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Friday 25th May 2012

Aqueduct Marina to Beeston Castle

After a rather warm night on the boat, (as the winter duvet was still on & arriving in the marina at 30mins past midnight I did not have the energy to find the summer one & change them over, so it was on top of the quilt & all windows open) we awoke to a beautiful clear warm Friday morning.

I was still cursing about Lochabers packing of the car on Thursday night resulting in the case of Guinness we had brought with us falling out when I opened the tailgate on arrival at the marina! Hissing cans of Guinness in a silent slumbering marina at midnight!

I emptied the rest of the bags from the car, it was really warm even at 7am, it was going to be a hot one! I popped some bacon in the oven & unpacked the bags. Lochaber decided to check the engine room just to make sure that we had no more exploding batteries before we set off instead he found a fan belt that needed replacing! This is a new boat with 174 running hours is it really time for a new fan belt? Anyway luckily we had spares so in half an hour a new one was fitted.

It was still really calm & getting warmer, so at 8.30am we decided to get going planning to stop around 11ish for a bite to eat & some” tweeting”.

The new marina entrance is making life so much easier getting in & out, so this trip we were off! Hang on, Lochaber is shouting frantically from the front of the boat “we have to go back, we have to go back!”  Why? ……Caley the mad Spaniel was NOT aboard, she has a very unfunny habit of sneaking off when you have your back turned for a split second. Oh great, that’s a good start this weekend, dropped Guinness, new fan belt, now the dogs gone awol!  We reversed back towards the marina, pulled in by the entrance & I MARCHED to where I knew she would be, yep there she was sitting by the car! I MARCHED back to the boat put the stupid animal on & we set off again.

Earlier I had just thrown some of the clothes on the bed to put away later, I started doing this whilst Lochaber had a turn on the tiller, the complete rail in the wardrobe decided to collapse dropping everything in the wardrobe to the floor, I shut the door & walked away, it was only 9.30am & we hadn’t even reached Barbridge yet!

It was quite busy at Barbridge alot of boats passing, for the first time we turned right at the junction, we had decided that due to missing the trip to Chester last time after the battery explosion we would do that trip this time instead.

Calveley was quite a busy spot on the way, cafe, water etc.

I had been worried about the double locks especially the staircase at Bunbury, only two locks together but quite daunting when it is the first time, as we pulled up behind another boat waiting for the locks I heard a load banging noise from the rudder area, a big tree branch! We got that out-of-the-way, now for the lock. The boat that was in the lock already had apparently grounded as the crew had not used the correct procedure with the paddles & had not got the water levels correct for moving from one lock to the next, eventually they got it sorted. As they had raised the water right back to the top & noticed a queue forming they opened one gate & we joined them hoping that with Lochabers help they would get it right this time.

We conquered our first double staircase! we accompanied them through the next lock at Tilstone too then went ahead to find a mooring, we wanted a relaxing weekend but after the events earlier we felt quite stressed so decided the sun was really hot & we needed some food & one of the remaining Guinness each. I made lunch & poured the Guinness whilst Lochaber went delving into the weed hatch to see if any more of the earlier tree debris had got entangled further, instead, on lifting the engine covers we were met by an overpowering smell of paint, paint? how can this be? On closer inspection the large tin of blue paint for our bodywork that had been left for us by the builder & always been stored here has had the bottom of the tin completely dissolved by the battery acid from the explosion even though all items in the engine room including the paint tins were washed down during the clean up. It was a 2.5litre tin & over half full, the paint had seeped out but luckily stayed on the upper shelf, however it is the type of paint that needs a hardener & of course that hadn’t leaked so the blue paint was still wet & would stay that way. The 5litre tin of blacking next to it was going through the same process although the bottom was still in tact but leaking, numerous swear words, hands full of black bags & wads of blue roll later we had it under control. I was so incensed I didn’t think about taking a photo but Lochaber looked like a “blue & white minstrel” by the time we had finished. He had gloves on to start with but due to the paint being so sticky & wet he couldn’t work with them on, some thirty minutes later, one knackered scrubbing-brush, half a bottle of Fairy Liquid his hands were very sore but clean!

The lunch was still waiting to be eaten & another Guinness each poured, I stepped off the side of the boat lunch in hand missed judged the corrugated style canal edge & oops, lunch in the air, leg in the water, dignity bruised!

How much more can we take today, all we wanted was a quiet weekend.

After remaking & eating lunch, we both felt so hot, bothered & stressed that we decided to have a siesta & carry on a bit further in the cool of the evening, about 20mins into my sleep…..bang!….Oh, Sorry about that! a passing boat trying to go between us & an oncoming boat rather than wait or slow down, hit us! Enough, I’m going back to sleep, can’t take anymore.

After a couple of hours rest & a nice cup we decided to do another hour to get a bit closer to Beeston Castle, the wind that had started around lunchtime had died down a bit so we headed off, it was quieter now so we did Beeston Stone Lock & Beeston Iron Lock on our own without any problems, quite happy getting the hang of these double locks now! all the mooring spaces had been taken so we headed on to Whartons lock & decided to stop after that one for the night. Went in with another smaller boat which had around 6 passengers so all paddles & gates were manned, all was going smoothly until our boat started to tilt to starboard……more &.more……something is wrong……things flying off worktops inside, cupboard doors flying open, I shouted up to those at the top “put water back in”……water back in quickly”…she was still tipping, a mad flurry of people above then suddenly she levelled out, I couldn’t see anything on the side of the lock that had snagged us, was it something in the bottom? we still have no idea as she stayed level on the second attempt.

Beeston Castle, nice reward for a rather tiring day.

This is just too much stress for one day, I’m mooring up for some supper & another Guinness. Lovely mozzarella & cherry tomato pizza in the oven, Guinness poured, a few tweets done……..Oh no! the pizza is burned!

Today 8 miles, 6.5hrs, 7 locks & a bucket load of stress!

Saturday 26th May 2012

Beeston Castle to Tattenhall Marina

Well, I am managing to sit & type this blog post a bit more calmly than yesterday!

After a good nights sleep with the winter duvet removed & the very light summer duvet on we awoke around 8am to a glorious day already started & warmed up without us. We decided to take a deep breath gather the thoughts on yesterday & have a relaxing day.

As I opened the side window the fabulous site of a young family of swans greeted me.

This was a better start, we had a good bacon sarnie & a cup of tea, did a few odd jobs, took Caley for a walk. It was quite breezy today but would have been too hot without it & the wind was behind us on the short run to Tattenhall Marina where there is a winding hole to turn.

As we started to leave the mooring at Beeston some canoeists appeared on the canal, battling a bit against the wind, especially the lady in the inflatable style canoe.

It was easy going with the wind behind us no locks on this short journey today, need a rest from locks after yesterday! We could see Beeston fading in the background. The Shroppie was quite busy today, must be the glorious weather.

We turned at Tattenhall & made our way back into the wind this time. It was only about lunch time but we said we wanted a relaxing day will be a longer day tomorrow with these double jeopardy locks again!

We got back to Beeston & stopped just before The Shady Oak pub on a quiet mooring & decided to go for some lunch. The pub garden was packed & right on canalside. The Black Sheep real ale was good, the cajun chicken in pitta bread with spicy fries was fabulous.

These two expensive toys were parked in the carpark, when they left the roar of the quads engine was impressive.

Suitably chilled today we made our way back to the boat for a few G & T’s  & some more canalside sun, plenty of passers by wanting to chat, one old fella telling us he had just been on holiday to Lochaber in Scotland! Moored just down from us is a Caraboat, Lochaber wants one!

 The family of swans we had seen earlier were on the way back to the nest after an outing, bless!

As I am sitting here typing the blog Lochaber is watching Eurovision, I have to say the evening bird song I can hear from the side window is far more beautiful than anything on the TV!

A picturesque end to a chilled out day, thank goodness.

Beeston Castle to Tattenhall, 1hr 20 mins, 2.5 miles, 0 locks, zero stress

Sunday 27th May 2012

I awoke around 7am feeling a lot more rested after a relaxing day yesterday.  We have decided to make our way south towards Barbridge today & leave our idyllic mooring just north of Bates Mill Bridge & the Shady oak Pub.  I was still a bit apprehensive about returning through the dreaded double locks, but when I pulled the blinds the sight that faced me put a smile on my face, what a perfect start to any day.

Egg rolls for a change today. a quick engine, fuel & battery check done we set off around 8am, it was far less windy today & therefore felt warmer.

We reached the dreaded Whartons Lock where we had tipped on the way north, but all was well locking up going south. She sighs with relief as we rise to the top.

We carried on at a leisurely pace towards Beeston Iron Lock, the gates, & sides are all made from iron panels, I don’t think it is as nice as the traditional locks.

Between BeestonIron Lock & Beeston Stone Lock is  a section of canal that is very close to the railway line, you can see the signal box  & just pass that is an area which looks like a stock/goods yard but we noticed it has alot of pill boxes……I think it may be something to do with a german Prisoner of war camp or transprtation of prisoners but i will try to do some more research & find out more detailed facts.

Beeston Stone Lock has a row of lock cottages alongside screened by some small trees, we noticed that one was for sale.

Rising up in Beeston Stone lock as a fibreglass boat waits to come in.  We headed onward to Tilstone  Lock. This is looking back northwards from Beeston Stone Lock.

The canal meanders along towards Tilstone lock, we noticed some very pretty looking side pond along this stretch.

It was very hot by now about 9.30am, but the canal was still fairly quiet, just how we like it, so we just cruised along very slowly enjoying the day.

We approached Tilstone lock, which was set in our favour, this morning had been kind to us either the locks were set in our favour or another boat was just coming out.

Tilstone Locks was set ready for the boat waiting to come in. One of the paddles is a bit sticky at this lock.

We carried on & decided to get Bunbury staircase locks out of the way before a lunchtime stop.

We arrived just north of bridge 104 at Calveley the mooring we almost empty & looked really peaceful, so we moored up for lunch…Reggae Reggae Spicy pasties & a cold Guinness….tasty!  Within half an hour three more boats arrived, you can see that’s D’riculous facing the camera second in the line. I walked across the bridge to the sanitary station to off load some rubbish. The view from the bridge looking north along The Shroppie was fabulous in the sunshine, happy holiday makers!

The other side of the bridge at Calveley was a different story & much busier.

As I wandered back after disposing of the rubbish, I decided that we could easily make it back to aqueduct tomorrow morning so we could stay here tonight, it was such a lovely spot.

By the time I got back Lochaber had come to the same conclusion & was pouring another Guinness.

Caley the spaniel has got a taste for it this weekend as well! So we let her have a few sips before sending her in for a swim, she had been very good after her initial disappearing act this weekend & not attempted to jump in at all, well maybe once but we tie her on whilst we are travelling now.

So that was us, we feasted on pork pies,  Chicken & pineapple freshly baked baguettes with chilli mayo enjoyed the sun, made friends with our neighbours from March in Cambridgeshire who had a recently repainted Black Prince boat that they are over the moon with. They have not renamed her yet & have travelled from the Middle Level & will be returning in September.

We managed to get some reflective mirror film on the front windows in the bedroom so we can have the sun streaming in at daybreak but without eyes peering in. I’ll let you know how it is when I wake up tomorrow.

Another beautiful sunset ends another lovely day on the Shroppie.

Bates Mill Bridge 109 to Calveley bridge 104 3.5 miles,  3.75hrs,  5 locks,

 

The next day the weather was glorious again & it was just a few hours back to the marina, through Barbridge an area we had got to know so well,

 

 passing Blue Meon on the way, I love this paintwork it is so clear & bright.

 

then on to, through & looking back at Minshull Lock,

It is 2012 the year of the Queens Diamond Jubilee & the London Olympic Games & the whole country seems to be celebrating despite the weather!

 

 

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Thursday 3rd May 2012

“HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!” Yes today is my birthday & this weekend we are off to  the boat for my birthday weekend treat & hoping to go to Chester & back, long weekend, off till Tuesday, great, the new gear box has been fitted with the required new gear cable going on today, so we can have a good run out hopefully problem free!

That was a very short lived “Happy Birthday” I have just received a phone call from Aqueduct Marina, the guys have just been to fit the new gear cable for us arriving tomorrow & they have found an exploded leisure battery! They have stressed the utmost urgency of getting the engine room steam cleaned & washed down with a neutralising detergent immediately & checking all the other four leisure & one starter batteries. OMG! I’ve never heard of this before, but I know how damaging battery acid can be & this has exploded spraying acid all over the engine room.  Obviously I gave them the go ahead to do whatever needs doing immediately. I phoned Lochaber at work & he was as surprised as me at the situation, but at least we are going down tomorrow & can see for ourselves & sort things out. “HAPPY  EXPENSIVE BIRTHDAY TO ME!”

Friday 4th May 2012

Over the shock of yesterdays news, still looking forward to the planned run out to Chester. Lovely to have the light evenings back to drive down to Cheshire, car packed left the house at 5.50pm, ten minutes away from home & my mobile rang, it was Aqueduct Marina……………….Clean up had been done, new battery installed, gear cable fitted but she won’t start! They think acid could have got into starter motor, bank holiday weekend & no qualified person to deal with this until TUESDAY!!!! We are on our way, we are not going home but looks like our planned weekend is not to be.

We are both absolutely deflated, how many more times are we going to have trips ruined? is our boat cursed? are we cursed? how much more bad luck can we cope with?

We arrived at the marina around 11.30pm, found our boat as she was near the slipway not on her normal mooring as they had moved her to get the engine room cleaned down but could not mover her to get her back to her mooring, now there’s a thought, if she started to get her to the slipway after the explosion why would she not start after the clean up, maybe it’s not the starter!  In the dark at 11.30pm after a 5hr drive was not the time to be raising our hopes, a good nights sleep & a positive approach is what is required.

We made sure the shore line was plugged in & that the charger was off just in case this was faulty & fell into bed hoping Saturday would bring hopeful news.

Saturday 5th May 2012

We woke up this morning after a cold night to the sound of “electrical” beeping! Oh, no what now! could this be another battery about to explode? could it be the inverter or the charger malfunctioning? Quickly switch everything off….its still “beeping” outside & unplug the shoreline! Once outside the hatch we discovered the reason for the “beeping”….Paul from the marina had decided to come over with the spare keys we always leave on site & have a tinker around to see if he could get her started for us or at least confirm the problem, we took a deep breath & stopped panicking!

Paul tried numerous things but nothing seemed to work, as it was a Bank holiday no suppliers were open now until Tuesday & he still suspected the starter. This was our first opportunity to survey the damage in the engine room.

The weather was not brilliant so we decided to go into Crewe & get some paint for the engine room & a couple of relay switches as they seemed like they had acid penetration & that could be the simple answer to the problem,  wishful thinking!

Paint & brushes purchased, relay switches tracked down at Nantwich Basin Chandlery along with new fender which we had been meaning to replace for a while we made our way back to the marina. When we got back Paul was still around & asked if we had seen the exploded battery at the side of the workshop, this was what we saw…………

So, now you can imagine the amount of acid that had been sprayed all over the engine room, these pictures are quite frightening as if someone had been working in the engine room when this happened the outcome would have been far worse. We have established that Albion Batteries are the own brand of Midland Chandlers. I have contacted them & sent these photos to them but to date have not had a reply!

On a lighter note, we had a lot of concern & well wishes from #boatsthattweet on Twitter, thanks everybody. One of my twitter contacts @narrowboatruth had let me know they might be in our area over the weekend on the start of a 2 week break aboard. When we got back from looking at the battery they tweeted to say they were moored just outside the marina, it was lovely to meet Johnny & his family & see their nb, she was so homely & comfortable compared to the sparse newness of ours. We had a cuppa & a good laugh for a while, I don’t know if they realised how much we needed a laugh that day, but thanks to them our spirits were somewhat lifted when we said goodbye.  They stayed the night there & tweeted as they left early on Sunday morning heading for Chester where we were supposed to be!

So Saturday had been quite emotional, seeing the exploded battery, seeing the damage left in the engine room & still not being able to get her started. The new relay switches made no difference, but can at least be kept as spares. we felt that we had not achieved a lot today so a few glasses of Guinness were consumed along with a very spicy curry, tomorrow I think we will open the paint weather permitting!

Sunday 6th May 2012

We awoke this morning to clear skies, beautiful sunshine & with a more positive attitude, we were not going to get away this weekend so we would make the most of the time to do all the odd jobs & get the engine room repainted & enjoy the marina as the spot near the slipway had a better outlook than our usual mooring, so it was rather pleasant. More people passed here as some of the boats on Brokerage were moored just along from us.

The weather forecast for today was good, we took all the deck boards off, made sure the mad boat dog, Caley the spaniel was securely tied up on the grass next to the mooring so that she didn’t jump on board & into the hole of the engine room! it was a beautiful warm sunny day & it was a pleasure to  be working on our boat, Lochaber wire brushed & repainted the metal surfaces of the engine room & the metal supports for the decking boards, I did all the blue touch ups that were needed around the boat & completely emptied & tidied the hold at the bow. Cleaned all the windows on the starboard side as we can only get to the port side when she is back on her usual mooring.

Wow! what a difference, this is the newly painted engine room, job well done now lets hope it stays dry into the evening so it can all dry before the forecasted rain comes on later tonight!

A large hot air  balloon came across the sky as we enjoyed the afternoon sunshine, it was very low & looked as if they were admiring the mass of colourful narrowboats in the marina maybe not realising that we were admiring them, every time the burner lit up we could hear it they were that close.

We  relaxed with a few more Guinness for the rest of the day whilst doing a bit of internet research into the makers of Albion batteries & exactly how our Victron charger should be set up, so to ensure that it is not overcharging the batteries, as this could cause an explosion.

A beautiful evening in the marina.

Monday 7th May 2012

The heavy rain had woken us a couple of times during the night & we knew that there would be a certain amount of water in the newly painted engine room, we just hope that the paint had enough time & sun on Saturday to be completely dry before the water got in. It was still raining when we got up but because we had actually managed to have a productive Saturday we decided to go to Bunbury locks by car as we could not get there by boat.

It was rainy & very cold all day but we still enjoyed getting by the cut even if we had to do it in the car this time. Bunbury is a staircase of two double locks.

We watched a couple of boats make their way through the locks, then decided to take a walk along the towpath towards the winding hole south of Bunbury locks.

If anyone can tell me what these holes on the canal bank are I would be very grateful, they seem to resemble tunnels or overflows of some sort.

We turned around & despite the biting cold & the drizzly rain decided to walk back towards the Anglo Welsh Hire base at the locks & a bit further along the towpath northward. The canal was very quiet probably due to the seasonally cold weather!

It was now mid afternoon & we were freezing so we decided that as I had not yet had a birthday treat due to all of the chaos of the weekend we would drive back & stop in the newly refurbished Badger Public House at Church Minshull, I can highly recommend it the food was lovely & the Real Ale was good!

On that note we made our way back to the marina just as the sun decided to appear.

Tuesday 8th May 2012

We awoke to sunny skies again & warmer temperatures, the wash out May Day Monday seemed to have passed, we were a bit down today as we had to leave for home later & we still did not have an answer to the non starting problem. At around 9am, Joe Aqueduct’s electrics genius appeared at the boat, still convinced that it was the starter he embarked on some electrical testing. Would you believe that after all our worrying & not being able to start her all weekend a 20 minute job revealed that this was the offending object…..

……..the insulator switch for the starter battery had been corroded inside by the acid spillage! New switch fitted & she started first time, however this was no good as we were now due to start thinking about packing up & going back up to Scotland, oh, what the hell, the sun is shining, the boat is running we need to test the new gear box lets take her out for a few hours!

We went a few miles along the canal towards Middlewich & turned at the first winding hole just past bridge 16. She seemed to have more power now & just needed a light touch the move the throttle unlike before when I needed two hands to make any adjustments or change gear. How nice it was to get moving if only for a few hours, sausage sandwiches & jam scones on the move, the wind in our hair & a quiet drive plate beneath our feet.

We arrived back at the marina around 3pm, this is the first time we had used & appreciated the benefits of the new widened marina entrance, last time I was more concerned with no reverse gear than the width of the entrance, this time it was a pleasure to take her in with ease not having to take such a tight turn into the mooring.

Now she is back on her own mooring repaired, repainted & ready for a less eventful time at the end of May when we return for another long weekend.

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Saturday 14th April 2012

Middlewich to Church Minshull Viewpoint

After a somewhat dissapointing end to yesterday when reverse gear was completely lost coming under bridge 168 between Kings Lock & Wardle Lock at Middlewich, we awoke with a sense of trepidation. Although we only have a couple of miles with one lock to go to reach the safety of Aqueduct Marina, we have a considerable amount of bridges some without much of a view through to the other side to see oncoming traffic.

It was dull today but at least it was dry for now. We set off around 12 midday & Lochaber walked ahead for the first couple of bridges as they were close together to warn me of any oncoming boats. Although I was only cruising very slowly it still takes considerable time to come to a stop & a breeze was starting to build up so I couldn’t keep the forward speed as slow as I would have liked.

Approaching Stanthorne lock we passed a boat whose owner told us that another boat was coming through the lock in the same direction, I slowed down to the absolute minimum that I could & just basically let That’s D’riculous go with the flow of the canal until we saw the second boat emerge from the lock, they left the gates open as they spotted us so we just glided in very slowly & I threw a centre rope up just so that Lochaber could bring her to a total stop.

So far, so good! we carried on towards Church Minshull honking the horn loudly as we approached every bridge that we could not see through, only once did we meet another boat when it was too late & frantic hand jestures & more horn blasts got him to realise that he was the only one with the option of going backwards. No contact was made & apologies for all the noise & frantic jestures were accepted on a quick explanation as we passed!

In the midst of all our tense concentration we suddenly noticed a swan following an oncoming boat very closely in its wake, as our two boats passed he immediately turned around & positioned him/herself in our wake very close to the rudder, we had never seen this behaviour before, he was that close he was pecking at the rear fender almost as if he/she was trying to hang on to it. We realised that he/she was in fact catching a free ride, using our wake to pull him/her along, this carried on for around half a mile then he just backed off.

The swan had brightened our otherwise stressful short trip back to Church Minshull. Shortly we arrived at the veiwpoint which is one of our favorite stops before entering the Marina, as once back in the marina our trips seem over, but we weren’t going home until tomorrow afternoon, so reverse gear or not we still had another night aboard & we were not going to waste it in the marina. I checked the weather for Sunday & it was supposed to be bright & sunny with very little wind, this was what we needed as Aqueduct Marina is incredibly open & even a slight breeeze can pull boats to the far end of the marina & our particular mooring takes quite a tight trun to get in & with no revorse we will only have one shot at this tomorrow!

We enjoyed the veiw & watching a couple of guys messing around in thier flying machines, they had parachute type canopies but with small engines of some sort. we are told this is power paragliding!  A nice relaxing end to a stressful day!

Now the nerves need steadying with a few glasses of white & some good food, Gammon steak & all the trimmings should hit the mark!

Today 5 miles, 1 lock, 16 bridges, 2hrs 35 mins 

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Sunday 8th April 2012 (Easter Sunday)

Trent & Mersey, Rhode Heath to Macclesfield Canal, Hardings Wood Junction

The weather forecast for today was not good, very cloudy & light rain most of the day. That however was the least of our problems at the moment.

Anyway, we decided that nothing was going to blight our Easter week.  We left Rode Heath around 10am this morning after the rain had stopped, there are 12 locks between Rode Heath & Hardings Wood Junction all relatively close & we were fairly lucky most seemed to be set in our favour.

This is looking back from lock 45 still on the Trent & Mersey heading towards Kidsgrove, the rain had stopped but the sky remained overcast although it seemed warmer as the wind had dropped today

Any of you who have had a look around our blog so far will have read about the unexpected drive plate problems we had on our first real trip with the boat last year

This is the offending object once removed & once it had been replaced  she was running really well & alot quieter, however at about the same amount of running hours again we are hearing the familiar sound worsening every day of a potential drive plate collapse! We have made it from Aqueduct to Hardings Wood Junction & met a nice couple with nbAdventurer Joey & Carol who also have problems but theirs was in the form of a leak. They recommended Tony at Red Bull Services Ltd. His workshop is just between bridges 97 & 98 at the junction as you turn to go up the Macclesfield canal.  This is Tony’s place.

It can be spotted from the lower Trent & Mersey as you come into Kidsgrove before you turn onto the Macclesfield & go across the viaduct.

Although this will solve our problem & get us on our way it means we will not get to Bugsworth now this week, probably not even Marple, I think Bollington may be the limit if the weather allows. The other issue that is concerning us is WHY we have got through 2 drive plates in only 130hr running time. The suppliers were I have to say very unhelpful in the first instance saying that the whole episode was our fault as we must have hit something very hard, categorically not! I kept all the emails between us & them & I am determined this time to get some answers. I will keep you informed as to how it goes.

This is The Red Bull Pub at lock 43 as you come into Kidsgrove, quiz night on a Wednesday, good meal deals . I made a note of the pub so if the weather is as bad as predicted tomorrow & we are obviously stuck then it may be a pub day!!

We pulled into the 48hr moorings at bridge 97  & walked over to see Tony, obviously it is Easter so no parts suppliers open till Tuesday, but he is happy to take the drive plate out & replace if necessary once he can get a spare on Tuesday.

After speaking to Tony we decided to have a stroll into town as we needed some jam to go with the scones I had in the bread bin! On the way over the aqueduct we saw nbGemima Puddle Duck coming into lock 41, the light had somehow highlighted the rusty colour of the canal water. This colouring is caused by the iron ore from the tunnels.

Harecastle Tunnel is made up of two separate, parallel, tunnels described as Brindley (2,880 yards) and the later Telford (2,926 yards) after the engineers that constructed them. Today only the Telford tunnel is navigable. The tunnel is only wide enough to carry traffic in one direction at a time and boats are sent through in groups, alternating northbound and southbound. Ventilation is handled by a large fan at the south portal.

South portal of the Brindley Tunnel

The Brindley tunnel was constructed by James Brindley between 1770 and 1777. Brindley died during its construction. At the time of its construction it was twice the length of any other tunnel in the world.

To construct the canal, the line of the tunnel was ranged over the hill and then fifteen vertical shafts were sunk into the ground. It was from these that heads were driven on the canal line. A major problem was the change in the rock type which ranged from soft earth to Millstone Grit. The construction site was also subject to flooding regularly, a problem which was overcome by the construction of steam engines to operate the pumps. Stoves were installed at the bottom of upcast pipes to overcome the problem of ventilation.

The tunnel had no towpath, and so boatsmen had to “leg” their way through the tunnel, lying on the roof of their boat and pushing on the sides of the tunnel with their feet. It could take up to three hours to get through the tunnel. The boat horses were led over Harecastle Hill via ‘Boathorse Road’. A lodge (Bourne Cottage) was built by the side of the squire’s drive at the point that the boat children crossed it, to prevent them straying up towards Clough Hall.

The tunnel was twelve feet tall at its tallest point and was nine feet wide at its widest, which proved to be too small in later years. The tunnel suffered subsidence in the early 20th century and was closed after a partial collapse in 1914. Inspections of the disused tunnel continued until the 1960s, but since that time, there has been no attempt to investigate the interior of the tunnel at any significant distance from the portals.

The gated portals can still be seen from the canal, although it is no longer possible to approach the mouth of the tunnel in a boat.

In recent times, water entering the canal from the Brindley tunnel has been blamed for much of the prominent iron ore (responsible for the rusty colour of the water) in the canal, and there are proposals to install filtering (possibly using reed beds) at the northern portal. Telford Tunnel

South portal of the Telford Tunnel

Due to the amount of traffic and the slow process of legging, the Harecastle Tunnel was becoming a major bottleneck on the canal. It was decided to commission a second tunnel to be built by Thomas Telford. Due to advances in engineering, it took just three years to build, and was completed in 1827. It had a towpath so that horses could pull the boats through the tunnel. After its construction it was used in conjunction with the Brindley tunnel, with each tunnel taking traffic in opposite directions.

Between 1914 and 1954 an electric tug was used to pull boats through the tunnel. In 1954 a large fan was constructed at the south portal. While all the boats are within the tunnel an airtight door is shut and all the air is pulled through the tunnel by the fan. This allows diesel boats to use the tunnel without suffocating the boaters. Today the journey takes about 30–40 minutes.

In the late 20th century, the Telford tunnel also began to suffer subsidence, and was closed between 1973 and 1977. The towpath, long disused, was removed, allowing boats to take advantage of the greater air draft in the centre of the tunnel.

A series of smaller canal tunnels are joined to the Telford tunnel. These tunnels connected to coal mines at Golden Hill and allowed both the drainage of the mines and the export of coal directly from the mines to the canal tunnel without the necessity of first hauling it to the surface. Small boats of ten tons’ capacity were used in this endeavour.

The Ghost of Harecastle Tunnel – The Kidsgrove Boggart

According to legend a young woman was decapitated in the Telford Tunnel in the 1800s and her body thrown into Gilbert’s Hole, a coal landing stage within the tunnel. The man had hacked the woman’s head from her shoulders with a piece of slate until it was removed.

It is believed that she now haunts Harecastle Tunnel, either in the form of a headless woman, or a white horse, and her appearance used to forewarn of disaster in the local mines. Some boatmen took long detours to avoid the tunnel, and today the tunnel keepers relate tales of occasional mismatches in the number of boats going in and coming out. Such tales are, however, fanciful, as any such discrepancy would result in a major search operation.

In fact there is no record of any such murder, and the story seems to have been inspired by the murder of Christina Collins in similiar circumstances near Rugeley. The association with another canal ghost ‘Kit Crewbucket’, who haunts the Crick Tunnel, would also seem to be spurious.

So that has given you a history lesson on this area which I hope you have found interesting, we love finding out about the history of the places we visit, it somehow seems to give the visit a purpose other than just a stopping place for supplies etc.

We will be moored up until Tony replaces the drive plate on Tuesday, hopefully,  We are up above the Trent & Mersey on the Macclesfield overlooking the scrap yard, very picturesque! It’s not too bad the yard is lower down so it is not visible from the windows.

Lochaber has cooked a curry, Murgh Makhani from the Co-op it was delicious & more so cos’ Lochaber doesn’t cook often! oh, more wine I really must go!

Today 5.5hrs, 14 locks, 4 miles, 1 knackered drive plate

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Friday 16th March 2012

Woke up surprisingly early considering that we didn’t arrive at Aqueduct Marina until around midnight on Thursday, but we always travel down from Scotland in the evening so as not to waste a minute of our time on nbThat’s D’riculous. It was around 8.30am the sun was shinning in through the cream linen blinds in the bedroom & the marina was calm.

We got the rest of our stuff from the car, this time we brought down some favorite pictures that will be coming with us onto the boat with appropriate fixings to put pictures onto sloping walls! These will get put up over the weekend, meantime some breakfast & out of the Marina, heading towards Barrbridge.

Even though we arrived last night the boat still had a bit of a chill in her so we lit the stove as we were travelling getting inside aired & toastie. (that is smoke you can just see above the roof not mist!) As we went on the sky clouded over a bit but still very pleasant travelling. Caley our spaniel is now accompanying us on our trips so she can get used to boat life…….now, this is not going to be easy! In the canal twice today so we have decided that she must wear a harness (easier to fish out!) & be tied on deck until she realises that jumping in at EVERY available opportunity is not wise!

We moored up just before the aqueduct at Nantwich & decided to take Caley for a walk along the towpath, then back for a well deserved cuppa & a piece of rhubarb & custard cake. Hmmm lovely!

The sun was out again & the skies blue Lochaber sat at the dinette but unfortunately the sun got him!

Some 2hrs later we made dinner, watched a bit of TV had a few glasses of vino then to bed, won’t need that super new electric blanket tonight the boat is sooooo cosy!

Saturday 17th March 2012  

Caley woke us around 8.30am as she heard a couple of joggers running past chatting to each other, so we peaked out of the blinds to see more blue skies although patchy it was dry with intermittent sunshine, good enough for me!

Saturday is market day in Nantwich & as we have never been moored here on market day we decided to wander into town, I needed some batteries anyway as both clocks had stopped! The market was bustling had a Town Crier, not something you see every day.

It was a market worth visiting again, got my batteries & a great wee Bone China combined salt & pepper pot for the boat with a duck on it for only £4.50. Lochaber has to have coffee & cake every time we go somewhere so we chose McCormicks ther are numerous great coffee shops in Nantwich along with many bookshops & an abundance of independent shops all in a compact walking area, lovely way to waste an afternoon.

McCormicks was busy, coffee & cake very good. The walls of the coffee house are covered in a montage of black & white photos, you would need to refill your coffee numerous times to have a good look at them all.

Refreshed after our coffee stop. we wandered back to the market for a further look around & a meander around the narrow streets gazing in the designer shops! On the way back to the boat we stopped for a beer at The Oddfellows pub. We have been there before & will return every time we visit Nantwich, it is a great example of an old-fashioned independent pub, with great Real Ale, a good pint of Guiness & a very welcoming landlord, who know his trade well.

It was now around 3pm & we decided to move the boat across the aqueduct to the winding hole & head back towards Barrbridge for the night, a bit rainy but only a shower, dry by the time we reached a mooring just under the bridge at Barrbridge, just as we were pulling in to moor Caley decided to take the leap of almost death even though tethered & was therefore dangling over the side of the boat, the problem with a Spaniel with NO brains is that they NEVER learn! Moored safely, Spaniel hoisted from water all is now calm & a cuppa is well necessary!

Unfortunately back to marina tomorrow.

Sunday 18th March 2012

We heard very heavy rain on the roof throughout the night & wondered if we would be having a wet return to the marina on Sunday, but we were determined not to complain as the canals desperately need extra rainfall this spring, although the Cheshire area is not as bad as further down south & the Midlands.  When we awoke to the sound of the ducks  this was what awaited us outside.

The most beautiful sunday morning. So we decided to have some breakfast & make a move towards the marina, this is always the hardest time when we are only onboard for a short period of time, but the unexpected sunshine meant that we could take our time along the Middlewich Branch with only two locks to negotiate.

It is quite a busy stretch just out site Barrbridge, a couple of super boats for sale at Midway Boats. Very popular mooring spot along this stretch.

 

We cruised along slowly enjoying the spring sunshine towards Cholmondeston Lock.

 

 

Caley the spaniel was by now tethered on the deck with me, she had driven us mad all weekend with her continual diving into the cut, so she was not happy when we descended into the lock, water gushing all around her!

Next was Minshull Lock, last one before the marina. The nb coming through was flying the Cornish Flag! Good man!

 

 

So, here we are again back at Aqueduct, very light wind today, so getting into the mooring was unusually easy today. Just as we were about to leave after cleaning the boat & packing the car & of course the obligatory cappuccino in The Galley we saw an airship  above the marina.

 

A picturesque end to a lovely weekend.

 

 

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Friday 10th February 2012

Well I am one mad cookie…..did the met office get it wrong or what, we could have driven down to our nb, snow didn’t materialise as they said, temperatures didn’t drop as much as they said….GUTTED!” May go to Falkirk Wheel instead just to see some nb’s.

I bought an electric overblanket today for That’s D’riculous well for us really for when we go down during the cold winter months, because we are not on board continually she it very, very, very cold when we turn up at about 11pm on a Friday night & without waking the whole marina there is not much we can do to warm her or the bed up apart from pop the central heating on for a while but we are always well tired from the journey so sitting around too long isn’t an option. a hot water bottle doesn’t seem to have much effect in the bed either. The box says the blanket cost 1p per night to run (Hmm….) & even without a shoreline we should be ok with our 3kw inverter.

I have been thinking today about the sad story I have been reading on Tom & Jans blog site for nbWaiouru, the supposed boat builder concerned Ben Harp should have his head hung in shame for what he has done to these people. They wanted to leave New Zealand & come to retire here and continue after numerous trips exploring our canal system permanently. There is a link to their blog on the right hand side of this page, it is well worth a read. I wish them the very best of luck in moving things forward & eventually getting the boat sorted out.

The damaged nb Waiouru

Saturday 11th February 2012 

We have decided that because we hadn’t managed to get down to Aqueduct Marina to join in the 3rd anniversary celebrations that we would go to have a look at the Falkirk Wheel, nr Stirling. As boaters now we should have already been due to the fact that until we become liveaboard we are still based in Scotland. The weather was not as good as I would have liked but it was 4c & I think most of the boaters in England are still in sub zero temperatures. Although we did find ice on the Union canal although it looks as if it is cracked & broken it was actually really thick & solid. The ice was very clear rather than opaque as the english canal photos seem to show.

There were not many narrowboats moored in the basin, mainly the hire fleet tucked away for the winter.

The locks on the Union canal above the Falkirk Wheel are so new looking compared to some we have seen down south, they look to new & unused & the mechanism for operating the lock gates was new to us, has anybody seen this type of operation on the english canals? We are assuming that you use your BW key & turn a knob & “hey presto” job done rather than all that winding of stiff cogs with a windlass.

We noticed a nice Scottish touch for mooring at the top of the Wheel, the mooring cleats had a Celtic design on them!

There are lots more photos on the PAGE headed Scotland’s’ Canals (plus the skating swans!)

Thursday 16th February 2012

I haven’t posted much since last weekend as it has just been the monotonous daily grind, this year is going to be really hard waiting to start getting ready to liveaboard our nb.  A couple of people on Twitter have said “why wait?”, “why don’t you do it now?” well the reason is pictured below,  his name is Wally & he is a 9 1/2 year old Newfoundland. He has been my close companion for all that time & has been with me through some very rough & tough times. He was the inspiration for me to get back on my feet after breaking my leg & hip at the same time! No, I wasn’t drunk! surgeon said if I had been I probably wouldn’t have broken them just badly bruised myself! Anyway, this beautiful boy is in the autumn of his life & currently has an ulcerated corn on one of his large pads which apparently will never heal & is too big to be operated on as he would loose 40% of the pad & healing may not occur properly with 385kg pushing down on it .  If it was at all viable we would make the move & take him with us but the style of our nb makes it impossible for him to get in & out of the cabin easily, plus the fact he’s not keen on narrow spaces! So as much as his loss will be one of the hardest days of my life, I feel that knowing my life will completely change is the only way I will be able to get over it.  I have already asked our vet about having his ashes so at least he come on our travels with us!!

Wally is off the see his favorite friend Jeremy this weekend at the local Kennels as we really, really need to get down to the boat & chill out, the weather has broken, the ice is melting & we have nb withdrawal.

So my next blog post will be done for the first time from That’s D’riculous. See you then. 

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