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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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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? πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

 

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 πŸ™‚

 

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

Steven’s first lock entry – nice job πŸ™‚

 

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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