Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Three Is Better Than Two. 30th October

Etruria to Red Bull

P1160855smThe last boat to pull away this morning and we had plenty to do before leaving Etruria. One of our gas bottles had run out about a week ago, so the first port of call was Capital Gas. Here we wanted to see if we could fit a third 13kg bottle into the gas locker. On Lillian a bottle would last us around three months, but that was only for cooking. Now that we have a gas boiler on board it would be good to be able to have extra capacity for the winter should it get really cold.

P1160857smP1160862smThe chap at the yard brought a full bottle before we returned the empty one, Bingo they all three fitted. We just need to buy a strop to be able to anchor all three together so that she will comply with the Boat Safety. Only down side is that we’ve had to fork out for another £40 deposit on the bottle. Really must start looking out for wayward empty bottles along the way to be able to get some money back.  At least we have saved a bit on the gas. Our last bottle cost us just over £28, but today they were £21.

Mick then walked along the towpath to Andrew Page for some engine oil as Oleanna is due a service very soon. This was also a bargain at under £40 for 9.5 litres. Just need to ring ahead to Kings Lock for filters and we’ll have everything.

P1160863smWith the washing machine on we pootled our way through Stoke, passing all the bottle kilns, old factory sites that are now flattened. Today with the sun in the trees Stoke looked less collapsed and forgotten. Kingfishers  lead the way from tree to tree.

P1160878smP1160881smPassing Stoke Boats the navigation was narrower than normal. Mike must be doing some work on this boat from Windermere, it certainly wouldn’t get to Stoke by water as it is too big for the tunnel or locks.

As we progressed quite a few boats were coming towards us. Most were trading boats that had been moored up for the weekend at Westport Lake. All of them now heading off to find places to trade over the winter. When we reached the lake there was a mass of mooring available and the Winter Mooring signs have gone up. One day when we stop here we will walk around the lake and have a proper look at the birds, but not today.

P1160886smAt the south portal to the tunnel there was a line of boats, we pulled in at the back. Up ahead were more trading boats, The Hippy Boat and The Pirate Boat (Heidi’s boat). I walked up to check in with the tunnel keeper and say hello to Heidi. Seven boats in all sat waiting. The keeper said he’d get the first three going through and then come to chat to us. We were lucky as we’d arrived shortly after a boat had come through from the north, so our wait was quite short. At the front were the boats that had left Etruria before us this morning, so they could have been waiting for an hour or so.

Mick wanted to check the weed hatch and remove the top of the chimney before we set off, so we quickly got ourselves sorted, we passed the Emergency procedure test and our light and horn were in working order. Being last to turn up we thought we’d have plenty of time, but Heidi and another boat have smokey engines so wanted to go last. Harecastle Tunnel doesn’t have any ventilation shafts, instead at the south portal large doors are closed across the entrance and huge fans are switched on to drag the fumes through the tunnel from the north. So if you have a smokey engine it’s best for everyone to be last.


All ready with our life jackets on and torch to shine above the cabin roof we entered the tunnel. We’ve not noticed what looks like a TV aerial at the entrance before, it must be for communications. With four engines and stoves lit ahead of us the atmosphere in there was already quite smokey and our torch beam lit up the fumes, it looked like we had our own follow spot. Once Heidi (the last boat) was in the tunnel the doors were shut and the fans turned on. All became noisy and very cold as the air was sucked past us. My toes were numb and I really wished I’d put an extra layer or two on today.

P1160895smAt the northern portal only one boat was waiting, most probably the last of the day. From the 1st November the tunnel goes onto winter hours, passage is only possible if booked 48 hours in advance and only on four days a week, so most people would rather get through before hand.

P1160896smThe trading boats turned left heading up onto the Macc and left us following a hire boat down through the locks to Red Bull. Two boats that had been at the front had pulled in before the last lock. NB Tilly Mint had lost it’s tunnel light at about the 100m mark of the tunnel, south end! Luckily he had a torch to hand so managed to see his way through. Always best to have a back up.


No one else was moored at the services, so we pulled in within reach of the water point. Here we will work our way through our washing mountain, using the tumble drier in the service block. We’ve also timed things very well as NB Halsall stopped here for the night, so Oleanna has been filled up with diesel and we’ve replenished our coal supplies too. Always nice when a plan just comes together.

DSCF7114sm3 locks, 6.49 miles, 2 straight ons, 2926 yrds of darkness, 3 gas bottles, 9.5 litres oil, 4 bags excell, 128 litres diesel, 1 bag kindling, 7th in line, 5th by queue jumping, 2 nithered boaters, 3 hours, 4 lots of treats, 3 lots of washing, 12 rows unravelled, 1 summer duvet put away for another year.

Monday, 30 October 2017

In Reverse Order. 29th October

Stockton Brook to Etruria

It’s getting to that time of year when we recognise a higher proportion of boats that are on the move. Today out of the five boats we came across we knew two from last year, NB Skye who went up onto the Macc and NB Old Tom North who we shared some of the Leicester section with. We smiled to the chaps at the helm and said hello, but without the yellow of Lillian we get a smile but no recognition back. Advantage is that if we miffed anyone off whilst on Lillian they won’t know it’s us.

With the clocks having changed we managed an earlier start than normal. We passed NB Maple Knot just after pushing off, they had picked up someone's keys at the electric lift bridge that were left in the control panel, they may have belonged to the chap on NB Skye as he’d passed us an hour earlier. Plenty of walkers with their dogs out for a Sunday morning stroll in the chilly sunshine. At the two lift bridges I only managed to hold up 1 golden retriever and his owner, who patiently waited whilst my finger pressed the close button and helped emit the high Ayckbourn squeak.

P1160796smOnce the sun came out it was really quite warm and after working us through Engine Lock I decided to loose a layer. This time I decided to stay on board and not walk my way back into Hanley.

P1160799smAs we got close to Bridge 11, NB Bramber pulled out from the towpath a short distance in front of us. Mrs Bramber walked ahead to operate the lift bridge. Once through we overtook them as the bridge closed. This meant we were ahead for the locks. Just over two weeks ago when we left Etruria we followed NB Bramber up the staircase locks , today we were to go down them in reverse order. As we hadn’t stopped Mick gingerly walked down the gunnel as we cruised along to remove the top of the chimney before Bridge 9, just in case we sat too high in the water now having used most of our coal. Still several inches to spare.


As I walked up to the staircase I could see a lady with a windlass in hand doing things, so I signalled to Mick to pull in. The lady apologised thinking that she’d stolen the lock from us, just because the top chamber was full. Certainly not the case, her boat was already in the bottom chamber before we got there. At a staircase of two you need to have the top chamber full of water and the bottom empty no matter which way you are going through it, so she must have had to empty or fill one of the chambers before they started.

P1160825smI helped them up and once their boat was in the top chamber with the gates closed behind them Mick lifted a paddle to set the lower chamber for us. By now NB Bramber had also arrived, so he helped us down into the bottom chamber making sure the gates were closed behind us and then filled the top chamber back up for them.

The only boats on the moorings at Etruria were two that had been up at Leek and Cheddleton with us, so we tucked in in front of them.

P1160833smP1160838smIn the afternoon Tilly had another good explore around the museums (without us!). She didn’t seem too enamoured with the new display that has been put up in the last two weeks. Presumably it is something to do with steam power, but as yet there isn’t a descriptive panel to tell you anything about it.

P1160843smI climbed my way back up into Hanley to buy a new set of interchangeable needles for my latest project and also popped into Wilko for a cheap mat that I could cut to size to sit underneath the Brompton bike in the bike slot, I’d grown tired of looking at the ratty newspaper it was sat on.

P1160851smA big roast dinner with that humongous chicken tonight. I think we’ll be eating it for the next week!

DSCF7114sm4 locks, 6.09 miles, 3 lift bridges, 3 held up, plus 1man and his dog, 5 familiar boats in all, 2 unfamiliar, 5.5mm needles, 75p mat, 14” of cord knitted, 1st Blue Planet 2, 2.2kg chicken, 2 full boaters.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Paper Girl. 28th October

Endon to Stockton Brook Lock 5

P1160758smThe next batch of bags and hats was ready to be sent off this morning, so once they were all labelled and parcelled up I walked the three quarters of a mile to Stockton Brook Post Office.

P1160759smP1160763smAt Endon Basin the reason for the number of moored boats yesterday became apparent. They were all waiting to be lifted out. A team of chaps in high vis were busy craning boats into the water that had recently been blacked and then filling the spaces with the next batch. I did wonder about asking if Oleanna could be lifted so that we could look at the bowthruster, but I suspect we’d have been far too heavy for the crane as all the boats seemed to be quite short.

P1160772smAt the Post Office I handed over one parcel and received another that was waiting for me. Turquoise and buff wool for a Sontag shawl. When I got back to Oleanna pleased with my trip Mick reminded me that I was also meant to buy our Saturday Newspaper. Fail! I’d totally forgotten, didn’t even notice any newspapers in the Post Office.  So Mick walked to the Co-op which had the right paper, but no colour supplement. So he went to the Post Office where he found a paper with all the extras. Maybe I’ll be relieved of paper duties next week.

Two boats passed shortly before we pulled out, so we took our time before we pushed off as there would only be a queue at the locks.

P1160775smNB Bounty was just entering the top lock as we arrived. The lady explained that they’d been at the services with the boat ahead and he’d asked if he could pull out first as he was wanting to reach Great Haywood today. Blimey, that’s 18 miles and 18 locks for a single hander! We were all in the opinion that he’d not make it (16.5 hours according to canalplan) especially as he must have left the services at around 1pm. As he was in a rush he had left the bottom gates open and the paddles up, so NB Bounty would have to close everything. He apparently apologised a couple of locks down, but they said that he should carry on, maybe to get a bit more space between them. I had joked that they must be heading northwards to Red Bull, so as to loose the single hander. But I can’t have been heard correctly, they thought we were hoping to get to Red Bull today. Mr NB Bounty must have thought he was surrounded by speeding boaters each with an unrealistic aim for the day, Harecastle Tunnel would be long closed for the day by the time we got there!

P1160785smI corrected our destination for him, just below the bottom lock, only another 100 meters. We have an empty gas bottle so would like to stop at the Calor Gas place in Etruria and they won’t be open until Monday, so no rush for us. Red Bull by the end of Monday.

Once moored up, Tilly let out to explore the area we settled down for the evening in front of the stove. I worked up a tension square, which turned into two as I needed bigger needles. Sadly I don’t have the right size of circular needles so will be climbing the hill into Hanley again before we go through the tunnel. I really hope Abakhan stocks the size I need.

DSCF7114sm5 locks, 1.32 miles, 2 parcels, 800gms wool, 2 hanks now balls, 1 impossible mission, 1 way traffic, 1 very windy night, 1 failed paper girl, 1 successful paper boy, 5mm too small, 5.5mm better.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Spring. 27th October

Park Lane Services to Endon

The sun was wide awake when we got up and burnt it’s way through a haze around the canal in no time. The day warmed up so much that it felt like spring.

When the boat behind moved off Mick pulled Oleanna back. Moving the outside whilst I was in it! TWICE!! Now next to the water point we popped the washing machine on and then everything went out on the whirligig to almost dry before we wanted to move off.

P1160729smWith spring in the air I decided that it was time for a bit of a major clean. The galley had a thorough scrubbing down. The fridge even had tape removed from the shelves that must have been there when it was transported to Finesse, I’d not noticed it before. The wine cellar got a good clean too and was reorganised ready for our delivery this afternoon.

I was out for most of the day. There was certainly plenty to explore, but I made sure I came back to tell everyone about the really boggy bit I’d found.

For the first time our Sainsburys delivery was late, by almost 20 minutes. Mick had been out watching for him on the nearby bridge over the railway which gave a great view of the main road. The driver called to say he’d be late, which was at least something. I just felt a little bit rushed to get everything on board. No substitutes, but a few items with short BB dates and a chicken that was much bigger than I’d ordered. On the upside they did have the nice gingery tofu that we like, which is hard to find.

P1160734smConscious that we’d now used up our 24 hours we wanted to move on a short distance, which would also get us closer to Stockton Brook Post Office to pick up a parcel tomorrow morning. So we pushed off and cruised around a couple of bends to near Endon Basin. We were surprised at the number of boats moored along this stretch, but there was space for us at the end. Shortly afterwards Alex came past waving from the stern of Tench, wonder if we’ll catch her up in the next couple of days?

P1160746smDSCF7117sm0 locks, 0.76 miles, 60 ft reverse, 1 load washing, 1 clean fridge, 2 buffers, 6 pieces of tape, 1 clean cooker, 1 new bucket, 1 full water tank, 2 showers, 20 minutes late! 2.2kg chicken anyone fancy Sunday tea? 7 hours! 2 outsides, 1 leg that’s fine really it’s fine, 2 gloves finished, 1 wine cellar full to the brim.

Friday, 27 October 2017

On The Summit. 26th October

Basford Bridge to Park Lane Services

Whilst having breakfast this morning a CRT boat came passed pushing a skip boat, the troupes are starting to mobilise for the winter stoppages. The visitor mooring we were on  is opposite a permanent mooring so the gap in between is quite narrow, just ahead is a submerged obstacle, so any boat passing should be going slowly. As the boat reached about a third of the way down Oleanna there was a bump, followed by another. Mick, now leaning out of the hatch was thanking the chap on the tug boat! It took a little while for the chap to hear Mick as his boat was busy scrapping it’s way along the side of Oleanna! At first he didn’t acknowledge what was happening, then he said ‘There’s nothing I could do!’. Well actually there was, he could at least have said sorry! But he obviously wasn’t to blame for not taking enough care whilst passing moored boats. Hopefully it will only be a mark on the gunnel which will get tidied up if the weather allows before winter.

Over at the station an engine was in steam, shunting coaches around up and down the line as we pulled away to head back to the summit pound.

P1160679smUp the two Cheddleton Locks we passed the CRT boat and Tench still moored where we’d left her a few days ago. The sun was trying to come out, but the grey clouds were winning which gave the air a cold bitter tinge. At the Hollybush the 24hour moorings were still occupied by two boats we’d seen a week ago. Maybe CRT have started the 2 weeks on visitor moorings for winter early this year. We wondered what the pub thought, we might have stopped for at least a drink if we could have moored there, but carried on instead, how many other boats have done the same?

P1160682smP1160660smUnder the aqueduct with my camera poised in hand just in case the Kingfishers were about, but sadly no. Adam from NB Briar Rose has recently mentioned in his blog about why there are so many Kingfishers around this autumn, a result of mild winters the last few years. We’ve certainly seen more than before and what a treat to the eye they have been.

P1160702smAt Hazelhurst Locks we were soon being followed by the CRT boat. By now the sun was just coming out and drying off the dew in the fields around us. Now with views opening up I got that Bonfire Night feeling, hoping that the stove would be lit this evening to sit next to all rosy cheeked. It’s not that cold yet, but it feels like it should be. Another boat was coming down the locks so we passed between the top two.


Arriving at Park Lane services another boat was already in pole position for the water point. Not in dire need of water we pulled up in front of him, let the cat out and checked that a Sainsburys delivery would be okay here. 25% off again!

P1160714smDSCF7114sm5 locks, 3.75 miles, 1 under, 1 straight, 1 long scrape, 0 manners, 24 hrs? 1 last wave to the trains, 1 last wave to Tench, 0 blue flashes, 3 vans, 5 hours! 0 Margees afloat anymore, £79,750 for NB Large Marge, 0 tasty waves to Jaffa.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

No Balloons For Us! 25th October

Consall Forge to Basford Bridge

P1160493smThe cockerel at the pub decided that dawn was at 7.30am, however no matter how he persisted Mick didn’t notice!

P1160513smWe planned to be on the first train of the day through Consall Station, but this wasn’t until 11.28 so we had plenty of time to get ready. No catching up with news on facebook, tv, radio, or phones, we were totally cut off from the outside world. Rather nice. As we leisurely ate our breakfast a steam engine came past twice on it’s own, presumably checking out the line, clearing it of leaves before the Halloween Family Fun Day started.

P1160518smP1160524smP1160548smBeing in the middle of the line we didn’t expect there to be many passengers waiting and we were right. Two photographers and one other passenger. We’d not been able to buy our ticket in advance on line (at a discount price) so Mick chatted away to the chap in the ticket office thorough the little glass window. He was a bit surprised that Mick wasn’t 60 so therefore had to pay full price, today the tickets were half the price of those at the weekend, so we didn’t mind. The sun was out and we waited along with the photographers out on the platform. An old refreshments trolley stood with it’s tea urn at the ready to provide the waiting paparazzi with a coffee each, this was also manned by the ticket office chap, he was also station guard, in fact he was the only member of staff at the station.

P1160546smP1160582smAs we stood waiting a narrowboat came along under the other platform trying to find a space wide enough to moor in. Shame we weren’t on that platform to be able to look down to them. A phone rang in the ticket office and then we got personal platform announcements. Mr Consall Station walked up to the photographers who were already set up waiting for the engine to reverse into the station, then he came to chat to us. The first train of the day was going to be late. This was due to there being too many passengers, the train was already full at Cheddleton and plenty more were waiting at Froghall, so an extra two carriages were being added to the train! In the 21st Century we’d all just be expected to squeeze on and stand, but out here where time stands still you can wait until they provided us all with a seat.

P1160556smP1160559smEventually a bell rang out on the platforms, this meant that the train was on it’s way, four minutes away. As it pulled up to a halt a guard leant out of the window and suggested we get on at his end and walk up a couple of carriages for seats, the train was too long now for the platforms. Carriages were full of families out for the day. Mick and I soon were in a quiet coach at the end away from all the sweats and excitement, not saying that we weren’t as excited as the kids, we just weren’t being as noisy about it. At Froghall the platform was full and the train filled up. We felt rather under dressed as there were Ghost Busters, Witches, Superman, we really should have made the effort.

P1160579smHere there was a long wait, the engine had to uncouple, reverse up the line and return on the other, fill with water and then head down the line to then reverse recouple onto the now front end of the train. This all took quite some time. Balloon sculptors were on the train, a pirate sword and a teddy bear were made for the kids across the way, the chap not even looking at what he was doing. The carriage soon filled with dinosaurs, flowers and other creations, but he didn’t make any for us!

P1160568smP1160571smPassing through the old wire works we could see more missile shaped objects just lying round, according to a comment on the blog these are more likely to be under wing drop fuel tanks. Thank goodness the MOD don’t just leave bombs lying around.

P1160625smP1160626smWe’d moved to the left side of the train giving us a better view across the valley as we made our way back towards Consall and then onto Cheddleton. The canal for a stretch would be right alongside, then high up, then below. At Cheddleton there were announcements, but it was all a bit noisy to hear what was being said. In the end we found out that another carriage was being added as demand was unprecedented. Last year they had run two Halloween Specials and the uptake was so low they lost money on them, this year it had gone the other way. The time table was now out of the window, nobody seemed bothered by this as the Ghost buster pirate sworded lad fought off Superman and his gang witches armed with laser firing flowers and teddies.

P1160630smP1160635smOnce on the move again we crossed the level crossing and entered Cheddleton Tunnel before pulling up. Here the engine had to uncouple and rejoin the train behind us. Then we were back into the tunnel, this time without the cabin lights on! Scary!! Back up the line to Consall where we walked back along the train to alight, no being rushed to do so. In fact they stopped the train so more people could get off! We thanked Mr Consall Station and walked out back into the quiet of the trees. A great few hours on the train.

P1160655Trim_MomentsmThere was time to have lunch before the engine came back, I was stood waiting to take another photo, this time with Oleanna in the foreground. With this done we headed back up stream to find a mooring for the night where Tilly could go out.

P1160669smUp off the river and through the next lock we decided to moor opposite the station, just as the final train of the day came in. No more trains until the Santa specials in December. The engine shunted carriages around for a while as I had a walk up and down the towpath with Tilly, eventually leaving her to play with the rather rowdy pheasants.

DSCF7117sm2 locks, 2.19 miles, 30 minute delay, 3 extra carriages, 1 tunnel twice, 0 balloons if over 11! 1 man in charge, 1 full noisy train, 2 people watching the scenery, 150 minutes of train riding, 90 minutes by boat.