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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 – day 38

Posted by indigodream on 27 November, 2014

Rewind to Wednesday 10th September

Sale to Stockton Heath

We decided to give the boat a good clean while we moored up in Sale - the dogs beds ended up on deck - nice :-)

We decided to give the boat a good clean while we moored up in Sale – the dogs beds ended up on deck – nice :-)

We had a quiet night on the Sale moorings and were up reasonably early. We weren’t in a hurry so we started the day with an aimless wander around Sale town centre. The town has a useful high street with all the shops you could want, including a decent butcher’s shop. It does feel a little down-at-heel, but it was a nice morning and we enjoyed our window shopping.

We took the hounds with us and the people of Sale admired them properly. A bit too much in the case of one man, who was a little detached from reality. He had a kind heart and an interesting story to tell – he had a family connection with the RSPCA and has been involved in dog rescue. He now has dogs of his own (whom he’d left at home), one of whom he’d rescued from terrible abuse. He gave the greyhounds a fuss (fine), but then we had to ask him to stop – he just went too far and was trying to put his glasses on Archie’s nose and then tried to check Ollie’s teeth – too much!

Mooching around Sale...

Mooching around Sale…

I topped up on our boat supplies in the town’s Sainsbury’s, but I was spoilt for choice – there are at least three supermarkets in Sale town centre!

After our bimble, we went back to boat, had lunch and generally pottered around for a bit. We had guests joining us later and by now the boat was looking a bit lived in!

We eventually left Sale at 2pm, and enjoyed the afternoon’s cruise as the canal became increasingly rural. The stretch by the River Bollin aqueduct has lovely views over to a fine mill building and would be a perfect mooring for hounds. In fact, there were several hound-perfect moorings between Sale and Stockton Heath, with some lovely views. Of course, being such attractive moorings, it’s hardly surprising that other boaters/landowners liked them too, so we had a very slow passage past miles of online moorings around Lymm.

After last night’s chill, the afternoon was glorious – the sun was hot, but the minute we passed into shade the chill was back – I guess that’s the difference between a warm day in summer and one in autumn!

Look carefully - Archie's protecting our diesel from thieves....

Look carefully – Archie’s protecting our diesel from thieves….

Our target for the day was Stockton Heath – we were meeting up with old friends Ken and Sue, who last came boating with us when we came cruising northwards in 2009. They have since acquired a dog of their own, Poppy, a nervous little rescue collie cross and Pluto, a substantial golden retriever that belongs to Sue’s son. We moored up just short of Bridge 15, on the towpath side. We couldn’t work out whether there were moorings on the offside outside the pub. We might have been a little bolder if we’d realised that it is a bit of a faff to get up to the road and across to the pub (the London Bridge) from the towpath.

When Ken and Sue were close, we mooched over to the pub so that we could introduce the dogs on neutral territory. The introductions went well, with the two packs largely ignoring each other – this was important as they were staying the night on board!

I believe that the pub is dog-friendly inside, but we chose to sit outside as it was a lovely evening (and we’d have more room). The pub food was good, though I don’t have a note of whether there were sausages – for some reason I think there weren’t (so it won’t be featuring in Henry Beanz’ pub league). We did have some argy bargy with other hounds – just barking – some other people in the pub had let their dogs off lead and they were being annoying, especially the one trying to mount Pluto (not that Pluto was bothered or even noticed!). However Archie Beanz leapt to Pluto’s defence, not that the randy dog cared, they never do!

Historic Grade " listed Linotype Works in Altrincham...

Historic Grade ” listed Linotype Works in Altrincham…

We walked the dogs back to the boat and everyone soon settled down – we had a remarkably quiet night considering that we had four people, four big dogs and one little dog on board :-)

Today’s Trivia

When I came to look through our photos, it was a nice reminder of the imposing Linotype Works in Altrincham. This what I like about the Victorians, they weren’t shy to put names and dates on their buildings – wish they did this now!

I was interested to find that this grand facade was an office building rather than part of the main works. In its time, this was a large site, manufacturing printing machines and employing hundreds of workers. As well as a factory, the site included houses for the workers. It is a Grade 2 listed building because of its “ambitious scale and the richness of its exterior detailing distinguish from many other commercial buildings of the period it from and its clock tower ensures its continued prominence in the landscape.”

Photoblog:

Classic canalscape...

Classic canalscape…

A more modern canalscape

A more modern canalscape

Great views from the aqueduct over the River Bollin...

Great views from the aqueduct over the River Bollin…

Dog -proof decks are a great feature - we've met nb Soddum Hall before - I think teir deck doors are looking more complete now...

Dog -proof decks are a great feature – we’ve met nb Soddum Hall before – I think their deck doors are looking more complete now…

r_ID-0875-10Sep14

 

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 – Day 37

Posted by indigodream on 26 November, 2014

26th November 2011

Before we rewind the blog to a bit of boating we have some sad dog news. We heard this evening that Richard’s sister’s dog, Polo, another Indigo Dreamer, finally succumbed to a brain tumour. He had been one of the great characters of the dog world, one loved by every hound and human that he met….he will be missed. Run free Polo.

Even Lou liked Polo!

Polo with Lou and Lynx, Run free…..

 

 

Rewind to Tuesday 9th September

Manchester (Bridge 2 Ashton Canal) to Sale

The top of the Rochdale 9 - ready to descend into darkness...

The top of the Rochdale 9 – ready to descend into darkness…

Although we had the Rochdale 9 ahead of us, we weren’t in any rush, so while Richard took the Beanz out, I had a nice lie-in with Ollie. We eventually set off late-morning, just as the special brew drinkers were starting to gather at the top of the flight.

We’ve read about how Manchester has embraced its canal – it even goes under buildings, says the blurb. Yeah, that’s right, the city has buried its canal and I found it to be as dismal a stretch as I’ve ever cruised. I love an urban canal, you’d go a long way to beat Birmingham and Liverpool, but much as I tried to like it, I couldn’t wait to get out of Manchester.

But there were 9 notoriously heavy wide locks in front of us – the first two really being buried under buildings and bridges, with the pound in a shadowy culvert inhabited by wretched homeless men and by signs warning that lewd behaviour would be prosecuted – delightful! There has been some attempt to brighten the place up with a  colourful mural, well out of reach of graffiti taggers. I appreciated the sentiment, though maybe some better lighting would have been more helpful.

This is a dispiriting stretch but the mural does add a bit of welcome colour...

This is a dispiriting stretch but the mural does add a bit of welcome colour…

There followed a long pound with no towpath – now that’s a sign that a city has turned its back on a canal – Richard and the hounds were confined on board. I really disliked this bit, despite the fact that the ever-lively Gay Village was happening on the street above our heads.

We flew down the flight, and I felt a bit more charitable when we got to a stretch where the hounds could come off for a supervised bimble. But overall, the Rochdale 9 failed to charm – what a wasted opportunity for the city. Mind you, I’ve been to Mancester on business many, many times and I’ve never liked it, so maybe it just had too a big prejudice to overcome :-p

We didn’t have any difficulties with the locks, or with water levels, and had a smooth passage until we got to the last lock. We just couldn’t get the water levels equalised and, in the end, it took two of us to manhandle the gate open. It did give us the opportunity for some banter with canalside diners and for one woman, who was celebrating her birthday, to admire the hounds – greyhounds are her favourite!

The view from Pomona Lock - can't wait to cruise the Manchester Ship Canal :-)

The view from Pomona Lock – can’t wait to cruise the Manchester Ship Canal :-)

When we got to the bottom of the 9, we were gobsmacked by the sheer range of choices at the junction (Castlefield Junction?). There were no fewer than five little branches and we poked our nose into two wrong-uns before we finally worked out which one had the water point! We filled up, had a late lunch and had a discussion about what to do next. We could have moored in the vicinty of the junction and explored Manchester, but we’d had such a good run down the Rochdale 9 that there was plenty of cruising day left. In the end we decided to press on – a local boater on the waterpoint had advised us that Sale was a good place to moor so that became our new target.

The hounds were a bit disconsolate today, maybe because they were tired, or maybe because there were fewer rummaging opportunities. Nonetheless, they enjoyed a little exploration of Pomona Lock and the long fall down to the Manchester Ship Canal – it’s quite a view. They failed to be impressed by Manchester United’s Stadium :-)

We soon turned onto the Bridgewater canal – more new ground for us, though we have cruised the southern stretch up to Runcorn. It’s famously lock-free and a nice contrast to the big flights that we’ve tackled in the last few days.

All wrapped up - the Kings Retreat in Sale is a nice pub but it was chilly for al fresco dining...

All wrapped up – the Kings Retreat in Sale is a nice pub but it was chilly for al fresco dining…

When we got to Sale, there was one mooring space on the offside rings. We ummed and ahhed for a bit, but we were hailed by widebeam Pukeka, whose friendly welcome persuaded us to moor. We tied up behind them and were soon giving guided tours of each others boats – their boat was sheer luxury (the extra 3′ width makes such a difference)! They were very complimentary about Indigo Dream, which we enjoyed, and they also loved the hounds – can’t go wrong….

One advantage of this mooring is that it is right by the King’s Retreat pub. Dogs are not allowed inside but we just about managed to sit outside, though it was a bit chilly. The food was good pub grub, so that got the seal of approval. It was quiz night – we’d normally join in but it was just too cold (the hounds were curled up in their blankets). I was tempted to stay because there was a little drama being played out at the table next to us. A young man unwisely told his girlfriend that he would marry her if they won the quiz. She took his offer a LOT more seriously than he intended and was checking her connection to Google when we left :-)

Today’s Trivia

The Beetham Hilton Tower is to the left of this photo....

” The Beetham Hilton Tower is to the left of this photo….

There is a very tall tower that soars above Manchester’s skyline. This prompted me to investigate,, and I found out that is it the Beetham Hilton Tower completed in 2006. At 170-ish metres (one report said 169m and the other 171m), it seems to be Manchester’s tallest building. But according to Wikipedia, plans are afoot (but currently on hold) to build a taller tower, though the profile of the planned Piccadilly Tower looks a bit more sturdy.

From what I can gather, construction started in 2004 and was hailed as a wonderful new place to live, with a BBC article quoting a psychologist who believes that ” ….high-rise homes could offer a sense of calm. If you look out your window don’t see anything above you or nearby, that gives you a sense of privacy and security which you don’t have in a conventional flat surrounded by your neighbours.”

 

Photoblog:

The Picadilly culvert is quite errie, but I had my bodygards on deck :-D

The Picadilly culvert is quite eerie, but I had my bodyguards on deck :-D

Unusual paddle gear...

Unusual paddle gear…

The light at the end of the tunnel :-)

The light at the end of the tunnel :-)

Apparently these crude step were fo rhte use of lock crew to bet to/from the street. The new perspect screens now thoroughly separate the cana from the road...

Apparently these crude steps were for the use of lock crew to get to/from the street. The new perspex screens now thoroughly separate the canal from the road…

Bridges...

Bridges…

You can add this to the list of jobs I never want to do!

You can add this to the list of jobs I never want to do!

The hounds enjoyed a bimble along this stretch, though they did startle some passersby when they raced back to the boat...

The hounds enjoyed a bimble along this stretch, though they did startle some passersby when they raced back to the boat…

City view..

City view..

These canalside bars at Deansgate must be buzzing at night..

These canalside bars at Deansgate must be buzzing at night..

There are some elaborate railway bridges in Manchester and, as in many places, the railway is set way above the canal, though I suspect for reasons of spave rather than supremacy here (though I may be wrong!)...

There are some elaborate railway bridges in Manchester and, as in many places, the railway is set way above the canal, though I suspect for reasons of space rather than supremacy here (though I may be wrong!)…

Manchester United - that close to the canal!

Manchester United – that close to the canal!

 

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 – Day 36

Posted by indigodream on 10 November, 2014

Rewind to Monday 8th September

Dunkinfield Junction to Manchester (Bridge 2 Ashton Canal)

Dunkinfield Junction - the Huddersfield Narrow called to us, but not this time, we were bound for new waters on the Ashton Canal..

Dunkinfield Junction – the Huddersfield Narrow called to us, but not this time, we were bound for new waters on the Ashton Canal..

We set off bright and early this morning – the warnings in Nicholsons about the Ashton Locks are quite pronounced “…cruise the Ashton Canal early in the morning and avoid school holidays if possible. Moor only at recognised sites in this area, and do not offer anyone you do not know a ride on your boat. Keep the front doors locked”.

The navigation notes also advise that “passage through locks 1 – 18 should be commenced before 10am”.

Hmmm, despite these direful warnings, we were light of heart as we set out – it was another lovely morning and, as we waited at the top lock, I got talking to a passing dog-walker (our hounds were on board) who was very chatty. My opinion of the area went up proportionally.

When we got to the top lock, there was a boat doing random things in front of us. It was a hire boat, and I hoped that they were winding and that we’d go down the locks first. But they were faffing around and did intend to go down the locks – small sigh! Actually we got into a good rhythm with them and things were as smooth as they could have been but it would have been nicer not to have a boat in front of us all day!

The top of the Ashton flight is surprisingly pleasant, with neat little houses and quite elaborate gardens flanking the canal on one side and high fences flanking the towpath, which was largely deserted. This meant that the hounds could come off for a bimble whenever they fancied.

Some elaborate canaside gardens on the Ashton Canal..

Some elaborate canalside gardens on the Ashton Canal..

The landscape got less attractive as we descended towards Manchester. At Lock 10, there was a penetrating smell of rotten fish – I looked in the canal for the offending corpses, but there weren’t any. As we moved on, the smell became worse and worse – then I realised it was probably coming from the chemical factory flanking the canal (see Today’s Trivia!). I got onto to my Facebook friends later – there are a few scientists among them – I had this nagging recollection that the rotten fish smell was characteristic of a particular chemical. The consensus was that it was an amine of some sort – ah well, it’s better than i-spy while you’re waiting between locks :-)

We were having a good passage down the flight until Lock 8, which marked a 3-lock fiasco involving not enough water and a log-jam of boats as the early starters coming down the flight met the early starters coming up!

There is a long-ish pound between lock 8 and 7. We saw the hire boat go down and the crew of the boat coming up which had lock wheeled up and drained the lock even before the hire boat came down. But there was no sign of the upcoming boat. Richard cycled down – the upcoming boat could barely move in the shallow water and kept running aground. We brought Indigo Dream down the lock, hoping that a lockful of water into the pound might help us and the upcoming boat. I guess it must have done, but only barely. We each managed to move out of the lock jaws and upcoming boat managed to get past, leaving me grounded with Richard on the bank!

Aground! Between locks 8 and 7 - there's no-one at the helm because Richard was on the towpath and I was busy at the boq with the pole...

Aground! Between locks 8 and 7 – there’s no-one at the helm because Richard was on the towpath and I was busy at the bow with the pole…

Luckily,Malcolm our trainer (we’ve thought a lot about him since coming Marple-way!) taught us a few tricks for getting unstuck so I did eventually manage to get her back mid-channel. We then met a hire boat coming up but fortunately they were stopping to pick up crew so I had the mid channel to myself. They told Richard that the pound below was low and that there was no one coming up behind them, ha! There followed a horrible passage down to Lock 7, where the baseplate must have been scrubbed to a shine by encounters with trolleys, nameless tat and the bottom of the canal.

If I thought that passage from lock 8 to 7 was stressful, it was nothing compared to the drama between lock 7 and 6. By contrast, this is a very short pound with barely enough room for two narrowboats. The hire boat had just gone down, the crew obliging cracked a paddle for us and as the lock filled Richard found out that there were boats coming up – except they weren’t – the short pound was nigh on down to mud and the hire boat was stuck halfway across the short pound.

I hardly know where to start the saga of the next hour – it was a bit of a black comedy and I still think that it’s a miracle that Indigo Dream came out unscathed. Richard was not worried.

Right, we (as in all the boats waiting to go down/up) needed to get water into the pound between 7 and 6. But the pound above was hardly full to brimming either, so it seemed to make sense to take Indigo Dream down with a lock-full of water rather than leave her on a drained pound above lock 7. So far so good….

Indigo Dream's rudder - this should be under water!!!!

Indigo Dream’s rudder – this should be under water!!!!

Once we were down, we opened the bottom gates and realised that the pound below was so low that one lock-full of water hardly made a difference – we’d need to run more water down. At this point Indigo Dream was in the lock with the bottom gates open, I asked Richard to shut the bottom gates before flushing water down but he thought if would be ok not to; he got that one wrong! He took the stern rope and tied it round a bollard on the lock edge. He started to flush water down, Indigo Dream shot forward, the rope snapped and I screamed at Richard to drop the paddle. He responded quickly, but it was too late, Indigo Dream was now almost halfway out of the lock. This sadly coincided with the guys on the lock below opening paddles to come up and draining the pound further leaving Indigo Dream perched on the bottom cill with her front half suspended a foot or more in the air above the mud below – not good!

At this point I had a sense of humour failure and with a bit of wriggling, I put Richard on the helm while I went to manage the paddles. By now, the man in the boat stuck in the lock below (let’s call him Mr Nuisance) had come up to see why we weren’t running water down faster. He was a pain in the proverbial, he was trying to bully me into opening the paddles fully, but I refused, and had to be quite assertive about it. Why? Because with Indigo Dream stuck in the lock jaws, there wasn’t enough room for the water to flow past, so it started to bunch up behind the stern. Mr Nuisance was obscuring my view, and by the time he got out of my way, the water had ponded over the first of our stern tunnel markings. We had to go slowly rather than risk swamping our engine bay or washing her over the cill and damaging the prop – sigh!

Water rushing past as we run water down to refloat

Water rushing past as we run water down to refloat

Eventually, we got enough water down to pound below to get Indigo Dream afloat; Richard reversed Indigo Dream back into the lock, we shut the bottom gates and opened all four paddles – with the boat secure we could run water through at top speed. It still took an age, but eventually we got enough water into the short pound to allow the upcoming boat out of lock 6, for the waiting hire boat to get in to lock 6 and for us to get out of lock 7 to wait in the pound. But the drama wasn’t quite over, Mr Nuisance was so anxious about running aground in the short pound, he came right up to the narrows below lock 7 at a sharp angle before we were out and almost T-boned us as we tried to more forward to the passing place – a”£$!

We had been managing 3 locks an hour up to lock 8, then lock 7 and 6 took 70 minutes to get through! I was very stressed by the time we came into Lock 6 and was worried about the rest of the flight, but from then on it was actually fine!

Sadly, with all the to-do at the locks, I missed seeing the old Commonwealth Games site and the sculpture “the B of the bang” – I was disappointed as I’ve always wanted to see it in real life having seen many photos when it was first built. However, I don’t want to see it enough to go back up the Ashton flight!

Zoomies! The hounds were as glad to be free of Lock 7 as we were :-)

Zoomies! It took a while to get through Locks 8  – 6 so the hounds enjoyed a run when we let them out…

We got to the bottom of the Ashton by 3.30pm and stopped for a late lunch. We contemplated going on down the Rochdale 9, but we’d had enough really, so we stopped for the day.

We had some to-ing and fro-ing around Piccadilly, trying to decide where to moor. There are super-secure moorings offside around the gated housing development. It looked appealing enough, but we’d have been trapped as the caretaker was on holiday and his deputy couldn’t give us a guest code for the gate. I’m sure a limited walk would have been fine for the hounds, but it was early enough for us to explore, so we went to the junction with the Rochdale Canal. There were plenty of mooring rings at the junction and some moored boats but we weren’t sure, so we turned back (we later found out that it is regarded as a safe mooring). While we were on the move, we thought we’d fill with water, but sadly the waterpoint marked on our Nicholsons (by lock 2) was long gone.

In the end we moored up on the rings opposite the gated development – it seemed civilised enough and was well covered by CCTV. We figured that if we didn’t fancy it as night fell, we could always move across the canal to the gated moorings. As it happened, the mooring was fine and we had a quiet night.

With plenty of evening left, I took the dogs for a walk and pottered around while Richard went foraging for a takeaway. We had thought about exploring Manchester but I was exhausted so we had a quiet night in. The hounds didn’t mind, they’d had quite enough and were up for an evening of snoozing :-)

Today’s Trivia:

Just part of the huge chemical works flanking the canal..

Just part of the huge chemical works flanking the canal..

Regular readers will know that I have a fascination with canalside industries, and, as I’ve often said, it should be a legal requirement for them all to display a sign with their name and the products that they manufacture in order to enhance the lives of nosy boaters like me! A lot of manufacturing industries are a bit shy to reveal their identities – I’m sure this is innocent enough, you don’t need a shop front if you’re not retailing to the public. But some searches take longer than others, and some industries e.g. chemical and pharmaceutical, do seem a little coy when it comes to revealing details of their plants.

I set about finding out more about the factory that I believe had generated the “dead fish” smells around Lock 10. I had several clues to work with – I knew the exact location of the works and I knew that fishy smells are associated with the chemical group “amines”. You’d think it would be easy-peasy but it still took a few hours to put the jigsaw together…

First I searched for “chemical industries” and immediately found a factory “East Lancashire Chemicals”, but a search of their website showed that they manufacture various varieties of washing soda – all odourless and highly unlikely to involve amines. Hmmm, back to the drawing board….

End of the day's locking :-)

End of the day’s locking :-)

Photographs that we took (and a subsequent search of Google Earth and Bing) highlighted a number of large gas cylinders marked “Air Products”. Now, I know Air Products from my other life as a pharmacist – they supply medical gases and I’d assumed that their cylinder was on site as a manufacturing component rather than it being an “Air Products” plant. I was wrong!

Now, before the lawyers get excited here are some possibly unrelated facts:

  • A bit more digging (including a look at some Manchester Urban Regeneration committee notes about the compulsory purchase of land from Air Products) confirmed that the site flanking the canal around Locks 10 and 9 belonged to “Air Products”. I carried on the search, because as far as I’m aware, fishy amines do not feature in any medical gas that I know.
  • A search of their global, then their UK, websites revealed that the company manufactures a wide range of chemicals including amines. A quick look at their product data sheets confirmed that many of their amine products have a “characteristic amine odour” – which generally ranges from ammonia-like to the full aroma of rotten fish.
  • I found it quite difficult to find exactly where Air Products’ plants are located. They list their Head Offices and I eventually got to something like a list of UK plants by going through their “careers” website, but the Manchester/Ashton site wasn’t listed, so I can’t confirm whether they manufacture amine products at the Ashton factory.

Interestingly, when the nearby area was assailed by the smell of rotten fish back in December 2013, the source was never found, so I’ll probably never make the link between the factory and the smell…

For people who like a bit of history, my researches into the chemical industry did unearth this photo from the 1950s – I thought the Ashton Canal looked run down even then :-(

Again for the historians, a lot of my searches were overwhelmed by news articles of an awful explosion at a munitions factory not far from Portland Basin back in 1917 (there’s a map at the bottom of the linked article) . There’s a brief account here.

Photoblog:

 

The Ashton Canal, overall, is a bit grim, but theres some little gems - like this painted bridge...

The Ashton Canal, overall, is a bit grim, but there are some little gems – like this painted bridge, a sort of Belfast Truss but has both chords curved and a pig to calculate by hand…

Some of the old buildings have elaborate brickwork...

Some of the old buildings have elaborate brickwork…

Although it goes through a densely populated area, we could let the hounds off for a bimble for most of its length...

Although it goes through a densely populated area, we could let the hounds off for a bimble for most of its length…

And nature soon moves in to cover our dereliction...

And nature soon moves in to cover the dereliction…

There are several low bridges along this canal...

There are several low bridges along this canal…

Oh dear, our Olympic Looking team has folded - they really must learn to pace themselves :-)

Oh dear, our Olympic Looking team has folded – they really must learn to pace themselves :-)

Henry Beanz makes a good pillow...

Henry Beanz makes a good pillow…

Fairfield Junction and the start of the day's locking...

Fairfield Junction and the start of the day’s locking…

It was a lovely day for locking...

It was a lovely day for locking…

View from Lock 7 towards the converted Commonwealth Games Stadium...

View from Lock 7 towards the converted Commonwealth Games Stadium…

More low bridges....

More low bridges….

Urban regeneration - not sure what I think of the building onn the left -cutting edge design or wine-soaked architects?? :-)

Urban regeneration – not sure what I think of the building on the left – cutting edge design or wine-soaked architects?? :-)

Mind your head Richard! The logic-defying steps down from Lock 1!

Mind your head Richard! The logic-defying steps down from Lock 1!

Picadilly Village at the bottom of the Ashton Canal - secure (gated) mooring to the right, good towpath ring moorings on the left. We moored on the towpath side and had an undisturbed night...

Piccadilly Village at the bottom of the Ashton Canal – secure (gated) mooring to the right of the photo, good towpath ring moorings on the left. We moored on the towpath side and had an undisturbed night…

We weren't sure of the status of these mooring pontoons - the sharp right turn under the building takes you to the Rochdale Canal,,

We weren’t sure of the status of these mooring pontoons – the sharp right turn under the building takes you to the Rochdale Canal

Archie checking out the cat action at Picadilly Village - he was disappointed :-)

Archie checking out the cat action at Piccadilly Village – he was disappointed :-)

We last met this little cruiser on the Buckby flight - he's the chap who'd bought the boat for a song and was cruising to the far North while doing it up on the way. His boat does look a bit more water-worthy and he now has water and tea-making facilities :-)

We last met this little cruiser on the Buckby flight – he’s the adventurous chap who’d bought the boat for a song and was cruising to the far North while doing it up on the way. His boat does look a bit more canal-worthy, quite smart really and he now has a proper engine, not a funny electric thing, water and tea-making facilities :-) The photo below/opposite was taken soon after he started out in April…

On his way North - on the Aire and Calder - hope he makes it :-)

On his way North – up to the Aire and Calder – hope he makes it :-)

 

 

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2014 – Day 35

Posted by indigodream on 2 November, 2014

Rewind to Sunday 7th September

Gurnett to Dunkinfield Junction

The looming mills of Macclesfield...

The looming mills of Macclesfield…

Having stopped short of Macclesfield, we needed to shift today and had an early start, by Indigo Dream’s low standards!

We enjoyed cruising the rest of the Macclesfield Canal. The contrasts are tremendous, from the rural beauty of the landscape to the looming mills of Macclesfield. We’ve wandered around the town on previous visits and enjoyed the silk museum – it’s well worth a visit. But we were just passing through today…

The Macclesfield Canal has some attractive stone bridges, though they are very narrow. This brought happy memories of our second rescue hound, lurcher Indie, for whom the boat was named and designed. Our old share boat, nb Dragonfly, had a semi-trad stern and Indie would jump off at these narrow bridges in a gesture of defiance – she wouldn’t run away, she’d just stubbornly park herself on the towpath and make it obvious that the problem of how to get her back on board was entirely ours! She hated boating – not in a scaredy wuss way like Ty, oh no, she was far too feisty for that! It was because of Indie that we have a dog-proof cruiser deck to discourage random escapes :-)

Such a picturesque flight...

Such a picturesque flight…

It was another fine day, and as we passed through Higher Poynton, it wasn’t hard to spot the Braidbar Boats, who were having spectacular weather for their annual gathering. We stopped briefly to see if we could catch up with fellow bloggers Bruce and Sheila from nb Sanity Again. Sadly for us, they were in a Braidbar meeting, so I had a chat with the marina manager instead. The hounds got a huge amount of attention from the many visitors to the cafe, but the Beanz were a bit subdued after the busyness of Bosley.

We stopped for lunch a little way up from the marina – I wanted us to have a civilised meal before we tackled the Marple Locks, which were just round the corner on the stunning Peak Forest Canal.

Naturally enough, my notes stop there because for the next few hours we were busy locking down the mighty Marple Flight.

But luckily I don’t need notes for this bit – it’s a memorable stretch of water which takes the canal down around 200′ – but not to a valley – the canal is still ridiculously high even at the bottom of the flight.

The view from Marple aqueduct - now....

The view from Marple aqueduct – now….

But I’m ahead of myself, the reason that Marple looms so large in our memories is because this is where I learnt to drive a narrowboat! When we bought our share in nb Dragonfly I felt I HAD to learn, even if was just for emergencies. By chance I found us an excellent teacher – Malcolm Allcard at Top Lock Training (sadly retired now). I learnt so much and by the end of the day I was amazed to be handling his boat by myself; Richard, being a bloke, thought he was just coming to keep me company but as he says, he learnt so much it was embarrassing!

But there was no time to reminisce, the flight was ahead of us, and they are mighty locks – deep and heavy. We kept the hounds on board at first, the first few locks are close to town and associated roads – they didn’t mind – by this stage of the holiday they really were winding down.

There was a CRT man taking photos around top lock. We tried to get our lock-wheeling routine going, but we didn’t get into a rhythm. Closing the top gate behind the boat was fine, but I was struggling to crack open a bottom paddle – the mechanisms were dry and ridiculously stiff. But once I did get the paddle open, the water drained so fiercely it was a race to get back on board before the boat dropped out of reach! The CRT man came across as a bit cynical and was quite happy to watch me struggle – I don’t mind that he didn’t help, but to sit and watch was too much. I crossly thought that he shouldn’t have been taking photos, he should have been busy with a bucket of grease on those paddles!

....adn then - on nb Dragonfly with Cousin Denise and Wyn back in 2004...

….and then – on nb Dragonfly with Cousin Denise and Wyn back in 2004…

The passage down the first few locks wasn’t as smooth as we hoped – some of the pounds were low and I got thoroughly grounded below Lock 13. Unfortunately, Richard had cycled ahead and had left his phone on the boat so I tried every which way to move the boat, but to no avail. He did eventually wonder where I’d got to and came back up to run some water down from the pound above. I was stuck mid-cut, so he couldn’t get on the boat to help, but I was able to hand him the pole so he could add a shove to get her moving into deep water – phew – all hard work on a very warm day!

Below Bridge 17, the flight enters a long stretch of parkland and things got a lot easier. Archie and Henry had a little bimble, while the population of Marple and beyond came out to enjoy the sun. We were followed down by one family who had such a curiosity about the locks that we gave them a lift down through a couple of locks just for the experience. They were charming and immensely grateful – the mum said that they didn’t expect to ever go boating themselves (hiring is expensive) and this would be something her kids would remember for a long time. A little further down, we picked up another family and gave them a lift – this was a slightly different experience as the boy (10/11 year old) got yelled at by me for not staying within the profile of the boat, then his mum gave him a thorough b”££”$%^&*! I felt a little bit sorry for him, but only a little bit, safety is paramount on board!

I hopped back on smartly here - there's not much between Henry Beanz and the fall on the offisde - though it's much better than the edge of the trough on Pontcysyllte...

I hopped back on smartly here – there’s not much between Henry Beanz and the fall on the offside – though it’s much better than the edge of the trough on Pontcysyllte…     The crowds dwindled as we got further down the flight – I think people were daunted by the long walk back up the hill!

I had forgotten how awkward the bottom lock is – there is no landing step in the jaws below the lock for picking up crew – luckily the hounds were on board, but I had to pick Richard up at the next bridge (the towpath landing was occupied by a fisherman!).

Despite the problems of the stiff paddles and low pounds, we had a good trip down the flight in under 2½ hours and still had a good afternoon’s cruise ahead of us. Marple is hard work but it is a gorgeous, beautiful lock flight. It is 10 years since we last went this way, we must not leave it so long again!

After the lock flight, the first highlight is the Marple Aqueduct, which flanks the railway viaduct, set above the canal to emphasise the dominance of rail over water. The Aqueduct at 90′ is the highest in England though not as high as Pontcysyllte at 126′.  It was finished in 1799 and is an extremely graceful way of spanning the River Goyt. We think that it’s a worthy rival to the more famous Pontcysyllte, but hardly known which is unfair! BW tried to demolish it in 1962!!!

The thing with big lock flights is that they tend to be flanked by long lock-free pounds where you can while away the hours, relaxing and enjoying the scenery. The roar of the M67 and the abrupt appearance of the odd lift bridge was a good wake-up call!

There is a mish-mash of styles here - the graceful stone sweep ot the turnover surmounted by a utilitarian steel deck...

There is a mish-mash of styles here – the graceful stone sweep of the turnover surmounted by a utilitarian steel deck…

We had a little drama at Bridge 1 – a lift bridge in a surprisingly wooded and rural setting considering its proximity to Manchester. As I took Indigo Dream through the bridge, there was an almighty “clonk” and the prop stopped dead – uh oh! I managed to stop the boat with a rope lassoed round a handy bollard and held her in the jaws while Richard lowered the bridge ready for any traffic. He then  came on board to investigate the prop while I took the hounds for a bimble. One important thing that our trainer, Malcolm, taught us, was to turn the engine off, take the key out of the ignition and then the person clearing the prop should put the key in their pocket to avoid any possibility of another crew member accidentally starting the mincer, sorry, engine. This we did, and Richard got to work. The culprit was a sizeable log, which Richard soon dislodged – there was no damage to the prop, so once I’d rounded up the hounds we were off again.

There wasn’t far to go. We had thought to moor at Portland Basin Marina (there’s a little stub to the right before the junction), but we hadn’t made any arrangements and it looked jam-packed. Our next thought was Portland Basin itself (directly opposite the junction), but that all looked private – hmm, what to do? It was getting late, so we decided to moor just to the right of Dunkinfield Junction, on the towpath side of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. Again, Ashton has a fearsome reputation but the mooring was covered by CCTV from the flats opposite and it seemed civilised enough so we stayed. At first, the towpath was busy with walkers, but by sunset everyone had gone and we had a very quiet night.

Today’s Trivia

There’s a photo below of a huge engineering works built/opened in 1885 by Joseph Adamson (it’s now an industrial estate) – here’s a hyperlink to some more information about the man himself – http://www.gracesguide.co.uk/Joseph_Adamson. There’s plenty of canal interest here – Joseph’s uncle, Daniel Adamson was the driving force behind the Manchester Ship Canal. Jospeh’s company kept  making boilers and cranes till the 1970s when it merged with Butterley Engineering who did all sorts of wonderful things, but perhaps their most recent claim to fame was that they made the steelwork for the magnificent Falkirk Wheel. Their main factory used to be by the Cromford Canal but after a series of takeovers they ceased trading and their massive works by the Cromford Canal was demolished in 2009.

Photoblog:

The uncompromising walls around Gurnett Aqueduct...

The uncompromising walls around Gurnett Aqueduct…

Then a sudden opening and you realise that you're perched far above the surrounding landscape :-)

The a sudden opening and you realise that you’re perched far above the surrounding landscape :-)

There are manay canalside Mills here - can you imagine the bustle on this canal in their heyday...?

There are many canalside Mills here – can you imagine the bustle on this canal in their heyday…?

Waiting at Marple Top - oops, the lock moorings are on the other side...

Waiting at Marple Top – oops, the lock moorings are on the other side…

Lock flights make for lovely views :-)

Lock flights make for lovely views :-)

Boat wash! Something tickled my memory at top lock and I shut the side hatch as a precaution just before setting off down the flight - phew!

Boat wash! Something tickled my memory at top lock and I shut the side hatch as a precaution just before setting off down the flight – phew!

Deep locks....

Deep locks….

On the Peak Forest, the locks are deep and the narrows are narrow!

On the Peak Forest, the locks are deep and the narrows are narrow!

The wooded coolness beyond Marple aqueduct as a nice refresehr after the hard work of the flight :-)

The wooded coolness beyond Marple aqueduct as a nice refresher after the hard work of the flight :-)

Reflections...

Reflections…

Here's a space-time conundrum - here's the inside of the Woodley Tunnel - the signs at the portals say it's two-way working!

Here’s a space-time conundrum – here’s the inside of the Woodley Tunnel – the signs at the portals say it’s two-way working!

Who was Joseph Adamson? A member of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers and part of an engineering dynast by the sounds of it - http://www.gracesguide.co.uk/Joseph_Adamson

Who was Joseph Adamson? A member of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers and part of an engineering dynasty – see “Today’s Trivia” above..

This is a huge block of polystyrene - I have no idea where it came from - it seems so wooded and lovely here...

This is a huge block of polystyrene – I have no idea where it came from – it seems so wooded and lovely here…

Bridge 1 on the Peak Forest Canal - you wouldn't believe how close we are to the conurbations of Ashton, Salybridge and Manchester!

Bridge 1 on the Peak Forest Canal – you wouldn’t believe how close we are to the conurbations of Ashton, Salybridge and Manchester!

 

 

 

 

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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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