Sunday, 16 September 2012

Travelling Hopefully...

Nantwich Monday 10th September I had to work so we stayed in Barbridge Monday and Tuesday morning then on Tuesday afternoon moved on to Nantwich. We were very impressed with this smart and interesting little town - we only had a short time there but thought it was the best town we'd visited so far - there are some amazing old buildings there. We carried on after doing a bit of shopping and moored up after the 2 locks at Hack Green near the secret nuclear bunker which is open to visitors. We wished we had time to see it. On Wednesday we had 4 locks to go through and then we were in Audlem a small but pretty village with 4 pubs - one of them being the Shroppie Fly which we visited in the afternoon but it was a bit empty. On Thursday morning we left at 9am to go through the Audlem flight of 11 locks - we got into a bit of a rhythm with working the locks but there was someone behind us catching up more and more, so we felt a bit under pressure to hurry. We stopped for lunch at Adderley before the 5 Adderley locks then decided to carry on and get to Market Drayton, which was our destination for a couple of weeks, as soon as possible. Going through the 5 locks was made easier by a kind man ahead of us who after he had gone through himself, emptied the locks for us. We were really looking forward to getting to Market Drayton, a town in Shropshire, as we had heard lots of good things about it and the it's described in our map book as an 'attractive town with some splendid old buildings'.

Church Minshull to Barbridge

Sunday 9th September Had a lie-in this morning and got up at 9am. We went for a walk with Molly and tried to find the Yankee Candle shop in Church Minshull which was advertised on the canal. We couldn't find it so came back and set off about 11am. It was a sunny day but a bit windy. For the first lock we had to wait in a queue for ages. There were lots of boats going about today. There was a boat coming the other way when we went through so they helped us with the lock. The lady from the boat said they lived aboard and were continuous cruisers and she could never go back to a house again. She had a young dog called Mitch who kept barking loudly at another dog on some nearby moorings. She said she thought the weather was on the turn - it had become very cloudy and windy. I said we were looking for somewhere to live and she said if anything happened to her husband she'd go and live on the Gloucester and Sharpness canal as there are no locks and she likes Gloucester. Anyway we finished the lock and waved goodbye then carried on to Barbridge junction. We turned right and we were on the Shroppie at last! (the Shropshire Union). We were celebrating as we had looked forward very much to travelling on this canal. We moored up and had a couple of drinks at a pub called the Old Barbridge Inn, which was full of boaters. The food there looked amazing but a bit expensive. We watched boats and people going back and forth along the canal for a while then went back to our boat. here

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Onto the Shroppie

Saturday 8th September It was a lovely day again as we travelled through an increasingly industrial landscape. We had several locks to go through. At one I met a man who has his own property company and goes out for weekends on his little cruiser with his wife. He was interested that we live on our boat. He said he'd offered to buy a boat in France so he and his wife could cruise off down the Midi but she was happy to stay in Cheshire with her friends and grandchildren. We carried on past a huge industrial building with no windows and we wondered what it could be. As we approached it became apparent that it was a salt factory with big piles of salt outside.
As we came into Middlewich the road followed the canal and I had to keep Molly on the lead so she didn't go into the road, whilst navigating through the locks which was awkward. Middlewich seems a bit of a bleak place even on a sunny day but we stopped there to get some shopping in a little Spar. We went through the last lock on the Trent and Mersey and then turned left into the Middlewich branch of the Shropshire Union. It was like going into a different world with beautiful farmland and rural landscapes surrounding us. We moored up near the village of Church Minshull in lovely scenery. Dale sat outside in the sunshine and did some fishing and I had a little nap.

Rode Heath to Wheelock

Friday 7th September We got up at 7am and I had some work to do so I started at 8.15am. I did as much as I could then we left at 11.15am. We had the second bit of Heartbreak Hill to do today - 14 locks. Luckily lots of boats were coming the other way which helped us. It was a beautiful day weatherwise and we went through some stunning countryside on the way. Molly was very good, she has now learned to walk in a wobbly fashion across a narrow lock gate. At Malkins Bank there was a row of cottages and one of them had a hand written sign in the window saying For Sale - 100k We finally got to Wheelock village which is a bit of a bleak little place. They do have a huge pet store there and they have everything you could ever want for your pet. We went into the Cheshire Cheese pub which was quite noisy and jolly, then went back and sat outside watching the sunset and talking about spiritualism.

Stoke on Trent and Heartbreak Hill

Thursday 6th September Today was a lovely day weatherwise and very hectic and enjoyable although to start with we weren't looking forward to it. We set off at 7am and soon got to Stoke on Trent which wasn't as bad as we thought it was going to be. Obviously people who say Stoke on Trent is grim have never experienced some parts of greater London. We had to stop at the station, which conveniently is next to the canal, to pick up some prepaid train tickets we have bought to get us from Market Drayton to London to go to a party in Teddington at the end of the month. It was the first time we had got prepaid tickets and we must have looked a bit doddery trying to work out how to extract them from the machine. We got them in the end and feeling pleased with ourselves we carried on through Stoke. We were stunned by all the beautiful old ruined buildings along the canalside - hopefully they will be preserved in some way - there are quite a few bottle kilns, which we know are being protected.
We passed the Middleport Pottery, a modern pottery works in a very old building, got through Stoke and to the Harecastle Tunnel where we had to wait an hour and three quarters said the friendly tunnel-keeper – there were 5 boats coming the other way through the tunnel. The friendly tunnel keeper told us stories of boats being stuck in the tunnel, running out of diesel and having to be rescued. When the 5 boats finally emerged one boat owner got told off by the keeper for being too slow. He said his headlight wasn't working properly. Anyway we started into the mile-long tunnel - it was very cold and dark in there and Molly got scared - she was shaking. We got through in record time - frightened of a telling-off - 40 mins (average is 45). Dale drove really well. It was lovely to come out into the warm sunshine.
We went through Kidsgrove then a long flight of 17 locks which is part of 'Heartbreak hill' or the Cheshire locks, and were helped by some youngsters on a boat following us through. At the last few locks a kind man whistling a Glenn Miller song opened them for us in advance and helped us get through – he said he often brought his windlass on his dog walk and helped people because they were worn out after all the locks. We ended up in a beautiful village called Rode Heath which has a post office/shop and a nice pub called the Broughton Arms which was friendly and busy and shabby and we loved it. We are in Cheshire now!

Stone to the big smoke - Stoke on Trent

Wednesday 5th September Early this morning at 7.30am we left Stone with some sadness and made our way through the 4 locks. We filled up with water and got some diesel at the boatyard. Then we emptied the toilets (well Dale did). There were another 4 locks at Meaford. At one of the locks I met a nice lady from Rugby and we had such a long chat that Dale was left stuck in the lock wondering when we were going to open the gate. Her fella works at the Euston Marks and Sparks. We carried on to Barlaston, which is a quiet village. We made use of the large Londis store there – we were both hungry so we bought pork pie and home made lemon drizzle cake. When we got back to the boat we had some lunch, then carried on. After another mile there was the last lock before Trentham and at that lock I didn't have to do anything as 4 finnish men on a hire boat were coming the other way and they did everything. I had a little chat with them, they said this was the first time they had been on a narrowboat holiday in England and they said it was very different. They don't have canals in Finland, except one going into Russia. The didn't speak a huge amount of English but we had a nice chat. We remarked on the weather being sunny and that they were lucky and they said "Oh, we know the English weather!" One of them had deliberately not bought a raincoat because he had faith that the weather would be good. Anyway, we carried on through Trentham which looked like a nice town and ended up mooring just before the beginning of the sprawl that is Stoke on Trent overlooking a large nature reserve with horses and foals. It was quite lovely, and a lovely day as well, albeit a bit windy.


Sunday 26th August - Tuesday 4th September What can I say about Stone? It's a delightful little town in Staffordshire, a proper canal town with historical connections. It's lively, with a great market on the first Saturday of every month, and lots of music events on all the time. We went into the Swan Inn, which is a proper old locals pub, very lively with lots of old characters and a free buffet on Sundays, of which we partook merrily. Children are not welcome in the Swan, but dogs are - only until 9pm though, and then they have to go home to bed. I had my hair done in a local hairdressers by Douglas, and we visited all the charity shops and came away with 3 nice jumpers for under £20. The high street is pedestrianised and coffee shops and restaurants have seats outside so people can enjoy themselves in the sun, which gives a relaxed holiday feeling to the town. The Morrisons is the best we've been in and they have a large Co-op and lots of other independent shops. It's a small town with a buzzing atmosphere. Terry Darlington, writer of Narrowdog to Carcasonne lives here, although we were informed by someone in the supermarket that he has had a stroke and is not well. Everyone knew we were off a boat because apparently people from Stone don't carry rucksacks.