Hooray! Oliver has made it back home from his adventures. Wow he’s had quite a time of it, and he’s very proud of his shiny new engine and clean engine bay.
Our morning started with Braunston Tunnel almost immediately, so it was on with the lights and into the gloom. We had a clear run without any other boats, and being fit for 2-way traffic navigating it was a lot easier than Harecastle.
The next big challenge were the infamous Buckby Locks with their monstrously heavy gates. Luck was on our side once again though; as we turned the corner of Norton Junction we could see another boat just going into the top lock, so we quickly nipped in with them and we went down the flight together. Phew!
We were in need of refreshment after that, so stopped off at the Heart of the Shires for lunch, and my first proper latte for a long time. I had the cheese ploughman’s and Sarah went for a very tasty looking pork, stuffing and apple baguette
Feeling reinvigorated it was then a short trip to Stowe Hill for refuelling, and then back to the marina for a pump out. It was lovely to be back and meet up with friends at the marina, but sad that our adventures have come to an end (for now!)
Our aim for today was to get to Braunston Top Lock No 6, settings ourselves up for one last hop back to base. We woke up to mist and sunshine, and temperatures of 6.5C
By lunchtime we’d reached the lovely Hilmorton Locks where Sarah did a grand job on the locks and we whizzed through nice and quickly
We were really lucky going up the Braunston flight, as there was a steady stream of other boats coming down so we had just about every lock set ready for us and many helping hands – expecially when Sculptor came down with it’s crew of Canal and River Trust volunteers, on their way to the boatyard for blacking.
We then tied up on the visitor moorings at the top – a bit of a phone blackspot hence the delayed blog updates. A quick bit of fishing for old rope in the weed hatch and then we had a restful last night on the cut.
It was a misty moisty morning, and sunny was the weather.
Everything was soaked when we got up from all the rain the previous evening, and it was a chilly 7C, but the sun was trying hard to shine through
By lunchtime it was a lovely sunny day, and in the sun it was quite warm.
We made the most of it and cracked on through the Atherstone flight of locks in the morning, with the welcome assistance of some volunteer lock keepers and others from the queue of 5 boats all going up, and a fair few coming down too. It was a marked contrast to the small number of boats we’d seen on the move on Friday and Saturday.
We then turned off the Coventry canal and on to the Oxford at Hawkesbury junction – probably my favourite turn on the waterways. Naturally, I executed it with aplomb – good job too given all the punters enjoying the beer and sunshine at the pub whilst gongoozling.
This evening we’ve moored up outside Ansty for the night, which should set us up to get back to the marina for Tuesday evening if all goes well, or Wednesday if not!
A chilly night with temperatures down to 7 degrees, Toby didn’t want to get up this morning, and the thought of having to wear his thermals didn’t offer much encouragement. We knew heavy rain was forecast for today, what we didn’t know was could we out run it. A misty morning and only two locks which were set against us.
Only 20 mins of cruising and it started to spit, and by the time we had the wet gear on, it was proper raining.
We finally moored up at abut 11.15, the heating was on and an afternoon of reading the papers and eating – a late brunch and then afternoon cake and custard
Today we’ve moved onto the Coventry canal, so it’s suitable that we’re moored up in a quiet spot away from everyone and everything.
We set off at the usual sort of time, the morning was once again sunny but it’s definitely getting steadily colder. We stopped enroute for water, where we met another boat owner with a lovely pair of dalmation dogs, and had another short stop to refuel at King’s Bromley Wharf.
We passed safely through the narrows. You’re meant to send a crew member up ahead to check no other boats are coming, but we figured there can’t be any coming as nobody had sent anyone from the opposite direction. Foolproof logic no? Luckily nobody appeared so we breathed in and squeezed through.
We then passed the smallest front door ever. Who lives in a house like this? We looked through the keyhole, and I reckon it must be a hobbit.
Tomorrow it’s due to be wet and cold, so we’ll probably not go far but we might get a short way further on in the morning before the rain hits. Winter is coming!
Firstly, a correction on yesterday’s post and our evening meal. I had asked Toby if I should phone and book Chico’s, the response was no need as it’s only Wednesday. We got there just after 6pm and they’re fully booked, next choice was closed on a Wednesday so we settled on a burger and a drink for £15, and very nice burgers they were too.
We left Stone with sunshine on our backs, we soon caught up with a boat in front at each lock, they were going so slowly, at one point, we were in a queue of three boats at the lock.
We moored up at lunchtime and spent the afternoon at Shrugborough Hall which is a fascinating estate run by the local Council and has a working farm, servants buildings and the mansion house. Tomorrow is the last day of opening and then responsibility passes to the National Trust and it reopens in March.
We enjoyed a scone with jam before heading back to the boat. It was such a lovely evening, and with heavy rain forecast for Saturday, we motored on for another hour before mooring up for the evening and a beef rendang curry for tea
After all the double locks, it’s lovely to finally be going down hill through the single locks. We have a slick routine going, where I get off the boat to close the rear off-side paddle and then walk up to open the front one, whilst Sarah closes the gate behind Oliver and then walks up to open the front paddle on her side . I then step back on the boat before the water level drops down too far.
We passed through most of the potteries, including the site where they film ‘The Great Pottery Throwdown‘, and some other sites which have been long since abandoned by the potters, but the old kilns have been kept
We got to Stone today, and were surprised to find the moorings extremely busy with boats. All was soon explained when we were told that the Stone Food & Drink festival is on this weekend. We got lucky and found a space that we could just fit into (with about 1 foot to spare!), so moored up and then went into town for some shopping. Tonight we plan to visit Chico’s for some mexican food before bake off and another early night.
After our day of rest, we got up in good time to be first off, so we had the best chance of the locks being set in our favour. We were just about to cast off when a boat went past…blast! We held back and finished our morning cuppa, and waited for 15 mins. Most of the locks today are duplicated, still narrow locks but there are two of them, side by side. We ended up following two boats which meant that they all needed emptying and then filling.
In all we did 26 locks all going up, it’s not called Heartbreak Hill for nothing!
We managed to get to Harecastle tunnel before the 3pm cut off, where you’re guaranteed passage. Just as we arrived, the boats from the other direction were just exiting, we couldn’t have timed it any better. It took 45 minutes to travel through the tunnel and Toby did a great job steering. We made such good progress today, we decided to knock off early and moor up at 4pm
An earlier than usual start (7.45) due to Saltersford tunnel which is one way, you only get a ten minute window to pass every hour, they’re some of the earliest tunnels and rather bendy! A few unexpected showers and Toby got to try out his new waterproof trousers which did the job and kept him dry
A lock free morning and then we hit Middlewich, a hive of activity with all the hire boats returning, and a flight of three locks on a bend which tested Toby’s steering skills. We did think about mooring up for the day, but the sun was shining and the weather forecast for tomorrow was looking wet so we carried on.
It’s lovely to be back on the singles locks although not so good following another boat (why does that always happen on the singles and never the doubles when you can pair up?!)
We approached Wheelock visitor moorings gone 6pm and didn’t think there would be a space, I went ahead and found the perfect mooring, and Toby steered Oliver in superbly. We were just tying up when a boat came past the other way (after going down two locks) and said that he’d walked down, saw the same space and decided to move his boat. Good job we got there first otherwise we’d have been going up the locks! Toby topped up the stern tube grease and a quick pasta supper for tea.
The weather for tomorrow is forecast to rain all day so we’ve decided to stay put for the day.
Today saw us heading through Manchester and it’s suburbs. Passing over the Manchester Ship Canal was a highlight – the aqueduct over the top is designed to open so the really large ships can pass beneath, but I’m not sure that it opens all that often anymore
We also passed the Kellog’s factory – which outputs over 1 million packets of rice krispies, Cornflakes and Coco Pops every day!
After Manchester we went past Sale, and being a Saturday the rowing club was in full swing, with rowers out everywhere. Fortunately they were very considerate and got out of our way – I guess it was in their interests more than ours!
After that we were once again back in the countryside, taking in the sights.
We moored up for the night at the start of the Trent and Mersey canal, which meant having to get through our first lock of the day – for a grand total rise in water level of 3 inches.