famously beautiful Tixall Wide – we haven’t been there since we cruised this way in our share boat nb Dragonfly.

Little was I to realise that there was an even better mooring place – just beyond the aqueduct over the River Sow – tranquil and deserted – a perfect spot for lunch, houndie rummaging and DIY.

But I’m ahead of myself again – the jeweled mist of the night soon vanished as the sun rose in a clear sky. It was a beautiful day and we weren’t in a hurry so Richard spent the morning polishing the side of the boat. This is a “paint preservation” move – we’ve booked to have Indigo Dream repainted – in 2016! We want Andy Russell to do the job (he did our wonderful artwork), and he doesn’t have any slots before then, so we have to make our paint last! We will have a bit of touching up to ourselves but that’s a job for another day. We’re now using a Craftmaster polish, which is giving us a very good finish and should give our dwindling paint a bit more life – Indigo Dream certainly gleamed in the abundant sunshine.

Perfet for rummaging....

Perfect for rummaging….

The hounds enjoyed the last of the pub’s leftovers for their breakfast – they approve of carveries and seemed very disappointed when we told them we weren’t going back for more. Despite the proximity of the village, the towpath was quiet enough for us to leave the hounds sunbathing on their sheepies on the back deck, watching the world not going by.

A fair few boats passed us on the way to Penkridge and beyond – when we set off at midday we found that the previously packed moorings beyond the bridge were now deserted. The only pub for 10 miles is obviously a considerable draw :-)

This next stretch of canal up to Great Heywood must surely rank as one of the most beautiful anywhere on the network. The soft green landscape sways from green swards to shadowed woods to soaring views over gentle valleys known only to canal dwellers. We were heading for Tixall Wide, but the disadvantage of that well-known beauty spot is just that – it’s well-known and boaters flock there. Not that a flock of boaters is a bad thing, but we chose to stop in a more secluded spot – just beyond the aqueduct over the River Sow.

perfect for running...

perfect for running…

Although we could hear cars tooting their horns as they passed over a distant humpbacked canal bridge, the aqueduct seemed wonderfully isolated. I took the hounds for a rummage and some joyfully unrestrained zoomies. That quickly wore them out and they enjoyed an extended snooze on their sheepies while we made lunch and polished the other side of the boat…

We enjoyed the peace and the freedom here, so it was a huge wrench to pull the pins and actually move to Great Heywood. But we needed to be close to a road as we had very special rendezvous later on that evening….

We enjoyed Tixall Wide anew – it is a very special place, though the moorings were already well-occupied. It is famous for its kingfishers, though we have yet to see one there.

We got to Great Heywood early afternoon and stopped at the services to take off rubbish and take on water. We like to fill our drinking water bottles every day if we can, though I think we’re hardy enough to drink slightly older water, especially when it’s been through the super-heat/pressure of the coffee machine. Of course, if we’re worried we can always drink beer – this is why we always carry stocks of “emergency hydration” :-)

perfect for racing...

perfect for racing…

The services were typically busy and I was wondering whether we’d find a mooring for the night. But I was pleasantly surprised – as Richard cycled back to get the car, I moved the boat through the bridge (travelling North) and there was a fine selection of unoccupied 48-hour mooring rings. I chose the rings furthest from the road (always thinking about the hounds) and moored up neatly (as you always do when there’s not a daft ‘apeth glaring at you from his boat!). I was astonished to see that the previously good but unsophisticated farm shop had a swanky new cafe – I resolved to explore it the following day. But for now I pottered around the boat, fed the hounds and took them for a postprandial bimble along the towpath.

Richard came back around 6pm then we had to get moving because we were driving, with hounds, to meet old friends Doug and James from nb Chance. Like many boating friendships, it might be months, if not years, between meetings as our cruising takes us off in all directions, but when we do get together the intervening time just disappears :-)

and finally, perfect for relaxing :-)

and finally, perfect for relaxing :-)

We had hoped for a boaty meeting around Great Heywood, but the delay in Penkridge put us beyond all hope of catching up with nb Chance and at Great Heywood they’d be heading south and we’d be heading north. But that’s the sheer usefulness of a car – they were moored in Branston so we piled down to the Bridge Inn to meet them for supper. We have happy memories of the Bridge Inn – the canal here is where Archie took a dive off the front deck……or was he pushed??

The Bridge Inn is not a dog-friendly pub, but we reckoned it was just about warm enough to sit outside. It was certainly warm enough for the mosquitoes!

We had a wonderful evening, and, after a good supper retired to nb Chance for a nightcap. Doug and James were kindness itself as our black greyhounds sprawled over their cream carpets (we did put the sheepies down – honest!). The hounds were very tired, but Ollie did wake up for long enough to devour some biscuits (now were they digestives or custard creams??) – he’s got such a sweet tooth! We nattered forever and might be nattering still if we hadn’t had to drive back to Indigo Dream! These magical meetings with magical friends are really what makes cruising so special :-)

Photoblog:

Reflections - the boundaries between the real and surreal worlds seem pretty thin here :-)

Reflections – the boundaries between the real and surreal worlds seem pretty thin here :-)

The view from Tixall Lock...

The view from Tixall Lock…

A touch of the gothic in an otherwise rural landscape...

A touch of the gothic in an otherwise rural landscape…

Tixall Wide - deservedly famous and popular beauty spot...

Tixall Wide – deservedly famous and popular beauty spot…

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 – Day 29

Posted by indigodream on 23 October, 2014

Rewind to Monday 1st September

Penkridge to Stafford (Radford Bank Inn)

Lovely views...

Lovely views…

Usually when we plan a longer cruise, we make a “long list” of canals, find it would take 5 days more than we have, then do it anyway. This has resulted in satisfyingly long days, which we do enjoy, but doesn’t allow time to explore our surroundings much beyond the towpath. Unusually for us, on this trip we scheduled 7 days’ of cruising into 12 days.

Our intention had been to shuffle the car along with us, giving us some flexibility to visit local museums and other landmarks. The car shuffles went smoothly enough, but our plan of visiting places didn’t materialise – we were just enjoying the boat too much :-)

I had packed clothes based on the weather we’d had over the August Bank Holiday, when the overnight temperature fell to 3 degrees and we unpacked the winter duvet and hot water bottle (and dog blankets, of course!). This was big mistake! As soon as I’d filled the wardrobe with jumpers, the sun came out, the temperature rose and summer returned. I was soon rummaging for my emergency t-shirts, the ones I’d packed to be an under-layer if the weather were that cold. The benign weather meant that Richard could cycle back to car every day – after all, we weren’t moving the boat huge distances :-)

More loveliness...

More loveliness…

In fact, today we moved just 10 lock miles, or just under 6 linear miles – it was a very relaxed day!

Our short day was the result of our “navigation by pub” approach. There is a pub by Radford Bridge; the next, according to Nicholson’s, was in Great Heywood. But that was a little too far –  and we were concerned we might be pushed to find a decent mooring if we arrived late in the day.

By the time we got going, the queues caused by yesterday’s lock closure had vanished.  Past Penkridge, the canal is delightfully remote, so the hounds could enjoy  a rummage, when they could be bothered! One day I will try to quantify the hounds’ energy levels and graph how they fall from day to day during a long cruise. I think it’s fair to say that on the first day, the sight of a falling leaf  gives them a thrill; by the last day, a conga line of cats and squirrels wouldn’t earn an ear twitch :-D

Longford Lock was the last to “kiss” the M6 – past this point the canal improved as it peeled away from the M6 and became as pretty and peaceful a stretch of water as you could hope for. As the canal improved, so did the weather, the sullen overcast of the morning being replaced by a sunny afternoon. There were no boats ahead of us, but there was a steady stream of boats coming the other way, just enough to ensure that most of the locks were set for us – sweet!

When we got through Deptmore Lock, where Richard cycled back for the car while I took the boat on to find a mooring by Radford Bridge.

Our new gadget....

Our new gadget….

Although there were mooring rings by the bridge, I moored a way back so that we didn’t have to be quite as vigilant with the hounds near the busy road. This meant I had to reverse back a bit and got myself out of position – sigh! Several failed mooring attempts later, some kind passersby took my centre rope and held her while I got the back in. They were fellow boaters, and considerably more helpful that the man on the boat moored just up the towpath, who seemed happy to stare intently without moving a muscle to assist as I struggled to moor ! The boaters who helped me out were especially kind – Archie Beanz had barked ferociously at their bassett hounds from the back deck as we passed them earlier – luckily they didn’t hold it against him, and he wasn’t bothered when he actually met them!

I was still chatting and holding the boat on her centre rope when Richard caught up with me. We got the boat moored up and had the first chance to play with our new gadget – a hand-sized hedge-cutter which we’d bought for trimming the vegetation from the wilder mooring spots. The cutters worked very well indeed and were much more efficient than our hand shears.

We pottered around for a bit and took the hounds for a wander, then we strolled down to the pub. I was so pleased that I’d moored further back as  there were a few colourful characters and a few less than controlled dogs in the boats moored near the bridge.

I’ll let Henry Beanz review the pub – it was not dog friendly inside, but it was just about warm enough to sit with them in the garden. It had a good carvery and a very generous chef who gave us a box loaded with the scraps and trimmings from the hotplate.

Despite there being some traffic noise from the road opposite, by bedtime it was quiet. By 3am it was totally silent and, thanks to Archie’s bottom (and yet another pyjama walk), I was privileged to witness the silver mist on the water surmounted by a velvet sky and diamond stars – heavenly :-)

Photoblog:

...and the reason we need a cutting tool :-)

…and the reason we need a cutting tool :-)

Archie needs a head rest - so that's why we brought Henry :-)

Archie needs a head rest – so that’s why we brought Henry :-)

Archie can barely keep his eye open now that he's lost his headrest...

Archie can barely keep his eyes open now that he’s lost his headrest…

Henry Beanz - testing the sofa is a vital element of boat safety

Henry Beanz – testing the sofa is a vital element of boat safety

Feast! Henry Beanz doesn't know where to start!

Feast! Henry Beanz doesn’t know where to start!

Happy hounds! Full of dinner and toasty under the garden heaters :-)

Happy hounds! Full of dinner and toasty under the garden heaters :-)

 

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 – Day 28

Posted by indigodream on 22 October, 2014

Rewind to Saturday 30th August & Sunday 31st August

Penkridge (Cross Keys pub to The Boat)

Hurrah – I have notes! Why? Because ths was the first day of a 2 week cruise on the boat and I was more organised!

Henry and Archie waiting on their travelling duvet (which never did turn into a magic carpet) - they were eager to get up to the boat :-)

Henry and Archie waiting on their travelling duvet (which never did turn into a magic carpet) – they were eager to get up to the boat :-)

However, I’m fitting two days into one post because we didn’t do any cruising on the Saturday. We just had a relaxing morning at home and delivered a load of jam to Greyhoundhomer in Essex – they are very appreciative and have regular customers for my preserves – makes it all worthwhile :-)

I’ve got a special pub post to come because Henry has been writing reviews, so I’ll focus on the boating (or lack of it) rather than the food.

We had a slow start to the day on Sunday, even though Ollie decided that he needed a walk at 7am! If Ollie was an old man (he is 80 in human years) then he’d be your grandad, shopping in Dorking High Street (which is full of quirky antique shops), when you were only popping in for a paper and have only paid for an hour’s parking – he absolutely won’t be rushed and insists looking at every thing on the towpath. However, pyjama walks are so commonplace on Indigo Dream that I think it’s become the new norm :-)

r_ID-0173-30Aug14Archie and Henry are experienced Indigo Dreamers and are exceptionally good company. Henry Beanz has a very phlegmatic nature and is no bother at all; Archie, on the other hand, is a more complex character, confident yet needy! We’ve had to work on his sleeping arrangements – he has to be close to us, but isn’t allowed on our bed (there’s not enough room). He could have the dog bed on the floor at the foot of the bed, but that’s Ollie’s place and the old boy takes precedence. So now we have to set up a decent bed in the narrow corridor at the head of our bed for Archie. Sadly, this is also where Henry Beanz likes to sleep. Oh dear, if you think our regular car shuffles are a logistical nightmare, it’s got nothing on sorting out the hounds’ sleeping arrangements :-D

We hadn’t planned a particularly busy day’s cruising on Sunday because we wanted to visit a supermarket to stock the boat up for our fortnight on board. We drove into Stafford to find a Tesco, noting in passing that Penkridge has some interesting buildings, while Stafford seemed a little run down.

At last, their car nest is ready and we're off!

At last, their car nest is ready and we’re off!

We didn’t set out until late morning, and as we moved from Filance Bridge, passing boats started the whisper that the canal was closed because of a boat stuck in a lock at Penkridge. We carried on down and the whispers started to get louder. We stopped at the services above Penkridge Lock and while I filled with water and got rid of the rubbish, Richard cycled to Longford Lock to find out what was going on.

He came back with the bad news that Longford Lock was blocked, nb Tilly was jammed and had been there for some hours. It seems that she’s suffering from a bit of middle-aged spread and was a few inches wider than the lock (which may also have narrowed a little in places). Of course, with narrow locks, there’s very little width to spare :-(

The singer at the Cross Keys failed to impress the houndie "Penkridge has talent" judges but she was up against three fine sausages!

The singer at the Cross Keys failed to impress the houndie “Penkridge has talent” judges but she was up against three large and very fine sausages!

We moored up below Penkridge Lock to await developments. We weren’t worried by the closure/delay – we were moored next to a pub, the boat was well-supplied after a trip to Tesco yesterday and the tank was full of water – can’t ask for more really! We settled down for a relaxing afternoon. I had a snooze with the hounds and Richard went down to see if a bit of muscle might help the situation in the lock below.

They managed to pull nb Tilly out of the lock late afternoon (a bit of common sense plus a new tirfor did the trick) and the resulting boat queues started to move. We thought about moving on but we couldn’t be bothered! We did move to a different mooring spot – although we were on mooring rings, well clear of the lock and the bend, we got clouted a few times by hire boats who just, oh I don’t know what they were doing….

We have had a few tart remarks about how this is the slowest Odyssey ever! Hmm, I can’t deny it, but it’s been quite nice :-)

Poor old nb Tilly was stuck for most of the day and had gathered quite a crowd of helpers...

Poor old nb Tilly was stuck for most of the day and had gathered quite a crowd of helpers…

 

 

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 – Day 27

Posted by indigodream on 21 October, 2014

Sunday 24th August

Wightwick to Penkridge (Cross Keys Pub)

Still no notes, never mind!

Oh, apart from a mention that the moorings just beyond Filance Bridge are well populated with rats! The greyhounds found this highly entertaining :-)

Reflections...

Reflections…

Low bridge...

Low bridge…

You see all sorts on the canal - this was a photo shoot with the girl pouting in hot pants - though I was a bit shy to take an obious photo of the photographer!

You see all sorts on the canal – this was a photo shoot with the girl pouting in hot pants – I was a bit shy to take an obvious photo of the photographer hence this retospective view!

A more familiar towpath feature - a serious fishing competition :-)

A more familiar towpath feature – a serious fishing competition :-)

The siren call of Wolverhampton at Aldersley Junction

The siren call of Wolverhampton at Aldersley Junction

Bridges....

Bridges….

Spoilt for choice at Autherley Junction - aren't we lucky to have such a wonderful network of inland waterways :-)

Spoilt for choice at Autherley Junction – aren’t we lucky to have such a wonderful network of inland waterways :-)

Richard was off doing the car shuffle at the point when I had this nagging recollection that there were narrows ahead - hmm, I'd forgotten that they were THAT narrow! I passed two boats coming the other way - both at passing points - I felt so lucky I almost bought a lottery ticket :-)

Richard was off doing the car shuffle at the point when I had this nagging recollection that there were narrows ahead – hmm, I’d forgotten that they were THAT narrow! I passed two boats coming the other way – both at passing points – I felt so lucky I almost bought a lottery ticket :-)

We stopped for lunch at this every so slightly illicit offside mooring - it was too perfect a houndie rummaging spot to miss :-)

We stopped for lunch at this every so slightly illicit offside mooring – it was too perfect a houndie rummaging spot to miss :-)

Despite having lots of time to spare, the hounds only rummaged for around 10 minutes before going back to their beds. Though I was making bacon sandwiches and, as the greyhounds say, a bacon sandwich in the mouth is worth two squirrels in the bush!

Despite having lots of time to spare, the hounds only rummaged for around 10 minutes before going back to their beds. Though I was making bacon sandwiches and, as the greyhounds say, a bacon sandwich in the mouth is worth two squirrels in the bush!

Yet another junction - this time it's a canal to nowhere - the Hatherton Branch used to connect to the BCN but it's only a stub now...

Yet another junction – this time it’s a canal to nowhere – the Hatherton Branch used to connect to the BCN but it’s only a stub now…

One man and his dog - Archie is the only hound fit (daft) enough to want to run with the bike :-)

One man and his dog – Archie is the only hound fit (daft) enough to want to run with the bike :-)

The M6 is just beyond that red car - I don't think any of the drivers noticed us, though the lock is perfectly visible from the motorway :-)

The M6 is just beyond that red car – I don’t think any of the drivers noticed us, though the lock is perfectly visible from the motorway :-)

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 – day 26

Posted by indigodream on 20 October, 2014

Rewind to Saturday 23rd August

Wombourne to Wightwick

I was mega-efficient because at the end of every cruising weekend I put in a new blog post template which recorded the date and location of the day’s cruise. Just as well, otherwise I’d really be struggling now! Sadly I neglected to record anything else so here’s another photoblog.

I must mention the charming moorings by Wombourne Bridge. There’s a stretch of mooring rings (fortunately 5 day) flanked by a towpath and and a lushly planted area full of colorful garden flowers and a few vegetables. Apparently the houses that back onto the towpath have CRT’s permission to cultivate the area between their back fences and the towpath, to the benefit of all. There are paths which meander through the plantings so it feels very inclusive :-)

Despite my lack of notes for these few weekends, I will remember enough to update the “rough guide to moorings”, once I’ve found a way round the formatting, which is not behaving itself in the current version of WordPress :-(

Waiting the bottom of the Bratch - not quite a staircase! There were two boats coming down so I was there a while :-)

Waiting the bottom of the Bratch – not quite a staircase! There were two boats coming down so I was there a while :-)

Long way up....

Long way up….

The paddles have a particular sequence at the Bratch - the hounds went out to supervise - can't be too careful...:-)

The paddles have a particular sequence at the Bratch – the hounds went out to supervise – can’t be too careful…:-)

The Bratch paddles produce the most dramatic whirlpools...

The Bratch paddles produce the most dramatic whirlpools… (look we are in the northern hemisphere . . )

The oh so photogenic Archie suffering a slight ear malfunction :-)

The oh so photogenic Archie suffering a slight ear malfunction :-)

Not on our boat :-)

Not on our boat :-)

Not storm chasers but storm runners - a narrowboat is not the best vehice for outrunning a storm though :-)

Not storm chasers but storm runners – a narrowboat is not the best vehicle for outrunning a storm though :-)

Another scenic stretch of canal...

Another scenic stretch of canal…

 

 

 

 

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 – Day 25

Posted by indigodream on 17 October, 2014

Rewind to Sunday 17th August

Kinver to Wombourne

This will have to be a photoblog – I have no notes and I can’t remember the day either. I really MUST keep up with this blog – it’s my recollection of our cruising days and it’s obvious that I remember nothing without it – poo!

OK, so Richard has a better momory than me…….”Knowing how busy Kinver would be, we decided, obviously with great regret, to have a lie in. Loads of boats went past in the morning and we manfully/womanfully got going at around 10:30am. You’d think it would be quiet after the morning rush hour but there was a queue for the lock and then an even bigger queue for the waterpoint! Having said the boats in front of us all stopped at the waterpoint so up we headed for the next lock only to catch up with another boat. The first photo shows the queue behind us as the waterpointers moved up!

After that we did make steady progress, but it was amazing how many people were out, we did not manage to take on water till the third waterpoint!!!”

 

Looking back towards the moorings at Kinver. Looks as if mid-morning is THE time to arrive to get the prime spaces by the pub!

Queue – luckily behind us!

 

Love this colourful decoration at the CRT base at Stewponey

Love this colourful decoration at the CRT base at Stewponey

It was so tempting to turn back towards Birmingham at Stourton Junction - it's a ovely cruise up to the Dudley Canals...

It was so tempting to turn back towards Birmingham at Stourton Junction – it’s a lovely cruise up to the Dudley Canals…

View from the aqueduct over the River Stour - a nice reminder of our trip down the adjacent canal back in 2008..

View from the aqueduct over the River Stour – a nice reminder of our trip down the adjacent canal back in 2008..

Henry and Archie enjoying a rummage at Rocky Lock - the canal has some wonderfully remote locks where the hounds can run free :-)

Henry and Archie enjoying a rummage at Rocky Lock – the canal has some wonderfully remote locks where the hounds can run free :-)

Henry Beanz absolutely refuse to pose with Archie - he wanted to be back in his bed on board!

Henry Beanz absolutely refuse to pose with Archie – he wanted to be back in his bed on board!

There are such picturesque lock bridges along this canal - useful too :-)

There are such picturesque lock bridges along this canal – useful too :-)

I have such happy memories of cruising this way - especially of Blue and Lou rummaging in these wonderful landscapes :-)

I have such happy memories of cruising this way – especially of Blue and Lou rummaging in these wonderful landscapes :-)

Botterham Staircase locks - the "middle" gates of staircase locks always look so imposing....

Botterham Staircase locks – the “middle” gates of staircase locks always look so imposing….

Henry Beanz enjoying the sofa - cruising is soooo exhausting :-)

Henry Beanz enjoying the sofa – cruising is soooo exhausting :-)

Archie Beanz is still showing some signs of life though - it takes more than two days' cruising to wear him out :-)

Archie Beanz is still showing some signs of life though – it takes more than two days’ cruising to wear him out :-)

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