Saturday, 30 April 2011

Gurnett Aqueduct - Again!!!

Yes, I know I said we wouldn't be coming back here for a long time, but it's been SO windy today we didn't want to go any further.
The party at the marina yesterday was OK, if you could keep the food from blowing off your plate and keep the dust out of your drink! It was blowing a gale, in fact it was so windy that when I took the dogs out later Charlie nearly got blown off the pontoon. It's always very windy at Macc.marina but this was just awful. I abandoned the party early as it was too cold for me but Roger stayed and said they had a great time later in the evening when the guitars came out for a jamming session. Mel joined in singing, with Roger, Kev & Gary on guitars.

It's still extremely windy and even with 3 ropes, 2 on mooring rings and 1 on a mooring stake, we're rocking and banging about. I've just checked the weather forecast for tomorrow and unfortunately it says it's going to get even windier so maybe we'll stay here another day.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Macclesfield Marina

I haven't posted a blog for the last 2 days as we had to go back to the house in Manchester to sort a few things out.
While we were there Charlie paid a visit to the groomer for a much needed hair cut. He's never had it done this short before but it'll be much easier to manage, especially as he's getting older and more arthritic and doesn't like being "messed with". It was cold overnight (-1.6) and the poor thing was shivering when I got up. Hopefully it'll be warmer tonight.

We're now moored on the visitor's moorings back at Macclesfield Marina but this is just for tonight while we go to the Royal wedding Street Party. Should be fun!

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Back to Gurnett

It seems that boaters moored with us at Bosley last night couldn't sleep as most boats had gone by the time we got up at 8.30. It was busy going up the locks and with everyone going the same way almost every lock had to be emptied before we could go in it which meant twice the work. At one of the locks a grey wagtail had made its nest tucked into the bottom gate. There aren't any eggs yet and with the gate being opened and closed so many times each day I think the nest may be abandoned soon. We'll have a look when we go back down next week.

Because there were so many boats going towards Macclesfield we were a bit concerned that we wouldn't get a mooring at Gurnett, so instead of stopping for lunch after the locks we ate en-route. The moorings were fairly busy (the usual continuous moorers are still here, one has been here for almost 3 years) but we got a spot, moored up and walked to the marina to collect the car. We had a short diversion to get some spare parts and dog food and when we got back to the boat at 5.00 the moorings were absolutely chock-a-block with boats having to carry on past to try and find moorings somewhere else which isn't easy in Macclesfield.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Red Bull to Bosley

We set off around 10.00 this morning as I needed to nip to Morrison's in Congleton to stock up the fridge. We moored up at Congleton Wharf which was empty apart from one other boat and took Chico and the Granny Trolley down into town. I know it's Bank Holiday Monday but Congleton was deserted, with hardly any of the shops open. I filled the Granny Trolley, which is probably the best £10 I ever spent on the boat, and we took turns pulling it back up the hill to the wharf. It might not be very trendy looking, but it certainly beats carrying shopping bags.
Just as we got to Congleton Aqueduct we picked up something big and metallic on the prop again. We're really not having much luck but as this is the third thing round the prop in a month maybe our luck'll change.

It took us a while to decide what it was, but finally came to the conclusion that it used to be a fishing landing net.  The canal traffic has been very busy again today and we got the last mooring spot at Bosley on the aqueduct ready to go up the locks tomorrow. Roger's been fishing again and instead of catching 50+ tiddlers as at Rode Heath, he's had a couple of nice sized bream.

Sunday, 24 April 2011


We turned round today and started heading back towards Macclesfield for my hospital appointment on Thursday. It was a cold start to the day and we were back into boots and socks and jeans and sweatshirts but after lunch the sun came out again and it was as hot as ever.
We'd originally planned to turn round in the winding hole at Rode Heath but a hire boat had moored right across it so we had to go down 2 locks, turn round and then come back up the 2 locks again before starting back. That made a total of 17 locks today and most of them have been hard work, I must be getting old!
The last lock is one of a pair in between 2 pubs, the Canal Tavern and the Blue Bell and there were lots of local 'scallies' milling round pints in hand. One 'nice young man' fancied jumping off the lock side onto our roof or maybe climbing down the lock ladder onto the roof until he realised he'd get his trainers dirty on the lock sides! He eventually gave up and staggered off along the road with his mates, taking his pint with him. Just as we'd been going into this lock we picked something up on the prop again, so when the water level was almost at the top Roger went down the weed hatch, in his kinky green long-arm rubber gloves, and removed a mountain bike tyre.
We turned right at Hardings Wood junction and moored up for the night on Red Bull Aqueduct. Luckily we got a space right on the end of the aqueduct away from the sewage works as sometimes it can get a bit smelly here.
While we're back on the Macc. I must take Charlie for a hair cut, poor thing is too hot and can't see out of his one good eye.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Lazy day

We've had a nice lazy day today, going nowhere.

Last night's thunder didn't amount to much after all. It rumbled around us in a circle for about an hour but we only had a bit of rain. When we went to the village shop today we heard that it had been quite torrential only a couple of miles away at Wheelock.
On the way back from the shop we called in at the village pub, the Broughton Arms. It's a Marston's pub and the Dragon's Tale dark bitter was really nice, which is more than can be said for the food. I had a veggie burger which was OK but far too small for the size of burger bun it was served in and Roger had a cheese and bacon burger that was of very dubious quality and tasted of absolutely nothing! My portion of onion rings was only just cooked and soggy. Altogether a total waste of money! 

The male swan has been ardently guarding his mate and her nest in the winding hole and swimming up and down all day giving a wonderfully macho display.

We've moored here at Rode Heath several times before as the fishing is good and it's usually fairly quiet. Today has been extremely busy with moving boats and there are 9 other boats moored up along the towpath. 
It's nice to see so many boats moving about as reports in the waterways press keep saying how quiet the canals are for the time of year. Let's face it though, if you have a boat and don't use it over the Easter weekend in weather like we're having at the moment, what's the point in having it?

Friday, 22 April 2011

Rode Heath

It's been another lovely sunny day again but with quite a pleasant breeze that stopped it being too hot to work the locks. We did 11 locks today, making a total of 126 so far this year and 698 since we built the boat 2½years ago.
There's been a lot of maintenance and repair work carried out on the locks on 'heart-break hill' over the last few years and the locks are much easier to work than they used to be. One of the pair of locks just passed Red Bull service centre is currently being fully refurbished.

The canal passes through beautiful farmland and there are cherry and apple trees in full blossom everywhere.

We moored at Rode Heath early this afternoon and spent the rest of the afternoon fishing (over 40, mostly gudgeon) and reading.  A pair of swans have built their nest right in the winding hole which made it a bit tricky for us to turn round ready for the return trip on Monday.

It's now thundering and has gone very muggy,  looks like we're going to have a storm this evening. We certainly need the rain, the ground on Rode Heath Rise is so dry it's crazed and cracking.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

FINALLY off the Macc.

This weather is amazing! I can't remember it being so hot and sunny for so long for a period so early in the year but long may it last. A bit of rain overnight wouldn't go amiss however, as the canal level is quite low and we grounded the bottom in a couple of places when passing other boats..
We didn't start cruising until after lunch today as Roger picked up a job at Congleton Aqueduct. A boat called Misty Waters had problems with a water leak and it took a couple of hours to find and fix it.

Ramsdell Hall looked as majestic as ever in the sunshine. If you're interested in the history you can read about it here

New born calf

There aren't many swans on the Macclesfield Canal and as soon as we got onto the Trent & Mersey we came across this one sitting on a huge nest.

Just around the corner from the swan was a bee hive swarming with bees and judging by the many trees in blossom around it, there should be plenty of honey inside.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Congleton Aqueduct

After a perfect day yesterday, we had a perfect evening. It was time for the first BBQ of the year and the pork ribs were delish.
The canal has been busy again today with lots of hire boats wizzing about. The fields are full of frolicking lambs and there are newly hatched ducklings everywhere.

We only cruised for a couple of hours today and moored on Congleton Aqueduct at lunchtime. It was so lovely here we decided to stay for the night and Roger fished while I sat in the sun and finished a book. Mid afternoon a couple of policemen came along the towpath with a handcuffed youth. Apparently he'd been caught in the woods below the aqueduct with a load of stolen goods. There's a river running through these woods and all afternoon we've heard the sounds of kids having fun jumping off the bridge into the river. I didn't think it was deep enough for that but we haven't heard and screams of pain so it must have been OK.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Down Bosley Locks

Yet another fantastic day! We set off around 11 after Roger had been to get his hair cut and had a good trip down Bosley Locks. Most of the locks were set against us as everyone seemed to be going the same way today but in full sunshine nothing was a problem.
When we moored up on the aqueduct at the bottom of the locks I retired to the roof, sunbathing with Charlie, while Roger tried drowning a few maggots for the first time this year, but the fish weren't biting. The woods beside lock 12 are full of bluebells again this year and it's a really beautiful walk.

When he came back from the pub last night Roger brought me an Easter egg. It was a goose egg but I'd have preferred a chocolate egg. He had it scrambled with smoked salmon for lunch today but said it wasn't anything special.

goose egg on left hen's egg on right

Monday, 18 April 2011

Sutton Aqueduct

We've been staying in the Macclesfield area as I was supposed to have a hospital appointment tomorrow, but when I phoned to check the time I was told there was no appointment for me in the diary!  I was not amused as you can imagine. A new appointment was made for next week so we are now free to go cruising for a while.
It's been another beautiful day, surely it can't last much longer with all the bank holidays coming up, also we could do with some rain as the canal level is down but about 4ins.

Sunday, 17 April 2011


We had a really good night out last night. We were moored near the Ring o'Bells pub at Marple and they have live entertainment on every Saturday night. It was the turn of "Twelve Strings" last night. We've seen them before when we were moored in Bugsworth Basin last year and they were definitely worth seeing a second time. They're just 2 guys playing guitars and singing a wide range of music from 50's, folk, rock and blues.
Because we went out I didn't bother lighting the fire last night and this morning was quite cold. It was only 4' at 7am but it was a beautiful start to a beautiful day.

view from the boat at 7 am
At Marple there is a trip boat for disable people run by the New Horizons Charity and they're celebrating their 30th anniversay this month with a massive decorative cake, balloons and bunting at their moorings.

After filling up with water, we turned the boat around and headed slowly back towards Macclesfield, soaking up the sun as we went. It's been a day for shorts and sandals. Long may it last!
There have been plenty of boats out cruising today and all of the usual mooring sites have been very busy so we actually ended up cruising further than we'd intended, until we found a gap on Bollington Aqueduct that was just our size.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Back to Marple - again

It's been another beautiful day and we arrived at Marple late morning to get a decent mooring away from the trees. The Chinese Grand Prix qualifying was on early this morning and I'd recorded it so that Roger could watch it while I went into town to do some shopping. Marple was very busy and there was a small farmers market on but all the stalls were very expensive and I didn't see many people buying from them.
After lunch we went for a walk along the Upper Peak Forest Canal then up the hill to The Ridge. The views back over the Goyt Valley were wonderful and we passed some very exclusive houses and arrived at a pub called The Romper. We sat outside in the sun and had a quick one. It's very swish inside but isn't dog friendly. The menu sounded good with Mediterranean style food and didn't appear to be too expensive. We carried on walking and eventually found our way back to the canal towpath which brought us back to the boat. All told it was a 4.5 mile walk & very pleasant.

Friday, 15 April 2011

High Lane

We'd planned on mooring at Marple this evening but had a very late start this morning, even by our standards. The dogs have settled straight back into the boat and didn't wake us up until 10.00 this morning.....sheer bliss!

It's been a lovely day, mostly bright but with a light shower just as we were about to moor up. We must have seen 10 or 12 herons, 20 nesting geese, lots and lots of mallard drakes but no ducks, apart from 2 that had newly hatched ducklings, and the lambs have been frolicking in the sunshine. The daffodils are still very much in evidence and there is apple & cherry blossom everywhere. All in all, a perfect day!

We're now moored at High Lane which is on the main A6 from Buxton to Stockport and is a really busy road. There's a large new Spar nearby and also a pizza take-away, a Chinese take-away, a cafe, a deli and an English fish and chip shop (run by Chinese) all wafting their tempting aromas our way but I've not given in, we're having king prawn and scallop risotto instead.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Quail Scotch Eggs

The dry dock took half an hour to fill and we were on our way by 10.30.

With the rental of the dry dock, hire of the power washer and all the materials including blacking and gloss paint, rollers etc. it costs us just under £400 to make the boat look like new again. The blacking should last 2 years, maybe even 3, so we consider it a bargain.

After filling up with water at Macclesfield we moored at Gurnett Aqueduct to wash the boat. We'd been moored under a sycamore tree at Marple last week and the sap had dropped all over the boat making it sticky and grey.

This afternoon I made quail scotch eggs, a real favourite of ours.

Boil the quail eggs for 4 mins. then cool quickly in cold water (so they don’t go grey round the yolk)
Remove the shells and roll egg in plain flour to help the sausage meat stick better.
Take the skins off sausages or buy sausage meat, 1 ½ thin sausages or 1 fat sausage per egg.
Make sausage meat into a flat patty in the palm of your hand, put a hard boiled egg in the centre and fold sausage meat around to totally cover it.

Beat an egg in a bowl and roll each sausage covered quail egg in it, then roll in fresh breadcrumbs to cover it all over.

Deep fry 3 at a time in a wok or saucepan for about 5 mins. till golden brown and crispy.

Drain on kitchen paper and leave to cool before eating. Delicious with a pint of Old Speckled Hen.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Dry Dock Day 5

It's finished! Looks like a new boat again and it's not been that difficult. The worst job has to be the power washing/jet blasting to remove the old blacking and loose rust. The blacking itself is simple to apply and it really can be a DIY job, especially with the amount these dry docks charge to do it for you. The main reason it's taken 5 days has been the drying times involved with all the painting/touching up we've done plus the 48 hours drying time for the final coating of blacking before the boat could go back in the water.

We'll be floating again tomorrow morning so now need to start planning where to go next.

Watch this space!!!

Monday, 11 April 2011

Dry Dock Day 3

OK, so I moaned we were missing the sun yesterday...... but what a difference today, cold and rainy morning, not as bad in the afternoon.
It's been another busy day but we are well on schedule to finish all the things that needed doing.

Today's work list:
Blacking coat 2
Lots of gloss painting to pole, tunnel flashes etc. etc. etc.
Paint sanding/non-slip finish to gunwales

before on left, after on right

Spring cleaning inside boat while there are no dogs in the way
Re-align rudder properly after getting stuck on shopping trolleys in Marple locks
Blacking coat 3

Keep making tea as Sir works best on Tetley's
prop-protector behind propeller

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Dry Dock Day 2

Wow what a day to be in dry dock!  It's been so hot and sunny out and we've been stuck inside. Still, it's been a perfect temperature for painting and Roger has now black glossed under the gunwales plus red glossed the T-stud, tunnel flash etc. and undercoated the pole, which we forgot about yesterday. The Comastic blacking went on nice and easy and first coat is dry ready for second coat tomorrow.

black gloss finished and 1st coat blacking 

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Dry Dock Day 1

We got to the dock around 10.00 and reversed straight in. The boat that had been in the dock last week was ready to come out and was pulled out into the canal so we could move into position ready for the water to be removed.

It only took about half an hour to pump out all the water and then Roger started power washing the hull to remove all the loose blacking and any accumulated rust. It wasn't too bad considering it hasn't been done for 2 years.

close up of hull showing rust spots

Today’s work list:
Power washed hull
Sanded , prep’d and undercoated sides of boat under gunwales
Sanded , prep’d and undercoated tunnel flashes on stern
Removed cratch cover, washed & re-proofed

As I only did the cratch cover it was an easy day for me today. It'll be a different story tomorrow when we start blacking. It's one of the jobs I always used to do when we were still building boats so it'll be interesting to see if I still have the knack!

Friday, 8 April 2011

A day for dashing around!

We're due in dry-dock tomorrow so had to go back to Manchester today to collect our car. We also had to go to the wholesalers for painting supplies and collect the blacking which should have been delivered yesterday. Except that it hadn't been delivered.......... and at 3.30 after lots of phone calls to the supplier and Fedex we had to go into the centre of Manchester  AT RUSH HOUR!!!!   to collect it from Fedex's depot. We've been without a car for over a month and, apart from a couple of short train and bus rides, have been living life in the slow lane.  Today more than made up for that!  The traffic jams, noise and fumes just made me more glad than ever that we've dropped out of the rat race. We finally made it back to Marple by 5.30 and then had to move the boat & car to Whiteley Green where we're moored tonight. I did the 20 minute car journey and Roger took the 2.5 hour boat journey. We met about half way as Chico & I walked to meet him after leaving the car in the car park.

The Macclesfield Canal is looking really beautiful at the moment with all the trees blossoming and green everywhere. The ducks have all paired up, even the Mandarins, and there are geese on nests all over the place.

Mandarin ducks

The usual continuous moorers (and there are lots on the Macc.) are still in residence, some haven't moved since October.

Oh yes I almost forgot,  we have satellite TV for the first time in 4 weeks! We've had digital TV most of the time up the Huddersfield Narrow but we don't have a digital recorder which meant we had to watch everything in real time whereas on satellite we can record & watch at our leisure.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Back to Marple

We were made very welcome by the locals in Portland Basin Marina last night and treated to an impromptu recital by Keith who's an absolute star on the piccolo trumpet (which was a beautiful shiny red) and the post horn.

It was pretty miserable first thing this morning but brightened up a treat as we set off back towards Marple. We'd just got to the first lock when we picked up something large on the propeller which meant Roger lost all steering just as he was entering the lock. We got to the top and he opened up the weed hatch for a look. It's VERY rare that we ever notice anything round the prop as we have a blade fitted on the prop shaft which cuts rope and weed into shreds before it can cause a problem but even this cutter couldn't cope with a size 18 black cardigan!

The locks gates and paddles weren't any easier than they were 3 weeks ago when we came down the flight, but  the coal boat Alton was following us up the locks and Brian kept going on ahead on his bike setting the locks. As we left a lock I'd open the bottom paddles so that by the time the Alton got to the lock it was empty ready for them.  Even with Brian's help, I was so tired after lock 11 that I swapped with Roger and let him work the last 5 locks while I had a rest and drove. I'm not too fond of driving the boat in deep locks especially when this is the view!

in close up - looks scarier than it is!!!

The visitor moorings were fairly empty although the usual continuous moorers are still in the prime slots they were in when we passed 3 weeks ago! The gardens of the houses opposite have really come on since we passed last and the azaleas and Pieris Forest Flames are beautiful.

I'd put a casserole in the slow cooker so that dinner would be ready when we moored up for the night but it was a disaster! We were supposed to be having beef in Theakston's Old Peculiar Ale but the beer must have been 'off' as the gravy was horrible, sour and not at all appetising, so we went to the Ring o'Bells pub opposite the visitor moorings. This Robinsons pub was very busy, in fact we met Brian and his mate from Alton having their dinner in there, and the food wasn't bad. The veggies were microwaved and rock hard but the duck in orange sauce was tasty and the chips were home made, not frozen.

We're trying a new fuel on the fire. It's made from recycled paper and cardboard and is supposed to be very ecological, you can even burn the bag! It costs £5 for 10kg. and is in handy sized 'logs' which give minimal ash. First impressions are good, although it does have it's draw-backs. You HAVE to keep it dry or it swells up substantially and it only burns for a couple of hours so couldn't replace coal to burn all night. It's good for a quick fire in the cool spring mornings, lights fast, burns hot and doesn't smoke much at all. I'm not sure I'd buy another bag because of the storage problems of keeping it dry on the boat but it would definitely be good in a house.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Portland Basin

Don't you just love hire boaters!!!!
We set off quite early this morning (well early for us anyway) and followed a hire boat down the locks from Stalybridge to Ashton. They'd raced passed us while we were still moored outside Tesco and we followed about 20 mins. later. They kept leaving bottom gates open, paddles either fully up or only half lowered and hardly any of the hand-cuff locks reinstated. It makes me so mad because it's just laziness. It's not as if it were someone struggling single handed, there were enough people on board to cope quite easily.

It's been a beautiful warm sunny day again and we pulled into Portland Basin Marina for a pump-out and diesel (85p/l domestic). The owner, an old acquaintance Guy Holding, offered us a mooring for the night and although it's not very picturesque as we're squashed right down the arm, it's meant we could safely leave the dogs for a couple of hours to visit Portland Basin Museum. I was surprised that it's free to visit the museum and it's actually very good.

We always try to have fresh flowers on the boat and the best value I've found comes from Aldi. They're cheap and last really well. These gorgeous red roses were only £2.99 for a dozen!