Sunday, 30 March 2014

Mothers day

I selected this top Mothers day plant for our daughter.

We set of from our Endon mooring at 11:30 on the first day of summer, the sun was warm as we headed towards the service point to dump the unmentionables and fill with water.

Filling the water tank at Park Lane

The vista has become even more rural the more we cruise into the Caldon. It is hard to imagine we are travelling on an artery that was built in 1779 to haul limestone out of quarries for the Potteries and the industrial midlands. In parts a railway line runs parallel to the canal, this sounded the death knell for the canal as freight traffic switched to the faster mode of transport.

We reached Hazelhurst Junction where the Leek branch moves off to the right as we start a descent into the Churnet valley via three locks, we see the Leek branch further on as it passes over us on a fine aqueduct. At the bottom lock we are locked through by a young Oz friend of a family showing her the ropes. (maybe she will be back in years to come on her own adventure).
Rural scene

Hazelhurst top lock, the Leek branch goes under the bridge on the right

Top Lock

I'm able to help at locks on the descents.

Different style of paddle opener.

Young Aussie

Leek arm crossing above us.

We moored at Denford close to the Hollybush pub, only two miles today.
Enjoying an Ale

Handsome stone barn conversion

Bridge 38

The Hollybush, FL second boat back.

One of the mile posts (this one is outside the pub). Unfortunately the canal now terminates at Froghall some 7 miles from here, much of the remainder which went to Uttoxeter has been filled in and one of those pesky short term railway company's laid tracks over it, the railway has long gone and now the route is a bridle way.

Life in the country

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Milton to Endon Basin

After a walk into Milton village for some veggies we let go of the bank and set off in warm sunshine. Now the canal becomes much tidier as urbanisation is left behind and the countryside starts to roll. First lock is Engine Lock, the wind has increased as the view has opened up which makes negotiating the lock chambers and bridge 'ole's trickier. Sue raised the lift bridge and we are on our way to the 5 Stockton Brook locks, Sue whizzed us through them while I manfully stood at the tiller.

Sue ratchet's the bridge up

Lock wheeler waiting for FL to arrive

The canal is very quiet, only a few other moving boats all day. Before  bridge 27 a remnant of a swing bridge for a disused light railway that ran into Endon Basin has to be negotiated, which isn't helped by its proximity to the bridge especially in windy conditions. We moored up for the day just above Endon Basin, a total of three miles today, we aren't in any rush.

Remnant now a round about
Magnificent silver birch lock side.
Today's kitchen window view

Endon Basin now the home of Stoke boat club.

Tonight's mooring

We had a long walk past Plant's Bridge before tea to get me some exercise, I get a bit sedentary on the tiller, we must get Sue trained up as a tiller girl this year.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Caldon Canal

I was up early this morning 06:30, happy as a Lark, made the tea , delivered said tea to Sue in bed, that's when it went wrong. Sue handed me a card ... whats this for ... "Happy anniversary darling"...Ooooops.


Set off from our mooring in Barlaston in cool breezy conditions, through the first lock of the day(Trentham Lock), past the unattractive Wedgewood factory opened in 1940.

Mr Heron fishing in the reeds.

Stone mason's often left their mark on the lock wall.
First duckling of 2014 we have seen
When we reached Stoke bottom lock the gates are already open, strange that doesn't usually happen. Here we met the self proclaimed " Rob the Lock" an unemployed young man who instead of sitting at home got a bike from the tip and with windlass in hand cycles from lock to lock preparing the way for us boaters.. commendable. He did the same for us at nine locks altogether.

Bottle kilns remember the past amid the contemporary architecture on the Trent and Mersey

The man himself Jimmy Brindley at the start of the Caldon canal

We turned off the Trent and Mersey and onto the Caldon Canal at Etruria Junction and used the service point.The Etruria Industrial Museum is just above the water point but was shut today. The canal swings through industrial and residential landscapes clinging to the side of a hill. The canal here is strewn with flotsam and the usual rubbish that urban sprawl can bring but we haven't seen it this bad before. The canal banks are unkempt and vegetation encroaches making the narrow canal even more challenging, a couple of the tighter turns need some reverse to help the bow get round.

Instructions on how to use staircase locks on Caldon canal

Rob the lock and Sue
He kindly helped us through the Caldon staircase lock and Planet Lock and then we said goodbye, we watched him cycling away happy with a few coins jingling in his pocket.

More  cold Bottle Kilns on the Caldon Canal

Moored at Milton just above the A53 on map below.

PS .. I did get to a shop and buy a card before we set off.. and I will take my girl of 27 years for a celebratory fizzy water in The Miners Arms or The Foxley. :)

Thursday, 27 March 2014


We set of from our Stone mooring at 10am under grey skies up through the locks past Canal Cruising company where we had the welding work done last week, and past the winding 'ole which we turned around in with our visitors at the weekend, now we are cruising through new ground. The sun was peeking out from behind wooly clouds as we climbed out of the valley by way of the 4 Meaford  (pronounced Method by locals) locks.

Once past Meaford we pass the site of an old busy boatyard, no evidence of the boatyard exits other than the gate to the fabulous home that has been built on it's foot print. Beside this are a row of cottages that the boatyard workforce occupied, I wonder back in the day if they were as desirable as they are now.

Meaford top lock was leaking badly

Smart home with private moorings with lockgate garden feature

Impressive entrance gate to the house.

Cottages originally for boatyard workers

We have now moored just above bridge 103 at Barlaston and would you believe it theres a canal side pub The Plume of Feathers, we will have to pop in to say hello... it would be rude not to.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

We are on the move.

We disconnected the umbilical cord that attaches FL to the grid, stowed the Beer Hunter back on the roof, a couple of bags of coal in the cratch and set off out of the marina.

Two Jays waved us off with a salute from Joan.

A sharp turn to starboard out of the marina and the bow is pointing " Oop North". It's only a 200yd run to the first lock where Ray & Diane were kindly waiting to lock us through.


Exiting the lock Diane took control of the tiller to '"show me how it should be done" then leapt off FL like a gazelle at the next bridge 'ole.

Until we meet again.
We didn't move far, just into Stone, Sue wanted to shop in town and post a Mum's day card, we will stay here overnight.. it started to rain anyway.

We bought one of those Nutri-bullet thingies that blitz's veg, fruit and nuts into a drink. I tried a veggie concoction but that ended up in the canal, I then whizzed up a fruit blend of strawberries, raspberries, pear, blueberries, blackberries and banana which was much better, we had that with our pasty lunch.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Thank You

One of the things we both looked forward to when starting on this journey was meeting new people and making new friends and we haven't been disappointed.

We would like to say a big thank you to all our new friends... Paul, Elaine, Ray, Diane, Dot, Gordon, Roly, Bev, Jim, Joan, Elly and Mick  for making our first wintering so enjoyably memorable. Your generosity, humour and friendship has meant a great deal, we intend to keep in touch and hope to meet up again in the future.... Thank You.

We're off (nearly).

Today was going to be our set off day for the season but it's piddling down now and is expected to be persistent for the rest of the day. No point in getting soaked so we will delay our departure.

Below is a map of the navigable canals we can cruise on. At the moment we are just below Stoke-on -Trent on the Trent & Mersey canal.

Our loose plan is to head north to the Peak Forest canal or northwest to Wales and the Llangollan canal, we will probably do both during the next two months but plans could change, in any case, we will turn right out of the marina.

Last years canals

Grand Union
South Oxford
South Oxford
North Oxford
Birmingham & Fazley
Trent & Mersey

Monday, 24 March 2014

Windy day.

Sunday was a blustery day with rain, hail and sunshine, we left our mooring between Star Lock and Yard Lock to reach the winding hole above Limekiln Lock. The accident prone Glyn managing not to get fingers trapped or fall into the canal while helping Sue and Christine with the locks.

(Glyn did manage on one occasion when helping with the ropes on a cruiser we owned on the Thames to fall into and submerge himself, the lock keeper fished him out with a pole!)

Once turned with the bow pointing back to Aston we returned through the 5 locks back to the marina. Things went a bit pear shaped as we turned into the marina entrance the wind pinned us to the side which snapped a fender hook, the fender dropped into the canal and its rope wrapped itself tight around the prop. Took me nearly an hour with various knives including the carving knife from the kitchen to get all the rope cut away. That done we tried to get into our pontoon berth but again the wind was just too strong and sent us crabbing down the basin, we found an empty double berth and shot into it at full revs. Sue had a stew cooking in the Epping so we had that with a glass of wine  while we waited for the wind to abate then we made our way back to our berth  with the aid of Pauls weight on the centre rope we moored up easily.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

A night in Stone.

Glyn and Christine drove up the M6 for a visit. After waiting for a heavy shower to pass we exited the marina and made our way through two locks to moor by Stone town.

Sue educated the new crew on lock use.

We had a stroll through the town to the Titanic pub for a glass of ale and to Olives restaurant for a nice meal. A nightcap in the Swan on the way back to FL rounded of the evening nicely.

Sitting at the hard core table.

Dinner in Olives