Monday, 28 February 2011

Harecastle and Heartbreak Hill

After a weekend of waiting at the Tunstall end of the Harecastle Tunnel  this weekend, this morning it was all systems go!  Chimneys down, tv aerial stowed inside and off we went into the one and a half mile long tunnel to Kidsgrove.  We found it far less disconcerting travelling from south to north as you can see the light at the other end of the tunnel, unlike travelling north to south when the tunnel doors are shut at the north end to maximise the effects of the huge ventilation fans.  Quite scary when travelling this way, as you cant see where the tunnel ends until the last minute.  You start to wonder.... do they know we're in here? .... have they forgotten about us? Then hey presto - the doors open and you can see daylight again - we've made it!  When travelling through the tunnel you can see the various repairs done, some in brick, some sprayed concrete, some concrete segments and of course the orange walls due to the iron ore which also colours the canal.  Just after half way through the tunnel, the roof starts getting lower and lower, and you have to duck down in a small section before it gradually increases in height once again.

Brindley's old tunnel entrance is just visible on the left

This tunnel was built in 1777 and operated until subsidence forced its closure in 1914

Barrier raised, and off we go!

Downhill all the way, down 'Heartbreak Hill', which is a lovely series of parallel locks.  I see my brass tiller pin could do with a polish, if you're wondering what the gold face is popping up on the left.
No time to stop at the pub today - bit to far away as this pic was taken with phone not camera - but its one of the best pub names I've come across - The Romping Donkey -  fantastic!

Sunday, 27 February 2011

The potteries

Not sure how many of these photos will come out as we can't get this blog to work properly on a mimimum signal, so my apologies if this is a duff blog!  The following are a few pics of our travels through the Potteries, some beautiful old buildings, and some not so.....

The old kilns above have been preserved in the middle of a new apartment development, sums up these photos of the old and the new...

Not a building, but had to take this photo - above, a bloke with a tatooed blue and red head and face, completely covered - I kid you not - complete with mobility scooter

Bill and Ben must have moved from Market Drayton - here they are at Etruria Junction

Some canalside old pottery buildings are still in use, with a large shop open to the public

We await our passage through the Harecastle Tunnel, after giving 48 hours notice of passage through, and we're booked in for Monday morning.  Dave

Friday, 25 February 2011

Cornish Pasty Triumph (Alternative Blog)

This blog should be titled "Stoke and The Potteries", and contain lots of photos of old kilns etc and of us travelling through the (ehem) delights of Stoke on Trent.  Unfortunately, its taking 18 minutes to download one photo, so I've abandoned that blog till I can psych myself up for it tommorow, so here's one I prepared earlier......

Cornish Pasties:  After a nine year campaign by pasty producers, the Cornish pasty has been given protected status by the European Commission. From mid March, only a pasty produced in Cornwall can be called a Cornish pasty. The dish could still be baked elsewhere, but has to be prepared in Cornwall. As a Cornishman, Dave was rejoicing at this news and feeling very smug about it. The smile soon dropped when I informed him that I therefore couldn’t make him any more Cornish pasties! Ha!
Dave salivating outside the pasty shop in Banbury a couple of years ago - who's pasties are shipped out frozen from Cornwall & cooked on the premises - so they'll be ok.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Barlaston - and a lovely day for a cruise

We're on our way again, taking advantage of a beautiful day, although we havent moved many miles it is nice to be moving again.  We've met up with all our old friends in Stone - mainly those displaced by the Rising Sun being demolished.  We were also fortunate enough to meet up with an ex work colleague from my previous life in the rat race,  (Hi Jean & Lawson)  and had a very pleasant evening with a couple of pints of Titanic in the Royal Exchange. 

So it's au revoir Stone and the little wood duck

Nemo hasn't been swimming for a while ....  I hope this isn't an omen ....

Damage to BR98, where a car hit the side of the bridge

Meaford top lock

Thanks for leaving your broken plastic snowman stuffed into the hedge, bah humbug!

Again, the railway follows the line of the canal, this time rather too close for comfort i think

Barlaston, and again, there's no other boats here, apart from a couple outside the pub.  As I was taking this photo, Nemo leapt out of the trees opposite the boat on to an unsuspecting passer-by giving her the fright of her life.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Rugs & Mice

Well it's happened, that thing we've both been dreading since we got Nemo the cat - yep - he's caught is first mouse - and he brought it in for us as well, bless him.  We did manage to catch it and put it outside, only for Nemo to escape out of his cat flap and catch it again.  Shoes on, torch out and relocated it abit further away.    Bits off one week, catching mice the next - he's not a kitten any more!

We're still moored just past Roger Fuller's yard - who incedentally, has a fascinating web site with details of historic narrowboats click here for historic boats.  There's no boats moored here at all!  BW has definitely had a crackdown around here.

I hope I've got time before we get back to finish one more rag rug.  Although I say it myself, I'm impressed with the last two i've done, though how anyone can hope to make a living at it is beyond me.  They sell for around the £50 mark, but take £150 worth of your time to do them!  I'll stick to doing it as a hobby.

This one was a christmas present for my friend Jeanette (hello you!)

This one is for the bathroom.  Very comfy under feet.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

One end of Stone to the other

We decided to move up a bit yesterday, from the bottom of Stone up to Whitebridge, stopping at the boat yard on the way to do the necessary.  We got 3 bags of coal, which we hope will burn better than the last lot we got from Great Haywood, and filled up with diesel which will be for the last time before we get back home to our mooring next month.  This year, like last year, six weeks of our cruising time was taken up stuck in the ice and by the time we were extracated from it, we had to turn for home due to stoppages to allow us to get back to start work again in March.  So we're pointing northwards & feeling dispondant at having to head for home without doing as much cruising this winter as we would have liked - but hey - that's winter cruising for you!  We picked up our laundry on the way through, from the dry cleaning type place opposite the Swan - £15.00 for two small bags of laundry!  Bit more expensive than the £3.00 per bag at Fradley Junction .....  I think i'll take up a new career !!!

Dave found a good branch on the ground down at Westbridge Park, which will come in handy.
Pic of the fancy apartments opposite Stone Boat Building

Above: little tunnel under the road for the boat horses at lock 29,

Not so fancy apartments built on the site of an old haunt of ours, The Rising Sun (demolished in the process)

We've got a great 3G signal here, and Dave's been having fun finding web sites about real ale.  This one is a gem: .  You put in the name of the town and it will list the pubs with real ale (pubs which have subscribed to the site).  You can then click on "Beer Cam" & up pops pics of the hand pulls, with a full description of the beer in question.  The Swan Inn Stone (for example) Great fun!

Friday, 18 February 2011

Welcome to Stone

What a surprise!  There's hardly any boats here in Stone.  Whenever we've passed through here it's always been chock-a-block, from Westbridge Park right up to Whitebridge.  The building you can see here is the hairdressers - called "lock keepers".  Nice.  We're here for at least a week, whilst Dave visits the dentist.  Hopefully his last appointment will be on Monday.   We've also visited the Vets - Nemo has lost his boy-ancy aids, and is walking rather slowly, but seems to be getting better.  I love Stone, its such a friendly town with great shops.  It'll be nice to do some daily shopping from local suppliers to stock up - especially as trolly dolly has given up the ghost and the wheels fell off after the last major shopping trip from Fradley.

 Only 4 boats including us at Westbridge Park.
 A Pair BW boat licence checker blokes walked past yesterday & turned around when they'd logged our boat index number.  Dave politely told them to keep walking towards Aston where there's a non licenced continuous moorer camped out there.  Reluctantly they sauntered off in that direction.
 Only two boats in the Star Lock pound - and one of them is a BW work boat which arrived yesterday.
However, there's always one - the cheeky so-and-so who moors on the 48 hour moorings, just within hose pipe length of the tap.  He's been there for 2 weeks that we know of - it's not as if there isn't any room on the 5 or 14 day moorings.

Wonderful sculpture of individually made tiles, made by children from Stone.
Better Photos here from Sonata Crew photostream on Flickr .  (Hope they dont mind)

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Rugby Weekend Number Two

We've got the pop and crisps, and looking forward to another Six Nations weekend.  Now - what's the difference between  an international rugby match and an international football match?  Answer:  Rugby players sing their national anthem!  We were going to watch the inaugural football match of the Nations Cup between Republic of Ireland Vs Wales, shown earlier this week, but only ONE welsh player managed to sing the national anthem & Ireland weren't that much better.  Whoever heard of a Welshman not singing when requested to do so?  So we said 'stuff you' and turned the telly off, they don't deserve our support!  As I write this, the England rugby team are in fine voice and kick off is imminent.  Time to pop the pringles and pull the tinnies.  C'mon you blues!

No photos this time, we're still near Sandon and I think you've seen enough pictures of canada geese in various weather.  Oh - news - a boat moored up just behind us a couple of nights ago, and had a barbeque!  The smell of sizzling sausages was lovely - though I think we'll wait till at least March before dusting down our old outdoor cooking facility.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Spring has sprung - for a day

We're sharing our mooring with over 200 canada geese, who fly in, in the morning and leave late afternoon.  It's lovely to have them around, with their comedy honking, though it does get a bit noisy when they're about to leave for the day.  They didn't seem to mind the waves, although I was afraid of getting sea sick.

Dave took a long hike into Stone on Sunday and met up with some friends for a pint or two, luckily he got a lift back to Sandon.  It's such a friendly town, where he has some long standing friends that he met when he first moored there back in 1992 - including Paul, the Best Man at our wedding.  Unfortunately his old haunt Rising Sun is now a block of flats - sorry - apartments.

We woke yesterday to a beautiful morning with a flat calm canal - worth taking a photo of!

As it was such a lovely day, we thought we'd take advantage of the break in the weather and took a run to Stone to do the 'necessary' and get some shopping.  We passed Aston Marina on the way, it was our first view of this new marina - they had just started digging out the last time we came past this way.  It looks very pleasant (as marinas go), and seems hig spec with the facilities on offer, including a Bistro     .  It has a separate entrance and exit, so its a one way system.  We may call in for a night to 'hook up' and so some laundry.  It has berths for 180 craft, but its not even half full.  Apparently the Phyllis May II is moored there, but we didn't see it (Terry & Monica Darlington's new boat after the fire on Phyllis May) 

We managed a swift pint in The Swan, before heading back to the peace of the countryside, to batten down the hatches and await the two days of rain forecasted - which (as yet) has not materialised & its another lovely day.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Peace at Sandon

We've been bobbing around like a cork with this wind for the last few days.  We left Tixall with it blowing a hooley, but managed to make the turn onto the T & M without much problem (we've been caught out there before now so were prepared).  We bunkered at Anglo Welsh and after a quick visit to the Spar we were on our way, keeping an eye out for fallen timber! 
Above pic of waves at tixall wide.

We are now moored between Sandon and Burston at one of our favourite spots by the mile post.  We can't hear the railway or the road, just peace and quiet now the wind has dropped.  As we passed through Weston, we spotted a single barnacle goose and the more common white fronted goose amongst a flock of canadas.  We also noticed that Weston Wharf is now totally surrounded by new builds, feeling sorry for Malcolm (Braine) although he would just smile and shrug his shoulders.

After mooring up last night, dave sprinted off to the Dog & Doublet at Sandon for a quick pint before the rugby, but after his mile walk he was shocked to find the pub boarded up behind construction fence barriers.  However, we are pleased to report it is temporarily closed for refurbishment and has not closed down.  Dave's hoping that they concentrate on the pub side of it, as opposed to the foody side too much.  Ah well, he's got a 4 mile hike in the other direction to the Swan in Stone.  There seems to be alot of work taking place at the Sandon lock cottage, with what looks like a car park with its own bridge to the house being built over the bywash.  No doubt a good selling point when BW come to sell it, like they did with Colwich Lock Cottage.

We've had 3 cracking games of rugby today and last night, in which we were cheering for opposing sides for all 3 matches.  Scores after the first 6 nations weekend is Sue : 1,  Dave : 2, so its all to play for.