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Archive for January, 2016

Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2015 – Day 42

Posted by indigodream on 24 January, 2016

Rewind to Tuesday 29th September

Barlaston to Weston on Trent

Legion of volunteers painting lock beams and mechanisms on the Meaford Flight...

Legion of volunteers painting lock beams and mechanisms on the Meaford Flight…

I’m really cursing my lack of cruising notes as my recollections of this day are really hazy – I didn’t remember that we passed through Stone until I saw it on the map!

Never mind, we had a full day’s cruising and it surely deserves some record! I don’t have a narrative, except that we set out mid-morning and I recall the following notable “events”:

There was a brief stoppage in the Meaford flight as volunteers were painting the lock gates and mechanisms.. As if to make up for the wait, we had a legion of volunteers working us through to of the locks!

Stone was as charming as ever – we stopped to take on water below lock 29 – I recall doing a tricky solo reverse mooring while Richard helped a single hander through the lock. As always we stopped off at the Chandlery and spent money . . . .

We had debated whether to press on to Great Heywood, but it was getting late and we still had the long drive home ahead of us. Weston on Trent seemed to be the ideal spot and we found a good length of towpath mooring just beyond Bridge 80. There is a little path up to the Woolpack pub which has signs warning that there are chickens and other birds roaming around free – oh dear! Fortunately for us, they had all gone to roost by the time we needed to get the greyhounds to the car; having said that, the hounds were sparked out after yesterday’s races so maybe we needn’t have worried anyway 🙂

Henry Beanz making a new friend in Stone.

Henry Beanz making a new friend in Stone.

 

Approaching Stone - arguably the most boat-friendly town on the network :-)

Approaching Stone – arguably the most boat-friendly town on the network 🙂

 

Here's an unusual sight - a pair of young coots perched precariously on the slender branches of an elder tree, making a feast of the ripe berries :-)

Here’s an unusual sight – a pair of young coots perched precariously on the slender branches of an elder tree, making a feast of the ripe berries 🙂

 

A well-deserved snooze

A well-deserved snooze

 

Classy - tied to a tree offside by a centre rope and swinging back and forth across the canal with every movement of wind and water..

Classy – tied to a tree offside by a centre rope and swinging back and forth across the canal with every movement of wind and water..

 

Perfect....

Perfect….

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2015 – Day 41

Posted by indigodream on 6 January, 2016

+Rewind to Monday 28th September

Red Bull to Barlaston

The Beanz and their diminutive new friends....

The Beanz and their diminutive new friends….

We had another fun but busy day ahead, though with far fewer locks!

We started the day with a car shuffle, this time taking a car down to Barlaston, our target for the day. It was a slow trip and we were a bit late back for our rendezvous with Steven from CRT’s Red Bull office, who was coming on a boating buddy cruise with his two whippets, Fly and Max. Nonethless, by 10.30am we were assembled on the towpath. The houndie introductions went well, sighthounds always recognise their kindred breeds, no matter the size difference 🙂

We were soon on board with coffees and pastries and heading towards the Harecastle tunnel. We had a short wait at the tunnel, though there was only one boat ahead of us. It gave us time to take the boat off the roof and drop it onto the front deck. I’m not sure whether we’ve done this before our previous passages, but since the tragic death of a boater in the tunnel in 2014, it’s been “safety first” all the way.

Zoomies at Westport Lake....

Zoomies at Westport Lake….

Steven sat on the back deck while Richard helmed us through the tunnel; he really enjoyed the experience, though the whippets weren’t too sure about it – the engine does sound very loud in a confined space. While the whippets demonstrated their devotion to Steven, the greyhounds showed their legendary devotion to their sofa.

We stopped off at Westport Lake for lunch – this was the highlight of the cruise for Richard, because he couldn’t wait to see how the greyhounds would fare against the whippets in zoomies. We moored a distance away from the visitor centre so that innocent walkers wouldn’t be run down by charging sighthounds and let them go! The jury’s still out on who’s fastest (the whippets have a quick start but the greyhounds have longer strides at the finish!) but what IS certain is that the dogs had a ball 🙂 Needless to say, Ollie watched all this with dignity – he doesn’t do big zoomies any more (but he has his moments…).

We took lots of zoomie photos – there’s an album here

Concentration....

Concentration….

Once the crew was exercised, fed and watered (in that order), it was time for Steven to take a turn at the helm. He has been on CRT workboats, so he wasn’t a complete novice, but there was a certain amount of trepidation, especially when we persuaded him that his day wouldn’t be complete without the experience of steering a narrowboat into a narrow lock – much more difficult when locking down in my opinion! We were confident that he’d be fine and so he was; he was elated and we hope that he’ll come cruising with us again when we’re back in the area.

We really endorse the Boating Buddies scheme – we work hard to give CRT people a positive experience of the canals and do not spend our time giving CRT staff an ear-bashing – we don’t need to, because the canals speak so eloquently for themselves. Steven looks after canal maintenance (though not on the stretch that we were cruising today) – it was priceless for him to see the impact of unkempt canalside vegetation on cruising lines of sight; amply demonstrated when we had to dodge an oncoming boat on a narrow blind bend. Luckily I was on the helm, so there was no drama, but it was a point we made without our ever having to open our mouths 🙂

A good day....

A good day….

We had a very satisfying day’s cruise, reaching our target of Barlaston by late afternoon. We got the dogs packed up and piled into my car to get Steven back to our starting point in Red Bull and pick up Richard’s car. I don’t recall why we did it this way, but we took our dogs with us too, though whippets are so diminutive it was hardly an effort to find room for them 🙂

I think that the motive for taking our hounds was to explore likely looking pubs for supper. But in the end we went for the simplest option and ate at the Plume of Feathers, which is owned by actor Neil Morrisey (of “Men behaving badly” fame). There was an information board telling us that he was filming in London, but gave a date when he would be back at the pub. It was a nice touch, after all, it answered the question we’d been asking in our heads! The pub itself was spacious and dog-friendly; we and the hounds were made very welcome and the food was good – add the fact that there are good towpath moorings alongside and it has a generous free car park, well, what’s not to like? 🙂

Photoblog:

The rusty interior of the Harecastle Tunnel....

The rusty interior of the Harecastle Tunnel….

 

The visiting whippets weren't at all sure about the tunnel...

The visiting whippets weren’t at all sure about the tunnel…

 

Although Archie looks disconcertingly like a cheetah running down a gazelle, no whippets were harmed in the making of this photo!

Although Archie looks disconcertingly like a cheetah running down a gazelle, no whippets were harmed in the making of this photo!

 

Fly and Maz are very devoted - to each other and to their daddy :-)

Fly and Max are very devoted – to each other and to their daddy 🙂

 

One of Stoke on Trent's traditional bottle kilns - will they enjoy a revival following the success of the Great British Pottery Throwdown??

One of Stoke on Trent’s traditional bottle kilns – will they enjoy a revival following the success of the Great British Pottery Throwdown on TV??

 

Stoke on Trent's more attractive face...

Stoke on Trent’s more attractive face…

 

Tired puppies :-)

Tired puppies 🙂

 

Steven's first lock entry - nice job :-)

Steven’s first lock entry – nice job 🙂

 

This section of canal has deep narrow locks with a fierce draw forward once the paddles are opened...

This section of canal has deep narrow locks with a fierce draw forward once the paddles are opened…

 

 

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2015 – Day 40

Posted by indigodream on 2 January, 2016

Rewind to Sunday 27th September

Stud Green Bridge to Red Bull

A kind of magic...

A kind of magic…

We had a very quiet night on the moorings – it’s the first decent mooring spot past Middlewich, yet we were the only boat moored between the bridge and the lock. This made it nice for the hounds, who could have a good rummage before we started the day.

We had a relatively easy day’s cruising ahead of us, so we filled the morning with car shuffles instead! I needed to move my car from the lane near the moorings, so it seemed sensible to drive Richard back to Anderton to pick up his car before we both headed off to Red Bull to leave one car there. At this point we became very well acquainted with the A533, though we did not drive at mad speeds and took a moment to enjoy the fine sight of a canal running alongside – I’m not sure the motorists last night would have noticed the canal unless they crash landed in it!

You get a great view from the top of the lock....

You get a great view from the top of the lock….

We dropped Richard’s car off at Red Bull (there is unrestricted road parking uphill from the Red Bull pub). I then drove us back to the boat – there is a little parking space just by Crow’s Nest Lock which allowed me to park up while we got the boat moving. There was a boat already approaching the lock when we arrived back, and another approaching the bridge behind us as we moved off the mooring – Clapham Junction!

Once we got through the lock, Richard took the boat along the two mile lock-free pound to Wheelock while I went off in search of a supermarket. We needed supplies because we had another boating buddy cruise tomorrow, this time with a CRT employee from the Red Bull office and his two whippets 🙂

All in all, it was a very smooth morning – though it took me a little while to find the boat in Wheelock because Richard’s mobile was with me in the car! But it was only a matter of deduction as we have stopped at Wheelock before and my vague memories led me to the convenient free parking next to the canal/service block. I loaded up the supplies while Richard helped a hire boat moored behind us – I don’t recall what the problem was now, was it a fouled prop? Not too sure, they had real difficulties mooring up their very aged hire boat, we had been following them and their prop wash had looked strange. By the time we opened up the weedhatch the prop was clear so had something dropped up or as Graham would say did they just have a little one?

Sheep may safely graze - though the long shadows of autumn are coming...

Sheep may safely graze – though the long shadows of autumn are coming…

With both cars now safely parked and the boat adequately stocked with hot chickens, we set off for an afternoon’s locking up Heartbreak Hill. We have fond memories of this stretch – it’s familiar ground from our first narrowboat nb Dragonfly and even better memories from Indigo Dream. It turned out to be a lovely afternoon, warm and sunny but with that crisp crystalline edge that marked it as autumn.

The Beanz enjoyed the fabled Cheshire Locks – the canal was quiet, so they could have some unrestricted rummaging time though they didn’t favour lock-wheeling with Richard, mainly choosing to cadge a lift on the boat between locks 🙂

Having been at sea level for the last few weeks, it was a great pleasure to be climbing again. The flight gives a fine view of the Cheshire plains as we headed for the summit at Red Bull. We had a fine afternoon’s cruising but there are a LOT of locks, so it was dusk again by the time we moored up.

We were quite weary by the time we moored up. I know that the Red Bull pub is not dog friendly and doesn’t do food on a Sunday, so Richard went off to forage for a Chinese takeaway – he eventually found one in Kidsgrove. We spend another evening with the DVD – not a hardship as we decided to leave our half-finished box sets on board so we’ve been keen to catch up after a few weeks away.

A tribue to artist Steve Sanderson :-)

A tribute to artist Steve Sanderson 🙂

Today’s Trivia

I’ve been following an artist called Steve Sanderson on Facebook for a while now – he does the most beautiful and poignant paintings, most featuring and old man and his greyhound. The fundamental truth of “art imitates life” was manifest when I say this man walking the towpath – he could have walked straight out of one of Steve’s paintings 🙂

https://www.facebook.com/SteveSandersonArtist/?fref=ts

https://www.facebook.com/SteveSandersonArtist/photos/a.311071898999047.61947.309847205788183/720531301386436/?type=3&theater

Photoblog:

"Why do you love the canals?" people ask; D'oh!

“Why do you love the canals?” people ask-d’oh!

 

Ooh, is that my ride?

Ooh, is that my ride?

 

So glad that the Beanz were supervising my lock entries - it's a tight fit :-)

So glad that the Beanz were supervising my lock entries – it’s a tight fit 🙂

 

Such a lovely day....

Such a lovely day….

 

A rare bit of company - we hardly saw a boat on the move once we passed Wheelock..

A rare bit of company – we hardly saw a boat on the move once we passed Wheelock..

 

Road v canal? No competition on a day like this :-)

Road v canal? No competition on a day like this 🙂

 

Archie and Ollie :-)

Archie and Ollie 🙂

 

The paired locks of Heartbreak Hill....

The paired locks of Heartbreak Hill….

 

 

 

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Boat Blog: The Odyssey 2015 – Day 39

Posted by indigodream on 1 January, 2016

Rewind to Friday 25th September

Anderton Marina to Stud Green Bridge (below Crow’s Nest Lock)

Big Sid - the sweetest greyhound who ever lived...

Big Sid – the sweetest greyhound who ever lived…

When we left the boat a few weeks ago, Ollie’s vet in Northwich had given him a simple choice – get better or fade gently away. When we came back from holiday, we had another dog swap, Big Sid and Herbie came to stay while Archie and Henry went home for a rest; Big Sid was unwell – his Suffolk vet had diagnosed a kidney infection. So when we got back from holiday we had two hounds under par, but then the unexpected happened. Ollie decided to get better and continued to perk up during the week. But Big Sid deteriorated badly – our vet identified a problem with his liver,  a scan revealed it was probably liver cancer. Big Sid slipped away with great dignity on the 16th September to join the crew of the virtual Indigo Dream cruising serenely beneath the Rainbow Bridge 😦

By the 25th September, we reckoned that Ollie had perked up enough for the journey to the boat and a weekend’s cruising, but Ty (who was still with us then) wouldn’t have appreciated an intense weekend of locking so we had the usual fun logistics as I did an epic dog swap and jam delivery.

Richard and Ollie headed up to the boat on the Friday evening. This would allow them to get an early start on Saturday in order to get to Kings Lock boatyard in time to see Steve. We needed to get our Webasto remote control up and running properly – it hadn’t been working since we had it installed since May. This wasn’t an issue over the summer, but it was essential for us to get it sorted before the winter. Indigo Dream really suffered in the northern cold last winter; we hoped that the ability to set the heating going remotely would save her from damage if Winter 2015/2016 turned chilly (hasn’t happened yet, but it is very soggy!).

I stayed at home, but on Saturday morning I took Herbie and Ty off to Sarah’s for the weekend, stopping off at a Greyhoundhomer stand in Essex along the way to drop off some jam. It’s not a bad trip up to Suffolk via Essex, and I was soon picking up regulars Henry and Archie Beanz for a very special meeting on Monday. The satnav calculated a particularly fine route from Suffolk to Cheshire which avoided all of the usual tedium of the M1 and M6 so we all got together by early afternoon. Meanwhile Richard and Ollie headed off up the Trent & Mersey, through Big Lock and then up the three narrow locks to Kings Lock.

Miracle boy Ollie, taken on Christmas Day wearing a special scarf given to him as a gift by a friend :-)

Miracle boy Ollie, taken on Christmas Day wearing a special scarf given to him as a gift by a friend 🙂

It was a fine day, so after we got the Webasto sorted (hurrah!) we decided to set off up heartbreak hill – we needed to get to Red Bull by Monday morning so we had plenty of time.

It is probably worth a few words about the Webasto: We had a TC3 unit installed when we had the works done over winter, there is a bit story here but can be simply summarised as the install was not good, we could operate the Webasto via our timer but not via the TC3 hence wanting Steve Wedgwood at Kings Lock to have a look at it. The man is a marvel, he looked at, checked things over and quickly decided that the issue must be that the wiring of the plugs was wrong. It turns out that the TC3 comes with bare wires and plugs which you need to configure to suit the installation, Steve always offers to send them out ready configured but Nantwich wanted to do it themselves and got it wrong 😦 arghh. If you know what you are doing then it is relatively easy, take the wires out of the plugs, ready the pretty indecipherable circuit diagrams and put them back together for a narrowboat install. Of course I could have done it myself, it probably would have taken me oooh 10 hours? Took Steve less than 2 minutes.

I didn’t take any notes, but it’s basically relentless locking for the first few miles out of Middlewich, with the greyhounds restricted on board by the busy road that flank the canal. They didn’t mind too much, they were quite happy with the sofa and various other luxury beds available on board. It was just as well, from the slow perspective of a narrowboat, the cars drive at an unreasonable speed along the A533. We couldn’t think about mooring until the canal peeled away from the road at Stud Green Bridge.

It was near dusk when we moored up, with just enough light for Richard to cycle back to get my car from Kings Lock. It didn’t take him very long, and he was soon back at the boat. We’d contemplated where to eat, and plumped for a takeaway from Kings Lock Fish ‘n Chip shop which had good reviews.

Parking was a little tricky at Stud Green Bridge. we found a likely verge for the night, but knew that we’d have to move early in the morning. There was plenty of room for passing cars, but one of the big beastie combine harvesters we’d spotted in the far fields might have taken a wing mirror off, but by now it was far too late to worry about such things….

Photoblog:

Mist on the water - the canals are so atmospheric...

Mist on the water – the canals are so atmospheric…

 

We think Indigo Dream looks good for her age and "mileage" - how swanky will she look after her repaint in September 2016!

We think Indigo Dream looks good for her age and “mileage” – how swanky will she look after her repaint in September 2016!

 

The great saltworks of Northwich....

The great saltworks of Northwich….

 

This marina is now in water - wonder when the first boats will move in?

This marina is now in water – wonder when the first boats will move in?

 

Lovely Trent and Mersey - well worth a visit....

Lovely Trent and Mersey – well worth a visit….

 

Ollie having a solo bimble in Middlewich :-)

Ollie having a solo bimble in Middlewich 🙂 – it was quite a long bimble . . .

 

 

 

 

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