Saturday, 21 October 2017

Water! 20th October

Cheddleton Mill to Cheddleton Mill

UntitledWith Storm Brian on his way we thought it best to fill the water tank today and find a suitable mooring for the next few days. The Caldon Canal only has two water points, one behind at Park Lane, Endon Bank and the other on the River Churnet section at Consall Forge ahead of us.  Looking at Gauge Map for the river levels suggested that we’d had lots of rain yesterday, we kind of knew this already, but the level looked like it was dropping. As we had breakfast two boats came past heading towards the river, they obviously thought it worth a try. A while later a boat came past the other way and chatted to Alex on Tench, he thought that the river would now be in flood. Which way to go?

P1150797smAfter a hello chat with Alex, who wasn’t going to bother carrying on to the river as time wouldn’t allow her to get stuck for a couple of days, we decided to go and see for ourselves. Tilly wasn’t impressed as she’d much rather have been out in the rain than us, but we needed water. First we passed the winding hole, the next would be just above the lock down onto the river so we were committed now to at least three locks and a couple of miles.

P1150815smP1150818smP1150829smGradually the rain eased as we worked our way down. Every now and then we could hear the Toot Toot of a steam engine. Churnet Valley Railway are having a 25th Anniversary Gala weekend with trains running from Cheddleton Station to Froghall so when the station came into view on our port side it was busy up there with engines in full steam. We’d really hoped to have been able to moor near to Consall Forge where the station platforms overhang the canal, but if the levels were suitable we’d be heading straight through to get off the river.

P1150831smDown the penultimate lock and we could see NB Tilly Mint and friend who’d gone by this morning, they had winded and were moored up. One chap stuck his head out and said that the river had been on red when they got to the lock. We had to carry on anyway to be able to turn, so we’d see what the situation was like when we got there.

P1150842smP1150846smP1150847smI remembered that the board was in an awkward position so walked over the bridge and eventually found it. Sure enough it was in the red, but we were certain that the green started only an inch further down. If levels were dropping then it might be in the green  after we had lunch. So tied up on the lock landing we waited for an hour. Sadly the level hadn’t dropped, maybe it had even gone up a bit! We couldn’t wait any longer, if we wanted water we needed to retrace our steps and climb another three locks. With the gala on at the railway we wanted to return to Cheddleton too, so we had some shallow miles to cover.

P1150854smJust as we were winding another boat appeared behind us, windlasses already in hand. If they were sensible they wouldn’t carry on, tight bends on a fast flowing river followed by a weir and a low bridge, not a good idea.

P1150863smP1150870smOur journey back to Cheddleton was slow but that gave us more opportunity to watch the trains in steam on the other side of the valley. Back under the aqueduct at Hazelhurst, this time I had my camera already in hand for the two Kingfishers, but of course they were nowhere to be seen! Once up the flight of three locks to the junction we carried straight on towards Park Lane. With enough water in the tank I had a shower as we went along. Of course there isn’t a handy winding hole at the services, you have to carry on another mile to Endon Basin to turn.

P1150890smFacing the other way we pulled in and filled the tank, time was getting on. Should we carry on or pull up before the locks? With winds forecast for tomorrow afternoon and hopefully a gulper pump to pick up in the morning we really wanted to be back where we’d started the day, buses would be much easier from there. So with not much day light left we pushed off at 6pm with our nav lights on. I browned some chicken, made a sauce and popped it into my cast iron casserole and into the oven where it should be cooked to perfection by the time we got moored up.

P1150902smWe passed one boat as we approached the top of the locks, he’d just come up, but this didn’t mean that they were all full sadly. Each one needed topping up. There was enough light to see what you were doing and I was glad that we knew the locks with their steps under the arc of the lock beams. Mick turned the tunnel light on, my goodness it is bright! It illuminated my way down to the next lock where I wound up paddles as Mick lifted one on the lock above. By the time I turned to walk back the bow of Oleanna had dropped sufficiently into the lock chamber so that I didn’t get blinded.

No space outside The Hollybush for the night, the 24hr moorings here seem to be at least 72hrs! I got the stove going and then sat at the bow, watching as Mick lit up bridge holes a bit more with his torch. Sat at the pointy end I could see bats skimming the surface of the canal, twisting and turning catching insects as they went. One did an arc around our bow and headed back the way it had come. Then a low swoop of an Owl just in front of us. He stopped and watched us go by before hooting for a mate. We don’t often move at night, in fact this might only be the second time we’ve done it, but it was magical.

Untitled11pmWe pulled up on the first rings at Cheddleton. Sorted ourselves out and the chicken was ready and waiting for us. Not quite back to where we’d started the day, but almost. At least we have a full tank of water to keep us going whilst the weather does what it’s going to, just a long way to get it. It turns out the river was rising again when we were at the lock. Hopefully it’ll go down again for us to get to Froghall after the weekend.

DSCF7117sm12 locks, 6 down, 6 up, 11.52 miles, 2 end up 90m away, 0 good TV reception, 0 green, 2 much red, 0 kingfishers, 0 time for me! 1 shower on the go, 1 full water tank, 4 joints of chicken ready and waiting, 8th bag completed, 1 Sontag on order.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Keeping Things Crossed. 19th October

Wood Top Bridge to Cheddleton Mill

As we languished in bed this morning we could hear the chug chug chug of an engine. Peering out from our bedroom porthole the bow of an old work boat came past, sheets down and then the familiar FMC livery, it was Tench with Alex at the helm. Sadly we weren’t able to get out to say hello in time. But as we are all heading towards a dead end then our paths will cross again.

Before setting off we wanted to empty our yellow water tank, so Mick set everything up outside whilst I gave the toilet a clean and got ready to flick the switch to turn the pump on. ‘Ready!’ came from outside, so I flicked the switch. All as normal for about 20/30 seconds. But then the pumping noise stopped and a kind of clicking noise started. This was switched off almost as soon as it started! What the….

With the panelling removed Mick flicked the switch again and out from the side of the Whale pump was a section that was flipping outwards. Video attached. Very odd and definitely not what it was meant to be doing. Computer turned on and an email sent to Finesse with the video, they agreed that it was very odd and that a new pump would be sent out to us, the second in a week.

Thank goodness we’d had a second outlet installed to be able to manually empty the tank, otherwise I’d have to be finding secluded bits of hedgerow for the next few days! At first Mick tried a small hand held pump attached to a length of hose. But just below gunnel height there is something that restricts the width of pipe you can get down, so this wasn’t going to work. We decided to look again at it after we’d moved.

P1150762smBy now it was raining, but determined to get down onto the river section and visit The Black Lion we both put full waterproofs on and pushed off. Only a couple of twists and turns brought us to the moorings at Cheddleton where there was space just behind Tench. By now it was heaving it down and we wanted to say hello to Alex, so pulled in behind. I walked down to see if there were any moorings below the next two locks, but there was nothing. With the rain forecast to stay with us for the full day we decided to stay put and see how the river reacts. By the pub at Consall Forge there is a weir which if the current is strong would be a bit hairy, also there is a low bridge to get under, which if the level is up we might not manage. So better to wait and see what happens.

P1150771smP1150775smBack at Oleanna Mick had got the hand pump out that he uses to empty the gear box oil from the engine. This has a finer tube that fitted down into our yellow water tank. Quite a bit of pumping was required but it did the job and some of the hedgerow got a treat. Thank goodness I’d no longer have to keep my legs crossed.

The rest of the day we pottered around Oleanna.

P1150778smI decided to get the mats I’d bought fitted on the steps to help protect the oak from wet feet, there isn’t always the luxury of time to take shoes off to pass through the boat whilst cruising.

P1150781smP1150788smThe front steps were easy, one mat just needed to be cut in half as it fitted perfectly across the steps. The rear half treads took a little bit more time, but not much. I cut a paper template using a page from Towpath Talk (the boaters fire lighting paper). The depth of tread was just about the same as half that of the mat, then cutting the width and curved corner to fit. Hey presto! Our steps now have some protection, better than just newspapers on them. Hopefully the rubber backing will mean that they don’t move too much, but can easily be taken outside to be cleaned.

P1150793smDSCF7117sm0 locks, 0.39 miles, 1 fullish yellow water tank, 1 sideways flicking pump, 2nd hand pump, 1 emptyish yellow water tank, 2nd pump on it’s way, 6 tread mats cut, 8th rag bag nearly complete, 5 whole hours of rainy muddy exploration, 1.5 hours to clean up, 1 stove keeping us too toasty, 1 river rising, 0 sightings of Alex, 1 evening watching recorded programmes.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Going Right Round To Go Right Under To Go Right. 18th October

Leek to Wood Top Bridge 40

Time to move on, after a trip to Morrisons to do the shopping I avoided yesterday. As we pushed off we were the last of the boats that had taken refuge here to leave, already having been replaced by another three boats.

P1150709smAs we came out of the tunnel we could see a hire boat that was stuck. One chap was pushing with all his mite on the pole and the other chap giving it full throttle, which was counter acting anything the pole was doing. Mick suggested that they should try to get off by going backwards, not just a bit but a long way, so we held beck to give them space. But they were stuck, so with one of their ropes wrapped round a dolly we tried to tow them off backwards. This needed some reverse from them before they were afloat again. We hung around to make sure that they were okay before we carried on.

P1150719smP1150722smP1150729smA lot of leaves had come down in the storm, so the colours of the trees were a bit disappointing, maybe we’re just a little bit early too. We meandered our way back to Hazelhurst Junction slowly. At Bridge 1 I hopped off and went to set the first lock down towards Froghall. Here the two branches of the canal lie almost next to each other, so Mick held back until he could see that I was about to open the top gate. Then he swung Oleanna round the 180 degree turn to the right, under the smart bridge and into the lock.

P1150735smP1150737smWith the three Hazelhurst locks close together I walked down to the next chamber to start filling it as Mick lifted a paddle to empty the one Oleanna was in and step back on board for me to return to open and close the gates. This meant that we were filling the next chamber with the water from the last one, with little if any water going round the bywash.

P1150749smNow we were low enough to go right under the other branch that we’d just come off. From here we now started to go right even though we’d taken the left at the junction. Just as we were approaching the aqueduct, I’d just picked my camera up to take photos of it, when on the off side I could see the electric blue of a Kingfisher. It took too long to turn my camera on as Mick pointed out that there was not just one but two of them. The second one so close to us that I hadn’t originally seen it due to the cabin side. Three maybe four foot away at most! Just there!! And my camera was still turning itself on as they darted away. I’ve made a note of where they were sitting so that my camera will be powered up and ready should they be there when we return.

P1150756smP1150759smThere were a couple of boats moored outside The Hollybush so we carried on to find a suitable mooring for the night as we didn’t really want to go down the next two locks today. Now surrounded by trees, we found a stretch where on one side we’d get some day light. Tilly could be heard inside counting the trees as we tried to pull in, but the bottom was too near to the top. A short distance further on we got into the side with ease and Tilly was allowed out to climb the trees she’d been shouting at through the bathroom window.

Today the temperature had dropped, we could see our breath at times and gloves will need digging out very soon. Very odd to think that just a few days ago we were in t-shirts. The forecast for the next few days suggests rain and high winds again at the weekend. So we hope to find a suitable mooring off the coming river section and away from big trees, however there may be no internet near Froghall.

DSCF7114sm3 locks, 4.06 miles, 1 wind, 1 tunnel, 1 pulling off, 1 over, 1 under, 180 degrees, 2 just SO close, 0 photos to prove it! 97 miles, 1 stove with 2 jackets baking, 23 trees shouted at, 19 climbed, 4 dry paws today.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Parcels. 17th October


The wind had died down enough last night for us to be able to sleep well, maybe our sleep was also assisted by the extra glass of wine! But this morning it was still quite blustery, so we were glad we had no plans to move on.

We both hopped onto the No 18 bus which took us back to Hanley. The countryside round here is ever so hilly, as soon as the bus levelled out it then had to go up or down again. This did make for very good views as we travelled along the A53. I jumped off shortly before Hanley and left Mick to carry on to the bus station.

My mission was to see if my wool order had arrived at Norwood Post Office. I’d had an email saying that it had been dispatched yesterday morning, so I was hopeful. It turned out to be the easiest Post Restante delivery ever, 3 minutes walk from the bus stop, the lady turned round and handed me my parcel. Brilliant!

P1150672smI then walked up another hill to then go down the other side and into Hanley on the hunt for some small moisture traps and some more crystals for the ones we’ve already got. For those who don’t live on a boat, they are prone to condensation. When the temperature drops again we are likely to wake up to condensation on the windows each morning just from us breathing over night. LPG gas gives off moisture as you cook adding to the damp air. So closed cupboards tend to be prone to damp, especially those a distance away from the warming stove. I’ve already deployed a couple of moisture traps in cupboards at the bow, but wanted some that I can put in our clothes cupboards and under the bed. Under our mattress the bed base has circular holes cut for ventilation. Between our large drawers in this space is a gap which can only be reached by putting your hand through one of the holes. Our long damp traps wouldn’t work in this space as turning them to remove them would empty the water back in there, defeating having them in the first place.

A search round all the likely shops came up with nothing, but in Poundland you could buy two for £1! I got four as they may not be reusable, although if I can find more crystals we should be able to refill them.

Mick in the meantime had changed buses at Hanley, the No 4 which would take him to Tim Tylers yard for our second parcel. This second bus took an eternity due to road works , but in the end he got there and picked up the awaiting new water pump. Three narrowboats were in various stages of construction in the workshop, no photos sorry. He then caught the next bus back to Hanley only pausing to get a bite to eat on the way.

P1150691smP1150692smI decided to stay on my returning bus and have a bit of a look around Leek. Originally a market town, holding a cattle market for hundreds of years. After the Industrial Revolution the town turned to the textile industry, much like Macclesfield with silk. Some of the mills still stand and the obvious wealth that silk brought is seen with large half timbered buildings. Down some of the side streets I spied the familiar windows at the tops of the houses where garret rooms would be filled with a weaving looms making the most of the natural light. One for sale has an attractive basement with curved ceilings. Whoever wrote the blurb thinks they might win the next Booker prize!

P1150679smP1150685smThe town is now filled with charity shops and numerous enticing pubs. A large market square still has weekly stalls and the Butter Market has stands several times a week. Wilko came up trumps with a couple of mats for me to cut down for our steps into the boat. Now loaded up and one more hill to descend I headed back to Oleanna a further visit into Leek may be on the cards.

P1150697smP1150700smMick arrived back soon after Tilly had headed off into the sideways trees, she wouldn’t get blown into the canal today. The new pump is a Jabsco which luckily fitted where the original Sureflo had been. After they were swapped over some blue roll was left underneath so that we could check for leaks. The original pump will stay with us until we know what Finesse want to do with it.

Shortly before Tillys allotted time outside had expired she returned meowing at the back door. A quick check for friends and she was allowed in, only to discover that she was very wet! I was stood watching the Canadians swim by and then there was this sudden gust of wind right up my bum! It made me jump! For the next hour whilst she washed herself dry she insisted on sitting anywhere where there wasn’t a towel.

0 locks, 0 miles, 5 buses, 2 parcels, 7 balls of wool, 1 wedgwood blue a lilac colour, 1 water pump, 4 damp traps, 1 exciting hardware shop, 2 mats, 1 chicken, 20p of root ginger, 1 wet tail, 3 muddy soaked legs, 1 very tired cat, 1 calmer cooler day.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

A Red Day. 16th October

Leek Canal Terminus

Having watched the weather forecasts over the last couple of days get worse Mick decided to not risk getting a bus over to Tim Tylers today, there was a chance that by the time he was on his way back that the buses might have been grounded due to the wind. We also wanted to be around should anything happen, not that we’d have been able to do much with a bread knife!

P1150640smAs the wind blustered around us we pottered the morning away, a couple more boats arrived, winded and then found themselves moorings one behind us the other at the front. Mick made sure that things that couldn’t be tied down were removed from the roof and brought into the pram cover. We even wondered whether it would be best to take down and remove the pram cover and frame, but decided to make sure it was fully closed with all poppers firmly done up.

P1150628smP1150647smGradually the morning turned red. Smoke and dust had been whipped up by Hurricane Ophelia and was having an effect on the sun. All very eerie and other worldly, just as it would be before an eclipse. But today it went on for far longer, hours.

P1150633smTilly had been allowed out first thing but probably because of the wind she came back after a short while. Huffy Fuffy blowing up your bum! No good that!! So we then had to spend the rest of the day with her shouting at the doors to be let out, by now the wind was getting stronger and we didn’t want her to be blown away, but you try explaining that to a cat who obviously had unfinished business to attend to.

P1150654smP1150658smI walked up to Morrisons for a few bits and thought that the wind wasn’t so bad, I’ve certainly known it worse in Scarborough. A couple of hire boats had appeared and winded (most probably helped by the wind direction today) and then disappeared heading straight back into the wind. We wondered how many boats had taken refuge on the other side of the tunnel, so went for a walk. Much to our surprise there were no boats there. The sun had now returned to it’s normal colour and the skies were blue, so we decided to walk along the hill to do a circle back to the boat.

P1150664smP1150665smFrom above the tunnel there were great views across the valleys and all those trees. Our route brought us to the road into Leek, from there we followed the feeder channel back to the end of the canal. Quite windy, but nothing extreme. We settled down for the rest of the afternoon and evening. We found that the volume on the TV gradually had to be turned up, then running the engine helped to block out the now howling gale outside. Suspect nobody would have noticed should we have left it running past 8pm. Mick every now and then went into the pram cover with a torch to check that all was okay. The plank and poles vibrated on their rack for much of the evening despite being tied down. Thank goodness we’d found a good silted up bit of canal to sit out the storm in. Not quite into the side and on a soft bottom Oleanna sat quite happily, not able to bump the armco and no fenders were needed. All we got was the occasional rocking as the cabin side tilted in the gusts.

P1150670smIt was around midnight before it started to calm down outside, we’d decided to wait to go to bed as neither of us would have been able to sleep, which gave us the excuse of another glass of wine!

0 locks, 0 miles, 1 red sun, 1 eerie day, 6 apples, 5 bananas, 4 toilet rolls, 1 bum needing protection, 1 shouting cat, 1 ghost train, 1 diddy feeder, 2 portions Lasagne, 3 glasses each, 7th bag completed, 6/7 hours of major wind.