Monday, 27 April 2015

Stone and almost stuck by a stone

We set off on Sunday morning in glorious sunshine but with a bitter wind. The trees outside the museum were in full bloom and looked stunning. It's such a shame the blossom only lasts for a few days.

I was thinking about throwing the winter pansies away when we were in Nantwich as they'd taken a real battering in the gales, but the recent sunny weather has brought them back to life and they are now looking really good. I always think winter pansies are such good value. These two troughs full cost me less than a fiver and have lasted since the end of September.

We had a good trip down the locks from Etruria to Stone, except for the next to last lock when we had a bit of an incident. The pounds between the locks were quite low due to the sheer number of boats using them yesterday and as the boat got down to the bottom of Lock 32 it got caught on some loose stones which were sticking out of the lock wall. This meant that the boat started tipping over to one side but luckily Roger managed to rock it off the obstruction and get out of the lock.

As soon as we got out of the lock Roger phoned C&RT to report the incident and they said they'd send someone out to check the lock as soon as possible.

When we arrived in Stone the Floating Market was installed on the visitor moorings and there weren't any spaces available, so we reversed backwards and moored opposite the housing estate. The view was certainly nicer than on the 5 day visitor moorings opposite the factory, but the canal is very shallow there and we ended up being moored at an angle which meant the kitchen drawers kept coming open. The water level rose up enough for us to float normally again once all the boats had stopped using the locks and after the trading boats had set off this morning we moved round the corner into a good spot above the lock. We'll be here for the next 5 days so if you're passing and we're at home, please call in and say "Hi"

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Still dashing through

We managed 11 locks up Heartbreak Hill this morning without getting wet although it kept threatening to rain and had just moored up for lunch in the pound above Red Bull lock when the heavens opened and it chucked it down. After a quick lunch we carried on to Harecastle tunnel where we had to wait 45 minutes for a boat to come through. It had already been in the tunnel when we arrived but was going very slowly and the tunnel keeper kept going to peer into the tunnel entrance to see where it had got to. We eventually got to go in and as there was no-one in front of us we had a good run through, taking 33 minutes which is only 2 minutes slower than our personal record. The skeleton is still there although I almost missed it as for some reason I thought it was at the other end.

I think I've finally conquered my fear of tunnels as I stayed outside with Roger for the whole time and didn't get anxious or panicky at all. I put that down to my having to take the boat through Chirk Tunnel on my own last month. It's surprising what you can do when you have to.

There hasn't been much of interest to photograph today although these bluebells did look quite pretty and are the first I've seen so far this spring.

We're now moored at Etruria Museum ready to fill up with water in the morning before carrying on to Stone. I hope there are still some moorings left when we get there as apparently it's the floating market this weekend which should mean it's busy with boats.

Friday, 24 April 2015

A long day's boating

When we got to Middlewich last night we had a bit of an "oh bugger" moment. Roger had made a dental appointment for when we get to Stone and both of us thought it was for a week on Monday. Not so, it's this coming Monday so instead of taking it easy we've now got three full cruising days to get there. In anticipation of an early start I arrived at Tesco at 7.45 this morning to stock up, only to find out that they don't open till 8.00. I was first in the store but had to queue behind lots of school kids who were buying their lunch. They seem to exist on crisps and sausage rolls in Middlewich although I did see one girl buying an apple!

Once I'd dragged the shopping trolley back to the boat, unloaded it and put everything away we finally set off at 9.30 but that's still really early for us.

We've done 20 locks today. Almost all were set against us although we were helped by n.b. Periwinkle who emptied a couple of the locks on the Wheelock flight for us. If you read this then "Thank You" it was appreciated.

King's Lock in Middlewich has mussels growing in it. Are they a native species or invasive?

It's been a few years since we passed this way but the colony of swans just above King's Lock is as large as ever. It was preening time when we saw them and I stopped counting at 20 birds.

I've finally seen my first ducklings of the year. In fact we've seen several broods today. This mother had 15 chicks spread out on both sides of the boat. The noise they made was amazing when they realised mum was missing.

This brood was at least 10 strong

The Cheshire locks we're travelling up are mostly in pairs so you use whichever one is set in your favour but when we got to Lock 63 we weren't sure which lock to use. Coming from below, the lock on the right was empty with one of the gates half open and the lock on the left was full. The right hand lock is notorious for being narrow and there have always been warning signs on it as the walls are bowing in and we've usually avoided it if possible. When I got to the top of the steps it became obvious that the lock with the half open gate was out of action although there aren't any signs on the approach. It seems that C&RT's attempt to close off the lock have failed.

It's pretty obvious if you were coming down as there is a timber barrier.

Even though we used the other lock we still took it very carefully as the sides of this one are also showing signs of deterioration with bulging brickwork and cracks appearing. It wouldn't surprise me if this lock is on next winter's maintenance programme.

The weather hasn't been anywhere near as nice today and by the time we reached Lock 58 it was decidedly chilly.  This has to be the best way to deal with the M6 Friday rush hour traffic jams....just go underneath whilst waving at the drivers.................

Between Locks 58 and 57 we met n.b. Chuffed who said they read this blog. Thank you, it was nice to meet you but I'm sorry I didn't catch your names.

By the time we got to Rhode Heath where we've moored for the night we'd had enough. 20 locks and 6 hours cruising is like being on a hire boat. We seldom cruise for more than 3 hours a day so maybe it'll teach me to pay more attention when Roger tells me to put something in the diary. Tomorrow we're heading through Harecastle Tunnel..................oh joy!

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Hot Hot Hot

Yes, it's been another hot sunny day and long may it last!  This was our view of the sky today, hardly a cloud in sight. Actually I'd tried to photograph the airplane trails as we watched them circling around Manchester airport but I can't see the camera screen with my sunglasses on so I missed them.....

One of our favourite country pubs is The Badger Inn at Church Minshall and while we've visited many times by car we've never been when we've been on the boat. Imagine our delight when we saw this tiny sign by Bridge 11 and it was lunchtime too.

We quickly moored up and went to find the steps up to the road only to find that a new set has been thoughtfully installed

They've done a really good job for volunteers, probably a better job than if C&RT contractors had done it.

After a lovely walk down the lane to the pub we had a really good lunch. The beer and food at The Badger have been consistently good over the many years we've been visiting. I've marked the mooring in our guide book and there's also a slightly shorter route (500m as against 700m) from moorings by Bridge 14. 

We carried on again after lunch. There are trees in blossom everywhere and the Cheshire countryside looked spendid in the sunshine.

I still haven't seen any ducklings although they must be due any time soon. This swan was keeping a beady eye on us as we passed her.

We finally moored up in Middlewich for the night after a slow trip down Stanthorne Lock. We'd been queuing to go down after two hire boats with other boats coming up in between. The boats coming up were all privately owned but the crews had less idea of how to operate locks than the hirers and there was so much faffing about it was painful to watch. At one point I had to step in and wind the paddles while two women off  a brand new boat stood and watched. I know everyone has to learn but this wasn't their first lock as they'd been on-board for a week. They just didn't seem to want to get their new leather gloves dirty. 

Monday, 20 April 2015

Work stopped play

We're still moored on 14 day moorings just past Barbridge Junction as Roger picked up another couple of electrical jobs. The first was installing solar panels for a couple he'd worked for a few years ago and the second is sorting out the wiring on an all electric live-aboard boat. We've lost count of the number of boats he's been on with dodgy wiring done by so-called professionals. A couple of years ago he was asked to have a look at a brand new boat as the owner didn't think it was quite right. Not only were the electrics faulty and dangerous but the solid fuel fire had been incorrectly installed and was potentially deadly!

Hopefully he'll have finished that job tomorrow but we've now both got the dreaded lurgy which doesn't seem to want to go and having spent the weekend with our grandchildren who were both full of colds I doubt we'll be back on full form for another few days.

I popped back into Nantwich on the bus the other day to collect my prescriptions that had had to be specially ordered and the sun has brought out all the beautiful daffodils lining the paths in the park.

I've also finally finished my latest crochet project. It's a pair of cushions for the grand-kids featuring the Three Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf. I've really enjoyed making these

 If the weather continues to be so warm and sunny my crochet will have to take a break as I can't do it with hot hands. I'm not one for sitting doing nothing though so I'll have to find a substitute pass time. Any suggestions?

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Hooky in the sun

Hasn't the weather been fantastic this week?  We've had warm sunny days although the nights have still been a bit chilly and mornings have been quite foggy early on.

We left Nantwich and spent a night at Barbridge by the junction with the Middlewich Branch where Roger picked up a small job, but the traffic noise from the main road was too loud with lorries rumbling past all night so we moved on again the next day.  We found a much quieter spot near the winding hole before Cholmondeston Lock and spent a couple of days there while I sat outside hooking doing my crochet and Chico worked on his tan.

Roger started sorting out the winter damage to our paintwork. He's been touching up scratches and treating the odd rust spot in near perfect painting conditions although he's been feeling a bit under the weather having caught a cold from someone last weekend.

It's been quite an eventful week for us as we've met a few boats we haven't seen for a while and three of the boats we built passed us.

This is our inspection launch which was originally named "Kindle" but has now been re-named "Patience" by it's new owners

"Rhapsody in Blue" used to be owned by our very good friends/customers Dan & Sharon but has now changed hands and was being enjoyed by its new owners.

Another of our boats called "Obsession" passed us a couple of times but unfortunately I never had the camera to hand at the time. It's really nice to see so many of our boats out cruising and being kept in such good condition.

As we approached this pair I thought it was a mare with a foal, but isn't he an adorable little donkey. Luckily his "fifth leg" withdrew a bit just as I grabbed the camera but I now know where the phrase "donkey dick" comes from. For such a little donkey he was extremely well endowed......blush.....

I love cruising at this time of year. There are flowers everywhere and the expectant father mallards were sunning themselves while their mates were hidden away brooding.

After spending a nice week out of town we needed to make a return visit to Nantwich to collect mail that we'd had sent to the Post Restante at Nantwich Sorting Office. The staff here are well accustomed to taking in mail for boaters, unlike some post offices we've tried in the past who haven't even been aware of the service.  My GP has been very obliging this time and has sent me 3 months worth of prescriptions which will last me over the summer. The only problem is that none of the pharmacies in Nantwich had any stock of my pills so we've had to order them for collection on Tuesday and I'll probably pop back into town on the bus to get them as we're moving on again tomorrow.

On Friday we had a good evening out with another couple of old work colleagues/friends Graham & Elaine. Graham runs Touchwood Boatbuilders and has built their own boat "Henderson"

I know I've got a warped sense of humour but this sign really tickled me, especially as the hatch cover was being blown out at the time............

We'd intended moving today but the weather has taken a turn for the worse and it's blowing a hooley with waves on the canal. With Roger still suffering from a cold and it also being the Chinese Grand Prix we didn't need too much persuasion to stay another night but we're definitely moving tomorrow.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Nantwich Jazz & Blues Festival

We've had a FANTASTIC weekend here in Nantwich!

The warm sunny weather helped of course but Nantwich certainly know how to put on a music festival.  We started off on Friday when we were joined by our boating friend David who came to stay

We'd bought wristbands which gave us admission to all of the events over the weekend and at £7 each for 4 days that must be the best bargain entertainment ever.  Unfortunately David couldn't stay for the whole weekend due to family commitments but he seemed to enjoy being dragged round town from pub to pub venue to venue. Luckily he has the same taste in rock music as us.

Roger and I both love live music but, as I've complained about on here before, most venues seem to think that unless the music is warping your ear drums it's not any good and at our age we've already got enough tinnitus thank you. Our future daughter-in-law is an audiologist and she suggested we invest in a pair of concert ear plugs which have transformed gigs from torture to absolute pleasure.

At £15 including postage from Ebay they are well worth investing in if you like going to live music venues. You can see them HERE

They certainly came into their own and we managed to see over 10 different bands at various venues over the weekend. Our absolute favourite was a group called WhiskeyHead who we saw at The Bowling Green pub on Monday afternoon. We didn't actually need the ear plugs for this band as we sat outside in the beer garden soaking up the sunshine and drinking Old Speckled Hen while we listened to them. We were also treated to a good display of jive dancing by 2 couples who clearly had been dancing together for a while and swopped partners without breaking a step. How I wish I could jive like that.....

Our first band of the weekend was The Milkmen at The Studio. They played classic rock and R & B and were superb

The Alex McKown Band, also at The Studio, were good but only played their own stuff which we didn't recognise

Not all venues needed a wristband to see the bands and the stage in the town square had quite a few groups on. It was good to be able to stand and soak up the sunshine while listening to the music - no ear plugs required.

The Railway Hotel across the other side of town (near Morrisons and Aldi) were holding an alternative - and free -  "Keep The Music Live" Festival and we watched a few bands over there.

Our favourite was "Tumblin Dice"which was a Rolling Stones tribute band and the marquee was packed solid. We couldn't decide if the lead singer looked more like Mick Jagger or Michael Farage but he was very good.

We'd also booked extra tickets to see The Blues Band with Paul Jones at Nantwich Civic Hall as we listen to Paul Jones' blues programme on Radio 2 on Monday evenings and I'd wanted to see the band for ages. We weren't disappointed and considering the youngest member of the band is 68 they can certainly still play. One difference between them and the younger bands was that instead of wetting their vocal cords with beer they were swigging on bottles of water and cups of tea!

After last week's disastrous Sunday lunch at the Dusty Miller we had a really good one this week at The Crown Hotel who were major sponsors of the festival. I've marked The Crown in our book for future visits as we'd also had a really good lunch in there on Saturday with David. Two meals out in two days! I really felt like I was on holiday and I think Nantwich Jazz & Blues Festival will become a regular feature in our Spring calendar.

It's time to move on today, time to toss the coin and see which way we're going to go.............